Flemish Legend Sir Halewyn by Charles de Coster Chapter 13

Of the heart dried up and of the dame Halewyn

But one morning while he was at meat in his castle, when his father and sister were gone to Bruges to buy corn-coloured cloth-of-scarlet for their clothes,

And he was being served, with all humility, by his mother and brother,

He became suddenly quite cold, for the heart had ceased to beat.

Putting his hand to his breast, he touched dried-up skin.

Then he felt his face go back as it was before, his shoulders shrink down, his back hump up, and all his body lessen in stature.

Looking at his mother and brother in turn, he saw them laughing and saying to each other: “See, here is our master back in his old ugly skin, and with his old ugly face.”

“Ha, My Lord,” said his brother, coming boldly up to him and speaking insolently, “will you not take some of this clauwaert to hearten yourself? You have no longer, it seems, your former strength.”

“Wilt try it?” said the Miserable, and struck him with his fist, but did him no more hurt than if he had been a fly.

Seeing this the younger brother grew bolder, and seating himself close to Halewyn on the seat:

“My lord,” said he, “you have had pudding enough, I think, ’tis my turn to eat.”

And he took the pudding from off his platter.

“My lord son,” said his mother, “now you shall give to me, who am old, some of this old wine you have kept for yourself.”

And she took the cup out of his hand.

“My lord brother,” said the younger son, “methinks you have too much of this roast of lamb with sweet chestnuts; I will take it, if you please.”

And he put the roast of lamb before his own place.

“My lord son,” said his mother, “you do not much like, it seems, this fair cheese and barley tart, give it to me, I pray you.”

And the Miserable, dumbfounded, gave it to her.

“My lord brother,” said the younger son, “you have been sitting there long enough like an emperor, will you be pleased to stir your limbs now and serve us?”

And the Miserable, getting up, served them as he was bidden.

“My lord son,” said his mother, “I see you now submissive to our orders, will you be pleased to ask my pardon for having so long kept me standing like a private servant, fetching you food and drink, though I am your mother?”

And the Miserable fell at her feet.

“My lord brother,” said the younger son, “wilt thou be pleased to fall at my feet likewise, and kiss them, for that thou hast made me do the work of a serf?”

“That I will not,” said the Miserable.

“Thou wilt not?”

“I will not,” said the Miserable, and stepped back a pace.

“Come hither,” said his brother.

“I will not,” said the Miserable.

Then the younger ran at him, and, bearing him to the ground without difficulty, began thumping and pommelling him, and striking him in the face with his golden spurs, saying: “Avenge thyself, Siewert Halewyn the Invincible. None can stand against thee, save I. Thou hast long treated us as serfs in thy house, now I will treat thee as a cheese and crush thee underfoot. Why dost thou not now caper as a kid, or fly away as a bird, Siewert the enchanted?” and, going into a frenzy of rage, he drew his knife, saying: “I will cut thee off thy head unless thou cry mercy.”

“I will not,” said the Miserable.

But his mother, hearing these words, took quickly from the fire a handful of embers, and notwithstanding their heat, threw them into the eyes and mouth of the younger brother, saying: “Thou shalt not kill my first-born, wicked son.”

And while the younger brother was howling by reason of the pain from the embers, which blinded him, his mother took the knife from him, and while he was twisting this way and that, swinging up his arms to strike whomever he could, she threw him down, shut him up in the room, and went out dragging her first-born after her. Then, although she was feeble with age, she carried Halewyn up into the tower on her back, as a shepherd carries a lamb (for he had quite lost his senses), and there tended him and bathed his face and breast, which were torn and bleeding, and there at nightfall left him and went away.