The Rival Fiddlers
Before Brooklyn had spread itself beyond Greenwood Cemetery a stone could be seen in Martense's Lane, south of that burial-ground, that bore a hoof mark. A negro named Joost, in the service of the Van Der Something-or-others, was plodding home on Saturday night, his fiddle under his arm. He had been playing for a wedding in Flatbush and had been drinking schnapps until he saw stars on the ground and fences in the sky; in fact, the universe seemed so out of order that he seated himself rather heavily on this rock to think about it. The behavior of the stars in swimming and rolling struck him as especially curious, and he conceived the notion that they wanted to dance. Putting his fiddle to his chin, he began a wild jig, and though he made it up as he went along, he was conscious of doing finely, when the boom of a bell sent a shiver down his spine. It was twelve o'clock, and here he was playing a dance tune on Sunday. However, the sin of playing for one second on the Sabbath was as great as that of playing all day; so, as long as he was in for it, he resolved to carry the tune to the end, and he fiddled away with a reckless vehemence. Presently he became aware that the music was both wilder and sweeter than before, and that there was more of it. Not until then did he observe that a tall, thin stranger stood beside him; and that he was fiddling too,—composing a second to Joost's air, as if he could read his thought before he put it into execution on the strings. Joost paused, and the stranger did likewise.
"Where de debble did you come frum?" asked the first. The other smiled.
"And how did you come to know dat music?" Joost pursued.
"Oh, I've known that tune for years," was the reply. "It's called 'The
Devil's joy at Sabbath Breaking.'"
"You're a liar!" cried the negro. The stranger bowed and burst into a roar of laughter. "A liar!" repeated Joost,—"for I made up dat music dis very minute."
"Yet you notice that I could follow when you played."
"Humph! Yes, you can follow.