Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

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


The Maid's confessor, Pasquerel, stood in the chamber where we had met, with his eyes bent on the ground, so that Elliot and I had no more free speech at that time. Therefore I said farewell, not daring to ask of her when her mind was to visit my hosts, and, indeed, my trust was that she might leave this undone, lest new cause of sorrow should arise. Thus we parted, with very courtly leave-taking, the priest regarding us in his manner, and I was carried in the litter through the streets, that had been so quiet when I came forth in the morning, but now they were full of men and of noise. Herds of cattle were being driven for the food of the army marching against Jargeau; there were trains of carts full of victual, and the citizens having lent the Maid their great pieces of ordnance, the bombard called "The Shepherdess," and the gun "Montargis," these were being dragged along by clamorous companies of apprentices, and there were waggons charged with powder, and stone balls, and boxes of arrows, spades and picks for trenching, and all manner of munition of war. By reason of the troops of horses and of marching men, they that bore me were often compelled to stop. Therefore, lest any who knew me should speak with me, I drew the curtains of the litter, for I had much matter to think on, and was fain to be private. But this was to be of no avail, for I heard loud voices in my own tongue.

"What fair lady is this who travels so secretly?" and, with this, one drew the curtains, and there was the face of Randal Rutherford, with others behind him. Then he uttered a great cry -

"Faith, it is our lady of the linen-basket, and no other"; and leaning within, he gave me a rough embrace and a kiss of his bearded lips. "Why so early astir, our sick man?" he cried. "Get yourself healed anon, and be with us when we take Paris town, Norman, for there is booty enough to furnish all Scotland. Shalt thou be with us yet?"

"If my strength backs my will, Randal; and truly your face is a sight for sair eyne, and does me more good than all the powers of the apothecary."

"Then here is to our next merry meeting," he cried, "under Paris walls!"

With that the Scots gave a shout, and, some of them crowding round to press my hand, they bade me be of good cheer, and all went onward, singing in the tune of "Hey, tuttie tattie," which the pipers played when we broke the English at Bannockburn.

So I was borne back to the house of Jacques Boucher, and, in the sunny courtyard, there stood Charlotte, looking gay and fair, yet warlike, as I deemed. She was clad in a long garment of red over a white robe, and had sleeves of green, so that she wore the spring's own colours, and she was singing a French ditty concerning a lady who has a lover, and vows that she will never be a nun.

Seray-je nonnette, oui ou non,
Serray-je nonnette, je croy que non!

Seeing me, she stinted in her singing, and in feeding a falcon that was perched on her wrist.

"You are early astir for a sick man," she said. "Have you been on pilgrimage, or whither have you been faring?"

"The Maid sent for me right early, for to-day she rides to Jargeau, and to you she sends a message of her love,"--as indeed she had done, "but, for the great press of affairs she might not visit you."

"And Mistress Elliot Hume, has she forgiven her lover yet? nay, I see by your face that you are forgiven! And you go south, this very day, is it not so?"

"Indeed," I said, "if it is your will that we part, part we must, though I sorrow for it; but none has given me the word to march, save you, my fair nurse and hostess."

"Nay, it is not I who shall speed you; nevertheless the Maid is not the only prophetess in this realm of France, and something tells me that we part this day. But you are weary; will you get you to your chamber, or sit in the garden under the mulberry-tree, and I shall bring you out a cup of white wine."

Weary I was indeed, and the seat in the garden among the flowers seemed a haven most desirable. So thither I went, leaning on her shoulder, and she returned to bring the wine, but was some while absent, and I sat deep in thought. I was marvelling, not only as to what my mistress would next do, and when I should see her again (though that was uppermost in my mind), but also concerning the strange words of the Maid, that I alone should be with her when all forsook her and fled. How might this be, and was she not to be ever victorious, and drive the English forth of France? To my thinking the Maid dwelt ever in two worlds, with her brethren of Paradise, and again with sinful men. And I have often considered that she did not always remember, in this common life, what had befallen her, and what she knew when, as the Apostle says, she "was out of the body." For I have heard her say, more than once, that she "would last but one year, or little more," and, again, she would make plans for three years to come, or four, which is a mystery.

So I was pondering, when I looked up, and saw Charlotte standing in the entrance between the court and garden, looking at me and smiling, as she shaded her eyes with her hand from the sun, and then she ran to me lightly as a lapwing.

"They are coming down the street, looking every way for our house, your lady and her father," she said, putting the wine-cup into my hand. "Now is it war or peace?" and she fled back again within the house.

My heart stood still, for now everything was on the fall of the dice. Would this mad girl be mocking or meek? Would she anger my lady to my ruin with her sharp tongue? For Charlotte was of a high temper, and wont to rule all the house by reason of her beauty and kind wild ways. Nor was Elliot the meekest of women, as well I knew, and a word, nay a smile, or a glance of mockery, might lightly turn her heart from me again for ever. Oh! the lot of a lover is hard, at least if he has set all his heart on the cast, as I had done, and verily, as our Scots saw runs, "women are kittle cattle." It is a strange thing that one who has learned not to blench from a bare blade, or in bursting of cannon-balls and flight of arrows, should so easily be daunted where a weak girl is concerned; yet so it was in my case. I know not if I feared more than now when Brother Thomas had me in the still chamber, alone at his mercy.

So the minutes went by, the sun and shade flickering through the boughs of the mulberry-tree, and the time seemed long. Perchance, I thought, there had been war, as Charlotte had said, and my lady had departed in anger with her father, and I was all undone. Yet I dared not go to seek them in the house, not knowing how matters were passing, and whether I should do good or harm. So I waited, and at length Charlotte came forth alone. Now she walked slowly, her eyes bent on the ground, and, as she drew near, I saw that they were red, and I guessed that she had been weeping. So I gave up all for lost, and my heart turned to water within me.

"I am sent to bid you come in," she said gravely.

"What has passed?" I cried. "For the saints' sake, tell me all!"

"This has passed, that I have seen such a lady as I never dreamed I should see, and she has made me weep--foolish that I am!"

"Why, what did she? Did she speak unkindly then, to my kind nurse?"

For this I could in no manner have endured, nor have abased myself to love one that was unjust, how dear soever; and none could be dearer than Elliot. Yet unjust she might have been; and this thought to me was the greatest torment.

"Speak unkind words? Oh, I remember my foolish talk, how I said that she would never forgive me while the world stands. Nay, while her father was with mine and with my mother, thanking them for what they did for you, she led me apart to devise with me, and I took her to my chamber, and there, with tears in her eyes, and in the sweetest manner, she prayed me to pardon her for that she had been mad for a moment; and so, looking meek as an angel, she awaited my word. And I could not but weep, though to weep is never my way, and we embraced each the other, and I told her how all your converse had ever been of her, even when you were beside yourself, in your fever, and how never was so faithful a lover. Nay, I bid you be glad, for I never deemed that any woman living on earth would so repent and so confess herself to another, where she herself had first been wroth, but would blame all the world rather, and herself--never. So we women are not all alike, as I thought; for I would hardly have forgiven, if I know myself; and yet I am no worse than another. Truly, she has been much with the Maid, and has caught from her this, to be like her, who is alone among women, and of the greatest heart."

Here she ceased to speak very gravely, as she had till now done, and breaking out into a sweet laughter, she cried -

"Nevertheless I am not wholly a false prophetess, for to-day you go with them southward, to Tours, to change the air, as the physician counsels, and so now we part. O false Scot!" she said, laughing again, "how have you the ill courtesy to look so joyous? Nay, I shall change your cheer"; and with that she stooped and kissed my cheek, saying, "Go, and joy go with you, as joy abides with me, to see my sick man look so strong again. Come, they are waiting for us, and you know we must not tarry."

Then, giving me her arm, she led me in, and if one of us twain had a shamefaced guise, verify it was not Charlotte Boucher.

"I yield you back your esquire, fair lady," she said merrily, making obeisance to Elliot, who stood up, very pale, to receive us.

"He has got no ill in the bower of the enchantress," said my master; whereat, Elliot seeming some deal confused, and blushing, Charlotte bustled about, bringing wine and meat, and waiting upon all of us, and on her father and mother at table. A merry dinner it was among the elder folk, but Elliot and I were somewhat silent, and a great joy it was to me, and a heavy weight off my heart, I do confess, when, dinner being ended, and all courtesies done and said, my raiment was encased in wallets, and we all went through the garden, to Loire side; and so, with many farewells, took boat and sailed down the river, under the Bridge of Orleans, towards Blois. But Charlotte I never saw again, nor did I ever speak of her to Elliot, nor Elliot of her to me, from that day forth.

But within short space came tidings, how that Charlotte was wedding a young burgess of Orleans, with whom, as I hear, she dwelt happily, and still, for all I know, dwells in peace. As I deem, she kept her lord in a merry life, yet in great order and obedience. So now there is no more to tell of her, save that her picture comes back before me--a tall, brown girl, with black hair and eyes like the hue of hazel boughs glassed in running water, clad in white and green and red, standing smiling beneath the red-and-white blossoms of an apple-tree, in the green garden of Jacques Boucher.

Elliot was silent enough, and sat telling her beads, in the beginning of our journey down the water-way, that is the smoothest and the easiest voyaging for a sick man. She was in the stern of the boat, her fingers, when her beads were told, trailing in the smooth water, that was green with the shade of leaves. But her father stood by me, asking many questions concerning the siege, and gaping at the half-mended arch of the bridge, where through we sailed, and at the blackened walls of Les Tourelles, and all the ruin that war had wrought. But now masons and carpenters were very busy rebuilding all, and the air was full of the tinkling of trowels and hammers. Presently we passed the place where I had drawn Brother Thomas from the water; but thereof I said no word, for indeed my dreams were haunted by his hooded face, like that of the snake which, as travellers tell, wears a hood in Prester John's country, and is the most venomous of beasts serpentine. So concerning Brother Thomas I held my peace, and the barque, swinging round a corner of the bank, soon brought us into a country with no sign of war on it, and here the poplar-trees had not been felled for planks to make bulwarks, but whispered by the riverside.

The wide stream carried many a boat, and shone with sails, white, and crimson, and brown; the boat-men sang, or hailed each other from afar. There was much traffic, stores being carried from Blois to the army. Some mile or twain above Beaugency we were forced to land, and, I being borne in a litter, we took a cross-path away from the stream, joining it again two miles below Beaugency, because the English held that town, though not for long. The sun had set, yet left all his gold shining on the water when we entered Blois, and there rested at a hostel for the night. Next day--one of the goodliest of my life, so soft and clear and warm it was, yet with a cool wind on the water--we voyaged to Tours; and now Elliot was glad enough, making all manner of mirth.

Her desire, she said, was to meet a friend that she had left at their house in Tours, one that she had known as long as she knew me, my friend he was too, yet I had never spoken of him, or asked how he did. Now I, being wrapped up wholly in her, and in my joy to see her kind again, and so beautiful, had no memory of any such friend, wherefore she mocked me, and rebuked me for a hard heart and ungrateful. "This friend of mine," she said, "was the first that made us known each to other. Yea, but for him, the birds might have pecked out your eyne, and the ants eaten your bones bare, yet"--with a sudden anger, and tears in her eyes at the words she spoke--"you have clean forgotten him!"

"Ah, you mean the jackanapes. And how is the little champion?"

"Like the lads of Wamfray, aye for ill, and never for good," said my master; but she frowned on him, and said -

"Now you ask, because I forced you on it; but, sir, I take it very ill that you have so short a memory for a friend. Now, tell me, in all the time since you left us at Chinon, how often have you thought of him?"

"Nigh as often as I thought of you," I answered. "For when you came into my mind (and that was every minute), as in a picture, thither too came your playfellow, climbing and chattering, and holding out his little bowl for a comfit."

"Nay, then you thought of me seldom, or you would have asked how he does."

Here she turned her face from me, half in mock anger. But, just as it is with children, so it was with Elliot, for indeed my dear was ever much of a child, wherefore her memory is now to me so tender. And as children make pretence to be in this humour or that for sport, and will affect to be frighted till they really fear and weep, so Elliot scarce knew how deep her own humour went, and whether she was acting like a player in a Mystery, or was in good earnest. And if she knew not rightly what her humour was, far less could I know, so that she was ever a puzzle to me, and kept me in a hundred pretty doubts and dreads every day. Alas! how sorely, through all these years, have I longed to hear her rebuke me in mirth, and put me adread, and laugh at me again I for she was, as it were, wife and child to me, at once, and I a child with her, and as happy as a child.

Thus, nothing would now jump with her humour but to be speaking of her jackanapes, and how he would come louting and leaping to welcome her, and forsake her old kinswoman, who had followed with them to Tours. And she had much to report concerning his new tricks: how he would leap over a rod for the Dauphin or the Maid, but not if adjured in the name of the English King, or the Duke of Burgundy. Also, if you held him, he would make pretence to bite any that you called Englishman or false Frenchman. Moreover, he had now been taught to fetch and carry, and would climb into Elliot's window, from the garden, and bring her little basket of silks, or whatsoever she desired, or carry it thither, as he was commanded.

"And he wrung the cat's neck," quoth my master; but Elliot bade him hold his peace.

In such sport the hours passed, till we were safely come to Tours, and so to their house in a street running off the great place, where the cathedral stands. It was a goodly dwelling, with fair carved- work on the beams, and in the doorway stood the old Scots kinswoman, smiling wide and toothless, to welcome us. Elliot kissed her quickly, and she fondled Elliot, and held a hand out over her shoulder to greet me.

"But where is my jackanapes, that should have been here to salute his mistress?" Elliot cried.

"Out and alas!" said the old wife in our country tongue--"out and alas! for I have ill news. The poor beast is missing these three days past, and we fear he is stolen away by some gangrel bodies, for the town is full of them. There came two to our door, three days agone, and one was a blind man, and the other a one-armed soldier, maimed in the wars, and I gave them bite and sup, as a Christian should do. Now, they had not been gone but a few minutes, and I was in the spence, putting away the dishes, when I heard a whistle in the street, and anon another. I thought little of it, and so was about my business for an hour, when I missed the jackanapes. And then there was a hue and cry, and all the house was searched, and the neighbours were called on, but since that day there has been no word of the jackanapes. But, for the blind man and the armless soldier, the town guard saw them leaving by the North Gate, with a violer woman and her husband, an ill-looking loon, in their company." Elliot sat her down and wept sore. "They have stolen my little friend," she cried, "and now he that was so fat I called him Tremouille will go hungry and lean, and be whipped to make him do his tricks, and I shall never see him more."

Then she ran out of the chamber, to weep alone, as I guessed, for she was pitiful and of very tender affection, and dumb things came near about her heart, as is the manner of many women.

But I made no doubt in my mind that the husband of the ape's old mistress had stolen him, and I, too, sorrowed for the poor beast that my mistress loved, and that, in very deed, had been the saving of my own life. Then I spoke to my master, and said that we must strive to buy her a new ape, or a little messan dog, to be her playfellow.

But he shook his head. "Say nothing more of the beast," he muttered, "unless she speaks of him first, and that, methinks, will be never. For it is not her wont to speak of what lies very deep in her heart, and if you talk of the beast it will please her little."

And, indeed, I heard no word more of the jackanapes from Elliot, save that, coming back from the minster next day, she whispered, "I have prayed for him," and so fled to her own chamber.

As then I deemed it a strange thing, and scarcely to be approved by Holy Church, that my lady should pray for a dumb beast who had no soul to be saved. But a faithful, loving prayer is not unavailing or unheard of Him who made the beasts, as well as He made us; for whose sin, or the sin of our father Adam, they now suffer, silently. And the answer to this prayer was to be known in the end.

As the week went on, tidings came that made Elliot glad again, if before she had been sad enough. For this was that great week of wonders which shall never be forgotten while France is France, and the lilies bloom.

On June the thirteenth the Maid took Jargeau, whence the famed Bastard of Orleans had been driven some weeks agone; and the Earl of Suffolk yielded him her prisoner, saying that she was "the most valiant woman in the world." Scarce had tidings of this great victory come, when messengers followed, declaring that the Maid had seized the Bridge of Meun and driven the English into the Castle.

Next she marched against Beaugency, and, at midnight of June the seventeenth, the English made terms, that they might go forth with their lives, but without baggage or arms, and with but one mark of silver apiece. Next morning came Talbot, the best knight then on ground, and Fastolf, the wariest of captains, with a great army of English. First they made for Jargeau, but they came too late, and then they rode to Meun, and would have assailed the French in the bridge-fort, but, even then, they heard how Beaugency had yielded to La Pucelle, and how the garrison was departed into Normandy, like pilgrims, without swords, and staff in hand. Thus all the Loire and the water-way was in the power of France, wherefore the English marched off through the country called La Beauce, which then lay desert and overgrown with wild wood, by reason of the war. And there, in a place named Coynce, near Patay, the Maid overtook the English, having with her La Hire and Xaintrailles, and she charged them so rudely, that ere the English could array them in order of battle, they were already flying for their lives. There were Talbot and Warwick taken and held to ransom, but Fastolf fled as fast as his horse could carry him.

Thus in one week, between June the eleventh and June the eighteenth, the Maid had delivered three strong towns from the English, and had utterly routed them in fair field. Then, at Orleans, on June the nineteenth, the army went to the churches, thanking God, and the Blessed Virgin, and all the saints, for such great signs and marvels wrought through the Maid only.

Sorrow it is to me to write of such things by report, and not to have seen them done. But, as Talbot said to the Duc d'Alencon, when they took him at Patay, "it is fortune of war."

But, as day by day messengers came, their horses red with spurring, to the cross in the market-place of Tours, and as we that gathered round heard of some fresh victory, you may consider whether we rejoiced, feasted, filled the churches with our thanksgivings, and deemed that, in a few weeks, there would be no living Englishman on French soil. And of all that were glad my lady was the happiest, for she had believed in the Maid from the very beginning, when her father mocked. And a hard life she now led him with her sallies, day by day, as more and ever more glad tidings were brought, and we could hear Elliot singing through the house.

Yea, I found her once dancing in the garden all alone, a beautiful sight to look upon, as the sun fell on her and the shadow, she footing it as if to music, but the music was made by her own heart. Leaning against an apple-tree, I watched her, who waved her hand to me, and still danced on; this was after we had heard the news of Beaugency. As she so swayed and moved, dancing daintily, came a blast of a trumpet and a gay peal from the minster bells. Then forth rushed Elliot, and through the house, and down the street into the market-place, nor did I know where I was, till I found myself beside her, and heard the Maire read a letter to all the folk, telling how the English were routed at Pathay in open field. Thereon the whole multitude fell a-dancing, and I, for all my malady, was fain to dance with them; but Elliot led me home, her head high, and blue rays darting from her eyes. From that day my life seemed to come back to me, and I was no longer the sick man. So the weeks went by, in all delight, my master working hard, and I helping him in my degree, for new banners would be wanted when the Dauphin went for his sacring to his good town of Reims. As we all deemed, this could no longer be delayed; and thereafter our armies would fall on Paris, and so strong grew I, that I was in hopes to be with them, where, at last, fortune was to be won. But of this my hope I said little to Elliot, waiting till I could wear armour, and exercising myself thereat privately in the garden, before folk had risen in the mornings.


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