Unexpected Tales: L'histoire du soldat
There is a soldier, Joseph, returning home from war. He travels with a few souvenirs and his fiddle. Resting for a moment, he meets the Devil disguised as an old man.
"Hello," says Joseph.
"Hello," says the Devil.
"What's your name?" asks Joseph.
"Surprise," says the Devil: "I'm the Devil."
"The Devil, you say?" Joseph asks, nonplussed.
The Devil is suddenly hesitant.
"And what do you want?"
The Devil rallies.
"I can teach you to become the greatest violinist in all the world. And I can make you rich."
"And in exchange?"
The Devil is back on track.
"Didn't see that one coming," says Joseph.
The Devil hesitates, then forges on:
"So you accept?”
"Sure, why not," says Joseph. He continues apathetically: "War is hell. My family won't remember me. What else is there to lose?"
"All right," says the Devil, gleefully, ignoring the red flags.
"Here you go," says Joseph.
"Kind thanks. I'll be on my way."
The Devil vanishes in a puff of smoke.
Five years later, Joseph is enjoying life as a celebrity violinist. It's the 19th century and he's basically German Paganini. Kings are throwing gold at his feet.
One night after a concert the Devil reappears.
"Hello," says the Devil.
"Hello," says Joseph. "Fancy seeing you here."
"Listen," says the Devil, "I need some of that money back. Tragedy's been trading hot and I’ve got some new souls lined up but they're not going cheap."
"Sorry," says Joseph. "No can do."
Both of them now have inexplicably transatlantic accents.
"Look," says the Devil, "Do you want your soul? I'll return it to you for your gold."
"Can’t help you.”
"Half your gold."
"You don't want your soul??"
"Well," says Joseph, "at first I missed it, but seeing as I'm soulless I don't really much mind. And besides, I'm living my best life."
"After all I did for you," teases the Devil, seemingly casual, but really he's feeling a bit emotional and trying to hide it. He'd always thought himself cool in these exchanges.
He tries again: "You think money grows on trees?"
He's trying to guilt Joseph a bit now.
Joseph isn't having it.
"Look," says Joseph, "Things are a bit different since we last met. I might seem to be living the life, but I've also got a mortgage and two kids. So right at this moment I don’t really have the cash to spare."
"And how's that going for you, without a soul?" the Devil asks sourly.
"Actually fine, thanks. It's Germany in the 1830s. The middle class is on the up and up. You should really consider moving to Düsseldorf.”
"Thanks," says the Devil. "I'll keep that in mind."
They come to a pause.
Suddenly the Devil realizes he’s about to lose the deal. He needs Joseph more than he thought.
Joseph breaks the silence: "I might go grab a glass of --"
"Wait," says the Devil. "When I take someone's soul," he pauses (he hadn’t expected to be so emotional but he suddenly is and leans into it), "I give them a piece of myself. It’s a deeper exchange. Now you're telling me it was all just about the money?"
Maybe it's not so bad, the Devil thinks: playing the victim.
"Come on," says Joseph. "No hard feelings. We had a good run of it."
The Devil's spirits sink.
"At least play me a tune," he says.
"Ah," says Joseph, smiling. "Now you’re speaking my language. For that you'll have to pay."
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Pianist, writer, arranger, coach.