Household Stories from the Land of Hofer; or, Popular Myths of Tirol | Annotated Tale

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Reckoning Day, The

HERE is another story of their doings, in which they play a different part. There was a storm in the valley of Matsch, and a storm in the valley of Matsch is often a terrible matter. This was one of the worst: the pitiless flood streamed down the heights, and threatened to overflow the banks of the Hochseen [1]; the wind from the glacier howled dismally over the mountain-sides; the people closed their doors and shutters against the blast, and listened to the roar of the elements, trembling with the thought that every moment might come the signal of the inundation which should carry them and their habitations away in its torrent. In the solidest and most important house of the straggling village, which bears the same name as the valley, was gathered the family of the richest man of the place, who had no reason to share these fears, but with singing and lively conversation chased away the dismal influence of the lugubrious sounds without.

               Suddenly, between the angry gusts of wind, a doleful voice was heard piteously praying for help. One of the party opened the casement, and looked out, but with more of curiosity than interest, and then quickly closing it again, came back into the room with a laugh to describe the ludicrous figure he had seen. It was a little mannikin with a beard big enough for a full-grown man, his clothes drenched with the rain, and slung over his shoulder a tiny bundle tied in a handkerchief, which yet seemed to bow him down with its weight. The description provoked a chorus of laughter, and the wretched little Norg--for it was a Norg--would have been no more thought of but that his wail became more irritating than that of the wind, and at last the master of the house got up and shouted to him to go on, for it was useless to stand droning there, he was not going to open his house at that time of night, or to such a ridiculous object. But though he banged the window to as closely as possible after delivering himself of this speech, the little man's menacing couplet yet reached his ear--

"The reckoning day         
Is not far away [2]."

                Nevertheless the Norg begged no more, but endeavoured to pass on his way. He could not get far: the torrents of rain had obliterated the path which led from the rising ground on which this house was built, to the next, and it was scarcely safe to descend in the dark with the loose stones rattling away under the feet. Fortunately a glimmering light betrayed a low hut built into the slope. It looked so poor and humble, that the Norg felt ashamed to ask aught of its inhabitants, who could scarcely have had enough for their own needs; but when he saw how utterly forlorn was his position, he sat down on a stone, and wept. Notwithstanding that the poor little Norg had such a hoarse voice that it was more like that of a wild animal than a man, there was a compassionate little maid within who perceived it was a voice of distress, and put her head out to ask who was there. "Poor old man!" she cried; "come inside and dry yourself, and let me give you something warm." But before he could answer he heard a weak voice within, "Beware, Theresl, of the wolves--remember we are in 'Matsch der Wölfe Heimath [3].'" "Never fear, mother dear," replied the maiden, "this is no wolf, but a very distressed little old man, who does not look as if he could harm any one; and besides we are now in June--the wolves don't threaten us in the summer," and she opened the door, and let in the little man.

               By the time she had dried his clothes and fed him with some warm soup, the worst of the storm had abated, and he was able to go on his way. The maiden offered him shelter for the night, but he declared he must reach home before midnight, and prepared to depart. Before he left he asked her what there was she most desired. "Oh, that my mother be restored to health!" answered Theresa; "I desire nothing more than that!"

               The Norg walked to the bedside, and informed himself of the nature of the sick mother's illness. "Your mother shall be cured," said the little man; "but you must come to me to-morrow at midnight to the Nörgelspitz;" and as the girl started at the impossibility of the feat, he continued, "You have only to make your way as far as the Wetterkreuz, and there call three times 'Kruzinegele! Kruzinegele! Kruzinegele!' and I will be at your side, and take you up the rest of the way." And he took his departure, singing,--

"Morgen oder Heut         
Kommt die Zahlzeit."

                The next night Theresa courageously set out on her way, and climbed as far as the Wetterkreuz--and it was lucky she had to go no farther, for here she sank down quite exhausted. She had not lain there many seconds when she saw a procession of little men just like Kruzinegele, with a litter and torches, who carried her up till they came to a door in the rock, which opened at their approach. This led to a magnificent crystal hall glittering with gold and gems, and on a gold throne sat Kruzinegele himself, with his fair daughter by his side. When the litter was brought to the steps of the throne, he came down courteously, and renewed his thanks for her hospitality, but she could not find a word to say, in her astonishment at seeing him so changed. Meantime he sent his daughter to fetch the herbs which were to cure the poor mother, and gave them to her, telling her how to administer them. "You see," he added,--

"Morgen oder Heut         
Kommt die Zahlzeit;

and your rich neighbour will find it so too." Then he told the little men to carry her home, and they laid her in the litter, and bore her away; and she remembered nothing more till she found herself comfortably in bed, with the rising sun kissing her cheeks. But the appearance of every thing was as much changed as Kruzinegele himself had been! The walls that used to bulge, and reek with mildew and damp, were straight and smooth; glass casements replaced the ricketty shutters; nice white curtains tempered the sunshine; the scanty and broken furniture was replaced by new. But what she valued above all, in her hand were the herbs which were to make her mother's healing drink! Their decoction was her first occupation; and by the next day they had restored her mother to health, and joy once more reigned in the cottage, thanks to the Norg!

               It had been the rich churl's custom, equally with the other villagers, to take his cattle on to the mountain pastures to graze for the beginning of the summer season am Johanni [4]. His grazing ground was just the highest pasture of the Nörgelspitz. The festival now soon arrived, and the picturesque processions of cattle with their herds went lowing forth as usual, to enjoy their summer feed.

               When the Norg's enemy, however, arrived at his destination, instead of the emerald slopes he was wont to find, with their rich yield of marbel and maim [5], all ready prepared by St. Martin's care [6] for the delight of his cows and sheep, all was stony and desolate! Three days they spent wandering about in search of a few blades to browse, but even this was denied them--nor ever again did the Nörgelspitz bring forth any thing but ice and snow!

               Of the sleek droves which had started, the envy of all beholders, few beasts lived to return; the prosperity of the once flourishing Hof had fled, and before many years were out its proprietor was obliged to leave it, a ruined man. Theresa had in the meantime married a thrifty peasant, whose industry enabled him to be the purchaser of the abandoned Hof, which he soon stocked to the full extent of former days. Ofttimes a curious grey-bearded little stranger would drop in at night to share their comfortable meal, and before he went away he would always sing his couplet--

"Morgen oder Heut         
Kommt die Zahlzeit."

                Such occasional apparitions of the strange visitants excited the curiosity of the inhabitants of the earth to the utmost, and many a weird story was told of frightful injury happening to those who had striven to penetrate their retreat, and for a long period none had any success in the enterprise.



[1] Literally, "high lakes;" i. e. lakes on a high mountain level. There are three such in the valley of Matsch, the inundations of which often work sad havoc.

[2]   "Morgen oder Heut         
Kommt die Zahlzeit."

[3] The "home of the wolves;" a nickname given to Matsch, because still infested by wolves.

[4] On Midsummer-day.

[5] The local names of two favourite kinds of grass.

[6] St. Martin is considered the patron of mountain pastures in Tirol.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Reckoning Day, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Household Stories from the Land of Hofer; or, Popular Myths of Tirol
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1871
Country of Origin: Austria
Classification: unclassified

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