The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 11

The year had been a good one, and Claes bought a donkey and nine measures of peas for seven florins and one morning he mounted on the beast, and Ulenspiegel clung to the crupper behind him. They were going in this fashion to salute their uncle and elder brother, Josse Claes, who lived not far from Meyborg in Germany.

Josse, who had been simple and kind in his youth, having suffered various wrongs, became crotchety and malicious, his blood turned to bile in his veins, he became misanthropic and lived solitary and alone.

His delight then was to make two so-called faithful friends fight each other, and he would give three patards to the one that gave the other the hardest drubbing.

He loved also to bring together in a well-heated room a great many old gossips, the oldest and crabbedest that could be found, and he would give them toasted bread to eat and hypocras to drink.

Those who were more than sixty years old he gave wool to knit in a corner, recommending them to let their nails always grow long. And it was a marvel to hear all the gurgling, the tongue clacking, the ill-natured tattle, the thin coughings and spittings of these old hags, who, with their knitting needles under their armpits, sat all together nibbling at their neighbours’ good name.

Now when he saw them all animated and lively, Josse would throw a hank of hair into the fire, and as it flared up the air would all at once be poisoned.

The gossips then, all talking together, would accuse each other of making the stench; all denying it, they would very soon have each other by the hair, and Josse would go on throwing more hair on the fire, and chopped up horsehair on the floor. When he could see no longer, by reason of the fury of the m?l?e, the thick smoke and the flying dust, he would fetch two of his men disguised as constables, who would drive the old women out of the hall, beating them soundly with long switches, like a troop of angry geese.

And Josse would examine the battlefield, finding strips of clothes, fragments of shoes, pieces of chemises, and old teeth.

And filled with melancholy he would say to himself:

“My day is wasted, never a one of them has left her tongue behind in the mêlée”