Andrew Lang.

The story of Joan of Arc, the maid of Orleans online

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the Loire, when he might have been in Paris,
his capital, if he had only trusted Joan.

In the meantime the English retook some of
the French towns that Joan had given to the
King, and seized her sacred armor in the Church
of Saint Denis, and punished and plundered the
people, who were worse off than before, while
the Maid was only allowed now and then to
attack the English, and defea*^ them in the old



The wise King had arranged with the Duke of
Burgundy that they two should be at peace till
Easter, 1430 ; while he might fight the Enghsh
as much as he hked, which was, not at all.

Now the English let the Duke of Burgundy
be Governor of Paris. It was always Pans that
the Maid wished to take for her King, as it was
the greatest city and the capital of France. But
the King said she must not attack Paris, for it
was now under the Duke of Burgundy, not under
the English. All this was mere pretence, to
avoid fighting. Joan's aim was to turn the
English and their child King, Henry VI., out of
her country ; and the English were not likely to
go out till they were driven out.

The English still held towns on the river
Loire, such as St. Pierre-le-Moustier and La
Charite. Joan went to Bourges and gathered an
army, with a gentleman named d'Elbret to help
her, and besieged the town of St. Pierre-le-
Moustier. When they had battered the walls
for some time with their guns, and made a
breach, the French tried to rush through it ; but
the English were too strong and too many, and


drove them out. At this time Joan's Master of
the Household, d'Aulon, who had been with her
at Orleans, was wounded in the heel by an
arrow, and he could not walk without crutches.
He saw that while the rest of the French had
retired out of shot from the breach, Joan was
there almost alone with a very small company.
D'Aulon therefore got a horse, and rode to her
to ask her to come out of danger. ** What are
you doing here alone ? " he asked her. She took
off her helmet and said, " I am not alone ; here I
have with me fifty thousand of my own" (by
which she seems to have meant an invisible army
of Angels) ; " and I will not leave this place till
I take the town." D'Aulon told her that she had
but four or five men with her, to which she only
answered by bidding him make her army bring
faggots of wood to fill up the ditch with, that
they might cross to the town. Then she shouted
in a loud voice —

"Bring up faggots, all of you!" and they
obeyed, filled up the ditch, attacked the breach
in the wall again, rushed through, beat the Eng-
lish, and took the town.

This was just like what Joan had done when
her army was on the point of retreating from the
attack on Les Tourelles, at Orleans. "One
charge more " was what she called for, and her
men were inspired with courage, while the Eng-
lish were terrified by their refusal to be beaten.
This was the last time that Joan led the French


Joan would not leave till she took the town. — Page 64


to such a victory. She besieged another town,
La Charite, which was held by Burgundians,
but the King did not send food enough for her
men, and she had to go away unsuccessful.

About this time she was troubled by a woman
called Catherine of La Rochelle, a married
woman, who declared that a lovely lady came to
her at night, dressed all in cloth of gold, and
told her where treasures of money were hidden,
which were much needed for the wars. Joan
said that she must see this wonderful lady before
she could believe in her, and she sat up all night
with Catherine ; but the lady never came. Joan
told Catherine to go back to her husband and
her children, and mind her own affairs. There
were several people who went about saying that
they had visions ; but they were of no use, for,
visions or none, they had not Joan's courage and
wisdom. It is true that Catherine might have
said to Joan, "You can't see my golden lady, but
I can't see your Saints, nor hear your Voices.
The difference was that Joan's Saints and Voices
had enabled her to do a great many wonderful
things, while Catherine's golden lady never led
to the finding of treasures or anything else that
was of any use.



The end of the year of the Maid was at hand.
She had often said that she would last but a
year, or little more, counting from May 1429.

Perhaps you remember that the King had
made a truce with the Burgundians — a useless
truce, for the Burgundians went on fighting, not
under their own flag, but under the Leopards of
England. The King, as usual, was loitering
about, doing nothing. Joan heard, in spring
1430, that three or four hundred English were
crossing the Isle of France, which is not a real
island, but a district of that name. She was
then at Lagny, on the river Marne, not far from
Paris. So she rode out from Lagny to meet
them, with a gentleman whom the French called
"•Quenede." Can you guess what " Quenede "
means ? He was Sir Hugh Kennedy, of the great
Kennedy clan in Galloway and Ayrshire. He
had fought at the Battle of the Herrings and at
Orleans, and he made a good deal of money in
France, so that, when he went back to Scotland,
he was called " Hugh come wV the Penny."

When Joan, with her French and Scots, came
in sight of the enemy, the English drew them-



selves up on foot, along the side of a liedge, and
Joan and the rest charged them, some on foot,
some on horse, and there was hard fighting, for
the numbers were about equal. But at last all
the English were killed or taken prisoners. There
was also taken a robber knight, Franquet d'Arras,
who was tried for his crimes and put to death,
and the English party among the French thought
it very wicked in Joan to allow the rogue to be

In Easter Week Joan was at Melun one day,
examining the ditch round the walls to see that
it was in good order. Then suddenly the Voices
of St. Catherine and St. Margaret spoke to her,
and said that she should be taken prisoner
before Midsummer day, " and thus it needs must
be," and that she was to be resigned to this,
and God would help her.

Often after this terrible day the Voices made
the same prophecy, but they would never tell her
the time and the hour. She prayed that she
might die in that hour, for the English had often
threatened her that they would burn her as a
witch, if they caught her. Often she asked the
Voices to warn her of the hour of her capture,
for she would not have gone into battle on that
day. But they would not tell her, and, after
that, she did what the Captains of her party
thought best, and it seems that, as to where or
when she was to fight, she had no advice from
the Voices. But she fought on as bravely as


ever, and this was the bravest thing that ever
v^as done by any one. For it was not as if the
Voices had said that she should be killed in
battle, of which she had no fear. But they said
she was to be captured, and she knew that meant
she was to be burned alive.

Nobody but Joan would have gone on risking
herseK every day, not to danger of war, which is
the duty of every soldier, but to the death by
fire. If any one says that the Voices were only
her fancy, and her fear taking a fanciful shape,
we must reply that, whatever they really were,
she believed all that they said, and thought that
they were the voices of her sisters, the Saints.
Thus the end of Joan was the most glorious
thing in her glorious life, for many could be
brave enough when the Saints prophesied victory
but only she could give her body to burned for
her country.



We have lieard how the town of Compiegne
came over to Joan and the King, after the
coronation at Rheims. The city had often been
taken and retaken, and held by both sides. But
now they made np their minds that, come what
might, they would be true to France, and now,
in May, the English and Burgundians besieged
Compiegne with a very large army.

Joan, who was at Lagny, heard of this, and
she made up her mind to help the good and
loyal town, or perish with it. She first tried to
cut the roads that the Duke of Burgundy used
for his soldiers and supplies of food, but she
failed to take Soissons and Pont TEveque, and
so shut the Duke off from his bridges over the
rivers. So she rode into Compiegne under cloud
of night, with her brother Pierre, and two or
three hundred men. This was before dawn, on
May 23.

The town of Compiegne is on the left bank of
the river Oise. Behind the town was a forest,
through which Joan rode, and got into the town,
to the great joy of the people. From Compiegne
to the right bank of the Oise, where the English



and Burgundians had their camps, there was a
long bridge, fortified, that led into a great level
meadow, about a mile broad. In wet weather
the meadow was often under- water from the
flooded river, so a causeway, or raised road, was
built across it, high and dry. At the end of the
causeway, farthest from Compiegne, was the
village of Margny, with the steeple of its church,
and here a part of the Burgundian army was
encamped. Two miles and a half farther on was
the village of Clairoix, where lay another part of
the Burgundian force. About a mile and a half
to the left of the causeway was the village of
Venette, which was held by the English, and
about three miles off, was Coudun, where the
Duke of Burgundy himself had his quarters.
There were very large forces in front, and on the
side, of the only road by which Joan could get
at them, with her own men, only three hundred,
probably, and any of the townspeople who liked
to follow her on foot, with clubs and scythes, and
such weapons.

Thus it was really a very rash thing of Joan
to lead so few men, by such a narrow road, to
attack the nearest Burgundians, those at Margny,
at the end of the causeway. The other Bur-
gundians, farther off, and the English from
Venette, quite near, and on Joan's left flank,
would certainly come up to attack her, and help
their friends at Margny. She would be sur-
rounded on all sides and cut off, for the garrison



Joan is surrounded and taken. — Page 73


of Compiegne stayed in the town, tinder their
general, de Flavy, who was a great ruffian, but a
brave man, and loyal to France.

Why Joan, about five o'clock in the evening
of May 23, rode out with her little force, crossed
the bridge, galloped down the causeway, and
rod'o through and through the Burgundians at
JIargny, we do not know. Her Voices seem to
have ceased to give her advice, only saying that
she would certainly be captured. Perhaps she
only meant to take Margny ; though it is not
easy to understand how she expected to hold it,
when the whole Burgundian and English armies
came up to recover it, as they would certainly
do. If she aimed at more, her charge was very
brave, but very ill-judged. Joan said that her
Voices did not tell her to make her desperate
sally ; it was her own idea.

Nearly seventy years afterwards, two very old
men said that, when they were young at
Compiegne, they heard Joan tell a crowd of
children, before she rode out, that "I am be-
trayed, and soon will be delivered to death. Pray
God for me, for I shall never again be able to
help France and the King." One of the men
was ninety-eight, so he would be quite twenty-
eight when he heard Joan say this ; if he really
did hear her. But, long before men are ninety-
eight, or even eighty-six, like the other man,
they are apt to remember things that never hap-
pened. But Joan may have told children, of


whom she was very fond, that she knew she was
soon to be taken.

Her enemies declared that she said she would
take the Duke of Burgundy himself, but as he
was several miles away, in the middle of a large
army, while she had only three hundred of her
own men, this cannot be true. Probably she only
meant to break up the Burgundians at Margny,
and show that she was there, to encourage the
people at Compiegne.

Her own account is that she charged the
Burgundians at Margny, the nearest village, and
drove them twice back to Clairoix, where they
were reinforced by the great Burgundian army
there, and thrust her back to the middle of the
causeway, where she turned again, charged them,
and made them retreat. But then the English
came up from Venette, on her flank, and came
between her and the bridge of Compiegne, and
she leaped her horse off the raised causeway into
the meadow, where she was surrounded, and
pulled off her horse and taken, though she would
not surrender. No doubt she hoped that, as she
refused to surrender, she would be killed on the
spot. When they cried to her to yield she said,
*' I have given my faith to another than you, and
I will keep my oath to Him," meaning Our

But she was too valuable to be killed. The
captors might either get a great ransom, a king's
ransom, or sell her to the English to burn. The


French would not pay the ransom, and Jean de
Luxembourg, who got possession of her, sold her
to the English. The Burgundian historian, who
was with the Duke, and did not see the battle,
says, " the English feared not any captain, nor,
any chief in war, as they feared the Maid." "She
had done great deeds, passing the nature of
woman." Says another Burgundian writer:
" She remained in the rear of her men as their
captain, and the bravest of all, there, where
fortune granted it, for the end of her glory, and
for that last time of her bearing arms."

But, indeed, her glory never ceased, for in her
long, cruel imprisonment and martyrdom, she
showed more courage than any man-at-arms can
display, where blows are given and taken.



"We might -suppose that there was not a rich man
in France, or even a poor man, who would not
have given what he could, much or little, to help
to pay the ransom of the Maid. Jean de Luxem-
bourg only wanted the money, and, as she was a
prisoner of was, she might expect to be ransomed
like other prisoners. It was the more needful to
get the money and buy her freedom, as the
priests of the University of Paris, who were on
the English side, at once wrote to Jean de Lux-
embourg ( July 14 ) , and asked him to give Joan
up to the Inquisition, to be tried by the laws of
the Inquisition for the crimes of witchcraft,
idolatry, and wrong doctrines about religion.

The Inquisitor was the head of a kind of
religious Court, which tried people for not hold-
ing the right belief, or for witchcraft, or other
religious offences. The rules of the Court, and
the way of managing the trials, were what we
think very unfair. But they were not more
unfair than the method used in Scotland after
the Reformation. There old women were
tortured till they confessed that they were
witches, and then were burnt alive, sometimes



seven or eight of them at once, for crimes which
nobody could possibly commit.

That went on in Scotland till the country was
united to England, at the beginning of the
eighteenth century, and the laws against witch-
craft were not abolished till 1736. Many of the
Presbyterian ministers, who were active in hunt-
ing for witches and having them put to horrid
tortures, were very angry that the withcraft laws
were abolished. The Inquisition was better than
the ministers and magistrates in one way : if a
witch confessed, and promised not to do it again,
she was not put to death, but kept in prison. In
Scotland the people accused of witchcraft had
not even this chance, which did not help Joan,
as we shall see.

All this is told here, to show that the French
were not more stupid and cruel four hundred
years ago, than were the Scotch, two hundred
years ago. But it was a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the Inquisition, and therefore
the French King and his subjects should have
paid Joan's ransom at once, or rescue her by
force of arms. But not a coin was paid, and not
a sword was drawn to ransom or to rescue her.
The people who advised the King had never
liked her, and now the King left her to her fate.

,0f course Joan was not a witch, and was a
most religious girl, but she did not deny that
she had talked with spirits, the spirits of the
Saints ; and her judges, who hated her, could


say, and did say, that these spirits were devils,
in disguise, and that therefore she was a witch.
She always had known that they would do this, if
they got the chance.

Jean de Luxembourg did not hand Joan over
to the priests at once : probably he was waiting
to see if he could not get a better price from her
French friends than from her English enemies.
The Bishop of Beauvais was Joan's worst enemy :
his odious name was Pierre Cauchon, and in
July he kept pressing the Duke of Burgundy,
then still besiegiug Compi^ne, to make Jean
give up the Maid. Jean kept the Maid in a
castle called Beaulieu till August, and then sent
her to another castle, Beaurevoir, near Cambrai,
far to the north, where it would be more difficult
for her friends like Dunois and d'Alencon to
come and rescue her by force, which we do not
hear that they tried to do, though perhaps they
did. The brave Xaintrailles was doing a thing
that Joan longed for even more than for her
freedom. She was taken in fighting to help the
town of Compiegne, of which she was very fond,
and her great grief at Beaulieu and Beaurevoir
was that Compiegne was likely to be taken by
the Burgundians and English, who threatened
to put the people to death. All this while
Xaintrailles was preparing a small army to
deliver Compiegne.

At Beaurevoir the ladies of the castle were
kinsfolk of Jean de Luxembourg. They were


good women, and very kind to Joan, and they
knelt to Jean, weeping, and asking him to givo
her back to her friends. But he wanted his
money, like the men who sold Sir William
Wallace to the English, and the great Montrose
to the preachers and Parliament.

So Jean sold the Maid to the English. Joan
knew this, and knew what she had to expect.
She was allowed to take the air on the flat roof
of the great tower at Beaurevoir, which was 60
feet high. She was not thinking so much of
herself as of Compiegne. If she could escape
she would try to make her way to Compiegne,
and help the people to fight for their liberty and
their lives. But how could she escape ? She
hoped that, if she leaped from the top of the
tower, her Saints would bear her up in their
arms, and not let her be hurt by the fall. So she
asked them if she might leap down, but St.
Catherine said. No ; she must not leap. God
would help her and the people of Compiegne.

But Joan would not listen, this time, to the
Voice. She said that, if the leap was wrong, she
would rather trust her soul to the mercy of God,
than her body to the English. And she must go
to Compidgne, for she heard that, when the town
was taken, all the people, old and young, were
to be put to the sword.

Then she leaped, and there she lay. She was
not hurt, not a bone of her was broken, which is
an extraordinary thing, but she could not move a



Joan on the roof of the tower at Beaurevoir — Pag-e 78


limb. The people of tlie castle came and took
her back to her prison room. She did not know
what had happened, and for three days she ate
nothing. Then her memory came back to her
and to her sorrows. Why was she not allowed
to die ! St. Catherine told her that she had
sinned, and must confess, and ask the Divine
mercy. But she was to go through with her
appointed task. "Take no care for thy torment,''
said the Voice ; " thence shalt thou come into
Paradise." Moreover, St. Catherine promised
that Compiegne should be rescued before Martin-
mas. That was the last good news, and the
last happy thing that came to Joan in the days
of her life ; for, just before Martinmas, her friend,
Pothon de Xaintrailles, rode with his men-at-
arms through the forest of Compiegne, whilst
others of the French attacked the English and
Burgundians on the farther side of the Oise, and
so the Saint kept her promise, and Compiegne
was saved.



As Joan was a woman, and a prisoner of the
Church, when the English had handed her over
to the priests, she ought to have been kept in
gentle prison, and with only women about her.
But the English were very cruel. They had a
kind of cage made, called a huche, and put in a
strong room in the Castle of Rouen. In this
cage they kept Joan, with chains on her legs,
which were fastened to a strong post or beam of
the bed. Five common soldiers kept watch in
the room, day and night ; the eyes of the men
were always on the most modest of girls. We
see now much they feared her. They wished to
have her proved a witch, and one who dealt with
devils, to take away the shame of having been
defeated by a girl, and also to disgrace the
French King by making the world believe that
he had been helped by a sorceress and her evil
spirits. In truth, if you read Renry F/., Part
I., by Shakespeare, you will see just what the
English thought about the Maid. Shakespeare,
of course, did not know the true story of Joan,
and he makes her say abominable things, which
not even her enemies brought up against her at



her Trial. If Shakespeare wrote the play, he did
not care a penny for the truth of the story. He
sends Joan to Bordeaux, where she never was in
her life, and makes " Fiends " ( that is, her Saints )
appear to her, and show that they will help her
no longer. So she offers her very soul as a
sacrifice for the sake of France :

''Then take my soul, my body, soul and all,
Before that England give the French the foil."

Later she turns on the English, and says what
she might have said with truth :

"I never had to do with wicked spirits:
But you, that are polluted with your lusts,
Stained with the guiltless blood of innocents,
Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices.
Because you want the grace that others have,
You judge it straight a thing impossible
To compass wonders but by help of devils."

The English had devils on their own side, the
cruel priests and Bishop Cauchon, whom they
had promised to make Archbishop of Rouen.
But he never got it.

For three months these examined Joan every
day, sometimes all shouting at her at once, so
that she said,

"Gentlemen, if you please, one at time."

She had no advocate, who knew the law, to
help her defend herself. But once, when she
appealed to the Council of Basle, a Council of


the Church, which was then sitting, they bade
her be silent, and told the clerk who took down
everything in writing, in French, not to write
down her appeal. There is nothing about this in
the Latin book of the Trial, translated from the
French, but in the French copy, made in court,
you see the place where the clerk's pen has
stopped at the words, "and she appeals" {Et
requiert^ in French ). He was going to write the
rest. Now she had a right to appeal, and as the
clergy at the Council of Basle were of many
countries, they would not have taken the English
side, but pronounced Joan innocent. The
Bishops and clergy of the loyal French party at
Poitiers, before she went to the war, had declared
her innocent and a thing of God, after examina-
tion of her life up till April 1429. Joan often
asked her judges to send for " the Poitiers book,"
where they would find answers to their questions
about her early days ; but they vexed her about
everything, even about the fairy tree, on which
the children used to hang their garlands. Their
notion seems to have been that the fairies were
her helpers, not the Saints, and that the fairies
were evil spirits.

Joan had shown that, in war and politics, she
was wiser than the soldiers and statesmen. She
went straight at the work to be done — to beat
the Englieh, and to keep attacking them before
they got back their confidence. At her Trial she
showed that she p^as far wiser than the learned


priests. They tried to prove that she was helped
by the fairies. She said that she did not believe
there were any fairies ; and though I woidd not
say that there are none^ there certainly are not
so many, or so busy and powerful, as the priests
supposed. They kept asking her about the
prophecies of Merlin the Wizard : she thought

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe story of Joan of Arc, the maid of Orleans → online text (page 4 of 5)