The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 10

Going through the Walloon country, Ulenspiegel saw that the prince had no succour to hope for thence, and so he came up to the town of Bouillon.

Little by little he saw appearing on the road more and more hunchbacks of every age, sex, and condition. All of them, equipped with large rosaries, were devoutly telling their beads on them.

And their prayers were as the croakings of frogs in a pond at night when the weather is warm.

There were hunchback mothers carrying hunchback children, whilst other children of the same brood clung to their skirts. And there were hunchbacks on the hills and hunchbacks in the plains. And everywhere Ulenspiegel saw their thin silhouettes standing out against the clear sky.

He went to one and said to him:

“Whither go all these poor men, women, and children?”

The man replied:

“We are going to the tomb of Master Saint Remacle to pray him that he will grant what our hearts desire, by taking from off our backs his lump of humiliation.”

Ulenspiegel rejoined:

“Could Master Saint Remacle give me also what my heart desireth, by taking from off the back of the poor communes the bloody duke, who weighs upon them like a leaden hump?”

“He hath not charge to remove humps of penance,” replied the pilgrim.

“Did he remove others?” asked Ulenspiegel.

“Aye, when the humps are young. If then the miracle of healing takes place, we hold revel and feasting throughout all the town. And every pilgrim gives a piece of silver, and oftentimes a gold florin to the happy one that is cured, becomes a saint thereby and with power to pray with efficacy for the others.”

Ulenspiegel said:

“Why doeth the wealthy Master Saint Remacle, like a rascal apothecary, make folk pay for his cures?”

“Impious tramp, he punishes blasphemers!” replied the pilgrim, shaking his hump in fury.

“Alas!” groaned Ulenspiegel.

And he fell doubled up at the foot of a tree.

The pilgrim, looking down on him, said:

“Master Saint Remacle smites hard when he smites.”

Ulenspiegel bent up his back, and scratching at it, whined:

“Glorious saint, take pity. It is chastisement. I feel between my shoulder bones a bitter agony. Alas! O! O! Pardon, Master Saint Remacle. Go, pilgrim, go, leave me here alone, like a parricide, to weep and to repent.”

But the pilgrim had fled away as far as the Great Square of Bouillon, where all the hunchbacks were gathered.

There, shivering with fear, he told them, speaking brokenly:

“Met a pilgrim as straight as a poplar … a blaspheming pilgrim … hump on his back … a burning hump!”

The pilgrims, hearing this, they gave vent to a thousand joyful outcries, saying:

“Master Saint Remacle, if you give humps, you can take them away. Take away our humps, Master Saint Remacle!”

Meanwhile, Ulenspiegel left his tree. Passing through the empty suburb, he saw, at the low door of a tavern, two bladders swinging from a stick, pigs’ bladders, hung up in this fashion as a sign of a fair of black puddings, panch kermis as they say in the country of Brabant.

Ulenspiegel took one of the two bladders, picked up from the ground the backbone of a schol, which the French call dried plaice, drew blood from himself, made some blood run into the bladder, blew it up, sealed it, put it on his back, and on it placed the backbone of the schol. Thus equipped, with his back arched, his head wagging, and his legs tottering like an old humpback, he came out on the square.

The pilgrim that had witnessed his fall saw him and cried out:

“Here is the blasphemer!”

And pointed to him with his finger. And all ran to see the afflicted one.

Ulenspiegel nodded his head piteously.

“Ah!” said he, “I deserve neither grace nor pity; slay me like a mad dog.”

And the humpbacks, rubbing their hands, said:

“One more in our fraternity.”

Ulenspiegel, muttering between his teeth: “I will make you pay for that, evil ones,” appeared to endure all patiently, and said:

“I will neither eat nor drink, even to fortify my hump, until Master Saint Remacle has deigned to heal me even as he has smitten me.”

At the rumour of the miracle the dean came out of the church. He was a tall man, portly and majestic. Nose in wind, he clove the sea of the hunchbacks like a ship.

They pointed out Ulenspiegel; he said to him:

“Is it thou, good fellow, that the scourge of Saint Remacle has smitten?”

“Yea, Messire Dean,” replied Ulenspiegel, “it is indeed I his humble worshipper who would fain be cured of his new hump, if it please him.”

The dean, smelling some trick under this speech:

“Let me,” said he, “feel this hump.”

“Feel it, Messire,” answered Ulenspiegel.

And having done so, the dean:

“It is,” said he, “of recent date and wet. I hope, however, that Master Saint Remacle will be pleased to act pitifully. Follow me.”

Ulenspiegel followed the dean and went into the church. The humpbacks, walking behind him, cried out: “Behold the accursed! Behold the blasphemer! What doth it weigh, thy fresh hump? Wilt thou make a bag of it to put thy patacoons in? Thou didst mock at us all thy life because thou wast straight: now it is our turn. Glory be to Master Saint Remacle!”

Ulenspiegel, without uttering a word, bending his head, still following the dean, went into a little chapel where there was a tomb all marble covered with a great flat slab also of marble. Between the tomb and the chapel wall there was not the space of the span of a large hand. A crowd of humpbacked pilgrims, following one another in single file, passed between the wall and the slab of the tomb, on which they rubbed their humps in silence. And thus they hoped to be delivered. And those that were rubbing their humps were loath to give place to those that had not yet rubbed theirs, and they fought together, but without any noise, only daring to strike sly blows, humpbacks’ blows, because of the holiness of the place.

The dean bade Ulenspiegel get up on the flat top of the tomb, that all the pilgrims might see him plainly. Ulenspiegel replied: “I cannot get up by myself.”

The dean helped him up and stationed himself beside him, bidding him kneel down. Ulenspiegel did so and remained in this posture, with head hanging.

The dean then, having meditated, preached and said in a sonorous voice:

“Sons and brothers of Jesus Christ, ye see at my feet the greatest child of impiety, vagabond, and blasphemer that Saint Remacle hath ever smitten with his anger.”

And Ulenspiegel, beating upon his breast, said: “Confiteor.”

“Once,” went on the dean, “he was straight as a halberd shaft, and gloried in it. See him now, humpbacked and bowed under the stroke of the celestial curse.”

“Confiteor, take away my hump,” said Ulenspiegel.

“Yea,” went on the dean, “yea, mighty saint, Master Saint Remacle, who since thy glorious death hast performed nine and thirty miracles, take away from his shoulders the weight that loads them down. And may we, for this boon, sing thy praises from everlasting to everlasting, in saecula saeculorum. And peace on earth to humpbacks of good will.”

And the humpbacks said in chorus:

“Yea, yea, peace on earth to humpbacks of good will: humpbacks’ peace, truce to the deformed, amnesty of humiliation. Take away our humps, Master Saint Remacle!”

The dean bade Ulenspiegel descend from the tomb, and rub his hump against the edge of the slab. Ulenspiegel did so, ever repeating: “Mea culpa, confiteor, take away my hump.” And he rubbed it thoroughly in sight and knowledge of those that stood by.

And these cried aloud:

“Do ye see the hump? it bends! see you, it gives way! it will melt away on the right” – “No, it will go back into the breast; humps do not melt, they go down again into the intestines from which they come” – “No, they return into the stomach where they serve as nourishment for eighty days” – “It is the saint’s gift to humpbacks that are rid of them” – “Where do the old humps go?”

Suddenly all the humpbacks gave a loud cry, for Ulenspiegel had just burst his hump leaning hard against the edge of the flat tomb top. All the blood that was in it fell, dripping from his doublet in big drops upon the stone flags. And he cried out, straightening himself up and stretching out his arms:

“I am rid of it!”

And all the humpbacks began to call out together:

“Master Saint Remacle the blessed, it is kind to him, but hard to us” – “Master, take away our humps, ours too!” – “I, I will give thee a calf.” – “I, seven sheep.” – “I, the year’s hunting.” – “I, six hams.” – “I, I will give my cottage to the Church” – “Take away our humps, Master Saint Remacle!”

And they looked on Ulenspiegel with envy and with respect. One would have felt under his doublet, but the dean said to him:

“There is a wound that may not see the light.”

“I will pray for you,” said Ulenspiegel.

“Aye, Pilgrim,” said the humpbacks, speaking all together, “aye, master, thou that hast been made straight again, we made a mock of thee; forgive it us, we knew not what we did. Monseigneur Christ forgave when on the cross; give us all forgiveness.”

“I will forgive,” said Ulenspiegel benevolently.

“Then,” said they, “take this patard, accept this florin, permit us to give this real to Your Straightness, to offer him this cruzado, put these carolus in his hands…”

“Hide up your carolus,” said Ulenspiegel, whispering, “let not your left hand know what your right hand is giving.”

And this he said because of the dean who was devouring with his eyes the humpbacks’ money, without seeing whether it was gold or silver.

“Thanks be unto thee, sanctified sir,” said the humpbacks to Ulenspiegel.

And he accepted their gifts proudly as a man of a miracle.

But greedy ones were rubbing away with their humps on the tomb without saying a word.

Ulenspiegel went at night to a tavern where he held revel and feast.

Before going to bed, thinking that the dean would want to have his share of the booty, if not all, he counted up his gain, and found more gold than silver, for he had in it fully three hundred carolus. He noted a withered bay tree in a pot, took it by the hair of its head, plucked up the plant and the earth, and put the gold underneath. All the demi-florins, patards, and patacoons were spread out upon the table.

The dean came to the tavern and went up to Ulenspiegel.

The latter, seeing him:

“Messire Dean,” said he, “what would you of my poor self?”

“Nothing but thy good, my son,” replied he.

“Alas!” groaned Ulenspiegel, “is it that which you see on the table?”

“The same,” replied the dean.

Then putting out his hand, he swept the table clean of all the money that was upon it and dropped it into a bag destined for it.

And he gave a florin to Ulenspiegel, who pretended to groan and whine.

And he asked for the implements of the miracle.

Ulenspiegel showed him the schol bone and the bladder.

The dean took them while Ulenspiegel bemoaned himself, imploring him to be good enough to give him more, saying that the way was long from Bouillon to Damme, for him a poor footpassenger, and that beyond a doubt he would die of hunger.
The dean went away without uttering a word.

Being left alone, Ulenspiegel went to sleep with his eye on the bay tree. Next day at dawn, having picked up his booty, he went away from Bouillon and went to the camp of the Silent One, handed over the money to him and recounted the story, saying it was the true method of levying contributions of war from the enemy.

And the Prince gave him ten florins.

As for the schol bone, it was enshrined in a crystal casket and placed between the arms of the cross on the principal altar at Bouillon.

And everyone in the town knows that what the cross encloses is the hump of the blasphemer who was made straight.