The Reward of Kindness
In a certain town there once lived a couple who had never had a child. They had been married for nearly five years, and were very anxious for a son. The name of the wife was Clara; and of the man, Philip.
One cloudy night in December, while they were talking by the window of their house, Clara said to her husband that she was going to pray the novena [nine consecutive days of praying], so that heaven would give them a child. "I would even let my son serve the devil, if he would but give us a son!"
As her husband was willing that she should pray the novena, Clara began the next day her fervent devotions to the Virgin Mary. She went to church every afternoon for nine days. She carried a small prayer book with her, and prayed until six o'clock every evening. At last she finished her novenario, but no child was born to them, and the couple was disappointed.
A month had passed, when, to their great happiness, Clara gave birth to a son. The child they nicknamed Idó. Idó was greatly cherished by his parents, for he was their only child; but he did not care much to stay at home. He early began to show a fondness for travelling abroad, and was always to be found in the dense woods on the outskirts of the town.
One afternoon, when the family was gathered together around a small table, talking, a knock was heard at the door.
"Come in!" said Philip.
"No, I just want to talk with your wife," answered a hoarse voice from without.
Clara, trembling, opened the door, and, to her great surprise, she saw standing there a man who looked like a bear.
"A devil, a devil!" she exclaimed.
But the devil pacified her, and said, "Clara, I have come here to get your son you promised me a long time ago. Now that the day has come when your son can be of some service to me, will you deny your promise?"
Clara could make no reply at first. She merely called her son; and when he came, she said to the devil, "Here is my son. Take him, since he is yours."
Idó, who was at this time about seventeen years old, was not frightened by the devil.
"Come," said the devil, "and be my follower!"