Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/103

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85
POPULAR SAYINGS.

ceremony or ordeal of passing through a fire or leaping over burning brands has been kept up so vigorously in the British Isles, that Jamieson's derivation of the phrase 'to haul over the coals' from this rite appears in no way far-fetched. It is not long since an Irishwoman in New York was tried for killing her child; she had made it stand on burning coals to find out whether it was really her own or a changeling.[1] The English nurse who says to a fretful child, 'You got out of bed wrong foot foremost this morning,' seldom or never knows the meaning of her saying; but this is still plain in the German folk-lore rule, that to get out of bed left foot first will bring a bad day,[2] one of the many examples of that simple association of ideas which connects right and left with good and bad respectively. To conclude, the phrase 'cheating the devil' seems to belong to that familiar series of legends where a man makes a compact with the fiend, but at the last moment gets off scot-free by the interposition of a saint, or by some absurd evasion — such as whistling the gospel he has bound himself not to say, or refusing to complete his bargain at the fall of the leaf, on the plea that the sculptured leaves in the church are still on their boughs. One form of the mediæval compact was for the demon, when he had taught his black art to a class of scholars, to seize one of them for his professional fee, by letting them all run for their lives and catching the last — a story obviously connected with another popular saying: 'devil take the hindmost.' But even at this game the stupid fiend may be cheated, as is told in the folk-lore of Spain and Scotland, in the legends of the Marqués de Villano and the Earl of Southesk, who attended the Devil's magic schools at Salamanca and Padua. The apt scholar only leaves the master his shadow to clutch as following hindmost in the race, and with this unsubstantial payment the demon must needs be satisfied, while the

  1. Jamieson, 'Scottish Dictionary,' s.v. 'coals'; R. Hunt, 'Popular Romances,' 1st ser. p. 83.
  2. Wuttke, 'Volksaberglaube,' p. 131.