Chapter 11

 Having travelled this day without any remarkable occurrence, and putting up at an inn in the evening, Duncan had taken care of the horse, in having him well rubbed down, and having seen his oats given him, and the rack well filled with hay. A gentleman had also that evening put up at the inn, and whose servant had been engaged at the same time with Duncan in taking care of his respective master’s horse. This valet, whether from reading Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, which had been published about this time, or to the sceptical conversation of some one in his way, was far from being orthodox in his notions of religion; or rather was sceptical with regard to religion altogether: and had not been accustomed to the strictest propriety in the choice of his expressions; which became apparent, in a short time, from his use of suppletives that are common with profane men, when they would enforce what they have asserted; or when prompted by passion, they are carried beyond the bounds of decorum, in imprecations on themselves or the incidental cause of their injury. Whether the horse had not maintained a proper position in currying him, or that the valet thought he did not, is uncertain; but so it was, that in the course of his labour, he broke out into occasional sallies of ill humour; or perhaps, from mere habit, and without any cause at all, he began to damn the soul of the beast. Duncan could not avoid taking notice of it, and reprimanding him for his profanity. The other gave him no other thanks than to damn his soul also; which language began to raise the blood of Duncan; but he repressed his resentment for the present, and was silent until they both came to sit down to supper in the kitchen of the public house, the gentlemen having already supped, when Roderick, for that was the name of the valet, began to eat, not having first said grace. At this Duncan losing all patience, broke out upon him, "Sirrah, said he, I could make an excuse for damning the soul o’ your beast; because I dinna believe he has a soul, and in that case ye were doing nothing mare than making use o’ a bad expression; but ha’ ye na mare decency, than to fall to your meat without asking a blessing on what is set before you: more than your horse i’ the stable, when he falls to his oats? what could ye expect frae a dumb beast? but with ane o’ the shape o’ a christian creature, it savours o’ infidelity. Ha’ ye na sense, o’ religion? Did ye never see the Confession o’ Faith; or the larger or shorter Catechism? Are ye na afraid, the devil will get power o’er ye, and mak ye hang yoursel?

The devil, said Roderick! I am not afraid of the devil; I could kick him, and cuff him, and play hell with him like a football.

Guid deliver us! what blasphemy, said Duncan; I am afraid young man, ye may get a trial o’t, you’ll see than wha o’ ye will be uppermost. I’ll lay my lug for it, ye dinna stand him twa shakes, for a' sae stout as ye are. Ye had better seek the Lord, and be out o’ the reach o’ Satan.

I never saw any greater devil than myself, said Roderick; nor do I believe there is any, I wish I saw this satan of yours, I would take a knock with him; I would bite and gouge him, and,--

This he said jumping to his feet, stretching out his hands towards Duncan, and grinning at the same time.

Duncan could sustain it no longer; but making his escape from the kitchen, ran to the chamber where the Captain was with the gentleman, taking a glass after supper. Exclaiming with great vehemence, he gave him to understand that the muckle deel himsel was in the house below stairs. I did na just see his horns and his cloven foot, said he; but I ken him right weel by his way o’ talking: when he was i’ the stable wie the gentleman’s horse, rubbing him down, he cursed and swear’d like a devil; and when he came to sipper, he could na bide the blessing, but when I spake o’ grace, he brake out into profane language; and at last fairly acknowledged that he was the deel himsel. Guid guide us, that we should hae the devil amang us! I wad na be astonished, if he has the kitchen aff in a flame of fire before we gae to bed yet. I hae Satan’s Invisible Kingdom Discovered wie me in my bags. It gies great account o’ these things. The like happened at Drumalawrig ance before; and the guid folk had a great deal o’ wark to get the muckle thief out o’ their sight again.

The Captain and gentleman were at a loss to understand this rhapsody; and could only in general collect from it, that he conceived himself to have seen the devil. Where is the devil? said the Captain. Can you show him to us, Duncan? I can soon do that, said Duncan. I left him i’ the kitchen at his meat; but I trow he does not eat muckle. It is a’ a pretence to pass for ane o’ us. But gin ye sing a psalm, or pronounce a verse o’ the Bible, or gae about prayer, I sall warrant ye sall soon see him in his proper figure, wi’ his horns and his cloven foot, grinning at ye, just as he had come out o’ hell about an hour ago.

Let us see him, Duncan, said the Captain, and examine into these circumstances.

The Captain and the gentleman had supposed that some wag amongst the servants of the public house, had been attempting to amuse himself with the credulity of Duncan, having discovered him to be of a superstitious cast of mind; and that with some kind of vizor to the face, and uncouth dress to the person, he had assumed a frightful form, and imposed upon him the idea of a demon. Under this impression they went forward, Duncan with fear and trembling, lurking behind, and eyeing carefully the scene as they approached. Entering the kitchen, Duncan started, and exclaimed, The Lord deliver us! There he is, eating at his meat, as if he was a creature above ground, though ye may all see that he has the physiognomy of Beelzebub. Of whom do you speak, said the Captain? Of that muckle chief there, said Duncan, i’the blue jacket, and the lang breeks;--(it was a pair of overalls);--that satan-luking fellow, continued he, wha puts the bread in his mouth, and sits wi’ his backside on a stool, as if he were ane o’ oursels; and had na been i’the bottomless pit these twal months. But gin ye speak til him, I sall warrant ye sall soon hear him talk the dialect o' hell, and curse and swear like a fiend, and grin like the deel himsel; and show his cloven foot very soon, tak my word for’t.

Why that is my servant, said the gentleman?.

Ay, ay, said Duncan, I dinna doubt that; he may hae passed himsel for your servant: But that does na hinder him to be the deel. Dinna ye hear what the apostle says, “He can transform himself into an angel of light.” It canna be a great trouble, then to take the shape o’ a waiting man, and sit before a pair o’ saddle-bags. If ye read Satan’s Invisible Kingdom Discovered, which I hae in my portmantles, ye sall find that the devil can make himself a minister, and gae into the pulpit, and conduct himsel very weel, aye, ‘till it come to the prayer, and then aff he gaes through the window, or takes the gavel o’ the house wie him. It happened once in Linlithgo, that he tuke the shape o’ a guid auld man, the reverend doctor Bunnetin, and undertook to preach the action sermon at a sacrament; but gaid awa in a flight o’ fire just as he came to gie out the text. A sirrah, said he, addressing himself to Roderick, are ye there yet? I ken ye weel enough, auld Reeky. Gae back to Scotland, and take the shape o’ muckle dogs there, whare there are guid folks that dinna fear ye; and no come o’er the burn till America, where the gospel is na yet planted, and there is na need for ye.

What have you been doing to this man, said the gentleman to Roderick, that he has conceived you to be the devil.

Nothing more said the valet, than that when we sat down to eat, he insisted on saying prayers first, and talked like a fool about religion. I was hungry, and did not like to wait for prayers. He talked about the deel. I told him I was the devil myself. He took me to be in earnest, I supposed; that is all.

Aye, and ye are the deel, said Duncan. Put out your foot here, and let us see if it hae a cloven place i’the middle o’t, or be like a Christian’s foot; or try if ye can stand till I say the Lord’s prayer-- though I wad na wish to say it, as I dinna ken but you wad tak the man’s house wi ye, and leave the Captain and this gentleman without a chamber to gae to bed in.

Psha Duncan, said the Captain; how can such ideas come to your brain? I see nothing but the gentleman’s servant. It is the prejudice of your education, to suppose that the devil can take the shape of men, or tangible substance; at least that he can eat food, and converse with a human voice. You will come by and by to have a better sense of things. In the mean time we must excuse your reveries, as you are but a late emigrant. This valet may be indiscreet, or as you would say, profane, in his expressions; a thing of which I will venture to say this gentleman, whose waiting man he is, does by no means approve. Nevertheless, I cannot think he is Apolyon, or Beelzebub, or Satan, or the great arch devil of the infernal regions. I do not even believe that he is one of your inferior devils, that has assumed the shape and function of a valet, and has sat down here to eat his supper in the kitchen.

I am not one of those, said the gentleman, that approve of profane language, or the undervaluing the religious ceremonies, of a conscientious, though weak man; but it would appear to me that this is but an affair of humour on the part of my valet, who by the bye is but hired with me as a waiting man, and I have no control over him, farther than to dismiss him for improper conduct. He is a merry fellow: but I have always found him faithful, and of good temper; so that I will venture to say, that if Duncan, for that I understand is the name of this North Briton, will take supper, and go to bed with him, he will receive no injury whatever.

I wad na take the whole town o’Perth, to sit down wie him, said Duncan; nor a’ the kingdom of Scotland to sleep wie him ae night. I should expect nothing else but to be i’the lake o’ brimstane before the morning.

I will be damn’d, said Roderick, if I do you any damage. I am no devil more than yourself. It was to get quit of your long prayers before victuals, that led me to talk as I have done.

Do you hear him, said Duncan, would any body but the deel acknowledge himself willing to be damn’d, or talk about it in sae light a manner? He confirms by ae breath, what he denies by the other. He is the deel, as sure as ever Mitchel Scot was in Scotland, or if he is na the deel; he is as bad as the deel, and it gaes against the grain wi’ me to hae ony communication wi’ him. Let him gae to hell for me by himsel. He sall nae hae my company. I wad na trust but that he wad hae an hundred witches here about the house, before the morning, and put every one o’ us on a broomstick to ride along wi’ him taking the taps aff the trees, and dinging doon houses, as he gaes along; the auld women turning themselves into cats, as they like, or taking the shapes o’ hares, or soomin o’er rivers in their egg-shells.

The Captain finding that it was in vain to attempt by direct means to overcome the force of prejudice, changed his language, and affected to suppose that the valet might be the devil, and proposed to examine the extremity of both limbs, to see whether he had a cloven foot. The valet submitting to the jest, agreed to be examined. His boots and stockings therefore being stripped off, his feet were examined, and no fissure appeared more than in a common foot. Now, said the Captain, if he can stand the recital of a prayer, will you not acknowledge that he may be a human person? Ay, if ‘twere a minister, said Duncan; but I dinna ken, if the prayer o’ a layman, can affect him much. But it does na matter muckle, whether he is the devil or not; he is amaist as bad as the devil, as you may distinguish by his conversation, and I dinna care to ha muckle more to do wie him

That is, devil or no devil, said the Captain, you will neither eat nor sleep with him.

Just the short and the long o’ it, said Duncan. I will take a bit o’ bread and beef in my hand, and creep into some nuke by mysel, if it should be i’the stable with the horses, rather than wie this wicked creature, that if he is not Satan, has a great resemblance o’ him.

With this, the Captain and the gentleman, left them to themselves, and returned to the chamber.