“So you won’t sell me your soul?” said the devil.
“Thank you,” replied the student, “I had rather keep it myself, if it’s all the same to you.”
“But it’s not all the same to me. I want it very particularly. Come, I’ll be liberal. I said twenty years. You can have thirty.”
The student shook his head.
“Now,” said the devil, “I know I’m going to do a foolish thing, but I cannot bear to see a clever, spirited young man throw himself away. I’ll make you another kind of offer. We won’t have any bargain at present, but I will push you on in the world for the next forty years. This day forty years I come back and ask you for a boon; not your soul, mind, or anything not perfectly in your power to grant. If you give it, we are quits; if not, I fly away with you. What say you to this?”
The student reflected for some minutes. “Agreed,” he said at last.
Scarcely had the devil disappeared, which he did instantaneously, ere a messenger reined in his smoking steed at the gate of the university of Cordova (the judicious reader will already have remarked that Lucifer could never have been allowed inside a Christian seat of learning), and, inquiring for the student Gerbert, presented him with the Emperor Otho’s nomination to the Abbacy of Bobbio, in consideration, said the document, of his virtue and learning, well-nigh miraculous in one so young.