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" Mercy, Lord God ! send back to hell all these ghosts, we
pray you."

But when they saw the good wives bearing down on them
fear put strength into their legs, and they made off as fast
as they would carry them.

XII. Wherein Pieter Cans is nearer the stake than the zuine-
barrd.

When the enemy had been so far discomfited the women
came back into the square and stood before the prefecture,
not feeling any glory, but rather sadness at having had to
shed Christian blood in this manner. Ah, they returned
thanks with a full heart to Our Lady the Virgin and Our
Lord Jesus, who had given them the victory.

Nor did they forget in their thanksgiving the good angel
who had come to their assistance in the form of a bright star.
And they sang fair hymns and litanies very sweetly.

Meanwhile all the cocks in the countryside awoke one by

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Flemish Legends

one and heralded with their clarions the new day about to
dawn.

And at that call, all the drinkers were roused from sleep,
and ran to their doors to find out whence came this sweet
music.

And my lord the Sun laughed in the sky.

And the worthy men came out into the square, and some
of them, when they saw their wives in the assembly, were all
for beating them because they had left their beds ; but
Andre Bredael interposed and told them the whole story.
Thereupon they were all amazed, ashamed, and repentant,
seeing how well these brave petticoats had striven on their
behalf. Pieter Gans, Blaeskaek, and Father Claessens, Dean
of Uccle, a most saintly man, also came out into the square.

Thereupon, seeing all this crowd assembled, Master
Bredael spoke thus :

" Friends," said he, " you hear how that 'tis through the
valour of your wives and daughters alone that you are not
by this time sniffing the air of heaven. Therefore 'tis seemly
that here antl now you should promise, and take oath to it,
not to drink any more except by their wish."

" That is all very well, Master Bredael," said one of the
townsmen, " but 'tis not plain drinking that puts us all into
so deep a sleep. I speak of these things with knowledge,
I who have drunk wine freely all my life, and hope still so
to do with relish to the end of my days. There is something
else to it, devilry and evil spells, or so I think. Come hither,
Pieter Gans, come hither and talk to us somewhat, and if
thou know anything, bring light to this dark matter."

" Alas, alas ! " said Pieter Gans, his head wagging and
his teeth chattering (for he was afraid, poor fellow), " alas,
alas ! I know nothing, my good friends."

" Nay," said the man, " but thou dost know something
of it, for I see thy head shaking and thy teeth chattering."

But at this point the Dean confronted Gans :

" Wicked Christian," said he, " I can see well enough
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The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

thou hast had commerce with the devil, to the great despite
of all these good men. Confess thy sin with all humility,
and we will accord thee such grace as may be, but if thou
deny it, thou shalt be punished with hot oil."

" Ah," said Pieter Gans in tears, " 'tis as I said ; I shall
be burnt, dear God ! Blaeskaek, where art thou, my good
friend ? Give me thy help. Alas, alas ! "

But Blaeskaek had gone off in a hurry from fear of the
holy Fathers.

" Ah," said Pieter Gans, " see how the traitor deserts me
when danger threatens ! "

" Speak," said the very reverend Father.

" Yes, Master Dean," said Pieter Gans, weeping and wail-
ing, " I will tell you the whole story, without keeping back
anything. . . . Master ! " he cried when he had come to
the end of his recital, " if you will not punish me too heavily,
Master, I will give all my poor savings as a perpetual gift
to the Church. I am a true Christian, that I vow, and no
heretic. Moreover, I wish not to die until I have had suffi-
cient time to do long and full penance. But have me not
boiled in oil before I have had that time, I beg of you."

" As to that," answered the Dean, " we shall see. Now
take us to the place where this devil is to be seen."

By that time they were close to the church, and the
priest went in to get therefrom some holy water before they
started. Then all the men, women, and children of the
village took their way to The Horn.

There the Dean demanded to see what had been the cause
of those wicked spells which had been cast over so many
worthy men, and Pieter Gans, with all humility, showed
him the deviling, still smiling and holding his staff of vine-
branches in his hand. And all the women, after looking at
him for some time, said that he was very comely for a devil.

The priest first crossed himself, then, dipping his fingers
in the holy water, anointed therewith the brow, breast, and
belly of the statue, which thereupon, by the grace of God,

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Flemish Legends

crumbled into dust, and a sorrowful voice, was heard saying :
" Oi moi, 6 phos, tethneka ! "

And these words of the devil were explained by the
priest to signify, in the Greek tongue : " Woe is me ! Light !
I die ! "

XIII. Of the great wonder and astonishment of My Lord the
Duke when he heard of the valour of the women of Uccle.

In the meantime the village sent to the Duke two trusty
men, with a message to that high prince informing him in
due order all that had occurred. These men met him already
on his way to Uccle, for he had learnt by his runners the
Irontooth's design, and knowing full well where he would
find him was coming against him at all speed with a strong
force of horsemen.

As soon as the messengers saw who it was coming along the
road they went down on their knees, but the good Duke would
have none of this, and made them rise and walk at his stirrup.

Before they had gone far they reached the scene of the
brigands' discomfiture. At the sight of all those heaped-up
bodies the Duke halted, greatly astonished and no less
pleased. " And who," quoth he, " has slain all these scoun-
drels in this wise ? "

" Our womenfolk," said one of the messengers.

" What is this thou'rt telling me ? " said the Duke with
a frown.

" Before God, My Lord," said the man, " I will tell you
the whole story."

And so he did.

" Well," said the Duke when he had done, " who would
have thought it of these good wives ? I will reward them
well for it."

So saying he caused the casque of the Irontooth to be
taken up and carried away. This casque was to be seen for
many years in the armoury of My Lord Charles, who had it
guarded with the utmost care.
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The Brotherhood of the Cheerful Countenance

XIV . In what manner was instituted, the Order of the Women-
Archers of Uccle and of the fine reward which My Lord gave
to the brave maid Wantje.

On entering Uccle the good Duke saw coming towards him
a large body of people, and in their midst a man crying out
in a most piteous voice : " Master ! Master Priest ! let me
not be boiled ! " To which the answer was : " We shall see."
" Whence comes all this noise ? " said the Duke.
But as soon as Pieter Gans saw who it was he ran towards
him and threw his arms round his horse's legs. " My Lord,"
he cried, " My Lord Duke, let me not be boiled ! "

" And why," said the Duke, " should they boil one of
my good men of Uccle ? "

But the very reverend Father Claessens, stepping forward,
told him the whole story with great indignation, while Pieter
Gans continued to blubber alongside in a most melancholy
fashion. And thereon followed such confusion, with the one
weeping and groaning, the other denouncing and syllogizing,
and each so vehemently, that the good Duke could not tell
which to listen to.

Suddenly Wantje came forward out of the press, and,
like Pieter Gans, cried : " Mercy and pity ! "

" My Lord," said the maid, " this man has sinned greatly
against God, but only from simpleness of mind and a natural
cowardice. The devil frightened him ; he submitted to the
devil. Pardon him, My Lord, for our sakes."

" Maid," said the Duke, " that was well spoken, and 'tis
to thee I will hearken."

But the very reverend Father : " My Lord," said he,
" forgets to think of God."

" Father," said the Duke, " I am not forgetful of that
duty. Nevertheless I think he takes little pleasure in watch-
ing Christian fat smoke or a good man's flesh boil, but likes
rather to see men gentle and kind, and not giving their
fellows penance to do. And on this day when Our Lady
the Virgin has deigned to perform a miracle for our sakes

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Flemish Legends

I will not sadden her mother's heart by the death of a Christian.
Therefore none of the accused, neither this Pieter Cans nor
any other there may be, shall this time go to the stake."

On hearing this Pieter Gans burst out laughing like a
madman, and began to dance and sing, crying out the while :
" Praise to My Lord ! I am not to be boiled. Brabant to
the Good Duke ! " And all the townsfolk called out after
him : " Praise to My Lord ! "

Then the Duke bade them be silent, and smiling :

" Well, dames," said he, " who have this night done man's
work so valiantly, come hither that I may give you a man's
reward. First of all, to the bravest one among you I give
this great chain of gold. Which is she ? "

The good women pushed Wantje forward before the Duke.

" Ah," said he, " 'tis thee, sweet pleader. Wilt kiss me,
though I be old ? "

" Yes, My Lord," said the maid. And so she did, not-
withstanding that she was a little shamefaced over it.

And the good Duke, having hung the chain round her
neck, spoke further in this wise :

" As for you all, good dames, who have this night so
gallantly carried arms, I institute among you a most honour-
able Order, under the protection of Madam Mary the Virgin,
and I direct that there shall be set up in this place a staff
of a good length, and that each Sunday you shall come
together here and draw the bow in archery, in memory of
the time when with those bows you saved the lives of your
husbands and children. And there shall be a fair crown of
laurel and a fair purseful of golden peters^ bright and new,
to be awarded annually to the best archer of the year, and
brought to her on a cushion by all the others together. And
this purse will dower her if she be a maid, or, if she be a
wife, will stand her in good stead against a time of famine."

In this manner was instituted the Order of Women-
Archers of Uccle, who still draw the bow like men every
Sunday, under the protection of Our Lady the Virgin.
30



THE THREE SISTERS



THE THREE SISTERS

I. Of the three noble ladies and their great beauty.
IN the year of Our Lord Jesus Christ 690, lived three maidens,
descended, by male issue, from the noble line of the great
emperor Octavian.

Their names were Blanche, Claire, and Candide.

Though they had dedicated the flower of their maiden-
head to God, it is not to be supposed that this was for lack
of lovers.

For, on every day that passed, a crowd of people used
to collect for nothing else than to see them go by on their
way to church, and onlookers would say of them : " See
what gentle eyes, see what white hands ! "

More than one, besides, with his mouth watering to look
at them, would say sorrowfully : " Must it be that such
sweet maids as these should dedicate themselves to God,
who has eleven thousand or more in his Paradise already."

" But none so fair," answered an old wheezing merchant
behind them, who was drinking in the fragrance of their
dresses.

And going off on his way, if the old man saw any young
fellow loafing by the roadside, or lying on his belly in the
grass to warm his back in the sun, he would give him a kick
in the ribs, saying : " Well now, dost thou care nothing to
see the finest flowers of beauty that were ever blowing ? "

//. How a prince of Araby was taken with love for the youngest
sister., and what came of it.

Not a few young men tried to win them in marriage, but
failing in this endeavour, turned moody and pined visibly
away.

Among them was a certain prince of Araby, who had
himself baptized with great ceremony. And this for the
sake of the youngest sister solely.

c 33



Flemish Legends

But, failing to attain his end, either by pleading or by
force, set himself one morning before her door, and there
let himself fall on his sword.

The maid, hearing this fair lord cry out, came down in
haste and had him carried in and laid on her own bed ;
whereat (for he was not quite dead) he found great
solace.

And when she bent over him to bathe and dress his wound,
he roused what force he had left in him, kissed her on her
red mouth, sighed like a man delivered from torment, and
so gave up his soul happily.

But the maid was not at all pleased at this kiss, for she
considered it a dishonour to her divine husband Jesus.
Nevertheless she wept for the fair lord, a little.

///. Wherein it is seen how Satan persecutes those ladies who
seek to escape from the world.

There were oftentimes a great crowd of suitors before the
dwelling of the three ladies, some of them sighing laments,
others prancing up and down on fine horses, others without
uttering a word, but only looking up at the windows all the
day long.

And oftentimes these men wo aid fight together and kill
one another, from jealousy. At this the ladies were saddened
exceedingly.

" Ah," said the two elder to their sister, " pray for us,
white Blanche, white of soul and white of body, pray for
us, little one. Jesus listens readily to the prayers of such
maids as thou art."

" My sisters," answered she, " I am less worthy than
you, but I will pray, if you so wish it."

" Yes," said they.

Then the three sisters knelt down, and the youngest
prayed in this manner :

' Kind Jesus, we have sinned against you assuredly, else
you would not have let our beauty so touch these wicked
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The Three Sisters

men. Yes, we have indeed sinned, but, weaklings that we
are, despite ourselves, Lord. Ah, grant us pardon for our
great sorrow. You would have us for your own, and so
indeed we have kept ourselves : our youth and beauty, mirth
and sadness, vows and prayers, souls and bodies, thoughts
and deeds, everything. In the morning, at noon, and at
vesper-time, at all hours and all moments, do we not have
you in our minds ? When your bright sun rises, O beloved,
and no less when your bright stars shine in your heaven,
they can see us at prayer, and offering to you, not gold,
frankincense, or myrrh, but our humble loves and our poor
hearts. That is not enough, we know well. Dear one, teach
us to do more."

Pausing here they sighed sorrowfully, all three.

" Kind Jesus," went on the youngest sister, " we know
well enough the desire of these men. They think themselves
brave and handsome, and hope on this account to capture
our love, but they are neither handsome, nor brave, nor
good, as you are, Jesus. And yours we are and shall be
always, and theirs never. Will you please to love us also
a little, for you alone are our comfort and joy in this sad
world, Jesus ? We will not be unfaithful to you in any-
thing. Ah, let us rather die quickly, for we hunger and
thirst for you. If you will, let these evil men continue to
pursue us with their loves, 'twill be but delight to suffer it
for your sake. Nevertheless, the mortal husband leaves not
his wife in danger, nor the betrothed his bride. Are you not
better than they, and will you not keep us also from the
snares of the enemy ? If it be not pleasing to you, do
nothing, but then it may be that one day some one will
steal from us our virginity, which is yours only. Ah, dear
beloved, rather let us pass our lives old, ugly, leprous, and
then descend into purgatory, among devils, flame, and brim-
stone, there to wait until you deem us pure enough at length
to take us into your Paradise, where we shall be allowed to
see you and love you for ever. Have pity upon us. Amen."

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Flemish Legends

And having spoken thus, the poor child wept, and her
sisters with her, saying : " Pity, Jesus, pity."

IV. Of the voice of the divine bridegroom, and of the horseman
in silvern armour.

Suddenly they heard a low voice saying : " Take heart."

" Hark," they said, " the husband deigns to speak to
his brides."

And presently the room was filled with a perfume more
delicate than that of a censer burning finest frankincense.

Then the voice spake further : " To-morrow," it said,
" when dawn breaks, go out from the town. Mount your
palfreys, and, riding without halt, follow the road without
heeding whither it leada. I will guide you."

" We will obey you," they said, " for you have made us
the happiest of the daughters of men."

And rising from their knees, they kissed one another
joyfully.

While the voice was speaking to them, there had come
into the square a beautiful horseman in silvern armour, with
a golden helm on his head, and, flying above that like a bird,
a crest more brilliant than a flame. The horse whereon he
rode was of pure white.

None of those there had seen him coming, and he was
as if risen from the ground among the crowd of lovers, who,
seized with fear, dared not look him in the face.

" Rascals," quoth he. " take these horses away out of
the square. Do you not know that the noise of their hooves
troubles these three ladies in their prayers ? "

And therewith he rode away towards the east.

" Ah," said the lovers to one another, " saw you that
silvern armour and that flaming crest ? 'Twas an angel of
God assuredly, come from Paradise for the sake of these
three ladies." The more insistent among them muttered :
" He did not forbid us to stand on foot before the door, and
in that wise we may yet remain with impunity."



The Three Sisters

V . How, by the command of God, the three ladies rode to adventure.
On the morrow, therefore, before daylight, the suitors

returned once again in great numbers, but first left their
horses behind them in their stables. Soon after daybreak
they saw the three ladies ride out from their courtyard, in
obedience to the command which God had given them, each
one mounted upon her palfrey. Supposing that they were
but going out into the neighbouring meadows to take the
clean air, they followed behind, one and all, singing merry
carols in their honour.

For so long as they were in the streets of the town the
palfreys moved slowly, but once out in the open country they
began galloping.

The lovers tried still to follow them, but at last were
forced to drop off, and fell one by one along the wayside.

When they had covered some miles the palfreys stood
still ; and the three ladies, seeing that they had come free
of their pursuers, resolved to give honour to God for his
aid, and to this end to build him a fair church.

Where ? They did not know. But the thing was already
decided in Paradise, as you shall see.

For as soon as they were once again on their horses, the
animals, guided by God's holy spirit, set off at a high trot.

And leapt rivers, threaded forests, passed through towns,
whereof the gates opened of themselves to let them by, and
closed again after, bounded over walls and like obstacles.

And startled every one they met, all amazed to see go
by, quick as the wind, these three white horses and these
three fair ladies.

And travelled in this way for a thousand leagues, or
rather more.

VI. Of the diamond hammers, and foundations torn up from
the ground.

At Haeckendover, in the duchy of Brabant, the palfreys
stood still once again, and neighed.

37



Flemish Legends

And would not go one step forward, nor back.

For this was where God had chosen to have his church.

But the ladies, supposing that they had stopped theie
because they were tired, went on as far as Hoy-Bout on foot,
and there determined to start building.

Therefore they sent for the most skilful workers in stone,
and master-builders also, in so great number that at the end
of one day the foundations were two hands' breadth high in
the lowest part.

And seeing this good beginning the ladies rejoiced greatly,
and supposed their work agreeable to God.

But on the morrow, alas, found all the stones torn up
out of the ground.

Thinking that by chance some traitor heretic had been
buried in that place, who at night shook down the stones of
their church with the trembling of his accursed bones, they
removed to Steenen-Berg with their workmen, and there
started afresh in the same manner as at Hoy-Bout.

But on the morrow morning found the walls once again
out of the ground.

For the Lord Jesus was minded to be worshipped more
particularly at Haeckendover.

And sent, therefore, his angels by night, with hammers
of diamond from the workshops of Paradise.

And bade them tear down the work of the three ladies.

Therefore the sisters, greatly perplexed and wondering,
went down on their knees, praying God that he would tell
them where he wished to have his church.

VII. Of the youngest sister and the beautiful angel.

And suddenly they saw a young man, of a beauty more
than earthly, clad in a robe of the colour of the setting sun.

Kindly he looked at them.

Knowing him for God's angel, the three ladies fell on
their faces before him.

But the youngest, bolder than the others, as is the way
38



The Three Sisters

with children, dared to steal a look at the fair ambassador,
and, seeing him so comely, took heart and smiled.

The angel took her by the hand, saying to her and to her
sisters : " Come and follow me."

This they did.

And thence they came to the spot where the church now
stands, and the angel said to them : " This is the place."

" Thank you, My Lord," said the youngest joyously.

VIII. How the three ladies saw a green island, with sweet
jiowers and birds thereon.

At that time it was thirteen days past the feast of the
Kings ; snow had fallen heavily and set hard in frost after,
by reason of a north wind which was blowing.

And the three ladies saw before them, among the snow,
as it were a green island.

And this island was girt about with a cord of purple
silk.

And upon the island the air was fresh as in spring, and
roses were blowing, with violets and jessamine, whose smell
is like balm.

But outside was naught but storm, north wind, and
terrible cold.

Towards the middle, where now stands the grand altar,
was a holm-oak, covered with blossom as if it had been a
Persian jessamine.

In the branches, warblers, finches and nightingales sang
to their hearts' content the sweetest songs of Paradise.

For these were angels, who had put on feathered guise,
carolling in this fashion in God's honour.

One fair nightingale, the sweetest singer of them all, held
in his right claw a roll of parchment, whereon was written
in letters of gold :

" This is the place chosen by God and shown by him
to the three maidens for the building of a church to the
glory of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

39



Flemish Legends

Great was the joy of the ladies at that sight, and the
youngest said to the angel :

"We see certainly that God loves us somewhat; what
must we do now, My Lord Angel ? "

" Thou must build the church here, little one," answered
the messenger, " and ch Dose for this work twelve of the most
skilled workmen, neither more nor less ; God himself will
be the thirteenth."

And having said so much he returned to high heaven.

IX. Of the church of Our Lord at Haeckendover, and of the
strange mason who worked there.

Then all three went off in haste to choose from among
the others the twelve good workmen who should set up the
foundations of the church where they had seen the cord of
purple silk.

The work went on so well that it was a pleasure to see the
stones mounting up, straight and quickly.

But the miracle was this, that during the hours of labour
the masons were always thirteen in number, but at dinner
and at paytime twelve only.

For the Lord Jesus was pleased to work with the others,
but neither ate nor drank with them ; he who in Paradise
had such fine broth and such sweet fruits, and wine from
the fountain of Saphir, which is a fountain giving forth
without intermission wine of a richer yellow than liquid gold
itself.

Nor did he suffer for want of money ; for that is an evil
reserved to us needy, piteous, and ill-faring mortals.

The building advanced so well that soon the bell was
hung in the tower as a sign that the church was finished.

Then the three maids entered in together ; and, falling on
her knees, the youngest said :

" By whom, divine husband and beloved Jesus, shall we
dedicate this church built for your service ? "

To which the Lord Jesus replied : " It is I Myself who
40



The Three Sisters

will consecrate and dedicate this church ; let none come


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