Flemish Legend The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance by Charles de Coster Chapter 2

How Jan Blaeskaek gave good counsel to Pieter Gans, and wherein covetousness is sadly punished.

It so happened that while he was moping after this fashion, passing his days in misery and without any joy of them, alone in a corner like a leper, there came to the inn a certain Master Jan Blaeskaek, brewer of good beer, a hearty fellow, and of a jovial turn of mind.

This visitor, seeing Pieter Gans looking at him nervously and shamefacedly, wagging his head like an old man, went up to him and shook him: “Come,” said he, “wake up, my friend, it gives me no pleasure to see thee sitting there like a corpse!”

“Alas,” answered Pieter Gans, “I am not worth much more now, my master.”

“And whence,” said Blaeskaek, “hast thou gotten all this black melancholy?”

To which Pieter Gans made answer: “Come away to some place where none will hear us. There I will tell thee the whole tale.”

This he did. When Blaeskaek had heard to the end he said: “’Tis no Christian soul that cries in this manner, but the voice of a devil. It must be appeased. Therefore go thou and fetch from thy cellar a good cask of ale, and roll it out into the garden, to the place where thou didst see the flame shining.”

“That I will,” said Pieter Gans. But at vespers, thinking to himself that ale was precious stuff to set before devils, he put instead in that place a great bowl of clear water.

Towards midnight he heard a voice more sorrowful than ever, calling out: “Drink! Drink! I shall die of thirst.”

And he saw the bright flame dancing furiously over the bowl, which was suddenly broken with a loud report, and this in so violent a manner that the pieces flew up against the windows of the house.

Then he began to sweat with terror and weep aloud, saying: “Now ’tis all over, dear God, all over with me. Oh, that I had followed the advice of the wise Blaeskaek, for he is a man of good counsel, of excellent counsel! Master Devil, who are so thirsty, do not kill me to-night; to-morrow you shall drink good ale, Master Devil. Ah, ’tis ale of fair repute throughout the land, this ale, fit for kings or for good devils like yourself!”

Nevertheless the voice continued to wail: “Drink! Drink!”

“There, there! Have a little patience, Master Devil; to-morrow you shall drink my best ale. It cost me many a golden peter, my master, and I will give you a whole barrelful. Do you not see that you must not strangle me to-night, but rather to-morrow if I do not keep my word.”

And after this fashion he wept and cried out until cock-crow. Then, finding that he was not dead, he said his matins with a better heart.

At sun-up he went down himself to fetch the cask of ale from his cellar, and placed it in the middle of the grass, saying: “Here is the freshest and the best drink I have; I am no niggard. So have pity on me, Master Devil.”