A Monk of Fife - Andrew Lang - ebook

Andrew Lang, FBA was a Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology. He is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. The Andrew Lang lectures at the University of St Andrews are named after him.

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A Monk of Fife

Andrew Lang


Chapter xxxii

. Book xii. Here is the brief fragment which that chapter contains:-

"In those days the Lord stirred up the spirit of a certain marvellous Maiden, born on the borders of France, in the duchy of Lorraine, and the see of Toul, towards the Imperial territories. This Maiden her father and mother employed in tending sheep; daily, too, did she handle the distaff; man's love she knew not; no sin, as it is said, was found in her, to her innocence the neighbours bore witness . . . "

Here the Latin narrative of the one man who followed Jeanne d'Arc through good and evil to her life's end breaks off abruptly. The author does not give his name; even the name of the Abbot at whose command he wrote "is left blank, as if it had been erased in the original" (Mr. Felix Skene, "Liber Pluscardensis," in the "Historians of Scotland," vii. p. 18). It might be guessed that the original fell into English hands between 1461 and 1489, and that they blotted out the name of the author, and destroyed a most valuable record of their conqueror and their victim, Jeanne d'Arc.

Against this theory we have to set the explanation here offered by Norman Leslie, our author, in the Ratisbon Scots College's French MS., of which this work is a translation. Leslie never finished his Latin Chronicle, but he wrote, in French, the narrative which follows, decorating it with the designs which Mr. Selwyn Image has carefully copied in black and white.

Possessing this information, we need not examine Mr. W. F. Skene's learned but unconvincing theory that the author of the fragmentary Latin work was one Maurice Drummond, out of the Lennox. The hypothesis is that of Mr. W. F. Skene, and Mr. Felix Skene points out the difficulties which beset the opinion of his distinguished kinsman. Our Monk is a man of Fife.

As to the veracity of the following narrative, the translator finds it minutely corroborated, wherever corroboration could be expected, in the large mass of documents which fill the five volumes of M. Quicherat's "Proces de Jeanne d'Arc," in contemporary chronicles, and in MSS. more recently discovered in French local or national archives. Thus Charlotte Boucher, Barthelemy Barrette, Noiroufle, the Scottish painter, and his daughter Elliot, Capdorat, ay, even Thomas Scott, the King's Messenger, were all real living people, traces of whose existence, with some of their adventures, survive faintly in brown old manuscripts. Louis de Coutes, the pretty page of the Maid, a boy of fourteen, may have been hardly judged by Norman Leslie, but he certainly abandoned Jeanne d'Arc at her first failure.

So, after explaining the true position and character of our monkish author and artist, we leave his book to the judgment which it has tarried for so long.



It is not of my own will, nor for my own glory, that I, Norman Leslie, sometime of Pitcullo, and in religion called Brother Norman, of the Order of Benedictines, of Dunfermline, indite this book. But on my coming out of France, in the year of our Lord One thousand four hundred and fifty-nine, it was laid on me by my Superior, Richard, Abbot in Dunfermline, that I should abbreviate the Great Chronicle of Scotland, and continue the same down to our own time. {1} He bade me tell, moreover, all that I knew of the glorious Maid of France, called Jeanne la Pucelle, in whose company I was, from her beginning even till her end.

Obedient, therefore, to my Superior, I wrote, in this our cell of Pluscarden, a Latin book containing the histories of times past, but when I came to tell of matters wherein, as Maro says, "pars magna fui," I grew weary of such rude, barbarous Latin as alone I am skilled to indite, for of the manner Ciceronian, as it is now practised by clerks of Italy, I am not master: my book, therefore, I left unfinished, breaking off in the middle of a sentence. Yet, considering the command laid on me, in the end I am come to this resolve, namely, to write the history of the wars in France, and the history of the blessed Maid (so far at least as I was an eyewitness and partaker thereof), in the French language, being the most commonly understood of all men, and the most delectable. It is not my intent to tell all the story of the Maid, and all her deeds and sayings, for the world would scarcely contain the books that should be written. But what I myself beheld, that I shall relate, especially concerning certain accidents not known to the general, by reason of which ignorance the whole truth can scarce be understood. For, if Heaven visibly sided with France and the Maid, no less did Hell most manifestly take part with our old enemy of England. And often in this life, if we look not the more closely, and with the eyes of faith, Sathanas shall seem to have the upper hand in the battle, with whose very imp and minion I myself was conversant, to my sorrow, as shall be shown.

First, concerning myself I must say some few words, to the end that what follows may be the more readily understood.

I was born in the kingdom of Fife, being, by some five years, the younger of two sons of Archibald Leslie, of Pitcullo, near St. Andrews, a cadet of the great House of Rothes. My mother was an Englishwoman of the Debatable Land, a Storey of Netherby, and of me, in our country speech, it used to be said that I was "a mother's bairn." For I had ever my greatest joy in her, whom I lost ere I was sixteen years of age, and she in me: not that she favoured me unduly, for she was very just, but that, within ourselves, we each knew who was nearest to her heart. She was, indeed, a saintly woman, yet of a merry wit, and she had great pleasure in reading of books, and in romances. Being always, when I might, in her company, I became a clerk insensibly, and without labour I could early read and write, wherefore my father was minded to bring me up for a churchman. For this cause, I was some deal despised by others of my age, and, yet more, because from my mother I had caught the Southron trick of the tongue. They called me "English Norman," and many a battle I have fought on that quarrel, for I am as true a Scot as any, and I hated the English (my own mother's people though they were) for taking and holding captive our King, James I. of worthy memory. My fancy, like that of most boys, was all for the wars, and full of dreams concerning knights and ladies, dragons and enchanters, about which the other lads were fain enough to hear me tell what I had read in romances, though they mocked at me for reading. Yet they oft came ill speed with their jests, for my brother had taught me to use my hands: and to hold a sword I was instructed by our smith, who had been prentice to Harry Gow, the Burn-the-Wind of Perth, and the best man at his weapon in broad Scotland. From him I got many a trick of fence that served my turn later.

But now the evil time came when my dear mother sickened and died, leaving to me her memory and her great chain of gold. A bitter sorrow is her death to me still; but anon my father took to him another wife of the Bethunes of Blebo. I blame myself, rather than this lady, that we dwelt not happily in the same house. My father therefore, still minded to make me a churchman, sent me to Robert of Montrose's new college that stands in the South Street of St. Andrews, a city not far from our house of Pitcullo. But there, like a wayward boy, I took more pleasure in the battles of the "nations"- -as of Fife against Galloway and the Lennox; or in games of catch- pull, football, wrestling, hurling the bar, archery, and golf--than in divine learning--as of logic, and Aristotle his analytics.

Yet I loved to be in the scriptorium of the Abbey, and to see the good Father Peter limning the blessed saints in blue, and red, and gold, of which art he taught me a little. Often I would help him to grind his colours, and he instructed me in the laying of them on paper or vellum, with white of egg, and in fixing and burnishing the gold, and in drawing flowers, and figures, and strange beasts and devils, such as we see grinning from the walls of the cathedral. In the French language, too, he learned me, for he had been taught at the great University of Paris; and in Avignon had seen the Pope himself, Benedict XIII., of uncertain memory.

Much I loved to be with Father Peter, whose lessons did not irk me, but jumped with my own desire to read romances in the French tongue, whereof there are many. But never could I have dreamed that, in days to come, this art of painting would win me my bread for a while, and that a Leslie of Pitcullo should be driven by hunger to so base and contemned a handiwork, unworthy, when practised for gain, of my blood.

Yet it would have been well for me to follow even this craft more, and my sports and pastimes less: Dickon Melville had then escaped a broken head, and I, perchance, a broken heart. But youth is given over to vanities that war against the soul, and, among others, to that wicked game of the Golf, now justly cried down by our laws, {2} as the mother of cursing and idleness, mischief and wastery, of which game, as I verily believe, the devil himself is the father.

It chanced, on an October day of the year of grace Fourteen hundred and twenty-eight, that I was playing myself at this accursed sport with one Richard Melville, a student of like age with myself. We were evenly matched, though Dickon was tall and weighty, being great of growth for his age, whereas I was of but scant inches, slim, and, as men said, of a girlish countenance. Yet I was well skilled in the game of the Golf, and have driven a Holland ball the length of an arrow-flight, there or thereby. But wherefore should my sinful soul be now in mind of these old vanities, repented of, I trust, long ago?

As we twain, Dickon and I, were known for fell champions at this unholy sport, many of the other scholars followed us, laying wagers on our heads. They were but a wild set of lads, for, as then, there was not, as now there is, a house appointed for scholars to dwell in together under authority. We wore coloured clothes, and our hair long; gold chains, and whingers {3} in our belts, all of which things are now most righteously forbidden. But I carried no whinger on the links, as considering that it hampered a man in his play. So the game went on, now Dickon leading "by a hole," as they say, and now myself, and great wagers were laid on us.

Now, at the hole that is set high above the Eden, whence you see far over the country, and the river-mouth, and the shipping, it chanced that my ball lay between Dickon's and the hole, so that he could in no manner win past it.

"You laid me that stimy of set purpose," cried Dickon, throwing down his club in a rage; "and this is the third time you have done it in this game."

"It is clean against common luck," quoth one of his party, "and the game and the money laid on it should be ours."

"By the blessed bones of the Apostle," I said, 'no luck is more common. To-day to me, to-morrow to thee! Lay it of purpose, I could not if I would."

"You lie!" he shouted in a rage, and gripped to his whinger.

It was ever my father's counsel that I must take the lie from none. Therefore, as his steel was out, and I carried none, I made no more ado, and the word of shame had scarce left his lips when I felled him with the iron club that we use in sand.

"He is dead!" cried they of his party, while the lads of my own looked askance on me, and had manifestly no mind to be partakers in my deed.

Now, Melville came of a great house, and, partly in fear of their feud, partly like one amazed and without any counsel, I ran and leaped into a boat that chanced to lie convenient on the sand, and pulled out into the Eden. Thence I saw them raise up Melville, and bear him towards the town, his friends lifting their hands against me, with threats and malisons. His legs trailed and his head wagged like the legs and the head of a dead man, and I was without hope in the world.

At first it was my thought to row up the river-mouth, land, and make across the marshes and fields to our house at Pitcullo. But I bethought me that my father was an austere man, whom I had vexed beyond bearing with my late wicked follies, into which, since the death of my mother, I had fallen. And now I was bringing him no college prize, but a blood-feud, which he was like to find an ill heritage enough, even without an evil and thankless son. My stepmother, too, who loved me little, would inflame his anger against me. Many daughters he had, and of gear and goods no more than enough. Robin, my elder brother, he had let pass to France, where he served among the men of John Kirkmichael, Bishop of Orleans--he that smote the Duke of Clarence in fair fight at Bauge.

Thinking of my father, and of my stepmother's ill welcome, and of Robin, abroad in the wars against our old enemy of England, it may be that I fell into a kind of half dream, the boat lulling me by its movement on the waters. Suddenly I felt a crashing blow on my head. It was as if the powder used for artillery had exploded in my mouth, with flash of light and fiery taste, and I knew nothing. Then, how long after I could not tell, there was water on my face, the blue sky and the blue tide were spinning round--they spun swiftly, then slowly, then stood still. There was a fierce pain stounding in my head, and a voice said -

"That good oar-stroke will learn you to steal boats!"

I knew the voice; it was that of a merchant sailor-man with whom, on the day before, I had quarrelled in the market-place. Now I was lying at the bottom of a boat which four seamen, who had rowed up to me and had broken my head as I meditated, were pulling towards a merchant-vessel, or carrick, in the Eden-mouth. Her sails were being set; the boat wherein I lay was towing that into which I had leaped after striking down Melville. For two of the ship's men, being on shore, had hailed their fellows in the carrick, and they had taken vengeance upon me.

"You scholar lads must be taught better than your masters learn you," said my enemy.

And therewith they carried me on board the vessel, the "St. Margaret," of Berwick, laden with a cargo of dried salmon from Eden- mouth. They meant me no kindness, for there was an old feud between the scholars and the sailors; but it seemed to me, in my foolishness, that now I was in luck's way. I need not go back, with blood on my hands, to Pitcullo and my father. I had money in my pouch, my mother's gold chain about my neck, a ship's deck under my foot, and the seas before me. It was not hard for me to bargain with the shipmaster for a passage to Berwick, whence I might put myself aboard a vessel that traded to Bordeaux for wine from that country. The sailors I made my friends at no great cost, for indeed they were the conquerors, and could afford to show clemency, and hold me to slight ransom as a prisoner of war.

So we lifted anchor, and sailed out of Eden-mouth, none of those on shore knowing how I was aboard the carrick that slipped by the bishop's castle, and so under the great towers of the minster and St. Rule's, forth to the Northern Sea. Despite my broken head-- which put it comfortably into my mind that maybe Dickon's was no worse--I could have laughed to think how clean I had vanished away from St. Andrews, as if the fairies had taken me. Now having time to reason of it quietly, I picked up hope for Dickon's life, remembering his head to be of the thickest. Then came into my mind the many romances of chivalry which I had read, wherein the young squire has to flee his country for a chance blow, as did Messire Patroclus, in the Romance of Troy, who slew a man in anger over the game of the chess, and many another knight, in the tales of Charlemagne and his paladins. For ever it is thus the story opens, and my story, methought, was beginning to-day like the rest.

Now, not to prove more wearisome than need be, and so vex those who read this chronicle with much talk about myself, and such accidents of travel as beset all voyagers, and chiefly in time of war, I found a trading ship at Berwick, and reached Bordeaux safe, after much sickness on the sea. And in Bordeaux, with a very sore heart, I changed the links of my mother's chain that were left to me--all but four, that still I keep--for money of that country; and so, with a lighter pack than spirit, I set forth towards Orleans and to my brother Robin.

On this journey I had good cause to bless Father Peter of the Abbey for his teaching me the French tongue, that was of more service to me than all my Latin. Yet my Latin, too, the little I knew, stood me in good stead at the monasteries, where often I found bed and board, and no small kindness; I little deeming that, in time to come, I also should be in religion, an old man and weary, glad to speak with travellers concerning the news of the world, from which I am now these ten years retired. Yet I love even better to call back memories of these days, when I took my part in the fray. If this be a sin, may God and the Saints forgive me, for if I have fought, it was in a rightful cause, which Heaven at last has prospered, and in no private quarrel. And methinks I have one among the Saints to pray for me, as a friend for a friend not unfaithful. But on this matter I submit me to the judgment of the Church, as in all questions of the faith.



The ways were rude and long from Bordeaux town to Orleans, whither I had set my face, not knowing, when I left my own country, that the city was beleaguered by the English. For who could guess that lords and knights of the Christian faith, holding captive the gentle Duke of Orleans, would besiege his own city?--a thing unheard of among the very Saracens, and a deed that God punished. Yet the news of this great villainy, namely, the leaguer of Orleans, then newly begun, reached my ears on my landing at Bordeaux, and made me greatly fear that I might never meet my brother Robin alive. And this my doubt proved but too true, for he soon after this time fell, with many other Scottish gentlemen and archers, deserted shamefully by the French and by Charles de Bourbon, Comte de Clermont, at the Battle of the Herrings. But of this I knew nothing--as, indeed, the battle was not yet fought--and only pushed on for France, thinking to take service with the Dauphin against the English. My journey was through a country ruinous enough, for, though the English were on the further bank of the Loire, the partisans of the Dauphin had made a ruin round themselves and their holds, and, not being paid, they lived upon the country.

The further north I held, by ways broken and ruined with rains and suns, the more bare and rugged grew the whole land. Once, stopping hard by a hamlet, I had sat down to munch such food as I carried, and was sharing my meal with a little brown herd-boy, who told me that he was dinnerless. A few sheep and lean kine plucked at such scant grasses as grew among rocks, and herbs useless but sweet- scented, when suddenly a horn was blown from the tower of the little church. The first note of that blast had not died away, when every cow and sheep was scampering towards the hamlet and a kind of "barmkyn" {4} they had builded there for protection, and the boy after them, running with his bare legs for dear life. For me, I was too amazed to run in time, so lay skulking in the thick sweet- smelling herbs, whence I saw certain men-at-arms gallop to the crest of a cliff hard by, and ride on with curses, for they were not of strength to take the barmkyn.

Such was the face of France in many counties. The fields lay weedy and untilled; the starving peasant-folk took to the highway, every man preying on his neighbour. Woods had grown up, and broken in upon the roads. Howbeit, though robbers harboured therein, none of them held to ransom a wandering poor Scots scholar.

Slowly I trudged, being often delayed, and I was now nearing Poictiers, and thought myself well on my road to Chinon, where, as I heard, the Dauphin lay, when I came to a place where the road should have crossed a stream--not wide, but strong, smooth, and very deep. The stream ran through a glen; and above the road I had long noted the towers of a castle. But as I drew closer, I saw first that the walls were black with fire and roofless, and that carrion birds were hovering over them, some enemy having fallen upon the place: and next, behold, the bridge was broken, and there was neither ford nor ferry! All the ruin was fresh, the castle still smouldering, the kites flocking and yelling above the trees, the planks of the bridge showing that the destruction was but of yesterday.

This matter of the broken bridge cost me little thought, for I could swim like an otter. But there was another traveller down by the stream who seemed more nearly concerned. When I came close to him, I found him standing up to his waist in the water, taking soundings with a long and heavy staff. His cordelier's frock was tucked up into his belt, his long brown legs, with black hairs thick on them, were naked. He was a huge, dark man, and when he turned and stared at me, I thought that, among all men of the Church and in religion whom I had ever beheld, he was the foulest and most fierce to look upon. He had an ugly, murderous visage, fell eyes and keen, and a right long nose, hooked like a falcon's. The eyes in his head shone like swords, and of all eyes of man I ever saw, his were the most piercing and most terrible. On his back he carried, as I noticed at the first, what I never saw on a cordelier's back before, or on any but his since--an arbalest, and he had bolts enough in his bag, the feathers showing above.

"Pax vobiscum," he cried, in a loud, grating voice, as he saw me, and scrambled out to shore.

"Et cum anima tua," I answered.

"Nom de Dieu!" he said, "you have bottomed my Latin already, that is scarce so deep as the river here. My malison on them that broke the bridge!" Then he looked me over fiercely.

"Burgundy or Armagnac?" he asked.

I thought the question strange, as a traveller would scarce care to pronounce for Burgundy in that country. But this was a man who would dare anything, so I deemed it better to answer that I was a Scot, and, so far, of neither party.

"Tug-mutton, wine-sack!" he said, these being two of many ill names which the French gave our countrymen; for, of all men, the French are least grateful to us, who, under Heaven and the Maid, have set their King on his throne again.

The English knew this, if the French did not; and their great King, Harry the Fifth, when he fell ill of St. Fiacre's sickness, after plundering that Scots saint's shrine of certain horse-shoes, silver- gilt, said well that, "go where he would, he was bearded by Scots, dead or alive." But the French are not a thankful people.

I had no answer very ready to my tongue, so stepped down silent to the water-edge, and was about taking off my doublet and hose, meaning to carry them on my head and swim across. But he barred the way with his staff, and, for me, I gripped to my whinger, and watched my chance to run in under his guard. For this cordelier was not to be respected, I deemed, like others of the Order of St. Francis, and all men of Holy Church.

"Answer a civil question," he said, "before it comes to worse: Armagnac or Burgundy?"

"Armagnac," I answered, "or anything else that is not English. Clear the causeway, mad friar!"

At that he threw down his staff.

"I go north also," he said, "to Orleans, if I may, for the foul "manants" and peasant dogs of this country have burned the castle of Alfonse Rodigo, a good knight that held them in right good order this year past. He was worthy, indeed, to ride with that excellent captain, Don Rodrigo de Villandradas. King's captain or village labourer, all was fish that came to his net, and but two days ago I was his honourable chaplain. But he made the people mad, and a great carouse that we kept gave them their opportunity. They have roasted the good knight Alfonse, and would have done as much for me, his almoner, frock and all, if wine had any mastery over me. But I gave them the slip. Heaven helps its own! Natheless, I would that this river were between me and their vengeance, and, for once, I dread the smell of roast meat that is still in my nostrils--pah!"

And here he spat on the ground.

"But one door closes," he went on, "and another opens, and to Orleans am I now bound, in the service of my holy calling."

"There is, indeed, cause enough for the shriving of souls of sinners, Father, in that country, as I hear, and a holy man like you will be right welcome to many."

"They need little shriving that are opposite my culverin," said this strange priest. "Though now I carry but an arbalest, the gun is my mistress, and my patron is the gunner's saint, St. Barbara. And even with this toy, methinks I have the lives of a score of goddams in my bolt-pouch."

I knew that in these wild days many clerics were careless as to that which the Church enjoins concerning the effusion of blood--nay, I have named John Kirkmichael, Bishop of Orleans, as having himself broken a spear on the body of the Duke of Clarence. The Abbe of Cerquenceaux, also, was a valiant man in religion, and a good captain, and, all over France, clerics were gripping to sword and spear. But such a priest as this I did not expect to see.

"Your name?" he asked suddenly, the words coming out with a sound like the first grating of a saw on stone.

"They call me Norman Leslie de Pitcullo," I answered. "And yours?"

"My name," he said, "is Noiroufle"--and I thought that never had I seen a man so well fitted with a name;--"in religion, Brother Thomas, a poor brother of the Order of the mad St. Francis of Assisi."

"Then, Brother Thomas, how do you mean to cross this water which lies between you and the exercise of your holy calling? Do you swim?"

"Like a stone cannon-ball, and, for all that I can find, the cursed water has no bottom. Cross!" he snarled. "Let me see you swim."

I was glad enough to be quit of him so soon, but I noticed that, as I stripped and packed my clothes to carry in a bundle on my head, the holy man set his foot in the stirrup of his weapon, and was winding up his arbalest with a windlass, a bolt in his mouth, watching at the same time a heron that rose from a marsh on the further side of the stream. On this bird, I deemed, he meant to try his skill with the arbalest.

"Adieu, Brother Thomas," I said, as I took the water; and in a few strokes I was across and running up and down on the bank to get myself dry. "Back!" came his grating voice--"back! and without your clothes, you wine-sack of Scotland, or I shoot!" and his arbalest was levelled on me.

I have often asked myself since what I should have done, and what was the part of a brave man. Perchance I might have dived, and swum down-stream under water, but then I had bestowed my bundle of clothes some little way off, and Brother Thomas commanded it from his side of the stream. He would have waited there in ambush till I came shivering back for hose and doublet, and I should be in no better case than I was now. Meanwhile his weapon was levelled at me, and I could see the bolt-point set straight for my breast, and glittering in a pale blink of the sun. The bravest course is ever the best. I should have thrown myself on the earth, no doubt, and so crawled to cover, taking my chance of death rather than the shame of obeying under threat and force. But I was young, and had never looked death in the face, so, being afraid and astonished, I made what seemed the best of an ill business, and, though my face reddens yet at the thought of it, I leaped in and swam back like a dog to heel.

"Behold me," I said, making as brave a countenance as I might in face of necessity.

"Well done, Norman Leslie de Pitcullo," he snarled, baring his yellow teeth. "This is the obedience which the young owe to the Church. Now, ferry me over; you are my boat."

"You will drown, man," I said. "Not while you swim."

Then, unbuckling his frock, he packed it as he had seen me do, bade me put it on my head, and so stepped out into the water, holding forth his arm to put about my neck. I was for teaching him how to lay it on my shoulder, and was bidding him keep still as a plank of wood, but he snarled -

"I have sailed on a boat of flesh before to-day."

To do him justice, he kept still as a log of wood, and so, yielding partly to the stream, I landed him somewhat further down than the place where my own clothes were lying. To them he walked, and very quietly picking up my whinger and my raiment that he gathered under his arm, he concealed himself in a thick bush, albeit it was leafless, where no man could have been aware of him. This amazed me not a little, for modesty did not seem any part of his nature.

"Now," says he, "fetch over my arbalest. Lying where I am you have no advantage to shoot me, as, nom de Dieu! I would have shot you had you not obeyed. And hark ye, by the way, unwind the arbalest before you cross; it is ever well to be on the safe side. And be sure you wet not the string." He pushed his face through the bush, and held in his mouth my naked whinger, that shone between his shining eyes.

Now again I say it, I have thought over this matter many a time, and have even laughed aloud and bitterly, when I was alone, at the figure of me shivering there, on a cold February day, and at my helpless estate. For a naked man is no match for a man with a whinger, and he was sitting on my clothes. So this friar, unworthy as he was of his holy calling, had me at an avail on every side, nor do I yet see what I could do but obey him, as I did. And when I landed from this fifth voyage, he laughed and gave me his blessing, and, what I needed more, some fiery spirits from a water-gourd, in which Father Thomas carried no water.

"Well done, my son," he said, "and now we are comrades. My life was not over safe on yonder side, seeing that the "manants" hate me, and respect not my hood, and two are better company than one, where we are going."

This encounter was the beginning of many evils, and often now the picture shines upon my eyes, and I see the grey water, and hear the cold wind whistle in the dry reeds of the river-bank whereon we sat.

The man was my master, Heaven help me! as surely as Sathanas was his. And though, at last, I slipped his clutches, as you shall hear (more readily than, I trow, he will scape his lord in the end, for he still lives), yet it was an ill day that we met--an ill day for me and for France. Howbeit we jogged on, he merrily enough singing a sculdudery song, I something surly, under a grey February sky, with a keen wind searching out the threadbare places in our raiment. My comrade, as he called himself, told me what passages he chose in the history of his life: how he came to be frocked (but 'cucullus non facit monachum'), and how, in the troubles of these times, he had discovered in himself a great aptitude for the gunner's trade, of which he boasted not a little. He had been in one and another of these armed companies that took service with either side, for hire, being better warriors and more skilled than the noblesse, but a curse to France: for, in peace or war, friend or foe, they plundered all, and held all to ransom. With Rodrigo de Villandradas, that blood-hound of Spain, he had been high in favour, but when Rodrigo went to harry south and east, he had tarried at Ruffec, with another thief of that nation, Alfonse Rodigo. All his talk, as we went, was of slaying men in fight; whom he slew he cared not much, but chiefly he hated the English and them of Burgundy. To him, war was what hunting and shooting game is to others; a cruel and bloody pastime, when Christians are the quarry!

"John the Lorrainer, and I, there are no others to be named with us at the culverin," he would brag. "We two against an army, give us good cover, and powder and leaden balls enough. Hey! Master John and I must shoot a match yet, against English targets, and of them there are plenty under Orleans. But if I make not the better speed, the town will have fallen, or yielded, rescue or no rescue, and of rescue there is no hope at all. The devil fights for the English, who will soon be swarming over the Loire, and that King of Bourges of ours will have to flee, and gnaw horse's fodder, oats and barley, with your friends in Scotland."

This was one of the many ungenerous taunts which the French made often against us Scots, that have been their ancient and leal brethren in arms since the days of King Achaius and Charlemagne.

"The Dauphin," he went on, "for King he is none, and crowned he will never be, should be in Orleans, leading his men; and lo! he is tied to the belt of fat La Tremouille, and is dancing of ballets at Chinon--a murrain on him, and on them that make his music!" Then he fell to cursing his King, a thing terrible to hear, and so to asking me questions about myself. I told him that I had fled my own country for a man-slaying, hoping, may Heaven forgive me! to make him think the higher of me for the deed.

"So we all begin," said he; "a shrewd blow, or a fair wench; a death, or a birth unlawful, 'tis all one forth we are driven to the world and the wars. Yet you have started well,--well enough, and better than I gave your girl's face credit for. Bar steel and rope, you may carry some French gold back to stinking Scotland yet."

He gave me so much credit as this for a deed that deserved none, but rather called for rebuke from him, who, however unworthy, was in religion, and wore the garb of the Blessed Francis. But very far from fortifying me in virtuous courses, as was his bounden duty, there was no wickedness that he did not try to teach me, till partly I hated him, and partly, I fear, I admired one so skilled in evil. The truth is, as I said, that this man, for that time, was my master. He was learned in all the arts by which poor and wandering folk can keep their bellies full wandering by the way. With women, ugly and terrible of aspect as he was, he had a great power: a pious saying for the old; a way with the young which has ever been a mystery to me, unless, as some of the learned think, all women are naturally lovers of wickedness, if strength and courage go with it. What by wheedling, what by bullying, what by tales of pilgrimages to holy shrines (he was coming from Jerusalem by way of Rome, so he told all we met), he ever won a welcome.

Other more devilish cantrips he played, one of them at the peasant's house where we rested on the first night of our common travel. The Lenten supper which they gave us, with no little kindness, was ended, and we were sitting in the firelight, Brother Thomas discoursing largely of his pilgrimages, and of his favour among the high clergy. Thus, at I know not what convent of the Clarisses, {5} in Italy, the holy Sisters had pressed on him a relic of Monsieur St. Aignan, the patron of the good town of Orleans. To see this relic, the farmer, his wife, and his sons and daughters crowded eagerly; it was but a little blackened finger bone, yet they were fain to touch it, as is the custom. But this he would not yet allow.

"Perchance some of you," he said, "are already corrupt, not knowing it, with the poisonous breath of that damnable Hussite heresy, which is blowing from the east like wind of the pestilence, and ye may have doubts concerning the verity of this most holy and miraculous relic?"

They all crossed themselves, protesting that no such wicked whisper of Sathanas had ever come into their minds, nor had they so much as heard of Huss and his blasphemies.

"Nay," said Brother Thomas, "I could scarcely blame you if it were partly as I said. For in this latter time of the world, when I have myself met Jews flocking to Babylon expecting the birth of Antichrist, there be many false brethren, who carry about feigned relics, to deceive the simple. We should believe no man, if he be, as I am, a stranger, unless he shows us a sign, such as now I will show you. Give me, of your grace, a kerchief, or a napkin." The goodwife gave him a clean white napkin from her aumbry, and he tore it up before their eyes, she not daring to stay his hand.

"Now note this holy relic and its wonderful power," he said, holding the blackened bone high in his left hand, and all our eyes were fixed on it. "Now mark," he said again, passing it over the napkin; and lo! there was a clean white napkin in his hands, and of the torn shreds not a trace!

We were still gaping, and crossing ourselves with blessings on this happy day and our unworthy eyes that beheld a miracle, when he did a thing yet more marvellous, if that might be, which I scarce expect any man will believe. Going to the table, and catching up a glass vessel on which the goodwife set great store, he threw it against the wall, and we all plainly heard it shiver into tinkling pieces. Then, crossing the room into the corner, that was dusky enough, he faced us, again holding the blessed relic, whereon we stared, in holy fear. Then he rose, and in his hand was the goodwife's glass vessel, without crack or flaw! {6}

"Such," he said, "are the properties of this miraculous relic; there is nothing broken but it will mend, ay, a broken limb, as I can prove on my own sinful body,"--thrusting out his great brown leg, whereon, assuredly, were signs of a fracture; "ay, a broken leg, or, my dear daughters, a broken heart." At this, of course, they were all eager to touch the blessed relic with their poor rings of base metal, such as they wear who are not rich. Nay, but first, he said, they must give their mites for a convent of the Clarisses, that was building at Castres, by the care of the holy Colette, whom he might call his patroness, unworthy as he was.

Then he showed us a safe-conduct, signed with that blessed woman's own hand, such as she was wont to give to the religious of the Order of St. Francis. By virtue of this, he said (and, by miracle, for once he said truly, as I had but too good cause to learn), he could go freely in and out among the camps of French, English, and Burgundians.

You may conceive how joyous they were in that poor cottage, on a night so blessed, and how Brother Thomas told us of the holy Colette, that famous nun and Mother in Christ, as he that had often been in her company. He had seen her body lifted in the air while she remained in a pious ecstasy, her mind soaring aloft and her fleshly body following it some way.

He had often watched that snow-white beast which followed her, such a creature as is known in no country of the sinful world, but is a thing of Paradise. And he had tried to caress this wondrous creature of God, but vainly, for none but the holy sister Colette may handle it. Concerning her miracles of healing, too, he told us, all of which we already knew for very truth, and still know on better warranty than his.

Ye may believe that, late and at last, Brother Thomas had his choice of the warmest place to sleep in--by the "four," as is the wont of pilgrims, for in his humility this holy man would not suffer the farmer's wife and the farmer to give him their bed, as they desired. I, too, was very kindly entreated by the young lads, but I could scarcely sleep for marvelling at these miracles done by one so unworthy; and great, indeed, I deemed, must be the virtue of that relic which wrought such signs in the hands of an evil man. But I have since held that he feigned all by art magic and very sorcery, for, as we wended next morning on our road, he plainly told me, truly or falsely, that he had picked up the blackened finger-bone out of the loathly ashes of the dead in the burned castle near Ruffec.

Wherefore I consider that when Brother Thomas sold the grace of his relic, by the touching of rings, he dealt in a devilish black simony, vending to simple Christians no grace but that of his master, Sathanas. Thus he was not only evil (if I guess aright, which I submit to the judgment of my ecclesiastical superiors, and of the Church), but he had even found out a new kind of wickedness, such as I never read of in any books of theology wherein is much to be learned. I have spoken with some, however, knights and men of this world, who deemed that he did but beguile our eyes by craft and sleight-of-hand.

This other hellish art he had, by direct inspiration, as I hold, of his master Behemoth, that he could throw his voice whither he would, so that, in all seeming, it came from above, or from below, or from a corner of a room, fashioning it to resemble the voice of whom he would, yet none might see his lips move. With this craft he would affray the peasants about the fire in the little inns where we sometimes rested, when he would be telling tales of bogles and eldritch fantasies, and of fiends that rout and rap, and make the tables and firkins dance. Such art of speech, I am advised, is spoken of by St. Jerome, in his comment on the holy prophet the saint Isaiah, and they that use it he calls "ventriloqui," in the Latin, or "belly-speakers," and he takes an unfavourable sense of them and their doings. So much I have from the learned William de Boyis, Prior of Pluscarden, where now I write; with whom I have conversed of these matters privately, and he thinks this art a thing that men may learn by practice, without dealing in nigromancy and the black magic. This question I am content to leave, as is fitting, to the judgment of my superiors. And indeed, as at that time, Brother Thomas spake not in his belly except to make sport and affray the simple people, soon turning their fears to mirth. Certainly the country folk never misdoubted him, the women for a holy man, the men for a good fellow; though all they of his own cloth shrank from him, and I have seen them cross themselves in his presence, but to no avail. He would say a word or two in their ears, and they straightway left the place where he might be. None the less, with his tales and arts, Brother Thomas commonly so wrought that we seldom slept "e la belle etoile" in that bitter spring weather, but we ordinarily had leave to lie by the hearth, and got a supper and a breakfast. The good peasants would find their hen-roosts the poorer often, for all that he could snap up was to him fortune of war.

I loved these manners little, but leave him I could not. His eye was ever on me; if I stirred in the night he was awake and watching me, and by day he never let me out of a bolt's flight. To cut the string of his wicked weapon was a thought often in my mind, but he was too vigilant. My face was his passport, he said; my face, indeed, being innocent enough, as was no shame to me, but an endless cause of mirth and mockery to him. Yet, by reason of the serviceableness of the man in that perilous country, and my constant surprise and wonder at what he did and said, and might do next (which no man could guess beforehand), and a kind of foolish pride in his very wickedness, so much beyond what I had ever dreamed of, and for pure fear of him also, I found myself following with him day by day, ever thinking to escape, and never escaping.

I have since deemed that, just as his wickedness was to a boy (for I was little more), a kind of charm, made up of a sort of admiring hate and fear, so my guilelessness (as it seemed to him) also wrought on him strangely. For in part it made sport for him to see my open mouth and staring eyes at the spectacle of his devilries, and in part he really hated me, and hated my very virtue of simplicity, which it was his desire and delight to surprise and corrupt.

On these strange terms, then, now drawn each to other, and now forced apart, we wended by Poictiers towards Chinon, where the Dauphin and his Court then lay. So we fared northwards, through Poitou, where we found evil news enough. For, walking into a village, we saw men, women, and children, all gathered, gaping about one that stood beside a horse nearly foundered, its legs thrust wide, its nostrils all foam and blood. The man, who seemed as weary as his horse, held a paper in his hands, which the priest of that parish took from him and read aloud to us. The rider was a royal messenger, one Thomas Scott of Easter Buccleuch, in Rankel Burn, whom I knew later, and his tidings were evil. The Dauphin bade his good towns know that, on the 12th of February, Sir John Stewart, constable of the Scottish forces in France, had fallen in battle at Rouvray, with very many of his company, and some Frenchmen. They had beset a convoy under Sir John Fastolf, that was bringing meat to the English leaguered about Orleans. But Fastolf had wholly routed them (by treachery, as we later learned of the Comte de Clermont), and Sir John Stewart, with his brother Sir William, were slain. Wherefore the Dauphin bade the good towns send him money and men, or all was lost.

Such were the evil tidings, which put me in sore fear for my brother Robin, one that, in such an onfall, would go far, as beseemed his blood. But as touching his fortunes, Thomas Scott could tell me neither good nor bad, though he knew Robin, and gave him a good name for a stout man-at-arms. It was of some comfort to me to hear a Scots tongue; but, for the rest, I travelled on with a heavier heart, deeming that Orleans must indeed fall ere I could seek my brother in that town.



My old nurse, when I was a child, used to tell me a long story of a prince who, wandering through the world, made friends with many strange companions. One she called Lynx-eye, that could see through a mountain; one was Swift-foot, that could outrun the wind; one was Fine-ear, that could hear the grass growing; and there was Greedy- gut, that could swallow a river. All these were very serviceable to this gracious prince, of I know not what country, in his adventures; and they were often brought into my mind by the companions whom we picked up on the grass-grown roads.

These wanderers were as strange as the friends of the prince, and were as variously, but scarce as honourably, gifted. There was the one-armed soldier, who showed his stump very piteously when it was a question of begging from a burgess, but was as well furnished with limbs as other men when no burgess was in sight. There was a wretched woman violer, with her jackanapes, and with her husband, a hang-dog ruffian, she bearing the mark of his fist on her eye, and commonly trailing far behind him with her brat on her back. There was a blind man, with his staff, who might well enough answer to Keen-eye, that is, when no strangers were in sight. There was a layman, wearing cope and stole and selling indulgences, but our captain, Brother Thomas, soon banished him from our company, for that he divided the trade. Others there were, each one of them a Greedy-gut, a crew of broken men, who marched with us on the roads; but we never entered a town or a house with these discreditable attendants.

Now, it may seem strange, but the nearer we drew to Chinon and the Court, the poorer grew the country, for the Court and the men-at- arms had stripped it bare, like a flight of locusts. For this reason the Dauphin could seldom abide long at one place, for he was so much better known than trusted that the very cordwainer would not let him march off in a new pair of boots without seeing his money, and, as the song said, he even greased his old clouted shoon, and made them last as long as he might. For head-gear he was as ill provided, seeing that he had pawned the fleurons of his crown. There were days when his treasurer at Tours (as I myself have heard him say) did not reckon three ducats in his coffers, and the heir of France borrowed money from his very cook. So the people told us, and I have often marvelled how, despite this poverty, kings and nobles, when I have seen them, go always in cloth of gold, with rich jewels. But, as you may guess, near the Court of a beggar Dauphin the country-folk too were sour and beggarly.

We had to tighten our belts before we came to the wood wherein cross-roads meet, from north, south, and east, within five miles of the town of Chinon. There was not a white coin among us; night was falling, and it seemed as if we must lie out under the stars, and be fed, like the wolves we heard howling, on wind. By the roadside, at the crossways, but not in view of the road, a council of our ragged regiment was held in a deep ditch. It would be late ere we reached the town, gates would scarce open for us, we could not fee the warders, houses would be shut and dark; the King's archers were apt to bear them unfriendly to wandering men with the devil dancing in their pouches. Resource we saw none; if there was a cottage, dogs, like wolves for hunger and fierceness, were baying round it. As for Brother Thomas, an evil bruit had gone before us concerning a cordelier that the fowls and geese were fain to follow, as wilder things, they say, follow the blessed St. Francis. So there sat Brother Thomas at the cross-roads, footsore, hungry, and sullen, in the midst of us, who dared not speak, he twanging at the string of his arbalest. He called himself our Moses, in his blasphemous way, and the blind man having girded at him for not leading us into the land of plenty, he had struck the man till he bled, and now stood stanching his wound.

Suddenly Brother Thomas ceased from his twanging, and holding up his hand for silence, leaned his ear to the ground. The night was still, though a cold wind came very stealthily from the east.

"Horses!" he said.

"It is but the noise of the brook by the way," said the blind man, sullenly.

Brother Thomas listened again.

"No, it is horses," he whispered. "My men, they that ride horses can spare somewhat out of their abundance to feed the poor." And with that he began winding up his arbalest hastily. "Aymeric," he said to one of our afflicted company, "you draw a good bow for a blind man; hide yourself in the opposite ditch, and be ready when I give the word "Pax vobiscum." You, Giles," he spoke to the one- armed soldier, "go with him, and, do you hear, aim low, at the third man's horse. From the sound there are not more than five or six of them. We can but fail, at worst, and the wood is thick behind us, where none may pursue. You, Norman de Pitcullo, have your whinger ready, and fasten this rope tightly to yonder birch-tree stem, and then cross and give it a turn or two about that oak sapling on the other side of the way. That trap will bring down a horse or twain. Be quick, you Scotch wine-bag!"

I had seen many ill things done, and, to my shame, had held my peace. But a Leslie of Pitcullo does not take purses on the high- road. Therefore my heart rose in sudden anger, I having all day hated him more and more for his bitter tongue, and I was opening my mouth to cry "A secours!"--a warning to them who were approaching, when, quick as lightning, Brother Thomas caught me behind the knee- joints, and I was on the ground with his weight above me. One cry I had uttered, when his hand was on my mouth.

"Give him the steel in his guts!" whispered the blind man.

"Slit his weasand, the Scotch pig!" said the one-armed soldier.

They were all on me now.

"No, I keep him for better sport," snarled Brother Thomas. "He shall learn the Scots for 'ecorcheurs' (flayers of men) "when we have filled our pouches."

With that he crammed a great napkin in my mouth, so that I could not cry, made it fast with a piece of cord, trussed me with the rope which he had bidden me tie across the path to trip the horses, and with a kick sent me flying to the bottom of the ditch, my face being turned from the road.

I could hear Giles and Aymeric steal across the way, and the rustling of boughs as they settled on the opposite side. I could hear the trampling hoofs of horses coming slowly and wearily from the east. At this moment chanced a thing that has ever seemed strange to me: I felt the hand of the violer woman laid lightly and kindly on my hair. I had ever pitied her, and, as I might, had been kind to her and her bairn; and now, as it appears, she pitied me. But there could be no help in her, nor did she dare to raise her voice and give an alarm. So I could but gnaw at my gag, trying to find scope for my tongue to cry, for now it was not only the travellers that I would save, but my own life, and my escape from a death of torment lay on my success. But my mouth was as dry as a kiln, my tongue was doubled back till I thought that I should have choked. The night was now deadly still, and the ring of the weary hoofs drew nearer and nearer. I heard a stumble, and the scramble of a tired horse as he recovered himself; for the rest, all was silent, though the beating of my own heart sounded heavy and husky in my ears.

Closer and closer the travellers drew, and soon it was plain that they rode not carelessly, nor as men who deemed themselves secure, for the tramp of one horse singled itself out in front of the others, and this, doubtless, was ridden by an "eclaireur," sent forward to see that the way ahead was safe. Now I heard a low growl of a curse from Brother Thomas, and my heart took some comfort. They might be warned, if the Brother shot at the foremost man; or, at worst, if he was permitted to pass, the man would bear swift tidings to Chinon, and we might be avenged, the travellers and I, for I now felt that they and I were in the same peril.

The single rider drew near, and passed, and there came no cry of "Pax vobiscum" from the friar. But the foremost rider had, perchance, the best horse, and the least wearied, for there was even too great a gap between him and the rest of his company.

And now their voices might be heard, as they talked by the way, yet not so loud that, straining my ears as I did, I could hear any words. But the sounds waxed louder, with words spoken, ring of hoofs, and rattle of scabbard on stirrup, and so I knew, at least, that they who rode so late were men armed. Brother Thomas, too, knew it, and cursed again very low.

Nearer, nearer they came, then almost opposite, and now, as I listened to hear the traitorous signal of murder--"Pax vobiscum"-- and the twang of bow-strings, on the night there rang a voice, a woman's voice, soft but wondrous clear, such as never I knew from any lips but hers who then spoke; that voice I heard in its last word, "Jesus!" and still it is sounding in my ears.

That voice said -

"Nous voile presqu'arrives, grace e mes Freres de Paradis."

Instantly, I knew not how, at the sound of that blessed voice, and the courage in it, I felt my fear slip from me, as when we awaken from a dreadful dream, and in its place came happiness and peace. Scarce otherwise might he feel who dies in fear and wakes in Paradise.