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THE POPE AND SATAN.
Gerbert, a young monk of Aurillac in France, whose birth is half-Satanic, flees from his convent to go to study the occult sciences in the University of Toledo. Already advanced in that study, he finds it easy to deceive the confidence of the tutor under whom he places himself, and again runs away, carrying with him a work on magic, which he has stolen from his master. The professor, informed of the escape, calls to his aid his astrological knowledge, and pursues the fugitive, under indications supplied by the stars. Gerbert has recourse to the same art, in order to evade his pursuer. The pupil, however, proves inferior to the teacher. Gerbert is on the point of being caught, when he tries a masterly trick. In order to interrupt the scent in virtue of which the latter tracks the former, he suspends himself under the vault of a bridge, and there remains, like Mohamed's coffin, between earth and heaven. The learned and skilful hunter gives up the chase. Thus at liberty, Gerbert returns into France, and makes good use of his science and his volume to climb to honours and dignities. As a final and infallible means of success, he makes a covenant with me (the parchments can be produced before a duly-qualified tribunal !), and with my aid encloses one of my cleverest young fellows in a speaking head, by which he keeps in constant communication with me, and I with him.
Aided by my best resources, he even becomes Pope, and sits in the chair of Saint Peter, with as good a right as most others who bear the name. However, I am not fond of giving unconditioned titles. Absolute realities are managed with difficulty, and so Gerbert is not to say mass in Jerusalem. Now there was at that time of day, in the centre of the Campus Martius at Rome, a statue which bore this inscription, Strike here, pointing with its finger to some distant place. Curiosity was excited. Where was it? What was it? Many struck the statue itself. Many struck the ground in different parts. Gerbert, with a wiser head, carefully traced the spot to which the finger pointed. There he struck, and there he dug, until
THE POPE'S CONTRACT ENFORCED.
after untold labour he came upon a subterranean palace, built of gold, with gold furniture and gold statues. The principal hall was lighted up by a gold chandelier which gave forth a body of light equally soft and brilliant.
How does the pope's heart leap and bound for joy! are treasures literally inexhaustible.
He resolved forthwith The wagon is obtained, proceed to carry away
to send a whole wagon-load to Rome. the horses are harnessed, the servants the articles which Gerbert prefers. Not one of them will move. There they stand as if riveted to the spot by adamantine bars and bonds. In his extremity, the pope consults his magical Bible. He consults it, but gains no light.
In his extremity,
He falls into a rage, and bids the slaves tear the things from their place. They lay their hands on a capacious bag of gold. But that moment a golden archer, standing in a corner of the hall, shoots an arrow which extinguishes the lights of the splendid candelabra, and leaves the whole in darkness as black as that of winter midnight. The bag of gold is dropped. Then the lights rekindle of themselves. Again the servant's hand is on the bag, and hardly has he touched it when again the lights go out. Seized and frozen with terror, Gerbert and his followers hasten from the ill-omened spot.
He closed the mouth of the cavern, and made his way to Jerusalem. Arrived there, he was tempted to say mass on the very spot where his divine Master had suffered crucifixion. Had he not once before done the same, and nothing had come of it? Was he to be afraid of Satan? he who was the representative of Christ and the organ of the Holy Spirit on earth?
He enters the Church of St. John of Jerusalem outside the walls of the city of David, and begins the sacred service full of holy courage. Clad in pontificals and attended by a large choir in procession, bearing crosses the most elaborate and glittering, he ascends the steps, kneels at the altar, and opens his Missal. Ere he can utter a word, he is struck dumb and prostrate by a rushing wind howling with infernal cries, and shouting, "Your soul is forfeit! your soul is forfeit! Once
HOW LEGENDS BECOME FACTS.
you did succeed to break your oath. Once you received a warning in the golden cave. No more indulgence. Your end is come !"
The pontiff was taken up and carried home. Consciencestricken, he remembered the contract into which he had entered with me. Yes; he had gained the great object of his ambition by my aid, and having broken faith with me, he knew he must die.
But he was a perfect master of magic. Might he not save his soul from my hands? He gives his last commands in due form and according to the prescriptions, saying: "As soon as the breath is out of my body, cut it in pieces and scatter them over and around this chamber. They are baits which Leviathan cannot resist. You will see him either here or there in the shape of a crocodile. Fall on him, put a ring in his nose, and confine him in the deepest crypt of the Church of Saint John."
I was, however, too wily to be caught by so worthless a thing. Instead of my occupying those vaults, Gerbert lay there: that is, what remained of him lay there. And there,
the credulous say, he lies still in a marble tomb, the prophetic perspiration of which has never ceased to foretel to the eternal city, now the death of its pontiffs, and now the evils with which they are threatened.
This legend, some features of which are reported by Cardinal Benon in his Life of Pope Hildebrand, considered as historical already, less than a century after the death of the veritable Gerbert, is narrated by Sigebert, who died in 1112, and in much greater detail by William of Malmesbury, who died in 1141. In the following century it became unquestionable history. Vincent de Beauvais, Helinand, Alberic, Martin Polonus, reproduce it as such unhesitatingly.
Why, then, may not I, a mere figment, have become in men's apprehension a veritable fact? And as that transformation has been detected and exposed, may not my personality
return into the aerial state out of which it grew ?
WHY SO MANY WITCHES,
MY CONNECTION WITH WITCHCRAFT.
It was a
THE thirteenth century brought me to the verge of my supremacy. From that time until the days of Luther I revelled in power surpassing even that of the Pope himself. Indeed, the Pope's authority stood on mine. Had there existed "a solemn league and covenant" betwixt him and me, he could not have advanced my kingdom more than he did, I have promoted his with more zeal and effect. period of dense and all but universal darkness. practices were then prevalent, even among the less ignorant, which, taking the government of the world out of the hands of its Maker, put it under the control of astrologers, necromancers and magicians, who, at once deluded and deluding, exercised dominion on earth through infernal powers, and turned nature itself into one wide arena of preternatural combatants, on which man was tossed and beaten about as is the foot-ball in country sports. Indeed, the gaunt figure of Superstition raised herself between earth and heaven; and from her attitude in the clouds, no less tempestuous than black and frowning, hurled down on individuals, societies and nations— in a word, the entire (so-called) civilized world—fiery and consuming thunderbolts, the missives of her unappeasable wrath. Not easy is it to understand how human life was, under the overwhelming torrent of the consequent disaster, endured, upheld and transmitted.
Naturally, men looked to the Church for succour and consolation. The Church was in alliance with their deadly foes. The battle-ground on which "Science falsely so called" and "Mother Church" arrayed their combined forces against human beings, was the fabled crime of witchcraft. Here my heart, overladen with blackest recollections and heaviest misdeeds, sinks within me, all but crushed with the horrible
AS COMPARED WITH WIZARDS.
load. I plead guilty. Miserable am I in the thought how readily and how fully I lent myself to those innumerable barbarities. But then who is at the bottom to blame? The substance itself, which lay in the vices of humanity, and not the shadow under whose name popes, kings, judges and commonality, raged against an incriminated class of persons who were really as innocent as the new-born babe. And if I feel justified in claiming extenuation on the ground of being but an instrument, I must in justice add that ecclesiastical cruelty and civil injustice, though they were my masters and employers, may in their turn justifiably claim to be only accessories to the great criminal, society itself, which, maddened with frightful phantoms of all sorts, rushed, as is its wont, into cruelties the most atrocious, in which it revelled even for centuries.
In this horrid crusade against itself, society spared neither high nor low. Popes, kings, princes, were scourged with rods made by their own hands. The crime and punishment of witchcraft was indiscriminately universal. Nevertheless, the weak suffered most. You read of few wizards, while witches are innumerable. Nor was this mortal preference totally blind. Maleficarum totus fere est globus, dicitur enim femina a fe et minus, quia semper minorem habet et servat fidem, et hoc ex natura; that is, "Witchcraft is all but exclusively in the hands of women; the very name Woman itself denotes a faithless thing; besides, woman has and keeps less faith than man, and this faithlessness has its roots in her nature." Certainly, man, availing himself,of his superior brute force, has inflicted many injuries on woman; but never, within my reading, did he put so much of insult and injustice into a charge as is contained in the reason he here assigns for the gigantic and monstrous persecutions he has carried on against witches.
Here is a versified form of a description of the common parish witch: "An old woman with a wrinkled face, a furred brow, a hairy lip, a gobber tooth, a squint eye, a squeaking