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Twardowski.

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

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Then he set about the task, severed the limbs of the dead body, and worked and brewed and distilled until the elixir described in the parchment was prepared. With the elixir he rubbed the members of the master's body, put them together, and laid the corpse in a coffin. This he buried on the following night, explaining to Twardowski's friends that such had been the master's wish. Now the parchment stated that the body must remain in the grave seven years, seven months, seven days and seven hours; so Famulus could do nothing but wait. At last the time had expired, and on a snowy, cold December night he found his way to the grave. He dug out the coffin, brushed off the snow and earth, opened the casket and found--not the body of Twardowski, but that of a child who lay sleeping in a bed of fragrant violets. "The child is like Twardowski," Famulus thought, and he gathered him up under his cloak and carried him home. The next morning the child was the size of a twelve-year old; and after seven weeks he was a full-grown man. Twardowski, who now seemed quite himself, only younger, and stronger, thanked Famulus and resumed again his study of magic. He desired, above all things, to be freed forever from his compact with the devil. This, he read in one of the books, he might do if he would brave the terrors of the underworld. So Twardowski determined to enter the gates of hell. At his magic speech the ground opened and he began the path of descent. Blue flames lighted the way. Deeper and deeper he went through dark and winding passages. At last he reached the underworld itself, and many awful sights did he behold.



And the farther he went the more frightened did he become. He could not help feeling that the devil had plotted something against him. Finally he found himself in a small room, and cast a hasty glance around, looking for a means of escape. Seeing a child in a cradle in one corner of the room he seized it hastily, threw his cloak around it, and was about to leave when the door opened and the Evil One entered. He made a respectful bow and said, "Will you be good enough to go with me now?" "Why so?" asked Twardowski, obstinately. "Because of our agreement." "But," said the magician, "only in Rome have you power over me." "Yes," replied the devil, "and Rome is the name of this house." "You think to trick me by a pun; but you cannot. I carry this talisman of innocence," and throwing aside his cloak, he disclosed the sleeping child. Anger showed in the face of the devil; but he stepped nearer to Twardowski and said softly: "What are you thinking of, Twardowski? Have you forgotten your promise? The nobleman's word is sacred to him." Pride awoke in the breast of the magician. "I must keep my word," he said, laying the child back in the crib, and surrendering himself. On the shoulders of the devil two wings appeared, like the wings of a bat. He seized Twardowski and flew away with him, mounting higher and higher into the night. The magician was so terrified and suffered such anguish in the clutches of the Evil One that in a few moments he was changed into an old man, but he did not lose consciousness. At last so high were they that cities appeared like flies and Krakau with its mighty turrets like two spiders. Deeply moved, Twardowski looked down upon the scene of all his struggles and all his joys.



But higher and higher they went--higher than any eagle has ever flown--and more lonely and more fearful did it seem to Twardowski. Only occasionally bright stars passed by them, or fiery meteors, leaving a long streak of light behind. At last they came to the moon, which stared at them with dead eyes. Then a song that Twardowski had read in his mother's hymn book rose to his lips. And as he repeated mechanically the prayer his mother had taught him an angel suddenly appeared and said: "Satan, let Twardowski go; and you, Twardowski, hang you there between heaven and earth, to atone for your sin until the Last Judgment. Then will you be reunited with your mother in heaven. The prayer which you remembered in your hour of need has saved you." And so, according to the story, Twardowski is suspended in the vault of heaven to this very day.

       



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