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 XVI
HOW SORROW CAME ON NORMAN LESLIE, AND JOY THEREAFTER

It little concerns any man to know how I slowly recovered my health after certain failings back into the shadow of death. Therefore I need not tell how I was physicked, and bled, and how I drew on from a diet of milk to one of fish, and so to a meal of chicken's flesh, till at last I could sit, wrapped up in many cloaks, on a seat in the garden, below a great mulberry tree. In all this weary time I knew little, and for long cared less, as to what went on in the world and the wars. But so soon as I could speak it was of Elliot that I devised, with my kind nurse, Charlotte Boucher, the young daughter of Jacques Boucher, the Duke's treasurer, in whose house I lay. She was a fair lass, and merry of mood, and greatly hove up my heart to fight with my disease. It chanced that, as she tended me, when I was at my worst, she marked, hanging on a silken string about my neck, a little case of silver artfully wrought, wherein was that portrait of my mistress, painted by me before I left Chinon. Being curious, like all girls, and deeming that the case held some relic, she opened it, I knowing nothing then of what she did. But when I was well enough to lie abed and devise with her, it chanced that I was playing idly with my fingers about the silver case.

"Belike," said Charlotte, "that is some holy relic, to which, maybe, you owe your present recovery. Surely, when you are whole again, you have vowed a pilgrimage to the shrine of the saint, your friend?" Here she smiled at me gaily, for she was a right merry damsel, and a goodly.

"Nay," she said, "I have done more for you than your physician, seeing that I, or the saint you serve, have now brought the red colour into these wan cheeks of yours. Is she a Scottish saint, then? perchance St. Margaret, of whom I have read? Will you not let me look at the sacred thing?"

"Nay," said I. "Methinks, from your smiling, that you have taken opportunity to see my treasure before to-day, being a daughter of our mother Eve."

"She is very beautiful," said Charlotte; "nay, show her to me again!"

With that I pressed the spring and opened the case, for there is no lover but longs to hear his lady commended, and to converse about her. Yet I had spoken no word, for my part, about her beauty, having heard say that he who would be well with one woman does ill to praise another in her presence.

"Beautiful, indeed, she is," said Charlotte. "Never have I seen such eyes, and hair like gold, and a look so gracious! And for thy pilgrimage to the shrine of this fair saint, where does she dwell?"

I told her at Chinon, or at Tours, or commonly wheresoever the Court might be, for that her father was the King's painter.

"And you love her very dearly?"

"More than my life," I said. "And may the saints send you, demoiselle, as faithful a lover, to as fair a lady."

"Nay," she said, reddening. "This is high treason, and well you wot that you hold no lady half so fair as your own. Are you Scots so smooth-spoken? You have not that repute. Now, what would you give to see that lady?"

"All that I have, which is little but my service and goodwill. But she knows not where I am, nor know I how she fares, which irks me more than all my misfortunes. Would that I could send a letter to her father, and tell him how I do, and ask of their tidings."

"The Dauphin is at Tours," she said, "and there is much coming and going between Tours and this town. For the Maid is instant with the Dauphin to ride forthwith to Reims, and there be sacred and crowned; but now he listens and believes, and anon his counsellors tell him that this is foolhardy, and a thing impossible."

"O they of little faith!" I said, sighing.

"None the less, word has come that the Maid has been in her oratory at prayers, and a Voice from heaven has called to her, saying, "Fille de Dieu, va, va, va! Je serai en ton aide. Va!" {27} The Dauphin is much confirmed in his faith by this sign, and has vowed that he will indeed march with the Maid to Reims, though his enemies hold all that country which lies between. But first she must take the towns which the English hold on Loire side, such as Jargeau. Now on Jargeau, while you lay knowing nothing, the Bastard of Orleans, and Xaintrailles, and other good knights, made an onslaught, and won nothing but loss for their pains, though they slew Messire Henry Bisset, the captain of the town. But if the Maid takes Jargeau, the Dauphin will indeed believe in her and follow her."

"He is hard of heart to believe, and would that I were where he should be--under her holy pennon, for thereon, at least, I should see the face painted of my lady. But how does all this bring me nearer the hope of hearing about her, and how she fares?"

"There are many messengers coming and going to Tours, for the Dauphin is gathering force under the Maid, and has set the fair Duc d'Alencon to be her lieutenant, with the Bastard, and La Hire, and Messire Florent d'Illiers. And all are to be here in Orleans within few days; wherefore now write to the father of thy lady, and I will myself write to her." With that she gave me paper and pen, and I indited a letter to my master, telling him how I had lain near to death of my old wound, in Orleans, and that I prayed him of his goodness to let me know how he did, and to lay me at the feet of my lady. Then Charlotte showed me her letter, wherein she bade Elliot know that I had hardly recovered, after winning much fame (for so she said) and a ransom of gold from an English prisoner, which now lay in the hands of her father, the Duke's treasurer. Then she said that a word from Elliot, not to say the sight of her face, the fairest in the world (a thing beyond hope), would be of more avail for my healing than all the Pharaoh powders of the apothecaries. These, in truth, I had never taken, but put them away secretly, as doubting whether such medicaments, the very dust of the persecuting Egyptian and idolatrous race, were fit for a Christian to swallow, with any hope of a blessing. Thus my kind nurse ended, calling herself my lady's sister in the love of France and of the Maid, and bidding my lady be mindful of so true a lover, who lay sick for a token at her hands. These letters she sealed, and intrusted to Colet de Vienne, the royal messenger, the same who rode from Vaucouleurs to Chinon, in the beginning of the Maid's mission, and who, as then, was faring to Tours with letters from Orleans.

Meanwhile all the town was full of joy, in early June, because the Maid was to visit the city, with D'Alencon and the Bastard, on her way to besiege Jargeau. It was June the ninth, in the year of our Lord fourteen hundred and twenty-nine, the sun shining warm in a clear blue sky, and all the bells of Orleans a-ringing, to welcome back the Maiden. I myself sat in the window, over the doorway, alone with Charlotte sitting by my side, for her father had gone to the Hotel de Ville, with her mother, to welcome the captains. Below us were hangings of rich carpets, to make the house look gay, for every house was adorned in the best manner, and flags floated in the long street, and flowers strewed the road, to do honour to our deliverer. Thus we waited, and presently the sound of music filled the air, with fragrance of incense, for the priests were walking in front, swinging censers and chanting the Te Deum laudamus. And then came a company of girls strewing flowers, and fair boys blowing on trumpets, and next, on a black horse, in white armour, with a hucque of scarlet broidered with gold, the blessed Maid herself, unhelmeted, glancing every way with her happy eyes, while the women ran to touch her armour with their rings, as to a saint, and the men kissed her mailed feet.

To be alive, and to feel my life returning in a flood of strength and joy in that sweet air, with the gladness of the multitude pulsing through it as a man's heart beats in his body, seemed to me like Paradise. But out of Paradise our first parents were driven long ago, as anon I was to be from mine. For, as the Maid passed, I doffed my cap and waved it, since to shout "Noel" with the rest, I dared not, because of my infirmity. Now, it so fell that, glancing around, she saw and knew me, and bowed to me, with a gesture of her hand, as queenly as if she, a manant's child, had been a daughter of France. At that moment, noting the Maid's courtesy towards me, Charlotte stood up from beside me, with a handful of red roses, which she threw towards her. As it chanced, belike because she was proud to be with one whom the Maid honoured, or to steady herself as she threw, she laid her left hand about my neck, and so standing, cast her flowers, and then looked laughing back into my eyes, with a happy face. The roses missed the Maid, whose horse caracoled at that moment as she went by, but they lit in the lap of a damsel that rode at her rein, on a lyart {28} palfrey, and she looking up, I saw the face of Elliot, and Elliot saw me, and saw Charlotte leaning on me and laughing. Then Elliot's face grew deadly pale, her lower lip stiff, as when she was angered with me at Chinon, and so, wrying her neck suddenly to the left, she rode on her way, nor ever looked towards us again.

"Who may that proud damsel be, and what ails her at my roses?" quoth Charlotte, sitting herself down again and still following them with her eyes. "Methinks I have seen her face before; and what ails you?" she asked, looking earnestly on me, "for you are as white as the last snow ere it melts in spring."

I had good reason to be pale, for I very well guessed that Elliot, having ridden in the Maiden's company to see me, and to surprise me with the unlooked-for gladness of her coming, had marked Charlotte as she so innocently leaned on me and laughed to me, and had conceived anger against us both, for of a truth Charlotte was very fair and of a joyous aspect. Yet, taken so suddenly as I was, between the extreme of delight in looking on my lady beyond hope, and the very deep of sorrow that she had so bitterly slighted me, I was yet wary of betraying myself. For the girl beside me had, in all honest and maidenly service that woman may do for man, been kinder to me than a sister, and no thought or word of earthly love had ever passed between us. That she should wot of Elliot's anger, and of its cause, and so hold my lady lightly, ay, and triumph over her in her heart (as is the nature of a woman, her ministry being thus churlishly repaid), was more than I could endure. So, may the saints forgive me! I lied, and it is a strange thing, but true, that howsoever a gentleman may hate the very thought of a lie, yet often he finds it hard to tell the truth to a woman.

"Do I look white?" I said. "Then it is because I have a sudden pang of sorrow. For one moment I deemed that proud damsel was the lady of my love, whom, in verity, she most strangely favours, so that you might think them sisters. But alas! she is but the daughter of a good Scots knight at Chinon, whom I have seen there before to-day, and marvelled how much she and my lady favour each other. Therefore am I pale, because that hope of mine is broken. And you know her face, belike, from my poor picture of my lady."

Charlotte looked at me steadily, and flushed red; but even then, one who rode by among the men-at-arms noted me, and, waving his arm towards me, cried in a loud voice -

"Hail, fair son, soon will I be with thee!" and so, turning in his saddle to watch me, he laughed a loud laugh and rode onwards. He was my master, and as my eyes followed him, Charlotte spoke.

"And who is that great Scot, with his Scots twang of the tongue, who called you 'son'? By the Mass, she was your lady, and yonder wight is her father, of whom you have spoken to me more than once"; for, indeed, I had told her all the story of my loves.

Then I was confused, for I could no longer deny the truth, and not having one word to say, I sighed from my heart.

"O faint-spirited man-at-arms!" cried Charlotte, blushing, and laughing as if some exquisite jest were abroad. "Do you so terribly dread your mistress's anger? Nay, be of good cheer! Me she will never forgive while the world stands; for have I not been your nurse, and won you back to life and to her service? And has she not seen us twain together in one place, and happy, because of the coming of the Maid? She will pardon me never, because, also for my sake, she has been wroth with you, and shown you her wrath, and all without a cause. Therefore she will be ashamed, and all the more cruel. Nay, nor would I forgive her, in the same case, if it befell me, for we women are all alike, hearts of wolves when we love! Hast thou never marked a cat that had kittens, or a brachet that had whelps, how they will fly at man or horse that draws near their brood, even unwittingly. And so, when we love, are we all, and the best of us are then the worst. Verily the friendship of you and me is over and done; but for your part be glad, not sorry, for with all her heart and soul she loves you. Else she had not been angered."

"You must not speak, nor I hear, such words of my lady," I said; "it is not seemly."

"Such words of your lady, and of Aymeric's lady, and of Giles's lady, and of myself were I any man's lady, as I am no man's lady, I will think and speak," said Charlotte, "for my words are true, and we maids are, at best, pretty fools, and God willed us to be so for a while, and then to be wiser than the rest of you. For, were we not pretty, would you wed us? and were we not fools, would we wed you? and where would God's world be then? But now you have heard enough of my wisdom: for I love no man, being very wise; or you have heard enough of my folly that my mirth bids me speak, as you shall deem it. And now, we must consider how this great feud may be closed, and the foes set at one again."

"Shall I find out her lodgings, and be carried thither straightway in a litter? Her heart may be softened when she sees that I cannot walk or mount a horse?"

"Now, let me think what I should deem, if I had ridden by, unlooked for, and spied my lover with a maid, not unfriendly, or perchance uncomely, sitting smiling in a gallant balcony. Would I be appeased when he came straight to seek me, borne in a litter? Would I--?" And she mused, her finger at her mouth, and her brow puckered, but with a smile on her lips and in her eyes.

Then I, seeing her so fair, yet by me so undesired; and beholding her so merry, while my heart was amazed with the worst sorrow, and considering, too, that but for her all this would never have been, but I sitting happy by my lady's side,--thinking on all this, I say, I turned from her angrily, as if I would leave the balcony.

"Nay, wait," she cried, "for I must see all the show out, and here come the Scots Guard, thy friends, and I need time to take counsel with my wisdom on this weighty matter. See, they know you"; and, indeed, many a man in that gallant array waved his hand to me merrily, as they filed past under their banners--the Douglas's bloody heart, the Crescent moon of Harden, the Napier's sheaf of spears, the blazons of Lindsays and Leslies, Homes, and Hepburns, and Stuarts. It was a sight to put life into the dying breast of a Scot in a strange country, and all were strong men and young, ruddy and brown of cheek, high of heart and heavy of hand. And most beckoned to me, and pointed onwards to that way whither they were bound, in chase of fame and fortune. All this might have made a sick man whole, but my spirit was dead within me, so that I could scarce beckon back to them, or even remember their faces.

"Would I forgive you," said Charlotte, after she had thrown the remnant of her roses to her friends among the Scots, "if you hurried to me, pale, and borne in a litter? Nay, methinks not, or not for long; and then I should lay it on you never to see her face again;-- she is I, you know, for the nonce. But if you waited and did not come, then my pride might yield at length, and I send for you. But then, if so, methinks I would hate her (that is, me) more than ever. Oh, it is a hard case when maids are angry!"

"You speak of yourself, how you would do this or that; but my lady is other than you, and pitiful. Did she not come all these leagues at a word from me, hearing that I was sick?"

"At a word from you, good youth! Nay, at a word from me! Did you speak of me in your letter to her father?"

"Nay!" said I.

"You did well. And therefore it was that I wrote, for I knew she would move heaven and earth and the Maid or she would come when she heard of another lass being in your company. Nay, trust me, we women understand each other, and she would ask the Maid, who lodged here with us, what manner of lass I was to look upon, and the Maid's answer would bring her."

"You have been kind," I said. "And to you and the saints I owe it that I yet live to carry a sore heart and be tormented with your ill tongue."

"And had you heard that a fair young knight, and renowned in arms, lay sick at your lady's house, she nursing him, would you not have cast about for ways of coming to her?"

To this I answered nothing, but, with a very sour countenance, was rising to go, when my name was called in the street.

Looking down, I saw my master, who doffed his cap to the daughter of the house, and begging leave to come up, fastened his horse's bridle to the ring in the wall, by the door.

Up he came, whom Charlotte welcomed very demurely, and so left us, saying that she must go about her household business; but as she departed she cast a look back at me, making a "moue," as the French say, with her red lips.

"Well, my son," cried my master, taking my hand, "why so pale? Sure thou hast had a sore bout, but thou art mending."

I could but stammer my lady's name -

"Elliot--shall I see her soon?"

He scratched his rough head and pulled his russet beard, and so laughed shamefacedly.

"Why, lad, to that very end she came, and now--St. Anthony's fire take me if I well know why--she will none of it. The Maid brought us in her company, for, as you know, she will ever have young lasses with her when she may, and as far as Orleans the roads are safe. And who so glad as Elliot when the Maid put this command on her, after we got thy letter? I myself was most eager to ride, not only for your sake, but to see how Orleans stood after the long pounding. But when we had come to our lodging, and I was now starting off to greet you, Elliot made no motion of rising. Nay, when I bade her make haste, she said that haste there was none; and when I, marvelling, asked, 'Wherefore?' answered that she was loth to spoil good company, and had seen you, as I did myself, happy enough with the lass who nursed you, and who had written to her."

"And wherefore, in Heaven's name, should we not be happy on such a day as this was an hour agone? But now the sun is out of the sky."

"I see him plainer than ever I did in the Merse," said my master, looking up where the sun was bright in the west. "But what would you? Women have been thus since Eve had a daughter, for our father Adam, I trow, had no trouble with other ladies than his wife--and that was trouble enough."

"But how am I to make my peace, and win my pardon, being innocent as I am?"

"Faith, I know not!" said he, and laughed again, which angered me some deal, for what was there to laugh at?

"May I let bring a litter, for I cannot yet walk, and so go back with you to her?"

"Indeed, I doubt if it were wise," said he; and so we stood gazing at each other, while I could have wept for very helpless anger. "I have it, I think," said he at last. "The Maid is right busy, as needs must be, gathering guns and food for her siege of Jargeau. But it is not fitting that she should visit Orleans without seeing you, nor would she wish to be so negligent. Yet if she were, I would put it in her mind, and then, when you are with her, which Elliot shall not know, I will see that Elliot comes into the chamber, and so leave all to you, and to her, and to the Maid. For she hath great power with that silly wench of mine, who has no other desire, I trow, than a good excuse to be rid of her sudden anger. If she loved you less, she would be never so fiery."

I myself could see no better hope or comfort.

Then he began to devise with me on other matters, and got from me the story of my great peril at the hands of Brother Thomas. He laughed at the manner of my outwitting that miscreant, who had never been taken, but was fled none knew whither, and my master promised to tell the tale to the Maid, and warn her against this enemy. And so bidding me be of good cheer, he departed; but for my part, I went into my chamber, drew the bolt, and cast myself on the bed, refusing meat or drink, or to see the face of man or woman.

I was devoured by a bitter anger, considering how my lady had used me, and what was most sore of all, reflecting that I could no longer hold her for a thing all perfect, and almost without touch of mortal infirmity. Nay, she was a woman like another, and unjust, and to deem thus of her was to me the most cruel torment. We could never forgive each the other, so it seemed to me, nor be again as we had been. And all the next day no message came for me, and I kept myself quiet, apart in my chamber. Lest they who read mock at me in their hearts, and at my lady, let them remember how young we both were, and how innocent of other experience in love. For the Roman says that "the angers of lovers are love's renewal," as the brief tempests of April bring in the gladness of May. But in my heart it was all white sleet, and wind, and snow unseasonable, and so I lay, out of all comfort, tossing on my bed.

I heard the watchmen call the hours through the night, and very early, having at length fallen on sleep, I was wakened by a messenger from the Maid. It was her page, Louis de Coutes, most richly attired, but still half asleep, grumbling, and rubbing his eyes.

"My mistress bids you come with me instantly," he said, when we had saluted each other, "and I have brought a litter and men to carry it. Faith, if I lay in it, I should be asleep ere ever they had borne me ten paces. What a life it is that I lead! Late to bed and up by prime, so busy is my mistress; and she lives as it were without sleep, and feeds on air." Here he threw himself down in a great chair, and verily, by the time I had washed and attired myself, I had to shake him by the shoulder to arouse him. Thus I was carried to the Maid's lodging, my heart beating like a hammer with hopes and fears.

We found her already armed, for that day she was to ride to Jargeau, and none was with her but her confessor. She gave me the best of greetings, and bade me eat bread and drink wine. "And soon," she said, "if you recover the quicker, I trust to give you wine to drink in Paris."

She herself dipped a crust in wine and water, and presently, bidding her confessor, Pasquerel, wait for her in the little oratory, she asked me how I did, and told me what fear she had been in for me, as touching Brother Thomas, when she learned who he was, yet herself could not return from the field to help me.

"But now," said she, smiling with a ravishing sweetness, "I hear you are in far greater peril from a foe much harder and more cruel--ma mie Elliot. Ah! how you lovers put yourselves in jeopardy, and take me from my trade of war to play the peacemaker! Surely I have chosen the safer path in open breach and battle, though would that my war was ended, and I sitting spinning again beside my dear mother." Hereon her face grew more tender and sad than ever I had seen it, and there came over me forgetfulness of my private grief, as of a little thing, and longing to ride at the Maiden's rein, where glory was to be won.

"Would that even now I could march with you," I said; and she, smiling, made answer -

"That shall yet be; yea, verily," and here the fashion of her countenance altered wondrously, "I know, and know not how I know, that thou shalt be with me when all have forsaken me and fled."

Then she fell silent, and I also, marvelling on her face and on the words which she spoke. There came a light tap at the door, and she awoke as it were from a trance which possessed her. She drew her hands over her face, with a long sigh; she knelt down swiftly, and crossed herself, making an obeisance, for I deem that her saints had been with her, wherefore I also crossed myself and prayed. Then she rose and cried "Enter!" and ere I could speak she had passed into the oratory, and I was alone with Elliot.

Elliot gave one low cry, and cast her arms about my neck, hiding her face on my breast, and sobbing as if her heart would break.

"I have been mad, I have been bad!" she moaned. "Oh! say hard words to me, and punish me, my love."

But I had no word to say, only I fell back into a great chair for very weakness, holding my lady in my arms.

And thus, with words few enough, but great delight, the minutes went past, till she lifted her wet face and her fragrant hair; and between laughing and crying, studied on my face and caressed me, touching my thin cheek, and wept and laughed again. "I was mad," she whispered; "it seemed as if a devil entered into me. But She spoke to me and cast him out, and she bade me repent."

"And do penance," I said, kissing her till she laughed again, saying that I was a hard confessor, and that the Maid had spoken no word of penances.

"Yet one I must do and suffer," she said, "and it is more difficult to me than these austerities of thine."

Here her face grew very red, and she hid it with her hands.

"What mean you?" I asked, wondering.

"I must see her, and thank her for all her kindness to thee."

"The Maid?" I asked.

"Nay, that other, thy--fair nurse. Nay, forbid me not, I have sworn it to myself, and I must go. And the Maiden told me, when I spoke of it, that it was no more than right." Then she threw her arms about me again, in the closest embrace, and hid her head. Now, this resolve of hers gave me no little cause of apprehension, as not knowing well how things might pass in such an encounter of two ladies. But even then one touched me on the shoulder from behind, and the Maid herself stood beside us.

"O joy!" she said, "my peacemaking has been blessed! Go, you foolish folk, and sin no more, and peace and happiness be with you, long years, and glad children at your knees. Yet hereof I know nothing from my counsel. And now I must go forth about the Dauphin's business, and to do that for which I was sent. They that brought thee in the litter will carry thee back again; so farewell."

Thus saying, she stooped and kissed Elliot, who leaped up and caught the Maid in her arms, and they embraced, and parted for that time, Elliot weeping to lose her, and at the thought of the dangers of war.



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