Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France
VOLUME 1 CHAPTER 2

JEANNE'S VOICES

NOW, when she was about thirteen, it befell one summer day, at noon, that while she was in her father's garden she heard a voice that filled her with a great fear. It came from the right, from towards the church, and at the same time in the same direction there appeared a light. The voice said: "I come from God to help thee to live a good and holy life.[254] Be good, Jeannette, and God will aid thee."

It is well known that fasting conduces to the seeing of visions. Jeanne was accustomed to fast. Had she abstained from food that morning and if so when had she last partaken of it? We cannot say.[255]

On another day the voice spoke again and repeated, "Jeannette, be good."

The child did not know whence the voice came. But the third time, as she listened, she knew it was an angel's voice and she even recognised the angel to be St. Michael. She could not be mistaken, for she knew him well. He was the patron saint of the duchy of Bar.[256] She sometimes saw him on the pillar[Pg i.30] of church or chapel, in the guise of a handsome knight, with a crown on his helmet, wearing a coat of mail, bearing a shield, and transfixing the devil with his lance.[257] Sometimes he was represented holding the scales in which he weighed souls, for he was provost of heaven and warden of paradise;[258] at once the leader of the heavenly hosts and the angel of judgment.[259] He loved high lands.[260] That is why in Lorraine a chapel had been dedicated to him on Mount Sombar, north of the town of Toul. In very remote times he had appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and commanded him to build a church on Mount Tombe, in such a place as he should find a bull hidden by thieves; and the site of the building was to include the whole area overtrodden by the bull. The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel-au-Péril-de-la-Mer was erected in obedience to this command.[261]

About the time when the child was having these[Pg i.31] visions, the defenders of Mont-Saint-Michel discomfited the English who were attacking the fortress by land and sea. The French attributed this victory to the all-powerful intercession of the archangel.[262] And why should he not have favoured the French who worshipped him with peculiar devoutness? Since my Lord St. Denys had permitted his abbey to be taken by the English, my Lord St. Michael, who carefully guarded his, was in a fair way to become the true patron saint of the kingdom.[263] In the year 1419 the Dauphin Charles had had escutcheons painted, representing St. Michael fully armed, holding a naked sword and in the act of slaying a serpent.[264] The maid of Domremy, however, knew but little of the miracles worked by my Lord St. Michael in Normandy. She recognised the angel by his weapons, his courtesy, and the noble words that fell from his lips.[265]

One day he said to her: "Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret will come to thee. Act according to their advice; for they are appointed to guide thee and counsel thee in all thou hast to do, and thou mayest believe what they shall say unto thee." And these things came to pass as the Lord had ordained.[266]

This promise filled her with great joy, for she loved them both. Madame Sainte Marguerite was highly[Pg i.32] honoured in the kingdom of France, where she was a great benefactress. She helped women in labour,[267] and protected the peasant at work in the fields. She was the patron saint of flax-spinners, of procurers of wet-nurses, of vellum-dressers, and of bleachers of wool. Her precious relics in a reliquary, carried on a mule's back, were paraded by ecclesiastics through towns and villages. Plenteous alms[268] were showered upon the exhibitors in return for permission to touch the relics. Many times had Jeanne seen Madame Sainte Marguerite at church, painted life-size, a holy-water sprinkler in her hand, her foot on a dragon's head.[269] She was acquainted with her history as it was related in those days, somewhat on the lines of the following narrative.

The blessed Margaret was born at Antioch. Her father, Theodosius, was a priest of the Gentiles. She was put out to nurse and secretly baptised. One day when she was in her fifteenth year, as she was watching the flock belonging to her nurse, the governor Olibrius saw her, and, struck by her great beauty, conceived a great passion for her. Wherefore he said to his servants: "Go, bring me that girl, in order that if she be free I may marry her, or if she be a slave I may take her into my service."

And when she was brought he inquired of her[Pg i.33] her country, her name, and her religion. She replied that she was called Margaret and that she was a Christian.

And Olibrius said unto her: "How comes it that so noble and beautiful a girl as you can worship Jesus the Crucified?"

And because she replied that Jesus Christ was alive for ever, the governor in wrath had her thrown into prison.

The next day he summoned her to appear before him and said: "Unhappy girl, have pity on your own beauty and for your own sake worship our gods. If you persist in your blindness I will have your body rent in pieces."

And Margaret made answer: "Jesus suffered death for me, and I would fain die for him."

Then the governor commanded her to be hung from the wooden horse, to be beaten with rods, and her flesh to be torn with iron claws. And the blood flowed from the virgin's body as from a pure spring of fresh water.

Those who stood by wept, and the governor covered his face with his cloak that he might not see the blood. And he commanded to unloose her and take her back to prison.

There she was tempted by the Spirit, and she prayed the Lord to reveal to her the enemy whom she had to withstand. Thereupon a huge dragon, appearing before her, rushed forward to devour her, but she made the sign of the cross and he disappeared. Then, in order to seduce her, the devil assumed the form of a man. He came to her gently, took her hands in his and said: "Margaret, what you have done sufficeth." But she seized him by the hair, threw him to the ground, placed her right foot upon[Pg i.34] his head and cried: "Tremble, proud enemy, thou liest beneath a woman's foot."

The next day, in the presence of the assembled people, she was brought before the judge, who commanded her to sacrifice to idols. And when she refused he had her body burned with flaming pine-wood, but she seemed to suffer no pain. And fearing lest, amazed at this miracle, all the people should be converted, Olibrius commanded that the blessed Margaret should be beheaded. She spoke unto the executioner and said: "Brother, take your axe and strike me." With one blow he struck off her head. Her soul took flight to heaven in the form of a dove.[270]

This story had been told in songs and mysteries.[271] It was so well known that the name of the governor, jestingly vilified and fallen into ridicule, was in common parlance bestowed on braggarts and blusterers. A fool who posed as a wicked person was called an olibrius.[272]

Madame Sainte Catherine, whose coming the angel had announced to Jeanne at the same time as that of Madame Sainte Marguerite, was the protectress of young girls and especially of servants and spinsters.

Orators and philosophers too had chosen as their patron saint the virgin who had confounded the fifty doctors and triumphed over the magi of the east.[Pg i.35] In the Meuse valley rhymed prayers like the following were addressed to her:

Ave, très sainte Catherine,
Vierge pucelle nette et fine.[273]

This fine lady was no stranger to Jeanne; she had her church at Maxey, on the opposite bank of the river; and her name was borne by Isabelle Romée's eldest daughter.[274]

Jeanne certainly did not know the story of Saint Catherine as it was known to illustrious clerks; as, for example, about this time it was committed to writing by Messire Jean Miélot, the secretary of the Duke of Burgundy. Jean Miélot told how the virgin of Alexandria controverted the subtle arguments of Homer, the syllogisms of Aristotle, the very learned reasonings of the famous physicians Æsculapius and Galen, practised the seven liberal arts, and disputed according to the rules of dialectics.[275] Jacques d'Arc's daughter had heard nothing of all that; she knew Saint Catherine from stories out of some history written in the vulgar tongue, in verse or in prose, so many of which were in circulation at that time.[276]

Catherine, daughter of King Costus and Queen Sabinella, as she grew in years, became proficient in[Pg i.36] the arts, and a skilful embroiderer in silk. While her body was resplendent with beauty, her soul was clouded by the darkness of idolatry. Many barons of the empire sought her in marriage; she scorned them and said: "Find me a husband wise, handsome, noble, and rich." Now in her sleep she had a vision. Holding the Child Jesus in her arms, the Virgin Mary appeared unto her and said: "Catherine, will you take him for your husband? And you, my sweet son, will you have this virgin for your bride?"

The Child Jesus made answer: "Mother, I will not have her; bid her depart from you, for she is a worshipper of idols. But if she will be baptised I will consent to put the nuptial ring on her finger."

Desiring to marry the King of Heaven, Catherine went to ask for baptism at the hands of the hermit Ananias, who lived in Armenia on Mount Negra. A few days afterwards, when she was praying in her room, she saw Jesus Christ appear in the midst of a numerous choir of angels and of saints. He drew near unto her and placed his ring upon her finger. Then only did Catherine know that her bridal was a spiritual bridal.

In those days Maxentius was Emperor of the Romans. He commanded the people of Alexandria to offer great sacrifices to the idols. Catherine, as she was at prayer in her oratory, heard the chanting of the priests and the bellowing of the victims. Straightway she went to the public square, and beholding Maxentius at the gate of the temple, she said unto him: "How comes it that thou art so foolish as to command this people to offer incense to idols? Thou admirest this temple built by the hands of thy workmen. Thou admirest these ornaments which are but dust blown away by the wind. Thou shouldest rather admire[Pg i.37] the sky, and the earth, and the sea, and all that is therein. Thou shouldest rather admire the ornaments of the heavens: the sun, the moon, and the stars, and those circling planets, which from the beginning of the world move from the west and return to the east and never grow weary. And when thou hast observed all these things, ask and learn who is their Creator. It is our God, the Lord of Hosts, and the God of gods."

"Woman," replied the emperor, "leave us to finish our sacrifice; afterwards we will make answer unto thee."

And he commanded Catherine to be taken into the palace and strictly guarded, because he marvelled at the great wisdom and the wonderful beauty of this virgin. He summoned fifty doctors well versed in the knowledge of the Egyptians and the liberal arts; and, when they were gathered together, he said unto them: "A maiden of subtle mind maintains that our gods are but demons. I could have forced her to sacrifice or have made her pay the penalty of her disobedience; I judged it better that she should be confounded by the power of your reasoning. If you triumph over her, you will return to your homes laden with honours."

And the wise men made answer: "Let her be brought, that her rashness may be made manifest, that she may confess that never until now has she met men of wisdom."

And when she learned that she was to dispute with wise men, Catherine feared lest she should not worthily defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. But an angel appeared to her and said: "I am the Archangel Saint Michael, sent by God to make known unto thee that from this strife thou shalt come forth[Pg i.38] victorious and worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ, the hope and crown of those who strive for him."

And the virgin disputed with the doctors. When they maintained that it was impossible for God to become man, and be acquainted with grief, Catherine showed how the birth and passion of Jesus Christ had been announced by the Gentiles themselves, and prophesied by Plato and the Sibyl.

The doctors had nothing to oppose to arguments so convincing. Therefore the chief among them said to the emperor: "Thou knowest that up till now no one has disputed with us without being straightway confounded. But this maid, through whom the Spirit of God speaks, fills us with wonder, and we know nothing nor dare we say anything against Christ. And we boldly confess that if thou hast no stronger arguments to bring forth in favour of the gods, whom hitherto we have worshipped, we will all of us embrace the Christian religion."

On hearing these words, the tyrant was so transported with wrath that he had the fifty doctors burned in the middle of the town. But as a sign that they suffered for the truth, neither their garments nor the hairs of their heads were touched by the fire.

Afterwards Maxentius said unto Catherine: "O virgin, issue of a noble line, and worthy of the imperial purple, take counsel with thy youth, and sacrifice to our gods. If thou dost consent, thou shalt take rank in my palace after the empress, and thy image, placed in the middle of the town, shall be worshipped by all the people like that of a goddess."

But Catherine answered: "Speak not of such things. The very thought of them is sin. Jesus Christ hath chosen me for his bride. He is my love, my glory, and all my delight."[Pg i.39]

Finding it impossible to flatter her with soft words, the tyrant hoped to reduce her to obedience through fear; therefore he threatened her with death.

Catherine's courage did not waver. "Jesus Christ," she said, "offered himself to his Father as a sacrifice for me; it is my great joy to offer myself as an agreeable sacrifice to the glory of his name."

Straightway Maxentius commanded that she should be scourged with rods, and then cast into a dark dungeon and left there without food. Thereupon, at the call of urgent affairs, Maxentius set out for a distant province.

Now the empress, who was a heathen, had a vision, in which Saint Catherine appeared to her surrounded by a marvellous light. Angels clad in white were with her, and their faces could not be looked upon by reason of the brightness that proceeded from them. And Catherine told the empress to draw near. Taking a crown from the hand of one of the angels who attended her, she placed it upon the head of the empress, saying: "Behold a crown sent down to thee from heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, my God, and my Lord."

The heart of the empress was troubled by this wonderful dream. Wherefore, attended by Porphyrius, a knight who was commander-in-chief of the army, in the early hours of night she repaired to the prison in which Catherine was confined. Here in her cell a dove brought her heavenly food, and angels dressed the virgin's wounds. The empress and Porphyrius found the dungeon bathed in a light so bright that it filled them with a great fear, and they fell prostrate on the ground. But there straightway[Pg i.40] filled the dungeon an odour marvellously sweet, which comforted them and gave them courage.

"Arise," said Catherine, "and be not afraid, for Jesus Christ calleth you."

They arose, and beheld Catherine in the midst of a choir of angels. The saint took from the hands of one among them a crown, very beautiful and shining like gold, and she put it upon the empress's head. This crown was the sign of martyrdom. For indeed the names of this queen and of the knight Porphyrius were already written in the book of eternal rewards.

On his return Maxentius commanded Catherine to be brought before him, and said unto her: "Choose between two things: to sacrifice and live, or to die in torment."

Catherine made answer: "It is my desire to offer to Jesus Christ my flesh and my blood. He is my lover, my shepherd, and my husband."

Then the provost of the city of Alexandria, whose name was Chursates, commanded to be made four wheels furnished with very sharp iron spikes, in order that upon these wheels the blessed Catherine should die a miserable and a cruel death. But an angel broke the machine, and with such violence that the parts of it flying asunder killed a great number of the Gentiles. And the empress, who beheld these things from the top of her tower, came down and reproached the emperor for his cruelty. Full of wrath, Maxentius commanded the empress to sacrifice; and when she refused, he commanded her breasts to be torn out and her head to be cut off. And while she was being taken to the torturer, Catherine exhorted her, saying: "Go, rejoice, queen beloved of God, for to-day thou shalt exchange for a[Pg i.41] perishable kingdom an everlasting empire, and a mortal husband for an immortal lover."

And the empress was taken to suffer death outside the walls. Porphyrius carried away the body and had it buried reverently as that of a servant of Jesus Christ. Wherefore Maxentius had Porphyrius put to death, and his body cast to the dogs. Then, summoning Catherine before him, he said unto her: "Since, by thy magic arts thou hast caused the empress to perish, now if thou repent thou shalt be first in my palace. To-day, therefore, sacrifice to the gods, or thy head shall be struck off."

She made answer: "Do as thou hast resolved that I may take my place in the band of maidens who are around the Lamb of God."

The emperor sentenced her to be beheaded. And when they had led her outside the city of Alexandria, to the place of death, she raised her eyes to heaven and said: "Jesus, hope and salvation of the faithful, glory and beauty of virgins, I pray thee to listen and to answer the prayer of whomsoever, in memory of my martyrdom, shall invoke me in death or in peril whatsoever."

And a voice from heaven made answer: "Come, my beloved bride; the gate of heaven is open to thee. And to those who shall invoke me through thy intercession, I promise help from on high." From the riven neck of the virgin flowed forth milk instead of blood.

Thus Madame Sainte Catherine passed from this world to celestial happiness, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of November, which was a Friday.[277]

[Pg i.42]

My Lord Saint Michael, the Archangel, did not forget his promise. The ladies Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret came as he had said. On their very first visit the young peasant maid vowed to them to preserve her virginity as long as it should please God.[278] If there were any meaning in such a promise, Jeanne, however old she may then have been, could not have been quite a child. And it seems probable that the angel and the saints appeared to her first when she was on the threshold of womanhood, that is, if she ever became a woman.[279]

The saints soon entered into familiar relations with her.[280] They came to the village every day, and often several times a day. When she saw them appear in a ray of light coming down from heaven, shining and clad like queens, with golden crowns on their heads, wearing rich and precious jewels, the village maiden crossed herself devoutly and curtsied low.[281] And because they were ladies of good breeding, they returned her salutation. Each one had her own particular manner of greeting, and it was by this manner that Jeanne distinguished one from the other, for the dazzling light of their countenances rendered it impossible for her to look them in the face. They graciously permitted their earth-born friend to touch their feet, to kiss the hems of their garments, and to inhale rapturously the sweet perfume they emitted.[282][Pg i.43] They addressed her courteously,[283] as it seemed to Jeanne. They called the lowly damsel daughter of God. They taught her to live well and go to church. Without always having anything very new to say to her, since they came so constantly, they spoke to her of things which filled her with joy, and, after they had disappeared, Jeanne ardently pressed her lips to the ground their feet had trodden.[284]

Oftentimes she received the heavenly ladies in her little garden, close to the precincts of the church. She used to meet them near the spring; often they even appeared to their little friend surrounded by heavenly companies. "For," Isabelle's daughter used to say, "angels are wont to come down to Christians without being seen, but I see them."[285] It was in the woods, amid the light rustling of the leaves, and especially when the bells rang for matins or compline, that she heard the sweet words most distinctly. And so she loved the sound of the bells, with which her Voices mingled. So, when at nine o'clock in the evening, Perrin le Drapier, sexton of the parish, forgot to ring for compline, she reproached him with his negligence, and scolded him for not doing his duty. She promised him cakes if in the future he would not forget to ring the bells.[286]

She told none of these things to her priest; for this, according to some good doctors, she must be censured, but, according to others equally excellent,[Pg i.44] she must be commended. For if on the one hand we are to consult our ecclesiastical superiors in matters of faith, on the other, where the gift of the Holy Ghost is poured out, there reigns perfect liberty.[287]

Since the two saints had been visiting Jeanne, my Lord Saint Michael had come less often; but he had not forsaken her. There came a time when he talked to her of love for the kingdom of France, of that love which she felt in her heart.[288]

And the holy visitants, whose voices grew stronger and more ardent as the maiden's soul grew holier and more heroic, revealed to her her mission. "Daughter of God," they said, "thou must leave thy village, and go to France."[289]

Had this idea of a holy militant mission, conceived by Jeanne through the intermediary of her Voices, come into her mind spontaneously without the intervention of any outside will, or had it been suggested to her by some one who was influencing her? It would be impossible to solve this problem were there not a slight indication to direct us. Jeanne at Domremy was acquainted with a prophecy foretelling that France would be ruined by a woman and[Pg i.45] saved by a maiden.[290] It made an extraordinary impression upon her; and later she came to speak in a manner which proved that she not only believed it, but was persuaded that she herself was the maiden designated by the prophecy.[291] Who taught her this? Some peasant? We have reason to believe that the peasants did not know it, and that it was current among ecclesiastics.[292] Besides, it is important to notice in this connection that Jeanne was acquainted with a particular form of this prophecy, obviously arranged for her benefit, since it specified that the Maiden Redemptress should come from the borders of Lorraine. This local addition is not the work of a cowherd; it suggests rather a mind apt to direct souls and to inspire deeds. It is no longer possible to doubt that the prophecy thus revised is the work of an ecclesiastic whose intentions may be easily divined. Henceforth one is conscious of an idea agitating and possessing the young seer of visions.

On the banks of the Meuse, among the humble folk of the countryside, some churchman, preoccupied with the lot of the poor people of France, directed Jeanne's visions to the welfare of the kingdom and to the conclusion of peace. He carried the ardour of his pious zeal so far as to collect prophecies concerning the salvation of the French crown, and to add to them with an eye to the accomplishment of his design. For such an ecclesiastic we must seek[Pg i.46] among the priests of Lorraine or Champagne upon whom the national misfortunes imposed cruel sufferings.[293] Merchants and artizans, crushed under the burden of taxes and subsidies, and ruined by changes in the coinage,[294] peasants, whose houses, barns, and mills had been destroyed, and whose fields had been laid waste, no longer contributed to the expenses of public worship.[295] Canons and ecclesiastics, deprived both of their feudal dues and of the contributions of the faithful, quitted the religious houses and set out to beg their bread from door to door, leaving behind in the monasteries only two or three old monks, and a few children. The fortified abbeys attracted captains and soldiers of both sides. They entrenched themselves within the walls; they plundered and burnt. When one of those holy houses succeeded in remaining standing, the wandering village folk made it their place of refuge, and it was impossible to prevent the refectories and dormitories from being invaded by women.[296] In the midst of this obscure throng of souls afflicted by the sufferings and the scandals of the Church may be divined the prophet and the director of the Maid.

We shall not be tempted to recognise him in Messire[Pg i.47] Guillaume Frontey, priest of Domremy. The successor of Messire Jean Minet, if we may judge from his conversation which has been preserved, was as simple as his flock.[297] Jeanne saw many priests and monks. She was in the habit of visiting her uncle, the priest of Sermaize, and of seeing in the Abbey of Cheminon,[298] her cousin, a young ecclesiastic in minor orders, who was soon to follow her into France. She was in touch with a number of priests who would be very quick to recognise her exceptional piety, and her gift of beholding things invisible to the majority of Christians. They engaged her in conversations, which, had they been preserved, would doubtless present to us one of the sources whence she derived inspiration for her marvellous vocation. One among them, whose name will never be known, raised up an angelic deliverer for the king and the kingdom of France.

Meanwhile Jeanne was living a life of illusion. Knowing nothing of the influences she was under, incapable of recognising in her Voices the echo of a human voice or the promptings of her own heart, she responded timidly to the saints when they bade her fare forth into France: "I am a poor girl, and know not how to ride a horse or how to make war."[299]

As soon as she began to receive these revelations she gave up her games and her excursions. Henceforth she seldom danced round the fairies' tree, and then only in play with the children.[300] It would seem that she also took a dislike to working in the fields,[Pg i.48] and especially to herding the flocks. From early childhood she had shown signs of piety. Now she gave herself up to extreme devoutness; she confessed frequently, and communicated with ecstatic fervour; she heard mass in her parish church every day. At all hours she was to be found in church, sometimes prostrate on the ground, sometimes with her hands clasped, and her face turned towards the image of Our Lord or of Our Lady. She did not always wait for Saturday to visit the chapel at Bermont. Sometimes, when her parents thought she was tending the herds, she was kneeling at the feet of the miracle-working Virgin. The village priest, Messire Guillaume Frontey, could do nothing but praise the most guileless of his parishioners.[301] One day he happened to say with a sigh: "If Jeannette had money she would give it to me for the saying of masses."[302]

As for the good man, Jacques d'Arc, it is possible that he may have occasionally complained of those pilgrimages, those meditations, and those other practices which ill accorded with the ordinary tenor of country life. Every one thought Jeanne odd and erratic. Mengette and her friends, when they found her so devout, said she was too pious.[303] They scolded her for not dancing with them. Among others, Isabellette, the young wife of Gérardin d'Epinal, the mother of little Nicholas, Jeanne's godson, roundly condemned a girl who cared so little for dancing.[304] Colin, son of Jean Colin, and[Pg i.49] all the village lads made fun of her piety. Her fits of religious ecstasy raised a smile. She was regarded as a little mad. She suffered from this persistent raillery.[305] But with her own eyes she beheld the dwellers in Paradise. And when they left her she would cry and wish that they had taken her with them.

"Daughter of God, thou must leave thy village and go forth into France."[306]

And the ladies Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret spoke again and said: "Take the standard sent down to thee by the King of Heaven, take it boldly and God will help thee." As she listened to these words of the ladies with the beautiful crowns, Jeanne was consumed with a desire for long expeditions on horseback, and for those battles in which angels hover over the heads of the warriors. But how was she to go to France? How was she to associate with men-at-arms? Ignorant and generously impulsive like herself, the Voices she heard merely revealed to her her own heart, and left her in sad agitation of mind: "I am a poor girl, knowing neither how to bestride a horse nor how to make war."[307]

Jeanne's native village was named after the blessed Remi;[308] the parish church bore the name of the great apostle of the Gauls, who, in baptising King Clovis, had anointed with holy oil the first Christian prince of the noble House of France, descended from the noble King Priam of Troy.

Thus runs the legend of Saint Remi as it was told by churchmen. In those days the pious[Pg i.50] hermit Montan, who lived in the country of Laon, beheld a choir of angels and an assembly of saints; and he heard a voice full and sweet saying: "The Lord hath looked down upon the earth. That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain: that they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and his praise in Jerusalem. When the people assemble together, and kings to serve the Lord.[309] And Cilinia shall bring forth a son for the saving of the people."

Now Cilinia was old, and her husband Emilius was blind. Yet Cilinia, having conceived, brought forth a son; and with the milk with which she nourished her babe she rubbed the eyes of the father, and straightway his eyes were opened, and he saw.

This child, whose birth had been foretold by angels, was called Remi, which, being interpreted, means oar; for by his teaching, as with a well-cut oar, he was to guide the Church of God, and especially the church of Reims, over the stormy sea of life, and by his merits and his prayers bring it into the heaven of eternal salvation.

In retirement and in the practice of holy and Christian observances, Cilinia's son passed his pious youth at Laon. Hardly had he entered his twenty-second year, when the episcopal seat of Reims fell vacant on the death of the blessed Bishop Bennade. An immense concourse of people nominated Remi the shepherd of the flock. He refused a burden which he said was too heavy for the weakness of his youth. But suddenly there fell upon his forehead a ray of celestial light, and a divine liquid was shed upon his hair, and scented it with a strange perfume. Wherefore, without further delay, the bishops of the[Pg i.51] province of Reims, with one consent, consecrated him their bishop. Established in the seat of Saint Sixtus, the blessed Remi revealed himself liberal in almsgiving, assiduous in vigilance, fervent in prayer, perfect in charity, marvellous in doctrine, and holy in all his conversation. Like a city built on the top of a mountain, he was admired of all men.

In those days, Clovis, King of France, was a heathen, with all his knights. But he had won a great victory over the Germans by invoking the name of Christ. Wherefore, at the entreaty of the saintly Queen Clotilde, his wife, he resolved to ask baptism at the hands of the blessed Bishop of Reims. When this pious desire had been made known to him, Saint Remi taught the King and his subjects that, renouncing Satan and his pomps and his works, they must believe in God and in Jesus Christ his Son. And as the solemn festival of Easter was approaching, he commanded them to fast according to the custom of the faithful. On the day of the Passion of Our Lord, the eve of the day on which Clovis was to be baptised, early in the morning the Bishop went to the King and Queen and led them to an oratory dedicated to the blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Suddenly the chapel was filled with a light so brilliant that the sunshine became as shadow, and from the midst of this light there came a voice saying: "Peace be with you, it is I, fear not and abide in my love." After these words the light faded, but there remained in the chapel an odour of ineffable sweetness. Then, with his face shining like the countenance of Moses, and illuminated within by a divine brightness, the holy Bishop prophesied and said: "Clovis and Clotilde, your descendants shall[Pg i.52] set back the boundaries of the kingdom. They shall raise the church of Jesus Christ and triumph over foreign nations provided they fall not from virtue and depart not from the way of salvation, neither enter upon the sinful road leading to destruction and to those snares of deadly vices which overthrow empires and cause dominion to pass from one nation to another."

Meanwhile the way is being prepared from the King's palace to the baptistry; curtains and costly draperies are hung up: the houses on each side of the street are covered with hangings; the church is decorated, and the baptistry is strewn with balsam and all manner of sweet-smelling herbs. Overwhelmed with the Lord's favour the people seem already to taste the delights of Paradise. The procession sets out from the palace; the clergy lead with crosses and banners, singing hymns and sacred canticles; then comes the Bishop leading the King by the hand; and lastly the Queen follows with the people. By the way the King asked the Bishop if yonder was the kingdom of God he had promised him. "No," answered the blessed Remi, "but it is the beginning of the road that leads to it." When they had reached the baptistry, the priest who bore the holy chrism was hindered by the crowd from reaching the sacred font; so that, as God had ordained, there was no holy oil for the benediction at the font. Then the Pontiff raises his eyes to heaven, and prays in silence and in tears. Straightway there descends a dove white as snow, bearing in its beak an ampulla full of chrism sent from heaven. The heavenly oil emits a delicious perfume, which intoxicates the multitude with a delight such as they had never experienced before that hour. The holy[Pg i.53] Bishop takes the ampulla, sprinkles the baptismal water with chrism, and straightway the dove vanishes.

At the sight of so great a miracle of grace, the King, transported with joy, renounces Satan and his pomps and his works. He demands instant baptism, and bends over the fountain of life.[310]

Ever since then the kings of France have been anointed with the divine oil which the dove brought down from heaven. The holy ampulla containing it is kept in the church of Saint Remi at Reims. And by God's grace on the day of the King's anointing this ampulla is always found full.[311]

Such was the clerks' story; and doubtless the peasants of Domremy on a humbler note might have said as much or even more. We may believe that they used to sing the complaint of Saint Remi. Every year, when on the 1st of October the festival of the patron saint came round, the priest was wont to pronounce an eulogium on the saint.[312]

About this time a mystery was performed at Reims in which the miracles of the apostle of Gaul were fully represented.[313]

[Pg i.54]

And among them were some which would appeal strongly to rustic souls. In his mortal life my Lord Saint Remi had healed a blind man possessed of devils. A man bestowed his goods on the chapter of Reims for the salvation of his soul and died; ten years after his death Saint Remi restored him to life, and made him declare his gift. Being[Pg i.55] entertained by persons who had nothing to drink, the saint filled their cask with miraculous wine. He received from King Clovis the gift of a mill; but when the miller refused to yield it up to him, my Lord Saint Remi, by the power of God, threw down the mill, and cast it into the centre of the earth. One night when the Saint was alone in his chapel, while all his clerks were asleep, the glorious apostles Peter and Paul came down from Paradise to sing matins with him.

Who better than the folk of Domremy should know of the baptism of King Clovis of France, and of the descent of the Holy Ghost, at the singing of Veni Creator Spiritus, bearing in its beak the holy ampulla, full of chrism blessed by Our Lord?[314]

Who better than they should understand the words addressed to the very Christian King, by my Lord Saint Remi, not doubtless in the Church's Latin, but in the good tongue of the people and very much[Pg i.56] like the following: "Now, Sire, take knowledge and serve God faithfully and judge justly, that thy kingdom may prosper. For if justice depart from it then shall this kingdom be in danger of perdition."[315]

In short, in one way or another, whether through the clerks who directed her or through the peasants among whom she dwelt, Jeanne had knowledge of the good Archbishop Remi, who so dearly cherished the royal blood in the holy ampulla at Reims, and of the anointing of the very Christian kings.[316]

And the Angel appeared unto her and said: "Daughter of God, thou shalt lead the Dauphin to Reims that he may there receive worthily his anointing."[317]

The maid understood. The scales fell from her eyes; a bright light was shed abroad in her mind. Behold wherefore God had chosen her. Through her the Dauphin Charles was to be anointed at Reims. The white dove, which of old was sent to the blessed Remi, was to come down again at the Virgin's call. God, who loves the French, marks their king with a sign, and when there is no sign the royal power has departed. The anointing alone makes the king, and Messire Charles de Valois had not been anointed. Notwithstanding the father lies becrowned and be[Pg i.57]sceptred in the basilica of Saint-Denys in France, the son is but the dauphin and will not enter into his inheritance till the day when the oil of the inexhaustible ampulla shall flow over his forehead. And God has chosen her, a young, ignorant peasant maid, to lead him, through the ranks of his enemies, to Reims, where he shall receive the unction poured upon Saint Louis. Unfathomable ways of God! The humble maid, knowing not how to ride a horse, unskilled in the arts of war, is chosen to bring to Our Lord his temporal vicar of Christian France.

Henceforth Jeanne knew what great deeds she was to bring to pass. But as yet she discerned not the means by which she was to accomplish them.

"Thou must fare forth into France," Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret said to her.

"Daughter of God, thou shalt lead the Dauphin to Reims[318] that he may there receive worthily his anointing," the Archangel Michael said to her.

She must obey them—but how? If at that time there were not just at hand some devout adviser to direct her, one incident quite personal and unimportant, which then occurred in her father's house, may have sufficed to point out the way to the young saint.

Tenant-in-chief of the Castle on the island in 1419, and in 1423 elder of the community, Jacques d'Arc was one of the notables of Domremy. The village folk held him in high esteem and readily entrusted him with difficult tasks. Towards the end of March, 1427, they sent him to Vaucouleurs as their authorised proxy in a lawsuit they were conducting before Robert de Baudricourt. It was a question of the[Pg i.58] payment of damages required at once from the lord and the inhabitants of Greux and Domremy by a certain Guyot Poignant, of Montigny-le-Roi. These damages went back four years to when, as a return for his protection, the Damoiseau of Commercy had extorted from Greux and Domremy a sum amounting to two hundred and twenty golden crowns.

Guyot Poignant had become security for this sum which had not been paid by the time fixed. The Damoiseau seized Poignant's wood, hay, and horses to the value of one hundred and twenty golden crowns, which amount the said Poignant reclaimed from the nobles and villeins of Greux and Domremy. The suit was still pending in 1427, when the community nominated Jacques d'Arc its authorised proxy, and sent him to Vaucouleurs. The result of the dispute is not known; but it is sufficient to note that Jeanne's father saw Sire Robert and had speech with him.[319]

On his return home he must have more than once related these interviews, and told of the manners and words of so great a personage. And doubtless Jeanne heard many of these things. Assuredly she must have pricked up her ears at the name of Baudricourt. Then it was that her dazzling friend, the Archangel Knight, came once more to awaken the obscure thought slumbering within her: "Daughter of God," he said, "go thou to the Captain Robert de Baudricourt, in the town of Vaucouleurs, that he may grant unto thee men who shall take thee to the gentle Dauphin."[320]

Resolved to obey faithfully the behest of the Arch[Pg i.59]angel which accorded with her own desire, Jeanne foresaw that her mother, albeit pious, would grant her no aid in her design and that her father would strongly oppose it. Therefore she refrained from confiding it to them.[321]

She thought that Durand Lassois would be the man to give her the succour of which she had need. In consideration of his age she called him uncle,—he was her elder by sixteen years.

Their kinship was by marriage: Lassois had married one Jeanne, daughter of one Le Vauseul, husbandman, and of Aveline, sister of Isabelle de Vouthon, and consequently cousin-german of Isabelle's daughter.[322]

With his wife, his father-in-law, and his mother-in-law, Lassois dwelt at Burey-en-Vaulx, a hamlet of a few homesteads, lying on the left bank of the Meuse, in the green valley, five miles from Domremy, and less than two and a half miles from Vaucouleurs.[323]

Jeanne went to see him, told him of her design, and showed him that she must needs see Sire Robert de Baudricourt. That her kind kinsman might the more readily believe in her, she repeated to him the strange prophecy, of which we have already made mention: "Was it not known of old," she said, "that a woman should ruin the kingdom of France and that a woman should re-establish it?"[324]

This prognostication, it appears, caused Durand[Pg i.60] Lassois to reflect. Of the two facts foretold therein, the first, the evil one, had come to pass in the town of Troyes, when Madame Ysabeau had given the Kingdom of the Lilies and Madame Catherine of France to the King of England. It only remained to hope that the second, the good, would likewise come to pass. If in the heart of Durand Lassois there were any love for the Dauphin Charles, such must have been his desire; but on this point history is silent.

During this visit to her cousin, Jeanne met with others besides her kinsfolk, the Vouthons and their children. She visited a young nobleman, by name Geoffroy de Foug, who dwelt in the parish of Maxey-sur-Vayse, of which the hamlet of Burey formed part. She confided to him that she wanted to go to France. My Lord Geoffroy did not know much of Jeanne's parents; he was ignorant even of their names. But the damsel seemed to him good, simple, pious, and he encouraged her in her marvellous undertaking.[325] A week after her arrival at Burey she attained her object: Durand Lassois consented to take her to Vaucouleurs.[326]

Before starting she asked a favour from her aunt Aveline who was with child; she said to her: "If the babe you bear is a daughter, call her Catherine in memory of my dead sister."

Catherine, who had married Colin de Greux, had just died.[327]

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 3

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