Old Shatterhand’s Romance with Martha Vogel
‘Old Shatterhand at Home’ was a section that had been cut from May’s multi-volume ‘Satan und Jsharioth’ before it was published for the first time in the 1890s. Copyright prevents translation of that part in full, however, a short synopsis of it has been included where May once placed it—in the middle of the Satan & Jsharioth tale, translated as The Travels of Winnetou & Shatterhand.
In it, the adventurer, Old Shatterhand, tells of a visit ‘back home’ in his native Germany, and of a romance with a young woman called Martha Vogel. He met her when she was still a young girl, and meets her again several times, in effect watching her grow up; in the end, Old Shatterhand realizes that he had fallen in love with Martha.
As the story, in which the one-sided romance is embedded, develops through May’s quill, so the relationship between Shatterhand and Martha develops; but love remains unrequited, with dire consequences. Martha Vogel gains employment in the printing rooms of the publishing house, where Shatterhand is holding a temporary post as the publisher’s editor, and she finds lodging with the head printer. Thus they cross paths almost daily, whereupon he does his best to ignore her, yet secretly watches her. He observes how she matures and physically develops day by day, and that the continuous stretching and bending on the printing machine allows her youthful figure to stand out. During a short conversation that ensued when a coincidental meeting was unavoidable, Martha confides that she wishes to be where he is, since she is unable to have accommodation where her brother, Franz [a student of music], lives; the adolescent would-be virtuosos at the music school, where the girl had been residing initially, had been showering her with all manner of possible and impossible gallantries. Shatterhand is moved by the girl’s gratitude towards him for the benevolence he had shown her family. He seems unaware of Martha’s actual feelings towards him, and also doesn’t seem to correctly read the meaning behind the small daily gestures of attention, like a freshly picked posy of flowers in his rooms.
After several months, a new editor is found, and Old Shatterhand departs for Brazil; Martha Vogel remains in her employment with the publisher in Dresden, especially since she knows that the rooms Shatterhand had occupied will be kept vacant for him until his next return to Germany from one of his overseas adventures. The night before his departure he spends the entire time preparing, writing letters, and packing until the early hours of the morning, when he reclines on the sofa in his lounge. He falls asleep and dreams of someone gently stroking his hair, and of two lips kissing his. He prefers to dream on, and doesn’t open his eyes. The dream is interrupted by the noise of a freight wagon, and he rises to find a fresh bunch of field flowers on the table. He realizes the posy is from Martha, because she knows his love for wild flowers. But the hand that had caressed his head…and then the kiss? Had that merely been a dream? Nonsense! Such a young, beautiful creature would not kiss an utterly unpoetic prairie runner and ‘linguist’ in his sleep! He dismisses his thoughts as a silly dream.
Old Shatterhand departs and travels in South America for a year or so. Upon his return, he realizes that Martha had waited for him all this time…but because of his reluctance to enter a relationship, he loses Martha to someone not deserving of her…
As he had promised, Konrad Werner [a wealthy oil baron] visits him, and informs him that his mother had long since died of alcoholism. It is inevitable that Werner will see Martha, which happens during a concert where the young singer makes her debut, and enthrals the audience with her mezzo-soprano voice [Martha had taken up singing in the meantime]. The oil baron, too, is smitten by Martha’s appearance and he declares emphatically that he will take the girl to America—as his wife. Old Shatterhand enters into an argument with Werner and realizes that he is experiencing jealousy. When he voices his objections to Werner’s intentions, the man retorts by pointing out that Old Shatterhand belongs in the Prairie, the Rocky Mountains, in the cave of the grey bear, but not at the side of a beautiful, young, delicate, lovely bride; that he would not fit into a marriage, and soon leave his wife to again disappear in the wilderness together with Winnetou. The director of music joins the two men, interrupting their exchange of words. When they leave after the concert, Shatterhand finds Konrad Werner waiting for the girl outside the hotel, where the recital took place. He informs the wealthy young man that the building has a second exit, and he does so with rising, heart-felt glee.
For once, Old Shatterhand’s equanimity is shaken. He feels inner turmoil and takes a walk to calm himself; he wanders out of town, unable to later say what paths he took through the outlying meadows, and towards the forest, where the darkness promises some inner clarity. He makes an effort to look deep inside himself, but is unable to see through the chaos that exists there. Friendship, fondness, mere interest, love, mistrust, envy, jealousy, hurt pride, pity, delight, the scabiosa in the hair of the singer, Old Shatterhand, the girl on the step of the printing machine, the cave of the grey bear where he’s supposed to belong, the secret kiss before his departure to Brazil, the oil baron, his millions, Shatterhand’s usually empty money pouch, and much more. He continues to agonize: “Does she love me? I cannot believe it. Me, the bear! Do I love her? That is, indeed, a difficult question…!” Does Cupid have two kinds of arrows? Those that he shoots suddenly, and those with which he sneaks up secretly, slowly, in order to drill them into one’s heart bit by bit? By the time the day dawns, Shatterhand realizes that he has not been able to resolve his emotional confusion, and he returns to his apartment to find a few hours of sleep after all.
Later in the morning, Martha comes to clean his rooms. She hands him a card that she has found folded up in the slot of the door lock. It is that of Konrad Werner, the oil baron. Old Shatterhand at this point still thinks that Martha does not know who that man is. The girl seems embarrassed, insecure, and when Shatterhand makes a remark about her giving up the demanding job on the printing machine, the girl replies, with a look up at him from under her eyelashes, that she will not do that, because she has developed a love for the apparatus. And when Shatterhand reminds her that her new career as a singer will be very demanding, she informs him that she didn’t intend to pursue it, that she would never sing in public again, and that the performance the night before would remain her only one. Old Shatterhand is perplexed and asks why she underwent tuition, and why she now wants to bury her treasures; the young woman simply replies that she would continue to sing, but not in public, not in concerts, or on stage, but at home.
“At home…!” is all Shatterhand can think of saying.
Again, his mind is reeling with the chaos and confusion of the night before. He almost pulls her into an embrace…but Old Shatterhand belongs in the prairie, in the Rocky Mountains, in the bear cave, not at the side of a young, delicate, beautiful woman! He catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and sees a serious, sunburnt face, the face of a man who has never received a friendly smile from life. And in front of him stands happiness in its most beautiful, youthful figure. “Would it not be a sin, a grave sin to chain her youth and beauty to a life that might not ever grant me peace? Yes, certainly!” he agonizes inwardly, and loudly repeats: “At home, ah, only at home?”
The conversation ends with his enquiry about the morning before his departure to Brazil, when he slept on the sofa, which causes her to flee his apartment with the exclamation of panic: “No, no, not that, anything but that!”
Old Shatterhand is thrown into even deeper self-doubt. Could the adventurer be capable, after all, of treating more delicate creatures correctly, and not only fit into a bear’s cave? Despite the severe thunderstorm that is breaking over Dresden, the hunter dons the raincoat and leaves the house. On his way out, the chief printer asks him whether he has received Mr Werner’s card. Shatterhand is surprised that the man knows of it, and receives an even bigger jolt when he is told that the oil baron, who was about to call on Shatterhand to invite him to an event in the evening, caught a glimpse into the printing room where Martha was working. That, of course, is what Old Shatterhand wanted to prevent at all cost, but he is powerless now to stave off Werner’s advances on Martha—and worst of all, he realizes that Martha had kept from him the fact that she had met the man, spoken to him, and accepted his invitation for an evening out.
Distraught, he walks through the storm until he realizes that the raincoat is scant protection from the deluge; he seeks refuge in a grove of linden trees and stands under one of them, which is against all common sense during an electrical storm. Sure enough, the bolts of lightning seem to aim for his tree and Shatterhand hastily moves to another. He muses about the absurdity of his reaction, since it is impossible to accurately determine the direction of lightning; however, not a moment after he moves away from the particular tree, lightning does indeed strike it. Amid a deafening detonation and a blinding sheaf of lightning, the tree is smashed asunder; had Shatterhand remained under it, he would have been killed. Shaken to the core, he makes his way home, finding unexpected calm along the way, and is able to put into perspective his insignificant chagrin about a matter of the heart, compared to the will of God!
In the evening, he attends the event and finds Konrad Werner and Martha Vogel already present. As the evening develops, the once-friendly relationship between Shatterhand and the oil baron cools rapidly, and the hunter makes the experience that unrequited love might prompt a woman to make an unhappy decision. And when he declines Martha’s last-resort attempt at getting his attention, an invitation to the ladies waltz, the consequences will become evident very soon; Old Shatterhand himself foreshadows it when he says to the chief printer that he will not see the girl at the printing machine the next day. Two days later, the man confirms Shatterhand’s suspicions when he says:
“[…] you seem to have guessed correctly.”
“About Miss Martha and the American.”
He would find out soon.