THE BACK-BLOWS OF SATHANAS
Monk Gregory was pacing the high road between the Imperial camp and suffering Cologne. The sun had risen through interminable distances of cloud that held him remote in a succession of receding mounds and thinner veils, realm beyond realm, till he showed fireless, like a phantom king in a phantom land. The lark was in the breast of morning. The field-mouse ran along the furrows. Dews hung red and grey on the weedy banks and wayside trees. At times the nostril of the good father was lifted, and he beat his breast, relapsing into sorrowful contemplation. Passed-any citizen of Cologne, the ghostly head sunk into its cowl. ’There’s a black raven!’ said many. Monk Gregory heard them, and murmured, ’Thou hast me, Evil one! thou hast me!’
It was noon when Farina came clattering down from the camp.
‘Father,’ said he, ‘I have sought thee.’
‘My son!’ exclaimed Monk Gregory with silencing hand, ’thou didst not well to leave me contending against the tongues of doubt. Answer me not. The maiden! and what weighed she in such a scale?—No more! I am punished. Well speaks the ancient proverb:
“Beware the back-blows of Sathanas!”
I, that thought to have vanquished him! Vanity has wrecked me, in this world and the next. I am the victim of self-incense. I hear the demons shouting their chorus—“Here comes Monk Gregory, who called himself Conqueror of Darkness!” In the camp I am discredited and a scoff; in the city I am spat upon, abhorred. Satan, my son, fights not with his fore-claws. ’Tis with his tail he fights, O Farina!—Listen, my son! he entered to his kingdom below through Cologne, even under the stones of the Cathedral Square, and the stench of him abominably remaineth, challenging the nostrils of holy and unholy alike. The Kaiser cannot approach for him; the citizens are outraged. Oh! had I held my peace in humbleness, I had truly conquered him. But he gave me easy victory, to inflate me. I shall not last. Now this only is left, my son; that thou bear living testimony to the truth of my statement, as I bear it to the folly!’
Farina promised, in the face of all, he would proclaim and witness to his victory on Drachenfels.
‘That I may not be ranked an impostor!’ continued the Monk. ’And how great must be the virtue of them that encounter that dark spirit! Valour availeth nought. But if virtue be not in’ ye, soon will ye be puffed to bursting with that devil’s poison, self-incense. Surely, my son, thou art faithful; and for this service I can reward thee. Follow me yet again.’
On the road they met Gottlieb Groschen, hastening to the camp. Dismay rumpled the old merchant’s honest jowl. Farina drew rein before him.
‘Your daughter is safe, worthy Master Groschen,’ said he.
‘Safe?’ cried Gottlieb; ‘where is she, my Grete?’