Charles de Coster.

Flemish legends online

. (page 5 of 13)
Online LibraryCharles de CosterFlemish legends → online text (page 5 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

you will repay me my six-and-twenty florins."

But Halewyn, laughing : " Take me," he said, " to the
room where thou keepest thy gold."

" My Lord," said the goldsmith, " that I will not, for all
that I hold you in high esteem."

" Dog," said he, " if thou dost not obey me I will strike
thee dead instantly."

" Ha ! " said the goldsmith, " do not come blustering
here, My Lord, for I am neither serf nor peasant, but a free
burgess of this town. And if you are so minded as to lay
your hands on me, I shall know how to get redress, I promise

Then Halewyn struck him, and the burgess called for help.

Hearing this cry, apprentices to the number of six came
down into the shop, and, seeing Halewyn, ran to seize him.

But he beat them off likewise and bade them show him
where the gold was kept.

Which they did, saying one to another : " This is the


Sir Halewyn

And the goldsmith, weeping : " My Lord," said he, " do
not take it all."

" I shall take what I will," said Halewyn ; and he filled
his money-bag.

And in this way he took from the goldsmith more than
seven hundred golden bezants.

Then, seeing the poor man lamenting his lot, he struck
him two or three hard blows, telling him not to whine so
loud, and that before the month was out he would take from
him double the amount.

XL Of the arrogant arms of Sir Halewyn.

And the Miserable became the richest, most powerful,
and most feared baron in the whole province.

And blasphemously he compared himself to God.

And considering that the old arms of Dirk, and his device,
were too mean for his new magnificence :

He sent to Bruges for painters in heraldry to fashion them

These painters put the old crow away in one quarter, and
on a field argent and sable blazoned a heart gules and a sickle
or, with this device : None can stand against me.

Moreover, he had this same blazon fashioned into a great
standard which was flown from his castle keep. And also
had it cut in stone over the gate. And on his shield, which
he caused to be made larger so that the arrogant device
might be seen to better advantage. And on his arms, his
clothes, and wherever it could be put, there he had it as well.

XII. How Sir Halewyn jousted with a knight of England.

It so happened that at about this time My Lord of
Flanders let call a tournament.

And sent out to all his lords and barons to come to Ghent
for that purpose.

Halewyn went thither and set up his shield among the


Flemish Legends

But the barons and lords, seeing the arrogant device and
the great size of the shield, were greatly put to offence

And all of them jousted with him, but each was over-
thrown in turn.

Among them was present an English knight of much
prowess, who rode out to the middle of the tourney-field and
stood straight and proud before Sir Halewyn.

" Well," quoth he, " My Lord the Invincible, it displeases
me to see thee planted there so arrogantly and unhorsing us
all in this fashion. Wilt thou fight with me ? "

" Yes," said Sir Halewyn.

" If I overcome thee, thou shalt be my servant and I
shall take thee with me into Cornwall."

" Yes," said Sir Halewyn.

" And cause thee to grease my horses' hooves, and empty
the dung from the stable ; and find out whether thou art
invincible at such work also."

" Yes," said Sir Halewyn.

" And if thou art not invincible, the invincible stick shall
thrash thee invincibly."

" Yes," said Sir Halewyn.

" But if thou overcome me, this shall be thy guerdon :

" Five-and-twenty bezants which are in the house of thy
Lord, the noble Count of Flanders ; all the accoutrement of
my horse, which is of fine mail ; his fair saddle of pear-wood,
covered with leather, and saddle-bows richly figured with
ten horsemen lustily fighting and with Our Lord driving out
the devil from one possessed ; furthermore my helm of fine
wrought steel, and on it a crest of silver, gilt over, with
spread wings, which may very well, notwithstanding thy
device, stand against thy bleeding heart, thy gaping sickle,
and thy miserable crow. W T ell, My Lord the Invincible, dost
think thou shalt win invincibly the five-and-twenty bezants,
the helm of my head, and the trappings of my horse ? "

" Yes," said Sir Halewyn.

Sir Halewyn

Then, after My Lord himself had given the signal, they
ran together with a great clatter.

And the English knight was overthrown like the rest.

Then all the ladies acclaimed and applauded the Miserable,
crying out : " Worship to Siewert Halewyn the noble, Siewert
Halewyn the Fleming, Siewert Halewyn the Invincible."

And on his way back to the house of My Lord, there to
feast with him, he was by these ladies kissed, fondled, and
made much of without stint.

And, putting on the gear of the English knight, he went
off to the towns of Bruges, Lille, and Ghent, thieving and
ravishing everywhere.

And came back from each expedition with much booty.

And felt the heart all the while pouring live strength into
his breast and beating against his skin.

Then he went back to his own castle with the five-and-
twenty bezants^ and the arms of the knight of England.

When he sounded the horn there came to him his mother,
who, seeing him so gilt over, was overcome with joy, and
cried : " He brings us riches, as he promised."

" Yes," said Sir Halewyn.

And she fell at his feet and kissed them.

As also did the younger brother, saying : " Sir Brother
thou hast lifted us up from poverty, I will willingly serve

" So shouldst thou, indeed," said Halewyn. Then, going
into the hall : " I would sup," he said, " thou, woman, fetch
me meat, and thou, fellow, drink."

And on the morrow, and every day thereafter, he made to
serve him at table, as if they had been his private servants,
his father, mother, brother, and sister, turn by turn.

XIII. Of the heart dried up and of the dame Halewyn.

But one morning while he was at meat in his castle, when
his father and sister were gone to Bruges to buy corn-coloured
cloth-of-scarlet for their clothes,


Flemish Legends

And he was being served, with all humility, by his mother
and brother,

He became suddenly quite cold, for the heart had ceased
to beat.

Putting his hand to his breast, he touched dried-up skin.

Then he felt his face go back as it was before, his shoulders
shrink down, his back hump up, and all his body lessen in

Looking at his mother and brother in turn, he saw them
laughing and saying to each other : " See, here is our master
back in his old ugly skin, and with his old ugly face."

" Ha, My Lord," said his brother, coming boldly up to
him and speaking insolently, " will you not take some of this
clauwaert to hearten yourself ? You have no longer, it
seems, your former strength."

" Wilt try it ? " said the Miserable, and struck him
with his fist, but did him no more hurt than if he had
been a fly.

Seeing this the younger brother grew bolder, and seating
himself close to Halewyn on the seat :

" My lord," said he, " you have had pudding enough,
I think, 'tis my turn to eat."

And he took the pudding from off his platter.

" My lord son," said his mother, " now you shall give
to me, who am old, some of this old wine you have 'kept for

And she took the cup out of his hand.

" My lord brother," said the younger son, " methinks you
have too much of this roast of lamb with sweet chestnuts ;
I will take it, if you please."

And he put the roast of lamb before his own place.

" My lord son," said his mother, " you do not much like,
it seems, this fair cheese and barley tart, give it to me, I
pray you."

And the Miserable, dumbfounded, gave it to her.

" My lord brother," said the younger son, " you have

Sir Halewyn

been sitting there long enough like an emperor, will you be
pleased to stir your limbs now and serve us ? "

And the Miserable, getting up, served them as he was

" My lord son," said his mother, " I see you now sub-
missive to our orders, will you be pleased to ask my pardon
for having so long kept me standing like a private servant,
fetching you food and drink, though I am your mother ? "

And the Miserable fell at her feet.

" My lord brother," said the younger son, " wilt thou be
pleased to fall at my feet likewise, and kiss them, for that
thou hast made me do the work of a serf ? "

" That I will not," said the Miserable.

" Thou wilt not ? "

" I will not," said the Miserable, and stepped back a

" Come hither," said his brother.

" I will not," said the Miserable.

Then the younger ran at him, and, bearing him to the
ground without difficulty, began thumping and pommelling
him, and striking him in the face with his golden spurs, say-
ing : " Avenge thyself, Siewert Halewyn the Invincible.
None can stand against thee, save I. Thou hast long treated
us as serfs in thy house, now I will treat thee as a cheese
and crush thee underfoot. Why dost thou not now caper
as a kid, or fly away as a bird, Siewert the enchanted ? "
and, going into a frenzy of rage, he drew his knife, saying :
" I will cut thee off thy head unless thou cry mercy."

" I will not," said the Miserable.

But his mother, hearing these words, took quickly from
the fire a handful of embers, and notwithstanding their heat,
threw them into the eyes and mouth of the younger brother,
saying : " Thou shalt not kill my first-born, wicked son."

And while the younger brother was howling by reason of
the pain from the embers, which blinded him, his mother
took the knife from him, and while he was twisting this way

Flemish Legends

and that, swinging up his arms to strike whomever he could,
she threw him down, shut him up in the room, and went
out dragging her first-born after her. Then, although she
was feeble with age, she carried Halewyn up into the tower
on her back, as a shepherd carries a lamb (for he had quite
lost his senses), and there tended him and bathed his face
and breast, which were torn and bleeding, and there at night-
fall left him and went away.

XIV . Of the great weakness of Sir Halewyn and of the days
and nights which he spent in the forest.

The Miserable, alone and somewhat comforted, rose to
his feet, and was right glad to feel the sickle still at his belt ;
opened the door, listened to make sure that he could hear
nothing, and that his brother was not there.

And when the night was fully dark, went down the stair
slowly, sitting-wise.

For he was so weakened by the blows and wounds he had
received that he could not hold himself upright by any means ;
and in this fashion he went on until he reached the bridge,
and, finding that still down, crossed over it.

And very wearily he made his way to the forest.

But he could not, on account of his weakness, go so far
as the cottages, which were a good two leagues distant to
the northward.

So, lying down among the leaves, he sang.

But no maid came, for the song could not be heard from
so far away.

And so passed the first day.

When night came again, cold rain began to fall, which
sent him into a fever. But notwithstanding this he would
not go back to his castle, for fear of his brother. Shivering,
and with his teeth a-chatter, he dragged himself northward
through the brake, and saw in a clearing a fair pretty maid,
rosy-cheeked, fresh, slender, and neat, and he sang his song.
But the girl did not come to him.


Sir Ha/ewyn

And so passed the second day.

That night the rain fell anew, and he could not move,
so stiff was he from the cold, and he sang, but no maid came.
At dawn the rain continued, and while he was lying there
among the leaves a wolf came and sniffed at him, thinking
him dead, but on seeing it draw near he cried out in a terrible
fashion, and the wolf took fright and went off. Then he
grew hungry, but could find himself nothing to eat. At
vespers he sang anew, but no maid came.

And so passed the third day.

Towards midnight the sky cleared, and the wind grew
warmer. But the Miserable, though he was suffering greatly
from hunger, thirst, and weariness, dared not sleep. On the
morning of the fourth day he saw a girl coming towards him
who seemed to be a burgess's daughter. The girl would
have run away on seeing him, but he cried out loudly :
" Help me ! I am worn out with hunger and sickness."
Then she drew near to him and said : " I also am hungry."
" Art thou," he said, " a maid ? " " Ah," said she, " I
have had to flee from Bruges, because the priests would
have burnt me alive, on account of a brown mole which I
have on my neck, of the size of a pea, coming, they say,
from my having had fleshly commerce with the devil. But
I have never seen the devil, and do not know what he is

He, without listening to her, asked again if she were a
virgin, and, as the girl said nothing, he sang his song.

But she did not move from where she stood, only saying :
" You have a very sweet and strong voice for one so wasted
with sickness and hunger."

Then he said to her : "I am the lord Siewert Halewyn.
Go to my castle and ask to be taken to my lady mother, and
without speaking to any one else, whosoever he be, tell her
that her son is hard put to it in the forest with hunger, fever,
and weariness, and will die before long if none bring him

E 65

Flemish Legends

The girl went off as he bid her, but coming out of the
wood she saw in the Gallows-field the body of the maid hang-
ing, and ran away in a fright. Passing into the territory of
Sir Roel de Heurne she craved food and drink at the cottage
of one of his peasants. And there she told how she had
found Sir Halewyn dying of hunger. But she was told in
reply that the said lord was crueller and more wicked than
the devil himself, and should be left to be eaten by the wolves
and other beasts of the forest.

And the Miserable waited, lying in the leaves in great

And so passed the fourth day.

And at dawn of the fifth, having seen no more of the girl,
he supposed that she had been caught by the priests and
taken back to Bruges to be burnt.

Quite disheartened, and chilled with the cold, and saying
that he would soon die, he cursed the Prince of the Stones.

Nevertheless, at vespers he sang once more.

And he was then by the side of a forest way.

And he saw coming through the trees a fair maid, who
fell on her knees before him.

And he did to her as he had done to the others.

Then rose full of fresh strength, vigour, and beauty, and
with the heart resting against his own went off to the Gallows-
field, carrying the body, and there hanged it by that of the
first virgin.

XV. How the Miserable, having hanged fifteen virgins in the
Gallows-field, held wicked revels and cruel orgies.

Sir Halewyn became most powerful and greatly feared,
and killed up to fifteen virgins, whom he hanged in the

And he led a riotous life, eating, drinking, and carousing

All those ladies who had made fun of him in the days of
his impotence and ugliness were brought to his castle.

Sir Halewyn

And having had his will of them he turned them out of
doors like bitches, so wreaking upon them his evil vengeance.

And from Lille, Ghent, and Bruges came the most beauti-
ful courtesans, with their badge on their arms, and they
ministered to his pleasure and to that of his friends, among
whom the more evil were Diederich Pater-noster, so called
because he was a great frequenter of churches ; Nettin the
Wolf, who in battle attacked only the fallen, as wolves do ;
and Baudouin Sans Ears, who in his court of justice always
cried : " Death, death," without waiting to hear any defence

In company with the fair courtesans these same lords
held revels and orgies without end, and took from their poor
peasants all they had, corn, cheese, jewels, cocks, oxen,
calves, and swine.

Then, having stuffed themselves as full as they could
hold, threw to their dogs choice viands and rich cakes :

Gave to be broken and pounded up for their hawks and
falcons, the meat of fowls, cockerels, and doves ; had the
hooves of their horses bathed in wine.

Oftentimes until midnight, or even until cock-crow, there
would be beating of drums, trilling of pipes, squeaking of
viols, skirling of bagpipes, and winding of horns, for their

XVI. How the burgesses of the good town of Ghent gave protec-
tion to the virgins of the domain of Halewyn. & *

Meanwhile in the cottages of the peasant folk were tears,
hunger, and great misery.

And when the fifteenth maid had been taken in the
domain of Halewyn,

The mothers prayed to God that he would make them
barren, or else that they might bear men-children only.

And the fathers complained and said to one another
sadly : " Is it not a pitiful thing to see these sweet and gentle
flowers of youth so brought to death and dishonour ! "


Flemish Legends

And some among them said : " Let us go by night to the
good town of Ghent, taking with us all our virgin daughters,
and tell the whole tale to the burgesses, begging their blessed
protection for them, and leaving them there in the town if
we are so permitted. So they will escape death at the hands
of our master."

Every one who heard this plan thought it a good one ;
and all the peasants with daughters who were virgins took
them off to Ghent, and there told the story to the commune,
and the good men gave them protection.

Then with lighter hearts the peasants returned to the
domain of Halewyn.

XVII. Of what Sir Halewyn did on the borders of his domain.
Not long afterwards a hard winter set in, with bitter cold

and furious storm.

And the heart of the fifteenth virgin no longer beat
strong against Sir Halewyn's breast.

And he sang, but none came. Wherefore he was dis-
appointed and angry.

But calling to mind that there were, in the castle of Sir
Roel de Heurne, two girls supposed by common report to be

And that this castle was no more than the fifth part of
a league from the borders of his land,

And that therefore the two maids would be able to hear
and come to the call of his song,

He went each night and stationed himself on the farthest
border of his demesne, and there sang towards the said castle,
notwithstanding the bitter cold, and the snow beginning to
fall abundantly.

II 111. Of the damosels Magtelt and Anne-Mie, and of
Schimmel the dapple-gray.

While the Miserable was roaming the woods, Sir Roel de
Heurne and the lady Gonde, his wife, richly clad, and wrapt

Sir Halewyn

round with deer-skins, which give particular warmth to the
body, were sitting snugly on their coffers before their good
fire of oaken logs, chatting together as old folk will.

But it was the Lady Gonde who spoke most, being the

And she said :

" My good man, do you hear the storm raging furiously
in the forest ? "

" Yes," answered Sir Roel.

And his lady said further :

" God has been kind to give us, against this great cold,
such a fine castle so strongly built, such good clothes, and
such a bright fire."

" Yes," answered the Sire.

" But above all," said she, " he has shown us his divine
grace by giving us such good and brave children."

" True," answered the Sire.

" For," said she, " nowhere could you find a young man
more valiant, courteous, gentle, and fitter to uphold our
name than Toon, our son."

" Yes," said the Sire, " he has saved my life in battle."

" But," said his lady, " he has this fault, that he is so
scant of words that we scarce know the tone of his voice.
He is well called the Silent."

" There is better worth to a man," said the Sire, " in a
good sword than in a long tongue."

" Here I see you, my lord," said the lady, " pent up with
your reflections, for sadness and gravity are the lot of old
age, but I know well a certain maid who would smooth out
your forehead and set you laughing."

u 'Tis possible," said the Sire.

" Yes," said she, " it is certainly possible, for when
Magtelt our daughter comes into this room, I shall see my
lord and husband turn happy at once."

At these words Sir Roel nodded his head and smiled a


Flemish Legends

" Yes, yes," said his lady, " for when Magtelt laughs,
then laughs my old Roel ; when she sings, then my old Roel
grows thoughtful and nods his head happily, and if she
passes by, he follows with smiling eyes each step of his little

" True, Gonde," said the Sire.

" Yes, yes," said she, " for who is the well-being and joy
of this house ? 'Tis not I, who am old, and losing my teeth
one by one ; nor you either, my fellow in antiquity ; nor the
Silent either ; nor Anne-Mie the private servant, who, though
she is very sweet and healthy in her person, is something too
quiet in her ways, and laughs only when she is set laughing.
But she who makes our old age happy, she who is the nightin-
gale in the house, she who is always coming and going, pass-
ing and repassing, flying hither and thither, singing and
singing again, as happy as a peal of bells at Christmastide :
'tis our good daughter."

" So it is," said the Sire.

'" Ah," said his lady further, " it is a happy thing for us
to have such a child, since both of us have already cold in
our feet at all seasons. For without her we should pass our
time in sadness, and from our old feet the cold would creep
up to our hearts, and so we should be taken to our graves
more quickly."

" Yes, wife," said the Sire.

" Ah," said she, " another damosel would have wished
for love-suitors, and to go to the court of My Lord to get a
husband. But our little maid gives no thought to that, for
hereabout she loves no one but ourselves, and her who goes
everywhere with her, and is as a sister to her, Anne-Mie the
private servant ; but not without teasing her a little in order
to make her laugh."

" True," said the Sire.

" Yes, yes," said his lady, " and every one loves her,
admires her, and respects her, pages, grooms, varlets, men-
at-arms, private servants, serfs, and peasants, so joyous and

Sir Halewyn

merry is she, so brave and gentle is her bearing. There is
no one, even down to Schimmel, the great war-horse, who
does not follow her like a dog. Ah ! When he sees her
coming he whinnies joyously ; and she alone must bring
him his oats and corn ; from none other will he take a grain.
She treats him like a man, and often gives him a great draught
of dauwaert, which he drinks up with relish. She makes
herself understood to him by words, but she must never be
cross with him, or he makes as if to weep, and looks at her
with so sad a manner that she cannot withstand it and then
calls him to her, saying : ' Beautiful Schimmel, brave
Schimmel,' and other soft words ; hearing which the good
dapple-gray gets up and comes close to her to have more
compliments. He suffers no one on his back but she, and
when he is carrying her he is as proud as My Lord of Flanders
at the head of his good barons and knights. So she has her
sovereignty over every one, by joyousness, goodness, and
fair speaking."

" Yes," said the Sire.

" Ah," said his lady, " may the very good God watch
over our little one, and may our old ears hear this fledgeling
nightingale singing always."

" Amen," said the Sire.

XIX. How Magtelt sang to Sir Rod the lied of the Lion,
and the song of the Four Witches.

While Sir Roel and the lady Gonde were talking together,

The snow had fallen in great quantity,

And had quite covered Magtelt and Anne-Mie, who were
coming back from having taken an eagle-stone to the wife
of Josse, for her to bind to her left thigh and so get ease in
her lying-in.

And the girls came into the great hall, where Sir Roel
was sitting with his good wife.

Magtelt, drawing close to her father, knelt to him in

Flemish Legends

And Sir Roel, having raised her up, kissed her on the

But Anne-Mie stayed quietly in a corner, as became a
private servant.

And it was a good sight to see these two maids wholly
covered with snow.

" Jesus-Maria," said the lady Gonde, " see these two
sillies, what have they been doing to get themselves clothed
in snow in this fashion ? To the fire quickly, children ; draw
to the fire and dry yourselves."

" Silence, wife," said Sir Roel, " you make youth faint-
heart. In my young days I went through cold, snow, hail,
thunder, and tempest without a thought. And so do I still,
when there is need to, and I will have Magtelt do the same.
Thanks be to God ! 'tis not from a fire of logs that a daughter
of ours must get warmth, but from the natural fire which
burns in the bodies of the children of old Roel."

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryCharles de CosterFlemish legends → online text (page 5 of 13)