The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 35

In the fields, he shook himself like a bird or like a dog loosed from the lead, and his heart took comfort before the trees, the meadows, the clear sun.

Having walked for three days, he came to the neighbourhood of Brussels, in the powerful commune of Uccle. Passing before the hostelry of the Trumpet, he was enticed by a celestial fragrance of fricassees. He asked a little tramp who, nose in air, was regaling himself with the odour of the sauces, in whose honour this festival incense arose to heaven. The other replied that the Brothers of the Good Red Nose were to assemble after vespers to celebrate the deliverance of the commune by the women and girls in olden time.

Ulenspiegel, spying from far off a pole surmounted by a popinjay, and all around goodwives armed with bows, asked if women were becoming archers nowadays.

The tramp, sniffing up the odour of the sauces, replied that in the days of the Good Duke those same bows, in the hands of the women of Uccle, had laid low more than a hundred brigands.

Ulenspiegel, desiring to know more of this, the tramp told him that he would not say another word so hungry and so thirsty was he, unless he gave him a patard for food and drink. Ulenspiegel gave it him out of pity.

As soon as the tramp had his patard, he went into the Trumpet Inn, like a fox into a henroost, and came out in triumph with half a sausage and a great hunch of bread.

All at once Ulenspiegel heard a soft noise of tambourines and viols, and beheld a great troop of women dancing, and among them a comely matron with a gold chain about her neck.

The tramp, who laughed for joy at having had something to eat, told Ulenspiegel that this handsome young woman was the Queen of the Archery, was called Mietje, the wife of Messire Renonckel, the sheriff of the commune. Then he asked Ulenspiegel for six liards for drink: Ulenspiegel gave them to him. Thus having eaten and drunken, the tramp sat down in the sun and picked his teeth and trimmed his nails.

When the women archers caught sight of Ulenspiegel in his pilgrim’s array, they set to work dancing about him in a ring, saying:

“Good morrow, handsome pilgrim; do you come from far away, youngling pilgrim?”

Ulenspiegel replied:

“I come from Flanders, a fine country rich in loving girls.”

And he thought sadly of Nele.

“What was your crime?” they asked him, desisting from their dancing.

“I would not dare to confess it,” said he, “so great a one it was. But I have other things that are not small.”

They smiled at that and asked why he must travel in this wise with staff and scrip and oyster shell.

“Because,” said he, lying a little, “I said that masses for the dead are of advantage to the priests.”

“They bring them in good coin,” replied they, “but they are of advantage to souls in purgatory.”

“I wasn’t there,” rejoined Ulenspiegel.

“Will you eat with us, pilgrim?” said the prettiest of the archers.

“I will gladly eat with you,” said he, “and eat you, and all the others turn about, for you are titbits for a king, more delicious than ortolans or thrushes or woodcocks.”

“God give you food,” said they, “this is game beyond price.”

“Like all of you, dear ones,” he answered.

“Aye, verily,” said they, “but we are not for sale.”

“And for the giving?” he asked.

“Ay,” said they, “of blows to the overbold. And if you need it, we will thrash you like a sheaf of corn.”
“I abstain therefrom,” said he.

“Come eat,” said they.

He followed them into the court of the inn, happy to see these fresh faces about him. Suddenly he beheld entering the court with high ceremony, with banner and trumpet and flute and tambourine, the Brothers of the Good Red Nose, wearing in fatness the jolly name of their fellowship. As they looked curiously upon him, the women told them it was a pilgrim they had picked up by the way and that finding him a true Red Nose, and matching their husbands and betrotheds, they had been minded to make him share their feast.

The men approved their tale, and one said:

“Pilgrim on pilgrimage, wouldst thou pilgrimage through sauces and fricassees?”

“I shall have seven-leagued boots for that,” said Ulenspiegel.

As he was on the point of entering the hall of the feasting with them, he descried on the road to Paris twelve blind men trudging along. When they passed before him, complaining of hunger and of thirst, Ulenspiegel said to himself that they would sup that night like kings, at the charge of the dean of Uccle, in memory of the masses for the dead. He went to them and said:

“Here be nine florins, come and eat. Do ye smell the good fragrance of the fricassees?”

“Alas!” said they, “for the last half of a league, and no hope.”

“You shall eat,” said Ulenspiegel, “now you have nine florins.” But he did not give them.

“A blessing on thee,” said they.

And guided by Ulenspiegel, they sat down around a small table, while the Brothers of the Good Red Nose sate at a great one with their goodwives and sweethearts.

Speaking with full assurance of nine florins:

“Host,” said the blind men, proudly, “give us to eat and drink of your best.”

The host, who had heard a mention of the nine florins, believed them to be in their pouches, and asked what they wished to have.

Then all of them, speaking at once, cried out:

“Peas with bacon, a hotchpotch of beef, veal, mutton, and fowl.” – “Are sausages meant for dogs?” – “Who ever smelled the passing of black puddings and white, without seizing them by the collar? I used to see them, alas! when my poor eyes were candles to me.” – “Where are the koekebakken au beurre of Anderlecht? They sing in the pan, succulent and crisp, mother of quart draughts.” – “Who will bring under my nose ham and eggs or eggs and ham, those tender brothers and close friends in the mouth?” – “Where are ye, divine choesels, swimming, proud viands that you are, in the midst of kidneys, of cockscombs, of riz de veau, of oxtails, sheep’s trotters, and abundant onions, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, all in the stew and three quarts of white wine for sauce?” – “Who will bring you to me, divine andouilles, so good that ye say no word when ye are swallowed? Ye came ever straight from Luy-leckerland, the rich country of the happy do-naughts, the lickers up of never-ending sauces.

But where are ye, withered leaves of bygone autumns!” – “I want a leg of mutton with beans.” – “I want pigs’ plumes, their ears.” – “For me a rosary of ortolans, with woodcocks for the Paters on it and a fat capon for the Credo.”
The host answered sedately:

“You shall have an omelette of sixty eggs, and for guiding posts for you spoons, fifty black puddings, planted smoking hot on this mountain of nourishment, and dobbel peterman to wash all down with: that will be the river.”

The water came into the mouths of the poor blind men and they said:

“Serve us the mountain, the guideposts, and the river.”

And the Brothers of the Good Red Nose and their goodwives already at table with Ulenspiegel said that this day was for the blind the day of invisible junketing, and that the poor men thus lost the half of their pleasure.

When the omelette arrived, all decked with parsley and nasturtium, and borne by the host and four cooks, the blind men would fain have thrown themselves upon it and already were haggling in it, but the host served them separately, not without difficulty, to each his share in his own dish.

The archer women were touched to see them eating and heaving sighs of content, for they were mightily hungered and swallowed down the black puddings like oysters. The dobbel peterman flowed down into their bellies like cascades falling from mountain tops.

When they had cleaned their dishes, they asked again for koekebakken, for ortolans and fresh fricassees. The host only served them a great dish of bones of beef and veal and mutton swimming in a good sauce. He did not give each his portion.

When they had dipped their bread and their hands up to the elbows in the sauce, and only brought up bones of every kind, even some ox jaw bones, everyone thought his neighbour had all the meat, and they beat each other’s faces furiously with the bones.

The Brothers of the Good Red Nose, having laughed their fill, charitably conveyed part of their own feast into the poor fellows’ dish, and he who groped in the plate for a bone for a weapon would set his hand on a thrush, a chicken, a lark or two, while the goodwives, pulling their heads back, would pour Brussels wine down their throats in a flood, and when they groped about blindly to feel whence these streams of ambrosia were coming to them, they caught nothing but a petticoat, and would fain have held it, but it would whisk away from them suddenly.

And so they laughed, drank, ate, and sang. Some scenting out the pretty goodwives, ran all about the hall beside themselves, bewitched by love, but teasing girls would mislead them, and hiding behind a Good Red Nose would say “kiss me.” And they would, but instead of a woman, they kissed the bearded face of a man, and not without rebuffs.

The Good Red Noses sang, the blind men, too. And the jolly goodwives smiled kindly seeing their glee.

When these rich and sappy hours were over, the baes said to them:

“You have eaten well and drunk well, I want seven florins.”

Each one swore he had no purse, and accused his neighbour. Hence arose yet another fray in which they sought to strike one another with foot and fist and head, but they could not, and struck out wildly, for the Good Red Noses, seeing the play, kept man away from man. And blows hailed upon the empty air, save one that by ill chance fell upon the face of the baes, who, in a rage, searched them all and found on them nothing but an old scapular, seven liards, three breeches buttons, and their paternosters.

He wanted to fling them into the swinehouse and leave them there on bread and water until someone should pay what they owed for them.

“Do you,” said Ulenspiegel, “want me to go surety for them?”

“Ay,” replied the baes, “if someone will be surety for you.”

The Good Red Noses were about to do it, but Ulenspiegel stopped them, saying:

“The dean will be surety, I am going to find him.”

Thinking of the masses for the dead, he went to the deanery and told him how that the baes of the Trumpet, being possessed of the devil, spoke of nothing but pigs and blind men, the pigs devouring the blind and the blind eating the pigs under divers unholy guises of roasts and fricassees. During these fits, said he, the baes broke everything in the house, and he begged the dean to come and deliver the poor man from this wicked fiend.

The dean promised, but said he could not go immediately, for at that moment he was casting up the accounts of the chapter, and endeavouring to derive some profit out of them.

Seeing him impatient, Ulenspiegel said he would come back with the wife of the baes and that the dean could speak to her himself.

“Come both of you,” said the dean.

Ulenspiegel came back to the baes, and said to him:

“I have just seen the dean, he will stand surety for the blind men. While you keep guard over them, let the hostess come with me to the dean, he will repeat to her what I have just told you.”

“Go, goodwife,” said the baes.

She went off with Ulenspiegel to the dean, who was still figuring to find his profit. When she came in with Ulenspiegel, he impatiently waved her away, saying:

“Be easy, I shall come to your husband’s help in a day or two.”

And Ulenspiegel, returning to the Trumpet, said to himself, “He will pay seven florins, and that will be my first mass for the dead.”

And he went on his way, and the blind men likewise.