Protagonist of the shaggy-dog short story "The Doomed One, a tale of the Nineteenth Century" by Mark Lemon, which appeared in the 1845 collection George Cruikshank's Table-book. A hunchback with a clubfoot, he visits a magician who gives him the key to popularity with the ladies- a book of polkas!
Heindrich Stechert was the only son of Diedrich Stechert, of Schnapsbergcn, on the borders of the Hartz. Heindrich's mother had died in giving birth to his sister Menie, who, at the time of which we write, was just entering her eighteenth year. Her bright blue eyes and rosy lips had already won her many admirers, and dearly as Heindrich loved his sister, it was not without some feelings of jealousy that he witnessed the admiration Menie's beauty commanded from all who knew her, for Heindrich was unhappily deformed. He had a high shoulder and a club-foot; and being of quick apprehension, he had not failed to observe that others, far his inferiors in mind and position, -were much more favoured by the fair maidens of his acquaintance.
It was customary with Menie and her brother to devote some time every evening to the practice of music, of which both were passionately fond, and it was at the conclusion of one of those performances, on the 15th of February, that Heindrich threw himself into his father's old easy-chair and sighed heavily.
"What ails my brother?" said Menie. "Does the boar's head or the sauerkraut lie heavy with my brother?"
"No, Menie,"replied Heindrich, "itis not that—but—no—give me my pipe, Menie,"— and the loving sister flew to the study of her brother to obey his command. Whilst searching for the meerschaum she discovered a clue 'to the uneasiness of her beloved Heindrich, for on the table were two sketches, one representing her brother deformed, aa he was then, the other depicting him as he might be. "Poor dear Heindrich!" exchihned Menie, bursting into tears; "who has had the heart to send you such insults as these? If they come from any friend of mine, I'll cut them for ever." Menie seized the offensive caricatures, and having torn them into a thousand pieces^ dried her eyes, and took the pipe to Heindrich. When she returned to the room she found him still seated in the same position as she had left him, and fearing to question or to be questioned, she placed the smoking appurtenances on the table, and resolving to send up her brother's usual potation of hot schnapps-and-water by the maid, left the room.
Menie's conduct was not lost upon Heindrich, and he muttered as he probed the bowl and blew down the stem of his meerschaum, "Hum! she's guessed what's the matter with me—she's heard what the women say of me—and yet Richard the Third got a wife in twenty minutes in spite of the mountain on his back; and Byron was the idol of the ladies, though his foot was as difficult to fit with a ready-made boot as mine is; but then—I've the luck to own both a hump and a club."
The conclusion he had arrived at seemed far from agreeable, and he puffed away at his pipe with intense energy. "I'll try, however,"—he mused to himself—" I may not be so objectionable;" and as this thought passed through his mind, Keziah, the maid-of-all work, entered with the hot schnapps-and-water.
"Keziah," said Heindrich; and then hesitated, as though fearing to trust himself further.
"Did you speak, sir?" inquired Keziah, nibbing not the cleanest of faces with the dirtiest of aprons.
Heindrich paused for a moment, and then said, very hastily, " Keziah, will you give me a kiss?"
The girl looked Bo perfectly incredulous that she had heard aright, that Heindrich thought it necessary to repeat the inquiry. "What!" exclaimed Keziah, her indignation really mantling through the dirtiness of her face. "Kiss you! kiss you! Well: Guys is riz!" And with a laugh, hilariously contemptuous, the maid-of-all-work made the house ring.
Heindrich paced the room for a few minutes; and then, throwing his ample cloak around him, he took his cane in his hand, placed his hat on his head, and hurried into the street.
"Yes! it shall be done. Cost what it may, I will obtain the power I have so long coveted. Roch Albert's skill shall make me envied where now I am despised." As he spoke Heindrich stood before the door of the Magian—for such Roch Albert was now accounted by many who had long derided the vaunted power of the being who was to make Heindrich happy (happy ?) by the knowledge he so much desired. Heindrich's heart beat fast within him as he saw Roch Albert's door open in answer to his summons—and more so when an aged crone introduced him into the chamber of the occultist.
"Be seated, sir," said the old woman; "the master will be disengaged presently—and see, he is here already." Without making any obeisance, the wrinkled crone left the room.
"Tour business, if you please," inquired the Magian. Heindrich's tongue became dry as pipe-clay as he looked upon the man whose power he coveted and envied. Roch Albert was clothed in a long gown, secured at the waist by cords and tassels: his dark beard was unshaven, and his long elf-locks fell about his shoulders; and it was not until he had thrown himself into a large arm-chair, and wiped his lips with a cambric handkerchief, that Heindrich found utterance.
"I would become a disciple, O mighty master. I would purchase from you a knowledge
of those mystic signs by which thou hast acquired a fame as deathless—as deathless as"
Heindrich paused for a simile.
"Enough !" said Roch Albert; " I understand you;" and opening a volume, displayed to the delighted gaze of Heindrich the mystic signs which were to make him the most fascinating of his sex. As Heindrich gazed upon the characters, Roch Albert had taken his seat at the opposite side of the room. Strange and enchanting sounds seemed to pervade the air, and Heindrich read their meaning in the volume before him. Drunken, nay, maddened with delight, the poor hunchback threw his purse upon the table, and rushed from the house of the enchanter.
"Menie! dear Menie! congratulate me on my newly-acquired power." "I dare not, Heindrich dear, I dare not. I fear that all you have acquired so dearly will prove your curse," replied Menie.
Heindrich laid down his pipe, and smoked no more for an hour.
Bright and beautiful were the faces assembled in the little drawing-room of Hubert Spitzhauser. Noble forms with luxuriant beards were seeking to win smiles and words from lips as rosy and lovely as an autumn sunset. Their efforts were in vain. Each time the knocker reverberated through the house, maiden would turn to maiden and whisper, "I hope 'tis he—I hope 'tis Heindrich." At length he came, and every beauteous being crowded round the hitherto despised hunchback; voices that breathed only music, bade him welcome; and hands as soft as the paw of a sleeping kitten, pressed his in friendly recognition. Menie was wrong! The Spell had brought him happiness. Hour after hour he invoked the sounds he had heard at Roch Albert's, and was rewarded with the outpouringa of many a happy heart. And thus it was, day after day, night after night, week after week,—where'er he went he was called upon to exercise his wondrous powers, until Menie's prognostication was frequently present to Heindrich.—" Can she be right?" he thought: "alas! I fear it—already do I grow weary of this continual solicitation—this continual exertion." Days, nights, and weeks passed on, and Heindrich felt the Curse that was with him. Never! never was he to know peace again. Those mystic sounds were asked for by all; for all must he awake them. In his slumbers they were in his ears; some demon instrument for ever thumped the accursed sounds :
Yes, gentlest, dearest of readers—Heindrich had acquired his influence with the ladies by his knowledge of the sixty Polkas of Jullien; where'er he went he was the musician of the evening, until Heindrich, the unhappy Heindrich, became Polka-haunted.