Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

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


Entering the tavern of "The Crane," I found the doorways crowded with archers of our Guard, among whom was Randal Rutherford.

When I had come, they walked into a chamber on the ground floor, calling for wine, and bidding certain French burgesses go forth, who needed no second telling. The door was shut, two sentinels of ours were posted outside, and then Randal very carefully sounded all the panels of the room, looking heedfully lest there should be any hole whereby what passed among us might be heard in another part of the house, but he found nothing of the kind.

The room being full, some sitting and some standing, as we could, Randal bade Father Urquhart, our chaplain, tell us to what end we had been called together.

The good father thereupon stood up, and spoke in a low voice, but so that all could hear, for we were all hushed to listen.

"There is," he said, "within Paris, a certain Carmelite, a Frenchman, and a friend of Brother Richard, the Preacher, whom, as you know, the English drove from the town."

"I saw him at Troyes," said one, "where he kneeled before the Maid, and they seemed very loving."

"That is the man, that is Brother Richard. Now, as I was busy tending the wounded, in the skirmish three days agone, this Carmelite was about the same duty for those of his party. He put into my hand a slip of paper, wherein Brother Richard commended him to any Scot or Frenchman of the King's party, as an honest man, and a friend of the King's. When I had read this, the Carmelite spoke with me in Latin, and in a low voice. His matter was this: In Paris, he said, there is a strong party of Armagnacs, who have, as we all know, a long score to settle with them of Burgundy. They are of the common folk and labourers, but among them are many rich burgesses. They have banded themselves together by an oath to take our part, within the town, if once we win a gate. Here is a cedule signed by them with their names or marks, and this he gave me as a proof of good faith."

Here he handed a long slip of parchment, all covered with writing, to Randal, and it went round among us, but few there were clerks, save myself. I looked on it, and the names, many of them attested by seals with coat armour, were plain to be read.

"Their counsel is to muster in arms secretly, and to convey themselves, one by one, into certain houses hard by the Port St. Denis, where certain of their party dwell. Now, very early to- morrow morning, before dawn, the purpose of the English is to send forth a company of a hundred men-at-arms, who will make a sudden onset on the windmill, where the Maid lies to-night, and so will take her, if they may."

"By St. Bride of Douglas," said one of us, "they will get their kail through the reek, for our guard is to lie in arms about the windmill, and be first in the field to-morrow."

"The craft is, then," Father Urquhart went on, "that we shall destroy this English company with sword or arrow, but with no alarm of culverins or cannon. Meanwhile, some five score of you will put on to-night the red cross of St. George, with plain armour, so that the English shall mistake you for their own men returning from the sally, and some few men in our own colours and coats you will hale with you as prisoners. And, if one of you can but attire himself in some gear of the Maid's, with a hucque of hers, scarlet, and dight with the Lilies of France, the English gate-wards will open to you all the more eagerly."

"By the bones of St. Boswell!" cried Randal in his loud voice, but the good Father put a hand on his mouth.

"Quiet, man!" he said.

"By the blessed bones of St. Boswell," Randal said again, as near a whisper as he could attain to, "the lady of the linen-basket shall come as the Maid. We have no man so maidenly."

They all shouted, laughing, and beating the tables with hands and tankards.

"Silence!" cried Robin Lindsay.

"Nay, the louder we laugh, the less will any suspect what is forward," said Randal Rutherford.

"Norman, will you play this part in the mumming?"

I was ashamed to say no, though I liked it not over well, and I nodded with my head.

"How maidenly he blushes!" cried one, and there was another clamour, till the walls rang.

"So be it then," says Father Urquhart, "and now you know all. The honest Armagnacs will rise so soon as you are well within the gate. They command both sides of the street that leads to the Port St. Denis, and faith, if the English want to take it, when a hundred Scots are within, they will have to sally forth by another gate, and come from the outside. And you are to run up the banner of Scotland over the Port, when once you hold it, so the French attack will be thereby."

"We played the same game before Verneuil fight, and won it," said one; "will the English have forgotten the trick?"

"By St. Bride, when once they see us haling the Maid along, they will forget old stratagems of war. This is a new device! Oh to see their faces when we cry 'St. Andrew,' and set on!"

"I am not so old as you all in the wars," I began.

"No, Mademoiselle la Lavandiere, but you are of the right spirit, with your wench's face."

"But," I said, "how if the English that are to attack the windmill in the first grey of the morning come not to hand-strokes, or take to their heels when they find us awake, and win back to Paris before us? Our craft, methinks, is to hold them in an ambush, but what if we catch them not? Let but one runaway be swift of foot, and we are undone."

"There is this to be said," quoth Father Urquhart, "that the English company is to sally forth by the Port St. Denis, and it is the Port St. Denis that our Armagnacs will be guarding. Now I speak as a man of peace, for that is my calling. But how would it be if your hundred men and Norman set forth in the dark, and lay hid not very far from the St. Denis Gate? Then some while after the lighting of the bale-fires from the windmill, to be lit when the English set on, make straight for the gate, and cry, "St. George for England!"

"If you see not the bale-fires ere daylight, you will come back with what speed you may; but if you do see them, then--"

"Father, you have not lived long on the Highland line for nothing," quoth Robin Lindsay.

"A very proper stratagem indeed," I said, "but now, gentlemen, there is one little matter; how will Sir Hugh Kennedy take this device of ours? If we try it and fail, without his privity, we had better never return, but die under Paris wall. And, even if we hold the gate, and Paris town is taken, faith I would rather affront the fire of John the Lorrainer than the face of Sir Hugh."

No man spoke, there were not two minds on this matter, so, after some chaffer of words, it was agreed to send Father Urquhart with Randal to show the whole scheme to Sir Hugh, while the rest of us should await their coming back with an answer. In no long time they were with us, the father very red and shame-faced.

"He gave the good father the rough side of his tongue," quoth Randal, "for speaking first to me, and not to him. Happily we were over cunning to say aught of our gathering here. But when he had let his bile flow, he swore, and said that he could spare a hundred dyvour loons of his command, on the cast of the dice, and, now silence all! not a word or a cry," here he held up his hand, "we are to take 'fortune of war'!"

Every man grinned gladly on his neighbour, in dead stillness.

"Now," said Randal, "slip out by threes and fours, quietly, and to quarters; but you, Norman, wait with me."


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