The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 16

He had, under the hand of the king and the duke, license to carry all weapons at his own convenience.

He took his good wheel-lock arquebus, cartridges, and dry powder. Then clad in a ragged short cloak, a tattered doublet, and breeches full of holes in the Spanish fashion, wearing a bonnet with plume flying in the wind, and sword, he left the army near the French frontier and marched off towards Maestricht.
The wrens, those heralds of the cold, flew about the houses, asking shelter. The third day it snowed.

Many times and oft on the way Ulenspiegel must needs show his safe conduct. He was allowed to pass. He marched towards Li?ge.

He had just entered into a plain; a great wind drove whirls of flakes upon his face. Before him he saw the plain stretch out all white, and the eddies of snow driven hither and thither by the gusts. Three wolves followed him, but when he knocked one over with his musket, the others flung themselves on the wounded one and made off into the woods, each carrying a great piece of the corpse.

Ulenspiegel being thus delivered, and looking to see if there was no other band in the country, saw at the end of the plain specks as it were gray statues moving among the eddies, and behind them shapes of mounted soldiers. He climbed up into a tree. The wind brought a far-off noise of complaining: “These are perchance,” he said to himself, “pilgrims clad in white coats; I can scarcely see their bodies against the snow.” Then he distinguished men running naked and saw two reiters, harnessed all in black, who sitting on their chargers were driving this poor flock before them with great blows of their whips. He primed his musket. Among these wretches he saw young folk, old men naked with teeth chattering, frozen, huddled up, and running to escape the whips of the two troopers, who took a delight, being well clad, red with brandy and good food, in lashing the bodies of the naked men to make them run quicker.

Ulenspiegel said: “Ye shall have vengeance, ashes of Claes.” And he killed, with a bullet in the face, one of the reiters, who fell down from his horse. The other, not knowing from whence had come that unlooked-for bullet, took fright. Thinking there were enemies hidden in the wood, he would fain have fled with his comrade’s horse. While he dismounted to despoil the dead man, and had taken hold of the bridle, he was stricken with another bullet in the neck and fell, like his companion.

The naked men, believing that an angel from heaven, a good arquebusier, had come to their rescue, fell upon their knees. Ulenspiegel came down from his tree and was recognized by those in the band who had, like him, served in the prince’s army. They said to him:

“Ulenspiegel, we are of the land of France, sent in state to Maestricht where the duke is, there to be treated as rebel prisoners, unable to pay ransom and condemned in advance to be tortured, beheaded, or to row like ruffians and robbers on the king’s galleys.”

Ulenspiegel, giving his opperst kleed to the oldest of the band, replied:

“Come, I will fetch you as far as M?zi?res, but first of all we must strip these two troopers and take their horses with us.”

The doublets, breeches, boots, and headgear and cuirasses of the troopers were divided among the weakest and most ailing, and Ulenspiegel said:

“We shall go into the wood, where the air is thicker and milder. Let us run, brothers.”

Suddenly a man fell and said:

“I am cold and I am hungry, and I go before God to bear witness that the Pope is Antichrist on earth.”

And he died. And the others were fain to bear him away with them, in order to give him a Christian burial.

While they were journeying along a main road they perceived a countryman driving a wagon covered with its canvas tilt. Seeing the naked men, he took pity and made them get into the wagon. There they found hay to lie on and empty sacks to cover themselves with. Being warm, they gave thanks to God. Ulenspiegel, riding by the side of the wagon on one of the reiters’ horses, held the other by the bridle.

At M?zi?res they alighted: there they were given good soup, beer, bread, cheese, and meat, the old men and the women. They were lodged, clad, and weaponed afresh at the charge of the commune. And they all gave the embrace of blessing to Ulenspiegel, who received it rejoicing.

He sold the horses of the two reiters for forty-eight florins, of which he gave thirty to the Frenchmen.

Going on his way alone, he said to himself: “I go through ruins, blood, and tears, without finding aught. The devils lied to me, past a doubt. Where is Lamme? Where is Nele? Where are the Seven?”

And he heard a voice like a low breath, saying:

“In death, ruin, and tears, seek.”

And he went his way.