Twardowski lived in the 18th century in Krakau, Poland. When he was young, he studied medicine. He was a very hard-working student and soon became a well-known doctor in all Poland. But Twardowski wasn't satisfied with this. He wanted to be more powerful.
One day, in an old book of magic, he found the formula for summoning the devil. That night, he went to the lonely mountain Kremenki. The night was very dark and cold. It was stormy and lightning sometimes appeared. Twardowski stopped at an old hut and there he began to call for the devil.
When he finished saying the magic words, there was an earthquake, the ground opened at Twardowski's feet and flames leaped out. And in the flames, there was the devil himself in the form of a man. He had a red coat with a red cap.
"What do you want? the devil asked.
"The power of your most secret wisdom," answered Twardowski.
"And how can I do it?"
"You will make me the most famous of all people. You will also make me happier than any other man in the world."
"So be it," said the devil. "I will do it. But in seven years, I will take your soul."
"Yes, I agree, you can take my soul," answered Twardowski, "but only in Rome."
The devil didn't like it too much, but then he thought it could be fun, so he agreed. He wrote the agreement and Twardowski signed it with his own blood. Then he went home to bed.
The next morning he got up and the first thing that he wanted was to have all the silver of Poland. Then he wanted to cover the silver with a lot of sand. And then he had similar foolish wishes. The devil started to regret his agreement. One day Twardowski wanted to fly without wings, another day he wanted to ride a cock, another day he wanted to float on a boat without a sail with beautiful women. One day he set fire to the castle of an enemy a mile away. People started to fear him.
Finally, the seven years were up. The devil appeared and said:
"Twardowski, the time is over and I command you to go to Rome."
"What shall I do there?"
"Give me your soul," was the answer.
"Do you think I am a fool?" asked Twardowski.
"You promised me to go to Rome after seven years."
"I went to Rome last year. I didn't promise to stay there."
"Deceiver! Liar!" exclaimed the devil.
"Stupid devil!" cried Twardowski.
Then the devil disappeared and Twardowski returned home. For over a year he read his books of magic, until one day he found magic words to avoid death. Then he called his assistant named Famulus and explained that he was going to test the magic.
"I know that you are a faithful assistant. Now do as I say. Take this knife and thrust it into my heart."
"My God, no!" cried Famulus.
"Why are you frightened? I know what I'm doing. Take the knife and kill me. It is written in the magic book."
"You must," insisted Twardowski.
"It is impossible!"
"No more talk. Do as I tell you. Do it, or I will kill YOU!"
So Famulus took his knife and stabbed his master into the heart. Twardowski cried and fell down dead. Famulus dropped his knife and covered his face with his hands. Then he remembered that he must do the magic. So he cut off the arms and legs of the dead body, and prepared the elixir. Then he put the elixir onto the dead body, put the arms and legs together, and laid the dead body in a coffin. Then he buried the coffin the next night. The body had to stay in the grave for seven years, seven months, seven days and seven hours. So Famulus waited.
After seven years, seven months, seven days and seven hours, Famulus went to Twardowski's grave. It was a snowy, cold December night. He dug out the coffin, brushed off the snow and earth, opened it and found a body. But he was very surprised. It was not the body of old Twardowski, but a body of a sleeping child. Famulus picked the child up, put him under his coat and went home.
The next morning the child was like a twelve-year old boy. After seven other weeks he was a full-grown man. It was Twardowski. He was younger and stronger. He thanked Famulus and started to study magic.
He wanted to be free from the devil forever. He could do it only in the underworld. So Twardowski decided to enter the gates of hell. He used magic words to open the ground and he began to go under ground. Blue flames lighted the way. He went deeper and deeper through dark passages. Then finally he came to the underworld. He saw many awful things. He was more and more frightened. He had a feeling that the devil tries to trick him.
Finally, he came to a small room. He saw a child in a cradle in one corner of the room. He took the child quickly, put it under his coat and wanted to leave. But he stopped, when he saw the devil standing in the door. The devil humbly bowed and said:
"Will you be good to go with me now?"
"Why?" asked Twardowski.
"Because we had an agreement."
"But you have power over me only in Rome," said the magician.
"Yes," replied the devil, "and Rome is the name of this house."
"You think you can trick me, but you cannot. I have this talisman of innocence," and he showed the sleeping child.
The devil was angry, stepped nearer to Twardowski and said softly:
"What are you thinking of, Twardowski? Can you remember your promise? Man must keep his word."
"That's right," said the magician proudly, "I must keep my word." He put the baby back to the cradle and surrendered to the devil.
Two wings, like the wings of a bat, appeared on the shoulders of the devil. He took Twardowski and flew away with him. The magician was so terrified that in a few moments he changed into an old man, but he didn't lose consciousness.
They were high in the air over the city of Krakau. Twardowski looked down and was very sad. They flew higher and higher, until they got to the moon. Then Twardowski remembered a song that his mother sang him when he was a little child. When he repeated this song, an angel suddenly appeared and said:
"Satan, let Twardowski go. And you, Twardowski, will hang between heaven and earth as a punishment for your sins."
And so Twardowski hangs between heaven and earth to this day.