The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 34

Passing before the wood of Peteghem, Lamme said to Ulenspiegel:

“I am roasting hot; let us seek the shade.”

“Let us,” replied Ulenspiegel.

They sat down in the wood, upon the grass, and saw a herd of stags pass in front of them.

“Look well, Lamme,” said Ulenspiegel, priming his German musket. “There are the tall old stags that still have their dowcets, and carry proud and stately their nine-point antlers; lovely brockets, that are their squires, trot by their side, ready to do them service with their pointed horns. They are going to their lair. Turn the musket lock as I do. Fire! The old stag is wounded. A brocket is hit in the thigh; he is in flight. Let us follow him till he falls. Do as I do: run, jump, and fly.”

“There is my mad friend,” said Lamme, “following stags on foot. Fly not without wings; it is labour lost. You will never catch them. Oh! the cruel comrade! Do you imagine I am as agile as you? I sweat, my son; I sweat and I am going to fall. If the ranger catches you, you will be hanged. Stag is kings’ game; let them run, my son, you will never catch them.”

“Come,” said Ulenspiegel, “do you hear the noise of his antlers in the foliage? It is a water spout passing. Do you see the young branches broken, the leaves strewing the ground? He has another bullet in his thigh this time; we will eat him.”

“He is not cooked yet,” said Lamme. “Let these poor beasts run. Ah! how hot it is! I am going to fall down there without doubt and I shall never rise again.”

Suddenly, on all sides, men clad in rags and armed filled the forest. Dogs bayed and dashed in pursuit of the stags. Four fierce fellows surrounded Lamme and Ulenspiegel and brought them into a clearing, in the middle of a brake, where they saw encamped there, among women and children, men in great numbers, armed diversely with swords, arbalests, arquebuses, lances, pikestaff, and reiter’s pistols.

Ulenspiegel, seeing them, said to them:

“Are ye the leafmen or Brothers of the Woods, that ye seem to live here in common to flee the persecution?”

“We are Brothers of the Woods,” replied an old man sitting beside the fire and frying some birds in a saucepan. “But who art thou?”

“I,” replied Ulenspiegel, “am of the goodly country of Flanders, a painter, a rustic, a noble, a sculptor, all together. And through the world in this wise I journey, praising things lovely and good and mocking loudly at all stupidity.”

“If thou hast seen so many countries,” said the ancient man, “thou canst pronounce: Schild ende Vriendt, buckler and friend, in the fashion of Ghent folk; if not, thou art a counterfeit Fleming and thou shalt die.”

Ulenspiegel pronounced: Schild ende Vriendt.

“And thou, big belly,” asked the ancient man, speaking to Lamme, “what is thy trade?”

Lamme replied:

“To eat and drink my lands, farms, fees, and revenues, to seek for my wife, and to follow in all places my friend Ulenspiegel.”

“If thou hast travelled so much,” said the old man, “thou art not without knowledge of how they call the folk of Weert in Limbourg.”

“I do not know it,” replied Lamme; “but would you not tell me the name of the scandalous vagabond who drove my wife from her home? Give it to me; I will go and slay him straightway.”

The ancient man made answer:

“There are two things in this world which never return once having taken flight: they are money spent and a woman grown tired and run away.”

Then speaking to Ulenspiegel:

“Dost thou know,” said he, “how they call the men of Weert in Limbourg?”

“De reakstekers, the exorcisers of skates,” replied Ulenspiegel, “for one day a live ray having fallen from a fishmonger’s cart, old women seeing it leap about took it for the devil. ‘Let us go fetch the cur? to exorcise the skate,’ said they. The cur? exorcised it, and carrying it off with him, made a noble fricassee in honour of the folk of Weert. Thus may God do with the bloody king.”
Meanwhile, the barking of the dogs re?choed in the forest. The armed men, running in the wood, were shouting to frighten the beast.

“’Tis the stag and the brocket I put up,” said Ulenspiegel.

“We shall eat him,” said the old man. “But how do they call the folk of Eindhoven in Limbourg?”

“De pinnemakers, boltmakers,” replied Ulenspiegel. “One day the enemy was at the gate of their city; they bolted it with a carrot. The geese came and ate the carrot with great pecks of their greedy beaks, and the enemies came into Eindhoven. But it will be iron beaks that will eat the bolts of the prisons wherein they seek to lock up freedom of conscience.”

“If God be with us, who shall be against us?” replied the ancient man.

Ulenspiegel said:

“Dogs baying, men shouting, branches broken; ’tis a storm in the forest.”

“Is it good meat, stag meat?” asked Lamme, looking at the fricassees.

“The cries of the trackers come nearer,” said Ulenspiegel to Lamme; “the dogs are close at hand. What thunder! The stag! the stag! take care, my son. Fie! the foul beast; he has flung my big friend down to the earth in the midst of the pans, saucepans, cooking pots, boilers, and fricassees. There are the women and girls fleeing daft with fright. You are bleeding, my son?”

“You are laughing, scoundrel,” said Lamme. “Aye, I am bleeding; he hath landed his antlers in my seat. There, see my breeches torn, and my flesh, too, and all those lovely fricassees on the ground. There, I am losing all my blood down my hose.”

“This stag is a foresighted surgeon; he is saving you from an apoplexy,” replied Ulenspiegel.

“Fie! rascal without a heart,” said Lamme. “But I will follow you no more. I will stay here in the midst of these good fellows and these good women. Can you, without any shame, be so hardhearted to my woes, when I walk at your heels like a dog, through snow, frost, rain, hail, wind, and when it is hot weather, sweating my very soul out through my skin?”

“Your wound is nothing. Clap an olie-koekje on it; that will be both plaster and fry to it,” answered Ulenspiegel. “But do you know how they call the folk of Louvain? You do not know it, poor friend. Well, then, I am about to tell you to keep you from whimpering. They call them de koeye-schieters, cow shooters, for they were one day silly enough to fire on cows, which they took for enemy soldiers. As for us, we fire on Spanish goats; their flesh is stinking stuff, but their skin is good to make drums withal. And the folk of Tirlemont? Do you know it? Not that, either. They carry the proud nickname of kirekers. For in their town, in the great church, on Whit Sunday, a drake flies from the rood-loft altar, and that is the image of their Holy Ghost. Put a koeke-bakke on your wound. You pick up without a word the cooking pots and fricassees overturned by the stag. ’Tis kitchen courage. You relight the fire, and set up the soup pot again upon its three stakes; you are busying yourself very attentively with the cooking.

Do you know why there are four wonders in Louvain? No. I will tell you why. In the first place, because the living there pass underneath the dead, for the church of Saint-Michel is built close to the gate of the town. Its graveyard is therefore above. Secondly, because the bells there are outside the towers, as is seen at the church of Saint-Jacques, where there is a great bell and a little bell; being unable to place the little one inside the bell tower, they placed it outside. Thirdly, because of the Tower-without-Nails, because the spire of the church of Saint-Gertrude is made of stone instead of being made of wood, and because men do not nail stones, except the bloody king’s heart which I would fain nail above the great gate of Brussels. But you are not listening to me. Is there no salt in the sauces? Do you know why the folk of Tirlemont call themselves warming pans, de vierpannen? Because a young prince being come in winter to sleep at the inn of the Arms of Flanders, the innkeeper did not know how to air the blankets, for he had no warming pan. He had the bed aired by his daughter, who, hearing the prince coming, made off running, and the prince asked why they had not left the warming pan in the bed. May God bring it about that Philip, shut in a box of red-hot iron, may serve as warming pan in the bed of Madame Astarte.”
“Leave me in peace,” said Lamme; “a fig for you, your vierpannen, the Tower-without-Nails, and the rest of your nonsense. Leave me to my sauces.”

“Beware,” said Ulenspiegel. “The barkings cease not to re?cho; they become louder; the dogs are roaring, the bugle is sounding. Beware of the stag. You are taking flight! The bugle sounds.”

“It is the death quarry,” said the old man, “come back, Lamme, to your fricassees, the stag is dead.”

“It will be a good meal for us,” said Lamme. “You will invite me to the feast, because of the trouble I am taking for you. The sauce for the birds will be good: it crunches a little, however. That is the sand on which they fell when that big devil of a stag tore my doublet and me all together. But are you not afraid of the foresters?”

“We are too numerous,” said the old man; “they are afraid and do not disturb us. It is even the same with the catchpolls and the judges. The inhabitants of the towns love us, for we do no harm to any man. We shall live some time longer in peace, unless the Spanish army surrounds us. If that happens, old men and young men, women, girls, lads, and lasses, we will sell our lives dear, and we will kill one another rather than endure a thousand martyrdoms at the hands of the bloody duke.”

Ulenspiegel said:

“It is now no longer the time to combat the murderer by land. It is on the sea that we must ruin his power. Go to the Zealand Islands, by way of Bruges, Heyst, and Knoeke.”

“We have no money,” said they.

Ulenspiegel replied:

“Here are a thousand carolus from the prince. Follow along the waterways, canals, rivers, and streams; when you see ships carrying the sign ‘J. H. S.,’ let one of you sing like a lark. The clarion of the cock will answer him. And you will be in friends’ country.”

“We will do this,” said they.

Soon the hunters, followed by the dogs, appeared, pulling after them the dead stag with ropes.

Then all sate down round about the fire. There were full sixty, men, women, and children. Bread was pulled out from satchels, knives from their sheaths; the stag, cut up, stripped, disembowelled, was put on the spit with small game. And at the end of the meal Lamme was seen snoring with his head drooped on his breast and sleeping propped against a tree.

At nightfall, the Brothers of the Wood went back into huts constructed underground to sleep, and Lamme and Ulenspiegel did the same.

Armed men kept watch, guarding the camp. And Ulenspiegel heard the dry leaves protest under their feet.

The next day he departed with Lamme, while the men of the camp said:

“Blessed be thou; we will make towards the sea.”