The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 49

Meanwhile Nele, when Katheline was in the house of some kindly neighbour, and well looked after, Nele used to go far far afield, all alone, as far as Antwerp, all along by the Scheldt or elsewhere, ever seeking, both on the river banks and on the dusty highways, if she could not see her friend Ulenspiegel.

One fair-day, being at Hamburg, he saw merchants everywhere, and among them certain old Jews living on usury and old clothes.

Ulenspiegel, desiring to be a merchant, too, saw lying on the ground some lumps of horse dung and brought them to his lodging, which was a bastion of the rampart wall. There he dried them, and then bought red silk and green silk and made little bags with them, and put the horse dung in the bags and tied them with ribbon, as if they had been full of musk.

Then with some pieces of board he made himself a pedlar’s tray, hung it about his neck by means of old cords and came into the market, carrying in front of him his tray filled with these sachets. In the evening to light them up he had a little candle burning in their midst.

When any came and asked him what he had for sale, he would reply mysteriously:

“I will tell you, but let us not speak too loud.”

“What is it then?” the customers would say.

“These,” Ulenspiegel replied, “are prophetical seeds, fetched straight from Araby into Flanders, and prepared with mighty art by the master Abdul-M?dil of the kin of the great Mahomet.”

Certain customers would say one to another:

“He is a Turk.”

But the others:

“This is a pilgrim coming out of Flanders,” they would say; “do you not hear it by his speech?”

And the ragged, lousy, wretched poor folk came to Ulenspiegel and said to him:

“Give us of these prophetical seeds?”

“When you have florins to buy them,” answered Ulenspiegel. And the poor, ragged, lousy, wretched went away sorrowful, saying:

“There is no content in this world but for the rich.”

The tale of these seeds for sale was soon spread abroad in the market. The citizens said one to another:

“There is a Flanders man there that hath prophetical seeds blessed at Jerusalem upon the tomb of Our Lord Jesus, but they say he has no mind to sell them.”

And all the good citizens came to Ulenspiegel and asked him for his seeds.

But Ulenspiegel, who meant to have great profits, answered that they were not as yet ripened sufficiently, and he had an eye upon two rich Jews that went wandering about the market.

“I would fain know,” said one of the citizens, “what will come of my ship that is on the sea.”

“It will go as far as heaven, if the waves are high enough,” said Ulenspiegel.

Another said, showing him his pretty daughter, all full of blushes:

“This one will doubtless turn out well?”

“Everything turns to what nature will have,” replied Ulenspiegel, for he had just seen the girl give a key to a young man who, puffed up with content, said to Ulenspiegel:

“Master merchant, give me one of your prophesying bags, that I may see whether I shall sleep alone to-night.”

“It is written,” replied Ulenspiegel, “that he who soweth the rye of seduction reaps the ergot of cuckoldom.”

The young man became wrathful.

“What are you talking about?” said he.

“The seeds say,” replied Ulenspiegel, “that they wish thee a happy marriage and a wife that will not bring thee Vulcan’s hat.

Dost thou know that headgear?”
Then declaiming like a preacher:

“For she,” said he, “that giveth earnest upon the marriage bargain leaves afterwards the whole merchandise to others for nothing.”

Hereupon the girl, wishing to pretend assurance:

“Is all that to be seen in the prophesying sachets?”

“There is a key to be seen there also,” said Ulenspiegel low in her ear.

But the young man had gone already with the key.

Suddenly Ulenspiegel perceived a thief sneaking from a pork butcher’s stall a sausage an ell long and putting it under his cloak. But the merchant saw him not. The thief, full of glee, came to Ulenspiegel and said to him:

“What are you selling there, prophet of ill?”

“Sachets wherein you shall see that you will be hanged for loving sausage overly much,” replied Ulenspiegel.

At that word the thief fled swiftly, while the robbed merchant cried out:

“Stop thief! stop thief!”

But he was too late.

While Ulenspiegel was speaking, the two rich Jews, who had listened with the sharpest attention, came up to him and said:

“What sellest thou there, Fleming?”

“Sachets,” replied Ulenspiegel.

“What can one see,” they asked, “by means of thy prophetical seeds?”

“Future events, when one sucks them,” replied Ulenspiegel.

The two Jews consulted one another, and the elder said to the other:

“We could see thus when our Messiah will come; that would be a mighty consolement to us. Let us buy one of these sachets. How much is your price?” said they.

“Fifty florins,” replied Ulenspiegel. “If ye are not willing to pay this for it, ye may as well be off. He that will not buy the field must leave the dung where it is.”

Seeing Ulenspiegel so determined, they counted out his money, took away one of the sachets and hied them to their place of assembly, whither came all the Jews hastily flocking, having learned that one of the two old men had bought a secret device by which he could discover and announce the coming of the Messiah.

Apprised of the matter, they would all fain have sucked at the prophesying sachet without paying; but the elder of the two Jews, who had bought it and whose name was Jehu, claimed to do this himself.

“Son of Israel,” said he, holding the sachet in his hand, “the Christians mock at us, we are driven out from among our fellowmen, and folk cry out after us as they cry out after thieves. The Philistines would fain abase us lower than the earth; they spit in our faces, for God hath cut our bowstrings and shaken the bridle before us. Must it still be long, Lord, God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, that evil cometh to us when we look for good, and the shadows fall when we hope for the light? Wilt thou soon appear upon the earth, divine Messiah? When shall the Christians hide themselves in the caves and the holes of the earth because of the terror they will have of thee and of thy glory magnifical when thou dost rise up to chastise them?”

And the Jews began to clamour.

“Come, Messias! Suck, Jehu!”

Jehu sucked, and spewing out, cried lamentably:

“I tell you verily this is nothing else but dung, and that pilgrim out of Flanders is a robber.”

Then all the Jews, rushing up, tore open the sachet and saw what it contained, and went off in high fury to the fair to find Ulenspiegel there, who forsooth had not awaited their coming.