The folk-tales of the Magyars/The Devil and the Red Cap

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

THE DEVIL AND THE RED CAP.

T
HERE was once, I know not where, a soldier who was flogged many times, and who one night had to stand on sentry. As he paced up and down, a man with a red cap stopped in front of him and stared hard into his eyes. The soldier said not a word, but the stranger began: “My dear son, I know what happens in your heart, you don’t like this soldier’s life, and your thoughts are at this very minute wandering to your sweetheart.” The soldier at once concluded that he had to do with the devil, and so made his acquaintance. "Well, my dear son," said the devil, "undress quickly, and let's change our clothes; I will stand here on guard for you if you promise me that in a year hence, on this very day, at this very hour, to the very minute, you will be back here. In the meantime, go home to your native place, and don this red cap, as you can freely walk about and no one will see you as long as you have it on your head." The soldier went home to his native land, over seven times seven countries, and no one saw him as he reached his village. Pie walked into the garden and opened the door leading into his father's house and stood there listening. His friends were just then speaking of him. He was delighted to hear it, and gradually took the red cap from his head and suddenly appeared before them, who were very pleased to see him back. His sweetheart was also there; but no one would believe their own eyes, and thought that some sprite played them a trick. But the soldier explained it all; and, in order to prove the truth, he disappeared, and the next minute reappeared. All went well with the poor soldier until the time came when he had to start back. At the appointed hour and minute he took leave of his friends and sweetheart amid tears.

He put on his red cap and walked back unseen by any. "Bravo, my son," said the devil. "I see now that you are an honest man. A Magyar always keeps his word. You've returned to the very hour and minute. I've received a good many floggings, though, during your absence; but don't be afraid, we shall alter all this. You needn't be particular about your good conduct; nobody will touch you henceforth, as I've cast a spell and whenever they flog you the captain will feel the pain." The devil then changed his uniform, took back the red cap, and disappeared. The poor soldier—he couldn't help it, as he was tired of soldiering—again committed something wrong, the punishment for which was one hundred strokes. All the preparations to carry out the sentence had already been made, but before he was even touched the captain began to yell as he felt quite sure that he would suffer under it. Therefore he deemed it more wise to recommend the dismissal of the useless fellow, instead of worrying about him. And so it happened, the soldier was dismissed and arrived home safely: but since this happened even the devil will not take pity on a poor soldier.