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The Devil And The Broker: A Mediaeval Legend
by [?]

The church clocks in San Francisco were striking ten. The Devil, who had been flying over the city that evening, just then alighted on the roof of a church near the corner of Bush and Montgomery Streets. It will be perceived that the popular belief that the Devil avoids holy edifices, and vanishes at the sound of a Credo or Pater-noster, is long since exploded. Indeed, modern scepticism asserts that he is not averse to these orthodox discourses, which particularly bear reference to himself, and in a measure recognize his power and importance.

I am inclined to think, however, that his choice of a resting-place was a good deal influenced by its contiguity to a populous thoroughfare. When he was comfortably seated, he began pulling out the joints of a small rod which he held in his hand, and which presently proved to be an extraordinary fishing-pole, with a telescopic adjustment that permitted its protraction to a marvellous extent. Affixing a line thereto, he selected a fly of a particular pattern from a small box which he carried with him, and, making a skilful cast, threw his line into the very centre of that living stream which ebbed and flowed through Montgomery Street.

Either the people were very virtuous that evening or the bait was not a taking one. In vain the Devil whipped the stream at an eddy in front of the Occidental, or trolled his line into the shadows of the Cosmopolitan; five minutes passed without even a nibble. “Dear me!” quoth the Devil, “that’s very singular; one of my most popular flies, too! Why, they’d have risen by shoals in Broadway or Beacon Street for that. Well, here goes another.” And, fitting a new fly from his well-filled box, he gracefully recast his line.

For a few moments there was every prospect of sport. The line was continually bobbing and the nibbles were distinct and gratifying. Once or twice the bait was apparently gorged and carried off in the upper stories of the hotels to be digested at leisure. At such times the professional manner in which the Devil played out his line would have thrilled the heart of Izaak Walton. But his efforts were unsuccessful; the bait was invariably carried off without hooking the victim, and the Devil finally lost his temper. “I’ve heard of these San Franciscans before,” he muttered; “wait till I get hold of one,–that’s all!” he added malevolently, as he rebaited his hook. A sharp tug and a wriggle foiled his next trial, and finally, with considerable effort, he landed a portly two-hundred-pound broker upon the church roof.

As the victim lay there gasping, it was evident that the Devil was in no hurry to remove the hook from his gills; nor did he exhibit in this delicate operation that courtesy of manner and graceful manipulation which usually distinguished him.

“Come,” he said, gruffly, as he grasped the broker by the waistband, “quit that whining and grunting. Don’t flatter yourself that you’re a prize either. I was certain to have had you. It was only a question of time.”

“It is not that, my lord, which troubles me,” whined the unfortunate wretch, as he painfully wriggled his head, “but that I should have been fooled by such a paltry bait. What will they say of me down there? To have let ‘bigger things’ go by, and to be taken in by this cheap trick,” he added, as he groaned and glanced at the fly which the Devil was carefully rearranging, “is what,–pardon me, my lord,–is what gets me!”

“Yes,” said the Devil, philosophically, “I never caught anybody yet who didn’t say that; but tell me, ain’t you getting somewhat fastidious down there? Here is one of my most popular flies, the greenback,” he continued, exhibiting an emerald-looking insect, which he drew from his box. “This, so generally considered excellent in election season, has not even been nibbled at. Perhaps your sagacity, which, in spite of this unfortunate contretemps, no one can doubt,” added the Devil, with a graceful return to his usual courtesy, “may explain the reason or suggest a substitute.”