THE BLACK MAN DEFEATED.
Shiana paused and looked at him. He rubbed his eyes with his hand and looked at him again. The two looked each other in the eyes for some time.
"You are the devil!" said Shiana, at last.
"The devil himself is not a match for you!" said the Black Maa. "I thought the money would lead you astray. Seldom a man gets it who does not make misfortune for himself, and perhaps for a great many more on account of it. Misfortune comes of it to him who gets it, and misfortune to him who fails to get it. The man who gets it is waylaid in the night and killed, in order to take it from him. It is the man who has not money that kills the man who has it. There you have misfortune for both of them on account of money. Money makes twenty misfortunes beside those. Many a man loses his wits with vanity and pride, and self-complacency, who would be humble enough if he were poor. Many a man shortens his life with drink when his pockets are full, who would live to e liundred if they were empty."
"I think you make a slight mistake there," said Shiana. "That man who would murder another to get his money, what need would there be for his committing that murder if he himself had money enough? It seems to me that empty pockets drive people to the bad as often as full pockets do. I suppose you know the proverb: 'Downright wantonness and extreme poverty are the two best things to drive a man to the bad.'"
"That is exactly where you bothered me completely," said the Black Man. "You had extreme poverty at first, and it did not cause you to go astray. You gave the alms when you had only the three shillings. When I saw that, I knew that the sharpest poverty would not bring you to harm. I was quite sure that wealth would do to you what poverty had failed to do. It did not. When I saw that you cared just as little for riches as you did for poverty I determined to come at you in another way. I put that other enemy in your way. My knowledge of human nature is wide, and my experience of it is intimate. I have often met a person whom poverty could not bring to harm, and I have often met a person whom wealth could not bring to harm. But I seldom ever met a person whom that other enemy could not take off his feet. That other enemy did not take you off your feet, and that fact has taken me off my feet. I am at a loss to make out what sort of man you are at all."
"An enemy! An enemy, you call her!" said Shiana. "She is not an enemy, and well you know she is not. It is not you that put her in my way. It is God that put her in my way, praise be to Him! If you were going to put someone like her in my way, no fear but it would be a very different sort of person from her. If you were choosing an enemy for me you would choose an enemy who would be a real enemy. Drop your prevarication. Tell the truth. You do not like the truth, of course, but you have to tell the truth in that chair, much as you hate it. Tell me the truth. Why have you called her an enemy? And why have you said that it was you that put her in my way?"
"For all your wisdom and your understanding, you do not understand my business," said the Black Man. "You imagine that it is from his enemy ill-luck and misfortune and evil come upon a man. You are mistaken. Friendship and friendliness and love and affection are the things that drag half the world to their bane, or rather the greater part of the world. A man will be on his guard against his enemy, but he will not be on his guard against his friend. If a man gets harmful advice from his enemy, he will not take the advice; but a man will do a thing at the instance of his friend which he would never do of his own accord. For one man who does what is bad for him, out of his own counsel, there are twenty who are put up to do it by the counsel of some friend. If they were let alone, perhaps, they might do what was good for them. If it was from an enemy they got the advice there is no fear that they would take it. Often a man has done what was good for him by refusing the advice of an enemy. It is not from an enemy that a person is ever in danger of doing what is harmful to him, but from his friend. The dearer the friend the greater the danger and the worse the harm, because the readier the yielding. If it be Jove for a woman that is driving a man to his bane, there is an end of good counsel, and there is an end of the man's defending himself. There is an end of that man's sense and wisdom and understanding and judgment. The more worthy the woman the more complete the senselessness in the man. If a charming, good, sensible, handsome young woman gives the love of her heart completely to that man, and he to her, that man will wrong his own judgment, and he will do what is against his real welfare with his eyes open, sooner than he would do what he thinks she would not like; and she will do the same thing exactly, sooner than do what she thinks he would not like. The proverb is at sea in that one matter at all events. 'Downright wantonness' is a good thing to send a man to the bad, and extreme poverty is a good thing to send a man to the bad, but there is a thing that is better than either of them for the purpose, and that is love, and friendship and affection. I have people now below in hell, people who have worked their own ruin on account of love or of friendship, and there is no danger that they would be there had there been nothing to send them there but wantonness or poverty. There is many a man and woman to whom I failed completely to do any mischief by wantonness or by poverty, and who were not long in ruining themselves when I put that other enemy in their way. As I told you, I put that other enemy in your way, but I have had nothing by it. I failed to gain any advantage over you—a rare thing with me. I don't think you are a human being at all, in the true sense of the word. You don't like me to call her an enemy. Is not a man's most inimical enemy the one that causes the greatest mischief to him?"
"I give you the lie out of your own mouth," said Shiana. "She never did any mischief to me, and for that reason you lie when you call her an enemy."
"She has not done a mischief to you, but it is not she that is to be thanked for it, nor me. She did her best to that end, and I did my best to that end. She did her best, on account of the greatness of her love for you. I did my best, and I promise you it was not through love of you. We have both failed in the game. I worked the most skilful artifice of my craft against you, but you have beaten me."
"I do not admire your craft," said Shiana, "whatever opinion you yourself may have of it. I was going to say, 'May you not be rewarded for your work!' but I cross you again. I say most heartily, 'That you may be rewarded for it!' It would be a great pity such labour should go unrequited. You put an enemy, you say, in my way. I think you made a mistake somewhere in your calculations. Things do not always turn out as they are expected to do. You gave me money in the hope that it would be the ruin of me. You failed with the money. You put another enemy, as you say, in my way. You failed in the second plot as you failed in the first. Tell me exactly where you lay the blame for the failure of the plot. Speak plainly and fully. I do not like vagueness of language. No doubt it was you that put the money in my way. I do not believe you when you say that you put anything else in my way. You are too great an adept at lying. Nobody can believe a thing from you unless his own very eyes see it. Tell me the truth."
"I tell the truth sometimes," said the Black Man, "and I will tell it now. I will tell it to you in such a way that your own very eyes will see it. I like to tell it to you, because I know you won't like it very well. I expected that the money would drive you astray, as it drives every one astray who gets it, almost. I expected that I should have you soon without putting myself to much trouble about you. When I found you at the fair going to buy the horse, I thought I had you at once. I thought your tune was played, almost before it had been begun. When I saw you going away without making the purchase I wondered what was the matter with you. I insulted you before the people to see if you would return and pay the money. You did not return. You bent your head and went off with yourself like a mean dog——"
"I understand," said Shiana, "go on."
"There is a young woman west there," said the Black Man, "and from the day she was baptised up to the present day, I have failed utterly to bend or to move her will or her mind. Whatever hindrance I put in her way she never stumbles over it. She was coming home from the town one evening. I caused her to be delayed. She fell asleep in a bend of the road. When she awoke out of her sleep it was the dead of night. She started for home, trembling with fear. When she was facing west towards Bohar na Bro, who should be in the middle of the road there before her but the ghost. I thought she would drop dead. I put myself into your appearance. I walked out past her. She recognised you in me. I faced straight for the ghost, with what looked like a blackhandled knife in my hand. There was soon an end of the ghost. Then I returned to the young woman and escorted her west into the door of her father's house."
"If she had known who it was that was escorting her!" said Shiana.
"She thought it was you that were escorting her," said the Black Man, "and I think she was a little bit proud to think that any man would put himself in such danger for her sake. From that forward she conceived an extremely high regard for you. You never saw a human creature in the state in which she was from that night forward. She was just in the same case with that poet who said:—
'A wretched cause is the cause through which I
am in agony.
My judgment drifting apart from my will, and
my will from my sense.
My will refuses to understand the sort of will
that my judgment clearly approves.
Or if it understands it, it will not have any but
the will of its own judgment.'
"May you be rewarded for your trouble!" said Shiana, most heartily.
"I am fully rewarded already," said the Black Man, "and it is you I have to thank for it. It was I that put her in your way. Don't have any doubt about it. I put her in your way, and I kept her in your way. You knew all her excellence. You understood the goodness and the nobility of her mind. You perceived the beauty of her countenance and of her appearance and of her faultless person. There was no other woman of your acquaintance who was at all near being as handsome as she. You are a deep, dark, inscrutable man. It is hard for anyone to know what is in your heart when it suits you to keep it to yourself, but you could not keep from me how you stood regarding her. Deep and dark as your heart is, you were not able to keep from me the knowledge that the love of her was as strong and as steadfast within you as ever was the love of a woman in the heart of any man that ever lived. I did not think there was any man living in this world who could go against it! I don't think anything ever astonished me so much as the answer you made to the widow. If ever I did my best I did it on that occasion, to place you in such a way that you would not be able to draw back. You beat me in spite of my best. You put the best woman in Ireland out of your heart, though the love of her was implanted within you! You put her from your heart, although her heart was being torn asunder through love of you! I don't know if you are a human being at all! You would not have cared if you had brought her to the grave! And I wouldn't care, but for the reason. To tear asunder your own heart and hers for the sake of the———"
"Finish it!" said Shiana.
"For the sake of Him who is above," said the Black Man. "'Saviour,' you call Him. That was the act that gave you the upper hand over me. That was the act with which you crushed and paralysed me, and it was not your good-for-nothing and worthless almsgiving."
"You have talked a great deal," said Shiana, "but in all the talk you have told only one side of the subject. It is true that love and friendship and affection and sympathy send many people astray. But is it not a great wonder that you do not perceive that those same things bring many people to good also? A man will do a thing at the instance of his friend which he would never do of his own accord. And a man will often do what is good for him, through good advice from a sincere and wise friend, whereas perhaps he would do what was harmful to himself if he had not that friend to give him that advice at the right time. 'If it be love for a woman,' said you, 'that is driving a man to ruin, there is an end to that man's selfdefence.' Very good. But suppose the woman is a good and a wise woman, a woman who will weigh in her mind, carefully and correctly, the things that would be bad for that man, and who will do her best to lure him away from them; a woman who will always pray to God for that man, asking God to turn him away from everything bad, and to spur his mind to what would be good for him, spiritually and temporally; a woman who would use the love that man has for her to make him avoid the wrong thing that he likes, and do the right thing that she likes; don't you think that woman is a good help, together with the grace of God, to make that man do what is good for him and avoid what is bad for him? According to you it is only good sense that can make a man do what is good for him, and it is only imprudence that can make a man do what is bad for him. You did a disastrously bad thing for yourself once. Your intelligence was great at that time. But I think your intelligence made a fool of itself. Intellect is a very good thing, no doubt; but there are things that are a great deal better. It often happens that love and friendship and affection and sympathy do good which all the wisdom in the world would fail to do. There is a thing different from all these and better than them all, and better than any wisdom that might accompany them. I don't know whether you have any knowledge of that thing. It is the thing called humility. I know well you are not fond of that thing. When you were considering the things best calculated to drive people to wrong-doing, it is a pity you did not reflect a little on the thing which is the best preventive of wrong-doing. Where humility is, there is the grace of God. The grace of God is far more powerful to keep a man right than all those things you have named are to send a man to the mischief. It was not that act of mine that ruined you. I do not deserve much thanks for that act. I did it because I could not help doing it. The goodness of the woman was the cause of it. I could not do such a wrong to such a woman. Bad as I am, I am not as bad as you yet. If you had put in my way a woman not so good as she, who knows but that your plot might have succeeded better. I will tell you what defeated you. Evil outstripped evil with you. One bad side of your work defeated the other bad side of it. You tried to run 'the dog's double race for the two cheeses.' 'The sand-piper cannot fish both sides of the river at once.'—If I had married her at that time how would she be now, and her children, if they existed?"
"And is not that exactly what I wanted?" said the Black Man. "You were as deeply in love with her as any man ever was in love with a woman. I have never seen two people so wrapped up in each other, so fond of each other, so filled with reverence for each other. Who would have thought it was possible for you to put her from your heart? Who would have thought that she could be parted from you and live? I confess that the thing has confounded me."
"I put her from my heart for the Saviour's sake," said Shiana. "I could not do such a wrong to such a woman. There is the whole case for you. If it was you that put her in my way, it is you yourself that have brought defeat upon yourself. You said you failed to bend or turn her will. It was not a wise thing for you to try your hand against her in this business. You ought to have known her of old. You thought to get a grip of us both, and there is a firm grip upon yourself now."
"You are wrong," said the Black Man. "She is not the cause of the plot's going against me, but you. She would have married you at once if you had asked her to marry you. But what am I saying! It was not necessary for you to ask her. She was so much out of her wits through love of you that she did a thing which I did not think she could have done, whatever might happen to her. She asked you to marry her—— and you refused her! Confound you, what sort of man are you I It was your act that destroyed me. The nobleness of that act it was that destroyed me. To put that woman from your heart as you did, rather than do wrong. I wonder if there is another man living who could do the like! That is what destroyed me. That is what put me here and you there."
"It has happened very well," said Shiana. "I here and you there. I find no fault with the arrangement, whoever is the cause of it."
"Not so with me," said the Black Man.
"Let each one praise his luck as he finds it," said Shiana.
"Here! here! Let me go!" said the Black Man. "The mischief is on this place, it is so excruciating. I have not got such a boiling for a long time. Hang you, let me go! What do you want of me here?"
"Gently! gently!" said Shiana. "It might be a long time before we would be face to face like this again, and there is another little matter puzzling me. I have been listening to your talk there for a good while. I have an exact description from you of all the deceit and treachery and crooked dealing which you have practised upon myself for the last thirteen years. In all that trickery, however, there was nothing but what anybody ought to expect that he would get from you. But the act you have done against that young woman in the west, without reason or cause, without want or necessity, without her having deserved it from you in any way under Heaven, is, I think, the most abominable act that anybody ever saw done by man or devil. That act could not be surpassed in treachery, or in meanness, or in wickedness. I think it is the vilest and most malicious act that ever was done. Shame upon you! Oh, shame upon you, you vile thing! And you yourself not only acknowledging it, but boasting of it! I did not think the like of you was to be found, even down at the bottom of hell itself! Horror upon you! Oh, the horror of my heart upon you! And to think that they say you were once the most beautiful of the angels, and the brightest, and the noblest, and of the highest glory of all that were in the uppermost Heaven above! 'Praise to the King of Saints, there is much between yesterday and to-day' with you. It was a long fall and a deep one, for you. I dare say that once upon a time you had very little notion that such a fate would overtake you alive as that I should hold you fast in that soogaun chair!"
"That is not the thing that is on your mind," said the Black Man.
"I am coming to it," said Shiana. "You take a great deal of trouble in working up evil. I believe you work harder for evil than anybody ever worked for good. And you gain nothing by your toil but evil. You have great knowledge, and you have great sense. It is bought sense with you, at least the chief part of it. You have a keen intelligence. You have an active mind. The only use you make of all those fine faculties is to work evil with them. Nothing comes of your labours but evil. It is a miserable state of things with you. Would it not be just as easy for you to devote all your toil and knowledge and intelligence and penetration and sense to the accomplishment of some useful purpose? Perhaps, sooner or later, you might have something other than evil as the fruit of your labour."
The Black Man looked Shiana straight in the eyes, and Shiana thought he had never seen so diabolical a look.
"Look here, Shiana," said he. "No one ever spoke to me like that before. Perhaps if they had I would not be as I am to-day. I feel half inclined to take your advice and to act on your suggestion in future. Perhaps it may be better late than never. But what do you want with me here now? Do you hear me talking to you? Let me go, and you may take thirteen years more!"
"Yes indeed!" said Shiana, "and then if I go to a fair to buy a cow or a horse you will come in the shape of a thimble-rigger, and you will call me 'the little yellow shoemaker with the malvogue,' before all the people, and you will be watching me, unknown to me, day and night, to see when I may make some mistake. I have had enough of that sort of bargain."
"Let us put it in the bargain that I shall not come near you at all during the time," said the Black Man.
"Nor any one from you," said Shiana.
"Nor any one from me," said the Black Man.
"And that I shall have power to make any use I like of the money," said Shiana.
"Make any use you choose of it," said the Black Man. "Buy all the cows and horses at all the fairs in Ireland with it, if you like."
"And that I shall put the virtue of the Holy Things upon you, just as you did upon me," said Shiana.
"I am satisfied," said the Black Man.
"Say, 'Be it a bargain,'" said Shiana.
"Be it a bargain," said the Black Man.
"By the virtue of the Holy Things," said Shiana.
"By the virtue of the Holy Things," said the Black Man.
My dear people! No sooner was that word out of the Black Man's mouth than he was up out of the chair with his two hands stretched out to seize upon Shiana.
"My fine fellow," said he, "I said I would not come, but I did not say that I would go!"
Well became Shiana, he drew his right hand out of his bosom, with the jewel in it, and he held up the hand against his foe.
"The Sign of the Cross of the Crucifixion between me and you!" said he, and he made the Sign of the Cross with the hand and the jewel in it.
When the Black Man saw the hand, he drew back a little. When Shiana said the sacred words as he was making the Sign of the Cross, the light blazed up in the little ball so strongly that it shone out through the hand so that the bones and veins could be seen. At the moment when Shiana was finishing the words, the Black Man was turned into a ball of fire just above the chair. Then there came something like a narrow tip underneath upon the ball of fire, and the ball went down through the chair in a chain of fire, and down through the ground, exactly in the place where the shilling was.
While the chain of fire was slipping down through the ground, Shiana felt a kind of creeping of the skin, and something like a surging of blood in his limbs and in his body and up in his head.
"Praise be to the King of Saints!" said he.
His head was ready to burst with pain. He crept off as well as he could to the place where his bed was, and lay down upon it. The next moment he was unconscious and speechless.