You would doubtless," said Gerbert, "endeavour to subvert the foundations
of the Faith, and, by a course of profligacy and licentiousness, render the
Holy See odious and contemptible."
"On the contrary," said Lucifer, "I would extirpate heresy, and all
learning and knowledge as inevitably tending thereunto. I would suffer no
man to read but the priest, and confine his reading to his breviary.
I would burn your books together with your bones on the first convenient
I would observe an austere propriety of conduct, and be
especially careful not to loosen one rivet in the tremendous yoke I was
forging for the minds and consciences of mankind."
"If it be so," said Gerbert, "let's be off
What exclaimed Lucifer, "you are willing to accompany me to the infernal
"Assuredly, rather than be accessory to the burning of Plato and Aristotle,
and give place to the darkness against which I have been contending all my
"Gerbert," replied the demon, "this is arrant trifling. Know you not that
no good man can enter my dominions? that, were such a thing possible, my
empire would become intolerable to me, and I should be compelled to
"I do know it," said Gerbert, "and hence I have been able to receive your
visit with composure."
"Gerbert," said the devil, with tears in his eyes, "I put it to you--is
this fair, is this honest? I undertake to promote your interests in the
world; I fulfil my promise abundantly. You obtain through my
instrumentality a position to which you could never otherwise have aspired.
Often have I had a hand in the election of a Pope, but never before have I
contributed to confer the tiara on one eminent for virtue and learning. You
profit by my assistance to the full, and now take advantage of an
adventitious circumstance to deprive me of my reasonable guerdon. It is my
constant experience that the good people are much more slippery than the
sinners, and drive much harder bargains."
"Lucifer," answered Gerbert, "I have always sought to treat you as a
gentleman, hoping that you would approve yourself such in return. I will
not inquire whether it was entirely in harmony with this character to seek
to intimidate me into compliance with your demand by threatening me with a
penalty which you well knew could not be enforced. I will overlook this
little irregularity, and concede even more than you have requested. You
have asked to be a Cardinal. I will make you Pope
"Ha" exclaimed Lucifer, and an internal glow suffused his sooty hide, as
the light of a fading ember is revived by breathing upon it.
"For twelve hours," continued Gerbert.
"At the expiration of that time we
will consider the matter further; and if, as I anticipate, you are more
anxious to divest yourself of the Papal dignity than you were to assume it,
I promise to bestow upon you any boon you may ask within my power to grant,
and not plainly inconsistent with religion or morals."
"Done!" cried the demon. Gerbert uttered some cabalistic words, and in a
moment the apartment held two Pope Silvesters, entirely indistinguishable
save by their attire, and the fact that one limped slightly with the left
"You will find the Pontifical apparel in this cupboard," said Gerbert, and,
taking his book of magic with him, he retreated through a masked door to a
secret chamber. As the door closed behind him he chuckled, and muttered to
himself, "Poor old Lucifer Sold again"
If Lucifer was sold he did not seem to know it. He approached a large slab
of silver which did duty as a mirror, and contemplated his personal
appearance with some dissatisfaction.
"I certainly don't look half so well without my horns," he soliloquised,
"and I am sure I shall miss my tail most grievously."
A tiara and a train, however, made fair amends for the deficient
appendages, and Lucifer now looked every inch a Pope. He was about to call
the master of the ceremonies, and summon a consistory, when the door was
burst open, and seven cardinals, brandishing poniards, rushed into the
"Down with the sorcerer they cried, as they seized and gagged him.
"Death to the Saracen
"Practises algebra, and other devilish arts
"Let him be deposed by a general council," said a young and inexperienced
Lucifer struggled frantically, but the feeble frame he was doomed to
inhabit for the next eleven hours was speedily exhausted. Bound and
helpless, he swooned away.
"Brethren," said one of the senior cardinals, "it hath been delivered by
the exorcists that a sorcerer or other individual in league with the demon
doth usually bear upon his person some visible token of his infernal
compact. I propose that we forthwith institute a search for this stigma,
the discovery of which may contribute to justify our proceedings in the
eyes of the world."
"I heartily approve of our brother Anno's proposition," said another, "the
rather as we cannot possibly fail to discover such a mark, if, indeed, we
desire to find it."
The search was accordingly instituted, and had not proceeded far ere a
simultaneous yell from all the seven cardinals indicated that their
investigation had brought more to light than they had ventured to expect.
The Holy Father had a cloven foot
For the next five minutes the Cardinals remained utterly stunned, silent,
and stupefied with amazement. As they gradually recovered their faculties
it would have become manifest to a nice observer that the Pope had risen
very considerably in their good opinion.
"This is an affair requiring very mature deliberation," said one.
"I always feared that we might be proceeding too precipitately," said
"It is written, 'the devils believe,'" said a third: "the Holy Father,
therefore, is not a heretic at any rate."
"Brethren," said Anno, "this affair, as our brother Benno well remarks,
doth indeed call for mature deliberation. I therefore propose that, instead
of smothering his Holiness with cushions, as originally contemplated, we
immure him for the present in the dungeon adjoining hereunto, and, after
spending the night in meditation and prayer, resume the consideration of
the business tomorrow morning."
"Informing the officials of the palace," said Benno, "that his Holiness has
retired for his devotions, and desires on no account to be disturbed."
"A pious fraud," said Anno, "which not one of the Fathers would for a
moment have scrupled to commit."
The Cardinals accordingly lifted the still insensible Lucifer, and bore him
carefully, almost tenderly, to the apartment appointed for his detention.
Each would fain have lingered in hopes of his recovery, but each felt that
the eyes of his six brethren were upon him: and all, therefore, retired
simultaneously, each taking a key of the cell.
Lucifer regained consciousness almost immediately afterwards. He had the
most confused idea of the circumstances which had involved him in his
present scrape, and could only say to himself that if they were the usual
concomitants of the Papal dignity, these were by no means to his taste, and
he wished he had been made acquainted with them sooner. The dungeon was not
only perfectly dark, but horribly cold, and the poor devil in his present
form had no latent store of infernal heat to draw upon. His teeth
chattered, he shivered in every limb, and felt devoured with hunger and
thirst. There is much probability in the assertion of some of his
biographers that it was on this occasion that he invented ardent spirits;
but, even if he did, the mere conception of a glass of brandy could only
increase his sufferings. So the long January night wore wearily on, and
Lucifer seemed likely to expire from inanition, when a key turned in the
lock, and Cardinal Anno cautiously glided in, bearing a lamp, a loaf, half
a cold roast kid, and a bottle of wine.
"I trust," he said, bowing courteously, "that I may be excused any slight
breach of etiquette of which I may render myself culpable from the
difficulty under which I labour of determining whether, under present
circumstances, 'Your Holiness,' or 'Your Infernal Majesty' be the form of
address most befitting me to employ."
"Bub-ub-bub-boo," went Lucifer, who still had the gag in his mouth.
"Heavens" exclaimed the Cardinal, "I crave your Infernal Holiness's
forgiveness. What a lamentable oversight!"
And, relieving Lucifer from his gag and bonds, he set out the refection,
upon which the demon fell voraciously.
"Why the devil, if I may so express myself," pursued Anno, "did not your
Holiness inform us that you _were_ the devil? Not a hand would then have
been raised against you. I have myself been seeking all my life for the
audience now happily vouchsafed me. Whence this mistrust of your faithful
Anno, who has served you so loyally and zealously these many years?"
Lucifer pointed significantly to the gag and fetters.
"I shall never forgive myself," protested the Cardinal, "for the part I
have borne in this unfortunate transaction. Next to ministering to your
Majesty's bodily necessities, there is nothing I have so much at heart as
to express my penitence. But I entreat your Majesty to remember that I
believed myself to be acting in your Majesty's interest by overthrowing a
magician who was accustomed to send your Majesty upon errands, and who
might at any time enclose you in a box, and cast you into the sea. It is
deplorable that your Majesty's most devoted servants should have been thus
"Reasons of State," suggested Lucifer.
"I trust that they no longer operate," said the Cardinal.
Sacred College is now fully possessed of the whole matter:
it is therefore
unnecessary to pursue this department of the subject further. I would now
humbly crave leave to confer with your Majesty, or rather, perhaps, your
Holiness, since I am about to speak of spiritual things, on the important
and delicate point of your Holiness's successor. I am ignorant how long
your Holiness proposes to occupy the Apostolic chair; but of course you are
aware that public opinion will not suffer you to hold it for a term
exceeding that of the pontificate of Peter. A vacancy, therefore, must one
day occur; and I am humbly to represent that the office could not be filled
by one more congenial than myself to the present incumbent, or on whom he
could more fully rely to carry out in every respect his views and