Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

A Romance of the Days of Jeanne D'Arc - Joan of Arc
by Andrew Lang


Now, in this place I cannot withhold me from telling of an adventure which at this very time befell, though it scarce belongs to my present chronicle. But it may be that, in time to come, faith will wax cold, and the very saints be misdoubted of men. It therefore behoves me not to hold back the truth which I know, and which this tale makes plain and undeniable even by Hussites, Lollards, and other miscreants. For he who reads must be constrained to own that there is no strait so terrible but the saints can bring safely forth therefrom such men as call upon them.

There came at this season to Chinon from Fierbois (where the Maid's sword was found by miracle) a Scottish archer, not aforetime of our company, though now he took service with us. He was named Michael Hamilton, and was a tall man and strong, grim of face, sudden in anger, heavy of hand, walked a little lame, and lacked one ear. That which follows he himself told to us and to our chaplain, Father Urquhart, and I myself have read it in the Book of the Miracles of Madame St. Catherine of Fierbois. {22}

You must know that Brittany, as at this time, held for the English, and Michael Hamilton had gone thither reiving and pillaging the country with a company of Scots men-at-arms. Hard by a place called Clisson they had seized a deserted tower and held it for some days. It so fell out that they took a burgess of the country, who was playing the spy on their quarters; him they put to the torture, and so learned that the English were coming against them with a great company of men-at-arms and of the country folk, on that very night. They therefore delayed no longer than to hang the spy from a sufficient bough of a tree, this Michael doing what was needful, and so were hurrying to horse, when, lo! the English were upon them. Not having opportunity to reach the stables and mount, Michael Hamilton fled on foot, with what speed he might, but sorely impeded by the weight of his armour. The country folk, therefore, being light of foot, easily overtook him, and after slaying one and wounding more, he was caught in a noose of rope thrown over him from behind. Now, even as he felt the noose tighten about his arms, he (though not commonly pious beyond the wont of men-at-arms) vowed in his heart to make a pilgrimage to Fierbois, and to the shrine of Madame St. Catherine, if she would but aid him. And, indeed, he was ever a worshipper of St. Catherine, she being the patroness of his own parish kirk, near Bothwell. None the less, he was overcome and bound, whereon he that had thrown the noose, and was son of the spy whom Michael had hanged, vowed that he would, with his own hands, hang Michael. No ransom would this manant take, nor would he suffer Michael, as a gentleman of blood and birth, to die by the sword. So hanged Michael was; doubt not but it was done in the best manner, and there he was left hanging.

Now, that night of Maundy Thursday the cure of Clisson was in his chamber and was about to go to bed. But as he made ready for bed he heard, from a corner of the chamber, a clear voice saying, "Go forth and cut down the Scots man-at-arms who was hanged, for he yet lives."

The cure, thinking that he must be half asleep and dreaming, paid no manner of regard to these commands. Thereon the voice, twice and thrice, spoke aloud, none save the cure being present, and said, "Go forth and cut down the Scots man-at-arms who was hanged, for he yet lives."

It often so chances that men in religion are more hard of heart to believe than laymen and the simple. The cure, therefore, having made all due search, and found none living who could have uttered that voice, went not forth himself, but at noon of Good Friday, his service being done, he sent his sexton, as one used not to fear the sight and company of dead men. The sexton set out, whistling for joy of the slaying of the Scot, but when he came back he was running as fast as he might, and scarce could speak for very fear. At the last they won from him that he had gone to the tree where the dead Scot was hanging, and first had heard a faint rustle of the boughs. Not affrighted, the sexton drew out a knife and slit one of Michael's bare toes, for they had stripped him before they hanged him. At the touch of the knife the blood came, and the foot gave a kick, whereon the sexton hastened back with these tidings to the cure. The holy man, therefore, sending for such clergy as he could muster, went at their head, in all his robes canonical, to the wild wood, where they cut Michael down and rubbed his body and poured wine into his throat, so that, at the end of half an hour, he sat up and said, "Pay Waiter Hay the two testers that I owe him."

Thereon most ran and hid themselves, as if from a spirit of the dead, but the manant, he whose father Michael had hanged, made at him with a sword, and dealt him a great blow, cutting off his ear. But others who had not fled, and chiefly the cure, held the manant till his hands were bound, that he might not slay one so favoured of Madame St. Catherine. Not that they knew of Michael's vow, but it was plain to the cure that the man was under the protection of Heaven. Michael then, being kindly nursed in a house of a certain Abbess, was wellnigh recovered, and his vow wholly forgotten, when lo! he being alone, one invisible smote his cheek, so that the room rang with the buffet, and a voice said to him, "Wilt thou never remember thy pilgrimage?" Moved, therefore, to repentance, he stole the cure's horse, and so, journeying by night till he reached France, he accomplished his vows, and was now returned to Chinon. This Michael Hamilton was hanged, not very long afterwards, by command of the Duc d'Alencon, for plundering a church at Jargeau.

The story I have thought it behoved me to tell in this place, because it shows how good and mild is Madame St. Catherine of Fierbois, also lest memory of it be lost in Scotland, where it cannot but be of great comfort to all gentlemen of Michael's kin and of the name and house of Hamilton. Again, I tell it because I heard it at this very season of my waiting to be recovered of my wound. Moreover, it is a tale of much edification to men-at-arms, as proving how ready are the saints to befriend us, even by speaking as it were with human voices to sinful men. Of this I myself, later, had good proof, as shall be told, wherefore I praise and thank the glorious virgin, Madame St. Catherine of Fierbois.

This tale was the common talk in Chinon, which I heard very gladly, taking pleasure in the strangeness of it. And in the good fortune of the Maid I was yet more joyful, both for her own sake and for Elliot's, to whom she was so dear. But, for my own part, the leeches gave me little comfort, saying that I might in no manner set forth with the rest, for that I could not endure to march on foot, but must die by the way.

Poor comfort was this for me, who must linger in garrison while the fortune of France was on the cast of the dice, and my own fortune was to be made now or never. So it chanced that one day I was loitering in the gateway, watching the soldiers, who were burnishing armour, sharpening swords, and all as merry and busy as bees in spring. Then to me comes my master, with a glad countenance, and glad was I, for these eight days or nine I had no tidings of him, and knew not if Elliot had returned from pilgrimage. I rose to greet him, and he took my hand, bidding me be of good cheer, for that he had good tidings. But what his news might be he would not tell me; I must come with him, he said, to his house.

All about his door there was much concourse of people, and among them two archers led a great black charger, fairly caparisoned, and covered with a rich silk hucque of colour cramoisie, adorned with lilies of silver. As I marvelled who the rider might be, conceiving that he was some great lord, the door of my master's house opened, and there, within, and plain to view, was Elliot embracing a young knight; and over his silver armour fell her yellow hair, covering gorget and rere-brace. Then my heart stood still, my lips opened but gave no cry, when, lo! the knight kissed her and came forth, all in shining armour, but unhelmeted. Then I saw that this was no knight, but the Maid herself, boden in effeir of war, {23} and so changed from what she had been that she seemed a thing divine. If St. Michael had stepped down from a church window, leaving the dragon slain, he would have looked no otherwise than she, all gleaming with steel, and with grey eyes full of promise of victory: the holy sword girdled about her, and a little battle-axe hanging from her saddle-girth. She sprang on her steed, from the mounting- stone beside the door, and so, waving her hand, she cried farewell to Elliot, that stood gazing after her with shining eyes. The people went after the Maid some way, shouting Noel! and striving to kiss her stirrup, the archers laughing, meanwhile, and bidding them yield way. And so we came, humbly enough, into the house, where, her father being present and laughing and the door shut, Elliot threw her arms about me and wept and smiled on my breast.

"Ah, now I must lose you again," she said; whereat I was half glad that she prized me so; half sorry, for that I knew I might not go forth with the host. This ill news I gave them both, we now sitting quietly in the great chamber.

"Nay, thou shalt go," said Elliot. "Is it not so, father? For the Maid gave her promise ere she went to Poictiers, and now she is fulfilling it. For the gentle King has given her a household-- pages, and a maitre d'hotel, a good esquire, and these two gentlemen who rode with her from Vaucouleurs, and an almoner, Brother Jean Pasquerel, an Augustine, that the Maid's mother sent with us from Puy, for we found her there. And the Maid has appointed you to go with her, for that you took her part when men reviled her. And money she has craved from the King; and Messire Aymar de Puiseux, that was your adversary, is to give you a good horse, for that you may not walk. And, above all, the Maid has declared to me that she will bring you back to us unscathed of sword, but, for herself, she shall be wounded by an arrow under Orleans, yet shall she not die, but be healed of that wound, and shall lead the King to his sacring at Rheims. So now, verily, for you I have no fear, but my heart is sore for the Maid's sake, and her wound."

None the less, she made as if she would dance for joy, and I could have done as much, not, indeed, that as then I put my faith in prophecies, but for gladness that I was to take my fortune in the wars. So the hours passed in great mirth and good cheer. Many things we spoke of, as concerning the mother of the Maid--how wise she was, yet in a kind of amazement, and not free from fear, wherefore she prayed constantly for her child.

Moreover Elliot told me that the jackanapes was now hers of right, for that the woman, its owner, had been at Puy, but without her man, and had sold it to her, as to a good mistress, yet with tears at parting. This news was none of the gladdest to me, for still I feared that tidings of us might come to Brother Thomas. Howbeit, at last, with a light heart, though I was leaving Elliot, I went back to the castle. There Aymar de Puiseux, meeting me, made me the best countenance, and gave me a right good horse, that I named Capdorat after him, by his good will. And for my armour, which must needs be light, they gave me a maillet--a coat of slender mail, which did not gall my old wound. So accoutred, I departed next day, in good company, to Blois, whence the Maid was to set forth to Orleans. Marvel it was to find the road so full of bestial--oxen, cows, sheep, and swine--all gathered, as if to some great market, for the victualling of Orleans. But how they were to be got through the English lines into the city men knew not. For the English, by this time, had girdled the city all about with great bastilles, each joined to other by sunken ways dug in the earth, wherein were streets, and marts, and chambers with fires and chimneys, as I have written in my Latin chronicle. {24} There false Frenchmen came, as to a fair, selling and buying, with store of food, wine, arms, and things of price, buying and selling in safety, for the cannon and couleuvrines in the town could not touch them. But a word ran through the host how the Maid knew, by inspiration of the saints, that no man should sally forth from among the English, but that we should all pass unharmed.

Meantime the town of Blois was in great turmoil--the cattle lowing in the streets, the churches full to the doors of men-at-arms, waiting their turn to be shrived, for the Maid had ordained that all who followed her must go clean of sin. And there was great wailing of light o' loves, and leaguer lasses that had followed the army, as is custom, for this custom the Maid did away, and drove these women forth, and whither they wandered I know not. Moreover, she made proclamation that all dice, and tabliers, and instruments of gambling must be burned, and myself saw the great pile yet smoking in the public place, for this was to be a holy war. So we lodged at Blois, where the Maid showed me the best countenance, speaking favourable words of Elliot and me, and bidding me keep near her banner in battle, which I needed no telling to make me resolve to do. So there, for that night, we rested.


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