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HOW NORMAN LESLIE RODE AGAIN TO THE WARS
Tidings of these parleys, and marches, and surrenders of cities came to us at Tours, the King sending letters to his good towns by messengers. One of these, the very Thomas Scott of whom I have before spoken, a man out of Rankelburn, in Ettrick Forest, brought a letter for me, which was from Randal Rutherford.
"Mess-John Urquhart writes for me, that am no clerk," said Randal, "and, to spare his pains, as he writes for the most of us, I say no more than this: come now, or come never, for the Maid will ride to see Paris in three days, or four, let the King follow or not as he will."
There was no more but a cross marked opposite the name of Randal Rutherford, and the date of place and day, August the nineteenth, at Compiegne.
My face fired, for I felt it, when I had read this, and I made no more ado, but, covenanting with Thomas Scott to be with him when he rode forth at dawn, I went home, put my harness in order, and hired a horse from him that kept the hostelry of the "Hanging Sword," whither also I sent my harness, for that I would sleep there. This was all done in the late evening, secretly, and, after supper, I broke the matter to my master and Elliot. Her face changed to a dead white, and she sat silent, while my master took the word, saying, in our country speech, that "he who will to Cupar, maun to Cupar," and therewith he turned, and walked out and about in the garden.
We were alone, and now was the hardest of my work to do, to comfort Elliot, when, in faith, I sorely needed comfort myself. But honour at once and necessity called me to ride, being now fit to bear harness, and foreseeing no other chance to gain booty, or even, perchance, my spurs. Nor could I endure to be a malingerer. She sat there, very white, her lip quivering, but her eyes brave and steadfast.
I kneeled beside her, and in my hands I took her little hand, that was cold as ice.
"It is for the Maid, and for you, Elliot," I whispered; and she only bent her head on my shoulder, but her cold hand gripped mine firmly.
"She did say that you should come back unharmed of sword," whispered Elliot, looking for what comfort she might. "But, O my dear! you may be taken, and when shall I see you again? Oh! this life is the hardest thing for women, who must sit and tremble and pray at home. Sure no danger of war is so terrible! Ah, must you really go?"
Then she clung so closely about me, that it seemed as if I could never escape out of her arms, and I felt as if my heart must break in twain.
"How could I look men in the face, and how could I ever see the Maid again, if I go not?" I said; and, loosening her grasp, she laid her hands on my shoulders, and so gazed on me steadfastly, as if my picture could be fixed on the tablets of her brain.
"On your chin is coming a little down, at last," she said, smiling faintly, and then gave a sob, and her lips met mine, and our very souls met; but, even then, we heard my master's steps hobbling to the door, and she gave a cry, and fled to her chamber. And this was our leave-taking--brief, but I would not have had it long.
"It is ill work parting, Heaven help us," said my master. "Faith, I remember, as if it were to-day, how I set forth for Verneuil; a long time I was gone, and came back a maimed man. But it is fortune of war! The saints have you in their keeping, my son, and chiefly St. Andrew. Come back soon, and whole, and rich, for, meseems, if I lose one of you, I am to lose both."
Therewith he embraced me, and I set forth to the hostel where I was to lie that night.
Now, see how far lighter is life to men than to women, for, though I left the house with the heaviest heart of any man in Tours, often looking back at the candleshine in my lady's casement, yet, when I reached the "Hanging Sword," I found Thomas Scott sitting at his wine, and my heart and courage revived within me. He lacked nothing but one to listen, and soon was telling tales of the war, and of the road, and of how this one had taken a rich prisoner, and that one had got an arrow in his thigh, and of what chances there were to win Paris by an onslaught.
"For in no other can we take it," said he, "save, indeed, by miracle. For they are richly provisioned, and our hope is that, if we can make a breach, there may be a stir of the common folk, who are well weary of the English and the Burgundians."
Now, with his talk of adventures, and with high hopes, I was so heartened up, that, to my shame, my grief fell from me, and I went to my bed to dream of trenches and escalades, glory and gain. But Elliot, I fear me, passed a weary night, and a sorry, whereas I had scarce laid my head on my pillow, as it seemed, when I heard Thomas shouting to the grooms, and clatter of our horses' hoofs in the courtyard. So I leaped up, though it was scarce daylight, and we rode northwards before the full coming of the dawn.
Here I must needs write of a shameful thing, which I knew not then, or I would have ridden with a heavier heart, but I was told concerning the matter many years after, by Messire Enguerrand de Monstrelet, a very learned knight, and deep in the counsels of the Duke of Burgundy.
"You were all sold," he said to me, at Dijon, in the year of our Lord fourteen hundred and forty-seven--"you were all sold when you marched against Paris town. For the Maid, with D'Alencon, rode from Compiegne towards Paris, on the twenty-third of August, if I remember well"; and here he turned about certain written parchments that lay by him. "Yea, on the twenty-third she left Compiegne, but on the twenty-eighth of that month the Archbishop of Reims entered the town, and there he met the ambassadors of the Good Duke of Burgundy. There he and they made a compact between them, binding your King and the Duke, that their truce should last till Noel, but that the duke might use his men in the defence of Paris against all that might make onfall. Now, the Archbishop and the King knew well that the Maid was, in that hour, marching on Paris. To what purpose make a truce, and leave out of the peace the very point where war should be? Manifestly the French King never meant to put forth the strength of his army in helping the Maid. There was to be truce between France and Burgundy, but none between England and the Maid."
So Messire Enguerrand told me, a learned knight and a grave, and thus was the counsel of the saints defeated by the very King whom they sought to aid. But of this shameful treaty we men-at-arms knew nothing, and so hazarded our lives against loaded dice.
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