The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 4

At Damme they called Ulenspiegel’s father Claes the Kooldraeger or coalman: Claes had a black fell, eyes shining bright, a skin the same colour as his wares, except on Sundays and feast days, when there was great plenty of soap in the cottage. He was short, square, and strong, and of a gay countenance.

When the day was ended and the evening shadows were falling, if he went to some tavern on the Bruges road, to wash out his coal-blackened gullet with cuyte, all the women taking the cool air on their doorsteps would call out a friendly greeting:

“Good even and clear beer, coalman!”

“Good even and a wakeful husband,” Claes would reply.

The lasses coming back from the fields in troops used to plant themselves all in front of him so as to prevent him from going on, and would say:

“What will you give for your right of way: scarlet ribbon, gilt buckle, velvet shoon, or florin in the pouch?”

But Claes would take one round the waist and kiss her cheeks or her neck, according to which fresh skin was nearest his mouth, then he would say:

“Ask your lovers, darlings, ask your lovers for the rest.”

Then they would go off in bursts of laughter.

The boys knew Claes by his big voice and the clatter of his shoes. Running to him they would say:

“Good evening, coalman.”

“God give you the like, my cherublings,” Claes would answer, “but don’t come too close, or I shall turn you into blackamoors.”

The little fellows, being bold, would come close all the same; and then he would seize one by the tunic, and rubbing his soft little muzzle with his smutty hands, would send him back like that, laughing in spite of it, to the great delight of all the others.

Soetkin, Claes’s wife, was a good helpmeet, early as the dawn and diligent as the ant.

She and Claes tilled their field together, yoking themselves like oxen to the plough. Hard and toilsome was the dragging, but harder still the harrowing when that rustic engine must tear the stiff earth with its wooden teeth. Yet always they worked light-hearted, singing some ballad song.

And in vain was the earth stony hard; in vain did the sun dart his hottest beams upon them: dragging the harrow, bending at the knees, it was as naught that they must strain their loins cruelly; when they would pause, and Soetkin turn toward Claes her gentle face, and Claes kiss that mirror of a tender heart, then, ah, then, they would forget their utter weariness.