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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Devil And The Dalles

Title:     The Devil And The Dalles
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

In days when volcanoes were playing in the Northwest and the sternly beautiful valley of the Columbia was a hell of ash and lava, the fiend men of the land met at intervals on the heated rocks to guzzle and riot together. It was at one of these meetings in the third summer after Tacoma had stopped spouting that the devil urged a lesson from the growing peace and joy of nature, and prayed the fiend men to desist from killing and eating each other and live in love.

With a howl of rage at such a proposal they set upon him, tossing their tails in such a threatening manner that he deemed it best to be off, and as his hoofs clattered over the country his brain was busy in devising an escape. Nearing the mountain bulwarks of an inland sea, whose breakers' rhythmic roar he heard above the yells of his pursuers, a hope came into his head, and new vigor into his tail, though you might have thought the latter accession was not needed, for his tail was of prodigious length and strength. He whirled this limb aloft and beat it on the earth. A chasm opened at the stroke, and the devil skipped across to the safe side of it.

Safe? No; for the fiend men in advance took the leap and came beside him. The tormented one could thrash any two of them at once, but he was not equal to a thousand. He brandished his weapon once more and it fell with a crash. Earth shook, dust arose in clouds, and a deeper cleft than before yawned through the valley. Again the fiend men tried to reach him, and, though the gap was bigger and many fell into it, hundreds made the jump and overtook him. He must make one more attempt. The tail revolved for a third time, and with the energy of despair he flailed the ground with it.

A third ravine was split through the rock, and this time the earth's crust cracked away to the eastward, giving outlet to the sea, which came pouring through the canon, breaking rocks from mountains and grinding them to powder in its terrific progress. Gasping with fatigue, the unhappy one toiled up a hill and surveyed his work with satisfaction, for the flood engulfed the fiend men and they left no member of their race behind them.

When they had all been happily smashed or drowned, the devil skipped lightly over the channels he had cut and sought his family, though with a subdued expression of countenance, for his tail--his strength and pride--was bruised and broken beyond repair, and all the little imps that he fathered to the world afterward had little dangling tails like monkeys' instead of megatheriums', and in time these appendages disappeared. But what was the use of them? The fiend men they had fought against were dead and the rising race they could circumvent by subtler means. The inland sea drained off. Its bed is now the prairie, and the three strokes of the devil's tail are indelibly recorded in the bed of the Columbia at the Dalles. And the devil never tried to be good again.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Devil And The Dalles