The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 32

The girl came one day, all weeping, to say to Lamme and to Ulenspiegel:

“Spelle is allowing murderers and robbers in Meulestee to escape for money. He is putting the innocent to death. My brother Michielkin is among them. Alas! Let me tell you, ye will avenge him, being men. A vile and infamous debauchee, Pieter de Roose, an habitual seducer of children and girls, does all the harm. Alas! my poor brother Michielkin and Pieter de Roose were one evening, but not at the same table, in the tavern of the Valck, where Pieter de Roose was avoided by every one like the plague.

“My brother, not willing to see him in the same room as himself, called him a lecherous blackguard, and ordered him to purge the chamber of his presence.

“Pieter de Roose replied:

“‘The brother of a public baggage has no need to show such a lofty nose.’

“He lied. I am not public, and give myself only to whomsoever I please.’

“Michielkin, then, flinging his quart of cervoise ale in his face, told him he had lied like the filthy debauchee that he was, threatening, if he did not decamp, to make him eat his fist up to the elbow.

“The other would have talked more, but Michielkin did what he had said: he gave him two great blows on the jaw and dragged him by the teeth, with which he was biting, out on to the road, where he left him battered and bruised, without pity.

“Pieter de Roose, being healed, and unable to live a solitary life, went in ’t Vagevuur, a veritable purgatory and a gloomy tavern, where there were none but poor people. There also he was left to himself, even by all those ragamuffins. And no man spoke to him, save a few country folk to whom he was unknown, and a few wandering rogues, or deserters from some troop or other. He was even beaten there several times, for he was quarrelsome.

“The provost Spelle had come to Meulestee with two catchpolls, and Pieter de Roose followed them everywhere about like a dog, filling them up at his expense with wine, with meat, and many other pleasures that are bought with money. And so he became their companion and their comrade, and he began to do his wicked best to torment all he hated; which was all the inhabitants of Meulestee, but especially my poor brother.
“First of all he attacked Michielkin. False witnesses, gallows birds, greedy for florins, declared that Michielkin was a heretic, had uttered foulness about Notre Dame, and oftentimes blasphemed the name of God and the saints in the tavern of the Falcon, and that, besides all, he had full three hundred florins in a coffer.

“Notwithstanding that the witnesses were not of good life and conduct, Michielkin was arrested, and the proofs being declared by Spelle and the catchpolls good and sufficient to warrant putting the accused to the torture, Michielkin was hung up by the arms to a pulley fastened to the ceiling, and they put a weight of fifty pounds on each of his feet.

“He denied the charge, saying that if in Meulestee there was a rogue, a blackguard, a blasphemer and a lecherous brute, it was no other than Pieter de Roose, and not he.

“But Spelle would listen to nothing, and bade his catchpolls hoist Michielkin right up to the ceiling, and to let him drop heavily with his weights on his feet. And this they did, and so cruelly that the skin and the muscles of the victim were torn, and that the foot scarcely held to the leg.

“As Michielkin persisted in saying he was innocent, Spelle had him tortured afresh, while giving him to understand that if he would give him a hundred florins he would leave him free and acquitted.

“Michielkin said that he would die first.

“The folk of Meulestee, having learned the fact of the arrest and the torture, desired to be witness par turbes, which is the testimony of all the reputable inhabitants of a commune. ‘Michielkin,’ said they, unanimously, ‘is in no way or guise heretical; he goes every Sunday to mass and to the holy table; he has never said anything else of Our Lady than to call on her to succour him in difficult circumstances; having never spoken ill, even of an earthly woman, he would much less ever have dared to speak ill of the heavenly Mother of God. As for the blasphemies that the false witnesses declared they had heard him utter in the tavern of the Falcon, that was in all points false and lies.’

“Michielkin having been released, the false witnesses were punished, and Spelle cited Pieter de Roose before his court, but set him free without examination or torture, in consideration of one hundred florins paid down in one sum.

“Pieter de Roose, fearing that the money he still had left might attract Spelle’s attention to him once again, fled from Meulestee, while Michielkin, my poor brother, died of the gangrene that had caught hold of his feet.

“He who no longer wished to see me, yet had me sent for to bid me beware well of the fire in my body that would bring me into the fire of hell. And I could but weep, for the fire is within me. And he gave up his soul in my arms.”

“Ha!” said she, “he who would avenge upon Spelle the death of my beloved kind Michielkin would be my master forever, and I would obey him like a dog.”

While she spake, the ashes of Claes beat upon the breast of Ulenspiegel.

And he determined to bring Spelle the murderer to the gallows.
Boelkin (that was the girl’s name) returned to Meulestee, well assured in her home against the vengeance of Pieter de Roose, for a cattle dealer, passing by Destelberg, informed her that the cur? and the townsfolk had declared that if Spelle touched Michielkin’s sister, they would cite him before the duke.

Ulenspiegel, having followed her to Meulestee, came into a low chamber in Michielkin’s house, and saw there a portrait of a master pastry cook which he supposed to be that of the poor victim…

And Boelkin said to him:

“It is my brother’s portrait.”

Ulenspiegel took the picture and said, going away:

“Spelle shall be hanged!”

“What will you do?” said she.

“If you knew that,” said he, “you would have no pleasure in seeing it done.”

Boelkin nodded her head and said in a grieving voice:

“You show no confidence in me.”

“Is it not,” said he, “showing you extreme confidence to say to you ‘Spelle shall be hanged!’ For with this mere word alone you can have me hanged before him.”

“That is true,” said she.

“Then,” said Ulenspiegel, “go fetch me good potter’s clay, a double quart of bruinbier, clear water, and a few slices of beef. All separate.”

“The beef will be for me, the bruinbier for the beef, the water for the clay, and the clay for the portrait.”

Eating and drinking Ulenspiegel kneaded the clay, and now and then swallowed a morsel of it, but heeded it little, and looked most attentively at Michielkin’s portrait. When the clay was kneaded, he made a mask out of it, with a nose, a mouth, eyes, ears so much like the portrait of the dead man, that Boelkin was astonied at it.

After that he put the mask in the oven, and when it was dry, he painted it the colour corpses are, showing the haggard eyes, the solemn face, and the various contractions of a man in the act of dying. Then the girl, ceasing to be astonied, looked at the mask, without being able to take her eyes off it, grew pale and livid, covered up her face, and said shuddering:

“It is he, my poor Michielkin!”

He made also two bloody feet.

Then having conquered her first fright:

“Blessed will he be,” said she, “that will slay the murderer.” Ulenspiegel, taking the mask and the feet, said:

“I must have an assistant.”

Boelkin replied:

“Go in den Blauwe Gans, to the Blue Goose, to Joos Lansaem of Ypres, who keeps this tavern. He was my brother’s best friend and comrade. Tell him it is Boelkin that sends you.”

Ulenspiegel did as she bade him.

After having laboured for death, the provost Spelle went to drink in’t Valck, at the Falcon, a hot mixture of dobbel-clauwert, with cinnamon and Madeira sugar. They dared refuse him nothing at his inn, for fear of the rope.

Pieter de Roose, having plucked up courage again, had come back to Meulestee. Everywhere he followed Spelle and his catchpolls to have their protection. Sometimes Spelle paid the wherewithal for him to drink. And they drank up merrily the money of the victims.

The inn of the Falcon was not filled now as in the good days when the village lived joyously, serving God after the Catholic fashion; and not tormented because of religion. Now it was as though in mourning, as could be seen from its numerous houses that were empty or shut up, from its deserted streets in which there wandered a few starved dogs searching among the rubbish heaps for their rotten food.

There was no place now in Meulestee for any but the two evil and cruel men. The timid dwellers in the village saw them by day insolent and noting the houses of future victims, drawing up the lists of death; and by night venturing from the Falcon singing filthy choruses, while two catchpolls, drunk like them, followed them armed to the teeth to be their escort.

Ulenspiegel went in den Blauwe Gans, to the Blue Goose, to Joos Lansaem, who was at the bar.

Ulenspiegel took from his pocket a little flask of brandy, and said to him:

“Boelkin has two casks for sale.”

“Come into my kitchen,” said the baes.

There, shutting the door, and looking fixedly at him:

“You are no brandy merchant; what do these winkings of your eyes mean? Who are you?”

Ulenspiegel replied:

“I am the son of Claes that was burned at Damme; the ashes of the dead man beat upon my breast; I would fain kill Spelle, the murderer.”

“It is Boelkin who sends you?” asked the host.

“Boelkin sends me,” replied Ulenspiegel. “I will kill Spelle; you shall help me in it.”

“I will,” said the baes. “What must I do?”

Ulenspiegel replied:

“Go to the cur?, the good pastor, an enemy to Spelle. Assemble your friends together and be with them to-morrow, after the curfew, on the Everghem road, above Spelle’s house, between the Falcon and the house aforesaid. All post yourselves in the shadows and have no white on your clothes. At the stroke of ten you will see Spelle coming out from the tavern and a wagon coming from the other side.

“Do not tell your friends to-night; they sleep too near to their wives’ ears. Go and find them to-morrow. Come, now, listen to everything closely and remember well.”

“We shall remember,” said Joos. And raising his goblet: “I drink to Spelle’s halter.”

“To the halter,” said Ulenspiegel. Then he went back with the baes into the tavern chamber where there sate drinking certain old clothes merchants of Ghent who were coming back from the Saturday market at Bruges, where they had sold for high prices doublets and short mantles of cloth of gold and silver bought for a few sous from ruined nobles who desired by their luxury and splendour to imitate the Spaniards.

And they kept revels and feasting because of their big profits.

Ulenspiegel and Joos Lansaem, sitting in a corner, as they drank, and without being heard, agreed that Joos should go to the cur? of the church, a good pastor, incensed against Spelle, the murderer of innocent men. After that he would go to his friends.

On the morrow, Joos Lansaem and Michielkin’s friends, having been forewarned, left the Blauwe Gans, where they had their pints as usual, and so as to conceal their plans went off at curfew by different ways, and came to the Everghem causeway. They were seventeen in number.

At ten o’clock Spelle left the Falcon, followed by his two catchpolls and Pieter de Roose. Lansaem and his troop were hidden in the barn belonging to Samson Boene, a friend of Michielkin. The door of the barn was open. Spelle never saw them.

They heard him pass by, staggering with drink like Pieter de Roose and his two catchpolls also, and saying, in a thick voice and with many hiccups:

“Provosts! provosts! life is good to them in this world; hold me up, gallows birds that live on my leavings!”

Suddenly were heard upon the road, from the direction of the open country, the braying of an ass and the crack of a whip.

“There is a restive donkey indeed,” said Spelle, “that won’t go on in spite of that good warning.”

Suddenly they heard a great noise of wheels and a cart leaping along and coming down the middle of the road.

“Stop it!” cried Spelle.

As the cart passed beside them, Spelle and his two catchpolls threw themselves on the donkey’s head.

“This cart is empty,” said one of the catchpolls.

“Lubber,” said Spelle, “do empty carts gallop about by night all alone? There is somebody in this cart a-hiding; light the lanterns, hold them up, I am going to look in it.”

The lanterns were lighted and Spelle climbed up on the cart, holding his own lamp; but scarcely had he looked than he uttered a great cry, and falling back, said:

“Michielkin! Michielkin! Jesu! have pity upon me!”

Then there rose up from the floor of the cart a man clad in white as pastry cooks are and holding in his hands two bloody feet.

Pieter de Roose, seeing the man stand up, illuminated by the lanterns, cried with the two catchpolls:

“Michielkin! Michielkin, the dead man! Lord have pity upon us!”

The seventeen came at the noise to look at the spectacle and were affrighted to see in the light of the clear moon how like was the image of Michielkin, the poor deceased.

And the ghost waved his bleeding feet.

It was his same full round visage, but pale through death, threatening, livid, and eaten under the chin by worms.

The ghost, still waving his bleeding feet, said to Spelle, who was groaning, lying flat on his back:

“Spelle, Provost Spelle, awake!”

But Spelle never moved.

“Spelle,” said the ghost again, “Provost Spelle, awake or I fetch thee down with me into the mouth of gaping hell.”

Spelle got up, and with his hair straight up for terror, cried lamentably:

“Michielkin! Michielkin, have pity!”

Meanwhile, the townsfolk had come up, but Spelle saw nothing save the lanterns, which he took for the eyes of devils. He confessed as much later.

“Spelle,” said the ghost of Michielkin, “art thou prepared to die?”

“Nay,” replied the provost, “nay, Messire Michielkin; I am nowise prepared for it, and I would not appear before God with my soul all black with sin.”

“Dost thou know me?” said the ghost.

“May God be my helper,” said Spelle, “yea, I know thee; thou art the ghost of Michielkin, the pastry cook, who died, innocently in his bed, of the after effects of torture, and the two bleeding feet are those upon each of which I had a weight of fifty pounds hung. Ha! Michielkin, forgive me, this Pieter de Roose was so strong a tempter; he offered me fifty florins, which I accepted, to put thy name on the list.”

“Dost thou desire to confess thyself?” said the ghost.

“Aye, Messire, I desire to confess myself, to tell all and do penance. But deign to send away these demons that are there, ready to devour me. I will tell all. Take away those fiery eyes! I did the same thing at Tournay, with respect to five townsmen; the same at Bruges, with four. I no longer know their names, but I will tell them you if you insist; elsewhere, too, I have sinned, lord, and of my doing there are nine and sixty innocents in the grave. Michielkin, the king needed money. I had been informed of that, but I needed money even likewise; it is at Ghent, in the cellar, under the pavement, in the house of old Grovels my real mother. I have told all, all: grace and mercy! Take away the devils. Lord God, Virgin Mary, Jesus, intercede for me: save me from the fires of hell, I will sell all I have, I will give everything to the poor, and I will do penance.”

Ulenspiegel, seeing that the crowd of the townsmen was ready to uphold him, leapt from the cart at Spelle’s throat and would have strangled him.

But the cur? came up.

“Let him live,” said he; “it is better that he should die by the executioner’s rope than by the fingers of a ghost.”

“What are you going to do with him?” asked Ulenspiegel.

“Accuse him before the duke and have him hanged,” replied the cur?. “But who art thou?” asked he.

“I,” replied Ulenspiegel, “am the mask of Michielkin and the person of a poor Flemish fox who is going back into his earth for fear of the Spanish hunters.”

In the meantime, Pieter de Roose was running away at full speed.

And Spelle having been hanged, his goods were confiscated.

And the king inherited.