Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/How the Devil was baulked by a dame

Once a Week, Series 1, Volume XI  (1864) 
Legends of Charlemagne's city
No. V. How the Devil was baulked by a dame
by Morgan John O'Connell

Part of the series "Legends of Charlemagne's City." The introduction to these translations states that they are from stories collected by "a learned professor from Aix-la-Chapelle."




Night or day tho foul fiend never rested after the trick the men of Aix had played upon him by giving him a wolf's soul instead of a man's, in return for his help with their Minster. And, cruellest cut of all, it had passed into a proverb that the men of Aix were sharper than the Devil. Nursing his wrath to keep it warm, he hit on the dark design of burying minster, palace, city, men, women, and children in one common ruin. So, one day he went to tho sea-shore, saw a great hill of sand, which just suited his purpose, put it on his back, and laughing in his sleeve, set out to crush tho city and all it contained. Panting and sweating under his burthen, he came near tho town gate called the "Pont-thor," when a breeze sprang up from the east, blew some of his sand into his eyes and nearly blinded him, so that, enveloped in a perfect simoom, ho could not find his way to the city.

Now, it so happened that a decent old woman came up on her way to market, while he was trying to get to the town. He accosted her most courteously, saying:

"Can you show me the way to Aix, good dame?"

At that very instant, by rare good luck, she caught a glimpse of the cloven foot. Most luckily, the dame had all her wits about her, for she straightway pulled out her rosary beads, and, catching their cross, made the holy sign upon the sand-hill in the twinkling of an eye. Forthwith thoe devil's power all passed away. He vanished then and there, and dropped his load so suddenly that it split in two. In memory of the good woman's cleverness, the larger mound was and is called tho Lous Berg, the Hill of Craft. Tho smaller one goes by the name of San Salvator1* Berg, St. Saviour's Hill, and a cross is erected on its summit.

That the hills had come into their present position from the sea-shore was firmly believed by the burghers of old, who would cite, as proof positive of the truth of their story, that scallops and other sea-shells, turned to stone from their long rest inland, are found bedded in the soil, while there is not a trace of them in any part of the country round.

Ever since the hills were landed in their present station the devil has let the Aix folk alone; and the clever way in which they took him in gave rise to the proverb, "De Aechen sind der Duevel ze lous," which means in their dialect," The Aix folk are craftier than the devil himself."

Tale and legend fail in fitly portraying his wrath, now that the destined instruments of his vengeance have become two smiling hills, from which the traveller views the lordly sight of City and Minster rising proudly and unharmed from the plain below. Still greater must have been his fury when one of Charlemagne's successors, Louis the Pious, built a church and monastery on St. Salvator's Berg.