Flemish Legend Smetse Smee by Charles de Coster Chapter 1

Of Smetse, his belly, and his forge

Smetse Smee lived in the good town of Ghent, on the Quai aux Oignons, beside the fair River Lys.

He was well skilled in his trade, rich in bodily fat, and with so jolly a countenance that the most melancholy of men were cheered and took heart for no more than the sight of him in his smithy, trotting about on his short legs, head up and belly forward, seeing to everything.

When work was in full swing in his shop, Smetse, listening to the busy sounds round the fire, would say, with his hands clasped across his stomach, quietly and happily: “By Artevelde! what are drums, cymbals, fifes, viols, and bagpipes worth? For heavenly music give me my sledges beating, my anvils ringing, my bellows roaring, my good workmen singing and hammering.”

Then, speaking to them all: “Courage,” he would say, “my children! Who works well from daybreak drinks the better for it at vespers. Whose is that feeble arm down there, tapping with his hammer so gently? Does he think he is cracking eggs, the faint-heart? To those bars, Dolf, and plunge them in the water. To that breastplate, Pier, beat it out for us fine and true: iron well beaten is proof against bullets. To that plough-share, Flipke, and good work to it, too: from the plough comes the world’s bread. To the door, Toon, here comes the raw-boned nag of Don Sancio d’Avila, the knight with the sour countenance, brought hither by his raw-boned groom, who is for having him shod, no doubt: let him pay double for his Spanish haughtiness and his harshness to poor folk!”

So went Smetse about his smithy, singing mostly, and whistling when he was not singing. And for the rest getting much honest gain, profiting in health, and, at vespers, drinking bruinbier with a will in the inn of Pensaert.