The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 42

The air was warm: from the quiet sea there came not a breath of wind. Scarce did the trees by the canal of Damme shiver, the grasshoppers dwelt in the meadows, while in the fields men from the churches and the abbeys came to fetch the thirteenth part of the harvest for the cur?s and the abbots. Out of the sky, blue, ardent, deep, the sun poured down warmth and Nature slept under his rays like a fair girl naked and swooning under her lover’s caresses. The carps were cutting capers above the surface of the canal to seize the flies that buzzed like a kettle; while the swallows, with their long bodies and great wings, disputed the prey with them. From the earth rose a warm vapour, wavering and shimmering in the light. The beadle of Damme announced from the top of the tower, by means of a cracked bell sounding like a pot, that it was noon and time for the country folk working at the haymaking to go to dinner. Women cried long and loud, holding their closed hands funnel-wise, calling in their men, brothers or husbands, by name: Hans, Pieter, Joos; and one might see their red hoods above the hedges.

Far off, in the eyes of Lamme and Ulenspiegel, rose lofty, square, and massive the tower of Notre Dame, and Lamme said:

“There, my son, are thy griefs and thy love.”

But Ulenspiegel made no answer.

“Soon,” said Lamme, “shall I see my ancient home and perchance my wife.”

But Ulenspiegel made no answer.

“Man of wood,” said Lamme, “heart of stone, nothing then can affect you, neither the nearness of the places in which you spent your boyhood, nor the dear shades of poor Claes and poor Soetkin, the two martyrs. What! you are neither sad nor glad; what then hath dried up your heart in this way? Look at me, anxious, uneasy, bounding in my belly; look at me…”

Lamme looked at Ulenspiegel and saw him with head livid, pale and hanging, his lips trembling, and weeping without saying a word.

And he held his tongue.

They marched thus in silence as far as Damme, and came into it by the street of the Heron, and saw no one in it, because of the heat. The dogs, with their tongues hanging out, lying on their sides, were gaping before the thresholds of the doors. Lamme and Ulenspiegel passed directly in front of the Townhall, before which Claes had been burned; the lips of Ulenspiegel trembled more, and his tears dried up. Finding himself over against the house of Claes, occupied by a coalman, he said to him as he went within:

“Dost thou know me? I am fain to rest here.”

The master coalman said:

“I know thee; thou art the son of the victim. Go wherever thou wouldst in this house.”

Ulenspiegel went into the kitchen, then into the bedchamber of Claes and Soetkin, and there he wept.

When he had come down thence, the master coalman said to him:

“Here are bread, cheese, and beer. If thou art hungry, eat; if thou art thirsty, drink.”

Ulenspiegel signed with his hand that he was neither hungry nor thirsty.

He walked thus with Lamme, who stayed astraddle on his ass, while Ulenspiegel held his by the halter.
They arrived at Katheline’s cottage, tied up their asses, and went in. It was meal time. There were on the table haricots in their pods mixed with great white beans. Katheline was eating; Nele was standing and ready to pour into Katheline’s plate a vinegar sauce she had just taken from the fire.

When Ulenspiegel came in, she was so startled that she put the pot and all the sauce in Katheline’s plate, who, nodding her head, began to hunt for the beans around the saucepot with her spoon, and striking herself on the forehead, repeated like a madwoman:

“Take away the fire! My head is burning!”

The smell of the vinegar made Lamme hungry.

Ulenspiegel remained standing, looking at Nele, smiling with love through his great sadness.

And Nele, without a word, threw her arms about his neck. She, too, seemed bereft of her wits; she wept, laughed; and red with great and sweet joy, she said only: “Thyl! Thyl!” Ulenspiegel, happy, gazed at her; then she left him, went and stationed herself farther off, contemplated him with joy and from there once again sprang upon him, throwing her arms about his neck; and so several times over. He held her, very happy, unable to sever from her, until she fell upon a chair, wearied out and as though out of her senses; and she said without any shame:

“Thyl! Thyl! my beloved, and so there you are back again!”

Lamme was standing at the door; when Nele was calmed, she said, pointing to him:

“Where have I seen this big man?”

“This is my friend,” said Ulenspiegel. “He is seeking for his wife in my company.”

“I know thee,” said Nele, speaking to Lamme; “thou didst use to dwell in the street of the Heron. Thou art seeking thy wife; I saw her at Bruges, living in all piety and devoutness. Having asked her why she had so cruelly abandoned her husband, she answered me: ‘Such was the holy will of God and the order of the holy Penance, but I cannot live with him henceforth.’”

Lamme was sad at this word, and looked at the beans in vinegar. And the larks, singing, sprang aloft in the sky, and Nature in ecstasy allowed herself to be caressed by the sun. And Katheline with her spoon picked out all round the pot the white beans, the green pods, and the sauce.