The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book IV Chapter 17

The world was then in the wolf month, which is the month of December. A thin sharp rain was falling like needles upon the sea. The Beggars were cruising in the Zuyderzee. Messire the Admiral summoned by trumpet the captains of houlques and flyboats on board his ship, and with them Ulenspiegel.
“Now,” said the Admiral, addressing himself first of all to Ulenspiegel, “the Prince is minded to recognize thy good devoirs and trusty services, and names thee as captain of the ship La Briele. Herewith I hand thee the commission engrossed upon parchment.”
“All thanks to you, Messire Admiral,” replied Ulenspiegel: “I shall be captain with all my little power, and thus captaining I have great hope, if God help me, to uncaptain Spain from the lands of Flanders and Holland: I mean from the Zuid and the Noord-Neerlande.”
“That is well,” said the admiral. “And now,” he added, speaking to them all, “I will tell you that the folk of Catholic Amsterdam are going to besiege Enckhuyse. They have not yet come out from the Y canal; let us cruise about in front that they may stay inside there and fall on each and all of their ships that may show their tyrannical carcases in the Zuyderzee.”
They made answer:
“We will knock holes in them. Long live the Beggar!”
Ulenspiegel, returned to his ship, called his soldiers and his sailors together on the deck, and told them what the admiral had decided.
They replied:
“We have wings, the which are our sails; skates, which are the keels of our ships; and giant hands, which are the grapples for boarding. Long live the Beggar!”
The fleet set forth and cruised in front of Amsterdam a sea league away, in such a sort that none could enter or come out against their will.
On the fifth day the rain ceased; the wind blew sharper in the clear sky; the Amsterdam folk made no stir.
Suddenly Ulenspiegel saw Lamme come up on deck, driving before him with great blows of his wooden ladle the ship’s truxman, a young man skilful in the French and Flemish tongues, but more skilful still in the science of the teeth.
“Good-for-naught,” said Lamme, beating him, “didst thou deem thou couldst scatheless eat my fricassees before their due time? Go up to the masthead and see if aught budges on the ships of Amsterdam. Doing this thou wilt do well.”
But the truxman answered:
“What will you give me?”
“Dost thou think,” said Lamme, “to be paid without doing the work? Thieves’ spawn, if thou dost not climb, I shall have thee flogged. And thy French shall not save thee.”
“’Tis a beauteous tongue,” said the truxman, “a tongue for love and war.”
And he climbed the mast.
“Well! lazybones?” asked Lamme.
The truxman answered:
“I see naught in the town nor on the ships.” And descending:
“Now pay me,” said he.
“Keep what thou hast stolen,” replied Lamme; “but such gains are no profit; thou wilt doubtless vomit it up.”
The truxman, climbing again to the masthead, cried out suddenly:
“Lamme! Lamme! there is a thief going into the galley.”
“I have the key in my pouch,” rejoined Lamme.
Ulenspiegel then, taking Lamme apart, said to him:
“My son, this great tranquillity of Amsterdam affrights me. They have some hidden project.”
“I thought of that,” said Lamme. “The water is freezing in the jugs in the cupboard; the fowl are like wood; hoar frost whitens the sausages; the butter is a stone, the oil is all white, the salt is dry as sand in the sun.”
“’Tis a frost at hand,” said Ulenspiegel. “They will come in great numbers to attack us with artillery.”
Going on board the admiral’s ship, he told his fear to the admiral, who answered him:
“The wind blows from England: there will be snow, but it will not freeze: go back to your ship.”
And Ulenspiegel went away.
That night heavy snow fell; but soon, the wind blowing out of Norway, the sea froze and was like a floor. The admiral beheld the sight.
Then fearing lest the Amsterdam folk might come over the ice to burn the ships, he bade the soldiers make ready their skates, in case they might have to fight around and away from the ships, and the gunners of the iron guns and the brass to pile up heaps of cannon-balls by the gun carriages, to load the pieces, and to keep the portfires always well lighted.
But the Amsterdam folk never came.
And so it was for seven days.
Towards evening on the eighth day Ulenspiegel gave orders that a good feast should be served to the sailors and men at arms, to make them a cuirass against the sharp wind that was blowing.
But Lamme said:
“There is nothing at all left now but biscuit and small beer.”
“Long live the Beggar!” said they. “’Twill be Lenten revelry until the hour of battle.”
“Which will not strike soon,” said Lamme. “The Amsterdammers will come to burn us our ships, but not on this night. First they must needs assemble themselves together around fires, and there drink many a measure of wine mulled with Madeira sugar – may God give us thereof – then having talked till midnight with patience, logic, and full stoups, they will decide that there are grounds for coming to a decision to-morrow as to whether they shall attack or not attack next week. To-morrow, again drinking wine mulled with Madeira sugar – may God give you thereof – they will decide anew with calm, patience, and full stoups, that they must assemble together another day, to the end that they may know if the ice can or cannot bear a great band of men. And they will have it proved and essayed by men of learning, who will lay down their conclusions upon parchment. Having received which, they will know that the ice is half an ell in thickness, and that it is solid enough to bear some hundreds of men with field guns and artillery. Then assembling themselves together once more to deliberate with calm, patience, and many stoups of mulled wine, they will debate whether, by reason of the treasure seized by us from the men of Lisbon, it is more suitable to assault or to burn our ships. And being thus perplexed, but temporizers, they will none the less decide that they must capture and not burn our ships, notwithstanding the great wrong and hurt they would do us by that.”
“You say well,” replied Ulenspiegel; “but see you not those fires kindle up within the town, and folk bearing lanterns running busily about there?”
“’Tis because they are cold,” said Lamme.
And he added, sighing:
“Everything is eaten. No more beef, pork, nor poultry; no more wine, alas! nor good dobbel-bier, nothing but biscuit and small beer. Let who loves me follow me!”
“Whither goest thou?” said Ulenspiegel. “No man may go from the ship.”
“My son,” said Lamme, “thou art captain and master as now. I will never go from the ship if thou dost forbid it. Yet deign to consider that we ate the last of our sausage on the day before yesterday: and that in this stern weather the fire of the kitchen is the sun of good companions. Who would not fain smell here the odour of sauces; sniff up the fragrant bouquet of the divine drink made of those joyous blossoms that are gaiety, laughter, and good will to every man? And so, captain and trusty friend, I dare say this: I devour my very soul, since I eat naught, I who, though loving but repose, never slaying by my will, save it were a tender goose, a fat chicken, a succulent turkey, follow thee amid fatigue and battles. See from here the lights in that rich farm well furnished of big and little cattle. Knowest thou who it is that dwelleth there? It is the boatman of Frisia, that betrayed Messire Dandelot and furthermore brought to Enckhuyse, while it was still in D’Alba’s hand, eighteen poor lords our friends, the which, of his doing, were beheaded on the Horse Market at Brussels. This traitor, who hath to name Slosse, got from the duke two thousand florins for his treachery. With the price of that blood, a very Judas, he purchased the farm thou seest there, and his great cattle and the fields around about, which bearing fruit and increasing, I mean land and herds, make him rich as now.”
Ulenspiegel replied:
“The ashes beat upon my heart. Thou makest the hour of God to strike.”
“And,” said Lamme, “the hour of food in like wise. Give me twenty lads, valiant soldiers and sailors; I will go and seek out the traitor.”
“I will be their leader,” said Ulenspiegel. “Who loves justice let him follow me. Not all of you, dear friends and trusty; there must be twenty only, else who would keep the ship? Draw lots by the dice. Ye are twenty, come. The dice speak well. Put your skates on your feet and glide towards the star of Venus burning bright above the treachour’s farm.
“Guiding yourselves by the clear beam, come, ye twenty, skating and sliding, axe on shoulder.
“The wind whistles and drives white whirls of snow before it on the ice. Come, brave men!
“Ye sing not, nor speak; ye go straight on, in silence, towards the star; your skates make the ice complain.
“He that falls picks himself up at once. We touch the shore; no human shape on the white snow, not a bird in the icy air. Take off the skates from your feet.
“Here we are on land; here are the meadows; put on your skates again. We are round about the farm, holding our breath.”
Ulenspiegel knocks on the door; dogs bark. He knocks again, a window opens and the baes says, sticking out his head:
“Who art thou?”
He sees but Ulenspiegel only: the others are concealed behind the keet, which is the washhouse.
Ulenspiegel makes answer:
“Messire de Boussu bids thee betake thee to him at Amsterdam upon the instant.”
“Where is thy safe-conduct?” said the man, coming down and opening the door to him.
“Here,” replied Ulenspiegel, showing him the twenty Beggars who hurl themselves behind him into the opening.
Ulenspiegel then says to him:
“Thou art Slosse, the traitor boatman that brought into an ambuscade Messires Dandelot, de Battenberg, and other lords. Where is the price of their blood?”
The farmer replies, trembling:
“Ye are the Beggars; grant me a pardon; I knew not what I did. I have no money here within; I will give all I have.”
Lamme said:
“It is black dark; give us candles of tallow or of wax.”
The baes replies:
“The tallow candles are hanging there.”
A candle being lit, said one of the Beggars, in the hearthplace:
“It is cold; let us kindle a fire. Here are proper faggots.”
And he pointed out upon a shelf flower pots in which withered and dried plants might be seen.
He took one by the stalk and shaking it with the pot, the pot fell, scattering over the ground ducats, florins, and reals.
“There is the treasure,” said he, pointing to the other flower pots.
In very deed, having emptied them, they found ten thousand florins.
Seeing which, the baes cried out and wept.
The farm servants, both men and maids, came to the cries, in shirts and smocks. The men wishing to avenge their master, were bound. Soon the shamefaced women, and especially the younger, hid behind the men.
Then Lamme went forward and said:
“Traitor farmer, where are the keys of the cellar, the stables, the cowshed, and the sheep-pens?”
“Infamous pillagers,” said the baes, “ye shall be hanged until ye are dead.”
Ulenspiegel replied:
“It is the hour of God; give up the keys!”
“God will avenge me,” said the baes, handing them over to him.
Having emptied the farm, the Beggars departed skating towards the ships, those light dwelling places of freedom.
“Master cook am I,” said Lamme, guiding them; “Master cook am I. Push along the gallant sledges laden with wines and beer; drive on before you, by their horns, or by anything, horses, oxen, swine, sheep, and flocks singing their native songs. The pigeons coo in the baskets; the capons, stuffed with crumb, are astonied in their wooden cages wherein they cannot budge. I am master cook. The ice cries out beneath the steel of the skates. We are at the ships. To-morrow there will be kitchen music. Let down the pulleys; put girths on the horses, cows, and oxen. ’Tis a noble sight to see them thus pendent by their bellies; to-morrow we shall be hanging by the tongue to fat fricassees. The crane hoists them up into the ship. These be carbonadoes. Throw me them pell mell into the hold, hens, geese, ducks, capons. Who will wring their necks? The master cook. The door is locked, I have the key in my satchel. Praised be God in the kitchen! Long live the Beggar!”
Then Ulenspiegel went on board the admiral’s ship taking with him Dierick Slosse and the other prisoners, moaning and weeping for terror of the rope.
Messire Worst came at the noise: perceiving Ulenspiegel – his companions lit up by the red glare of the torches:
“What would you of us?” said he.
Ulenspiegel replied:
“This night we took, in his farm, the traitor Dierick Slosse, that brought the eighteen into an ambuscade. This is the man. The others are innocent menservants and maidservants. Then handing him a satchel:
“These florins,” said he, “were flourishing in flower pots in the traitor’s house: there are ten thousand.”
Messire Worst said to them:
“Ye did ill to leave your ship; but because of your good success pardon shall be granted to you. Welcome be the prisoners and the satchel of florins, and ye, gallant men, to whom I assign, after the laws and customs of the sea, a third of the prize: the second will be for the fleet, and another third for Monseigneur d’Orange; string me up the traitor incontinent.”
The Beggars having obeyed, they opened afterward a hole in the ice and threw the body of Dierick Slosse into it.
Messire Worst then said:
“Has grass sprung up around the ships that I hear hens cackling, sheep bleating, cows and oxen lowing?”
“These are the prisoners of our teeth,” answered Ulenspiegel; “they will pay ransom of fricassees. Messire Admiral shall have the choicest.”
“As for these folk, the knaves and the maidservants, among whom are sprightly and pretty women, I will fetch them back aboard my ship.”
Having done so, he addressed them as follows:
“Goodfellows and goodwives, ye are here upon the best ship in the world. Here we pass our time in jollity, feast, and revel without end. If it please you to depart herefrom, pay ransom; if it please you to stay here, ye shall live like us, toiling hard and eating well. As for these dear women, I accord them, with the admiral’s sanction, full freedom of their persons, giving them to know that it is all one to me whether they are fain to keep to their lovers that came upon the ship with them or to make their choice of some stout Beggar here present in order to bear him conjugal company.”
But the fair women were all faithful to their lovers, save only one, who, smiling and looking upon Lamme, asked him if he would have her.
“All thanks, dear one,” said he, “but I am otherwise bound.”
“He is married, poor fellow,” said the Beggars, seeing the girl vexed.
But she, turning her back on Lamme, chose another who like him had a good round belly and a good round face.
That day and the following days there were great revels and feastings on board with wines, fowl, and meats. And Ulenspiegel said:
“Long live the Beggar! Blow, sharp wintry winds, we will warm the air with our hot breath. Our heart is afire for freedom of conscience; our stomachs on fire for the enemy’s meats. Drink we wine, the milk of men. Long live the Beggar!”
Nele, too, drank from a great golden tankard, and ruddy in the breath of the wind, played the shrill fife. And for all the cold, the Beggars ate and drank rejoicing on the deck.