The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 53

Having tramped a long time, Ulenspiegel’s feet were bleeding, and in the bishopric of Mayence he met with a pilgrims’ cart that brought him to Rome.

When he came into the city and got down from his cart, he descried upon the threshold of an inn a pretty goodwife who smiled, seeing him look at her.

Auguring well from this good humour:

“Hostess,” said he, “will you give a sanctuary to a pilgrim on pilgrimage, for I have come to my time and must be brought to bed with the remission of my sins.”

“We grant sanctuary to all that pay us.”

“I have a hundred ducats in my wallet,” said Ulenspiegel, who had but one, “and I would be pleased to spend the first one with you in drinking a bottle of old wine of Rome.”

“Wine is not dear in these holy places,” answered she. “Come in and drink for a soldo.”

They drank together so long and emptied so many flagons with small talk that the hostess was forced to bid her servant give the customers their drink, while she and Ulenspiegel withdrew into a back parlour all of marble and as cold as winter.

Leaning her head on his shoulder she asked him who he was. Ulenspiegel replied:

“I am Sire of Geeland, Count of Gavergeeten, Baron of Tuchtendell, and at Damme, which is my birthplace, I have five and twenty bonniers of moonshine.”

“What land is that?” asked the hostess, drinking out of Ulenspiegel’s tankard.

“It is,” said he, “a soil wherein are sown the seeds of illusion, of wild hopes and airy promises. But thou wast not born in the moonlight land, sweet hostess of the amber skin, and eyes shining like pearls. ’Tis the sun’s colour the embrowned gold of thy hair; it was Venus that without jealousy bestowed on thee thy plump shoulders, thy full breasts, thy round arms, thy dainty hands. Shall we sup together to-night?”

“Handsome pilgrim of Flanders,” said she, “why do you come hither?”

“To talk with the Pope,” said Ulenspiegel.

“Alas!” said she, joining her hands, “talk with the Pope! I that am of this land, I have never been able to do that.”

“I shall do it,” said Ulenspiegel.

“But,” said she, “know you where he goes, what manner of man he is, what are his habits and his ways of living?”

“They told me on my way,” said Ulenspiegel, “that he has to name Julius the Third, that he is wanton, gay, and dissolute, a good talker and quick in repartee. They told me, too, that he had conceived an extraordinary friendship for a little beggar fellow, black, dirty, and forbidding, who begged for alms with a monkey, and that on his arriving at the pontifical throne, he made him cardinal of the Mount, and that he is ill whenever a day goes by without seeing him.”

“Drink,” said she, “and do not speak so loud.”

“They told me, too,” said Ulenspiegel, “that he swore like a trooper: Al dispetto di Dio, potta di Dio; one day when at supper he did not find a cold peacock he had had kept for himself, saying, ‘I, the Vicar of God, may very well swear over a peacock since my master lost his temper for an apple!’ You see, my dear, that I know the Pope and what he is.”

“Alas!” said she, “but don’t speak of it to other people. And in any case you will never see him.”

“I shall speak with him,” said Ulenspiegel.

“If you do, I give you a hundred florins.”

“They are mine already,” said Ulenspiegel.

The next day, although he was leg-weary, he went about the town and discovered where the Pope would say mass that day, at St. John Lateran. Ulenspiegel went thither and stationed himself as near and as plain to the Pope as he could compass, and every time the Pope raised the chalice or the host, Ulenspiegel turned his back upon the altar.

Beside the Pope was a cardinal serving, brown of visage, cunning and portly, who, with an ape on his shoulder, gave the people the sacrament with many wanton gestures. He called the Pope’s attention to Ulenspiegel, and as soon as the mass was completed, His Holiness sent four famous soldiers such as are known in these warlike lands, to seize the pilgrim.

“What is your belief?” the Pope asked him.

“Most Holy Father,” replied Ulenspiegel, “I hold the same belief as my hostess.”

The Pope sent for the goodwife.

“What dost thou believe?” he said to her.

“What your Holiness believes,” she answered.

“And I the same,” said Ulenspiegel.

The Pope then asked him why he had turned his back on the Holy Sacrament.

“I felt myself unworthy to look upon it face to face,” replied Ulenspiegel.

“Thou art a pilgrim,” said the Pope.

“Yea,” said he, “and from Flanders I come to beg the remission of my sins.”

The Pope gave him his blessing, and Ulenspiegel departed with the hostess, who told him out one hundred florins. Thus ballasted he left Rome to return thence to the land of Flanders.

But he must needs pay seven ducats for his pardon inscribed on parchment.