Andrew Lang.

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

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nothing of Merlin the Wizard.

She vowed to speak truth in answer to
questions, but she would not answer questions
about her Saints and Voices, except ^hen they
gave her permission. The judges troubled her
most about the secret of the King, and what she
told him about that, before she went to the wars.
You remember that the King had secretly prayed
to know whether he really was the son of the late
King or not, and that Joan told him of his
prayer, and told him that he was the son of the
King, and had the right to be King himself.
But she would tell the Judges nothing about all
this matter. If she had, the English woidd have
cried everywhere, "You see he is not certain
himself that he is what he pretends to be. Our
King of England is the only King of France."

Joan would not betray her King*s doubts. She
never would tell what happened. At last sbe
told a simple parable : an Angel came with a rich
crown for the King. But, later, she explained
that by the Angel she meant herself, and that by
the Crown, she meant her having him crowned
at Rheims. They never could get the King'e


secret out of her. At last they said they would
put her to the torture. They took her to a horrible
vault, full of abominable instruments for pinch-
ing, and tearing, and roasting, and screwing the
bodies of men. There stood the excutioner, with
his arms bare, and his fire lit, and all his pincers,
and ropes, and pulleys ready.

"Now will you tell us?*' they said. Brave
men had turned faint with terror in that vault,
and had said anything that they were asked to
say, rather than face the pain. There was a
Marshal of France, Gilles de Rais, a nobleman
who fought beside Joan at Orleans, at Les
ToureUes, at Jargeau, at Pathay, and at Paris,
and who carried the sacred vessel which the
Angel brought, long ago, with holy oil, at the
King's coronation. Later this man was accused
by the Inquisition of the most horrible crimes.
Among other things, he was said to have
sacrificed children to the devil, and to have
killed hundreds of little boys for his own
amusement. But hundreds of little boys were not
proved missing, and none of their remains were
ever found. Gilles de Rais denied these horrible
charges ; he said he was innocent, and, for all
that we know, he was. But they took him to
the torture vault, and showed him the engines of
torment, and he confessed everything, so that he
might be put to death without torture, which
was done.

Joan did not fear and turn faint. She said.


" Torture me if yon please. Tear my body to
pieces. Whatever I say in my pains will not be
true, and as soon as I am released I will deny
that it was true. Now, go on ! " Many priests
wished to go on, but more, even of these cruel
enemies, said, " No ! " they would not torture
the girl.

" What a brave lass. Pity she is not English !'*
one of the English lords said, when he saw Joan
standing up against the crowd of priests and

Remember that, for six weeks during Lent,
Joan took no food all day. There she stood,
starving, and answering everybody, always
bravely, always courteously, always wisely, and
sometimes even merrily. They kept asking her
the same questions on different days, to try to
make her vary in her answers. All the answers
were written down. Once they said she had
answered differently before, and, when the book
was examined, it proved that there was some
mistake in the thing, and that Joan was in the
right. She was much pleased, and said to the
clerk, " If you make mistakes again, I will pull
your ears.'*

They troubled her very much about wearing
boy's dress. She said that, when among men in
war, it was better and more proper. She was
still among men, with soldiers in her room, day
and night, which was quite unlawful ; she should
have had only women about her. She would not


put on women's dress while she was among men,
and was quite in the right.

She could hear her Voices in Court, but not
clearly on accoant of the noise. Once, I suppose,
she heard them, for she suddenly said, in the
middle of an answer to a question about the
letters which were written for her when she was
in the wars :

"Before seven years are passed the English
will lose a greater stake than they have lost at
Orleans ; they will lose everything in France."

Before the seven years were out they lost Paris,
a much greater stake than Orleans, as Paris was
the chief town and the largest. They went on
losing till they lost everything in France, even
all that they had held for hundreds of years.

The Judges insisted that she should submit to
the Church. Joan asked nothing better. " Take
me to the Pope, and I will answer him, for I
know and believe that we should obey our Holy
Father, the Pope, who is in Rome." Or she
would answer the Council of the whole Church
at Basle, but, as I said, the Bishop Cauchon
stopped the clerk when he was writing down the
words. The Judges said " We are the Church ;
answer us and obey us." But, of course, they
were not the Church ; they were only a set of
disloyal French priests who sided against their
own country, and helped the English.




At last, on May 24, 1431, they determined to force
her to acknowledge herself in the wrong, and to
deny her Saints. On that day they took her to
the graveyard of the Church of St. Ouen. Two
platforms had been built; on one stood the
wretched Cauchon with his gang; Joan was
placed on the other. There was also a stake with
faggots, for burning Joan. They had ready two
written papers : on one it was written that Joan
would submit to them, and wear woman's dress.
On the other was a long statement that her
Saints were evil spirits, and that she had done
all sorts of wrong things. She was told that if
she would sign the .short paper, and wear
woman's dress, she would be put in gentle prison
with women about her instead of English soldiers.
Seeing the fire ready, Joan repeated the short
form of words, and made her mark, smiling, on
the piece of paper that they gave her, but — it
was the paper with the long speech, accusing
herseK of crimes and denying her Saints.

This is what we are told ; but, later, she
showed that she thought she had denied her
Saints, so it is not easy to be quite sure of what



happened. It is certain that Cauchon broke his
word. She was not taken away from her cruel
prison and English soldiers, as was promised.
She was given woman's dress ; but, as they were
determined to make her " relapse," that is, return
to the sin of wearing man's dress, for then they
could bum her, they put her boy's dress in her
room, and so acted that she was obliged to put
it on. It is a horrid story, not fit to be told, of
cruelty and falseness.

" Now we have her ! " said Cauchon to an

They went to her, and asked her if the Voices
had come to her again ?


"What did they say?"

" St. Catherine and St. Margaret told me that
I had done very wrong, when I said what I did
to save my life, and that I was damning myself
to save my life."

" Then you believe that the Voices were the
voices of the Saints."

" Yes, I believe that, and that the Voices come
from God ; " and she said that she did not mean
ever to have denied it.

On the day of her burning, the Bishop and
the rest went to Joan again, and wrote out a
statement that she left it to the Church to say
whether her Voices were good or bad. The
church has decided that they were good, and has
given Joan the title of " Venerable," which is


the first step towards proclaiming her to be one
of the Saints. Whatever the Voices were, she
said they were real, not fancied things.

But this paper does not count, for the clerk
who took all the notes refused to go with the
Bishop to see Joan, that time, saying that it was
no part of the law, and that they went as private
men, not as Judges, and he had courage not to
sign the paper. He was an honest man and
thought Joan a good girl, unlawfully treated, and
was very sorry for her. " He never wept so
much for any sorrow in all his life, and for a
month he could not be quiet for sorrow : and he
bought a book of prayers and prayed for the
soul of the Maid."

This honest man's name was Gilbert Manchon.



They bum Joan of Arc in the market-place of Rouen.— Page 92



They burned her cruelly to death in the market-
place of Rouen, with eight hundred soldiers
round the stake, lest any should attempt to save
her. They had put a false accusation on a paper
cap, and set it on her head : it was written that
she was *' Heretic, Relapsed, Apostate, Idola-
tress." This was her reward for the bravest and
best life that was ever lived.

She came to her own and her own received

her not

There was with her a priest who pitied her, not
one of her Judges — Brother Isambert de la
Pierre, of the order of St. Augustine. Joan
asked him to bring her a cross, and to hold it up
before her eyes while she was burning. " Saith
moreover that while she was in the fire she
ceased never to caU loudly on the Holy Name of
Jesus; always, too, imploring ceaselessly the
help of the Saints in Paradise; and more, when
the end was now come, she bowed her head, and
gave up her spirit, calling on the name of Jesus."

The Saints had said to her, long before : " Bear
your torment lightly : thence shall you come mto
the kingdom of Paradise."


HER END ' 93

So died Joan the Maid.

It is said by some who were present, that even
the English Cardinal, Beaufort, wept when he
saw the Maid die : " crocodiles' tears ! " One
of the secretaries of Henry VI. ( who himself was
only a little boy) said, "We are all lost. We
have burned a Saint ! "

They were all lost. The curse of their cruelty
did not depart from them. Driven by the French
and Scots from province to province, and from
town to town, the English returned home, tore
and rent each other ; murdering their princes
and nobles on the scaffold, and slaying them as
prisoners of war on the field ; and stabbing and
smothering them in chambers of the Tower;
York and Lancaster devouring each other ; the
mad Henry VI. was driven from home to wander
by the waves at St. Andrews, before he wandered
back to England and the dagger stroke — these
things were the reward the English won, after
they had burned a Saint. They ate the bread
and drank the cup of their own greed and
cruelty all through the Wars of the Roses. They
brought shame upon their name which Time can
never wash away ; they did the DeviFs work, and
took the DeviVs wages. Soon Henry VIH. was
butchering his wives and burning Catholics and
Protestants, now one, now the other, as the
humor seized him.

Joan had said to the Archbishop, at Rheims,
that she knew not where she would die, or where


she would be buried. Her ashes were never laid
in the earth ; she had no grave. The English,
that men might forget her, threw her ashes into
the sea. There remain no relics of Joan of Arc ;
no portrait, nothing she ever wore, no cup or
sword or jewel that she ever touched. But she
is not forgotten ; she never will be forgotten. On
every Eighth of May, the day when she turned
the tide of English conquest, a procession in her
honor goes through the streets of Orleans, the
city that she saved ; and though the Protestants,
at the Reformation, destroyed her statue that
knelt before the Fair Cross on the bridge, she
has statues in many of the towns in France. She
was driven from the gate of Paris, but near the
place where she lay wounded in the ditch, is her
statue, showing her on horseback, in armor.



The rich and the strong had not paid a franc, or
drawn a sword to ransom or to rescue Joan. The
poor had prayed for her, and the written prayers
which they used may still be seen. Probably
the others would have been glad to let Joan's
memory perish, but to do this was not convenient.
If Joan had been a witch, a heretic, an impostor,
an apostate, as was declared in her condemnation,
then the King had won his battles by the help of
a heretic and a witch. Twenty years after Joan's
martyrdom, when the King had recovered
Normandy and Rouen, he thought it time to take
care of his own character, and to inquire into
the charges on which she was found guilty. It is
fair to say that he could not do this properly till
he was master of Rouen, the place at which she
was tried. Some of the people concerned were
asked questions, such as the good clerk, Manchon,
and Beaupere, one of the judges. He was a man
of some sense ; he did not think that Joan was
a witch, but that she was a fanciful girl, who
thought that she saw Saints and heard Voices,
when she neither saw nor heard anything. Many
mad people hear Voices which are also mad ;



Joan's Voices were perfectly sane and wise, and
told her things that she could not have known of

Not much came of this examination, but two
years later, Joan's mother and brothers prayed
for a new trial to clear the character of the
family. It is the most extraordinary thing that,
up to this year, 1452, Joan's brothers and cousins
seem to have been living, on the best terms, with
the woman who pretended to be Joan, and said
that she had not been burned, but had escaped.
This was a jolly kind of woman, fond of eating
and drinking and playing tennis. Why Joan's
brothers and cousins continued to be friendly
with her, after the King found her out, because she
did not know his secret, is the greatest of puzzles,
for she was a detected impostor, and no money
could be got from the connection with her.
Another very amazing thing is that, in 1436, an
aunt of the Duke of Burgundy, Madame de
Luxembourg, entertained the impostor, while the
whole town of Orleans welcomed her, and made
her presents, and ceased holding a religious
service on the day of Joan's death, for here,
they said, she was, quite well and merry ! More-
over the town's books of accounts, at Orleans,
show that they paid a pension to Joan's mother
as " Mother of the Maid," till 1452, when they
say *' Mother of the late Maid." For now, as
Joan's family were trying to have her character
cleared, they admitted that she was dead, burned


to death, in 1431, as, of course, she really was.
There are not many things more curious than
this story of the False Maid.

However, at last Joan's family gave up the
impostor, and, five years later, she was impris-
oned, and let out again, and that is the last we
hear of her. The new Trial lingered on, was
begun, and put off, and begun again in 1455.
Cauchon was dead by this time ; nothing could
be done to him. Scores of witnesses came and
told the stories given at the beginning of
this book, showing how Joan was the best and
most religious of girls, and very kind to people
even more poor than herself, and very industrious
in knitting and sewing and helping her mother.
Every one who was still alive, that had known
her in the wars, came, like d'Alencon, and Dunois,
and d'Aulon, and her confessor: and many
others came, and told about Joan in the wars,
how brave she was and modest, and the stories
of what she had suffered in prison, and about
the unfairness of her trial, were repeated.

The end was that the Court of Inquiry
declared her trial to have been full of unlaw-
fulness and cruelty, and they abolished the
sentence against her, and took off all the shame-
ful reproaches, and ordered a beautiful cross to
be erected to her memory in the place where she
was burned to death.

So here ends the story of the Life and Death
of Joan the Maid.



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