Flemish Legend Smetse Smee by Charles de Coster Chapter 12

How that Smetse would not give his secret into his wife’s tongue’s keeping

In the kitchen Smetse found his wife on her knees beating her breast, weeping, sighing, sobbing, and saying: “Jesus Lord God, he has made a pact with the devil; but ’tis not with my consent, I swear. And you also, Madam the Virgin, you know it, and you also, all my masters the saints. Ah, I am indeed wretched, not on my own account, but for my poor man, who for the sake of some miserable gold sold his soul to the devil! Alas, yes, sell it he did! Ah, my saintly masters, who are yourselves so happy and in such glory, pray the very good God for him, and deign to consider that if, as I dare hope, I die a Christian death and go to paradise, I shall be all alone there, eating my rice pudding with silver spoons, while my poor man is burning in hell, crying out in thirst and hunger, and I not able to give him either meat or drink… Alas, that will make me so unhappy! Ah, my good masters the saints, Madam the Virgin, My Lord Jesus, he sinned but this once, and was all the rest of his life a good man, a good Christian, kind to the poor and soft of heart. Save him from the fires which burn for ever, and do not separate above those who were so long united below. Pray for him, pray for me, alas!”

“Wife,” said Smetse, “thou art very wretched, it seems.”

“Ah, wicked man,” said she, “now I know all. ’Twas hell fire which came bursting into the house and lit up the forge; those master-bakers, brewers, and vintners were devils, all of them, and devil also that ugly man who showed thee the treasure and gave me so grievous a buffet. Who will dare to live peaceably in this house from now on? Alas, our food is the devil’s, our drink also; devil’s meat, loaves, and cheeses, devil’s money, house, and all. Whoever should dig under this dwelling would see the fires of hell gush out incontinent. There are all the devils, I see them above, below, on the right hand, on the left, awaiting their prey with dropped jaws, like tigers. Ah, what a fine sight ’twill be to see my poor man torn into a hundred pieces by all these devils, and that in seven years, for he said, as I heard well enough, that he would come back in seven years.”

“Weep not, wife,” said Smetse, “in seven years I may again be master as I was to-day.”

“But,” said she, “if he had not gone up into the plum-tree, what wouldst thou have done, poor beggar-man? And what if he will not let himself fall a second time into thy snare as he did to-day?”

“Wife,” said Smetse, “he will so fall, for my snares are from heaven, and the things which are from God can always get the better of devils.”

“Art not lying again?” she said. “And wilt tell me what they are?”

“That I cannot,” said he, “for devils have sharp ears and would hear me telling thee, no matter how low I spoke; and then I should be taken off to hell without mercy.”

“Ah,” said she, “then I will not ask, though ’tis not pleasant for me to live here in ignorance of everything, like a stranger. Nevertheless I would rather have thee silent and saved than talking and damned.”

“Wife,” he said, “thou art wise when thou speakest so.”

“I will pray,” she said, “every day for thy deliverance, and have a good mass said for thee at St. Bavon.”

“But,” said he, “is it with devil’s money thou wilt pay for this mass?”

“Have no care for that,” said she, “when this money enters the church coffers ’twill become suddenly holy.”

“Do as thou wilt, wife,” said Smetse.

“Ah,” said she, “My Lord Jesus shall have a stout candle each day, and Madam the Virgin likewise.”

“Do not forget my master St. Joseph,” said Smetse, “for we owe him much.”