Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Jeanne d'Arc: Her Life and Death Chapter 14

THE EXAMINATION IN PRISON.
LENT, 1431.

It must not be forgotten, in the history of this strange trial, that the prisoner was brought from the other side of France expressly that she might be among a people who were not of her own party, and who had no natural sympathies with her, but a hereditary connection with England, which engaged all its partialities on that side. For this purpose it was that the venue, the town expected the coming of the Witch, and all the dark revelations that might be extracted from her, her spells, and the details of that contract with the devil which was so entrancing to the popular imagination, with excitement and eagerness. Such a Cause Célèbre had never taken place among them before; and everybody no doubt looked forward to the pleasure of seeing it proved that it was not by the will of Heaven, but by some monstrous combination of black arts, that such an extraordinary result as the defeat of the invincible English soldiers had been brought about. The litigious and logical Normans no doubt looked forward to it as to the most interesting entertainment, ending in the complete vindication of their own side and the exposure of the nefarious arms used by their adversaries.

But when the proceedings had been opened, and in place of some dark- browed and termagant sorceress, with the mark of every evil passion in her face, there appeared before the spectators crowding into every available corner, the slim, youthful figure–was it boy or girl?–the serene and luminous countenance of the Maid, the flower of youth raising its whiteness and innocence in the midst of all those black- robed, subtle Doctors, it is impossible but that the very first glance must have given a shock and thrill of amazement and doubt to what may be called the lay spectators, those who had no especial bias more than common report, and whose credit or interest were not involved in bringing this unlikely criminal to condemnation. “A girl! Like our own Jeanne at home,” might many a father have said, dismayed and confounded. She had, they all say, those eyes of innocence which it is so impossible not to believe, and that virginal voice, assez femme, which a sentimental Frenchman insists upon as belonging only to the spotless. At all events she had the bearing of honesty, purity, and truth. She was not afraid though all the powers of hell–or was it only of the Church and the Law?–were arrayed against her: no guilty mystery to be discovered, was in her countenance. But it must have been plain to the keen and not too charitable Normans that such semblances are not always to be trusted, and that the devil himself even, on occasion, can take upon himself the appearance of an angel of light; so that after the first shock of wonder they no doubt settled themselves to listen, believing that soon they would have their imaginations fed with tales of horror, and would discover the hoofs and the horns and unveil with triumph the lurking demon. The French historians never take into consideration the fact that it was the belief of Rouen and Normandy, as well as of any similar town or province in England, that the child Henry VI. was lawful king, and that whatever was on the other side was a hateful adversary, to be brought to such disaster and shame as was possible, without mercy and without delay.

But after a few days of the examination which we have just reported, public opinion was greatly staggered, and knew not how to turn. Gradually the conviction must have been forced upon every mind which had any candour left, that Jeanne, at that dreadful bar, with the stake in sight, and all the learning of Paris–the entire power of one great national and half of another, all England and half France against–(many more than half France, for the other part had abandoned her cause),–showed nothing of the demon, but all–if not of the angel, yet of the Maid, the emblem of perfection to that rude world, though often so barbarously handled. It might almost be said of the age, notwithstanding its immorality and rampant viciousness, that in its eyes a true virgin could do no harm. And hers was one if ever such a thing existed on earth. The talk in the streets began to take a very different tone. Massieu the clerical sheriff’s officer saw nothing in her answers that was not good and right. Out of the midst of the crowd of listeners would burst an occasional cry of “Well said!” An Englishman, even a knight, overcome by his feelings, cried out: “Why was not she English, this brave girl!” All these were ominous sounds. Still more ominous was the utterance of Maître Jean Lohier, a lawyer of Rouen, who declared loudly that the trial was not a legal trial for the reasons which follow:

“In the first place because it was not in the form of an ordinary trial; secondly, because it was not held in a public court, and those present had not full and complete freedom to say what was their full and unbiassed opinion; thirdly, because there was question of the honour of the King of France of whose party Jeanne was, without calling him, or any one for him; fourthly, because neither libel nor articles were produced, and this woman who was only an uninstructed girl, had no advocate to answer for her before so many Masters and Doctors, on such grave matters, and especially those which touched upon the revelations of which she spoke; therefore it seemed to him that the trial was worth nothing. For these things Monseigneur de Beauvais was very indignant against the said Maître Lohier, saying: ’Here is Lohier who is going to make a fine fuss about our trial; he calumniates us all, and tells the world it is of no good. If one were to go by him, one would have to begin everything over again, and all that has been done would be of no use.’ Monseigneur de Beauvais said besides: ’It is easy to see on which foot he halts [/de quel pied il cloche/]. By St. John, we shall do nothing of the kind; we shall go on with our trial as we have begun it.’”

A day or two later Manchon, the Clerk of the Court (he who refused to take down Jeanne’s conversation with her Judas), met this same lawyer Lohier at church, and asked him, as no doubt every man asked every other whom he met, how did he think the trial was going? to which Lohier answered: “You see the manner in which they proceed; they will take her, if they can, in her words–that is to say, the assertions in which she says I know for certain, things that concern her apparitions. If she would say, ’It seems to me’ instead of ’I know for certain,’ I do not see how any man could condemn her. It appears that they proceed against her rather from hate than from any other cause, and for this reason I shall not remain here. I will have nothing to do with it.” This I think shows very clearly that Lohier, like the bulk of the population, by no means thought at first that it was “from hate” that the trial proceeded, but honestly believed that he had been called to try Jeanne as a professor of the black arts; and that he had discovered from her own testimony that she was not so, and that the motive of the trial was entirely a different one from that of justice; one in fact with which an honest man could have nothing to do.

It is very significant also that the number of judges present in court on the sixth day, the last of the public examination, was only thirty- eight, as against the sixty-two of the second day, which seems to prove that a general disgust and alarm was growing in the minds of those most closely concerned. Warwick and the soldiers, impatient of all such business, striding in noisily from time to time to give a careless glance at the proceedings, might not stay long enough to share the impression–or might, who can say? Their business was to get this pestilent woman, even if by chance she might be an innocent fanatic, cleared off the face of the earth and out of their way.

After the sixth day, however, it would seem that the Bishop and his tools had taken fright at the progress of public opinion. Before dismissing the court on that occasion, Cauchon made an address to the disturbed and anxious judges, informing them that he would not tire them out with prolonged sittings, but that a few specially chosen assistants would now examine into what further details were necessary. In the meantime all would be put in writing; so that they might think it over and deliberate within themselves, so as to be able each to make a report either to himself, the Bishop, or to some one deputed by him. The assessors, thus thrown out of work, were however forbidden to leave Rouen without the Bishop’s permission–probably because of the threat of Lohier. Repeated meetings were held in Cauchon’s house to arrange the details of the proceedings to follow; and during this time it was perhaps hoped that any excitement outside would quiet down. The Bishop himself had in the meantime other work in hand. He had to receive certain important visitors, one of them the man who held the appointment of Chancellor of France on the English side, and who was well acquainted with the mind of his masters. We have no information whatever whether Cauchon ever himself wavered, or allowed the possibility of acquitting Jeanne to enter his mind; but he must have seen that it was of the last necessity to know what would satisfy the English chiefs. No doubt he was confirmed and strengthened in the conviction that by hook or by crook her condemnation must be accomplished, by the conversation of these illustrious visitors. To save Jeanne was impossible he must have been told. No English soldier would strike a blow while she lived. England itself, the whole country, trembled at her name. Till she was got rid of nothing could be done.

There was of course great exaggeration in all this, for the English had fought desperately enough in her presence except on the one occasion of Patay, notwithstanding all the early prestige of Jeanne. But at all events it was made perfectly clear that the foregoing conclusion must be carried out, and that Jeanne must die: and, not only so, but she must die with opprobrium and disgrace as a witch, which almost everybody out of Rouen now believed her to be. The public examination which lasted six days was concluded on the third of March, 1430. On the following days, the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth of March, meetings were held, as we have said, in the Bishop’s house to consider what it would be well to do next, at one of which a select company of Inquisitors was chosen to carry on the examination in private. These were Jean de la Fontaine, a lawyer learned in canon law; Jean Beaupère, already her interrogator; Nicolas Midi, a Doctor in Theology; Pierre Morice, Canon of Rouen and Ambassador from the English King to the Council of Bâle; Thomas de Courcelles, the learned and excellent young Doctor already described; Nicolas l’Oyseleur, the traitor, also already sufficiently referred to; and Manchon, the honest Clerk of the court: the names of Gerard Feuillet, also a distinguished man, and Jean Fecardo, an advocate, are likewise also mentioned. They seem to have served in their turn, three or four at a time. This private session began on the 10th of March, a week after the conclusion of the public trial, and was held in the prison chamber inhabited by the Maid.

We shall not attempt to follow literally those private examinations, which would take a great deal more space than we have at our command, and would be fatiguing to the reader from the constant and prolonged repetitions; we shall therefore quote only such parts as are new or so greatly enlarged from Jeanne’s original statements as to seem so. At the first day’s examination in her prison she was questioned about Compiègne and her various proceedings before reaching that place.[1] She was asked, for one thing, if her voices had bidden her make the sally in which she was taken; to which she answered that had she known the time she was to be taken she would not have gone out, unless upon the express command of the saints. She was then asked about her standard, her arms, and her horses, and replied that she had no coat- of-arms, but her brothers had, who also had all her money, from ten to twelve thousand francs, which was “no great treasure to make war upon,” besides five chargers, and about seven other horses, all from the King. The examiners then came to their principal object, and having lulled her mind with these trifles, turned suddenly to a subject on which they still hoped she might commit herself, the sign which had proved her good faith to the King. It is scarcely possible to avoid the feeling, grave as all the circumstances were, that a little malice, a glance of mischievous pleasure, kindled in Jeanne’s eye. She had refused to enter into further explanations again and again. She had warned them that she would give them no true light on the subjects that concerned the King. Now she would seem to have had sudden recourse to the mystification that is dear to youth, to have tossed her young head and said: “Have then your own way“; and forthwith proceeded to romance, according to the indications given her of what was wanted, without thought of preserving any appearance of reality. Most probably indeed, her air and tone would make it apparent to her persistent questioners how complete a fable, or at least parable, it was.

Asked, what sign she gave to the King, she replied that it was a beautiful and honourable sign, very creditable and very good, and rich above all. Asked, if it still lasted; answered, “It would be good to know; it will last a thousand years and more if well guarded,” adding that it was in the treasure of the King. Asked, if it was of gold or silver or of precious stones, or in the form of a crown; answered: “I will tell you nothing more; but no man could devise a thing so rich as this sign; but the sign that is necessary for you is that God should deliver me out of your hands, and that is what He will do.” She also said that when she had to go to the King it was said by her voices: “Go boldly; and when you are before the King he will have a sign which will make him receive and believe in you.” Asked, what reverence she made when the sign came to the King, and if it came from God; answered, that she had thanked God for having delivered her from the priests of her own party who had argued against her, and that she had knelt down several times; she also said that an angel from God, and not from another, brought the sign to the King; and she had thanked the Lord many times; she added that the priests ceased to argue against when they had seen that sign. Asked, if the clergy of her party (/de par delà) saw the above sign; answered yes, that her King if he were satisfied; and he answered yes. And afterwards she went to a little chapel close by, and heard them say that after she was gone more than three hundred people saw the said sign. She said besides that for love of her, and that they should give up questioning her, God permitted those of her party to see the sign. Asked, if the King and she made reverence to the angel when he brought the sign; answered yes, for herself, that she knelt down and took off her hood.

What Jeanne meant by this strange romance can only, I think be explained by this hypothesis. She was “dazed and bewildered,” say some of the historians, evidently not knowing how to interpret so strange an interruption to her narrative; but there is no other sign of bewilderment; her mind was always clear and her intelligence complete. Granting that the whole story was boldly ironical, its object is very apparent. Honour forbade her to betray the King’s secret, and she had expressly said she would not do so. But her story seems to say–/since you will insist that there was a sign, though I have told you I could give you no information, have it your own way; you shall have a sign and one of the very best; it delivered me from the priests of my own party (de par delà). Jeanne was no milk-sop; she was bold enough to send a winged shaft to the confusion of the priests of the other side who had tormented her in the same way. One can imagine a lurking smile at the corner of her mouth. Let them take it since they would have it. And we may well believe there was that in her eye, and in the details heaped up so lightly to form the miraculous tale, which left little doubt in the minds of the questioners, of the spirit in which she spoke: though to us who only read the record the effect is of a more bewildering kind.

Two days after, on Monday, the 12th of March, the Inquisitors began by several additional questions concerning the angel who brought the sign to the King; was it the same whom she first saw, or another? She answered that it was the same, and no other was wanted. Asked, if this angel had not deceived her since she had been taken prisoner; answered, that she believed since it so pleased our lord that it was best that she should be taken. Asked, if the angel had not failed her; answered, “How could he have failed me, when he comforts me every day?” This comfort is what she understands to come through St. Catherine and St. Margaret. Asked, whether she called them, or they came without being called, she answered, that they often came without being called, and if they did not come soon enough, she asked our Saviour to send them. Asked, if St. Denis had ever appeared to her; answered, not that she knew. Asked, if when she promised to our Lord to remain a virgin she spoke to Him; answered, that it ought to be enough to speak to those who were sent by Him that is to say, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. Asked, what induced her to summon a man to Toul, in respect to marriage; answered, “I did not summon him; it was he who summoned me"; and that on that occasion she had sworn before the judge to speak the truth, which was that she had not made him any promise. She also said that the first time she had heard the voices she made a vow of virginity so long as it pleased God, being then about the age of thirteen.

It was the object of the judges by these questions to prove that, according to a fable which had obtained some credit, Jeanne during her visit to La Rousse, the village inn-keeper at Neufchâteau, had acted as servant in the house and tarnished her good fame–so that her betrothed had refused to marry her: and that he had been brought before the Bishop’s court at Toul for his breach of promise, as we should say. Exactly the reverse was the case, as the reader will remember.

Jeanne was further asked, if she had spoken of her visions to her curé or to any ecclesiastic: and answered no, but only to Robert de Baudricourt and to her King; but added that she was not bidden by her voices to conceal them, but feared to reveal them lest the Burgundians should hear of them and prevent her going. And especially she had much doubt of her father, lest he should hinder her from going. Asked, if she thought she did well to go away without the permission of her father and mother, when it is certain we ought to honour our father and mother; answered, that in every other thing she had fully obeyed him, except in respect to her departure; but she had written to them, and they had pardoned her. Asked, if when she left her father and mother she did not think it was a sin; answered, that her voices were quite willing that she should tell them, if it were not for the pain it would have given them; but as for herself, she would not have told them for any consideration; also that her voices left her to do as she pleased, to tell or not.

 

Having gone so far the reverend fathers went to dinner, and Jeanne we hope had her piece of bread and her eau rougie. In the afternoon these indefatigable questioners returned, and the first few questions throw a fuller light on the troubled cottage at Domremy, out of which this wonderful maiden came like a being of another kind.

She was questioned as to the dreams of her father; and answered, that while she was still at home her mother told her several times that her father said he had dreamt that Jeanne his daughter had gone away with the troopers, that her father and mother took great care of her and held her in great subjection: and she obeyed them in every point except that of her affair at Toul in respect to marriage. She also said that her mother had told her what her father had said to her brothers: “If I could think that the thing would happen of which I have dreamed, I wish she might be drowned first; and if you would not do it, I would drown her with my own hands"; and that he nearly lost his senses when she went to Vaucouleurs.

How profound is this little village tragedy! The suspicious, stern, and unhopeful peasant, never sure even that the most transparent and pure may not be capable of infamy, distracted with that horror of personal degradation which is involved in family disgrace, cruel in the intensity of his pride and fear of shame! He has been revealed to us in many lands, always one of the most impressive of human pictures, with no trust of love in him but an overwhelming faith in every vicious possibility. If there is no evidence to prove that, even at the moment when Jeanne was supreme, when he was induced to go to Rheims to see the coronation, Jacques d’Arc was still dark, unresponsive, never more sure than any of the Inquisitors that his daughter was not a witch, or worse, a shameless creature linked to the captains and the splendid personages about her by very different ties from those which appeared–there is at least not a word to prove that he had changed his mind. She does not add anything to soften the description here given. The sudden appearance of this dark remorseless figure, looking on from his village, who probably in all Domremy–when Domremy got to hear the news–would be the only person who would in his desperation almost applaud that stake and devouring flame, is too startling for words.

The end of this day’s examination was remarkable also for a sudden light upon the method she had intended to adopt in respect to the Duke of Orleans, then in prison in England, whom it was one of her most cherished hopes to deliver.

Asked, how she meant to rescue the Duc d’Orléans: she answered, that by that time she hoped to have taken English prisoners enough to exchange for him: and if she had not taken enough she should have crossed the sea, in power, to search for him in England. Asked, if St. Catherine and St. Margaret had told her absolutely and without condition that she should take enough prisoners to exchange for the Duc d’Orléans, who was in England, or otherwise, that she should cross the sea to fetch him and bring him back within three years; she answered yes: and that she had told the King and had begged him to permit her to make prisoners. She said further that if she had lasted three years without hindrance, she should have delivered him. Otherwise she said she had not thought of so long a time as three years, although it should have been more than one; but she did not at present recollect exactly.

There is a curious story existing, though we do not remember whence it comes and there is not a scrap of evidence for it, which suggests a rumour that Jeanne was not the child of the d’Arc family at all, but in fact an abandoned and illegitimate child of the Queen, Isabel of Bavaria, and that her real father was the murdered Duc d’Orléans. This suggestion might explain the ease with which she fell into the way of Courts, a sort of air à la Princesse which certainly was about her, and her especial devotion to Orleans, both to the city and the duke. A shadow of a supposed child of our own Queen Mary has also appeared in history, quite without warrant or likelihood. It is a little conventional and well worn even in the way of romance, yet there are certain fanciful suggestions in the thought.

After the above, Jeanne was again questioned and at great length upon the sign given to the King, upon the angel who brought it, the manner of his coming and going, the persons who saw him, those who saw the crown bestowed upon the King, and so on, in the most minute detail. That the purpose of the sign was that “they should give up arguing and so let her proceed on her mission,” she repeated again and again; but here is a curious additional note.

She was asked how the King and the people with him were convinced that it was an angel; and answered, that the King knew it by the instruction of the ecclesiastics who were there, and also by the sign of the crown. Asked, how the ecclesiastics (/gens d’église) knew it was an angel she answered, “By their knowledge [science], and because they were priests.”

Was this the keenest irony, or was it the wandering of a weary mind? We cannot tell; but if the latter, it was the only occasion on which Jeanne’s mind wandered; and there was method and meaning in the strange tale.

She was further questioned whether it was by the advice of her voices that she attacked La Charité, and afterwards Paris, her two points of failure; the purpose of her examiners clearly being to convince her that those voices had deceived her. To both questions she answered no. To Paris she went at the request of gentlemen who wished to make a skirmish, or assault of arms (/vaillance d’armes); but she intended to go farther, and to pass the moats; that is, to force the fighting and make the skirmish into a serious assault; the same was the case before La Charité. She was asked whether she had no revelation concerning Pont l’Evêque, and said that since it was revealed to her at Melun that she should be taken, she had had more recourse to the will of the captains than to her own; but she did not tell them that it was revealed to her that she should be taken. Asked, if she thought it was well done to attack Paris on the day of the Nativity of our Lady, which was a festival of the Church; she answered, that it was always well to keep the festivals of our Lady: and in her conscience it seemed to her that it was and always would be a good thing to keep the feasts of our Lady, from one end to the other.

In the afternoon the examiners returned to the attempt at escape or suicide–they seemed to have preferred the latter explanation–made at Beaurevoir; and as Jeanne expresses herself with more freedom as to her personal motives in these prison examinations and opens her heart more freely, there is much here which we give in full.

She was asked first what was the cause of her leap from the tower of Beaurevoir. She answered that she had heard that all the people of Compiègne, down to the age of seven, were to be put to the sword, and that she would rather die than live after such a destruction of good people; this was one of the reasons; the other was that she knew that she was sold to the English and that she would rather die than fall into the hands of the English, her enemies. Asked, if she made that leap by the command of her voices; answered, that St. Catherine said to her almost every day that she was not to leap, for that God would help her, and also the people of Compiègne: and she, Jeanne, said to St. Catherine that since God intended to help the people of Compiègne she would fain be there. And St. Catherine said: “You must take it in good part, but you will not be delivered till you have seen the King of the English.” And she, Jeanne, answered: “Truly I do not wish to see him. I would rather die than fall into the hands of the English." Asked, if she had said to St. Catherine and St. Margaret, “Will God leave the good people of Compiègne to die so cruelly?” answered, that she did not say “so cruelly,” but said it in this way: “Will God leave these good people of Compiègne to die, who have been and are so loyal to their lord?” She added that after she fell there were two or three days that she would not eat; and that she was so hurt by the leap that she could not eat; but all the time she was comforted by St. Catherine, who told her to confess and ask pardon of God for that act, and that without doubt the people of Compiègne would have succour before Martinmas. And then she took pains to recover and began to eat, and shortly was healed.

Asked, whether, when she threw herself down, she wished to kill herself, she answered no; but that in throwing herself down she commended herself to God, and hoped by means of that leap to escape and to avoid being delivered to the English. Asked, if, when she recovered the power of speech, she had denied and blasphemed God and the saints, as had been reported; answered, that she remembered nothing of the kind, and that, as far as she knew, she had never denied and blasphemed God and His saints there nor anywhere else, and did not confess that she had done so, having no recollection of it. Asked, if she would like to see the information taken on the spot, answered: “I refer myself to God, and not another, and to a good confession.” Asked, if her voices ever desired delay for their replies; answered, that St. Catherine always answered her at once, but sometimes she, Jeanne, could not hear because of the tumult round her (/turbacion des personnes) and the noise of her guards; but that when she asked anything of St. Catherine, sometimes she, and sometimes St. Margaret asked of our Lord, and then by the command of our Lord an answer was given to her. Asked, if, when they came, there was always light accompanying them, and if she did not see that light when she heard the voice in the castle without knowing whether it was in her chamber or not: answered, that there was never a day that they did not come into the castle, and that they never came without light: and that time she heard the voice, but did not remember whether she saw the light, or whether she saw St. Catherine. Also she said she had asked from her voices three things: one, her release: the other, that God would help the French, and keep the town faithful: and the other the salvation of her soul. Afterwards she asked that she might have a copy of these questions and her answers if she were to be taken to Paris, that she may give them to the people in Paris, and say to them, “This is how I was questioned in Rouen, and here are my replies,” that she might not be exhausted by so many questions.

Asked, what she meant when she said that Monseigneur de Beauvais put himself in danger by bringing her to trial, and why Monseigneur de Beauvais more than others, she answered, that this was and is what she said to Monseigneur de Beauvais: “You say that you are my judge. I know not whether you are so; but take care that you judge well, or you will put yourself in great danger. I warn you, so that if our Lord should chastise you for it, I may have done my duty in warning you." Asked, what was that danger? she answered, that St. Catherine had said that she should have succour, but that she knew not whether this meant that she would be delivered from prison, or that, when she was before the tribunal, there might come trouble by which she should be delivered; she thought, however, it would be the one or the other. And all the more that her voices told her that she would be delivered by a great victory; and afterwards they said to her: “Take everything cheerfully, do not be disturbed by this martyrdom: thou shalt thence come at last to the kingdom of Heaven.” And this the voices said simply and absolutely–that is to say, without fail; she explained that she called It martyrdom because of all the pain and adversity that she had suffered in prison; and she knew not whether she might have still more to suffer, but waited upon our Lord. She was then asked whether, since her voices had said that she should go to Paradise, she felt assured that she should be saved and not damned in hell; she answered, that she believed firmly what her voices said about her being saved, as firmly as if she were so already. And when it was said to her that this answer was of great weight, she answered that she herself held it as a great treasure.

We have said that Jeanne’s answers to the Inquisitors in prison had a more familiar form than in the public examination; which seem to prove that they were not unkind to her, further, at least, than by the persistence and tediousness of their questions. The Bishop for one thing was seldom present; the sittings were frequently presided over by the Deputy Inquisitor, who had made great efforts to be free of the business altogether, and had but very recently been forced into it; so that we may at least imagine, as he was so reluctant, that he did what he could to soften the proceedings. Jean de la Fontaine, too, was a milder man than her former questioners, and in so small an assembly she could not be disturbed and interrupted by Frère Isambard’s well- meant signs and whispers. She speaks at length and with a self- disclosure which seems to have little that was painful in it, like one matured into a kind of age by long weariness and trouble, who regards the panorama of her life passing before her with almost a pensive pleasure. And it is clear that Jeanne’s ear, still so young and keen, notwithstanding that attitude of mind, was still intent upon sounds from without, and that Jeanne’s heart still expected a sudden assault, a great victory for France, which should open her prison doors–or even a rising in the very judgment hall to deliver her. How could they keep still outside, Dunois, Alençon, La Hire, the mighty men of valour, while they knew that she was being racked and tortured within? She who could not bear to be out of the conflict to serve her friends at Compiègne, even when succour from on high had been promised, how was it possible that these gallant knights could live and let her die, their gentle comrade, their dauntless leader? In those long hours, amid the noise of the guards within and the garrison around, how she must have thought, over and over again, where were they? when were they coming? how often imagined that a louder clang of arms than usual, a rush of hasty feet, meant that they were here!

But honour and love kept Jeanne’s lips closed. Not a word did she say that could discredit King, or party, or friends; not a reproach to those who had abandoned her. She still looked for the great victory in which Monseigneur, if he did not take care, might run the risk of being roughly handled, or of a sudden tumult in his own very court that would pitch him form his guilty seat. It was but the fourteenth of March still, and there were six weary weeks to come. She did not know the hour or the day, but yet she believed that this great deliverance was on its way.

And there was a great deliverance to come: but not of this kind. The voices of God–how can we deny it?–are often, though in a loftier sense, like those fantastic voices that keep the word of promise to the ear but break it to the heart. They promised her a great victory: and she had it, and also the fullest deliverance: but only by the stake and the fire, which were not less dreadful to Jeanne than to any other girl of her age. They did not speak to deceive her, but she was deceived; they kept their promise, but not as she understood it. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them." Jeanne too was persuaded of them, but was not to receive them–except in the other way.

On the afternoon of the same day (it was still Lent, and Jeanne fasted, whatever our priests may have done), she was again closely questioned on the subject, this time, of Franquet d’Arras, who, as has been above narrated, was taken by her in the course of some indiscriminate fighting in the north. She was asked if it was not mortal sin to take a man as prisoner of war and then give him up to be executed. There was evidently no perception of similarities in the minds of the judges, for this was precisely what had been done in the case of Jeanne herself; but even she does not seem to have been struck by the fact. Their object, apparently, was by proving that she was in a state of sin, to prove also that her voices were of no authority, as being unable to discover so simple a principle as this.

When they spoke to her of “one named Franquet d’Arras, who was executed at Lagny,” she answered that she consented to his death, as he deserved it, for he had confessed to being a murderer, a thief, and a traitor. She said that his trial lasted fifteen days, the Bailli de Senlis and the law officers of Lagny being the judges; and she added that she had wished to have Franquet, to exchange him for a man of Paris, Seigneur de Lours (corrected, innkeeper at the sign of l’Ours); but when she heard that this man was dead, and when the Bailli told her that she would go very much against justice if she set Franquet free, she said to the Bailli: “Since my man is dead whom I wished to deliver, do with this one whatever justice demands.” Asked, if she took the money or allowed it to be taken by him who had taken Franquet, she answered, that she was not a money changer or a treasurer of France, to deal with money.

She was then reminded that having assaulted Paris on a holy day, having taken the horse of Monseigneur de Senlis, having thrown herself down from the tower of Beaurevoir, having consented to the death of Franquet d’Arras, and being still dressed in the costume of a man, did she not think that she must be in a state of mortal sin? She answered to the first question about Paris: “I do not think I was guilty of mortal sin, and if I have sinned it is to God that I would make it known, and in confession to God by the priest.” To the second question, concerning the horse of Senlis, she answered, that she believed firmly that there was not mortal sin in this, seeing it was valued, and the Bishop had due notice of it, and at all events it was sent back to the Seigneur de la Trémouille to give it back to Monseigneur de Senlis. The said horse was of no use to her; and, on the other hand, she did not wish to keep it because she heard that the Bishop was displeased that his horse should have been taken. And as for the tower of Beaurevoir: “I did it not to destroy myself, but in the hope of saving myself and of going to the aid of the good people who were in need.” But after having done it, she had confessed her sin, and asked pardon of our Lord, and had pardon of Him. And she allowed that it was not right to have made that leap, but that she did wrong.

The next day an important question was introduced, the only one as yet which Jeanne does not seem to have been able to answer with understanding. On points of fact or in respect to her visions she was always quite clear, but questions concerning the Church were beyond her knowledge. It is only indeed after some time has elapsed that we perceive why such a question was introduced.

After admonitions made to her she was required, if she had done anything contrary to the faith, to submit herself to the decision of the Church. She replied, that her answers had all been heard and seen by clerks, and that they could say whether there was anything in them against the faith: and that if they would point out to her where any error was, afterwards she would tell them what was said by her counsellors. At all events if there was anything against the faith which our Lord had commanded, she would not sustain it, and would be very sorry to go against that. Here it was shown to her that there was a Church militant and a Church triumphant, and she was asked if she knew the difference between them. She was also required to put herself under the jurisdiction of the Church, in respect to what she had done, whether it was good or evil, but replied, “I will answer no more on this point for the present.”

Having thrown in this tentative question which she did not understand, they returned to the question of her dress, which holds such an important place in the entire interrogatory. If she were allowed to hear mass as she wished, having been all this time deprived of religious ordinances, did not she think it would be more honest and befitting that she should go in the dress of a woman? To this she replied vaguely, that she would much rather go to mass in the dress of a woman than to retain her male costume and not to hear mass; and that if she were certified that she should hear mass, she would be there in a woman’s dress. “I certify you that you shall hear mass,” the examiner replied, “but you must be dressed as a woman.” “What would you say,” she answered as with a momentary doubt, “if I had sworn to my King never to change?” but she added: “Anyhow I answer for it. Find me a dress, long, touching the ground, without a train, and give it to me to go to mass; but I will return to my present dress when I come back.” She was then asked why she would not have all the parts of a female dress to go to mass in; she said, “I will take counsel upon that, and answer you,” and begged again for the honour of God and our Lady that she might be allowed to hear mass in this good town. Afterwards she was again recommended to assume the whole dress of a woman and gave a conditional assent: “Get me a dress like that of a young bourgeoise, that is to say, a long houppelande; I will wear that and a woman’s hood to go to mass.” After having promised, however, she made an appeal to them to leave her free, and to think no more of her garb, but to allow her to hear mass without changing it. This would seem to have been refused, and all at once without warning the jurisdiction of the Church was suddenly introduced again.

She was asked, whether in all she did and said she would submit herself to the Church, and replied: “All my deeds and works are in the hands of God, and I depend only on Him; and I certify that I desire to do nothing and say nothing against the Christian faith; and if I have done or said anything in the body that was against the Christian faith which our Lord has established, I should not defend it but cast it forth from me.” Asked again, if she would not submit to the laws of the Church she replied: “I can answer no more to-day on this point; but on Saturday send the clerk to me, if you do not come, and I will answer by the grace of God, and it can be put in writing.”

A great many questions followed as to her visions, but chiefly what had been asked before. One thing only we may note, since it was one of the special sayings all her own, which fell from the lips of Jeanne, during this private and almost sympathetic examination. After being questioned closely as to how she knew her first visitor to be St. Michael, etc., she was asked, how she would have known had he been “l’Anemy” himself (a Norman must surely have used this word), taking the form of an angel: and finally, what doctrine he taught her?

She answered; above all things he said that she was to be a good child and that God would help her: and among other things that she was to go to the succour of the King of France. But the greater part of what the angel taught her, she continued, was already in their book; and the angel showed her the great pity there was of the kingdom of France.

The pity of it! That which has always gone most to the tender heart: a country torn in pieces, brother fighting against brother, the invader seated at the native hearth, and blood and fire making the smiling land a desert: “la pitie qui estoit au royaume de France.”

Did the Inquisitor break down here? Could no one go on? or was it mere human incompetence to feel the divine touch? Some one broke into a foolish question about the height of the angel, and the sitting was hurriedly concluded. Monseigneur might well be on his mettle; that very pity, was it not stealing into the souls of his private committee deputed for so different a use?

 

Next day the questions about St. Michael’s personal appearance were resumed, as a little feint we can only suppose, for the great question of the Church was again immediately introduced; but in the meantime Jeanne had described her visitor in terms which it is pleasant to dwell on. “He was in the form of a très vrai prud’ homme.” The term is difficult to translate, as is the Galantuomo of Italy. The “King- Honest Man,” we used to say in English in the days of his late Majesty Victor Emmanuel of Italy; but that is not all that is meant–/un vrai prud’ homme, a man good, honest, brave, the best man, is more like it. The girl’s honest imagination thought of no paraphernalia of wings or shining plumes. It was not the theatrical angel, not even the angel of art whom she saw–whom it would have been so easy to invent, nay to take quite truthfully from the first painted window, radiating colour and brightness through the dim, low-roofed church. But even with such material handy, Jeanne was not led into the conventional. She knew nothing about wings or emblematic scales. He was in the form of a brave and gentle man. She knew not anything greater, nor would she be seduced into fable however sacred. Then once more the true assault began.

She was asked, if she would submit all her sayings and doings, good or evil, to the judgment of our Holy Mother, the Church. She replied, that as for the Church, she loved it and would sustain it with all her might for our Christian faith; and that it was not she whom they ought to disturb and hinder from going to church or from hearing mass. As to the good things she had done, and that had happened, she must refer all to the King of Heaven, who had sent her to Charles, King of France; and it should be seen that the French would soon gain a great advantage which God would send them, so great that all the kingdom of France would be shaken. And this, she said, that when it came to pass, they might remember that she had said it. She was again asked, if she would submit to the jurisdiction of the Church, and answered, “I refer everything to our Lord who sent me, to our Lady, and to the blessed Saints of Paradise"; and added her opinion was that our Lord and the Church meant the same thing, and that difficulties should not be made concerning this, when there was no difficulty, and they were both one. She was then told that there was the Church triumphant, in which are God, the saints, the angels, and all saved souls. The Church militant is our Holy Father the Pope, vicar of God on earth, the cardinals, the prelates of the Church, and the clergy and all good Christians and Catholics, which Church properly assembled cannot err, but is guided by the Holy Spirit. And this being the case she was asked if she would refer her cause to the Church militant thus explained to her. She replied that she had come to the King of France on the part of God, on the part of the Virgin Mary, the blessed Saints of Paradise, and the Church victorious in Heaven, and at their commandment; and to that Church she submitted all her good deeds, and all that she had done and might do. And if they asked her whether she would submit to the Church militant, answered, that she would now answer no more than this.

Here again the argument strayed back to the futile subject of dress, always at hand to be taken up again, one would say, when the judges were non-plussed. Her first reply on this subject is remarkable and shows that dark and terrible forebodings were already beginning to mingle with her hopes.

Asked, what she had to say about the woman’s dress that had been offered to her, to hear mass in: she answered, that she would not take it yet, not until the Lord pleased; but that if it were necessary to lead her out to be executed, and if she should then have to be undressed, she required of the Lords of the Church that they would give her the grace to have a long chemise, and a kerchief for her head; that she would prefer to die rather than to alter what our Lord had directed her to do, and that she firmly believed our Lord would not let her descend so low, but that she should soon be helped by God and by a miracle. She was then asked, if what she did in respect to the man’s costume was by command of God, why she asked for a woman’s chemise in case of death? answered, It is enough that it should be long.

The effect of these words in which so much was implied, must have made a supreme sensation among the handful of men gathered round the helpless girl in her prison, bringing the stake in all its horror before the eyes of the judges as before her own. No other thing could have been suggested by that piteous prayer. The stake, the scaffold, the fire–and the shrinking figure all maidenly, helpless, exposed to every evil gaze, must have showed themselves at least for a moment against that dark background of prison wall. It was enough that it should be long–to hide her as much as was possible from those dreadful staring eyes.

The interrogatory goes on wildly after this about the age and the dress of the saints. But a tone of fate had come into it, and Jeanne herself, it was evident, was very serious; her mind turned to more weighty thoughts. Presently they asked if the saints hated the English, to which she replied that they hated what God hated and loved what He loved. She was then asked if God hated the English. She replied that of the love or hate that God had for the English, or what God did for their souls, she knew nothing; but she knew well that they should be driven out of France, except those who died there; and that God would send victory to the French against the English. Asked, if God was for the English so long as they were prosperous in France: she answered, that she knew not whether God hated the French, but believed He had allowed them to be beaten because of their sins.

Jeanne was then brought to a test which, had she been a great statesman or a learned doctor, would have been as dangerous, as the question concerning John the Baptist was to the priests and scribes. “If we shall say: From heaven, he will say, Why then believed ye him not? but if we shall say of men we fear the people.” And she was only a peasant girl and the event of which they spoke had been before her little time.

Asked, if she thought and believed firmly that her King did well to kill Monseigneur de Bourgogne, she answered that IT WAS A GREAT MISFORTUNE FOR THE KINGDOM OF FRANCE: but that however it might be among themselves, God had sent her to the succour of the King.

One or two other questions of some importance followed amid perpetual changes of the subject: one of which called forth as follows her last deliverance on the subject of the Pope.

Asked, if she had said to Monseigneur de Beauvais that she would answer as exactly to him and to his clerks as she would have done before our Holy Father the Pope, although at several points in the trial she would have had to refuse to answer, if she did not answer more plainly than before Monseigneur de Beauvais–she said that she had answered as much as she knew, and that if anything came to her memory that she had forgotten to say, she would say it willingly. Asked, if it seemed to her that she would be bound to answer the plain truth to the Pope, the vicar of God, in all he asked her touching the faith and her conscience, she replied that she desired to be taken before him, and then she would answer all that she ought to answer.

Here we seem to perceive dimly that there was beginning to be a second party among those examiners, one of which was covertly but earnestly attempting to lead Jeanne into an appeal to the Pope, which would have conveyed her out of the hands of the English at least, and gained time, probably deliverance for her, could Jeanne have been made to understand it.

This, however, was by no means the wish of Cauchon, whose spy and whisperer, L’Oyseleur, was working against it in the background. Jeanne evidently failed to take up what they meant. She did not understand the distinction between the Church militant and the Church triumphant: that God alone was her judge, and that no tribunal could decide upon the questions which were between her Lord and herself, was too firmly fixed in her mind: and again and again the men whose desire was to make her adopt this expedient, were driven back into the ever repeated questions about St. Catherine and St. Margaret.

One other of her distinctive sayings fell from her in the little interval that remained, in a series of useless questions about her standard. Was it true that this standard had been carried into the Cathedral at Rheims when those of the other captains were left behind? “It had been through the labour and the pain,” she said, “there was good reason that it should have the honour.”

This last movement of a proud spirit, absolutely disinterested and without thought of honour or advancement in the usual sense of the word, gives a sort of trumpet note at the end of these wonderful wranglings in prison, in which, however, there is a softening of tone visible throughout, and evident effect of human nature bringing into immediate contact divers human creatures day after day. Jeanne is often at her best, and never so frequently as during these less formal sittings utters those flying words, simple and noble and of absolute truth to nature, which are noted everywhere, even in the most rambling records.

 

The private examination, concluding with that last answer about the banner, came to an end on the 17th March, the day before Passion Sunday. Several subsequent days were occupied with repeated consultations in the Bishop’s palace, and the reading over of the minutes of the examinations, to the judges first and afterwards to Jeanne, who acknowledged their correctness, with one or two small amendments. It is only now that Cauchon reappears in his own person. On the morning of the following Sunday, which was Palm Sunday, he and four other doctors with him had a conversation with Jeanne in her prison, very early in the morning, touching her repeated application to be allowed to hear mass and to communicate. The Bishop offered her his ultimatum: if she consented to resume her woman’s dress, she might hear mass, but not otherwise; to which Jeanne replied, sorrowfully, that she would have done so before now if she could; but that it was not in her power to do so. Thus after the long and bitter Lent her hopes of sharing in the sacred feast were finally taken from her. It remains uncertain whether she considered that her change of dress would be direct disobedience to God, which her words seem often to imply; or whether it would mean renunciation of her mission, which she still hoped against hope to be able to resume; or if the fear of personal insult weighed most with her. The latter reason had evidently something to do with it, but, as evidently, not all.

The background to these curious sittings, afterwards revealed to us, casts a hazy side-light upon them. Probably the Bishop, never present, must have been made aware by his spies of an intention on the part of those most favourable to Jeanne to support an appeal to the Pope; and L’Oyseleur, the traitor, who was all this time admitted to her cell by permission of Cauchon, and really as his tool and agent, was actively employed in prejudicing her mind against them, counselling her not to trust to those clerks, not to yield to the Church. How he managed to explain his own appearance on the other side, his official connection with the trial, and constant presence as one of her judges, it is hard to imagine. Probably he gave her to believe that he had sought that position (having got himself liberated from the imprisonment which he had represented himself as sharing) for her sake, to be able to help her.

On the other hand her friends, whose hearts were touched by her candour and her sufferings, were not inactive. Jean de la Fontaine and the two monks–l’Advenu and Frère Isambard–also succeeded in gaining admission to her, and pressed upon her the advantage of appealing to the Church, to the Council of Bâle about to assemble, or to the Pope himself, which would have again changed the venue, and transferred her into less prejudiced hands. It is very likely that Jeanne in her ignorance and innocence might have held by her reference to the supreme tribunal of God in any case; and it is highly unlikely that of the English authorities, intent on removing the only thing in France of which their forces were afraid, should have given her up into the hands of the Pope, or allowed her to be transferred to any place of defence beyond their reach; but at least it is a relief to the mind to find that all these men were not base, as appears on the face of things, but that pity and justice and human feeling sometimes existed under the priest’s gown and the monk’s cowl, if also treachery and falsehood of the blackest kind. The Bishop, who remained withdrawn, we know not why, from all these private sittings in the prison (probably busy with his ecclesiastical duties as Holy Week was approaching), heard with fury of this visit and advice, and threatened vengeance upon the meddlers, not without effect, for Jean de la Fontaine, we are told–who had been deep in his councils, and indeed his deputy, as chief examiner–disappeared from Rouen immediately after, and was heard of no more.

[1] Compiègne was a strong point. Had she proclaimed a promise from St. Catherine, of victory? Chastelain says so, long after date and with errors in fact. Two Anglo-Compiègnais were at her trial. The Rehabilitation does not go into this question.–(From Mr. Lang.)

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