The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book II Chapter 12

Ulenspiegel and Lamme came to the place called Minne-Water, Love-Water; but the great doctors and Wysneusen Pedants say it is Minre-Water, Minim-Water. Ulenspiegel and Lamme sat down upon the brink, seeing pass by beneath the trees all leafy down to their very heads, like a low roof, men, women, girls, and boys, hand in hand, garlanded with flowers, walking hip to hip, looking tenderly in one another’s eyes, without seeing anything in this world but themselves.

Ulenspiegel, thinking of Nele, gazed at them. In his melancholy, he said:

“Let us go drink.”

But Lamme, not hearkening Ulenspiegel, also looked upon the pairs of lovers:

“In the old days we, too, used to pass, my wife and I, loving each other under the eyes of those who like you and me, on the edge of ditches, were stretched out solitary and without a woman.”

“Come and drink,” said Ulenspiegel, “we shall find the Seven at the bottom of a quart.”

“A drinker’s word,” answered Lamme: “you know the Seven are giants who could not stand upright under the big dome of the church of Saint Sauveur.”

Ulenspiegel, thinking wretchedly of Nele, and also that in some hostelry he might perchance find a good bed, good supper, a comely hostess, said yet again:

“Let us go and drink!”

But Lamme paid no heed, and said, looking at the tower of Notre Dame:

“Madame Holy Mary, patroness of lawful loves, grant me to see again her white bosom, that soft pillow.”

“Come and drink,” said Ulenspiegel, “you shall find her, displaying it to the drinkers, in a tavern.”

“Dost thou dare think so ill of her?” said Lamme.

“Let us go and drink,” said Ulenspiegel, “she is baesine somewhere, without a doubt.”

“Thirst talk,” said Lamme.

Ulenspiegel went on:

“Perchance keepeth she in reserve for poor travellers a dish of goodly stewed beef, whose spices perfume the air, not too rich, tender, succulent as rose leaves, and swimming like Shrove Tuesday fishes amid cloves, nutmeg, cocks’ combs, sweetbreads, and other celestial dainties.”

“Cruel!” said Lamme, “you mean to kill me for sure. Do you not know that for two days we have lived on nothing but dry bread and small beer?”

“Hunger talk,” answered Ulenspiegel. “You are weeping with appetite; come and eat and drink. I have here a fine half florin that will defray the cost of our feast.”

Lamme laughed. They went to find their cart and thus went about the town, seeking to know which was the best inn. But seeing several crabbed countenances on the baes and no wise pleasing on the baesines, they passed on, thinking that a sour face is a poor sign for a hospitable kitchen.

They arrived at the Saturday Market and went into the hostelry called de Blauwe-Lanteern, the Blue-Lantern. Here there was a baes of pleasant aspect.

They put up their cart and had the ass lodged in the stable, in company with a peck of oats. They ordered supper to be served, ate their fill, slept well, and rose to eat again. Lamme, bursting with comfort, said:

“I hear heavenly music in my stomach.”

When the time came to pay, the baes came to Lamme and said to him:

“Ten patards, if you please.”

“He has them,” said Lamme, pointing to Ulenspiegel who answered:

“I have not.”

“And the half florin?” said Lamme.

“I have not got it,” said Ulenspiegel.

“This is all very well,” said the baes: “I shall take the doublet and the shirt off both of you.”

Suddenly Lamme, plucking up bottle courage:

“And if I want to eat and drink, I,” exclaimed he, “to eat and drink, aye, drink for twenty-seven florins worth or more, I will do it. Dost thou think there is not a sou’s value in this belly of mine? Good God! it was never fed till now but on ortolans. Never didst thou carry the like under thy greasy girdle. For like an ill fellow thou hast thy tallow on the collar of thy doublet, and not like me, three inches of dainty fat on the paunch!”

The baes had fallen into an ecstasy of rage. A stammerer by nature, he wanted to speak quickly; the more he hurried, the more he sneezed and sputtered like a dog coming out of the water. Ulenspiegel threw little balls of bread at his nose. And Lamme, becoming hotter, went on:

“Aye, I have wherewith to pay for your three scraggy hens, your four mangy pullets, and that big idiot of a peacock dragging his dirty tail in your yard. And if your skin was not drier than an old cock’s, if your bones were not crumbling to dust in your breast, I would have still enough to eat you, yourself, your snot of a man, your one-eyed maid and your cook, who if he had itch would have arms too short to scratch himself.

“Do you see,” he went on, “do you see this fine bird that, for half a florin, wants to seize our doublets and our shirts? Tell me what your wardrobe is worth, tattered impertinence, and I will give you three liards for it.”

But the baes, becoming angrier and angrier, puffed and blew the more.

And Ulenspiegel flung balls in his face.

Lamme, like a roaring lion, said:

“How much do you think, scrawny face, a fine ass is worth, with a fine muzzle, long ears, wide chested, with legs of iron? Eighteen florins at the least, is not that so, miserable baes? How many old nails have you in your coffers to pay for so fine a beast?”

The baes sputtered more and more, but dared not budge.

Lamme said:

“How much do you think a fine cart is worth, all made of ash painted red, and equipped all over with Courtrai canvas against the sun and the showers? Twenty-four florins at least, hey? And how much is twenty-four florins and eighteen florins? Answer that, leper devoid of arithmetic. And as it is a market day, and as there are farming folk in your miserable hostelry, I am going to sell cart and donkey to them at once.”

And so it was done, for all knew Lamme. And in fact he got for his ass and his cart forty-four florins and ten patards. Then, clinking the gold under the nose of the baes, he said to him:

“Dost thou smell in that the savour of feasting to come?”

“Aye,” replied the host.

And he said under his breath:

“When you are selling your skin, I will buy a liard’s worth to make a charm against prodigality with it.”

In the meantime, a pretty, taking woman who was in the dark of the yard had come again and again to look at Lamme through the window, and drew back every time he might have caught sight of her pretty face.

That night, on the staircase, as he was going up without a light, tottering a little from the wine he had drunk, he felt a woman who flung her arms about him, kissed him on the cheek, the mouth, even on the nose, gluttonously, and wetting his face with amorous tears, then left him.

Lamme, all sleepy from his drink, went to bed, fell asleep, and next day went off to Ghent with Ulenspiegel.