Monday, October 31, 2011

The Heckthaler

Jörg von Rauhenstein was a drunkard and a gambler; he lived so long in the lap of luxury until the fortune he had inherited from his father was gone.

Without a coin in his pocket he moved to Vienna together with his wife and their child.

Ruefully he gave up his slovenly life; he found a job as armourer and soon the little family lived in modest prosperity.

But after a couple of years he succumbed to the temptation to drink and to roll the dices again.

Finally he lost his job and when his child got sick he even wasn’t able to pay a doctor.
The kid died; and soon after the child’s death his wife passed away due broken heart. – Both found their too early graves at St.Stephen’s cemetery.

But even their death couldn’t keep him away from his vice.

As beggar Jörg strolled through Vienna and asked for food and some coins.

One day he met the maid servant Burgl. She felt mercy with the poor guy and so she asked,
“Have you ever tried to find a Heckthaler?”

“What is a Heckthaler?” Jörg replied interested.

“It’s a very special coin,” the maid explained, “the one who owns a Heckthaler is never in financial need. This magical coin comes back to you every time you spend it.”

“What do I have to do to find such a coin?” Jörg inquired.

Burgl nodded to make clear she would give him the details,
“In a night to a Sunday at midnight you have to run around St. Stephen’s church three times. You have to start your run exactly with the first strike of the tower clock and the run has to be finished with the last, the twelfth strike. Then you’ll find a brand-new coin in your pocket – a Heckthaler.”

This sounded very inviting to Jörg and so he decided to try his luck.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral and the graveyard, c.1720
Long before midnight Jörg arrived at the cemetery which surrounded St. Stephen’s church.

It was an eerie night. The wind purred around the spire and the pale moon light drew strange shadows on the ground.
But despite the scary situation the fellow remained at the grave yard.

When the clock struck a quarter to midnight he made himself ready for his run; he didn’t even want to miss a second of the time.

At twelve the wheels of the clock creaked and the first stroke of the clock echoed through the night.

At that moment Jörg started into his fateful run.

Frantically he ran between the graves and tried to find the shortest way.

Suddenly - the first round was almost completed - he saw the figure of his dead father with a sorrowful and even alerting expression on his face. But although he was scared he continued his running.

At the end of the second round he noticed his deceased wife beckoning him to stop.
But Jörg ignored her warning and started into the third round.

He still had the two visions on his mind when he stumbled upon a little grave. He fell.

At this moment two little arms reached out of the grave, grabbed him by his clothes and held him so tightly that he couldn’t move anymore.

He tried hard to break away – but all in vain.

As the clock struck the twelfth time the unregenerate lost his life on the grave of his child.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including the legend in their 'FlashCast 41 - My Arm Wound' !


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