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The Hero of Esthonia and Other Studies in the Roma

The farmer rushed madly to his house


Suddenly

the moon emerged from the clouds and shone upon the place where the farmer was standing before the figure. But the farmer stood petrified with terror when he saw the creature come to life. The spectre rolled his eyes horribly, turned slowly round, and when he saw his master again, he asked in a grating voice, "What do you want of me?"

But the farmer was almost beside himself with fear, and could not answer. He rushed away in deadly terror, not caring whither. But the creature ran after him, clattering and puffing, crying out all the time, "Why did you bring me to life if you desert me now?"

But the farmer ran on, without daring to look round.

Then the creature grasped his shoulder from behind with his wooden hand, and screamed out, "You have broken your compact by running away. You have sold your soul to the devil without gaining the least advantage for yourself. You have set me free. I am no longer your servant, but will be your tormenting demon, and will persecute you to your dying hour."

The farmer rushed madly to his house, but the creature followed him, invisible to every one else.

From this hour everything went wrong with the farmer which he undertook. His land produced nothing but weeds, his cattle all died, his sheds fell in, and if he took anything up, it broke in his hand. Neither man nor maid would

work in his house, and at last all the people held aloof from him, as from an evil spirit who brought misfortune wherever he appeared.

Autumn came, and the farmer looked like a shadow, when one day he met old Michel, who saluted him, and looked scoffingly in his face.

"Oh, it's you," cried the farmer angrily. "It is good that I have met you, you hell-hound. Where are all your fine promises of wealth and good luck? I have sold myself to the devil, and I find a hell on earth already. But all this is your doing!"

"Quiet, quiet!" said the old man. "Who told you to meddle with evil things if you had not courage? I gave you fair warning. But you showed yourself a coward at the last moment, and released the creature from your service. If you had not done this, you might have become a rich and prosperous man, as I promised you."

"But you never saw the horrible face of the creature when he came to life," said the farmer in anguish. "Oh, what a fool I was to allow myself to be tempted by you!"

"I did not tempt you; I only told you what I knew."

"Help me now."

"Help yourself, for I can't. Haven't I more reason to complain of you than you of me? I have not deceived you; but where is my reward, and the fine life you promised me? You are the deceiver."

"All right! all right! Only tell me how I can save myself, and advise me what to do. I will perform everything."

"No," said the old man, "I have no further advice to give you. I am still a beggar, and it is all your fault;" and he turned round and left him.

"Curse upon you!" cried the farmer, whose last hope had vanished.

"But can't I save myself in any way?" said he to himself. "This creature who sits with the Devil on my neck is after all nothing but my own work, a thing of wood and potsherds. I must needs be able to destroy him, if I set about it right."


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