Flemish Legend The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance by Charles de Coster Chapter 7

Of the Great Parliament of the Women of Uccle.

So it came about that the women decided between themselves to save the village from this fate, and to this end, while their menfolk were at drink with Pieter Gans, they met together at the house of a certain dame Syske, who was big, fat, loud-speaking, had hair upon her chin, and had buried five husbands, or else seven, I dare not particularize the number for fear of untruth.

There, as a rebuke to their drunken husbands, they quenched their thirst with clear water.

When all were present, the younger ones assembled on this side and the older on that, the ugly ones among the older, dame Syske opened the talk by saying that they must all go forthwith to The Horn, and there give these drinkers such a drubbing that they would be stiff and sore for a week because of it.

The old and ugly ones applauded this proposal with their hands, their feet, their mouths, and their noses. There was a fine noise, you may well believe.

But the young and pretty ones kept silent as fishes, all save one, very pretty, very fresh and very neat, bearing the name of Wantje, who said very modestly, and blushing somewhat, that it was of no use to belabour their worthy men in this fashion, but rather they must bring them back to good ways by gentleness and laughter.

To this the dame Syske replied: “Little one, thou canst understand nothing of men, for thou art but a maid, or so I believe. For my part I know well enough how I managed my several husbands, and that was neither by gentleness nor by laughter, I promise thee. They are all dead, the worthy men (may God rest their souls!), but I remember them clearly, and know very well that at the least wrongdoing I made them dance the stick-dance on the field of obedience. None dared eat or drink, sneeze or yawn, unless I had first given him leave. Little Job Syske, my last, did my cooking for me in my own house. He made a good cook, poor little man. But I had to give him many good beatings to bring him to that, and so it was with the others as well. Therefore, little one, give up all these laughters and gentlenesses of thine, they are not worth much, I can tell thee. Let us rather go forthwith and cut ourselves good staves of greenwood, easy enough to find now that it is spring-time, and going off to The Horn let us make fall a good shower of blows on these unfaithful husbands.”

At this the old and ugly ones broke out afresh into monstrous howls and tumult, crying, “Out upon them! out on the drunkards! They want a good drubbing, they want a good hanging!”