‘For thy soul, no word!’ said the Monk, speaking down his throat as he took in breath. ‘Nay! not in answer to me! Be faithful, and more than earthly fortune is thine; for I say unto thee, I shall not fail, having grace to sustain this combat.’ Thereupon he commenced the ascent of Drachenfels. Farina followed. He had no hint of the Monk’s mission, nor of the part himself was to play in it. Such a load of silence gathered on his questioning spirit, that the outcry of the rageing elements alone prevented him from arresting the Monk and demanding the end of his service there. That outcry was enough to freeze speech on the very lips of a mortal. For scarce had they got footing on the winding path of the crags, when the whole vengeance of the storm was hurled against the mountain. Huge boulders were loosened and came bowling from above: trees torn by their roots from the fissures whizzed on the eddies of the wind: torrents of rain foamed down the iron flanks of rock, and flew off in hoar feathers against the short pauses of darkness: the mountain heaved, and quaked, and yawned a succession of hideous chasms. ‘There’s a devil in this,’ thought Farina. He looked back and marked the river imaging lurid abysses of cloud above Farina 58 the mountain-summit—yea! and on the summit a flaming shape was mirrored. Two nervous hands stayed the cry on his mouth. ‘Have I not warned thee?’ said the husky voice of the Monk. ‘I may well watch, and think for thee as for a dog. Be thou as faithful!’ He handed a flask to the youth, and bade him drink. Farina drank and felt richly invigorated. The Monk then took bell and book. ‘But half an hour,’ he muttered, ‘for this combat that is to ring through centuries.’ Crossing himself, he strode wildly upward. Farina saw him beckon back once, and the next instant he was lost round an incline of the highest peak. The wind that had just screamed a thousand death-screams, was now awfully dumb, albeit Farina could feel it lifting hood and hair. In the unnatural stillness his ear received tones of a hymn chanted below; now sinking, now swelling; as though the voices faltered between prayer and inspiration. Farina caught on a projection of crag, and fixed his eyes on what was passing on the height.
There was the Monk in his brown hood and wrapper, confronting—if he might trust his balls of sight—the red-hot figure of the Prince of Darkness. As yet no mortal tussle had taken place between them. They were arguing: angrily, it was true: yet with the first mutual deference of practised logicians. Latin and German was alternately employed by both. It thrilled Farina’s fervid love of fatherland to hear the German Satan spoke: but his Latin was good, and his command over that tongue remarkable; for, getting the worst of the argument, as usual, he revenged himself by parodying one of the Church canticles with a point that discomposed his adversary, and caused him to retreat a step, claiming support against such shrewd assault. ‘The use of an unexpected weapon in warfare is in itself half a victory. Induce your antagonist to employ it as a match for you, and reckon on completely routing him . . .’ says the old military chronicle. ‘Come!’ said the Demon with easy raillery. ‘You know your game—I mine! I really want the good people to be happy; dancing, kissing, propagating, what you will. We quite agree. You can have no objection to me, but a foolish old preju- George Meredith 59 dice—not personal, but class; an antipathy of the cowl, for which I pardon you! What I should find in you to complain of—I have only to mention it, I am sure—is, that perhaps you do speak a little too much through your nose.’ The Monk did not fall into the jocular trap by retorting in the same strain. ‘Laugh with the Devil, and you won’t laugh longest,’ says the proverb. Keeping to his own arms, the holy man frowned. ‘Avaunt, Fiend!’ he cried. ‘To thy kingdom below! Thou halt raged over earth a month, causing blights, hurricanes, and epidemics of the deadly sins. Parley no more! Begone!’ The Demon smiled: the corners of his mouth ran up to his ears, and his eyes slid down almost into one. ‘Still through the nose!’ said he reproachfully. ‘I give thee Five Minutes!’ cried the Monk. ‘I had hoped for a longer colloquy,’ sighed the Demon, jogging his left leg and trifling with his tail. ‘One Minute !’ exclaimed the Monk. ‘Truly so!’ said the Demon. ‘I know old Time and his habits better than you really can. We meet every Saturday night,