Flemish Legend Smetse Smee by Charles de Coster Chapter 7

Of Smetse the Rich

That day there came to Smetse many persons, both notable and common, nobles, priests, burgesses, and peasants, to give him orders for much work, and so it went on again on other days, and all through the year.

Soon the smithy became too small, and Smetse had to enlarge it by reason of the ever-growing numbers of his workmen. And the work which they did was so beautiful and so marvellously well done that the fame of it spread abroad to foreign and distant countries, and people came to see and admire it from Holland, Zeeland, Spain, Germany, England, and even from the land of the Turk.

But Smetse, thinking of the seven years, was not happy at all.

Soon his coffers were full of fine crusats, angelots, rose nobles, and golden jewels. But he found no pleasure in looking at all this wealth, for he thought them poor payment for giving his soul to the devil for all the length of eternity.

Red Slimbroek lost all his customers, who came back one by one to Smetse. Ragged and miserable he used to come every day and lounge on the quay, watching from there the bright fire glowing in the forge of the good smith, and, so standing, he seemed dazed and stupid, like an owl watching a doit. Smetse, knowing that he was needy, sent him several customers to bring him some means of sustenance, and also more than once a gift of money. But although he thus repaid evil with good he was no longer happy, thinking of the seven years.

Smetse’s wife, finding him so wealthy, bought for dinner each Sunday legs of fat mutton, geese, capons, turkeys, and other good meats; invited to her table his relatives, friends, and workmen; and then there would be a great feast, well washed down with double bruinbier. But Smetse, though he ate and drank like an emperor, was not at all happy, thinking of the seven years. And the steam from the roast meats spread abroad on the Quai aux Oignons, so fragrant and succulent, and so sweetening the air, that all the dogs wandering in the streets of the town would stop before the house and sniff at the smell, and there on their haunches, nose in air, would wait for crumbs: and the beggars, of whom there were great numbers, came thither likewise and tried to drive away the dogs. Thereupon ensued furious battles, in which many were badly bitten. Seeing this, Smetse’s wife and other women would come every Sunday to the door with baskets of alms, and there, before the meal began, would give the beggars good bread, slices of meat, and two farthings to get themselves drink, and all this with soft words and fair speaking; then they charged them to go away from the quay, which they did in an orderly manner. But the dogs stayed behind, and at the end of the feast there was given to them likewise food of some sort. And then they would go off also, taking each his bone or other booty.

Smetse and his wife together took both dogs and men into their affection; to the beggars he gave food and shelter; and so also to all the dogs of Ghent that were lame, infirm, or sickly, until at length his house came to be called the Dogs’ Hospital and the Home of the Poor.

Nevertheless he was not at all happy, thinking of the seven years.

Worn and troubled with these thoughts, Smetse stopped singing and lost his fat, shrivelled visibly, became melancholy and moody, and in his smithy said never a word, except to give a necessary order.

And he was no longer called Smetse the Merry, but Smetse the Rich.

And he counted the days.