Flemish Legend The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance by Charles de Coster Chapter 5

Of the long conversation and great perplexity of Pieter Gans and Blaeskaek in the matter of the deviling; and how they returned to Uccle with a resolution taken.

While they were on their way: “Well, comrade,” said Gans to Blaeskaek, “what is thy opinion of this apothecary?”

“A dog of a heretic!” said Blaeskaek, “a heathen, a despiser of all good and all virtue. For ’twas treasonable and wicked counsel he gave us.”

“True, my good friend, true. And is it not besides a great heresy to dare tell us that this deviling on his cask is he who invented beer, wine, and ale, when we have heard it preached every Sunday in our church that St. Noah, under the instruction of Our Lord Jesus Christ”—here both crossed themselves—“invented these things.”

“For my part,” said Blaeskaek, “I know I have heard that preached above a hundred times.”

Here, seating themselves on the grass, they began to refresh themselves with a fine Ghent sausage, brought by Pieter Gans against such time as they should feel hungry.

“There, there,” said he, “let us not forget the Benedicite, my friend. So, perhaps, we may escape burning. For ’tis to God we owe this meat: may he deign to keep us always in his holy faith.” 

“Amen,” said Blaeskaek; “but, my master, between us we must certainly break up this wicked statue.”

“He who has no sheep fears no wolves. ’Tis easy enough for thee to talk comfortably of breaking up this deviling.”

“’Twould be a deed much to our credit.”

“But if he come back again to wail each night so piteously: ’Drink! Drink!’ And if he turn angry with me and cast spells on my beer and my wine, and make me as poor as Job! Nay, better follow the advice of the apothecary.”

“Aye, and if the priests learn of the statue, and call us both before the tribunal, and have us burnt as heretics and idolaters, what then?”

“Ah,” said Gans, “here are the good God on the one hand and the wicked devil on the other, fighting over our poor bodies, and we shall be pounded to nothing between them, alas, alas!”

“Well,” said Blaeskaek, “let us go to the good fathers openly, and tell them the whole affair.”

“Alas, alas! We shall be burnt, my good master, burnt without mercy.”

“I believe there must be some way whereby to escape this danger.”

“There is none, my friend, there is none, and we shall be burnt. I feel myself already half roast.”

“I have thought of a way,” said Blaeskaek.

“There is none, my friend, there is no way whatever, unless it be the clemency of the worthy fathers. Canst see no pilgrim or wandering friar on the road?”


“If we see such a one we must give him all our sausage—have we said our grace for it?—and all the bread in our wallet, and humbly invite him into our house, to eat a quarter of roast lamb, well washed down with old wine. I have not much of that kind, but I will gladly give him all there is of it. Canst not see such a one coming?” 

“No one,” said Blaeskaek. “But open those rabbit’s ears of thine and hark to me: I will give thee good counsel, for I wish thee well, blubberer. We must follow the apothecary’s advice in half-and-half fashion, so much only, you understand. ’Twould be idolatry of the most shameless kind to put up this statue in the public hall.”

“Alas, alas, by all the devils! yes, you are right.”

“Very well, then we will put him in a cupboard, which shall be well fastened, but with an opening on the top to let in the air. Therein we will also put a small keg of good beer, and ask him not to use it up too fast. In this way he will be, in fact, within the hall of the inn, and he will keep himself well hid for certain, for in his cupboard he will be able to take what pleasure he may from the songs of the drinkers, rattling of mugs, and clinking of bottles.”

“No,” said Gans to that, “no, we must follow wholly the apothecary’s advice, for he knows more about devils than we. As for this deviling, we will do our best to satisfy him, according to our means. But in spite of it all, I fear we shall one day be burnt, alas, alas!”