Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

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


"The hearts of kings are in His hand," says Holy Scripture, and it is of necessity to be believed that the hearts of kings, in an especial sense, are wisely governed. Yet, the blindness of our sinful souls, we often may not see, nor by deep consideration find out, the causes wherefore kings often act otherwise, and, as we might deem, less worthily than common men. For it is a truth and must be told, that neither before he was anointed with the blessed oil from the holy vessel, or ampulla, which the angel brought to St. Remigius, nor even after that anointing (which is more strange), did Charles VII., King of France, bear him kingly as regards the Maiden. Nay, I have many a time thought with sorrow that if Xaintrailles, or La Hire, ay, or any the meanest esquire in all our army, had been born Dauphin, in three months after the Maid's victories in June Paris would have been ours, and not an Englishman left to breathe the air of France. For it needed but that the King should obey the Maid, ride straight to Reims, and thence on Paris town, and every city would have opened its gates to him, as the walls of Jericho fell at the mere sound of the trumpets of Israel.

This is no foolish fancy of an old man dreaming in a cloister about what might have been. For the Regent of the English, brother of their King Harry the Fifth, and himself a wise man, and brave, if cruel, was of this same mind. First, he left Paris and shut himself up in the strong castle of Vincennes, dreading an uproar among the people; and next, he wholly withdrew himself to Rouen, for he had now no force of men to guard the walls of Paris. Our Dauphin had but to mount and ride, and all would have been his at one blow, ay, or without a blow. The Maid, as we daily heard, kept praying him, even with tears, to do no more than this; and from every side came in men free and noble, ready to serve at their own charges. The poorest gentlemen who had lost all in the troubles, and might not even keep a horse to ride, were of goodwill to march as common foot- soldiers.

But, while all France called on her King, he was dwelling at Sully, in the castle of La Tremouille, a man who had a foot in either camp, so that neither English nor Burgundians had ever raided on his rich lands, when these lay in their power. So, what with the self- seeking, and sloth, and jealousy of La Tremouille; what with the worldly policy of the Archbishop of Reims, crying Peace, where there was no peace, the Maid and the captains were not listened to, or, if they were heard, their plans were wrought out with a faint heart, so that, at last, if it is lawful to say so, the will of men prevailed over the will of Heaven.

Never, I pray, may any prince of my own country be so bestead, and so ill-served, that, when he has won battles and gained cities two or three, and needs but to ride forward and win all his kingdom, he shall be turned back by the little faith of his counsellors! Never may such a thing befall a prince of Scotland! Concerning these matters of State, as may be believed, we devised much at Tours, while messengers were coming and going, and long, weary councils were being held at Sully and at Gien. D'Alencon, we got news, was all for striking a blow yet more bold than the march to Reims, and would have attacked the English where they were strongest, and nearest their own shores, namely, at Rouen. The counsellors of the peaceful sort were inclined to waste time in besieging La Charite, and other little towns on Loire-side. But her Voices had bidden the Maid, from the first, to carry the Dauphin to Reims, that there he might be anointed, and known to France for the very King. So at last, finding that time was sorely wasted, whereas all hope lay in a swift stroke, ere the English could muster men, and bring over the army lately raised by the Cardinal of Winchester to go crusading against the miscreants of Bohemia--the Maid rode out of Gien, with her own company, on June the twenty-seventh, and lodged in the fields, some four leagues away, on the road to Auxerre. And next day the King and the Court followed her perforce, with a great army of twelve thousand men. Thenceforth there came news to us every day in Tours, and all the news was good. Town after town opened its gates at the summons of the Maid, and notably Troyes and Chalons, in despite of the English garrisons.

We were all right glad, and could scarce sleep for joy, above all when a messenger rode in, one Thomas Scott, whom I had encountered before, as I have written, bidding my master come straightway to Reims, to join the King, and exercise his craft in designing a great picture of the coronation. So with much ado he bestowed his canvases, brushes, paints, and all other gear of his trade in wallets, and, commending his daughter to his old kinswoman, to obey her in all things, he set off on horseback with Thomas Scott. But for myself, I was to lodge, while he was at Reims, with a worthy woman of Tours, for the avoiding of evil tongues, and very tardily the time passed with me, for that I might not be, as before, always in the company of Elliot.

As for my lady, she was, during most of these days, on her knees at the altar in the great minster, praying to the saints for the Dauphin, and the Maid, and for her father, that he might come and go safely on his journey. Nor did she pray in vain, for, no more than two days after the first tidings had arrived that the sacring was done, and that all had gone well, my master rode to his own door, weary, but glad at heart, and hobbled into his house. One was sent running to bring me this good news, and I myself ran, for now I was able, and found him seated at his meat, as well as he could eat it for Elliot, that often stopped his mouth with kisses.

He held forth his hand to me, saying, "All is as well as heart could desire, and the Maid bids you follow her, if you may, to the taking of Paris, for there she says will be your one chance to win your spurs. And now let me eat and drink, for the heat is great, the ways dusty, and I half famished. Thereafter ask me what you will, and you, Elliot, come not between a hungry man and his meat."

So he spoke, sitting at his table with his tankard in his hand, and his wallets lying about him on the floor. Elliot was therefore fain not to be embracing him, but rather to carve for him, and serve in the best manner, that he might sup the quicker and tell us all his tale. This he did at last, Elliot sitting on his knee, with her arm about his neck. But, as touches the sacring, how it was done, though many of the peers of France were not there to see, and how noble were the manners of the King and the Maid, who stood there with her banner, and of the only reward which she would take, namely, that her townsfolk should live free of tax and corvee, all this is known and written of in Chronicles. Nor did I see it myself, so I pass by. But, next to actual beholding of that glorious rite, the best thing was to hear my master tell of it, taking out his books, wherein he had drawn the King, and the Maid in her harness, and many of the great lords. From these pictures a tapestry was afterwards wrought, and hung in Reims Cathedral, where it is to this day: the Maid on horseback beckoning the King onward, the Scots archers beside him in the most honourable place, as was their lawful due, and, behind all, the father of the Maid entering Reims by another road. By great good fortune, and by virtue of being a fellow-traveller with Thomas Scott, the rider of the King's stable, my master found lodgings easily enough. So crowded was the town that, the weather being warm, in mid July, many lay in tabernacles of boughs, in the great place of Reims, and there was more singing that night than sleeping. But my master had lain at the hostelry called L'Asne Roye, in the parvise, opposite to the cathedral, where also lay Jean d'Arc, the father of the Maid. Thither she herself came to visit him, and she gave gifts to such of the people of her own countryside as were gathered at Reims.

"And, Jeannot, do you fear nothing?" one of them asked her, who had known her from a child.

"I fear nothing but treason," my master heard her reply, a word that we had afterwards too good cause to remember.

"And is she proud now that she is so great?" asked Elliot.

"She proud! No pride has she, but sat at meat, and spoke friendly with all these manants, and it was "tu" and "toy," and "How is this one? and that one?" till verily, I think, she had asked for every man, woman, child, and dog in Domremy. And that puts me in mind--"

"In mind of what?"

"Of nought. Faith, I remember not what I was going to say, for I am well weary."

"But Paris?" I asked. "When march we on Paris?" My master's face clouded. "They should have set forth for Paris the very day after the sacring, which was the seventeenth of July. But envoys had come in from the Duke of Burgundy, and there were parleys with them as touching peace. Now, peace will never be won save at the point of the lance. But a truce of a fortnight has been made with Burgundy, and then he is to give up Paris to the King. Yet, ere a fortnight has passed, the new troops from England will have come over to fight us, and not against the heretics of Bohemia, though they have taken the cross and the vow. And the King has gone to Saint Marcoul, forsooth, seeing that, unless he goes there to do his devotions, he may not touch the sick and heal the crewels. {29} Faith, they that have the crewels might even wait till the King has come to his own again; they have waited long enough to learn patience while he was Dauphin. It should be Paris first, and Saint Marcoul and the crewels afterwards, but anything to waste time and keep out of the brunt of the battle." Here he struck his hand on the table so that the vessels leaped. "I fear what may come of it," he said. "For every day that passes is great loss to us and much gain to our enemies of England, who will anon garrison Paris."

"Faint-heart," cried Elliot, plucking his beard. "You will never believe in the Maid, who has never yet failed to help us, by the aid of the saints."

"The saints help them that help themselves," he answered. "And Paris town has walls so strong, that once the fresh English are entered in, even the saints may find it a hard bargain. But you, Elliot, run up and see if my chamber be ready, for I am well weary." She ran forth, and my master, turning to me, said in a low voice, "I have something for your own ear, but I feared to grieve her. In a booth at Reims I saw her jackanapes doing his tricks, and when he came round questing with his bowl the little beast knew me and jumped up into my arms, and wailed as if he had been a Christian. Then I was for keeping him, but I was set on by three or four stout knaves, and, I being alone, and the crowd taking their part, I thought it not well to draw sword, and so break the King's peace that had just then begun to be King. But my heart was sore for the poor creature, and, in very truth, I bring back no light heart, save to see you twain again, for I fear me that the worst of the darg {30} is still to do. But here comes Elliot, so no word of the jackanapes."

Therewith he went off to his chamber, and I to mine, with less pleasure than I had looked for. Still, the thought came into my heart that, the longer the delay of the onslaught on Paris, the better chance I had to take part therein; and the harder the work, the greater the glory.

The boding words of my master proved over true. The King was sacred on July the sixteenth, and Paris then stood empty of English soldiers, being garrisoned by Burgundians only. But, so soon as he was anointed, the King began to parley with Burgundy, and thus they spun out the time, till, on July the twenty-fifth, a strong army of Englishmen had entered Paris. Whether their hearts were high may not be known, but on their banner they had hung a distaff, and had painted the flag with the words -

"Ores viegne la Belle,"

meaning, "Let the fair Maid come, and we shall give her wool to spin." Next we heard, and were loth to believe it, that a new truce of fifteen days more had been made with Burgundy. The Maid, indeed, said openly that she loved not the truce, and that she kept it only for the honour of the King, which was dearer to her than her life, as she proved in the end.

Then came marchings, this way and that, all about the Isle of France, Bedford leaving Paris to fight the King, and then refusing battle, though the Maid rode up to the English palisades, and smote them with her sword, defying the English to come out, if they were men. So the English betook them back to Paris, after certain light skirmishes only. Meanwhile some of his good towns that had been in the hands of the English yielded to the King, or rather to the Maid. Among these the most notable was Compiegne, a city as great as Orleans. Many a time it had been taken and retaken in the wars, but now the burgesses swore that they would rather all die, with their wives and children, than open their gates again to the English. And this oath they kept well, as shall be seen in the end.


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