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Transcribed from the 1896 Longmans Green and Company edition by David
Price, email [email protected]

Being the Chronicle written by Norman Leslie of Pitcullo, concerning
marvellous deeds that befell in the realm of France, in the years of our
redemption, MCCCCXXIX-XXXI. Now first done into English out of the
French by Andrew Lang.


My Dear Aunt, - To you, who read to me stories from the History of France,
before I could read them for myself, this Chronicle is affectionately

Yours ever,



Norman Leslie of Pitcullo, whose narrative the reader has in his hands,
refers more than once to his unfinished Latin Chronicle. That work,
usually known as "The Book of Pluscarden," has been edited by Mr. Felix
Skene, in the series of "Historians of Scotland" (vol. vii.). To Mr.
Skene's introduction and notes the curious are referred. Here it may
suffice to say that the original MS. of the Latin Chronicle is lost; that
of six known manuscript copies none is older than 1480; that two of these
copies contain a Prologue; and that the Prologue tells us all that has
hitherto been known about the author.

The date of the lost Latin original is 1461, as the author himself avers.
He also, in his Prologue, states the purpose of his work. At the bidding
of an unnamed Abbot of Dunfermline, who must have been Richard Bothwell,
he is to abbreviate "The Great Chronicle," and "bring it up to date," as
we now say. He is to recount the events of his own time, "with certain
other miraculous deeds, which I who write have had cognisance of, seen,
and heard, beyond the bounds of this realm. Also, lastly, concerning a
certain marvellous Maiden, who recovered the kingdom of France out of the
hands of the tyrant, Henry, King of England. The aforesaid Maiden I saw,
was conversant with, and was in her company in her said recovery of
France, and till her life's end I was ever present." After "I was ever
present" the copies add "etc.," perhaps a sign of omission. The monkish
author probably said more about the heroine of his youth, and this the
copyists have chosen to leave out.

The author never fulfilled this promise of telling, in Latin, the history
of the Maid as her career was seen by a Scottish ally and friend. Nor
did he ever explain how a Scot, and a foe of England, succeeded in being
present at the Maiden's martyrdom in Rouen. At least he never fulfilled
his promise, as far as any of the six Latin MSS. of his Chronicle are
concerned. Every one of these MSS. - doubtless following their incomplete
original - breaks off short in the middle of the second sentence of
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

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

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

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

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

"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

"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

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

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