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with greasy white hair, a rope round his neck, his jaw dropped,
his tongue hanging out, and dressed in an ill-found habit
like a nobleman's servant fallen on evil days.

This fellow, without being heard by any one there as he
walked across the floor, came quickly up to Smetse and put
his hand on his shoulder. " Smetse," he said, " hast packed
thy bundle ? "

Hearing this the smith swung round. " Packed," he
said, " and how does my packing concern thee, master bald-
pate ? "

" Smetse," replied the fellow in a harsh voice, " hast
forgotten thy restored fortunes, and the good times thou
hast enjoyed, and the black paper ? ".

" No, no," said Smetse, doffing his bonnet with great
humility, " I have not forgotten ; pardon me, my lord, I
could not call to mind your gracious countenance. Will you
be pleased to come into my kitchen, and try a slice of fat
ham, taste a pot of good bruinbier, and sip a bottle of wine ?
We have time enough for that, for the seven years are not
yet struck, but want, if I am not mistaken, still two hours."

" That is true," said the devil ; " then let us go into thy

So they entered in and sat down to the table.

The good wife was greatly astonished to see them come
in. Smetse said to her : " Bring us wine, bruinbier, ham,
sausages, bread, cakes, and cheeses, and the best of each
that we have in the house."

" But, Smetse," said she, " you waste the good things

which God has given you. 'Tis well to come to the help of
poor folk, but not to do more for one than another. Beggar-
men are beggar-men, all are equal ! "

" Beggar-men ! " exclaimed the devil, " that I am not
and never was. Death to the beggar-men ! To the gallows
with the beggar-men ! "

" My lord," said Smetse, " I beg you not to be angry
with my good wife, who knows you not at all. Wife, consider
and look at our guest with great attention, but 'greater
respect, and afterwards thou mayest tell thy gossips that
thou hast seen my Lord Jacob Hessels, the greatest reaper
of heretics that ever was.

" Ah, wife, he mowed them down grandly, and had so
many of them hanged, burnt, and tortured in divers ways,
that he could drown himself a hundred times in the blood
of his dead. Go, wife, go and fetch him meat and drink."

While he was munching, Smetse said : " Ah, my lord, I
soon recognized you by your particular way of saying : * To
the gallows ! ' and also by this rope which finished off your
life in so evil a manner. For Our Lord said : ' Whoso liveth
by the rope shall perish by the rope.' My Lord Ryhove was
harsh and treacherous toward you, for besides taking your
life he took also your beard, which was a fine one.

" Ah, that was an evil trick to play on so good a coun-
cillor as you were in those days when you slept so quietly
and peaceably in the Bloody Council I should say the Council
of Civil Disorders, speaking respectfully and woke up only
to say : ' To the gallows ! ' and then went to sleep again."

" Yes," said the devil, " those were good times."

" So they were," said Smetse, " times of riches and power
for you, my lord. Ah, we owe you a great deal : the tithe
tax, dropped by you into the ear of the Emperor Charles ;
the arrest of my lords of Egmont and Hoorn, whereof the
warrant was written in your own fair hand, and of more
than two thousand persons who perished at your command
by fire, steel, and rope ! "

Flemish Legends

" I do not know the number," said the devil, " but it is
large. Give me, Smetse, some more of this sausage, which
is excellent."

" Ah," said the smith, " 'tis not good enough for your
lordship. But you are drinking nothing. Empty this tan-
kard, 'tis double bruinbier"

" Smith," said the devil, " it is good also, but I tasted
better at Pierkyn's tavern one day when five girls of the
Reformed Faith were burnt together in the market-place.
That frothed better. While we were drinking we heard
these five maids singing psalms in the fire. Ah, we drank
well that day ! But think, Smetse, of the great perversity
of those maids, all young and strong, and so fast set in their
crimes that they sang their psalms without complaint, smiling
at the fire and invoking God in a heretical fashion. Give
me more to drink, Smetse."

" But," said Smetse, " King Philip asked for your
canonization at Rome, for having served Spain and the
Pope so well ; why then are you not in paradise, my
lord ? "

" Alas," wept the devil, " I had no recognition of my
former services. Those traitors of Reformers are with God,
while I burn in the bottom of the pit. And there, without
rest or respite, I have to sing heretical psalms ; cruel punish-
ment, unspeakable torment ! These chants stick in my
throat, scrape up and down in my breast, tearing my inner
flesh like a bristling porcupine with iron spines. At every
note a new wound, a bleeding sore : and always, always I
have to keep singing, and so it will go on through all the
length of eternity."

At these words Smetse was very much frightened, thinking
how heavily God had punished Jacob Hessels.

" Drink, my lord," he said to him ; " this bruinbier is
balm to sore throttles."

Suddenly the clock struck.

" Come, Smetse," said the devil, " 'tis the hour."

Smetse Smee

But the good smith, without answering, heaved a great

: ' What ails thee ? " said the devil.

" Ah," said Smetse, " I am grieved at your incontinence.
Have I welcomed you so ill that you will not let me go, before
I leave here, to embrace my wife a last time and bid farewell
to my good workmen, and to take one more look at my good
plum-tree whose fruits are so rich and juicy ? Ah, I would
gladly refresh myself with one or two before I go off to that
land where there is always thirst."

" Do not think to escape me," said the devil.

" That I would not, my lord," said Smetse. " Come with
me, I pray you most humbly."

" Very well," said the devil, " but not for long."

In the garden Smetse began to sigh afresh.

" Ah," he said, " look at my plums, my lord ; will you
be pleased to let me go up and eat my fill ? "

" Go up then," said the devil.

Up in the tree Smetse began to eat in a most greedy
manner, and suck in the juice of the plums with a great noise.
" Ah," cried he, " plums of paradise, Christian plums, how
fat you are ! Princely plums, you would solace a hundred
devils burning in the lowest parts of hell. By you, sweet
plums, blessed plums, is thirst driven out of my throat ; by
you, adorable plums, gentle plums, is purged from my
stomach all evil melancholy ; by you, fresh plums, sugary
plums, is diffused in my blood an infinite sweetness. Ah,
juicy plums, joyous plums, faery plums, would that I could
go on sucking you for ever ! "

And while he was saying all this, Smetse went on picking
them, eating them and sipping the juice, without ever

" Pox ! " said the devil, " it makes my mouth water ;
why dost not throw me down some of these marvellous
plums ? "

" Alas, my lord," said Smetse, " that I cannot do ; they


Flemish Legends

would melt into water on their fall, so delicate are they. But
if you will be pleased to climb up into the tree you will find
much pleasure in store for you."

" Then I will," said the devil.

When he was well settled on a stout branch and there
regaling himself with plums, Smetse slipped down, picked
up a stick lying on the grass and fell to belabouring him with
great vigour.

Feeling the stick on his back the devil would have leapt
down on the smith, but could not move, for the skin of his
seat held fast to the branch. And he snorted, ground his
teeth, and foamed at the mouth with great rage, and also
by reason of the pain which his tender skin caused him.

Meanwhile Smetse gave him a good drubbing, caressed
with his stick every quarter of his body in turn, bruised him
to the bone, tore his habit, and gave him as strong and
straight a beating as was ever given in the land of Flanders.
And he kept saying : " You say not a word about my plums,
my lord ; they are good, none the less."

" Ah," cried Hessels, " why am I not free ! "

" Alas, yes ! why are you not free ! " answered Smetse,
" you would give me to some little butcher among your
friends who would cut me up freely into slices like a ham,
under your learned instruction, for you are, as I know well,
a doctor of torment. But are you not being well tormented
in turn by my stick ? Alas, yes ! why are you not free !
You would hoist me up on some blessed gallows, and every
one would see me hanging in the air, and freely would Master
Hessels laugh. And so he would have his revenge on me
for this excellent drubbing which I am giving him with such
freedom. For nothing in this world is so free as a free stick
falling freely on an unfree councillor. Alas, yes ! why are
you not free ! You would free my head from my body, as
you did with such satisfaction to my masters of Egmont and
Hoorn. Alas, yes ! why are you not free ! then we should
see^Smetse in some good little fire, which would roast him

Smetse Smee

freely, as was done to the poor maids of the reformed faith ;
and Smetse, like them, would be heard singing with a free
soul to the God of free believers, and with a free conscience
stronger than the flame, while Master Hessels drank bruinbier
and said that it frothed nicely."

" Oh," said the devil, " why beat me so cruelly, without
pity for my white hairs ? "

" As for thy white hair," said Smetse, " 'tis the hair of
an old tiger who ate up our country. For this reason it gives
me sweet pleasure to beat thee with this oaken stick ; and
also in order that thou mayst give me permission to stay
another seven years on this earth, where I find myself so
well content, if it so please thee."

" Seven years ! " said the devil, " do not count on that ;
I would rather bleed under thy stick."

" Ah," said Smetse, " I see that your skin is fond of good
blows. These are tasty ones, it is true. But the best of
cheer is unwholesome if taken in excess. So when you have
had enough of them, be so good as to tell me. I will put
a stop to this feast, but for that I must have the seven

" Never," said Hessels ; and lifting his snout into the
air like a baying dog, he cried out : " Devils to the rescue ! "
But this he did so loudly, and in such screeching wise, that
at the sound of his cracked voice blaring out like a trumpet,
all the workmen came to see what it was about.

" You do not shout loud enough," said Smetse, " I will
help you." And he beat him the harder, so that the devil
cried the louder.

" See," said Smetse, " how well this stick makes the little
nightingale sing in my plum-tree. He is saying over his
lied of love to call hither his fair mate. She will come by
and by, my lord ; bait come down, I pray you, and await
her below, for they say that the night dew is deadly at a
height from the ground."

" Baes" said certain workmen, " is it not my lord Jacob


Flemish Legends

Hessels, the Bloody Councillor, who is perched up there in
thy plum-tree ? >:

" Yes, lads," answered Smetse, " 'tis indeed that worthy
man. He seeks high places now as he did all his life, and
so also at the end of it, when he swung in the air, putting
out his tongue at the passers-by. For that which is of the
gallows returns to the gallows, and the rope will take back
its own. 'Tis written."

" Baes" said they, " can we not help to bring him
down ? "

" Yes," said he. And the workmen went off to the

Meanwhile the devil said nothing, trying all the time to
get his seat away from the branch. And he struggled,
wriggled about, twisted himself a hundred different ways,
and used as levers, to lift himself up, feet, hands, and head,
but all in vain.

And Smetse, belabouring him well, said to him : " My
lord Councillor, you are fast stuck, it seems, to the saddle ;
but I will have you out of it, have you out as fast as I can,
for if I do not so, beating you with all my strength, you will
tear up out of the ground the tree and its roots, and the good
folk will see you walking along, dragging a plum-tree from
your seat like a tail, which would be a piteous and laughable
spectacle for such a noble devil as yourself to make. Give
me rather the seven years."

" Baes" s^id the workmen, who had returned from the
smithy with hammers and iron bars, " here we are at your
orders ; what shall we do ? "

" Well," said Smetse, " since I have combed him down
with oaken staves we will now louse him with hammers and

" Mercy, Smetse, mercy ! " cried the devil ; hammers and
bars, this is too much ; thou hast the seven years, smith."

" Make haste," said Smetse, " and write me the quit-

Smetse Smee

" Here it is," said he.

The smith took it, saw that it was in good order, and said :
" I desire that thou come down."

But the devil was so weak and enfeebled by the blows
he had had that when he tried to leap he fell on his back.
And he went off limping, shaking his fist at Smetse, and
saying : " I await thee, in seven years, in hell, smith."

" So you may," said Smetse.

XL Wherein the workmen hold fair speech with Smetse.

While the devil was making off, Smetse, watching his
workmen, saw that they were looking at one another strangely,
spoke together in low voices, and seemed awkward in their
manner, like people who would speak out, but dare not.

And he said to himself : " Are they going to denounce
me to the priests ? "

Suddenly Flipke the Bear came up to him. " Baes" said
he, " we know well enough that this ghost of Hessels was
sent to thee by him who is lord below ; thou hast made a
pact with the devil and art rich only by his money. We
have guessed as much for some time. But so that thou
should not be vexed, none of us have spoken of it in the
town, and none will so speak. We would tell thee this to
put thy mind at rest. And so now, baes, good night and
quiet sleep to thee."

" Thank you, lads," said Smetse, greatly softened.

And they went their several ways.

XII. How that Smetse would not give his secret into his wife's
tongue's keeping.

In the kitchen Smetse found his wife on her knees beating
her breast, weeping, sighing, sobbing, and saying : " Jesus
Lord God, he has made a pact with the devil ; but 'tis not
with my consent, I swear. And you also, Madam the
Virgin, you know it, and you also, all my masters the saints.
Ah, I am indeed wretched, not on my own account, but for


Flemish Legends

my poor man, who for the sake of some miserable gold sold
his soul to the devil ! Alas, yes, sell it he did ! Ah, my
saintly masters, who are yourselves so happy and in such
glory, pray the very good God for him, and deign to consider
that if, as I dare hope, I die a Christian death and go to
paradise, I shall be all alone there, eating my rice pudding
with silver spoons, while my poor man is burning in hell,
crying out in thirst and hunger, and I not able to give him
either meat or drink. . . . Alas, that will make me so un-
happy ! Ah, my good masters the saints, Madam the
Virgin, My Lord Jesus, he sinned but this once, and was all
the rest of his life a good man, a good Christian, kind to the
poor and soft of heart. Save him from the fires which burn
for ever, and do not separate above those who were so long
united below. Pray for him, pray for me, alas ! "

" Wife," said Smetse, " thou art very wretched, it seems."

" Ah, wicked man," said she, " now I know all. 'Twas
hell fire which came bursting into the house and lit up the
forge ; those master-bakers, brewers, and vintners were
devils, all of them, and devil also that ugly man who showed
thee the treasure and gave me so grievous a buffet. Who
will dare to live peaceably in this house from now on ? Alas,
our food is the devil's, our drink also ; devil's meat, loaves,
and cheeses, devil's money, house, and all. Whoever should
dig under this dwelling would see the fires of hell gush out
incontinent. There are all the devils, I see them above,
below, on the right hand, on the left, awaiting their prey
with dropped jaws, like tigers. Ah, what a fine sight
'twill be to see my poor man torn into a hundred pieces
by all these devils, and that in seven years, for he said,
as I heard well enough, that he would^come back in seven

" Weep not, wife," said Smetse, " in seven years I may
again be master as I was to-day."

" But," said she, " if he had not gone up into the plum-
tree, what wouldst thou have done, poor beggar-man ? And


what if he will not let himself fall a second time into thy
snare as he did to-day ? "

" Wife," said Smetse, " he will so fall, for my snares are
from heaven, and the things which are from God can always
get the better of devils."

" Art not lying again ? " she said. " And wilt tell me
what they are ? "

" That I cannot," said he, " for devils have sharp ears
and would hear me telling thee, no matter how low I spoke ;
and then I should be taken off to hell without mercy."

" Ah," said she, " then I will not ask, though 'tis not
pleasant for me to live here in ignorance of everything, like
a stranger. Nevertheless I would rather have thee silent
and saved than talking and damned."

" Wife," he said, " thou art wise when thou speakest

" I will pray," she said, " every day for thy deliverance,
and have a good mass said for thee at St. Bavon."

" But," said he, " is it with devil's money thou wilt pay
for this mass ? "

" Have no care for that," said she, " when this money
enters the church coffers 'twill become suddenly holy."

" Do as thou wilt, wife," said Smetse.

" Ah," said she, " My Lord Jesus shall have a stout
candle each day, and Madam the Virgin likewise."

" Do not forget my master St. Joseph," said Smetse,
" for we owe him much."

XIII. Of the Bloody Duke.

The end of the seventh year came again in its turn, and
on the last evening there crossed the threshold of Smetse
Smee's dwelling a man with a sharp and haughty Spanish
face, a nose like a hawk's beak, hard and staring eyes, and
a white beard, long and pointed. For the rest he was dressed
in armour finely worked and most richly gilt ; decorated with
the illustrious order of the Fleece ; wore a fine red sash ;

Flemish Legends

rested his left hand on the hilt of his sword, and held in his
right the seven years' pact and a marshal's wand.

Coming into the forge he walked straight towards Smetse,
holding his head loftily and without deigning to notice any
of the workmen.

The smith was standing in a corner, wondering how he
could make the devil who was sent for him sit down in the
arm-chair, when Flipke ran quickly up to him and said in
his ear : " Baes, the Bloody Duke is coming, take care ! "

" Woe ! " said Smetse, speaking to himself, " 'tis all up
with me, if d'Alva has come to fetch me."

Meanwhile the devil approached the smith, showed him
the pact, and took him by the arm without a word to lead
him off.

" My Lord," said Smetse in a most sorrowful manner,
" whither would you take me ? To hell. I follow you.
'Tis too great honour for one so mean as I to be ordered by
so noble a devil as yourself. But is it yet the appointed
time ? I think it is not, and your highness has too upright
a soul to take me off before the time written in the deed.
In the meantime I beg your highness to be seated : Flipke,
a chair for My Lord ; the best in my poor dwelling, the large,
well-padded arm-chair which stands in my kitchen, beside
the press, near the chimney, beneath the picture of my master
St. Joseph. Wipe it well, lad, so that no dust may be left
on it ; and quick, for the noble duke is standing."

Flipke ran into the kitchen and came back, saying :
" BaeS) I cannot lift that arm-chair alone, 'tis so heavy."

Then Smetse feigned great anger and said to his work-
men : " Do ye not hear ? He cannot lift it alone. Go and
help him, and if it takes ten of you let ten go. And quick
now. Fie ! the blockheads, can ye L not see that the noble
duke is standing ? "

Nine workmen ran to obey him and brought the chair
into the forge, though not without difficulty. Smetse said :
" Put it there, behind My Lord. Is there any dust on it ?

Smetse Smee

By Artevelde ! they have not touched this corner. I will
do it myself. Now 'tis as clean as new-washed glass. Will
your highness deign to be seated ? "

This the devil did, and then looked round him with great
haughtiness and disdain. But of a sudden the smith fell at
his feet, and said with mocking laughter : " Sir duke, you
see before you the most humble of your servants, a poor man
living like a Christian, serving God, honouring princes, and
anxious, if such is your lordly pleasure, to continue in this
way of life seven years more."

" Thou shalt not have one minute," said the devil, " come,
Fleming, come with me."

And he tried to rise from the chair, but could not. And
while he was struggling with might and main, making a
thousand vain efforts, the good smith cried joyously : " Would
your highness get up ? Ah, 'tis too soon ! Let your high-
ness wait, he is not yet rested after his long journey ; long,
I make bold to say, for it must be a good hundred leagues
from hell to my smithy, and that is a long way for such
noble feet, by dusty roads. Ah, My Lord, let yourself rest
a little in this good chair. Nevertheless, if you are in great
haste to be off, grant me the seven years and I will give you
in return your noble leave and a full flask of Spanish wine."

" I care nothing for thy wine," answered the devil.

" Baes" said Flipke, " offer him blood, he will drink

" My lad," said Smetse, " thou knowest well enough we
have no such thing as blood in our cellars hereabouts, for
that is no Flemish drink, but one that we leave to Spain.
Therefore his highness must be so good as to excuse me.
Nevertheless, I think he is thirsty, not for blood, but for
blows, and of those I -will give him his illustrious fill, since
he will not grant me the seven years."

" Smith," said the devil, looking at Smetse with great
contempt, " thou wouldst not dare beat me, I think ? "

" Yes, My Lord," said the good man. " You would have


Flemish Legends

me dead. For my part I hold to my skin, and this not
without good reason, for it has always been faithful to me
and well fastened. Would it not be a criminal act to break
off in this sudden fashion so close a partnership ? And
besides, you would take me off with you to hell, where the
air is filled with the stench of the divers cookeries for damned
souls which are set up there. Ah, rather than go thither
I would beat your highness for seven years."

" Fleming," said the devil, " thou speakest without

" Yes, My Lord," said Smetse, " but I will hit you with

And so saying he gave him with his clenched fist a terrible
great blow on the nose, whereat the devil seemed astonished,
dazed, and angry, like a powerful king struck by a low-born
servant. And he tried to leap upon the smith, clenched his
fists, ground his teeth, and shot out blood from his nose,
his mouth, his eyes, and his ears, so angry was he.

" Ah," said Smetse, " you seem angry, My Lord. But
deign to consider that since you will not listen to my words,
I must speak to you by blows. By this argument am I not
doing my best to soften your heart to my piteous case ?
Alas, deign to consider that my humble fist is making its
supplication as best it can to your illustrious eyes, begs
seven years from your noble nose, implores them from your
ducal jaw. Do not these respectful taps tell your lordly
cheeks how happy, joyous, and well-liking I should be during
those seven years ? Ah, let yourself be convinced. But, I
see, I must speak to you in another fashion, with the words
of iron bars, the prayers of tongs, and the supplications of
sledge-hammers. Lads," said the smith to his workmen,
" will you be pleased to hold converse with My Lord ? "

" Yes, baes" said they.

And together with Smetse they chose their tools. But
it was the oldest who picked the heaviest ones, and were the
hottest with rage, because it was they who in former days

Smetse Smee

had lost, through the duke's doing, many friends and relatives
by steel, by stake, and by live burial, and they cried : " God
is on our side, he has delivered the enemy into our hands.
Out upon the Bloody Duke, the master-butcher, the lord of
the axe ! "

And all of .them, young and old, cursed the devil with a
thunder of cries ; and they came up to him menacingly,
surrounding the chair and raising their tools to strike.

But Smetse stopped them and spoke again to the devil.

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