“Thanks,” said the devil, sitting down in the armchair. But no sooner was he seated than the smith told him that, as he looked his work over, he was afraid it would take him at least four years to sharpen the nail and that the devil would have to sit there while he worked.
Fault of the iron
At first the devil begged him politely to let him out of the chair, but then he got angry and began to threaten him. The smith kept making all kinds of excuses, saying it was the fault of the iron which was hard as the deuce, and he tried to console the devil by telling him how comfortable he was in the armchair and that he would certainly let him out in four years on the stroke of the clock.
At last the devil saw there was nothing for it but to promise that he would not come for the smith till the four years were over.
“Well, then, you can get up,” said the smith, and the devil hustled off as fast as ever he could.
In four years he came back to fetch the smith.
“Well, now you must be ready,” said the devil, poking his nose in at the smithy door.
“Yes, I’m Johnny-on-the-spot,” said the smith, “ready to go whenever you say so. But just listen, there’s one thing I’ve thought over and wanted to ask you about for ever so long. Is it true, as they say, that the devil can make himself as small as he wants to?”
“Of course it’s true,” answered the devil.
“Then I really think you might do me the favor of creeping into my steel-mesh purse to see if there are any holes in it,” said the smith. “I’m so afraid I might lose my traveling money.”
“Why, certainly,” said the devil, making himself so tiny he could crawl into the purse, and in a trice the smith snapped it shut.
“Yes; it is whole and perfect everywhere,” said the devil, inside the purse.
“You are probably right,” said the smith, “but a stitch in time saves nine, so I think I’ll solder the joints a little, just to make sure.” Whereupon, he put the purse into the forge and made it glowing hot.
“Oh, me!—are you mad?” shrieked the devil. “Don’t you know I’m inside the purse?”
“I’m sorry I can’t help you,” said the smith; “there’s an old saying that you must strike while the iron is hot.” At this, he took his great sledge-hammer, laid the purse on the anvil, and basted it for all he was worth.