The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 11

The Silent One, being in the neighbourhood of Li?ge, made marches and countermarches before crossing the Meuse, thus misleading the duke’s vigilance.

Ulenspiegel, schooling himself to his duties as a soldier, became very dexterous in handling the wheel-locked arquebus and kept his eyes and ears well open.

At this time there came to the camp Flemish and Brabant nobles, who lived on good terms with the lords, colonels, and captains in the following of the Silent One.

Soon two parties formed in the camp, eternally quarrelling and disputing, the one side saying: “the Prince is a traitor,” the other answering that the accusers lied in their throat and that they would make them swallow their lie. Distrust spread and grew like a spot of oil. They came to blows in groups of six, of eight, or a dozen men; fighting with every weapon of single combat, even with arquebuses.

One day the prince came up at the noise, marching between two parties. A bullet carried away his sword from his side. He put an end to the combat and visited the whole camp to show himself, that it might not be said: “The Silent One is dead, and the war is dead with him.”

The next day, towards midnight, in misty weather, Ulenspiegel being on the point of coming out from a house where he had been to sing a Flemish love song to a Walloon girl, heard at the door of the cottage beside the house a raven’s croak thrice repeated. Other croakings answered from a distance, thrice by thrice. A country churl came to the door of the cottage. Ulenspiegel heard footsteps on the highway.

Two men, speaking Spanish, came to the rustic, who said to them in the same tongue:

“What have you done?”

“A good piece of work,” said they, “lying for the king. Thanks to us, captains and soldiermen say to one another in distrust:

“‘It is through vile ambition that the prince is resisting the king; he is but waiting to be feared by him and to receive cities and lordships as a pledge of peace; for five hundred thousand florins he will abandon the valiant lords that are fighting for the countries. The duke has offered him a full amnesty with a promise and an oath to restore to their estates himself and all the highest leaders of the army, if they would re-enter into obedience to the king.

Orange means to treat with him alone by himself.’
“The partisans of the Silent One answered us:

“‘The duke’s offer is a treacherous trap. He will pay them no heed, recalling the fate of Messieurs d’Egmont and de Hoorn. Well they know it, Cardinal de Granvelle, being at Rome, said at the time of the capture of the Counts: “They take the two gudgeons, but they leave the pike; they have taken nothing since the Silent remains still to take.”’”

“Is the variance great in the camp?” said the rustic.

“Great is the variance,” said they: “greater every day. Where are the letters?”

They went into the cottage, where a lantern was lighted. There, peeping through a little skylight, Ulenspiegel saw them open two missives, read them with much satisfaction and pleasure, drink hydromel, and at last depart, saying to the rustic in Spanish:

“Camp divided, Orange taken. That will be a good lemonade.”

“Those fellows,” said Ulenspiegel, “cannot be allowed to live.”

They went out into the thick mist. Ulenspiegel saw the rustic bring them a lantern, which they took with them.

The light of the lantern being often intercepted by a black shape, he took it that they were walking one behind the other.

He primed his arquebus and fired at the black shape. He then saw the lantern lowered and raised several times, and judged that, one of the two being down, the other was endeavouring to see the nature of his wound. He primed his arquebus again. Then the lantern going forward alone, swiftly and swinging and in the direction of the camp, he fired once more. The lantern staggered about, then fell, and there was darkness.

Running towards the camp, he saw the provost coming out with a crowd of soldiers awakened by the noise of the shots. Ulenspiegel, accosting them, said:

“I am the hunter, go and pick up the game.”

“Jolly Fleming,” said the provost, “you speak otherwise than with your tongue.”

“Tongue talk, ’tis wind,” replied Ulenspiegel. “Lead talk remains in the bodies of the traitors. But follow me.”

He brought them, furnished with their lanterns, to the place where the two were fallen. And they beheld them indeed, stretched out on the earth, one dead, the other in the death rattle and holding his hand on his breast, where there was a letter crushed and crumpled in the last effort of his life.

They carried away the bodies, which they recognized by their garments as bodies of nobles, and thus came with their lanterns to the prince, interrupted at council with Frederic of Hollenhausen, the Markgrave of Hesse, and other lords.

Followed by landsknechts, reiters, green jackets and yellow jackets, they came before the tent of the Silent, shouting requests that he would receive them.

He came from the tent. Then, taking the word from the provost who was coughing and preparing to accuse him, Ulenspiegel said:

“Monseigneur, I have killed two traitor nobles of your train, instead of ravens.”

Then he recounted what he had seen, heard, and done.

The Silent said not a word. The two bodies were searched, there being present himself, William of Orange, the Silent, Frederic de Hollenhausen, the Markgrave of Hesse, Dieterich de Schooenbergh, Count Albert of Nassau, the Count de Hoogstraeten, Antoine de Lalaing, the Governor of Malines; the troopers, and Lamme Goedzak trembling in his great paunch. Sealed letters from Granvelle and Noircarmes were found upon the gentlemen, enjoining upon them to sow dissension in the prince’s train, in order to diminish his strength by so much, to force him to yield, and to deliver him to the duke to be beheaded in accordance with his deserts. “It was essential,” said the letters, “to proceed subtly and by veiled speech, so that the people in the army might believe that the Silent had already, for his own personal profit, come to a private agreement with the duke. His captains and soldiers, being angry, would make him a prisoner. For reward a draft on the F?ggers of Antwerp for five hundred ducats had been sent to each; they should have a thousand as soon as the four hundred thousand ducats that were expected should have arrived in Zealand from Spain.”

This plot being discovered and laid open, the prince, without a word, turned towards the nobles, lords, and soldiers, among whom were a great many that held him in suspicion; he showed the two corpses without a word, intending thereby to reproach them for their mistrust of him. All shouted with a great tumultuous noise:

“Long life to Orange! Orange is faithful to the countries!”

They would, for contumely, fain have flung the bodies to the dogs, but the Silent:

“It is not bodies that must be thrown to the dogs, but feeblemindedness that bringeth about doubts of singleminded and good intents.”

And lords and soldiers shouted:

“Long live the prince! Long live Orange, the friend to the countries!”

And their voices were as a thunder threatening injustice.

And the prince, pointing to the bodies:

“Give them Christian interment,” said he.

“And I,” said Ulenspiegel, “what is to be done with my faithful carcase? If I have done ill let them give me blows; if I have done well let them accord me reward.”

Then the Silent One spake and said:

“This musketeer shall have fifty blows with green wood in my presence for having, without orders, slain two nobles, to the great disparagement of all discipline. He shall receive as well thirty florins for having seen well and heard well.”

“Monseigneur,” replied Ulenspiegel, “if they gave me the thirty florins first, I would endure the blows from the green wood with patience.”

“Aye, aye,” groaned Lamme Goedzak, “give him first of all the thirty florins; he will endure the rest with patience.”

“And then,” said Ulenspiegel, “having my soul free of guilt, I have no need to be washed with oak or rinsed with cornel.”

“Aye,” groaned Lamme Goedzak as before, “Ulenspiegel hath no need of washing or of rinsing. He hath a clean soul. Do not wash him, Messires, do not wash him.”

Ulenspiegel having received the thirty florins, the stock-meester was ordered by the provost to seize him.

“See, Messires,” said Lamme, “how piteous he looks. He hath no love for the wood, my friend Ulenspiegel.”

“I love,” replied Ulenspiegel, “to see a lovely ash all leafy, growing in the sunshine in all it’s native verdure; but I hate to the death those ugly sticks of wood still bleeding their sap, stripped of branches, without leaves or twigs, of fierce aspect and harsh of acquaintance.”

“Art thou ready?” asked the provost.

“Ready,” repeated Ulenspiegel, “ready for what? To be beaten. No, I am not, and have no desire to be, master stock-meester. Your beard is red and you have a formidable air; but I am fully persuaded that you have a kind heart and do not love to maltreat a poor fellow like me. I must tell it you, I love not to do it or see it; for a Christian man’s back is a sacred temple which, even as his breast, encloseth the lungs wherewith we breathe the air of the good God. With what poignant remorse would you be gnawed if a brutal stroke of the stick were to break me in pieces.”

“Make haste,” said the stock-meester.

“Monseigneur,” said Ulenspiegel, speaking to the Prince, “nothing presses, believe me; first should this stick be dried and seasoned, for they say that green wood entering living flesh imparts to it a deadly venom. Would Your Highness wish to see me die of this foul death? Monseigneur, I hold my faithful back at Your Highness’ service; have it beaten with rods, lashed with the whip; but, if you would not see me dead, spare me, if it please you, the green wood.”

“Prince, give him grace,” said Messire de Hoogstraeten and Dieterich de Schooenbergh. The others smiled pityingly.

Lamme also said:

“Monseigneur, Monseigneur, show grace; green wood it is pure poison.”

The Prince then said: “I pardon him.”

Ulenspiegel, leaping several times high in air, struck on Lamme’s belly and forced him to dance, saying:

“Praise Monseigneur with me, who saved me from the green wood.”

And Lamme tried to dance, but could not, because of his belly.

And Ulenspiegel treated him to both eating and drinking.