Jeanne d’Arc by Mrs. Oliphant

The original book for this text was published as a volume in a series “Heroes of the Nations,” edited by Evelyn Abbot, M.H., Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.
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  • 1896
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Jeanne d’Arc Her Life and Death
by Mrs. Oliphant Author of “Makers of Florence,” “Makers of Venice,” etc.





The original book for this text was published as a volume in a series “Heroes of the Nations,” edited by Evelyn Abbot, M.H., Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons / The Knickerbocker Press in 1896. The title material includes the note:





It is no small effort for the mind, even of the most well-informed, how much more of those whose exact knowledge is not great (which is the case with most readers, and alas! with most writers also), to transport itself out of this nineteenth century which we know so thoroughly, and which has trained us in all our present habits and modes of thought, into the fifteenth, four hundred years back in time, and worlds apart in every custom and action of life. What is there indeed the same in the two ages? Nothing but the man and the woman, the living agents in spheres so different; nothing but love and grief, the affections and the sufferings by which humanity is ruled and of which it is capable. Everything else is changed: the customs of life, and its methods, and even its motives, the ruling principles of its continuance. Peace and mutual consideration, the policy which even in its selfish developments is so far good that it enables men to live together, making existence possible,–scarcely existed in those days. The highest ideal was that of war, war no doubt sometimes for good ends, to redress wrongs, to avenge injuries, to make crooked things straight–but yet always war, implying a state of affairs in which the last thing that men thought of was the golden rule, and the highest attainment to be looked for was the position of a protector, doer of justice, deliverer of the oppressed. Our aim now that no one should be oppressed, that every man should have justice as by the order of nature, was a thing unthought of. What individual help did feebly for the sufferer then, the laws do for us now, without fear or favour: which is a much greater thing to say than that the organisation of modern life, the mechanical helps, the comforts, the easements of the modern world, had no existence in those days. We are often told that the poorest peasant in our own time has aids to existence that had not been dreamt of for princes in the Middle Ages. Thirty years ago the world was mostly of opinion that the balance was entirely on our side, and that in everything we were so much better off than our fathers, that comparison was impossible. Since then there have been many revolutions of opinion, and we think it is now the general conclusion of wise men, that one period has little to boast itself of against another, that one form of civilisation replaces another without improving upon it, at least to the extent which appears on the surface. But yet the general prevalence of peace, interrupted only by occasional wars, even when we recognise a certain large and terrible utility in war itself, must always make a difference incalculable between the condition of the nations now, and then.

It is difficult, indeed, to imagine any concatenation of affairs which could reduce a country now to the condition in which France was in the beginning of the fifteenth century. A strong and splendid kingdom, to which in early ages one great man had given the force and supremacy of a united nation, had fallen into a disintegration which seems almost incredible when regarded in the light of that warm flame of nationality which now illumines, almost above all others, the French nation. But Frenchmen were not Frenchmen, they were Burgundians, Armagnacs, Bretons, Proven�aux five hundred years ago. The interests of one part of the kingdom were not those of the other. Unity had no existence. Princes of the same family were more furious enemies to each other, at the head of their respective fiefs and provinces, than the traditional foes of their race; and instead of meeting an invader with a united force of patriotic resistance, one or more of these subordinate rulers was sure to side with the invader and to execute greater atrocities against his own flesh and blood than anything the alien could do.

When Charles VII. of France began, nominally, his reign, his uncles and cousins, his nearest kinsmen, were as determinedly his opponents, as was Henry V. of England, whose frank object was to take the crown from his head. The country was torn in pieces with different causes and cries. The English were but little farther off from the Parisian than was the Burgundian, and the English king was only a trifle less French than were the members of the royal family of France. These circumstances are little taken into consideration in face of the general history, in which a careless reader sees nothing but the two nations pitted against each other as they might be now, the French united in one strong and distinct nationality, the three kingdoms of Great Britain all welded into one. In the beginning of the fifteenth century the Scots fought on the French side, against their intimate enemy of England, and if there had been any unity in Ireland, the Irish would have done the same. The advantages and disadvantages of subdivision were in full play. The Scots fought furiously against the English–and when the latter won, as was usually the case, the Scots contingent, whatever bounty might be shown to the French, was always exterminated. On the other side the Burgundians, the Armagnacs, and Royalists met each other almost more fiercely than the latter encountered the English. Each country was convulsed by struggles of its own, and fiercely sought its kindred foes in the ranks of its more honest and natural enemy.

When we add to these strange circumstances the facts that the French King, Charles VI., was mad, and incapable of any real share either in the internal government of his country or in resistance to its invader: that his only son, the Dauphin, was no more than a foolish boy, led by incompetent councillors, and even of doubtful legitimacy, regarded with hesitation and uncertainty by many, everybody being willing to believe the worst of his mother, especially after the treaty of Troyes in which she virtually gave him up: that the King’s brothers or cousins at the head of their respective fiefs were all seeking their own advantage, and that some of them, especially the Duke of Burgundy, had cruel wrongs to avenge: it will be more easily understood that France had reached a period of depression and apparent despair which no principle of national elasticity or new spring of national impulse was present to amend. The extraordinary aspect of whole districts in so strong and populous a country, which disowned the native monarch, and of towns and castles innumerable which were held by the native nobility in the name of a foreign king, could scarcely have been possible under other circumstances. Everything was out of joint. It is said to be characteristic of the nation that it is unable to play publicly (as we say) a losing game; but it is equally characteristic of the race to forget its humiliations as if they had never been, and to come out intact when the fortune of war changes, more French than ever, almost unabashed and wholly uninjured, by the catastrophe which had seemed fatal.

If we had any right to theorise on such a subject–which is a thing the French themselves above all other men love to do,–we should be disposed to say, that wars and revolutions, legislation and politics, are things which go on over the head of France, so to speak–boilings on the surface, with which the great personality of the nation if such a word may be used, has little to do, and cares but little for; while she herself, the great race, neither giddy nor fickle, but unusually obstinate, tenacious, and sober, narrow even in the unwavering pursuit of a certain kind of well-being congenial to her–goes steadily on, less susceptible to temporary humiliation than many peoples much less excitable on the surface, and always coming back into sight when the commotion is over, acquisitive, money-making, profit-loving, uninjured in any essential particular by the most terrific of convulsions. This of course is to be said more or less of every country, the strain of common life being always, thank God, too strong for every temporary commotion–but it is true in a special way of France:–witness the extraordinary manner in which in our own time, and under our own eyes, that wonderful country righted herself after the tremendous misfortunes of the Franco-German war, in which for a moment not only her prestige, her honour, but her money and credit seemed to be lost.

It seems rather a paradox to point attention to the extraordinary tenacity of this basis of French character, the steady prudence and solidity which in the end always triumph over the light heart and light head, the excitability and often rash and dangerous /�lan/, which are popularly supposed to be the chief distinguishing features of France–at the very moment of beginning such a fairy tale, such a wonderful embodiment of the visionary and ideal, as is the story of Jeanne d’Arc. To call it a fairy tale is, however, disrespectful: it is an angelic revelation, a vision made into flesh and blood, the dream of a woman’s fancy, more ethereal, more impossible than that of any man–even a poet:–for the man, even in his most uncontrolled imaginations, carries with him a certain practical limitation of what can be–whereas the woman at her highest is absolute, and disregards all bounds of possibility. The Maid of Orleans, the Virgin of France, is the sole being of her kind who has ever attained full expression in this world. She can neither be classified, as her countrymen love to classify, nor traced to any system of evolution as we all attempt to do nowadays. She is the impossible verified and attained. She is the thing in every race, in every form of humanity, which the dreaming girl, the visionary maid, held in at every turn by innumerable restrictions, her feet bound, her actions restrained, not only by outward force, but by the law of her nature, more effectual still,– has desired to be. That voiceless poet, to whom what can be is nothing, but only what should be if miracle could be attained to fulfil her trance and rapture of desire–is held by no conditions, modified by no circumstances; and miracle is all around her, the most credible, the most real of powers, the very air she breathers. Jeanne of France is the very flower of this passion of the imagination. She is altogether impossible from beginning to end of her, inexplicable, alone, with neither rival nor even second in the one sole ineffable path: yet all true as one of the oaks in her wood, as one of the flowers in her garden, simple, actual, made of the flesh and blood which are common to us all.

And she is all the more real because it is France, impure, the country of light loves and immodest passions, where all that is sensual comes to the surface, and the courtesan is the queen of ignoble fancy, that has brought forth this most perfect embodiment of purity among the nations. This is of itself one of those miracles which captivate the mind and charm the imagination, the living paradox in which the soul delights. How did she come out of that stolid peasant race, out of that distracted and ignoble age, out of riot and license and the fierce thirst for gain, and failure of every noble faculty? Who can tell? By the grace of God, by the inspiration of heaven, the only origins in which the student of nature, which is over nature, can put any trust. No evolution, no system of development, can explain Jeanne. There is but one of her and no more in all the astonished world.

With the permission of the reader I will retain her natural and beautiful name. To translate it into Joan seems quite unnecessary. Though she is the finest emblem to the world in general of that noble, fearless, and spotless Virginity which is one of the finest inspirations of the medi�val mind, yet she is inherently French, though France scarcely was in her time: and national, though as yet there were rather the elements of a nation than any indivisible People in that great country. Was not she herself one of the strongest and purest threads of gold to draw that broken race together and bind it irrevocably, beneficially, into one?

It is curious that it should have been from the farthest edge of French territory that this national deliverer came. It is a commonplace that a Borderer should be a more hot partisan of his own country against the other from which but a line divides him in fact, and scarcely so much in race–than the calmer inhabitant of the midland country who knows no such press of constant antagonism; and Jeanne is another example of this well known fact. It is even a question still languidly discussed whether Jeanne and her family were actually on one side of the line or the other. “Il faut opter,” says M. Blaze de Bury, one of her latest biographers, as if the peasant household of 1412 had inhabited an Alsatian cottage in 1872. When the line is drawn so closely, it is difficult to determine, but Jeanne herself does not ever seem to have entertained a moment’s doubt on the subject, and she after all is the best authority. Perhaps Villon was thinking more of his rhyme than of absolute fact when he spoke of “Jeanne la bonne Lorraine.” She was born on the 5th of January, 1412, in the village of Domremy, on the banks of the Meuse, one of those little grey hamlets, with its little church tower, and remains of a little chateau on the soft elevation of a mound not sufficient for the name of hill–which are scattered everywhere through those level countries, like places which have never been built, which have grown out of the soil, of undecipherable antiquity–perhaps, one feels, only a hundred, perhaps a thousand years old–yet always inhabitable in all the ages, with the same names lingering about, the same surroundings, the same mild rural occupations, simple plenty and bare want mingling together with as little difference of level as exists in the sweeping lines of the landscape round.

The life was calm in so humble a corner which offered nothing to the invader or marauder of the time, but yet was so much within the universal conditions of war that the next-door neighbour, so to speak, the adjacent village of Maxey, held for the Burgundian and English alliance, while little Domremy was for the King. And once at least when Jeanne was a girl at home, the family were startled in their quiet by the swoop of an armed party of Burgundians, and had to gather up babies and what portable property they might have, and flee across the frontier, where the good Lorrainers received and sheltered them, till they could go back to their village, sacked and pillaged and devastated in the meantime by the passing storm. Thus even in their humility and inoffensiveness the Domremy villagers knew what war and its miseries were, and the recollection would no doubt be vivid among the children, of that half terrible, half exhilarating adventure, the fright and excitement of personal participation in the troubles, of which, night and day, from one quarter or another, they must have heard.

Domremy had originally belonged[1] to the Abbey of St. Remy at Rheims –the ancient church of which, in its great antiquity, is still an interest and a wonder even in comparison with the amazing splendour of the cathedral of that place, so rich and ornate, which draws the eyes of the visitor to itself, and its greater associations. It is possible that this ancient connection with Rheims may have brought the great ceremony for which it is ever memorable, the consecration of the kings of France, more distinctly before the musing vision of the village girl; but I doubt whether such chance associations are ever much to be relied upon. The village was on the high-road to Germany; it must have been therefore in the way of news, and of many rumours of what was going on in the centres of national life, more than many towns of importance. Feudal bands, a rustic Seigneur with his little troop, going out for their forty days’ service, or returning home after it, must have passed along the banks of the lazy Meuse many days during the fighting season, and indeed throughout the year, for garrison duty would be as necessary in winter as in summer; or a wandering pair of friars who had seen strange sights must have passed with their wallets from the neighbouring convents, collecting the day’s provision, and leaving news and gossip behind, such as flowed to these monastic hostelries from all quarters–tales of battles, and anecdotes of the Court, and dreadful stories of English atrocities, to stir the village and rouse ever generous sentiment and stirring of national indignation. They are said by Michelet to have been no man’s vassals, these outlying hamlets of Champagne; the men were not called upon to follow their lord’s banner at a day’s notice, as were the sons of other villages. There is no appearance even of a lord at all upon this piece of Church land, which was, we are told, directly held under the King, and would only therefore be touched by a general levy /en masse/–not even perhaps by that, so far off were they, and so near the frontier, where a reluctant man-at-arms could without difficulty make his escape, as the unwilling conscript sometimes does now.

There would seem to have been no one of more importance in Domremy than Jacques d’Arc himself and his wife, respectable peasants, with a little money, a considerable rural property in flocks and herds and pastures, and a good reputation among their kind. He had three sons working with their father in the peaceful routine of the fields; and two daughters, of whom some authorities indicate Jeanne as the younger, and some as the elder. The cottage interior, however, appears more clearly to us than the outward aspect of the family life. The daughters were not, like the children of poorer peasants, brought up to the rude outdoor labours of the little farm. Painters have represented Jeanne as keeping her father’s sheep, and even the early witnesses say the same; but it is contradicted by herself, who ought to know best–(except in taking her turn to herd them into a place of safety on an alarm). If she followed the flocks to the fields, it must have been, she says, in her childhood, and she has no recollection of it. Hers was a more sheltered and safer lot. The girls were brought up by their mother indoors in all the labours of housewifery, but also in the delicate art of needlework, so much more exquisite in those days than now. Perhaps Isabeau, the mistress of the house, was of convent training, perhaps some ancient privilege in respect to the manufacture of ornaments for the altar, and church vestments, was still retained by the tenants of what had been Church lands. At all events this, and other kindred works of the needle, seems to have been the chief occupation to which Jeanne was brought up.

The education of this humble house seems to have come entirely from the mother. It was natural that the children should not know A from B, as Jeanne afterward said; but no one did, probably, in the village nor even on much higher levels than that occupied by the family of Jacques d’Arc. But the children at their mother’s knee learned the Credo, they learned the simple universal prayers which are common to the wisest and simplest, which no great savant or poet could improve, and no child fail to understand: “Our Father, which art in Heaven,” and that “Hail, Mary, full of grace,” which the world in that day put next. These were the alphabet of life to the little Champagnards in their rough woollen frocks and clattering sabots; and when the house had been set in order,–a house not without comfort, with its big wooden presses full of linen, and the /pot au feu/ hung over the cheerful fire,–came the real work, perhaps embroideries for the Church, perhaps only good stout shirts made of flax spun by their own hands for the father and the boys, and the fine distinctive coif of the village for the women. “Asked if she had learned any art or trade, said: Yes, that her mother had taught her to sew and spin, and so well, that she did not think any woman in Rouen could teach her anything.” When the lady in the ballad makes her conditions with the peasant woman who is to bring up her boy, her “gay goss hawk,” and have him trained in the use of sword and lance, she undertakes to teach the “turtle-doo,” the woman child substituted for him, “to lay gold with her hand.” No doubt Isabeau’s child learned this difficult and dainty art, and how to do the beautiful and delicate embroidery which fills the treasuries of the old churches.

And while they sat by the table in the window, with their shining silks and gold thread, the mother made the quiet hours go by with tale and legend–of the saints first of all–and stories from Scripture, quaintly interpreted into the costume and manners of their own time, as one may still hear them in the primitive corners of Italy: mingled with incidents of the war, of the wounded man tended in the village, and the victors all flushed with triumph, and the defeated with trailing arms and bowed heads, riding for their lives: perhaps little epics and tragedies of the young knight riding by to do his devoir with his handful of followers all spruce and gay, and the battered and diminished remnant that would come back. And then the Black Burgundians, the horrible English ogres, whose names would make the children shudder! No /God-den/[2] had got so far as Domremy; there was no personal knowledge to soften the picture of the invader. He was unspeakable as the Turk to the imagination of the French peasant, diabolical as every invader is.

This was the earliest training of the little maid before whom so strange and so great a fortune lay. /Autre personne que sadite m�re ne lui apprint/–any lore whatsoever; and she so little–yet everything that was wanted–her prayers, her belief, the happiness of serving God, and also man; for when any one was sick in the village, either a little child with the measles, or a wounded soldier from the wars, Isabeau’s modest child–no doubt the mother too–was always ready to help. It must have been a family /de bien/, in the simple phrase of the country, helpful, serviceable, with charity and aid for all. An honest labourer, who came to speak for Jeanne at the second trial, held long after her death, gave his incontestable evidence to this. “I was then a child,” he said, “and it was she who nursed me in my illness.” They were all more or less devout in those days, when faith was without question, and the routine of church ceremonial was followed as a matter of course; but few so much as Jeanne, whose chief pleasure it was to say her prayers in the little dark church, where perhaps in the morning sunshine, as she made her early devotions, there would blaze out upon her from a window, a Holy Michael in shining armour, transfixing the dragon with his spear, or a St. Margaret dominating the same emblem of evil with her cross in her hand. So, at least, the historians conjecture, anxious to find out some reason for her visions; and there is nothing in the suggestion which is unpleasing. The little country church was in the gift of St. Remy, and some benefactor of the rural cur� might well have given a painted window to make glad the hearts of the simple people. St. Margaret was no warrior-saint, but she overcame the dragon with her cross, and was thus a kind of sister spirit to the great archangel.

Sitting much of her time at or outside the cottage door with her needlework, in itself an occupation so apt to encourage musing and dreams, the bells were one of Jeanne’s great pleasures. We know a traveller, of the calmest English temperament and sobriety of Protestant fancy, to whom the midday Angelus always brings, he says, a touching reminder–which he never neglects wherever he may be–to uncover the head and lift up the heart; how much more the devout peasant girl softly startled in the midst of her dreaming by that call to prayer. She was so fond of those bells that she bribed the careless bell-ringer with simple presents to be more attentive to his duty. From the garden where she sat with her work, the cloudy foliage of the /bois de ch�ne/, the oak wood, where were legends of fairies and a magic well, to which her imagination, better inspired, seems to have given no great heed, filled up the prospect on one side. At a later period, her accusers attempted to make out that she had been a devotee of these nameless woodland spirits, but in vain. No doubt she was one of the procession on the holy day once a year, when the cur� of the parish went out through the wood to the Fairies’ Well to say his mass, and exorcise what evil enchantment might be there. But Jeanne’s imagination was not of the kind to require such stimulus. The saints were enough for her; and indeed they supplied to a great extent the fairy tales of the age, though it was not of love and fame and living happy ever after, but of sacrifice and suffering and valorous martyrdom that their glory was made up.

We hear of the woods, the fields, the cottages, the little church and its bells, the garden where she sat and sewed, the mother’s stories, the morning mass, in this quiet preface of the little maiden’s life; but nothing of the highroad with its wayfarers, the convoys of provisions for the war, the fighting men that were coming and going. Yet these, too, must have filled a large part in the village life, and it is evident that a strong impression of the pity of it all, of the distraction of the country and all the cruelties and miseries of which she could not but hear, must have early begun to work in Jeanne’s being, and that while she kept silence the fire burned in her heart. The love of God, and that love of country which has nothing to say to political patriotism but translates itself in an ardent longing and desire to do “some excelling thing” for the benefit and glory of that country, and to heal its wounds–were the two principles of her life. We have not the slightest indication how much or how little of this latter sentiment was shared by the simple community about her; unless from the fact that the Domremy children fought with those of Maxey, their disaffected neighbours, to the occasional effusion of blood. We do not know even of any volunteer from the village, or enthusiasm for the King.[3] The district was voiceless, the little clusters of cottages fully occupied in getting their own bread, and probably like most other village societies, disposed to treat any military impulse among their sons as mere vagabondism and love of adventure and idleness.

Nothing, so far as anyone knows, came near the most unlikely volunteer of all, to lead her thoughts to that art of war of which she knew nothing, and of which her little experience could only have shown her the horrors and miseries, the sufferings of wounded fugitives and the ruin of sacked houses. Of all people in the world, the little daughter of a peasant was the last who could have been expected to respond to the appeal of the wretched country. She had three brothers who might have served the King, and there was no doubt many a stout clodhopper about, of that kind which in every country is the fittest material for fighting, and “food for powder.” But to none of these did the call come. Every detail goes to increase the profound impression of peacefulness which fills the atmosphere–the slow river floating by, the roofs clustered together, the church bells tinkling their continual summons, the girl with her work at the cottage door in the shadow of the apple trees. To pack the little knapsack of a brother or a lover, and to convoy him weeping a little way on his road to the army, coming back to the silent church to pray there, with the soft natural tears which the uses of common life must soon dry–that is all that imagination could have demanded of Jeanne. She was even too young for any interposition of the lover, too undeveloped, the French historians tell us with their astonishing frankness, to the end of her short life, to have been moved by any such thought. She might have poured forth a song, a prayer, a rude but sweet lament for her country, out of the still bosom of that rustic existence. Such things have been, the trouble of the age forcing an utterance from the very depths of its inarticulate life. But it was not for this that Jeanne d’Arc was born. ———- [1] Mr. Andrew Lang informs me that the real proprietor was a certain “Dame d’Org�villier.” “On Jeanne’s side of the burn,” he adds, with a picturesque touch of realism, “the people were probably /free/ as attached to the Royal Ch�tellenie of Vancouleurs, as described below.”

[2] This was probably not the God-dam of later French, a reflection of the supposed prevalent English oath, but most likely merely the God-den or good-day, the common salutation.

[3] Domremy was split, Mr. Lang says, by the burn, and Jeanne’s side were probably King’s men. We have it on her own word that there was but one Burgundian in the village, but that might mean on her side.



In the year 1424, the year in which, after the battle of Agincourt, France was delivered over to Henry V., an extraordinary event occurred in the life of this little French peasant. We have not the same horror of that treaty, naturally, as have the French. Henry V. is a favourite of our history, probably not so much for his own merit as because of that master-magician, Shakespeare, who of his supreme good pleasure, in the exercise of that voluntary preference, which even God himself seems to show to some men, has made of that monarch one of the best beloved of our hearts. Dear to us as he is, in Eastcheap as at Agincourt, and more in the former than the latter, even our sense of the disgraceful character of that bargain, /le trait� inf�me/ of Troyes, by which Queen Isabeau betrayed her son, and gave her daughter and her country to the invader, is softened a little by our high estimation of the hero. But this is simple national prejudice; regarded from the French side, or even by the impartial judgment of general humanity, it was an infamous treaty, and one which might well make the blood boil in French veins.

We look at it at present, however, through the atmosphere of the nineteenth century, when France is all French, and when the royal house of England has no longer any French connection. If George III., much more George II., on the basis of his kingdom of Hanover, had attempted to make himself master of a large portion of Germany, the situation would have been more like that of Henry V. in France than anything we can think of now. It is true the kings of England were no longer dukes of Normandy–but they had been so within the memory of man: and that noble duchy was a hereditary appanage of the family of the Conqueror; while to other portions of France they had the link of temporary possession and inheritance through French wives and mothers; added to which is the fact that Jean sans Peur of Burgundy, thirsting to avenge his father’s blood upon the Dauphin, would have been probably a more dangerous usurper than Henry, and that the actual sovereign, the unfortunate, mad Charles VI., was in no condition to maintain his own rights.

There is little evidence, however, that this treaty, or anything so distinct in detail, had made much impression on the outlying borders of France. What was known there, was only that the English were victorious, that the rightful King of France was still uncrowned and unacknowledged, and that the country was oppressed and humiliated under the foot of the invader. The fact that the new King was not yet the Lord’s anointed, and had never received the seal of God, as it were, to his commission, was a fact which struck the imagination of the village as of much more importance than many greater things–being at once more visible and matter-of-fact, and of more mystical and spiritual efficacy than any other circumstance in the dreadful tale.

Jeanne was in the garden as usual, seated, as we should say in Scotland, at “her seam,” not quite thirteen, a child in all the innocence of infancy, yet full of dreams, confused no doubt and vague, with those impulses and wonderings–impatient of trouble, yearning to give help–which tremble on the chaos of a young soul like the first lightening of dawn upon the earth. It was summer, and afternoon, the time of dreams. It would be easy in the employment of legitimate fancy to heighten the picturesqueness of that quiet scene–the little girl with her favourite bells, the birds picking up the crumbs of brown bread at her feet. She was thinking of nothing, most likely, in a vague suspense of musing, the wonder of youth, the awakening of thought, as yet come to little definite in her child’s heart–looking up from her work to note some passing change of the sky, a something in the air which was new to her. All at once between her and the church there shone a light on the right hand, unlike anything she had ever seen before; and out of it came a voice equally unknown and wonderful. What did the voice say? Only the simplest words, words fit for a child, no maxim or mandate above her faculties–“/Jeanne, sois bonne et sage enfant; va souvent � l’�glise./” Jeanne, be good! What more could an archangel, what less could the peasant mother within doors, say? The little girl was frightened, but soon composed herself. The voice could be nothing but sacred and blessed which spoke thus. It would not appear that she mentioned it to anyone. It is such a secret as a child, in that wavering between the real and unreal, the world not realised of childhood, would keep, in mingled shyness and awe, uncertain, rapt in the atmosphere of vision, within her own heart.

It is curious how often this wonderful scene has been repeated in France, never connected with so high a mission, but yet embracing the same circumstances, the same situation, the same semi-angelic nature of the woman-child. The little Bernadette of Lourdes is almost of our own day; she, too is one who puts the scorner to silence. What her visions and her voices were, who can say? The last historian of them is not a man credulous of good or moved towards the ideal; yet he is silent, except in a wondering impression of the sacred and the true, before the little Bearnaise in her sabots; and, notwithstanding the many sordid results that have followed and all that sad machinery of expected miracle through which even, repulsive as it must always be, a something breaks forth from time to time which no man can define and account for except in ways more incredible than miracle–so is the rest of the world. Why has this logical, sceptical, doubting country, so able to quench with an epigram, or blow away with a breath of ridicule the finest vision–become the special sphere and birthplace of these spotless infant-saints? This is one of the wonders which nobody attempts to account for. Yet Bernadette is as Jeanne, though there are more than four hundred years between.

After what intervals the vision returned we are not told, nor in what circumstances. It seems to have come chiefly out-of-doors, in the silence and freedom of the fields or garden. Presently the heavenly radiance shaped itself into some semblance of forms and figures, one of which, clearer than the others, was like a man, but with wings and a crown on his head and the air “/d’un vrai prud’ homme/”; a noble apparition before whom at first the little maid trembled, but whose majestic, honest regard soon gave her confidence. He bade her once more to be good, and that God would help her; then he told her the sad story of her own suffering country, /la piti� qui estoit au royaume de France/. Was it the pity of heaven that the archangel reported to the little trembling girl, or only that which woke with the word in her own childish soul? He has chosen the small things of this world to confound the great. Jeanne’s young heart was full of pity already, and of yearning over the helpless mother-country which had no champion to stand for her. “She had great doubts at first whether it was St. Michael, but afterwards when he had instructed her and shown her many things, she believed firmly that it was he.”

It was this warrior-angel who opened the matter to her, and disclosed her mission. “Jeanne,” he said, “you must go to the help of the King of France; and it is you who shall give him back his kingdom.” Like a still greater Maid, trembling, casting in her mind what this might mean, she replied, confused, as if that simple detail were all: “Messire, I am only a poor girl; I cannot ride or lead armed men.” The vision took no notice of this plea. He became minute in his directions, indicating exactly what she was to do. “Go to Messire de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucouleurs, and he will take you to the King. St. Catherine and St. Margaret will come and help you.” Jeanne was overwhelmed by this exactness, by the sensation of receiving direct orders. She cried, weeping and helpless, terrified to the bottom of her soul–What was she that she should do this? a little girl, able to guide nothing but her needle or her distaff, to lend her simple aid in nursing a sick child. But behind all her fright and hesitation, her heart was filled with the emotion thus suggested to her–the immeasurable /piti� que estoit au royaume de France/. Her heart became heavy with this burden. By degrees it came about that she could think of nothing else; and her little life was confused by expectations and recollections of the celestial visitant, who might arrive upon her at any moment, in the midst perhaps of some innocent play, or when she sat sewing in the garden before her father’s humble door.

After a while the /vrai prud’ homme/ came seldom; other figures more like herself, soft forms of women, white and shining, with golden circlets and ornaments, appeared to her in the great halo of the light; they bowed their heads, naming themselves, as to a sister spirit, Catherine, and the other Margaret. Their voices were sweet and soft with a sound that made you weep. They were both martyrs, encouraging and strengthening the little martyr that was to be. “A lady is there in the heavens who loves thee”: Virgil could not say more to rouse the flagging strength of Dante. When these gentle figures disappeared, the little maid wept in an anguish of tenderness, longing if only they would take her with them. It is curious that though she describes in this vague rapture the appearance of her visitors, it is always as “/mes voix/” that she names them–the sight must always have been more imperfect than the message. Their outlines and their lovely faces might shine uncertain in the excess of light; but the words were always plain. The pity for France that was in their hearts spread itself into the silent rural atmosphere, touching every sensitive chord in the nature of little Jeanne. It was as if her mother lay dying there before her eyes.

Curious to think how little anyone could have suspected such meetings as these, in the cottage hard by, where the weary ploughmen from the fields would come clamping in for their meal, and Dame Isabeau would call to the child, even sharply perhaps now and then, to leave that all-absorbing needlework and come in and help, as Martha called Mary fourteen hundred years before; and where the priest, mumbling his mass of a cold morning in the little church, would smile indulgent on the faithful little worshipper when it was done, sure of seeing Jeanne there whoever might be absent. She was a shy girl, blushing and drooping her head when a stranger spoke to her, red and shame-faced when they laughed at her in the village as a /d�vote/ before her time; but with nothing else to blush about in all her simple record.

Neither to her parents, nor to the cur� when she made her confession, does she seem to have communicated these strange experiences, though they had lasted for some time before she felt impelled to act upon them, and could keep silence no longer. She was but thirteen when the revelations began and she was seventeen when at last she set forth to fulfil her mission. She had no guidance from her voices, she herself says, as to whether she should tell or not tell what had been communicated to her; and no doubt was kept back by her shyness, and by the dreamy confusion of childhood between the real and unreal. One would have thought that a life in which these visions were of constant recurrence would have been rapt altogether out of wholesome use and wont, and all practical service. But this does not seem for a moment to have been the case. Jeanne was no hysterical girl, living with her head in a mist, abstracted from the world. She had all the enthusiasms even of youthful friendship, other girls surrounding her with the intimacy of the village, paying her visits, staying all night, sharing her room and her bed. She was ready to be sent for by any poor woman that needed help or nursing, she was always industrious at her needle; one would love to know if perhaps in the /Tr�sor/ at Rheims there was some stole or maniple with flowers on it, wrought by her hands. But the /Tr�sor/ at Rheims is nowadays rather vulgar if truth must be told, and the bottles and vases for the consecration of Charles X., that /pauvre sire/, are more thought of than relics of an earlier age.

At length, however, one does not know how, the secret of her double life came out. No doubt long brooding over these voices, long intercourse with such celestial visitors, and the mission continually pressed upon her–meaningless to the child at first, a thing only to shed terrified tears over and wonder at–ripened her intelligence so that she came at last to perceive that it was practicable, a thing to be done, a charge to be obeyed. She had this before her, as a girl in ordinary circumstances has the new developments of life to think of, and how to be a wife and mother. And the news brought by every passer- by would prove doubly interesting, doubly important to Jeanne, in her daily growing comprehension of what she was called upon to do. As she felt the current more and more catching her feet, sweeping her on, overcoming all resistance in her own mind, she must have been more and more anxious to know what was going on in the distracted world, more and more touched by that great pity which had awakened her soul. And all these reports were of a nature to increase that pity till it became overwhelming. The tales she would hear of the English must have been tales of cruelty and horror; not so many years ago what tales did not we hear of German ferocity in the French villages, perhaps not true at all, yet making their impression always; and it was more probable in that age that every such story should be true. Then the compassion which no one can help feeling for a young man deprived of his rights, his inheritance taken from him, his very life in danger, threatened by the stranger and usurper, was deepened in every particular by the fact that it was the King, the very impersonation of France, appointed by God as the head of the country, who was in danger. Everything that Jeanne heard would help to swell the stream.

Thus she must have come step by step–this extraordinary, impossible suggestion once sown in her dreaming soul–to perceive a kind of miraculous reasonableness in it, to see its necessity, and how everything pointed towards such a deliverance. It would have seemed natural to believe that the prophecies of the countryside which promised a virgin from an oak grove, a maiden from Lorraine, to deliver France, might have affected her mind, did we not have it from her own voice that she had never heard that prophecy[1]; but the word of the blessed Michael, so often repeated, was more than an old wife’s tale; and the child’s alarm would seem to have died away as she came to her full growth. And Jeanne was no ethereal spirit lost in visions, but a robust and capable peasant girl, fearing little, and full of sense and determination, as well as of an inspiration so far above the level of the crowd. We hear with wonder afterwards that she had the making of a great general in her untutored female soul,–which is perhaps the most wonderful thing in her career,–and saw with the eye of an experienced and able soldier, as even Dunois did not always see it, the fit order of an attack, the best arrangement of the forces at her command. This I honestly avow is to me the most incredible point in the story. I am not disturbed by the apparition of the saints; there is in them an ineffable appropriateness and fitness against which the imagination, at least, has not a word to say. The wonder is not, to the natural mind, that such interpositions of heaven come, but that they come so seldom. But that Jacques d’Arc’s daughter, the little girl over her sewing, whose only fault was that she went to church too often, should have the genius of a soldier, is too bewildering for words to say. A poet, yes, an inspiring influence leading on to miraculous victory; but a general, skilful with the rude artillery of the time, divining the better way in strategy,–this is a wonder beyond the reach of our faculties; yet according to Alen�on, Dunois, and other military authorities, it was true.

We have little means of finding out how it was that Jeanne’s long musings came at last to a point at which they could be hidden no longer, nor what it was which induced her at last to select the confidant she did. No doubt she must have been considering and weighing the matter for a long time before she fixed upon the man who was her relation, yet did not belong to Domremy, and was safer than a townsman for the extraordinary revelations she had to make. One of her neighbours, her gossip, Gerard of Epinal, to whose child she was godmother, had perhaps at one moment seemed to her a likely helper. But he belonged to the opposite party. “If you were not a Burgundian,” she said to him once, “there is something I might tell you.” The honest fellow took this to mean that she had some thought of marriage, the most likely and natural supposition. It was at this moment, when her heart was burning with her great secret, the voices urging her on day by day, and her power of self-constraint almost at an end, that Providence sent Durand Laxart, her uncle by marriage, to Domremy on some family visit. She would seem to have taken advantage of the opportunity with eagerness, asking him privately to take her home with him, and to explain to her father and mother that he wanted her to take care of his wife. No doubt the girl, devoured with so many thoughts, would have the air of requiring “a change” as we say, and that the mother would be very ready to accept for her an invitation which might bring back the brightness to her child. Laxart was a peasant like the rest, a /prud’ homme/ well thought of among his people. He lived in Burey le Petit, near to Vaucouleurs, the chief place of the district, and Jeanne already knew that it was to the captain of Vaucouleurs that she was to address herself. Thus she secured her object in the simplest and most natural way.

Yet the reader cannot but hold his breath at the thought of what that amazing revelation must have been to the homely, rustic soul, her companion, communicated as they went along the common road in the common daylight. “She said to the witness that she must go to France to the Dauphin, to make him to be crowned King.” It must have been as if a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet when the girl whom he had known in every development of her little life, thus suddenly disclosed to him her secret purpose and determination. All her simple excellence the good man knew, and that she was no fantastic chatterer, but truly /une bonne douce fille/, bold in nothing but kindness, with nothing to blush for but the fault of going too often to church. “Did you never hear that France should be made desolate by a woman and restored by a maid?” she said; and this would seem to have been an unanswerable argument. He had, henceforth, nothing to do but to promote her purpose as best he could in every way.

It would not seem at all unlikely to this good man that the Archangel Michael, if Jeanne’s revelation to him went so far, should have named Robert de Baudricourt, the chief of the district, captain of the town and its forces, the principal personage in all the neighbourhood, as the person to whom Jeanne’s purpose was to be revealed, but rather a guarantee of St. Michael himself, familiar with good society; and the Seigneur must have been more or less in good intelligence with his people, not too alarming to be referred to, even on so insignificant a subject as the vagaries of a country girl–though these by this time must have begun to seem something more than vagaries to the half- convinced peasant. And it was no doubt a great relief to his mind thus to put the decision of the question into the hands of a man better informed than himself. Laxart proceeded to Vaucouleurs upon his mission, shyly yet with confidence. He would seem to have had a preliminary interview with Baudricourt before introducing Jeanne. The stammering countryman, the bluff, rustic noble and soldier, cheerfully contemptuous, receiving, with a loud laugh into all the echoes, the extraordinary demand that he should send a little girl from Domremy to the King, to deliver France, come before us like a picture in the countryman’s simple words. Robert de Baudricourt would scarcely hear the story out. “Box her ears,” he said, “and send her home to her mother.” The little fool! What did she know of the English, those brutal, downright fighters, against whom no /�lan/ was sufficient, who stood their ground and set up vulgar posts around their lines, instead of trusting to the rush of sudden valour, and the tactics of the tournament! She deliver France! On a much smaller argument and to put down a less ambition, the half serious, half amused adviser has bidden a young fanatic’s ears to be boxed on many an unimportant occasion, and has often been justified in so doing. There would be a half hour of gaiety after poor Laxart, crestfallen, had got his dismissal. The good man must have turned back to Jeanne, where she waited for him in courtyard or antechamber, with a heavy heart. No boxing of ears was possible to him. The mere thought of it was blasphemy. This was on Ascension Day the 13 May, 1428.

Jeanne, however, was not discouraged by M. de Baudricourt’s joke, and her interview with him changed his views completely. She appears indeed from the moment of setting out from her father’s house to have taken a new attitude. These great personages of the country before whom all the peasants trembled, were nothing to this village maid, except, perhaps, instruments in the hand of God to speed her on her way if they could see their privileges–if not, to be swept out of it like straws by the wind. It had no doubt been hard for her to leave her father’s house; but after that disruption what did anything matter? And she had gone through five years of gradual training of which no one knew. The tears and terror, the plea, “I am a poor girl; I cannot even ride,” of her first childlike alarm had given place to a profound acquaintance with the voices and their meaning. They were now her familiar friends guiding her at every step; and what was the commonplace burly Seigneur, with his roar of laughter, to Jeanne? She went to her audience with none of the alarm of the peasant. A certain young man of Baudricourt’s suite, Bertrand de Poulengy, another young D’Artagnan seeking his fortune, was present in the hall and witnessed the scene. The joke would seem to have been exhausted by the time Jeanne appeared, or her perfect gravity and simplicity, and beautiful manners–so unlike her rustic dress and village coif–imposed upon the Seigneur and his little court. This is how the story is told, twenty- five years after, by the witness, then an elderly knight, recalling the story of his youth.

“She said that she came to Robert on the part of her Lord, that he should send to the Dauphin, and tell him to hold out, and have no fear, for the Lord would send him succour before the middle of Lent. She also said that France did not belong to the Dauphin but to her Lord; but her Lord willed that the Dauphin should be its King, and hold it in command, and that in spite of his enemies she herself would conduct him to be consecrated. Robert then asked her who was this Lord? She answered, ‘The King of Heaven.’ This being done [the witness adds] she returned to her father’s house with her uncle, Durand Laxart of Burey le Petit.”

This brief and sudden preface to her career passed over and had no immediate effect; indeed but for Bertrand we should have been unable to separate it from the confused narrative to which all these witnesses brought what recollection they had, often without sequence or order, Durand himself taking no notice of any interval between this first visit to Vaucouleurs and the final one.[2] The episode of Ascension Day appears like the formal /sommation/ of French law, made as a matter of form before the appellant takes action on his own responsibility; but Baudricourt had probably more to do with it than appears to be at all certain from the after evidence. One of the persons present, at all events, young Poulengy above mentioned, bore it in mind and pondered it in his heart.

Meantime, Jeanne returned home–the strangest home-going,–for by this time her mission and her aspirations could no longer be hid, and rumour must have carried the news almost as quickly as any modern telegraph, to startle all the echoes of the village, heretofore unaware of any difference between Jeanne and her companions save the greater goodness to which everybody bears testimony. No doubt, it must have reached Jacques d’Arc’s cottage even before she came back with the kind Durand, a changed creature, already the consecrated Maid of France, La Pucelle, apart from all others. The French peasant is a hard man, more fierce in his terror of the unconventional, of having his domestic affairs exposed to the public eye, or his family disgraced by an exhibition of anything unusual either in act or feeling, than almost any other class of beings. And it is evident that he took his daughter’s intention according to the coarsest interpretation, as a wild desire for adventure and intention of joining herself to the roving troopers, the soldiers always hated and dreaded in rural life. He suddenly appears in the narrative in a fever of apprehension, with no imaginative alarm or anxiety about his girl, but the fiercest suspicion of her, and dread of disgrace to ensue. We do not know what passed when she returned, further than that her father had a dream, no doubt after the first astounding explanation of the purpose that had so long been ripening in her mind. He dreamed that he saw her surrounded by armed men, in the midst of the troopers, the most evident and natural interpretation of her purpose, for who could divine that she meant to be their leader and general, on a level not with the common men-at-arms, but of princes and nobles? In the morning he told his dream to his wife and also to his sons. “If I could think that the thing would happen that I dreamed, I would wish that she should be drowned; and if you would not do it, I should do it with my own hands.” The reader remembers with a shudder the Meuse flowing at the foot of the garden, while the fierce peasant, mad with fear lest shame should be coming to his family, clenched his strong fist and made this outcry of dismay.

No doubt his wife smoothed the matter over as well as she could, and, whatever alarms were in her own mind, hastily thought of a feminine expedient to mend matters, and persuaded the angry father that to substitute other dreams for these would be an easier way. Isabeau most probably knew the village lad who would fain have had her child, so good a housewife, so industrious a workwoman, and always so friendly and so helpful, for his wife. At all events there was such a one, too willing to exert himself, not discouraged by any refusal, who could be egged up to the very strong point of appearing before the bishop at Toul and swearing that Jeanne had been promised to him from her childhood. So timid a girl, they all thought, so devout a Catholic, would simply obey the bishop’s decision and would not be bold enough even to remonstrate, though it is curious that with the spectacle of her grave determination before them, and sorrowful sense of that necessity of her mission which had steeled her to dispense with their consent, they should have expected such an expedient to arrest her steps. The affair, we must suppose, had gone through all the more usual stages of entreaty on the lover’s part, and persuasion on that of the parents, before such an attempt was finally made. But the shy Jeanne had by this time attained that courage of desperation which is not inconsistent with the most gentle nature; and without saying anything to anyone, she too went to Toul, appeared before the bishop, and easily freed herself from the pretended engagement, though whether with any reference to her very different destination we are not told.[3]

These proceedings, however, and the father’s dreams and the remonstrances of the mother, must have made troubled days in the cottage, and scenes of wrath and contradiction, hard to bear. The winter passed distracted by these contentions, and it is difficult to imagine how Jeanne could have borne this had it not been that the period of her outset had already been indicated, and that it was only in the middle of Lent that her succour was to reach the King. The village, no doubt, was almost as much distracted as her father’s house to hear of these strange discussions and of the incredible purpose of the /bonne douce fille/, whose qualities everybody knew and about whom there was nothing eccentric, nothing unnatural, but only simple goodness, to distinguish her above her neighbours. In the meantime her voices called her continually to her work. They set her free from the ordinary yoke of obedience, always so strong in the mind of a French girl. The dreadful step of abandoning her home, not to be thought of under any other circumstances, was more and more urgently pressed upon her. Could it indeed be saints and angels who ordained a step which was outside of all the habits and first duties of nature? But we have no reason to believe that this nineteenth-century doubt of her visitors, and of whether their mandates were right, entered into the mind of a girl who was of her own period and not of ours. She went on steadfastly, certain of her mission now, and inaccessible either to remonstrance or appeal.

It was towards the beginning of Lent, as Poulengy tells us, that the decision was made, and she left home finally, to go “to France” as is always said. But it seems to have been in January that she set out once more for Vaucouleurs, accompanied by her uncle, who took her to the house of some humble folk they knew, a carter and his wife, where they lodged. Jeanne wore her peasant dress of heavy red homespun, her rude heavy shoes, her village coif. She never made any pretence of ladyhood or superiority to her class, but was always equal to the finest society in which she found herself, by dint of that simple good faith, sense, and seriousness, without excitement or exaggeration, and radiant purity and straightforwardness which were apparent to all seeing eyes. By this time all the little world about knew something of her purpose and followed her every step with wonder and quickly rising curiosity: and no doubt the whole town was astir, women gazing at their doors, all on her side from the first moment, the men half interested, half insolent, as she went once more to the chateau to make her personal appeal. Simple as she was, the /bonne douce fille/ was not intimidated by the guard at the gates, the lounging soldiers, the no doubt impudent glances flung at her by these rude companions. She was inaccessible to alarms of that kind–which, perhaps, is one of the greatest safeguards against them even in more ordinary cases. We find little record of her second interview with Baudricourt. The /Journal du Si�ge d’Orleans/ and the /Chronique de la Pucelle/ both mention it as if it had been one of several, which may well have been the case, as she was for three weeks in Vaucouleurs. It is almost impossible to arrange the incidents of this interval between her arrival there and her final departure for Chinon on the 23d February, during which time she made a pilgrimage to a shrine of St. Nicolas and also a visit to the Duke of Lorraine. It is clear, however, that she must have repeated her demand with such stress and urgency that the Captain of Vaucouleurs was a much perplexed man. It was a very natural idea then, and in accordance with every sentiment of the time that he should suspect this wonderful girl, who would not be daunted, of being a witch and capable of bringing an evil fate on all who crossed her. All thought of boxing her ears must ere this have departed from his mind. He hastened to consult the cur�, which was the most reasonable thing to do. The cur� was as much puzzled as the Captain. The Church, it must be said, if always ready to take advantage afterwards of such revelations, has always been timid, even sceptical about them at first. The wisdom of the rulers, secular and ecclesiastic, suggested only one thing to do, which was to exorcise, and perhaps to overawe and frighten, the young visionary. They paid a joint and solemn visit to the carter’s house, where no doubt their entrance together was spied by many eager eyes; and there the priest solemnly taking out his stole invested himself in his priestly robes and exorcised the evil spirits, bidding them come out of the girl if they were her inspiration. There seems a certain absurdity in this sudden assault upon the evil one, taking him as it were by surprise: but it was not ridiculous to any of the performers, though Jeanne no doubt looked on with serene and smiling eyes. She remarked afterwards to her hostess, that the cur� had done wrong, as he had already heard her in confession.

Outside, the populace were in no uncertainty at all as to her mission. A little mob hung about the door to see her come and go, chiefly to church, with her good hostess in attendance, as was right and seemly, and a crowd streaming after them who perhaps of their own accord might have neglected mass, but who would not, if they could help it, lose a look at the new wonder. One day a young gentleman of the neighbourhood was passing by, and amused by the commotion, came through the crowd to have a word with the peasant lass. “What are you doing here, /ma mie/?” the young man said. “Is the King to be driven out of the kingdom, and are we all to be made English?” There is a tone of banter in the speech, but he had already heard of the Maid from his friend, Bertrand, and had been affected by the other’s enthusiasm. “Robert de Baudricourt will have none of me or my words,” she replied, “nevertheless before Mid-Lent I must be with the King, if I should wear my feet up to my knees; for nobody in the world, be it king, duke, or the King of Scotland’s daughter, can save the kingdom of France except me alone: though I would rather spin beside my poor mother, and this is not my work: but I must go and do it, because my Lord so wills it.” “And who is your Seigneur?” he asked. “God,” said the girl. The young man was moved, he too, by that wind which bloweth where it listeth. He stretched out his hands through the gaping crowd and took hers, holding them between his own, to give her his pledge: and so swore by his faith, her hands in his hands, that he himself would conduct her to the King. “When will you go?” he said. “Rather to-day than to-morrow,” answered the messenger of God.

This was the second convert of La Pucelle. The peasant /bonhomme/ first, the noble gentleman after him; not to say all the women wherever she went, the gazing, weeping, admiring crowd which now followed her steps, and watched every opening of the door which concealed her from their eyes. The young gentleman was Jean de Novelonpont, “surnamed Jean de Metz”: and so moved was he by the fervour of the girl, and by her strong sense of the necessity of immediate operations, that he proceeded at once to make preparations for the journey. They would seem to have discussed the dress she ought to wear, and Jeanne decided for many obvious reasons to adopt the costume of a man–or rather boy. She must, one would imagine have been tall, for no remark is ever made on this subject, as if her dress had dwarfed her, which is generally the case when a woman assumes the habit of a man: and probably with her peasant birth and training, she was, though slim, strongly made and well knit, besides being at the age when the difference between boy and girl is sometimes but little noticeable.

In the meantime Baudricourt had not been idle. He must have been moved by the sight of Jeanne, at least to perceive a certain gravity in the business for which he was not prepared; and her composure under the cur�’s exorcism would naturally deepen the effect which her own manners and aspect had upon all who were free of prejudice. Another singular event, too, added weight to her character and demand. One day after her return from Lorraine, February 12th, 1429, she intimated to all her surroundings and specially to Baudricourt, that the King had suffered a defeat near Orleans, which made it still more necessary that she should be at once conducted to him. It was found when there was time for the news to come, that this defeat, the Battle of the Herrings, so-called, had happened as she said, at the exact time; and such a strange fact added much to the growing enthusiasm and excitement. Baudricourt is said by Michelet to have sent off a secret express to the Court to ask what he should do; but of this there seems to be no direct evidence, though likelihood enough. The Court at Chinon contained a strong feminine element, behind the scenes. And it might be found that there were uses for the enthusiast, even if she did not turn out to be inspired. No doubt there were many comings and goings at this period which can only be traced confusedly through the depositions of Jeanne’s companions twenty-five years after. She had at least two interviews with Baudricourt before the exorcism of the cur� and his consequent change of procedure towards her. Then, escorted by her uncle Laxart, and apparently by Jean de Metz, she had made a pilgrimage to a shrine of St. Nicolas, as already mentioned, on which occasion, being near Nancy, she was sent for by the Duke of Lorraine, then lying ill at his castle in that city, who had a fancy to consult the young prophetess, sorceress–who could tell what she was?–on the subject apparently of his illness. He was the son of Queen Yolande of Anjou, who was mother-in-law to Charles VII., and it would no doubt be thought of some importance to secure his good opinion. Jeanne gave the exalted patient no light on the subject of his health, but only the (probably unpleasing) advice to flee from the wrath of God and to be reconciled with his wife, from whom he was separated. He too, however, was moved by the sight of her and her straightforward, undeviating purpose. He gave her four francs, Durand tells us,–not much of a present,–which she gave to her uncle, and which helped to buy her outfit. Probably he made a good report of her to his mother, for shortly after her return to Vaucouleurs (I again follow Michelet who ought to be well informed) a messenger from Chinon arrived to take her to the King.[4] In the councils of that troubled Court, perhaps, the idea of a prodigy and miraculous leader, though she was nothing but a peasant girl, would be not without attraction, a thing to conjure withal, so far as the multitude were concerned.

Anyhow from any point of view, in the hopeless condition of affairs, it was expedient that nothing which gave promise of help, either real or visionary, should lightly be rejected. There was much anxiety no doubt in the careless Court still dancing and singing in the midst of calamity, but the reception of the ambitious peasant would form an exciting incident at least, if nothing more important and notable.

Thus the whole anxious world of France stirred round that youthful figure in the little frontier town, repeating with many an alteration and exaggeration the sayings of Jeanne, and those popular superstitions about the Maid from Lorraine which might be so naturally applied to her. It would seem, indeed, that she had herself attached some importance to this prophecy, for both her uncle Laxart and her hostess at Vaucouleurs report that she asked them if they had heard it: which question “stupefied” the latter, whose mind evidently jumped at once to the conviction that the prophecy was fulfilled. Not in Domremy itself, however, were these things considered with the same awe-stricken and admiring faith. Nothing had softened the mood of Jacques d’Arc. It was a shame to the village /prud’ homme/ to think of his daughter away from all the protection of home, living among men, encountering the young Seigneurs who cared for no maiden’s reputation, hearing the soldiers’ rude talk, exposed to their insults, or worse still to their kindness. Probably even now he thought of her as surrounded by troopers and men-at-arms, instead of the princes and peers with whom henceforth Jeanne’s lot was to be cast; but in the former case there would have perhaps been less to fear than in the latter. Anyhow, Jeanne’s communications with her family were more painful to her than had been the jeers of Baudricourt or the exorcism of the cur�. They sent her angry orders to come back, threats of parental curses and abandonment. We may hope that the mother, grieved and helpless, had little to do with this persecution. The woman who had nourished her children upon saintly legend and Scripture story could scarcely have been hard upon the child, of whom she, better than any, knew the perfect purity and steadfast resolution. One of the little household at least, revolted by the stern father’s fury, perhaps secretly encouraged by the mother, broke away and joined his sister at a later period. But we hear, during her lifetime, little or nothing of Pierre.

Much time, however, was passed in these preliminaries. The final start was not made till the 23d February, 1429, when the permission is supposed to have come by the hands of Colet de Vienne, the King’s messenger, who attended by a single archer, was to be her escort. It is possible that he had no mission to this effect, but he certainly did escort her to Chinon. The whole town gathered before the house of Baudricourt to see her depart. Baudricourt, however, does not seem to have provided any guard for her. Jean de Metz, who had so chivalrously pledged himself to her service, with his friend De Poulengy, equally ready for adventure, each with his servant, formed her sole protectors.[5] Jean de Metz had already sent her the clothes of one of his retainers, with the light breastplate and partial armour that suited it; and the townspeople had subscribed to buy her a further outfit, and a horse which seems to have cost sixteen francs–not so small a sum in those days as now. Laxart declares himself to have been responsible for this outlay, though the money was afterwards paid by Baudricourt, who gave Jeanne a sword, which some of her historians consider a very poor gift: none, however, of her equipments would seem to have been costly. The little party set out thus, with a sanction of authority, from the Captain’s gate, the two gentlemen and the King’s messenger at the head of the party with their attendants, and the Maid in the midst. “Go: and let what will happen,” was the parting salutation of Baudricourt. The gazers outside set up a cry when the decisive moment came, and someone, struck with the feeble force which was all the safeguard she had for her long journey through an agitated country–perhaps a woman in the sudden passion of misgiving which often follows enthusiasm,–called out to Jeanne with an astonished outcry to ask how she could dare to go by such a dangerous road. “It was for that I was born,” answered the fearless Maid. The last thing she had done had been to write a letter to her parents, asking their pardon if she obeyed a higher command than theirs, and bidding them farewell.

The French historians, with that amazement which they always show when they find a man behaving like a gentleman towards a woman confided to his honour, all pause with deep-drawn breath to note that the awe of Jeanne’s absolute purity preserved her from any unseemly overture, or even evil thought, on the part of her companions. We need not take up even the shadow of so grave a censure upon Frenchmen in general, although in the far distance of the fifteenth century. The two young men, thus starting upon a dangerous adventure, pledged by their honour to protect and convey her safely to the King’s presence, were noble and generous cavaliers, and we may well believe had no evil thoughts. They were not, however, without an occasional chill of reflection when once they had taken the irrevocable step of setting out upon this wild errand. They travelled by night to escape the danger of meeting bands of Burgundians or English on the way, and sometimes had to ford a river to avoid the town, where they would have found a bridge. Sometimes, too, they had many doubts, Bertrand says, perhaps as to their reception at Chinon, perhaps even whether their mission might not expose them to the ridicule of their kind, if not to unknown dangers of magic and contact with the Evil One, should this wonderful girl turn out no inspired virgin but a pretender or sorceress. Jean de Metz informs us that she bade them not to fear, that she had been sent to do what she was now doing; that her brothers in paradise would tell her how to act, and that for the last four or five years her brothers in paradise and her God had told her that she must go to the war to save the kingdom of France. This phrase must have struck his ear, as he thus repeats it. Her brothers in paradise! She had not apparently talked of them to anyone as yet, but now no one could hinder her more, and she felt herself free to speak. A great calm seems to have been in her soul. She had at last begun her work. How it was all to end for her she neither foresaw nor asked; she knew only what she had to do. When they ventured into a town she insisted on stopping to hear mass, bidding them fear nothing. “God clears the way for me,” she said; “I was born for this,” and so proceeded safe, though threatened with many dangers. There is something that breathes of supreme satisfaction and content in her repetition of those words. ———- [1] She was, however, acquainted with the simpler byword, that France should be destroyed by a woman and afterwards redeemed by a virgin, which she quoted to several persons on her first setting out.

[2] I have to thank Mr. Andrew Lang for making the course of these events quite clear to myself.

[3] Mr. Andrew Lang thinks that this appearance at Toul was made after she had finally left Domremy, and when she was already accompanied by the escort which was to attend her to Chinon.

[4] Mr. Andrew Lang will not hear of this. He thinks the man was a mere King’s messenger with news, probably charged with the melancholy tidings of the loss at Rouvray (Battle of the Herrings): and that the fact he did accompany Jeanne and her little part was entirely accidental.

[5] Her brother Pierre is said by some to have been of the party. /La Chronique de la Pucelle/ says two of her brothers. Mr. Andrew Lang, however, tells us that Pierre did not join his sister’s party till much later–in the beginning of June: and this is the statement of Jean de Metz. But Quicherat is also of opinion that they both fought in the relief of Orleans.



Jeanne and her little party were eleven days on the road, but do not seem to have encountered any special peril. They lodged sometimes in the security of a convent, sometimes in a village hostel, pursuing the long and tedious way across the great levels of midland France, which has so few features of beauty except in the picturesque towns with their castles and churches, which the escort avoided. At length they paused in the village of Fierbois not far from Chinon where the Court was, in order to announce their arrival and ask for an audience, which was not immediately accorded. Charles held his Court with incredible gaiety and folly, in the midst of almost every disaster that could overtake a king, in the castle of Chinon on the banks of the Vienne. The situation and aspect of this noble building, now in ruins, is wonderfully like that of Windsor Castle. The great walls, interrupted and strengthened by huge towers, stretch along a low ridge of rocky hill, with the swift and clear river, a little broader and swifter than the Thames, flowing at its foot. The red and high-pitched roofs of the houses clustered between the castle hill and the stream, give a point of resemblance the more. The large and ample dwelling, defensible, but with no thought of any need of defence, a midland castle surrounded by many a level league of wealthy country, which no hostile force should ever have power to get through, must have looked like the home of a well-established royalty. There was no sound or sight of war within its splendid enclosure. Noble lords and gentlemen crowded the corridors; trains of gay ladies, attendant upon two queens, filled the castle with fine dresses and gay voices. There had been but lately a dreadful and indeed shameful defeat, inflicted by a mere English convoy of provisions upon a large force of French and Scottish soldiers, the former led by such men as Dunois, La Hire, Xaintrailles, etc., the latter by the Constable of Scotland, John Stuart–which defeat might well have been enough to subdue every sound of revelry: yet Charles’s Court was ringing with music and pleasantry, as if peace had reigned around.

It may be believed that there were many doubts and questions how to receive this peasant from the fields, which prevented an immediate reply to her demand for an audience. From the first, de la Tremoille, Charles’s Prime Minister and chief adviser, was strongly against any encouragement of the visionary, or dealings with the supernatural; but there would no doubt be others, hoping if not for a miraculous maid, yet at least for a passing wonder, who might kindle enthusiasm in the country and rouse the ignorant with hopes of a special blessing from Heaven. The gayer and younger portion of the Court probably expected a little amusement, above all, a new butt for their wit, or perhaps a soothsayer to tell their fortunes and promise good things to come. They had not very much to amuse them, though they made the best of it. The joys of Paris were very far off; they were all but imprisoned in this dull province of Touraine; nobody knew at what moment they might be forced to leave even that refuge. For the moment here was a new event, a little stir of interest, something to pass an hour. Jeanne had to wait two days in Chinon before she was granted an audience, but considering the carelessness of the Court and the absence of any patron that was but a brief delay.

The chamber of audience is now in ruins. A wild rose with long, arching, thorny branches and pale flowers, straggles over the greensward where once the floor was trod by so many gay figures. From the broken wall you look sheer down upon the shining river; one great chimney, which at that season must have been still the most pleasant centre of the large, draughty hall, shows at the end of the room, with a curious suggestion of warmth and light which makes ruin more conspicuous. The room must have been on the ground floor almost level with the soil towards the interior of the castle, but raised to the height of the cliffs outside. It was evening, an evening of March, and fifty torches lighted up the ample room; many noble personages, almost as great as kings, and clothed in the bewildering splendour of the time, and more than three hundred cavaliers of the best names in France filled it to overflowing. The peasant girl from Domremy in the hose and doublet of a servant, a little travel-worn after her tedious journey, was led in by one of those splendid seigneurs, dazzled with the grandeur she had never seen before, looking about her in wonder to see which was the King–while Charles, perhaps with boyish pleasure in the mystification, perhaps with a little half-conviction stealing over him that there might be something more in it, stood among the smiling crowd.

The young stranger looked round upon all those amused, light-minded, sceptical faces, and without a moment’s hesitation went forward and knelt down before him. “Gentil Dauphin,” she said, “God give you good life.” “But it is not I that am the King; there is the King,” said Charles. “Gentil Prince, it is you and no other,” she said; then rising from her knee: “Gentil Dauphin, I am Jeanne the Maid. I am sent to you by the King of Heaven to tell you that you shall be consecrated and crowned at Rheims, and shall be lieutenant of the King of Heaven, who is King of France.” The little masquerade had failed, the jest was over. There would be little more laughing among the courtiers, when they saw the face of Charles grow grave. He took the new-comer aside, perhaps to that deep recess of the window where in the darkening night the glimmer of the clear, flowing river, the great vault of sky would still be visible dimly, outside the circle of the blazing interior with all its smoky lights.

Charles VII. of France was, like many of his predecessors, a /pauvre Sire/ enough. He had thought more of his amusements than of the troubles of his country; but a wild and senseless gaiety will sometimes spring from despair as well as from lightness of heart; and after all, the dread responsibility, the sense that in all his helplessness and inability to do anything he was still the man who ought to do all, would seem to have moved him from time to time. A secret doubt in his heart, divulged to no man, had added bitterness to the conviction of his own weakness. Was he indeed the heir of France? Had he any right to that sustaining confidence which would have borne up his heart in the midst of every discouragement? His very mother had given him up and set him aside. He was described as the so-called Dauphin in treaties signed by Charles and Isabeau his parents. If anyone knew, she knew; and was it possible that more powerful even than the English, more cruel than the Burgundians, this stain of illegitimacy was upon him, making all effort vain? There is no telling where the sensitive point is in any man’s heart, and little worthy as was this King, the story we are here told has a thrill of truth in it. It is reported by a certain Sala, who declares that he had it from the lips of Charles’s favourite and close follower, the Seigneur de Boisi, a courtier who, after the curious custom of the time, shared even the bed of his master. This was confided to Boisi by the King in the deepest confidence, in the silence of the wakeful night:

“This was in the time of the good King Charles, when he knew not what step to take, and did nothing but think how to redeem his life: for as I have told you he was surrounded by enemies on all sides. The King in this extreme thought, went in one morning to his oratory all alone; and there he made a prayer to our Lord, in his heart, without pronouncing any words, in which he asked of Him devoutly that if he were indeed the true heir, descended from the royal House of France, and that justly the kingdom was his, that He would be pleased to guard and defend him, or at the worst to give him grace to escape into Spain or Scotland, whose people, from all antiquity, were brothers-in-arms, friends and allies of the kings of France, and that he might find a refuge there.”

Perhaps there is some excuse for a young man’s endeavour to forget himself in folly or even in dissipation when his secret thoughts are so despairing as these.

It was soon after this melancholy moment that the arrival of Jeanne took place. The King led her aside, touched as all were, by her look of perfect sincerity and good faith; but it is she herself, not Charles, who repeats what she said to him. “I have to tell you,” said the young messenger of God, “on the part of my Lord (/Messire/) that you are the true heir of France and the son of the King; He has sent me to conduct you to Rheims that you may receive your consecration and your crown,”–perhaps here, Jeanne caught some look which she did not understand in his eyes, for she adds with, one cannot but think a touch of sternness–“if you will.”

Was it a direct message from God in answer to his prayer, uttered within his own heart, without words, so that no one could have guessed that secret? At least it would appear that Charles thought so: for how should this peasant maid know the secret fear that had gnawed at his heart? “When thou wast in the garden under the fig-tree I saw thee.” Great was the difference between the Israelite without guile and the troubled young man, with whose fate the career of a great nation was entangled; but it is not difficult to imagine what the effect must have been on the mind of Charles when he was met by this strange, authoritative statement, uttered like all that Jeanne said, /de la part de Dieu/.

The impression thus made, however, was on Charles alone, and he was surrounded by councillors, so much the more pedantic and punctilious as they were incapable, and placed amidst pressing necessities with which in themselves they had no power to cope. It may easily be allowed, also, that to risk any hopes still belonging to the hapless young King on the word of a peasant girl was in itself, according to every law of reason, madness and folly. She would seem to have had the women on her side always and at every point. The Church did not stir, or else was hostile; the commanders and military men about, regarded with scornful disgust the idea that an enterprise which they considered hopeless should be confided to an ignorant woman–all with perfect reason we are obliged to allow. Probably it was to gain time– yet without losing the aid of such a stimulus to the superstitious among the masses–and to retard any rash undertaking–that it was proposed to subject Jeanne to an examination of doctors and learned men touching her faith and the character of her visions, which all this time had been of continual recurrence, yet charged with no further revelation, no mystic creed, but only with the one simple, constantly repeated command.

Accordingly, after some preliminary handling by half a dozen bishops, Jeanne was taken to Poitiers–where the university and the local parliament, all the learning, law, and ecclesiastical wisdom which were on the side of the King, were assembled–to undergo this investigation. It is curious that the entire history of this wildest and strangest of all visionary occurrences is to be found in a series of processes at law, each part recorded and certified under oath; but so it is. The village maid was placed at the bar, before a number of acute legists, ecclesiastics, and statesmen, to submit her to a not- too-benevolent cross-examination. Several of these men were still alive at the time of the Rehabilitation and gave their recollections of this examination, though its formal records have not been preserved. A Dominican monk, Aymer, one of an order she loved, addressed her gravely with the severity with which that institution is always credited. “You say that God will deliver France; if He has so determined, He has no need of men-at-arms.” “Ah!” cried the girl, with perhaps a note of irritation in her voice, “the men must fight; it is God who gives the victory.” To another discomfited Brother, Jeanne, exasperated, answered with a little roughness, showing that our Maid, though gentle as a child to all gentle souls, was no piece of subdued perfection, but a woman of the fields, and lately much in the company of rough-spoken men. He was of Limoges, a certain Brother Seguin, “/bien aigre homme/,” and disposed apparently to weaken the trial by questions without importance: he asked her what language her celestial visitors spoke? “Better than yours,” answered the peasant girl. He could not have been, as we say in Scotland, altogether “an ill man,” for he acknowledged that he spoke the patois of his district, and therefore that the blow was fair. But perhaps for the moment he was irritated too. He asked her, a question equally unnecessary, “do you believe in God?” to which with more and more impatience she made a similar answer: “Better than you do.” There was nothing to be made of one so well able to defend herself. “Words are all very well,” said the monk, “but God would not have us believe you, unless you show us some sign.” To this Jeanne made an answer more dignified, though still showing signs of exasperation, “I have not come to Poitiers to give signs,” she said; “but take me to Orleans–I will then show the signs I am sent to show. Give me as small a band as you please, but let me go.”

The situation of Orleans was at the time a desperate one. It was besieged by a strong army of English, who had built a succession of towers round the city, from which to assail it, after the manner of the times. The town lies in the midst of the plain of the Loire, with not so much as a hillock to offer any advantage to the besiegers. Therefore these great works were necessary in face of a very strenuous resistance, and the possibility of provisioning the besieged, which their river secured. The English from their high towers kept up a disastrous fire, which, though their artillery was of the rudest kind, did great execution. The siege was conducted by eminent generals. The works were of themselves great fortifications, the assailants numerous, and strengthened by the prestige of almost unbroken success; there seemed no human hope of the deliverance of the town unless by an overwhelming army, which the King’s party did not possess, or by some wonderful and utterly unexpected event. Jeanne had always declared the destruction of the English and the relief of Orleans to be the first step in her mission.

Besides the formal and official examination of her faith and character, held at Poitiers, private inquests of all kinds were made concerning of the claims of the miraculous maid. She was visited by every curious person, man or woman, in the neighbourhood, and plied with endless questions, so that her simple personal story, and that of her revelations–/mes voix/, as she called them–became familiarly known from her own report, to the whole country round about. The women pressed a question specially interesting–for no doubt, many a good mother half convinced otherwise, shook her head at Jeanne’s costume– Why she wore the dress of a man? for which the Maid gave very good reasons: in the first place because it was the only dress for fighting, which, though so far from her desires or from the habits of her life, was henceforward to be her work; and also because in her strange circumstances, constrained as she was to live among men, she considered it safest for herself–statements which evidently convinced the minds of the questioners. It was, no doubt, good policy to make her thus widely and generally known, and the result was a daily growing enthusiasm for her and belief in her, in all classes. The result of the formal process was that the doctors could find nothing against her, and they reluctantly allowed that the King might lawfully take what advantage he could of her offered services.

Jeanne was then brought back to Chinon, where she was lodged in one of the great towers still standing, though no special room is pointed out as hers. And there she was subjected to another process, more penetrating still than the interrogations of the graver tribunals. The Queens and their ladies and all the women of the Court took her in hand. They inquired into her history in every subtle and intimate feminine way, testing her innocence and purity; and once more she came out triumphant. The final judgment was given as follows: “After hearing all these reports, the King taking into consideration the great goodness that was in the Maid, and that she declared herself to be sent by God, it was by the said Seigneur and his council determined that from henceforward he should make use of her for his wars, since it was for this that she was sent.”

It was now necessary to equip Jeanne for her service. She had a /maison/, an /�tat majeur/, or staff, formed for her, the chief of which, Jean d’Aulon, already distinguished and worthy of such a trust never left her thenceforward until the end of her active career. Her chaplain, Jean Pasquerel, also followed her fortunes faithfully. Charles would have given her a sword to replace the probably indifferent weapon given her by Baudricourt at Vaucouleurs; but Jeanne knew where to find the sword destined for her. She gave orders that someone should be sent to Fierbois, the village at which she had paused on her way to Chinon, to fetch a sword which would be found there buried behind the high altar of the church of St. Catherine. To make this as little miraculous as possible, we are told by some historians that it was common for knights to be buried with their arms, and that Jeanne, in her visit to this church, where she heard three masses in succession to make up for the absence of constant religious services on her journey–had probably seen some tomb or other token that such an interment had taken place. However, as we are compelled to receive the far greater miracle of Jeanne herself and her work, without explanation, it is foolish to take the trouble to attempt any explanation of so small a matter as this. The sword in fact was found, by the clergy of the church, and was by them cleaned and polished and put in a scabbard of crimson velvet, scattered over with fleur-de-lys in gold, for her use. Her standard, which she considered of the greatest importance was made apparently at Tours. It was of white linen, fringed with silk and embroidered with a figure of the Saviour holding a globe in His hands, while an angel knelt at either side in adoration. Jhesus’ Maria was inscribed at the foot. A repetition of this banner, which must have been re-copied from age to age is to be seen now at Tours. Having indicated the exact device to be emblazoned upon the banner, as dictated to her by her saints,– Margaret and Catherine–Jeanne announced her intention of carrying it herself, a somewhat surprising office for one who was to act as a general. But it was the command of her heavenly guides. “Take the standard on the part of God, and carry it boldly,” they had said. She had, besides, a simple, half-childish intention of her own in this, which she explained shame-faced–she had no wish to use her sword though she loved it, and would kill no man. The banner was a more safe occupation, and saved her from all possibility of blood-shedding; it must however, have required the robust arm of a peasant to sustain the heavy weight.

It will show how long a time all these examinations and preparations had taken when we read that Jeanne set out from Blois, where she had passed some time in military preparations, only on the 27th day of April; nearly two whole months had thus been taken up in testing her truth, and arranging details, trifling and unnecessary in her eyes:–a period which had been passed in great anxiety by the people of Orleans, with the huge bastilles of the English–three of which were named Paris, Rouen, and London–towering round them, their provisions often intercepted, all the business of life come to a standstill, and the overwhelming responsibility upon them of being almost the last barrier between the invader and the final subjugation of France. It is strange to add that, judging by ordinary rules, the garrison of Orleans ought to have been quite sufficient in itself in numbers and science of war, to have beaten and dispersed the English force which had thus succeeded in shutting them in; there were many notable captains among them, with Dunois, known as the Bastard of Orleans, one of the most celebrated and brave of French generals, at their head. Dunois was in no way inferior to the generals of the English army; he was popular, beloved by the people and soldiers alike, and though illegitimate, of the House of Orleans, one of the native seigneurs of the place. The wonder is how he and his officers permitted the building of these towers, and the shutting in of the town which they were quite strong enough to protect. But it was a losing game which they were playing, a part which does not suit the genius of the nation; and the superstition in favour of the English who had won so many battles with all the disadvantages on their side,–cutting the finest armies to pieces–was strong upon the imagination of the time. It seemed a fate which no valour or skill upon the side of the French could avert. Dunois, himself an unlikely person, one would have thought, to yield the honour of the fight to a woman, seems to have perceived that without a strong counter-motive, not within the range of ordinary methods, the situation was beyond hope.

Accordingly, on the 27th or 28th of April, Jeanne set out at the head of her little army, accompanied by a great number of generals and captains. She had been equipped by the Queen of Sicily (with a touch of that keen sense of decorative effect which belonged to the age) in white armour inlaid with silver–all shining like her own St. Michael himself, a radiance of whiteness and glory under the sun–armed /de toutes pi�ces sauve la teste/, her uncovered head rising in full relief from the dazzling breastplate and gorget. This is the description given of her by an eye-witness a little later. The country is flat as the palm of one’s hand. The white armour must have flashed back the sun for miles and miles of the level road, to the eyes which from the height of any neighbouring tower watched the party setting out. It is all fertile now, the richest plain, and even then, corn and wine must have been in full bourgeon, the great fresh greenness of the big leaves coming out upon such low stumps of vine as were left in the soil; but the devastated country was in those days covered with a wild growth like the /macchia/ of Italian wilds, which half hid the movements of the expedition. They went by the Loire to Tours, where Jeanne had been assigned a dwelling of her own, with the estate of a general; and from thence to Blois, where they had to wait for some days while the convoy of provisions, which they were to convey to Orleans, was being prepared. And there Jeanne fulfilled one of the preliminary duties of her mission. She had informed her examiners at Poitiers that she had been commanded to write to the English generals before attacking them, appealing to them /de la part de Dieu/, to give up their conquests, and leave France to the French. The letter which we quote would seem to have been dictated by her at Poitiers, probably to the confessor who now formed part of her suite and who attended her wherever she went:


King of England, and you Duke of Bedford calling yourself Regent of France, you, William de la Poule, Comte de Sulford, John, Lord of Talbot, and you Thomas, Lord of Scales, who call yourself lieutenants of the said Bedford, listen to the King of Heaven: Give back to the Maid who is here sent on the part of God the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns which you have taken by violence in His France. She is ready to make peace if you will hear reason and be just towards France and pay for what you have taken. And you archers, brothers-in-arms, gentles and others who are before the town of Orleans, go in peace on the part of God; if you do not so you will soon have news of the Maid who will see you shortly to your great damage. King of England, if you do not this, I am captain in this war, and in whatsoever place in France I find your people I will make them go away. I am sent here on the part of God the King of Heaven to push you all forth of France. If you obey I will be merciful. And be not strong in your own opinion, for you do not hold the kingdom from God the Son of the Holy Mary, but it is held by Charles the true heir, for God, the King of Heaven so wills, and it is revealed by the Maid who shall enter Paris in good company. If you will not believe this news on the part of God and the Maid, in whatever place you may find yourselves we shall make our way there, and make so great a commotion as has not been in France for a thousand years, if you will not hear reason. And believe this, that the King of Heaven will send more strength to the Maid than you can bring against her in all your assaults, to her and to her good men-at-arms. You, Duke of Bedford, the Maid prays and requires you to destroy no more. If you act according to reason you may still come in her company where the French shall do the greatest work that has ever been done for Christianity. Answer then if you will still continue against the city of Orleans. If you do so you will soon recall it to yourself by great misfortunes. Written the Saturday of Holy Week (22 March, 1429).[1]

Jeanne had by this time made a wonderful moral revolution in her little army; most likely she had not been in the least aware what an army was, until this moment; but frank and fearless, she had penetrated into every corner, and it was not in her to permit those abuses at which an ordinary captain has to smile. The pernicious and shameful crowd of camp followers fled before her like shadows before the day. She stopped the big oaths and unthinking blasphemies which were so common, so that La Hire, one of the chief captains, a rough and ready Gascon, was reduced to swear by his /b�ton/, no more sacred name being permitted to him. Perhaps this was the origin of the harmless swearing which abounds in France, meaning probably just as much and as little as bigger oaths in careless mouths; but no doubt the soldiers’ language was very unfit for gentle ears. Jeanne moved among the wondering ranks, all radiant in her silver armour and with her virginal undaunted countenance, exhorting all those rude and noisy brothers to take thought of their duties here, and of the other life that awaited them. She would stop the march of the army that a conscience-stricken soldier might make his confession, and desired the priests to hear it if necessary without ceremony, or church, under the first tree. Her tender heart was such that she shrank from any man’s death, and her hair rose up on her head, as she said, at the sight of French blood shed–although her mission was to shed it on all sides for a great end. But the one thing she could not bear was that either Frenchmen or Englishmen should die unconfessed, “unhouseled, disappointed, unannealed.” The army went along attended by songs of choristers and masses of priests, the grave and solemn music of the Church accompanied strangely by the fanfares and bugle notes. What a strange procession to pass along the great Loire in its spring fulness, the raised banners and crosses, and that dazzling white figure, all effulgence, reflected in the wayward, quick flowing stream!

La Hire, who is like a figure out of Dumas, and indeed did service as a model to that delightful romancer, had come from Orleans to escort Jeanne upon her way, and Dunois met her as she approached the town. There could not be found more unlikely companions than these two, to conduct to a great battle the country maid who was to carry the honours of the day from them both, and make men fight like heroes, who under them did nothing but run away. The candour and true courage of such leaders in circumstances so extraordinary, are beyond praise, for it was an offence both to their pride and skill in their profession, had she been anything less than the messenger of God which she claimed to be; and these rude soldiers were not men to be easily moved by devout imaginations. There would seem, however, even in the case of the greater of the two, to have arisen a strange friendship and mutual understanding between the famous man of war and the peasant girl. Jeanne, always straightforward and simple, speaks to him, not with the downcast eyes of her humility, but as an equal, as if the great Dunois had been a /prud’ homme/ of her own degree. There is no appearance indeed that the Maid allowed herself to be overborne now by any shyness or undue humility. She speaks loudly, so as to be heard by those fighting men, taking something of their own brief and decisive tone, often even impatient, as one who would not be put aside either by cunning or force.

Her meeting with Dunois makes this at once evident. She had been deceived in the manner of her approach to Orleans, her companions, among whom there were several field-marshals and distinguished leaders, taking advantage of her ignorance of the place to lead her by the opposite bank of the river instead of that on which the English towers were built, which she desired to attack at once. This was the beginning of a long series of deceits and hostile combinations, by which at every step of her way she was met and retarded; but it turned, as these devices generally did, to the discomfiture of the adverse captains. She crossed the river at Ch�cy above Orleans, to meet Dunois who had come so far to meet her. It will be seen by the conversation which she held with him on his first appearance, how completely Jeanne had learnt to assert herself, and how much she had overcome any fear of man. “Are you the Bastard of Orleans?” she said. “I am; and glad of your coming,” he replied. “Is it you who have had me led to this side of the river and not to the bank on which Talbot is and his English?” He answered that he and the wisest of the leaders had thought it the best and safest way. “The counsel of God, our Lord, is more sure and more powerful than yours,” she replied. The expedition, as a matter of fact, had to turn back, and to lose precious time, there being, it is to be presumed, no means of transporting so large a force across the river. The large convoy of provisions which Jeanne brought was embarked in boats while the majority of the army returned to Blois, in order to cross by the bridge.

Jeanne, however, having freely expressed her opinion, adapted herself to the circumstances, though extremely averse to separate herself from her soldiers, good men who had confessed and prepared their souls for every emergency. She finally consented, however, to ride on with Dunois and La Hire. The wind was against the convoy, so that the heavy boats, deeply laden with beeves and corn, had a dangerous and slow voyage before them. “Have patience,” cried Jeanne; “by the help of God all will go well”; and immediately the wind changed, to the astonishment and joy of all, and the boats arrived in safety “in spite of the English, who offered no hindrance whatever,” as she had predicted. The little party made their way along the bank, and in the twilight of the April evening, about eight o’clock, entered Orleans. The Deliverer, it need not be said, was hailed with joy indescribable. She was on a white horse, and carried, Dunois says, the banner in her hand, though it was carried before her when she entered the town. The white figure in the midst of those darkly gleaming mailed men, would in itself throw a certain glory through the dimness of the night, as she passed the gates and came into view by the blaze of all the torches, and the lights in the windows, over the dark swarming crowds of the citizens. Her white banner waving, her white armour shining, it was little wonder that the throng that filled the streets received the Maid “as if they had seen God descending among them.” “And they had good reason,” says the Chronicle, “for they had suffered many disturbances, labours, and pains, and, what is worse, great doubt whether they ever should be delivered. But now all were comforted, as if the siege were over, by the divine strength that was in this simple Maid whom they regarded most affectionately, men, women, and little children. There was a marvellous press around her to touch her or the horse on which she rode, so much so that one of the torchbearers approached too near and set fire to her pennon; upon which she touched her horse with her spurs, and turning him cleverly, extinguished the flame, as if she had long followed the wars.”

There could have been nothing she resembled so much as St. Michael, the warrior-angel, who, as all the world knew, was her chief counsellor and guide, and who, no doubt, blazed, a familiar figure, from some window in the cathedral to which this his living picture rode without a pause, to give thanks to God before she thought of refreshment or rest. She spoke to the people who surrounded her on every side as she went on through the tumultuous streets, bidding them be of good courage and that if they had faith they should escape from all their troubles. And it was only after she had said her prayers and rendered her thanksgiving, that she returned to the house selected for her–the house of an important personage, Jacques Boucher, treasurer to the Duke of Orleans, not like the humble places where she had formerly lodged. The houses of that age were beautiful, airy and light, with much graceful ornament and solid comfort, the arched and vaulted Gothic beginning to give place to those models of domestic architecture which followed the Renaissance, with their ample windows and pleasant space and breadth. There the table was spread with a joyous meal in honour of this wonderful guest, to which, let us hope, Dunois and La Hire and the rest did full justice. But Jeanne was indifferent to the feast. She mixed with water the wine poured for her into a silver cup, and dipped her bread in it, five or six small slices. The visionary peasant girl cared for none of the dainty meats. And then she retired to the comfort of a peaceful chamber, where the little daughter of the house shared her bed: strange return to the days when Hauvette and Mengette in Domremy lay by her side and talked as girls love to do, through half the silent night. Perhaps little Charlotte, too, lay awake with awe to wonder at that other young head on the pillow, a little while ago shut into the silver helmet, and shining like the archangel’s. The /�tat majeur/, the Chevalier d’Aulon, Jean de Metz, and Bertrand de Poulengy, who had never left her, first friends and most faithful, and her brother Pierre d’Arc, were lodged in the same house. It was the last night of April, 1429. ———- [1] The dates must of course be reckoned by the old style.–This letter was dispatched from Tours, during her pause there.



Next morning there was a council of war among the many leaders now collected within the town. It was the eager desire of Jeanne that an assault should be made at once, in all the enthusiasm of the moment, upon the English towers, without waiting even for the arrival of the little army which she had preceded. But the captains of the defence who had borne the heat and burden of the day, and who might naturally enough be irritated by the enthusiasm with which this stranger had been received, were of a different opinion. I quote here a story, for which I am told there is no foundation whatever, touching a personage who probably never existed, so that the reader may take it as he pleases, with indulgence for the writer’s weakness, or indignation at her credulity. It seems to me, however, to express very naturally a sentiment which must have existed among the many captains who had been fighting unsuccessfully for months in defence of the beleaguered city. A certain Guillaume de Gamache felt himself insulted above all by the suggestion. “What,” he cried, “is the advice of this hussy from the fields (/une p�ronnelle de bas lieu/) to be taken against that of a knight and captain! I will fold up my banner and become again a simple soldier. I would rather have a nobleman for my master than a woman whom nobody knows.”

Dunois, who was too wise to weaken the forces at his command by such a quarrel, is said to have done his best to reconcile and soothe the angry captain. This, however, if it was true, was only a mild instance of the perpetual opposition which the Maid encountered from the very beginning of her career and wherever she went. Notwithstanding her victories, she remained through all her career a /p�ronnelle/ to these men of war (with the noble exception, of course, of Alen�on, Dunois, Xaintrailles, La Hire, and others). They were sore and wounded by her appearance and her claims. If they could cheat her, balk her designs, steal a march in any way, they did so, from first to last, always excepting the few who were faithful to her. Dunois could afford to be magnanimous, but the lesser men were jealous, envious, embittered. A /p�ronnelle/, a woman nobody knew! And they themselves were belted knights, experienced soldiers, of the best blood of France. It was not unnatural; but this atmosphere of hate, malice, and mortification forms the background of the picture wherever the Maid moves in her whiteness, illuminating to us the whole scene. The English hated her lustily as their enemy and a witch, casting spells and enchantments so that the strength was sucked out of a man’s arm and the courage from his heart: but the Frenchmen, all but those who were devoted to her, regarded her with an ungenerous opposition, the hate of men shamed and mortified by every triumph she achieved.

Jeanne was angry, too, and disappointed, more than she had been by all discouragements before. She had believed, perhaps, that once in the field these oppositions would be over, and that her mission would be rapidly accomplished. But she neither rebelled nor complained. What she did was to occupy herself about what she felt to be her business, without reference to any commander. She sent out two heralds,[1] who were attached to her staff, and therefore at her personal disposal, to summon once more Talbot and Glasdale (Classidas, as the French called him) /de la part de Dieu/ to evacuate their towers and return home. It would seem that in her miraculous soul she had a visionary hope that this appeal might be successful. What so noble, what so Christian, as that the one nation should give up, of free-will, its attempt upon the freedom and rights of another, if once the duty were put simply before it–and both together joining hands, march off, as she had already suggested, to do the noblest deed that had ever yet been done for Christianity? That same evening she rode forth with her little train; and placing herself on the town end of the bridge (which had been broken in the middle), as near as the breach would permit to the bastille, or fort of the Tourelles, which was built across the further end of the bridge, on the left side of the Loire–called out to the enemy, summoning them once more to withdraw while there was time. She was overwhelmed, as might have been expected, with a storm of abusive shouts and evil words, Classidas and his captains hurrying to the walls to carry on the fierce exchange of abuse. To be called dairy- maid and /p�ronnelle/ was a light matter, but some of the terms used were so cruel that, according to some accounts, she betrayed her womanhood by tears, not prepared apparently for the use of such foul weapons against her. The /Journal du Si�ge/ declares, however, that she was “aucunement yr�e” (angry), but answered that they lied, and rode back to the city.

The next Sunday, the 1st of May, Dunois, alarmed by the delay of his main body, set out for Blois to meet them, and we are told that Jeanne accompanied him to the special point of danger, where the English from their fortifications might have stopped his progress, and took up a position there, along with La Hire, between the expedition and the enemy. But in the towers not a man budged, not a shot was fired. It was again a miracle, and she had predicted it. The party of Dunois marched on in safety, and Jeanne returned to Orleans, once more receiving on the breeze some words of abuse from the defenders of those battlements, which sent forth no more dangerous missile, and replying again with her summons, “/Retournez de la par Dieu � Angleterre./” The townsfolk watched her coming and going with an excitement impossible to describe; they walked by the side of her charger to the cathedral, which was the end of every progress; they talked to her, all speaking together, pressing upon her–and she to them, bidding them to have no fear. “Messire has sent me,” she said again and again. She went out again, Wednesday, 4th May, on the return of Dunois, to meet the army, with the same result, that they entered quietly, the English not firing a shot.

On this same day, in the afternoon, after the early dinner, there happened a wonderful scene. Jeanne, it appeared, had fallen asleep after her meal, no doubt tired with the expedition of the morning, and her chief attendant, D’Aulon, who had accompanied Dunois to fetch the troops from Blois, being weary after his journey, had also stretched himself on a couch to rest. They were all tired, the entry of the troops having been early in the morning, a fact of which the angry captains of Orleans, who had not shared in that expedition, took advantage to make a secret sortie unknown to the new chiefs. All at once the Maid awoke in agitation and alarm. Her “voices” had awakened her from her sleep. “My council tell me to go against the English,” she cried; “but if to assail their towers or to meet Fastolfe I cannot tell.” As she came to the full command of her faculties her trouble grew. “The blood of our soldiers is flowing,” she said; “why did they not tell me? My arms, my arms!” Then she rushed down stairs to find her page amusing himself in the tranquil afternoon, and called to him for her horse. All was quiet, and no doubt her attendants thought her mad: but D’Aulon, who knew better than to contradict his mistress, armed her rapidly, and Luis, the page, brought her horse to the door. By this time there began to rise a distant rumour and outcry, at which they all pricked their ears. As Jeanne put her foot in the stirrup she perceived that her standard was wanting, and called to the page, Louis de Contes, above, to hand it to her out of the window. Then with the heavy flag-staff in her hand she set spurs to her horse, her attendants one by one clattering after her, and dashed onward “so that the fire flashed from the pavement under the horse’s feet.”

Jeanne’s presentiment was well-founded. There had been a private expedition against the English fort of St. Loup carried out quietly to steal a march upon her–Gamache, possibly, or other malcontents of his temper, in the hope perhaps of making use of her prestige to gain a victory without her presence. But it had happened with this sally as with many others which had been made from Orleans; and when Jeanne appeared outside the gate which she and the rest of the followers after her had almost forced–coming down upon them at full gallop, her standard streaming, her white armour in a blaze of reflection, she met the fugitives flying back towards the shelter of the town. She does not seem to have paused or to have deigned to address a word to them, though the troop of soldiers and citizens who had snatched arms and flung themselves after her, arrested and turned them back. Straight to the foot of the tower she went, Dunois startled in his turn, thundering after her. It is not for a woman to describe, any more than it was for a woman to execute such a feat of war. It is said that she put herself at the head of the citizens, Dunois at the head of the soldiers. One moment of pity and horror and heart-sickness Jeanne had felt when she met several wounded men who were being carried towards the town. She had never seen French blood shed before, and the dreadful thought that they might die unconfessed, overwhelmed her soul; but this was but an incident of her breathless gallop to the encounter. To isolate the tower which was attacked was the first necessity, and then the conflict was furious–the English discouraged, but fighting desperately against a mysterious force which overwhelmed them, at the same time that it redoubled the ardour of every Frenchman. Lord Talbot sent forth parties from the other forts to help their companions, but these were met in the midst by the rest of the army arriving from Orleans, which stopped their course. It was not till evening, “the hour of Vespers,” that the bastille was finally taken, with great slaughter, the Orleanists giving little quarter. During these dreadful hours the Maid was everywhere visible with her standard, the most marked figure, shouting to her men, weeping for the others, not fighting herself so far as we hear, but always in the front of the battle. When she went back to Orleans triumphant, she led a band of prisoners with her, keeping a wary eye upon them that they might not come to harm.