Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc/Book III/Chapter 12
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Book III - Joan's Master-Stroke Diverted
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Now, as a next move, this small secret court of holy assassins did a thing so base that even at this day, in my old age, it is hard to speak of it with patience.
In the beginning of her commerce with her Voices there at Domremy, the child Joan solemnly devoted her life to God, vowing her pure body and her pure soul to His service. You will remember that her parents tried to stop her from going to the wars by haling her to the court at Toul to compel her to make a marriage which she had never promised to make—a marriage with our poor, good, windy, big, hard-fighting, and most dear and lamented comrade, the Standard-Bearer, who fell in honorable battle and sleeps with God these sixty years, peace to his ashes! And you will remember how Joan, sixteen years old, stood up in that venerable court and conducted her case all by herself, and tore the poor Paladin's case to rags and blew it away with a breath; and how the astonished old judge on the bench spoke of her as "this marvellous child."
You remember all that. Then think what I felt, to see these false priests, here in the tribunal wherein Joan had fought a fourth lone fight in three years, deliberately twist that matter entirely around and try to make out that Joan haled the Paladin into court and pretended that he had promised to marry her, and was bent on making him do it.
Certainly there was no baseness that those people were ashamed to stoop to in their hunt for that friendless girl's life. What they wanted to show was this—that she had committed the sin of relapsing from her vow and trying to violate it.
Joan detailed the true history of the case, but lost her temper as she went along, and finished with some words for Cauchon which he remembers yet, whether he is fanning himself in the world he belongs in or has swindled his way into the other.
The rest of this day and part of the next the court labored upon the old theme—the male attire. It was shabby work for those grave men to be engaged in; for they well knew one of Joan's reasons for clinging to the male dress was, that soldiers of the guard were always present in her room whether she was asleep or awake, and that the male dress was a better protection for her modesty than the other.
The court knew that one of Joan's purposes had been the deliverance of the exiled Duke of Orleans, and they were curious to know how she had intended to manage it. Her plan was characteristically businesslike, and her statement of it as characteristically simple and straightforward:
"I would have taken English prisoners enough in France for his ransom; and failing that, I would have invaded England and brought him out by force."
That was just her way. If a thing was to be done, it was love first, and hammer and tongs to follow; but no shilly-shallying between. She added with a little sigh—
"If I had had my freedom three years, I would have delivered him."
"Have you the permission of your Voices to break out of prison whenever you can?"
"I have asked their leave several times, but they have not given it."
I think it is as I have said, she expected the deliverance of death, and within the prison walls, before the three months should expire.
"Would you escape if you saw the doors open?"
She spoke up frankly and said—
"Yes—for I should see in that the permission of Our Lord. God helps who help themselves, the proverb says. But except I thought I had permission, I would not go."
Now, then, at this point, something occurred which convinces me, every time I think of it—and it struck me so at the time—that for a moment, at least, her hopes wandered to the King, and put into her mind the same notion about her deliverance which Noël and I had settled upon—a rescue by her old soldiers. I think the idea of the rescue did occur to her, but only as a passing thought, and that it quickly passed away.
Some remark of the Bishop of Beauvais moved her to remind him once more that he was an unfair judge, and had no right to preside there, and that he was putting himself in great danger.
"What danger?" he asked.
"I do not know. St. Catherine has promised me help, but I do not know the form of it. I do not know whether I am to be delivered from this prison or whether when you sent me to the scaffold there will happen a trouble by which I shall be set free. Without much thought as to this matter, I am of the opinion that it may be one or the other." After a pause she added these words, memorable forever—words whose meaning she may have miscaught, misunderstood; as to that we can never know; words which she may have rightly understood, as to that, also, we can never know; but words whose mystery fell away from them many a year ago and revealed their meaning to all the world:
"But what my Voices have said clearest is, that I shall be delivered by a great victory." She paused, my heart was beating fast, for to me that great victory meant the sudden bursting in of our old soldiers with the war-cry and clash of steel at the last moment and the carrying off of Joan of Arc in triumph. But, oh, that thought had such a short life! For now she raised her head and finished, with those solemn words which men still so often quote and dwell upon—words which filled me with fear, they sounded so like a prediction. "And always they say 'Submit to whatever comes; do not grieve for your martyrdom; from it you will ascend into the Kingdom of Paradise."
Was she thinking of fire and the stake? I think not. I thought of it myself, but I believe she was only thinking of this slow and cruel martyrdom of chains and captivity and insult. Surely, martyrdom was the right name for it.
It was Jean de la Fontaine who was asking the questions. He was willing to make the most he could out of what she had said:
"As the Voices have told you you are going to Paradise, you feel certain that that will happen and that you will not be damned in hell. Is that so?"
"I believe what they told me. I know that I shall be saved."
"It is a weighty answer."
"To me the knowledge that I shall be saved is a great treasure."
"Do you think that after that revelation you could be able to commit mortal sin?"
"As to that, I do not know. My hope for salvation is in holding fast to my oath to keep by body and my soul pure."
"Since you know you are to be saved, do you think it necessary to go to confession?"
The snare was ingeniously devised, but Joan's simple and humble answer left it empty—
"One cannot keep his conscience too clean."
We were now arriving at the last day of this new trial. Joan had come through the ordeal well. It had been a long and wearisome struggle for all concerned. All ways had been tried to convict the accused, and all had failed, thus far. The inquisitors were thoroughly vexed and dissatisfied. However, they resolved to make one more effort, put in one more day's work. This was done—March 17th. Early in the sitting a notable trap was set for Joan:
"Will you submit to the determination of the Church all your words and deeds, whether good or bad?"
That was well planned. Joan was in imminent peril now. If she should heedlessly say yes, it would put her mission itself upon trial, and one would know how to decide its source and character promptly. If she should say no, she would render herself chargeable with the crime of heresy.
But she was equal to the occasion. She drew a distinct line of separation between the Church's authority over her as a subject member, and the matter of her mission. She said she loved the Church and was ready to support the Christian faith with all her strength; but as to the works done under her mission, those must be judged by God alone, who had commanded them to be done.
The judge still insisted that she submit them to the decision of the Church. She said—
"I will submit them to Our Lord who sent me. It would seem to me that He and His Church are one, and that there should be no difficulty about this matter." Then she turned upon the judge and said, "Why do you make a difficulty when there is no room for any?"
Then Jean de la Fontaine corrected her notion that there was but one Church. There were two—the Church Triumphant, which is God, the saints, the angels, and the redeemed, and has its seat in heave; and the Church Militant, which is our Holy Father the Pope, Vicar of God, the prelates, the clergy and all good Christians and Catholics, the which Church has its seat in the earth, is governed by the Holy Spirit, and cannot err. "Will you not submit those matters to the Church Militant?"
"I am come to the King of France from the Church Triumphant on high by its commandant, and to that Church I will submit all those things which I have done. For the Church Militant I have no other answer now."
The court took note of this straitly worded refusal, and would hope to get profit out of it; but the matter was dropped for the present, and a long chase was then made over the old hunting-ground—the fairies, the visions, the male attire, and all that.
In the afternoon the satanic Bishop himself took the chair and presided over the closing scenes of the trial. Along toward the finish, this question was asked by one of the judges:
"You have said to my lord the Bishop that you would answer him as you would answer before our Holy Father the Pope, and yet there are several questions which you continually refuse to answer. Would you not answer the Pope more fully than you have answered before my lord of Beauvais? Would you not feel obliged to answer the Pope, who is the Vicar of God, more fully?"
Now a thunder-clap fell out of a clear sky—
"Take me to the Pope. I will answer to everything that I ought to."
It made the Bishop's purple face fairly blanch with consternation. If Joan had only known, if she had only know! She had lodged a mine under this black conspiracy able to blow the Bishop's schemes to the four winds of heaven, and she didn't know it. She had made that speech by mere instinct, not suspecting what tremendous forces were hidden in it, and there was none to tell her what she had done. I knew, and Manchon knew; and if she had known how to read writing we could have hoped to get the knowledge to her somehow; but speech was the only way, and none was allowed to approach her near enough for that. So there she sat, once more Joan of Arc the Victorious, but all unconscious of it. She was miserably worn and tired, by the long day's struggle and by illness, or she must have noticed the effect of that speech and divined the reason of it.
She had made many master-strokes, but this was the master-stroke. It was an appeal to Rome. It was her clear right; and if she had persisted in it Cauchon's plot would have tumbled about his ears like a house of cards, and he would have gone from that place the worst-beaten man of the century. He was daring, but he was not daring enough to stand up against that demand if Joan had urged it. But no, she was ignorant, poor thing, and did not know what a blow she had struck for life and liberty.
France was not the Church. Rome had no interest in the destruction of this messenger of God. Rome would have given her a fair trial, and that was all that her cause needed. From that trial she would have gone forth free and honored and blest.
But it was not so fated. Cauchon at once diverted the questions to other matters and hurried the trial quickly to an end.As Joan moved feebly away, dragging her chains, I felt stunned and dazed, and kept saying to myself, "Such a little while ago she said the saving word and could have gone free; and now, there she goes to her death; yes, it is to her death, I know it, I feel it. They will double the guards; they will never let any come near her now between this and her condemnation, lest she get a hint and speak that word again. This is the bitterest day that has come to me in all this miserable time."
So the second trial in the prison was over. Over, and no definite result. The character of it I have described to you. It was baser in one particular than the previous one; for this time the charges had not been communicated to Joan, therefore she had been obliged to fight in the dark.
There was no opportunity to do any thinking beforehand; there was no foreseeing what traps might be set, and no way to prepare for them. Truly it was a shabby advantage to take of a girl situated as this one was. One day, during the course of it, an able lawyer of Normandy, Maetre Lohier, happened to be in Rouen, and I will give you his opinion of that trial, so that you may see that I have been honest with you, and that my partisanship has not made me deceive you as to its unfair and illegal character. Cauchon showed Lohier the proces and asked his opinion about the trial. Now this was the opinion which he gave to Cauchon. He said that the whole thing was null and void; for these reasons: 1, because the trial was secret, and full freedom of speech and action on the part of those present not possible; 2, because the trial touched the honor of the King of France, yet he was not summoned to defend himself, nor any one appointed to represent him; 3, because the charges against the prisoner were not communicated to her; 4, because the accused, although young and simple, had been forced to defend her cause without help of counsel, notwithstanding she had so much at stake.
Did that please Bishop Cauchon? It did not. He burst out upon Lohier with the most savage cursings, and swore he would have him drowned. Lohier escaped from Rouen and got out of France with all speed, and so saved his life.
Well, as I have said, the second trial was over, without definite result. But Cauchon did not give up. He could trump up another. And still another and another, if necessary. He had the half-promise of an enormous prize—the Archbishopric of Rouen—if he should succeed in burning the body and damning to hell the soul of this young girl who had never done him any harm; and such a prize as that, to a man like the Bishop of Beauvais, was worth the burning and damning of fifty harmless girls, let alone one.
So he set to work again straight off next day; and with high confidence, too, intimating with brutal cheerfulness that he should succeed this time. It took him and the other scavengers nine days to dig matter enough out of Joan's testimony and their own inventions to build up the new mass of charges. And it was a formidable mass indeed, for it numbered sixty-six articles!
This huge document was carried to the castle the next day, March 27th; and there, before a dozen carefully selected judges, the new trial was begun.
Opinions were taken, and the tribunal decided that Joan should hear the articles read this time.
Maybe that was on account of Lohier's remark upon that head; or maybe it was hoped that the reading would kill the prisoner with fatigue—for, as it turned out, this reading occupied several days. It was also decided that Joan should be required to answer squarely to every article, and that if she refused she should be considered convicted. You see, Cauchon was managing to narrow her chances more and more all the time; he was drawing the toils closer and closer.
Joan was brought in, and the Bishop of Beauvais opened with a speech to her which ought to have made even himself blush, so laden it was with hypocrisy and lies. He said that this court was composed of holy and pious churchmen whose hearts were full of benevolence and compassion toward her, and that they had no wish to hurt her body, but only a desire to instruct her and lead her into the way of truth and salvation.
Why, this man was born a devil; now think of his describing himself and those hardened slaves of his in such language as that.
And yet, worse was to come. For now having in mind another of Lovier's hints, he had the cold effrontery to make to Joan a proposition which, I think, will surprise you when you hear it. He said that this court, recognizing her untaught estate and her inability to deal with the complex and difficult matters which were about to be considered, had determined, out of their pity and their mercifulness, to allow her to choose one or more persons out of their own number to help her with counsel and advice!
Think of that—a court made up of Loyseleur and his breed of reptiles. It was granting leave to a lamb to ask help of a wolf. Joan looked up to see if he was serious, and perceiving that he was at least pretending to be, she declined, of course.
The Bishop was not expecting any other reply. He had made a show of fairness and could have it entered on the minutes, therefore he was satisfied.
Then he commanded Joan to answer straightly to every accusation; and threatened to cut her off from the Church if she failed to do that or delayed her answers beyond a given length of time.
Yes, he was narrowing her chances down, step by step.
Thomas de Courcelles began the reading of that interminable document, article by article. Joan answered to each article in its turn; sometimes merely denying its truth, sometimes by saying her answer would be found in the records of the previous trials.
What a strange document that was, and what an exhibition and exposure of the heart of man, the one creature authorized to boast that he is made in the image of God. To know Joan of Arc was to know one who was wholly noble, pure, truthful, brave, compassionate, generous, pious, unselfish, modest, blameless as the very flowers in the fields—a nature fine and beautiful, a character supremely great. To know her from that document would be to know her as the exact reverse of all that. Nothing that she was appears in it, everything that she was not appears there in detail.
Consider some of the things it charges against her, and remember who it is it is speaking of. It calls her a sorceress, a false prophet, an invoker and companion of evil spirits, a dealer in magic, a person ignorant of the Catholic faith, a schismatic; she is sacrilegious, an idolater, an apostate, a blasphemer of God and His saints, scandalous, seditious, a disturber of the peace; she incites men to war, and to the spilling of human blood; she discards the decencies and proprieties of her sex, irreverently assuming the dress of a man and the vocation of a soldier; she beguiles both princes and people; she usurps divine honors, and has caused herself to be adored and venerated, offering her hands and her vestments to be kissed.
There it is—every fact of her life distorted, perverted, reversed. As a child she had loved the fairies, she had spoken a pitying word for them when they were banished from their home, she had played under their tree and around their fountain—hence she was a comrade of evil spirits. She had lifted France out of the mud and moved her to strike for freedom, and led her to victory after victory—hence she was a disturber of the peace—as indeed she was, and a provoker of war—as indeed she was again! and France will be proud of it and grateful for it for many a century to come. And she had been adored—as if she could help that, poor thing, or was in any way to blame for it. The cowed veteran and the wavering recruit had drunk the spirit of war from her eyes and touched her sword with theirs and moved forward invincible—hence she was a sorceress.
And so the document went on, detail by detail, turning these waters of life to poison, this gold to dross, these proofs of a noble and beautiful life to evidences of a foul and odious one.
Of course, the sixty-six articles were just a rehash of the things which had come up in the course of the previous trials, so I will touch upon this new trial but lightly. In fact, Joan went but little into detail herself, usually merely saying, "That is not true—passez outre"; or, "I have answered that before—let the clerk read it in his record," or saying some other brief thing.
She refused to have her mission examined and tried by the earthly Church. The refusal was taken note of.
She denied the accusation of idolatry and that she had sought men's homage. She said—
"If any kissed my hands and my vestments it was not by my desire, and I did what I could to prevent it."
She had the pluck to say to that deadly tribunal that she did not know the fairies to be evil beings. She knew it was a perilous thing to say, but it was not in her nature to speak anything but the truth when she spoke at all. Danger had no weight with her in such things. Note was taken of her remark.
She refused, as always before, when asked if she would put off the male attire if she were given permission to commune. And she added this:
"When one receives the sacrament, the manner of his dress is a small thing and of no value in the eyes of Our Lord."
She was charge with being so stubborn in clinging to her male dress that she would not lay it off even to get the blessed privilege of hearing mass. She spoke out with spirit and said:
"I would rather die than be untrue to my oath to God."
She was reproached with doing man's work in the wars and thus deserting the industries proper to her sex. She answered, with some little touch of soldierly disdain:
"As to the matter of women's work, there's plenty to do it."
It was always a comfort to me to see the soldier spirit crop up in her. While that remained in her she would be Joan of Arc, and able to look trouble and fate in the face.
"It appears that this mission of yours which you claim you had from God, was to make war and pour out human blood."
Joan replied quite simply, contenting herself with explaining that war was not her first move, but her second:
"To begin with, I demanded that peace should be made. If it was refused, then I would fight."
The judge mixed the Burgundians and English together in speaking of the enemy which Joan had come to make war upon. But she showed that she made a distinction between them by act and word, the Burgundians being Frenchmen and therefore entitled to less brusque treatment than the English. She said:
"As to the Duke of Burgundy, I required of him, both by letters and by his ambassadors, that he make peace with the King. As to the English, the only peace for them was that they leave the country and go home."
Then she said that even with the English she had shown a pacific disposition, since she had warned them away by proclamation before attacking them.
"If they had listened to me," said she, "they would have done wisely." At this point she uttered her prophecy again, saying with emphasis, "Before seven years they will see it themselves."
Then they presently began to pester her again about her male costume, and tried to persuade her to voluntarily promise to discard it. I was never deep, so I think it no wonder that I was puzzled by their persistency in what seemed a thing of no consequence, and could not make out what their reason could be. But we all know now. We all know now that it was another of their treacherous projects. Yes, if they could but succeed in getting her to formally discard it they could play a game upon her which would quickly destroy her. So they kept at their evil work until at last she broke out and said—
"Peace! Without the permission of God I will not lay it off though you cut off my head!"
At one point she corrected the proces verbal, saying— "It makes me say that everything which I have done was done by the counsel of Our Lord. I did not say that, I said 'all which I have well done.'"
Doubt was cast upon the authenticity of her mission because of the ignorance and simplicity of the messenger chosen. Joan smiled at that. She could have reminded these people that Our Lord, who is no respecter of persons, had chosen the lowly for his high purposes even oftener than he had chosen bishops and cardinals; but she phrased her rebuke in simpler terms:
"It is the prerogative of Our Lord to choose His instruments where He will."
She was asked what form of prayer she used in invoking counsel from on high. She said the form was brief and simple; then she lifted her pallid face and repeated it, clasping her chained hands:
"Most dear God, in honor of your holy passion I beseech you, if you love me, that you will reveal to me what I am to answer to these churchmen. As concerns my dress, I know by what command I have put it on, but I know not in what manner I am to lay it off. I pray you tell me what to do."
She was charged with having dared, against the precepts of God and His saints, to assume empire over men and make herself Commander-in-Chief. That touched the soldier in her. She had a deep reverence for priests, but the soldier in her had but small reverence for a priest's opinions about war; so, in her answer to this charge she did not condescend to go into any explanations or excuses, but delivered herself with bland indifference and military brevity.
"If I was Commander-in-Chief, it was to thrash the English."
Death was staring her in the face here all the time, but no matter; she dearly loved to make these English-hearted Frenchmen squirm, and whenever they gave her an opening she was prompt to jab her sting into it. She got great refreshment out of these little episodes. Her days were a desert; these were the oases in it.
THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC
"I had a woman with me when I could—in towns and lodgings. In the field I always slept in my armor."
That she and her family had been ennobled by the King was charged against her as evidence that the source of her deeds were sordid self-seeking. She answered that she had not asked this grace of the King; it was his own act.
This third trial was ended at last. And once again there was no definite result.
Possibly a fourth trial might succeed in defeating this apparently unconquerable girl. So the malignant Bishop set himself to work to plan it.
He appointed a commission to reduce the substance of the sixty-six articles to twelve compact lies, as a basis for the new attempt. This was done. It took several days.
Meantime Cauchon went to Joan's cell one day, with Manchon and two of the judges, Isambard de la Pierre and Martin Ladvenue, to see if he could not manage somehow to beguile Joan into submitting her mission to the examination and decision of the Church Militant—that is to say, to that part of the Church Militant which was represented by himself and his creatures.
Joan once more positively refused. Isambard de la Pierre had a heart in his body, and he so pitied this persecuted poor girl that he ventured to do a very daring thing; for he asked her if she would be willing to have her case go before the Council of Basel, and said it contained as many priests of her party as of the English party.
Joan cried out that she would gladly go before so fairly constructed a tribunal as that; but before Isambard could say another word Cauchon turned savagely upon him and exclaimed—
"Shut up, in the devil's name!"
Then Manchon ventured to do a brave thing, too, though he did it in great fear for his life. He asked Cauchon if he should enter Joan's submission to the Council of Basel upon the minutes.
"No! It is not necessary."
"Ah," said poor Joan, reproachfully, "you set down everything that is against me, but you will not set down what is for me."
It was piteous. It would have touched the heart of a brute. But Cauchon was more than that. We were now in the first days of April. Joan was ill. She had fallen ill the 29th of March, the day after the close of the third trial, and was growing worse when the scene which I have just described occurred in her cell. It was just like Cauchon to go there and try to get some advantage out of her weakened state.
Let us note some of the particulars in the new indictment—the Twelve Lies.
Part of the first one says Joan asserts that she has found her salvation. She never said anything of the kind. It also says she refuses to submit herself to the Church. Not true. She was willing to submit all her acts to this Rouen tribunal except those done by the command of God in fulfilment of her mission. Those she reserved for the judgment of God. She refused to recognize Cauchon and his serfs as the Church, but was willing to go before the Pope or the Council of Basel.
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 already seen.
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 politics.
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 until death. In truth, these long seances 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. Warwick said:
"Be careful about that; she is smart and is capable of killing herself."
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 holy 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 abandoned by Rome, to be abandoned by the Church! Ah, death is nothing to that, for that is consignment to endless life—and such a life!
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 will die."
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 anywhere.
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 situation.
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 mouldy 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 him alone."
"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 before—