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" If your highness," he said, " is minded to hold to his noble
bones, let him deign to grant me the seven years, for the
time for laughter is past, let me tell you."

" Baes" said the workmen, " whence comes to thee this
kindness beyond measure ? Why hold so long and fair parley
with this fellow ? Let us first break him up, and then he
will offer thee the seven years of his own accord."

" Seven years ! " said the devil, " seven years ! he shall
not have so much as the shadow of a minute. Strike, men
of Ghent, the lion is in the net ; ye who could not find a
hole deep enough to hide yourselves in when he was free and
showed his fangs. Flemish cowards, see what I think of you
and your threats." And he spat on them.

At this spittle the bars, hammers, and other tools fell
on him thick as hail, breaking his bones and the plates of
his armour, and Smetse and his workmen said as they beat
to their hearts' content :

" Cowards were we, who wished to worship God in the
sincerity of our hearts ; valiant was he who prevented us
with steel, stake, and live burial.

" Cowards were we for having always laughed readily and
drunk joyously, like men who, having done what they had
to do, make light of the rest : valiant was this dark personage
when he had poor men of the people arrested in the midst
of their merrymaking at Kermis-time, and put death where
had been laughter.

" Cowards were the eighteen thousand eight hundred

Flemish Legends

persons who died for the glory of God ; cowards those number-
less others who by the rapine, brutality and insolence of the
fighting men, lost their lives in these lands and others.
Valiant was he who ordained their sufferings, and more
valiant still when he celebrated his own evil deeds by a

" Cowards were we always, we who, after a battle, treated
our prisoners like brothers ; valiant was he who, after the
defeat in Friesland, had his own men slaughtered.

" Cowards were we, who laboured without ceasing, spread-
ing abroad over the whole world the work of our hands ;
valiant was he when, under the cloak of religion, he slew the
richer among us without distinction between Romans and
Reformers, and robbed us by pillage and extortion of thirty-
six million florins. For the world is turned upside down ;
cowardly is the busy bee who makes the honey, and valiant
the idle drone who steals it away. Spit, noble duke, on these
Flemish cowards."

But the duke could neither spit nor cough, for from the
roughness of the blows they had given him he had altogether
lost the shape of a man, so mingled and beaten together
were bones, flesh, and steel. But there was no blood to be
seen, which was a marvellous thing. Suddenly, while the
workmen, wearied with beating, were taking breath, a weak
voice came out from this hotch-potch of bones, flesh, and
steel, saying :

" Thou hast the seven years, Smetse."

" Very well then, My Lord," said he, " sign the quit-

This the devil did.

" And now," said Smetse, " will your highness please to
get up."

At these words, by great marvel, the devil regained his
shape. But while he was walking away, holding up his head
with great haughtiness and not deigning to look at his feet,
he tripped over a sledge lying on the ground, and fell on his

Smetse Smee

nose with great indignity, thereby giving much occasion for
laughter to the workmen, who did not fail to make use of
it. Picking himself up he threatened them with his fist, but
they burst out laughing more loudly than ever. He came
at them, grinding his teeth ; they hooted him. He tried to
strike with his sword a short and sturdy little workman ; but
the man seized the sword from his hands and broke it in
three pieces. He struck another in the face with his fist,
but the man gave him so good and valiant a kick as to send
him sprawling on the quay with his legs in the air. There,
flushing with shame, he melted into red smoke, like a vapour
of blood, and the workmen heard a thousand joyous and
merry voices, saying : " Beaten is the Bloody Duke, shamed
is the lord of the axe, inglorious the prince of butchers !
Vlaenderland tot eeuwigheid ! Flanders for ever ! " And a
thousand pairs of hands beat applause all together. And
the dawn broke.

XIV. Of the great fears and pains of Smetse's wife.

Smetse, going to look for his wife, found her in the kitchen
on her knees before the picture of St. Joseph. " Well,
mother," said he, " what didst think of our dance ? Was
it not a merry one ? Ah, henceforth they will call our house
the House of Beaten Devils."

" Yes," said his wife, wagging her head, " yes, and also
the house of Smetse who was carried away to hell. For
that is where thou wilt go ; I know it, I feel it, I foretell it.
This devil's coming all accoutred for war presages evil. He
will come back, no longer alone, but with a hundred thousand
devils armed like himself. Ah, my poor man ! They will
carry lances, swords, pikes, hooked axes, and arquebuses.
They will drag behind them canon which they will fire at
us ; and everything will be ground to pieces, thou, I, the
smithy, and the workmen. Alas, everything will be levelled
to the ground ! And where our smithy now stands will be
nothing but a sorry heap of dust. And the folk walking

Flemish Legends

past along the quay will say when they see this dust : * There
lies the house of Smetse, the fool who sold his soul to the
devil.' And I, after dying in this fashion, shall go to Paradise,
as I dare to hope. But thee, my man, oh, woe unspeakable !
they will take away with them and drag through fire, smoke,
brimstone, pitch, boiling oil, to that terrible place where
those are punished who, wishing to break a pact made with
the devil, have no special help from God or his holy saints.
Poor little man, my good comrade, dost know what there
is in store for thee ? Ho, a gulf as deep as the heavens are
high, and studded all down its terrible sides with jutting
points of rock, iron spikes, horrid spears, and a thousand
dreadful pikes. And dost know what manner of gulf
this is, my man ? 'Tis a gulf wherein a man may keep
falling always dost understand me, always, always gashed
by the rocks, cut about by the spears, torn open by
the pikes, always, always, down all the long length of

" But, wife," said Smetse, " hast ever seen this gulf
whereof thou speakest ? "

" Nay," said she, " but I know what manner of place it
is, for I have often heard tell of it in the church of St. Bavon.
And the good canon predicant would not lie."

" Ah, no/' said Smetse.

XV. Of the Bloody King.

When the last night of the seventh year was come Smetse
was in his smithy, looking at the enchanted sack, and asking
himself with much anxiety how he could make the devil get
into it.

While he was wondering, the smithy suddenly became
filled with an evil stench of the most putrid, offensive and
filthy kind. Innumerable lice swarmed over the threshold,
ceiling, anvils, sledges, bars and bellows, Smetse and his men,
who were all as if blinded, for these lice were as thick in the
smithy as smoke, cloud, or fog.

And a melancholy but imperative voice spoke, saying :
" Smetse, come with me ; the seven years have struck."

And Smetse and his workmen, looking as well as they
could in the direction whence the voice came, saw a man
coming towards them with a royal crown on his head, and
on his back a cloak of cloth-of-gold. But beneath the cloak
the man was naked, and on his breast were four great
abscesses, which formed together a single wide sore, and from
this came the stench which filled the smithy, and the clouds
of lice which swarmed round about. And he had on his
right leg another abscess, more filthy, rank, and offensive
than the rest. The man himself was white-faced, auburn-
haired, red-bearded, with lips a little drawn, and mouth open
somewhat. In his grey eyes were melancholy, envy, dis-
simulation, hypocrisy, harshness, and evil rancour.

When the older workmen saw him they cried out in a
voice like thunder : " Smetse, the Bloody King is here, take
care ! "

" Silence," cried the smith, " peace there, silence and
veneration ! Let every man doff his bonnet to the greatest
king that ever lived, Philip II by name, King of Castile,
Leon, and Aragon, Count of Flanders, Duke of Burgundy
and Brabant, Palatine of Holland and Zeeland, most illus-
trious of all illustrious princes, great among the great, vic-
torious among victors. Sire," said he to the devil, " you
do me unparalleled honour to come hither in person to lead
me to hell, but my humble Ghentish lowness makes bold to
suggest to your Royal and Palatine Highness that the ap-
pointed hour has not yet struck. Therefore if it pleases
your Majesty I will pass on earth the brief time which is
still left to me to live."

" I allow it," said the devil.

Meanwhile Smetse seemed unable to take his eyes off the
devil, and showed himself very sorrowful and heavy, nodding
his head, and saying several times :

" Alas, alas ! cruel torment ! evil hour ! "


Flemish Legends

" What ails thee ? " said the devil.

" Sire," said Smetse, " nothing ails me but the great
sorrow which I have at seeing how harsh God has been
towards you, leaving you to bear in hell the malady whereof
you died. Ah, 'tis a most pitiful sight to see so great a
king as you consumed by these lice and eaten up with these

" I care nothing for thy pity," answered the king.

" Sire," said Smetse further, " deign to think no evil of
my words. I have never been taught fine ways of speech ;
but notwithstanding this I make bold to sympathize with
your illustrious sufferings, and this the more in that I myself
have known and suffered your ill, and you can still see, Sire,
the terrible marks on my skin." And Smetse, uncovering
his breast, showed the marks of the wounds which he had
received from the traitor Spanish when he sailed the seas
with the men of Zeeland.

" But," said the devil-king, " thou seemest well enough
cured, smith ! Wast thou verily as sick as I ? "

" Like you, Sire," said Smetse, " I was nothing but a
heap of living filth ; like you I was fetid, rank, and offensive,
and every one fled from me as they fled from you ; like you
I was eaten up with lice ; but what could not be done for
you by the most illustrious doctor Olias of Madrid, a humble
carpenter did for me."

At these words the devil-king cocked his ear. " In what
place," said he, " does this carpenter dwell, and what is his
name ? "

" He dwells," said Smetse, " in the heavens, and his
name is Master St. Joseph."

" And did this great saint appear to thee by especial
miracle ? "

" Yes, Sire."

" And by virtue of what didst thou merit this rare and
blessed favour ? "

" Sire," answered Smetse, " I have never by my own

Smetse Smee

virtue merited so much as the shadow of a single grain of
particular grace, but in my sufferings I prayed humbly and
with faith to my blessed patron, Master St. Joseph, and he
deigned to come to my succour."

" Tell me of this happening, smith."

" Sire," said Smetse, holding up the sack, "this was my

" This sack ? " asked the devil.

" Yes, Sire ; but will your Majesty deign to look closely
at the hemp whereof it is woven. Do you not think its
quality altogether strange ! Alas," said Smetse, running on
with his talk, and appearing to go into an ecstasy, " 'tis not
given to us poor men to see every day such hemp as this.
For this is not earthly hemp, but hemp of heaven, hemp from
the good Paradise, sown by my master St. Joseph round
about the tree of life, harvested and woven under his especial
orders to make sacks wherein the beans are stored which my
masters the angels eat on fast-days."

" But," asked the devil, " how did this sack come into
thy hands ? "

" Ah, Sire, by great marvel. One night I was in my bed,
suffering twenty deaths from my ulcers, and almost at the
point of giving up my soul. I saw my good wife weeping ;
I heard my neighbours and workmen, of whom there were
many, saying round about my bed the prayers for the dying ;
my body was overcome with pain and my soul with despair.
Nevertheless I kept praying to my blessed patron and swore
that if he brought me out of that pass, I would burn to his
honour in the church of St. Bavon such a candle as the fat
of twenty sheep would not suffice to make. And my prayers
were not in vain, Sire, for suddenly a hole opened in the
ceiling above my head, a living flame and a celestial perfume
filled the room, a sack came down through the hole, a man
clothed in white followed the sack, walked in the air to my
bed, pulled down the sheets which covered me, and in the
twinkling of an eye put me in the sack and drew the strings


Flemish Legends

tight round my neck. And then, behold the miracle ! No
sooner was I wrapped about with this good hemp than a
genial warmth passed through me, my ulcers dried up, and
the lice all perished suddenly with a terrible noise. After
that the man told me with a smile about the hemp of heaven
and the angelic beans, and finished his discourse by saying :
4 Keep safe this remedy, 'tis sent thee by my master St.
Joseph. Whosoever shall use it shall be cured of all ills and
saved for all eternity, if in the meantime he do not sell his
soul to the devil ! ' Then the man went away. And what
the good messenger told me was true, for by means of this
sack from heaven, I cured Toon, my workman, of the king's
evil ; Pier of fever ; Dolf of scurvy, Hendrik of the phlegm,
and a score of others who owe it to me that they are still

When Smetse had finished his speech the devil-king
seemed lost in deep reflection, then suddenly lifted his eyes
to heaven, joined his hands, crossed himself again and again,
and, falling to his knees, beat upon his breast, and with most
lamentable cries prayed as here follows : " Ah, my Master
St. Joseph, sweet Lord, blessed saint, immaculate husband
of the Virgin without stain, you have deigned to make whole
this smith, and he would have been saved by you for all
eternity had he not sold his soul to the devil. But I, Master,
I, a poor king, who pray to you, do you disdain to make me
whole also, and to save me as you would have saved him ?
You know well, sweet Lord, how I devoted my life, my
person, my goods and those of my subjects to the defence
of our blessed religion ; how I hated, as is right, the freedom
to believe other things than those which are ordained for
us ; how I combated it by steel, stake, and live burial ; how
I saved in this wise from the venom of reform Brabant,
Flanders, Artois, Hainault, Valenciennes, Lille, Douai,
Orchies, Namur, Tournai, Tournaisie, Malines, and my other
lands. Nevertheless I have been thrown into the fires of
hell, and there suffer without respite the unutterable torment


Smetse Smee

of my consuming ulcers and my devouring vermin. Ah,
will you not make me whole, will you not save me ? You
are able, my Master. Yes, you will perform again for the
sorrowing king the miracle which saved the smith. Then
shall I be able to pass into paradise, blessing and glorifying
your name through centuries and centuries. Save me, Master
St. Joseph, save me. Amen."

And the devil-king, crossing himself, beating his breast,
and babbling paternosters turn by turn, rose to his feet and
said to Smetse : " Put me in the sack, smith."

This Smetse did gladly, rolled him into the sack, leaving
only his head thrust out, drew tight round his neck the stout
cords, and placed the devil on an anvil."

At this spectacle the workmen burst out laughing, clap-
ping their hands together, and saying a hundred merry things
to one another.

" Smith," asked the devil, " are these Flemings laughing
at me ? "

" Yes, Sire."

" What are they saying, smith ? "

" Oh, Sire, they are saying that horses are caught by
means of corn ; dogs by liver ; asses by thistles ; hogs by swill ;
trout by curdled blood ; carp by cheese ; pike by gudgeon ;
and a humbug of your kidney by tales of false miracles."

" Ho, the traitor smith," howled the devil, grinding his
teeth, " he has taken in vain the name of my Master St.
Joseph, he has lied without shame."

" Yes, Sire."

" And thou wilt dare to beat me as thou didst Jacob
Hess els and my faithful duke ? "

" Even more heartily, Sire. Nevertheless 'tis only if you
so wish it. You shall be set free if you please. Free if you
give me back the deed ; beaten if you are fixed in your idea
of carrying me off to hell."

" Give thee back the deed ! " roared the devil, " I would
rather suffer a thousand deaths in a single moment."

Flemish Legends

" Sire King," said Smetse, " I pray you to think of your
bones, which seem to me none too sound as it is. Consider
also that the opportunity is a good one for us to avenge on
your person our poor Flanders, so drenched in blood at your
hands. But it displeases me to pass a second time where
has passed already the wrath of the very just God. So give
me back the deed ; grace, Sire King, or 'twill begin raining

" Grace ! " said the devil, " grace to a Fleming ! perish
Flanders rather ! Ah, why have I not again, one single day,
as much power, armies, and riches as I will ; Flanders would
give up her soul quickly. Then famine should reign in the
land, parching the soil, drying up the water-springs and the
life of plants ; the last ghostly inhabitants of the empty
towns would wander like phantoms in the streets, killing one
another in heaps to find a little rotten food ; bands of
famished dogs would snatch newborn children from their
mothers' withered breasts and devour them ; famine should
lie where had been plenty, dust where had been towns, crows
where had been men ; and on this earth stripped naked,
stony, and desolate, on this burial-ground, I would set up a
black cross with this inscription : Here lies Flanders the
heretic, Philip of Spain passed over her breast ! "

So saying the devil foamed at the mouth with wrath, but
scarce were his last words cold from his lips when all the
hammers and bars in the smithy fell on him at once. And
Smetse and his workmen, striking in turn, said : " This is
for our broken charters and our privileges violated despite
thine oath, for thou wast perjurer.

" This is for that when we called thee thou didst not dare
come into our land, where thy presence would have cooled
the hottest heads, for thou wast coward.

" This is for the innocent Marquess of Berg-op-Zoom,
whom thou poisoned in prison, so that his inheritance might
be thine ; and for the Prince of Ascoly, whom thou madest
to marry Dona Eufrasia, in child by thy seed, so that his

Smetse Smee

wealth might enrich the bastard that was coming. The
Prince died also, like so many others, for thou wert poisoner
of bodies.

" This is for the false witnesses paid by thee, and thy
promise to ennoble whomever would kill Prince William for
money, for thou wast poisoner of souls."

And the blows fell heavy, and the king's crown was
knocked off, and his body, like the duke's, was no more than
a hotch-potch of bones and flesh, without any blood. But
the workmen went on with their hammering, saying :

" This is for thine invention of the Tourniquet, wherewith
thou didst strangle Montigny, friend of thy son, for thou
wast seeker of new tortures.

" This is for the Duke of Alva, for the Counts of Egmont
and Hoorn, for all our poor dead, for our merchants who
went off to enrich England and Germany, for thou wast
death and ruin to our land.

" This is for thy wife, who died by thy deed, for thou
wast husband without love.

" This is for thy poor son Charles, who died without
any sickness, for thou wast father without bowels.

" This is for the hatred, cruelty, and slaughter with which
thou didst make return for the gentleness, confidence, and
goodwill of our land, for thou wast king without justice.

" And this is for the Emperor, thy father, who, with his
execrable proclamations and edicts, first sounded for our
land the stroke of the evil hour. Give him a good drubbing
on our account, and tell us thou wilt give back the deed to
the baes."

" Yes," wept a melancholy voice, coming from the heap
of bones and flesh, " thou hast everything, Smetse, thou art

" Give me back the parchment," said Smetse.

" Open the sack," answered the voice.

" Ho," cried Smetse, " yes, yes, indeed, I will open the
sack wide, and Master Philip will leap out and take me off

Flemish Legends

to hell with all speed. Oh, the good little devil ! But 'tis
not now the time for such high pranks. Therefore I make
bold to beg your Majesty to give me first the parchment,
which he may without difficulty pass up through this gap
which is between his neck and the edge of the sacking."

" I will not do it," said the devil.

" That," said Smetse, " is as it/ pleases your subtle
Majesty. In the sack he is, in the sack he may remain ; I
make no objection. Every man his own humour. But mine
will be to leave him in his sack, and in this wise carry him
off to Middelburg in Walcheren, and there ask^the prefect
that leave be given me to build a good little stone box in
the market-place and therein to place your Majesty, leaving
outside his melancholy countenance. So placed he will be
able to see at a close view the happiness, joy, and prosperity
of the men of the reformed faith : that will be a fine treat
for him, which might be added to, on feast-days and market-
days, by an unkind blow or two which people would give
him in the face, or some wicked strokes with a stick, or
some spittle dropped on him without respect. You will have
besides, Sire, the unutterable satisfaction of seeing many
good pilgrims from Flanders, Brabant, and your other blood-
soaked countries come to Middelburg to pay back with good
coin of their staves their old debt to your Most Merciful

" Ah," said the devil, " I will not have this shame put
upon me. Take, smith, take the parchment."

Smetse obeyed, and saw that it was indeed his own, then
went and dipped it in holy water, where it turned into dust.

At this he was filled with joy and opened the sack for
the devil, whose bones moved and became joined again to
one another. And he took on again his withered shape, his
hungry vermin, and his devouring sores.

Then, covering himself with his cloak of cloth-of-gold,
he went out of the smithy, while Smetse cried after him :
" Good journey to you, and a following wind, Master Philip ! "


Smetse Smee

And on the quay the devil kicked against a stone, which
opened of itself and showed a great hole, wherein he was
swallowed suddenly up like an oyster.

XVI. Wherein Smetse beholds on the River Lys a most mar-
vellous sight.

When the devil had gone Smetse was almost off his head
with joy, and ran to his wife, who had come to the door of
the kitchen, and thumped her for joy, seized her, kissed her,
hugged the good woman, shook her, pressed her to him, ran
back to his men, shook them all by the hand, crying : " By
Artevelde ! I am quits, Smetse is quits ! " And he seemed
to have a tongue for nothing else but that he was quits !
And he blew in his wife's ear, into his workmen's faces, and
under the nose of a bald and wheezing old cat who sat up
in one corner and got quit with him by a scratch in the face.

" The rascal," said Smetse, " does not seem glad enough
at my deliverance. Is he another devil, think you ? They
say they disguise themselves in every kind of shape. Ho,"
said he to the cat, who was arching her back in annoyance,
" hast heard, listened, and understood, devil cat ? I am
quit and free, quit and franked, quit and happy, quit and
rich ! And I have made fools of all the devils. And from
now on I will live gaily as becomes a quit smith. Wife, I
will send this very day a hundred philipdalers to Slimbroek,
so that that poor sinner may also rejoice at Smetse's quit-

But his wife said nothing, and when Smetse went to look
for her he found her on the stair with a great bowl of holy
water in her hands, in which she was dipping a fair sprig of
palm branch.

Coming into the smithy she began to sprinkle with the
palm her man and the workmen, and also the hammers,
anvils, bellows, and other tools.

" Wife," said Smetse, trying to escape the wetting, " what
art thou at ? "


Flemish Legends

" I am saving thee," said she, " presumptuous smith.
Dost verily think that, being freed of devils, thou hast for
thine own the chattels that come from them ? Dost think
that though they have lost the soul which was to be their

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