Charles de Coster.
The Legend of Ulenspiegel. Volume 1 of 2
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“Has he gone? Who will pay the charges?”
The baes, seized with fear, cut open Ulenspiegel’s hat with a knife. But instead of the carolus, he found nothing in it between the felt and the lining but worthless copper counters.
Raging then against the Smaedelyke broeders he said to them:
“Brothers of roguery, ye shall not stir out of here save leaving behind all your clothes except only your shirts.”
And they had every man to strip off his clothes to pay his shot.
In this fashion they went in their shirts over hill and dale, for they would by no means sell their horse nor their cart.
And all that beheld them in so pitiable a plight, gave them freely bread to eat, beer, and sometimes meat; for everywhere they told the tale how they had been despoiled by robbers.
And among the lot they had but one pair of breeches.
And thus they came back to Sluys in their shirts, dancing in their cart and playing the rommel-pot.
Meanwhile Ulenspiegel bestrode the back of Jef through the lands and the marshes of the Duke of Lunebourg. The Flemings call this duke Water-Signorke because it is always damp in his country.
Jef obeyed Ulenspiegel like a dog, drank bruinbier, danced better than a Hungarian master of arts in posturing, pretended to be dead and lay down on his back at the least signal.
Ulenspiegel knew that the Duke of Lunebourg, annoyed and angry at Ulenspiegel’s making a mock of him at Darmstadt before the landgrave of Hesse, had forbidden him to set foot on his territories on pain of the halter. Suddenly he saw His Ducal Highness in person, and as he knew it was a hasty and violent Highness, he was seized with fright. Speaking to his ass:
“Jef,” said he, “here is Monseigneur of Lunebourg coming. I feel a sore itch of rope on my neck; but may it not be the hangman that will scratch me for it. Jef, I would gladly be scratched, but not hanged. Think that we are brothers in distress and long ears; think, too, what a good friend you would lose if you lost me.”
And Ulenspiegel wiped his eyes, and Jef began to bray.
Continuing his discourse:
“We live together in mirth,” said Ulenspiegel to him, “or in moan, according to circumstances; do you remember, Jef?..” The ass continued to bray, for he was hungry.
“And you will never be able to forget me,” said his master, “for what friendship is strong but that which laughs with the same joy and weeps with the same distress! Jef, you must get down on your back.”
The gentle ass obeyed, and was seen by the duke with all four hoofs in the air. Ulenspiegel quickly took seat on his belly. The duke came to him.
“What dost thou here?” said he, “knowest thou not that in my last edict I forbade thee under pain of the rope to set thy dusty foot on my territory?”
“Gracious lord, have compassion upon me!”
Then showing his ass:
“You know full well,” said he, “that by law and by justice, he is always free that dwelleth between his own four posts.”
The duke answered:
“Be off from out my territories, else thou shalt die.”
“Monseigneur,” replied Ulenspiegel, “I should be off from them so swiftly mounted on a florin or two!”
“Rogue,” said the duke, “wilt thou, not satisfied with thy disobedience, ask money of me to boot?”
“Needs must indeed, Monseigneur, I cannot take it from you…”
The duke gave him a florin.
Then said Ulenspiegel, speaking to his ass:
“Up, Jef, and salute Monseigneur.”
The ass got up and began to bray again.Then both of them took themselves off.
Soetkin and Nele were seated at one of the windows of the cottage and looked into the street.
Soetkin said to Nele:
“Dearest, see you not my boy Ulenspiegel coming?”
“No,” said Nele, “we shall never see him again, the naughty vagabond.”
“Nele,” said Soetkin, “you must not be angry with him but sorry for him, for he is away from his home, poor fellow.”
“I know full well,” said Nele, “he hath another house far from here, richer than his own, where some beauteous dame doubtless gives him lodging.”
“That would be good luck indeed for him,” said Soetkin; “mayhap there he feedeth upon ortolans.”
“Why do they not give him stones to eat: speedily would he be here then, the glutton!” said Nele.
Then Soetkin laughed and said:
“Whence doth it arise then, dearest, all this big anger?”
But Claes, who, all pensive, too, was binding faggots in a corner.
“Do you not see,” said he, “that she is infatuate for him?”
“Lo you,” said Soetkin, “the crafty cunning thing that never murmured word of it! Is it so, dearest, that you long for him?”
“Never believe it,” said Nele.
“You will have there,” said Claes, “a stout husband with a big mouth, a hollow belly, and a long tongue, turning florins into liards and never a half-penny for his work, always loafing about and measuring the highways with the ell wand of vagabondage.”
But Nele replied, all red and cross:
“Why did you not make something different of him?”
“There,” said Soetkin, “now she is weeping; hold your tongue, husband.”
Ulenspiegel upon a day came to Nuremberg and gave himself out for a great physician, the conqueror of sickness, a most illustrious purger, renowned queller of fevers, celebrated scavenger of plagues, and scourge invincible of the itch and mange.
There were in the hospital so many sick that they could not know where to put them. The master hospitaller hearing of Ulenspiegel’s coming, came to see him and inquired if it was true that he could heal all diseases.
“Except the last sickness,” replied Ulenspiegel; “but promise me two hundred florins for the cure of all the others, and I will not accept a liard till all your sick confess themselves cured and leave the hospital.”
On the morrow he came to the said hospital with a confident look and carrying his phiz solemnly and doctorally. Once within the wards, he took each sick man separately and said:
“Swear,” quoth he, “not to confide to any what I am about to tell thee in thine ear. What is thy malady?”
The sick man would tell him, and swear by his almighty God to hold his tongue.
“Know,” said Ulenspiegel, “that I mean to reduce one of you to powder by means of fire, that of this dust or powder I shall concoct a marvellous mixture and give it to all the sick to drink. The one that cannot walk shall be burned. To-morrow I shall come here and standing in the street with the master hospitaller, I shall summon you all crying, ‘Let him that is not sick take up his duds and come!’”
In the morning, Ulenspiegel came and called out as he had said. All the sick, the lame, the rheumy, the coughing, the fever stricken, would fain come out together. All were in the street, even some that for ten years had not left their bed.
The master hospitaller asked them if they were cured and could walk.
“Aye,” replied they, imagining that one of them was burning in the courtyard.
Ulenspiegel then said to the master hospitaller:
“Pay me, since they are all outside, and declare themselves cured.”
The master paid him two hundred florins. And Ulenspiegel departed.
But on the second day the master beheld his sick folk coming back in a worse state than before, save one who, being cured in the open air, was found drunk and singing through the streets: “Noel to the great physician Ulenspiegel!”
The two hundred florins having gone their light ways Ulenspiegel came to Vienne where he hired himself to a wheelwright who continually scolded his workmen because they did not blow the bellows of his forge strongly enough:
“Keep time,” he would be crying always, “follow with the bellows.”
One day when the baes went into the garden Ulenspiegel took down the bellows, carried it off on his shoulders, and followed his master. The latter being astonished to see him so strangely burthened, Ulenspiegel said to him:
“Baes, you ordered me to follow with the bellows, where am I to put this one while I go and fetch the other.”
“Dear lad,” said the baes, “I did not say that; go and put the bellows back in its place.”
However, he studied how to pay him out for this trick. Thenceforward he rose every day at midnight, awoke his men and made them work.
Then men said to him:
“Baes, why do you wake us up in the middle of the night?”
“’Tis a custom of mine,” replied the baes, “not to allow my workmen to stay more than half the night in a bed for the first seven days.”
The following night he awaked his men at midnight again. Ulenspiegel, who slept in the garret, took his bed on his back and thus laden came down into the forge.
The baes said to him:
“Are you mad? Why do you not leave your bed in its place?”
“’Tis a custom I have,” answered Ulenspiegel, “to spend for the first seven days half the night on top of my bed and the other half under it.”
“Well, for me, it is a second custom I have to throw into the street my impudent workmen with leave to pass the first week above the pavement and the second below it.”
“In your cellar, baes, if you please, beside the casks of bruinbier,” replied Ulenspiegel.
Having left the wheelwright and gone back to Flanders, he must hire himself as apprentice to a shoemaker who liked better to stay in the streets than to wield the awl in his workshop. Ulenspiegel, seeing him for the hundredth time ready to go abroad, asked him how he must cut the leather for vamps.
“Cut it,” replied the baes, “for big feet and average feet, so that all that lead big cattle and little cattle may get into them handily.”
“So shall it be, baes,” answered Ulenspiegel.
When the shoemaker had gone out, Ulenspiegel cut out vamps only good to make shoes for fillies, asses, heifers, sows, and ewes.
Coming back to his workshop, the baes, seeing his leather in pieces:
“What have you done there, good-for-nothing botcher?” said he.
“What you bade me,” Ulenspiegel made answer.
“I bade you,” replied the baes, “cut me shoes in which might be put handily everything that leads oxen, swine, and sheep, and you make me shoes for the feet of the beasts.”
“Baes, what leads the boar but the sow, the donkey but the ass, the bull but the heifer, the ram but the ewe, in the season when all the beasts are in love?”
Then he went away, and must needs remain outside.
At this time ’twas April, the air had been soft and sweet, then it froze hard and the sky was gray as on All Souls’ Day. The third year of Ulenspiegel’s banishment had long since run out and Nele awaited her friend from day to day. “Alas!” said she, “it will snow on the pear trees, on the flowering jasmine, on all the poor plants unfolded confidingly in the genial warmth of an untimely springtide. Already the little flakes are falling from the sky upon the roadways. And it snoweth, too, upon my poor heart.
“Where are the bright rays playing on bright faces, on the roofs they made still redder than their wont, on the window panes they caused to flame? Where are they, warming earth and sky, bird and insect? Alas! now night and day I am chilled to the bone with sadness and my long waiting. Where art thou, Ulenspiegel, my dear?”
Ulenspiegel, drawing near Renaix in Flanders, was hungry and thirsty, but he would by no means complain, and endeavoured to make folk laugh so they might give him bread. But he laughed not over well, and they passed him by and gave him nothing.
It was cold: turn and turn about it snowed, rained, and hailed on the back of the wanderer. If he passed through the villages, the water came in his mouth only to see a dog gnawing a bone in the angle of a wall. Fain and fain would he have earned a florin, but had no idea how the florin could fall into his pouch.
Looking up, he saw the pigeons that from the roof of the dove cote dropped white pieces on the highway, but they were not florins. He searched on the ground along the causeways, but florins do not bloom among the paving stones.
Looking to the right hand he saw a rascal cloud that moved onward into the sky, like a great watering pot, but he knew that if aught were to fall from this cloud it would not be a plump of florins. Looking to the left hand he saw a great idle horse-chestnut tree, living and doing nothing: “Ah!” he said to himself, “why are there no florin trees? They would be splendid trees, indeed!”
Suddenly the big cloud burst asunder, and the hailstones fell thick like pebbles on Ulenspiegel’s back. “Alas,” said he, “I feel it sure enough, stones are never thrown but at wandering dogs.” Then starting to run: “It is not my fault,” said he to himself, “if I have not a palace nor even a tent to shelter my poor thin body. Ah! the cruel hailstones: they are hard as cannon shot. No, it is not my fault if I trail my wretched tatters about the world, it is only that such was my good pleasure. Why am I not emperor? These hailstones would fain force themselves into my ears like ill words.” And he was still running: – “Poor nose,” he added, “you will soon be pierced through and through like fretwork, and mayst serve as a pepperpot at the feasts of the great folk of this world on whom it never hails.” Then wiping his cheeks: – “These,” said he, “would do well for ladles for cooks that are too hot at their ovens. Ah! far-off memory of the sauces of long ago. I am hungry. Empty belly, complain not; sad entrails, grumble no more. Where dost thou hide, propitious fortune? take me to the place where the pasture is.”
While he talked thus with himself, the sky cleared and grew bright with a strong sun, the hail ceased, and Ulenspiegel said: “Good morrow, sun, my one friend, that comest to dry me!”
But he still kept on running, being cold. Suddenly from afar he saw coming along the road a black-and-white dog running straight before him, tongue hanging out and the eyes bolting from his head.
“This brute,” said Ulenspiegel, “has the madness in his belly!” He hastily picked up a big stone and climbed upon a tree; as he reached the first bough, the dog passed and Ulenspiegel launched the stone upon his skull. The dog stopped, and wretchedly and stiffly tried to get up the tree and bite Ulenspiegel, but he could not, and fell back to die.
Ulenspiegel was nowise glad at this, and still less when, coming down from the tree, he perceived that the dog’s mouth was not dry and parched as is usual when these animals are smitten with the hydrophobia. Then studying his skin, he saw it was fine and good to sell, stripped him of it, washed it, hung it on his staff, let it dry a little in the sun, and then put it away in his satchel.
Hunger and thirst tormented him more and more, and he went into many farmhouses, not daring to offer his skin for sale, for fear that it might have belonged to one of the farmers’ dogs. He asked for bread, and was refused it. Night came on. His limbs were weary, he went into a little inn. There he beheld an ancient baesine caressing a wheezy old dog whose skin was like a dead man’s.
“Whence comest thou, traveller?” asked the aged baesine.
Ulenspiegel made answer:
“I come from Rome, where I healed the Pope’s dog of a sorry rheum that grieved him sore.”
“Then thou hast seen the Pope?” said she to him, drawing him a glass of beer.
“Alas!” said Ulenspiegel, emptying the glass, “I have but been permitted to kiss his holy foot and his holy slipper.”
All this while the baesine’s old dog was coughing, but without spitting.
“When didst thou do this?” asked the old woman.
“The month before the last,” answered Ulenspiegel, “I arrived, being looked for, and knocked at the door. ‘Who is there?’ asked the chamberlain arch-cardinal, arch-privy, arch-extraordinary to His Most Holy Holiness.’ ‘’Tis I,’ I answered, ‘Monseigneur Cardinal, come from Flanders expressly to kiss the Pope’s foot and heal his dog of his rheum.’ ‘Ah! ’tis thou, Ulenspiegel?’ said the Pope, speaking from the other side of a little door. ‘I would rejoice to see thee, but that is a thing for the moment impossible. I am forbidden by the Holy Decretals to display my face to strangers when the holy razor is being passed over it.’ ‘Alas!’ said I, ‘I am an unfortunate man, I that am come from a land so far to kiss Your Holiness his foot and cure his dog of the rheum. Must I indeed return without being satisfied?’ ‘Nay,’ said the Holy Father; and then I heard him call. ‘Arch-chamberlain, roll my chair as far as the door, and open the little wicket at the foot of the door.’ The which was done. And I beheld thrust through the wicket a foot shod with a golden slipper, and I heard a voice, speaking like a peal of thunder, saying: ‘This is the redoubtable foot of the Prince of Princes, King of Kings, Emperor of Emperors. Kiss it, Christian man, kiss the holy slipper.’ And I kissed the holy slipper, and my nose was sweetly filled with the celestial perfume that was exhaled from that foot. Then the wicket was shut again, and the same formidable voice bade me to wait. The wicket opened once more, and from it there issued, with all due respect, an animal bereft of its hair, blear-eyed, coughing, swollen like a wine skin and forced to walk with its legs straddling by reason of the hugeness of its belly.
“The Holy Father deigned to address me again: ‘Ulenspiegel,’ said he, ‘thou dost look upon my dog; he was seized with a rheum and other maladies through gnawing the bones of heretics that had been broken for them. Cure him, my son; thou wilt have much good thereby.’”
“Drink,” said the old woman.
“Pour out,” answered Ulenspiegel. Continuing his tale: “I purged the dog,” said he, “by the aid of a wonder-working draught concocted by myself. He made water through this for three days and three nights without ceasing, and was cured.”
“Jesus God en Maria!” said the old woman; “let me kiss thee, glorious pilgrim, who hast seen the Pope and mayst also cure my dog.”
But Ulenspiegel, recking little of the old woman’s kisses, said to her: “Those who have touched with their lips the holy slipper may not within a space of two years receive the kisses of any woman. First give me for supper some goodly carbonadoes, a black pudding or so, and a sufficiency of beer, and I shall make your dog’s voice so clear that he will be able to chant the aves in e la in the rood-loft of the great church.”
“May it be true what thou sayest,” whined the old woman, “and I shall give thee a florin.”
“I shall accomplish it,” said Ulenspiegel, “but only after supper.”
She served him all he had asked for. He ate and drank his fill, and he would even have embraced the old woman for gratitude of his jaw, had it not been for what he had said to her.
While he was eating, the old dog put his paws on his knee to have a bone. Ulenspiegel gave him several; then he said to his hostess:
“If a man had eaten in your inn and not paid, what would you do?”
“I would have his best garment off that robber,” answered the old woman.
“’Tis well,” replied Ulenspiegel; then he took the dog under his arm and went into the stable. There he shut him up along with a bone, took the dead dog’s skin out of his satchel, and coming back to the old woman, he asked her if she had said she would have his best garment off the man who would refuse to pay for his meal.
“Well, then, your dog dined with me and did not pay: so I have, following your own rede, taken his best and his only coat.”
And he showed her the skin of the dead dog.
“Ah!” said the old woman, weeping, “it is cruel of thee, master doctor. Poor old dog! he was my child to me, a poor widow. Why didst thou take from me the only friend I had in the world? I have no more now to do but to die.”
“I will bring him to life again,” said Ulenspiegel.
“Bring him to life!” said she. “And he will fawn on me again, and he will look at me again, and he will lick me again, and he will wag his poor old stump of a tail again when he looks at me! Do this, master doctor, and thou shalt have dined here gratis, a most costly dinner, and I shall give thee a florin still over and above the bargain.”
“I will bring him to life again,” said Ulenspiegel; “but I must have hot water, syrup to glue the seams together, a needle and thread and sauce from the carbonadoes; and I would be alone during the operation.”
The old woman gave him what he asked for; he took up the skin of the dead dog and went off to the stable.
There he smeared the old dog’s muzzle with sauce, and the brute submitted to it with delight; he drew a great stripe of syrup under his belly, put syrup on his paws and sauce on his tail.
Then crying out loudly three times, he said: “Staet op! staet op! ik bevel ’t, vuilen hond!”
And then lightly putting the dead dog’s skin in his satchel he fetched the living dog a great kick and so pitched him into the inn chamber.
The old woman, seeing her dog alive and licking himself, was eager to embrace him; but Ulenspiegel did not permit this.
“You may not,” said he, “caress this dog until he has washed off with his tongue all the syrup with which he is anointed; only then will the seams in the skin be closed up. Count out to me now my ten florins.”
“I said one,” answered the old woman.
“One for the operation, nine for the resurrection,” replied Ulenspiegel.
She counted them out to him. Ulenspiegel went off, flinging into the inn chamber the skin of the dead dog and saying:
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