Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Chapter 18

BEAUREVOIR

LITTLE is known of Joan's life at Beaulieu, where she was kept for some weeks. The siege of Compiègne continued and, quite naturally, the prisoners were entertained by their warders with reports of the progress made by the Burgundians. Aulon, Joan's squire, was still with her. Becoming discouraged, he said to her one day: "That poor town of Compiègne, which you loved so well, is to be handed over this time to the enemies of France." Joan was not disheartened so easily. "It shall not be," she said; "for none of the places which the King of Heaven by my means has put into the hands of the gentle king Charles shall be retaken by his enemies, if he will but be diligent in guarding them." The proviso is characteristic of Joan. Firmly as she trusted in the aid of Heaven, she was far too practical to believe that it dispensed with the need of the utmost human effort.

While she was at Beaulieu, the negotiations for her purchase nearly had an unexpected end. Joan almost escaped. She was shut up in a tower of the castle, apparently in a chamber closed by planking. Perhaps the boards were hurriedly fastened together; in some way or other she slipped out between two of them, and the way of escape seemed clear. She was about to bolt the door, so as to shut up her warders in the tower, when the porter appeared, and she was taken back to prison.

Her attempt had come so near success that John of Luxemburg would let her stay in Beaulieu no longer, but removed her to Beaurevoir, his principal castle. This was in Picardy, a fortress recently built or enlarged, with high walls, great towers, and a deep moat. In one of the towers Joan was confined.

At this time Luxemburg's wife and aunt were living in Beaurevoir. Some twelve years earlier he had married Joanna of Béthune, the rich widow of Robert of Bar. Throughout her life the countess was well disposed to the royalists, and her first husband, killed in fighting the English at Agincourt, had been the feudal overlord of Domremy. Luxemburg's maiden aunt, commonly called the demoiselle of Luxemburg, was an elderly woman having a great reputation for sanctity. Though she was willing to accept a pension from the English, it is not likely that she took their side very strongly.

When Joan was brought to the castle, these ladies, like the rest of the Anglo-Burgundian world, undoubtedly believed her to be a witch. After they came to know her, their curiosity and horror were turned to pity. Her dress, directly forbidden by Scripture, greatly shocked them, and they tried to persuade her to change it, offering to give her a woman's dress, or cloth out of which to make one. She was grateful for their kindness, and would have yielded to them, as she afterwards said, sooner than to any other ladies in France, except her queen. She answered them, however, that she had not God's leave to change her dress, and also that the time for changing it was not yet come.

Thus favored by the ladies of Luxemburg, Joan's imprisonment at Beaurevoir was probably less harsh than any she suffered before or afterwards, but an incident in it, known almost by chance, shows what was her life in prison, even at its best. Among the retainers of John of Luxemburg was Haimond of Macy, a squire then living at Beaurevoir. Either he was one of Joan's warders, or he was often sent to her by his master; in any case, he was curious to see her and to talk with her. Macy was a rough young soldier; Joan, even if a witch, was a young girl to whom, on account of her position and supposed character, he owed no respect. Often, as he testified, he used to hustle her in joke, and, though she kept him off as well as she could, he would thrust his hands into her bosom, that he might feel of her breasts, probably in mere wanton jest, without intending further violence. How far Joan wore men's clothes in direct obedience to her heavenly voices, how far in human prudence to keep herself from violence, how far as the only means of obeying a divine command to keep herself a virgin, it is not possible to say. Very likely all motives guided her, and her answer to the ladies of Luxemburg, that the time had not come for changing her dress, may well have been made after a struggle with Haimond of Macy or with another of her keepers. Even upon Macy she made an impression. Twenty-five years afterwards, he was summoned to tell what he knew about her. The depositions of nearly all the other witnesses called at the same time, after recording their answers to the questions asked, close with the words, "And the witness knows nothing further." Macy's deposition, after answering the usual questions concerning Joan, ends thus: "And the witness believes that she is in paradise."

While Joan was held at Beaurevoir, Cauchon urged forward the negotiations for her purchase. He was very busy over the matter, though it is not known what means of persuasion he used, beyond the offer of money. Early in August died the duke of Brabant, cousin of Philip of Burgundy, who at once gave Luxemburg charge of the siege of Compiègne and started to take possession of his kinsman's estates. So earnest was the bishop that he could not wait for the duke's return, but posted after him, apparently to secure his consent to the proposed bargain. The inheritance of Brabant was disputed; Philip's aunt claimed a part of it, but yielded when she recognized the greatly superior strength of her nephew. Perhaps Cauchon assured Philip that the English would support his pretensions; at any rate, the succession was peacefully settled. The duke got the lion's share, and another part was secured to the old demoiselle of Luxemburg, from whom John was sure presently to inherit. These matters may or may not have affected the fate of Joan; at about the time they were arranged the bargain for her sale was completed. Her price was fixed at ten thousand pounds, the larger sum mentioned by Cauchon in his letter to Luxemburg, but ten thousand pounds in hard money, and not a bond for ten thousand, as Cauchon had proposed. Beside this price, an annuity was secured to Wandonne.

The bargain once completed, the English were in no hurry to pay the price, as ten thousand pounds in ready money was a sum not easily come at. The English treasury was none too full, and Henry's council did not propose to take Joan's price out of it. Henry was king of France as well as of England. Joan had rebelled against him in France, and, so far as was possible, France should bear the cost of putting down the rebellion. Toward the end of August the estates of the province of Normandy were summoned to meet at Rouen, and thereupon were asked to grant one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, of which sum ten thousand pounds were especially appropriated "to the payment of the price of Joan the Maid, who is said to be a witch." The grant was voted, early in September the tax was assessed, and throughout the autumn of 1430 its collection went on; apparently the money did not come in very freely.

Joan was not kept in ignorance of the plans for her sale. When Macy joked with her, he probably amused himself by threatening her with the English. Once, at least, Cauchon himself came to Beaurevoir, and Joan could follow step by step the progress of his negotiations. To be delivered into the hands of the English seemed the most horrible fate that could befall her. She knew well how they feared and hated her, and, while she hardly hated them in return, for she seems to have been really incapable of hating any one, yet she dreaded them with the vague horror then felt for men of a hostile race and an unknown tongue. As time went on, and her sale became an assured fact, she was fearfully distressed.

She appealed to her voices, but even the comfort they gave her could not calm her. For more than eighteen years she had lived an active life out of doors, and the confinement wore upon her nerves. Beside confinement and insult and fear of the English, she was sick at heart over the news from Compiègne. Closer and closer did John of Luxemburg press the siege, and every Burgundian advance, every success of the besiegers was rehearsed to her, doubtless with exaggeration. The city would soon be taken, so they told her, and then all the dwellers in it, from seven years old and upwards, would be put to the sword or burned in its destruction. In her distress she cried to St. Catherine and St. Margaret, "How can God leave to perish these good people of Compiègne, who have been so faithful to their lord?"

From the tower in which she was imprisoned she could look out over the country. As her distress increased, she was seized with a desire to throw herself from this tower, either through a window or from the top of it, where she may have been allowed to walk. The height was great, yet there was a slight chance of reaching the ground in safety, and so of escaping and bringing help again to her good friends in Compiègne. That the fall should kill her was at least probable, but rather than be in the hands of the English, she preferred to die.

As in every other action of her life, so in this, she took counsel of her voices, and it is noteworthy that, morbid and nervous as was her condition, they firmly and persistently forbade her to throw herself from the tower. Day after day she appealed to them, and always received the same answer. God would aid both her and the men of Compiègne, so the voice of St. Catherine told her. "Since God will aid the people of Compiègne, I would I were there," said Joan. "You must take what comes to you without repining, for you shall not be delivered until you have seen the English king," she heard the voice reply. For once the poor girl's will rebelled against her heavenly visitors. "I do not wish to see him. I would rather die than fall into the hands of the English," she cried in her distress.

The long struggle between her wishes and her counselors came to an end. Hearing, it may be, some fresh piece of bad news, dizzied, perhaps, by looking over the sheer walls of the tower, and unaccustomed to stand in high places, she commended herself to God and our Lady and jumped. The shock stunned her; when she came to her senses, she was again in the hands of her captors. No bones were broken, but she was badly shaken, and for two or three days could hardly eat or drink. To her physical suffering and her old mental distress there was now added remorse for her sin in disobeying the command of God. St. Catherine soon came to her, however, and bade her confess her sin and ask God's pardon for it; then the voice comforted Joan, told her to be of good cheer, and promised that she should get well. As to the city of Compiègne, that should certainly be delivered before Martinmas. On hearing these things, Joan gave up her wish of dying, took heart, and began to eat; soon she was completely recovered. By the command of St. Catherine she confessed her sins to the priest and asked God's forgiveness; having done this, she was assured by the saint that she was forgiven.

This conduct of Joan shows plainly the healthiness of her temper and of her religion. Though she had a faint hope of escaping alive, she knew quite well that to jump from the tower offered no reasonable chance of escape, except by death. Neither before nor after her leap, in spite of her nervous distress, did she ever pretend to herself or to others that she had a right thus to take her life in her hands. Having taken it, and thus having committed sin, she never sought to justify herself. On the other hand, neither to herself nor to others would she exaggerate her offense. The temptation had been great, she had yielded to it, had confessed her wrongdoing, and had been forgiven. Thereafter she let no one trouble her in the matter.

Not long afterwards, the English were ready to complete their purchase of Joan, and Luxemburg was called upon to deliver his prisoner. In the latter part of October, Joan was sent from Beaurevoir to Arras, where, as it seems, Philip of Burgundy then held his court. Apparently, she was still in the hands of the Burgundians, and was still treated as a prisoner of war. Some of the duke's company begged her to put on women's clothes, and again she refused. A little later she was sent from Arras to Le Crotoy, at the mouth of the river Somme, a strong fortress which for about seven years had been held by the English. According to tradition, she was visited on her journey by many people, partly out of curiosity, partly from sympathy. Either at Arras or Le Crotoy, or at some place between the two, the Eng. lish took their prisoner and paid their money.

It seems that the demoiselle of Luxemburg protested against Joan's sale to the English, and her nephew's act has generally been considered to involve the basest treachery. The kind old woman's attempt to save from suffering and death a poor girl whom she pitied is of a piece with what is known of the rest of her life; but the count's act did not transgress the morality of his age. A prisoner, as has been said, was a security for a sum of money, and could be assigned to another person with as little impropriety as that involved in the assignment of a modern mortgage. It is true that the count more than suspected that Joan's purchasers would not treat her as a prisoner of war, but this can hardly be taken as adding to his guilt. He would not have considered himself responsible for the misuse of property fairly sold, and he may well have believed Joan's sale to be an act positively virtuous, commended as it was by the authorities of the church and by those learned in the law. There is no reason to suppose that he was not ready to sell Joan to the highest bidder. After Charles VII. had let several months go by without even making him an offer for her, Luxemburg can hardly be blamed for selling her elsewhere. To accuse him of betraying her is to imply that loyalty to Charles's cause was his moral duty, an implication which the confused condition of France makes absurd. Whether it be right to treat as betrayal the course of the French court, which, having been saved by Joan from ruin, let her be sold to the English and by them burnt for a witch, without even a diplomatic protest, is quite another question. John of Luxemburg was a hard-fighting nobleman, rather savage and brutal, but essentially like others of his class, neither much better nor much worse.On October 24, probably while Joan was at Arras, a French army under Boussac and Vendôme marched to the relief of Compiègne; on the following day it found itself face to face with John of Luxemburg, who had drawn up his troops to cover the approach to the city. While the two armies were thus observing each other, the garrison and citizens of Compiègne sallied out in Luxemburg's rear and stormed one of the forts which he had built to blockade the place, being assisted by a detachment which the French generals had ordered to pass around his flank. By this manœuvre the French were able to enter Compiègne, and, having done so, crossed the river by boat and stormed other forts erected near the place where Joan had been taken prisoner. So completely were the operations of the besiegers broken up that the English captains would remain no longer, and forced Luxemburg to withdraw, "much displeased at heart, though he could not help it." This ending of the siege, five months after Joan's capture, fulfilled the promise of her voices, which had foretold the delivery of Compiègne before Martinmas, the eleventh of November.

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