Flemish Legend Sir Halewyn by Charles de Coster Chapter 9

Of the heart of a maid and of the great strength which came to Sir Halewyn

Sorely troubled, and falling on his knees, Halewyn said: “Alas, is the spell then impotent? I sang, and she would not come to my singing! What would you have me do now, Lord Prince of the Stones? If it is that I must wait until nightfall, that I will do. Then, without doubt, having no sun to hinder your powers, you will give me strength and beauty, and all prowess, and you will send me the virgin I need.”

And he went at night to wander in the woods round about the cottages, and there, singing his song, and looking out to see if any were coming.

He saw by the light of the bright moon the daughter of Claes, a poor mad man, nicknamed the Dog-beater, because he used to thump and pommel grievously whomever he met, saying that these accursed dogs had robbed him of his coat, and must give it him back again.

This girl took care of Claes very well, and would not marry, though she was a beautiful maid, saying: “Since he is simple, I cannot leave him to look to himself.”

And every one, seeing her so stout-hearted, gave her, one some of his cheese, another some beans, another some flour, and so they lived together without wanting for food.

The Miserable stood still at the edge of the wood and sang. And the maid walked straight towards the singing and fell on her knees before him.

He went home to his castle, and she followed him, and entered in with him, saying no word.

On the stair he met his brother, just returned from boar-hunting, who said, in mocking wise:

“Ah, is the Miserable about to get us a bastard?” And to the girl: “Well, mistress, thy heart must be fast set on my ugly brother that thou must needs follow him in this wise, without a word spoken.”

But Halewyn, in a rage, hit out at his brother’s face with his sword.

Then, passing him by, went up into his own room.

And there, having shut fast the door, from fear of his brother, he stripped the girl quite naked, as he had seen the virgin in his vision. And the girl said that she was cold.

Quickly he opened her breast with the golden blade, under the left pap.

And as the maid gave the death-cry, the heart came out of itself on the blade.

And the Miserable saw before his eyes the little mannikin coming out of the stones of the wall, who said to him, grinning:

“Heart on heart gives strength and beauty. Halewyn shall hang the maid in the Gallows-field. And the body shall hang until the hour of God.” Then he went back into the wall.

Halewyn put the heart on his breast, and felt it beating firmly and taking root in his skin. And suddenly his bent back was straightened; and his arm found such strength that he broke easily in two a heavy oaken bench; and looking at himself in a mirror-glass he saw an image so beautiful that he could scarce tell it for his own.

And he felt in his veins the fire of youth burning.

Going down into the great hall he found there at supper his father, mother, brother, and sister.

None of them would have known him but for his voice, which was unchanged.

And his mother rose and peered into his face to see him better.

And he said to her: “Woman, I am thine own son, Siewert Halewyn, the Invincible.”

But his brother, whom he had but lately smitten in the face, ran towards him hotly, saying: “Cursed be the Invincible!” and struck him with his knife.

But the blade snapped off like glass against the body of the Miserable; whereupon the younger brother seized him in his arms, but the Miserable tore him off and threw him to one side as if he had been a caterpillar.
Then he rushed at him with his head down, like a battering-ram, but as soon as his head touched the Miserable it was cut open, and the blood ran down over his face.

And his father and mother, his sister and the wounded brother, threw themselves on their knees and asked his forgiveness, begging him, since he had become so powerful, to bring them riches and honour.

“That I will,” said he.