General Moulton And The Devil

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Jonathan Moulton, of Hampton, was a general of consequence in the

colonial wars, but a man not always trusted in other than military

matters. It was even hinted that his first wife died before her time, for

he quickly found consolation in his bereavement by marrying her

companion. In the middle of the night the bride was awakened with a

start, for she felt a cold hand plucking at the wedding-ring that had

belonged to t
e buried Mrs. Moulton, and a voice whispered in her ear,

Give the dead her own. With a scream of terror she leaped out of bed,

awaking her husband and causing candles to be brought. The ring was gone.

It was long after this occurrence that the general sat musing at his

fireside on the hardness of life in new countries and the difficulty of

getting wealth, for old Jonathan was fond of money, and the lack of it

distressed him worse than a conscience. If only I could have gold

enough, he muttered, I'd sell my soul for it. Whiz! came something

down the chimney. The general was dazzled by a burst of sparks, from

which stepped forth a lank personage in black velvet with clean ruffles

and brave jewels. Talk quick, general, said the unknown, for in

fifteen minutes I must be fifteen miles away, in Portsmouth. And picking

up a live coal in his fingers he looked at his watch by its light. Come.

You know me. Is it a bargain?

The general was a little slow to recover his wits, but the word bargain

put him on his mettle, and he began to think of advantageous terms. What

proof may there be that you can do your part in the compact? he

inquired. The unknown ran his fingers through his hair and a shower of

guineas jingled on the floor. They were pretty warm, but Moulton, in his

eagerness, fell on hands and knees and gathered them to his breast.

Give me some liquor, then demanded Satan, for of course he was no

other, and filling a tankard with rum he lighted it with the candle,

remarked, affably, To our better acquaintance, and tossed off the

blazing dram at a gulp. I will make you, said he, the richest man in

the province. Sign this paper and on the first day of every month I will

fill your boots with gold; but if you try any tricks with me you will

repent it. For I know you, Jonathan. Sign.

Moulton hesitated. Humph! sneered his majesty. You have put me to all

this trouble for nothing. And he began to gather up the guineas that

Moulton had placed on the table. This was more than the victim of his

wiles could stand. He swallowed a mouthful of rum, seized a pen that was

held out to him, and trembled violently as a paper was placed before him;

but when he found that his name was to appear with some of the most

distinguished in the province his nerves grew steadier and he placed his

autograph among those of the eminent company, with a few crooked

embellishments and all the t's crossed. Good! exclaimed the devil, and

wrapping his cloak about him he stepped into the fire and was up the

chimney in a twinkling.

Shrewd Jonathan went out the next day and bought the biggest pair of

jack-boots he could find in Hampton. He hung them on the crane on the

last night of that and all the succeeding months so long as he lived, and

on the next morning they brimmed with coins. Moulton rolled in wealth.

The neighbors regarded his sudden prosperity with amazement, then with

envy, but afterward with suspicion. All the same, Jonathan was not

getting rich fast enough to suit himself.

When the devil came to make a certain of his periodical payments he

poured guineas down the chimney for half an hour without seeming to fill

the boots. Bushel after bushel of gold he emptied into those spacious

money-bags without causing an overflow, and he finally descended to the

fireplace to see why. Moulton had cut the soles from the boots and the

floor was knee-deep in money. With a grin at the general's smartness the

devil disappeared, but in a few minutes a smell of sulphur pervaded the

premises and the house burst into flames. Moulton escaped in his shirt,

and tore his hair as he saw the fire crawl, serpent-like, over the beams,

and fantastic smoke-forms dance in the windows. Then a thought crossed

his mind and he grew calm: his gold, that was hidden in wainscot,

cupboard, floor, and chest, would only melt and could be quarried out by

the hundred weight, so that he could be well-to-do again. Before the

ruins were cool he was delving amid the rubbish, but not an ounce of gold

could he discover. Every bit of his wealth had disappeared. It was not

long after that the general died, and to quiet some rumors of disturbance

in the graveyard his coffin was dug up. It was empty.