Auls wie ons endlijch noh väle Joahre aune Eenenzastijch wada too seehne tjreaje, haud Ohmtje Wellem Boaje sijch erstaunlijch weinijch veendat. Hee wea een bät staumja enne Schimmedaunjäjend jeworde, enn siene Räd een bätje groffa jeworde, oba sesst wea hee gaunz de oola jebläwe. Etj bruckt ahm goanijch dentje halpe, daut hee mie noch eene Jeschijcht schuldijch wea; hee wisst daut. Enn hee fung uck fuats oppe Städ aun: daut wea aum Sinndach Morje oppe Tjoatjetrap em Schaute aun eenem heeten Dach.
"Daut wea noch enn Rußlaund, too dee Tiet aus'se ons aulewäaje bestreepte enn hinjret Lijcht feahde. Wann wie nijch soo dijcht bie de Tjoatj weare, wudd etj noch waut aundret auls `bestreepe' saje, meend Boaje. Wie Menniste weare meet eenmol äwa Nacht too de Näaja em Laund jeworde, enn ons piesackte se lintjsch enn rajsch, enn dann uck noch een bät von hinje.
"Na, eenes Doages, auls mien jinjsta Onkel enn etj noh Peetaborjch fuahre, docht etj soo bie mie, eena sull bie aul daut Toakel, enn daut Derjchenaunda, doch een bätje too Jeld kohme.
"Etj haud mie daut kratjcht utjedocht, woo etj daut aunstalle wudd, enn doatoo liehd etj mie von mienem Schwoaga Johaun Konraud eene oole Fiddel, eea wie noh Peetaborjch fuahre.
"Mien Onkel Obraum, soo heet'a, kunn sien Wunda nijch lohte, waut etj mett dee oole Fiddel wull, oba etj säd nuscht, ooda etj buag auf. Oba aus hee unjawäajess wada fruag, waut daut mett dee Fiddel opp sijch haud, säd etj too ahm: `Etj hab doch mien Deel vonne Foaht hieahan betohlt, saul etj nu noch extra fe de Stradivarius betohle?' Donn meend Onkel Obraum, eena wudd doch hanenwada een bätje froage durwe. Oba von donn aun leeht hee mie toch, enn stald de Froagarie enn.
"Na, wie weare aul enn Peetaborjch anjekohme, enn nauhme ons doa eene Stow, dijcht bie de Neimaschiene Sinja siene Städ, nijch wiet auf vom Nevsky Prospekt, soo väl aus etj mie noch dentje kaun.
"Toom Jletj räjend daut em Huachsomma korts nohmeddach meist jieda Dach enn dem Deel von Rußlaund, enn daut kaum mie donn uck seea too Pauss. Den tweeden Dach auls wie enn Peetaborjch weare, jintj etj mett dee Fiddel soo gaunz langsom noh eenem Pfaundhus, ooda Paunlauftje, soo's se hiea doatoo saje. Enn jrods auls etj doa aunkaum, fong'ett wada kort oba jehearijch aun vom Himmel too poasche. Etj wetjeld nu schwind Konraud siene Stradivarius enn eene oole Zeitung enn, enn rannd enn daut Lauftje nenn, woa eene Ooltestamentla-Bauss stund, enn mie kort bejreesst: kort wiels doa väl Mensche bie ahm em Lauftje stunde enn haundelde, enn sijch vetalde, enn sijch een bät jachte, soo aus daut dann soo mott wann eene Bonsch Molotschna ut Palastina sijch toom Schisnickäte trafe.
"Etj saj nu opp Rusch too ahm schwind: `Kaun etj disse Fiddel hiea een gaunz kortet Stootje lohte, daut de Pracht nijch naut woat? Etj tohl uck jearn tien Kopietje, bitte.'
`Joh,' sajcht'a, `woaromm nijch?'
"Etj laj ahm tien Kopietje oppem Desch, enn moak mie rut.
"Fuats etj nu tridj em Hotel nenn, enn tratjch mie grootsinndagsch omm. Etj sad mie eenen straumen Hoot opp - etj jleew, daut wea een jreena mett eenem breeden Raund - tjneep mie soohn Starschie-Schnurrboat aune Näs, sad mie eene Jeleahde-Brell oppe Näs, soo eene mett Schlenjedroht omme Uahre, soo auls daut dee Intellijente mett Jeld deede, trock mie spetze Schooh aun, enn goh tridj noh de Paunlauftje. Doa wea vleijcht eene tjliene haulwe Stund vegohne, auls etj doa wada aunkaum. De Räajen haud nohjelohte, enn wea meist vebie, oba doa weare noch meea Lied toopjekohme, enn de haundelde, enn daubade, enn vetalde aula toojlitjch, enn dann uck omzajcht, enn aute Schisnick, daut daut mau soo reatjad.
"Etj tjitjj mie nu dit enn jant aun, enn mett eenmol wies etj noh Konraud siene Fiddel. Etj saj, nu oba oba Judsch: `Groota Meista, waut hab jie doa fe eene seldne Fiddel, de jefellt mie; waut doaf dee jelle?"
"Dee kaun etj nijch vetjeepe. Daut ess nijch miene; dee hab etj hiea mau toom Schulinj unjajebrocht," sajcht'a.
"Doaf etj de weenjstens mol een gaunz tjlienet bätje enne Haund nehme?"froag etj ahm, een bät stelltjes.
"Von mie ut, oba loht dee nijch faule," sajcht'a enn foaht aule miene Jedohnte mett siene Uage hinjeraun.
"Well, etj betjitj mie nu dee Fiddel, enn pletj een bätje oppe Seide, enn saj soo gaunz bieleifijch too dem Lauftje Maun: `Wudde twee Dusend Rubel tooreatje?'
"Etj jleew joh, oba soo's etj aul säd, daut deit mie leet, oba dauts nijch miene Fiddel, de wacht hie opp äah Bauss," sajcht'a.
"Na, daut dem Lauftjemaun nu langsom den Tjwiel aunfong tooptooranne...soo väl kunn etj dann doch uck aul seehne. Na, etj tjitj mie nu noch een bätje omm, enn kohm wada soo langsom opp dee Fiddel tridj. Etj nauhm dee wada gaunz saunft enne Henj, enn saj: `Fief Dusend Rubel Boajeld, dauts mien basta Pries! Waut saje See doatoo?'
"Mensch," sajcht'a "fiehre mir niecht enne Versiechung!" ooda soo een bät opp Bibeldietsch, "allain, se jehiert mir niecht!"
"Fief Dusend Rubel ess een Klompe Jeld, uck en Peetaborjch. De Fiddel well jearn mett," saj etj.
"Bie de Däah tjemmt hee mie hinjeraun, enn fuschelt mie too: `Weetst waut, komm wada, soo om Klock sass ut, eea etj too moak; vleijcht tjenn wie dann een Jeschaft moake.'
"Etj goh nu auf, noch emma grootsindachsch, enn soo trurijch enn soo bedreppt aus etj mau affens kunn. Goh soo langsom bett de easchte Atj, enn dann laj etj loos, aules waut etj kaun, nohm Hotel opptoo.
"Doa aunjekohme, laj etj Schnurrboat, de grootsinndachsche Tjleeda, den jreenen Hoot, miene Brell, die mie aul aunfong aune Uahre too tjniepe, enn miene spetze Schooh auf, enn tratj mie wada soo auldagsch auls verhäa aun, enn goh tridj opp mienen Musikaunte Wajch.
"De Jud sach mie aul kohme, enn wea uck fuats soo heeflijch enn soo deemootijch, meist soo's een fresch jejräpna Baundit, reatjcht mie de Haund enn sajcht, nu wada opp Rusch: `Goot, daut See wada hiea send, etj haud omm een Hepptjeshoah Äahre Fiddel vekofft..."
"Doch nijch," saj etj,
"Joh," sajcht'a, "mie boot so een Kulack doafäa twee Dusend Rubel. Welle See mie dee nijch fe achtienhundat Rubel vetjeepe?"
"Jearn," saj etj, "oba dauts eajentlijch nijch miene." Enn deed soo trurijch auls etj kunn, oba mau noh bute; ennalijch fong etj aul een bätje too juche, wiels etj langsom een Jeschaft ritjcht.
"Etj woa junt waut saje, etj nehm de Fiddel wada mett, enn wann mien Onkel `Joh' sajcht, dann brinj etj dee enn twee Wäatjch tridj enn vetjeep Ahn dee!
"Soo's etj soohne Onkels tjann, saje dee emma `Joh' too een Huptje Boajeld. Hiea habe See tweedusend fiefhundat Rubel', enn dann talld'a mie daut Jeld uck aul enne Haund nenn.
"Mucht dee Onkel mie daut enne Ewijtjeit vezeihe," saj etj. Enn goh langsom auf bett de easchte Atj. Enn dann oba galopp, enn bloos wajch, wajch, en mett eene Japps voll Boajeld enne Fupp.
"Oba nu mott wie nenngohne, dee sinje aul den tweeden Farsch von `Halleluja, scheener Morjen'."
When finally we were to meet again after many years in the year sixty-one, Uncle William Bergen had changed very little. He had become a bit more stocky in the bin area and his speech had lost whatever refinery it had ever had but other than that he had remained pretty well the same. I did not have to remind him that he still owed me a story; he knew that. And he started on the spot. Right then and there on the church steps on a hot day in the shade.
"It was still in Russia at the time when they started cheating us at every opportunity. If it weren't so close to the church I would tell you what they really did to us," he said. "We Mennonites had almost overnight become pariahs in the country and they let us have it left and right and then also a bit from the rear.
"Well, one day when my youngest uncle and I went to Petersburg I thought to myself, why not try to make a ruble or two from these ruffians.
"I had the plan all ready and to that end I had borrowed from my brother-in-law, Johan Konrad, a fiddle before we set out.
"My uncle Abraham, that was his name; well, this uncle really wanted to know what I was up to with the fiddle I had along. But I said little or nothing or I pretended to be lost in thought. But then when underway he asked again what it was with my fiddle, I said to him, `I have paid for my part of the trip; shall I now also pay extra for my Stradivarius?' Then Uncle Abraham said, `Well, maybe one might be allowed to ask a question once in a while, just to keep the conversation going,' but from then on he left me alone and put an end to his questioning.
"Well, we arrived in Petersburg and took a room close to the sewing-machine Singer's establishment, not far from the Newsky Prospect, as far as I can remember.
"As luck would have it, it rained in high summer every day shortly after noon in that part of Russia and such weather was very much part of my plan. On our second day there, I walked very slowly with my fiddle to a pawnshop. Just when I arrived there, it began to rain briefly but torrentially. I quickly wrapped an old newspaper around Konrad's Stradivarius and ran into the shop where the owner gave me a quick hello; quick because all kinds and manner of people stood around in his shop, bargaining all over the place as one would expect.
"Now I said to him in Russian as quickly as I could, `May I leave this fiddle here for just a little while so that the precious piece doesn't get wet? I'll even pay you ten kopecks, please!'
"`Yes,' he says, `why not?'
"I placed ten kopecks on the table and left.
"I went to my hotel and there I put on my Sunday finest. I put on my top hat - I think it was a green one with a broad rim - then I clipped a bossy moustache in my nose, and then I fixed an educated pair of glasses on my nose, such with a piece of heavy snare wire around my ears, the way the Intelligentsia with big money did it; then it was the turn of a pair of sharp-toed shoes to be slipped over my feet. Then I headed back to the pawn-shop. It may have been about half an hour before I returned. The rain had let up and was almost over but there were even more people in the store and they were bargaining and smoking and all talking at the same time.
"Well, I looked around at this and that and the other thing when suddenly I pointed at Konrad's fiddle. And then I said, `Good sir, what kind of a rare fiddle you have got there? I like it; what would you ask for it?'
"`I can't sell it to you. It's not mine; I am just holding it so it doesn't get wet,' he says.
"`But surely I can take it into my hands for just a second?' I asked him as quietly as one does when not exactly whispering.
"`I suppose so, but don't let it fall,' he says while his eyes followed my every move.
"Well, I took a good look at the fiddle and plucked the strings a bit as professionally as I could muster and then I said to him as by-the-way as possible. `Would two thousand rubles buy this little beauty?'
"`I think so, but as I already said, I'm sorry but it's not my fiddle, it's here waiting for it's owner,' he says.
"`Well, I could see that his mind was starting to work overtime,. and so I meandered a bit, poking around here and there and slowly I made my way back to the fiddle. And then I took that fiddle very gently into my hands again, while remarking, `Five thousand rubles in cash and that's my best offer. What do you say?'
"`Mensch,' he says, `Lead me not into temptation! That violinka, she doesn't belong to me!'
"`Five thousand rubles is a heap of money, even in Petersburg. That fiddle would like to come along,' I said. And left.
"He walked me right to the door and then he whispered to me, `You know something, come back at six o'clock before I lock up; maybe we can make a little business.'
"Then I walked off in my Sunday best but as sadly as I could manage, right to the first corner, where I quickened my step. At the hotel, I took off my moustache, the high-Sunday clothes, the green hat, my glasses which were already starting to sting my ears a bit, and then I kicked off those sharp-toed shoes. I put on my casual street clothes of the village and again made my way down the street.
"The owner of the pawnshop saw me coming and he was so polite and courteous, almost as subservient as a freshly-caught bandit. He extended his hand to me and said, `Good that you came back; by the skin of my teeth I had sold your fiddle.'
"`Not really!' I said.
"`Yes,' he said, `some kulak offered me two thousand rubles for it. Won't you sell it to me for eighteen hundred rubles?'
"`Gladly,' I said, `but it's not really mine!' And I looked as sad as I could on the outside; within myself I started to whoopee a bit because I was smelling good business. `Let me tell you something; I'll take the fiddle along again and if my uncle says `yes' to the deal, I'll bring it along in two weeks' time and I'll sell it to you.'
"`The way I know such uncles, they always say `yes' to a pile of cash money. Here, I'll give you two thousand five hundred rubles!' and having said it, he started counting that cash into my hands.
"`May my uncle forgive me in eternity,' I said. Then I walked slowly to the first corner. And then it was gallop-speed all the way back to the hotel with two fistfuls of cash in my pockets.
"`That's how I became a rich man the first time in my life,' said Uncle William Bergen and then he grinned and placed his head at an angle. And then it was high time to enter the church; the congregation was already into the first hymn by half a verse.