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This is the true story of Pan Twardoski, as it was told to me, and now I'm telling it to you. If you don't believe me, ask any pole.

So, Twardoski was a man of wealth, but not of taste. He was what Shakespeare might call a "gentleman". He was known as a dabbler in alchemy, a man of a little learning, much of it earned the hard way (The hard way that involves singeing, rather than manual labour). Twardoski loved fine boots, rich cloaks, and gilt tableware.

Unfortunately, this noble paragon of bourgeois virtue (so far ahead of his time!) had one fatal flaw: his love of knowledge and gaudy clothing was outstripped only by his love of wine. Wine such as is often to be had at the parties that the moderately wealthy self-publicist cannot but attend. That, as it happens, was one of the major reasons for Twardoski's wealth: he was known as a man who might know many things, a man always on the cusp of some lucrative discovery, definitely a man to consult.

For some reason.

Mainly his ability to drop the right comment at the right time, and his most fortuitous false modesty, leading him to deny the kind of things that only grow bigger the more they are denied (And no, I am not talking about a masochist's penis).

So, imagine the scene: Another night, another party, Twardoski, yet again, drunk as a lord (Which is pretty appropriate for a peer). Twardoski is doing the same thing he does every night while drunk: cursing. This is the other thing Twardoski was known for (Apart from alchemy, drunkenness, and REALLY BAD curtains) - his temper. The extremely drunk Twardoski would take offence at the slightest thing his intended victim might do (Such as standing there), and proceed to curse him in the usual manner, using almost exactly the same line.

What line was this? Did he curse his victim as a cockweasel? Call him a badger licker? Cast aspersions upon his grandmother? No. He would invariably say,

"The devil take you! Just go to Hell, damn you!"

After this pleasant little scene has run its course, Twardoski is left gently cooling in the night air (It's obviously summer, as left out in a Polish winter, he'd be fast freezing, locking in maximum flavour for when thawed. MMMM Fried Twardoski mmmm). As he lolls there, he notices a figure in the shadows. As he steps out of the shade, he says something like,

"Welll, Pan Twardosski, how nice to finally meet you."

Even through his drunken fuddle, Twardoski notices the gentleman's size: He is very tall. He notices his gold-brocade waist-coat, marking the figure as a man of wealth and taste. Most of all, he notices the horns protuding from the gentleman's forehead.

"You see, my name is so rarely off your lips, that I had to come by to pay my respects. I have a business proposal for you! If you are interested, I shall see you tomorrow."

Now Twardoski, a man given to much choler was overcome with uncharacteristic politeness:

"I would be...honoured"

So, Twardoski sat in his receiving room, awaiting his appointment with Satan with some trepidation, unusual in a man so used to waking up with a hangover, but quite common in those awaiting an appointment with Satan.

"Pan Twardoski, I will grant you whatsoever you like for the mere price of your soul, which I shall collect in seven years"

"Well, seven years is a long time. Perhaps you should just collect my soul the next time that I am in Rome."

Twardowski was often to be found making the pilgrimage to Rome, trying to cleanse his soul, and more importantly building a reputation as a pious man. Piety always goes down well, even at a satanists' tea party. Twardowski, of course, had no intention of ever returning to the city mickiewiczagain. Twardoski continued,

"It is, after all, well known to be my favourite city."

"Very well. Sign here."

Twardoski reached for his pen and ink -

"No, with this!", and with that satan jabbed his quill into Twardoski's arm. Satan proferred the charged pen to Twardowski. The grimacing Twardowski did as he was bid, thinking of his rewards.

"Now, if I may, I would like one hundred golden dishes."

With a gesture, it was done.

"And a wardrobe of calfskin boots."

"It is nothing", said Satan with the faintest distaste for Twardowski's choice.

"I must be able to ride in style: I would like a giant Cockerel for a steed."

(You do believe me about his taste now, right?)

Replied the Devil, barely keeping his bile down, "It awaits you in the stables.

Now, I must away. Do not hesitate to call me at any time."

So, time passed. Twardoski accumulated many garish possessions, and grew to be a famous and rich physician, through a combination of art and invoking Satan. Satan grew more and more tired of servicing his highest-maintenance contract. Eventually, seven years passed, and now Twardowski and his giant chicken were known throughout Poland and Lithuania.

rapraprapRAPRAPRAP "Pan Twardoski, Pan, come quickly! Please!"

Twardoski, so affected by the cries, received the messenger still in his nightdress,

"What is it?"

"The master ails. Please, come with me!"

"Of course, of course, just allow me to get my things."

Soon, Twardoski was on the road, astride his giant chicken, following the man to god-knew-where. Hell-for-leather they rode to the city, galloping through the streets. The servant stopped at an inn in the city. Twardoski jumped off his chicken, and ran in crying "Where is the patient?".

Chest heaving, Twardoski looked around the, taking in the faces arrayed around him. At first they seemed the usual mix of low and high, as one in wine, but as he looked closer, the eyes seemed crueller than the average, the teeth sharper, and the horns longer. Horns?!?!

"It is I who ails, Pan Twardoski, for you have bled me dry these seven years. Come, now I will have my payment for the work you have had from me"

Satan! Spake Twardoski: "Pan Devil, our deal was that you would not have my soul until the day I set foot into the holy city!"

The cruelly grinning devil took Twardoski by the elbow, and lead him with a chuckle out the door. Wearing his pointy smile, he pointed his sharp finger at the board over the inn door. It read:

Rome


Upon seeing this, Twardoski was gripped with a mighty fear, a terror of Hell, but he was not beat yet. He jumped on his steed, and he rode. He rode as he'd never riden before, but the devil was upon his heels, pursuing on his black stallion, his grin upon his face. "You think you can escape the Devil Himself?" he cried.

As Twardoski rode, tears streamed down his cheeks, and he called to heaven,

"Jesus and Mary, all you Angels and Saints, pray for me! God in heaven, save me, for though I have been a wicked man, a man of drink, and of much choler, a man of questionable honesty, Lord, preserve me from this fate in hell, I pray!".

With those words, God took pity on Twardoski, and his chicken took to the sky, bearing him higher and higher, over the rooftops, so he could the devil looking up, shaking his fist, his teeth bared in a terrible grimace. Up, above the clouds, up until the earth was a blue-green confection frosted with swirling clouds. Up, and then in a sivkening lurch of perspective, his chicken deposited him upon the moon. God had taken pity on Twardoski and saved him from hell, but as he did not deserve heaven either, he sent him to the moon, where he resides to this very day.


This story is interesting for several reasons. First, note how Twardoski, although not fit for Heaven nor Hell is not sent to Purgatory. Research (Or at least digging around) by one of my friends suggests that the idea of purgatory has been around in Christianity since the Church Fathers, although the doctrine may not have been fully worked out.

Second, it ends with a classic repentance, the analogue of making confession on one's death-bed. It does not, however, allow Twardoski into heaven, a parable, perhaps, for those who think they can live a life of sin, then take absolution on their death-bed.

This story has been called "the Polish Faust". Make of that what you will.

Twardoski, Twardowski, and Mickiewicz

Not a company of removals men or lawyers, but rather a note of explanation.

I have always known this story as that of Pan Twardoski, but most sources on the web give the spelling as "Twardowski", in line, it seems with Adam Mickiewicz Pan Twardowski (If accurately reflected in the english-language renditions of this story on the web. I don't speak Polish, so correct me if I am wrong) seems to involve a nagging wife, quite unlike the story I know. For this reason I have used the spelling known to me.

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