The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 68

Nele and Soetkin being come back from Bruges, Claes, in his kitchen, seated on the floor after the fashion of tailors, was putting buttons on an old pair of breeches. Nele was close by him tarring on against the stork Titus Bibulus Schnouffius who, dashing at the bird and retreating by turns, was yelping in the shrillest voice. The stork standing on one foot, looking at him gravely and pensively, withdrew her long neck into the feathers on her breast. Titus Bibulus Schnouffius, seeing her so pacific, yelped more and more terribly. But all of a sudden the bird, tired and sick of this music, lashed out her bill like an arrow on the back of the dog, who fled yelling:

“Help, help!”

Claes laughed, Nele, too, and Soetkin never ceased looking into the street, seeking if she could not see Ulenspiegel coming.

Suddenly she said:

“Here is the provost and four constables. It cannot surely be us they want. There are two of them turning behind the cottage.”

Claes lifted his nose from his task.

“And two that are stopping in front,” went on Soetkin.

Claes got up.

“Who are they going to arrest in this street?” said she. “Jesus God! my husband, they are coming in here.”

Claes leaped from the kitchen into the garden, followed by Nele.

He said to her:

“Save the carolus, they are behind the chimney-back.”

Nele understood, then seeing that he was making through the hedge, that the constables seized him by the collar, that he was fighting to get loose from them, she cried and wept:

“He is innocent! he is innocent! do not hurt Claes, my father! Ulenspiegel, where art thou? Thou wouldst kill both of them!”

And she threw herself upon one of the constables and tore his face with her nails. Then crying out “They will kill him!” she fell down on the sward of the garden and rolled about on it, distraught.

Katheline had come at the noise, and standing straight and motionless, was contemplating the sight, saying as she shook her head from side to side: “The fire! the fire! Make a hole! the soul would fain escape!”

Soetkin saw nothing, and speaking to the constables that had come into the cottage:

“Sirs, whom seek ye in our poor dwelling? If it is my son, he is far away. Are your legs long ones?”

Saying so, she was full of mirth.

At this moment Nele, crying out for help, Soetkin ran into the garden, saw her husband seized by the collar and struggling on the highway close to the hedge.

“Strike!” she said. “Kill! Where art thou, Ulenspiegel?”

And she would have gone to help her husband, but one of the constables seized her round the body, not without peril.

Claes struggled and struck so hard that he might well have escaped, if the two constables to whom Soetkin had spoken had not come to the help of the two that were holding him.

They brought him with both his hands tied into the kitchen where Soetkin and Nele were weeping and sobbing.

“Messire provost,” said Soetkin, “what hath my poor man done then, that you should bind him thus with ropes?”

“Heretic,” said one of the constables.

“Heretic?” returned Soetkin, “thou a heretic, thou? These devils have lied.”

Claes answered:

“I place myself in God’s keeping.”

He went out; Nele and Soetkin followed him weeping and believing that they also were to be brought before the judge. Men and women came to them; when they knew that Claes was going thus bound because he was suspect of heresy, they were so sore afraid that they went back into their homes in haste, and shut all the doors behind them. Only a few girls dared go to Claes and say to him:

“Whither goest thou thus bound, coal man?”

“To the grace of God, my girls,” he replied.

They brought him to the prison of the commune; Soetkin and Nele sat down upon the threshold. Towards evening, Soetkin bade Nele leave her and go to see if Ulenspiegel was not coming back.