Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 13
Farewell to Home

I am by birth a shepherd’s daughter,
My wit untrained in any kind of art.
Heaven, and our Lady gracious, hath it pleased
To shine on my contemptible estate: ...
God’s mother deigned to appear to me;
And, in a vision full of majesty,
Willed me to leave my base vocation,
And free my country from calamity.

Shakespeare, First Part, “Henry Sixth.

To Jeanne’s surprise she was welcomed warmly. Certain of the Domremy people who had been Colin’s witnesses preceded her into Neufchâteau, and by the time she arrived all the village folk were cognizant of what had occurred. A reaction in her favor had set in; for, not only had she conducted her case without any aid whatsoever, but the bishop had commended her, and had spoken sharply to Colin, who now became the laughing stock of his neighbors. All the world loves a lover, but it has only contempt for the suitor who brings ridicule upon either himself or his beloved.

Isabeau folded her daughter in her arms, holding her close to her heart and shuddering at the thought of the perilous journey the child had made rather than submit to an unwelcome marriage; while Jacques, moved out of his usual taciturnity, spoke to her with something of pride in his tones. For the first time it occurred to these good people that their daughter differed from other village maidens, and therefore required dissimilar treatment. More than once Jeanne found her parents regarding her with curious, puzzled looks, as though they wondered if she were in very truth their daughter.

La Rousse openly rejoiced at the outcome of the affair, and wished the maiden to remain with her indefinitely. But to this neither Jeanne or her parents would consent. And, after a fortnight’s stay, the family returned to Domremy.

Antoine de Vergy had done the work of despoliation thoroughly. Incensed because the villeins had fled with their cattle and belongings, thereby depriving him of booty and ransom which he could not exact from the chief men of the village by reason of their flight, he had ravaged and burned with more than his usual fury. The crops were entirely destroyed; the monastery, once as proud as a fortress with its square watchman’s tower, was now nothing but a heap of blackened ruins; the church also was burned, so that the Domremy folk must needs go to the church at Greux to hear mass; and but few cottages were left standing. But the people had their flocks and herds, and their house furnishings; then too it was summer; so, bravely, with the patience engendered by long suffering they set to work once more to rebuild, rethatch, and repair their homes. As before, they lived in the castle while the work went on.

A veritable reign of terror was in all the region about. The misery and discomfort were inconceivable; yet somehow life went on. So the Summer waned, and with the first days of Autumn came the dire intelligence that Orléans, the strong independent old city sometimes called the key of the Loire, was besieged by the English. Should it fall France could not be saved.

The English acted badly in laying siege to the town of Orléans, for it belonged to Duke Charles, who had been a prisoner in their hands since the battle of Agincourt. Having possession of his body they ought to have respected his property, as was the custom. This conduct was regarded as unprecedented treachery, and Domremy buzzed with talk as pilgrims related tales of what was occurring. The English had built, it was said, fortified towers around the city, the very heart of France; and entrenched themselves there in great strength. The Tourelles were taken already, and the city was so invested that its inhabitants were starving.

“Such a thing is unheard of,” declared Jacques in the privacy of the cottage. “It is a deed unknown among the very Saracens. Who could guess that lords and knights of the Christian faith, holding captive the gentle Duke of Orléans, would besiege his own city? The leaguer is a great villainy.”

“The leaguer is a great villainy.” Jeanne repeated the words to herself, for the tidings of the siege were of the saddest to her. Her attachment to all the Royal House was strong, and especially so to the captive poet. Sorrowfully she sought comfort from her “Voices” who loved the Land of the Lilies.

“Have no fear, Daughter of God,” they said consolingly. “Orléans shall be delivered, and by thee. Thy time is at hand. Go into France, and raise the siege which is being made before the city. Go, Daughter of God. Go!”

So they urged continually. But again the valley was shrouded in the cold white garb of winter, and still there seemed no way for her to leave the village. Over her girl heart hung the dread of leaving home and friends, though never once did she falter in her purpose. She was steadfast to that. The yoke of obedience always strong in the mind of a French maiden would not permit her lightly to disobey her parents. Jeanne was much troubled over it. They would never give consent. If she went she must go without it. No longer did they keep watch over her. Jacques had been more considerate of his daughter since she had shown herself capable of such resistance as she had given against Colin. Then too the raid of de Vergy’s men-at-arms, the flight to Neufchâteau with the after effects, and now the consternation felt by all loyal Frenchmen over the news of Orléans’ plight; these things had driven all thought of Jeanne’s fancy from their minds. She had been so dutiful, had submitted so sweetly to the espionage, and had shown no disposition to return to Vaucouleurs even though the journey to Toul had provided opportunity for it had she been so minded, that the parents no longer regarded such a journey as a possibility. Jeanne knew all this.

But they knew that she still had her purpose in mind, for the maiden had talked freely about it. Jeanne knew what she had to do, and longed to be about it. Again and again she sought help from her “Voices.” They became peremptory in their commands, absolving her from the obedience due her parents. God’s command was higher, and this she must obey. So, certain as to her mission, she was inaccessible either to remonstrance or appeal. Now she looked about for means to accomplish her purpose.

The Old Year glided into the vale of discarded years, and the New Year ushered in January of 1429, which brought Jeanne’s seventeenth birthday. The sixth was cold and stormy, but if it was bleak and wintry without, within the cottage it was cheery and comfortable. The family gathered around a great fire of faggots on the afternoon of that day, each one busied with homely, needful work. Jacques and his eldest son, Jacquemin, were mending harness; Jean and Pierre were shelling corn against the next feed of the cattle; little Catherine, as she was still called, was polishing the copper and pewter on the dresser, while Jeanne and her mother sewed and spun alternately. All at once the crunching of wheels on the frosty snow was heard, followed shortly by a loud “Hallo!” as a vehicle stopped before the door. Jacques laid down his work with an exclamation.

“Now who can it be that fares forth in such weather to go visiting?” he said. “Open the door, Pierre, and see who is there.”

But Jeanne was already at the door before her father had finished speaking, and opened it wide to the visitor. She gave an ejaculation of joy as she saw who stood without.

“Come in, Uncle Durand,” she said. “You look cold.”

“And feel also, ma mie.” Lassois made at once for the great fire. “Jacques, man, you have cause to be thankful that you need not fare from the fireside on such a day as this. Pierre, will you see to the oxen? The poor brutes are well nigh frozen, and so am I.”

“Ye look it, Durand,” spoke Jacques. “There! come nearer to the fire. Isabeau, a hot drink will warm his vitals. Welcome, Lassois, welcome! ’Tis a cold day.”

“It is,” agreed Durand, rubbing his hands before the blaze.

“And how is Aveline?” asked Isabeau, as she placed a hot drink before him.

“She is not well, Isabeau, and the baby is peevish. It is that that brings me here to-day. Her father hath been taken with a distemper, and her mother is all taken up in looking after him. So Aveline wishes that Jeanne might come to stay for a short time. Will you let her go, Jacques?”

Jeanne listened anxiously for her father’s answer. She did not believe that he would give consent. Indeed Jacques was silent a long time before he made reply, but at length he said slowly:

“I see no harm in her going, Lassois. It hath been dreary here this winter, and the work heavy. She may go and stay with you three weeks, since Aveline is ailing. That is, if her mother is willing.”

“Why, yes,” spoke Isabeau quickly. “With a young baby Aveline needs some one with her to look after things. And it will give Jeanne a chance to hear the news. I doubt not but that Aveline will have much to tell her that will be of interest.”

Jeanne was amazed at the readiness with which the consent was given. She had not thought they would let her go, and it caused her wonder. But certainly they could not suppose that she would seek Robert de Baudricourt a second time, or perhaps Jacques relied upon Sire Robert’s good sense to send her home if she should seek him. So it was arranged that the maiden should return with Lassois to Bury le Petit the next day.

There was little sleep for the young girl that night. She knew that it was the last time that she would ever be in her own home, for she was resolved to go to Vaucouleurs as soon as Aveline was better. In this she would deliberately disobey her parents, but there was no other way.

“I would rather be torn apart by wild horses than go against their wishes,” she said to herself with tears. “But God commands it, and I must go.”

Her destiny called, and she followed the summons. All earthly ties must be subservient to her great purpose. Suffering France must be relieved, and it was her mission to give the aid.

Her time had come.

Therefore her good-byes to her parents, brothers, and little sister were very tender. She dared not speak of her mission, and if her loved ones noticed the tenderness of farewells that so short an absence did not seem to warrant they knew not the reason for them. So Jeanne passed from her father’s house, and climbed into the cart.

Mengette, whose home was near by, was at the window as Lassois’ cart passed. Jeanne waved to her, crying:

“Good-by, Mengette. God bless thee.”

All through the village she saw faces of friends and neighbors at the windows, or on their doorsteps, and bade them farewell. But as she drew near the home of Hauviette, and Lassois stopped for her to call to her friend, Jeanne shook her head.

“I can not speak to her, uncle,” she said chokingly. “I dare not. My heart would fail me, for I love her too dearly to say good-by.”

At Greux as they passed through she saw Colin in one of the narrow streets. Jeanne leaned out of the cart to call to him.

“Good-by, Colin,” she said. “God give you good fortune.”

“Where are you going?” spoke the youth shamefacedly. He had avoided Jeanne since the meeting at Toul.

“I go to Vaucouleurs,” she dared to say. “Good-by.”

“To Vaucouleurs?” repeated Lassois, turning to look at her as they left Colin behind. “But Aveline, Jeanne?”

“Did you think that I would leave her while she has need of me, Uncle Durand?” asked the maiden reproachfully.

“No, Jeanne; I knew that you would not. ’Twas a second only that I doubted.” Durand swung his goad over the oxen’s backs as he spoke, and the beasts swung into a trot.

But Jeanne turned for a last look at the valley she was leaving forever. Long she gazed at the red roofs of the village; at the ice bound river with its rushes rimed with frost; at the forest, bare and leafless; at the snow covered hills, and white shrouded meadows; at all the familiar objects hallowed by association. Gazed until her tear-blinded eyes would permit her to look no more.

And so down the Valley of Colors for the last time passed Jeanne D’Arc.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 14 Warrior Maid

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