Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Story of Joan of Arc Chapter 18
THE END OF THE MAID


THEY burned her cruelly to death in the market-place of Rouen, with eight hundred soldiers round the stake, lest any should attempt to save her. They had put a false accusation on a paper cap, and set it on her head: it was written that she was "Heretic, Relapsed, Apostate, Idolatress." This was her reward for the bravest and best life that was ever lived.

She came to her own and her own received her not.

There was with her a priest who pitied her, not one of her Judges—Brother Isambert de la Pierre, of the order of St. Augustine. Joan asked him to bring her a cross, and to hold it up before her eyes while she was burning. "Saith moreover that while she was in the fire she ceased never to call loudly on the Holy Name of Jesus; always, too, imploring ceaselessly the help of the Saints in Paradise; and more, when the end was now come, she bowed her head, and gave up her spirit, calling on the name of Jesus."

The Saints had said to her, long before: "Bear your torment lightly: thence shall you come into the kingdom of Paradise."

So died Joan the Maid.

It is said by some who were present, that even the English Cardinal, Beaufort, wept when he saw the Maid die: "crocodiles' tears!" One of the secretaries of Henry VI. (who himself was only a little boy) said, "We are all lost. We have burned a Saint!"

They were all lost. The curse of their cruelty did not depart from them. Driven by the French and Scots from province to province, and from town to town, the English returned home, tore and rent each other; murdering their princes and nobles on the scaffold, and slaying them as prisoners of war on the field; and stabbing and smothering them in chambers of the Tower; York and Lancaster devour- ing each other; the mad Henry VI. was driven from home to wander by the waves at St. Andrews, before he wandered back to England and the dagger stroke—these things were the reward the English won, after they had burned a Saint. They ate the bread and drank the cup of their own greed and cruelty all through the Wars of the Roses. They brought shame upon their name which Time can never wash away; they did the Devil's work, and took the Devil's wages. Soon Henry VIII. was butchering his wives and burning Catholics and Protestants, now one, now the other, as the humour seized him.

Joan had said to the Archbishop, at Rheims, that she knew not where she would die, or where she would be buried. Her ashes were never laid in the earth; she had no grave. The English, that men might forget her, threw her ashes into the sea. There remains no relic of, Joan of Arc; no portrait, nothing she ever wore, no cup or sword or jewel that she ever touched. But she is not forgotten; she never will be forgotten. On every Eighth of May, the day when she turned the tide of English conquest, a procession in her honour goes through the streets of Orleans, the city that she saved; and though the Protestants, at the Reformation, destroyed her statue that knelt before the Fair Cross on the bridge, she has statues in many of the towns in France. She was driven from the gate of Paris, but near the place where she lay wounded in the ditch, is her statue, showing her on horseback, in armour.

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