Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 3 - Scene 3
Baugenci

  Charles.   Louvel.

  Cha. Oh! fickle hearts of men. Three months ago,
When the prompt aid of fifty men had been
A boon worth warmest thanks, nor threats nor pray'rs
Could move a foot to join us. Now, forsooth,
When less we need it, we have aid abundant.
Towns that but lately would have closed their gates
E'en in our face, if we had asked a refuge,
Fling now their portals wide, and sue our entrance.
Thou know'st the Constable is on his way?

  Louv. With what intent, my liege—a friend or foe?

  Cha. It is not known.

  Lou. To serve himself, no doubt.
His ev'ry thought is self.

  Cha. Well do we know him.
Our fortune hath not forged a chain more galling
Than that which binds us to a man we hate.
Howe'er, his views will quickly now be known:—
The maid is sent to meet him.

  Lou. Was this prudent?
Should his intent be mischief, would he scruple,
E'en by the nearest road, to blast our hopes?

  Cha. She hath a chosen guard for her protection,
With Xaintrailles at their head. He dare not harm her!
Yet would they were returned: in honour's name,
We rather would forego the crown she promised,
Than ought of evil should befall the maid.

  Lou. That none will doubt: she has a double claim;
To thee her sex's charms—

  Cha. We charge thee, Louvel,
Breathe not a word like this: her simple grandeur
Checks all idle thought, and spreads around her
The very purity which decks herself.

Enter   Xaintrailles.

What tidings? say, have swords been interchanged,
Or comes he peacefully?

  Xaint. Affection leads him,
Such were his words, to greet your change of fortune.

  Lou. True regard has never brought him; but wish
The world should fancy he has set the crown
Upon your grace's head, his favoured presence
Needed.

  Cha. Then we will show him he mistakes.
We owe him nothing but most cordial hatred,
And come what may, that day's felicity
Shall not be marred by sight of him.

  Lou. My liege,
You surely will not dare refuse!

  Cha. Not dare!
The prince too fearful to resent an insult,
Proves oft too mean to recompense a friend.
Relate what passed between the maid and him.

  Xaint. Rumour had told him, or his heart suggested,
He might be deemed an enemy. Awhile
He gazed upon us with a fixed regard;
But when he saw the maid, his black lip curled,
And his sharp features grew still more contracted.
Few could have borne that look malign, and fewer
Not quailed beneath it.

  Cha. But the maid,—she bore it?

  Xaint. As one completely armed in innocence:
The peace within shed lustre o'er her face,
And sense of merit brightly tinged her cheek.
Alighting gracefully from her proud steed,
She bent her knee, and made low reverence.

  Cha. 'Twas rev'rence ill bestowed—she's his superior,
And all that ministers to feed his vanity
Were well to spare. Proceed.

  Xaint. Your grace has seen
How, when a storm arises, the dark cloud,
Pregnant with thunder, scowls upon the meadow
Placidly fair, where still the gay beam lingers,
Before its vengeance bursts. He deigned no courtesy.
His chest swelled high, and thus he spake abruptly:—
"Thou hast design, I see, to fight with me;
I know not who thou art, nor who hath sent thee;
Or heav'n, or hell,—but of this be certain,
I fear thee not, and bid thee do thy best,
Or worst, as pleases thee,—it matters not."

  Lou. Most insolent! The insult shown to her
Was meant for thee.

  Cha. It is not lost. Behold him!

  Lou. Smooth thy brow. We must not yet offend one
Who may injure us.

Enter   Richemont.

  Riche. I forestall all messages,
And come on duty's wings to tend my homage,
With all expressions of my joy, to offer
On this most happy turn of your affairs.

  Cha. Our thanks, as due, are thine.

  Riche. Rumour reports
Your highness means forthwith to pass to Rheims,
And there in state—

  Cha. Then rumour speaks the truth.

  Riche. And yet, I crave your grace, a better medium
Might surely have been found, intelligence
Of moment to convey to zealous friends.

  Cha. No real friend would claim regard to forms,
In times like these.

  Riche. But yet without advice,
A step of such importance meditate?

  Cha. From whom should we or ask, or need advice?
Are we not master of ourself—our actions?

  Riche. Not from the sycophants that court the ear,
Of royalty abused, making their prince
A puppet in their hands, merely to serve
Their selfish aims; but from the wise—

  Cha. The counsel
Needed was our own, nor wished we other.

  Riche. Counsel! the imposture's gross. This artful woman,
This low-born tool of more expert deceivers—

  Cha. 'Twere well to speak in more befitting terms
Of one who renders services so signal.
It is the will of Heav'n, by her declared,
That we repair to Rheims; and 'tis our duty,
Our pleasure also, to obey the mandate.

  Riche. Your grace is jesting: better far it were
To punish, and severely, her presumption,
Than heed her guilty tales, or idle follies.
What hath she done, this delegate of Heaven,
But what the meanest, youngest of your captains,
Had, in like case, done better?

  Cha. Ask the English,
The bravest foe that walks this nether earth,
This lion-hearted, great, and warlike race,
Whose very valour makes it honour to confront them;
To them propose the question, they will answer—
Shook to the centre of their inmost soul
Their stoutest men, their ablest captains beaten.
Ask France herself the same, and she will say—
Restored her to her rank among the nations,
And made it shame e'en to be thought disloyal.
Had other chieftains done but half as much,
No need for aid like hers had then existed.

  Riche. I boil with rage!

  Cha. She claims thy gratitude,
As well as mine, my lord.

  Riche. But not the grant
Of royal dignity, I ween. 'Tis said,
The arms of France, by leave express from you,
She partly wears upon her impious standard—
Insult to royal blood.

  Cha. What's nobly won
She justly wears. The wanderer, Charles, betrayed
By his own kin, forsaken by false friends;
Scorned, hated, persecuted by his mother,
Chased through his own domains like hunted deer;
Unnatural compacts leagued 'gainst him and France,
Compelled to view the sacrifice of hearts,
Whose only crime was loyalty unshaken—
Now, through that maiden, holds another state,
And can reward his friends, chastise his foes.

  Riche. But to a woman owe a crown!

  Cha. Why not?
The prize is sweeter made as woman's gift:
We strengthen ties by woman's aid with kings,
Then why not owe a crown?

  Riche. For insult this?

  Cha. If so received.

  Riche. 'Tis well: we met as friends,
Are we to part as foes?

  Cha. As suits thy humour.
We sought not to detach thee from our cause,
Nor care we for the loss of what has been
So haughtily conceded. To be plain—
Monarch acknowledged as we soon shall be,
Henceforth, my lord, we reign our own free master—
Thou shalt retain the station justly thine;
But not, as heretofore, forgetting ours,
Shalt thou exert undue authority.
Nor at our coronation shalt thou aid us—
Our will is said. Farewell.

[Exit.

  Riche. What have I heard?
Dares he address such words as these to Richemont?
Not at his coronation to appear!
Fling in my face defeat!—shake off control!
Shall I submit to such indignity?
Cringe to the man who thus has wounded me?
No, never.—I will be revenged on her—
On him, though my own ruin be the issue.
If there be strength on earth, or artifice
In hell—thou shalt repent this outrage.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 3 SCENE 4 Joan of Arc Play

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