Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Maid of France
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)
CHAPTER 7

Cover for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France Cover Page for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France
JEANNE'S SECOND VISIT TO VAUCOULEURS

While the besiegers and the defenders of Orleans were merely marking time, strange tidings of events that never occurred would be buzzed in the ears of the people at Domremy. Pilgrims and pig-drivers would be rivals in telling the saddest tale--how the Tourelles were taken ; how the city was invested ; how the in- habitants were starving. To Jeanne the most cruel circumstance was the fact that the English, though they held the Due d'Orleans captive, were none the less attacking his town and territory. This conduct was regarded as unprecedented treachery, and Jeanne's attachment to all the Royal House was very strong in the case of le beau Due, the prisoner poet. She had promised, in May 1428, that her Dauphin should have succour from Heaven by March 1429. In October 1428 it was plain that the Dauphin had never stood in direr need. In January 1429, Jeanne's chosen date was drawing near, and, about January 12 (?), 1429 she left Domremy, which she was never to see again, and betook herself to the house of her cousins, the Durand Lassois, at Little Burey.

Jeanne, when she set out for Little Burey, had not the heart to say farewell to her little friend Hauviette. " Adieu, I go to Vaucouleurs ! " she cried as she passed the cottage of her friend, Guillemette, in Greux ; " Adieu, Mengette, God bless you," she said to another girl of her own age.

Adieu to Domremy, to the little brook, to the river, and the isle ; to the fairy castle of her childhood, with its grey old garden ; adieu to the fountain and the Ladies' tree ; farewell to the birds in her father's close ; farewell to her dear mother ; to the meadows where she had run races for chaplets of flowers. To her that other immortal garland was to be run for, the imperishable crown of the Maiden Martyr.

How it came about that Jacques dArc again permitted his daughter to go near men of the sword is a mystery. He may have been persuaded by the cur/, Fronte, or by others who thought that Jeanne might do good by going her own way ; for by this time her ambition was the theme of the gossips of Domremy. More probably Jacques d'Arc had absolute reliance on the common sense of Robert de Baudricourt. " Assuredly," he must have thought, " the captain is the last man to let the girl go ! "

Apparently Baudricourt, for long, was recalcitrant. Certainly Jeanne left the house of the Lassois, at Little Burey, and dwelt for three weeks with Henri Royer and his wife in Vaucouleurs. Both gave evidence to her goodness and love of going to church, to her industry and skill with her needle. Yet she would go to France on her mission, if she went on her knees, she said. How did Jeanne overcome the scepticism of Baudricourt so far that he ended by allowing her to have an escort ? To answer this question entails what Sir Walter Scott calls " a boring attempt to see further into a millstone than the nature of the millstone permits," --a process which Sir Walter, as an historian, thought highly undesirable.

Arriving at Little Burey in the first fortnight of January 1429, Jeanne seems to have stayed there for three weeks (Lassois, in 1456, said for six weeks), and gone to the house of the Royers in Vaucouleurs in the first week of February. Probably she kept coming and going from one friendly house to the other. If Lassois was right in fixing her stay with him at six weeks, then she went to him in December 1428. At the Royers in Vaucouleurs, later, she won the heart of her hostess by her gentle ways, her skill in sewing, and her earnest faith. Katherine Royer was much impressed by a remark of the Maid which has given rise to a whole theory of the origin of her mission. " Have you not heard of the saying that France is to be ruined by a woman and restored by a maiden from the marches of Loraine ? " " Then," says Katherine Royer herself, " I remembered having heard this saying, and I was astonished."

The prophecy was a current piece of folklore, familiar to Katherine herself; she remembered having heard it, and it is absurd to speak of it as a pious fraud of the priests.

Jeanne was wont to confess to Jean Fournier, cure of the church of St. Mary on the hill above the town, and in 1456 an eye-witness remembered her assiduity in prayer, sometimes kneel- ing with her face bowed, sometimes raised to the statue of the Virgin, in the crypt of the church. But her prayers seemed to be unheard, she could not move the jovial incredulous Baudricourt.

Her first gleam of hope appears to have come from a young man-at-arms, aged twenty-seven, who had some acquaintance with her father and mother. He was named Jean de Metz, or, from his estate, Jean de Novelonpont. He was one of those who might have said :

" La guerre est ma patrie,
M011 hamois ma maison,
Et en toute saison,
Combattre cest ma vie " ;

but his heart was true to France and the rightful king. While the Maid dwelt with the Royers in Vaucouleurs, about the first or second week of February 1429, Jean met her "in her poor red woman's dress," and said to her "Ma mie, what are you doing here ? Must the King be walked out of his kingdom, and must we all be English ? " She answered, " I am come to a Royal town to ask Robert de Baudricourt to lead me to the King. But Baudricourt cares nothing for me and for what I say ; none the less I must be with the King by mid-Lent, if I wear my legs down to the knees. No man in the world--kings, nor dukes, nor the daughter of the Scottish king--can recover the kingdom of France, nor hath our king any succour save from myself, though I would liefer be sewing beside my poor mother. For this deed is not convenient to my station. Yet go I must ; and this deed I must do, because my Lord so wills it."

" Who is your Lord ? "
" My Lord is God," said the Maid.

He answered, with an emotion that thrills us as we read, " Then I, Jean, swear to you, Maid, my hand in your hands, that I, God helping me, will lead you to the King, and I ask when you will go ? "

" Better to-day than to-morrow, better to-morrow than later."
Here we must explain what the Maid meant when she truly said, contrary to general expectation, that there " would come no aid from the daughter of the King of Scotland." In April 1428 the Dauphin had sent Alain Chartier, the poet, to renew the ancient league with Scotland. That league, said Alain, "is not written on parchment or on skin of sheep, but is graven on the living flesh of men, traced not in ink but blood." France and Scotland, in turns, had saved each the other's independence from English conquest. On July 17, 1428, James I sent an embassy to the Dauphin, and on the same day a treaty was signed at Perth, at the request of John Stewart of Darnley (Comte d'Evreux), and of Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims. Two days later, James settled the conditions of the marriage of his infant daughter, Margaret, with the son of the Dauphin, Louis, himself still a child. James, in 1429, was to send his daughter to France with an army of 6000 Scots. The dowry of Margaret was to be the comti of Sainton ge ; to which the Dauphin agreed in November 1428. On January 3, 1429, the town council of Tournai heard from the Dauphin that the Scottish bride with an army of 4000 (6000 ?) men would arrive before Whitsunday, that is, early in May 1429 ; if that were not enough, King James himself would come. (In April 1429, England was equipping a fleet to attack the Scottish transports.)

The facts had reached the people of Vaucouleurs, had come to the knowledge of the Maid. But she foresaw the futility of the hopes of France, and declared that succour from God would reach the Dauphin, not in April or May, but in mid-Lent; not from the Princess of Scotland with 6000 men-at-arms and archers, but in the person of herself, a peasant girl from Domremy. To account for her disdain of the official good news about the Scottish army of 6000 men, we must remember the unshaken ardour of her belief in her Voices, which said, and truly said, that in her only was hope. If she could but reach the Dauphin, she believed herself to be certain to receive from her Voices a secret, known only to Charles and God, which must infallibly secure her acceptance. Her Voices had revealed this before she left Domremy, and had said, " Go boldly on, when you are with the King he will have a sure sign to persuade him to believe and trust you." That sign she received.

Had Jeanne been a visionary of the common kind, she would have felt that her prediction of May 1428, " God will succour the Dauphin by mid-Lent, 1429," was quite sufficiently fulfilled by the promise of the great Scottish contingent before Whitsunday. But the intelligence communicated by her Voices was undeniably and incomparably superior to that of the Foreign Office of the Dauphin. The hapless child-bride from Scotland did not arrive in France till seven years later; the 6000 men never came at all. Jeanne came !

We conjectural ly date the conversation of Jeanne with Jean de Novelonpont about February 5-7, 1429. Jeanne had not yet made any impression on Baudricourt, as she told Jean de Novelonpont. She could get neither horse nor convoy ; she must walk to the Dauphin, if she wore down her legs to the knees, as she said. Lassois bore witness thus: "When the Maid saw that Robert de Baudricourt would not have her led to the place where the Dauphin was " (Chinon on Loire), " she took clothes from me, and said that she must be going; and I led her to St. Nicholas on her way. . . ."

To this shrine of St. Nicholas, on the road to France, Jeanne walked in male dress, not by way of making a pilgrimage, but merely in the first stage of her walk to Chinon. But, on reflection, she deemed this mode of travelling unworthy of her, and she returned to Vaucouleurs.

Jean de Novelonpont says that he suggested to the Maid the idea of travelling in male dress, or rather, he asked her if she would do so, and she assented. But she had already made the experiment, in her renounced design of walking to Chinon.

The Due de Loraine now heard of Jeanne, and sent for her, with a letter of safe conduct, to Nancy, some sixty or seventy miles from Vaucouleurs. A horse was purchased for her, and Jean de Novelonpont with Durand Lassois rode in her company, Jean as far as Toul, Lassois all the way. The journey in either direction would probably require two days. In going or coming Jeanne visited a famous shrine of St. Nicholas at St. Nicholas au Port, some five or six miles south of Nancy. She returned to Vaucouleurs about February 13, the day after the defeat of the French at Rouvray.

From Jeanne's own account of what occurred at Nancy it seems that, so far, she had failed with Baudricourt. The Due de Loraine was an old man, in bad health, and was ruled by a mistress. Though an ally of England, he had recently married his daughter and heiress to Rend, second son of Yoland, Queen of Sicily and Duchess of Anjou, the mother-in-law of Charles VII. Rene, whose sympathies were French, was later the famous and popular " King Rend," of the gay court of artists and minstrels.

All that we know from Jeanne about this visit to Nancy is that 4< the Due put questions to her about the recovery of his health, concerning which, as she informed him, she knew nothing; but she told him a few things about her journey. She asked him to lend her his son-in-law (Rene) and men to lead her into France, and she would pray for his better health." He did give her a black horse and a little money, or perhaps with the money they bought the horse. Many years later a woman of Bourges averred that she had heard from Jeanne how she bade the Due put away his mistress ; but the lady's evidence is not, on points of what she remembered having heard, of much value.

We may probably place, as we shall see, after the date of Jeanne's return to Vaucouleurs about February 13, a very singular incident, explained by a still more singular story. Jeanne's hostess, Royer's wife, was sitting at home with the Maid when Baudricourt himself and the cure, Fournier, entered the room. Madame Royer with- drew, but learned what occurred from Jeanne. The priest had brought his stole with him ; he put it on, and, in the presence of the bluff captain he exorcised the Maid, saying, " If thou be a thing of evil, begone from us ; if a thing of good, approach us ! "

Then Jeanne dragged herself on her knees towards the priest. Clearly the devil was not in her ! Jeanne said to Madame Royer that " this act was ill done of the priest, for he had heard me in confession." It was ill done ; but how did the jolly Baudricourt-- who had rejected all the Maid's petitions--come to think of having her tested as a witch ? He had hitherto taken her for neither witch nor prophetess, but for a silly girl.

There is a conceivable answer to our question. In the Journal du Siege d' Orleans, and in a kind of synoptic and composite chronicle which coincides much with the Journal, namely, the Chronique de la Pucelle, and in the Mystere du Siege d' Orleans, a play of uncertain date (1470?), we read, that on February 12, 1429, Jeanne went to Baudricourt and said, "In God's name you are too slow in sending me ; for this day, near Orleans, a great disaster has befallen the gentle Dauphin, and worse fortune he will have unless you send me to him." The captain kept these words in his mind, and learned later that the day of Jeanne's revelation was the day when the Constable of Scotland and the Seigneur d'Orval were defeated by the English, namely, in the battle of the Herrings, at Rouvray, near Orleans. (February 12, 1429.) Some six days might pass before the news of that rout reached Baudricourt, and Jeanne left for Chinon with her escort on February 23. Supposing that the tale is true, we see why Baudricourt, after he knew that Jeanne's prophecy was fulfilled, no longer regarded the Maid as merely a silly lass, but as either a thing of the devil or of God. She had vue a distance, knew of a remote event, through no normal channel of the senses. She was inspired, whether by God or the Evil one! Being in doubt, Baudricourt would consult the curi y who thereon did the exorcism and settled the question. It is the same chronicler, Cousinot, author of the story of Jeanne's clairvoyance, who alone tells us that Baudricourt at first wished to make Jeanne a leaguer-lass for the diversion of his men-at-arms ; he seems to have special information about the bluff captain, and adds that Baudricourt wrote a letter to Charles VII mentioning the prophecy. Baudricourt did write about the Maid to Charles, when she set out for France, as we learn from other evidence.

Be the story of Jeanne's clairvoyance true or false, it does not appear among the surviving contemporary legends about her except, perhaps, in a reference of Boulainvilliers in his letter of June 21, 1429; "after she had shown many marvels," Baudricourt ordered the men to lead her to the King. Jeanne does say that she spoke about her visions to Baudricourt, and to no other man except the King ; and this vision, when confirmed, and when Fournier proved Jeanne to be no witch, was well calculated to shake the captain's incredulity.

About this time a king's messenger, Jean Colet de Vienne, was at Vaucouleurs. On February 23 he was one of the little band that started with Jeanne from the Gate of France to seek the Dauphin at Chinon. It may be conjectured that he had brought to Baudricourt the news of the great disaster of Rouvray of February 12. Jeanne and her company occupied eleven days, (February 23-March 6) on the march from Vaucouleurs to Chinon. Probably the king's messenger rode more swiftly ; taking a week on the road from Chinon, or six days, he might bring the ill news of Rouvray, arriving at Vaucouleurs about February 19. It is most improbable that Baudricourt could have written to the Dauphin concerning Jeanne (who, up to February 13, had made no impression on him), and have received a favourable reply from Court by February 20. Indeed, the thing is physically impossible. There was, perhaps, sufficient reason for making Baudricourt acquainted with the defeat at Rouvray. We have seen that, in the July of 1428, the English rulers of France launched Antoine de Vergy with an armed force against all the region under the rule of the captain of Vaucouleurs. Now a document (of July 22, 1428) proves that, on account of "the long delays" of several captains who ought to have aided the Governor of Champagne, Antoine de Vergy, in his attack on Vaucouleurs, a compact was made with Baudricourt " for the capitulation of Vaucouleurs and other places " under his command.

Nothing more is known of this affair. Vaucouleurs was not surrendered. The force which approached it departed within five days at most. If it was to be given up, as was common in such cases, unless it were relieved by a given date, or unless the Dauphin, by a given date, won a great victory, then it would be natural for the Dauphin to send to Baudricourt a king's messenger with news of the disaster at Rouvray, and the improbability of relief. But the bargain of surrender may have been quashed months before February 1429 by the diplomacy of the Duke of Burgundy (who, under treaty, was bound not to attack Vaucouleurs), or of Rene, Due de Bar, who at that period was constantly writing letters to Baudricourt. In any case, news of so great a defeat as the Battle of the Herrings might be officially sent to Vaucouleurs, where the king's messenger certainly was before February 23. The desperate condition of Orleans, after Rouvray, would make Baudricourt less averse to giving the Maid her chance, spes exigua et extrema.

Whatever motives may have overcome Baudricourt's sense of the ridiculous, he did little in the way of equipping the Maid for her long journey, when at last he permitted her to set out for Chinon. The expenses of the journey were defrayed by Jean de Novelonpont and by Bertrand de Poulengy, who were reimbursed from the Royal treasury.

A momentous step was taken. By the suggestion of Jean, as he said (the point has been mentioned already), Jeanne changed her poor girl's dress of red cloth for the tunic, vest, long breeches, boots, spurs, and cap of a page. The people of Vaucouleurs subscribed towards the expense ; a horse was bought for Jeanne ; and when she, with her two friends, their two servants, Richard the Archer, and the king's messenger, Colet de Vienne, rode out of the Gate of France, Baudricourt gave the Maid a sword, and said, Allez, et vienne que pourra !

Her friends came to see her ride forth, rejoicing in this her first victory over the doubting hearts of men. " You should not go," they said, "all the ways are beset by men-at-arms." But Jeanne, who had told Katherine Royer that " she longed to be gone, as a woman with child longs for the day of her delivery," replied, " The way is made clear before me. I have my Lord who makes the path smooth to the gentle Dauphin, for to do this deed I was born." Then through the gathering dusk, for they rode by night, they went down the way to France.

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