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Twardowski.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall
Age Rating 8 Plus.

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Toward the close of the eighteenth century there was pointed out to visitors in the old town of Krakau the house of the magician Twardowski, who quite properly was called the Faust of Poland, because of his dealings with the Evil One. In his youth Twardowski had followed the study of medicine, and with such industry, such eagerness and such a clear mind did he practice his profession that it was not long before he was the most celebrated doctor in all Poland. But Twardowski was not satisfied with this. He craved greater and still greater power. At last one day, as he was reading, he found in an old book of magic that for which he had long been seeking--the formula for summoning the devil. When night came a storm had risen, but caring not for that he hurried away to the lonely mountain Kremenki. There, in a rudely constructed hut, he began his incantations. Before long there was an earthquake; great rocks were loosened, the ground opened at Twardowski's feet and flames leaped out; and in the flames appeared the Evil One himself, in the form of a man, clad in a red cloak with the well-known pointed red cap. "What do you wish?" the devil asked. "The power of your most secret wisdom," was the answer. "And how is this to be done?" "You shall make me the most celebrated of all the learned men of the century, and shall besides give me such happiness as no man has ever enjoyed upon this earth before." "So be it," said the devil. "But on condition that at the end of seven years I gain possession of your soul." "You may take me," answered Twardowski, "but only in Rome may you have power over me. Thither, at the end of seven years, will I go."



The devil hesitated over this clause, but thinking of the fun he could have in the holy city, finally agreed. Leaning against the wall of stone he wrote the compact, which Twardowski, making a slight wound in his arm, signed with his own blood. When Twardowski descended from the mountain and made his way, book under arm, through the valley, he heard the bells in all the towers of the city ringing out clearly and solemnly on the still night air. He listened, wondering at the unaccustomed noise, then hurried into the town, inquiring from every one he met what the occasion was. But no one seemed to have heard the sound. Then a deep feeling of sadness came over him as he realized the meaning of the bells. They were the funeral knell of his own soul. When morning came, however, doubts were forgotten, and Twardowski was glad to have the devil at his command. The first thing that he demanded was to have all the silver of Poland gathered together in one place and covered over with great mounds of sand. Similar requests followed, and it was not long before the devil repented of his bargain. One day it would please Twardowski to fly without wings through the air; on another, to the delight of the crowd, to gallop backward on a cock; on another to float in a boat without a rudder or sail, accompanied by some maiden who for the moment had inflamed his heart. One day, by the use of his magic mirror, he set fire to the castle of an enemy a mile away. This last feat made him greatly feared by people far and wide.



At last the seven years were up. The devil appeared to Twardowski and said: "Twardowski, the time of our pact is over, and I command you to fulfill your promise and go to Rome." "What shall I do there?" "Give me your immortal soul," was the answer. "Do you think I am a fool?" asked Twardowski. "You gave me your promise to go to Rome after seven years." "That I have already done," said Twardowski, "and I did not promise to stay in Rome." "Noble deceiver!" exclaimed the Evil One. "Stupid devil!" cried Twardowski. Then after a struggle the devil vanished and Twardowski returned home. For over a year he pored incessantly over his books of magic, until at last he found a formula for warding off death. Then he called his disciple Famulus to him and explained that he was going to test the formula. "You have always obliged me without question," said Twardowski, "and I expect you to now. Take this knife and thrust it into my heart." "God forbid!" cried Famulus. "Why are you frightened? I know what I am doing. Take the knife and kill me, as the parchment directs." "I cannot." "You must," insisted Twardowski. "It is impossible!" "No more exclamations. Do as I tell you." "Oh, oh, oh!" wailed Famulus. "Strike!" thundered Twardowski, "or I will kill you this instant." Then Famulus did as he was bid and forced the blade into his master's heart. Twardowski uttered a low cry, fell, and was soon dead. Famulus dropped trembling into a chair and covered his face with his hands. Then he remembered that he must read the remainder of the parchment in order to find out what he must do to restore the body to life.

       



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