The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 35

At Harlebek, Lamme renewed his stock of olie-koekjes, ate twenty-seven and put thirty in his basket. Ulenspiegel carried his cages in his hand. Towards evening they arrived in Courtray and stopped at the inn of in de Bie, the Bee, with Gilis van den Ende, who came to his door as soon as he heard someone sing like the lark.

There it was all sugar and honey with them. The host having seen the prince’s letters, handed fifty carolus to Ulenspiegel for the prince, and would take no payment for the turkey he served them, nor for the dobbel-clauwert with which he washed it down. He warned them, too, that there were at Courtray spies of the Court of Blood, for which cause he ought to well keep his tongue as well as his companion’s.

“We shall reconnoitre then,” said Ulenspiegel and Lamme.

And they went out from the inn.

The sun was setting, gilding the gables of the houses; the birds were singing under the lime trees; the goodwives gossiped on the thresholds of their doors; the children rolled and tumbled about in the dust, and Ulenspiegel and Lamme wandered haphazard through the streets.

Suddenly Lamme said:

“Martin van den Ende, asked by me if he had seen a woman like my wife – I drew him my pretty portrait, – told me that there were at the house of the woman Stevenyne, on the Bruges road, at the Rainbow, outside the town, a great number of women who gather there every evening. I am going there straightway.”

“I shall find you again presently,” said Ulenspiegel. “I wish to pay the town a visit; if I meet your wife I will presently send her to you. You know that the baes has enjoined on you to be silent, if you have any regard for your skin.”

As Ulenspiegel wandered at his will, the sun went down, and the day falling swiftly, he arrived in the Pierpot-Straetje, which is the lane of the Stone Pot. There he heard the viol played upon melodiously; drawing near he saw from afar a white shape calling him, gliding away from him and playing on the viol. And it sang like a seraph a sweet slow song, stopping, turning back, still calling him and fleeing from him.

But Ulenspiegel ran swiftly; he overtook her and was about to speak to her when she laid on his mouth a hand perfumed with benjamin.

“Art thou a rustic or a nobleman?” said she.

“I am Ulenspiegel.”

“Art thou rich?”

“Enough to pay for a great pleasure, not enough to ransom my soul.”

“Hast thou no horses, that thou goest afoot?”

“I had an ass,” said Ulenspiegel, “but I left him in the stable.”

“How is it thou art alone, without a friend, in a strange city?”

“Because my friend is wandering on his own side, as I am on mine, my curious darling.”

“I am not curious,” said she. “Is he rich, your friend?”

“In fat,” said Ulenspiegel. “Will you soon have finished questioning me?”

“I have done,” said she, “now leave me.”

“Leave you?” he said; “as well bid Lamme, when he is hungry, leave a dish of ortolans. I want to eat you.”

“You have not seen me,” she said. And she opened a lantern which shone out suddenly, lighting up her face.

“You are beautiful,” said Ulenspiegel. “Ho! the golden skin, the sweet eyes, the red mouth, the darling body! All will be for me.”

“All,” she said.

She brought him to the woman Stevenyne’s, on the Bruges road, at the Rainbow (in den Reghen-boogh). Ulenspiegel saw there a great number of girls wearing on their arms armlets of a colour different from that of their fustian dress.

This one had an armlet of silver cloth on a robe of cloth of gold. And all the girls looked at her jealously. Coming in she made a sign to the baesine, but Ulenspiegel never saw it. They sat down together and drank.

“Do you know,” said she, “that whoever has loved me is mine forever?”

“Lovely fragrant girl,” said Ulenspiegel, “’twould be a delicious feast to me to eat always of this meat.”

Suddenly he perceived Lamme in a corner, with a little table before him, a candle, a ham, a pot of beer, and not knowing how to rescue his ham from the two girls, who wanted perforce to eat and drink with him.

When Lamme perceived Ulenspiegel, he stood up and leaped three feet into the air, crying:

“Blessed be God, that restoreth my friend Ulenspiegel to me! Something to drink, baesine!”

Ulenspiegel, pulling out his purse, said:

“Bring to drink till this is at an end.”

And he made the carolus clink.

“Glory to God!” said Lamme, craftily taking the purse in his hands; “it is I that pay and not you; this purse is mine.”

Ulenspiegel wished to get back his purse from him by force, but Lamme held on tenaciously. As they were fighting, the one to keep it, the other to get it back, Lamme speaking disjointedly, said in low tones to Ulenspiegel:

“Listen: … catchpolls within … four … little room with three girls … two outside for you, for me … would have gone out … prevented… The brocade girl a spy … a spy, Stevenyne!”

While they were struggling, Ulenspiegel, listening with all his ears, cried out:

“Give back my purse, rascal!”

“You shall never get it,” said Lamme.

And they seized each other by the neck and the shoulders, rolling on the ground while Lamme gave his good advice to Ulenspiegel.

Suddenly the baes of the Bee came in followed by seven men, whom he seemed not to know. He crowed like a cock and Ulenspiegel whistled like a lark. Seeing Ulenspiegel and Lamme fighting, the baes spoke:

“Who are these two fellows?” he asked the Stevenyne.

The Stevenyne answered:

“Rogues that it would be better to separate rather than leave them here to make such an uproar before going to the gallows.”

“Let him dare to separate us,” said Ulenspiegel, “and we will make him eat the tiled floor.”

“The baes to the rescue,” said Ulenspiegel in Lamme’s ear.

Hereupon the baes, scenting some mystery, rushed into their battle, head down. Lamme threw these words into his ear.

“You the rescuer? How?”

The baes pretended to shake Ulenspiegel by the ears and said to him in a whisper:

“Seven for thee … strong fellows, butchers … I’m going away … too well known in town… When I am gone, ’tis van te beven de klinkaert … smash everything …”

“Aye,” said Ulenspiegel, getting up and fetching him a kick.

The baes struck him in his turn. And Ulenspiegel said to him:

“You hit thick and fast, my belly boy.”

“As hail,” said the baes, seizing Lamme’s purse lightly and giving it to Ulenspiegel.

“Rogue,” said he, “pay for me to drink now that you have been restored to your property.”

“Thou shalt drink, scandalous rascal,” replied Ulenspiegel.

“See how impudent he is,” said the Stevenyne.

“As insolent as thou art lovely, darling,” answered Ulenspiegel.

Now the Stevenyne was full sixty years old, and had a face like a medlar, but all yellowed with bile and anger. In the middle of it was a nose like an owl’s beak. Her eyes were the eyes of a flinty-hearted miser. Two long dog-tusks jutted from her fleshless mouth. And she had a great port-wine stain on her left cheek.

The girls laughed, mocking her and saying:

“Darling, darling, give him somewhat to drink” – “He will kiss you” – “Is it long since you had your first spree?” – “Take care, Ulenspiegel, she will eat you up” – “Look at her eyes; they are shining not with hate but with love” – “You might say she will bite you to death” – “Don’t be afraid” – “All amorous women are like that” – “She only wants your money” – “See what a good laughing humour she is in.”

And indeed the Stevenyne was laughing and winking at Gilline, the girl in the brocade dress.

The baes drank, paid, and went. The seven butchers made faces of intelligence at the catchpolls and the Stevenyne.

One of them indicated by a gesture that he held Ulenspiegel for a ninny and that he was about to fool him to the top of his bent. He said in his ear, putting out his tongue derisively on the side of the Stevenyne who was laughing and showing her fangs:

“’Tis van te beven de klinkaert” (’tis time to make the glasses clink).

Then aloud, and pointing to the catchpolls:

“Gentle reformer, we are all with thee; pay for us to drink and to eat.”

And the Stevenyne laughed with pleasure and also put out her tongue at Ulenspiegel when he turned his back to her. And Gilline of the brocade dress put out her tongue likewise.

And the girls said, whispering:

“Look at the spy who by her beauty brought to cruel torture and more cruel death more than twenty-seven of the Reformed faith; Gilline is in ecstasy thinking of the reward for her informing – the first hundred florins carolus of the victim’s estate. But she does not laugh when she thinks that she must share them with the Stevenyne.”

And all, catchpolls, butchers, and girls, put out their tongues to mock at Ulenspiegel. And Lamme sweated great drops of sweat, and he was red with anger like a cock’s comb, but he would not speak a word.

“Pay for us to drink and to eat,” said the butchers and the catchpolls.

“Well, then,” said Ulenspiegel, rattling his carolus again, “give us to drink and to eat, O darling Stevenyne, to drink in ringing glasses.”

Thereupon the girls began to laugh anew and the Stevenyne to stick out her tusks.

Nevertheless, she went to the kitchens and to the cellar; she brought back ham, sausages, omelettes of black puddings, and ringing glasses, so called because they were mounted on felt and rang like a chime when they were knocked.

Then Ulenspiegel said:

“Let him that is hungry eat; let him that is thirsty drink!”

The catchpolls, the girls, the butchers, Gilline, and the Stevenyne applauded this speech with feet and hands. Then they all ranged themselves as well as they could, Ulenspiegel, Lamme, and the seven butchers at the principal table, the great table of honour, the catchpolls and the girls at two small tables. And they drank and ate with a great noise of jaws, even the two catchpolls that were outside, and whom their comrades made come in to share the feast. And ropes and chains could be seen sticking out from their satchels.

The Stevenyne then putting out her tongue and grinning said:

“No one can go without paying me.”

And she went and shut all the doors, the keys of which she put in the pockets.

Gilline, lifting her glass, said:

“The bird is in the cage, let us drink.”

Thereupon two girls called Gena and Margot said to her:

“Is this another one that you are going to have put to death, wicked woman?”

“I do not know,” said Gilline, “let us drink.”

But the three girls would not drink with her.

And Gilline took her viol and sang, in French:

“To viol’s tone I sing
’Neath night or noonday skies,
A gay, mad, wanton thing
Who sell Love’s merchandise.

“Astarte traced aright
My hips in lines of flame:
Were shoulders ne’er so white
And God’s my lovely frame.

“Oh tear each purse’s sheath
And let its money glow:
Set tawny gold beneath
My milk-white feet aflow.

“Of Eve the child I seem,
Of Satan too a part;
As fine as is your dream,
Come seek it in my heart.

“My mood is cold or burning,
Or fond with careless ease,
Mad, mild, or melting turning,
My man, your whim to please.

“See every charm that cheers,
Soul, eyes of blue, for hire;
Delights and smiles and tears,
And Death, if you desire.

“To viol’s tone I sing
’Neath night or noonday skies,
A gay, mad, wanton thing
Who sell Love’s merchandise.”

As she sang her song, Gilline was so beautiful, so sweet, and so pretty that all the men, catchpolls, butchers, Lamme, and Ulenspiegel were there, speechless, moved, smiling, captivated by the spell.

All at once, bursting into laughter, Gilline said, looking at Ulenspiegel:

“That is the way birds are put in the cage.”

And the spell was broken.

Ulenspiegel, Lamme, and the butchers looked at one another.

“Now, then, will you pay me?” said the Stevenyne, “will you pay me, Messire Ulenspiegel, you that grow so fat on the flesh of preachers?”

Lamme would have spoken, but Ulenspiegel made him hold his tongue, and speaking to the Stevenyne:

“We shall not pay in advance,” said he.

“I will pay myself afterwards then out of your estate,” said the Stevenyne.

“Ghouls feed on corpses,” replied Ulenspiegel.

“Aye,” said one of the catchpolls, “those two have taken the preachers’ money; more than three hundred florins carolus. That makes a fine tithe for Gilline.”

Gilline sang:

“Seek such in other spheres
Take all, my loving squire,
Pleasures, kisses, and tears,
And Death, if you desire.”

Then, laughing, she said:

“Let’s drink!”

“Let’s drink!” said the catchpolls.

“In God’s name,” said the Stevenyne, “let us drink! The doors are locked, the windows have stout bars, the birds are in the cage, let us drink!”

“Let’s drink,” said Ulenspiegel.

“Let’s drink,” said Lamme.

“Let’s drink,” said the seven.

“Let’s drink,” said the catchpolls.

“Let’s drink,” said Gilline, making her viols sing. “I am beautiful; let us drink. I could take the Archangel Gabriel in the nets of my singing.”

“Bring us to drink then,” said Ulenspiegel, “wine to crown the feast, wine of the best; I would have a drop of liquid fire at every hair of our thirsty bodies.”

“Let us drink!” said Gilline; “twenty gudgeons more like you, and the pikes will sing no more.”

The Stevenyne brought wine. All were sitting, drinking and eating, the catchpolls and the girls together. The seven, seated at the table of Ulenspiegel and Lamme, threw, from their table to the girls, hams, sausages, omelettes, and bottles, which they caught in the air like carps snatching flies on the surface of a pond. And the Stevenyne laughed, sticking out her tusks and showing packets of candles, five to the pound, that hung above the bar. These were the girls’ candles. Then she said to Ulenspiegel:

“When men go to the stake, they carry a tallow candle on the way thither; would you like to have one now?”

“Drink up!” said Ulenspiegel.

“Drink up,” said the seven.

Said Gilline:

“Ulenspiegel has eyes shining like a swan about to die.”

“Suppose they were given to the pigs to eat?” said the Stevenyne.

“That would be a feast of lanterns; drink up!” said Ulenspiegel.

“Would you like,” said the Stevenyne, “when you are on the scaffold, to have your tongue thrust through with a red-hot iron?”

“It would be the better of that for whistling; drink up,” answered Ulenspiegel.

“You would talk less if you were hanged,” said the Stevenyne, “and your darling might come to look at you.”
“Aye,” said Ulenspiegel, “but I should weigh heavier, and would fall on your lovely muzzle: drink up!”

“What would you say if you were beaten with cudgels, branded on the forehead and on the shoulder?”

“I would say they had made a mistake in the meat,” replied Ulenspiegel, “and that instead of roasting the sow Stevenyne, they had scalded the young porker Ulenspiegel: drink up!”

“Since you do not like any of these,” said the Stevenyne, “you shall be taken on to the king’s ships, and there condemned to be torn asunder by four galleys.”

“Then,” said Ulenspiegel, “the sharks will have my four quarters, and you shall eat what they reject: drink up!”

“Why do you not eat one of these candles,” said she, “they would serve you in hell to light your eternal damnation.”

“I see clear enough to behold your shiny snout, O ill-scalded sow, drink up!” said Ulenspiegel.

Suddenly he struck the foot of the glass on the table, imitating with his hands the noise an upholsterer makes beating rhythmically the wool of a mattress upon a frame of sticks, but very gently, and saying:

“’Tis (tydt) van te beven de klinkaert” (it is time to make the clinker shiver – the glass that rings).

This is in Flanders the signal for the angry outbreak of drinkers and for the sacking of houses with the red lantern.

Ulenspiegel drank, then made the glass quiver on the table, saying:

“’Tis van te beven de klinkaert.”

And the seven imitated him.

All kept very still. Gilline grew pale, the Stevenyne appeared astonished. The catchpolls said:

“Are the seven on their side?”

But the butchers, winking, reassured them, at the same time continually repeating in louder and louder tones with Ulenspiegel:

“’Tis van te beven de klinkaert; ’tis van te beven de klinkaert.”

The Stevenyne drank to give herself courage.

Ulenspiegel then struck the table with his fist, with the rhythm and measure of upholsterers beating mattresses; the seven did as he did; glasses, jugs, bowls, quart pots, and goblets came slowly into the dance, overturning, breaking, rising on one side to fall on the other; and still there rang out more threatening, sombre, warlike, and in monotone: “’Tis van te beven de klinkaert.”

“Alas!” said the Stevenyne, “they are going to smash everything here.”

And in her fear her two tusks stuck farther still out of her mouth.

And the blood lit up with wrath and fury in the minds of the seven and Lamme and Ulenspiegel.

Then without stopping their monotonous threatening chant all the men at Ulenspiegel’s table took their glasses, and breaking them on the table, keeping time together, they got astride their chairs and drew their cutlasses. And they made such a din with their song that all the window-panes in the house were quaking. Then like a ring of devils they went round about the chamber and all the tables, saying continually: “’Tis van te beven de klinkaert.”

And the catchpolls then rose up quaking with terror, and took out their ropes and chains.

But the butchers, Ulenspiegel, and Lamme, thrusting their cutlasses back into their sheaths, got up, seized their chairs, and brandishing them like cudgels, they ran nimbly through the room hither and thither, striking right and left, sparing only the girls, smashing all the rest, furniture, windows, chests, dishes, quart pots, bowls, glasses, and flasks, beating the catchpolls without pity and always singing to the time of the sound of the upholsterer beating mattresses: “’Tis van te beven de klinkaert; “’tis van te beven de klinkaert,” while Ulenspiegel had given a blow on the face with his fist to the Stevenyne, had taken her keys from her bag, and by force made her eat her candles.
The beauteous Gilline, tearing at the doors, the shutters, the windows, and the glass panes with her nails, seemed to want to scratch her way through everything, like a terrified cat. Then, all livid, she crouched down in a corner, with haggard eyes, showing her teeth, and holding her viol as if she must needs protect it at all costs.

The seven and Lamme said to the girls: “We will do you no hurt”; with their help tied up with their own chains and cords the catchpolls shivering in their shoes and not daring to resist, for they perceived that the butchers, picked out among the strongest by the baes of the Bee, would have chopped them to pieces with their cutlasses.

At every candle he made the Stevenyne eat Ulenspiegel said:

“This is for the hanging; that for the cudgelling; this other for the branding; this fourth for my pierced tongue; these two excellent and extra fat ones for the king’s ships and the quartering by four galleys; this for your den of spies; that one for your damsel in the brocade dress, and all these others just to please me.”

And the girls laughed to see the Stevenyne sneezing with anger and trying to spit out her candles. But in vain, for she had her mouth too full of them.

Ulenspiegel, Lamme, and the seven never ceased singing in time with one another: “’Tis van te beven de klinkaert.”

Then Ulenspiegel stopped, making sign to them to murmur the refrain softly. They did so while he held this conversation with the girls and the catchpolls:

“If any one of you cries for help, he will be cut down immediately.”

“Cut down!” said the butchers.

“We will hold our tongues,” said the girls, “do not hurt us, Ulenspiegel.”

But Gilline, huddled in her corner, her eyes starting out of her head, her teeth out of her mouth, could not speak, and clasped her viol tightly to her.

And the seven still were murmuring: “’Tis van te beven de klinkaert!” in measure.

The Stevenyne, pointing to the candles she had in her mouth, made signs that she would hold her tongue likewise. The catchpolls promised the same.

Ulenspiegel continued his discourse:

“Ye are here,” said he, “in our power; the night has fallen, we are near the Lys where you drown easily if you are thrust in. The gates of Courtrai are closed. If the night watch have heard the uproar, they will never budge, being too lazy and thinking it is simply good Flemish folk who as they drink are singing merrily to the sound of pots and flasks. Wherefore stay ye still, both men and girls, before your masters.”

Then, speaking to the seven:

“Are you going to Peteghem to find the Beggars?”

“We made ready for this at the news of thy coming.”

“From thence ye will go to the sea?”

“Aye,” said they.

“Do you know among these catchpolls one or two that might be let go to serve us?”

“Two,” said they, “Niklaes and Joos, who never hunted down the poor Reformed folk.”

“We are faithful!” said Niklaes and Joos.

Then Ulenspiegel said:

“Here are twenty florins carolus for you, twice more than you would have had if ye had taken the vile reward of the informer.”

Suddenly the five others exclaimed:

“Twenty florins! We will serve the prince for twenty florins. The king pays ill. Give each of us the half; we will tell the judge whatever you wish.”

The butchers and Lamme murmured low:

“’Tis van te beven de klinkaert; ’tis van te beven de klinkaert.”

“So that ye may not talk too much,” said Ulenspiegel, “the seven will bring you bound as far as Peteghem, to the Beggars. Ye shall have ten florins when ye are on the sea; we shall be certain till then that the camp victual will keep you faithful to bread and soup. If ye are valiant men, ye shall have your share in the booty taken. If ye try to desert, ye shall be hanged. If ye escape, thus avoiding the rope, ye shall find the knife.”

“We serve who pays us,” said they.

“’Tis van te beven de klinkaert! ’Tis van te beven de klinkaert!” said Lamme and the seven striking upon the table with shards of broken pots and glasses.

“Ye shall take with you also,” said Ulenspiegel, “Gilline, the Stevenyne, and the three damsels. If one of them tries to escape, ye shall sew her up in a sack and throw her into the river.”

“He has not killed me,” said Gilline, leaping out from her corner, and brandishing her viol in the air. And she sang:

“Of blood was all my dream
The dream so near my heart,
Of Eve the child I seem,
Of Satan, too, a part.”

The Stevenyne and the others were like to weep.

“Fear nothing, darlings,” said Ulenspiegel, “you are so soft and sweet, that everywhere they will love you, feast you, and caress you. At every war capture ye shall have your share in the booty.”

“They will give nothing to me, for I am an old woman,” wept the Stevenyne.

“A sou a day, crocodile,” said Ulenspiegel, “for thou shalt be serving woman to these four beauteous damsels; thou shalt wash their petticoats, blankets, and chemises.”

“I, Lord God!” said she.

Ulenspiegel replied:

“Thou hast ruled them long, living on the earnings of their bodies and leaving them poor and hungry. Thou mayst whine and bellow, it shall be as I have said.”

Thereupon the four girls began to laugh and mock at the Stevenyne, and say to her, putting out their tongues:

“To each her turn in this world. Who would have said it of Stevenyne the miser? She shall work for us as a servant. Blessed be the lord Ulenspiegel!”

Then the three turned to Gilline:

“Thou wast her daughter, her support; thou didst share with her the fruits of thy foul spydom. Wilt thou ever dare again to strike and insult us with thy brocade dress? Thou didst scorn us because we were but fustian. Thou art clothed so richly only with the blood of victims. Let us take her dress so that she may be even like ourselves.”

“I will not have it,” said Ulenspiegel.

And Gilline, leaping on his neck, said:

“Blessed be thou that hast not killed me, and wouldst not have me ugly!”

And the girls, jealous, looked at Ulenspiegel, and said:

“He has lost his wits for her like all the men.”

Gilline sang to her viol.

The seven set out towards Peteghem, taking with them the catchpolls and the girls along by the Lys. As they went on their way they murmured:

“’T is van te beven de klinkaert; ’t is van te beven de klinkaert!”

As the sun was rising they came to the camp, sang like the lark, and the clarion of the cock made them answer. The girls and the catchpolls were closely guarded. For all that, on the third day Gilline was found dead, her heart pierced through with a great needle. The Stevenyne was accused by the three girls and brought before the captain of the band, his dizeniers and sergeants formed into a tribunal. There, without their having to put her to the torture, she confessed that she had killed Gilline through jealousy of her beauty and rage because the damsel treated her as her servant pitilessly. And the Stevenyne was hanged, and afterwards buried in the wood.

Gilline, too, was buried, and the prayers for the dead were said above her sweet body.

Meanwhile, the two catchpolls instructed by Ulenspiegel had gone before the castellan of Courtray, for the tumult, uproar, and pillage made in the Stevenyne’s house must needs be punished by the said castellan, as the Stevenyne’s house was in the castle ward, outside the jurisdiction of the town of Courtray. After having narrated to the lord castellan what had taken place, they told him with great conviction and humble sincerity of language:

“The murderers of the preachers are in no wise Ulenspiegel and his trusty and well-beloved Lamme Goedzak, who went to the Rainbow purely for their repose and refreshment. They even have passes from the duke, and we have seen these ourselves. The real culprits are two Ghent merchants, one a lean man and the other very fat, who went away towards France, after breaking everything at Stevenyne’s, taking her away with her four girls along with them for their pleasure. We had them well and duly taken prisoners, but there were in the house seven butchers, the strongest in the town, who took their side. They tied us all up and only let us go when they were far away on the French soil. And here are the marks of the ropes. The four other catchpolls are on their tracks, waiting for a reinforcement to lay hands on them.”

The castellan gave each of them two carolus and a new coat for their loyal services.

He then wrote to the Council of Flanders, to the Sheriff’s Court at Courtray, and to other courts of justice to announce to them that the real murderers had been discovered.

And he recounted to them the whole adventure in detail and at length.

Whereat the people of the Council of Flanders and the other courts of justice shuddered.

And the castellan was greatly praised for his perspicacity.

And Ulenspiegel and Lamme journeyed in peace upon the road from Peteghem to Ghent, along the Lys, wishing to arrive at Bruges, where Lamme hoped to find his wife, and at Damme, where Ulenspiegel, all a-dream, would have wished to be already, to see Nele, who lived in sadness with Katheline the madwife.