Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 5
Jeanne’s Vision

Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent
and revealed them unto babes.

St. Matthew 11:25.

The summer gave place to winter; winter in turn was succeeded by spring, and again it was summer. Though there were raids in distant parts of the valley, and wild rumors and false alarms, Domremy was mercifully spared a second visitation. A strict watch was still kept, however, for glitter of lance along the highroad, or gleaming among the trees of the forest, but life resumed its tranquil aspect. The men toiled in the fields or the vineyards; women spun and wove, and looked after their households; children played or tended the herds and flocks on the common as of yore.

One warm afternoon in late July Jeanne, with others of her playmates, was on the uplands watching the flocks nibble the short green grass. The boys and girls were scattered over the uplands, but Mengette and Hauviette sat with Jeanne under the shade of a tree. The three friends were never very far apart, and as usual their small fingers were busied with the threads of their distaffs.

It was a delicious afternoon. The air, though warm, was soft and balmy, and fragrant with the perfume of wild mignonette and linden flowers. In the fields the ripened wheat rippled in the breeze like a yellow sea, and scarlet poppies made great splotches of color against the golden heads. The Meuse flowed sluggishly through dense masses of reeds and bushes, almost hidden by their foliage. A lovely scene, for the Valley of Colors, always beautiful, was never more so than in Summer. A busy scene, too; for men and boys were working in the fields and vineyards, either cradling the ripened grain, or tying up the vines, heavy with bunches of grapes.

“The sheep grow restless,” spoke Jeanne suddenly, as she noticed that some of the animals were beginning to stray apart from their fellows. “They have nipped the grass clean here. ’Tis time to move them.”

“And I grow sleepy,” cried Mengette, yawning. “We have been here since early morning, so ’tis no wonder. If I keep on pulling threads from this distaff I shall do like Colin yonder: lie down on the grass and go to sleep.”

“He ought not to sleep while he has the sheep to attend to,” declared Hauviette, shaking her head. “They might stray into the vineyards, or the forest, and he would be none the wiser.”

“He knows that we would not let them if we saw them,” said Jeanne. “I think he depends on us to look after them, though his flock is the largest one here. He ought not to be sleeping if we move our sheep away.”

She arose as she spoke and went quickly over to where Colin lay stretched out on the grass. Jeanne had grown taller in the year that had passed. “She shot up like a weed,” her mother commented as she lengthened the girl’s red woolen frocks. There had come an expression of thoughtfulness into her face, and her eyes seemed larger and brighter, holding a look of wonderment as though she were puzzling over many things; but there was no change in her gayety and high spirits. The sleeping boy opened his eyes drowsily as she shook him.

“Wake, Colin,” she cried. “Wake, and attend to what I tell you. We are going to take our sheep further afield. You must wake to look after yours.”

But Colin pulled away from her grasp, and settled down for another nap. Jeanne shook him again vigorously.

“You must wake, you lazy boy,” she cried. “What would your father say to you should aught happen to the sheep? And we are going to move ours.”

Colin sat up reluctantly at this, rubbing his eyes, and muttering discontentedly. So drowsy did he appear that Jeanne realized that some sort of expedient must be used to rouse him.

“There stands a cluster of linden flowers yonder on the edge of the forest, Colin. They are unusually pretty, and I want them. Your mother wants some, too. I heard her tell you to bring her some from the fields. See if you can get to them before I do.”

“It’s too hot to run,” murmured the boy. “It’s just like a girl to want a race when it’s hot. I’d rather sit still.”

“But that is just what you must not do if you want to keep awake,” persisted Jeanne, who knew that Colin would go to napping again if she left him as he was. “Come on! You never have beaten me at a race, and you can’t do it to-day.”

“Aw! I’ve never tried very hard,” grumbled Colin, getting to his feet reluctantly. “I’ll run, but I’d much rather stay here. I don’t see why girls want to pester a fellow so, anyway. And why do you want to take the sheep elsewhere? They’ll do well enough right here. Where did you say the flowers were?”

“Yonder.” Jeanne indicated a large cluster of the yellow linden flowers growing near an oak thicket on the edge of the wood. These flowers grew in great abundance around the village. “Girls,” turning toward her friends, “Colin thinks that he can beat me running to that bunch of linden blossoms.”

“The idea,” laughed Mengette teasingly. “Why, he can’t beat any of us; not even little Martin yonder, who is half his size,” indicating a small boy whose flock browsed just beyond Colin’s sheep. “We’ll all run just to show him. Besides, it’s the very thing to keep us from getting sleepy. Get in line, everybody. Come on, Martin. I’ll be the starter. There! You will all start at three. Attention! Attention! One, two, three,––Go!” And laughing merrily they were off.

Now Jeanne often ran races with her playmates. It was a frequent diversion of the children when they attended the animals on the uplands, care being always exercised to run in a direction that would bring no alarm to the flocks. Jeanne was very fleet of foot, as had been proven on more than one occasion. This afternoon she ran so swiftly, so easily, so without conscious effort on her part that it seemed as though she were upborne by wings. Reaching the flowers quite a few moments ahead of her companions she bent over them, inhaling their perfume with a sense of rapture that she had never before experienced. Hauviette was the first one after her to reach the goal.

“Oh, Jeanne,” she cried, gazing at her friend with wonder. “I never saw any one run as you did. Why, your feet seemed scarcely to touch the ground.”

“Jeanne always runs as though she were flying,” spoke Mengette now coming up. “Anyway I’m glad that Colin didn’t beat us. He’s ’way behind us all, for here is Martin before him. For shame, Colin,” she cried, laughing, as the boy lumbered up to them. Colin was not noted for fleetness of foot. “Not only did Jeanne outstrip you, but Hauviette, Martin and I did likewise. All of us got here before you. You didn’t stand a chance for those flowers, even if Jeanne had not run.”

“I wasn’t waked up enough to run well,” explained Colin, rousing to the need of defending himself.

“Jeanne,” broke in little Martin suddenly, “go home. Your mother wants you. I heard her calling.”

“Mother wants me,” exclaimed the girl in surprise. “Why, that’s strange! I never knew her to call me before when I was out with a flock. Something must be the matter.”

“Maybe there is,” said the lad. “Anyway I heard her calling, ‘Jeanne! Jeanne!’ just like that.”

“Then I must go to her,” cried Jeanne. With this she turned and left them, hastening in some alarm to the cottage. Her mother glanced up in surprise from her sewing as she came through the door.

“Why, child, what brings you home so early?” she cried. “Has anything happened to the flocks?”

“Did you not call me, mother?” asked Jeanne innocently. “I thought that something was wrong.”

“Call you? No. What made you think that I called you?” questioned Isabeau sharply. “You should never leave the sheep alone on the uplands. The other children have enough to do to mind their own animals without attending to yours. What made you think that I called you?”

“Martin said that he heard you,” Jeanne told her simply. “He must have tried to trick me, because I beat him and Colin in a race. I will go back to the sheep.” She started to leave the room as she spoke.

“Martin is a naughty lad,” exclaimed Isabeau with some irritation. “Nay, Jeanne; do not go back. Pierre has just come from the fields, and I will send him. You can be of use here. I have let you tend the sheep because your father has been so busy that he could not spare the boys, and because of it your sewing has been neglected. Do you, therefore, take this garment and finish the seam while I attend to Catherine. She is fretful of late, and does not seem well. Go into the garden, where it is cool. I will speak to Pierrelot.”

Obediently the little maid took the garment that her mother held out to her, and going into the garden sat down under an apple tree. She was quite skillful in sewing. Her mother did exquisite needlework, and wished her daughter’s ability to equal her own. Jeanne wished it too, so took great pains to please Isabeau.

It was quiet in the garden. Quieter than it had been on the uplands. There had been merry laughter there, and songs and jests from the children. Here there were only the twitter of birds, the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, and the humming of gold belted bees for company. So quiet was it that presently some little birds, seeing that they had nothing to fear from the small maiden sewing so diligently, flew down from the apple tree and began to peck at the grass at her very feet. Jeanne smiled as she saw them, and sat quite still so as not to frighten them. Soon a skylark rose from the grass in the meadow lying beyond the orchard, and in a burst of song flew up, and up into the air, mounting higher and higher until he shone a mere black dot in the sky. Still singing he began to descend, circling as he came earthward, dropping suddenly like an arrow straight into the grass, his song ceasing as he disappeared.

Jeanne had let her work fall into her lap as she watched the flight of the bird, now she took it up again and began to sew steadily. The air was still athrill with the skylark’s melody, and the child sewed on and on, every pulse in harmony with her surroundings. All at once something caused her to look up.

There was a change of some kind in the atmosphere. What it was she could not tell, but she was conscious of something that she did not understand. She glanced up at the sky, but not a cloud marred its azure. It was as serene, as dazzling as it had been all day. Bewildered by she knew not what she picked up her sewing again, and tried to go on with it, but she could not. She laid down the garment, and once more glanced about her. As she did so she saw a light between her and the church.

It was on her right side, and as it came nearer to her it grew in brightness. A brightness that was dazzling. She had never seen anything like it. Presently it enveloped her. Thrilled, trembling, awed, too frightened to move, the little maid closed her eyes to shut out the glory that surrounded her. And then, from the midst of the radiance there came a voice; sweeter than the song of the skylark, sweeter even than the chime of the bells she loved so well. It said:

“Be good, Jeanne, be good! Be obedient, and go frequently to church. I called thee on the uplands, but thou didst not hear. Be good, Jeanne, be good.”

That was all. The voice ceased. Presently the light lessened; it faded gradually, and soon ceased to glow. The little girl drew a long breath, and fearfully lifted her eyes. There was naught to be seen. The garden looked the same as before. The little birds still pecked at her feet, the leaves still rustled in the breeze, the church wore its usual aspect. Could she have fallen asleep and dreamed, she asked herself.

At this moment Isabeau called to her from the door of the cottage:

“Take Catherine, Jeanne,” she said. “I do not know what ails the child. She frets so. I will brew a posset. Do you attend to her a few moments. Why, what ails you, my little one?” she broke off abruptly as Jeanne came to her. “Is aught amiss? You look distraught.”

Jeanne opened her lips to reply. She thought to tell her mother of the wonderful thing that had happened, and then, something in Isabeau’s expression checked the words. Perhaps the good woman was unduly worried. She was in truth overburdened with the cares of her household. Little Catherine was ailing, and an ailing child is always exacting. Whatever it may have been, Jeanne found the words checked on her lips, and was unable to relate what had occurred. A girl trembling on the brink of womanhood is always shy and timid about relating the thoughts and emotions that fill her. The unusual experience was such as needed a sympathetic and tender listener. The mother was too anxious over the younger child to be in a receptive mood for such confidences. So when she said again:

“Is anything amiss, Jeanne?” The little girl only shook her head, and said in a low tone:

“No, mother.”

“I dare say that the trick that Martin played upon you has upset you,” commented Isabeau. “You ran the race, and then ran home thinking that something was wrong with us here. It was a mean trick, though done in sport. I shall speak to his mother about it. The boy goes too much with that naughty Colin.”

Jeanne started. The voice had said that it had called her on the uplands. Could it be that that was what Martin had heard?

If so, then it could not have been a dream. It had really happened. She found voice to protest timidly:

“Perhaps he did not mean to trick me, mother. Perhaps he really thought that he heard you calling me.”

“Pouf, child! How could he, when I did not call? There! a truce to the talk while I brew the posset. I hope that Catherine is not coming down with sickness.”

She hurried into the kitchen, while Jeanne, wondering greatly at what had taken place, took her little sister into the garden, and sat down under another tree.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 6 Warrior Maid

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