The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book II Chapter 2

While the cart rolled along upon a dyke between the canal and a pond, Ulenspiegel, in deep thought, caressed the ashes of Claes on his breast. He asked himself if the vision was false or true, if those spirits had mocked him or if they had by riddles told him what in good sooth he must find to make the land of his fathers happy.

Vainly groping for the interpretation, he could not discover what the Seven and the Girdle meant.

Thinking upon the dead Emperor, the living King, the Lady Governor, the Pope of Rome, the Grand Inquisitor, the General of the Jesuits, he found in these six great tormentors of the country whom he would gladly have burned alive. But he thought it was not they, for they were too easy to burn, so the Seven must be elsewhere.

And in his own mind he was always repeating:

When the North
Shall kiss the West,
Ruin shall end,
Love thou the Seven,
The Girdle Love.

“Alas!” said he to himself, “in death, blood, and tears, find seven, burn seven, love seven! My poor wit fails, for who then burns what he loves?”

The cart having already swallowed up a long stretch of the road, they heard a noise of feet on the sandy earth, and a voice singing:

“Good travellers, saw you him, I pray,
My wild lost lover gone astray?
He roams at random here and there,
Saw you him, pray?

“As lamb by eagle of the air
He bore my heedless heart away:
A man whose face shows little hair.
Saw you him, pray?

“When he is met, that Nele with care
And toil is very weary, say,
Beloved Thyl, where dost delay?
Saw you him, pray?

“Does he not know the dove’s despair
What time her mate abroad doth stay?
Much more a faithful heart must bear.
Saw you him, pray?”

Ulenspiegel smote upon Lamme’s paunch and said to him:

“Hold thy breath, big belly.”

“Alas!” answered Lamme, “that is a hard thing for a man of my corpulence!”

But Ulenspiegel, paying him no heed, hid behind the tilt of the cart, and imitating the voice of a wheezy fellow lilting after drinking, he sang:

“Thy wild lover I saw, I say,
Within an old worm-eaten shay
Beside a glutton one fine day,
I saw, I say.”

“Thyl,” said Lamme, “thou hast an ill tongue this morning.”

Ulenspiegel, without listening to him, thrust his head out through the opening of the tilt and said:

“Nele, do you not know me?”

She, seized with fear, weeping and laughing at the same time, for her cheeks were all wet, said to him:

“I see you, nasty traitor!”

“Nele,” said Ulenspiegel, “if you want to beat me I have a yard stick in here. It is heavy to make the strokes sink well in and knotty to make them leave their mark.”

“Thyl,” said Nele, “art thou going towards the Seven?”

“Aye,” answered Ulenspiegel.

Nele was carrying a satchel that looked ready to burst; it was so full.

“Thyl,” she said, holding it up to him, “I thought it was unwholesome for a man to travel without taking with him a good fat goose, a ham, and Ghent sausages. And you must eat this in remembrance of me.”

As Ulenspiegel was looking at Nele and not at all thinking of taking the satchel, Lamme thrust out his head through another hole in the canvas and said:

“Forethinking damsel, if he does not accept, it is but in forgetfulness; but give me that ham, give me that goose, tender me those sausages; I shall keep them for him.”

“What,” said Nele, “is this good moonface?”

“That,” said Ulenspiegel, “is a victim of marriage, who, devoured by sorrow, would wither away like an apple in the oven, if he did not recuperate his strength with constant nourishment.”

“Thou hast said the truth, son,” sighed Lamme.

The sun, which was shining strong, burned and scorched Nele’s head. She covered herself up with her apron. Wishing to be alone with her, Ulenspiegel said to Lamme:

“Seest thou that woman wandering yonder in the meadow?”

“I see her,” said Lamme.

“Dost thou recognize her?”

“Ah, me!” said Lamme, “could it be my wife? She is not clad like a townswoman.”

“Thou doubtest still, blind mole,” said Ulenspiegel.

“If it were not she?” said Lamme.

“Thou wouldst lose nothing by going; on the left there, towards the north, there is a kaberdoesje where thou wilt find good bruinbier. We shall go thither to join thee. And here is ham to salt thy natural thirst withal.”

Lamme, getting out of the cart, ran quickly towards the woman that was in the meadow.

Ulenspiegel said to Nele:

“Why do you not come beside me?”

Then, helping her to get up into the cart, he made her sit beside him, took the apron from about her head and the cloak from her shoulders: then giving her a hundred kisses, he said:

“Whither wert thou going, my beloved?”

She answered no word, but she seemed all entranced in ecstasy. And Ulenspiegel, transported even as she, said to her:

“So thou art here, indeed! The sweetbriar roses in the hedges have not the lovely redness of your fresh skin. You are no queen, but let me make you a crown of kisses. Darling arms, all soft, all rosy, that Love himself made all on purpose for kissing! Ah, beloved maid, will not my rugged man’s hands wither that shoulder? The light butterfly settles on the crimson carnation, but can I rest on your dazzling whiteness without withering it, clumsy lout that I am? God is in his heaven, the king upon his throne, and the sun is aloft, triumphing; but am I God, the king, or sunlight, to be so near you? Oh, hair softer than flossy silk! Nele, I strike, I rend, I tear to pieces! But do not be afraid, my love. Thy darling little foot! How comes it to be so white! Has it been bathed in milk?”

She would fain have risen.

“What fearest thou?” said Ulenspiegel. “’Tis not the sun that shineth on us and paints thee all in gold. Lower not thine eyes. See in mine what a lovely fire he lighteth there. Listen, beloved; hear, my darling; it is the silent hour of noon; the peasant is in his home feeding on his soup, shall not we feed upon love? Why have not I a thousand years to pluck one by one on thy knees like a string of pearls from the Indies!”

“Golden tongue!” said she.

And Master Sun blazed through the white canvas of the cart, and a lark sang above the clover, and Nele drooped her head upon Ulenspiegel’s shoulder.