The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 29

Ulenspiegel and Lamme were marching towards Ghent and came at daybreak to Lokeren. The earth in the distance sweated dew; white cool mists glided along the meadows. Ulenspiegel, as he passed before a forge, whistled like the lark, the bird of liberty. And straightway appeared a head, tousled and white, at the door of the forge, and imitated the warlike clarion of the cock in a weak voice.

Ulenspiegel said to Lamme:

“This is the smitte Wasteele, who forges by day spades, mattocks, plough shares, hammering the iron when it is hot to fashion with it fine gratings for the choirs of churches, and oftentimes, at night, making and furbishing arms for the soldiers of freedom of conscience. He has not won the looks of health at this game, for he is pale as a ghost, sad as a damned soul, and so lean that his bones poke holes in his skin. He has not yet gone to rest, having doubtless toiled all night long.”

“Come in, both of you,” said the smitte Wasteele, “and lead your asses into the meadow behind the house.”

This being done, Lamme and Ulenspiegel being in the forge, the smitte Wasteele took down into a cellar of his house all the swords he had furbished and the lance heads he had cast during the night, and made ready the day’s work for his men.

Looking at Ulenspiegel with lack-lustre eye, he said to him:

“What news do you bring me from the Silent?”

“The prince has been driven out of the Low Countries with his army because of the misconduct of his mercenaries, who shout ‘Geld, Geld! money, money!’ when they ought to fight. He has gone away towards France with the faithful soldiers, his brother Count Ludovic and the Duke of Deux-Ponts, to help the King of Navarre and the Huguenots; from thence he passed over into Germany, to Dillenbourg, where many that have fled from the Low Countries are with him. You must send him arms and what money you have collected, while we, we shall ply the task of free men upon the sea.”

“I shall do what is to be done,” said the smitte Wasteele; “I have arms and nine thousand florins. But did you not come riding on asses?”

“Aye,” they said.

“And have you not, on your way, heard news of three preachers, slain and stripped and thrown into a hole among the rocks of the Meuse?”

“Aye,” said Ulenspiegel, with the utmost boldness, “these three preachers were three spies of the duke’s, assassins, paid to kill the prince of freedom. Together we two, Lamme and I, sent them from life to death. Their money is ours and their papers likewise. We shall take what we need from it for our journey; the rest we shall give to the prince.”

And Ulenspiegel, opening his own doublet and Lamme’s, pulled out from them papers and parchments. The smitte Wasteele having read them:

“They contain,” he said, “plans of battle and conspiracy. I will have them sent to the prince, and he will be told that Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak, his trusty vagabonds, saved his noble life.

I will have your asses sold that you may not be recognized from your mounts.”
Ulenspiegel asked the smitte Wasteele if the sheriff’s court at Namur had already set their catchpolls on their track.

“I will tell you what I know,” replied Wasteele. “A smith of Namur, a stout reformer, passed through here the other day, under pretext of asking me to help him with the screens, weathercocks, and other ironwork of a castle that is to be built near the Plante. The usher of the sheriff’s court told him that his masters had already met, and that a tavern keeper had been summoned, because he lived a few hundred fathom from the place where the murder had taken place. Asked if he had seen the murderers or not, or any he might suspect as such, he had replied: ‘I saw country folk men and women travelling on donkeys, asking me for something to drink and staying seated on their mounts, or getting down to drink in my house, beer for the men, hydromel for the women and girls. I saw two bold rustics that talked of shortening Messire of Orange by a foot.’ And so saying, the host, whistling, imitated the sound of a knife going into the flesh of the neck. ‘By the Steel-wind,’ he said, ‘I will speak with you in private, being empowered to do so.’ He spoke and was released. From that time the councils of justice have without doubt sent despatches to their subordinate councils. The host said he had seen only country men and country women riding upon asses; it will therefore follow that pursuit will be directed against all persons that may be found bestriding a donkey. And the prince hath need of you, my children.”

“Sell the asses,” said Ulenspiegel, “and keep the price for the prince’s treasury.”

The asses were sold.

“You must now,” said Wasteele, “have each a trade free and independent of the guilds; do you know how to make bird cages and mouse traps?”

“I have made such long ago,” said Ulenspiegel.

“And thou?” asked Wasteele of Lamme.

“I will sell eete-koeken and olie-koeken; these are pancakes and balls of flour cooked in oil.”

“Follow me; here are cages and mouse traps all ready; the tools and copper filigree work also which are needed to mend them and to make others. They were brought me by one of my spies. This is for you, Ulenspiegel. As for you, Lamme, here is a little stove and a bellows; I will give you flour, butter, and oil to make the eete-koeken and the olie-koeken.”

“He will eat them,” said Ulenspiegel.

“When shall we make the first ones?” asked Lamme.

Wasteele replied:

“First ye shall help me for a night or two; I cannot finish my great task alone by myself.”

“I am hungry,” said Lamme, “can one eat here?”

“There is bread and cheese,” said Wasteele.

“No butter?” asked Lamme.

“No butter,” said Wasteele.

“Have you beer or wine?” asked Ulenspiegel.

“I never drink them,” he answered, “but I will go in het Pelicaen, close by here, and fetch some for you if you wish.”

“Aye,” said Lamme, “and bring us some ham.”

“I will do as you wish,” said Wasteele, looking at Lamme with great disdain.

All the same he brought dobbel-clauwert and a ham. And Lamme, full of joy, ate enough for five.

And he said:

“When do we set to work?”

“To-night,” said Wasteele; “but stay in the forge and do not be afraid of my workmen. They are of the Reformed faith like yourselves.”

“That is well,” said Lamme.

By night, the curfew having rung and the doors being shut, Wasteele, making Ulenspiegel and Lamme help him, going down and bringing up from his cellar heavy bundles of weapons:

“Here,” he said, “are twenty arquebuses to mend, thirty lance heads to furbish, and lead for fifteen hundred bullets to melt down; you shall help me with it.”

“With all my hands,” said Ulenspiegel, “and why have I not four to serve you?”

“Lamme will help us,” said Wasteele.

“Aye,” replied Lamme, piteously, and falling with drowsiness through excess of drink and food.

“You shall melt the lead,” said Ulenspiegel.

“I will melt the lead,” said Lamme.

Lamme, melting his lead and running his bullets, kept looking with a savage eye at the smitte Wasteele who was driving him to keep awake when he was dropping with sleep. He ran his bullets with a wordless fury, having a great longing to pour the molten lead on the head of Wasteele the smith. But he controlled himself. Towards midnight, his rage getting the better of him at the same time as excess of fatigue, he addressed him thus in a hissing voice, while the smitte Wasteele with Ulenspiegel was patiently furbishing musket barrels, muskets, and lance heads:

“There you are,” said Lamme, “meager, pale, and wretched, believing in the good faith of princes and the great ones of the earth, and disdaining, in an excessive zeal, your body, your noble body that you are leaving to perish in misery and humiliation. It was not for this that God made it with Dame Nature. Do you know that our soul which is the breath of life, needs, that it may breathe, beans, beef, beer, wine, ham, sausages, chitterlings, and rest; you, you live on bread, water, and watching.”

“Whence have you this talkative flow?” asked Ulenspiegel.

“He knows not what he says,” answered Wasteele, sadly.

But Lamme growing angry:

“I know better than you. I say that we are mad, I, you, and Ulenspiegel, to wear out our eyes for all these princes and great ones of the earth, who would laugh loudly at us if they saw us dying of weariness, losing our sleep to furbish up arms and cast bullets for their service while they drink French wine and eat German capons from golden tankards and dishes of English pewter; they will never ask whether, while we are seeking in the open wild the God by whose grace they have their power, their enemies are cutting off our limbs with their scythes and casting us into the well of death. They, in the meanwhile, who are neither Reformed, nor Calvinists, nor Lutherans, nor Catholics, but sceptics and doubters entirely, will buy or conquer principalities, will devour the wealth of the monks, abbeys, and convents, and will have all: virgins, wives, women and bona robas, and will drink from their gold cups to their perpetual jollity, and to our everlasting foolishness, simplicity, stupidity, and to the seven deadly sins which they commit, O smitte Wasteele, under the starveling nose of thy enthusiasm. Look upon the fields, the meads, look on the harvest, the orchards, the kine, the gold rising out of the earth; look at the wild things in the woods, the birds of the skies, delicious ortolans, delicate thrushes, wild boars’ heads, haunches of buck venison; all is theirs, hunting, fishing, earth, sea, everything. And you, you live on bread and water, and we are killing ourselves here for them, without sleep, without eating, and without drinking. And when we shall be dead they will fetch our carrion a kick and say to our mothers: ‘Make us more of these; those ones can do us no service now.’”

Ulenspiegel laughed and said nothing. Lamme breathed hard with indignation, but Wasteele, speaking in a gentle voice:

“Thou speakest but lightly,” said he. “I live not for ham, for beer, or for ortolans, but for the victory of freedom of conscience. The prince of freedom does even as I do. He sacrifices his wealth, his sleep and his happiness to drive out from the Low Countries the butchers and tyranny. Do as he does and try to grow thinner. ’Tis not by the belly that peoples can be saved, but by proud courage and fatigues endured even unto death without a murmur. And now go and lie down, if thou art sleepy.”

But Lamme would not, being ashamed.

And they furbished arms and cast bullets until it was morning, and thus for three days.

Then they departed for Ghent, by night, selling bird cages, mouse-traps, and olie-koekjes.

And they stopped at Meulestee, the little town of the mills, whose red roofs are seen everywhere, and there they agreed to carry on their trades apart and to meet each other at night before curfew in de Zwaen, at the Swan Inn.

Lamme wandered about the streets of Ghent selling olie-koekjes getting a liking for this trade, seeking for his wife, emptying many a quart pot and eating continually. Ulenspiegel had delivered letters from the prince to Jacob Scoelap, licentiate in medicine; to Lieven Smet, cloth seller; to Jan Wulfschaeger, to Gillis Coorne, the scarlet dyer, and to Jan de Roose, tile maker, who gave him the money harvested by them for the Prince, and bade him wait some days longer at Ghent and in the neighbourhood, and he would be given still more.

Those men having been hanged later on the New Gibbet for heresy, their bodies were buried in the Gallows Field, near the Bruges Gate.