The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book II Chapter 18

Ulenspiegel in pilgrim’s robes set out incontinent with neither provisions nor money for Bois-le-Duc, in order to warn the citizens. He counted on taking a horse by the way at Jeroen Praet’s, Simon’s brother, for whom he had letters from the Prince, and from thence he would go full speed by cross-country ways to Bois-le-Duc.

Going along the highway, he saw a band of troopers coming. He was sore afraid because of the letters.

But, resolved to set a good face against misadventure, he waited the troopers stoutly, and stopped in the way muttering his paternosters; when they passed he marched with them, and learned that they were going to Bois-le-Duc.

A company of Walloons opened the march, and at the head was Captain Lamotte with his guard of six halberdiers; then according to their rank, the ensign with a smaller guard, the provost, his halberdiers and his two myrmidons, the chief of the watch, the baggage wardens, the executioner and his assistant, and fifes and tambourines making loud uproar.

Then came a Flemish company of two hundred men, with its captain and its standard bearer, and divided into two centuries commanded by the troop sergeants, and in decuries commanded by the rot-meesters. The provost and the stocks-knechten were likewise preceded by fifes and tambourines beating and squealing.
Behind them came, with bursts of laughter, twittering like warblers, singing like nightingales, eating, drinking, dancing, standing, lying, or riding, their women; handsome wild girls, in two open carts.

Some were clad like lansquenets, but in fine white linen low-necked, slashed on the arms, the legs, the doublet, showing their sweet flesh; with caps on their heads of fine linen edged with gold, and surmounted by handsome ostrich plumes floating in the wind. At their belts of cloth-of-gold touched off with red satin, hung the cloth-of-gold scabbards of their daggers. And their shoes, stockings, and breeches, their doublets, laces, and metal trappings were all made of gold and white silk.

Others were also clad in the fashion of landsknechts, but in blue, in green, in scarlet, in azure, in crimson, slashed, broidered, blazoned at their own caprice. And all wore upon their arm the armlet of the colour that indicated their profession.

A hoer-wyfel, their sergeant, would fain have made them keep silence; but by their captivating grimaces and speeches they forced him to laugh and never obeyed him at all.

Ulenspiegel, in pilgrim array, walked in company with the two troops, as a small boat might with a great ship. And he kept on murmuring his paternosters.

Suddenly Lamotte said to him:

“Whither art thou going thus, Pilgrim?”

“Master Captain,” replied Ulenspiegel, who was hungry, “long ago I committed a grave sin and was condemned by the chapter of Notre Dame to go a-foot to Rome to ask for pardon from the Holy Father, who accorded it to me. I came back to these countries cleansed of my offence on condition that on the way I should preach the Sacred Mysteries to all and any soldiers I might meet with, who should in return for my sermons give me bread and meat. And thus preaching I sustain my poor life. Will you grant me permission to keep my vow at the next halt?”

“Yea,” said Messire de Lamotte.

Ulenspiegel, mingling and fraternizing with the Walloons and Flemings, felt his letters underneath his doublet.

The girls cried out to him:

“Pilgrim, handsome pilgrim, come hither and show us the power of your scallops.”

Ulenspiegel, drawing near to them, said modestly:

“My sisters in God, mock not ye the poor pilgrim who goeth over mountain and by vale to preach the holy faith unto soldiers.”

And he devoured with his eyes their dainty charms.

But the girls, thrusting their sprightly faces into the openings in the canvas of the carts:

“You are very young,” said they, “to preach to soldiers. Come up into our carts, we will teach you pleasant discourses.”

Ulenspiegel would willingly have obeyed, but could not on account of his letters; already two of the girls, reaching their round white arms out of the cart, were trying to pull him up to them, when the hoer-wyfel, jealous, said to Ulenspiegel: “If you do not take yourself off, I will have your head off.”

And Ulenspiegel went farther off, looking slyly at the fresh girls, all golden in the sun, which shone bright and clear on the road.

They came to Berchem.

Philippe de Lannoy, sieur de Beauvoir, the commander of the Flemings, ordered them to halt.
At this place there was an oak of middle height, bereft of all its branches, except one big bough broken off halfway on which the month before there had been an Anabaptist hanged by the neck.

The soldiers stopped; the sutlers came to them, and sold them bread, wine, beer, meats of every kind. As for the girls, they sold them sugar, castrelins, almonds, tartlets, seeing which Ulenspiegel grew still hungrier.

Suddenly climbing up the tree like a monkey, he planted himself astride of the great bough that was some seven feet above the earth; there, lashing himself with a scourge, while the troopers and the girls made circle about him:

“In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” said he. “Amen. It is written: ‘He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord’: soldiers, and ye, beauteous dames, sweet companions in love to these valiant warriors, lend ye to the Lord, which is to say: give me bread, meat, wine, beer, if ye will, tartlets if it please you, and God, who is rich, will repay it you in morsels of ortolans, in rivers of malvoisie, in mountains of sugar candy, in rystpap which ye shall eat in paradise with silver spoons.”

Then bemoaning himself:

“See ye not with what cruel torments of penance I seek to merit forgiveness for my sins? Will ye not ease the sharp anguish of this scourge that woundeth my back and maketh me to bleed?”

“Who is this mad man?” said the troopers.

“Friends,” answered Ulenspiegel, “I am not mad, but repentant and famished; for while my spirit weepeth for its guilty crimes, my belly weepeth its lack of meat. Blessed soldiers, and you, fair damsels, I see there among you fat ham, goose, sausages, wine, beer, tartlets. Will you not give somewhat to the pilgrim?”

“Aye, aye,” said the Flemish troopers, “he has a good old phiz, the preacher.”

And all began to throw pieces of food to him like balls. Ulenspiegel ceased not to talk, and went on eating, sitting astride the bough.

“Hunger,” said he, “maketh man hard-hearted and unfit for prayer, but ham taketh away this evil humour all of a sudden.”

“Look out, crackpot!” said a troop sergeant, throwing him a bottle half full.

Ulenspiegel caught the bottle in the air, and drinking by little sips, said:

“If a sharp and raging hunger is a thing harmful to the poor body of a man, there is another thing as hurtful, and that is the anguish of a poor pilgrim to whom generous soldiers have given, one a slice of ham, the others a bottle of beer. For the pilgrim is sober by his custom, and if he drank and had in his inside such scanty and trifling nourishment, he would be drunk immediately.”

As he spoke, he caught once again a goose’s thigh in the air.

“This,” said he, “is a thing miraculous, to fish meadow fish out of the air. But it has disappeared, bone and all. What is greedier than dry sand? A barren woman and a famished stomach.”

Suddenly he felt a halberd point prick him in the seat. And he heard an ensign say:

“Do pilgrims disdain a leg of mutton for the nonce?”

Ulenspiegel saw, spitted on the blade of the halberd, a big knuckle bone. Taking it he said:

“I will make a marrow flute of it to sing thy praises, compassionate halberdier. And yet,” said he, eating at the knuckle bone, “what is a meal without dessert, what is a knuckle bone, however succulent, if after it the pilgrim doth not behold a tartlet displaying its blessed face?”

Saying this he put up his hand to his face, for two tartlets coming from the group of girls had flattened themselves out, one on his eye, the other on his cheek. And the girls laughed and Ulenspiegel answered:

“All thanks, sweet damsels, who give me accolades of sweetmeats.”

But the tartlets had fallen to the ground.

Suddenly the drums beat, the fifes squealed, and the soldiers resumed their march.

Messire de Beauvoir bade Ulenspiegel come down from his tree and march beside the troop from which he would fain have been a hundred leagues, for from the talk of some sour-faced troopers he scented that they were suspicious of him, that they would before long seize him for a spy, would search him and hang him if they found his letters.

And so, letting himself tumble into a ditch, he cried:

“Pity, soldiers; my leg is broken, I cannot walk farther, let me get up into the women’s cart.”

But he knew that the jealous hoer-wyfel would never allow it.

The girls called to him from their cart:

“Now, come up, dear pilgrim, come. We will love you, caress you, feast you, heal you all in one day.”

“I know,” said he, “a woman’s hand is a heavenly balm for every wound.”

But the jealous hoer-wyfel, speaking to Messire de Lamotte:

“Messire,” said he, “I believe that this pilgrim is fooling us with his broken leg, to get into the cart of the women. Give orders to leave him in the road.”

“That is my will,” said Messire de Lamotte.

And Ulenspiegel was left in the ditch.

Certain troopers, believing that he had really broken his leg, were sorry for it because of his jollity. They left him meat and wine enough for two days. The girls would fain have gone to help him, but not being able to, they threw him all the castrelins they had left.

The band was far away; Ulenspiegel made across the fields in his pilgrim’s robes, bought a horse, and by highways and byways he came like the wind to Bois-le-Duc.

At the news of the coming of Messires de Beauvoir and de Lamotte, the townspeople took arms to the number of eight hundred, chose captains for them, and despatched Ulenspiegel to Antwerp disguised as a coalman to ask help from the Drinking Hercules, Brederode.

And the troopers of Messires de Lamotte and de Beauvoir could not come into Bois-le-Duc, a city armed and watchful, and ready for a stout defence.