Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 21

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

In reality, it was not to the interest of the English that she should resume her man's dress^ and so make null and void a retractation obtained with such difficulty. But at this moment, their rage no longer knew any bounds. Saintrailles had just made a bold attempt upon Rouen. It would have been a hicky hit to have swept oflf the judges from the judgment-seat, and have carried Winchester and Bedford to Poitiers; the latter was, subse quently, all but taken on his return, between Bouen and Paris. As long as this accursed girl lived, who, be yond a doubt, continued in prison to practice her sorceries, there was no safety for the English: perish, she must.

The assessors, who had notice in male attire? In this, both the Catholic and the Protestant historian sink into the mere Englishman. stantly given them of her change of dress, found some hundred English in the court to obstruct their passage ; who, thinking that if these doctors entered, they might spoil all, threat ened them with their axes and swords, and chased them out, calling them traitors of Armagnacs. Cauchon, in troduced with much difficulty, as sumed an air of gayety to pay his court to Warwick, and said with a laugh, " She is caught."

On the Monday, he returned along with the inquisitor and eight assess ors, to question the Pucelle, and ask her why she had resumed that dress. She made no excuse, but bravely fac ing the danger, said that the dress was fitter for her as long as she was guarded by men, and that faith had not been kept with her. Her saints, too, had told her, " that it was great pity she had abjured to save her life." Still, she did not refuse to resume woman's dress. " Put me in a seemly and safe prison," she said, " I will be good, and do whatever the Church shall wish."

On leaving her, the bishop encoun tered Warwick and a crowd of English; and to show himself a good Eng lishman, he said in their tongue, "Farewell, farewell." This joyous adieu was about synonymous with " Good evening, good evening ; all's over."

On the Tuesday, the judges got up at the archbishop's palace a court of assessors as they best might ; some of them had assisted at the first sittings only, others at none : in fact, com posed of men of all sorts, priests, legists, and even three physicians. The judges recapitulated to them what had taken place, and asked their opinion. This opinion, quite different from what was expected, was that the prisoner should be summoned, and her act of abjuration be read over to her. Whether this was in the power of the judges is doubtful. In the midst of the fury and swords of a raging sol diery, there was in reality no judge, and no possibiUty of judgment. Blood was the one thing wanted ; and that of the judges was, perhaps, not far from flowing. They hastily drew up a summons, to be served the next morning at eight o'clock : she was not to appear, save to be burnt.

Cauchon sent her a confessor in the morning, brother Martin PAdvenu, "to prepare her for her death, and per suade her to repentance. . . . And when he apprized her of the death she was to die that day, she began to cry out grievously, to give way, and tear her hair : - ' Alas I am I to be treated so horribly and cruelly ? must my body, pure as from birth, and which was never contaminated, be this day con sumed and reduced to ashes? Hal ha ! I would rather be beheaded seven times over than be burnt on this wise. ... Oh ! I make my appeal to God, the great judge of the wrongs and grievances done me ! ' "

After this burst of grief, she re covered herself and confessed. she then asked to communicate. The brother was embarrassed; but con sulting the bishop, the latter told him to administer the sacrament, ''and whatever else she might ask." Thus, at the very moment he condemned her as a relapsed heretic, and cut her off from the Church, he gave her all that the Church gives to her faithful.

. Perhaps a last sentiment of humanity awoke in the heart of the wicked judge : he considered it enough to burn the poor creature, without driv ing her to despair, and damning her. Perhaps, also, the wicked priest, through freethinking levity, allowed her to receive the sacraments as a thing of no consequence, which, after all, might serve to calm and silence the sufiferer. . . . Besides, it was at tempted to do it privately, and the eucharist was brought without stole and light. But the monk complained, and the Church of Rouen, duly warned, was delighted to show what it thought of the judgment pronounced by C?au chon ; it sent along with the body of Christ numerous torches and a large escort of priests, who sang litanies, and, as they passed through the streets, told the kneeling people, " Pray for her."

After partaking of the communion, which she received with abundance of tears, she perceived the bishop, and addressed him with the words, " Bish op, I die through you. . . ." And, again, " Had you put me in the pris ons of the Church, and given me ghostly keepers, this would not have happened. . . . And for this, I sum mon you to answer before God."

Then, seeing among the bystanders Pierre Morice, one of the preachers by whom she had been addressed, she said to him, "Ah, master Pierre, where shall I be this evening?" - "Have you not good hope in the Lord ? " - " Oh 1 yes ; God to aid, I shall be in Paradise."

It was nine o'clock: she was dressed in female attire, and placed on a cart. On one side of her was brother Martin Ladvenu ; the constable, Massieu, was on the other. The Augustine monk, brother Isambart, who had already displayed such charity and courage, would not quit her. It is stated that the wretched Loyseleur also ascended the cart, to ask her pardon: but for the earl of Warwick, the English would have killed him.*

* This, however, is only a rumor (Audivit dici. . . .), a dramatic incident, with which popular tra dition has, perhaps, gratnitonsly adorned the tale.

Up to this moment the Pucelle had never despaired, wiih the exception, perhaps, of her temptation in the Pas sion week. While saying, as she at times would say, " These English will kill me," she in reality did not think so. She did not imagine that she could ever be deserted. She had faith in her king, in the good people of France. She had said expressly, "There will be some disturbance either ia prison or at the trial, by which I shall be delivered, . . . great ly, victoriously delivered." . . . But though king and people deserted her, she had another source of aid, and a far more powerful and certain one, from her friends above, her kind and dear saints. . . . When she was as saulting Saint-Pierre, and deserted by her followers, her saints sent an invisi ble army to her aid. How could they abandon their obedient girl; they who had so often promised her sc^ety and deliverance, . .

What then must her thoughts have been, when she saw that she must die; when, carried in a cart, she passed through a trembling crowd, under the guard of eight hundred Englishmen armed with sword and lance. She wept and bemoaned herself, yet re proached neither her king nor her saints. . . She was only heard to utter, '' Rouen, Bouen 1 must I then die here ? "


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