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Jeanne d'Arc by Mrs. Oliphant

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Etext prepared by Emma Dudding, emma_302@hotmail.com
Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com
and John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz

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, Provençaux 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 /élan/,
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 mediæval 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

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 mère 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 curé 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 chêne/, 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 curé 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

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'Orgévillier." "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 Châtellenie 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



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 traité infâme/ 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 à l'église./" 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 pitié 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 /pitié 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 /dévote/ before her time;
but with nothing else to blush about in all her simple record.

Neither to her parents, nor to the curé 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 /Trésor/ at Rheims there was
some stole or maniple with flowers on it, wrought by her hands. But
the /Trésor/ 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 Alençon,
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 /élan/ 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

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 Siège 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 curé, which was the most reasonable
thing to do. The curé 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 curé had done wrong, as he had already heard her in

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

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
curé'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 curé
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 curé. 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

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

[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.


FEB.-APRIL, 1429.

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

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

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 /état 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 pièces 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 /bâton/, 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

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 Chécy 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

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 /état 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.


MAY 1-8, 1429.

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 péronnelle 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 /péronnelle/ to these
men of war (with the noble exception, of course, of Alençon, 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
/péronnelle/, 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 /péronnelle/ 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 Siège/ declares, however, that
she was "aucunement yrée" (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 à
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.

The next day, May 5th, was the Feast of the Ascension, and it was

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