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payment they will leave thee thy riches. Ho, the good fool !
They will come back again, yes ; and if I do not sprinkle thee
with this holy water, and myself likewise, and all these good men,
who knows with what evils they may not torment us, alas ! "

And the good wife was working away with her palm-
branch when suddenly a great thunder rumbled under the
earth, shaking the quay, and the stones cracked, the panes
shivered in the windows, all the doors and casements in the
smithy opened of themselves, and a hot wind blew.

" Ah," said she, " they are coming ; pray, my man ! "

And suddenly there appeared in the sky the figure of a man,
naked and of marvellous beauty. He was standing in a chariot
of diamond, drawn by four flaming horses. And he held in his
right hand a banner, whereon was written : " More beautiful
than God." And from the body of this man, whereof the
flesh shone brightly, came golden rays which lit up the Lys,
the quay and the trees like sunlight. And the trees began
to sway and swing their stems and branches, and all the
quay seemed to roll like a ship upon the sea, and thousands
of voices called out together : " Lord, we cry hunger and
thirst ; Lord, feed us ; Lord, give us to drink."

" Ah," said the good wife, " here is my Lord Lucifer and
all his devils ! "

And when the voices had ceased the man made a sign
with his hand, and of a sudden the waters of the Lys rose
as if God had lifted up the river-bed. And the river became
like a rough sea ; but the waves did not roll on the quay,
but each lifted separately, bearing on its crest a foam of
fire. Then each of these flames rose into the air, drawing
up the water like a pillar, and there seemed to poor Smetse
and his wife and the men to be hundreds of thousands of
these pillars of water, swaying and foaming.

Smetse Smee

Then each pillar took on the form of a fearful animal, and
suddenly there appeared, mingled together, striking and
wounding one another, all the devils whose work was to
torment poor damned souls. There were to be seen, crawling
over crooked and shivering men's legs, monstrous crabs,
devouring those who were servile in their lives. Near these
crabs were ostriches bigger than horses, who ran along flap-
ping their wings. Under their tails they had laurel-wreaths,
sceptres, and crowns, and behind their tails were made to
run those men who in our world spent all their time running
after vain honours, without a care for doing good. And the
ostriches went quicker than the wind, while the men ran
without respite behind them in the effort to get the wreaths,
crowns, and sceptres ; but they could never reach them. In
this way they were led to a treacherous pond full of loath-
some mud, wherein they fell shamefully and stayed stuck
for all eternity, whilst the mocking ostriches walked up and
down on the bank dangling their bawbles.

Among the ostriches were squadrons of many-coloured
apes, diapered like butterflies, whose concern was with miserly
Jewish and Lombard usurers. These men, when they entered
hell, looked round them carefully, screwing up their eyes
under their spectacles, collected from the ground divers rusty
nails, old breeches, filthy rags, buttons showing the wood,
and other old stuff, then dug a hole hastily, hid their treasures
in it and went off to sit down some way away. The apes,
seeing this, would leap on the hole, empty out its content,
and throw it into the fire. Then the misers would weep,
make lamentations, and be beaten by the apes, and at last
go off to find some more secret place, hide there once again
their new depredations, and see once again the hole emptied
and the apes coming once again to beat them, and so on for
all eternity.

In the air, above the apes, soared eagles, who had, instead
of a beak, four-and-twenty matchlock barrels firing together.
These eagles were called Royal, because their concern was


Flemish Legends

with conqueror princes, who were too fond in their lifetime
of the sounds of war and cannon. And for their punishment
these matchlocks were fired off in their faces again and again
throughout eternity.

Besides the ostriches, apes, and eagles, reared up a great
serpent with a bear's coat, who writhed and twisted this way
and that. He was of great length and breadth, beyond all
measure, and had a hundred thousand hairy arms, in each
of which he held an iron pike as sharp as a razor. He was
called the Spaniards' Serpent, because in hell it was his task
to gash about with his pikes without mercy all the bands of
traitor pillagers who had despoiled our good country.

Keeping clear of this serpent with great prudence, darted
about mischievous little winged pigs whose tails were eels.
These tails were designed for the perpetual teazing of such
gluttons as came to hell. For the pig would come up to such a
one, hold the eel close to his mouth, and, when he tried to bite
it, suddenly fly away from him, and so on throughout eternity.

There were to be seen also, marching up and down in
their gorgeous feathers, monstrous peacocks. Whenever
some vain dandy came their way, giving himself airs in his
fine clothes, one of these peacocks would go to him and
spread its tail, as if inviting him to pluck out a fine feather
for his bonnet. But as soon as the dandy approached to
take his feather, Master Peacock would let fly in his face
with filthy and evil-smelling water, which spoilt all his fine
clothes. And throughout eternity the dandy would try to
get the feather, and throughout eternity be so swilled down.

Among these fearful animals, wandered two by two male
and female grasshoppers as big as a man, the one playing
on a pipe, and the other brandishing a great knotted stick.
Whenever they saw a man who, in his lifetime, leapt, by
cowardice, from good to evil, from black to white, from fire
to water, always on the side of the strongest, these grass-
hoppers would go to him, and one would play the pipe, while
the other, leaning on his stick with great dignity, would

say : " Leap for God," and the man would leap ; " Leap
for the Devil," and the man would leap again ; " Leap for
Calvin, leap for the Mass, leap for the goat, leap for the
cabbage," and the man would keep leaping. But he never
leapt high enough for the liking of the grasshopper with the
stick, and so he was each time belaboured in a most pitiless
manner. And he leapt without ceasing and was belaboured
without respite, while the pipe made continual pleasant music,
and so on throughout eternity.

Farther on, naked and lying on cloths of gold, silk, and
velvet, covered with pearls and a thousand resplendent gems,
more beautiful than the most beautiful ladies of Ghent,
Brussels, or Bruges, lascivious and smiling, singing, and play-
ing on sweet instruments, were the wives of the devils.
These dealt out punishment to old rakes, corrupters of youth
and beauty. To them these she-devils would call out
amorously, but they could never get near them. Through-
out eternity these poor rakes had to look at them without
being able to touch them even with the tip of the nail of
their little finger. And they wept and made lamentation,
but all in vain, and so on through centuries and centuries.

There were also mischievous little devils with drums, made
of the skins of hypocrites, whose masks hung down over the
drum-case as ornament. And the hypocrites to whom they
belonged, without their skins, without their masks, in all
their ugliness, ashamed, hooted, hissed, spat at, eaten up by
horrible flies, and followed by the little devils beating their
drums, had to wander up and down hell throughout eternity.

It was good to see also the devils of conceited men. These
were fine great leathern bottles full of wind, finished off with
a beak, at the end of which was a reed. These bottles had
eagle's feet and two good little arms, with fingers long enough
to go round the widest part of the bottle. When the con-
ceited man came into hell, saying : " I am great, I am grand,
strong, beautiful, victorious, I will overcome Lucifer and
marry his dam Astarte," the leathern bottles would come

J 59

Flemish Legends

up to him and say, with a deep reverence : " My lord, will
you be pleased to let us speak a word to you in secret, touch-
ing your high designs ? " " Yes," he would say. Then two
bottles would stuff their reeds into his ears in such a manner
that he could not get them out again, and begin to press in
their bellies with their long fingers, so as to force wind into
his head, which thereupon swelled up, large and always
larger, and Master Self-Conceit rose into the air and went
off to wander throughout eternity, with his head bumping
the ceiling of hell, and his legs waving in the air in the efforts
to get down again ; but all in vain.

Marvellous devils were certain apes of quicksilver, always
running, tumbling, leaping, coming, and going. These devils
bore down on the lazy fellows who were thrown to them,
gave them a spade to dig earth with, a sword to polish, a
tree to trim, or a book to con. The lazybones would look
at the task set him, saying : " To-morrow," and would
stretch his arms, scratching and yawning. But as soon as
he had his mouth wide open the ape would stuff into it a
sponge soaked in quintessence of rhubarb. " This," he would
say mockingly, " is for to-day ; work, slug, work." Then,
while the lazybones was retching, the devil would thump
him, shake him a hundred different ways, giving him no
more peace than a gadfly gives a horse, and so on throughout

Pleasing devils were pretty little children very wide-
awake and mischievous, whose concern was to teach learned
orators to think, speak, weep, and laugh according to common
nature. And when they did otherwise the little devils would
rap them sharply on the knuckles. But the poor pedants
could no longer learn, being too heavy, old, and stupid ; so
they had a rap on the knuckles every day and a whipping
on Sundays.

And all these devils cried out together : " Master, we
are hungry ; Master, give us to eat, pay somewhat for the
good services we render thee."

Smetse Smee

And suddenly the man in the chariot made a sign, and
the good River Lys threw all these devils on the quay, as
the sea splashes on the shore, and they hissed loud and terribly
at landing.

And Smetse, his wife, and the workmen heard the doors
of the cellars open with a loud noise, and all the casks of
bruinbier came hissing up the stairs, and hissing across the
floor of the forge, and still hissing described a curve in the
air and fell among the crowd of all the devils. And so also
did the bottles of wine, so also the hams, loaves, and cheeses,
and so also the good crusats, angelots, philipdalers, and other
moneys, which were all changed into meat and drink. And
the devils fell over one another, fought, scrambled, wounded
themselves, forming only one great mass of battling monsters,
howling and hissing, and each trying to get more than the
others. When there was left neither drop nor crumb, the
man in the chariot made another sign, and all the devils
melted into black water and flowed into the river, where
they disappeared. And the man vanished from the sky.

And Smetse Smee was as poor as before, save for one
little bag of golden royals, which his wife had by chance
sprinkled with holy water, and which he kept, although it
came from the devil. But this, as you shall see, did not
profit him at all. And he lived with great content until he
died suddenly one day in his smithy, at the great and blessed
age of ninety-three years.

XFII. Of Hell, of Purgatory, of the long ladder, and finally
of Paradise.

When he was dead his soul had to pass through Hell in
the guise of a smith. Coming thither he saw, through the
open windows, the devils which had so frightened him in the
vision on the Lys, and who were now busy torturing and
tormenting the poor damned souls as terribly as they could.
And Smetse went to the doorkeeper ; but the doorkeeper,
on seeing him, howled out in a most awful fashion : " Smetse

L 161

Flemish Legends

is here, Smetse Smee the traitor smith ! " And he would
not let him in. Hearing the hubbub, My Lord Lucifer,
Madam Astarte, and all their court came to the windows,
and all the other devils after them.

And they all cried out in fear :

" Shut the doors, 'tis the enchanted Smetse, Smetse the
traitor smith, Smetse the beater of poor devils. If he comes
in here he will overset, spoil, break up everything. Begone,
Smetse ! "

" My masters," said Smetse, " if I do indeed come hither
to look at your snouts, which are not beautiful I promise
ye, 'tis not at all for my pleasure ; and besides, I am not by
any means anxious to come in. So do not make such a
noise, master devils."

" Yes, indeed, my fine smith," answered Madam Astarte,
" thou showest a velvet pad now, but when thou art within
thou wilt show thy claws and thine evil intention, and will
slay us all, me, my good husband, and all our friends. Be
off, Smetse ; be off, Smee."

" Madam," said Smetse, " you are indeed the most
beautiful she-devil I ever saw, but that is, nevertheless, no
reason why you should think so ill of a fellow-creature's


" Hark to the fellow ! " said Madam Astarte, " how he
hides his wickedness under sugared words ! Drive him away,
devils, but do him no great harm."

" Madam," said Smetse, " I beg you to listen."

" Be off, smith ! " cried out all the devils ; and they
threw burning coals at him, and whatever else they could
find. And Smetse ran off as fast as his legs would take

When he had travelled some way he came before Purga-
tory. On the other side was a ladder, with this inscription
at its foot : " This is the road to the good Paradise."

And Smetse, filled with joy, began to climb the ladder,
which was made of golden thread, with here and there a

Smetse Smee

sharp point sticking out, in virtue of that saying of God
which tells us : " Broad is the way which leadeth to Hell,
strait and rough the way to Heaven." And, indeed, Smetse
soon had his feet sore. Nevertheless, he made his way
upward without halting, and only stopped when he had
counted ten hundred thousand rungs and could see no more
of either earth or hell. And he became thirsty. Finding
nothing to drink he became a little sullen, when suddenly
he saw a little cloud coming past, and drank it up joyfully.
It did not indeed seem to him as good drink as bruinbier }
but he took consolation from the thought that it is not
possible to have comforts everywhere alike. A little higher
up the ladder he suddenly had hard work to keep his bonnet
on his head, by reason of a treacherous autumn wind which
was going down to earth to pull off the last leaves. And by
this wind he was sorely shaken, and nearly lost his hold.
After he was out of this pass he became hungry, and regretted
the good earthly beef, smoked over pine-cones, which is so
good a food for poor wayfarers. But he took heart, thinking
that it is not given to man to understand everything.

Suddenly he saw an eagle of terrible aspect coming upon
him from the earth. Thinking for certain that he was some
fat sheep, the eagle rose above him and would have dropped
on him like a cannon-ball ; but the good smith had no fear,
bent to one side and caught the bird by the neck, which he
wrung subtly. Then, still going up, he hastened to pluck it,
ate morsels of it raw, and found them stringy. Nevertheless,
he took this meat with patience, because he had no other.
Then, patiently and bravely, he climbed for several days and
several nights, seeing nothing but the blue of the sky and
innumerable suns, moons, and stars above his head, under
his feet, to right, to left, and everywhere. And he seemed
to be in the midst of a fair great globe, whereof the inner
walls had been painted this fair blue, strewn with all these
suns, moons, and stars. And he was frightened by the great
silence and by the immensity.


Flemish Legends

Suddenly he felt a genial warmth, heard sweet voices
singing, distant music, and the sound of a city toiling. And
he saw a town of infinite size girt about with walls, over
which he could see housetops, trees, and towers. And he
felt that he was moving more quickly despite his own legs,
and by and by, leaving the last rung behind, he set foot
before the gate of the town.

" By Artevelde ! " said he, " here is the good Paradise."

And he knocked on the gate ; St. Peter came to open to

Smetse was somewhat frightened at the gigantic appear-
ance of the good saint, his great head of hair, his red beard,
his large face, his high forehead, and his piercing eyes, with
which he looked at him fixedly.

" Who art thou ? " quoth he.

" Master St. Peter," said the smith, " I am Smetse Smee,
who in his lifetime lived at Ghent on the Quai aux Oignons,
and now prays you to let him enter your good Paradise."

" No," said St. Peter.

" Ah, my master ! " said Smetse most piteously, " if 'tis
because in my lifetime I sold my soul to the devil, I make
bold to tell you that I repented most heartily, and was
redeemed from his power and kept nothing that was his."

" Excepting a sackful of royals" said the saint, " and
on that account thou shalt not come in."

" Master," said the smith, " I am not so guilty as you
suppose ; the sack stayed in my house because it had been
blessed, and for that reason I thought I might well keep it.
But take pity on me, for I knew not what I was doing. I
pray you also to deign to consider that I come from a far
country, that I am greatly tired, and would gladly rest in
this good Paradise."

" Be off, smith," said the saint, who was holding the door
a crack open.

Meanwhile Smetse had slipped through the opening, and
taking off his leathern apron sat down, saying :

Smetse Smee

" Master, I am here rightfully, you cannot turn me out."
But St. Peter bade a troop of halberdier angels who were
near at hand drive him away : and this the halberdier angels
did with great dispatch.

Thereafter, Smetse did not cease to beat on the door with
his fists, and lamented, wept, and cried out : " Master, have
pity on me, let me in, my master ; I repent of all the sins I
have committed,, and even the others as well. Master, grant
me permission to enter the blessed Paradise. Master . . ."
But Master St. Peter, hearing this, put his head over the
wall :

" Smith," said he, " if thou wilt persist in this uproar,
I shall have thee sent to Purgatory."

And poor Smetse held his peace, and sat down on his
seat, and so passed sad days, watching others enter.

In this wise a week went by, during which he lived on
a few scraps of bread which were thrown to him over the
wall, and on grapes gathered from a sour vine which grew
on the outer face of the wall of Paradise in this part.

And Smetse was most unhappy, leading this idle existence.
And he sought in his head for some work or other which
would gladden him somewhat. Having found it, he shouted
as loud as he could, and St. Peter put his head over the

" What wilt thou, Smetse ? " said he.
" Master," answered the smith, " will you be pleased to
let me go down to earth for one night, so that I may see my
good wife and look to my affairs ? "

" Thou mayst, Smetse," answered St. Peter.

XVIII. Wherein it is seen why Smetse was whipped.

It was then All Saints' Eve ; bitter was the cold, and
Smetse's good wife was in her kitchen, brewing some good
mixture of sugar, yolk of egg, and bruinbier, to cure her of
an evil catarrh, which had lain upon her ever since her man


Flemish Legends

Smetse came and knocked at the window of the kitchen,
whereat his wife was greatly frightened.

And she cried out sadly : " Do not come and torment
me, my man, if 'tis prayers thou wilt have. I say as many
as I can, but I will say more if need be. Wilt thou have
masses said ? Thou shalt have them, and prayers and in-
dulgences likewise. I will buy them, my man, I promise
thee ; but go back quickly whence thou earnest."

Nevertheless Smetse went on knocking. " 'Tis not masses
or prayers," said he, " that I want, but shelter, food, and
drink, for bitter is the cold, rude the wind, sharp the frost.
Open, wife."

But she, on hearing him speak thus, prayed the more
and cried out the louder, and beat her breast and crossed
herself, but made no move to open the door, saying only :
" Go back, go back, my man ; thou shalt have prayers and

Suddenly the smith discerned an open window in the
attic. He climbed up and entered the house by that means,
went down the stair, and, opening the door, appeared before
his wife ; but as she kept drawing back before him as he
advanced, crying out and calling the neighbours at the top
of her voice, Smetse stood still so as not to frighten her
further, sat down on a stool, and said :

" Dost not see, mother, that I am indeed Smetse, and
wish thee no harm ? "

But his wife would listen to nothing and crept back into
a corner. Thence with her teeth a-chatter, and her eyes
open wide, she made a sign to him to leave her, for she could
no longer find her tongue, by reason of her great fear.

" Wife," said the smith in friendly tones, " is it thus that
thou givest greeting and welcome to thy poor husband, after
the long time he has been away ? Alas, hast forgot our old
comradeship and union ? "

Hearing this soft and joyous voice she answered in a low
tone and with great timidity :

Smetse Smee

" No, dead master."

" Well then," said he, " why art thou so afraid ? Dost
not know thy man's fat face, his round paunch, and the
voice which in former days sang so readily hereabout ? "

" Yes," she said, " I know thee well enough."

" And why," said he, " if thou knowest me, wilt not come
to me and touch me ? "

" Ah," said she, " I dare not, master, for 'tis said that
whatever member touches a dead man is itself dead."

" Come, wife," said the smith, " and do not believe all
these lying tales."

" Smetse," said she, " will you in good truth do me no
hurt ? "

" None," said he, and took her by the hand.

" Ah," she said suddenly, " my poor man, thou art cold
and hungry and thirsty indeed ! "

" Yes," said he.

; ' Well then," said she, " eat, drink, and warm thyself."

While Smetse was eating and drinking he told his wife
how he had been forbidden the door to Paradise, and how
he designed to take from the cellar a full cask of bruinbier
and -bottles of French wine, to sell to those who went into
the Holy City, so that he might be well paid, and with the
money he received buy himself better food.

" This, my man," she said, " is all very well, but will
Master St. Peter give thee permission to set up at the gates
of Paradise such a tavern ? "

" Of that," he said, " I have hope."

And Smetse, laden with his cask and bottles, went his
way back, up towards the good Paradise.

Having reached the foot of the wall he set up his tavern
in the open air, for the weather is mild in this heavenly land,
and on the first day all who went in drank at Smetse's stall,
and paid him well out of compassion.

But one or two became drunk, and entering Paradise in
this state, set Master Peter inquiring into the cause of it;


Flemish Legends

and having found it out he enjoined Smetse to stop his selling,
and had him whipped grievously.

XIX. Of the fair judgment of My Lord Jesus.

Not long afterwards the good wife died also, by reason
of the terror that had seized hold of her at the sight of her
man's ghost.

And her soul went straight towards Paradise, and there
she saw, sitting with his seat against the wall, the poor
Smetse in a fit of melancholy brooding. When he saw her
he jumped up with great joy, and said :

" Wife, I will go in with thee."

" Dost thou dare ? " said she.

" I will hide myself," said he, " under thy skirt, which
is wide enough for us both, and so I shall pass without being

When he had done this she knocked on the door, and
Master St. Peter came to open it. " Come in," he said,
" good wife." But seeing Smetse's feet below the hem of
the skirt : " This wicked smith," he cried, " will he always
be making fun of me ? Be off, devil-baggage ! "

" Ah, my master," said she, " have pity on him, or else
let me stay out, too, to keep him company."

" No," said Master St. Peter, " thy place is here, his is
outside. Come in then, and let him be off at once."

And the good wife went in while Smetse stayed outside.
But as soon as the noonday hour came, and the angel cooks
had brought the good wife her beautiful rice pudding, she

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