(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Legends of the Rhine
Click Here to return to
the previous section
The Devil's Cure at the Kochbrunnen
That the health-giving powers of the Wiesbaden wells were known to the Romans may be proved by reference to the writings of Pliny, who mentions them with high praise, but it is from a grimly humorous tale that we learn how Mephistopheles himself once tried their effects on his own body. The aforesaid individual had been sneaking around in the highways and by-ways of the Holy Roman Empire in search of souls, and, tired with wandering, had dropped into a seat at a tavern near the gates of Mainz. The ancient and pious city did not stand very high in his estimation just then, as the register for the Infernal Regions showed that for a very long period not a single soul had arrived from that quarter. It annoyed him still more that some of the notorious topers, when a little more elated than usual, had made so bold as to talk very disparagingly of his Satanic Majesty, so that his influence was assuredly not in a flourishing condition in the Mainz district.
Curling the tip of his pointed beard, the traveller asked his host in a casual way, how it was that the people in and around Mainz were so dilatory in departing this life. A sly smile played over the tavern-keeper's features as he informed the shabbily dressed stranger that the topers in that part of the land were in the habit of drinking a peculiar kind of mulled wine which had the power of warding off not only the evil effects of the fiery spirit lurking in the juice of the grape, but many other earthly maladies, and indeed, when the devil's relative with the scythe came along he found them hale and hearty. The stranger pricked his pointed ears, and soon learned that this wonderful health-restoring drink welled out of the ground at Wiesbaden, and was to be purchased in all its purity from the landlord at the Kochbrunnen.
Next morning our traveller in threadbare coat presented himself to the Kochbrunnen landlord. He looked sickly and depressed, and moaned that all the ailments of humanity seemed to have taken up their abode in his miserable bones. Only the wonderful Wiesbaden wine could save him from death and the devil, – at least so the tavern-keeper at Mainz had assured him.
"May God bless our wonderful water to you, poor devil," said the keeper of the Kochbrunnen compassionately, and moreover he was astounded to notice a fiendish grin which lurked behind, the pointed beard. Now it has long been recognised that landlords are shrewd fellows, by no means indifferent to their own weal and woe, and the landlord of the Kochbrunnen at Wiesbaden was no exception to the rule. He looked long and silently at this strange cur-guest, then clapping him quietly on the shoulder, said familiarly. "My good friend, you are yourself, in very truth, the devil incarnate".
And, while Mephistopheles stared at him nonplussed, the landlord continued smiling. "But let that be. Where so many drink themselves sound the devil shall not go empty away. Bind yourself to drink, on seven successive days, between the hours of twelve and one, some half hundred glasses of Wiesbadener, and I can promise you relief from all your various ills, but if you break off the cure, then my soul shall be assured of salvation, as you shall thereby relinquish all claim to it whatever."
This bargain pleased the devil mightily. He accepted the terms, and began that very day to drink the wonderful Wiesbaden mulled wine which wells out of the earth. The fifty glasses seemed to him a little too much, but he suppressed his rising disgust by thinking of the poor soul which the landlord had so lightly delivered to him. The devil did not spend a very quiet night, and with increasing disgust he drank on the second day the stipulated quantity of Wiesbadener, which his host served to him with the greatest affability. The following night was passed in a still more restless manner, and several times he cursed the malicious drink. At noon on the third day he pleaded meekly for a day off. The landlord however coolly reminded him of their compact, and with his usual polite assiduity, and many pious wishes, he supplied the next half hundred glasses of the steaming crystal wine.
The devil sneaked away limply, and thought with a shudder of the coming night. When he presented himself on the fourth day he looked like the shadow of his real self and did indeed seem attacked by all human maladies. The landlord however held firmly to his bargain, and as a penance for all his past sins Beelzebub got down his appointed quantum once more.
In the following night it happened that the good folks who frequent Wiesbaden for the cure were disturbed from their peaceful slumbers by an unearthly din. With a fury of blasphemy some one sprang up and disappeared into the outer darkness, uttering blood-curdling curses on the Wiesbaden hell-brew. "To Wiesbaden I shall return no more." These were the last words that could be made out.
On the following morning there was much subdued talk among the cur-guests, and they came to the conclusion that the nocturnal uproar could be caused by no other than his Satanic Majesty himself. Finally they asked the landlord, generally so well-informed about everyone, who the strange cur-guest might be. He, however, just shrugged his shoulders and muttered something about a stupid devil.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine