Riding into Rodriganda

Chapter 1, The Rodriganda Romances

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Excerpt from: The Rodriganda Romances

Adaptation of Das Waldroeschen; anticipated End 2017

Chapter 1: Manresa (Prelude)

The Letter

From the southern foothills of the Pyrenees, a rider came trotting towards the famous old town of Manresa. He rode an unusually strong mule, which had its good reasons, because the man was tall and muscular. The expression in the young man’s open, trustworthy face, however, reassured everyone who looked at him that he would not permit himself to misuse his extraordinary strength.

Although the facial features pointed to the fact that he was not a southerner, his face was nevertheless deeply tanned; his eyes possessed that particularly keen, sweeping, penetrating gaze found only on mariners, prairie hunters, or otherwise widely travelled men.

He appeared to be around twenty-eight years old; despite his youth, he radiated a particular touch of calm, experience, and confidence that endows a human being with an air of maturity beyond his age. The French-styled suit was made from fine fabrics, yet comfortable. A saddlebag was fastened at the back of his saddle; it seemed to contain precious items, for occasionally he reflexively reached back to ascertain that it was still in its place.

By the time he arrived in Manresa, the late September day had already progressed to early evening. He rode between the old walls and narrow alleys until he reached a plaza where he noticed a tall house with gold lettering above the door, which read Hotel Rodriganda. Judging by the speed of his ride, he had not intended to stop in Manresa; however, when he read the plaque, he directed his animal towards the gate of the hotel and dismounted.

As soon as he was standing on the ground, his imposing appearance could be fully appreciated. Although his herculean figure was conspicuous at first glance, the handsome harmony of his physique, which softened the first impression, also immediately awoke feelings of admiration, respect, and friendly empathy in those who met him.

Several servants rushed up to take charge of his animal, as well as him. He left the mule to them, and entered the noble establishment. The innkeeper and one patron were present; when the rider entered, he greeted:

Buenas tardes.[1]

“Buenas tardes, buenas tardes,” the other two replied.

“I’m the innkeeper. Does the senor wish to have lodgings here?” the man behind the counter asked while he cast a longer than usual gaze at the tall stranger.

“No; I’ll have some food and a vino regio,[2]” the man replied, and ignored the innkeeper’s look; strangers were often looked over a little more closely than the locals.

The host gave the required orders to the serving staff, and then asked:

“Do you wish to stay in Manresa for the night?”

“I’ll ride to Rodriganda. How far is it to there?”

“You will arrive in one hour, senor. It appeared as though you intended to ride past my hotel.”

“Indeed,” the stranger replied. “The name on your shield held me back. Why did you name your house Hotel Rodriganda?”

“Because I was the count’s servant for many years, and in his father’s employ before that, and it is only thanks to Don Emanuel’s benevolence that I was able to build this house.”

“Ah, you must therefore be familiar with the count’s circumstances.”

“Indeed, I am.”

“I’m a physician, and am about to introduce myself to him. I would appreciate the opportunity to find my bearings ahead of it. What kinds of people would I make the acquaintance with on Castillo[3] Rodriganda?”

Contrary to the customary Spanish aloofness the host seemed to be an open-hearted man, and perhaps he also liked to break the lonely afternoon with a conversation. He readily replied:

“I’m more than happy to give you information, senor. I hear by your accent that you’re a stranger. Did the ailing count call you to visit?”

The stranger hesitated with the answer, and then said:

“You’ve almost guessed it. I’m German, and my name is Dr Sternau; a short while ago, I received a request to come to Rodriganda as soon as possible.”

“Ah, so! Perhaps you will find that the count is no longer among the living.”

“Why?”

“He has been suffering from an affliction of the eyes for years; it finally resulted in complete blindness, so the doctors say, and a short time ago, he also contracted a terrible lithiasis[4]. Aside from being extremely painful, it has also become life threatening. Only an operation can help him. He agreed to undergo it, and has called on the services of two of the most famous surgeons, but found unexpected opposition in his only daughter, Contessa Rosa. The doctors, however, could wait no longer, and yesterday, I heard that the cut will be executed today.”

“Oh, no! I’ve come too late!” the stranger exclaimed, and jumped from his seat. “I must get away immediately. Perhaps there is still time!”

“Hardly, senor. No doctor will make such a cut at dusk. If the operation took place today, then it is already over. Besides, it is possible that they delayed it. The contessa repeatedly asked them to hold off, day by day, against the advice of the doctors, and the wishes of the count and his son.”

“Count Emanuel de Rodriganda y Seville has a son?”

“Yes, only one: Count Alfonzo. He has spent a great many years in Mexico, where the Rodrigandas own extensive, valuable estates. The young count has been called home perhaps six months ago, when Emanuel de Rodriganda’s eyesight had deteriorated to complete blindness, and he will now be present during the operation. The procedure could result in his father’s death. Of course, Count Emanuel has prepared his testament beforehand.”

“Who else is on Castillo Rodriganda, aside from the count and his two children?”

“Firstly, there is Senora Clarissa, a distant relative of the family. She is the Mother Superior of the Carmelite convent in Zaragoza; she became the duenna[5] of the young countess when her mother died. Sister Clarissa is very devout; but Contessa Rosa does not love her. Secondly, there is Senor Gasparino Cortejo. He is an advocate and notary here in Manresa, but regularly visits Castillo Rodriganda, because Don Emanuel has employed him as the manager of his estates. He is also very pious, as well as exceedingly proud. In addition, I could also mention the good castellan[6] Juan Alimpo and his wife Elvira. Both are very loyal and decent people, and I can only recommend them to you. Except for the usual workers, there is no one else, since the count lives a very private life.”

“Do you perhaps know someone by the name of Mindrello?”

“Oh, every child knows him. Mindrello is a poor but honest devil who is suspected of being a smuggler occasionally; hence he’s usually referred to as Mindrello the contrabandier. But you can fully trust him. He is a better man than many who despise him.”

“Thank you, senor! After all I have heard from you, I must not delay my ride any longer. Buenas noches![7]

“Buenas noches, senor! I wish that you’re not too late.”

Dr Sternau paid for what he had consumed, asked for his mule, mounted up, and rode away at a gallop.

The day came to an end; he would not reach Rodriganda before nightfall. While the light-footed mule raced along the country road, its rider reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out a folded piece of paper. The fact that it was tattered evidenced that Sternau had read it repeatedly; nevertheless, he unfolded it again, and for the hundredth time read the lines, written by a beautiful, firm woman’s hand:

Dr Karl Sternau, Rue Vaugirard 24, Paris

My Friend!

We said farewell for life; however, events prompted me to send to you my desperate wish to see you here. You must save Count Rodriganda’s life. Please come quickly, and bring your instruments. Take lodging with Mindrello, the contrabandier, and ask for me. But I plead with you to come very quickly!

Rosita

After he had yet again read the letter, he folded it and returned it to his pocket. He was riding through a dense oak forest, but he neither saw the oaks, nor the path they framed. The memories of the hour in Paris, during which he had first met the writer of the letter, came flooding into his mind.

It was in the Jardin des Plantes. He walked around a bosquet[8], to sit on the bench on the other side, and found it already occupied. He attempted to retreat, but his astonishment at the charm of the young lady, into whose solitude he had intruded, made it impossible for him to leave; he felt captivated to almost a point of confusion. She rose from the bench, and at that point, Sternau was face to face with a beauty of such perfection he would not have thought possible. He, the experienced man, the physician, felt his pulse freeze momentarily, only for his heart to drive the blood with tenfold speed to his temples and cheeks. That hour had decided his fate—as well as hers.

They loved each other with unspeakable passion, but also with deep sadness. He was permitted to only meet her in that particular garden. She informed him that she was the companion of Contessa Rosa de Rodriganda, who had travelled to Paris with her blind father, and that, for reasons she kept to herself, she had sworn to remain unmarried. He felt blissfully happy from delight about her reciprocal love, but almost mad from pain about her unshakable decision, which he was unable to fathom or comprehend. He begged and pleaded, he besieged her; she cried and remained steadfast.

Then, she departed, and made him promise that he would never make enquiries about her. They had said farewell for this lifetime, in order to find each other again in another world in perfect bliss. He had been permitted to embrace her, and to press his lips onto hers only the once; yet that delight was drowned out by the pain of separation, and since that time, he had been doing battle with the agony that gnawed at his heart, and sank its claws into his life; he was not victorious.

The magnificent creature he had held, and then lost, occupied his thoughts during the day, and his dreams at night.

Although he hoped that his heart would one day find peace, he also knew that a future peace would have to be paid for with a large part of his life.

And unexpectedly he received such a letter. He read it, and felt a quiver surge through all the fibers of his body. Without asking or hesitating, he immediately packed the necessities, and followed the call of the precious woman. She may have been a mere lady-in-waiting, the companion of a duchess, but she had met him like a lovely, supernatural creature, like a fairy whose eyes occasionally shine onto the life of a mere mortal, like a glimpse from the Heavenly realms. And when the fairy called, he obeyed. He dashed across all of France; in a hasty rush he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and at last, he was approaching his destination, where he would see her again, the magnificent, incomparable girl to whom he was devoted with his entire soul, body and life. His mule’s gallop was still too slow for him; he drove it to greater speed, and just when the sun dipped below the western heights, he rode into the village of Rodriganda.

[1] Good Afternoon

[2] Regional wine, table wine, local wine.

[3] Castle

[4] Any number of calculi (stone / concretion of material) ailments (gall, kidney, bladder, etc).

[5] Chaperone

[6] (Hist.) governor of a castle.

[7] Good night.

[8] Formal planting of at least five identical trees, as a quincunx (like the number ‘5’ on a die or playing card), in a French formal garden.

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Out Of Vandaemonia – Winnetou & Shatterhand in Australia

We went back to the camels, which were still browsing the scant vegetation, patiently carrying their front legs in the hobble position. Tagh released and hooshed them. We loaded the meat parcels onto the pack animals, and climbed into our saddles.

“Ahoy there! The cargo is loaded, we can set sail again!” Turnerstick announced.

“Hut-hut!” Tagh, and the other riders gave the camel command for the animals to move out.

Our odyssey could continue.

“So, tell me, Sepple: how did you come by the idea to leave dry land and try your luck at sea?” Turnerstick asked Sepple as we continued riding, picking up the thread of an earlier nautical conversation during the preceding days. Turnerstick liked nothing better than to talk about ships and the high seas, and sailing the one over the other, even if the subject was a small fishing boat sailing the waters in the harbour of Adelaide.

“I couldn’t really say,” Sepple replied. “But I think the flathead are to blame for it.”

“Flathead? What’s a flathead got to do with it?”

“That’s what we used to catch when we went out on the neighbour’s boat. One of my father’s friends, who lived next door to us, used to go fishing with his two sons on the river, and invite their friends as well. We were five boys, all crammed into a small dinghy. We used to have a grand time, though, and always caught plenty of flathead. I guess I liked being on ships,” Sepple said with a smile.

“Calling a dinghy a ship is stretching the seafarer’s imagination a bit, laddie,” the captain said and gave Sepple a wink.

“I know that you’ve got a much larger dinghy, but one has to start somewhere,” Sepple retorted.

The Wind a dinghy? You call my clipper a dinghy? I’ll keelhaul anyone who insults The Wind in this manner!”

“It would be a little difficult out here,” Sepple grinned.

“It’ll keep for when we get back!”

“Aye, captain! We can go fishing for flathead then!”

“Fishing! The Wind is not a fishing ketch!”

“What good’s a boat if you can’t go fishing on it?”

“The clipper is not a boat, either! And what is it about the flathead? Is that all you catch in Adelaide?”

“Have you ever tasted flathead? There’s nothing better than fresh flathead over hot coals right there on the beach, a Lobethal beer on the side, and perhaps a damper to soak up the juices!”

“You’re quite the gourmet! But damper! I’ve heard about it! An English fellow, who had been to the colonies earlier, and who manned The Wind’s galley for a while, explained the wretched thing to me. Apparently one needs the stomach of an emu to digest it; it’s nothing but flour and water, and you mix it until it’s as hard as clay cut from a quarry. And this clay is then shaped into rounds and placed directly onto the coals, where it is baked until brick hard, like fired in a kiln. Whose teeth would want to put up with that?”

“The man didn’t know what he was talking about, Captain! Damper is a bush bread, and when done properly, that’s to say, the flour and water have been mixed to form a cake that is placed into the hot ashes, it will rise and brown.”

“There you have the brick!”

“It’s quite sweet and a good bread. You just wipe the ash off, and eat it as soon as it has cooled.”

“But baked like that—it would be as hard as rock!”

“On the contrary, it’s as soft as the best baker’s bun. My sister sometimes uses beer instead of water, because that’s got yeast in it, and the dough rises a bit more; but it’s very agreeable!”

“Beer?”

“Don’t tell anyone, it’s her secret, because the folks would say she’d only waste good beer!”

“Hm, beer instead of water, I can accept that; I must try your sister’s damper—and the beer will be our secret!”

While Turnerstick and Sepple were comparing culinary oddities of the wild colonial kitchens, our camels had carried us quite a stretch closer to the red hill in the distance, yet not close enough to get more than a glimpse at it.

We were heading in a north-westerly direction, riding through country covered with porcupine grass, which is also known as spinifex. The desert oak trees became more prominent, and whereas individual trees had been standing as lonely sentinels in the wide landscape during the past few days, we had arrived in a region where they grew in larger groups, which also contained much older specimens. The distance to the red hill on the horizon did not seem to shorten. We pushed on over some scrubby and stony country, regularly passing casuarina trees. We were delighted to encounter several quandongs, or native peach trees, with early fruit. The quandong is an important food source for the Aboriginals, and the fruit is considered a suitable substitute for meat—especially when game is in short supply. Ripe red quandong are eaten raw, or dried for later consumption; apparently they keep for many years. The women would collect quandongs in bark dishes, pit them, and roll the edible fruit into a ball. The fruit ball would then be broken up and shared out among their mob.

Not letting an opportunity to gather fresh fruit go by, both Ginty and Sepple dismounted and picked a couple of hats full, for us to enjoy along the way. I would describe their taste somewhere between a quince, or perhaps red wine, and a mango, an exotic fruit that originated on the Indian sub-continent thousands of years ago, but had only recently been grown in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Australian colonies. The mango had been grown in a few immense hothouses in England since the early years of the century, but it was not until about twenty years hence that cultivation had become commercially successful. We ate of the quandong as many as we desired, quenching our thirst somewhat, and packed away the remainder for later on.

Aboriginals also valued the quandongs for their medicinal properties, which included a form of tea, taken as a purgative; the roots were ground down and an infusion used for the treatment of rheumatism. The leaves were crushed and mixed with saliva, to produce a salve for skin sores and boils, and the rich, oily kernels were processed in like manner, and used for the same purpose. Some tribal groups used the crushed kernels as a hair beautifying agent. The kernel can be eaten raw, and Ginty cracked a few for us; they tasted not unlike almonds.

“Emu like them,” he said.

“The red peaches?” Turnerstick asked.

“Yes boss. They eat the fruit, then drop the seed; that way we know where to find the nuts.”

Turnerstick gave Ginty an incredulous side-glance.

“You mean to tell me that you collect the nuts in emu droppings, crack them open, and then eat them?”

“Yes boss, very good!” Ginty said with a grin that grew increasingly broader.

“I prefer to eat the fruit myself!” Turnerstick said. “There’s no accounting for some tastes, though!”

As we drew closer to the red hill in the distance, we came onto softer ground with a well-grassed plain. However, after we had traversed the plain, the ground regularly dipped away again, and together with the scrub obscured the landscape ahead continuously, until we cleared the jumble of colossal boulders that had blocked our view for quite a stretch.

The mystery of the ‘Devil’s Pulpit’

Excerpt from: Winnetou – Book 4

If the secret, which I was trying to find, really existed, it wasn’t going to be based on shrewd, ingenious constructions, but upon the extremely straightforward application of a very simple law of Nature. I was extremely curious, but kept my thoughts to myself for the time being. However, I didn’t hesitate to put it to a decisive test. I asked my wife to return to the other island, together with Young Eagle, and to sit upon the great chief’s armchair.

“What for?” she asked.
“There will be a surprise for you from me.”
“A good one?”
“Yes, a good one. If I succeed, you will be delighted! Or would you rather

get a bad surprise? I can do that, too!”
“No! A good one is better! But is this really necessary?”
“Yes! Absolutely!”
“You are so very secretive lately! I hope it’s only temporary! I’ll obey.” She left together with the Apache. I stepped to the island’s edge and

watched them talking to each other along the way to the Devil’s Pulpit. They climbed up. Of course, I was quite tense with anticipation. I listened.

Then, I could hear the lively voice of my wife, not from the direction I observed her, but from behind me:

“He won’t rest any sooner! He’ll succeed in discovering the secret of the Ear-and-Pulpit business! I know him!”

They were both standing on top of the island. I had heard my wife’s voice only after they had reached the platform. I could see them, but not clearly. The faces were unrecognizable; the distance was too great for that. Even their arm and hand gestures were impossible for me to see. After her last word there was a pause; then I could hear her again:

“No; I have no idea. He hasn’t had the time to tell me or even explain it.”

From that remark I deduced that the Apache had also said something, but it had escaped my hearing. I was probably not standing in the proper position to intercept the sound waves that his voice had created. My wife had stopped at the edge of their island. I also stood at the edge of my island. Young Eagle was several steps away from her, and stood next to the stone seat in the middle of the platform. Therefore, I left the edge and also walked to the centre. That was, however, situated inside the hut, deep inside the thicket and the question arose whether or not the vegetation was going to intercept the sound waves and make them inaudible. That didn’t happen. Because, as soon as I reached the hut, I could hear my wife much more clearly than before:

“Unfortunately, I’ve not roasted one yet. Therefore, I’ve got to rely entirely upon you. Are the paws really the best part? And delicious?”

I heard Young Eagle’s reply just as clearly:
“Without a doubt! There is nothing more delicious!”
“And do they have to be left to mature until they are full of worms?” “Actually, yes.”
“Ugh!”
“Why ugh? The worms are removed. You don’t eat them as well!”
“But they were there! That’s disgusting!”
“Then you don’t wait that long!”
At that point I decided to amuse myself and loudly called to them:
“Not at all! It’s absolutely necessary to wait for the worms! Only then

will the paws be roasted; the worms, however, are fed to the redbreast robins and the nightingales!”

Immediately I heard Herzle laugh:
“That’s my husband, the jester! He sneaked after us. But where is he?”
I assumed she was looking around for me. I could no longer see her.

Hence I shouted:
“Here I am—here!”
“But where?” she asked.
“Up here, with Max Pappermann!”
“Joker! Be serious!”
“Alright: I’m sitting on the nearest tree!”
“Nothing but mischief! Come to your senses and talk rationally!”
“As you wish! Young Eagle may reach into his left vest pocket. That’s

where I am!”
“Uff, uff!” the Apache exclaimed. “Now I know it, now, now!”
“What?” she asked.
“He is not here at all! His voice sounds as if it is coming from above,

then from below, then from the right, then the left. He still stands where we left him; but he has discovered how to send his voice all the way to us.”

“Could this really be the case?”
“Of course!”
“Then that’s the surprise he was talking about?”
“Most likely. You just said that he wouldn’t rest until he discovered the

secret behind the Ear-and-Pulpit matter. Now he can rest. He’s already discovered it!”

That’s when I butted in:
“He’s correct. I’m resting!”
“Where?”
“Here on my island. I am standing in front of the stone hut.” “Really? Or are you still mocking me?”

“No. I’m serious now. I’ve acquired education. I really am standing at the island hut and hear you as well as you hear me. I’ve guessed as much before and will explain the circumstances to you. I sent you to the other island to test my assumption. It worked. I’m extraordinarily satisfied with the result, extremely pleased!”

“If it is as you say, then it almost resembles a miracle!” she exclaimed.

“And yet, it’s not a miracle at all, but only the careful, intelligent application of a simple natural law.”

“In that case, we could listen to the Indian negotiations from where you are now!”

“Yes! From beginning to end! In complete comfort and safety! Imagine that!”

“Can you really hear me clearly?”

“Just as if you were standing next to me.”

“I hear you equally well!”

“Splendid! But let’s test the strength or softness of a voice, as well as the point to stand on so as not to miss a word.”
That test went well, too. Only whispers couldn’t be understood; they sounded like a breath without words. And shouting sounded like thunder. It was almost scary, only the clarity of voice was partially lost. But everything between a whisper and a shout sounded as if one was standing next to the other and not separated by a great distance. Finally, Herzle, always cautious, suggested trading positions.

“You’ll come over here to my island and I’ll go to yours,” she said. “We’ll meet along the way. But first, you’ll place an object of my choosing into the hut to convince me you are truly there now.”

“Then you still think I’m joking?”

“No, because you aren’t here with us, and not nearby, either. We would see you. But I understand so little of your acoustics and natural laws that I will only trust my own eyes, not sciences or a jester!”

“Then tell me what you want me to deposit here? My watch, my knife?”

“No, something poetic!”

“Alright, what?”

“A love letter!”

“Oho! To whom?”

“To me, of course. There is no other woman here. Take a sheet from your note book and write down what I’m dictating now!”

“Very well! Sheet and pencil are ready. Now speak!”
She dictated the following:
“My dear Herzle! I love you and will remain true to you until death does part us. For your next birthday you will receive fifty deutschmark for the Radebeul hospital. I shall keep my word and sign with my name!”

“Make sure to sign it!” she finished.

“Done!” I confirmed.

“Then come!”
I placed the note into the hut, descended from the island and walked towards hers. We passed each other along the way. She attempted to give me a triumphant look on account of the fifty deutschmark, but couldn’t do it. Instead, she shook my hand to thank me, and then continued with Young Eagle. I made haste to get to the other island as quickly as possible. When I arrived and stood at the top, I kept quiet and listened. Then, I heard them coming. They were talking to one another. My wife went to the hut immediately. I heard her say:

“There’s the note! Truly, truly!” She read it and continued: “Exactly as I dictated it! There can’t be any more doubt…”

“Oh, yes!” I interrupted her quickly.

“Ah, you’re there already?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“And you doubt it?”

“I have significant doubts. I must also perform a test to convince myself!”

“What kind of test?”

“I suppose you also have a pencil with you?”

“Yes.”

“Then take my sheet and, on its reverse side, write down what I’m going to dictate now!”

“Splendid! I’ve got the piece of paper and the pencil. Let’s begin!”

I dictated:
“The most obedient undersigned herewith remorsefully admits before the prosecuting attorney’s office of the Royal Saxon district court in Dresden to a cunning act of blackmail in the amount of fifty deutschmark, no less, committed at Devil’s Pulpit in the American State of Colorado, and…”

“Stop, stop! No more!” her voice cut me short. “I only have to admit my sins to you, not to the district attorney whom I declare completely incompetent in any and all events that take place on top of the Devil’s Pulpit. Your fifty deutschmark belong to my patients from now on; and that’s that! If you need further testing, try something else, but not this!”

“I desist!”

“Then come over and apologize! As far as I’m concerned, your discovery is in no further need of testing.”

“In that case, let’s return to camp. I won’t walk over to you first, but will meet you both at the brook outside the basin.”

When I got there, they hadn’t arrived yet. It took quite a while before they turned up.

“We had to let you wait,” my wife apologized. “It was important to make it as comfortable as possible for you.”

“What?”

“Your listening post, the stone hut, where you will have to stay for hours or maybe even longer. It had to be cleaned out first. Then, we placed enough dry leaves in there, so that you can be as comfortable as the circumstances allow. Are we going up now?”

Continued in Winnetou—Book 4, the translation of Karl May’s Winnetou IV of 1910.

Surreal encounter

Excerpt from: From the Rio de la Plata to the Cordilleras

Beneath a not-too-tall, but broad-branched tree stood a hut with walls made from turf. The roof consisted of reed. There were no windows, only a door, which was open. On a primitive hearth, also built from turf, burned the small fire that had shone towards us. Above the fire stood a steel pot, in which a thick, foul-smelling mass was boiling. Nobody was inside the hut.

“That’s where the Indian lives?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“In that case, he’s at home. Someone’s cooking, therefore, the people must be at home.”
“Most likely his wife. Let’s see what she’s brewing!”

We stepped inside the narrow room. The padre looked into the pot and said: “This pot contains death for several hundred creatures. It is arrow poison.”

“Truly? The famous or, rather, infamous poison of the Indians! Let me have a look!”

Naturally, I saw nothing more than the boiling mass, which had a greenish colour and nearly the consistency of syrup. A piece of wood that served as a stirrer was in the pot. The padre stirred and pulled out the piece of timber. Part of the molasses adhered to it, he dipped his fingertip into the thick liquid, tasted it, and then said:

“Yes, it is arrow poison. I know the taste.”

 

“You’re eating it?!”

“That’s not dangerous. The poison won’t do any damage in the stomach. It only develops its terrible effect when it gets into the bloodstream.”

“Do you know the recipe?”

“No. The Indian doesn’t divulge it even to his best friend. They take the sap and the green tendrils of several plants, the names of which I don’t know, and then boil them down to the consistency of a syrup, which forms a resin- or soap-like mass after cooling that is warmed up again before use.”

“Does it keep for a long time?”

“Up to one and a half years if it doesn’t go rotten or brittle. The arrow tips are poisoned with it. Here are some.”

The padre seemed to know his way around the hut well. He stepped into a corner, picked up a small reed bundle and opened it. We could see that the reed enclosed probably fifty arrows that were made from the hard, finger-long thorns of a climbing plant. Judging by the colour of the tips, they had been dunked into the arrow poison. The other ends were feathered with the wool of Bombax Ceiba. The small, cute weapons did not at all look as dangerous as they were in reality.

Three or four light, round poles with a length that reached from the ground to the tip of the funnel-shaped roof stood in the room. I couldn’t guess their purpose. The padre took one of them, showed it to me and said:

“It is hollow, isn’t it? These are the blowpipes, through which the poison arrows are shot. They’re made from either a smooth, straight palm shoot, or from colihue cane.”

“How far do Indians shoot with such a thing?”

“In excess of forty paces, completely silently and accurately.”

“How fast does it kill?”

“Monkeys and parrots die within seconds, jaguars and human beings within two to three minutes at the most.”

“What antidote is there?”

“None.”

“That’s a terrible weapon! Why is it tolerated that Indians use it?”

“Firstly, because nobody would have the power to enforce the prohibition of it and, secondly, because the Indians can only master their adversaries in the animal kingdom with the aid of this poison. Without it, the jungle would be uninhabitable. The predators, which he ambushes from a safe hiding place, would multiply to such an extent that the human population would have to flee. A jaguar, or puma, only has to sustain the smallest scratch; the tip of the arrow only has to hit the smallest hair follicle and the animal is doomed to die.”

“But it would be poisoned and useless!”

“You mean: inedible? Oh, no. The poison only works when it comes into contact with blood directly, that’s to say, through an injury. The meat of game that has been killed with such an arrow is completely edible. You can safely eat from it. I’ve done so hundreds of times and it hasn’t harmed me.”

He interrupted himself because, at that moment, a figure appeared among us that I hardly recognized as a human being at first glance. The person looked like a deformity from a sideshow alley. Almost as small as a child, it had the features of an old wench. The check bones were extremely elevated and the eyes were slanted. There was a dense, stroppy mess on her head, which I would have taken for dried broom twigs, but not hair. She was so skinny, it seemed there weren’t fifty grams of flesh on her.

“Daya, is that you?” the padre asked.

She nodded and made the sign of the cross.

 

“Is your husband here?”

She nodded again and made the sign of the cross again.

“Then, speak!” he encouraged her.

“Give me something!” It was the first thing she said.

“Afterwards, Daya! First, you must answer my questions.”

“I know nothing!”

“Don’t lie! You know I won’t forgive you for that!”

She looked up at him with a peculiar, monkey-like, insolent expression in her face and replied:
“You forgive everything, you are good!”

“You haven’t seen me getting angry, but might easily find out today what that’s like. Were there any men here today?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hm! I can see that I have to give you something. What do you want?”

“Daya needs a nice, shiny button for her dress.”

“You shall have one.”

He seemed to be prepared for the wishes of his acquaintances, because he pulled a pouch from his pocket, opened it, pulled out a shiny brass button and gave it to her. She immediately threaded it on a bit of yarn and attached it to her ‘dress’. Her eyes sparkled with delight and her face took on a child-like, merry expression, which almost moved me.

Old Shatterhand meets Heather

Old Shatterhand meets Heather

~~~

Excerpt from: Winnetou and the Old Judge – a translation of Reinhard Marheinecke’s Winnetou und der alte Richter, a new Winnetou novel. Translation published November 2015

Winnetou and I did not intend to spend the night in Jackson’s Hole. Just when we left the blockhouse-cum-saloon, where we had spent some time with the camel riders, Judge Whittaker left his log cabin office, and crossed the yard to meet us. He informed us that he was departing for South Pass City at dawn, from where he would be able to more efficiently conduct his investigations into the buffalo hunters’ incident.

“The ride would take me at least four days if I made camp every night; however, I’ll get there in three days if I ride through half of each night, and since the matter is urgent, I’ll be in my South Pass City office in the morning of the third day,” he explained, and then went on to invite us to accompany him, and stay on his ranch, south-east of the city. I thanked him; but for the moment, Winnetou and I needed to immediately return to the Shoshone. Because of the volatile situation, we thought we had better not stay away for too long. The judge agreed, and once again reassured us that he would do his utmost to find the villains, and to do his part in ensuring that the north-west corner of Wyoming would remain peaceful.

Whittaker, Winnetou and I were still talking when a young woman joined us, but remained a few paces away, in order not to disturb our conversation. The light from the small saloon illuminated her face, so that she was clearly visible despite the darkness around us. With a few, swift side-glances, I was able to have a close look at the lady. She had tied her long, blonde hair back, in an attempt at somehow taming the mass of golden locks, and her bonnet covered most of it; a slim nose underscored her even features, and shapely lips completed her pretty face. Indeed, the young lady was a beautiful creature. She had draped a large, plain, dark shawl over her shoulders, and held it crossed at the front. It looked blue, but the flickering light from the cabin door could have fooled the eye. The just-as-plain, billowing long dress permitted a look at the tips of a pair of small black boots that peeked out from under the hem, which evidenced that she was no stranger to riding a horse.

When the judge saw the young woman, a beaming smile spread over his face; as gallantly as he could, he made an arm gesture towards her and said:

“Heather, my child, may I introduce to you my friends?”

“Friends?” the young woman asked with unease in her voice.

A frown of slight anger creased his forehead:

“Are you in a bad mood, child?”

Heather ignored Whittaker’s question, and instead explained:

“I only wished to inform you, uncle, that I will go and help Mrs Wilkinson with some chores; her husband is away hunting and she does not manage well on her own now.”

“Of course, my child!” the judge absentmindedly replied, and then enlightened Winnetou and me:

“Ah, yes, gentlemen, this is my niece, Heather Whittaker. She is the only child of my brother, Jake, who passed away far too early. I took the girl in, of course, after the death of her parents!”

The girl’s features noticeably darkened, and she hastily left. Somehow her unease had sparked very faint disquiet to rise from deep within me, but I was unable to say why, or what exactly had caused it. After the judge’s secretary, Drake, the girl was the second person in Whittaker’s company to make an odd impression on me.

“Forgive the manners of the girl! I don’t know what got into her!” the judge shook his head.

We said our farewells, and then Winnetou and I departed, at last. Dusk had descended early in the valley, and we intended to ride the night through, so that we would meet up with chief Sokotsuku in the morning; our horses had rested enough for the night ride. We left Jackson’s Hole by the same route we had arrived, the south-easterly exit; we rode along the banks of the Snake River at first, down Hoback Canyon, and then along the Gros Ventre foot hills followed the Hoback Creek upstream, back along our own trail. Soon after, the moon rose, and we were able to ride faster. After a few hours, we left the creek and turned east to head into the valleys of the Green River headwaters. The only hindrance we encountered during the early part of our ride was the many rocks and boulders, so typical of the area, in all kinds of shapes and sizes. It seemed like a gigantic explosion had thousands of years ago wrenched them from the nearby Grand Teton massif and flung them where we rode. The late summer night was mild, and the atmosphere in the high-lying region clear. The three quarter waxing moon sent its scant light just far enough ahead of us, so that we were able to let our horses gallop. Our black stallions were excellent horses, and skilfully evaded the rocky obstacles.

The ride was uneventful until almost dawn. The quiet night enveloped us, and the dull drone of the horses’ hooves on the dense grass was the only sound around us. The high plateau plain was mostly level. But then, a stand of bushes and trees we had passed on the way down came into view; it appeared in the moonlight like an island in the wide, endless ocean. The silhouette of the tree isle in the prairie was clearly distinguishable against the night sky. For a fraction of a second, I saw what looked like the spark of a match being struck between the trees.

Magister Hartley

Magister Hartley

~~~

Excerpt from: The Treasure In Silver-Lake

Magister Hartley and his newly found side-kick arrive at a farm, where they administer their ‘medicine’, and then move on …

The main building of the farm was constructed from timber; along one side and in the back there was a well-tended orchard and vegetable garden. The public buildings were situated at some distance from the homestead. There were three horses tied to the hitching post, a sure sign that strangers were present. They were sitting in the parlour, and drinking some of the farmer’s home brew. The strangers were alone because the farmer’s wife was the only one home, and she was busy in the small stable. They saw the quack and his famulus arrive.

“Tarnation!” one of them exclaimed. “Am I seeing correctly? I ought to know him! If I’m not mistaken, then this is Hartley, the musician with the accordion!”

“An acquaintance of yours?” one of the other two asked. “Did you have business with him?”

“Of course. The fellow made good money and had his pockets full of dollars. Naturally I made just as good a deal by emptying them during the night.”

“Does he know it was you?”

“Hm, probably. How fortuitous that I coloured my red hair black yesterday! Don’t you go calling me Brinkley or colonel! The fellow could ruin our plans!”

It was evident from those remarks that he was the red-haired colonel. The bullet wound on his hand had barely healed over; he kept his hair long down either side of his head.

The two arrivals had reached the house just when the farmer’s wife came from the stable. She greeted them politely and asked about their wishes. When she found out that she was looking at a physician and his famulus, she was very pleased, and invited them into the parlour while she opened the door.

“Gentlemen,” she called inside. “Here comes a highly educated physician with his apothecary. I don’t think the company of these two gentlemen will be a bother to you.”

“Highly educated physician?” the colonel muttered to himself. “Impertinent fellow! I’d like to show him what I think of him!”

Hartley and Haller greeted those present, and without any fuss sat down at the same table. To his satisfaction, the colonel realized that Hartley hadn’t recognized him. He passed himself off as a trapper and said that he was headed into the mountains with his two companions. Then, a conversation ensued while the hostess was busy on the hearth. Above it hung a pot in which lunch was cooking. When it was ready she went outside to the front of the house to call her family home, as was customary in that region, by way of blowing into the large tin dinner-horn. [note: Although the traditional noise maker, an iron triangle suspended from a chain, struck by an iron rod circling inside, is more widely known, Heinrich Lienhard’s real-life account From St. Louis to Sutter’s Fort, 1846, translated in 1961, also features a ‘large tin dinner horn’ to call the people of a wagon train to the meals or general assemblies. Lienhard’s accounts were not published during May’s lifetime.]

The farmer, a son, a daughter and a farmhand returned from nearby fields. They shook hands with their guests, especially the doctor, amid sincere friendliness, and then sat down to eat the meal; they said prayers before and after it. The members of the farmer family were plain, forthright and devout people who weren’t a match for the cunning of a genuine Yankee, of course.

During the meal the farmer was fairly monosyllabic; afterwards he lit his pipe, put his elbows onto the table and expectantly said to Hartley:

“We must get back to the field shortly, doctor; but at this moment we’ve got a little bit of time to talk to you. I might perhaps call on your skills. With which diseases are you well-versed?”

“What a question!” the quack said. “I’m a physician and farrier and therefore cure the illnesses of humans and animals alike.”

“Alright, in that case you’re the man I need. I hope you’re not one of those travelling swindlers who have been everything and make all kinds of promises, but haven’t studied anything?”

“Do I perchance look like such a scoundrel?” Hartley puffed himself up. “Would I have passed my doctor’s and magister’s exam if I weren’t a learned man? Here sits my famulus. Ask him, and he’ll tell you that thousands and thousands of people, not counting the animals, owe their health and life to me.”

“I believe it; I believe it, sir! You have come at the right time. I’ve got a cow in the stable. You ought to know what that means. In this country, a cow only gets to be in a stable if it’s very ill. The animal hasn’t eaten in two days and hangs its head down to the ground. I deem it lost.”

“Pshaw! I only regard a patient as lost when he’s dead! The farmhand may show it to me; then I’ll give you my opinion.”

Hartley was shown to the stable, to examine the cow. When he came back he looked very serious and said:

“It was just in the nick of time, because the cow would have been dead by the evening. It ate henbane. Fortunately I have a sure remedy; the animal will be as healthy as before, by tomorrow morning. Bring me a bucket of water, and you, famulus, hand me the Aqua sylvestropolia!”

Haller opened the chest and picked out the relevant small bottle from which Hartley gave a few drops into the water. He instructed the people to administer two litres of the liquid to the cow every three hours. Then it was the human patients’ turn. The wife had the beginnings of goitre and received Aqua sumatralia. The farmer suffered from rheumatism and was given Aqua sensationia. The daughter was as fit as a fiddle but was easily coerced into taking Aqua furonia for some freckles. The farmhand was limping somewhat, ever since he was a boy, but took the opportunity to get rid of the condition with Aqua ministerialia. Lastly, Hartley also asked the three strangers whether or not he could be of service to them. The colonel shook his head and replied:

“Thank you, sir! We’re extremely healthy. And should I ever feel unwell, I’ll help myself in a Swedish manner.”

“How?”

“With physiotherapy. I’ll have someone play a lively reel on the accordion and dance until I’ve worked up a sweat. That remedy is tried and tested. Understood?”

He gave Hartley a meaningful nod. The medical artisan was too shocked to speak and turned away from him to ask the farmer about the nearest farms. According to the information he received, the nearest one lay about a dozen kilometres west, and then there was one about twice as far to the north. When the magister explained that he’d immediately depart for the former, the farmer enquired about his fees. Hartley demanded five dollars and the people gladly paid immediately. Then he departed with his famulus, who shouldered the wooden box again. When they had gone far enough away from the farm so that they couldn’t be observed from there any longer, he said:

“We’ve been walking west, but will now turn north, because I wouldn’t think of going to the first farm; we’ll go to the second one. The cow is so frail, it will probably die within the hour. If the farmer then comes by the idea to ride after me, I could fare badly. But isn’t a meal and five dollars for ten drops of coloured water inviting? I hope you recognize your advantage and enter my employ!”

“Your hopes will be dashed, sir,” Haller replied. “You’re offering me quite a lot of money; but I’d also have to lie a lot. I don’t mean to offend you! I’m an honest man and will remain that. My conscience does not permit me to accept your offer.”

He said it with such sincerity and determination it made the magister realize that all further coaxing would be in vain. Hence Hartley shook his head with an expression of pity and said:

“I meant well. What a shame your conscience is so delicate!”

“I thank God that He hasn’t given me a different one. Here is your box back. I would like to show my appreciation for your generosity, but I cannot; it is impossible.”

“Alright! A man’s free will is sacred; hence I’ll cease to push. But we need not part immediately because of it. Your journey will stretch for another fifteen miles to the farm in question, so will mine, and we can stay together until then, at least.”

He took possession of his wooden chest again. The silence into which he henceforth fell gave rise to the assumption that the righteousness of the railway clerk had made an impression upon him. And so they wandered side by side, and directed their eyes only to the front, until they heard hoof beats behind them. When they turned around, they spotted the three men they had met on the farm.

“Woe is me!” Hartley let slip. “This seems to have something to do with me. Those fellows were headed into the mountains! Why are they not riding west in that case? I don’t trust them; they seem to be scoundrels, rather than trappers.”

He would soon realise, to his chagrin, that he had guessed correctly. The riders stopped when they had caught up with the two wanderers, and the colonel sneered at the quack:

“Mister, why did you change your direction? Now the farmer won’t find you.”

“Find me?” the Yankee asked.

“Yes. After you left, I told him the truth about you and your beautiful titles, and he hastily took off to follow you and retrieve his money.”

“Nonsense, sir!”

“It’s not nonsense, it’s the truth. He went over to the farm that you wanted to bless with your presence. But we were smarter. We know how to read tracks and followed yours to make you an offer.”

“I wouldn’t know what kind that could be. I don’t know you and won’t have anything to do with you.”

“But we have business with you all the more. We know you. Because we tolerate that you cheat these honest farm folks, we’ve become your accomplices, which means it’s only right and proper that you’ll pay us part of your honorary. You’re two people and we’re three; therefore we’re demanding three fifth of the amount. You can see that our actions are very just and reasonable. And should you not agree, then…well, look at my comrades!”

He pointed to the other two, who aimed their guns at Hartley. The quack deemed all further disagreement futile. He was convinced that he was dealing with highwaymen, and secretly rejoiced for having got off so cheaply. Hence he pulled three dollars from his pocket, held them up to the colonel and said:

“You seem to confuse me with someone else, and are in need of a part of my well-earned income. I’ll take your demands as a joke and agree to them. Here are the three dollars, which, according to your calculations, are your portion.”

“Three dollars? Are you bedevilled?” the colonel laughed. “Do you think we’d be riding after you for such a measly sum of money? No, no! I didn’t just refer to the money you’ve taken today. We demand our cut of what you’ve earned in total. I’m assuming that you’re carrying a nice sum of money around with you.”

“That’s not at all the case,” Hartley exclaimed with trepidation.

“We’ll see! Since you are lying I’m forced to examine you. I think that you’ll admit to it calmly because my friends aren’t joking with their guns. The life of a miserable accordion player isn’t worth a dime to us.”

He climbed from the horse and walked over to the Yankee. Hartley gave voice to all manner of remonstrations, to avert the looming disaster, but for naught. The gun barrels were staring at him so ominously that he surrendered to his fate. At the same time he secretly hoped that the colonel wasn’t going to find anything, since he believed his cash was hidden very well.

The colonel with the black-coloured red hair inspected all pockets, but found only a few dollars. Then he proceeded to inspect the suit, feeling every little bit of the fabric to ascertain whether or not anything had been sewn into it. That was unsuccessful. At that point Hartley believed he had escaped danger, but the colonel was smart. He opened the wooden box and had a close look at it.

“Hm!” he grunted. “The entire apothecary chest is deeper than the compartments; they don’t reach to the base. Let’s see if they are removable.”

Hartley grew pale, because the scoundrel was on the right track. Brinkley grabbed the compartment dividers with both hands, pulled—and the entire pharmacy lifted out of the box. Under it were several envelopes stashed crisscross. When Brinkley opened some of them he saw that they were full of banknotes of diverse denominations.

“Ah, that’s where the hidden treasure is to be had,” he merrily laughed. “I thought so! A physician and farrier earns a pretty penny; there had to be a few somewhere.”

He reached into the box to pocket the money. That caused the Yankee to erupt with the greatest fury. He threw himself onto Brinkley to snatch the money from him. That’s when a shot rang out. The bullet would certainly have gone through him had he not moved so fast; because of it, the projectile hit his upper arm only and smashed the bone. Hartley collapsed with a scream.

“Right so, you rogue!” the colonel exclaimed. “Dare to stand up or say a wrong word and the second bullet will hit more accurately than the first! Now let’s inspect your famulus.”

He placed the envelopes into his pocket and walked over to Haller.

“I’m not his famulus; I’ve only met him a short stretch before we arrived at the farm,” Haller timidly explained.

“Oh? Who or what are you in that case?”

Haller answered the question truthfully. He even gave the colonel the letter of recommendation to read, in order to prove the veracity of his statement. Brinkley took no notice of the letter’s content, returned it to Haller, and then disdainfully said:

“I believe you. Anyone who looks at you must immediately see that you’re an absolutely honest fellow, but one who hasn’t invented the wheel, either. Run to Sheridan for all I care; I’ve got no business with you.” And addressing the Yankee again, he continued: “I spoke of our share; but since you’ve lied to us, you can’t blame us for taking the lot. Strive to keep up the good deals. When we meet again, we’ll be able to divvy it up much more precisely.”

Hartley recognized that resistance was futile. He gave excuses, in an attempt at recovering at least some of the money, but his attempt only resulted in being laughed at. The colonel mounted up and rode north with his companions and the loot, proving that he wasn’t a trapper and it had never been his intention to turn west into the mountains.

Spring time

Spring time

Spring equinox in the southern hemisphere has just been and gone, and I thought about the unusual opening to Karl May’s last Wild West novel, because it, too began in spring…

~~~

Excerpt from: Winnetou—Book 4 100th Anniversary Expanded Edition in hard cover.

It was in the early hours of a warm, beautiful and promising spring day. A beloved sunbeam greeted me through the window saying: “God’s salutation!” That’s when ‘Herzle’ came up from the floor below and brought me the first morning mail the postman had just delivered. She sat down opposite me, like she does several times a day, as often as mail arrives, and set about opening the envelopes to present their contents to me. But before she can begin with it, I hear the question in my mind:

“Who’s Herzle? Nobody is really called that. It must be a term of endearment.”

And, yes, it is a term of affection! [Herz = heart] It originated in my first volume of Tales From The Villages In The Ore Mountain [Erzgebirgische Dorfgeschichten]. The Germanic ending of ‘le’ at the end of a noun creates the diminutive form of that noun. So, for example, in said book there are many ‘le’ diminutives—for a small mountain, a small village, a small garden, and a small house, in which ‘Herzle’ and her mother live. The ‘Herzle’ of the Ore Mountain stories is not the physical, but rather the emotional reflection of my wife. When I became fond of the portrait I was creating for the story, I called it ‘Herzle’. It was a foregone conclusion that the term of endearment would gradually also be transferred to the original, my wife. But not always! When there are clouds in the sky, which is always my own fault, I say ‘Klara’. Are the clouds about to disappear, I say ‘Klaerchen’ [the ending ‘chen’ with ‘a’ turning into ‘ae’ is another version of Germanic diminutive]. And when they’re gone, I say ‘Herzle’. My wife, though, always calls me ‘Herzle’, because she never causes clouds.

While my room occupies the upper floor, she calls the entire ground floor hers. There, she attends to her duties as an untiring and diligent housekeeper, receives the growing number of readers who visit me, and writes replies to the many letters I cannot possibly give personal attention to any longer. However, they are all read to me whereby she puts the most important or particularly interesting ones temporarily aside, to be read at the conclusion of the mail reading.

So it was that day as well. When everything else had been taken care of, two items remained. They had looked like special items right from the start and had, therefore, been kept separate, namely a letter from America and an anthropological magazine from Austria. Inside the latter the title of a longer article had been marked in blue. The heading read: ‘The Extinction of the Indian Race in America and its Displacement by Caucasians and Chinese’. I asked Herzle to read the article right away because, coincidentally, I had some spare time. She did. The author was a well-known, outstanding university professor. He wrote with great empathy and everything he said about the Red Indians was not only pleasing, but also fair. I could have shaken hands with him on it. Yet, he committed one error that is as common as it is incomprehensible. To be precise, he mistook the Indians of North America for the entire Indian race that occupies North and South America. Furthermore, he mistook the spiritual dormancy of the race for its physical death. In addition, he seemed to perceive humanity’s main task to be that of developing peoples’ cultural and individual particularities, instead of progressively spreading the recognition of a necessary and gradual unification; a unification that incorporates all tribes, peoples, nations, and races to create a great and noble human race, elevated far above any animal traits. Only when mankind has given birth to a harmonic, blessed personality, from within itself, conceived by God, the creation of the true human will be complete and paradise will again become open to us mortals.

The letter from America had most likely been posted in the Far West, but we couldn’t determine exactly where. Both sides of the unopened envelope were covered by so many cancellation marks and handwritten place names that nothing had remained legible. Only the address, due to its genuine Indian economy of language, had retained its distinctiveness. It consisted of only three words: “May. Radebeul, Germany”.

We opened the envelope and pulled out a piece of paper, which had evidently been cut with a large blade, most likely a Bowie knife, and then folded. It contained the following lines written in pencil by a heavy, untrained hand:

To Old Shatterhand

Are you coming to Mount Winnetou? I certainly will. Maybe even Avaht-Niah, the one-hundred-and-twenty-year-old. Can you see that I can write? And that I have done so in the language of the palefaces?

Wagare-Tey
Chief of the Shoshone

After we had read it, I looked at Herzle in surprise, and she at me. Not that we were astonished for having received a letter from the Far West, and from an Indian at that. This happens often enough. The fact that the letter was from the chief of the Snake Indians, who hadn’t written to me before, was the cause of my astonishment. His name, Wagare-Tey, means as much as Yellow Elk. For more about him, please read my novel “Holy Night!”. Back then, more than thirty years ago, he was still young and rather inexperienced, but a decent, honest person and a loyal, reliable friend to Winnetou and me. His father, Avaht-Niah, was more than eighty years old at the time, a man of honour through and through, and he only ever used his enormous influence for our benefit. Because of his great age, and because I had not heard from him again, I believed he had died. But at that point, I read in the letter that he was very much alive and in good physical and mental health. Had that not been the case, the writer of the letter could not possibly have said that the highest war chief of the Shoshone could perhaps also be travelling to Mount Winnetou.

I didn’t have the faintest idea where the mountain was located. I only knew that the Apache and other friendly tribes had tried to find and agree upon a mountain sufficiently appropriate by its characteristics and importance in order to name it after their most revered chief. I hadn’t heard that it had been effected and had been told even less about their choice of mountain. However, I had enough imagination to envisage it wasn’t one that lay outside the Apache territory. And because the Snake Indians’ camps and grazing grounds lay many days’ riding to the north, it was certainly an extraordinary case that a man of over one hundred and twenty years would trust himself to make such a journey, not driven by need, but only by his heart that had remained young.

And why did he want to accompany his son so far south? I didn’t know. Neither did I find a clear answer to that question despite some keen and complicated lines of thought. I couldn’t do anything else but wait and wonder whether similar letters from other involved parties were going to arrive. It was impossible to respond to the Shoshone letter because I didn’t know the whereabouts of the two chiefs. Obviously, it was no insignificant reason that had prompted them to plan a visit to the far away Apache hunting grounds. I assumed the reason did not only pertain to specific personal circumstances, but also had a more general significance. Because my address was known in many places of the Far West, and I corresponded with many people there, about whom I have told in my books and intend to tell in the future, I had hope to soon find out more.

As always, thought precedes action! Barely two weeks later a second letter arrived, from someone I had least expected to hear news, or even receive a letter. The envelope showed exactly the same address as the previous one and its contents read:

Come to Mount Winnetou for the great, final battle! And, at last, give me your scalp, which you owe me for almost two life times!

This is written by To-Kei-Chun,
Chief of the Racurroh Comanche

Only a week later, another letter arrived with the same address and the note:

If you have courage, then come to Mount Winnetou! The last bullet I have is yearning for you!

Tangua,
Oldest chief of the Kiowa

Written by Pida, his son, the current chief of the Kiowa, whose soul greets yours.

Both letters were extremely interesting, not only psychologically. It almost seemed To-Kei-Chun’s and Tangua’s had been written at the same place and under the same influence. Both men were still as hostile towards me as ever. It was very peculiar that Tangua’s son greeted me despite the prevailing hatred, yet I didn’t find it difficult to understand his gratitude. However, the fact that the Apache’s enemies were also planning to travel to Mount Winnetou was much, much more important than anything else. They were talking of a ‘great, last battle’. That sounded extremely dangerous. I started to become worried, seriously worried! Or was there someone over there, perhaps an old erstwhile adversary, who wanted to play a practical joke and send me up the garden path to America in my advanced years? However, two weeks later I received the following letter, which had been posted in Oklahoma and was a document I could trust completely:

My dear white brother!

Great Manitou in my heart calls upon me to tell you that a league of old chiefs and a league of young chiefs have been called to Mount Winnetou to bring the palefaces to trial and to decide on the future of the Red Man. You will attend, and so will I. My soul is looking forward to meet yours. I count the days, hours and minutes until I see you!

Your red brother,

Shahko Matto, chief of the Osage.

That letter, too, had been written in English, by Shahko Matto’s son, whose handwriting I recognized because we regularly exchanged correspondence. In addition, the chief had also included his leather totem, which he always did when he wrote about something important. Hence, I could do away with all thoughts of a prank. The matter was real and serious. The thought of travelling across to America attained great priority. Of course, before transforming the thought into action, I required more details and more certainty. That wasn’t long in forthcoming. I received a large, formal-looking letter, which had the purpose of being an invitation but, because of the tone of voice, would more correctly have been described as a writ. It read:

Dear Sir,

At the previous year’s gathering of the chiefs the unanimous decision was made to call the most suitable mountain of the Rocky Mountains henceforth by the name of the most famous chief of all red nations. For that purpose, the choice fell on the mountain where the mystical medicine man, Tatellah-Satah, retired. It ought to be known to you at least by its geographical location. At the foot or, rather, on the steps of that mountain, the following assemblies are to convene this coming September:

  1. The camp gathering of the old chiefs.
2. The camp gathering of the young chiefs.
3. The camp gathering of the chiefs’ wives.
4. The camp gathering of all other famous red men and women. 5. A concluding meeting under the direction of the undersigned.
It is left to your discretion to present yourself in person to the chairman or his deputy, at which time the subject of the gatherings will be made known to you. Concurrently, your attention is being drawn to the fact that the meetings, as well as the preparations leading up to them, are to be kept secret from members of other races. We herewith place the obligation on you to observe strictest discretion and are justified in assuming that we have already received your solemn reassurance to remain silent. You are requested to personally collect the number tabs for the seats assigned to you during our gatherings from the undersigned. All speeches addressing the subject in question are to be held in English for the purpose of better understanding.

Sincerely,
The Committee.

Signed:
Simon Bell (Tsho-Lo-Let), Professor of Philosophy, Chairman.
Edward Summer (Ti-Iskama), Professor of Classical Philology, Deputy. William Evening (Pe-Widah), Secretary
Antonius Paper (Okih-Tshin-Tsha), Controller
Old Surehand, Special Assignments and Director

At the very bottom of the document was a private remark written by Old Surehand himself:

I hope that you will attend, no matter what. Consider my house yours, even if we’re not home. Unfortunately, I’m constantly travelling at present in the capacity of director. There will be a very pleasant surprise waiting for you. The achievement of our two boys will delight you.

Your loyal Old Surehand.

I’ll add the following, shorter letter, which arrived soon after. It read:

My Brother!
I know that you are invited. Please don’t neglect to present yourself! I cannot describe how much I look forward to seeing you again. The two boys will write to you separately.

Your Apanatshka,

Chief of the Kanean Comanche

The ‘two boys’ wrote:

Dear Sir!

When you once directed us away from our false, mundane path of art, in no uncertain terms, towards a more elevated, perfect one, we promised only to step into the public eye when we were capable of delivering the evidence that the red race is in no way less talented than any other, also with regard to art, by means of genuine and incontestable masterpieces. We inherited our talent from our grandmother who, as you know, was a full-blooded Indian woman and, in fact, a full-blooded Indian warrior in a purely exterior sense. We are ready to provide the evidence you demanded. You had given us the promise to visit when the time had arrived for the examination of our work, despite the great distance. We are of the opinion that we need not fear such an examination and anticipate your arrival mid- September at Mount Winnetou, where we will welcome you. We learnt that you are invited, as is only proper, to participate in the secret and very important deliberations, and are convinced that nothing will keep you from arriving in time at the place in question.

With greatest respect we are faithfully yours,

Young Surehand,

Young Apanatshka

The letter was well constructed. It gave me pleasure, although the ‘two boys’ had only formulated it in this manner for the purpose of giving me a decent nudge. Those who have read my two travel stories Winnetou and Old Surehand can easily imagine who the two boys are. Those who haven’t read them yet are reminded to catch up on it in order to understand this volume, which is also the fourth volume of Old Surehand and Satan and Ischariot at the same time.

As the readers will recall, it came to light that Old Surehand and Apanatshka are brothers, who had been stolen from their mother, a physically, emotionally and spiritually highly gifted Indian woman. In order to find her children, she had searched the cities of the East, as well as the prairies and forests for many long years, disguised as an Indian warrior by the name of Kolma Putshi, without reaching her goal. Then, Winnetou and I were successful in discovering the tracks she had been searching for and, consequently, also her two sons. One of them was a famous Frontiersman and the other a no less famous Comanche chief, two very worthy people who have remained loyal to me in friendship, despite all the changes their lives, as well as mine, had undergone since that time.

The Desierto, or: One of Karl May’s many fortuitous coincidences …

The Desierto, or: One of Karl May’s many fortuitous coincidences …

~~~

Excerpt from: From The Rio De La Plata To The Cordilleras—Book 2

Carlos and his friend, Pena, travel into the jungle of South America, where they meet a hermit, the desierto, who has chosen to live a life of penance for a crime he thought he committed. For this scene, Karl May drew on the war-laden history surrounding the lands between Denmark and Germany.

~~~

The desierto sat down with us, but didn’t eat. When I asked him why, he replied:

“I eat only once a day at the most, I often fast for several days. Yes, there’s a certain time of the year when I won’t eat a meal for two weeks and only live on water.”

“But why?”

“As penance.”

I had expected a similar answer and said:
“Do you have the right to impose such punishment on yourself?”

“Not only the right, but also the duty. No punishment will be hard enough for me! You don’t know the severity of the crime I have on my conscience. You would have been surprised at the decoration in the first room. That’s my penance and punishment room. That’s where I starve myself and go without water, where I am cold and where I flagellate myself. I’ve committed an awful deed; you wouldn’t be able to guess what it is.”

“No? I believe you’re a murderer.”

“Oh, God!” he exclaimed. “Who told you that?”

“My eyes, my mind. But let’s not talk about that affair!”

“Oh, yes! Let’s talk about it! We’re Germans. You’ve told me about yourself and are entitled to learn who and what I am.”

“I know that already. You’re a pharmacist.”

“What? Pharmacist? Senor, nobody is truly safe from you!”

“Pah! Anyone who looks around here with open eyes must know that I am correct.”

“A pharmacist! It is true. And a murderer! That is also true, senor! Aren’t you afraid of me? Aren’t you disgusted in me?”

“Wouldn’t think of it! God didn’t make me a judge over any fellow human beings. I’m probably a bigger sinner than you are and couldn’t compare my level of remorse with yours.”

“You have no idea of the immensity of my crime! I’ve deliberately killed a human being.”

“But in self-defence?”

“That would, perhaps, be the only excuse I would be able to apply. And yet, I am unable to prove to me or anyone else that it was self-defence. Allow me to tell you what happened.”

“You had better leave it be! You’re becoming distressed; you’re digging into old wounds.”

“So what if it is painful; I’ve deserved it. You said you know the story of Schleswig-Holstein. Do you also know how the German-minded inhabitants fared at the hands of the Danes?”

“Yes, from hundreds and hundreds of stories.”

“Then listen! I was a pharmacist in a small town, and was the only German-minded person among its entire Danish population. That explains much, but not everything. I won’t speak of the oppression, of the small as well as large sufferings I was forced to tolerate, without the permission to ever say a word about it. However, I became embittered to such an extent that my body seemed to exist only of venomous bile. The longer it went the clearer I felt that it couldn’t continue much longer before there was going to be a tragedy. Then came the war and with it Danish occupation. I was declared an enemy, of course, and I was subjected to double, even triple the harassment. My house swarmed with Danish soldiers from top to bottom, and they treated me as if I were a cannibal. I had to fight, literally, to even keep a small chamber, which I couldn’t give up because my beloved, fatally ill wife was lying in there, the only soul who understood and suffered with me. As a result of the continued suffering and distress, she had fallen victim to typhoid fever. I had to keep everything, everything away from her sickbed, if I wanted to have any hope of saving her life. In addition, a military physician and his servant arrived who demanded lodgings in my house. I proved to him that there was no more room; I begged and pleaded, but for naught! He examined my wife and declared that she only pretended to be ill. I sent for the captain in the medical corps, to ask for his intervention, but was called to the pharmacy where I was kept busy for a long time, so that I couldn’t take care of my wife. At last, I was finished and permitted to return home. When I arrived in the corridor, I heard a faint whimpering from the courtyard and went to investigate. The snow lay a foot high and the bitter cold almost froze one’s breath. Out there I found my wife. She was lying on the old blanket on which the yard dog used to sit. The soldiers were sharing her bed. I pulled my coat off, covered her up and wanted to go upstairs to see who had taken ownership of her room. She couldn’t talk, couldn’t answer my questions; but when she saw that I wanted to leave, she put her arms around me. I stayed with her for a few more minutes, until I felt that I had a corpse in my arms.”

The old man fell quiet. He rose and paced back and forth for a while to regain control over his emotions. Then, he continued:

“It would be useless to tell you what I felt. I was in a state best described as a mix of seething wrath and desperation. I ran up the stairs, snatched the door open and saw the physician lie on the sofa, with his dirty boots on his legs and my full cigar box on the table. I do not recall what I said; it won’t have been much because the anger made speaking difficult. He jumped up, punched me in the face, so that I saw stars, pushed the door open and pushed me down the stairs. He stood at the top and laughed at me. That’s when I lost the rest of my composure. I virtually leapt up the stairs again. I didn’t know what I was going to do; but I saw that he pulled the sabre. I quickly grabbed the weapon, wrenched it from him and ran it through him. When he silently collapsed, I thought my blood was going to stop running. It was fortunate that the soldiers weren’t there. I grabbed some money, rushed back down into the courtyard, lifted the dead woman up and carried her to the cleaning lady whom we employed occasionally. I gave her part of the money and asked her to see to the burial. Then, I fled.”

The way in which he recounted the events made a deep impression on me. The words came fast over his lips, but hacked apart. He stared into a corner of the room as if he was reliving what he was telling, as if he was his own witness and onlooker. We didn’t interrupt him. He continued:

“I hid in the forest for three days. I heard the deed told by people who walked past. The army had been mobilized to find and apprehend me. On the third day, during the night, I dared to visit the graveyard. I found the grave. It was shallow and barely covered. They had dug my wife into the ground like a criminal, like a suicide victim. I prayed but didn’t get to finish the prayer. They had suspected that I’d come to visit the grave and had posted a guard at the cemetery. He saw and shot at me, but didn’t hit. I fled and got away safely. When I got home to Germany* I went to see a friend who wouldn’t betray me. He gave me the means to go to America.”

*[Although Schleswig-Holstein is now part of Germany, Schleswig as well as Holstein at the southern end of the Jutland peninsula had for centuries been the subject of territorial disputes between Denmark, Prussia and Austria].

He paused again, and so I asked:
“Did you have any relatives, any children?”

“No, and that was fortunate. But the military physician I had killed was the father of four children and had to feed his father and his mother-in-law as well.”

“Did you know that?”

“No. I learnt of it during my escape. I read it in the newspaper, where also my particulars as a wanted man were printed.”

“And that’s the deed you regret so much?”

“Yes, that’s the one!”

“Have you never told yourself that there are several mitigating circumstances?”

“I did think about it. But the reasons are not sound.”

“He had pulled the sabre; he threatened you. You hadn’t intended to kill him.”

“But I have killed him, nevertheless. The terrible picture, as he was lying before me with the weapon in his body, has been with me, has accompanied me through my entire life and has not left me for one moment. It is in front of me by day and by night, and a thousand voices are calling: ‘Murderer, murderer, murderer!’ The blood of those who spill human blood must also be spilt. I’ve escaped that fate, but I’ve suffered a thousandfold death, because I die every day. Many years after those events, I ended up here and buried myself in solitude to live for my remorsefulness and penitence. I became the teacher and father of the Toba Indians, and began to do good, so that God will write off some of my guilt. I also did my best to decrease my debt in my home country. I remembered the name and place of residence of the dead man and sent as much money as I could save up to his relatives, who had lost their breadwinner through me.”

Although the old man’s story had captivated me, Pena had listened with even greater interest. His expressions were unusually animated. He grabbed his hair, rubbed his nose, scratched himself in different spots. In short, he revealed an unusual sympathy for the old man. With the words the desierto spoke last—about sending money—Pena became even more attentive and asked:

“What? You’ve sent money?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re still doing it?”

“Yes. I must consider myself as being the breadwinner for the family.”

“And how does the money get over there?”

“From Buenos Aires. Every year, when I go to Santiago, I send a transfer there.”

At that point, Pena jumped up and exclaimed:

“By all Saints, I thought so! Mr…Mr…Mr Winter, that’s your name, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Alfred Winter.”

“Alright, Mr Winter, save your money! You have nothing to pay.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“I say it clearly enough! You have nothing to pay. You’re not a murderer!” He hollered at the old man as if he wanted to devour him. The desierto, on the other hand, stared at him and couldn’t get a word out; he only shook his head.

“Go on, shake your head!” Pena continued. “It is so and won’t change. You didn’t kill him.”

“But I have stabbed him!”

“That’s possible! But he wasn’t dead!”

“It was in the newspapers!”

“Bah humbug, newspapers! Printer’s ink takes anything. Much of what’s been printed has caused one’s chin to drop and throw one’s hands up in surprise!”

He had blurted all that out like a veritable bigmouth, which he really wasn’t. A hidden joy was glowing from his eyes and he was only rude so as not having to burst out with the truth all at once. When the old man gave him another blank look, he continued:

“Have you been back to Schleswig-Holstein since that time?”

“No.”

“Or have you enquired about the circumstances of that family?”

“Not either.”

“Well, I’ll roast a stork! But, senor, what sort of person are you? Every year you send such a pile of money to people you don’t know, and of whom you don’t even know whether they’re alive or dead?”

“The descendants definitely still live, and I’ve got to consider myself to be their provider.”

“Provide for whom you like, but not for those people!”

“It was written in the wanted circular and also in the newspapers!”

“Initially! Because they didn’t know any different. And because you’ve run away so fast, you’ve only read the first report. Had you only taken a peek at newspapers later on! Enough, I know the man, his name is Delmenborg.”

“My God!” the old man cried and shrunk back.

“Yes, yes!” the cascarillero continued, and triumphantly nodded. “Harald Delmenborg! Is that name correct?”

“Yes…yes…yes…it…is correct!”

“From Handsted on Jutland’s west coast. Is that correct also?”

“It is…correct…also!” the old man replied as if he were absent-minded.

“Alright! In that case we agree about the person. I think that we’ll also come to an understanding about the affair. Do you perhaps know of the Danish island St Thomas, up there, around the Danish Antilles*?”

*[Danish West Indies; today US Virgin Islands]

“Yes.”

“Very good! When I separated from my friend—the gentleman sitting next to me, whom I met in Mexico—I went to St Thomas; the reasons for that are unimportant here. During my stay there, I met a young person, half a good-for-nothing who called himself a doctor, but had no patients and yet enjoyed a splendid life. His name was Knut Delmenborg and he befriended me because he had heard that I was a gold prospector and had found a rich bonanza. We met a few times, had a drink or two, and another, and another, until dear Knut was legless and told me his life’s story.”

“Go on, go on!” the desierto called out breathlessly when Pena paused.

“What, go on? There’s not much more to tell. You know the story, too. His father had been stabbed by a pharmacist and remained in a death-like state for about three or four days. But then, the lockjaw, which had rendered fortuitous assistance in the examination of his wound and the changing of his bandages, left him; vital parts had not or only lightly been injured, and so, the stabbed man wandered back to his home in Handsted after a short time, quite healthy again. They weren’t looking for a murderer anymore. The justice system was content with having seized his property.”

At that point the old man jumped up, grabbed Pena’s hands and asked between short, sharp breaths:

“Senor, are you telling the truth?”

“You can stab me with a sabre, a piano or a sofa if only one of my words was a lie!”

“You’re not mistaken? Are you really referring to a certain Harald Delmenborg from Handsted?”

“The very same! Imagine his astonishment when, after two years had gone by, a thousand dollars arrived for his wife with the note that the money came from the murderer, who was going to send as much money as possible every year until his death! The son had studied with the aid of that money, but not learnt anything. He was probably useless and his father had sent him to the colonies, to sow his wild oats. That’s where he met me.”

“Do you swear that you have told me the truth, that you haven’t simply invented the story to make me happy?”

“I should actually be angry at you for this question; but, coincidentally, I’ve got a mellow hour and won’t stab you in punishment for this insult.”

With tears in his eyes, the old man ran out of the room. At that point, Pena’s face changed at once. A profound emotion became apparent and with a quivering, quiet voice he asked:

“What do you say to that?”

“God’s ways are wonderful! Can you see that?”

Old Shatterhand and Winnetou meet Old Cursing-Dry

Old Shatterhand and Winnetou are following a trail; along the way, they come across Pitt Holbers and Dick Hummerdull, who are riding in the opposite direction. There is a third rider with them… image reproduced on KMG website is of the first publishing with original illustrations here (page ‘S. 91’, under ‘Old Cursing-Dry’, lhs panel’ (if the hyperlink does not work, copy/paste this into your browser: http://www.karl-may-gesellschaft.de/kmg/primlit/erzaehl/reise/marienk/reprint/index.htm )

091

From left to right: Navajo brave, Winnetou, Old Shatterhand, Dick Hammerdull, Pitt Holbers, Old Cursing-Dry.

Translated by Marlies Bugmann for ‘Faraway Fables‘ available from Lulu.com

***

Around noon we spotted three dots on the distant horizon, which moved towards us. Since there was no hiding place for us, and we didn’t know whether we were about to meet Whites or Indians, we dismounted, made our horses lie down on the ground, and then lay next to them on the rock. In this manner, we wouldn’t be seen too soon.

The dots grew in size as they came closer, until we saw that they were three riders. Winnetou shaded his eyes with his hand, took a good look at them, and then exclaimed:

“Uff! Dick Hammerdull, Pitt Holbers, and a third White, whom I don’t know!”

Hammerdull and Holbers belonged to the party of hunters we had been expecting to meet. At that point I recognized them as well, and jumped up. Since Winnetou and the Navajo warrior did likewise, the approaching riders saw us, too, and stopped their horses. We gave our horses the command to get on their feet, mounted up, and rode towards them. Hammerdull and Holbers recognized us, and came galloping along amid loud cheering.

I must mention that the two men were splendid eccentrics, and of the kind one only finds in the Wild West. Their friends called them ‘The Two Toasts’. Customarily, two toasted slices of bread, when buttered, were layered buttered side against buttered side; Hammerdull and Holbers used to stand back to back in skirmishes to cover each other; therefore they attained the name The Two Toasts.

Hammerdull was the shorter of the two, and an exceedingly rotund fellow, which is rare in the West. He kept his face, which was crisscrossed with scars and similar marks, as cleanly shaven as possible. His cunning was as great as his daring, and those two characteristics made him a welcome companion for anyone, although I had often wished that he acted with more circumspection than boldness. He had attained the habit of using a peculiar stock phrase, which almost always caused s smile to appear on the faces of his companions. That stock phrase consisted of: “Whether or not…” addressing the item, or event, and the conclusion: “…is inconsequential!”

Pitt Holbers was the exact opposite of him—very skinny and very long. His gaunt face was framed by something that could not entirely be called beard, as it would have been an untruth, because said beard consisted of not quite one hundred hairs, which proliferated in lonely solitude, strewn around the areas of the cheeks, chin and upper lip, and from there hung down to almost his belt. It looked as though the moths had eaten nine tenths of his beard. Pitt was extremely taciturn and circumspect—a very useful comrade, who only spoke when he was asked.

The third rider was a stranger. He was almost taller than Holbers, and frightfully desiccated. It was deceptively easy to believe that one could hear his bones rattle. From the first moment I saw him, I realized that I would be unable to befriend him; his face was coarsely chiselled, and his gaze arrogant. If ever there was an inconsiderate human being, then it was definitely that man.

While we galloped towards each other, Dick Hammerdull hollered from afar:

“Winnetou, Old Shatterhand! Can you see them, Pitt Holbers, ol’ coon? Can you see them?”

Coon is short for racoon, and is the pet name Hammerdull had applied to his friend Pitt Holbers. The latter replied in his customary, dry manner, despite the joy that was evident in his features:

“If you think that I see them, then you might just be correct.”

They greeted us with a fiercely strong handshake. All the while, Hammerdull kept saying:

“At last, at last we have you!”

“At last?” I asked. “You could not possibly have expected to meet us already today, because we’ve arranged to meet at Agua Grande, another one-and- a-half-day ride from here. Has your yearning for us been so great?”

“Of course! Infinitely great!”

“Why? Where are the others?”

“That’s just it! That’s why we’ve been yearning to meet you, and that’s why we’ve raced our horses almost to death. We must get to Agua Grande as soon as possible, to fetch a decent group of Navajo.”

“Why?”

“To attack the Pa-Ute, who have captured our friends. Away, gentlemen, away at once; otherwise, we’ll be too late!”

He wanted to ride on, but I grabbed the reins of his horse, and said:

“Not so hasty, Dick! We must first know what has happened. Dismount and tell us!”

“Dismount? Wouldn’t think of it! I can tell you that while we ride.”

“But I want to hear it in peace; you know how I am in that regard. One can easily spoil everything by rushing things; and one ought to consider one’s actions before planning anything.”

“But what if there is no time for contemplating?”

“I am telling you that we have enough time. But first, we must know who this gentleman is!”

Winnetou had already dismounted; I followed him and sat down next to him; the other three had no choice but to do likewise.

“Alright, Pitt Holbers, ol’ coon, we’re forced to lose precious time,” Hammerdull grumbled. “What do you think?”

“If Old Shatterhand and Winnetou want it so, then it will probably be correct,” he said.

“Whether correct or not is inconsequential; swift help is required; but since something else is requested of us, we must acquiesce.”

They sat down on the ground with us. The stranger had extended his hand in greeting as if we had often met and spoken with each other; I responded with only a fleeting touch, because I’m not used to greeting someone with a handshake before I offer it first. When he also attempted to shake Winnetou’s hand, the Apache pretended not to have seen the approach. He therefore had the same presentiment about the man as I did.

“You want to know who this gentleman is,” Dick Hammerdull said. “His name is Mr Fletcher, he has been in the Wild West since three decades, and has joined us with his friends, in order to meet Winnetou and Old Shatterhand.”

“Yes, mesh’shurs, it is true what Mr Hammerdull says,” Fletcher pompously obtruded. “I have been traipsing around the West for around thirty years, and have made it my business to show these [ ] redskins that they have no [ ] business on our [ ] Earth. Such [ ] fiends as they are ought to be struck dead by [ ] lightning, and I hope that you are of like mind, and the [ ] devil would have to have his hands in it, if the scoundrels aren’t going to carry their [ ] bones where Satan will grind them to [ ] flour!”

I literally recoiled from those expressions. Those were words I was unable to utter, let alone write! Every blank space in the foregoing lines represents a profanity. Eight curses in such a short speech! And at the same time, he looked as if he expected us to be delighted about it! On the contrary, I felt as if I had received eight strikes to my head. And at that point I also knew who the man was, and more directly than Hammerdull would have been able to explain it to me. Others had often told of that person in my presence; a stranger was able to immediately recognize him by his horrible expressions. He was indeed a Westerner, but one of the basest sort. There was no misdeed he would have been incapable of; the noose had often dangled above his head; with his hatred of Indians he surpassed even the cruellest enemy of the red race, and things were told about him that caused listeners’ hair to bristle. In addition, he virtually bathed in execration when he spoke, so that even rough men no longer wanted anything to do with him. Thus far he had been inexplicably lucky in escaping the long arm of the law, as well as the Indians’ retribution, although everyone who had come into contact with him said that he did not deserve anything less than to be bludgeoned to death like a wild animal. Because of his exceedingly desiccated figure, and the habit of attaching a curse to every sentence that spilt over his lips, he had received the name Old Cursing-Dry; but it was well-known that anyone who dared to call him that to his face put his life at risk.

“Well, are you perhaps mute, mesh’shurs?” he asked when he didn’t immediately receive an answer. “I think I know that you both can talk.”

Winnetou sat there with his eyelashes as low as possible, and a rigid face. If he had wanted to speak, then he would have done so with the knife, not his voice. Hence, I took it upon myself to reply, and said:

“Tell me whether I’m mistaken or not when I say that you’re Old Cursing-Dry!”

He had also been seated, but immediately leapt up, pulled out his knife and snapped at me:

“What…what…who am I…what did you call me? Do you want me to stick this knife into your [ ] belly? I shall do so if you don’t immediately apologize and…”

“Shut up!” I cut him short as I pulled out one of my revolvers and aimed it at him. “The slightest move with the knife and you’ll have a bullet in your head! Old Shatterhand is not a man who submits to being stabbed as easily as you seem to think. You can see that Winnetou has his revolver ready to shoot as well! You’ve encountered men who are used to making short work of such issues. You will have noticed that my finger is on the trigger. Be brief and give me the answer to my question whether or not you are Old Cursing-Dry.”

His eyes flashed up with a treacherous glint; but he realized that he was at a disadvantage against us; he placed the knife back into his belt, sat down again, and with apparent calm said:

“My name is Fletcher; I don’t care how other [ ] scoundrels call me, and it is none of your business!”

“Oho! It is very much our business what kind of fellow joins our company! Dick Hammerdull, did you know that this man is Old Cursing-Dry?”

“No,” Dick was embarrassed.
“How long have you been together?”
“It will probably be a week or so. Don’t you think

so, Pitt Holbers, ol’ coon?”
“If you think, Dick, that it is that long, then it will

likely be correct,” Holbers replied.
“Whether it is correct or not is inconsequential, but

it is precisely one week, not more or less.”
“In that case you should have noticed his cussing!”

I said.
“His cussing? Well, yes! Of course, occasionally, I

thought that he could express himself a little more mannerly, but I didn’t know that he is Old Cursing- Dry.”

“In that case I won’t comment; had you known his identity, and still brought him to us, well…you definitely know what I want to say. There won’t be any foul language in our presence; we don’t tolerate expletives, and those who don’t like it must leave as quickly as possible, if they don’t want to be forced to leave! Enough of that! We have more pressing matters to discuss. We were expecting you to join us with four more men; have they fallen into the hands of the Pa- Ute?”

“Yes.”
“When?”
“Last night.” “Where?”
“At the Rio San Juan.” “In what manner?”

“Whether in this manner or that manner is inconsequential; I neither know the means nor the manner.”

“I don’t understand that. Surely you know what happened!”

“That would be correct if it had happened in our presence, Mr Shatterhand.”

“Ah, you weren’t with the others?”

“No; we had gone to shoot meat, and because we did not immediately find game, we went quite a stretch away from the camp. It was dark when we returned, and we would have walked into the Pa- Ute’s arms quite unsuspectingly, if not Mr Fletcher had met and warned us.”

“Go on! Were you on horseback?”
“Yes, because we had tried to hunt antelope.” “And Fletcher was also riding?”
“Of course! When he met us, we hid the horses

and sneaked back to the camp, which the Pa-Ute had taken over in the meantime. We got so close that we could see our eight companions; they were tied up and were lying in the middle of the Indians.”

“None of them were dead?”
“No, not even wounded.”
“Hm, very odd! Didn’t you hear any shots?”
“No, we had gone too far from the camp.”
“Were there no traces of a battle having taken

place?”
“Two Indians lay dead next to the fire.”
“That’s even more peculiar! Did you listen to what

the others were saying?”
“Whether we listened or not is inconsequential;

they spoke not one word. We had risked too much already, and needed to see to it that we got to safety. Hence we soon went back to our horses and rode away.”

“Where to?”

“To here, of course, because we had no other option but to find you, and then, with the aid of the Navajo, to free the captured friends. Hence I suggest we immediately depart for Agua Grande, and…”

“Patience!” I interrupted him. “We’re not that far by a long shot. We must first gain clarity about what happened, before we can make a decision. The two Indian corpses are a priority. Who killed the two Indians? Do you perhaps know that Mr Fletcher?”

“Leave me in peace!” he rudely replied. “What business of mine are those red scoundrels!”

“Don’t you have any interest in your white friends, who are also captured?”

“If my son and a nephew weren’t among them, then they could also go to [ ]!”

“Listen here, mind your language, or else we’ll chase you away, and you can then see how you can free your relatives! We’re prepared to help, but must unconditionally demand to hear the truth. So, you don’t know how the Indians were killed?”

“No.”
“Then tell me how the attack happened.”
“I can’t say that, either, because I wasn’t there.” “Were you also away from the camp? And where?” “Getting meat.”
“Was it your turn to go hunting?”
“No; but I became bored, and so I rode off. When

I returned after dusk, I heard the war howls of the redskins in the camp that had been attacked. I could do nothing but ride towards Mr Hammerdull and Mr Holbers, in order to warn them. That’s all I know of this [ ] story.”

“How many Pa-Ute are there approximately?”

“There could be as many as three hundred. If we could get only half as many Navajo, then I’d like to assert that I would drive the life out of the [ ] bellies of these [ ] scoundrels, so that…”

“Be quiet!” the Apache thundered at him. He had not said anything thus far. “It is you who killed the two Pa-Ute!”

“No, it wasn’t me!”
“That is a lie. You are the murderer!”
The gazes of the two men locked. The bronze

features of Winnetou were cold and proud like those of a king, while on Fletcher’s face burned unchecked frenzy. The latter was unable to hold the gaze of the Apache for longer than a few seconds; he was forced to lower his, but lifted his fingers as if making an oath, and said:

“I shall go blind or be smashed if I am a murderer! That says enough, and now leave me in peace with your [ ] red devils!”

A chilly shiver of horror ran down my back. I also deemed him to be the murderer, but didn’t say it. And then there were his expressions. They meant to deliberately challenge divine judgement with unpre- cedented godlessness and impudence! My tongue refused to form words; Winnetou, however, rose, and said in the tone of a prophet, before whose spiritual eye the coming events lay unveiled:

“This blaspheming paleface has immediately upon his arrival condemned the entire red race, therefore all of my brothers, as well as me. Winnetou remained silent about it, because he knows that Manitou will transform the curse of evil into blessings and charity. But now the blasphemer has provoked the great and fair Manitou directly, and has challenged him to exact retribution; he put up the light of his eyes, and the health of his limbs in a bet with the Almighty. Winnetou sees the divine judgment deliver the sentence over him, and he does not wish to have anything to do with him. Manitou knows, just as Old Shatterhand and I do, that this man is the murderer, and the Almighty will do to him as he proclaimed. Howgh!”

After the Apache sat down again, it would have been impossible for Hammerdull, Holbers, or me to immediately say anything; Fletcher, on the other hand, jumped up and repeated his profanities in a way that pulled me to my feet immediately; I walked over to him, raised my fist, and snapped at him:

“Shut up immediately, mister, otherwise I’ll knock you down like vermin whose death is a blessing for other creatures! I also renounce you. No matter what happens, you cannot expect any help from us!”

He cringed, yet had enough temerity to mock us, and with a half loud voice said:

“Then renounce me in [ ] name! I don’t need you, since this is not about me, but about the prisoners. So that’s all the assistance one can expect from these two very famous Westerners. Thank you!”

“You mustn’t thank us, because you no longer have the right to call on us. But as far as the captives go, we’ll do everything in our power. If salvation is possible, it will happen.”

“In that case we must make haste! You will realize that we cannot afford to lose another minute, Mr Shatterhand,” Dick Hammerdull said. “Don’t you think so, too, Pitt Holbers, ol’ coon?”

“Hm!” the tall Yankee pensively grunted. “If I reflect on it, then it seems to me that we could do no better than to rely on Mr Shatterhand and Mr Winnetou. They are smarter than you are, old Dick, not to mention me!”

“It would have been better if you had said nothing at all! A coon like you ought not speak at all!”

“Alright! And since you’re definitely correct with that assumption, I request that, in future, you don’t ask me any more questions; which means that this ol’ coon can keep his mouth shut.”

Of course, that was meant as a joke, because those two did not seriously engage in an argument. That would have been entirely against the characteristicsof The Two Toasts. I prompted Dick Hammerdull to precisely describe the location of their camp. He did, and then said:

“But the Indians will most likely no longer be there; I’m rather certain that they are coming after us in pursuit. Hence my urgent request to ride on as soon as possible.”

“You’re mistaken, Dick,” I replied. “You’re not being pursued. If the Pa-Ute knew that three of the Whites had escaped, then they would already be in view. They definitely think that they caught all of the men that had been at the camp.”

“But our trail? Surely they’ll see from the tracks that we have been out hunting, and have therefore not been present during the attack!”

“The attack happened last night after dusk, and your tracks would have been so indistinct this morning that the Pa-Ute could no longer determine when they had been created, whether it was before or after the event. And your comrades will beware from revealing you to the Indians, since their liberation depends on you. In addition, the Pa-Ute are on the warpath, and can therefore not drag the two corpses along. They’ll bury the dead there. Although they’re forced to shorten the ceremonies, they will not be done before noon tomorrow, and therefore not depart any earlier. Besides, they’re not in a hurry, since they must wait for the return of their two scouts, of whom they don’t know that they have fallen into the hands of the Navajo. Do you understand now that we’ve got time?”

“Whether we have time or not is inconsequential; but I’ll follow your decision, because you really are smarter than Pitt Holbers, the ol’ coon. He said so himself.”

“Not to mention you, dear Dick!” Holbers butted in with comical sobriety.

“You had better be quiet! It was you who said that you don’t want to talk anymore. What do you think you’ll do, Mr Shatterhand?”

“Winnetou will decide that. I have conducted the investigation; hence I will leave the rest to him.”

Winnetou and I knew each other like rarely two human beings do. During decisive moments, very often it seemed as though we were one soul, and had only one thought. What one of us spoke out aloud, the other had already quietly deemed as correct. And so it was in that case.

Faraway Fables, short Marienkalender Stories by Karl May translated into English by Marlies Bugmann