Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 6
Jeanne’s Harsh Words

The miracle of this girl’s life
is best honored by the simple truth.


So, half from shyness, half from fear of ridicule, the child told no one of her strange experience, but often did the thought of the happening come to her, and she wondered what it could mean. Indeed so much did she dwell upon it that Mengette rallied her upon her abstraction.

“What has come over you, Jeanne?” asked the latter one day when she and Jeanne in company with other girls and women were at the river engaged in one of the periodical washings of the village. “Twice have I spoken to you, yet you have not answered. Has your mother been scolding you?”

“Mother scolding? Why, no!” Jeanne glanced up in surprise. “There is naught the matter, Mengette. I was just thinking.”

“Of what?” questioned her friend, but as Jeanne made no reply she lowered her voice and said with some asperity: “You are thinking too much, Jeanne D’Arc. You are not a bit like yourself, and every one is noticing it. Why, when you come to a washing you come to laugh, to sing, to talk, and to have a good time; but you do naught but mope.” And Mengette gave the garments she was washing a vicious thump with the clothes-beater.

“Well, I haven’t moped so much but that my clothes are as clean as the ones you are washing,” retorted Jeanne, holding up some linens for inspection, and regarding her friend with a quizzical glance. “Mengette, those poor garments will be beaten to a thread if you pound them much harder.”

Mengette let her paddle drop, and pushed back her hair with her wet hands.

“I’d willingly beat them to a thread to hear you laugh, Jeanne. Now come up closer, and I will tell you something that Hauviette told me last night. I don’t want any one else to hear it.”

So, wooed for the time being from her thoughts, Jeanne moved her washing table closer to her friend’s, and the two girls were soon deep in a low toned conversation, punctuated by many peals of merriment. All along the bank of river the village women and girls kneeled over their box-shaped washing tables, open at one side, set in the water’s edge, talking as they worked, or sometimes singing roundels and catches. As Mengette had said, the pleasure of washing lay in the meeting of many women and girls, and in the chatting, laughter and news-telling between the thump, thump of the clothes-beaters. The sound of the paddles could be heard along the valley as they beat and turned and dipped and turned again the coarse garments of their families. Thus labor that would have proved irksome performed by two or three alone was lightened by the communion and fellowship of the many.

It was pleasant by the river, despite the heat of the day. Bluebells and tall white plumes of spiræa vied with the brownish-yellow of mignonette and the rose of meadow pink in embroidering a delicate tracery of color against the vivid green of the valley. The smell of new mown hay made the air fragrant, and hills and meadows smiled under a cloudless sky. The workers laughed, and sang, and chatted, plying always the paddles; but at length the washing was finished. The sun was getting low behind the Domremy hills when the last snowy pieces were stretched upon the grass to bleach, and then, piling large panniers high with the garments that were dried the women lifted them to their backs, thrusting their arms into the plaited handles to steady them, and so started homeward. Isabeau Romée lingered to speak to her daughter.

“Leave the tables and paddles, little one,” she said, as she saw Jeanne preparing to take them from the water. “I will send the boys for them, and you have done enough for one day. Know you where the lads are? I have seen naught of them since dinner.”

“Father said that since the hay was cut, and there was no sign of rain, they might have the afternoon for themselves, mother. I think they went somewhere down the river to fish.”

“’Tis most likely,” said Isabeau. “I hope that they will not meet the Maxey boys anywhere. If they do, home will they come all bruised and bleeding, for never do boys from this side of the river meet those from the Lorraine side that there is not a fight. I like it not.”

“’Tis because the boys of Domremy and Greux are Armagnacs, and those of Maxey-sur-Meuse are Burgundians,” explained Jeanne, who did not know that ever since the world has stood boys of one village always have found a pretext to fight lads of another, be that pretext the difference between Armagnacs and Burgundians, or some other. “How can they help it, mother, when even grown people fight their enemies when they meet?”

“True; ’tis no wonder that they fight when there is naught but fighting in the land.” Isabeau sighed. “Would there were no war. But there, child, let’s talk of it no more. I weary of strife, and tales of strife. Since the boys are somewhere along the river they needs must pass the bridge to come home. Do you, therefore, wait here for them, and tell them that they are to bring the tables and the paddles home. I will go on to get the supper.”

“Very well, mother,” assented Jeanne. So while her mother went back to the cottage, the great pannier of clothes towering high above her head, the little girl rinsed the box-shaped washing tables carefully, then drew them high on the banks; after which she sat down near the bridge to watch for her brothers.

She did not have long to wait. Suddenly there came shouts and cries from the Lorraine side of the river, and soon there came Jean and Pierre, her brothers, followed by other Domremy lads running at full speed, and in their wake came many Maxey boys, hurling insults and stones at their fleeing adversaries.

On Pierre’s head was a long, deep gash that was bleeding freely, and at that sight Jeanne burst into tears. She could not bear the sight of blood, and a fight made her cower and tremble. At this juncture there came from the fields Gérardin d’Épinal, a Burgundian, and the only man in Domremy who was not of the King’s party. He gave a great laugh as he saw the boys of his own village running from those of Maxey. Then knowing how loyal Jeanne was to the Dauphin, he cried teasingly:

“That is the way that the Burgundians and English are making the ‘Little King of Bourges’ run. (A term applied to the Dauphin Charles by his enemies.) Soon he will be made to leave France, and flee into Spain, or perhaps Scotland, and then we will have for our Sovereign Lord, Henry King of England and France.”

At that Jeanne grew white. Her tears ceased to flow, and she stood up very straight and looked at him with blazing eyes.

“I would that I might see thy head struck from thy body,” she said in low intense tones. Then, after a moment, she crossed herself and added devoutly: “That is, if it were God’s will, Gérardin d’Épinal.”

The words were notable, for they were the only harsh words the girl used in her life. Long afterward Gérardin d’Épinal told of them. Now he had the grace to blush, for he had not meant to rouse the little creature to such passion. With a light laugh he turned and went his way, saying:

“Don’t take such things so much to heart, Jeanne.”

The Domremy boys had reached their own side of the river by this time, and therefore were safe from further attack from their rivals. Now they gathered about Jeanne, for they had heard what she had said to Gérardin.

“How did you come to speak so to him, Jeanne?” cried Jean.

Jeanne hung her head.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “Yes; it was because of what he said about the gentle Dauphin; and too, I think, because of the cut in Pierre’s head.” And with that she put her arm about her brother, and drew him to her. “Does it hurt much?” she asked tenderly. “Come! let me wash it off before we go home. Mother likes not to see blood.”

“And neither do you,” exclaimed Pierre, noting her pale face. “Don’t bother about it, Jeanne. It doesn’t hurt very much.” He shrugged his shoulders with assumed indifference.

“Mother will not like it because you have been fighting,” went on the girl gravely.

“We didn’t mean to, Jeanne,” broke in Jean quickly. “We came to the river to fish, but some of the Burgundian boys came to the other side, and began to call us names, saying that we didn’t dare to come over and fight. We ran back to the village, and told the other boys who came back with us to show the Maxeys that we did dare, but not one of them was to be seen. So we crossed the bridge to the Lorraine side anyway, and––”

“They set upon us,” interrupted Pierre excitedly. “They had hidden in the bushes and behind trees, and as soon as we were fairly among them they threw themselves upon us. ’Twas an ambuscade just like when Roland was set upon at Roncesvalles.”

“And did the Domremy boys give a good account of themselves?” queried Jeanne anxiously. “And how did you get the gash?”

Jean looked embarrassed.

“I did it,” he said at length. “It was like Olivier did to Roland. You see we were all so mixed up when the Maxey boys fell upon us that we couldn’t tell which were our boys, and which were not. So, in striking out with a stick that I carried, I thwacked Pierrelot on the head instead of one of them as I intended. But I made up for it afterward; didn’t I, Pierre?”

Pierre laughed as he nodded affirmation.

“So did I,” he said. “I knew that Jean would feel bad about hitting me, so we both made the Burgundians pay for it. Do we have to carry the tables and the paddles home, Jeanne? Or aren’t you through washing yet?”

“Yes; we have finished, Pierre. Mother said for you boys to carry the tables home, but since you are hurt I will help Jean with them.”

“Pouf! why, ’tis nothing but a scratch,” cried Pierrelot. “And you have been washing, too. I’ll carry my share, Jeanne. Now let’s be getting home. I’m hungry as a wolf.”

“So am I,” declared Jean.

The supper was waiting when they reached the cottage, and the boys’ story of the ambuscade was related again to their father and mother, who listened sympathetically. In the midst of the recital Jeanne slipped out, and went across the garden to the little church to vespers.

There was no one in the church but the Curé, and the good priest smiled as his little parishioner entered. He was always sure of one auditor, whatever the state of the weather, for Jeanne attended all services. In one transept was an image of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of young girls, and before this the child knelt in prayer. It was deemed presumptuous for Christians to address God directly in prayer at this period, so that prayers were made to the saints, who were asked to make intercession for the suppliant. So Jeanne made her supplication to the saint, and then took her seat, for the people were coming in for the service.

Messire Guillaume Frontey, the priest, led them through a short benediction service, and comforted and refreshed,––Jeanne had been much wearied by the day’s work and religion was to her as the breath of life,––the child passed out into the garden.

There was a sweet coolness in the evening air, and the darkness was soft and agreeable after the glare of the summer sun. So pleasant was the night that Jeanne stopped under an apple tree, loath to enter the warm cottage. Presently, through the darkness, there came the light that she had seen before. A light so bright, so glowing in its radiance that she sank to her knees awed by the luminosity. She was not so frightened as when it had come before, yet still she dared not lift her eyes to gaze upon its wonder. Tremblingly she waited for the voice that she knew would follow. As it spake the bells of the church began to ring for compline. Mingled with their chimes sounded tones so sweet that her eyes filled at their tenderness:

“I come from God to help thee live a good and holy life,” it said. “Be good, Jeanne, and God will aid thee.”

That was all. The light faded gradually, and when it was gone Jeanne rose to her feet.

“It was the voice of an angel,” she whispered in awed tones. “The voice of an angel, and it spoke to me.”

And from that time forth Jeanne D’Arc had no doubt but that an angel had spoken to her. To children, especially religious little ones, Heaven is always very near, and that one of its denizens should come to them does not seem so improbable as it does to mature minds. For some time she stood lost in wonderment at the miraculous happening, then slowly and thoughtfully she went into the cottage, going at once to her own little room.

This room was on the side of the cottage toward the church where the eaves sloped low. From her tiny window she could see the sacred light on the altar, and with hands clasped, Jeanne knelt before the open sash, gazing devoutly upon it. It seemed to her that the threshold of Heaven was reached by that little church.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 7 Warrior Maid

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