The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book IV Chapter 5

The next day, the wind blowing from Brabant, the snow melted and the meadows were flooded.
And the bell called borgstorm called the judges to the tribunal of the Vierschare, under the penthouse, because of the dampness of the turf.
And the populace surrounded the tribunal.
Joos Damman, being interrogated, confessed that he had killed his friend Hilbert in single combat with the sword. When they said to him: “He was smitten with a poignard,” Joos Damman replied: “I struck him on the ground because he died not quick enough. I confess this murder of my own will, being under the protection of the laws of Flanders which forbid the prosecution, after ten years, of a manslayer.”
The bailiff, addressing him:
“Art thou not a sorcerer?” said he.
“No,” replied Damman.
“Prove this,” said the bailiff.
“I will prove it at the proper time and place,” said Joos Damman, “but it pleaseth me not to do so as now.”
The bailiff then questioned Katheline; she never listened to him, and gazing at Hans:
“Thou art my green lord, lovely as the sun. Take away the fire, my darling!”
Nele, then speaking for Katheline, said:
“She can confess naught but what ye know already, Monseigneur and Messieurs; she is no witch, and only bereft of her wits.”
The bailiff then spoke and said:
“A sorcerer is one that, by diabolical means wittingly employed, endeavours to attain somewhat. Now, these twain, man and woman, are sorcerers by intent and deed: he, in having given the ointment for the sabbath, and in having made his face bright like Lucifer in order to obtain money and the satisfying of lewdness; she, in having submitted herself to him, taking him for a devil, and for having given herself up to his desires: the one being the worker of witchcraft, the other his manifest accomplice. There can therefore be no pity, and I must say this, for I perceive the aldermen and the populace over-indulgent in the case of the woman. She has not, it is true, killed or robbed, nor bewitched either beasts or mankind, nor healed any sick by remedies extraordinary, but only by known simples, as an honest and Christian physician; but she would have given up her daughter to the devil, and if this maid had not in her youth resisted with frank and valiant courage she would have yielded to Hilbert and would have become a sorceress like the other. Accordingly, I put it to the members of this tribunal if they are not of the opinion to put both these two to the torture?”
The aldermen made no answer, showing sufficiently that this was not their desire with regard to Katheline.
The bailiff then said, continuing his discourse:
“I am, like yourselves, touched with pity and compassion for her, but this sorceress, bereft of her wits, so obedient to the devil, might she not, had her lewd co-defendant so bidden her, have been capable of cutting off her daughter’s head with a sickle, even as Catherine Daru, in the country of France, did to her two daughters at the invitation of the devil? Might she not, if her black husband had so bidden her, have put animals to death; turned the butter in the churn by throwing sugar in it; been present in the body at all the worship and homage to the devil, dance, abominations, and copulations of sorcerers? Might she not have eaten human flesh, killed children to make pasties of them and sell them, as did a pastry cook in Paris; cut off the thighs of hanged men and carry them away to bite into them raw and thus commit infamous robbery and sacrilege? And I ask of the tribunal that in order to discover whether Katheline and Joos Damman have not committed other crimes than those already known and called into account, they be both put to the torture. Joos Damman refusing to confess anything further than the murder, and Katheline not having told everything, the laws of the empire enjoin upon us to proceed as I indicate.”
And the aldermen gave sentence of torture for the Friday which was the day after the morrow.
And Nele cried: “Grace, Messeigneurs!” and the people cried with her. But it was in vain.
And Katheline, looking at Joos Damman, said:
“I have Hilbert’s hand; come and take it to-night, my beloved.”
And they were taken back to the prison.
There by order of the tribunal, the gaoler was ordered to assign two guardians to each of them, to beat them every time they would have slept; but the two guardians of Katheline left her to sleep all night, and those of Joos Damman beat him cruelly every time he closed his eyes or even nodded his head.
They were hungry all day on Wednesday, the same night and all Thursday until night, when they were given food and drink, meat salted and saltpetred, and water salted and saltpetred likewise. That was the beginning of their torment. And in the morning they brought them, crying out for thirst, into the torture chamber.
There they were set face to face with one another, and bound each upon a bench covered with knotted ropes which made them suffer grievously.
And they were each forced to drink a glass of water, full of salt and saltpetre.
Joos Damman beginning to sleep upon his bench, the constables struck him.
And Katheline said:
“Do not strike him, sirs; you break his poor body. He only committed one crime, for love, when he killed Hilbert. I am athirst, and thou, too, Hans my beloved. Give him to drink first. Water! Water! my body burns. Spare him, I will die soon in his place. A drink!”
Joos said to her:
“Ugly witch, die and burst like a bitch. Throw her in the fire, Messieurs the Judges. I am athirst!”
The clerks took down all he said.
The bailiff then said to him:
“Hast thou nothing to confess?”
“I have nothing more to say,” replied Damman; “you know all.”
“Since he persists,” said the bailiff, “in his denials, he shall remain on these benches and on these cords until he makes a fresh and full confession, and he shall be athirst, and he shall be kept from sleeping.”
“I will stay here,” said Joos Damman, “and I will take my pleasure in seeing that witch suffer on this bench. How do you find the marriage bed, my love?”
And Katheline replied, groaning:
“Cold arms and hot heart, Hans, my beloved. I am athirst; my head burns!”
“And thou, woman,” said the bailiff, “hast thou naught to say?”
“I hear,” said she, “the chariot of death and the dry noise of bones. I thirst! And he taketh me to a great river where there is water, water fresh and clear; but this water it is fire. Hans, my dear, deliver me from these cords. Yea, I am in purgatory and I see on high Monseigneur Jesus in his paradise and Madame Virgin so full of compassion. O our dear Lady, give me one drop of water: do not eat those lovely fruits all alone.”
“This woman is smitten with cruel madness,” said one of the aldermen. “She must be taken from the bench of torment.”
“She is no more mad than I,” said Joos Damman; “it is mere play and acting.” And in a threatening voice: “I shall see thee in the fire,” he said to Katheline, “thou playest the madwoman so well.”
And grinding his teeth, he laughed at his cruel lie.
“I thirst,” said Katheline; “have pity, I thirst. Hans, my beloved, give me to drink. How white thy face is! Let me come to him, Messieurs the Judges.” And opening her mouth wide: “Yea, yea, they are now putting fire in my breast, and the devils fasten me on this cruel bed. Hans, take thy sword and slay them, thou so mighty. Water, to drink, to drink!”
“Perish, witch,” said Joos Damman; “they ought to thrust a choke-pear into her mouth to keep her from setting herself up thus, a low creature like her, against me, a man of rank.”
At this word one of the aldermen, an enemy of the nobility, replied:
“Messire Bailiff, it is contrary to the laws and customs of the empire to put a choke-pear into the mouth of any that are being interrogated, for they are here to tell the truth, and for us to judge them from what they say. That is permitted only when the accused being condemned might, upon the scaffold, speak to the people, and in this way move them, and stir up popular feelings.”
“I thirst,” said Katheline, “give me to drink, Hans, my darling.”
“Ah!” said he, “thou dost suffer, accursed witch, sole cause of all the torments I am enduring; but in this torture chamber thou shalt undergo the pain of the candles, the strappado, the wooden splinters under the nails of thy feet and hands. They will make thee ride naked astride a coffin whose back will be sharp as a blade, and thou shalt confess that thou art not mad, but a foul witch to whom Satan hath given it in charge to work evil upon noble men. A drink!”
“Hans, my beloved,” said Katheline, “be not wroth with thy handmaiden! I suffer a thousand pangs for thee, my lord. Spare him, Messieurs the Judges. Give him a full goblet to drink, and keep but one drop for me. Hans, is it not yet the hour of the sea-eagle?”
The bailiff then said to Joos Damman:
“When thou didst kill Hilbert, what was the motive of this combat?”
“It was,” said Joos, “for a girl at Heyst we both wished to have.”
“A girl at Heyst!” cried Katheline, trying at all costs to rise up from her bench; “thou art deceiving me for another, traitor devil. Didst thou know that I was listening to thee behind the dyke when thou saidst that thou wouldst fain have all the money, which was Claes’s money? Without doubt it was to go and spend it with her in liquorishness and revelling! Alas! and I that would have given him my blood if he could have made gold of it! And all for another! Be accursed!”
But suddenly, weeping and trying to turn round on her bench of torture:
“Nay, Hans, say that thou wilt still love thy poor handmaid, and I shall scratch the earth with my fingers and find thee a treasure; aye, there is such; and I will go with the hazel twig that bends this way and that where there are metals; and I will find it and bring it back to thee; kiss me, darling, and thou shalt be rich; and we shall eat meat, and we shall drink beer every day; aye, aye, all these folk also drink beer; fresh, foaming beer. Oh! sirs, give me but one single drop; I am in the fire; Hans, I know well where there are hazel trees, but we must wait for the spring time.”
“Hold thy tongue, witch,” said Joos Damman; “I know thee not. Thou hast taken Hilbert for me: it was he that came to see thee. And in thy wicked mind thou didst call him Hans. Know that I am not called Hans, but Joos: we were of the same height, Hilbert and I. I do not know thee; it was Hilbert, without doubt, that stole the seven hundred florins carolus; give me to drink; my father will pay a hundred florins for a little goblet of water; but I know not this woman.”
“Monseigneur and Messires,” exclaimed Katheline, “he saith he knows me not, but I know him well, I, and know that he hath upon his back a mole, brown, and of the size of a bean. Ah! thou didst love a girl at Heyst! Doth a good lover blush for his lover? Hans, am I not still fair?”
“Fair!” said he, “thou hast a face like a medlar and a body like a century of faggots: see the trash that would be loved by noble men! Give me to drink!”
“Thou didst not speak so, Hans, my sweet lord,” said she, “when I was sixteen years younger than I am now.” Then, beating her head and her breast: “’Tis the fire that is there,” said she, “and dries up my heart and withers my face. Do not reproach me with it; dost thou remember when we ate salt meat to drink better, so thou saidst? Now the salt is in us, my beloved, and monseigneur the bailiff is drinking Romagna wine. We do not want wine: give us water. It runs among the grass, the streamlet that makes the clear spring; the good water, it is cold. Nay, it burns. It is water of hell.” And Katheline wept, and she said: “I have done ill to no one, and the whole world casteth me into the fire. Give me to drink; men give water to straying dogs. I am a Christian woman. Give me to drink. I have done no ill to any. Give me to drink.”
An alderman then spoke and said:
“This witch is mad only in what concerns the fire she saith burns her head, but she is nowise mad upon other matters, since she helped us with a clear head to discover the remains of the dead man. If the mole is there upon the body of Joos Damman, that sign sufficeth to establish his identity with the devil Hans, for whom Katheline was out of her wits; tormentor, let us see the mark.”
The tormentor, uncovering Damman’s neck and shoulder, showed the mole, brown and hairy.
“Ah!” said Katheline, “how white is thy skin! One would say a girl’s shoulders; thou art goodly, Hans, my beloved: give me to drink!”
The tormentor then thrust a long needle into the mole. But it did not bleed.
And the aldermen said one to the other:
“This man is a devil, and he must have killed Joos Damman and taken his shape the more securely to deceive the poor world.”
And the bailiff and the aldermen fell into fear.
“He is a devil and there is witchcraft in it.”
And Joos Damman said:
“Ye know there is no witchcraft, and that there are such fleshy excrescences that can be pricked without bleeding. If Hilbert hath taken this witch’s money, for it is she that confesseth to have lain with the devil, he could well have done so by the good and free will of this foul hag. And was thus, being a man of rank, paid for his caresses even as bona robas are every day. Are there not in the world, the same as girls, gay fellows that make women pay for their strength and comeliness?”
The aldermen said one to another:
“See you his diabolical assurance? His hairy wart hath not bled: being an assassin, a devil, and a magician, he would fain pass simply for a duellist, throwing his other crimes on to the devil his friend, whose body he has killed, but not his spirit… And consider how pale his face is.” – “Thus appear all the devils, red in hell, and pale on earth, for they have none of the fire of life that giveth ruddiness to the countenance, and they are ashes within.” – “We must put him in the fire that he may be red and that he may burn.”
Then said Katheline:
“Yea, he is a devil, but a kind devil, a sweet devil. And Monseigneur Saint Jacques, his patron, has given him licence to come out of hell. He prays Monseigneur Jesus for him every day. He will have but seven thousand years of purgatory: Madame Virgin wishes it, but Monsieur Satan is against it. None the less Madame does what she has a mind to. Will he go against her? If ye consider well, ye shall see he hath kept naught of his estate and condition as a devil, save the cold body, and also the face luminous as are the waves of the sea in August when it is like to thunder.”
And Joos Damman said:
“Hold thy tongue, witch, thou wilt burn me.” Then speaking to the bailiff and the aldermen: “Look at me, I am no devil; I have flesh and bones, blood and water. I drink and eat, digest and void like yourselves; my skin is like yours, my foot likewise; tormentor, take my boots off, for I cannot budge with my feet bound.”
The tormentor did so, not without fear.
“Look,” said Joos, showing his white feet: “are those cloven feet, devil’s feet? As for my paleness, is there none of you that is pale like me? I see more than three among you. But the sinner is not I, but verily this ugly witch, and her daughter, the evil accuser. Whence did she have the money she lent to Hilbert; whence came those florins that she gave him? Was it not the devil that paid her to accuse and bring death to men of noble birth and guiltless? It is those twain that should be asked who killed the dog in the yard, who dug the hole and went off leaving it empty, doubtless to hide the stolen treasure in another place. Soetkin the widow had placed no trust in me, for she never knew me, but in them, and saw them every day. It is they that stole the Emperor’s property.”
The clerk wrote, and the bailiff said to Katheline:
“Woman, hast thou naught to say for thy defence?”
Katheline, looking upon Joos Damman, said most amorously:
“It is the hour of the sea-eagle. I have Hilbert’s hand, Hans, my beloved. They say that thou wilt give me back the seven hundred carolus. Take away the fire! Take away the fire!” cried she after that. “Give me to drink! to drink! my head burns. God and the angels are eating apples in the sky.”
And she lost consciousness.
“Loosen her from the bench of torment,” said the bailiff.
The tormentor and his assistants obeyed. And she was seen staggering and with feet swollen out, for the tormentor had pulled the cords too tight.
“Give her to drink,” said the bailiff.
Cold water was given her, and she swallowed it greedily, holding the goblet in her teeth as a dog does with a bone and not willing to let it go. Then they gave her more water, and she would have gone to take it to Joos Damman, but the tormentor took the goblet out of her hands. And she fell sleeping like a lump of lead.
Joos Damman cried out furiously:
“I, too, I thirst and am sleepy. Why do you give her to drink? Why do you leave her to sleep?”
“She is weak, a woman, and out of her wits,” replied the bailiff.
“Her madness is a game,” said Joos Damman, “she is a witch. I want to drink, I want to sleep!”
And he shut his eyes, but the tormentor’s knechts struck him on the face.
“Give me a knife,” he shouted, “till I cut these clowns to pieces: I am a man of rank, and I have never been struck in the face. Water, let me sleep, I am innocent. It was not I that took the seven hundred carolus, it was Hilbert. Give me to drink! I never committed sorceries or incantations. I am innocent. Let me go. Give me to drink!”
The bailiff then:
“How,” he asked, “hast thou spent thy time since thou didst leave Katheline?”
“I know not Katheline; I have never left her,” said he. “Ye question me on matters foreign to the case. I need not answer you. Give me to drink; let me sleep. I tell you it was Hilbert that did all.”
“Untie him,” said the bailiff. “Take him back to his prison. But let him thirst and have no sleep until he hath confessed his sorceries and incantations.”
And that was a cruel torture to Damman. He cried out in his cell: “Give me to drink! Give me to drink!” so loud that the people heard him, but without any pity. And when his guardians struck him in the face as he was falling with sleep, he was like a tiger and cried:
“I am a man of rank and will kill you, ye clowns. I will go to the king, our head. Give me to drink.” But he confessed nothing, and they left him alone.