Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

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

CHAPTER XII
HOW THE MAID CAME TO ORLEANS, AND OF THE
DOLOROUS STROKE THAT FIRST SHE STRUCK IN WAR

Concerning the ways of the saints, and their holy counsel, it is not for sinful men to debate, but verify their ways are not as our ways, as shall presently be shown, in the matter of the Maid's march to Orleans.

For the town of Blois, where now we lay, is, as all men know, on the right bank of the water of Loire, a great river, wider and deeper and stronger by far than our Tay or Tweed, and the town of Orleans, whither we were bound, is also on the same side, namely, the right side of the river. Now, Orleans was beleaguered in this manner: The great stone bridge had been guarded, on the left, or further side of the stream, first by a boulevard, or strong keep on the land, whence by a drawbridge men crossed to a yet stronger keep, called "Les Tourelles," builded on the last arches of the bridge. But early in the siege the English had taken from them of Orleans the boulevard and Les Tourelles, and an arch of the bridge had been broken, so that in nowise might men-at-arms of the party of France enter into Orleans by way of that bridge from the left bank through the country called Sologne.

Yet that keep, Les Tourelles, had not been a lucky prize to our enemies of England. For their great captain, the Lord Salisbury, had a custom to watch them of Orleans and their artillery from a window in that tower, and, to guard him from arrow-shots, he had a golden shield pierced with little holes to look through, that he held before his face. One day he came into this turret when they who worked the guns in Orleans were all at their meat. But it so chanced that two boys, playing truant from school, went into a niche of the wall, where was a cannon loaded and aimed at Les Tourelles. They, seeing the gleam of the golden shield at the window of the turret, set match to the touch-hole of the cannon, and, as Heaven would have it, the ball struck a splinter of stone from the side of the window, which, breaking through the golden shield, slew my Lord of Salisbury, a good knight. Thus plainly that tower was to be of little comfort to the English.

None the less, as they held Les Tourelles and the outer landward boulevard thereof, the English built but few works on the left side of the river, namely, Champ St. Prive, that guarded the road by the left bank from Blois; Les Augustins, that was a little inland from the boulevard of Les Tourelles, so that no enemy might pass between these two holds; and St. Jean le Blanc, that was higher up the river, and a hold of no great strength. On the Orleans side, to guard the road from Burgundy, the English had but one fort, St. Loup, for Burgundy and the north were of their part, and by this way they expected no enemy. But all about Orleans, on the right bank of the river, to keep the path from Blois on that hand, the English had builded many great bastilles, and had joined them by hollow ways, wherein, as I said, they lived at ease, as men in a secure city underground. And the skill of it was to stop convoys of food, and starve them of Orleans, for to take the town by open force the English might in nowise avail, they being but some four thousand men-at-arms.

Thus Matters stood, and it was the Maid's mind to march her men and all the cattle clean through and past the English bastilles on the right side of the river, and by inspiration she well knew that no man would come forth against us. Moreover, she saw not how, by the other way, and the left bank, the cattle might be ferried across, and the great company of men-at-arms, into Orleans town, under the artillery of the English. For the English held the pass of the broken bridge, as I said, and therefore all crossing of the water must be by boat.

Now, herein it was shown, as often again, that the ways of the saints are not as our ways. For the captains, namely, the Sieur de Rais (who afterwards came to the worst end a man might), and La Hire, and Ambroise de Lore, and De Gaucourt, in concert with the Bastard of Orleans, then commanding for the King in that town, gave the simple Maid to understand that Orleans was on the left bank of the river. This they did, because they were faithless and slow of belief, and feared that so great a company as ours might in nowise pass Meun and Beaugency, towns of the English, and convey so many cattle through the bastilles on the right bank. Therefore, with many priests going before, singing the Veni Creator, with holy banners as on a pilgrimage; with men-at-arms, archers, pages, and trains of carts; and with bullocks rowting beneath the goad, and swine that are very hard to drive, and slow-footed sheep, we all crossed the bridge of Blois on the morning of April 25th.

Now, had the holy saints deemed it wise and for our good to act as men do, verily they would have spoken to the Maid, telling her that we were all going clean contrary to her counsel. Nevertheless, the saints held their peace, and let us march on. Belike they designed that this should turn to the greater glory of the Maid and to the confusion of them that disbelieved, which presently befell, as I shall relate.

All one day of spring we rode, and slept beneath the stars, the Maid lying in her armour, so that as one later told me who knew, namely, Elliot, her body was sorely bruised with her harness. Early in the morning we mounted again, and so rode north, fetching a compass inland; after noontide we came to a height, and lo! beneath us lay the English bastilles and holds on the left bank, and, beyond the glittering river and the broken bridge, the towers and walls of Orleans. Then I saw the Maid in anger, for well she knew that she had been deceived by them who should have guided her. Between us and the town of Orleans lay the wide river, the broken bridge, and the camps of the English. On the further shore we beheld the people swarming on the walls and quays, labouring to launch boats with sails, and so purposing to ascend the river against the stream and meet us two leagues beyond the English lines. But this they might not do, for a strong wind was blowing down stream, and all their vessels were in disarray.

The Maid spurred to the front, where were De Rais, Lore, Kennedy, and La Hire. We could see her pointing with her staff, and hear speech high and angry, but the words we could not hear. The captains looked downcast, as children caught in a fault, and well they might, for we were now as far off victualling Orleans as ever we had been. The Maid pointed to the English keep at St. Jean le Blanc, on our side of the water, and, as it seems, was fain to attack it; but the English had drawn off their men to the stronger places on the bridge, and to hold St. Jean le Blanc against them, if we took it, we had no strength. So we even wended, from the height of Olivet, for six long miles, till we reached the stream opposite Checy, where was an island. A rowing-boat, with a knight in glittering arms, was pulled across the stream, and the Maid, in her eagerness, spurred her steed deep into the water to meet him. He was a young man, brown of visage, hardy and fierce, and on his shield bore the lilies of Orleans, crossed with a baton sinister. He bowed low to the Maid, who cried -

"Are you the Bastard of Orleans?"

"I am," he said, "and right glad of your coming."

"Was it you who gave counsel that I should come by this bank, and not by the other side, and so straight against Talbot and the English?"

She spoke as a master to a faulty groom, fierce and high, and to hear her was marvel.

"I, and wiser men than I, gave that counsel," said he, "deeming this course the surer."

"Nom Dieu!" she cried. "The council of Messire is safer and wiser than yours." She pointed to the rude stream, running rough and strong, a great gale following with it, so that no sailing-boats might come from the town. "You thought to beguile me, and are yourselves beguiled, for I bring you better succour than ever came to knight or town--the help of the King of Heaven."

Then, even as she spoke, and as by miracle, that fierce wind went right about, and blew straight up the stream, and the sails of the vessels filled.

"This is the work of our Lord," said the Bastard of Orleans, crossing himself: and the anger passed from the eyes of the Maid.

Then he and Nicole de Giresme prayed her to pass the stream with them, and to let her host march back to Blois and so come to Orleans, crossing by the bridge of Blois. To this she said nay, that she could not leave her men out of her sight, lest they fell to sin again, and all her pains were lost. But, with many prayers, her confessor Pasquerel joining in them, she was brought to consent. So the host, with priests and banners, must set forth again to Blois, while the Maid, and we that were of her company, crossed the river in boats, and so rode towards the town. On this way (the same is a road of the old Romans) the English held a strong fort, called St. Loup, and well might they have sallied forth against us. But the people of Orleans, who ever bore themselves more hardily than any townsfolk whom I have known, made an onfall against St. Loup, that the English within might not sally out against us, where was fierce fighting, and they took a standard from the English.

So, at nightfall, the Maid, with the Bastard and other captains at her side, rode into the town, all the people welcoming her with torches in hand, shouting Noel! as to a king, throwing flowers before her horse's feet, and pressing to touch her, or even the harness of her horse, which leaped and plunged, for the fire of a torch caught the fringe of her banner. Lightly she spurred and turned him, and lightly she caught at the flame with her hand and quenched it, while all men marvelled at her grace and goodly bearing.

Never saw I more joy of heart, for whereas all had feared to fall into the hands of the English, now there was such courage in them, as if Monseigneur St. Michael himself, or Monseigneur St Aignan, had come down from heaven to help his good town. If they were hardy before, as indeed they were, now plainly they were full of such might and fury that man might not stand against them. And soon it was plain that no less fear had fallen on the English. But the Maid, with us who followed her, was led right through the great street of Orleans, from the Burgundy gate to the gate Regnart, whereby the fighting was ever most fell, and there we lodged in the house of the Treasurer of the Duke of Orleans, Jacquet Boucher. Never was sleep sweeter to me, after the two weary marches, and the sounds of music and revelry in the street did not hum a moment in my ears, before I had passed into that blessed world of slumber without a dream.

But my waking next day brought instantly the thought of my brother Robin, concerning whom I had ever feared that he fell with the flower of Scotland, when the Comte de Clermont deserted us so shamefully on the day of the Battle of the Herrings. No sooner did this doubt come into my mind, than I leaped from my bed, attired myself, and went forth to the quarters of the Scots under Sir Christian Chambers. Little need I had to tell my errand, for they that met me guessed who I was, because, indeed, Robin and I favoured each other greatly in face and bodily presence.

It was even as I had deemed: my dear brother and friend and tutor of old days had died, charging back upon the English who pursued us, and fighting by the side of Pothon de Xaintrailles. All that day, and in the week which followed, my thought was ever upon him; a look in a stranger's face, a word on another's lips, by some magic of the mind would bring my brother almost visibly before me, ay, among the noise of swords on mail, and the screaming of arrows, and of great cannon-balls.

If I heard ill news, it was no more than I looked for; but better news, as it seemed, I also heard, though, in my sorrow, I marked it little. For the soldiers were lamenting the loss of their famed gunner, not John the Lorrainer, but one who had come to them, they said, now some weeks agone, in the guise of a cordelier, though he did not fight in that garb, but in common attire, and ever wore his vizor down, which men deemed strange. Whither he had gone, or how disappeared, they knew not, for he had not been with those who yesterday attacked St. Loup.

"He could never thole the thought of the Blessed Maid," said Allan Rutherford, "but would tell all that listened how she was a brain- sick wench, or a witch, and under her standard he would never fight. He even avowed to us that she had been a chamber-wench of an inn in Neufchateau, and there had learned to back a horse, and many a worse trick," which was a lie devised by the English and them of Burgundy. But, go where he would, or how he would, I deemed it well that Brother Thomas and I (for of a surety it was Brother Thomas) were not to meet in Orleans.

Concerning the English in this wonderful adventure of the siege, I have never comprehended, nor do I now know, wherefore they bore them as they did. That they sallied not out on the trains which the Maid led and brought into the town, a man might set down to mere cowardice and faint heart--they fearing to fight against a witch, as they deemed her. In later battles, when she had won so many a victory, they may well have feared her. But, as now, they showed no dread where honour was to be won, but rather pride and disdain. On this very Saturday, the morrow of our arrival, La Hire, with Florent d'Illiers and many other knights, pushed forth a matter of two bowshots from the city walls, and took a keep that they thought to have burned. They were very hardy men, and being comforted by the Maid's coming, were full of courage and goodwill; yet the English rallied and drove them back, with much firing of guns, and now first I heard the din of war and saw the great stone balls fly, scattering, as they fell, into splinters that screamed in the air, with a very terrible sound. Truly the English had the better of that fray, and were no whit adread, for at sunset the Maid sent them two heralds, bidding them begone; yet they answered only that they would burn her for a witch, and called her a ribaulde, or loose wench, and bade her go back and keep her kine.

I was with her when this message came, and her brows met and her eyes flashed with anger. Telling us of her company to follow, she went to the Fair Cross on the bridge, where now her image stands, fashioned in bronze, kneeling before the Cross, with the King kneeling opposite. There she stood and cried aloud to the English, who were in the fort on the other side of the bridge that is called Les Tourelles, and her voice rang across the water like a trumpet, so that it was marvel. Then came out on to the bridge a great knight and a tall, Sir William Glasdale; no bigger man have I seen, and I bethought me of Goliath in Holy Scripture. He spoke in a loud, north-country voice, and, whereas she addressed him courteously, as she did all men, he called her by the worst of names, mocking at her for a ribaulde. She made answer that he lied, and that he should die in four days' time or five, without stroke of sword; and so, waving her hand haughtily, turned and went back. But I, who walked close by her, noted that she wept like any girl at his evil and lying accusations.

Next day was Sunday, and no stroke was struck, but the Bastard of Orleans set forth to bring back the army from Blois. And on Monday the Maid rode out and under the very walls of the English keeps, the townsfolk running by her rein, as if secure in her company; yet no man came forth against them, which was marvel. And on the Wednesday, the Maid, with many knights, rode forth two leagues, and met the Bastard of Orleans and all the array from Blois, and all the flocks and herds that were sent to Orleans by the good towns. Right beneath the forts of the English they rode and marched, with chanting of hymns, priests leading the way, but none dared meddle with them. Yet a child might have seen that now or never was the chance: howbeit Talbot and Glasdale and Scales, men well learned in war, let fire not even a single cannon. It may be that they feared an attack of the Orleans folk on their bastilles, if they drew out their men. For, to tell the plain truth, the English had not men- at-arms enough for the task they took in hand; but they oft achieve much with but little force, and so presume the more, sometimes to their undoing. And, till the Maid came, ten of them could chase a hundred of the French.

So the Maid returned, leading the army, and then, being very weary, she went into her chamber, and lay down on a couch to sleep, her esquire, D'Aulon, also resting in the room, where were the lady and a daughter of the house, one Charlotte Boucher. There was I, devising idly with her page, Louis de Coutes, a boy half Scots by birth, and good-brother to Messire Florent d'Illiers, who had married his sister. But alas! he was more French than Scots, and later he left the Maid. But then we were playing ourselves at the door of the house, and all was still, the men-at-arms reposing, as we deemed, after their march. Then suddenly the Maid ran forth to us, her face white and her eyes shining, and cried to Louis de Coutes, in great anger -

"Wretched boy, the blood of France is being shed, and you told me no word of it!"

"Demoiselle," said he, trembling, "I wotted not of it. What mean you?"

And I also stood in amaze, for we had heard no sound of arms.

"Go, fetch my horse," she said, and was gone.

I went with him, and we saddled and bridled a fresh courser speedily; but when we reached the door, she stood there already armed, and sprang on the horse, crying for her banner, that De Coutes gave her out of the upper window. Then her spurs were in her horse's side, and the sparks flying from beneath his hoofs, as she galloped towards St. Loup, the English fort on the Burgundy road. Thither we followed her, with what speed we might, yet over tardily; and when we came through crowds of people, many bearing the wounded on litters, there was she, under the wall of that fort, in a rain of arrows, holding up her banner, and crying on the French and Scots to the charge. They answered with a cry, and went on, De Coutes and I pressing forward to be with them; but ere ever we could gain the fosse, the English had been overwhelmed, and, for the more part, slain. For, as we found, the French captains had commanded an attack on St. Loup, and had told the Maid no word of it, whether as desiring to win honour without her, or to spare her from the peril of the onslaught, I know not. But their men were giving ground, when by the monition of the saints, as I have shown, she came to them and turned the fray.

Of the English, as I said, most were slain, natheless certain men in priests' raiment came forth from the Church of St. Loup, and very humbly begged their lives of the Maid, who, turning to D'Aulon, her esquire, bade him, with De Coutes and me, and such men as we could gather, to have charge of them and be answerable for them.

So, while the French were plundering, we mustered these priests orderly together, they trembling and telling their beads, and we stood before them for their guard. False priests, I doubt, many of them were, Englishmen who had hastily done on such holy robes as they found in the church of St Loup. Now Louis de Coutes, being but a boy, and of a mad humour, cried -

"'Cucullus non facit monachum!' Good sirs, let us see your reverend tonsures."

With that he twitched the hood from the head of a tall cordelier, who, without more ado, felled him to the earth with his fist.

The hood was off but for a flash of time, yet I saw well the shining wolf's eyes and the long dark face of Brother Thomas. So, in the pictures of the romance of Renard Fox, have I seen Isengrim the wolf in the friar's hood.

"Felon and traitor!" I cried, and drawing my sword, was about to run him through the body, when my hand was stunned by a stroke, and the sword dropped from it. I turned, in great anger, and saw the Maid, her sword in her hand, wherewith she had smitten me flatlings, and not with the edge.

"Knave of a Scot," she cried, "wouldst thou strike a holy man and my prisoner? Verily they say well that the Scots are all savages. Begone home, till I speak with the captains about thy case! And for these holy men," she said to D'Aulon, in a soft voice, "see that they are safely housed and ministered to in the Church of Monseigneur St. Aignan."

With that I shrank back like a beaten hound, and saw the Maid no more that night, as fearing her wrath. So was I adread and out of all comfort. But, when first I might, I sought D'Aulon and told him all the tale of Brother Thomas, and all the evil I knew of him, as well as I could, and I showed him wherefore I had sought to slay the man, as forsworn and a traitor, who had manifestly fled to the English, being by his doggish nature the enemy of the Maid. I so wrought with him, though he was weary, and would scarce listen to my tale, that he promised to speak for me to the Maid, without whom I was a man lost. Moreover, he swore that, as early as might be, he would visit the Church of St. Aignan, and there examine into the matter of this cordelier, whom some knew, and could testify against, if he was my man.

No more could I do that night, but next morning D'Aulon awoke me a little after dawn.

"It is a true tale," he said, "and worse than I deemed, for your bird has flown! Last night he so spoke with me in the church when I lodged him there, that I reckoned him a simple man and a pious. But he has vanished from among his brethren, none knows how or whither."

"The devil, his master, knows," I said. "Faith, he has a shrewd care of his own. But this, I misdoubt me, is the beginning of evil to us and to the Maid."

"A knave more or less is of little count in the world," said he; "but now I must make your peace with the Maid, for she speaks of no less than sending you forth from her household."

His promise he kept so well--for he was a very honourable man, as any in France--that the Maid sent for me and showed me the best countenance, even begging my pardon with all sweetness, and in so fair a manner that I could have wept.

"It was my first blow in war," she said, smiling kindly, as was her manner, "and I hope to strike no more as with my own hand, wherefore I carry my banner to avoid the slaying of men. But verily I deemed that you were about stabbing my prisoner, and him a priest. Belike we shall hear no more of him, and I misdoubt that he is no true son of Holy Church. To-day let me see you bear yourself as boldly against armed men, that I may report well of you to your lady and my friend."

Therewith she held out her hands and took mine, as frankly as does one brother in arms with another. And I kissed her hand, and kept my tears in my own heart. But no deadlier blow for France and for herself was ever dealt than when the Maid struck down my sword, that was thirsting for the blood of Brother Thomas, and was within an inch of his throat. Often have I marvelled how the saints, who, as then, guarded her, gave her no warning, as they did of the onslaught on St. Loup; but it might not be, or it was not their will, to which we must humbly submit ourselves. And now I think I see that wolf's face, under the hood, with anger and fear in the ominous eyes. In the Church of St. Loup we found him, and he was a wolf of the holy places. None the less, the words of the Maid brought more keenly to my mind the thought of Elliot, whom in these crowded hours, between my sorrow and anger, and fear of the Maid's wrath, I had to some degree forgotten. They were now ordering an onslaught on a post of the English beyond the river, and there came into my heart that verse of the "Book of a Hundred Ballades": how a lover must press into breach, and mine, and escalade to win advancement and his lady's favour; and I swore within myself that to-day I would be among the foremost.



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