The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 67

On that Sunday at Bruges was held the procession of the Blessed Blood. Claes said to his wife and to Nele to go to see it and that mayhap they might find Ulenspiegel in the town. As for himself, said he, he would keep the cottage if the pilgrim should perchance return thither.

The two women went off together; Claes, remaining at Damme, sate on the doorstep and found the town very empty and deserted. He heard nothing except the crystalline chime of some village bell, while from Bruges there came to him by fits and starts the music of the carillons and a great din of falconets and fireworks let off in honour of the Blessed Blood.

Claes, looking pensively for Ulenspiegel along the roads, saw nothing, only the sky pure and blue and cloudless, a few dogs lying tongue out in the sun, bold sparrows bathing and twittering in the dust, a cat spying after them, and the sunlight entering every house like a friend and making the brass kettles and pewter tankards on every dresser glisten and shine.

But Claes was downcast amid all this glee, and looking for his son he sought to see him behind the gray mist along the meadows, to hear him in the glad rustling of the leaves and the gay concert of the birds in the trees. Suddenly he saw on the road from Maldeghem a man of great stature, and knew it was not Ulenspiegel. He saw him pause at the edge of a field of carrots and eat eagerly.

“There’s a man mightily an-hungered,” said Claes.

Having lost sight of him for a moment, he saw him reappear at the corner of the street of the Heron, and he recognized the messenger from Josse who had brought him the seven hundred gold carolus. He went to him in the highway and said:

“Come to my house.”

The man replied:

“Blessed are they that are kind to the wandering travelling man.”

On the outer sill of the cottage window there was crumbled bread that Soetkin kept for the birds of the neighbourhood. Here they came in the winter to find their food. The man caught up these crumbs and ate them.

“You are hungry and thirsty,” said Claes.

The man replied:

“Since I was stripped by robbers a week past, I have lived only on carrots from the fields and roots in the woods.”

“It is then,” said Claes, “time to indulge in feasting. And here,” said he, opening the cupboard, “here is a full bowlful of peas, eggs, black puddings, hams, sausage of Ghent, waterzoey: hotchpotch of fish. Below, in the cellar, sleeps Louvain wine, made in the manner of the wines of Burgundy, red and clear as a ruby; it asks but the awakening of glasses. Come, now, let us put a faggot on the fire. Do you hear the black puddings sizzling on the grid? ’Tis the song of good feeding.”

Claes, turning them over, said to the man:

“Have you not seen my boy Ulenspiegel?”

“Nay,” he answered.

“Do you bring me any tidings of my brother Josse?” said Claes, putting upon the table grilled puddings, an omelette of fat ham, cheese, and great tankards, and red clear wine of Louvain sparkling in the flasks.

The man replied:

“Thy brother Josse died upon the rack at Sippenaken, near Aix.

And that was for having borne arms, being a heretic, against the Emperor.”
Claes was as one beside himself, and said, trembling in every limb, for his wrath was extreme:

“Evil murderers! Josse! my poor brother!”

The man said then in no gentle tone:

“Our joys and our woes are not of this world.”

And he began to eat. Then he said:

“I gave thy brother help in his prison, passing myself off for a countryman from Nieswiller, a relation of his. I have come hither because he said to me: ‘If thou dost not die for the faith as I do, go to my brother Claes; enjoin upon him to live in the Lord’s peace, doing the works of mercy, rearing his son in secret in the law of Christ. The money I gave him was taken from the poor and ignorant people; let him use it to bring Thyl up in the knowledge of God and the word.’”

Having said this, the messenger gave Claes the kiss of peace.

And Claes, lamenting:

“Died on the rack,” said he, “my poor brother!”

And he could not recover himself out of his great sorrow. All the same, as he saw that the man was thirsty and held out his glass, he poured wine for him, but he ate and drank joylessly.

Soetkin and Nele were away during seven days; during this time the messenger from Josse lived under Claes’s roof.

Every night they heard Katheline crying terribly in the cottage:

“The fire, the fire! Make a hole: the soul would fain escape!”

And Claes would go to her, and calm her with soothing speech, then come back into his own house.

At the end of seven days the man departed and would accept no more from Claes but two carolus to feed and shelter him upon his way.