The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 39

As they rode on astraddle, they came to Oost-Camp, where there is a great wood the fringe of which touched the canal.

Seeking therein shade and sweet fragrance, they went into it, without seeing anything but the long forest alleys going in every direction towards Bruges, Ghent, South Flanders, and North Flanders.

Suddenly Ulenspiegel jumped down from his ass.

“Dost thou see nothing yonder?”

Lamme said:

“Aye, I see.” And trembling: “My wife, my good wife! ’Tis she, my son. Ha! I cannot walk to her. To find her thus!”

“What are you complaining of?” said Ulenspiegel.

“She is beautiful thus half-naked, in this muslin tunic cut in open work that lets the fresh skin be seen. That one is too young; she is not your wife.”

“My son,” said Lamme, “it is she, my son; I know her. Carry me. I can go no more. Who would have thought it of her? To dance clad in this way like an Egyptian, shamelessly! Aye, it is she; see her shapely legs, her arms bare to the shoulder, her breasts round and golden half emerging from her muslin tunic.

See how with that red flag she excites that great dog jumping up at it.”
“’Tis a dog of Egypt,” said Ulenspiegel; “the Low Countries give none of that kind.”

“Egypt … I do not know… But it is she. Ha! my son, I can see no more. She plucks up her breeches higher to show more of her round legs. She laughs to show her white teeth, and loudly to let the sound of her sweet voice be heard. She opens her tunic at the top and throws herself back. Ha! that swan neck amorous, those bare shoulders, those bright bold eyes! I run to her!”

And he leaped from his ass.

But Ulenspiegel, stopping him:

“This girl,” said he, “is not your wife. We are near a camp of Egyptians. Beware… See you the smoke behind the trees? Hear you the barking of the dogs? There, here are some looking at us, ready to bite perhaps. Let us hide deeper in the brake.”

“I will not hide,” said Lamme; “this woman is mine, as Flemish as ourselves.”

“Blind and madman,” said Ulenspiegel.

“Blind, nay! I see her well, dancing, half-naked, laughing and teasing this great dog. She feigns not to see us. But she does see us, I assure you. Thyl, Thyl! there is the dog hurling himself on her and throws her down to have the red flag. And she falls, uttering a plaintive cry.”

And Lamme suddenly dashed towards her, saying to her:

“My wife, my wife! where are you hurt, darling? Why do you laugh so loud? Your eyes are haggard.”

And he kissed her and caressed her and said:

“That beauty spot you had under the left breast, I see it not. Where is it? Thou art not my wife. Great God of Heaven!”

And she never stopped laughing.

Suddenly Ulenspiegel cried out:

“Guard thee, Lamme!”

And Lamme, turning about, saw before him a great blackamoor of an Egyptian, of a sour countenance, brown as peper-koek, which is ginger bread in the land of France.

Lamme picked up his pikestaff, and putting himself to his defence, he cried out:

“To the rescue, Ulenspiegel!”

Ulenspiegel was there with his good sword.

The Egyptian said to him in High German:

“Gibt mi ghelt, ein Richsthaler auf tsein.” (Give me money, a ricksdaelder or ten.)

“See,” said Ulenspiegel, “the girl goes away laughing loudly and even turning round to ask to be followed.”

“Gibt mi ghelt,” said the man. “Pay for your amours. We are poor folk and wish you no harm.”

Lamme gave him a carolus.

“What trade dost thou follow?” said Ulenspiegel.

“All trades,” replied the Egyptian: “being master of arts in suppleness, we do miraculous and magic tricks. We play on the tambourine and dance Hungarian dances. More than one among us make cages and gridirons to roast fine carbonadoes therewith. But all, Flemings and Walloons, are feared of us and drive us forth. As we cannot live by trade, we live by marauding, that is to say, on vegetables, meat, and poultry that we must needs take from the peasant, since he will neither give nor sell them to us.”

Lamme said to him:

“Whence comes this girl, who is so like to my wife?”

“She is our chief’s daughter,” said the blackamoor.

Then speaking low like a man in fear:

“She was smitten by God with the malady of love and knows naught of woman’s modesty. As soon as she seeth a man, she entereth on gaiety and wildness, and laughs without ceasing. She saith little; she was long thought to be dumb. By night, in sadness, she stays before the fire, weeping at whiles or laughing without reason, and pointing to her belly, where, she saith, she hath a hurt. At the hour of noon, in summer, after the meal, her sharpest madness cometh upon her. Then she goeth to dance near naked on the outskirts of the camp. She will wear naught but raiment of tulle or muslin, and in winter we have great trouble to cover her with a cloak of cloth of goat’s hair.”

“But,” said Lamme, “hath she not some man friend to prevent her from abandoning herself thus to all comers?”

“She hath none,” said the man, “for travellers, coming near her and beholding her eyes distraught, have more of fear than desire for her. This big man was a bold one,” said he, pointing to Lamme.

“Let him talk, my son,” said Ulenspiegel; “it is the stockvisch slandering the whale. Which of the two is the one that gives most oil?”

“You have a sharp tongue this morning,” said Lamme.

But Ulenspiegel, without listening to him, said to the Egyptian:

“What doth she when others are as bold as my friend Lamme?”

The Egyptian answered sadly:

“Then she hath pleasure and gain. Those who win her pay for their delight, and the money serves to clothe her and also for the necessities of the old men and the women.”

“She obeyeth none then?” said Lamme.

The Egyptian answered:

“Let us allow those whom God hath smitten to do as they wish. Thus he marks his will. And such is our law.”

Ulenspiegel and Lamme went away. And the Egyptian returned thence to his camp, grave and proud. And the girl, laughing wildly, danced in the clearing.