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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Grey Mare in the Garret"

The Grey Mare in the Garret

In the portal of the Church of the Apostles, near the new market in Cologne, hung a picture, the portraits of a certain Frau Richmodis von Aducht and her two children, of whom the following singular story is related. The picture was covered with a curtain which she worked with her own hands.

Her husband, Richmuth von Aducht, was, in the year of grace 1400, a rich burgomaster of Cologne, and lived at the sign of the Parroquet in the New Marckt. In that year a fearful plague desolated all quarters of the city. She fell sick of the pest, and, to all appearance, died. After the usual period had elapsed she was buried in the vaults of the Apostles' Church. She was buried, as the custom then was, with her jewelled rings on her fingers, and most of her rich ornaments on her person. These tempted the cupidity of the sexton of the church. He argued with himself that they were no use to the corpse, and he determined to possess them. Accordingly he proceeded in the dead of night to the vault where she lay interred, and commenced the work of sacrilegious spoliation. He first unscrewed the coffin lid. He then removed it altogether, and proceeded to tear away the shroud which interposed between him and his prey. But what was his horror to perceive the corpse clasp her hands slowly together, then rise, and finally sit erect in the coffin. He was rooted to the earth. The corpse made as though it would step from its narrow bed, and the sexton fled, shrieking, through the vaults. The corpse followed, its long white shroud floating like a meteor in the dim light of the lamp, which, in his haste, he had forgotten. It was not until he reached his own door that he had sufficient courage to look behind him, and then, when he perceived no trace of his pursuer, the excitement which had sustained him so far subsided, and he sank senseless to the earth.

In the meantime Richmuth von Aducht, who had slept scarcely a moment since the death of his dear wife, was surprised by the voice of his old manservant, who rapped loudly at his chamber door, and told him to awake and come forth, for his mistress had arisen from the dead, and was then at the gate of the courtyard.

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