The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 40

Going on their way to Bruges, Ulenspiegel said to Lamme:

“We have disbursed a heavy sum of money in the enlisting of soldiers, in payment to the catchpolls, the gift to the Egyptian girl, and those innumerable olie-koekjes that it pleased you to eat without ceasing rather than to sell a single one. Now notwithstanding your belly-will, it is time to live more circumspectly. Give me your money. I will keep the common purse.”

“I am willing,” said Lamme. And giving it to him: “All the same, do not leave me to die of hunger,” said he, “for think on it, big and strong as I am, I must have substantial and abundant nourishment. It is well for you, a thin and wretched fellow, to live from hand to mouth, eating or not eating what you pick up, like planks that live on air and rain on the quays. But for me, whom air hollows and rain hungers, I must needs have other feasts.”

“You shall have them,” said Ulenspiegel, “feasts of virtuous Lents. The best filled paunches cannot resist them; deflating little by little, they make the heaviest light. And presently will Lamme my darling be seen sufficiently thinned down, running like a stag.”

“Alas!” said Lamme. “What henceforth will be my starveling fate? I am hungry, my son, and would fain have supper.”

Night was falling. They arrived in Bruges by the Ghent gate. They showed their passes. Having had to pay one demi-sol for themselves and two for their asses, they entered into the town; Lamme, thinking of Ulenspiegel’s word, seemed brokenhearted.

“Shall we have supper, soon?” said he.

“Aye,” replied Ulenspiegel.

They alighted in de Meermin, at the Siren, a weathercock which is fixed all in gold above the gable of the inn.

They put their asses in the stable, and Ulenspiegel ordered, for his supper and Lamme’s, bread, beer, and cheese.

The host grinned when serving this lean meal: Lamme ate with hungry teeth, looking in despair at Ulenspiegel labouring with his jaws upon the too-old bread and the too-young cheese, as if they had been ortolans. And Lamme drank his small beer with no pleasure. Ulenspiegel laughed to see him so miserable. And there was also someone that laughed in the courtyard of the inn and came at whiles to show her face at the window. Ulenspiegel saw that it was a woman that hid her face. Thinking it was some sly servant he thought no more of it, and seeing Lamme pale, sad, and livid because of his thwarted belly loves, he had pity and thought of ordering for his companion an omelette of black puddings, a dish of beef and beans, or any other hot dish, when the baes came in and said, doffing his headgear:

“If messires the travellers desire a better supper, they will speak and say what they want.”

Lamme opened wide eyes and his mouth wider still and looked at Ulenspiegel with an anguished distress.

The latter replied:

“Wandering workmen are not rich men.”

“It nevertheless happens,” said the baes, “that they do not always know all their possessions.” And pointing to Lamme: “That good phiz is worth two. What would Your Lordships please to eat and to drink – an omelette with fat ham, choesels, we made some to-day, castrelins, a capon melting under the tooth, a fine grilled carbonado with a sauce of four spices, dobbel-knol of Antwerp, dobbel-cuyt of Bruges, wine of Louvain prepared after the manner of Burgundy? And nothing to pay.”

“Bring all,” said Lamme.

The table was soon laid, and Ulenspiegel took his delight to see poor Lamme who, more famished than ever, precipitated himself upon the omelette, the choesels, the capon, the ham, the carbonadoes, and poured down his throat in quarts the dobbel-knol, the dobbel-cuyt and the Louvain wine prepared after the manner of Burgundy.

When he could eat no more, he puffed with comfort like a whale, and looked about him over the table to see if there was nothing left to put under his tooth. And he ate the crumbs of the castrelins.

Neither he nor Ulenspiegel had seen the pretty face look smiling through the panes, pass and repass in the courtyard. The baes having brought some wine mulled with cinnamon and Madeira sugar, they continued to drink. And they sang.

At the curfew, he asked them if they would go upstairs each to his large and goodly bedchamber. Ulenspiegel replied that a small one would suffice for them both. The baes replied:

“I have none such; ye shall each have a lord’s chamber, and nothing to pay.”

And indeed and in verity he brought them into chambers richly adorned with furniture and carpets. In Lamme’s there was a great bed.

Ulenspiegel, who had well drunk and was falling with sleep, left him to go to bed and promptly did likewise.

The next day, at the hour of noon, he entered Lamme’s chamber and saw him sleeping and snoring. Beside him was a pretty little satchel full of money. He opened it and saw it was gold carolus and silver patards.

He shook Lamme to wake him. The other came out of his sleep, rubbed his eyes and, looking round him uneasily, said:

“My wife! where is my wife?”

And showing an empty place beside him in the bed.

“She was there but now,” said he.

Then leaping out of the bed, he looked everywhere again, searched in all the nooks and corners of the chamber, the alcove and the cupboards, and said, stamping his foot:

“My wife! Where is my wife?”

The baes came up at the noise.

“Rascal,” said Lamme, catching him by the throat, “where is my wife? What hast thou done with my wife?”

“Impatient tramper,” said the baes, “thy wife? What wife? Thou didst come alone. I know naught.”

“Ha! he knows naught,” said Lamme, ferreting once more in all the nooks and corners of the room. “Alas! she was there, last night, in my bed, as in the time of our good loves. Aye. Where art thou, my darling?”

And flinging the purse on the ground:

“’Tis not thy money I want, ’tis thou, thy sweet body, thy kind heart, O my beloved! O heavenly joys! Ye will come back no more. I had grown hardened not to see thee, to live without love, my sweet treasure. And lo, having come to me again, thou dost abandon me. But I will die. Ha! my wife? Where is my wife?”

And he wept with scalding tears on the ground where he had cast himself. Then all at once opening the door, he started to run throughout the whole of the inn, and into the street, in his shirt, crying:

“My wife? Where is my wife?”

But soon he came back, for the mischievous boys hooted him and threw stones at him.

And Ulenspiegel said to him, forcing him to clothe himself:

“Do not be so overwhelmed; you shall see her again, since you have seen her. She loves you still, since she came back to you, since it was doubtless she that paid for the supper and for the lordly chambers, and that put on your bed this full pouch. The ashes tell me that this is not the doing of a faithless wife. Weep no more, and let us march forth for the defence of the land of our fathers.”

“Let us still remain in Bruges,” said Lamme; “I would fain run through the whole town, and I will find her.”

“You will not find her, since she is hiding from you,” said Ulenspiegel.

Lamme asked for explanations from the baes, but the other would tell him nothing.

And they went away towards Damme.

While they went on their way, Ulenspiegel said to Lamme:

“Why do you not tell me how you found her beside you, last night, and how she left you?”

“My son,” replied Lamme, “you know that we had feasted on meat, on beer, on wine, and that I could hardly breathe when we went off to bed. I held a wax candle in my hand, like a lord, to light me and had put down the candlestick on a chest to sleep; the door had remained ajar, the chest was close to it. Undressing, I looked on my bed with great love and desire for sleep; the wax candle suddenly went out. I heard as it were a breath and a sound of light feet in my chamber; but being more sleepy than afraid, I lay down heavily. As I was about to fall asleep, a voice – her voice, O my wife, my poor wife! – said to me: ‘Have you supped well, Lamme?’ and her voice was beside me, and her face, too, and her sweet body.”