1:06 pm - Sunday June 24, 2018

When The Devil Was Well-by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:When The Devil Was Well

Written by: Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton


Page 1:

he Devil locked the copper gates of Hell one night, and sauntered down a Spacian pathway. The later arrivals from the planet Earth had been of a distressingly commonplace character to his Majesty–a gentleman of originality and attainments, whatever his disagreements with the conventions. He was become seriously disturbed about the moral condition of the sensational little twinkler.

“What are my own about?” he thought, as he drifted past planets which yielded up their tributes with monotonous regularity. “What a squeezed old orange would Earth become did I forsake it! I must not neglect it so long again; my debt of gratitude is too great. Let me see. Where shall I begin? It is some years since I have visited America in person, and unquestionably she has most need of my attention; Europe is in magnificent running order. This is a section of her, if my geography does not fail me; but what? I do not recall it.”

He poised above a country that looked as if it still hung upon the edge of chaos: wild, fertile, massive, barren, luxuriant, crouching on the ragged line of the Pacific. From his point of vantage he saw long ranges of stupendous mountains, some but masses of scowling crags, some green with forests of mammoth trees projecting their gaunt rigid arms above a carpet of violets; indolent valleys and swirling rivers; snow on the black peaks of the North; the riotous colour of eternal summer in the South. Suddenly he uttered a sharp exclamation and swept downward, halting but a mile above the ground. He frowned heavily, then smiled–a long, placid, sardonic smile. There appeared to be but few inhabitants in this country, and those few seemed to live either in great white irregular buildings, surmounted by crosses, in little brown huts near by, in the caves, or in hollowed trees on the mountains. The large buildings were situated about sixty miles apart, in chosen valleys; they were imposing and rambling, built about a plaza. They boasted pillared corridors and bright red tiles on their roofs. Within the belfries were massive silver bells, and the crosses could be seen to the furthermost end of the valley and from the tops of the loftiest mountain.

“California!” exclaimed the Devil. “I know of her. Her scant history is outlined in the Scarlet Book. I remember the points: Climate, the finest, theoretically, in the world; satanically, simply magnificent. I have waited impatiently for the stream of humanity to deflect thitherward, but priests will answer my present purpose exactly–unless they are all too tough. To continue, gold under that grass in chunks–aha! I shall have to throw out an extra wing in Hell! Parched deserts where men will die cursing; fruitful valleys, more gratifying to my genius; about as much of one as of the other, but the latter will get all the advertising, and the former be carefully kept out of sight. Everything in the way of animal life, from grizzly bears to fleas. A very remarkable State! Well, I will begin on the priests.”

He shot downward, and alighted in a valley whose proportions pleased his eye. Its shape was oval; the bare hills enclosing it were as yellow and as bright as hammered gold; the grass was bronze-coloured, baking in the intense heat; but the placid cows and shining horses nibbled it with the contentment of those that know not of better things. A river, almost concealed by bending willows and slender erect cottonwoods, wound capriciously across the valley. The mission, simpler than some of the others, was as neatly kept as the farm of older civilizations. Peace, order, reigned everywhere; all things drowsed under the relentless outpouring of the midsummer sun.

“It is well I do not mind the heat,” thought his Majesty; “but I am sensible of this. I will go within.”

He drew a boot on his cloven foot, thus rendering himself invisible, and entered a room of the long wing that opened upon the corridor. Here the temperature was almost wintry, so thick were the adobe walls.

Two priests sat before a table, one reading aloud from a bulky manuscript, the other staring absently out of the window. The reader was an old man; his face was pale and spiritual; no fires burned in his sunken eyes; his mouth was stern with the lines of self-repression. The Devil lost all interest in him at once, and turned to the younger man. His face was pale also, but his pallor was that of fasting and the hair shirt; the mouth expressed the determination of the spirit to conquer the restless longing of the eyes; his nostrils were spirited; his figure was lean and nervous; he moved his feet occasionally, and clutched at the brown Franciscan habit.

“Paulo,” said the older priest, reprovingly, as he lifted his eyes and noted the unbowed head, “thou art not listening to the holy counsel of our glorious Master, our saint who has so lately ascended into heaven.”

“I know Junipero Serra by heart,” said Paulo, a little pettishly. “I wish it were not too hot to go out; I should like to take a walk. Surely, San Miguel is the hottest spot on earth. The very fleas are gasping between the bricks.”

“The Lord grant that they may die before the night! Not a wink have I slept for two! But thou shouldest not long for recreation until the hour comes, my son. Do thy duty and think not of when it will be over, for it is a blessed privilege to perform it–far more so than any idle pleasure–just as it is more blessed to give than to receive–“

Here the Devil snorted audibly, and both priests turned with a jump.

“Did you hear that, my father?”

Filed in: Horror

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