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  • The Satansfor Fred Chappell
  • R. T. Smith (bio)

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Painting by Pierre Auguste Cot

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Now it happened their oldest girl was one-eyed, but she was the most wakeful and sly, Lilith, so Snake Satan dispatched her one evening to spy out Jack’s movements and see could she figure where he was squirreling away the gold. But Jack was a right cunning mortal with the bean-tree giant long behind him, and a wily fiddle player to boot, so when he saw her lurking behind the laurel shack, he took up his music box and commenced to sawing the bow across the ram-gut strings. His fingers were a mischief, and what a mournful tune it was, soon sweetening off to a twilight hymn, then a lullaby, and sure enough her eyelid grew heavy and drooped shut. Directly she was snoring like some old redbone hound, and Jack got his plunder out of the wagon and laid it off in a dark place, which I can’t mention by name, as Jack has his spies among even the varmints and birds. [End Page 13]

When all his pokes of swag was safe, he took out his skillet black as a new moon and fried up a big wheel of pone, slathered it in butter and unstoppered the honey. Then he waked old Lilith with a whisper and invited her to partake his repast. She’d no notion what had unfolded, but she feasted with him, and he produced a handle jug from which also they partook quite liberal.

It was a green eye, and it shone pretty as any mountain princess’s eyes, not to mention that she was bosomy and sleek of calf, and in spite of himself, Jack was neigh-on smitten. Right soon they was up a loft of shucks and rubbing flesh on flesh, the human on the demon, and the sound of those shucky leaves and the hay they’d scattered on top was like nothing heard thereabouts for some time, not to mention the moaning, hoot and giggilation, and probably Jack’s livestock wondered what was that noise of belly smacking belly, but soon old Jack ceased his pleasures and said, “You best get home to your daddy, as I am wore to a frazzle, and anyhow it’s said he is a sly piece of work hisself and not likely to be outfoxed,” and with that he gave her a gold piece for a keepsake and never felt the lack of that second eye, or so they tell who confess to knowing such particulars.

Back in the devil cave Lilith reported she’d seen no sign of Jack’s rumored good fortune of nuggets and coins and rings, and she kept her full moon of gold to herself in a mighty secret place. Her daddy reckoned he was not getting the whole four gospels, so old Satan walloped her a few times, though to no profit, and then he hollered up the second daughter, called Dixie Ramona, who had two eyes but blue, and she was not the sharpest hoe in the shed, but she always aimed to please, and he told her that Jack was lucky on the horses and with the cards, and good fortune smiled on him when he worked a swap. Some said also there was thief blood in his clan, and he rode about courting all prideful on a tooled saddle wearing wheel spurs of Spanish silver.

“He lights out every morning with that tumbril wagon and dray, and those on the road say it sits heavy on its springs. I know he’s fetching gold home, but I’ve twice searched every nick and nock of his cabin and ground and creek and hedgery to find nothing, so I need you to scout out and pry into his practices. There’s a apple tree near where he parks his dobbin. You might snake up it and lie along a limb to spy out the confidentials. He’s a slick tongue and a quick hand, so best be on your caution. And be wary that fiddle-dee...


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