Once upon a time a very poor weaver named Paul Urssenbeck searched for a godfather for his twelfth child.
He asked every relative and every acquaintance but no one was wealthy enough to take the responsibility for the sponsorship.
On his way back home he had to walk through a piece of forest. His sorrows let him breathe heavily and with a sigh he spoke out loud, “Oh, I wish I could die.”
That moment he felt an ice-cold hand on his shoulder. He turned around and saw a tall spindly figure, “I am Death; you called me, what can I do for you?”
Suddenly the weaver was more interested in staying alive than in dying but respectfully he told the grim reaper about his trouble.
“Let me be godfather for your child. My christening present is neither gold nor silver, but I will confide you a secret that you can use for you.”
The weaver thought, “Better a godfather without gift than no godfather,” and so he agreed.
After the ceremony the black suited sponsor took the weaver aside, “The secret I’m telling you now is a chance for you to become famous and rich. Whenever a person is critically ill I am there. Of course no one can see me. When I stand at the foot the person will recover, but when I stand at the head the person must die. Now you have the gift to see me; and with this ability you can predict if a patient will live or die. Use this gift thoughtfully.”
This was in fact a precious secret, and soon the poor man had the chance to use it.
By and by the poor weaver became a well known and wealthy doctor. But the richer he was, the greedier he became.
One day he was called to the emperor’s treasurer Wilhelm Graf Auersperg. He saw Death standing at the ill man’s head; and so he said, “I’m so sorry. His Excellency will die.”
A fortune was offered to him for the try to heal this man. The temptation was too big and so the doctor couldn’t resist. For a moment he thought what he could do. Then he ordered four strong men and told them to turn the bed around.
Now Death stood at the foot, and so Graf Auersperg survived.
Urssenbeck looked at Death and he saw fury in his eyes.
With a very bad feeling the doctor took the money and hurried home.
Suddenly Death stood beside him. “What have you done? Instead of the man’s life you’ve just saved I have to take yours now.”
The doctor fell on his knees, “Have mercy…,” but Death had no mercy.
The next morning Urssenbeck’s dead body was found. He left an immense fortune and was buried at the cemetery of St. Stephen.
Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska
Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 21 - Positive Feedback' !