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Farina - Pennsylvania State University

Farina - Pennsylvania State University

and communicate our best

and communicate our best jokes. I keep a book of them Down There!’ And as if he had reason to remember the pavement of his Halls, he stood tiptoe and whipped up his legs. ‘Two Minutes!’ The Demon waved perfect acquiescence, and continued: ‘We understand each other, he and I. All Old Ones do. As long as he lasts, I shall. The thing that surprises me is, that you and I cannot agree, similar as we are in temperament, and playing for the long odds, both of us. My failure is, perhaps, too great a passion for sport, aha! Well, ’tis a pity you won’t try and live on the benevolent principle. I am indeed kind to them who commiserate my condition. I give them all they want, aha! Hem! Try and not believe in me now, aha! Ho! … Can’t you? What are eyes? Persuade yourself you’re dreaming. You can do anything with a mind like yours, Father Gregory! And consider the luxury of getting me out of the way so easily, as many do. It is my finest suggestion, aha! Generally I myself nudge their ribs with the capital idea— You’re above bribes? I was going to observe—’ ‘Three!’ Farina 60 ‘Observe, that if you care for worldly honours, I can smother you with that kind of thing. Several of your firstrate people made a bargain with me when they were in the fog, and owe me a trifle. Patronage they call it. I hook the high and the low. Too-little and too-much serve me better than Beelzebub. A weak stomach is certainly more carnally virtuous than a full one. Consequently my kingdom is becoming too respectable. They’ve all got titles, and object to being asked to poke the fire without—Honourable-and-with- Exceeding-Brightness-Beaming Baroness This! Admirably- Benignant-Down-looking Highness That! Interrupts business, especially when you have to ask them to fry themselves, according to the rules … Would you like Mainz and the Rheingau? … You don’t care for Beauty—Puella, Puellae? I have plenty of them, too, below. The Historical Beauties warmed up at a moment’s notice. Modern ones made famous between morning and night—Fame is the sauce of Beauty. Or, no—eh?’ ‘Four!’ ‘Not quite so fast, if you please. You want me gone. Now, where’s your charity? Do you ask me to be always raking up

those poor devils underneath? While I’m here, they’ve a respite. They cannot think you kind, Father Gregory! As for the harm, you see, I’m not the more agreeable by being face to face with you—though some fair dames do take to my person monstrously. The secret is, the quantity of small talk I can command: that makes them forget my smell, which is, I confess, abominable, displeasing to myself, and my worst curse. Your sort, Father Gregory, are somewhat unpleasant in that particular—if I may judge by their Legate here. Well, try small talk. They would fall desperately in love with polecats and skunks if endowed with small talk. Why, they have become enamoured of monks before now! If skunks, why not monks? And again—’ ‘Five!’ Having solemnly bellowed this tremendous number, the holy man lifted his arms to begin the combat. Farina felt his nerves prick with admiration of the ghostly warrior daring the Second Power of Creation on that lonely mountain-top. He expected, and shuddered at thought of the most awful fight ever yet chronicled of those that have taken place between heroes and the hounds of evil: but his George Meredith 61 astonishment was great to hear the Demon, while Bell was in air and Book aloft, retreat, shouting, ‘Hold!’ ‘I surrender,’ said he sullenly. ‘What terms?’ ‘Instantaneous riddance of thee from face of earth.’ ‘Good!—Now,’ said the Demon, ‘did you suppose I was to be trapped into a fight? No doubt you wish to become a saint, and have everybody talking of my last defeat …. Pictures, poems, processions, with the Devil downmost! No. You’re more than a match for me.’ ‘Silence, Darkness!’ thundered the Monk, ‘and think not to vanquish thy victor by flatteries. Begone!’ And again he towered in his wrath. The Demon drew his tail between his legs, and threw the forked, fleshy, quivering end over his shoulder. He then nodded cheerfully, pointed his feet, and finicked a few steps away, saying: ‘I hope we shall meet again.’ Upon that he shot out his wings, that were like the fins of the wyver-fish, sharpened in venomous points. ‘Commands for your people below?’ he inquired, leering with chin awry. ‘Desperate ruffians some of those cowls. You are right not to acknowledge them.’

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