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KATCHA AND THE DEVIL
HERE was once a woman named Katcha who lived in a village
where she owned her own cottage and garden. She had money
besides but little good it did her because she was such an
ill-tempered vixen that nobody, not even the poorest
laborer, would marry her. Nobody would even work for her,
no matter what she paid, for she couldn't open her mouth
without scolding, and whenever she scolded she raised her
shrill voice until you could hear it a mile away. The older
she grew the worse she became until by the time she was
forty she was as sour as vinegar.
Now as it always happens in a village, every Sunday
afternoon there was a dance either at the burgomaster's, or
at the tavern. As soon as the bagpipes sounded, the boys
all crowded into the room and the girls gathered outside and
looked in the windows.
Katcha was always the first at the window.
The music would strike up and the
boys would beckon the girls to come in and dance, but no one
ever beckoned Katcha.
 Even when she paid the piper no one ever asked her to dance.
Yet she came Sunday after Sunday just the same.
One Sunday afternoon as she was hurrying to the tavern she
thought to herself: "Here I am getting old and yet I've
never once danced with a boy! Plague take it, today I'd
dance with the devil if he asked me!"
She was in a fine rage by the time she reached the tavern,
where she sat down near the stove and looked around to see
what girls the boys had invited to dance.
Suddenly a stranger in hunter's green came in. He
sat down at a table near Katcha and ordered drink. When the serving
maid brought the beer, he reached over to Katcha and asked
her to drink with him. At first she was much taken back at
this attention, then she pursed her lips coyly and pretended
to refuse, but finally she accepted.
When they had finished drinking, he pulled a ducat from his
pocket, tossed it to the piper and called out:
"Clear the floor, boys! This is for Katcha and me alone!"
The boys snickered and the girls giggled hiding behind each
other and stuffing their aprons into their mouths so that
Katcha wouldn't hear them laughing. But Katcha wasn't
noticing them at all. Katcha was
 dancing with a fine young
man! If the whole world had been laughing at her, Katcha
wouldn't have cared.
The stranger danced with Katcha all afternoon and all
evening. Not once did he dance with any one else. He
bought her marzipan and sweet drinks and, when the hour came
to go home, he escorted her through the village.
"Ah," sighed Katcha when they reached her cottage and it was
time to part, "I wish I could dance with you forever!"
"Very well," said the stranger. "Come with me."
"Where do you live?"
"Put your arm around my neck and I'll tell you."
Katcha put both arms about his neck and instantly the man
changed into a devil and flew straight down to hell.
At the gates of hell he stopped and knocked.
His comrades came and opened the gates and when they saw
that he was exhausted, they tired to take Katcha off his
neck. But Katcha held on tight and nothing they could do or
say would make her budge.
The devil finally had to appear before the Prince of
Darkness himself with Katcha still glued to his neck.
"What's that thing you've got around your neck?" the Prince
 So the devil told how as he was walking about on earth he
heard Katcha say she would dance with the devil himself if
he asked her. "So I asked her to dance with me," the devil
said. "Afterwards just to frighten her a little I brought
her down to hell. And now she won't let go of me!"
"Serve you right, you dunce!" the Prince said. "How often
have I told you to use common sense when you go wandering
around on earth! You might have known Katcha would never
let go of a man once she had him!"
"I beg your Majesty to make her let go!" the poor devil
"I will not!" said the Prince. "You'll have to carry her
back to earth yourself and get rid of her as best you can.
Perhaps this will be a lesson to you."
So the devil, very tired and very cross, shambled back to
earth with Katcha still clinging to his neck. He tried
every way to get her off. He promised her wooded hills and
rich meadows if she but let him go. He cajoled her, he
cursed her, but all to no avail. Katcha still held on.
Breathless and discouraged he came at last to a meadow where
a shepherd, wrapped in a great shaggy sheepskin coat, was
tending his flocks. The devil
trans-  formed himself into an
ordinary looking man so that the shepherd didn't recognize
"Hi, there," the shepherd said, "what's that you're
"Don't ask me," the devil said with a sigh. "I'm so worn
out I'm nearly dead. I was walking yonder not thinking
of anything at
all when along comes a woman and jumps on my back and won't
let go. I'm trying to carry her to the nearest village to
get rid of her there, but I don't believe I'm able. My legs
are giving out."
The shepherd, who was a good-natured chap, said: "I tell you
what: I'll help you. I can't leave my sheep long, but I'll
carry her halfway."
"Oh," said the devil, "I'd be very grateful if you did!"
So the shepherd yelled at Katcha: "Hi, there, you! Catch
hold of me!"
When Katcha saw that the shepherd was a handsome youth, she
let go of the devil and leapt upon the shepherd's back,
catching hold of the collar of his sheepskin coat.
Now the young shepherd soon found that the long shaggy coat
and Katcha made a pretty heavy load for walking. In a few
minutes he was sick of his bargain
 and began casting about
for some way of getting rid of Katcha.
Presently he came to a pond and he thought to himself that
he'd like to throw her in. He wondered how he could do it.
Perhaps he could manage it by throwing in his greatcoat with
her. The coat was so loose that he could slip out of it
without Katcha's discovering what he was doing. Very
cautiously he slipped out one arm. Katcha didn't move. He
slipped out the other arm. Still Katcha didn't move. He
unlooped the first button. Katcha noticed nothing. He
unlooped the second button. Still Katcha noticed nothing.
He unlooped the third button and kerplunk! he had pitched the coat
and Katcha and all into the middle of the pond!
When he got back to his sheep, the devil looked at him in
"Where's Katcha?" he gasped.
"Oh," the shepherd said, pointing over his shoulder with his
thumb, "I decided to leave her up yonder in a pond."
"My dear friend," the devil cried, "I thank you! You have
done me a great favor. If it hadn't been for you I might be
carrying Katcha until doomsday. I'll never forget you and
some time I'll reward you.
 As you don't know who it is you've helped, I must tell you
I'm a devil."
With these words the devil vanished.
For a moment the shepherd was dazed. Then he laughed and
said to himself: "Well, if they're all as stupid as he is,
we ought to be able for them!"
The country where the shepherd lived was ruled over by a
dissolute young duke who passed his days in riotous living
and his nights in carousing. He gave over the affairs of state
to two governors who were as bad as he. With extortionate
taxes and unjust fines they robbed the people until the
whole land was crying out against them.
Now one day for amusement the duke summoned an astrologer to
court and ordered him to read in the planets the fate of
himself and his two governors. When the astrologer had cast
a horoscope for each of the three reprobates, he was greatly
disturbed and tried to dissuade the duke from questioning
"Such danger," he said, "threatens your life and the lives
of your two governors that I fear to speak."
"Whatever it is," said the duke, "speak. But I warn you to
speak the truth, for if what you say does not come to pass
you will forfeit your life."
 The astrologer bowed and said: "Hear then, oh Duke, what the
planets foretell: Before the second quarter of moon, on
such and such a day, at such and such an hour, a devil will
come and carry off the two governors. At the full moon on
such and such a day, at such and such an hour, the
same devil will come for your Highness and carry you off to
The duke pretended to be unconcerned but in his heart he was
deeply shaken. The voice of the astrologer sounded to him
like the voice of judgment and for the first time conscience
began to trouble him.
As for the governors, they couldn't eat a bite of food and
were carried from the palace half dead with fright. They
piled their ill-gotten wealth into wagons and rode away to
their castles, where they barred all the doors and windows
in order to keep the devil out.
The duke reformed. He gave up his evil ways and corrected
the abuses of state in the hope of averting if possible
his cruel fate.
The poor shepherd had no inkling of any of these things. He
tended his flocks from day to day and never bothered his head about
the happenings in the great world.
Suddenly one day the devil appeared before him
 and said: "I
have come, my friend, to repay you for your kindness. When
the moon is in its first quarter, I was to carry off the
former governors of this land because they robbed the poor
and gave the duke evil counsel. However, they're behaving
themselves now so they're to be given another chance. But
they don't know this. Now on such and such a day do you go
to the first castle where a crowd of people will be
assembled. When a cry goes up and the gates open and I come
dragging out the governor, do you step up to me and say:
'What do you mean by this? Get out of here or there'll be
trouble!' I'll pretend to be greatly frightened and make
off. Then ask the governor to pay you two bags of gold, and
if he haggles just threaten to call me back. After that go
on to the castle of the second governor and do the same
thing and demand the same pay. I warn you, though, be prudent
with the money and use it only for good. When the moon is
full, I'm to carry off the duke himself, for he was so
wicked he's to have no second chance. So don't try to save
him, for if you do you'll pay for it with your own skin.
The shepherd remembered carefully everything the devil told
him. When the moon was in its first quarter he went to the
first castle. A great crowd of people
 was gathered outside
waiting to see the devil carry away the governor.
Suddenly there was a loud cry of despair, the gates of the
castle opened, and there was the devil, as black as night,
dragging out the governor. He, poor man, was half dead with
The shepherd elbowed his way through the crowd, took the
governor by the hand, and pushed the devil roughly aside.
"What do you mean by this?" he shouted. "Get out of here or
there'll be trouble!"
Instantly the devil fled and the governor fell on his knees
before the shepherd and kissed his hands and begged him to
state what he wanted in reward. When the shepherd asked for
two bags of gold, the governor ordered that they be given to
him without delay.
Then the shepherd went to the castle of the second governor
and went through exactly the same performance.
It goes without saying that the duke soon heard of the
shepherd, for he had been anxiously awaiting the fate of the
two governors. At once he sent a wagon with four horses to
fetch the shepherd to the palace and when the shepherd
arrived he begged him piteously to rescue him likewise from
the devil's clutches.
 "Master," the shepherd answered. "I cannot promise you
anything. I have to consider my own safety. You have been
a great sinner, but if you really want to reform, if you
really want to rule your people justly and kindly and wisely
as becomes a true ruler, then indeed I will help you even if
I have to suffer hellfire in your place."
The duke declared that with God's help he would mend his
ways and the shepherd promised to come back on the fatal
With grief and dread the whole country awaited the coming of
the full moon. In the first place the people had greeted
the astrologer's prophecy with joy, but since the duke had
reformed their feelings for him had changed.
Time sped fast as time does whether joy be coming or sorrow
and all too soon the fatal day arrived.
Dressed in black and pale with fright, the duke sat
expecting the arrival of the devil.
Suddenly the door flew open and the devil, black as night,
stood before him. He paused a moment and then he said,
"Your time has come, Lord Duke, and I am here to get you!"
Without a word the duke arose and followed the
 devil to the
courtyard, which was filled with a great multitude of
At that moment, the shepherd, all out of breath, came
pushing his way through the crowd, and ran straight at the
devil shouting out:
"What do you mean by this? Get out of here or there'll be
"What do you mean?" whispered the devil,
"Don't you remember
what I told you?"
"Hush!" the shepherd whispered back. "I don't care anything
about the duke. This is to warn you! You know Katcha?
She's alive and she's looking for you!"
The instant the devil heard the name of Katcha he turned and
All the people cheered the shepherd, while the shepherd
himself laughed in his sleeve to think that he had taken in
the devil so easily.
As for the duke, he was so grateful to the shepherd that he
made him his chief counselor and loved him as a brother.
And well he might, for the shepherd was a sensible man and
always gave him sound advice.