Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Volume 2
Part 4 out of 5
A clause of another of the Twelve says she admits having
threatened with death those who would not obey her. Distinctly
false. Another clause says she declares that all she has done has
been done by command of God. What she really said was, all that
she had done well--a correction made by herself as you have
Another of the Twelve says she claims that she has never
committed any sin. She never made any such claim.
Another makes the wearing of the male dress a sin. If it was, she
had high Catholic authority for committing it--that of the
Archbishop of Rheims and the tribunal of Poitiers.
The Tenth Article was resentful against her for "pretending" that
St. Catherine and St.
Marguerite spoke French and not English, and were French in their
The Twelve were to be submitted first to the learned doctors of
theology of the University of Paris for approval. They were copied
out and ready by the night of April 4th. Then Manchon did another
bold thing: he wrote in the margin that many of the Twelve put
statements in Joan's mouth which were the exact opposite of what
she had said. That fact would not be considered important by the
University of Paris, and would not influence its decision or stir its
humanity, in case it had any--which it hadn't when acting in a
political capacity, as at present--but it was a brave thing for that
good Manchon to do, all the same.
The Twelve were sent to Paris next day, April 5th. That afternoon
there was a great tumult in Rouen, and excited crowds were
flocking through all the chief streets, chattering and seeking for
news; for a report had gone abroad that Joan of Arc was sick unti
death. In truth, these long sāances had worn her out, and she was
ill indeed. The heads of the English party were in a state of
consternation; for if Joan should die uncondemned by the Church
and go to the grave unsmirched, the pity and the love of the people
would turn her wrongs and sufferings and death into a holy
martyrdom, and she would be even a mightier power in France
dead than she had been when alive.
The Earl of Warwick and the English Cardinal (Winchester)
hurried to the castle and sent messengers flying for physicians.
Warwick was a hard man, a rude, coarse man, a man without
compassion. There lay the sick girl stretched in her chains in her
iron cage--not an object to move man to ungentle speech, one
would think; yet Warwick spoke right out in her hearing and said
to the physicians:
"Mind you take good care of her. The King of England has no
mind to have her die a natural death. She is dear to him, for he
bought her dear, and he does not want her to die, save at the stake.
Now then, mind you cure her."
The doctors asked Joan what had made her ill. She said the Bishop
of Beauvais had sent her a fish and she thought it was that.
Then Jean d'Estivet burst out on her, and called her names and
abused her. He understood Joan to be charging the Bishop with
poisoning her, you see; and that was not pleasing to him, for he
was one of Cauchon's most loving and conscienceless slaves, and
it outraged him to have Joan injure his master in the eyes of these
great English chiefs, these being men who could ruin Cauchon and
would promptly do it if they got the conviction that he was capable
of saving Joan from the stake by poisoning her and thus cheating
the English out of all the real value gainable by her purchase from
the Duke of Burgundy.
Joan had a high fever, and the doctors proposed to bleed her.
"Be careful about that; she is smart and is capable of killing
He meant that to escape the stake she might undo the bandage and
let herself bleed to death.
But the doctors bled her anyway, and then she was better.
Not for long, though. Jean d'Estivet could not hold still, he was so
worried and angry about the suspicion of poisoning which Joan
had hinted at; so he came back in the evening and stormed at her
till he brought the fever all back again.
When Warwick heard of this he was in a fine temper, you may be
sure, for here was his prey threatening to escape again, and all
through the over-zeal of this meddling fool. Warwick gave
D'Estivet a quite admirable cursing--admirable as to strength, I
mean, for it was said by persons of culture that the art of it was not
good--and after that the meddler kept still.
Joan remained ill more than two weeks; then she grew better. She
was still very weak, but she could bear a little persecution now
without much danger to her life. It seemed to Cauchon a good time
to furnish it. So he called together some of his doctors of theology
and went to her dungeon. Manchon and I went along to keep the
record--that is, to set down what might be useful to Cauchon, and
leave out the rest.
The sight of Joan gave me a shock. Why, she was but a shadow! It
was difficult for me to realize that this frail little creature with the
sad face and drooping form was the same Joan of Arc that I had so
often seen, all fire and enthusiasm, charging through a hail of
death and the lightning and thunder of the guns at the head of her
battalions. It wrung my heart to see her looking like this.
But Cauchon was not touched. He made another of those
conscienceless speeches of his, all dripping with hypocrisy and
guile. He told Joan that among her answers had been some which
had seemed to endanger religion; and as she was ignorant and
without knowledge of the Scriptures, he had brought some good
and wise men to instruct her, if she desired it. Said he, "We are
churchmen, and disposed by our good will as well as by our
vocation to procure for you the salvation of your soul and your
body, in every way in our power, just as we would do the like for
our nearest kin or for ourselves. In this we but follow the example
of Holy Church, who never closes the refuge of her bosom against
any that are willing to return."
Joan thanked him for these sayings and said:
"I seem to be in danger of death from this malady; if it be the
pleasure of God that I die here, I beg that I may be heard in
confession and also receive my Saviour; and that I may be buried
in consecrated ground."
Cauchon thought he saw his opportunity at last; this weakened
body had the fear of an unblessed death before it and the pains of
hell to follow. This stubborn spirit would surrender now. So he
spoke out and said:
"Then if you want the Sacraments, you must do as all good
Catholics do, and submit to the Church."
He was eager for her answer; but when it came there was no
surrender in it, she still stood to her guns. She turned her head
away and said wearily:
"I have nothing more to say."
Cauchon's temper was stirred, and he raised his voice threateningly
and said that the more she was in danger of death the more she
ought to amend her life; and again he refused the things she
begged for unless she would submit to the Church. Joan said:
"If I die in this prison I beg you to have me buried in holdy ground;
if you will not, I cast myself upon my Saviour."
There was some more conversation of the like sort, then Cauchon
demanded again, and imperiously, that she submit herself and all
her deeds to the Church. His threatening and storming went for
nothing. That body was weak, but the spirit in it was the spirit of
Joan of Arc; and out of that came the steadfast answer which these
people were already so familiar with and detested so sincerely:
"Let come what may. I will neither do nor say any otherwise than I
have said already in your tribunals."
Then the good theologians took turn about and worried her with
reasonings and arguments and Scriptures; and always they held the
lure of the Sacraments before her famishing soul, and tried to bribe
her with them to surrender her mission to the Church's
judgment--that is to their judgment--as if they were the Church!
But it availed nothing. I could have told them that beforehand, if
they had asked me. But they never asked me anything; I was too
humble a creature for their notice.
Then the interview closed with a threat; a threat of fearful import;
a threat calculated to make a Catholic Christian feel as if the
ground were sinking from under him:
"The Church calls upon you to submit; disobey, and she will
abandon you as if you were a pagan!"
Think of being abandoned by the Church!--that august Power in
whose hands is lodged the fate of the human race; whose scepter
stretches beyond the furthest constellation that twinkles in the sky;
whose authority is over millions that live and over the billions that
wait trembling in purgatory for ransom or doom; whose smile
opens the gates of heaven to you, whose frown delivers you to the
fires of everlasting hell; a Power whose dominion overshadows
and belittles the pomps and shows of a village. To be abandoned
by one's King--yes, that is death, and death is much; but to be
agandoned by Rome, to be abandoned by the Church! Ah, death is
nothing to that, for that is consignment to endless life--and such a
I could see the red waves tossing in that shoreless lake of fire, I
could see the black myriads of the damned rise out of them and
struggle and sink and rise again; and I knew that Joan was seeing
what I saw, while she paused musing; and I believed that she must
yield now, and in truth I hoped she would, for these men were able
to make the threat good and deliver her over to eternal suffering,
and I knew that it was in their natures to do it.
But I was foolish to think that thought and hope that hope. Joan of
Arc was not made as others are made. Fidelity to principle, fidelity
to truth, fidelity to her word, all these were in her bone and in her
flesh--they were parts of her. She could not change, she could not
cast them out. She was the very genius of Fidelity; she was
Steadfastness incarnated. Where she had taken her stand and
planted her foot, there she would abide; hell itself could not move
her from that place.
Her Voices had not given her permission to make the sort of
submission that was required, therefore she would stand fast. She
would wait, in perfect obedience, let come what might.
My heart was like lead in my body when I went out from that
dungeon; but she--she was serene, she was not troubled. She had
done what she believed to be her duty, and that was sufficient; the
consequences were not her affair. The last thing she said that time
was full of this serenity, full of contented repose:
"I am a good Christian born and baptized, and a good Christian I
Chapter 15 Undaunted by Threat of Burning
TWO WEEKS went by; the second of May was come, the chill
was departed out of the air, the wild flowers were springing in the
glades and glens, the birds were piping in the woods, all nature
was brilliant with sunshine, all spirits were renewed and refreshed,
all hearts glad, the world was alive with hope and cheer, the plain
beyond the Seine stretched away soft and rich and green, the river
was limpid and lovely, the leafy islands were dainty to see, and
flung still daintier reflections of themselves upon the shining
water; and from the tall bluffs above the bridge Rouen was
become again a delight to the eye, the most exquisite and
satisfying picture of a town that nestles under the arch of heaven
When I say that all hearts were glad and hopeful, I mean it in a
general sense. There were exceptions--we who were the friends of
Joan of Arc, also Joan of Arc herself, that poor girl shut up there in
that frowning stretch of mighty walls and towers: brooding in
darkness, so close to the flooding downpour of sunshine yet so
impossibly far away from it; so longing for any little glimpse of it,
yet so implacably denied it by those wolves in the black gowns
who were plotting her death and the blackening of her good name.
Cauchon was ready to go on with his miserable work. He had a
new scheme to try now. He would see what persuasion could
do--argument, eloquence, poured out upon the incorrigible captive
from the mouth of a trained expert. That was his plan. But the
reading of the Twelve Articles to her was not a part of it. No, even
Cauchon was ashamed to lay that monstrosity before her; even he
had a remnant of shame in him, away down deep, a million
fathoms deep, and that remnant asserted itself now and prevailed.
On this fair second of May, then, the black company gathered
itself together in the spacious chamber at the end of the great hall
of the castle--the Bishop of Beauvais on his throne, and sixty-two
minor judges massed before him, with the guards and recorders at
their stations and the orator at his desk.
Then we heard the far clank of chains, and presently Joan entered
with her keepers and took her seat upon her isolated bench. She
was looking well now, and most fair and beautiful after her
fortnight's rest from wordy persecution.
She glanced about and noted the orator. Doubtless she divined the
The orator had written his speech all out, and had it in his hand,
though he held it back of him out of sight. It was so thick that it
resembled a book. He began flowing, but in the midst of a flowery
period his memory failed him and he had to snatch a furtive glance
at his manuscript--which much injured the effect. Again this
happened, and then a third time. The poor man's face was red with
embarrassment, the whole great house was pitying him, which
made the matter worse; then Joan dropped in a remark which
completed the trouble. She said:
"Read your book--and then I will answer you!"
Why, it was almost cruel the way those moldy veterans laughed;
and as for the orator, he looked so flustered and helpless that
almost anybody would have pitied him, and I had difficulty to keep
from doing it myself. Yes, Joan was feeling very well after her
rest, and the native mischief that was in her lay near the surface. It
did not show when she made the remark, but I knew it was close in
there back of the words.
When the orator had gotten back his composure he did a wise
thing; for he followed Joan's advice: he made no more attempts at
sham impromptu oratory, but read his speech straight from his
"book." In the speech he compressed the Twelve Articles into six,
and made these his text.
Every now and then he stopped and asked questions, and Joan
replied. The nature of the Church Militant was explained, and once
more Joan was asked to submit herself to it.
She gave her usual answer.
Then she was asked:
"Do you believe the Church can err?"
"I believe it cannot err; but for those deeds and words of mine
which were done and uttered by command of God, I will answer to
"Will you say that you have no judge upon earth? Is not our Holy
Father the Pope your judge?"
"I will say nothing about it. I have a good Master who is our Lord,
and to Him I will submit all."
Then came these terrible words:
"If you do not submit to the Church you will be pronounced a
heretic by these judges here present and burned at the stake!"
Ah, that would have smitten you or me dead with fright, but it only
roused the lion heart of Joan of Arc, and in her answer rang that
martial note which had used to stir her soldiers like a bugle-call:
"I will not say otherwise than I have said already; and if I saw the
fire before me I would say it again!"
It was uplifting to hear her battle-voice once more and see the
battle-light burn in her eye. Many there were stirred; every man
that was a man was stirred, whether friend or foe; and Manchon
risked his life again, good soul, for he wrote in the margin of the
record in good plain letters these brave words: "Superba
responsio!" and there they have remained these sixty years, and
there you may read them to this day.
"Superba responsio!" Yes, it was just that. For this "superb answer"
came from the lips of a girl of nineteen with death and hell staring
her in the face.
Of course, the matter of the male attire was gone over again; and
as usual at wearisome length; also, as usual, the customary bribe
was offered: if she would discard that dress voluntarily they would
let her hear mass. But she answered as she had often answered
"I will go in a woman's robe to all services of the Church if I may
be permitted, but I will resume the other dress when I return to my
They set several traps for her in a tentative form; that is to say,
they placed suppositious propositions before her and cunningly
tried to commit her to one end of the propositions without
committing themselves to the other. But she always saw the game
and spoiled it. The trap was in this form:
"Would you be willing to do so and so if we should give you
Her answer was always in this form or to this effect:
"When you give me leave, then you will know."
Yes, Joan was at her best that second of May. She had all her wits
about her, and they could not catch her anywhere. It was a long,
long session, and all the old ground was fought over again, foot by
foot, and the orator-expert worked all his persuasions, all his
eloquence; but the result was the familiar one--a drawn battle, the
sixty-two retiring upon their base, the solitary enemy holding her
original position within her original lines.
Chapter 16 Joan Stands Defiant Before the Rack
THE BRILLIANT weather, the heavenly weather, the bewitching
weather made everybody's heart to sing, as I have told you; yes,
Rouen was feeling light-hearted and gay, and most willing and
ready to break out and laugh upon the least occasion; and so when
the news went around that the young girl in the tower had scored
another defeat against Bishop Cauchon there was abundant
laughter--abundant laughter among the citizens of both parties, for
they all hated the Bishop. It is true, the English-hearted majority of
the people wanted Joan burned, but that did not keep them from
laughing at the man they hated. It would have been perilous for
anybody to laugh at the English chiefs or at the majority of
Cauchon's assistant judges, but to laugh at Cauchon or D'Estivet
and Loyseleur was safe--nobody would report it.
The difference between Cauchon and cochon  was not
noticeable in speech, and so there was plenty of opportunity for
puns; the opportunities were not thrown away.
Some of the jokes got well worn in the course of two or three
months, from repeated use; for every time Cauchon started a new
trial the folk said "The sow has littered  again"; and every time
the trial failed they said it over again, with its other meaning, "The
hog has made a mess of it."
And so, on the third of May, NoČl and I, drifting about the town,
heard many a wide-mouthed lout let go his joke and his laugh, and
then move tot he next group, proud of his wit and happy, to work it
"'Od's blood, the sow has littered five times, and five times has
made a mess of it!"
And now and then one was bold enough to say--but he said it
"Sixty-three and the might of England against a girl, and she
camps on the field five times!"
Cauchon lived in the great palace of the Archbishop, and it was
guarded by English soldiery; but no matter, there was never a dark
night but the walls showed next morning that the rude joker had
been there with his paint and brush. Yes, he had been thee, and had
smeared the sacred walls with pictures of hogs in all attitudes
except flattering ones; hogs clothed in a Bishop's vestments and
wearing a Bishop's miter irreverently cocked on the side of their
Cauchon raged and cursed over his defeats and his impotence
during seven says; then he conceived a new scheme. You shall see
what it was; for you have not cruel hearts, and you would never
On the ninth of May there was a summons, and Manchon and I got
out materials together and started. But this time we were to go to
one of the other towers--not the one which was Joan's prison. It
was round and grim and massive, and built of the plainest and
thickest and solidest masonry--a dismal and forbidding structure.
 We entered the circular room on the ground floor, and I saw
what turned me sick--the instruments of torture and the
executioners standing ready! Here you have the black heart of
Cauchon at the blackest, here you have the proof that in his nature
there was no such thing as pity. One wonders if he ever knew his
mother or ever had a sister.
Cauchon was there, and the Vice-Inquisitor and the Abbot of St.
Corneille; also six others, among them that false Loyseleur. The
guards were in their places, the rack was there, and by it stood the
executioner and his aids in their crimson hose and doublets, meet
color for their bloody trade. The picture of Joan rose before me
stretched upon the rack, her feet tied to one end of it, her wrists to
the other, and those red giants turning the windlass and pulling her
limbs out of their sockets. It seemed to me that I could hear the
bones snap and the flesh tear apart, and I did not see how that body
of anointed servants of the merciful Jesus could sit there and look
so placid and indifferent.
After a little, Joan arrived and was brought in. She saw the rack,
she saw the attendants, and the same picture which I had been
seeing must have risen in her mind; but do you think she quailed,
do you think she shuddered? No, there was no sign of that sort. She
straightened herself up, and there was a slight curl of scorn about
her lip; but as for fear, she showed not a vestige of it.
This was a memorable session, but it was the shortest one of all
the list. When Joan had taken her seat a rāsumā of her "crimes"
was read to her. Then Cauchon made a solemn speech. It in he said
that in the course of her several trials Joan had refused to answer
some of the questions and had answered others with lies, but that
now he was going to have the truth out of her, and the whole of it.
Her manner was full of confidence this time; he was sure he had
found a way at last to break this child's stubborn spirit and make
her beg and cry. He would score a victory this time and stop the
mouths of the jokers of Rouen. You see, he was only just a man
after all, and couldn't stand ridicule any better than other people.
He talked high, and his splotchy face lighted itself up with all the
shifting tints and signs of evil pleasure and promised
triumph--purple, yellow, red, green--they were all there, with
sometimes the dull and spongy blue of a drowned man, the
uncanniest of them all. And finally he burst out in a great passion
"There is the rack, and there are its ministers! You will reveal all
now or be put to the torture.
Then she made that great answer which will live forever; made it
without fuss or bravado, and yet how fine and noble was the sound
"I will tell you nothing more than I have told you; no, not even if
you tear the limbs from my body. And even if in my pain I did say
something otherwise, I would always say afterward that it was the
torture that spoke and not I."
There was no crushing that spirit. You should have seen Cauchon.
Defeated again, and he had not dreamed of such a thing. I heard it
said the next day, around the town, that he had a full confession all
written out, in his pocket and all ready for Joan to sign. I do not
know that that was true, but it probably was, for her mark signed at
the bottom of a confession would be the kind of evidence (for
effect with the public) which Cauchon and his people were
particularly value, you know.
No, there was no crushing that spirit, and no beclouding that clear
mind. Consider the depth, the wisdom of that answer, coming from
an ignorant girl. Why, there were not six men in the world who
had ever reflected that words forced out of a person by horrible
tortures were not necessarily words of verity and truth, yet this
unlettered peasant-girl put her finger upon that flaw with an
unerring instinct. I had always supposed that torture brought out
the truth--everybody supposed it; and when Joan came out with
those simple common-sense words they seemed to flood the place
with light. It was like a lightning-flash at midnight which suddenly
reveals a fair valley sprinkled over with silver streams and
gleaming villages and farmsteads where was only an impenetrable
world of darkness before. Manchon stole a sidewise look at me,
and his face was full of surprise; and there was the like to be seen
in other faces there. Consider--they were old, and deeply cultured,
yet here was a village maid able to teach them something which
they had not known before. I heard one of them mutter:
"Verily it is a wonderful creature. She has laid her hand upon an
accepted truth that is as old as the world, and it has crumbled to
dust and rubbish under her touch. Now whence got she that
The judges laid their heads together and began to talk now. It was
plain, from chance words which one caught now and then, that
Cauchon and Loyseleur were insisting upon the application of the
torture, and that most of the others were urgently objecting.
Finally Cauchon broke out with a good deal of asperity in his voice
and ordered Joan back to her dungeon. That was a happy surprise
for me. I was not expecting that the Bishop would yield.
When Manchon came home that night he said he had found out
why the torture was not applied.
There were two reasons. One was, a fear that Joan might die under
the torture, which would not suit the English at all; the other was,
that the torture would effect nothing if Joan was going to take back
everything she said under its pains; and as to putting her mark to a
confession, it was believed that not even the rack would ever make
her do that.
So all Rouen laughed again, and kept it up for three days, saying:
"The sow has littered six times, and made six messes of it."
And the palace walls got a new decoration--a mitered hog
carryinga discarded rack home on its shoulder, and Loyseleur
weeping in its wake. Many rewards were offered for the capture of
these painters, but nobody applied. Even the English guard feigned
blindness and would not see the artists at work.
The Bishop's anger was very high now. He could not reconcile
himself to the idea of giving up the torture. It was the pleasantest
idea he had invented yet, and he would not cast it by. So he called
in some of his satellites on the twelfth, and urged the torture again.
But it was a failure.
With some, Joan's speech had wrought an effect; others feared she
might die under torture; others did not believe that any amount of
suffering could make her put her mark to a lying confession. There
were fourteen men present, including the Bishop. Eleven of them
voted dead against the torture, and stood their ground in spite of
Cauchon's abuse. Two voted with the Bishop and insisted upon the
torture. These two were Loyseleur and the orator--the man whom
Joan had bidden to "read his book"--Thomas de Courcelles, the
renowned pleader and master of eloquence.
Age has taught me charity of speech; but it fails me when I think
of those three names--Cauchon, Courcelles, Loyseleur.
 Hog, pig.
 Cochonner, to litter, to farrow; also, "to make a mess of"!
 The lower half of it remains to-day just as it was then; the
upper half is of a later date. -- TRANSLATOR.
Chapter 17 Supreme in Direst Peril
ANOTHER ten days' wait. The great theologians of that treasury of
all valuable knowledge and all wisdom, the University of Paris,
were still weighing and considering and discussing the Twelve
I had had but little to do these ten days, so I spent them mainly in
walks about the town with NoČl. But there was no pleasure in
them, our spirits being so burdened with cares, and the outlook for
Joan growing steadily darker and darker all the time. And then we
naturally contrasted our circumstances with hers: this freedom and
sunshine, with her darkness and chains; our comradeship, with her
lonely estate; our alleviations of one sort and another, with her
destitution in all. She was used to liberty, but now she had none;
she was an out-of-door creature by nature and habit, but now she
was shut up day and night in a steel cage like an animal; she was
used to the light, but now she was always in a gloom where all
objects about her were dim and spectral; she was used to the
thousand various sounds which are the cheer and music of a busy
life, but now she heard only the monotonous footfall of the sentry
pacing his watch; she had been fond of talking with her mates, but
now there was no one to talk to; she had had an easy laugh, but it
was gone dumb now; she had been born for comradeship, and
blithe and busy work, and all manner of joyous activities, but here
were only dreariness, and leaden hours, and weary inaction, and
brooding stillness, and thoughts that travel by day and night and
night and day round and round in the same circle, and wear the
brain and break the heart with weariness. It was death in life; yes,
death in life, that is what it must have been. And there was another
hard thing about it all. A young girl in trouble needs the soothing
solace and support and sympathy of persons of her own sex, and
the delicate offices and gentle ministries which only these can
furnish; yet in all these months of gloomy captivity in her dungeon
Joan never saw the face of a girl or a woman. Think how her heart
would have leaped to see such a face.
Consider. If you would realize how great Joan of Arc was,
remember that it was out of such a place and such circumstances
that she came week after week and month after month and
confronted the master intellects of France single-handed, and
baffled their cunningest schemes, defeated their ablest plans,
detected and avoided their secretest traps and pitfalls, broke their
lines, repelled their assaults, and camped on the field after every
engagement; steadfast always, true to her faith and her ideals;
defying torture, defying the stake, and answering threats of eternal
death and the pains of hell with a simple "Let come what may,
here I take my stand and will abide."
Yes, if you would realize how great was the soul, how profound
the wisdom, and how luminous the intellect of Joan of Arc, you
must study her there, where she fought out that long fight all
alone--and not merely against the subtlest brains and deepest
learning of France, but against the ignoble deceits, the meanest
treacheries, and the hardest hearts to be found in any land, pagan
She was great in battle--we all know that; great in foresight; great
in loyalty and patriotism; great in persuading discontented chiefs
and reconciling conflicting interests and passions; great in the
ability to discover merit and genius wherever it lay hidden; great in
picturesque and eloquent speech; supremely great in the gift of
firing the hearts of hopeless men and noble enthusiasms, the gift of
turning hares into heroes, slaves and skulkers into battalions that
march to death with songs on their lips. But all these are exalting
activities; they keep hand and heart and brain keyed up to their
work; there is the joy of achievement, the inspiration of stir and
movement, the applause which hails success; the soul is
overflowing with life and energy, the faculties are at white heat;
weariness, despondency, inertia--these do not exist.
Yes, Joan of Arc was great always, great everywhere, but she was
greatest in the Rouen trials.
There she rose above the limitations and infirmities of our human
nature, and accomplished under blighting and unnerving and
hopeless conditions all that her splendid equipment of moral and
intellectual forces could have accomplished if they had been
supplemented by the mighty helps of hope and cheer and light, the
presence of friendly faces, and a fair and equal fight, with the great
world looking on and wondering.
Chapter 18 Condemned Yet Unafraid
TOWARD THE END of the ten-day interval the University of
Paris rendered its decision concerning the Twelve Articles. By this
finding, Joan was guilty upon all the counts: she must renounce her
errors and make satisfaction, or be abandoned to the secular arm
The University's mind was probably already made up before the
Articles were laid before it; yet it took it from the fifth to the
eighteenth to produce its verdict. I think the delay may have been
caused by temporary difficulties concerning two points:
1. As to who the fiends were who were represented in Joan's
Voices; 2. As to whether her saints spoke French only.
You understand, the University decided emphatically that it was
fiends who spoke in those Voices; it would need to prove that, and
it did. It found out who those fiends were, and named them in the
verdict: Belial, Satan, and Behemoth. This has always seemed a
doubtful thing to me, and not entitled to much credit. I think so for
this reason: if the University had actually known it was those three,
it would for very consistency's sake have told how it knew it, and
not stopped with the mere assertion, since it had made joan explain
how she knew they were not fiends. Does not that seem
reasonable? To my mind the University's position was weak, and I
will tell you why. It had claimed that Joan's angels were devils in
disguise, and we all know that devils do disguise themselves as
angels; up to that point the University's position was strong; but
you see yourself that it eats its own argument when it turns around
and pretends that it can tell who such apparitions are, while
denying the like ability to a person with as good a head on her
shoulders as the best one the University could produce.
The doctors of the University had to see those creatures in order to
know; and if Joan was deceived, it is argument that they in their
turn could also be deceived, for their insight and judgment were
surely not clearer than hers.
As to the other point which I have thought may have proved a
difficulty and cost the University delay, I will touch but a moment
upon that, and pass on. The University decided that it was
blasphemy for Joan to say that her saints spoke French and not
English, and were on the French side in political sympathies. I
think that the thing which troubled the doctors of theology was
this: they had decided that the three Voices were Satan and two
other devils; but they had also decided that these Voices were not
on the French side--thereby tacitly asserting that they were on the
English side; and if on the English side, then they must be angels
and not devils. Otherwise, the situation was embarrassing. You
see, the University being the wisest and deepest and most erudite
body in the world, it would like to be logical if it could, for the
sake of its reputation; therefore it would study and study, days and
days, trying to find some good common-sense reason for proving
the Voices to be devils in Article No. 1 and proving them to be
angels in Article No. 10. However, they had to give it up. They
found no way out; and so, to this day, the University's verdict
remains just so--devils in No. 1, angels in No. 10; and no way to
reconcile the discrepancy.
The envoys brought the verdict to Rouen, and with it a letter for
Cauchon which was full of fervid praise. The University
complimented him on his zeal in hunting down this woman
"whose venom had infected the faithful of the whole West," and as
recompense it as good as promised him "a crown of imperishable
glory in heaven." Only that!--a crown in heaven; a promissory note
and no indorser; always something away off yonder; not a word
about the Archbishopric of Rouen, which was the thing Cauchon
was destroying his soul for. A crown in heaven; it must have
sounded like a sarcasm to him, after all his hard work. What
should he do in heaven? he did not know anybody there.
On the nineteenth of May a court of fifty judges sat in the
archiepiscopal palace to discuss Joan's fate. A few wanted her
delivered over to the secular arm at once for punishment, but the
rest insisted that she be once more "charitably admonished" first.
So the same court met in the castle on the twenty-third, and Joan
was brought to the bar. Pierre Maurice, a canon of Rouen, made a
speech to Joan in which he admonished her to save her life and her
soul by renouncing her errors and surrendering to the Church. He
finished with a stern threat: if she remained obstinate the
damnation of her soul was certain, the destruction of her body
probable. But Joan was immovable. She said:
"If I were under sentence, and saw the fire before me, and the
executioner ready to light it--more, if I were in the fire itself, I
would say none but the things which I have said in these trials; and
I would abide by them till I died."
A deep silence followed now, which endured some moments. It lay
upon me like a weight. I knew it for an omen. Then Cauchon,
grave and solemn, turned to Pierre Maurice:
"Have you anything further to say?"
The priest bowed low, and said:
"Nothing, my lord."
"Prisoner at the bar, have you anything further to say?"
"Then the debate is closed. To-morrow, sentence will be
pronounced. Remove the prisoner."
She seemed to go from the place erect and noble. But I do not
know; my sight was dim with tears.
To-morrow--twenty-fourth of May! Exactly a year since I saw her
go speeding across the plain at the head of her troops, her silver
helmet shining, her silvery cape fluttering in the wind, her white
plumes flowing, her sword held aloft; saw her charge the
Burgundian camp three times, and carry it; saw her wheel to the
right and spur for the duke's reserves; saws her fling herself against
it in the last assault she was ever to make. And now that fatal day
was come again--and see what it was bringing!
Chapter 19 Our Last Hopes of Rescue Fail
JOAN HAD been adjudged guilty of heresy, sorcery, and all the
other terrible crimes set forth in the Twelve Articles, and her life
was in Cauchon's hands at last. He could send her to the stake at
once. His work was finished now, you think? He was satisfied?
Not at all. What would his Archbishopric be worth if the people
should get the idea into their heads that this faction of interested
priests, slaving under the English lash, had wrongly condemned
and burned Joan of Arc, Deliverer of France? That would be to
make of her a holy martyr. Then her spirit would rise from her
body's ashes, a thousandfold reinforced, and sweep the English
domination into the sea, and Cauchon along with it. No, the
victory was not complete yet. Joan's guilt must be established by
evidence which would satisfy the people. Where was that evidence
to be found? There was only one person in the world who could
furnish it--Joan of Arc herself. She must condemn herself, and in
public--at least she must seem to do it.
But how was this to be managed? Weeks had been spent already in
trying to get her to surrender--time wholly wasted; what was to
persuade her now? Torture had been threatened, the fire had been
threatened; what was left? Illness, deadly fatigue, and the sight of
the fire, the presence of the fire! That was left.
Now that was a shrewd thought. She was but a girl after all, and,
under illness and exhaustion, subject to a girl's weaknesses.
Yes, it was shrewdly thought. She had tacitly said herself that
under the bitter pains of the rack they would be able to extort a
false confession from her. It was a hint worth remembering, and it
She had furnished another hint at the same time: that as soon as the
pains were gone, she would retract the confession. That hint was
She had herself taught them what to do, you see. First, they must
wear out her strength, then frighten her with the fire. Second,
while the fright was on her, she must be made to sign a paper.
But she would demand a reading of the paper. They could not
venture to refuse this, with the public there to hear. Suppose that
during the reading her courage should return?--she would refuse to
sign then. Very well, even that difficulty could be got over. They
could read a short paper of no importance, then slip a long and
deadly one into its place and trick her into signing that.
Yet there was still one other difficulty. If they made her seem to
abjure, that would free her from the death-penalty. They could
keep her in a prison of the Church, but they could not kill her.
That would not answer; for only her death would content the
English. Alive she was a terror, in a prison or out of it. She had
escaped from two prisons already.
But even that difficulty could be managed. Cauchon would make
promises to her; in return she would promise to leave off the male
dress. He would violate his promises, and that would so situate her
that she would not be able to keep hers. Her lapse would condemn
her to the stake, and the stake would be ready.
These were the several moves; there was nothing to do but to make
them, each in its order, and the game was won. One might almost
name the day that the betrayed girl, the most innocent creature in
France and the noblest, would go to her pitiful death.
The world knows now that Cauchon's plan was as I have sketched
it to you, but the world did not know it at that time. There are
sufficient indications that Warwick and all the other English chiefs
except the highest one--the Cardinal of Winchester--were not let
into the secret, also, that only Loyseleur and Beaupere, on the
French side, knew the scheme. Sometimes I have doubted if even
Loyseleur and Beaupere knew the whole of it at first. However, if
any did, it was these two.
It is usual to let the condemned pass their last night of life in
peace, but this grace was denied to poor Joan, if one may credit the
rumors of the time. Loyseleur was smuggled into her presence, and
in the character of priest, friend, and secret partisan of France and
hater of England, he spent some hours in beseeching her to do "the
only right an righteous thing"--submit to the Church, as a good
Christian should; and that then she would straightway get out of
the clutches of the dreaded English and be transferred to the
Church's prison, where she would be honorably used and have
women about her for jailers. He knew where to touch her. He knew
how odious to her was the presence of her rough and profane
English guards; he knew that her Voices had vaguely promised
something which she interpreted to be escape, rescue, release of
some sort, and the chance to burst upon France once more and
victoriously complete the great work which she had been
commissioned of Heaven to do. Also there was that other thing: if
her failing body could be further weakened by loss of rest and
sleep now, her tired mind would be dazed and drowsy on the
morrow, and in ill condition to stand out against persuasions,
threats, and the sight of the stake, and also be purblind to traps and
snares which it would be swift to detect when in its normal estate.
I do not need to tell you that there was no rest for me that night.
Nor for NoČl. We went to the main gate of the city before nightfall,
with a hope in our minds, based upon that vague prophecy of
Joan's Voices which seemed to promise a rescue by force at the
last moment. The immense news had flown swiftly far and wide
that at last Joan of Arc was condemned, and would be sentenced
and burned alive on the morrow; and so crowds of people were
flowing in at the gate, and other crowds were being refused
admission by the soldiery; these being people who brought
doubtful passes or none at all. We scanned these crowds eagerly,
but thee was nothing about them to indicate that they were our old
war-comrades in disguise, and certainly there were no familiar
faces among them. And so, when the gate was closed at last, we
turned away grieved, and more disappointed than we cared to
admit, either in speech or thought.
The streets were surging tides of excited men. It was difficult to
make one's way. Toward midnight our aimless tramp brought us to
the neighborhood of the beautiful church of St. Ouen, and there all
was bustle and work. The square was a wilderness of torches and
people; and through a guarded passage dividing the pack, laborers
were carrying planks and timbers and disappearing with them
through the gate of the churchyard. We asked what was going
forward; the answer was:
"Scaffolds and the stake. Don't you know that the French witch is
to be burned in the morning?"
Then we went away. We had no heart for that place.
At dawn we were at the city gate again; this time with a hope
which our wearied bodies and fevered minds magnified into a
large probability. We had heard a report that the Abbot of
Jumiäges with all his monks was coming to witness the burning.
Our desire, abetted by our imagination, turned those nine hundred
monks into Joan's old campaigners, and their Abbot into La Hire or
the Bastard or D'Alenáon; and we watched them file in,
unchallenged, the multitude respectfully dividing and uncovering
while they passed, with our hearts in our throats and our eyes
swimming with tears of joy and pride and exultation; and we tried
to catch glimpses of the faces under the cowls, and were prepared
to give signal to any recognized face that we were Joan's men and
ready and eager to kill and be killed in the good cause. How
foolish we were!
But we were young, you know, and youth hopeth all things,
believeth all things.
Chapter 20 The Betrayal
IN THE MORNING I was at my official post. It was on a platform
raised the height of a man, in the churchyard, under the eaves of
St. Ouen. On this same platform was a crowd of priests and
important citizens, and several lawyers. Abreast it, with a small
space between, was another and larger platform, handsomely
canopied against sun and rain, and richly carpeted; also it was
furnished with comfortable chairs, and with two which were more
sumptuous than the others, and raised above the general level. One
of these two was occupied by a prince of the royal blood of
England, his Eminence the Cardinal of Winchester; the other by
Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. In the rest of the chairs sat three
bishops, the Vice-Inquisitor, eight abbots, and the sixty-two friars
and lawyers who had sat as Joan's judges in her late trials.
Twenty steps in front of the platforms was another--a table-topped
pyramid of stone, built up in retreating courses, thus forming steps.
Out of this rose that grisly thing, the stake; about the stake bundles
of fagots and firewood were piled. On the ground at the base of the
pyramid stood three crimson figures, the executioner and his
assistants. At their feet lay what had been a goodly heap of brands,
but was now a smokeless nest of ruddy coals; a foot or two from
this was a supplemental supply of wood and fagots compacted into
a pile shoulder-high and containing as much as six packhorse
loads. Think of that. We seem so delicately made, so destructible,
so insubstantial; yet it is easier to reduce a granite statue to ashes
than it is to do that with a man's body.
The sight of the stake sent physical pains tingling down the nerves
of my body; and yet, turn as I would, my eyes would keep coming
back t it, such fascination has the gruesome and the terrible for us.
The space occupied by the platforms and the stake was kept open
by a wall of English soldiery, standing elbow to elbow, erect and
stalwart figures, fine and sightly in their polished steel; while from
behind them on every hand str4etched far away a level plain of
human heads; and there was no window and no housetop within
our view, howsoever distant, but was black with patches and
masses of people.
But there was no noise, no stir; it was as if the world was dead.
The impressiveness of this silence and solemnity was deepened by
a leaden twilight, for the sky was hidden by a pall of low-hanging
storm-clouds; and above the remote horizon faint winkings of
heat-lightning played, and now and then one caught the dull
mutterings and complainings of distant thunder.
At last the stillness was broken. From beyond the square rose an
indistinct sound, but familiar--court, crisp phrases of command;
next I saw the plain of heads dividing, and the steady swing of a
marching host was glimpsed between. My heart leaped for a
moment. Was it La Hire and his hellions? No--that was not their
gait. No, it was the prisoner and her escort; it was Joan of Arc,
under guard, that was coming; my spirits sank as low as they had
been before. Weak as she was they made her walk; they would
increase her weakness all they could. The distance was not
great--it was but a few hundred yards--but short as it was it was a
heavy tax upon one who had been lying chained in one spot for
months, and whose feet had lost their powers from inaction. Yes,
and for a year Joan had known only the cool damps of a dungeon,
and now she was dragging herself through this sultry summer heat,
this airless and suffocating void. As she entered the gate, drooping
with exhaustion, there was that creature Loyseleur at her side with
his head bent to her ear. We knew afterward that he had been with
her again this morning in the prison wearying her with his
persuasions and enticing her with false promises, and that he was
now still at the same work at the gate, imploring her to yield
everything that would be required of her, and assuring her that if
she would do this all would be well with her: she would be rid of
the dreaded English and find safety in the powerful shelter and
protection of the Church. A miserable man, a stony-hearted man!
The moment Joan was seated on the platform she closed her eyes
and allowed her chin to fall; and so sat, with her hands nestling in
her lap, indifferent to everything, caring for nothing but rest. And
she was so white again--white as alabaster.
How the faces of that packed mass of humanity lighted up with
interest, and with what intensity all eyes gazed upon this fragile
girl! And how natural it was; for these people realized that at last
they were looking upon that person whom they had so long
hungered to see; a person whose name and fame filled all Europe,
and made all other names and all other renowns insignificant by
comparions; Joan of Arc, the wonder of the time, and destined to
be the wonder of all times!
And I could read as by print, in their marveling countenances, the
words that were drifting through their minds: "Can it be true, is it
believable, that it is this little creature, this girl, this child with the
good face, the sweet face, the beautiful face, the dear and bonny
face, that has carried fortresses by storm, charged at the head of
victorious armies, blown the might of England out of her path with
a breath, and fought a long campaign, solitary and alone, against
the massed brains and learning of France--and had won it if the
fight had been fair!"
Evidently Cauchon had grown afraid of Manchon because of his
pretty apparent leanings toward Joan, for another recorder was in
the chief place here, which left my master and me nothing to do
but sit idle and look on.
Well, I suppose that everything had been done which could be
thought of to tire Joan's body and mind, but it was a mistake; one
more device had been invented. This was to preach a long sermon
to her in that oppressive heat.
When the preacher began, she cast up one distressed and
disappointed look, then dropped her head again. This preacher was
Guillaume Erard, an oratorical celebrity. He got his text from the
Twelve Lies. He emptied upon Joan al the calumnies in detail that
had been bottled up in that mass of venom, and called her all the
brutal names that the Twelve were labeled with, working himself
into a whirlwind of fury as he went on; but his labors were wasted,
she seemed lost in dreams, she made no sign, she did not seem to
hear. At last he launched this apostrophe:
"O France, how hast thou been abused! Thou hast always been the
home of Christianity; but now, Charles, who calls himself thy King
and governor, indorses, like the heretic and schismatic that he is,
the words and deeds of a worthless and infamous woman!" Joan
raised her head, and her eyes began to burn and flash. The
preacher turned to her: "It is to you, Joan, that I speak, and I tell
you that your King is schismatic and a heretic!"
Ah, he might abuse her to his heart's content; she could endure
that; but to her dying moment she could never hear in patience a
word against that ingrate, that treacherous dog our King, whose
proper place was here, at this moment, sword in hand, routing
these reptiles and saving this most noble servant that ever King
had in this world--and he would have been there if he had not been
what I have called him. Joan's loyal soul was outraged, and she
turned upon the preacher and flung out a few words with a spirit
which the crowd recognized as being in accordance with the Joan
of Arc traditions:
"By my faith, sir! I make bold to say and swear, on pain of death,
that he is the most noble Christian of all Christians, and the best
lover of the faith and the Church!"
There was an explosion of applause from the crowd--which
angered the preacher, for he had been aching long to hear an
expression like this, and now that it was come at last it had fallen
to the wrong person: he had done all the work; the other had
carried off all the spoil. He stamped his foot and shouted to the
"Make her shut up!"
That made the crowd laugh.
A mob has small respect for a grown man who has to call on a
sheriff to protect him from a sick girl.
Joan had damaged the preacher's cause more with one sentence
than he had helped it with a hundred; so he was much put out, and
had trouble to get a good start again. But he needn't have bothered;
thee was no occasion. It was mainly an English-feeling mob. It had
but obeyed a law of our nature--an irresistible law--to enjoy and
applaud a spirited and promptly delivered retort, no matter who
makes it. The mob was with the preacher; it had been beguiled for
a moment, but only that; it would soon return. It was there to see
this girl burnt; so that it got that satisfaction--without too much
delay--it would be content.
Presently the preacher formally summoned Joan to submit to the
Church. He made the demand with confidence, for he had gotten
the idea from Loyseleur and Beaupere that she was worn to the
bone, exhausted, and would not be able to put forth any more
resistance; and, indeed, to look at her it seemed that they must be
right. Nevertheless, she made one more effort to hold her ground,
and said, wearily:
"As to that matter, I have answered my judges before. I have told
them to report all that I have said and done to our Holy Father the
Pope--to whom, and to God first, I appeal."
Again, out of her native wisdom, she had brought those words of
tremendous import, but was ignorant of their value. But they could
have availed her nothing in any case, now, with the stake there and
these thousands of enemies about her. Yet they made every
churchman there blench, and the preacher changed the subject
with all haste. Well might those criminals blench, for Joan's appeal
of her case to the Pope stripped Cauchon at once of jurisdiction
over it, and annulled all that he and his judges had already done in
the matter and all that they should do in it henceforth.
Joan went on presently to reiterate, after some further talk, that she
had acted by command of God in her deeds and utterances; then,
when an attempt was made to implicate the King, and friends of
hers and his, she stopped that. She said:
"I charge my deeds and words upon no one, neither upon my King
nor any other. If there is any fault in them, I am responsible and no
She was asked if she would not recant those of her words and
deeds which had been pronounced evil by her judges. Here answer
made confusion and damage again:
"I submit them to God and the Pope."
The Pope once more! It was very embarrassing. Here was a person
who was asked to submit her case to the Church, and who frankly
consents--offers to submit it to the very head of it. What more
could any one require? How was one to answer such a formidably
unanswerable answer as that?
The worried judges put their heads together and whispered and
planned and discussed. Then they brought forth this sufficiently
shambling conclusion--but it was the best they could do, in so
close a place: they said the Pope was so far away; and it was not
necessary to go to him anyway, because the present judges had
sufficient power and authority to deal with the present case, and
were in effect "the Church" to that extent. At another time they
could have smiled at this conceit, but not now; they were not
comfortable enough now.
The mob was getting impatient. It was beginning to put on a
threatening aspect; it was tired of standing, tired of the scorching
heat; and the thunder was coming nearer, the lightning was
flashing brighter. It was necessary to hurry this matter to a close.
Erard showed Joan a written form, which had been prepared and
made all ready beforehand, and asked her to abjure.
"Abjure? What is abjure?"
She did not know the word. It was explained to her by Massieu.
She tried to understand, but she was breaking, under exhaustion,
and she could not gather the meaning. It was all a jumble and
confusion of strange words. In her despair she sent out this
"I appeal to the Church universal whether I ought to abjure or not!"
"You shall abjure instantly, or instantly be burnt!"
She glanced up, at those awful words, and for the first time she
saw the stake and the mass of red coals--redder and angrier than
ever now under the constantly deepening storm-gloom. She gasped
and staggered up out of her seat muttering and mumbling
incoherently, and gazed vacantly upon the people and the scene
about her like one who is dazed, or thinks he dreams, and does not
know where he is.
The priests crowded about her imploring her to sign the paper,
there were many voices beseeching and urging her at once, there
was great turmoil and shouting and excitement among the
populace and everywhere.
"Sign! sign!" from the priests; "sign--sign and be saved!" And
Loyseleur was urging at her ear, "Do as I told you--do not destroy
Joan said plaintively to these people:
"Ah, you do not do well to seduce me."
The judges joined their voices to the others. Yes, even the iron in
their hearts melted, and they said:
"O Joan, we pity you so! Take back what you have said, or we
must deliver you up to punishment."
And now there was another voice--it was from the other
platform--pealing solemnly above the din: Cauchon's--reading the
sentence of death!
Joan's strength was all spent. She stood looking about her in a
bewildered way a moment, then slowly she sank to her knees, and
bowed her head and said:
They gave her no time to reconsider--they knew the peril of that.
The moment the words were out of her mouth Massieu was
reading to her the abjuration, and she was repeating the words after
him mechanically, unconsciously--and smiling; for her wandering
mind was far away in some happier world.
Then this short paper of six lines was slipped aside and a long one
of many pages was smuggled into its place, and she, noting
nothing, put her mark on it, saying, in pathetic apology, that she
did not know how to write. But a secretary of the King of England
was there to take care of that defect; he guided her hand with his
own, and wrote her name--Jehanne.
The great crime was accomplished. She had signed--what? She did
not know--but the others knew. She had signed a paper confessing
herself a sorceress, a dealer with devils, a liar, a blasphermer of
God and His angels, a lover of blood, a promoter of sedition, cruel,
wicked, commissioned of Satan; and this signature of hers bound
her to resume the dress of a woman.
There were other promises, but that one would answer, without the
others; and that one could be made to destroy her.
Loyseleur pressed forward and praised her for having done "such a
good day's work."
But she was still dreamy, she hardly heard.
Then Cauchon pronounced the words which dissolved the
excommunication and and restored her to her beloved Church,
with all the dear privileges of worship. Ah, she heard that! You
could see it in the deep gratitude that rose in her face and
transfigured it with joy.
But how transient was that happiness! For Cauchon, without a
tremor of pity in his voice, added these crushing words:
"And that she may repent of her crimes and repeat them no more,
she is sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, with the bread of
affliction and the water of anguish!"
Perpetual imprisonment! She had never dreamed of that--such a
thing had never been hinted to her by Loyseleur or by any other.
Loyseleur had distinctly said and promised that "all would be well
with her." And the very last words spoken to her by Erard, on that
very platform, when he was urging her to abjure, was a straight,
unqualified promised--that if she would do it she should go free
She stood stunned and speechless a moment; then she
remembered, with such solacement as the thought could furnish,
that by another clear promise made by Cauchon himself--she
would at least be the Church's captive, and have women about her
in place of a brutal foreign soldiery. So she turned to the body of
priests and said, with a sad resignation:
"Now, you men of the Church, take me to your prison, and leave
me no longer in the hands of the English"; and she gathered up her
chains and prepared to move.
But alas! now came these shameful words from Cauchon--and with
them a mocking laugh:
"Take her to the prison whence she came!"
Poor abused girl! She stood dumb, smitten, paralyzed. It was
pitiful to see. She had been beguiled, lied to, betrayed; she saw it
The rumbling of a drum broke upon the stillness, and for just one
moment she thought of the glorious deliverance promised by her
Voices--I read it in the rapture that lit her face; then she saw what
it was--her prison escort--and that light faded, never to revive
again. And now her head began a piteous rocking motion, swaying
slowly, this way and that, as is the way when one is suffering
unwordable pain, or when one's heart is broken; then drearily she
went from us, with her face in her hands, and sobbing bitterly.
Chapter 21 Respited Only for Torture
THERE IS no certainty that any one in all Rouen was in the secret
of the deep game which Cauchon was playing except the Cardinal
of Winchester. Then you can imagine the astonishment and
stupefaction of that vast mob gathered there and those crowds of
churchmen assembled on the two platforms, when they saw Joan
of Arc moving away, alive and whole--slipping out of their grip at
last, after all this tedious waiting, all this tantalizing expectancy.
Nobody was able to stir or speak for a while, so paralyzing was the
universal astonishment, so unbelievable the fact that the stake was
actually standing there unoccupied and its prey gone.
Then suddenly everybody broke into a fury of rage; maledictions
and charges of treachery began to fly freely; yes, and even stones:
a stone came near killing the Cardinal of Winchester--it just
missed his head. But the man who threw it was not to blame, for
he was excited, and a person who is excited never can throw
The tumult was very great, indeed, for a while. In the midst of it a
chaplain of the Cardinal even forgot the proprieties so far as to
oppobriously assail the august Bishop of Beauvais himself,
shaking his fist in his face and shouting:
"By God, you are a traitor!"
"You lie!" responded the Bishop.
He a traitor! Oh, far from it; he certainly was the last Frenchman
that any Briton had a right to bring that charge against.
The Early of Warwick lost his temper, too. He was a doughty
soldier, but when it came to the intellectuals--when it came to
delicate chicane, and scheming, and trickery--he couldn't see any
further through a millstone than another. So he burst out in his
frank warrior fashion, and swore that the King of England was
being treacherously used, and that Joan of Arc was going to be
allowed to cheat the stake. But they whispered comfort into his
"Give yourself no uneasiness, my lord; we shall soon have her
Perhaps the like tidings found their way all around, for good news
travels fast as well as bad. At any rate, the ragings presently
quieted down, and the huge concourse crumbled apart and
disappeared. And thus we reached the noon of that fearful
We two youths were happy; happier than any words can tell--for
we were not in the secret any more than the rest. Joan's life was
saved. We knew that, and that was enough. France would hear of
this day's infamous work--and then! Why, then her gallant sons
would flock to her standard by thousands and thousands,
multitudes upon multitudes, and their wrath would be like the
wrath of the ocean when the storm-winds sweep it; and they would
hurl themselves against this doomed city and overwhelm it like the
resistless tides of that ocean, and Joan of Arc would march again!
In six days--seven days--one short week--noble France, grateful
France, indignant France, would be thundering at these gates--let
us count the hours, let us count the minutes, let us count the
seconds! O happy day, O day of ecstasy, how our hearts sang in
For we were young then, yes, we were very young.
Do you think the exhausted prisoner was allowed to rest and sleep
after she had spent the small remnant of her strength in dragging
her tired body back to the dungeon?
No, there was no rest for her, with those sleuth-hounds on her
track. Cauchon and some of his people followed her to her lair
straightway; they found her dazed and dull, her mental and
physical forces in a state of prostration. They told her she had
abjured; that she had made certain promises--among them, to
resume the apparel of her sex; and that if she relapsed, the Church
would cast her out for good and all. She heard the words, but they
had no meaning to her. She was like a person who has taken a
narcotic and is dying for sleep, dying for rest from nagging, dying
to be let alone, and who mechanically does everything the
persecutor asks, taking but dull note of the things done, and but
dully recording them in the memory. And so Joan put on the gown
which Cauchon and his people had brought; and would come to
herself by and by, and have at first but a dim idea as to when and
how the change had come about.
Cauchon went away happy and content. Joan had resumed
woman's dress without protest; also she had been formally warned
against relapsing. He had witnesses to these facts. How could
matters be better?
But suppose she should not relapse?
Why, then she must be forced to do it.
Did Cauchon hint to the English guards that thenceforth if they
chose to make their prisoner's captivity crueler and bitterer than
ever, no official notice would be taken of it? Perhaps so; since the
guards did begin that policy at once, and no official notice was
taken of it. Yes, from that moment Joan's life in that dungeon was
made almost unendurable. Do not ask me to enlarge upon it. I will
not do it.
Chapter 22 Joan Gives the Fatal Answer
FRIDAY and Saturday were happy days for NoČl and me. Our
minds were full of our splendid dream of France aroused--France
shaking her mane--France on the march--France at the
gates--Rouen in ashes, and Joan free! Our imagination was on fire;
we were delirious with pride and joy. For we were very young, as I
We knew nothing about what had been happening in the dungeon
in the yester-afternoon. We supposed that as Joan had abjured and
been taken back into the forgiving bosom of the Church, she was
being gently used now, and her captivity made as pleasant and
comfortable for her as the circumstances would allow. So, in high
contentment, we planned out our share in the great rescue, and
fought our part of the fight over and over again during those two
happy days--as happy days as ever I have known.
Sunday morning came. I was awake, enjoying the balmy, lazy
weather, and thinking. Thinking of the rescue--what else? I had no
other thought now. I was absorbed in that, drunk with the
happiness of it.
I heard a voice shouting far down the street, and soon it came
nearer, and I caught the words:
"Joan of Arc has relapsed! The witch's time has come!"
It stopped my heart, it turned my blood to ice. That was more than
sixty years ago, but that triumphant note rings as clear in my
memory to-day as it rang in my ear that long-vanished summer
morning. We are so strangely made; the memories that could make
us happy pass away; it is the memories that break our hearts that
Soon other voices took up that cry--tens, scores, hundreds of
voices; all the world seemed filled with the brutal joy of it. And
there were other clamors--the clatter of rushing feet, merry
congratulations, bursts of coarse laughter, the rolling of drums, the
boom and crash of distant bands profaning the sacred day with the
music of victory and thanksgiving.
About the middle of the afternoon came a summons for Manchon
and me to go to Joan's dungeon--a summons from Cauchon. But by
that time distrust had already taken possession of the English and
their soldiery again, and all Rouen was in an angry and threatening
mood. We could see plenty of evidences of this from our own
windows--fist-shaking, black looks, tumultuous tides of furious
men billowing by along the street.
And we learned that up at the castle things were going very badly,
indeed; that there was a great mob gathered there who considered
the relapse a lie and a priestly trick, and among them many
half-drunk English soldiers. Moreover, these people had gone
beyond words. They had laid hands upon a number of churchmen
who were trying to enter the castle, and it had been difficult work
to rescue them and save their lives.
And so Manchon refused to go. He said he would not go a step
without a safeguard from Warwick. So next morning Warwick sent
an escort of soldiers, and then we went. Matters had not grown
peacefuler meantime, but worse. The soldiers protected us from
bodily damage, but as we passed through the great mob at the
castle we were assailed with insults and shameful epithets. I bore it
well enough, though, and said to myself, with secret satisfaction,
"In three or four short days, my lads, you will be employing your
tongues in a different sort from this--and I shall be there to hear."
To my mind these were as good as dead men. How many of them
would still be alive after the rescue that was coming? Not more
than enough to amuse the executioner a short half-hour, certainly.
It turned out that the report was true. Joan had relapsed. She was
sitting there in her chains, clothed again in her male attire.
She accused nobody. That was her way. It was not in her character
to hold a servant to account for what his master had made him do,
and her mind had cleared now, and she knew that the advantage
which had been taken of her the previous morning had its origin,
not in the subordinate but in the master--Cauchon.
Here is what had happened. While Joan slept, in the early morning
of Sunday, one of the guards stole her female apparel and put her
male attire in its place. When she woke she asked for the other
dress, but the guards refused to give it back. She protested, and
said she was forbidden to wear the male dress. But they continued
to refuse. She had to have clothing, for modesty's sake; moreover,
she saw that she could not save her life if she must fight for it
against treacheries like this; so she put on the forbidden garments,
knowing what the end would be. She was weary of the struggle,
We had followed in the wake of Cauchon, the Vice-Inquisitor, and
the others--six or eight--and when I saw Joan sitting there,
despondent, forlorn, and still in chains, when I was expecting to
find her situation so different, I did not know what to make of it.
The shock was very great. I had doubted the relapse perhaps;
possibly I had believed in it, but had not realized it.
Cauchon's victory was complete. He had had a harassed and
irritated and disgusted look for a long time, but that was all gone
now, and contentment and serenity had taken its place. His purple
face was full of tranquil and malicious happiness. He went trailing
his robes and stood grandly in front of Joan, with his legs apart,
and remained so more than a minute, gloating over her and
enjoying the sight of this poor ruined creature, who had won so
lofty a place for him in the service of the meek and merciful Jesus,
Saviour of the World, Lord of the Universe--in case England kept
her promise to him, who kept no promises himself.
Presently the judges began to question Joan. One of them, named
Marguerie, who was a man with more insight than prudence,
remarked upon Joan's change of clothing, and said:
"There is something suspicious about this. How could it have come
about without connivance on the part of others? Perhaps even
"Thousand devils!" screamed Cauchon, in a fury. "Will you shut
"Armagnac! Traitor!" shouted the soldiers on guard, and made a
rush for Marguerie with their lances leveled. It was with the
greatest difficulty that he was saved from being run through the
body. He made no more attempts to help the inquiry, poor man.
The other judges proceeded with the questionings.
"Why have you resumed this male habit?"
I did not quite catch her answer, for just then a soldier's halberd
slipped from his fingers and fell on the stone floor with a crash;
but I thought I understood Joan to say that she had resumed it of
her own motion.
"But you have promised and sworn that you would not go back to
I was full of anxiety to hear her answer to that question; and when
it came it was just what I was expecting. She said--quiet quietly:
"I have never intended and never understood myself to swear I
would not resume it."
There--I had been sure, all along, that she did not know what she
was doing and saying on the platform Thursday, and this answer of
hers was proof that I had not been mistaken. Then she went on to
"But I had a right to resume it, because the promises made to me
have not been kept--promises that I should be allowed to go to
mass and receive the communion, and that I should be freed from
the bondage of these chains--but they are still upon me, as you
"Nevertheless, you have abjured, and have especially promised to
return no more to the dress of a man."
Then Joan held out her fettered hands sorrowfully toward these
unfeeling men and said:
"I would rather die than continue so. But if they may be taken off,
and if I may hear mass, and be removed to a penitential prison, and
have a woman about me, I will be good, and will do what shall
seem good to you that I do."
Cauchon sniffed scoffingly at that. Honor the compact which he
and his had made with her?
Fulfil its conditions? What need of that? Conditions had been a
good thing to concede, temporarily, and for advantage; but they
have served their turn--let something of a fresher sort and of more
consequence be considered. The resumption of the male dress was
sufficient for all practical purposes, but perhaps Joan could be led
to add something to that fatal crime. So Cauchon asked her if her
Voices had spoken to her since Thursday--and he reminded her of
"Yes," she answered; and then it came out that the Voices had
talked with her about the abjuration--told her about it, I suppose.
She guilelessly reasserted the heavenly origin of her mission, and
did it with the untroubled mien of one who was not conscious that
she had ever knowingly repudiated it. So I was convinced once
more that she had had no notion of what she was doing that
Thursday morning on the platform. Finally she said, "My Voices
told me I did very wrong to confess that what I had done was not
well." Then she sighed, and said with simplicity, "But it was the
fear of the fire that made me do so."
That is, fear of the fire had made her sign a paper whose contents
she had not understood then, but understood now by revelation of
her Voices and by testimony of her persecutors.
She was sane now and not exhausted; her courage had come back,
and with it her inborn loyalty to the truth. She was bravely and
serenely speaking it again, knowing that it would deliver her body
up to that very fire which had such terrors for her.
That answer of hers was quite long, quite frank, wholly free from
concealments or palliations. It made me shudder; I knew she was
pronouncing sentence of death upon herself. So did poor Manchon.
And he wrote in the margin abreast of it:
Fatal answer. Yes, all present knew that it was, indeed, a fatal
answer. Then there fell a silence such as falls in a sick-room when
the watchers of the dying draw a deep breath and say softly one to
another, "All is over."
Here, likewise, all was over; but after some moments Cauchon,
wishing to clinch this matter and make it final, put this question:
"Do you still believe that your Voices are St. Marguerite and St.
"Yes--and that they come from God."
"Yet you denied them on the scaffold?"
Then she made direct and clear affirmation that she had never had
any intention to deny them; and that if--I noted the if--"if she had
made some retractions and revocations on the scaffold it was from
fear of the fire, and it was a violation of the truth."
There it is again, you see. She certainly never knew what it was
she had done on the scaffold until she was told of it afterward by
these people and by her Voices.
And now she closed this most painful scene with these words; and
there was a weary note in them that was pathetic:
"I would rather do my penance all at once; let me die. I cannot
endure captivity any longer."
The spirit born for sunshine and liberty so longed for release that it
would take it in any form, even that.
Several among the company of judges went from the place
troubled and sorrowful, the others in another mood. In the court of
the castle we found the Earl of Warwick and fifty English waiting,
impatient for news. As soon as Cauchon saw them he
shouted--laughing--think of a man destroying a friendless poor girl
and then having the heart to laugh at it:
"Make yourselves comfortable--it's all over with her!"
Chapter 23 The Time Is at Hand
THE YOUNG can sink into abysses of despondency, and it was so
with NoČl and me now; but the hopes of the young are quick to
rise again, and it was so with ours. We called back that vague
promise of the Voices, and said the one to the other that the
glorious release was to happen at "the last moment"--"that other
time was not the last moment, but this is; it will happen now; the
King will come, La Hire will come, and with them our veterans,
and behind them all France!" And so we were full of heart again,
and could already hear, in fancy, that stirring music the clash of
steel and the war-cries and the uproar of the onset, and in fancy see
our prisoner free, her chains gone, her sword in her hand.
But this dream was to pass also, and come to nothing. Late at
night, when Manchon came in, he said:
"I am come from the dungeon, and I have a message for you from
that poor child."
A message to me! If he had been noticing I think he would have
discovered me--discovered that my indifference concerning the
prisoner was a pretense; for I was caught off my guard, and was so
moved and so exalted to be so honored by her that I must have
shown my feeling in my face and manner.
"A message for me, your reverence?"
"Yes. It is something she wishes done. She said she had noticed the
young man who helps me, and that he had a good face; and did I
think he would do a kindness for her? I said I knew you would, and
asked her what it was, and she said a letter--would you write a
letter to her mother?
And I said you would. But I said I would do it myself, and gladly;
but she said no, that my labors were heavy, and she thought the
young man would not mind the doing of this service for one not
able to do it for herself, she not knowing how to write. Then I
would have sent for you, and at that the sadness vanished out of
her face. Why, it was as if she was going to see a friend, poor
friendless thing. But I was not permitted. I did my best, but the
orders remain as strict as ever, the doors are closed against all but
officials; as before, none but officials may speak to her. So I went
back and told her, and she sighed, and was sad again. Now this is
what she begs you to write to her mother. It is partly a strange
message, and to me means nothing, but she said her mother would
understand. You will 'convey her adoring love to her family and
her village friends, and say there will be no rescue, for that this
night--and it is the third time in the twelvemonth, and is final--she
has seen the Vision of the Tree.'"
"Yes, it is strange, but that is what she said; and said her parents
would understand. And for a little time she was lost in dreams and
thinkings, and her lips moved, and I caught in her muttering these
lines, which she said over two or three times, and they seemed to
bring peace and contentment to her. I set them down, thinking they
might have some connection with her letter and be useful; but it
was not so; they were a mere memory, floating idly in a tired
mind, and they have no meaning, at least no relevancy."
I took the piece of paper, and found what I knew I should find:
And when in exile wand'ring, we Shall fainting yearn for glimpse
of thee, Oh, rise upon our sight!
There was no hope any more. I knew it now. I knew that Joan's
letter was a message to NoČl and me, as well as to her family, and
that its object was to banish vain hopes from our minds and tell us
from her own mouth of the blow that was going to fall upon us, so
that we, being her soldiers, would know it for a command to bear
it as became us and her, and so submit to the will of God; and in
thus obeying, find assuagement of our grief. It was like her, for she
was always thinking of others, not of herself. Yes, her heart was
sore for us; she could find time to think of us, the humblest of her
servants, and try to soften our pain, lighten the burden of our
troubles--she that was drinking of the bitter waters; she that was
walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
I wrote the letter. You will know what it cost me, without my
telling you. I wrote it with the same wooden stylus which had put
upon parchment the first words ever dictated by Joan of Arc--that
high summons to the English to vacate France, two years past,
when she was a lass of seventeen; it had now set down the last
ones which she was ever to dictate. Then I broke it. For the pen
that had served Joan of Arc could not serve any that would come
after her in this earth without abasement.
The next day, May 29th, Cauchon summoned his serfs, and
forty-two responded. It is charitable to believe that the other
twenty were ashamed to come. The forty-two pronounced her a
relapsed heretic, and condemned her to be delivered over to the
secular arm. Cauchon thanked them.
Then he sent orders that Joan of Arc be conveyed the next morning
to the place known as the Old Market; and that she be then
delivered to the civil judge, and by the civil judge to the
executioner. That meant she would be burnt.
All the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, the 29th, the news was
flying, and the people of the country-side flocking to Rouen to see
the tragedy--all, at least, who could prove their English sympathies
and count upon admission. The press grew thicker and thicker in
the streets, the excitement grew higher and higher. And now a
thing was noticeable again which had been noticeable more than
once before--that there was pity for Joan in the hearts of many of
these people. Whenever she had been in great danger it had
manifested itself, and now it was apparent again--manifest in a
pathetic dumb sorrow which was visible in many faces.
Early the next morning, Wednesday, Martin Ladvenu and another
friat were sent to Joan to prepare her for death; and Manchon and I
went with them--a hard service for me. We tramped through the
dim corridors, winding this way and that, and piercing ever deeper
and deeper into that vast heart of stone, and at last we stood before
Joan. But she did not know it. She sat with her hands in her lap
and her head bowed, thinking, and her face was very sad. One
might not know what she was thinking of. Of her home, and the
peaceful pastures, and the friends she was no more to see? Of her
wrongs, and her forsaken estate, and the cruelties which had been
put upon her? Or was it of death--the death which she had longed
for, and which was now so close?
Or was it of the kind of death she must suffer? I hoped not; for she
feared only one kind, and that one had for her unspeakable terrors.
I believed she so feared that one that with her strong will she
would shut the thought of it wholly out of her mind, and hope and
believe that God would take pity on her and grant her an easier
one; and so it might chance that the awful news which we were
bringing might come as a surprise to her at last.
We stood silent awhile, but she was still unconscious of us, still
deep in her sad musings and far away. Then Martin Ladvenu said,
She looked up then, with a little start and a wan smile, and said:
"Speak. Have you a message for me?"
"Yes, my poor child. Try to bear it. Do you think you can bear it?"
"Yes"--very softly, and her head drooped again.
"I am come to prepare you for death."
A faint shiver trembled through her wasted body. There was a
pause. In the stillness we could hear our breathings. Then she said,
still in that low voice:
"When will it be?"
The muffled notes of a tolling bell floated to our ears out of the
"Now. The time is at hand."
That slight shiver passed again.
"It is so soon--ah, it is so soon!"
There was a long silence. The distant throbbings of the bell pulsed
through it, and we stood motionless and listening. But it was
broken at last:
"What death is it?"
"oh, I knew it, I knew it!" She sprang wildly to her feet, and wound
her hands in her hair, and began to writhe and sob, oh, so
piteously, and mourn and grieve and lament, and turn to first one
and then another of us, and search our faces beseechingly, as
hoping she might find help and friendliness there, poor thing--she
that had never denied these to any creature, even her wounded
enemy on the battle-field.
"Oh, cruel, cruel, to treat me so! And must my body, that has never
been defiled, be consumed today and turned to ashes? Ah, sooner
would I that my head were cut off seven times than suffer this
woeful death. I had the promise of the Church's prison when I
submitted, and if I had but been there, and not left here in the
hands of my enemies, this miserable fate had not befallen me.
Oh, I appeal to God the Great Judge, against the injustice which
has been done me."
There was none there that could endure it. They turned away, with
the tears running down their faces. In a moment I was on my knees
at her feet. At once she thought only of my danger, and bent and
whispered in my hear: "Up!--do not peril yourself, good heart.
There--God bless you always!" and I felt the quick clasp of her
hand. Mine was the last hand she touched with hers in life. None
saw it; history does not know of it or tell of it, yet it is true, just as
I have told it. The next moment she saw Cauchon coming, and she
went and stood before him and reproached him, saying:
"Bishop, it is by you that I die!"
He was not shamed, not touched; but said, smoothly:
"Ah, be patient, Joan. You die because you have not kept your
promise, but have returned to your sins."
"Alas," she said, "if you had put me in the Church's prison, and
given me right and proper keepers, as you promised, this would not
have happened. And for this I summon you to answer before God!"
Then Cauchon winced, and looked less placidly content than
before, and he turned him about and went away.
Joan stood awhile musing. She grew calmer, but occasionally she
wiped her eyes, and now and then sobs shook her body; but their
violence was modifying now, and the intervals between them were
growing longer. Finally she looked up and saw Pierre Maurice,
who had come in with the Bishop, and she said to him:
"Master Peter, where shall I be this night?"
"Have you not good hope in God?"
"Yes--and by His grace I shall be in Paradise."
Now Martin Ladvenu heard her in confession; then she begged for
the sacrament. But how grant the communion to one who had been
publicly cut off from the Church, and was now no more entitled to
its privileges than an unbaptized pagan? The brother could not do
this, but he sent to Cauchon to inquire what he must do. All laws,
human and divine, were alike to that man--he respected none of
them. He sent back orders to grant Joan whatever she wished. Her
last speech to him had reached his fears, perhaps; it could not
reach his heart, for he had none.
The Eucharist was brought now to that poor soul that had yearned
for it with such unutterable longing all these desolate months. It
was a solemn moment. While we had been in the deeps of the
prison, the public courts of the castle had been filling up with
crowds of the humbler sort of men and women, who had learned
what was going on in Joan's cell, and had come with softened
hearts to do--they knew not what; to hear--they knew not what. We
knew nothing of this, for they were out of our view. And there
were other great crowds of the like caste gathered in masses
outside the castle gates. And when the lights and the other
accompaniments of the Sacrament passed by, coming to Joan in
the prison, all those multitudes kneeled down and began to pray
for her, and many wept; and when the solemn ceremony of the
communion began in Joan's cell, out of the distance a moving
sound was borne moaning to our ears--it was those invisible
multitudes chanting the litany for a departing soul.
The fear of the fiery death was gone from Joan of Arc now, to
come again no more, except for one fleeting instant--then it would
pass, and serenity and courage would take its place and abide till
Chapter 24 Joan the Martyr
AT NINE o'clock the Maid of Orleans, Deliverer of France, went
forth in the grace of her innocence and her youth to lay down her
life for the country she loved with such devotion, and for the King
that had abandoned her. She sat in the cart that is used only for
felons. In one respect she was treated worse than a felon; for
whereas she was on her way to be sentenced by the civil arm, she
already bore her judgment inscribed in advance upon a
miter-shaped cap which she wore:
HERETIC, RELAPSED, APOSTATE, IDOLATER In the cart with
her sat the friar Martin Ladvenu and MaĆtre Jean Massieu. She
looked girlishly fair and sweet and saintly in her long white robe,
and when a gush of sunlight flooded her as she emerged from the
gloom of the prison and was yet for a moment still framed in the
arch of the somber gate, the massed multitudes of poor folk
murmured "A vision! a vision!" and sank to their knees praying,
and many of the women weeping; and the moving invocation for
the dying arose again, and was taken up and borne along, a
majestic wave of sound, which accompanied the doomed, solacing
and blessing her, all the sorrowful way to the place of death.
"Christ have pity! Saint Margaret have pity! Pray for her, all ye
saints, archangels, and blessed martyrs, pray for her! Saints and
angels intercede for her! From thy wrath, good Lord, deliver her! O
Lord God, save her! Have mercy on her, we beseech Thee, good
It is just and true what one of the histories has said: "The poor and
the helpless had nothing but their prayers to give Joan of Arc; but
these we may believe were not unavailing. There are few more
pathetic events recorded in history than this weeping, helpless,
praying crowd, holding their lighted candles and kneeling on the
pavement beneath the prison walls of the old fortress."
And it was so all the way: thousands upon thousands massed upon
their knees and stretching far down the distances, thick-sown with
the faint yellow candle-flames, like a field starred with golden
But there were some that did not kneel; these were the English
soldiers. They stood elbow to elbow, on each side of Joan's road,
and walled it in all the way; and behind these living walls knelt the
By and by a frantic man in priest's garb came wailing and
lamenting, and tore through the crowd and the barriers of soldiers
and flung himself on his knees by Joan's cart and put up his hands
in supplication, crying out:
"O forgive, forgive!"
It was Loyseleur!
And Joan forgave him; forgave him out of a heart that knew
nothing but forgiveness, nothing but compassion, nothing but pity
for all that suffer, let their offense be what it might. And she had
no word of reproach for this poor wretch who had wrought day and
night with deceits and treacheries and hypocrisies to betray her to
The soldiers would have killed him, but the Earl of Warwick saved
his life. What became of him is not known. He hid himself from
the world somewhere, to endure his remorse as he might.
In the square of the Old Market stood the two platforms and the
stake that had stood before in the churchyard of St. Ouen. The
platforms were occupied as before, the one by Joan and her judges,
the other by great dignitaries, the principal being Cauchon and the
English Cardinal--Winchester. The square was packed with
people, the windows and roofs of the blocks of buildings
surrounding it were black with them.
When the preparations had been finished, all noise and movement
gradually ceased, and a waiting stillness followed which was
solemn and impressive.
And now, by order of Cauchon, an ecclesiastic named Nicholas
Midi preached a sermon, wherein he explained that when a branch
of the vine--which is the Church--becomes diseased and corrupt, it
must be cut away or it will corrupt and destroy the whole vine. He
made it appear that Joan, through her wicknedness, was a menace
and a peril to the Church's purity and holiness, and her death
therefore necessary. When he was come to the end of his discourse
he turned toward her and paused a moment, then he said:
"Joan, the Church can no longer protect you. Go in peace!"
Joan had been placed wholly apart and conspicuous, to signify the
Church's abandonment of her, and she sat there in her loneliness,
waiting in patience and resignation for the end. Cauchon addressed
her now. He had been advised to read the form of her abjuration to
her, and had brought it with him; but he changed his mind, fearing
that she would proclaim the truth--that she had never knowingly
abjured--and so bring shame upon him and eternal infamy. He
contented himself with admonishing her to keep in mind her
wickednesses, and repent of them, and think of her salvation. Then
he solemnly pronounced her excommunicate and cut off from the
body of the Church. With a final word he delivered her over to the
secular arm for judgment and sentence.
Joan, weeping, knelt and began to pray. For whom? Herself? Oh,
no--for the King of France. Her voice rose sweet and clear, and
penetrated all hearts with its passionate pathos. She never thought
of his treacheries to her, she never thought of his desertion of her,
she never remembered that it was because he was an ingrate that
she was here to die a miserable death; she remembered only that
he was her King, that she was his loyal and loving subject, and that
his enemies had undermined his cause with evil reports and false
charges, and he not by to defend himself. And so, in the very
presence of death, she forgot her own troubles to implore all in her
hearing to be just to him; to believe that he was good and noble
and sincere, and not in any way to blame for any acts of hers,
neither advising them nor urging them, but being wholly clear and
free of all responsibility for them. Then, closing, she begged in
humble and touching words that all here present would pray for
her and would pardon her, both her enemies and such as might
Back to Full Books