Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Volume 2
Part 5 out of 5
look friendly upon her and feel pity for her in their hearts.
There was hardly one heart there that was not touched--even the
English, even the judges showed it, and there was many a lip that
trembled and many an eye that was blurred with tears; yes, even
the English Cardinal's--that man with a political heart of stone but
a human heart of flesh.
The secular judge who should have delivered judgment and
pronounced sentence was himself so disturbed that he forgot his
duty, and Joan went to her death unsentenced--thus completing
with an illegality what had begun illegally and had so continued to
the end. He only said--to the guards:
"Take her"; and to the executioner, "Do your duty."
Joan asked for a cross. None was able to furnish one. But an
English soldier broke a stick in two and crossed the pieces and tied
them together, and this cross he gave her, moved to it by the good
heart that was in him; and she kissed it and put it in her bosom.
Then Isambard de la Pierre went to the church near by and brought
her a consecrated one; and this one also she kissed, and pressed it
to her bosom with rapture, and then kissed it again and again,
covering it with tears and pouring out her gratitude to God and the
And so, weeping, and with her cross to her lips, she climbed up the
cruel steps to the face of the stake, with the friar Isambard at her
side. Then she was helped up to the top of the pile of wood that
was built around the lower third of the stake and stood upon it with
her back against the stake, and the world gazing up at her
breathless. The executioner ascended to her side and wound chains
around her slender body, and so fastened her to the stake. Then he
descended to finish his dreadful office; and there she remained
alone--she that had had so many friends in the days when she was
free, and had been so loved and so dear.
All these things I saw, albeit dimly and blurred with tears; but I
could bear no more. I continued in my place, but what I shall
deliver to you now I got by others' eyes and others' mouths. Tragic
sounds there were that pierced my ears and wounded my heart as I
sat there, but it is as I tell you:
the latest image recorded by my eyes in that desolating hour was
Joan of Arc with the grace of her comely youth still unmarred; and
that image, untouched by time or decay, has remained with me all
my days. Now I will go on.
If any thought that now, in that solemn hour when all transgressors
repent and confess, she would revoke her revocation and say her
great deeds had been evil deeds and Satan and his fiends their
source, they erred. No such thought was in her blameless mind.
She was not thinking of herself and her troubles, but of others, and
of woes that might befall them. And so, turning her grieving eyes
about her, where rose the towers and spires of that fair city, she
"Oh, Rouen, Rouen, must I die here, and must you be my tomb?
Ah, Rouen, Rouen, I have great fear that you will suffer for my
A whiff of smoke swept upward past her face, and for one moment
terror seized her and she cried out, "Water! Give me holy water!"
but the next moment her fears were gone, and they came no more
to torture her.
She heard the flames crackling below her, and immediately
distress for a fellow-creature who was in danger took possession of
her. It was the friar Isambard. She had given him her cross and
begged him to raise it toward her face and let her eyes rest in hope
and consolation upon it till she was entered into the peace of God.
She made him go out from the danger of the fire. Then she was
satisfied, and said:
"Now keep it always in my sight until the end."
Not even yet could Cauchon, that man without shame, endure to
let her die in peace, but went toward her, all black with crimes and
sins as he was, and cried out:
"I am come, Joan, to exhort you for the last time to repent and seek
the pardon of God."
"I die through you," she said, and these were the last words she
spoke to any upon earth.
Then the pitchy smoke, shot through with red flashes of flame,
rolled up in a thick volume and hid her from sight; and from the
heart of this darkness her voice rose strong and eloquent in prayer,
and when by moments the wind shredded somewhat of the smoke
aside, there were veiled glimpses of an upturned face and moving
lips. At last a mercifully swift tide of flame burst upward, and
none saw that face any more nor that form, and the voice was still.
Yes, she was gone from us: JOAN OF ARC! What little words they
are, to tell of a rich world made empty and poor!
JOAN'S BROTHER Jacques died in Domremy during the Great
Trial at Rouen. This was sccording to the prophecy which Joan
made that day in the pastures the time that she said the rest of us
would go to the great wars.
When her poor old father heard of the martyrdom it broke his
heart, and he died.
The mother was granted a pension by the city of Orleans, and upon
this she lived out her days, which were many. Twenty-four years
after her illustrious child's death she traveled all the way to Paris in
the winter-time and was present at the opening of the discussion in
the Cathedral of Notre Dame which was the first step in the
Rehabilitation. Paris was crowded with people, from all about
France, who came to get sight of the venerable dame, and it was a
touching spectacle when she moved through these reverent
wet-eyed multitudes on her way to the grand honors awaiting her
at the cathedral. With her were Jean and Pierre, no longer the
light-hearted youths who marched with us from Vaucouleurs, but
war-torn veterans with hair beginning to show frost.
After the martyrdom NoČl and I went back to Domremy, but
presently when the Constable Richemont superseded La
Tremouille as the King's chief adviser and began the completion of
Joan's great work, we put on our harness and returned to the field
and fought for the King all through the wars and skirmishes until
France was freed of the English. It was what Joan would have
desired of us; and, dead or alive, her desire was law for us. All the
survivors of the personal staff were faithful to her memory and
fought for the King to the end. Mainly we were well scattered, but
when Paris fell we happened to be together. It was a great day and
a joyous; but it was a sad one at the same time, because Joan was
not there to march into the captured capital with us.
NoČl and I remained always together, and I was by his side when
death claimed him. It was in the last great battle of the war. In that
battle fell also Joan's sturdy old enemy Talbot. He was eighty-five
years old, and had spent his whole life in battle. A fine old lion he
was, with his flowing white mane and his tameless spirit; yes, and
his indestructible energy as well; for he fought as knighly and
vigorous a fight that day as the best man there.
La Hire survived the martyrdom thirteen years; and always
fighting, of course, for that was all he enjoyed in life. I did not see
him in all that time, for we were far apart, but one was always
hearing of him.
The Bastard of Orleans and D'Alenáon and D'Aulon lived to see
France free, and to testify with Jean and Pierre d'Arc and Pasquerel
and me at the Rehabilitation. But they are all at rest now, these
many years. I alone am left of those who fought at the side of Joan
of Arc in the great wars.
She said I would live until those wars were forgotten--a prophecy
which failed. If I should live a thousand years it would still fail.
For whatsoever had touch with Joan of Arc, that thing is immortal.
Members of Joan's family married, and they have left descendants.
Their descendants are of the nobility, but their family name and
blood bring them honors which no other nobles receive or may
hope for. You have seen how everybody along the way uncovered
when those children came yesterday to pay their duty to me. It was
not because they are noble, it is because they are grandchildren of
the brothers of Joan of Arc.
Now as to the Rehabilitation. Joan crowned the King at Rheims.
For reward he allowed her to be hunted to her death without
making one effort to save her. During the next twenty-three years
he remained indifferent to her memory; indifferent to the fact that
her good name was under a damning blot put there by the priest
because of the deeds which she had done in saving him and his
scepter; indifferent to the fact that France was ashamed, and
longed to have the Deliverer's fair fame restored. Indifferent all
that time. Then he suddenly changed and was anxious to have
justice for poor Joan himself. Why? Had he become grateful at
last? Had remorse attacked his hard heart? No, he had a better
reason--a better one for his sort of man. This better reason was
that, now that the English had been finally expelled from the
country, they were beginning to call attention to the fact that this
King had gotten his crown by the hands of a person proven by the
priests to have been in league with Satan and burned for it by them
as a sorceress--therefore, of what value or authority was such a
Kingship as that? Of no value at all; no nation could afford to
allow such a king to remain on the throne.
It was high time to stir now, and the King did it. That is how
Charles VII. came to be smitten with anxiety to have justice done
the memory of his benefactress.
He appealed to the Pope, and the Pope appointed a great
commission of churchmen to examine into the facts of Joan's life
and award judgment. The Commission sat at Paris, at Domremy, at
Rouen, at Orleans, and at several other places, and continued its
work during several months. It examined the records of Joan's
trials, it examined the Bastard of Orleans, and the Duke d'Alenáon,
and D'Aulon, and Pasquerel, and Courcelles, and Isambard de la
Pierre, and Manchon, and me, and many others whose names I
have made familiar to you; also they examined more than a
hundred witnesses whose names are less familiar to you--the
friends of Joan in Domremy, Vaucouleurs, Orleans, and other
places, and a number of judges and other people who had assisted
at the Rouen trials, the abjuration, and the martyrdom. And out of
this exhaustive examination Joan's character and history came
spotless and perfect, and this verdict was placed upon record, to
I was present upon most of these occasions, and saw again many
faces which I have not seen for a quarter of a century; among them
some well-beloved faces--those of our generals and that of
Catherine Boucher (married, alas!), and also among them certain
other faces that filled me with bitterness--those of Beaupere and
Courcelles and a number of their fellow-fiends. I saw Haumette
and Little Mengette--edging along toward fifty now, and mothers
of many children. I saw NoČl's father, and the parents of the
Paladin and the Sunflower.
It was beautiful to hear the Duke d'Alenáon praise Joan's splendid
capacities as a general, and to hear the Bastard indorse these
praises with his eloquent tongue and then go on and tell how sweet
and good Joan was, and how full of pluck and fire and
impetuosity, and mischief, and mirthfulness, and tenderness, and
compassion, and everything that was pure and fine and noble and
lovely. He made her live again before me, and wrung my heart.
I have finished my story of Joan of Arc, that wonderful child, that
sublime personality, that spirit which in one regard has had no peer
and will have none--this: its purity from all alloy of self-seeking,
self-interest, personal ambition. In it no trace of these motives can
be found, search as you may, and this cannot be said of any other
person whose name appears in profane history.
With Joan of Arc love of country was more than a sentiment--it
was a passion. She was the Genius of Patriotism--she was
Patriotism embodied, concreted, made flesh, and palpable to the
touch and visible to the eye.
Love, Mercy, Charity, Fortitude, War, Peace, Poetry, Music--these
may be symbolized as any shall prefer: by figures of either sex and
of any age; but a slender girl in her first young bloom, with the
martyr's crown upon her head, and in her hand the sword that
severed her country's bonds--shall not this, and no other, stand for
PATRIOTISM through all the ages until time shall end?
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