The People of Moorluke

Five stories:

  • “Cantankerous Durtig”: how do you marry off a daughter who beats up her suitors?;
  • “The Bird Phoenix”: a tale of parsimony, temptation and … insurance;
  • “The Flying Dutchman”: another take on the classic tale;
  • “Bismarck”: what could a horse trader have possible learned from reading about the great statesman?; and
  • “Little Fik”: a tale of youth and age, and love and loss.

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Sample

“Good morning, Mr Zacharias Boldt,” the tall gaunt shepherd Sturm wished, as he drove his bleating flock with measured step past the low wooden fence of the fat horse dealer. “Good morning, Mr Zacharias Boldt,” the shepherd repeated once more thoughtfully, as he leaned a little over the prongs of the fence, for the shepherd of the small North German borough loved neither busyness nor haste, and scorned time. “You feel in good health surely?”

“Yes,” Fatty Boldt said, who stood wide-legged at some distance, and with his hands in the pockets of his trousers, in his paved yard. And at the same time, he jingled a little with his heavy golden watch chain, which bounced back from his rotund body with each step. “It’s going beautifully for me.”

“Good.” The shepherd rocked his head. “And yet I come to warn you, Mr Boldt.”

This address sounded so solemn and hushed that it would certainly have startled any other citizen and patriarch, or at least made them curious. But Fatty Boldt just twisted his morose, red-stubbled countenance somewhat more grouchily so that countless creases and wrinkles were furrowed into his leather-coloured skin like hundreds of the intersecting drainage ditches which burrow across the brown dirt fields. And then he very coolly said nothing but the one word, “So.”

At that he spat indifferently onto his boot.

“Yes,” the shepherd Sturm continued, undisturbed by this lack of concern, “I come to warn you. You know the old dealer Daniel Katz there in Wolgast?”

Fatty Boldt nodded. He knew him.

“Well yes, I just met him in the tavern, and there he told a business traveller that he wanted to travel out to you today to tear out a few of the hairs from your beard, Mr Boldt. For he says he had not yet been able to earn anything from you until now. And that may also be true. But today he suggested he would tie you up in your nest. You surely understand? See, and that I wanted merely to announce to you beforehand. For Daniel Katz” — here the shepherd grinned almost imperceptibly to himself — “is a very delicate businessman.”

“Does him no help,” Fatty Boldt coughed, since the air occasionally ran out from him, “I have a means against it.”

“So? What then?”

The horse dealer spat again, and looked very satisfied.

“Bismarck,” he responded, whereby he wiped a pair of creases away with his rough hand, well-pleased.

The shepherd stepped back, and raised his blue eyes in astonishment at the other man.

“What?”, he wondered, as he tapped his chest lightly with his crook. “I know many means, but I have heard nothing yet of Bismarck. From where do you have it?”

“Eh, my dear shepherd,” the horse dealer suggested with great deliberation, “we are not just born yesterday either. And I have learnt Bismarcking from the newspapers, and tend to use it during great and uncommon events — such ones as Daniel Katz is — with beautiful success.”

“Ah, so, you probably don’t want to let out anything more about what it is?”

“No,” the dealer cut him off distrustfully. “No more, for it is my business secret. And now go, shepherd Sturm, I see in fact Daniel Katz coming on his yellow ramshackle carriage. And here I must prepare myself a little for Bismarcking. Adieu!”

“Remarkable,” the shepherd thought when he had already moved off a long way in the midst of his flock. “Bismarck must be a very strong means. What is it surely?”

But neither he, nor his learned dog Karo were able to form even just the tiniest idea of this new remedy.

***

Meanwhile tiny Mr Katz had clambered down hurriedly from his carriage, and as he now became aware of the unmoving dealer, who was still staring down as perfectly indifferently and impassively at the puddle-covered ground as if it were especially beneficial to his health to count the uneven cobblestones, Daniel Katz began swinging his old woolly top hat enthusiastically, and skipped so stormily over to the horse dealer that his yellowed, crumpled squire’s coat fluttered and rustled in the wind.

“Loyal servant — loyal servant, my dear revered Mr Boldt. How prosperous you look. No, and what a peaceful and amiable look you have in your face. Yes, there you can straightaway see what a meritorious businessman is. I have indeed not often had the honour of transacting so-called great matters with Mr Zacharias Boldt, for Mr Zacharias is a cautious and scrupulous man. But why? I am not begrudging you it. Truthfully to God, I begrudge you it so little, Mr Zacharias Boldt, that I bring both a great joy and a great business to your house today. Why do you look at me so? It is true, as true as I stand here. Is this my right hand? That it is, Mr Boldt. Now then, in my hand I carry the great joy. And is this not perhaps my left? Now see, in this hand I hold the great business. You need merely take hold, Mr Boldt, of both at once, and you will later say after me, ‘there old honest Katz brought something to my house’, — — now what great thing shall I profess to you? — Superb, superb, A1.”

After this address, Mr Katz bent far back, pushed his body forward a little, and looked at his opposite inquiringly for what impression his words of temptation could have left behind perhaps on this creased leathery countenance. But the effort was wasted; Zacharias Boldt remained motionless like a stout sphinx. He continued counting his cobblestones indifferently, to finally bring out as if without reason and completely disinterestedly, “Do you perhaps want to buy a horse from me? Beautiful, I have two. Then come in to the stables.”

The little dealer in the yellow coat floundered back and forth a little, and seemed to get into a greater excitement.

“Buying?”, he called in answer. “Now of course I want to buy from you. I want to buy a lot from you, and I want to pay you a lot, as true as I live. But you have something else though, Mr Zacharias Boldt, in your house other than mere four-legged animals. I tell you, you have two-legged creatures with which you could make an impression at the wedding of the Crown Princess. You know already what I mean!”

“No,” the horse dealer said morosely, “I don’t know.”

“God save us,” Daniel Katz cried excitedly opposite this lack of comprehension, and raised his hands up fending or pointing. “The man has a jewel of a daughter, what am I saying, an entire diamond necklace, and pretends not to know. Mr Zacharias Boldt, what is your entire stud farm all together against the quite unique breed which you have started in your loving marital home. And see — I take it as a good sign — there stands your daughter Miss Louise right before the stables and feeding the chickens. Now, what shall I say? She is a picture, so lovely that the tears rise in the eyes of an old man like me. How lusty and well-nourished one looks when Miss Louise stoops her curved and noble limbs. A delight. What a relaxation exists in her charms, and how pliantly her joints move. A genuine, Arab stallion, truthfully to God, could belong to the Sultan himself, could not be in a better condition.”

At this point, Daniel Katz moved his head dreamily, and heatedly pushed his top hat a little from his forehead, before he continued, “God, what a smashing impression such a capital piece must make on a well situated young man. And as we are just speaking, Mr Zacharias Boldt, I carry this aforesaid young man in my right hand. He is, if you want to know his name — —”.

No, this fat stable owner though really possessed a hardened disposition. For without paying the slightest attention to the mysterious intimations of his business associate, he strode wide-legged and with his rocking gait to the stable doors, which he pushed open with a rough kick. Then he waved to the dealer energetically with his lumpish head, “Well, now come on.”

“A very strange gentleman,” Daniel Katz thought. “How can you make a wide-ranging business with such a wild man? A difficult undertaking in fact,” he added as he rubbed the hair on his temples worriedly, “now, we will see.”

Amidst these thoughts, Mr Katz strolled in.

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