Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 14

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

She complained of the fetters on her limbs; and the bishop told her that as she had made several attempts to escape, they had been obliged to put them on. "It is true," she said, "I have done so, and it is allowable for any prisoner. If I escaped, I could not be raproached with having broken my word, for I had given no promise."

She was ordered to repeat the Paier and the Ave, perhaps in the superstitious idea that if she were vowed to the devil she durst not - " I will will ingly repeat them if my lord of Beauvais will hear me confess:" adroit and touching demand; by thus reposing her confidence in her judge, her en emy, she would have made him both her spiritual father and the witness of her innocence.

Cauchon declined the request; but I can well believe that he was moved by it. He broke up the sitting for that day, and on the day following did not continue the interrogatory himself, but deputed the office to one of his assessors.

At the fourth sitting she displayed unwonted animation. She did not conceal her having heard her voices : "They awakdned me," she said, "I clasped my hands in prayer, and be sought them to give me counsel ; they said to me, 'Ask of our Lord.'" - "And what more did they say?" - " To answer you boldly."

"...I cannot tell all ; I am much more fearful of saying any thing which may displease them, than I am of answering you. . . . For today, I beg you to question me no further."

The bishop, perceiving her emotion, persisted : " But, Jehanne, God is of fended, then, if one tells true things ? " - " My voices have told me certain things, not for you, but for the king." Then she added, with fervor, " Ah 1 if he knew them, he would eat his dinner with greater relish. . . . Would that he did know them, and would drink no wine from this to Easter."

She gave utterance to some sublime things, while prattling in this simple strain : " I come from God, I have naught to do harm; dismiss me to God, from whom I come. . . ."

" You say that you are my judge ; think well what you are about, for of a truth I am sent of God, and you are putting yourself in great danger."

There can be no doubt such language irritated the judges, and they put to her an insidious and base ques tion, a question which it is a crime to put to any man alive: "Jehanne, do you believe yourself to be in a state of grace? "

They thought they had bound her with an indissoluble knot. To say no, was to confess herself unworthy of having been God's chosen instrument; but, on the other hand, how say yes ? Which of us, frail beings as we are, is sure here below of being truly in God's grace? Not one, except the proud, presumptuous man, who, of all, is precisely the furthest from it.

She cut the knot, with heroic and Christian simplicity:

" If I am not, may God be pleased to receive me into it : if I am, may God be pleased to keep me in it." The Pharisees were struck speechless.

But, with all her heroism, she was nevertheless a woman. . . . After giv ing utterance in this sublime sentiment, she sank from the highwrought mood, and relapsed into the softness of her sex, doubting of her state, as is natural to a Christian soul, interro gating herself, and trying to gain con fidence : " Ah I if I knew that I were not in God's grace, I should be the most wretched being in the world. . . . But, if I were in a state of sin, no doubt the voice would not come. . . . Would that every one could hear it like myself. . . ."

These words gave a hold to her judges. After a long pause, they returned to the charge with redoubled hate, and pressed upon her question after question designed to ruin her. " Had not the voices told her to hate the Burgundians ? " . . ."Did she not go when a child to the Fairies^ tree ? " etc. . . . They now longed to burn her as a witch.

At the fifth sitting she was attacked on delicate and dangerous ground, namely, with regard to the appear ances she had seen. The bishop, be come all of a sudden compassionate and honied, addressed her with - " Jehanne, how have you been since Saturday ? " - " You see," said the poor prisoner, loaded with chains; "as well as I might."

"Jehanne, do you fast every day this Lent?" - "Is the question a necessary one ? " - " Yes, truly." "Well then, yes, I have always fasted."

She was then pressed on the sub ject of her visions, and with regard to a sign shown the dauphin, and con cerning St. Catherine and St. Michael. Among other insidious and indelicate questions, she was asked whether, when St. Michael appeared to her, he was naked ? ... To this shameful question she replied, without under standing its drift, and with heavenly purity, " Do you think, then, that our Lord has not wherewith to clothe him?"

On March 3, other outoftheway questions were put to her, in order to┬╗ entrap her into confessing some dia bolical agency, some evil correspond ence with the devil. " Has this Saint Michael of yours, have these holy women, a body and limbs ? Are you sure the figures you see are those of angels ? " - " Yes, I believe so, as firmly as I believe in God." This answer was carefully noted down.

They then turn to the subject of her wearing male attire, and of her stand ard. "Did not the soldiery make standards in imitation of yours ? Did they not replace them with others?" - "Yes, when the lance (staflf) hap pened to break." - "Did you not say that those standards would bring them luck?" - "No; I only said, 'Fall boldly upon the English,' and I fell upon them myself."

" But why was this standard borne at the coronation, in the church of Rheims, rather than those of the other captains ? . . ." " It had seen all the danger, and it was only fair that it should share the honor."

"What was the impression of the people who kissed your feet, hands, and garments ? " - " The poor came to me of their own freewill, because I never did them any harm, and as Bisted and protected them, as far as was in my power."

It was impossible for heart of man not to be touched with such answers. Cauchon thought it prudent to pro ceed henceforward with only a few assessors on whom he could rely, and quite quietly. We find the number of assessors varying at each sitting from the very beginning of the trial : some leave, and their places are taken by others. The place of trial is simi larly changed. The accused, who at first is interrogated in the hall of the castle of Rouen, is now questioned in prison. " In order not to fatigue the rest," Cauchon took there only two assessors and two witnesses, (from the 10th to the 17th of March.) He was, perhaps, emboldened thus to proceed . with shut doors, from being sure of the support of the Inquisition; the vicar having at length received from the InquisitorGeneral of France full powers to preside at the trial along with the bishop (March 12). In these fresh examinations; she is pressed only on a few points indicated beforehand by Cauchon.

" Did the voices command her to make that sally out of CompiSgne in which she was taken ? " To this she does not give a direct reply: "The saints had told me that I should be taken before midsummer; that it be hooved so to be, that I must not be astonished, but suflFer all cheerfully, and God would aid me. . . . Since it has so pleased God, it is for the best that I should have been taken."

" Do you think you did well in set ting out without the leave of your father and mother ? Ought we not to honor our parents?" - "They have forgiven me." - "And did you think you were not sinning in doing so?" - " It was by God's command ; and if I had had a hundred fathers and mothers I should have set out."

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