Flemish Legend The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance by Charles de Coster Chapter 6

Wherein it is seen that the devil is not a good one; and of the evil trick which he played on the good wives of the drinkers.

As soon as they reached The Horn, the two worthies took out from the cellar the statue of the deviling and put it with great respect on top of a press which stood in the hall.

On the morrow there came to this inn nearly all the men of Uccle, brought together in this wise because on that day had been sold publicly in their stables two horses well bred by the late sheriff, Jacob Naeltjens. His son was in no mind to keep them, saying that a man’s best steeds were his slipper-shoes.

The men of Uccle were surprised and delighted when they saw the statue of the youngster on the press, especially when Blaeskaek told them that his name was Master Merry-face, and that it was proposed, by way of jest, to establish forthwith in his honour a jolly brotherhood.

They were all willing to do this, and thereupon decided between them that no one should be of their brotherhood until he had drunk, as his baptism, four-and-twenty monstrous great cups of wine, while another brother beat twelve strokes on the plumpest belly of the company there present.

Each night thereafter they gathered together at The Horn, and drank deep enough, as you may well guess.

The most wonderful thing about the business was that in spite of this they worked all day like stout fellows, some at their crafts, some at their trades, others in the fields, contented one and all. But their good wives were not by any means contented, for as soon as vespers sounded all their husbands and sweethearts went off to The Horn, without giving them so much as a single thought, and there stayed until curfew.

And when these worthies went home they did not beat their wives, as some drinkers do, but lay down quietly beside them in bed, and immediately, without saying a word, fell fast asleep and began to sound such fanfares with their noses as Master Porker makes with his snout.

Then the poor women might thump them, cuff them, call their names as they would, to get them to sing their bedfellows a different sort of song, but all quite in vain: as well beat water to get fire out of it.

They awoke only with cock-crow, but their temper in the morning was so rough and stormy that none of their womenfolk (that is to say, of such as were not asleep from weariness) dared say a word, either then or at the dinner-hour. All this was brought about by the evil power and influence of the deviling.

On that account there was much sadness among the women, who said, all of them, that if such a state of things went on for long the race of the people of Uccle must needs become extinct, which would be a great pity.