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

Cover for Monk of Fife by Andrew Lang

CHAPTER IX
OF THE WINNING OF ELLIOT

The days of fever and of dreams went by and passed, leaving me very weak, but not ignorant of where I was, and of what had come and gone. My master had often been by my bedside, and Elliot now and again; the old housewife also watched me by night, and gave me drink when I thirsted. Most of the while I deemed I was at home, in the house of Pitcullo; yet I felt there was something strange, and that there was pain somewhere in the room. But at length, as was said, I came to knowledge of things, and could see Elliot and remember her, when she knelt praying by my bed, as oft she did, whiles I lay between life and death. I have heard speak of men who, being inflamed with love, as I had been, fell into a fever of the body, and when that passed, lo! their passion had passed with it, and their longing. And so it seemed to be with me. For some days I was not permitted to utter a word, and later, I was as glad in Elliot's company as you may have seen a little lad and lass, not near come to full age, who go playing together with flowers and such toys. So we were merry together, the jackanapes keeping us company, and making much game and sport.

Perchance these were my most blessed days, as of one who had returned to the sinless years, when we are happier than we know, and not yet acquainted with desire. Now and again Rutherford and Lindsay would come to visit me, seeming strangely still and gentle, speaking little, but looking at me with kind eyes, and vowing that my tailor should yet be paid for his labour. Capdorat also came, for he had but suffered a flesh wound with much loss of blood, and we showed each other the best countenance. So time went by, while I grew stronger daily; and now it was ordained by the leech, a skilful man, that I might leave my bed, and be clothed, and go about through the house, and eat stronger food, whereof I had the greatest desire, and would ever be eating like a howlet. {19} Now, when I was to rise, I looked that they should bring me my old prentice's gabardine and hose, but on the morning of that day Elliot came, bearing in her arms a parcel of raiment very gay and costly.

"Here is your fine clothing new come from the tailor's booth," she cried merrily. "See, you shall be as bright as spring, in green, and white, and red!"

There was the bonnet, with its three coloured plumes, and the doublet, with Charles wrought in silver on the arm and breast, and all other things seemly--a joy to mine eyes.

She held them up before me, her face shining like the return of life, with a happy welcome; and my heart beat to see and hear her as of old it was wont to do.

"And wherefore should not I go to the wars," she cried, "and fight beside the Maid? I am as tall as she, if scantly so strong, and brave--oh, I am very brave "Glacidas, I bid you beware!" she said, putting the archer's bonnet gallantly cocked on her beautiful head, and drawing forth the sword from his scabbard, as one in act to fight, but in innocent unwarlike wise.

There she stood before me in the sunlight, like the Angel of Victory, all glad and fair, and two blue rays from her eyes shot into my heart, and lo! I was no more a child, but a man again and a lover.

"O Elliot," I said, ere ever I wist what I was saying, and I caught her left hand into mine--"O Elliot, I love you! Give me but your love, and I shall come back from the wars a knight, and claim my love to be my lady."

She snatched her hand suddenly, as if angered, out of mine, and therewith, being very weak, I gave a cry, my wound fiercely paining me. Then her face changed from rose-red to lily-white, she dropped on her knees by my bed, and her arms were about my neck, and all over my face her soft, sweet-scented hair and her tears.

"Oh, I have slain you, I have slain you, my love!" she sobbed, making a low, sweet moan, as a cushat in the wild wood, for I lay deadly still, being overcome with pain and joy. And there I was, my love comforting me as a mother comforts her child.

I moved my hand, to take hers in mine--her little hand; and so, for a space, there was silence between us, save for her kind moaning, and in my heart was such gladness as comes but once to men, and may not be spoken in words of this world.

There was silence between us; then she rose very gently and tossed back her hair, showing her face wet with tears, but rosy-red with happiness and sweet shame. Had it not been for that chance hurt, how long might I have wooed ere I won her? But her heart was molten by my anguish.

"Hath the pain passed?" she whispered.

"Sweet was the pain, my love, and sweetly hast thou healed it with thy magic."

Then she kissed me, and so fled from the room, as one abashed, and came not back that day, when, indeed, I did not rise, nor for two days more, being weaker than we had deemed. But happiness is the greatest leech on earth, and does the rarest miracles of healing; so in three days' space I won strength to leave my bed and my room, and could sit by the door, at noon, in the sun of spring, that is warmer in France than in our own country.

Now it could not be but that Elliot and I must meet, when her father was in town about his affairs, or busy in the painting-room, and much work he had then on his hands. But Elliot was right coy, hiding herself from me, who watched warily, till one day, when my master was abroad, I had the fortune to find her alone in the chamber, putting spring flowers in a very fair vessel of glass. I made no more ado, but coming in stealthily, I caught her boldly about the body, saying -

"Yield you, rescue or no rescue, and strive not against me, lest you slay a wounded man-at-arms."

For very fear, as I believe, lest she might stir my wound again, she was still as a bird that lies in your hands when once you have caught it. And all that passes of kiss and kind word between happy lovers passed between us, till I prayed of her grace, that I might tell her father how things stood, for well I had seen by his words and deeds that he cherished me as a son. So she granted this, and we fell to devising as to what was to be in days to come. Lackland was I, and penniless, save for my pay, if I got it; but we looked to the common fortune of young men-at-arms, namely, spoil of war and the ransom of prisoners of England or Burgundy. For I had set up my resolve either to die gloriously, or to win great wealth and honour, which, to a young man and a lover, seem things easily come by. Nor could my master look for a great fortune in marriage, seeing that, despite his gentle birth, he lived but as a burgess, and by the work of his hands.

As we thus devised, she told me how matters now were in the country, of which, indeed, I still knew but little, for, to a man sick and nigh upon death, nothing imports greatly that betides beyond the walls of his chamber. What I heard was this: namely, that, about Orleans, the English ever pressed the good town more closely, building new bastilles and other great works, so as to close the way from Blois against any that came thence of our party with victual and men-at-arms. And daily there was fighting without the walls, wherein now one side had the better, now the other; but food was scant in Orleans, and many were slain by cannon-shots. Yet much was spoken of a new cannonier, lately come to aid the men of Orleans, and how he and John of Lorraine slew many of the hardiest of the English with their couleuvrines.

At this telling I bethought me of Brother Thomas, but spoke no word concerning him, for my mistress began very gladly to devise of her dear Maid, concerning whom, indeed, she could never long be silent. "Faithless heart and fickle," I said in a jest, "I believe you love that Maid more than you love me, and as she wears sword at side, like a man, I must even challenge her to fight in the island."

Here she stayed my speech in the best manner and the most gracious, laughing low, so that, verily, I was clean besotted with love, and marvelled that any could be so fair as she, and how I could have won such a lady.

"Beware how you challenge my Maid," said she at last, "for she fights but on horseback, with lance and sperthe, {20} and the Duc d'Alencon has seen her tilt at the ring, and has given her the best steed in his stables, whereon she shall soon lead her army to Orleans."

"Then I must lay by my quarrel, for who am I to challenge my captain? But, tell me, hath she heard any word of thee and me?"

Elliot waxed rosy, and whispered -

"We had spoken together about thee, ere she went to Poictiers to be examined and questioned by the doctors of law and learning, after thou wert wounded." Concerning this journey to Poictiers I knew nothing, but I was more concerned to hear what the Maid had said about Elliot and me. For seeing that the Maid herself was vowed (as men deemed) to virginity, it passed into my mind that she might think holy matrimony but a low estate, and might try to set my mistress's heart on following her own example. And then, I thought, but foolishly, Elliot's love for me might be weaker than her love for the Maid.

"Yes," my lady went on, "I could not but open my heart about thee and me, to one who is of my own age, and so wise, unlike other girls. Moreover, I scarce knew well whether your heart was like disposed with my heart. Therefore I devised with her more than once or twice."

Hiding her face on my breast, she spoke very low; and as my fancy had once seen the children, the dark head and the golden, bowed together in prayer for France and the Dauphin, so now I saw them again, held close together in converse, and that strange Maid and Prophetess listening, like any girl, to a girl's tale of the secrets of her heart.

"And what counsel gave the Maid?" I said; "or had she any prophecy of our fortune?"

"Nay, on such matters she knows no more than you or I, or knows but seldom, nor seeks to learn from her counsel. Only she is bidden that she must rescue Orleans, and lead the Dauphin to his sacring at Rheims. But she wished me well, and comforted me that your heart was even as my own, as she saw on that day when you wore woman's gear and slew him that blasphemed her. And of you she spoke the best words, for that you, who knew her not, took her part against her enemy. And for your wound she sorrowed much, not knowing, more than I who am simple, whether it would turn to life or death. And if to life, then, if she could but persuade the doctor and clergy and the King's counsellors to let her go, she said that you should follow with her to the wars, and she, if so the saints pleased, would be the making of your fortune, you and I being her first friends."

"The saints fight for her!" I said, "for we have done our part thus far, and I would that I may be well ere she raises her standard."

But here Elliot turned right pale, at the thought of my going to the wars, she holding my face off and gazing steadily upon me with wistful eyes.

"O God, send that the Maid go speedily!" she cried, "for as now you are not fit to bear arms."

"Thou wouldst not have me lag behind, when the Maid's banner is on the wind?"

"Nay," she said, but slowly, "thee and all that I have would I give for her and for her cause, and for the saints. But now thou must not go,"--and her eyes yearned upon me--"now that I could overthrow thee if we came to war."

So here she laughed again, being like the weather without--a changeful thing of shower and shine.

Thus we continued devising, and she told me that, some days after my wounding, the Maid had held converse apart with the King, and then gave him to wit of certain marvellous matters, that none might know save by heavenly inspiration. But what these matters might be none could tell, save the King and the Maiden only.

That this was sooth I can affirm, having myself been present in later years, when one that affected to be the very Pucelle, never slain, or re-arisen by miracle, came before the King, and truly she had beguiled many. Then the King said, "Welcome Pucelle, ma mie, thou art welcome if thou hast memory of that secret thing which is between thee and me." Whereon this false woman, as one confounded, fell on her knees and confessed her treason.

This that Elliot told me, therefore, while the sun shone into the chamber through the bare vine-tendrils, was sooth, and by this miracle, it seems, the Maid had at last won the ear of the King. So he bade carry her to Poictiers, where the doctors and the learned were but now examining into her holy life, and her knowledge of religion, being amazed by the wisdom of her answers. The noble ladies about her, too, and these mendicant friars that were sent to hold inquisition concerning her at Domremy, had found in her nothing but simplicity and holy maidenhood, pity and piety. But, as for a sign of her sending, and a marvel to convince all men's hearts, that, she said, she would only work at Orleans. So now she was being accepted, and was to raise her standard, as we had cause to believe.

"But," said Elliot, "the weeks go by, and much is said, and men and victual are to be gathered, and still they tarry, doing no great deed. Oh, would that to-day her standard were on the wind! for to- day, and for these many days, I must have you here, and tend you till you be fit to bear arms."

Therewith she made me much good cheer; then, very tenderly taking her arms from about me, lest I should be hurt again, she cried -

"But we speak idly, and thou hast not seen the standard, and the banner, and the pennon of the Maid that my father is painting."

Then I must lean on her shoulder, as, indeed, I still had cause to do, and so, right heedfully, she brought me into the painting- chamber. There, upon great easels, were stretched three sheets of "bougran," {21} very white and glistering--a mighty long sheet for the standard, a smaller one, square, for the banner, and the pennon smaller yet, in form of a triangle, as is customary.

The great standard, in the Maiden's wars, was to be used for the rallying of all her host; the pennon was a signal to those who fought around her, as guards of her body; and about the banner afterwards gathered, for prayer and praise, those men, confessed and clean of conscience, whom she had called and chosen.

These cloths were now but half painted, the figures being drawn, by my master's hands, and the ground-colours laid; but some portions were quite finished, very bright and beautiful. On the standard was figured God the Father, having the globe in His hand; two angels knelt by Him, one holding for His blessing the lily of France. The field was to be sown with fleurs-de-lys, and to bear the holy names: Jhesu--Maria. On the banner was our Lord crucified between the Holy Virgin and St. John. And on the pennon was wrought the Annunciation, the angel with a lily kneeling to the Blessed Virgin. On the standard, my master, later, fashioned the chosen blazon of the Maid--a dove argent, on a field azure. But the blazon of the sword supporting the crown, between two lilies, that was later given to her and her house, she did not use, as her enemies said she did, out of pride and vainglory, mixing her arms with holy things, even at Rheims at the sacring. For when she was at Rheims, no armorial bearings had yet been given to her. Herein, then, as always, they lied in their cruel throats; for, as the Psalmist says, "Quare fremuerunt gentes?"

All these evil tongues, and all thought of evil days, were far from us as we stood looking at the work, and praising it, as well we might, for never had my master wrought so well. Now, as I studied on the paintings, I well saw that my master had drawn the angel of the pennon in the likeness of his own daughter Elliot. Wonderful it was to see her fair face and blue eyes, holy and humble, with the gold halo round her head.

"Ah, love," I said, "that banner I could follow far, pursuing fame and the face of my lady!"

With that we fell into such dalliance and kind speech as lovers use, wholly rapt from the world in our happiness.

Even then, before we so much as heard his step at the door, my master entered, and there stood we, my arm about her neck and hers about my body, embracing me.

He stood with eyes wide open, and gave one long whistle.

"Faith!" he cried, "our surgery hath wrought miracles! You are whole beyond what I looked for; but surely you are deaf, for my step is heavy enough, yet, me thinks, you heard me not."

Elliot spoke no word, but drawing me very heedfully to a settle that was by the side of the room, she fled without looking behind her.

"Sir," I said, as soon as she was gone, "I need make no long story-- "

"Faith, no!" he answered, standing back from the banner and holding his hands at each side of his eyes, regarding his work as limners do. "You twain, I doubt not, were smitten senseless by these great masterpieces, and the thought of the holy use to which they were made."

"That might well have been, sir, but what we had covenanted to tell you this day we have told unwittingly, methinks, already. I could not be in your daughter's company, and have the grace of her gentle ministerings--"

"But you must stand senseless before her father's paintings? Faith, you are a very grateful lad! But so it is, and I am not one of those blind folk who see not what is under their eyes. And now, what now? Well, I can tell you. You are to be healed, and follow these flags to war, and win your spurs, and much wealth by ransoms, and so make my lass your lady. Is it not so?"

I was abashed by his "bourdes," and could say nought, for, being still very weak, the tears came into my eyes. Then he drew near me, limping, and put his hand on my shoulder, but very gently, saying -

"Even so be it, my son, as better may not be. 'Tis no great match, but I looked, in this country, for nothing nobler or more wealthy. That my lass should be happy, and have one to fend for her, there is my affair, and I am not one of those fathers who think to make their daughters glad by taking from them their heart's desire. So cheer up! What, a man-at-arms weeping! Strange times, when maids lead men-at-arms and men-at-arms weep at home!"

With these words he comforted me, and made me welcome, for indeed he was a kind man and a wise; so many there are that cause shrewd sorrow when there should be joy in their houses! This was never his way, and wise do I call him, for all that has come and gone.

In a little time, when I had thanked him, and shown him, I trow, how he stood in my love, he bade me go to my chamber and be at rest, saying that he must take thought as to how matters stood.

"For you are not yet fit to bear arms, nor will be for these many days. Nor is it seemly, nor our country's custom, that my maid should dwell here in the house with you, as things are between you, and I must consider of how I may bestow her till you march with your troop, if marching there is to be."

This I dared not gainsay, and so I went to my chamber with a heart full of grief and joy, for these hours that are all of gladness come rarely to lovers, and to me were scantly measured. Perchance it was for my soul's welfare, to win me from the ways of the world.

But to Elliot and me that night bore no joy, but sorrow, albeit passing. At supper we met, indeed, but she stayed with us not long after supper, when my master, with a serious countenance, told me how he had taken counsel with a very holy woman, of his own kin, widow of an archer, and how she was going on pilgrimage to our Lady of Puy en Velay, by reason of the jubilee, for this year Good Friday and the Annunciation fell on the same day.

"To-morrow she sets forth, and whatsoever prayer can do for France and the King shall be done. Always, after this day of jubilee, they say that strange and great matters come to pass. That there will be strange matters I make no doubt, for when before, save under holy Deborah in Scripture, did men follow a woman to war? May good come of it! However it fall out, Elliot is willing to go on pilgrimage, for she is very devout. Moreover, she tells me that it had been in her mind before, for the mother of that Maid is to be at Puy, praying for her daughter, as, certes, she hath great need, if ever woman had. And Elliot is fain to meet her and devise with her about the Maid. And for you, you still need our nursing, and the sooner you win strength, the nearer you are to that which you would win. Still, I am sorry, lad, for I remember my courting days and the lass's mother, blessings on her!"

To all this I could make no answer but that his will was mine; and so the day ended in a mingling of gladness and sorrow.

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