Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 14
Victory Over Doubting Hearts

Yet the true Poetry––herself, like thee,
Childlike; herself, like thee, a shepherd maid––
Gives thee her birthright of Divinity,
And lifts unto the stars thy starry shade.
Thy brows receive the aureole of her sky;
The Heart created thee––thou canst not die.

Schiller, “The Maid of Orléans.

Jeanne stayed at her uncle’s house with Aveline until the latter was quite well. Then, there being nothing further to hinder, she asked Lassois to take her to Vaucouleurs.

“Jacques won’t like it, Jeanne,” feebly remonstrated Durand, knowing full well that notwithstanding the fact he would do as his niece wished. “He didn’t before, you know; and neither did Isabeau.”

“I must go, Uncle Durand. Though I had a hundred fathers, or a hundred mothers, though I were the daughter of a King, I still should go. It is commanded.”

Durand made no further objection, though he knew that both Jacques and Isabeau would censure him for yielding to her. He saw that Jeanne was not to be turned from her purpose, so made ready for the journey. Perhaps, like Jacques, he relied on the common sense of the Sire Robert to send the girl home, for he was cheerful enough when presently they were on their way to Vaucouleurs.

“You will return with me, Jeanne? This visit is for the day only, is it not?”

“No, uncle. I shall stay in Vaucouleurs until the Sire Captain gives me men-at-arms to take me to the Dauphin.”

“And if he does not? What then?”

“He will in time, Uncle Durand. My Voices have said so,” responded the maiden confidently.

Lassois sat for a time without speaking. There was as much awe as affection in the regard he bore his young kinswoman, and when she wore a look of exaltation as on this morning he felt as he did at the ringing of the angelus. But there was a practical side to the affair to be looked after as well as a spiritual, and he wished to be able to put the best face possible on the matter before Jacques; so after a little he queried:

“And where shall you bide at Vaucouleurs? Have you thought of that?”

“Why, yes, uncle. Mother has a friend, one Catherine le Royer, who lives in the town. I shall go to her. I am sure that she will give me welcome for mother’s sake.”

“Now that is well,” spoke Lassois in relieved tones. “I know Catherine, and her husband also. Henri le Royer, the wheelwright, he is. Good people they are, and pious.”

By this time they had reached the little walled town nestling among the low hills of the valley, and again Jeanne passed up the steep slopes of the hill upon which the castle stood.

As before when she had gone to him Robert de Baudricourt sat at meat with his captains. There was no smile on his face this time, however, when, in answer to the request that they might speak with him Jeanne and her uncle were ushered into the great dining hall. No smile, though Lassois was awkward and ill at ease, and Jeanne still wore the red homespun dress, and the village coif of the peasant. There was not the least flicker of amusement in his countenance as he said:

“Well, my little maid, what brings thee here this time?”

Jeanne courtesied low before she replied:

“My Lord Captain, know that God has commanded me many times to go to the gentle Dauphin, who must be and who is the true King of France, that he shall grant me men-at-arms with whom I shall raise the siege at Orléans, and take him to his anointing at Reims. And you, Sire Captain, must send or take me to him. It is commanded.”

For a long time Robert de Baudricourt sat silent, regarding the maiden with a troubled look. She was so earnest, was evidently so sincere in her demand, that he was perplexed. Was she inspired, or possessed? That was what his expression said as he gazed at her. If inspired her aid was not to be despised. If possessed she ought to be dealt with forthwith. In truth he knew not what to say to her. His own situation was far from pleasant. When Antoine de Vergy had raged through the valley the previous Summer he had infested the town of Vaucouleurs, and de Baudricourt had been obliged to yield it to him, though he had not yet given possession.

Joan before de Baudricourt - Warrior Maid

It was one of those capitulations, common in those days, by which the Commander of a garrison promised to surrender his fortress by the end of a given time. This promise, however, ceased to be valid should the fortress be relieved before the day fixed for its surrender. So Sire Robert’s own condition was acute, and if the Dauphin were not in a position to come to his relief he himself would be caught in the coils of the enemy. Any promise of deliverance, however humble, was not to be treated lightly. Therefore, if he did not believe in Jeanne’s announcement he at least listened to it readily. At length he said:

“This matter should be given some thought, my little maid. Where do you bide? I would speak with you further concerning this.”

There was a stir of surprise among his men, for they noted with amazement that the Captain addressed the maiden as an equal.

“With Catherine le Royer, the wheelwright’s wife, messire,” answered Jeanne.

“I will speak with you again,” repeated Sire Robert. And Jeanne and Lassois, understanding that the interview was over for this time, withdrew.

Catherine and Henri le Royer were folk of Jeanne’s own humble station. The good dame welcomed the girl warmly, at first for her mother’s sake and then for her own. Jeanne had ever a way with women and girls, and but few days had elapsed ere she had completely won the heart of her hostess by her gentle ways, her skill in sewing and spinning, and her earnest faith. Together they attended mass at the parish church, spun, sewed, or busied themselves about the house. Sometimes Jeanne climbed the hill to the royal chapel which adjoined the Governor’s castle, for there was a wonderful image of the Virgin in the crypt of Saint Mary’s before which she loved to pray.

News of her mission, the tidings that a young girl was come, who was appointed by God to save France spread through the town and surrounding country. The people flocked to see her, and those who came believed, won by her earnestness and simple sincerity. They were in no uncertainty at all as to her mission. A little mob hung about the cottage door to see her come and go, chiefly to church. The saying, “France lost by a woman shall be restored by a maid from the Marches of Lorraine,” was on every lip. And the excitement grew.

Again and again Jeanne sought the Governor, saying:

“I must to the gentle Dauphin. It is the will of Messire, the King of Heaven, that I should wend to the gentle Dauphin. I am sent by the King of Heaven. I must go even if I go on my knees. My Lord Captain, in God’s name, send me to the gentle Dauphin.”

But Sire Robert,––though he listened to her readily enough, and, impressed in spite of himself by her intense fervour, perceived a certain seriousness in the business,––remained deaf to her pleadings. He could not believe. What, a young girl fair and lovely as was this peasant maid to deliver France? The thing was absurd; and yet––he dared not send her home lest after all there might be truth in what she claimed. And so the matter rested.

The days dawned and waned, and still the men-at-arms were not provided. Jeanne shed bitter tears over the delay. She believed so implicitly in her Voices that she could not understand why others did not have the same faith. And the fame of her grew and spread, going out into the country even beyond the valley.

One day, as she was on her way to mass, a young man-at-arms pushed his way through the crowd which had gathered to see her to have a word with the wonderful peasant maid.

“Well, ma mie,” he said banteringly, “what are you doing here? Must the King be driven from his Kingdom, and we all turn English?”

“I came hither to the King’s territory, messire, to speak with Sire Robert that he may take me, or cause me to be taken to the Dauphin; but he heeds neither me nor my words. Notwithstanding, ere mid-Lent I must be before the Dauphin, were I in going to wear my legs to my knees.”

The reply was given with such intent seriousness that the young knight was impressed, and he spoke more gently:

“Know you not, maiden, that Louis, the little son of Charles, hath just been betrothed to the infant daughter of the King of Scotland? King James is to send Madame Margaret to France with an army of six thousand men before Whitsunday, which, as you know, is in May. What need, therefore, is there for you, a young girl, to go to the Dauphin?”

“I must go to the Dauphin, messire; for no one in the world, no king or duke or daughter of the King of Scotland[6] can restore the realm of France. In me alone is help, albeit for my part, I would far rather be spinning by my poor mother’s side, for this life is not to my liking. But I must go, and so I will, for it is Messire’s command that I should go.”

“Who is Messire?” asked he.

“He is God,” she answered.

The young man was moved. He stretched out his hands suddenly as though he believed in spite of himself, and laid his hands between hers.

“There!” said he. “I, Jean de Novelonpont, commonly called Jean de Metz, pledge you my word, knightly fashion, my hands in your hands in token of fealty, that God helping me I will take you to the King.”

“You will, messire?” cried Jeanne joyfully.

“On my word of honour I promise it. When will you set forth?”

“This hour is better than to-morrow; to-morrow is better than after to-morrow,” she told him, her face illumined with smiles. It was the first gleam of hope that had lightened the weary days of waiting.

“I will make preparations at once,” he said, moved by her zeal and by her strong sense of the necessity of immediate operations. Then as he started to leave her, he turned.

“Would you travel in that garb, pucelle?”[7] he asked hesitatingly.

Jeanne smiled, divining the difficulties he foresaw were she to retain her woman’s garb in travelling. She had already given the matter thought, and perceived that if she were to live among soldiers she must change the dress she wore. So she answered promptly:

“I will willingly dress as a man. In truth, it would be more seemly.”

De Metz nodded approval, and went his way. After this, because joys like sorrows come not singly, one after another began to believe in her. In a few days another man-at-arms came to her. He was an older man than de Metz and a graver. At his salutation Jeanne looked at him intently.

“Have I not seen you somewhere, messire?” she asked.

“I think not,” he answered lightly. “Methinks I should not have forgotten it had we ever met. Yet stay!” bending a keen glance upon her. “Are not you the little maid who dressed my wounded arm at your father’s house in Domremy?”

“It may be, messire.”

“It is,” he affirmed. “The wound healed quickly, for the treatment was good. So you are that little maid? And now you have come here with a mission? Tell me of it, pucelle. Can you in very truth do as you say: raise the siege of Orléans, and bring the King to his anointing?”

“Not I, messire; but my Lord, the King of Heaven, will do it through me. I am but his humble instrument.”

“Tell me of it,” he said again. “I have talked with Jean de Metz, but I would hear of it from you.”

There was no need for reserve concerning her mission, so Jeanne talked of it freely to him. Indeed she did so to whomsoever wished to hear about it. And when she had made an end of the telling Bertrand de Poulengy placed his hands in hers as de Metz had done, and pledged her fealty, knightly fashion.

But though the men-at-arms were willing to set forth at once there was still delay; for, being in service with Sire Robert, they could not leave without his consent. Jeanne became impatient, knowing that Orléans could not hold out forever. She was cast down, not through want of faith in her divine mission, but because of the obstacles which unbelieving men like Baudricourt were putting in her way.

“In God’s name, gentle Robert,” she cried one day, meeting him at the foot of the hill where his castle stood, “you are too slow about sending me. This day hath a great disaster happened to the Dauphin. Send me quickly lest a worse befall him.”

“A disaster hath befallen the Dauphin?” exclaimed Sire Robert. “How could you know that a disaster hath befallen him to-day?”

“My Voices have told me,” she made answer. “A battle hath been lost near Orléans. Sire Robert, I must be sent to him.”

“I will see, I will see,” he said, looking troubled. “If this be true, as you have said, then shall you go to him. But is it by evil or by good spirits that you speak?”

Without waiting for a reply he left her abruptly. As Jeanne sat spinning with Catherine le Royer the next morning she was greatly surprised when the door opened suddenly, and the Governor himself, accompanied by Jean Fournier, the parish priest, entered. At a sign from Sire Robert, Catherine quitted the room, and Jeanne was left with the two men. The priest immediately put on his stole, and pronounced some Latin words:

“If thou be evil, away with thee; if thou be good, draw nigh.” With this he sprinkled holy water about the room, and upon her.

Jeanne was hurt when she heard the words, for it was the formula used for exorcism. It was believed that if the village maiden were possessed of evil spirits they would be driven away. Having recited the formula and sprinkled holy water the priest expected, if the girl were possessed, to see her struggle and writhe in the effort to take flight. But there was nothing suspicious in Jeanne’s attitude. There was no wild agitation or frenzy. She had fallen on her knees when the priest put on his stole, and now anxiously, entreatingly, she dragged herself to him. Messire Jean Fournier stretched forth his hand in benediction over her.

“Whatever be the spirit with which she is filled, it is naught of evil,” he said to Robert de Baudricourt.

With this the two men left the cottage as abruptly as they had entered it. Jeanne burst into tears, and so Catherine found her.

“Messire Jean should not have used me so,” sobbed the maiden as she related the happening to her hostess. “I have confessed to him daily since I came to Vaucouleurs, and he should have known what manner of girl I was.”

“There, there, little one,” soothed Catherine, tenderly. “He but did it to please the Sire Captain. Perchance now that the gentle Robert knows that evil spirits do not possess thee, he will give thee aid.”

The exorcism did in truth help Jeanne’s cause with the Governor. If the young girl were not possessed of evil it followed naturally that the power in her must be good; therefore he was at last willing to aid her. Secretly he had already sent a messenger to the King telling of the maiden, her mission, her saintly way of living, and asking that he might send her to him. He but waited the consent of Charles before starting Jeanne on her journey. This she did not learn until later.

Meantime she was restless. She longed to be about her work, and there seemed naught but hindrances. She felt that she must start, for she must be with the Dauphin by mid-Lent, and the time was short. One day Lassois came to see how she was, and also to bring news of her parents; for Jeanne had sent them a letter praying for their forgiveness and blessing. As she could neither read nor write the Curé had written it for her, and he had added details of the life she was living, her good deeds, her saintly ways, and aught else that he thought would set their minds at rest concerning her. Now she listened eagerly as Durand told her how the letter had been received.

“Jacques has heard a great deal about you from the people, Jeanne. Know you not that the whole countryside is talking of you? He has known all along how you were living, and what you were doing. He is still not reconciled to your leaving home, but he said that so long as you lived a good life you had his blessing and forgiveness. Isabeau wept when she heard the letter, but she sends love, and prays you to make short work of the matter that you may soon be home again.”

“Would that I might, Uncle Durand,” groaned the girl. “But there seems naught but hindrance and delay. I should like to be at home with mother; if my work were done I could be. The time is so short. I can not, I must not wait longer.” She bowed her head and wept. Presently she dashed away the tears and turned to Durand as though an idea had come to her: “Uncle Durand,” she cried, “Will you take me into France?”

“You mean to walk there, Jeanne?” he asked amazed. “’Tis said to be all of a hundred and fifty leagues to where the Dauphin bides at Chinon.”

“Even so, I must go. If Sire Robert will not give me men-at-arms I must go without them. Will you go with me?”

“Yes,” he assented readily. Had Jeanne not been so preoccupied she would have seen the smile that lurked in his eyes. Lassois was a hard-headed, practical man, and he knew that the plan was not feasible. He hoped that his niece would see it too, so he added: “I will get Alain to go with us. ’Tis a dangerous journey even with men-at-arms for escort. When do we start?”

“At once,” cried the maiden eagerly. “The sooner the better. When the siege is raised, and the Dauphin crowned, I can go back home. And I will not leave them again. Go! get Alain, and let us start.”

Lassois left her, and Jeanne made her preparations quickly. Procuring a man’s jerkin, hose and doublet, she arrayed herself in them, and when Lassois returned with Alain, a friend of his who lived in Vaucouleurs, the three set forth. They had proceeded a league on the road to France when they came to the shrine of Saint Nicholas, and this Jeanne entered as was her wont, and prostrated herself in prayer. When she arose the impatience, the restlessness were gone. She faced her companions with contrition.

“I was wrong,” she said with deep humility. “It is not meet that I go to the Dauphin in this manner. We must go back.”

Durand’s countenance expanded into a broad grin.

“Said I not so, Alain?” he cried, nudging his friend. “I said that she would soon see that it was not fitting that she should go thus. I said that soon we would turn back.”

Alain laughed also as Jeanne gazed at her uncle in astonishment.

“How did you know, uncle?”

“Why see, ma mie; the King would not receive you should you go to him thus humbly; but if you come from the Sire Captain with proper escort ’twill be easy to get his ear.”

“I see,” sighed Jeanne. “I was wrong. We will go back.”

She waited with more grace after this, and presently there came a day when her patience was rewarded. The messenger from the King rode into Vaucouleurs bearing a letter to the Governor which gave consent to send the young prophetess to him. Sire Robert sent at once for the maiden.

“You were right,” he said. “There was a disaster as you said near Orléans. The Battle of Herrings was lost at Rouvray. Colet de Vienne, the King’s messenger, tells me that Charles will receive you. Therefore, get you ready, for now you shall start for Chinon in a few days.”

Overjoyed Jeanne hastened back to her friends to tell the glad news. The impossible had happened. That which the peasant maid had demanded was granted. She was to be taken to the King, and in the time fixed by herself.

The sweetness, the simplicity, the sturdy purpose of the maiden had won all hearts in the little walled town. Knowledge of her mission had deepened the interest felt in her, so now, as she was in very truth to begin her journey, they took upon themselves the expense of her outfit. A complete suit of masculine apparel was bought, a jerkin, a cloth doublet, hose laced to the coat, gaiters, spurs, a whole equipment of war, while Sire Robert gave her a horse. And Jeanne, with one girlish sigh at the sacrifice, took off her coif, let down her long dark locks, and gave a last look at them; then Catherine cut them round, page fashion, the maiden set on a cap, and was ready.

Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy were to accompany her, as well as the King’s messenger, Colet de Vienne, and the bowman, Richard, with two lancers, servants of the men-at-arms. These men proposed further waiting, as certain soldiers of Lorraine were infesting the country, but the maiden was not afraid, and said:

“In God’s name, take me to the gentle Dauphin, and fear not any hindrance or trouble we may meet. There hath been too much delay.”

At length, however, everything was in readiness, and on the twenty-third of February, the little company assembled before the gate, La Porte de France, with friends to watch the departure. Among them were the kind Lassois, Catherine and Henri le Royer, Jean Colin, canon of Saint Nicholas, to whom Jeanne had confessed at times.

The women trembled and wept as they looked at the girl, so fair in her young loveliness, and feared for her the perils of the journey. One of them cried:

“How can you set forth on such a journey when there are men-at-arms on every hand?”

But Jeanne turned a happy face toward them, and answered out of the serene peace of her heart:

“I do not fear men-at-arms. My way has been made plain before me. If there be men-at-arms my Lord God will make a way for me to go to my Lord Dauphin. For this I was born.”

Sire Robert also was present, and as he gazed at the bright face of the maiden his grim old heart was touched.

“Swear,” he said, making Jean de Metz kneel before him. “Swear that you will deliver this maiden whom I have confided to your care safely and surely to the King.”

And De Metz answered solemnly:

“I swear.”

And so from each and every man the Governor took the oath. Then belting his own sword about the girl’s slender waist, he said:

“Go! and come of it what may.”

And off into the mists that enveloped the meadows of the Meuse rode the little company down the road into France.

[6] “Madame Margaret did not come to France until seven years later. The six thousand men never did come. Jeanne did.”––Andrew Lang.
[7] Pucelle––virgin, maid.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 15 Warrior Maid

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