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 XXX
HOW NORMAN LESLIE TOOK SERVICE WITH THE ENGLISH

"What make we now?" I asked of Barthelemy Barrette, one day, after the companies had scattered, as I have said, and we had gone back into Compiegne. "What stroke may France now strike for the Maid?" He hung his head and plucked at his beard, ere he spoke.

"To be as plain with you as my heart is with myself, Norman," he answered at last, "deliverance, or hope of deliverance, see I none. The English have the bird in the cage, and Rouen is not a strength that can be taken by sudden onslaught. And, were it so, where is our force, in midwinter? I rather put my faith, that can scarce move mountains, in some subtle means, if any man might devise them."

"We cannot sit idle here," I said. "And for three long months there will be no moving of armies in open field."

"And in three months these dogs of false French doctors of Paris will have tried and condemned the Maid. For my part, I ride with my handful of spears to the Loire. Perchance there is yet some hope in the King."

"Then I ride with you, granted your goodwill, for I must needs to Tours, and I have overmuch treasure in my wallet to ride alone."

Indeed, I was now a rich man, more by luck than by valour; and though I said nought of it, I hoped that my long wooing might now come to a happy end.

Barthelemy clasped hands gladly on that offer; and not to make a long tale, he and his men were my escort to Tours, and thence he rode to Sully to see the King.

I had no heart for glad surprises this time, but having sent on a letter to my master, by a King's messenger who rode from Compiegne ere we did, I was expected and welcomed by Elliot and my master, with all the joy that might be, after our long severance. And in my master's hands I laid my newly gotten gear, and heard privily from him that, with his goodwill, I and his daughter might wed so soon as she would.

"For she is pining with grief, and prayer, and fasting, and marriage is the best remede for such maladies."

Of this grace I was right glad; yet Christmas went by and I dared not speak, for Elliot seemed set on far other things than mirth, and was ever and early in the churches, above all when service and prayer were offered up for the Maid. She was very willing to hear all the tale of the long siege, and her face, that was thin and wan, unlike her bright countenance of old, flushed scarlet when she heard how we had bearded and shamed the noble Duke of Burgundy, and what words Xaintrailles had spoken concerning his nobleness.

"There is one true knight left in France!" she said, and fell silent again.

Then, we being alone in the chamber, I tried to take her hand, but she drew it away.

"My dear love," she said, "I know all that is in your heart, and all my love that is in mine you know well. But in mine there is no care for happiness and joy, and to speak as plain as a maiden may, I have now no will to marry. While the Sister of the Saints lies in duresse, or if she be unjustly slain, I have set up my rest to abide unwed, for ever, as the Bride of Heaven. And, if the last evil befall her, as well I deem it must, I shall withdraw me from the world into the sisterhood of the Clarisses."

Had the great mid-beam of the roof fallen and smitten me, I could not have been stricken more dumb and dead. My face showed what was in my mind belike, for, looking fearfully and tenderly on me, she took my hand between hers and cherished it.

"My love," I said at last, "you see in what case I am, that can scarce speak for sorrow, after all I have ventured, and laboured, and won, for you and for the Maid."

"And I," she answered, "being but a girl, can venture and give nothing but my poor prayers; and if she now perish, then I must pray the more continually for the good rest of her soul, and the forgiveness of her enemies and false friends."

"Sure, she hath already the certain promise of Paradise, and even in this world her life is with the Saints. And if men slay her body, we need her prayers more than she needs ours."

But Elliot said no word, being very wilful.

"Consider what manner of friend the Maid is," I said, "who desires nothing but joy and happy life to all whom she loves, as she loves you. Verily, I am right well assured that, could she see us in this hour, she would bid you be happy with me, and not choose penance for love of her."

"If she herself bids me do as you desire," said Elliot at last, "then I would not be disobedient to that Daughter of God."

Here I took some comfort, for now a thought came into my mind.

"But," said Elliot, "as we read of the rich man and Lazarus, between her and us is a great gulf fixed, and none may come from her to us, or from us to her."

"Elliot!" I said, "if either the Maid be delivered, or if she sends you sure and certain tidings under her own hand that she wills you to put off this humour, will you then be persuaded, and make no more delay!"

"Indeed, if either of these miracles befall, or both, right gladly will I obey both you and her. But now her Saints, methinks, have left her, wearied by the wickedness of France."

"I ask no more," I answered, "for, Elliot, either the Maid shall be free, or she shall send you this command, or you shall see my face no more."

My purpose was now clear before me, even as I executed it, as shall be seen.

"Indeed, if my vow must be kept, never may I again behold you; for oh! my love, my heart would surely break in twain, being already weak with grief and fasting, and weary with prayer."

Whereon she laid her kind arms about my neck, and, despite my manhood, I wept no less than she.

For Holy Writ says well, that hope deferred maketh the heart sick; and mine was sick unto death.

Of my resolve I spoke no word more to Elliot, lest her counsel should change when she knew the jeopardy whereinto I was firmly minded to go. And to my master I said no more than that I was minded to ride to the Court, and for that end I turned into money a part of my treasure, for money I should need more than arms.

One matter in especial, which I deemed should stand me in the greatest stead, I purchased for gold of the pottinger at Tours, the same who had nursed me after my wound. This draught I bestowed in a silver phial, graven with strange signs, and I kept it ever close and secret, for it was my chief mainstay.

Secretly as I wrought, yet I deem that my master had some understanding of what was in my mind, though I told him nothing of the words between me and Elliot. For I was in no way without hope that, when the bitterness of her grief was overpast, Elliot might change her counsel. And again, I would not have him devise and dispute with her, as now, whereby I very well knew that she would be but the more unhappy, and the more set on taking her own wilful way. I therefore said no more than that it behoved me to see such captains as were about the King.

Thereafter I bade them farewell, nor am I disposed to write concerning what passed at the parting of Elliot and me. For thrice ere now I had left her to pass into the mouth of war, but now I went into other peril, and with fainter hope.

I did indeed ride to the Court, which was at Sully, and there I met, as I desired, Barthelemy Barrette. He greeted me well, and was richly clad, and prosperous to behold. But it gave me greater joy that he spoke of some secret enterprise which should shortly be put in hand, when the spring came.

"For I have good intelligence," he said, "that the Bastard of Orleans will ride privily to Louviers with men-at-arms. Now Louviers, where La Hire lies in garrison, is but seven leagues from Rouen town, and what secret enterprise can he purpose there, save to break the cage and set free the bird?"

In this hope I tarried long, intending to ride with the spears of Barthelemy, and placing my trust on two knights so good and skilled in war as La Hire and the Bastard, the Maid's old companions in fight.

But the days waxed long, and it was March the thirteenth ere we rode north, and already the doctors had begun to entrap the Maid with their questions, whereof there could be but one end.

Without adventure very notable, riding much at night, through forests and byways, we came to Louviers, where they received us joyfully. For it was very well known that the English were minded to besiege this town, that braved them so near their gates at Rouen, and that they only held back till they had slain the Maid. While she lived they dared not stir against us, knowing well that their men feared to follow their flag.

Now, indeed, I was in good hope, but alas! there were long counsels of the captains, there was much harrying of Normandy, and some outlying bands of English were trapped, and prisoners were taken. But of an assault on Rouen we heard no word, and, indeed, the adventure was desperate, though, for the honour of France, I marvel yet that it was not put to the touch.

"There is nought to be done," Barthelemy said to me; "I cannot take Rouen with a handful of spears, and the captains will not stir."

"Then," said I, "farewell, for under the lilies I fight never again. One chance remains, and I go to prove it."

"Man, you are mad," he answered me. "What desperate peril are you minded to run?"

"I am minded to end this matter," I said. "My honour and my very life stand upon it. Ask me not why, and swear that you will keep this secret from all men, if you would do the last service to me, and to Her, whom we both love. I tell you that, help me or hinder me, I have no choice but this; yet so much I will say to you, that I put myself in this jeopardy for my honour and the honour of Scotland, and for my lady."

"The days are past for the old chivalry," he said; "but no more words. I swear by St. Ouen to keep your counsel, and if more I can do, without mere madness and risk out of all hope, I will do it."

"This you can do without risk. Let me have the accoutrements of one of the Englishmen who lie in ward, and let me ride with your band at daybreak to-morrow. It is easy to tell some feigned tale, when you ride back without me."

"You will not ride into Rouen in English guise? They will straightway hang you for a spy, and therein is little honour."

"My purpose is some deal subtler," I said, with a laugh, "but let me keep my own counsel."

"So be it," said he, "a wilful man must have his way. And now I drink to your better wisdom, and may you escape that rope on which your heart seems to be set!"

I grasped his hand on it, and by point of day we were riding out seawards. We made an onslaught on a village, burned a house or twain, and seized certain wains of hay, so, in the confusion, I slipped forward, and rode alone into a little wood. There I clad myself in English guise, having carried the gear in a wallet on my saddle-bow, and so pushed on, till at nightfall I came to a certain little fishing-village. There, under cover of the dark, I covenanted with a fisherman to set me across the Channel, I feigning to be a deserter who was fleeing from the English army, for fear of the Maid.

"I would well that I had to carry all the sort of you," said the boat-master, for I had offered him my horse, and a great reward in money, part down, and the other part to be paid when I set foot in England. Nor did he make any tarrying, but, taking his nets on board, as if he would be about his lawful business, set sail, with his two sons for a crew. The east wind served us to a miracle, and, after as fair a passage as might be, they landed me under cloud of night not far from the great port of Winchelsea.

That night I slept none, but walking fast and warily, under cover of a fog, I fetched a compass about, and ended by walking into the town of Rye by the road from the north. Here I went straight to the best inn of the place, and calling aloud for breakfast, I bade the drawer bring mine host to me instantly. For, at Louviers, we were so well served by spies, the country siding with us rather than with the English, that I knew how a company of the Earl of Warwick's men was looked for in Winchelsea to sail when they had a fair wind for Rouen.

Mine host came to me in a servile English fashion, and asked me what I would?

"First, a horse," said I, "for mine dropped dead last night, ten miles hence on the north road, in your marshes, God damn them, and you may see by my rusty spur and miry boot that I have walked far. Here," I cried, pulling off my boots, and flinging them down on the rushes of the floor, "bid one of your varlets clean them! Next, breakfast, and a pot of your ale; and then I shall see what manner of horses you keep, for I must needs ride to Winchelsea."

"You would join the men under the banner of Sir Thomas Grey of Falloden, I make no doubt?" he answered. "Your speech smacks of the Northern parts, and the good knight comes from no long way south of the border. His men rode through our town but few days agone."

"And me they left behind on the way," I answered, "so evil is my luck in horse-flesh. But for this blessed wind out of the east that hinders them, my honour were undone."

My tale was not too hard of belief, and before noon I was on my way to Winchelsea, a stout nag enough between my legs.

The first man-at-arms whom I met I hailed, bidding him lead me straight to Sir Thomas Grey of Falloden. "What, you would take service?" he asked, in a Cumberland burr that I knew well, for indeed it came ready enough on my own tongue.

"Yea, by St. Cuthbert," I answered, "for on the Marches nothing stirs; moreover, I have slain a man, and fled my own country."

With that he bade God damn his soul if I were not a good fellow, and so led me straight to the lodgings of the knight under whose colours he served. To him I told the same tale, adding that I had heard late of his levying of his men, otherwise I had ridden to join him at his setting forth.

"You have seen war?" he asked.

"Only a Warden's raid or twain, on the moss-trooping Scots of Liddesdale. Branxholme I have seen in a blaze, and have faced fire at the Castle of the Hermitage."

"You speak the tongue of the Northern parts," he said; "are you noble?"

"A poor cousin of the Storeys of Netherby," I answered, which was true enough; and when he questioned me about my kin, I showed him that I knew every name and scutcheon of the line, my mother having instructed me in all such lore of her family. {38}

"And wherefore come you here alone, and in such plight?"

"By reason of a sword-stroke at Stainishawbank Fair," I answered boldly.

"Faith, then, I see no cause why, as your will is so good, you should not soon have your bellyful of sword-strokes. For, when once we have burned that limb of the devil, the Puzel" (for so the English call the Maid), "we shall shortly drive these forsworn dogs, the French, back beyond the Loire."

I felt my face reddening at these ill words, so I stooped, as if to clear my spur of mire.

"Shortly shall she taste the tar-barrel," I answered, whereat he swore and laughed; then, calling a clerk, bade him write my indenture, as is the English manner. Thus, thanks to my northern English tongue, for which I was sore beaten by the other boys when I was a boy myself, behold me a man-at-arms of King Henry, and so much of my enterprise was achieved.

I make no boast of valour, and indeed I greatly feared for my neck, both now and later. For my risk was that some one of the men-at- arms in Rouen, whither we were bound, should have seen my face either at Orleans, at Paris (where I was unhelmeted), or in the taking of the Bastille at Compiegne. Yet my visor was down, both at Orleans and Compiegne, and of those few who marked me in girl's gear in Paris none might chance to meet me at Rouen, or to remember me in changed garments. So I put a bold brow on it, for better might not be. None cursed the Puzel more loudly than I, and, without feigning, none longed so sorely as I for a fair wind to France, wherefore I was ever going about Winchelsea with my head in the air, gazing at the weather-cocks. And, as fortune would have it, the wind went about, and we on board, and with no long delay were at Rouen town.



RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE TO NEXT CHAPTER

Add Joan of Arc as Your Friend on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/saintjoanofarc1
 
Joan of Arc MaidOfHeaven
BUY NOW!
Sitemap for MaidOfHeaven.com
Contact By Email
Maid of Heaven Foundation

Please Consider Shopping With One of Our Supporters!


Copyright ©2007-2017 Maid of Heaven Foundation All rights reserved. Disclaimer



Fundamental Christian Topsites Top Sites In Education JCSM's Top 1000 Christian Sites - Free Traffic Sharing Service!

CLICK HERE to GO TO the Maid of Heaven Foundation