The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book IV Chapter 3

The world was in January, the cruel month that freezes the calf in the cow’s belly. It had snowed, and frozen over and above. The lads were taking with birdlime sparrows seeking some poor food on the hardened snow, and carried off this game into their cottages. Against the gray clear sky stood out motionless the skeletons of the trees, whose branches were covered with snowy cushions that covered also the cottages and the coping of walls on which were seen the prints of the paws of cats, which, like the boys, were hunting sparrows over the snow. At a distance the meadows were hidden over by this marvellous fleece, keeping the earth warm against the bitter cold of winter. The smoke of houses and cottages rose up black into the sky, and there was no noise heard of any kind.
And Katheline and Nele were alone in their house; and Katheline, nodding her head, said:
“Hans, my heart turns to thee. Thou must give back the seven hundred carolus to Ulenspiegel, the son of Soetkin. If thou art poor, come none the less that I may see thy shining face. Take away the fire, my head burns. Alas! where are thy snow-cold kisses? Where is thy icy body, Hans, my beloved?”
And she kept at the window. Suddenly there passed, running at full speed, a voet-looper, a courier carrying bells at his belt, and calling out:
“Here cometh the bailiff, the high bailiff of Damme!”
And he went thus as far as the Townhall, so as to assemble there the burgomasters and the sheriffs.
Then in the thick silence Nele heard two clarions sound. All the people of Damme came to their doors, believing it was His Majesty the king who announced himself by such flourishes.
And Katheline also went to the door with Nele. From afar they saw resplendent horsemen riding in a band, and before them, also on horseback, a personage covered in an opperst-kleed of black velvet laced with fine gold, and boots of yellow calfskin furred with marten. And they recognized the high bailiff.
Behind him there rode young lords, who, notwithstanding the ordinance of his late Imperial Majesty, wore on their velvet accoutrements embroideries, trimmings, bands, edgings, of gold, of silver, and of silk. And their opperst-kleederen, under their outer garments, were edged with fur like those of the bailiff. They rode gaily along, shaking in the wind the long ostrich feathers that adorned their bonnets, gold buttoned and gold laced.
And they seemed to be all of them good friends and companions of the grand bailiff, and notably a lord of sharp visage clad in green velvet trimmed with gold lace, and a cloak of black velvet like his bonnet adorned with long plumes. And he had a nose shaped like a vulture’s beak, a thin mouth, red hair, a pale face, and haughty carriage.
While the troop of these lords was passing in front of Katheline’s house suddenly she darted to the bridle of the pale lord’s horse, and beside herself with joy, she cried out:
“Hans! my beloved, I knew it; thou art back. Thou art goodly thus in velvet and all in gold like a sun upon the snow! Dost thou bring me the seven hundred carolus? Shall I hear thee once more crying like the sea-eagle?”
The high bailiff stopped the troop of gentlemen, and the pale lord said:
“What doth this beggar want with me?”
But Katheline, still keeping hold of the horse by the bridle:
“Do not go away again,” said she, “I have wept so much for thee. Sweet nights, my beloved, kisses of snow – body of ice. The child is here!”
And she pointed him to Nele who was looking at him in anger, for he had raised his whip to Katheline: but Katheline, weeping:
“Ah!” said she, “dost thou not remember at all? Have pity on thy handmaiden. Take her with thee wherever thou wilt. Take away the fire, Hans; pity!”
“Begone!” said he.
And he drove his horse on so hard that Katheline, loosing the bridle, fell; and the horse stepped on her and gave her a bloody wound in the forehead.
The bailiff then said to the pale lord:
“Messire, do you know this woman?”
“I do not know her at all,” said he, “doubtless it is some mad creature.”
But Nele, having raised Katheline from the ground:
“If this woman is mad, I am not, Monseigneur, and I pray that I may die here of this snow that I eat” – and she took up snow in her fingers – “if this man has not known my mother, if he did not borrow all her money, if he did not kill Claes’s dog in order to take from the wall of the well at our house seven hundred carolus belonging to the poor dead man.”
“Hans, my darling,” wept Katheline, bleeding, and on her knees, “Hans, my beloved, give me the kiss of peace: see the blood flowing: my soul has made the hole and would fain come forth: I shall die presently: leave me not.” Then in a whisper: “Long ago thou didst slay thy comrade for jealousy, along by the dyke.” And she stretched out her finger in the direction of Dudzeele. “Thou didst love me well in those days.”
And she caught the gentleman’s knee and embraced it, and she took his boot and kissed it.
“What is this slain man?” asked the high bailiff.
“I do not know, Monseigneur,” said he. “We have nothing to do with the talk of this beggarwoman; let us forward.”
The populace was assembling around them; the townsmen great and small, artisans and rustics, taking Katheline’s part, cried out:
“Justice, Monseigneur Bailiff, justice.”
And the bailiff said to Nele:
“What is this slain man? Speak in accordance with God and the truth.”
Nele spoke and said, pointing to the pale gentleman:
“This man came every Saturday to the keet to see my mother and to take her money: he killed a friend of his, Hilbert by name, in the field of Servaes van der Vichte, not for love, as this innocent distracted woman thinks, but to have for himself alone the seven hundred carolus.”
And Nele told of Katheline’s loves and what she heard when she was hidden by night behind the dyke that ran through the field of Servaes van der Vichte.
“Nele is bad,” said Katheline; “she speaks hardly of Hans, her father.”
“I swear,” said Nele, “that he used to cry like a sea-eagle to announce his presence.”
“Thou liest,” said the gentleman.
“Oh, no!” said Nele, “and monseigneur the bailiff and all these noble lords here present see it well: thou art pale not for cold, but with fear. Whence comes it that thy face no longer shines: thou hast then lost thy magic compound wherewith thou wast wont to rub it that it might appear bright, like the waves in summer when it thunders? But sorcerer accursed, thou shalt be burned before the doors of the Townhall. ’Tis thou that didst cause Soetkin’s death, thou that didst reduce her orphan son to want; thou, a man of noble rank, doubtless, and who wast wont to come to us burgesses to bring my mother money once only and to take money from her all the other times.”
“Hans,” said Katheline, “thou wilt bring me again to the Sabbath and wilt rub me again with ointment; do not listen to Nele, she is bad: thou seest the blood, the soul has made the hole and would come forth: I shall die soon and I shall go into limbo where it burneth not.”
“Hold thy tongue, mad witch, I know thee not,” said the gentleman, “and know not what thou wouldst say.”
“And yet,” said Nele, “it was thou that camest with a companion and wouldst have given him to me for a husband: thou knowest that I would have none of him; what did he do, thy friend Hilbert, what did he do with his eyes after I had sunk my nails into them?”
“Nele is bad,” said Katheline, “do not believe her, Hans, my darling: she is angry against Hilbert who would have taken her by force, but Hilbert cannot do it now; the worms have eaten him: and Hilbert was ugly. Hans, my darling, thou alone art goodly; Nele is bad.”
Upon this the bailiff said:
“Women, go in peace.”
But Katheline would by no means leave the place where her friend was. And they must needs bring her to her house by force.
And all the people there assembled cried out:
“Justice, Monseigneur, justice!”
The constables of the commune having come up at the noise, the bailiff bade them remain, and he said to the lords and gentlemen:
“Messeigneurs and Messires, notwithstanding all privileges protecting the illustrious order of nobility in the country of Flanders I must needs, upon the accusations and especially upon that of witchcraft, laid against Messire Joos Damman, have his person apprehended until he be judged according to the laws and ordinances of the Empire. Give me your sword, Messire Joos.”
“Monseigneur Bailiff,” said Joos Damman, with the utmost hauteur and pride of nobility, “in apprehending my person you are transgressing the law of Flanders, for you are not yourself a judge. Now you are aware that it is permitted to arrest without a warrant from a judge only false coiners, robbers on public roads and highways; fire-raisers, ravishers of women; gendarmes deserting their captain; enchanters making use of poison to poison water springs; monks or nuns that have renounced their vows and banished men. And now, Messires and Messeigneurs, defend me!”
Some would have obeyed, but the bailiff said to them:
“Messeigneurs and Messires, as representing here our king, count, and overlord, to whom is reserved the decision of difficult cases, I command and order you, upon pain of being proclaimed rebels, to return your swords to their scabbards.”
The gentlemen having obeyed, and Messire Joos Damman still hesitating, the people cried out:
“Justice, Monseigneur, justice; let him give up his sword.”
He did so then against his will, and dismounting from his horse, he was brought by two constables to the prison of the commune.
All the same, he was not shut up in the cellars, but in a barred chamber, where he had, for payment, a good fire, a good bed, and good food, the half of which the gaoler took.