Flemish Legend Smetse Smee by Charles de Coster Chapter 9

What Smetse did in order to keep his secret

The good wife had heard nothing of what was said to her man by the celestial wayfarers, and she was amazed to see the behaviour and hear the speech of the good smith. But she was more so than ever when, on the departure of the all-powerful visitors, Smetse began to give forth bursts of laughter, to rub his hands, take hold of her, thump her on the chest, twist her this way and that, and say in a triumphant tone: “It may be, after all, that I shall not burn, that I shall not roast, that I shall not be eaten! Art not glad of it?”

“Alas,” she said, “I cannot understand what you are talking about, my man; have you gone mad?”

“Wife,” said Smetse, “do not show me the whites of thine eyes in this pitiful manner, ’tis no time for that. Canst not see how light my heart has grown? ’Tis because I have got rid of a burden on my shoulders heavier than the belfry itself; I say this belfry, our own, with the dragon taken from that of Bruges. And I am not to be eaten. By Artevelde! my legs bestir themselves of their own accord at the thought of it. I dance! Wilt not do likewise? Fie, moody one, brewing melancholy when her man is so happy! Kiss me, wife, kiss me, mother, for my proficiat; and so thou shouldst, for instead of despair I have found a good and steadfast hope. They think to roast me with sauces and feast off my flesh to their fill. I will have the laugh of them. Dance, wife, dance!”

“Ah, Smetse,” said she, “you should take a purge, my man; they say ’tis good for madness.”

“Thou,” he said, tapping her on the shoulder with great affection and tenderness, “talkest boldly.”

“Hark,” said she, “to the good doctor preaching reason to me! But wert thou mad or not, Smetse, doffing thy bonnet as thou did to those beggars who came hither sowing their lice; giving to me, thy wife, their ass to hold; filling their hampers with our best bread, bruinbier, and ham; falling on thy knees before them to have their blessing, and treating them like archdukes, with a torrent of My Lords, Sirs, and Madams.”

At these words Smetse saw well enough that the lordly wayfarers had not wished to discover themselves to any but he. “Wife,” he said, “thou must not question me further, for I can tell thee nothing of this mystic happening, which it is not given thee to understand.”

“Alas,” said she, “then ’tis worse than madness, ’tis mystery. Thou dost ill to hide thyself from me in this wise, Smetse, for I have always lived in thy house, faithful to thee only, cherishing thine honour, husbanding thy wealth, neither lending nor borrowing, holding my tongue in the company of other wives, considering thy secrets as mine own and never breathing a word of them to any one.”

“I know it,” said Smetse, “thou hast been a good and true wife.”

“Then why,” said she, “knowing this, hast thou not more faith in me? Ah, my man, it hurts me; tell me the secret, I shall know how to keep it, I promise thee.”

“Wife,” said he, “knowing nothing thou wilt be able to hold thy tongue the more easily.”

“Smetse,” said she, “wilt thou verily tell me nothing?”

“I cannot,” said he.

“Alas,” said she.

By and by the workmen came back, and Smetse gave each of them a good royal to get themselves drink.

Whereat they were all so merry, and felt themselves so rich, that for three days none of them put his nose into the smithy, save one old man who was too withered, stiff, short of breath, and unsteady on his legs to go swimming with the others in the Lys, and afterwards drying in the sun among the tall grasses, dancing in the meadows to the music of rebecks, bagpipes, and cymbals, and at night in the tavern emptying pots and draining glasses.