The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 79

In this year, which was the fifty-eighth of the century, Katheline went into Soetkin’s house, and said:

“Last night, having anointed myself with a balsam, I was carried to the tower of Notre Dame, and I beheld the spirits of the element passing on to the angels the prayers of men who flying towards the farthest heavens, bore them to the throne. And the sky was all over sprinkled with radiant stars. Suddenly there rose up from a fire pile a shape that seemed all black and climbed up to set himself beside me on the tower. I recognized Claes as he was in life, clad in his coalman’s attire. ‘What dost thou,’ said he, ‘on the tower of Notre Dame?’ ‘But thyself,’ I replied, ‘whither goest thou, flying through the air like a bird?’ ‘I go,’ he said, ‘to the judgment, dost thou not hear the angel’s trump?’ I was quite close to him, and felt that his spiritual body was not solid like the bodies of living men; but so tenuous that moving forward against him, I entered into it as into a hot vapour. At my feet, in all the land of Flanders, there shone a few lights, and I said to myself: ‘Those who rise early and work late are the blessed of God.’

“And all the while I heard the angel’s trumpet sounding through the night. And I saw then another shade that mounted, coming out of Spain; this one was old and decrepit, had a chin like a slipper and preserve of quince on its lips. It wore on its back a cloak of crimson velvet lined with ermine, on its head a crown imperial, in one hand an anchovy which it was munching, in the other a tankard full of beer.

“It came, doubtless for weariness, and sate down on the tower of Notre Dame. Kneeling down, I said to it: ‘Crowned Majesty, I revere you, but I know you not. Whence come you and what do you in the world?’ ‘I come,’ it said, ‘from Saint Just in Estramadura, and I was the Emperor Charles the Fifth.’ ‘But,’ said I, ‘whither go you as now on this cold night, through these clouds laden with hail?’ ‘I go,’ it said, ‘to the judgment.’ Just as the Emperor was fain to finish his anchovy and to drink his beer from his tankard, the angel’s trumpet sounded, and he flew up into the air growling and grumbling at being thus interrupted in his meal. I followed His Sacred Majesty. He went through space, hiccoughing with fatigue, wheezing with asthma, and sometimes vomiting, for death had come on him during a spell of indigestion. We mounted continually, like arrows sped from a bow of cornelwood. The stars glided beside us, tracing lines of fire in the sky; we saw them break loose and fall. And still the trumpet of the angel kept a-sounding. What a mighty and sonorous blare! At every flourish, as it beat against the mists of the air, they opened up as though some hurricane blast had blown upon them from near at hand. And so was our path marked out for us. Having been borne away for a thousand leagues and more, we beheld Christ in his glory, seated on a throne of stars, and on his right hand was the angel that inscribes the deeds of men upon a brazen register, and on his left hand Mary his mother, entreating him without ceasing for sinners.

“Claes and the Emperor Charles knelt down before the throne.

“The angel cast the crown from off Charles’s head: ‘There is but one emperor here,’ said he, ‘that is Christ.’

“His Sacred Majesty seemed angry; nevertheless, speaking humbly: ‘Might I not,’ said he, ‘keep this anchovy and this tankard of beer, for this long journey made me hungry.’

“‘As thou wast all thy life long,’ rejoined the angel; ‘but eat and drink none the less.’

“The Emperor drained the tankard of beer and munched at the anchovy.

“Then Christ spake and said:

“‘Dost thou offer a cleansed soul for judgment?’

“‘I hope as much, my sweet Lord, for I confessed myself,’ replied the Emperor Charles.

“‘And thou, Claes?’ said Christ, ‘thou dost not tremble as doth this emperor.’

“‘My Lord Jesus,’ answered Claes, ‘there is no soul that is clean; I am not, therefore, afraid of Thee who art the supreme good and the supreme justice, but withal I fear for my sins that were many.’

“‘Speak, carrion,’ said the angel, addressing the Emperor.

“‘I, Lord,’ replied Charles in an embarrassed voice, ‘being anointed by the finger of Thy priests, I was consecrated King of Castile, Emperor of Germany, and King of the Romans. I had ever at heart the preservation of the power that cometh from Thee, and to that end I wrought by the rope, by the steel, by the pit, and by the fire against all them of the reform.”

“But the angel:

“‘Belly-aching liar,’ said he, ‘thou wouldst fain deceive us. Thou didst tolerate the reformers in Germany, because thou wast afeard of them, and had them beheaded, burned, hanged, and buried alive in the Low Countries, where thou hadst no fear save not to inherit enough from these toiling bees so rich in plenteous honey. A hundred thousand souls perished by thy doing, not because thou didst love Christ, monseigneur, but because thou wast a despot, tyrant, devourer of countries, loving but thyself, and after thyself, meats, fishes, wines, and beers, for thou wast as great a glutton as any dog, and thirsty as a sponge.’
“‘And thou, Claes, speak,’ said Christ.

“But the angel, standing up:

“‘This one hath naught to say. He was good, hard-working like the poor Flanders folk, willing to toil and willing to laugh, keeping the faith he owed his princes and believing that his princes would keep the faith they owed to him. He had money, he was accused, and as he had harboured one of the reformed, he was burned alive.’

“‘Ah,’ said Mary, ‘poor martyr, but there are in heaven cool springs, fountains of milk, and choice wine that will refresh thee, and I will myself lead thee to them, coalman!’

“The trumpet of the angel sounded again, and I saw arising from the depths of the abyss a man naked and beautiful, with a crown of iron. And on the round of the crown were inscribed these words: ‘Dark until the day of doom!’

“He drew near to the throne and said to Christ:

“‘I am thy slave until I am thy master.’

“‘Satan,’ said Mary, ‘a day shall come when there will be no more slaves or masters, and when Christ who is love, Satan who is pride, will signify: Might and Knowledge.’

“‘Woman,’ said Satan, ‘thou art fair and kind.’

“Then speaking to Christ, and pointing to the Emperor:

“‘What is to be done with this one?’ said he.

“Christ replied:

“‘Thou shalt put the crowned worm in a chamber where thou shalt collect all the implements of torment used during his reign. Each time a wretched, innocent man endureth the torment of the water, which bloweth men up like bladders; of the candles, that burneth the soles of the feet and the armpits; the strappado, which breaketh the limbs; the riving asunder by four galleys; every time a free soul gives up its last breath on the fire, he must undergo all these deaths in turn, all these tortures, that he may learn what evil may be wrought by an unjust man that hath at command millions of his fellow men: let him rot in gaols, die upon scaffolds, groan in exile far from his own country; let him be dishonoured, shamefully entreated, scourged; let him be rich and harried by the treasury; let informers bring accusations against him, and confiscations ruin him. Thou shalt make of him an ass, that he may be meek, ill treated, and ill fed; a poor man, that he may ask for alms and be greeted with insults; a worker that he may toil too much and eat too little; then when he shall have suffered sorely in his man’s body and soul, thou shalt turn him into a dog, that he may be friendly, and be beaten; a slave in the Indies, that he may be sold by auction; a soldier, that he may fight for another man and be slain without knowing wherefore. And when, at the end of three hundred years, he will thus have gone through every form of suffering, every distress, thou shalt make a free man of him, and if in this condition he is good as was Claes, thou shalt give his body eternal repose, in a spot shaded at noon, visited by the sun in the morning, under a goodly tree, and covered by a cool verdant sward.

And his friends will come to shed their tears of grief upon his tomb, and sow violets, the blossoms of remembrance.’
“‘Pardon, my son,’ said Mary, ‘he knew not what he did, for power hardeneth the heart.’

“‘There is no pardon,’ said Christ.

“‘Ah!’ said His Sacred Majesty, ‘if only I had a glass of Andalusian wine!’

“‘Come,’ said Satan, ‘past is the time of wine, of meats and fowls.’

“And he bore away to the uttermost deeps of hell the soul of the poor emperor, still munching his fragment of anchovy.

“Satan for pity left it to him. Then I saw Madame the Virgin leading Claes to the highest height of heaven, there where was naught but stars hanging like clusters of grapes to the vaulted roof. And there angels laved him and he became handsome and young. Then they gave him rystpap to eat, in silver spoons. And heaven closed again.”

“He is in glory,” said the widow.

“The ashes beat against my heart,” said Ulenspiegel.