The Mysterious Picture part 5

“Very
well,” said the Landgrave, and at his command the aforesaid notabilities
appeared. Ulenspiegel took his stand in front of the curtain, which was still
carefully drawn.

“My
Lord Landgrave,” he said “and you, Madame the Landgravine, and you, my Lord of
Luneburg, and you others, fine ladies and valiant captains, know that behind
this curtain have I portrayed to the best of my abilities, your faces, every
one warlike or gentle, as the case may be. It will be quite easy for each one
of you to recognize himself. And that you are anxious to see yourselves is only
natural. But I pray you, have patience and suffer me to speak a word or two
before the curtain is drawn. Know this, fair ladies and valiant captains: all
you that are of noble blood shall behold my paintings and rejoice. But if there
be any among you that is of low or humble birth, such an one will see nothing
but a blank wall. So there! And now, have the goodness to open wide your noble
eyes.”

And
so saying, Ulenspiegel drew the curtain.

“Remember,”
said he again, “only they of noble birth can see my pictures, whether they be
lords or ladies.” And again, presently: “He of low birth is blind to my
pictures, but he who clearly sees, that man is a nobleman without a doubt.”

At
that, everyone present opened wide his eyes, pretending—you may be sure—to see,
and failing to recognize the various faces, and pointing themselves out to one
another, though in reality they beheld nothing at all but a bare wall. And for
this they were each and all secretly ashamed. Suddenly the court jester, who
was standing by, jumped three feet in the air and jangled his bells.

“Take
me for a villain,” he cried, “a most villainous villain, I verily will affirm
and assert and say with trumpets and fanfares that there I see a wall, a blank
white wall and nothing but a wall, so help me God and his saints!”

Ulenspiegel
said, “When fools ’gin talking, time for wise men to be walking.”

And
he was about to leave the palace when the Landgrave stopped him.

Making Mock of Foolery

“Fool
in your folly,” said he, “you make boast that you go through the world praising
what is good and fair and making mock of foolery, and you have dared to make
open game of so many and so high-born ladies, and of their yet more noble
lords, bringing ridicule on the pride of their nobility! Of a truth, I tell you
that the day will come when you will hang for your free speech.”

“If
the cord is of gold,” said Ulenspiegel, “it will break with dread of my
approach.”

“Stay,”
said the Landgrave. “Here is the first bit of your rope.” And he gave him
fifteen florins.

“All
thanks to you,” said Ulenspiegel, “and I promise you that every tavern on the
road shall have a thread of it, a thread of that gold which makes Croesuses of
all those rascally tavern-keepers.”

And
off he went on his donkey, holding his head up high in the air, with the plume
in his cap wagging joyously in the breeze.

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