Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


ROBERT de Baudricourt, who in those days commanded the town of Vaucouleurs for the Dauphin Charles, was the son of Liébault de Baudricourt deceased, once chamberlain of Robert, Duke of Bar, governor of Pont-à-Mousson, and of Marguerite d'Aunoy, Lady of Blaise in Bassigny. Fourteen or fifteen years earlier he had succeeded his two uncles, Guillaume, the Bastard of Poitiers, and Jean d'Aunoy as Bailie of Chaumont and Commander of Vaucouleurs. His first wife had been a rich widow; after her death he had married, in 1425, another widow, as rich as the first, Madame Alarde de Chambley. And it is a fact that the peasants of Uruffe and of Gibeaumex stole the cart carrying the cakes ordered for the wedding feast. Sire Robert was like all the warriors of his time and country; he was greedy and cunning; he had many friends among his enemies and many enemies among his friends; he fought now for his own side, now against it, but always for his own advantage. For the rest he was no worse than his fellows, and one of the least stupid.[328]

[Pg i.62]

Clad in a poor red gown,[329] but her heart bright with mystic love, Jeanne climbed the hill dominating the town and the valley. Without any difficulty she entered the castle, for its gates were opened as freely as if it had been a fair; and she was led into the hall where was Sire Robert among his men-at-arms. She heard the Voice saying to her: "That is he!"[330] And immediately she went straight to him, and spoke to him fearlessly, beginning, doubtless, by saying what she deemed to be most urgent: "I am come to you, sent by Messire," she said, "that you may send to the Dauphin and tell him to hold himself in readiness, but not to give battle to his enemies."[331]

Assuredly she must thus have spoken, prompted by a new revelation from her Voices. And it is important to notice that she repeated word for word what had been said seventy-five years earlier, not far from Vaucouleurs, by a peasant of Champagne who was a vavasour, that is, a freeman. This peasant's career had begun like Jeanne's, but had come to a much more abrupt conclusion. Jacques d'Arc's daughter had not been the first to say that revelations had been made to her concerning the war. Periods of great distress are the times when inspired persons most commonly appear. Thus it came to pass that in the[Pg i.63] days of the Plague and of the Black Prince the vavasour of Champagne heard a voice coming forth from a beam of light.

While he was at work in the fields the voice had said to him: "Go thou, and warn John, King of France, that he fight not against any of his enemies." It was a few days before the Battle of Poitiers.[332]

Then the counsel was wise; but in the month of May, 1428, it seemed less wise, and appeared to have little bearing on the state of affairs at that time. Since the disaster of Verneuil, the French had not felt equal to giving battle to their enemies; and they were not thinking of it. Towns were taken and lost, skirmishes were fought, sallies were attempted, but the enemy was not engaged in pitched battles. There was no need to restrain the Dauphin Charles, whom in those days nature and fortune rendered unadventurous.[333] About the time that Jeanne was uttering these words before Sire Robert, the English in France were preparing an expedition, and were hesitating, unable to decide whether to march on Angers or on Orléans.[334]

Jeanne gave utterance according to the promptings of her Archangel and her Saints, and touching warfare and the condition of the kingdom they knew neither more nor less than she. But it is not surprising that those who believe themselves sent by God should ask to be waited for. And again in the damsel's fear lest the French knights should once more[Pg i.64] give battle after their own guise there was much of the sound common sense of the people. They were only too well acquainted with knightly warfare.

Perfectly calm and self-possessed, Jeanne went on and uttered a prophecy concerning the Dauphin: "Before mid Lent my Lord will grant him aid." Then straightway she added: "But in very deed the realm belongs not to the Dauphin. Nathless it is Messire's will that the Dauphin should be king and receive the kingdom in trust—en commande.[335] Notwithstanding his enemies, the Dauphin shall be king; and it is I who shall lead him to his anointing."

Doubtless the title Messire, in the sense in which she employed it, sounded strange and obscure, since Sire Robert, failing to understand it, asked: "Who is Messire?"

"The King of Heaven," the damsel answered.

She had made use of another term, concerning which, as far as we know, Sire Robert made no remark; and yet it is suggestive.[336]

That word commande employed in matters connected with inheritance signified something given in trust.[337] If the King received the kingdom en commande he would merely hold it in trust. Thus the maid's utterance agreed with the views of the most pious concerning Our Lord's government of kingdoms. By herself she could not have happened on the word or the idea; she had obviously been instructed by one of those churchmen whose influence[Pg i.65] we have discerned already[338] in the Lorraine prophecy, but the trace of whom has completely vanished.

Touching things spiritual Jeanne held converse with several priests; among others with Messire Arnolin, of Gondrecourt-le-Château, and Messire Dominique Jacob, priest of Moutier-sur-Saulx, who was her confessor.[339] It is a pity we do not know what these ecclesiastics thought of the insatiable cruelty of the English, of the pride of my Lord Duke of Burgundy, of the misfortunes of the Dauphin, and whether they did not hope that one day Our Lord Jesus Christ at the prayer of the common folk would condescend to grant the kingdom en commande to Charles, son of Charles. It was possibly from one of these that Jeanne derived her theocratic ideas.[340]

While she was speaking to Sire Robert there was present, and not by chance merely, a certain knight of Lorraine, Bertrand de Poulengy, who possessed lands near Gondrecourt and held an office in the provostship of Vaucouleurs.[341] He was then about thirty-six years of age. He was a man who associated with churchmen; at least he was familiar with the manner of speech of devout persons.[342] Perhaps he now saw[Pg i.66] Jeanne for the first time; but he must certainly have heard of her; and he knew her to be good and pious. Twelve years before he had frequently visited Domremy; he knew the country well; he had sat beneath l'Arbre des Dames, and had been several times to the house of Jacques d'Arc and Romée, whom he held to be good honest farmer folk.[343]

It may be that Bertrand de Poulengy was struck by the damsel's speech and bearing; it is more likely that the knight was in touch with certain ecclesiastics unknown to us, who were instructing the peasant seeress with an eye to rendering her better able to serve the realm of France and the Church. However that may be, in Bertrand she had a friend who was to be her strong support in the future.

For the nonce, however, if our information be correct, he did nothing and spoke not a word. Perhaps he judged it best to wait until the commander of the town should be ready to grant a more favourable hearing to the saint's request. Sire Robert understood nothing of all this; one point only appeared plain to him, that Jeanne would make a fine camp-follower and that she would be a great favourite with the men-at-arms.[344]

In dismissing the villein who had brought her, he gave him a piece of advice quite in keeping with the wisdom of the time concerning the chastising of daughters: "Take her back to her father and box her ears well."

Sire Robert held such discipline to be excellent, for more than once he urged Uncle Lassois to take Jeanne home well whipped.[345]

[Pg i.67]

After a week's absence she returned to the village. Neither the Captain's contumely nor the garrison's insults had humiliated or discouraged her. Imagining that her Voices had foretold them,[346] she held them to be proofs of the truth of her mission. Like those who walk in their sleep she was calm in the face of obstacles and yet quietly persistent. In the house, in the garden, in the meadow, she continued to sleep that marvellous slumber, in which she dreamed of the Dauphin, of his knights, and of battles with angels hovering above.

She found it impossible to be silent; on all occasions her secret escaped from her. She was always prophesying, but she was never believed. On St. John the Baptist's Eve, about a month after her return, she said sententiously to Michel Lebuin, a husbandman of Burey, who was quite a boy: "Between Coussey and Vaucouleurs is a girl who in less than a year from now will cause the Dauphin to be anointed King of France."[347]

One day meeting Gérardin d'Epinal, the only man at Domremy not of the Dauphin's party, whose head according to her own confession she would willingly have cut off, although she was godmother to his son, she could not refrain from announcing even to him in veiled words her mystic dealing with God: "Gossip, if you were not a Burgundian there is something I would tell you."[348]

The good man thought it must be a question of an approaching betrothal and that Jacques d'Arc's daughter was about to marry one of the lads with whom she had broken bread under l'Arbre[Pg i.68] des Fées and drunk water from the Gooseberry Spring.

Alas! how greatly would Jacques d'Arc have desired the secret to be of that nature. This upright man was very strict; he was careful concerning his children's conduct; and Jeanne's behaviour caused him anxiety. He knew not that she heard Voices. He had no idea that all day Paradise came down into his garden, that from Heaven to his house a ladder was let down, on which there came and went without ceasing more angels than had ever trodden the ladder of the Patriarch Jacob; neither did he imagine that for Jeannette alone, without any one else perceiving it, a mystery was being played, a thousand times richer and finer than those which on feast days were acted on platforms, in towns like Toul and Nancy. He was miles away from suspecting such incredible marvels. But what he did see was that his daughter was losing her senses, that her mind was wandering, and that she was giving utterance to wild words. He perceived that she could think of nothing but cavalcades and battles. He must have known something of the escapade at Vaucouleurs. He was terribly afraid that one day the unhappy child would go off for good on her wanderings. This agonising anxiety haunted him even in his sleep. One night he dreamed that he saw her fleeing with men-at-arms; and this dream was so vivid that he remembered it when he awoke. For several days he said over and over again to his sons, Jean and Pierre: "If I really believed that what I dreamed of my daughter would ever come true, I would rather see her drowned by you; and if you would not do it I would drown her myself."[349]

Isabelle repeated these words to her daughter hop[Pg i.69]ing that they might alarm her and cause her to correct her ways. Devout as she was, Jeanne's mother shared her father's fears. The idea that their daughter was in danger of becoming a worthless creature was a cruel thought to these good people. In those troubled times there was a whole multitude of these wild women whom the men-at-arms carried with them on horseback. Each soldier had his own.

It is not uncommon for saints in their youth by the strangeness of their behaviour to give rise to such suspicions. And Jeanne displayed those signs of sainthood. She was the talk of the village. Folk pointed at her mockingly, saying: "There goes she who is to restore France and the royal house."[350]

The neighbours had no difficulty in finding a cause for the strangeness which possessed the damsel. They attributed it to some magic spell. She had been seen beneath the Beau Mai bewreathing it with garlands. The old beech was known to be haunted as well as the spring near by. It was well known, too, that the fairies cast spells. There were those who discovered that Jeanne had met a wicked fairy there. "Jeannette has met her fate beneath l'Arbre des Fées,"[351] they said. Would that none but peasants had believed that story!

On the 22nd of June, from the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France for Henry VI, Antoine de Vergy, Governor of Champagne, received a commission to furnish forth a thousand men-at-arms for the purpose of bringing the castellany of Vaucouleurs into subjection to the English. Three weeks later, commanded by the two Vergy, Antoine and Jean, the[Pg i.70] little company set forth. It consisted of four knights-banneret, fourteen knights-bachelor, and three hundred and sixty-three men-at-arms. Pierre de Trie, commander of Beauvais, Jean, Count of Neufchâtel and Fribourg, were ordered to join the main body.[352]

On the march, as was his custom, Antoine de Vergy laid waste all the villages of the castellany with fire and sword. Threatened once again with a disaster with which they were only too well acquainted, the folk of Domremy and Greux already beheld their cattle captured, their barns set on fire, their wives and daughters ravished. Having experienced before that the Castle on the Island was not secure enough, they determined to flee and seek refuge in their market town of Neufchâteau, only five miles away from Domremy. Thus they set out towards the middle of July. Abandoning their houses and fields and driving their cattle before them, they followed the road, through the fields of wheat and rye and up the vine-clad hills to the town, wherein they lodged as best they could.[353]

The d'Arc family was taken in by the wife of Jean Waldaires, who was called La Rousse. She kept an inn, where lodged soldiers, monks, merchants, and pilgrims. There were some who suspected her of harbouring bad women.[354] And there is reason to believe that certain of her women customers were of doubtful reputation. Albeit she herself was of good standing, that is to say, she was rich. She had money[Pg i.71] enough to lend sometimes to her fellow-citizens.[355] Although Neufchâteau belonged to the Duke of Lorraine, who was of the Burgundian party, it has been thought that the hostess of this inn inclined towards the Armagnacs; but it is vain to attempt to discover the sentiments of La Rousse concerning the troubles of the kingdom of France.[356]

At Neufchâteau as at Domremy Jeanne drove her father's beasts to the field and kept his flocks.[357] Handy and robust she used also to help La Rousse in her household duties.[358] This circumstance gave rise to the malicious report set on foot by the Burgundians that she had been serving maid in an inn frequented by drunkards and bad women.[359] The truth is that Jeanne, when she was not tending the cattle, and helping her hostess, passed all her time in church.[360]

There were two fine religious houses in the town, one belonging to the Grey Friars, the other to the Sisters of St. Claire, the sons and daughters of good St. Francis.[361] The monastery of the Grey Friars had been built two hundred years earlier by Mathieu II of Lorraine. The reigning duke had recently added richly to its endowments. Noble ladies, great lords, and among others a Bourlémont lord of Domremy and Greux lay there beneath brasses.[362]

In the flower of their history these mendicant monks of old had welcomed to their third order[Pg i.72] crowds of citizens and peasants as well as multitudes of princes and kings.[363] Now they languished corrupt and decadent among the French friars. Quarrels and schisms were frequent. Notwithstanding Colette of Corbie's attempted restoration of the rule, the old discipline was nowhere observed.[364] These mendicants distributed leaden medals, taught short prayers to serve as charms, and vowed special devotion to the holy name of Jesus.[365]

During the fortnight Jeanne spent in the town of Neufchâteau,[366] she frequented the church of the Grey Friars monastery, and two or three times confessed to brethren of the order.[367] It has been stated that she belonged to the third order of St. Francis, and the inference has been drawn that her affiliation dated from her stay at Neufchâteau.[368]

Such an inference is very doubtful; and in any case the affiliation cannot have been very ceremoni[Pg i.73]ous. It is difficult to see how in so short a time the friars could have instructed her in the practices of Franciscan piety. She was far too imbued with ecclesiastical notions concerning the spiritual and the temporal power, she was too full of mysteries and revelations to imbibe their spirit. Besides, her sojourn at Neufchâteau was troubled by anxiety and broken by absences.

In this town she received a summons to appear before the official of Toul, in whose jurisdiction she was, as a native of Domremy-de-Greux. A young bachelor of Domremy alleged that a promise of marriage had been given him by Jacques d'Arc's daughter. Jeanne denied it. He persisted in his statement, and summoned her to appear before the official.[369] To this ecclesiastical tribunal such cases belonged; it pronounced judgment on questions of nullity of marriage or validity of betrothal.

The curious part of Jeanne's case is that her parents were against her, and on the side of the young man. It was in defiance of their wishes that she defended the suit and appeared before the official. Later she declared that in this matter she had disobeyed them, and that it was the only time she had failed in the submission she owed her parents.[370]

The journey from Neufchâteau to Toul and back involved travelling more than twenty leagues on foot, over roads infested with bands of armed men, through a country desolated by fire and sword, from which the peasants of Domremy had recently fled in a panic. To such a journey, however, she made up her mind against the will of her parents.[Pg i.74]

Possibly she may have appeared before the judge at Toul, not once but two or three times. And there was a great chance of her having to journey day and night with her so-called betrothed, for he was passing over the same road at the same time. Her Voices bade her fear nothing. Before the judge she swore to speak the truth, and denied having made any promise of marriage.

She had done nothing wrong. But an evil interpretation was set upon conduct which proceeded alone from an innocence both singular and heroic. At Neufchâteau it was said that on those journeys she had consumed all her substance. But what was her substance? Alas! she had set out with nothing. She may have been driven to beg her bread from door to door. Saints receive alms as they give them: for the love of God. There was a story that her betrothed seeing her living during the trial in company with bad women, had abandoned his demand for justice, renouncing a bride of such bad repute.[371] Such calumnies were only too readily believed.

After a fortnight's sojourn at Neufchâteau, Jacques d'Arc and his family returned to Domremy. The orchard, the house, the monastery, the village, the fields,—in what a state of desolation did they behold them! The soldiers had plundered, ravaged, burnt everything. Unable to exact ransom from the villeins who had taken flight, the men-at-arms had destroyed all their goods. The monastery once as proud as a fortress, with its watchman's tower, was now nothing but a heap of blackened ruins. And[Pg i.75] now on holy days the folk of Domremy must needs go to hear mass in the church of Greux.[372]

So full of danger were the times that the villagers were ordered to keep in fortified houses and castles.[373]

Meanwhile the English were laying siege to the town of Orléans, which belonged to their prisoner Duke Charles. By so doing they acted badly, for, having possession of his body, they ought to have respected his property.[374] They built fortified towers round the city of Orléans, the very heart of France; and it was said that they had entrenched themselves there in great strength.[375] Now Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret loved the Land of the Lilies; they were the sworn friends and gentle cousins of the Dauphin Charles. They talked to the shepherd maid of the misfortunes of the kingdom and continued to say: "Leave thy village and go into France."[376]

Jeanne was all the more impatient to set forth because she had herself announced the time of her arrival in France, and that time was drawing near. She had told the Commander of Vaucouleurs that succour should come to the Dauphin before mid Lent. She did not want to make her Voices lie.[377]

Towards the middle of January occurred the opportunity she was looking for of returning to Burey. At this time Durand Lassois' wife, Jeanne[Pg i.76] le Vauseul, was brought to bed.[378] It was the custom in the country for the young kinswomen and friends of the mother to attend and wait upon her and her babe. A good and kindly custom, followed all the more readily because of the opportunity it gave of pleasant meetings and cheerful gossip.[379] Jeanne urged her uncle to ask her father that she might be sent to tend the sick woman, and Lassois consented: he was always ready to do what his niece asked him, and perhaps his complaisance was encouraged by pious persons of some importance.[380] But how this father, who shortly before had said that he would throw his daughter into the Meuse rather than that she should go off with men-at-arms, should have allowed her to go to the gates of the town, protected by a kinsman of whose weakness he was well aware, is hard to understand. However so he did.[381]

Leaving the home of her childhood, which she was never to see again, Jeanne, in company with Durand Lassois, passed down her native valley in its winter bareness. As she went by the house of the husbandman Gérard Guillemette of Greux, whose children and Jacques d'Arc's were great friends, she cried: "Good-bye! I am going to Vaucouleurs."[382]

A few paces further she saw her friend Mengette: "Good-bye, Mengette," she said. "God bless thee."[383]

And by the way, on the doorsteps of the houses, whenever she saw faces she knew, she bade them[Pg i.77] farewell.[384] But she avoided Hauviette with whom she had played and slept in childhood and whom she dearly loved. If she were to bid her good-bye she feared that her heart would fail her. It was not till later that Hauviette heard of her friend's departure and then she wept bitterly.[385]

On her second arrival at Vaucouleurs, Jeanne imagined that she was setting foot in a town belonging to the Dauphin, and, in the language of the day, entering the royal antechamber.[386] She was mistaken. Since the beginning of August, 1428, the Commander of Vaucouleurs had yielded the fortress to Antoine de Vergy, but had not yet surrendered it to him.

It was one of those promises to capitulate at the end of a given time. They were not uncommon in those days, and they ceased to be valid if the fortress were relieved before the day fixed for its surrender.[387]

Jeanne went to Sire Robert in his castle just as she had done nine months before; and this was the revelation she made to him: "My Lord Captain," she said, "know that God has again given me to wit, and commanded me many times to go to the gentle Dauphin, who must be and who is the true King of France, and that he shall grant me men-at-arms with whom I shall raise the siege of Orléans and take him to his anointing at Reims."[388]

[Pg i.78]

This time she announces that it is her mission to deliver Orléans. And the anointing is not to come to pass until this the first part of her task shall have been accomplished. We cannot fail to recognise the readiness and the tact with which the Voices altered their commands previously given, according to the necessities of the moment. Robert's manner towards Jeanne had completely changed. He said nothing about boxing her ears and sending her back to her parents. He no longer treated her roughly; and if he did not believe her announcement at least he listened to it readily.

In one of her conversations with him she spoke of strange matters: "Once I have accomplished the behest Messire has given me, I shall marry and I shall bear three sons, the eldest of whom shall be pope, the second emperor, and the third king."

Sire Robert answered gayly: "Since thy sons are to be such great personages, I should like to give thee one. Thereby should I myself have honour."

Jeanne replied: "Nay, gentle Robert, nay. It is not yet time. The Holy Ghost shall appoint the time."[389]

To judge from the few of her words handed down to us, in the early days of her mission the young prophetess spoke alternately two different languages. Her speech seemed to flow from two distinct sources. The one ingenuous, candid, naïve, concise, rustically simple, unconsciously arch, sometimes rough, alike[Pg i.79] chivalrous and holy, generally bearing on the inheritance and the anointing of the Dauphin and the confounding of the English. This was the language of her Voices, her own, her soul's language. The other, more subtle, flavoured with allegory and flowers of speech, critical with scholastic grace, bearing on the Church, suggesting the clerk and betraying some outside influence. The words she uttered to Sire Robert touching the children she should bear are of the second sort. They are an allegory. Her triple birth signifies that the peace of Christendom shall be born of her work, that after she shall have fulfilled her divine mission, the Pope, the Emperor, and the King—all three sons of God—shall cause concord and love to reign in the Church of Jesus Christ. The apologue is quite clear; and yet a certain amount of intelligence is necessary for its comprehension. The Captain failed to understand it; he interpreted it literally and answered accordingly, for he was a simple fellow and a merry.[390]

Jeanne lodged in the town with humble folk, Henri Leroyer and his wife Catherine, friends of her cousin Lassois. She used to occupy her time in spinning, being a good spinster; and the little she had she gave to the poor. With Catherine she went to the parish church.[391] In the morning, in her most devout moods, she would climb the hill, round the foot of which cluster the roofs of the town, and enter the chapel of Sainte Marie-de-Vaucouleurs. This collegiate church, built in the reign of Philippe VI, adjoined the château wherein dwelt the Commander of Vaucouleurs. The venerable stone nave rose up boldly towards the east, overlooking the vast extent[Pg i.80] of hills and meadows, and dominating the valley where Jeanne had been born and bred. She used to hear mass and remain long in prayer.[392]

Under the chapel, in the crypt, there was an image of the Virgin, ancient and deeply venerated, called Notre-Dame-de-la-Voûte.[393] It worked miracles, but especially on behalf of the poor and needy. Jeanne delighted to remain in this dark and lonely crypt, where the saints preferred to visit her.

One day a young clerk, barely more than a child, who waited in the chapel, saw the damsel motionless, with hands clasped, head thrown back, eyes full of tears raised to heaven; and as long as he lived the vision of that rapture remained imprinted on his mind.[394]

She confessed often, usually to Jean Fournier, priest of Vaucouleurs.[395]

Her hostess was touched by the goodness and gentleness of her manner of life; but she was profoundly agitated when one day the damsel said to her: "Dost thou not know it hath been prophesied that France ruined by a woman shall be saved by a maiden from the Lorraine Marches?"

Leroyer's wife knew as well as Durand Lassois that Madame Ysabeau, as full of wickedness as Herodias, had delivered up Madame Catherine of France and the Kingdom of the Lilies to the King of England. And henceforth she was almost persuaded to believe that Jeanne was the maid announced by the prophecy.[396]

[Pg i.81]

This pious damsel held converse with devout persons and also with men of noble rank. To all alike she said: "I must to the gentle Dauphin. It is the will of Messire, the King of Heaven, that I wend to the gentle Dauphin. I am sent by the King of Heaven. I must go even if I go on my knees."[397]

Revelations of this nature she made to Messire Aubert, Lord of Ourches. He was a good Frenchman and of the Armagnac party, since four years earlier he had made war against the English and Burgundians. She told him that she must go to the Dauphin, that she demanded to be taken to him, and that to him should redound profit and honour incomparable.

At length through her illuminations and her prophecies, her fame was spread abroad in the town; and her words were found to be good.[398]

In the garrison there was a man-at-arms of about twenty-eight years of age, Jean de Novelompont or Nouillompont, who was commonly called Jean de Metz. By rank a freeman, albeit not of noble estate, he had acquired or inherited the lordship of Nouillompont and Hovecourt, situate in that part of Barrois which was outside the Duke's domain; and he bore its name.[399] Formerly in the pay of Jean de Wals, Captain and Provost of Stenay, he was now, in 1428, in the service of the Commander of Vaucouleurs.

Of his morals and manner of life we know nothing,[Pg i.82] except that three years before he had sworn a vile oath and been condemned to pay a fine of two sols.[400] Apparently when he took the oath he was in great wrath.[401] He was more or less intimate with Bertrand de Poulengy, who had certainly spoken to him of Jeanne.

One day he met the damsel and said to her: "Well, ma mie, what are you doing here? Must the King be driven from his kingdom and we all turn English?"[402]

Such words from a young Lorraine warrior are worthy of notice. The Treaty of Troyes did not subject France to England; it united the two kingdoms. If war continued after as before, it was merely to decide between the two claimants, Charles de Valois and Henry of Lancaster. Whoever gained the victory, nothing would be changed in the laws and customs of France. Yet this poor freebooter of the German Marches imagined none the less that under an English king he would be an Englishman. Many French of all ranks believed the same and could not suffer the thought of being Anglicised; in their minds their own fates depended on the fate of the kingdom and of the Dauphin Charles.

Jeanne answered Jean de Metz: "I came hither to the King's territory to speak with Sire Robert, that he may take me or command me to be taken to the Dauphin; but he heeds neither me nor my words."

Then, with the fixed idea welling up in her heart that her mission must be begun before the middle of[Pg i.83] Lent: "Notwithstanding, ere mid Lent, I must be before the Dauphin, were I in going to wear my legs to the knees."[403]

A report ran through the towns and villages. It was said that the son of the King of France, the Dauphin Louis, who had just entered his fifth year, had been recently betrothed to the daughter of the King of Scotland, the three-year-old Madame Margaret, and the common people celebrated this royal union with such rejoicings as were possible in a desolated country.[404] Jeanne, when she heard these tidings, said to the man-at-arms: "I must go to the Dauphin, for no one in the world, no king or duke or daughter of the King of Scotland, can restore the realm of France."

Then straightway she added: "In me alone is help, albeit for my part, I would far rather be spinning by my poor mother's side, for this life is not to my liking. But I must go; and so I will, for it is Messire's command that I should go."

She said what she thought. But she did not know herself; she did not know that her Voices were the cries of her own heart, and that she longed to quit the distaff for the sword.

Jean de Metz asked, as Sire Robert had done: "Who is Messire?"

"He is God," she replied.

Then straightway, as if he believed in her, he said with a sudden impulse: "I promise you, and I give you my word of honour, that God helping me I will take you to the King."[Pg i.84]

He gave her his hand as a sign that he pledged his word and asked: "When will you set forth?"

"This hour," she answered, "is better than to-morrow; to-morrow is better than after to-morrow."

Jean de Metz himself, twenty-seven years later, reported this conversation.[405] If we are to believe him, he asked the damsel in conclusion whether she would travel in her woman's garb. It is easy to imagine what difficulties he would foresee in journeying with a peasant girl clad in a red frock over French roads infested with lecherous fellows, and that he would deem it wiser for her to disguise herself as a boy. She promptly divined his thought and replied: "I will willingly dress as a man."[406]

There is no reason why these things should not have occurred. Only if they did, then a Lorraine freebooter suggested to the saint that idea concerning her dress which later she will think to have received from God.[407]

Of his own accord, or rather, acting by the advice of some wise person, Sire Robert desired to know whether Jeanne was not being inspired by an evil spirit. For the devil is cunning and sometimes assumes the mark of innocence. And as Sire Robert was not learned in such matters, he determined to take counsel with his priest.

Now one day when Catherine and Jeanne were at home spinning, they beheld the Commander coming accompanied by the priest, Messire Jean Fournier. They asked the mistress of the house to withdraw; and when they were left alone with the damsel, Messire[Pg i.85] Jean Fournier put on his stole and pronounced some Latin words which amounted to saying: "If thou be evil, away with thee; if thou be good, draw nigh."[408]

It was the ordinary formula of exorcism or, to be more exact, of conjuration. In the opinion of Messire Jean Fournier these words, accompanied by a few drops of holy water, would drive away devils, if there should unhappily be any in the body of this village maiden.

Messire Jean Fournier was convinced that devils were possessed by an uncontrollable desire to enter the bodies of men, and especially of maidens, who sometimes swallowed them with their bread. They dwelt in the mouth under the tongue, in the nostrils, or penetrated down the throat into the stomach. In these various abodes their action was violent; and their presence was discerned by the contortions and howlings of the miserable victims who were possessed.

Pope St. Gregory, in his Dialogues, gives a striking example of the facility with which devils insinuate themselves into women. He tells how a nun, being in the garden, saw a lettuce which she thought looked tender. She plucked it, and, neglecting to bless it by making the sign of the cross, she ate of it and straightway fell possessed. A man of God having drawn near unto her, the demon began to cry out: "It is I! It is I who have done it! I was seated upon that lettuce. This woman came and she swallowed me." But the prayers of the man of God drove him out.[409]

The caution required in such a matter was therefore not exaggerated by Messire Jean Fournier.[Pg i.86] Possessed by the idea that the devil is subtle and woman corrupt, carefully and according to prescribed rules he proceeded to solve a difficult problem. It was generally no easy matter to recognise one possessed by the devil and to distinguish between a demoniac and a good Christian. Very great saints had not been spared the trial to which Jeanne was to be subjected.

Having recited the formula and sprinkled the holy water, Messire Jean Fournier expected, if the damsel were possessed, to see her struggle, writhe, and endeavour to take flight. In such a case he must needs have made use of more powerful formulæ, have sprinkled more holy water, and made more signs of the cross, and by such means have driven out the devils until they were seen to depart with a terrible noise and a noxious odour, in the shape of dragons, camels, or fish.[410]

There was nothing suspicious in Jeanne's attitude. No wild agitation, no frenzy. Merely anxious and intreating, she dragged herself on her knees towards the priest. She did not flee before God's holy name. Messire Jean Fournier concluded that no devil was within her.

Left alone in the house with Catherine, Jeanne, who now understood the meaning of the ceremony, showed strong resentment towards Messire Jean Fournier. She reproached him with having suspected her: "It was wrong of him," she said to her hostess, "for, having heard my confession, he ought to have known me."[411]

She would have thanked the priest of Vaucouleurs[Pg i.87] had she known how he was furthering the fulfilment of her mission by subjecting her to this ordeal. Convinced that this maiden was not inspired by the devil, Sire Robert must have been driven to conclude that she might be inspired by God; for apparently he was a man of simple reasoning. He wrote to the Dauphin Charles concerning the young saint; and doubtless he bore witness to the innocence and goodness he beheld in her.[412]

Although it looked as if the Captain would have to resign his command to my Lord de Vergy, Sire Robert did not intend to quit his country where he had dealings with all parties. Indeed he cared little enough about the Dauphin Charles, and it is difficult to see what personal interest he can have had in recommending him a prophetess. Without pretending to discover what was passing in his mind, one may believe that he wrote to the Dauphin on Jeanne's behalf at the request of some of those persons who thought well of her, probably of Bertrand de Poulengy and of Jean de Metz. These two men-at-arms, seeing that the Dauphin's cause was lost in the Lorraine Marches, had every reason for proceeding to the banks of the Loire, where they might still fight with the hope of advantage.

On the eve of setting out, they appeared disposed to take the seeress with them, and even to defray all her expenses, reckoning on repaying themselves from the royal coffers at Chinon, and deriving honour and advantage from so rare a marvel. But they waited to be assured of the Dauphin's consent.[413]

[Pg i.88]

Meanwhile Jeanne could not rest. She came and went from Vaucouleurs to Burey and from Burey to Vaucouleurs. She counted the days; time dragged for her as for a woman with child.[414]

At the end of January, feeling she could wait no longer, she resolved to go to the Dauphin Charles alone. She clad herself in garments belonging to Durand Lassois, and with this kind cousin set forth on the road to France.[415] A man of Vaucouleurs, one Jacques Alain, accompanied them.[416] Probably these two men expected that the damsel would herself realise the impossibility of such a journey and that they would not go very far. That is what happened. The three travellers had barely journeyed a league from Vaucouleurs, when, near the Chapel of Saint Nicholas, which rises in the valley of Septfonds, in the middle of the great wood of Saulcy, Jeanne changed her mind and said to her comrades that it was not right of her to set out thus. Then they all three returned to the town.[417]

At length a royal messenger brought King Charles's reply to the Commander of Vaucouleurs. The messenger was called Colet de Vienne.[418] His name indicates that he came from the province which the Dauphin had governed before the death of the late King, and which had remained unswervingly faithful to the unfortunate prince. The reply was[Pg i.89] that Sire Robert should send the young saint to Chinon.[419]

That which Jeanne had demanded and which it had seemed impossible to obtain was granted. She was to be taken to the King as she had desired and within the time fixed by herself. But this departure, for which she had so ardently longed, was delayed several days by a remarkable incident. The incident shows that the fame of the young prophetess had gone out through Lorraine; and it proves that in those days the great of the land had recourse to saints in their hour of need.

Jeanne was summoned to Nancy by my Lord the Duke of Lorraine. Furnished with a safe-conduct that the Duke had sent her, she set forth in rustic jerkin and hose on a nag given her by Durand Lassois and Jacques Alain. It had cost them twelve francs which Sire Robert repaid them later out of the royal revenue.[420] From Vaucouleurs to Nancy is twenty-four leagues. Jean de Metz accompanied her as far as Toul; Durand Lassois went with her the whole way.[421]

Before going to the Duke of Lorraine's palace, Jeanne ascended the valley of the Meurthe and went[Pg i.90] to worship at the shrine of the great Saint Nicholas, whose relics were preserved in the Benedictine chapel of Saint-Nicholas-du-Port. She did well; for Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of travellers.[422]


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