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.”
“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!”
“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.


“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?”


“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.”


“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.