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than we. As for this deviling, we will do our best to satisfy
him, according to our means. But in spite of it all, I fear
we shall one day be burnt, alas, alas ! "

VI. Wherein it is seen that the devil is not a good, one ; and,
of the evil trick which he played on the good wives of the drinkers.

As soon as they reached The Horn, the two worthies
took out from the cellar the statue of the deviling and put
it with great respect on top of a press which stood in the

On the morrow there came to this inn nearly all the men
of Uccle, brought together in this wise because on that day
had been sold publicly in their stables two horses well bred
by the late sheriff, Jacob Naeltjens. His son was in no
mind to keep them, saying that a man's best steeds were his

The men of Uccle were surprised and delighted when they
saw the statue of the youngster on the press, especially when
Blaeskaek told them that his name was Master Merry-face,


The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

and that it was proposed, by way of jest, to establish forth-
with in his honour a jolly brotherhood.

They were all willing to do this, and thereupon decided
between them that no one should be of their brotherhood
until he had drunk, as his baptism, four-and-twenty monstrous
great cups of wine, while another brother beat twelve strokes
on the plumpest belly of the company there present.

Each night thereafter they gathered together at The
Horn, and drank deep enough, as you may well guess.

The most wonderful thing about the business was that
in spite of this they worked all day like stout fellows, some
at their crafts, some at their trades, others in the fields,
contented one and all. But their good wives were not by
any means contented, for as soon as vespers sounded all
their husbands and sweethearts went off to The Horn,
without giving them so much as a single thought, and there
stayed until curfew.

And when these worthies went home they did not beat
their wives, as some drinkers do, but lay down quietly beside
them in bed, and immediately, without saying a word, fell
fast asleep and began to sound such fanfares with their noses
as Master Porker makes with his snout.

Then the poor women might thump them, cuff them, call
their names as they would, to get them to sing their bed-
fellows a different sort of song, but all quite in vain : as well
beat water to get fire out of it.

They awoke only with cock-crow, but their temper in
the morning was so rough and stormy that none of their
womenfolk (that is to say, of such as were not asleep from
weariness) dared say a word, either then or at the dinner-
hour. All this was brought about by the evil power and
influence of the deviling.

On that account there was much sadness among the
women, who said, all of them, that if such a state of things
went on for long the race of the people of Uccle must needs
become extinct, which would be a great pity.


Flemish Legends

VII. Of the Great Parliament of the Women of Uccle.

So it came about that the women decided between them-
selves to save the village from this fate, and to this end,
while their menfolk were at drink with Pieter Gans, they met
together at the house of a certain dame Syske, who was big,
fat, loud-speaking, had hair upon her chin, and had buried
five husbands, or else seven, I dare not particularize the
number for fear of untruth.

There, as a rebuke to their drunken husbands, they
quenched their thirst with clear water.

When all were present, the younger ones assembled on
this side and the older on that, the ugly ones among the
older, dame Syske opened the talk by saying that they must
all go forthwith to The Horn, and there give these drinkers
such a drubbing that they would be stiff and sore for a week
because of it.

The old and ugly ones applauded this proposal with their
hands, their feet, their mouths, and their noses. There was
a fine noise, you may well believe.

But the young and pretty ones kept silent as fishes, all
save one, very pretty, very fresh and very neat, bearing the
name of Wantje, who said very modestly, and blushing some-
what, that it was of no use to belabour their worthy men in
this fashion, but rather they must bring them back to good
ways by gentleness and laughter.

To this the dame Syske replied : " Little one, thou canst
understand nothing of men, for thou art but a maid, or so
I believe. For my part I know well enough how I managed
my several husbands, and that was neither by gentleness nor
by laughter, I promise thee. They are all dead, the worthy
men (may God rest their souls ! ), but I remember them
clearly, and know very well that at the least wrongdoing I
made them dance the stick-dance on the field of obedience.
None dared eat or drink, sneeze or yawn, unless I had first
given him leave. Little Job Syske, my last, did my cooking
for me in my own house. He made a good cook, poor little


The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

man. But I had to give him many good beatings to bring
him to that, and so it was with the others as well. There-
fore, little one, give up all these laughters and gentlenesses
of thine, they are not worth much, I can tell thee. Let us
rather go forthwith and cut ourselves good staves of green-
wood, easy enough to find now that it is spring-time, and
going off to The Horn let us make fall a good shower of
blows on these unfaithful husbands.

At this the old and ugly ones broke out afresh into
monstrous howls and tumult, crying, " Out upon them ! out
on the drunkards ! They want a good drubbing, they want
a good hanging ! "

Fill. Of the great wit which every woman has, and of the
modest conversation which the maid Wantje held with the
worthies at the inn.

On the morrow all these good women met together once
again, and drank as before a great quantity of clear water ;
and afterwards went off, armed with sticks, to the place
where they knew their men were to be found.

Before the door of The Horn they stopped, and there
a great council took place. The old ones wanted to go in
with their sticks.

" No," said Wantje, with the young and pretty ones,
" we would rather be beaten ourselves."

" Hark to these sillies ! " cried the old ones, " these poor
silly things. They have not an ounce of pride in their bodies,
between the lot of them. Be guided by us, gentle ewekins :
we will avenge the dignity of women for you upon these
wretched drunkards."

" That you shall not," said the young ones, " as long as
we are there."

" That we shall," howled the old ones.

But here a certain young and merry wife burst out

" See ye not/' said she, " whence comes to these grannies


Flemish Legends

so great a rage and such a thirst for vengeance ? 'Tis simple
bragging, to make us believe that their old croakers of
husbands still care to sing them songs."

At these words the old hags were thrown into such a
state of fury that one or two died of rage there and then.
Others, having quite lost their heads, wanted to kill the
maids and young wives who were laughing at them (and
'twas pretty music, all those fresh and merry voices), but
the dame Syske stopped them from that, saying that for
the present they must take counsel together and not kill
one another.

Continuing their discussion, they quarrelled, argued,
chattered, jabbered in this and like fashion until curfew-
time, when they separated without having made up their
minds to anything, by reason of not having had time enough
to talk it over.

And there were spoken in this assembly of women more
than 877,849,002 words, each one as full of good sense as a
cellarful of old wine.

Pieter Gans, who, as they said, had rabbit's ears, hearing
in the street a certain hum of chattering voices, cried out :
" Alas, alas ! what is this now ? Devils for a certainty,
dear Jesus ! "

" I will go and see, little coward," answered Blaeskaek.
But on opening the door he burst out laughing all at once,
saying : " Brothers, 'tis our wives."

Thereupon all the drinkers rose and went to the door ;
some with bottles in their hands, others brandishing flagons,
others again clinking their mugs together like church bells.
Blaeskaek went out of the room, crossed the threshold of the
outer door, and stepped into the street.

" Well, wives," said he, " what brings you here with all
this greenwood ? "

At these words the young ones let fall their sticks to the
ground, for they were ashamed to be caught with such weapons.

But one old woman, brandishing hers in the air, answered

The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

for the others : " We come, drunkards, to tell you the tale
of the stick, and give you a good thrashing."

" Woe, woe ! " wept Pieter Gans, " that, I know, is my
grandmother's voice."

" So it is, scoundrel," said the old woman.

Meanwhile the Brothers of the Cheerful Countenance,
hearing all this, shook their sides merrily with laughing, and
Blaeskaek said : " Then come in, come in, good wives, and
let us see how you do your drubbing. Are those good green-
wood staves you have brought ? "

" Yes," said they.

" I am glad of that. For our part we have ready for
you some good rods, well pickled in vinegar, which we use
for whipping disobedient boys. 'Twill doubtless give you
all sweet pleasure to feel their caresses, and so recall the
days of your youth. Will you be pleased to try them ? We
will give you plenty."

But at these scoffing words the old women took fright
and ran off as fast as their legs would carry them, more
particularly mother Syske, making such terrible threats and
noises as they went that they sounded to those jolly Brothers
like a flight of screeching crows passing down the deserted

The young ones stayed before the door of the inn, and
'twas affecting to see them so humbly standing, gentle and
submissive, waiting for some kindly word from their husbands
or sweethearts.

" Well," said Blaeskaek, " do you please to come
in ? "

" Yes," said they all.

" Keep them out," said Pieter Gans into Blaeskaek's
ear, " keep them out, or they will go chattering to the
priests about the deviling, and we shall be burnt, my good

" I am deaf," said Blaeskaek ; " come in, my dears."

Thereupon entered all these good women, and took up

B 17

Flemish Legends

their places, some by their husbands, others by their sweet-
hearts, and the maids in a line on a bench modestly.

" Women," said the drinkers, " you wish to join us ? "

" Yes," said they.

" And to drink also ? "

" Yes," said they.

" And have not come here to tell us temperance stories ? "

" Nay," said they, " we have come without any other
wish than to join our good husbands and sweethearts, and
laugh with them, if that may be, with God's good will."

" Those are certainly fair words," said one old man, " but
I suspect beneath them some woman's artifice or other."

But no one paid him any heed, for by this time the women
were seated all about the table, and you might hear this :
" Drink this, pretty sweet, 'tis a draught from heaven."
" Pour, neighbour, pour, pour out some more of this sweet
drink." " Who is a better man than I ? I am the Duke ;
I have good wine and good wife ! " " Ho, there ! broach
a fresh cask of wine ; we must have the best there is to-day
to pleasure these good dames." " Courage ! I have drunk
too much ; I am going to conquer the moon. But wait a
little first. For the present I stay by this good wife of mine.
Kiss me, sweet."

" This is not the place, before all these people," the
women would answer. And with many caresses and pretty
ways each said to her man : " Come away home."

They would indeed have been glad enough to go, all those
good drinkers, but did not dare do it, being shamefaced in
this matter in one another's presence.

Guessing as much, the women talked of going back.

" There, there ! " said the old man, " is not that what
I said. They want to have us outside."

u Nay, my masters," said Wantje very sweetly, " but I
pray you remember that we are not accustomed to such
strong drinks, nor even to their smell. Therefore, master,
if we feel the need to go out into the fresh air 'tis assuredly

The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

without wanting to anger or sadden you in any way what-
soever. May God keep you merry, brothers."

And thereupon the good women went off, though the
men tried to keep them back by force.

IX. Wherein it is seen that the learned Thomas a Klapperibus
knew what makes a drinker fidget on his stool.

Left thus to their pots and tankards they turned to one
another in wonder, saying : " Ah, look ye at these dames !
Does it not always fall out in this wise ; that they would
have us do whatever they bid, and that with humility !
Submissive they seem, tyrants they are. But look ye, is it
to male or female that belongs properly the right of command
in all matters ? To the male. We are the males. Very
well, then, let us drink ! And we will at all times carry out
our own wishes, which will presently be to sleep here in this
inn, if w r e please."

After this fashion they talked together for some time,
feigning great anger, but being, in fact, eager enough to go
and join their wives. By and by they fell silent, and so
remained for a while, some yawning, others drumming
tunes on the floor with their boots, others again, and these
many, fidgeting on their seats, as if they were on sharp

Suddenly a young townsman, but lately married, got up
and left the hall, saying that by the advice of a leech he was
forbidden to drink more than six-and-twenty mugs of ale,
which number he had already taken.

After he had gone they all began to excuse themselves,
one with a pain in his stomach, another with a headache,
others with a melancholy feeling or with the phlegm, and
made off to their homes, excepting only one or two among
the older men.

And when they were once outside they hurried with all
speed to join their wives. Thus was borne out what was
written by the learned Thomas a Klapperibus in his great


Flemish Legends

work De Amore, c. vi, wherein it is said, that woman has
more power than the devil.

X. Of the brigand called Irontooth.

But this thing never happened but once ; for on the
morrow when the drinkers were carousing at 'The Horn
the good women who came thither to entice them away a
second time were driven off in a shameful manner.

And as for the men, they continued to drink and to
shout hilarious carols.

Several times the night-watchman of the town came in
to warn them against making so much noise after the sun
was set. Ha, they listened to him with all respect, and
seemed quite abashed and repentant at their fault ; each
one said his mea culpa ; and in the meantime they gave the
poor watchman so abundantly to drink that when he got
outside he went off straight away to do his round leaning
against some wall, and there snoring like a bass-viol. The
others continued their drinking bouts and heavy slumbering,
whereof the unhappy wives never ceased to complain. And
so on, in this fashion, for a month and four days.

Now by great misfortune the good Duke had lately been
at war with my Lord of Flanders, and although peace had
been made between them there remained afoot a band of
lewd and ribald scoundrels, who went about ravishing all
the countryside and robbing the townsfolk.

This same band was commanded by a savage captain,
to whom was given the name of Irontooth, because on the
top of his casque he wore a single spike, sharp and cruel,
like the tooth of some devil or of one of the unicorns of hell,
cut out into fantastic shape. In battle he would sometimes
put down his head and use this tooth as a wild boar uses
his tusks. In this manner were slain many brave soldiers
of the duchy of Brabant. On this same casque he carried
also an evil bird whose wings beat against the steel, whereof
it was said that it screeched in battle in a terrible fashion.


The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

It was Irontooth's custom to come at night to the villages
on which he was minded to carry out his forays, butchering
without mercy the poor townsfolk in their sleep, and carrying
off jewels, plate, women, and maids, but of these last only
the young ones. As for the old women, he left them their
lives, saying that it was not worth the while of killing them,
for they would certainly die of fright by themselves.

XL In which it is seen how bravely the good wives of Uccle did,
the duty of men.

It came about that one night when only a few stars were
showing, and the moon shining a little, there came to Uccle
a certain Master Andre Bredael, running as hard as he could
and quite out of breath.

He brought this news : that being by chance behind a
bush on the road to Paris, he had seen a troop of men go
past, whom he thought to be the Irontooth's, for he had seen
among them a spiked casque like that which the great brigand
was wont to wear.

While these men were halted by the roadside, and munch-
ing some food, he overheard them say that they were bound
that night for Uccle, where they hoped to get good sport
and fair plunder, but they said also that they must leave
the high road and travel by small lanes, so that their passage
should not be discovered. Master Bredael thought it most
likely that they would debouch behind the church.

Having learned so much he had hurried to Uccle by the
Paris road, outdistancing the brigands by a good half-league,
so that he might warn the townsmen to arms, and prepare
a strong reception for these unwelcome travellers.

And arriving there he hastened to the door of the prefec-
ture and knocked loudly, so that the warning bell might be
set ringing at once ; but none came to open to him, for the
good reason that the custodian, being one of the Brothers of
the Cheerful Countenance, was fast asleep, like all the other
drinkers. Andre Bredael then sought other means of alarum,


Flemish Legends

and shouted out so loudly : " Fire ! fire ! Brand. ! brand ! "
that all the women and old men, and children who were too
young to drink, leapt out of bed and ran to their windows
to see what was going forward.

Andre Bredael made himself known to them and begged
them to come down into the square, which they did with all
dispatch. When they were all gathered round him he told
them of the coming of Irontooth, and bade them go and
wake their husbands.

At these words the older women began to shout as if
mad : " Welcome to Irontooth, God's tooth in good deed,
come to rip them all open ! Ha, drinkers ! now we shall
see you, as a punishment from heaven, either hanged short
or burnt alive or drowned without respite ; and 'tis no
more than your sins deserve ! " Then, as if they had wings
to their feet, they flew into their houses, and there Master
Bredael, who stayed with the younger women in the square,
heard the enraged old hags shouting, whining, weeping,
vociferating, thumping on chests and frying-pans, in an
attempt to awaken their good men. At the same time they
cried in their ears : " Scoundrels, wake up ! Sweet friends,
come and protect us ! Drunkards, do your duty for once
in your accursed lives ! Dear fellows, do you wish to find
us dead by morning ? Bear us no malice for our talk of
thrashing you. We were foolish just then, and too hasty ;
ye were wise. But save us in this pass ! " And so on,
mixing together smooth and bitter words, like milk and

But none of the men stirred.
" What is this ? " said Master Bredael.
" Alas, master," said the young women, " 'tis as you
see ; they are as good as dead the night through, and so
has it been a while past. If the angel of God himself were
to come he would scarce be able to rouse them. Ah, must
it be that after having left us lonely so long these wicked
husbands will now leave us to die ! "


The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

" Do not weep," said Andre Bredael, " this is no time
for that. Do you love these husbands of yours ? "

" Yes," said they.

" And your sons ? "

" Yes," said they.

" And your little daughters, so sweet and winsome ? "

" Yes," said they.

" And you are ready to defend them as best you can ? "

" Yes," said they.

" Well, then," said Bredael, " go and fetch your men's
bows and come back here with them as quickly as you can.
We will think of some way to defend ourselves."

Soon enough the women were back again, armed with
bows which they had taken from their husbands, brothers,
or sweethearts. These bows of Uccle were of great renown
throughout the land, for they were as strong as steel, and
winged their arrows with very great speed.

With them came certain boys of twelve years old, or not
much more, and one or two brave old men, but the women
sent them back again indoors, saying that they must stay
behind and look to the village.

The good womenfolk then collected in a bunch in the
square, talking with great ardour and courage, but not too
much bragging withal. Every one was clad in a white gown,
jacket, or shift, as is the customary night apparel of women.
But on this occasion it was by the special favour of God that
they were so clad, as you shall see by and by.

Wantje, who was one of their number, standing very bold
and calm, said suddenly that they must pray. Thereupon
they all knelt devoutly, and the maid spoke thus :

" Madam Mary the Virgin, who art queen of heaven as
Madam the Duchess is queen of this country, give an ear
to these poor wives and maids, humbly kneeling before you,
who by reason of the drunkenness of their husbands and
brothers must needs take on themselves men's duty and arm
themselves to fight. If you will but make a small prayer


Flemish Legends

to My Lord Jesus to give us his aid we shall be sure enough
of victory. And we will give you as thanksgiving a fair
crown of gold, with rubies, turquoises and diamonds in its
rim, a fair golden chain, a fair robe of brocade spangled
over with silver, and the same to My Lord your son. There-
fore pray for us, Madam Mary."

And all the other good maids and wives said after Wantje :
" Pray for us, Madam Mary."

Suddenly, as they were rising from their knees, they saw
a beautiful bright star shoot from heaven to earth, not far
from where they were. This was, no doubt, an angel from
the good God, who came down from Paradise in this guise,
to stand beside them and help them the more surely.

Seeing the sign the good women took heart of grace, and
Wantje spoke further, saying :

" Madam the Virgin hearkens to us, 'tis certain. Let
as now proceed to the gate of the village, beside the church
of Our Lord, who dwells therein " here all crossed them-
selves " to await with confidence the coming of the Iron-
tooth and his men. And when we see them near at hand
let every woman draw her bow, without speaking, nor moving
in any way. Madam the Virgin will guide the arrows."

" Well spoken, brave maid," said Master Bredael. " Come,
I see in those eyes of thine, so bright in the darkness, the
breath of God, which is a flame, alight in thy maid's heart.
We must do as she says, good wives."

" Yes, yes," said they.

This woman's army took up its place in line in the alley
behind the church.

After a while of waiting, wherein was much perplexity
and anxiety, they heard the sound of footfalls and voices,
growing louder as they listened, as of men on the march.

And Wantje said : " Madam Mary, they are coming ;
have pity on us ! "

Then a large body of men appeared before them, carrying
lanterns. And they heard a monstrous, husky, devil's voice

The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

crying : " Out, friends, out upon them ! Loot for the Iron-
tooth ! "

But here suddenly all these good women let fly their
arrows with great precision, for though they themselves
remained in darkness they could see the brigands, all lit
up by their lanterns, as clearly as in daylight. Two hundred
of the men fell at the first volley, some with arrows in their
skulls, others in their necks, and several with them in their

The Irontooth himself was among the first that the good
women heard fall with a great thud, from an arrow let fly
by Wantje, which pierced him through the eyeball neatly.

Some were not wounded at all, but, having troubled
conscience, thought when they saw all these white figures
that 'twas the souls of those whom they had made pass from
life into death, come back by God's grace to avenge them-
selves upon them. So they fell on their faces in the dust,
as if dead from fear, crying out in a most piteous manner :

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