Joan of Arc Book
Maid of France
by Henry Van Dyke
"God commands you," she cried. "It is for France."
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - The Meeting at the Spring(On This Page Below)
Chapter 2 - The Green Confessional
Chapter 3 - The Absolving Dream
Chapter 3 - The Victorious Penance
Chapter 1 - The Meeting at the Spring
ALONG the old Roman road that crosses the rolling
hills from the upper waters of the Marne to the Meuse, a soldier of France was
passing in the night.
In the broader pools of summer moonlight he showed as
a hale and husky a fellow of about thirty years, with dark hair and
eyes and a handsome, downcast face. His uniform was faded and dusty; not a
trace of the horizon-blue was left; only a gray shadow. He had no knapsack on
his back, no gun on his shoulder. Wearily and doggedly he plodded his way,
without eyes for the veiled beauty of the sleeping country. The quick, firm
military step was gone. He trudged like a tramp, choosing always the darker side
of the road.
He was a figure of flight, a broken soldier. Presently
the road led him into a thick forest of oaks and beeches, and so to the
Crest of a hill overlooking a long, open valley with wooded heights beyond.
Below him was the pointed spire of some temple or shrine, lying at the edge
of the wood, with no houses near it. Farther down he could see a cluster
of white houses with the tower of a church in the center.
Other villages were dimly visible up and down the
on either slope. The cattle were lowing from the barnyards. The cocks
for the dawn. Already the moon had sunk behind the western trees. But
valley was still bathed in its misty, vanishing light. Over the eastern
the gray glimmer of the little day was rising, faintly tinged with
It was time for the broken soldier to seek his covert and rest till
So he stepped aside from the road and found a
dell thick with underwoods, and in it a clear spring gurgling among the
and mosses. Around the opening grew wild gooseberries and golden broom
a few tall spires of purple fox-glove. He drew off his dusty boots and
and bathed his feet in a small pool, drying them with fern leaves. Then
took a slice of bread and a piece of cheese from his pocket and made
breakfast. Going to the edge of the thicket, he parted the branches and
out over the vale.
Its eaves sloped gently to the level floor where the river
loitered in loops and curves. The sun was just topping the eastern
the heads of the trees were dark against a primrose sky.
In the fields the hay had been cut and gathered.
aftermath was already greening the moist places. Cattle and sheep
out to pasture. A thin silvery mist floated here and there, spreading
broad sheets over the wet ground and shredding into filmy scarves and
as the breeze caught it among the pollard willows and poplars on the
of the stream. Far away the water glittered where the river made a
bend or a long, smooth reach. It was like the flashing of distant
Overhead a few white clouds climbed up from the north. The rolling
one after another, enfolded the valley as far as eye could see; pale
set in dark green, with here and there an arm of forest running down on
sharp promontory to meet and turn the meandering stream.
"It must be the valley of the Meuse," said the
"My faith, but France is beautiful and tranquil here!"
The northerly wind was rising. The clouds climbed
swiftly. The poplars shimmered, the willows glistened, the veils of
vanished. From very far away there came a rumbling thunder, heavy,
continuous, punctuated with louder crashes.
"It is the guns," muttered the soldier, shivering.
is the guns around Verdun! Those damned Boches!"
He turned back into the thicket and dropped among
ferns beside the spring. Stretching himself with a gesture of abandon,
pillowed his face on his crossed arms to sleep.
A rustling in the bushes roused him. He sprang to
feet quickly. It was a priest, clad in a dusty cassock, his long black
streaked with gray. He came slowly treading up beside the trickling
carrying a bag on a stick over his shoulder.
"Good morning, my son," he said. "You have chosen
spot to rest."
The soldier, startled, but not forgetting his
learned from boyhood, stood up and lifted his hand to take off his cap.
was already lying on the ground. "Good morning, Father," he answered.
did not choose the place, but stumbled on it by chance. It is pleasant
for am very tired and have need of sleep."
"No doubt," said the priest. "I can see that you
weary, and I beg you to pardon me if I have interrupted your repose.
why do you say you came here ' by chance'? If you are a good Christian
know that nothing is by chance. All is ordered and designed by
"So they told me in church long ago," said the
coldly; "but now it does not seem so true -- at least not with me."
The first feeling of friendliness and respect into
he had been surprised was passing. He had fallen back into the mood of
journey -- mistrust, secrecy, resentment.
The priest caught the tone. His gray eyes under
bushy brows looked kindly but searchingly at the soldier and smiled a
He set down his bag and leaned on his stick. "Well," he said, "I can
you one thing, my son. At all events, it was not chance that brought me
I came with a purpose."
The soldier started, a little stung by suspicion.
then," he cried, roughly, "were you looking for me? What do you know of
What is this talk of chance and purpose?"
"Come, come," said the priest, his smile spreading
his eyes to his lips, "do not be angry. I assure you that I know
of you whatever, not even your name nor why you are here. When I said
I came with a purpose I meant only that a certain thought, a wish, led
to this spot. Let us sit together awhile beside the spring and make
"I do not desire it," said the soldier, with a
"But you will not refuse it?" queried the priest,
"It is not good to refuse the request of one old enough to be your
Look, I have here some excellent tobacco and cigarette-papers. Let us
down and smoke together. I will tell you who I am and the purpose that
The soldier yielded grudgingly, not knowing what
to do. They sat down on a mossy bank beside the spring, and while the
smoke of their cigarettes went drifting under the little trees the
"My name is Antoine Courcy. I am the
cure of Darney,
a village among the Reaping Hook Hills, a few leagues south from here.
twenty-five years I have reaped the harvest of heaven in that blessed
field. I am sorry to leave it. But now this war, this great battle for
and the life of France, calls me. It is a divine vocation. France has
of all her sons to-day, even the old ones. I cannot keep the love of
in my heart unless I follow the love of country in my life. My younger
who used to be the priest of the next parish to mine, was in the army.
has fallen. I am going to replace him. I am on my way to join the
-- as a chaplain, if they will; if not, then as a private. I must get
the army of France or be left out of the host of heaven."
The soldier had turned his face away and was
the lobes from a frond of fern. "A brave resolve, Father," he said,
an ironic note. "But you have not yet told me what brings you off road,
"I will tell you," replied the priest, eagerly;
the love of Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid who saved France long ago. You know
"A little," nodded the soldier. "I have learned in
school. She was a famous saint."
"Not yet a saint," said the priest, earnestly;
has not yet pronounced her a saint. But it will be done soon. Already
has declared her among the Blessed Ones. To me she is the most blessed
all. She never thought of herself or of a saint's crown. She gave her
entire for France. And this is the place that she came from! Think of
-- right here!"
"I did not know that," said the soldier.
"But yes," the priest went on, kindling. "I tell
it was here that the Maid of France received her visions and set out to
work. You see that village below us -- Look out through the branches --
is Domremy, where she was born. That spire just at the edge
wood -- you saw that? It is the basilica they have built to her memory.
is full of pictures of her. It stands where the old beech-tree, ' Fair
used to grow. There she heard the voices and saw the saints who sent
on her mission. And this is the Gooseberry Spring, the Well of the Good
Here she came with the other children, at the festival of the
to spread their garlands around it, and sing, and eat their supper on
green. Heavenly voices spoke to her, but the others did not hear them.
did she drink of this water. It became a fountain of life springing up
her heart. I have come to drink at the same source. It will strengthen
as a sacrament. Come, son, let us take it together as we go to our duty
Father Courcy stood up and opened his old black
He took out a small metal cup. He filled it carefully at the spring. He
the sign of the cross over it.
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
he murmured, "blessed and holy is this water." Then he held the cup
the soldier. "Come, let us share it and make our vows together."
The bright drops trembled and fell from the bottom
the cup. The soldier sat still, his head in his hands.
"No," he answered, heavily, "I cannot take it. I
worthy. Can a man take a sacrament without confessing his Sins?"
Father Courcy looked at him with pitying eyes. "I
he said, slowly; "I see, my son. You have a burden on your heart. Well,
will stay with you and try to lift it. But first I shall make my own
He raised the cup toward the sky. A tiny brown
canticles of rapture in the thicket. A great light came into the
face -- a sun-ray from the east, far beyond the tree-tops.
"Blessed Jeanne d'Arc, I drink from thy fountain
name. I vow my life to thy cause. Aid me, aid this my son, to fight
for freedom and for France. In the name of God, amen."
The soldier looked up at him. Wonder, admiration,
shame were struggling in the look. Father Courcy wiped the empty cup
and put it back in his bag. Then he sat down beside the soldier, laying
fatherly hand on his shoulder.
"Now, my son, you shall tell me what is on your
CONTINUE TO NEXT CHAPTER OF THE BROKEN SOLDIER AND THE MAID OF FRANCE