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 VII
CONCERNING THE WRATH OF ELLIOT,
AND THE JEOPARDY OF NORMAN LESLIE

The while we went down into the city of Chinon, a man attired as a maid, a maiden clad as a man--strange companions!--we held but little converse. Her mind, belike, was on fire with a great light of hope, of which afterwards I learned, and the end of the days of trouble and of men's disbelief seemed to her to be drawing near. We may not know what visions of victory and of auxiliary angels, of her King crowned, and fair France redeemed and at peace, were passing through her fancy. Therefore she was not fain to talk, being at all times a woman of few words; and in this, as in so many other matters, unlike most of her sex.

On my side I had more than enough to think of, for my case and present jeopardy were enough to amaze older and wiser heads than mine. For, imprimis, I had slain one of the King's guards; and, moreover, had struck the first blow, though my adversary, indeed, had given me uttermost provocation. But even if my enemies allowed me to speak in my own defence, which might scarcely be save by miracle, it was scantly possible for me to prove that the other had insulted me and my country. Some little hope I had that Sir Patrick Ogilvie, now constable of the Scottish men-at-arms in France, or Sir Hugh Kennedy, or some other of our knights, might take up my quarrel, for the sake of our common blood and country, we Scots always backing each the other when abroad. Yet, on the other hand, it was more probable that I might be swinging, with a flock of crows pecking at my face, before any of my countrymen could speak a word for me with the King.

It is true that they who would most eagerly have sought my life deemed me already dead, drowned in the fosse, and so would make no search for me. Yet, as soon as I went about my master's affairs, as needs I must, I would be known and taken; and, as we say in our country proverb, "my craig would ken the weight of my hurdies." {12} None the less, seeing that the soldiers deemed me dead, I might readily escape at once from Chinon, and take to the roads again, if but I could reach my master's house unseen, and get rid of this foolish feminine gear of cap and petticoat which now I wore to my great shame and discomfort.

But on this hand lay little hope; for, once on the road, I should be in a worse jeopardy than ever before, as an apprentice fled from my master, and, moreover, with blood on my hands. Moreover, I could ill brook the thought of leaving Elliot, to whom my heart went forth in love, and of missing my chance to strike a blow in the wars for the Maiden, and against the English; of which reward I had the promise from my master. Fortune, and fame, and love, if I were to gain what every young man most desires, were only to be won by remaining at Chinon; but there, too, the face of death was close to mine--as, indeed, death, or at least shame and poverty, lay ambushed for me on all sides.

Here I sadly remembered how, with a light heart, I had left St. Andrews, deeming that the story of my life was now about to begin, as it did for many young esquires of Greece and other lands, concerning whom I had read in romances. Verily in the tale of my adventures hitherto there had been more cuffs than crowns, more shame than honour; and, as to winning my spurs, I was more in point to win a hempen rope, and in my end disgrace my blood.

Now, as if these perils were not enough to put a man beside himself, there was another risk which, even more than these, took up my thoughts. Among all my dangers and manifold distresses, this raised its head highest in my fancy, namely, the fear that my love should see me in my outlandish guise, clad in woman's weeds, and carrying on my head a woman's burden. It was not so much that she must needs laugh and hold me in little account. Elliot laughed often, so that now it was not her mirth, to which she was ever ready, but her wrath (whereto she was ready also) that I held in awful regard. For her heart and faith, in a marvellous manner passing the love of women, were wholly set on this maid, in whose company I now fared. And, if the Maid went in men's attire (as needs she must, for modesty's sake, who was about men's business, in men's company), here was I attending her in woman's gear, as if to make a mock of her, though in my mind I deemed her no less than a sister of the saints. And Elliot was sure to believe that I carried myself thus in mockery and to make laughter; for, at that time, there were many in France who mocked, as did that soldier whose death I had seen and caused. Thus I stood in no more danger of death, great as was that risk, than in jeopardy of my mistress's favour, which, indeed, of late I had been in some scant hope at last to win. Thus, on all hands, I seemed to myself as sore bestead as ever man was, and on no side saw any hope of succour.

I mused so long and deep on these things, that the thought which might have helped me came to me too late, namely, to tell all my tale to the Maiden herself, and throw me on her mercy. Nay, even when at last and late this light shone on my mind, I had shame to speak to her, considering the marvellous thing which I had just beheld of her, in the fulfilment of her prophecy. But now my master's house was in sight, at the turning from the steep stairs and the wynd, and there stood Elliot on the doorstep, watching and waiting for the Maid, as a girl may wait for her lover coming from the wars.

There was no time given me to slink back and skulk in the shadow of the corner of the wynd; for, like a greyhound in speed, Elliot had flown to us and was kneeling to the Maid, who, with a deep blush and some anger in her face--for she loved no such obeisances--bade her rise, and so kissed and embraced her, as young girls use among themselves when they are friends and fain of each other. I had turned myself to go apart into the shadow of the corner, as secretly as I might, when I ran straight into the arms of the archer that followed close behind us. On this encounter he gave a great laugh, and, I believe, would have kissed me; but, the Maiden looking round, he stood erect and grave as a soldier on guard, for the Maiden would suffer no light loves and daffing.

"Whither make you, damsel, in such haste?" she cried to me. "Come, let me present you to this damsel, my friend--and one of your own country-women. Elliot, ma mie," she said to my mistress, "here is this kind lass, a Scot like yourself, who has guided me all the way from the castle hither, and, faith, the way is hard to find. Do you thank her for me, and let her sit down in your house: she must be weary with the weight of her basket and her linen"--for these, when she spoke to me, I had laid on the ground. With this she led me up to Elliot by the hand, who began to show me very gracious countenance, and to thank me, my face burning all the while with confusion and fear of her anger.

Suddenly a new look, such as I had never seen before on her face in her light angers, came into her eyes, which grew hard and cold, her mouth also showing stiff; and so she stood, pale, gazing sternly, and as one unable to speak. Then -

"Go out of my sight," she said, very low, "and from my father's house! Forth with you for a mocker and a gangrel loon!"--speaking in our common Scots,--"and herd with the base thieves from whom you came, coward and mocking malapert!"

The storm had fallen on my head, even as I feared it must, and I stood as one bereft of speech and reason.

The Maid knew no word of our speech, and this passion of Elliot's, and so sudden a change from kindness to wrath, were what she might not understand.

"Elliot, ma mie," she said, very sweetly, "what mean you by this anger? The damsel has treated me with no little favour. Tell me, I pray, in what she has offended."

But Elliot, not looking at her, said to me again, and this time tears leaped up in her eyes--"Forth with you! begone, ere I call that archer to drag you before the judges of the good town."

I was now desperate, for, clad as I was, the archer had me at an avail, and, if I were taken before the men of the law, all would be known, and my shrift would be short.

"Gracious Pucelle," I said, in French, turning to the Maiden, "my life, and the fortune of one who would gladly fight to the death by your side, are in your hands. For the love of the blessed saints, your sisters, and of Him who sends you on your holy mission, pray this demoiselle to let me enter the house with you, and tell my tale to you and her. If I satisfy you not of my honour and good intent, I am ready, in this hour, to go before the men of law, and deliver myself up to their justice. For though my life is in jeopardy, I dread death less than the anger of this honourable demoiselle. And verily this is a matter of instant life or death."

So saying, I clasped my hands in the manner of one in prayer, setting all my soul into my speech, as a man desperate.

The Maiden had listened very gravely, and sweetly she smiled when my prayer was ended.

"Verily," she said to me, "here is deeper water than I can fathom. Elliot, ma mie, you hear how gently, and in what distress, this fair lass beseeches us."

"Fair lass!" cried Elliot: and then broke off between a sob and a laugh, her hand catching at her side.

"If you love me," said the Maid, looking on her astonished, and not without anger--"if you love me, as you have said, you that are the first of my comforters, and, till this day, my only friend in your strange town, let the lass come in and tell us her tale. For, even if she be distraught, and beside herself, as I well deem, I am sent to be a friend of all them that suffer. Moreover, ma mie, I have glad tidings for you, which I am longing to speak, but speak it I will never, while the lass goes thus in terror and fear of death or shame."

In saying these last words, the fashion of her countenance was changed to a sweet entreaty and command, such as few could have beheld and denied her what she craved, and she laid her hand lightly on Elliot's shoulder.

"Come," said Elliot, "be it as you will; come in with me; and you"-- turning to myself--"do you follow us."

They passed into the house, I coming after, and the archer waiting at the door.

"Let none enter," said the Maiden to her archer, "unless any come to me from the King, or unless it be the master of the house."

We passed into the chamber where my master was wont to paint his missals and psalters when he would be alone. Then Elliot very graciously bade the Maiden be seated, but herself stood up, facing me.

"Gracious Maiden, and messenger of the holy saints," she said, "this lass, as you deem her, is no woman, but a man, my father's apprentice, who has clad himself thus to make of you a mockery and a laughing-stock, because that you, being a maid, go attired as a man, by the will of Them who sent you to save France. Have I said enough, and do I well to be angry?" and her eyes shone as she spoke.

The Maiden's brows met in wrath; she gazed upon me steadfastly, and I looked--sinful man that I am!--to see her hand go to the hilt of the sword that she wore. But, making no motion, she only said -

"And thou, wherefore hast thou mocked at one who did thee no evil, and at this damsel, thy master's daughter?"

"Gentle Maiden," I said, "listen to me for but a little moment. It may be, when thou hast heard all, that thou wilt still be wroth with me, though not for mockery, which was never in my mind. But the gentle damsel, thy friend, will assuredly pardon me, who have already put my life in peril for thy sake, and for the sake of our dear country of Scotland and her good name."

"Thy life in peril for me! How mean you? I stood in no danger, and I never saw your face before."

"Yet hast thou saved my life," I said; "but of that we may devise hereafter. I am, indeed, though a gentleman by blood and birth, the apprentice of the father of this damsel, thy friend, who is himself a gentleman and of a good house, but poverty drives men to strange shifts. This day I went with my master to the castle, and I was on the drawbridge when thou, with the gentlemen thy esquires, passed over it to see the King. On that bridge a man-at-arms spoke to thee shameful words, blaspheming the holy name of God. No sooner hadst thou gone by than he turned on me, reviling my native country of Scotland. Then I, not deeming that to endure such taunts became my birth and breeding, struck him on his lying mouth. Then, as we wrestled on the bridge, we both struck against the barrier, which was low, frail, and old, so that it gave way under our weight, and we both fell into the moat. When I rose he was not in sight, otherwise I would have saved him by swimming, for I desire to have the life of no man on my hands in private quarrel. But the archers shot at me from the drawbridge, so that I had to take thought for myself. By swimming under the water I escaped, behind a jutting rock, to a secret stair, whence I pushed my way into a chamber of the castle. Therein was a damsel, busy with the linen, who, of her goodwill, clad me in this wretched apparel above my own garb, and so, for that time, saved my life, and I passed forth unknown; but yet hath caused me to lose what I prize more highly than life--that is, the gracious countenance of this gentle lady, thy friend and my master's daughter, whom it is my honour and duty in all things to please and serve. Tell me, then, do I merit your wrath as a jester and a mock-maker, or does this gentle lady well to be angry with her servitor?"

The Maiden crossed herself, and murmured a prayer for the soul of him who had died in the moat. But Elliot instantly flew to me, and, dragging off my woman's cap, tore with her fair hands at the white linen smock about my neck and waist, so that it was rent asunder and fell on the floor, leaving me clad in my wet doublet and hose.

At this sight, without word spoken, she broke out into the merriest laughter that ever I heard, and the most welcome; and the Maid too, catching the malady of her mirth, laughed low and graciously, so that to see and hear her was marvel.

"Begone!" cried Elliot--"begone, and shift thy dripping gear"; and, as I fled swiftly to my chamber, I heard her laughter yet, though there came a sob into it; but for the Maid, she had already stinted in her mirth ere I left the room.

In this strange and unseemly fashion did I first come into the knowledge of this admirable Maid--whom, alas! I was to see more often sad than merry, and weeping rather than laughing, though, even in her utmost need, her heart could be light and her mirth free: a manner that is uncommon even among brave men, but, in women, never known by me save in her. For it is the way of women to be very busy and seriously concerned about the smallest things, whereat a man only smiles. But she, with her life at stake, could pluck gaiety forth of danger, if the peril threatened none but herself. These manners of hers I learned to know and marvel at in the later days that came too soon; but now in my chamber, I shifted my wet raiment for dry with a heart wondrous light. My craig {13} was in peril, as we say, neither less nor more than half an hour agone, but I had escaped the anger of Elliot; and even, as I deemed, had won more of her good countenance, seeing that I had struck a blow for Scotland and for her friend. This thought made me great cheer in my heart; as I heard, from the room below, the voices of the two girls devising together very seriously for nigh the space of an hour. But, knowing that they might have matters secret between themselves to tell of, for the Maiden had said that she brought good tidings, I kept coy and to myself in my little upper chamber. To leave the house, indeed, was more than my life was worth. Now to fly and hide was what I could not bring myself to venture; here I would stay where my heart was, and take what fortune the saints might send. So I endured to wait, and not gladden myself with the sight of Elliot, and the knowledge of how I now stood with her. To me this was great penance, but at last the voices ceased, and, looking secretly from the window, I saw the Maiden depart, her archer following her.

Now I could no longer bridle in my desire to be with Elliot, and learn whether I was indeed forgiven, and how I stood in her favour. So, passing down the stair that led from my cubicle, I stood at the door of the room wherein she was and knocked twice. But none answered, and, venturing to enter, I heard the sound of a stifled sob. She had thrown herself on a settle, her face turned to the wall, and the afternoon sun was shining on her yellow hair, which lay loose upon her shoulders.

I dared to say no word, and she only made a motion of her hand towards me, that I should begone, without showing me the light of her countenance. On this I went forth stealthily, my heart again very heavy, for the Maiden had spoken of learning good tidings; and wherefore should my mistress weep, who, an hour agone, had been so merry? Difficult are the ways of women, a language hard to be understood, wherefore "love," as the Roman says, "is full of anxious fears."

Much misdoubting how I fared in Elliot's heart, and devising within myself what this new sorrow of Elliot's might signify, I half forgot my own danger, yet not so much as to fare forth of the doors, or even into the booth, where customers might come, and I be known. Therefore I passed into a room behind the booth, where my master was wont to instruct me in my painting; and there, since better might not be, I set about grinding and mixing such colours as I knew that he required.

I had not been long about this task, when I heard him enter the booth from without, whence he walked straight into my workroom. I looked up from my colours, whereat his face, which was ruddy, grew wan, he staggered back, and, being lame, reeled against the wall. There he brought up, crossing himself, and making the sign of the cross at me.

"Avaunt!" he said, "in the name of this holy sign, whether thou art a wandering spirit, or a devil in a dead man's semblance."

"Master," I said, "I am neither spirit nor devil. Was it ever yet heard that brownie or bogle mixed colours for a painter? Nay, touch me, and see whether I am not of sinful Scots flesh and blood"; and thereon I laughed aloud, knowing what caused his fear, and merry at the sight of it, for he had ever held tales of "diablerie," and of wraiths and freits and fetches, in high scorn.

He sat him down on a chair and gaped upon me, while I could not contain myself from laughing.

"For God's sake," said he, "bring me a cup of red wine, for my wits are wandering. Deil's buckie," he said in the Scots, "will water not drown you? Faith, then, it is to hemp that you were born, as shall shortly be seen."

I drew him some wine from a cask that stood in the corner, on draught. He drank it at one venture, and held out the cup for more, the colour coming back into his face.

"Did the archers tell me false, then, when they said that you had fired up at a chance word, and flung yourself and the sentinel into the moat? And where have you been wasting your time, and why went you from the bridge ere I came back, if the archers took another prentice lad for Norman Leslie?"

"They told you truth," I said.

"Then, in the name of Antichrist--that I should say so!--how scaped you drowning, and how came you here?"

I told him the story, as briefly as might be.

"Ill luck go with yon second-sighted wench that has bewitched Elliot, and you too, for all that I can see. Never did I think to be frayed with a bogle, {14} and, as might have been deemed, the bogle but a prentice loon, when all was done. To my thinking all this fairy work is no more true than that you are a dead man's wraith. But they are all wild about it, at the castle, where I was kept long, doing no trade, and listening to their mad clatter."

He took out of his pouch a parcel heedfully wrapped in soft folds of silk.

"Here is this Book of Hours," he said, "that I have spent my eyesight, and gold, purple, and carmine, and cobalt upon, these three years past; a jewel it is, though I say so. And I had good hope to sell it to Hugh Kennedy, for he has of late had luck in taking two English knights prisoners at Orleans--the only profitable trade that men now can drive,--and the good knight dearly loves a painted book of devotion; especially if, like this of mine, it be adorned with the loves of Jupiter, and the Swan, and Danae, and other heathen pliskies. We were chaffering over the price, and getting near a bargain, when in comes Patrick Ogilvie with a tale of this second-sighted Maid, and how she had been called to see the King, and of what befell. First, it seems, she boded the death of that luckless limb of a sentinel, and then you took it upon you to fulfil her saying, and so you and he were drowned, and I left prenticeless. Little comfort to me it was to hear Kennedy and Ogilvie praise you for a good Scot and true, and say that it was great pity of your death."

At this hearing my heart leaped for joy, first, at my own praise from such good knights, and next, because I saw a blink of hope, having friends at Court. My master went on -

"Next, Ogilvie told how he had been in hall, with the Dauphin, the Chancellor Tremouille, and some scores of knights and nobles, a great throng. They were all waiting on this Lorrainer wench, for the Dauphin had been told, at last, that she brought a letter from Baudricourt, but before he would not see her. This letter had been kept from him, I guess by whom, and there was other clash of marvels wrought by her, I know not what. So their wisdom was set on putting her to a kind of trial, foolish enough! A young knight was dressed in jewels and a coronet of the King's, and the King was clad right soberly, and held himself far back in the throng, while the other stood in front, looking big. So the wench comes in, and, walking straight through the press of knights, with her head high, kneels to the King, where he stood retired, and calls him "gentle Dauphin"!

""Nay, ma mie," says he, "'tis not I who am the Dauphin, but his Highness yonder,"--pointing to the young knight, who showed all his plumage like a muircock in spring.

"Nay, gentle Dauphin," she answers, so Ogilvie said, "it is to thee that I am sent, and no other, and I am come to save the good town of Orleans, and to lead thee to thy sacring at Rheims."

"Here they were all struck amazed, and the King not least, who then had some words apart with the girl. And he has given her rooms in the Tour Coudraye within the castle; and the clergy and the doctors are to examine her straitly, whether she be from a good airt, {15} or an ill, and all because she knew the King, she who had never seen him before. Why should she never have seen him--who warrants me of it?--she dwelling these last days nigh the castle! Freits are folly, to my thinking, and fools they that follow them. Lad, you gave me a gliff; pass me another stoup of wine! Freits, forsooth!"

I served him, and he sat and chuckled in his chair, being pleasured by the thought of his own wisdom. "Not a word of this to Elliot, though," he said suddenly; "when there is a woman in a house-- blessings on her!--it is anything for a quiet life! But, "nom Dieu!" what with the fright you gave me, sitting there, whereas I deemed you were meat for eels and carp, and what with thy tale--ha, ha!--and my tale, and the wine, maybe, I forgot your own peril, my lad. Faith, your neck is like to be longer, if we be not better advised."

Hearing him talk of that marvellous thing, wrought through inspiration by the Maid--whereat, as his manner was, he mocked, I had clean forgotten my own jeopardy. Now this was instant, for who knew how much the archer might have guessed, that followed with the Maid and me, and men-at-arms might anon be at our door.

"It may be," said I, "that Sir Patrick Ogilvie and Sir Hugh Kennedy would say a word for me in the King's ear."

"Faith, that is our one chance, and, luckily for you, the lad you drowned, though in the King's service, came hither in the following of a poor knight, who might take blood-ransom for his man. Had he been La Tremouille's man, you must assuredly have fled the country."

He took up his Book of Hours, with a sigh, and wrapped it again in its silken parcel.

"This must be your price with Kennedy," he said, "if better may not be. It is like parting with the apple of my eye, but, I know not well how, I love you, my lad, and blood is thicker than water. Give me my staff; I must hirple up that weary hill again, and you, come hither."

He led me to his own chamber, where I had never been before, and showed me how, in the chimney-neuk, was a way into a certain black hole of little ease, wherein, if any came in search for me, I might lie hidden. And, fetching me a cold fish (Lenten cheer), a loaf, and a stoup of wine, whereof I was glad enough, he left me, groaning the while at his ill-fortune, but laden with such thanks as I might give for all his great kindness.

There then, I sat, when I had eaten, my ears pricked to listen for the tramp of armed men below and the thunder of their summons at the door. But they came not, and presently my thought stole back to Elliot, who, indeed, was never out of my mind then--nay, nor now is. But whether that memory be sinful in a man of religion or not, I leave to the saints and to good confession. Much I perplexed myself with marvelling why she did so weep; above all, since I knew what hopeful tidings she had gotten of her friend and her enterprise. But no light came to me in my meditations. I did not know then that whereas young men, and many lasses too, are like the Roman lad who went with his bosom bare, crying "Aura veni," and sighing for the breeze of Love to come, other maidens are wroth with Love when he creeps into their hearts, and would fain cast him out--being in a manner mad with anger against Love, and against him whom they desire, and against themselves. This mood, as was later seen, was Elliot's, for her heart was like a wild bird trapped, that turns with bill and claw on him who comes to set it free. Moreover, I have since deemed that her passion of faith in the Maid made war on her love for me; one breast being scantly great enough to contain these two affections, and her pride taking, against the natural love, the part of the love which was divine.

But all these were later thoughts, that came to me in musing on the sorrows of my days; and, like most wisdom, this knowledge arrived too late, and I, as then, was holden in perplexity.



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