Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 18

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

And was this exclusion unjust? . . . The Christian's soul is too hum ble ever to pretend that it has a right to receive its God. . . . After all, what, who was she, to undertake to gainsay these prelates, these doctors? How dared she speak before so many able men - men who had studied? Was there not presumption and dam nable pride in an ignorant girl's oppos ing herself to the learned? a poor, simple girl, to men in authority ? . . . Undoubtedly fears of the kind agitated her mind.

On the other hand, this opposition is not Jeanne's, but that of the saints and angels who have dictated her answers to her, and, up to this time, sustained her. . . . Wherefore, alas I do they come no more in this pressing need of hers? Wherefore do those consoling countenances of the saints appear no more, except in a doubtful light, and growing paler daily? . . . Wherefore is the so long-promised deliverance delayed? . . . Doubtless the prisoner has put these questions to herself over and over again; doubtless, silently, gently, she has over and over again quarrelled with her saints and angels. But angels who do not keep their word, can they be angels of light? . . . Let us hope that this horrible thought did not occur to her mind.

There was one means of escaping : this was, without expressly disavow ing, to forbear affirming, and to say, " It seems to me." The lawyers thought it easy for her to pronounce these few simple words; but in her mind, to use so doubtful an expression was in reality equivalent to a denial ; it was abjuring her beautiful dream of heavenly friendships, betraying her sweet sisters on high. . . . Better to die. . . . And, indeed, the unfortu nate, rejected by the visible, aban doned by the invisible Church, by the world, and by her own heart, was sink ing. . . . And the body was following the sinking soul. . . .

It so happened that on that very day she had eaten part of a fish which the charitable bishop of Beauvais had sent her, and might have imagined herself poisoned. The bishop had an interest in her death; it would have put an end to this embarrassing trial, would have got the judge out of the scrape: but this was not what the English reckoned upon. The earl of Warwick, in his alarm, said, " The king would not have her by any means die a natural death. The king has bought her dear. . . . She must die by justice and be burnt. . . . Sea and cure her."

All attention, indeed, was paid her ; she was visited and bled, but was none the better for it, remaining weak and nearly dying. Whether through fear that she shoald escape thus and die without retracting, or that her bodily weakness inspired hopes that her mind would be more easily dealt with, the judges made an attempt while she was lying in this state (April 18). They visited her in her chamber, and repre sented to her that she would be in great danger if she did not reconsider, and follow the advice of the Church. " It seems to me, indeed," she said, '^ seeing my sickness, that I am in great danger of death. If so, God's will be done ; I should like to confess, receive my Saviour, and be laid in holy ground." - "If you desire the sacra ments of the Church, you must do as good Catholics do, and submit your self to it." She made no reply. But, on the judge's repeating his words, she said : " If the body die in prison, I hope that you will lay it in holy ground; if you do not, I appeal to our Lord."

Already, in the course of these ex aminations, she had expressed one of her last wishes. Question. "You say that you wear a man's dress by God's command, and yet, in case you die, you want a woman's shift?" - Answer. "All I want is to have a long one." This touching answer was ample proof that, in this ex tremity, she was much less occupied with care about life than with the fears of modesty.

The doctors preached to their patient for a long time; and he who had taken on himself the especial care of exhorting her, master Nicolas Midy, a scholastic of Paris, closed the scene by saying bitterly to her : " If you don't obey the Church, you will be abandoned for a Saracen." - "I am good Christian' she replied meekly, " I was properly baptized, and will die like a good Christian."

The slowness of these proceedings drove the Engh'sh wild with impatience. Winchester had hoped to have been able to bring the trial to an end before the campaign ; to have forced a confession from the prisoner, and have dishonored king Charles. This blow struck, he would recover Louviers, secure Normandy and the Seine, and then repair to B&le to begin another war, - a theological war, - to sit there as arbiter of Christendom, and make and unmake popes. At the v^ry moment he had these high designs in view, he was compelled to cool his heels, waiting upon what it might please this girl to say.

The unlucky Cauchon happened at this precise juncture to have offended the chapter of Rouen, from which he was soliciting a decision against the Pucelle : he had allowed himself to be addressed beforehand, as "My lord, the archbishop." Winchester deter mined to disregard the delays of these Normans, and to refer at once to the great theological tribunal, the Univer sity of Paris.

While waiting for the answer, new attempts were made to overcome the resistance of the accused ; and both stratagem and terror were brought into play. In the course of a second admonition (May 2), the preacher, master Ch&tillon, proposed to her to submit the question of the truth of her visions to persons of her own party. She did not give in to the snare. "As to this," she said, "I depend on my Judge, the King of heaven and earth." She did not say this time, as before, " On God and the popeJ^ - "Well, the Church will give you up, and you will be in danger of fire, both soul and body. You will not do what we tell you, until you suf fer body and soul."

They did not stop at vague threats. On the third admonition, which took place in her chamber (May 11), the executioner was sent for, and she was told that the torture was ready. . . . But the manoeuvre failed. On the contrary, it was found that she had resumed all, and more than all her courage. Raised up after temptation, she seemed to have mounted a step nearer the source of grace. "The angel Gabriel," she said, " has ap peared to strengthen me ; it was he, my saints have assured me so. . . .

God has been ever my master in what I have done ; the devil has never had power over me. . . . Though you should tear off my limbs and pluck my soul from my body, I would say nothing else." The spirit was so vis ibly manifested in her that her last adversary, the preacher Chatillon was touched, and became her defender, declaring that a trial so conducted seemed to him null. Cauchon, beside himself with rage, compelled him to silence.

The reply of the University arrived at last. The decision to which it came on the twelve articles was, that this girl was wholly the devils; was impious in regard to her parents; thirsted for Christian blood. This was the opinion given by the faculty of theology. That of law was more moderate, declaring her to be deserving of punishment, bat with two reservations - 1st, in case she persisted in her non-submission ; 2d, if she were in her right senses.


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