Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

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


"Verily and indeed the Maid is of wonderful excellence," quoth Father Francois to me, in my chamber at the Jacobins, where I was healing of my hurts.

"Any man may know that, who is in your company," the father went on speaking.

"And how, good father?" I asked him; "sure I have caught none of her saintliness."

"A saint I do not call you, but I scarce call you a Scot. For you are a clerk."

"The Maid taught me none of my clergy, father, nor have I taught her any of mine."

"She needs it not. But you are peaceful and gentle; you brawl not, nor drink, nor curse . . . "

"Nay, father, with whom am I to brawl, or how should I curse in your good company? Find you Scots so froward?"

"But now, pretending to be our friends, a band of them is harrying the Sologne country . . . "

"They will be Johnstons and Jardines, and wild wood folk of Galloway," I said. "These we scarce reckon Scots, but rather Picts, and half heathen. And the Johnstons and Jardines are here belike, because they have made Scotland over hot to hold them. We are a poor folk, but honest, let by the clans of the Land Debatable and of Ettrick Forest, and the Border freebooters, and the Galloway Picts, and Maxwells, and Glendinnings, and the red-shanked, jabbering Highlanders and Islesmen, and some certain of the Angus folk, and, maybe, a wild crew in Strathclyde."

"Yours, then, is a very large country?"

"About the bigness of France, or, may be, not so big. And the main part of it, and the most lawful and learned, is by itself, in a sort, a separate kingdom, namely Fife, whence I come myself. The Lothians, too, and the shire of Ayr, if you except Carrick, are well known for the lands of peaceful and sober men."

"Whence comes your great captain, Sir Hugh Kennedy?"

"There you name an honourable man-at-arms," I said, "the glory of Scotland; and to show you I was right, he is none of your marchmen, or Highlanders, but has lands in Ayrshire, and comes of a very honourable house."

"It is Sir Hugh that hath just held to ransom the King's good town of Tours, where is that gracious lady the mother of the King's wife, the Queen of Sicily."

Hereat I waxed red as fire.

"He will be in arrears of his pay, no doubt," I made answer.

"It is very like," said Father Francois: "but considering all that you tell me, I crave your pardon if I still think that the Blessed Maid has won you from the common ways of your countrymen."

To which, in faith, I had no answer to make, but that my fortune was like to be the happier in this world and the next.

"Much need have all men of her goodness, and we of her valour," said the father, and he sighed. "This is now the fourth siege of Compiegne I have seen, and twice have the leads from our roofs and the metal of our bells been made into munition of war. Absit omen Domine! And now they say the Duke of Burgundy has sworn to slay all, and spare neither woman nor child."

"A vaunt of war, father. Call they not him the Good Duke? When we lay before Paris, the English put about a like lying tale concerning us, as if we should sack and slay all."

"I pray that you speak sooth," said Father Francois.

On the next day, being May the twentieth, he came to me again, with a wan face.

"Burgundians are in Claroix," said he, "across the river, and yet others, with Jean de Luxembourg, at Margny, scarce a mile away, at the end of the causeway through the water meadows, beyond the bridge. And the Duke is at Coudun, a league off to the right of Claroix, and I have clomb the tower-top, and thence seen the English at Venette, on the left hand of the causeway. All is undone."

"Nay, father, be of better cheer. Our fort at the bridge end is stronger than Les Tourelles were at Orleans. The English shot can scarce cross the river. Bridge the enemy has none, and northward and eastward all is open. Be of better heart, Heaven helps France."

"We have sent to summon the Maid,' said he, "from Crepy-en-Valois. In her is all my hope; but you speak lightly, for you are young, and war is your trade."

"And praying is yours, father, wherefore you should be bolder than I."

But he shook his head.

So two days passed, and nothing great befell, but in the grey dawn of May the twenty-third I was held awake by clatter of horsemen riding down the street under the window of my chamber. And after matins came Father Francois, his face very joyful, with the tidings that the Maid, and a company of some three hundred lances of hers, had ridden in from Crepy-en-Valois, she making her profit of the darkness to avoid the Burgundians.

Then I deemed that the enemy would soon have news of her, and all that day I heard the bells ring merry peals, and the trumpets sounding. About three hours after noonday Father Francois came again, and told me that the Maid would make a sally, and cut the Burgundians in twain; and now nothing would serve me but I must be borne in a litter to the walls, and see her banner once more on the wind.

So, by the goodwill of Father Francois, some lay brethren bore me forth from the convent, which is but a stone's-throw from the bridge. They carried me across the Oise to a mill hard by the boulevard of the Bridge fort, whence, from a window, I beheld all that chanced. No man sitting in the gallery of a knight's hall to see jongleurs play and sing could have had a better stance, or have seen more clearly all the mischief that befell.

The town of Compiegne lies on the river Oise, as Orleans on the Loire, but on the left, not the right hand of the water. The bridge is strongly guarded, as is custom, by a tower at the further end, and, in front of that tower, a boulevard. All the water was gay to look on, being covered with boats, as if for a holiday, but these were manned by archers, whom Guillaume de Flavy had set to shoot at the enemy, if they drove us back, and to rescue such of our men as might give ground, if they could not win into the boulevard at the bridge end.

Beyond the boulevard, forth to the open country, lay a wide plain, and behind it, closing it in, a long, low wall of steep hills. On the left, a mile and a half away, Father Francois showed me the church tower of Venette, where the English camped; to the right, a league off, was the tower of Clairoix; and at the end of a long raised causeway that ran from the bridge across the plain, because of the winter floods, I saw the tower and the village of Margny. All these towns and spires looked peaceful, but all were held by the Burgundians. Men-at-arms were thick on the crest of our boulevard, and on the gate-keep, all looking across the river towards the town, whence the Maid should sally by way of the bridge. So there I lay on a couch in the window and waited, having no fear, but great joy.

Nay, never have I felt my spirit lighter within me, so that I laughed and chattered like a fey man. The fresh air, after my long lying in a chamber, stirred me like wine. The May sun shone warm, yet cooled with a sweet wind of the west. The room was full of women and maids, all waiting to throw flowers before the Maid, whom they dearly loved. Everything had a look of holiday, and all was to end in joy and great victory. So I laughed with the girls, and listened to a strange tale, how the Maid had but of late brought back to life a dead child at Lagny, so that he got his rights of Baptism, and anon died again.

So we fleeted the time, till about the fifth hour after noon, when we heard the clatter of horses on the bridge; and some women waxed pale. My own heart leaped up. The noise drew nearer, and presently She rode across and forth, carrying her banner in the noblest manner, mounted on a grey horse, and clad in a rich hucque of cramoisie; she smiled and bowed like a queen to the people, who cried, "Noel! Noel!" Beside her rode Pothon le Bourgignon (not Pothon de Xaintrailles, as some have falsely said), her confessor Pasquerel on a palfrey; her brother, Pierre du Lys, with his new arms bravely blazoned; and her maitre d'hotel, D'Aulon. But of the captains in Compiegne no one rode with her. She had but her own company, and a great rude throng of footmen of the town that would not be said nay. They carried clubs, and they looked, as I heard, for no less than to take prisoner the Duke of Burgundy himself. Certain of these men also bore spades and picks and other tools; for the Maid, as I deem, intended no more than to take and hold Margny, that so she might cut the Burgundians in twain, and sunder from them the English at Venette. Now as the night was not far off, then at nightfall would the English be in sore straits, as not knowing the country and the country roads, and not having the power to join them of Burgundy at Clairoix. This, one told me afterwards, was the device of the Maid.

Be this as it may, and a captain of hers, Barthelemy Barrette, told me the tale, the Maid rode gallantly forth, flowers raining on her, while my heart longed to be riding at her rein. She waved her hand to Guillaume de Flavy, who sat on his horse by the gate of the boulevard, and so, having arrayed her men, she cried, "Tirez avant!" and made towards Margny, the foot-soldiers following with what speed they might, while I and Father Francois, and others in the chamber, strained our eyes after them. All the windows and roofs of the houses and water-mills on the bridge were crowded with men and women, gazing, and it came into my mind that Flavy had done ill to leave these mills and houses standing. They wrought otherwise at Orleans. This was but a passing thought, for my heart was in my eyes, straining towards Margny. Thence now arose a great din, and clamour of trumpets and cries of men-at-arms, and we could see tumult, blown dust, and stir of men, and so it went for it may be half of an hour. Then that dusty cloud of men and horses drove, forward ever, out of our sight.

The sun was now red and sinking above the low wall of the western hills, and the air was thicker than it had been, and confused with a yellow light. Despite the great multitude of men and women on the city walls, there came scarcely a sound of a voice to us across the wide river, so still they kept, and the archers in the boats beneath us were silent: nay, though the chamber wherein I lay was thronged with the people of the house pressing to see through the open casement, yet there was silence here, save when the father prayed.

A stronger wind rising out of the west now blew towards us with a sweet burden of scent from flowers and grass, fragrant upon our faces. So we waited, our hearts beating with hope and fear.

Then I, whose eyes were keen, saw, blown usward from Margny, a cloud of flying dust, that in Scotland we call stour. The dust rolled white along the causeway towards Compiegne, and then, alas! forth from it broke little knots of our men, foot-soldiers, all running for their lives. Behind them came more of our men, and more, all running, and then mounted men-at-arms, spurring hard, and still more and more of these; and ever the footmen ran, till many riders and some runners had crossed the drawbridge, and were within the boulevard of the bridge. There they stayed, sobbing and panting, and a few were bleeding. But though the foremost runaways thus won their lives, we saw others roll over and fall as they ran, tumbling down the sides of the causeway, and why they fell I knew not.

But now, in the midst of the causeway, between us and Margny, our flying horsemen rallied under the Maiden's banner, and for the last time of all, I heard that clear girl's voice crying, "Tirez en avant! en avant!"

Anon her horsemen charged back furiously, and drove the Picards and Burgundians, who pursued, over a third part of the raised roadway.

But now, forth from Margny, trooped Burgundian men-at-arms without end or number, the banner of the Maid waved wildly, now up, now down, in the mad mellay, and ever they of Burgundy pressed on, and still our men, being few and outnumbered, gave back. Yet still some of the many clubmen of the townsfolk tumbled over as they ran, and the drawbridge was choked with men flying, thrusting and thronging, wild and blind with the fear of death. Then rose on our left one great cry, such as the English give when they rejoice, or when they charge, and lo! forth from a little wood that had hidden them, came galloping and running across the heavy wet meadowland between us and Venette, the men-at-arms and the archers of England. Then we nigh gave up all for lost, and fain I would have turned my eyes away, but I might not.

Now and again the English archers paused, and loosed a flight of clothyard shafts against the stream of our runaways on the bridge. Therefore it was that some fell as they ran. But the little company of our horsemen were now driven back so near us that I could plainly see the Maid, coming last of all, her body swung round in the saddle as she looked back at the foremost foemen, who were within a lance's length of her. And D'Aulon and Pierre du Lys, gripping each at her reins, were spurring forward. But through the press of our clubmen and flying horsemen they might not win, and now I saw, what never man saw before, the sword of the Maid bare in battle! She smote on a knight's shield, her sword shivered in that stroke, she caught her steel sperthe into her hand, and struck and hewed amain, and there were empty saddles round her.

And now the English in the meadow were within four lances' lengths of the causeway between her and safety. Say it I must, nor cannon- ball nor arrow-flight availed to turn these English. Still the drawbridge and the inlet of the boulevard were choked with the press, and men were leaping from bank and bridge into the boats, or into the water, while so mixed were friends and foes that Flavy, in a great voice, bade archers and artillerymen hold their hands.

Townsfolk, too, were mingled in the throng, men who had come but to gape as curious fools, and among them I saw the hood of a cordelier, as I glanced from the fight to mark how the Maid might force her way within. Still she smote, and D'Aulon and Pierre du Lys smote manfully, and anon they gained a little way, backing their horses, while our archers dared not shoot, so mixed were French, English, and Burgundians.

Flavy, who worked like a man possessed, had turned about to give an order to the archers above him; his back, I swear, was to the press of flying men, to the inlet of the boulevard, and to the drawbridge, when his own voice, as all deemed who heard it, cried aloud, "Up drawbridge, close gates, down portcullis!" The men whose duty it was were standing ready at the cranks and pulleys, their tools in hand, and instantly, groaning, the drawbridge flew up, casting into the water them that were flying across, down came the portcullis, and slew two men, while the gates of the inlet of the boulevard were swung to and barred, all, as it might he said, in the twinkling of an eye.

Flavy turned in wrath and great amaze: "In God's name, who cried?" he shouted. "Down drawbridge, up portcullis, open gates! To the front, men-at-arms, lances forward!"

For most of the mounted men who had fled were now safe, and on foot, within the boulevard.

All this I heard and saw, in a glance, while my eyes were fixed on the Maid and the few with her. They were lost from our sight, now and again, in a throng of Picards, Englishmen, Burgundians, for all have their part in this glory. Swords and axes fell and rose, steeds countered and reeled, and then, they say, for this thing I myself did not see, a Picard archer, slipping under the weapons and among the horses' hoofs, tore the Maid from saddle by the long skirts of her hucque, and they were all upon her. This befell within half a stone's-throw of the drawbridge. While Flavy himself toiled with his hands, and tore at the cranks and chains, the Maid was taken under the eyes of us, who could not stir to help her. Now was the day and the hour whereof the Saints told her not, though she implored them with tears. Now in the throng below I heard a laugh like the sound of a saw on stone, and one struck him that laughed on the mouth. It was the laugh of that accursed Brother Thomas!

I had laid my face on my hands, being so weak, and was weeping for very rage at that which my unhappy eyes had seen, when I heard the laugh, and lifting my head and looking forth, I beheld the hood of the cordelier.

"Seize him!" I cried to Father Francois, pointing down at the cordelier. "Seize that Franciscan, he has betrayed her! Run, man, it was he who cried in Flavy's voice, bidding them raise drawbridge and let fall portcullis. The devil gave him that craft to counterfeit men's voices. I know the man. Run, Father Francois, run!"

"You are distraught with very grief," said the good father, the tears running down his own cheeks; "that is Brother Thomas, the best artilleryman in France, and Flavy's chief trust with the couleuvrine. He came in but four days agone, and there was great joy of his coming."

Thus was the Maid taken, by art and device of the devil and Brother Thomas, and in no otherwise. They who tell that Flavy sold her, closing the gates in her face, do him wrong; he was an ill man, but loyal to France, as was seen by the very defence he made at Compiegne, for there was none like it in this war. But of what avail was that to us who loved the Maid? Rather, many times, would I have died in that hour than have seen what I saw. For our enemies made no more tarrying, nor any onslaught on the boulevard, but rode swiftly back with the prize they had taken, with her whom they feared more than any knight or captain of France. This page whereon I work, in a hand feeble and old, and weary with much writing, is blotted with tears that will not be held in. But we must bow humbly to the will of God and of His Saints. "Dominus dedit, et Dominus abstulit; benedictum sit nomen Domini."

Wherefore should I say more? They carried me back in litter over the bridge, through the growing darkness. Every church was full of women weeping and praying for her that was the friend of them, and the playmate of their children, for all children she dearly loved.

Concerning Flavy, it was said, by them who loved him not, that he showed no sign of sorrow. But when his own brother Louis fell, later in the siege, a brother whom he dearly loved, none saw him weep, or alter the fashion of his countenance; nay, he bade musicians play music before him.

I besought the Prior, when I was borne home, that I might be carried to Flavy, and tell him that I knew. But he forbade me, saying that, in very truth, I knew nought, or nothing that could be brought against a Churchman, and one in a place of trust. For I had not seen the lips of the cordelier move when that command was given-- nay, at the moment I saw him not at all. Nor could I even prove to others that he had this devilish art, there being but my oath against his, and assuredly he would deny the thing. And though I might be assured and certain within myself, yet other witness I had none at all, nor were any of my friends there who could speak with me. For D'Aulon, and Pasquerel, and Pierre du Lys had all been taken with the Maid. It was long indeed before Pierre du Lys was free, for he had no money to ransom himself withal. Therefore Flavy, knowing me only for a wounded Scot of the Maid's, would think me a brainsick man, and as like as not give me more of Oise river to drink than I craved.

With these reasonings it behoved me to content myself. The night I passed in prayers for the Maid, and for myself, that I might yet do justice on that devil, or, at least, might see justice done. But how these orisons were answered shall be seen in the end, whereto I now hasten.


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