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THE LEGEND OF THE CASTELLANO
 THE Count of Castellano sat in the banqueting-hall of his castle thinking
deeply. He was growing old. Very soon, he knew, his life must come to an
end, and the thought of that end made him feel uneasy and afraid. All the
wicked deeds he had committed seemed to rise up and stalk past him like grim
ghosts, and they were so black and terrible that he hid his face and dared
not look at them.
"We are the poor you have robbed," cried a crowd of grey ghosts as they
swept wailing by.
"We are the wicked passions you have allowed to dwell in your heart,"
shrieked an evil-looking band.
"We are your lost days, lost opportunities, and all the good deeds you have
left undone," sighed a train of sorrowful spectres.
It was all quite true. He had riches and all that heart could wish, but what
good had he ever done? How often had his gentle wife implored him to
repent. But the more she urged him the worse he had become. He knew that the
demons were rejoicing to think they had his soul in safe keeping.
The door of the banqueting-hall was cautiously opened and a servant looked
 "Signor," he said, "a holy father, on his way from Rome, begs for
"Let him come in," said the Castellano, much to the surprise of the servant
who had scarcely dared to bring the message.
The priest entered and the old Count received him courteously, and ordered
meat and wine to be placed before him.
"I have done but few good deeds in my life," he added; "I can at least
show hospitality to one of God's servants."
Then he began to tell the priest all that he had been thinking about as he
sat there alone.
The priest sighed deeply, and looked earnestly at the old man.
"What will be the use of all your gold, your splendid castle and your
feasts and pleasures, when the demons come to carry off your soul?" he
"I would it were not now too late to repent," said the Castellano, gazing
with troubled eyes at the earnest face of the holy father.
"It is never too late," answered the priest. "Make your confession now,
and I will pray God to have mercy."
But as the good father listened to the long list of black sins he was almost
too horrified to speak.
"Indeed, you have but little time in which to repent for such a long,
wicked, wasted life," he said at length.
 "But perhaps if you do penance for
two whole years God may have mercy on your soul."
The Count shook his head when he heard those words.
"How can I do penance for two years?" he asked, "I who cannot pass one
day without committing some sin? I will not begin by making a promise to
God which I know it will be impossible for me to keep."
"Well, your sins are certainly grievous," said the priest, "but perhaps
the good God will be satisfied with a year's penance."
"Neither is that possible," answered the Count. "A year would be a long,
long trial. My penitence would not last half that time. No, it is no use
giving me a month or even a week. I am not strong enough to trust myself. I
can but promise to do penance for one whole night, and if that is no use, I
must give up all hope of pardon."
Then the priest saw that the Count was truly in earnest, and he longed that
his soul should be saved.
"God alone can give true penitence," he said, "and with Him time is as
nothing. Go, then, to the little ruined chapel which I passed on my way
hither, and spend the night in prayer before the altar. But see that nothing
draws you away or interferes with your prayers. For this one night you must
belong only to God."
The Count rose with a lightened heart and prepared
 to set out for the little
chapel. He was strong in his purpose to pray for pardon for his sins.
But as he knelt in the chapel saying the prayers which had not passed his
lips since he was a little child, the demons, who were never far off from
him, gnashed their teeth with rage and anger.
"What is all this?" cried the chief diavolo. "Here we have worked for
years and waited for this man's soul, and now at last he seeks to cheat us
of what surely is our own possession."
"Oh! leave him to me," laughed a little demon; "I have always known how
to tempt him, and I will not fail now."
"Be off then!" said the chief diavolo, "and do not rest until you have
done your work."
So the little demon made haste, and took the form of the Castellano's sister
and came hurrying into the chapel where the Count knelt before the altar.
"Brother, brother, help, help!" cried the demon. "Our castle is
surrounded by enemies. They have spoiled all your lands. Your servants have
fled, and your wife and daughters are helpless in the castle."
"My sister," answered the Castellano, "I cannot come. I dare not break my
word to God. I have promised to spend this night in penitence in the chapel,
and here I must stay."
"But, brother," cried the demon, "do you not care for your wife and
children? Do you not mind that
 your castle will soon be in the hands of your enemy and all your riches
gone?" "My gold and silver, my
castle and lands are nothing compared to my
honour," answered the Count, "and as to my wife and children, God will
The demon saw it was no use, and returned to his master very sad and
"I can do nothing with the man," he said gloomily.
"You are but a useless little diavolo," said his master, "and I shall no
longer send you on earth to do my work."
"Then let me try," said another demon eagerly; "I have great cunning which
So the cunning demon made it appear as if a great fire was raging in the
castle, and the glare of the flames lighted up the windows of the little
chapel. Then he called loudly to the Castellano to escape, telling him that
the castle was on fire and the flames were spreading.
But the Count only answered quietly, "I am in God's hands and He will allow
no harm to come near me."
Then the red glare died away and the Castellano went on with his prayers.
The demon looked on in despair. Soon it would be morning, and when day broke
the Count's soul would be saved unless he could be forced before then to
leave the chapel.
So as a last hope the demon took the form of a
 priest and came solemnly into
the chapel. A little diavolo walked in front of him, pretending to be a
server and swinging his censer of incense.
The demon touched the kneeling Count on the shoulder.
"It is time for the morning Mass," he said, "and you are too great a
sinner to stay here. Begone ere I begin the service."
"I know I have been a great sinner," said the Castellano, "but since God
has promised to pardon me, you need not seek to thrust me out."
At these words the whole crowd of listening demons gave a howl of rage, and
rushed in upon the Count to drag him out of the chapel by force.
But what was that faint light in the east, and what sound was that which
stilled the demons' cries? Surely it was dawn and the little chapel bell
was ringing out the Ave Maria. The day had come, and with the darkness the
whole evil crew must flee before the light.
So the Castellano had saved his soul, but there he knelt on silently, never
moving. And when, later on, the real priest entered, he found the Count
still kneeling there with a peaceful, happy smile upon his face. The pardon
he had prayed for had been granted, and he would never more fall into the
hands of the evil demons, for the angels had carried his soul safely home to