The Puritan has always lived a godly life, so why, on his death-bed, does the devil call him friend?
This story is from Lord Dunsany’s Fifty-One Tales, originally published in 1915, and is read aloud by Kay Mack.
You can read the story here, or online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7838
There was once an earnest Puritan who held it wrong to dance. And for his principles he labored hard, his was a zealous life. And there loved him all of those who hated the dance; and those that loved the dance respected him too; they said “He is a pure, good man and acts according to his lights.”
He did much to discourage dancing and helped to close several Sunday entertainments. Some kinds of poetry, he said, he liked, but not the fanciful kind as that might corrupt the thoughts of the very young. He always dressed in black.
He was quite interested in morality and was quite sincere and there grew to be much respect on Earth for his honest face and his flowing pure-white beard.
One night the Devil appeared unto him in a dream and said “Well done.”
“Avaunt,” said that earnest man.
“No, no, friend,” said the Devil.
“Dare not to call me ‘friend,'” he answered bravely.
“Come, come, friend,” said the Devil. “Have you not done my work? Have you not put apart the couples that would dance? Have you not checked their laughter and their accursed mirth? Have you not worn my livery of black? O friend, friend, you do not know what a detestable thing it is to sit in hell and hear people being happy, and singing in theatres and singing in the fields, and whispering after dances under the moon,” and he fell to cursing fearfully.
“It is you,” said the Puritan, “that put into their hearts the evil desire to dance; and black is God’s own livery, not yours.”
And the Devil laughed contemptuously and spoke.
“He only made the silly colors,” he said, “and useless dawns on hill-slopes facing South, and butterflies flapping along them as soon as the sun rose high, and foolish maidens coming out to dance, and the warm mad West wind, and worst of all that pernicious influence Love.”
And when the Devil said that God made Love that earnest man sat up in bed and shouted “Blasphemy! Blasphemy!”
“It’s true,” said the Devil. “It isn’t I that send the village fools muttering and whispering two by two in the woods when the harvest moon is high, it’s as much as I can bear even to see them dancing.”
“Then,” said the man, “I have mistaken right for wrong; but as soon as I wake I will fight you yet.”
“O, no you don’t,” said the Devil. “You don’t wake up out of this sleep.”
And somewhere far away Hell’s black steel doors were opened, and arm in arm those two were drawn within, and the doors shut behind them and still they went arm in arm, trudging further and further into the deeps of Hell, and it was that Puritan’s punishment to know that those that he cared for on Earth would do evil as he had done.