The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 12

Not wishing to give battle, the duke without truce or respite harried the Silent as he wandered about the flat land between Juliers and the Meuse, everywhere sounding the river at Hondt, Mechelen, Elsen, Meersen, and everywhere finding it filled with traps and caltrops to wound men and horses that sought to pass over by fording.

At Stockem, the sounders found none of these engines. The prince gave orders for crossing. The reiters went over the Meuse and held themselves in battle order on the other bank, so as to protect the crossing on the side of the bishopric of Li?ge; then there formed up in line from one bank to the other, in this way breaking the current of the river, ten ranks of archers and musketeers, among whom was Ulenspiegel.

He had water up to his thighs, and often some treacherous wave would lift him up, himself and his horse.

He saw the foot soldiers cross, carrying a powder bag upon their headgear and holding their muskets high in air: then came the wagons, the hackbuts, linstocks, culverins, double culverins, falcons, falconets, serpentines, demi-serpentines, double serpentines, mortars, double mortars, cannon, demi-cannon, double cannon, sacres, little field pieces mounted on carriages drawn by two horses, able to man?uvre at the gallop and in every way like those that were nicknamed the Emperor’s Pistols; behind them, protecting the rear, landsknechts and reiters from Flanders.

Ulenspiegel looked about to find some warming drink. The archer Riesencraft, a High German, a lean, cruel, gigantic fellow, was snoring on his charger beside him, and as he breathed he spread abroad the perfume of brandy. Ulenspiegel, spying for a flask on his horse’s crupper, found it hung behind on a cord like a baldric, which he cut, and he took the flask, and drank rejoicing. The archer companions said to him:

“Give us some.”

He did so. The brandy being drunk, he knotted the cord that held the flask, and would have put it back about the soldier’s breast. As he lifted his arm to pass it round, Riesencraft awoke. Taking the flask, he would have milked his cow as usual. Finding that it gave no more milk, he fell into mighty anger.

“Robber,” said he, “what have you done with my brandy?”

Ulenspiegel replied:

“Drunk it. Among soaking horsemen, one man’s brandy is everybody’s brandy. Evil is the scurvy stingy one.”

“To-morrow I will carve your carcase in the lists,” replied Riesencraft.

“We will carve each other,” answered Ulenspiegel, “heads, arms, legs, and all. But are you not constipated, that you have such a sour face?”

“I am,” said Riesencraft.

“You want a purge, then,” replied Ulenspiegel, “and not a duel.”

It was agreed between them that they should meet next day, mounted and accoutred each as he pleased, and should cut up each other’s bacon with a short stiff sword.

Ulenspiegel asked that for himself the sword might be replaced by a cudgel, which was granted him.

In the meanwhile, all the soldiers having crossed the river and falling into order at the voice of the colonels and the captains, the ten ranks of archers also crossed over.

And the Silent said:

“Let us march on Li?ge!”

Ulenspiegel was glad of this, and with all the Flemings, shouted out:

“Long life to Orange, let us march on Li?ge!”

But the foreigners, and notably the High Germans, said they were too much washed and rinsed to march. Vainly did the prince assure them that they were going to a certain victory, to a friendly city; they would listen to nothing, but lit great fires and warmed themselves in front of them, with their horses unharnessed.

The attack on the city was put off till next day when Alba, greatly astonished at the bold crossing, learned through his spies that the Silent One’s soldiers were not yet ready for the assault.

Thereupon, he threatened Li?ge and all the country round about to put them to fire and sword, if the prince’s friends made any movement there. Gerard de Groesbeke, the bishop’s catchpoll, armed his troopers against the prince, who arrived too late, through the fault of the High Germans, who were afraid of a little water in their stockings.