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Why, quod the Sompnour, ride ye than or gon
For we, quod he, wol us swiche formě make
What maketh you to han al this labour !
Ful many a causē, levě Sire Sompnour,
It is a cause of his salvation ; “But why,” inquired the summoner, “not be content with some ono shape in particular?”
“Because,” replied the other, “ the more disguises, the more booty."
“That is taking a great deal of trouble, is it not ?" asked the summoner. “ Why couldn't you take less ?”
“For many reasons, good Master Summoner,” quoth the devil. “But all in good time. The day wears, and I have got nothing yet, so I must attend to business. Besides, you couldn't understand the matter, if I told it. You haven't wit enough for its comprehension. But if you ask why we trouble ourselves at all, you must know, that God wills it, and that devils themselves are but instruments in his hands. We can do nothing at all if he doesn't choose it; and do what we may, we can sometimes go no further than the body. We are not always permitted to touch the soul. Witness the case of Job. Sometimes, on the other hand, we are permitted In torment a man's soul, and not his body: and all is for the best Our vory temptations are the cause of a man being saved, if he resists them
Al be it that it was not our entente
Yet tell me, quod this Sompnour, faithfully,
Nay, quod this Sompnour, that shal never betide
Not that we have any such good intention. Our design is to carry him away with us, body and soul. Sometimes we are even compelled to be servants to a man. Archbishop Dunstan had a devil for a servant; and I served an Apostle myself.”
“And have you a new body every time you disguise yourselves,” in. quired the summoner ; or is it only a seeming body?”
“ Only a seeming body sometimes," answered the devil. “ Sometimes also we possess a dead body, and give people as good substantial words, as Samuel did to the witch; though some learned persons are of opinion that it was not Samuel whom she raised, but only his likeness. Be all this as it may, of one thing you may be certain, my good friend; and that is, that you shall know more of us by-and-by, and be able to talk more learnedly about it, than Virgil did when he was living, or Dante himself. At present, let us push on. I like your company vastly; and will stick to you, as long as you do not choose to forsake mine.”
Nay,” cried the summoner, “never talk of that. I am very wel! known for respectability; and I hold myself as firmly pledged to you, as
For to be trewe brethren in this cas,
I grauntè, quod the devil, by my fay;
The Sompnour sayde, Here shal we have a praye ;
Nay, quod the devil, God wot, never a del!
you do yourself to me. We are to ride and prosper together. You are to take what people give you; I am to take what I can get; and if the profits turn out to be unequal, we divide them.”
“Quite right,” said the devil; and so they push forward.
They were now entering a town; and before them was a hay-cart which had stuck in the mud. The carter, who was in a rage, whipped his horses like a madman.
“ Heit, Scot! heit, Brok !” cried he to the beasts ; “What! it's the stones, is it, that make you so lazy? The devil take ye both, say I. Am I to be thwacking and thumping all day? The devil take you, hay, cart, and all.”
“ Ho, ho !” quoth the summoner, “here's something to be got." He drew close to his companion, and whispered him: “ Don't you hear ?” said be.
“ The carter gives you his hay, cart, and three horses.” “Not he," answered the devil. · He says so, but he doesn't mean it Ask him, if he does. Or wait a little, and you'll see.”
This carter thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
Lo, brother, quod the fend, what told I thee.
Whan that they comen somwhat out of toun,
This Sompnour clappeth at the widewes gate ;
Who clappeth ? said this wif, benedicite !
'The carter th wacked his horses again, and they began to stoop and to draw. “ Heit now ;- ee up ;-matthy wo ;-ah,—God bless 'em-there they
That wa; well twitched, Grey, my old boy. God bless you, say 1, and Saint Elias to boot. My cart's out of the slough at last.”
“ There,” said the devil; “ You see how it is. The fellow said one thing, but he thought another. We must e'en push on. There's nothing to be got here.
The companions continued their way through the town, and were just quitting it, when the summoner, pulling his bridle as he reached a cottage door, said, “ There's an old hag living here, who would almost as soon break her neck as part with a halfpenny I'll get a shilling out of her, for that, though it drive her mad. She shall have a summons else, and that'll be worse for her. Not that she has committed any offence, God knows. That's quite another business. But mark me now: and see what you must do, if you would get anything in these parts."
The summoner rattled the old woman's gate, crying, “ Come out, old trot ;-come out;-you've got some friar or priest with you !"
“ Who's there?” said the woman. “Lord bless us! God save you, sir ! What is your will ?"
God save you, sire, what is your swetè will ?
I have, quod he, of somons here a bill:
Now Lord, quod she, Christ Jesu, King of kinges,
Yes, quod this Sompnour, pay anon, let see,
Twelf pens ! quod she; now Lady Seint Marie
Nay then, quod he, the foulè fend me fetche
“I've a summons for you,” said the man. “ You must be with the archdeacon to-morrow, on pain of excommunication, to answer to certain charges."
“Charges !” cried the poor woman. “ Heaven help me! there can be no charges against a poor sick body like me. How am I to come to the archdeacon? I can't even go in a cart, it gives me such a pain in my side. Mayn't I have a summons on paper, and so get the lawyer to see to it.
“ To be sure you may,” answered the summoner, “provided you pay me down-let me see-ay, a shilling. That will be your quittance, and all. I get nothing by it, I assure you. My master has all the fees. Come, make haste, for I must be going. A shilling. Do you hear?”
“A shilling ?” exclaimed she. “ Heaven bless us and save us! Where, in all the wide world, am I to get a shilling? You know I haven't a pen. ny to save my life. It's myself, that ought to have a shilling given to me, poor wretch !”
“ Devil fetch me then, if you won't be cast,” said the summoner ; " for Ishan't utter a syllable in your favor.”