Flemish Legend The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance by Charles de Coster Chapter 12

Wherein Pieter Gans is nearer the stake than the wine-barrel

When the enemy had been so far discomfited the women came back into the square and stood before the prefecture, not feeling any glory, but rather sadness at having had to shed Christian blood in this manner. Ah, they returned thanks with a full heart to Our Lady the Virgin and Our Lord Jesus, who had given them the victory.

Nor did they forget in their thanksgiving the good angel who had come to their assistance in the form of a bright star. And they sang fair hymns and litanies very sweetly.

Meanwhile all the cocks in the countryside awoke one by one and heralded with their clarions the new day about to dawn.

And at that call, all the drinkers were roused from sleep, and ran to their doors to find out whence came this sweet music.

And my lord the Sun laughed in the sky.

And the worthy men came out into the square, and some of them, when they saw their wives in the assembly, were all for beating them because they had left their beds; but Andr? Bredael interposed and told them the whole story. Thereupon they were all amazed, ashamed, and repentant, seeing how well these brave petticoats had striven on their behalf. Pieter Gans, Blaeskaek, and Father Claessens, Dean of Uccle, a most saintly man, also came out into the square.
Thereupon, seeing all this crowd assembled, Master Bredael spoke thus:

“Friends,” said he, “you hear how that ’tis through the valour of your wives and daughters alone that you are not by this time sniffing the air of heaven. Therefore ’tis seemly that here and now you should promise, and take oath to it, not to drink any more except by their wish.”

“That is all very well, Master Bredael,” said one of the townsmen, “but ’tis not plain drinking that puts us all into so deep a sleep. I speak of these things with knowledge, I who have drunk wine freely all my life, and hope still so to do with relish to the end of my days. There is something else to it, devilry and evil spells, or so I think. Come hither, Pieter Gans, come hither and talk to us somewhat, and if thou know anything, bring light to this dark matter.”

“Alas, alas!” said Pieter Gans, his head wagging and his teeth chattering (for he was afraid, poor fellow), “alas, alas! I know nothing, my good friends.”

“Nay,” said the man, “but thou dost know something of it, for I see thy head shaking and thy teeth chattering.”

But at this point the Dean confronted Gans:

“Wicked Christian,” said he, “I can see well enough thou hast had commerce with the devil, to the great despite of all these good men. Confess thy sin with all humility, and we will accord thee such grace as may be, but if thou deny it, thou shalt be punished with hot oil.”

“Ah,” said Pieter Gans in tears, “’tis as I said; I shall be burnt, dear God! Blaeskaek, where art thou, my good friend? Give me thy help. Alas, alas!”

But Blaeskaek had gone off in a hurry from fear of the holy Fathers.

“Ah,” said Pieter Gans, “see how the traitor deserts me when danger threatens!”

“Speak,” said the very reverend Father.

“Yes, Master Dean,” said Pieter Gans, weeping and wailing, “I will tell you the whole story, without keeping back anything… Master!” he cried when he had come to the end of his recital, “if you will not punish me too heavily, Master, I will give all my poor savings as a perpetual gift to the Church. I am a true Christian, that I vow, and no heretic. Moreover, I wish not to die until I have had sufficient time to do long and full penance. But have me not boiled in oil before I have had that time, I beg of you.”

“As to that,” answered the Dean, “we shall see. Now take us to the place where this devil is to be seen.”

By that time they were close to the church, and the priest went in to get therefrom some holy water before they started. Then all the men, women, and children of the village took their way to The Horn.

There the Dean demanded to see what had been the cause of those wicked spells which had been cast over so many worthy men, and Pieter Gans, with all humility, showed him the deviling, still smiling and holding his staff of vine-branches in his hand. And all the women, after looking at him for some time, said that he was very comely for a devil.

The priest first crossed himself, then, dipping his fingers in the holy water, anointed therewith the brow, breast, and belly of the statue, which thereupon, by the grace of God, crumbled into dust, and a sorrowful voice was heard saying: “Oi moi, ? ph?s, tethn?ka!”

And these words of the devil were explained by the priest to signify, in the Greek tongue: “Woe is me! Light! I die!”