Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 3

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

In her family, she encountered not only resistance but temptation; for they attempted to marry her, in the hope of winning her back to more rational notions, as they considered. A young villager pretended that in her childhood she had promised to marry him ; and on her denying this, he cited her before the ecclesiastical Judge of Toul. It was imagined that rather than undertake the effort of speaking in her own defence, she would submit to marriage. To the great astonish ment of all who knew her, she went to Toul, appeared in court, and spoke - she who had been noted for her modest silence.

In order to escape from the authority of her family, it behooved her to find in the bosom of that family some one who would believe in her : this was the most difficult part of all. In default of her father, she made her uncle a convertite to the truth of her mission. He took her home with him, as if to attend her aunt who was lyingin. She persuaded him to appeal on her behalf to the sire de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucouleurs. The soldier gave a cool reception to the peasant, and told him that the best thing to be done was " to give her a good whipping," and take her back to her father. She was not discouraged ; she would go to him, and forced her uncle to accompany her. This was the decisive moment; she quitted forever her village and family, and embraced her friends, above all, her good little friend, Mengette, whom she recommended to God's keeping; as to her elder friend and companion, Haumette, her whom she loved most of all, she preferred quitting without leavetaking.

At length she reached this city of Vaucouleurs, attired in her coarse red peasant's dress, and took np her lodging with her uncle at the house of a wheel wright, whose wife conceived a friend ship for her. She got herself taken to Baudricourt, and said to him in a firm tone, " That she came to him from her Lord, to the end that he might send the dauphin word to keep firm, and to fix no day of battle with the enemy, for his Lord would send him succor in MidLent. . . . The realm was not the dauphin's but her Lord's; never theless, her Lord willed the dauphin to be king, and to hold the realm in trust." She added, that despite the dauphin's enemies, he would be king, and that she would take him to be crowned.

The captain was much astonished: be suspected that the devil must have a hand in the matter. Thereupon, he consulted the cure who, apparently, partook his doubts. She had not spoken of her visions to any priest or church man. So the cure accompanied the captain to the wheelwright's house, showed his stole, and adjured Jeanne to depart if sent by the evil spirit.

But the people had no doubts ; they were struck with admiration. From all sides, crowds flocked to see her. A gentleman, to try her, said to her, "Well, sweetheart ;after all, the king will be driven out of the kingdom, and we must turn English." She complained to him of Baudricourt's refusal to take her to the dauphin; "And yet," she saidy " before MidLent, I must be with the king, even were I to wear out my legs to the knees ; for no one in the world, nor kings, nor dukes, nor daugh ter of the king of Scotland, can recover the kingdom of France, and he has no other who can succor him save myself, albeit I would prefer staying and spin ning with my poor mother, but this is no work of my own ; I must go and do it, for it is my Lord's will." - "And who is your lord?" - "God" The gentleman was touched. He pledged her" his faith, his hand placed in hers, that, with God's guiding, he would conduct her to the king."A young man, of gentle birth, felt him self touched likewise; and declared that he would follow this holy maid.

It appears that Baudricourt sent to ask the king's pleasure; and that in the interim he took Jeanne to see the duke of Lorraine, who was ill, and desired to consult her. All that the duke got from her was advice to appease God by reconciling himself with his wife. Nevertheless, he gave her encourage ment.

On returning to Vaucouleurs she found there a messenger from the king, who authorized her to repair to court. The reverse of the battle of herrings had determined his counsellors, to try any and every means. Jeanne had proclaimed the. battle and its result on the very day it was fought; and the people of Vaucouleurs, no longer doubting her mission, subscribed to equip her and buy her a horse. Bau dricourt only gave her a sword.

At this moment an obstacle arose. Her parents, informed of her approach ing departure, nearly lost their senses, and make the strongest efforts to retain her, commanding, threatening. She withstood this last trial; and got a letter written to them, beseeching them to forgive her.

The journey she was about to un dertake was a rough and a most danger OU8 one. The whole country was over run by the menatarms of both parties. There was neither road, nor bridge, and the rivers were swollen: it was the month of February, 1429.

To travel at such a time with five or six menatarms was enough to alarm a young girl. An English woman, or a German, would never have risked such a step; the inddicacy of the proceeding would have horrified her. Jeanne was nothing moved by it; she was too pure to entertain any fears of the kind. She wore a man's dress, a dress she wore to the last : this close, and closely fas tened dress was her best safeguard. Yet was she young and beautiful. But there was around her, even to those who were most with her, a barrier raised by religion and fear. The young est of the gentlemen who formed her escort, deposes that though sleeping

near her, the shadow of an impnre thought never crossed his mind. She traversed with heroic serenity these districts, either desert, or infested with soldiers. Her companions regret ted having set out with her, some of them thinking that she might be per haps a witch; and they felt a strong desire to abandon her. For herself, she was so tranquil, that she would stop at every town to hear mass. " Pear nothing," she said, "God guides me my way ; 'tis for this 1 was born." And again, "My brothers in paradise tell me what I am to do."

Charles Vllth's court was far from being unanimous in favor of the Pucelle. This inspired maid, coming from Lor raine, and encouraged by the duke of Lorraine, could not fail to strengthen the queen's and her mother's party, the party of Lorraine and of Anjou, with the king. An ambuscade was laid for the Pucelle some distance from Chinon, and it was a miracle she escaped.

So strong was the opposition to her, that when she arrived, the question of her being admitted to the king's pres ence was debated for two days in the council. Her enemies hoped to adjourn the matter indefinitely, by proposing that an inquiry should be instituted concerning her in her native place. Fortunately, she had friends as well, the two queens, we may be assured, and, especially, the duke of Alen┬žon, who having recently left English keep ing, was impatient to carry the war into the north in order to recover his duchy. The men of Orleans, to whom Dunois had been promising this heav enly aid ever since the 12th of Febru ary, sent to the king and claimed the Pucelle.

At last the king received her, and sur rounded by all the splendor of his court, in the hope, apparently, of dis concerting her. It was evening ; the light of fifty torches illumed the hall, and a brilliant array of nobles and above three hundred knights were as sembled round the monarch. Every one was curious to see the sorceress, or, as it might be, the inspired maid.

The sorceress was eighteen years of age; she was a beautiful and most desirable girl, of good height, and with , a sweet and hearttouching voice.

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