Short summary - The Lame Devil - Alain-René Lesage

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Lame Devil
Alain-René Lesage

"Do you know that you have been sleeping since yesterday morning?" - entering the room to the student Don Cleophas, asked one of his friends.
Cleophas opened his eyes, and his first thought was that the amazing adventures that he had experienced last night were nothing more than a dream. However, very soon he became convinced that what happened to him was a reality, and he did spend some of the most extraordinary hours of his life in the company of the Lame Imp.
Their acquaintance happened as follows. During a date with his girlfriend, Don Cleophas was caught by four thugs. They threatened to kill him if he did not marry the lady with whom they had caught him. However, the student did not have the slightest intention of marrying this beauty, and he only spent time with her to mutual pleasure. He bravely defended himself, however, when the sword was knocked out of his hands, he was forced to run straight across the rooftops. In the darkness, he noticed a light, went there and, slipping through the dormer, hid in someone's room in the attic. When he looked around, he discovered that he was most likely in the laboratory of some astrologer - this was indicated by a hanging copper lamp, a book and papers on the table, as well as a compass, a globe, flasks and quadrants.
At that moment, the student heard a drawn-out sigh, which was soon repeated. It turned out that one of the flasks contained a certain spirit, or rather a demon, as he himself explained to the amazed Cleophas. The demon said that the learned sorcerer had been keeping him locked up for six months by the power of his magic, and asked for help. When Cleophas asked what category of devils he belongs to, a proud answer followed: “I arrange funny marriages — I connect old men with minors, masters with maids, women without dowry — with gentle lovers who have not a penny to their hearts. It was I who introduced luxury, debauchery, gambling and chemistry into the world. I am the inventor of carousels, dance, music, comedy and all the latest French fashions. In a word, I am Asmodeus, nicknamed the Lame Devil. "
A brave young man, amazed by such a meeting, treated his new acquaintance with all deference and soon released him from the bottle. Before him appeared a lame freak in a turban with feathers and clothes of white satin. His cloak was painted with numerous frivolous scenes, reproducing what is being done in the world at the suggestion of Asmodeus.
Grateful to his savior, the devil dragged him away from the cramped room, and soon they were at the top of the tower, from where the whole of Madrid opened. Asmodeus explained to his companion that he intended to show him what was happening in the city, and that with the power of devilish power he would raise all the roofs. Indeed, with one movement of his hand, the demon seemed to tear down the roofs from all the houses, and, despite the darkness of the night, the student saw everything that was happening inside the houses and palaces. Countless pictures of life were revealed to him, and his guide explained the details or called his attention to the most amazing examples of human stories. The dazzling in its variegation picture of morals and passions, which the student observed that night, made him wiser and more experienced for a thousand years. Secret springs were revealed to him, which determined the turns of fate, secret vices, forbidden drives, hidden motives. The most intimate details, the most secret thoughts appeared before Cleophas at a glance with the help of his guide. Mocking, skeptical and at the same time condescending to human weaknesses, the demon turned out to be an excellent commentator on the scenes of a huge human comedy, which he showed the young man that night.
And he began by taking revenge on the very dona, whose student was so suddenly overtaken by the bandits. Asmodeus assured Cleophas that the beauty had set up this attack herself, since she planned to marry the student to herself. Cleophas saw that now the cheat was sitting at the table with the very types who were chasing him and whom she herself hid in her house, and was eating with them the rich treat sent to them. His indignation knew no bounds, but soon his rage was replaced by laughter. Asmodeus feasting inspired aversion to each other, they fought a bloody brawl, neighbors called the police, and now the two surviving fighters with hostess were in jail ...
This is one of many examples of how the imaginary of decency bared that night repulsive everyday truth, how the veil of hypocrisy flew from human actions, and tragedies turned into comedies. The demon patiently explained to Cleophas that the beauty who admired him had false hair and false teeth. That three young people, with a mournful look sitting at the bedside of a dying man, are nephews who will not wait for the death of a wealthy uncle. That the nobleman, who rereads a note from his beloved before going to bed, does not know that this person has ruined him. That another noble gentleman, who is worried about the birth of his precious wife, does not suspect that he owes this event to his servant. Two observers were exposed to nocturnal alarms of a restless conscience, secret dates of lovers, crimes, traps and deceptions. The vices, which are usually disguised and go into the shadows, seemed to come to life before the eyes of the spellbound Cleophas, and he was amazed at how powerful over human destinies jealousy and arrogance, self-interest and passion, avarice and vanity.
In fact, the whole novel is a nighttime conversation between a student and Asmodeus, during which we are told a lot of stories, sometimes uncomplicated, sometimes bizarrely incredible. Often these are stories of lovers who are not allowed to unite either the cruelty and suspicion of their parents, or the inequality of origin. One of these stories, fortunately, ends with a happy wedding, but many others are sad.
In the first case, the count fell in love with the daughter of a simple nobleman and, not intending to marry her, set the goal of making the girl his mistress. With the help of lies and cunning tricks, he convinced the girl of his love, won her favor and began to enter her bedroom along the silk stairs. This was helped by the duenna he bribed, which the father specially assigned to his daughter in order to monitor her morality. One day a secret romance was discovered by his father. He wanted to kill the count, and send his daughter to the monastery. However, as already mentioned, the denouement of the story turned out to be happy. The count was imbued with grief of the girl offended by him, proposed to her and restored the family honor. Moreover, he gave his own sister to the brother of his bride, deciding that love is more important than titles.
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But such harmony of hearts is rare. Vice is not always put to shame, but virtue is rewarded. For example, the story of the beautiful Dona Theodora ended tragically - and it was in this case that the relationship of the three heroes showed an example of generosity, nobility and the ability to sacrifice in the name of friendship! Dona Theodora was equally passionately loved by two devoted friends. She reciprocated one of them. At first, her chosen one wanted to retire so as not to be a rival to his comrade, then a friend persuaded him not to give up happiness. Doña Theodora, however, had by that time been kidnapped by a third person, who himself was soon killed in a fight with robbers. After a dizzying adventure, captivity, escape, pursuit and a happy rescue, the lovers finally got together and got married. Their happiness knew no bounds. However, amid this bliss, a fatal incident revealed itself: during a hunt, don Juan fell from his horse, seriously injured his head and died. “Dona Theodora is the lady who, as you can see, beats in despair in the arms of two women: she will probably soon follow her husband,” the devil concluded calmly.
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What is it, human nature? What is more in it - pettiness or greatness, baseness or nobility? Trying to figure it out, the inquisitive student tirelessly followed his nimble guide. They looked into prison cells, looked at the columns of prisoners returning home, penetrated into the secrets of dreams, and even the vaults of the tombs did not serve as an obstacle for them. They discussed the reasons for the insanity of those who are imprisoned in insane asylums, as well as those eccentrics who are obsessed with mania, although they lead a seemingly ordinary life. Some of them were the slaves of their own avarice, some of envy, some of swagger, some of the habits of extravagance. “Wherever you look, everywhere you see people with damaged brains,” the devil rightly remarked, continuing that it was as if “all the same people appear, only in different guises”. In other words, human types and vices are unusually tenacious. During their journey over the rooftops, they noticed a terrible fire raging in one of the palaces. Before him, the owner, a noble city dweller, was killing and sobbing - not because his goods were burning, but because his only daughter remained in the house. Cleophas gave the devil the only order that he had the right to do as a deliverer for the only time during the night: he demanded to save the girl. After thinking for a moment, Asmodeus took the form of Cleophas, rushed into the fire and, under the admiring cries of the crowd, carried out the insensitive girl. Soon she opened her eyes and was hugged by a happy father. Her deliverer, on the other hand, disappeared unnoticed.
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Among the stories strung on a single thread of the story, we note only two more. Here is the first one. The son of a village shoemaker became a financier and became very rich. Twenty years later, he returned to his parents, gave his father money and demanded that he quit his job. Another three months passed. The son was surprised when one day in his city he saw his father, who prayed: “I am dying of idleness! Let me live by my own labor again ”... The second case is this. One dishonest man in the forest saw a man burying a treasure under a tree. When the owner of the treasure left, the swindler dug up the money and appropriated it for himself. His life went very successfully. But somehow he learned that the owner of the treasure suffers hardship and want. And then the first one felt an irresistible need to help him. And in the end he came with repentance, admitting that he had lived at his expense for many years ...
Yes, a person is sinful, weak, pitiful, he is a slave to his passions and habits. But at the same time, he is endowed with the freedom to create his own destiny, unknown to the representative of evil spirits. And this freedom manifests itself even in the whimsical, unpredictable form of the novel "Lame Devil" itself. And the demon himself did not enjoy long in the wild - soon the sorcerer discovered his flight and again brought him back. Finally, Asmodeus gave Cleophas advice to marry the beautiful Seraphina saved from the fire.
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After waking up a day later, the student hurried to the house of a noble citizen and really saw ashes in its place. He also learned that the owner is looking for his daughter's savior everywhere and wants to bless his marriage with Seraphina as a token of gratitude. Cleophas came to this family and was greeted with delight. At first sight he fell in love with Seraphina, and she fell in love with him. But after that he came to her father and, looking down, explained that it was not he who saved Seraphina, but the devil. The old man, however, said: “Your confession strengthens me in my intention to give you my daughter: you are her true savior. If you had not asked the Lame Devil to deliver her from her threatening death, he would not have resisted her death. "
These words dispelled all doubts. And a few days later the wedding was celebrated with all the splendor befitting the occasion.