Flemish Legend Smetse Smee by Charles de Coster Chapter 19

Of the fair judgment of My Lord Jesus

Not long afterwards the good wife died also, by reason of the terror that had seized hold of her at the sight of her man’s ghost.

And her soul went straight towards Paradise, and there she saw, sitting with his seat against the wall, the poor Smetse in a fit of melancholy brooding. When he saw her he jumped up with great joy, and said:

“Wife, I will go in with thee.”

“Dost thou dare?” said she.

“I will hide myself,” said he, “under thy skirt, which is wide enough for us both, and so I shall pass without being seen.”

When he had done this she knocked on the door, and Master St. Peter came to open it. “Come in,” he said, “good wife.” But seeing Smetse’s feet below the hem of the skirt: “This wicked smith,” he cried, “will he always be making fun of me? Be off, devil-baggage!”

“Ah, my master,” said she, “have pity on him, or else let me stay out, too, to keep him company.”

“No,” said Master St. Peter, “thy place is here, his is outside. Come in then, and let him be off at once.”

And the good wife went in while Smetse stayed outside. But as soon as the noonday hour came, and the angel cooks had brought the good wife her beautiful rice pudding, she went to the wall and put her head over it.

“Art thou there,” she said, “my man?”

“Yes,” said he.

“Art thou hungry?” she said.

“Yes,” said he.

“Well then,” she said, “spread thy leathern apron; I will throw thee the pudding which has just been given me.”

“But thou,” said he, “wilt thou eat nothing?”

“No,” said she, “for I have heard it said that there is supper by and by.”

Smetse ate the rice pudding, and was suddenly filled with comfort, for the pudding was more succulent and delicious than the finest meats of the earth. Meanwhile his wife went off to walk about in the good Paradise, and afterwards came back to Smetse to tell him what she had seen.

“Ah,” she said, “my man, ’tis a most beautiful place. Would that I could see thee within! Round about My Lord Jesus are the pure intelligences who discuss with him whatever is goodness, love, justice, knowledge, and beauty, and also the best means of governing men and making them happy. Their speech is like music. And all the while they keep throwing down to earth the seeds of beautiful, good, just and true thoughts. But men are so wicked and stupid that they tread underfoot these fair seeds or let them wither away. Farther on, established in their several places, are potters and goldsmiths, masons, painters, tanners and fullers, carpenters and shipbuilders, and thou shouldst see what fine work they do, each in his own trade. And when they have made some progress they cast down the seed of that also towards the earth, but ’tis lost oftentimes.”

“Wife,” said Smetse, “didst see no smiths?”

“Yes,” said she.

“Alas,” said he, “I would gladly be working alongside them, for I am ashamed to be sitting here like a leper, doing nothing and begging my bread. But listen, wife; since Master St. Peter will not let me in, go thou and ask grace for me from My Lord Jesus, who is kind and will let me in for certain.”

“I go, my man,” said she.

My Lord Jesus, who was in council with his doctors, saw her coming towards him. “I know thee, good wife,” said he; “thou wast in thy lifetime wedded to Smetse the smith, who entreated me so well when, in the guise of a little child, I came down to earth with Master Joseph and Madam Mary. Is he not in Paradise, thy good man?”

“Alas, no, My Lord!” answered she, “my man is at the door, most sad and out of heart, because Master St. Peter will not let him in.”

“Why is that?” said My Lord Jesus.

“Ah, I cannot tell,” said she.

But the angel who writes down the faults of men in a record of brass, speaking suddenly, said: “Smetse cannot enter Paradise, for Smetse, delivered from the devil, kept devil’s money.”

“Ah,” said My Lord Jesus, “that is a great sin; but has he not repented of it?”

“Yes,” said the good wife, “he has repented, and, moreover, he has been all his life good, charitable, and compassionate.”

“Go and find him,” said My Lord Jesus, “I will question him myself.”

Two or three halberdier angels ran to obey him, and brought Smetse before the Son of God, who spoke in this wise:

“Smetse, is it true that thou didst keep devil’s money?”

“Yes, My Lord,” answered the smith, whose knees were knocking together with fear.

“Smetse, this is not good, for a man should rather suffer every ill, pain, and anguish, than keep the money of one who is wicked, ugly, unjust, and a liar, as is the devil. But hast thou no meritorious deed to tell me, to mitigate this great sin?”

“My Lord,” answered Smetse, “I fought a long while beside the men of Zeeland for freedom of conscience, and, doing this, suffered with them hunger and thirst.”

“This is good, Smetse, but didst thou persist in this fair conduct?”

“Alas, no, My Lord!” said the smith, “for, to tell truth, my courage lacked constancy, and I went back to Ghent, where, like so many another, I came under the Spanish yoke.”

“This is bad, Smetse,” answered My Lord Jesus.

“My Lord,” wept the good wife, “none was more generous than he to the poor, kind to every one, charitable to his enemies, even to the wicked Slimbroek.”

“This is good, Smetse,” said My Lord Jesus; “but hast thou no other merit in thy favour?”

“My Lord,” said the smith, “I have always laboured with a good heart, hated idleness and melancholy, loved joy and merriment, sung gladly, and drunk with thankfulness the bruinbier which came to me from you.”

“This is good, Smetse, but it is not enough.”

“My Lord,” answered the smith, “I thrashed as soundly as I could the wicked ghosts of Jacob Hessels, the Duke of Alva, and Philip II, King of Spain.”

“Smetse,” said My Lord Jesus, “this is very good. I grant thee leave to enter my Paradise.”