Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc/Book III/Chapter 6
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Book III - The Maid Baffles Her Persecutors
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That night Manchon told me that all through the day's proceedings Cauchon had had some clerks concealed in the embrasure of a window who were to make a special report garbling Joan's answers and twisting them from their right meaning. Ah, that was surely the cruelest man and the most shameless that has lived in this world. But his scheme failed. Those clerks had human hearts in them, and their base work revolted them, and they turned to and boldly made a straight report, whereupon Cauchon curse them and ordered them out of his presence with a threat of drowning, which was his favorite and most frequent menace. The matter had gotten abroad and was making great and unpleasant talk, and Cauchon would not try to repeat this shabby game right away. It comforted me to hear that.
When we arrived at the citadel next morning, we found that a change had been made. The chapel had been found too small. The court had now removed to a noble chamber situated at the end of the great hall of the castle. The number of judges was increased to sixty-two—one ignorant girl against such odds, and none to help her.
The prisoner was brought in. She was as white as ever, but she was looking no whit worse than she looked when she had first appeared the day before. Isn't it a strange thing? Yesterday she had sat five hours on that backless bench with her chains in her lap, baited, badgered, persecuted by that unholy crew, without even the refreshment of a cup of water—for she was never offered anything, and if I have made you know her by this time you will know without my telling you that she was not a person likely to ask favors of those people. And she had spent the night caged in her wintry dungeon with her chains upon her; yet here she was, as I say, collected, unworn, and ready for the conflict; yes, and the only person there who showed no signs of the wear and worry of yesterday. And her eyes—ah, you should have seen them and broken your hearts. Have you seen that veiled deep glow, that pathetic hurt dignity, that unsubdued and unsubduable spirit that burns and smoulders in the eye of a caged eagle and makes you feel mean and shabby under the burden of its mute reproach? Her eyes were like that. How capable they were, and how wonderful! Yes, at all times and in all circumstances they could express as by print every shade of the wide range of her moods. In them were hidden floods of gay sunshine, the softest and peacefulest twilights, and devastating storms and lightnings. Not in this world have there been others that were comparable to them. Such is my opinion, and none that had the privilege to see them would say otherwise than this which I have said concerning them.
The seance began. And how did it begin, should you think? Exactly as it began before—with that same tedious thing which had been settled once, after so much wrangling. The Bishop opened thus:
"You are required now, to take the oath pure and simple, to answer truly all questions asked you."
Joan replied placidly—
"I have made oath yesterday, my lord; let that suffice."
The Bishop insisted and insisted, with rising temper; Joan but shook her head and remained silent. At last she said:
"I made oath yesterday; it is sufficient." Then she sighed and said, "Of a truth, you do burden me too much."
The Bishop still insisted, still commanded, but he could not move her. At last he gave it up and turned her over for the day's inquest to an old hand at tricks and traps and deceptive plausibilities—Beaupere, a doctor of theology. Now notice the form of this sleek strategist's first remark—flung out in an easy, offhand way that would have thrown any unwatchful person off his guard—
"Now, Joan, the matter is very simple; just speak up and frankly and truly answer the questions which I am going to ask you, as you have sworn to do."
It was a failure. Joan was not asleep. She saw the artifice. She said—
"No. You could ask me things which I could not tell you—and would not." Then, reflecting upon how profane and out of character it was for these ministers of God to be prying into matters which had proceeded from His hands under the awful seal of His secrecy, she added, with a warning note in her tone, "If you were well informed concerning me you would wish me out of your hands. I have done nothing but by revelation."
Beaupere changed his attack, and began an approach from another quarter. He would slip upon her, you see, under cover of innocent and unimportant questions.
"Did you learn any trade at home?"
"Yes, to sew and to spin." Then the invincible soldier, victor of Patay, conqueror of the lion Talbot, deliverer of Orleans, restorer of a king's crown, commander-in-chief of a nation's armies, straightened herself proudly up, gave her head a little toss, and said with naive complacency, "And when it comes to that, I am not afraid to be matched against any woman in Rouen!"
The crowd of spectators broke out with applause—which pleased Joan—and there was many a friendly and petting smile to be seen. But Cauchon stormed at the people and warned them to keep still and mind their manners.
Beaupere asked other questions. Then—
"Had you other occupations at home?"
"Yes. I helped my mother in the household work and went to the pastures with the sheep and the cattle."
Her voice trembled a little, but one could hardly notice it. As for me, it brought those old enchanted days flooding back to me, and I could not see what I was writing for a little while.
Beaupere cautiously edged along up with other questions toward the forbidden ground, and finally repeated a question which she had refused to answer a little while back—as to whether she had received the Eucharist in those days at other festivals than that of Easter. Joan merely said—
"Passez outre." Or, as one might say, "Pass on to matters which you are privileged to pry into."
I heard a member of the court say to a neighbor—
"As a rule, witnesses are but dull creatures, and an easy prey—yes, and easily embarrassed, easily frightened—but truly one can neither scare this child nor find her dozing."
Presently the house pricked up its ears and began to listen eagerly, for Beaupere began to touch upon Joan's Voices, a matter of consuming interest and curiosity to everybody. His purpose was to trick her into heedless sayings that could indicate that the Voices had sometimes given her evil advice—hence that they had come from Satan, you see. To have dealing with the devil—well, that would send her to the stake in brief order, and that was the deliberate end and aim of this trial.
"When did you first hear these Voices?"
"I was thirteen when I first heard a Voice coming from God to help me to live well. I was frightened. It came at midday, in my father's garden in the summer."
"Had you been fasting?"
"The day before?"
"From what direction did it come?"
"From the right—from toward the church."
"Did it come with a bright light?"
"Oh, indeed yes. It was brilliant. When I came into France I often heard the Voices very loud."
"What did the Voice sound like?"
"It was a noble Voice, and I thought it was sent to me from God. The third time I heard it I recognized it as being an angel's."
"You could understand it?"
"Quite easily. It was always clear."
"What advice did it give you as to the salvation of your soul?"
"It told me to live rightly, and be regular in attendance upon the services of the Church. And it told me that I must go to France."
"In what species of form did the Voice appear?"
Joan looked suspiciously at he priest a moment, then said, tranquilly—
"As to that, I will not tell you."
"Did the Voice seek you often?"
"Yes. Twice or three times a week, saying, 'Leave your village and go to France.'"
"Did you father know about your departure?"
"No. The Voice said, 'Go to France'; therefore I could not abide at home any longer."
"What else did it say?"
"That I should raise the siege of Orleans."
"Was that all?"
"No, I was to go to Vaucouleurs, and Robert de Baudricourt would give me soldiers to go with me to France; and I answered, saying that I was a poor girl who did not know how to ride, neither how to fight."
Then she told how she was baulked and interrupted at Vaucouleurs, but finally got her soldiers, and began her march.
"How were you dressed?"
The court of Poitiers had distinctly decided and decreed that as God had appointed her to do a man's work, it was meet and no scandal to religion that she should dress as a man; but no matter, this court was ready to use any and all weapons against Joan, even broken and discredited ones, and much was going to be made of this one before this trial should end.
"I wore a man's dress, also a sword which Robert de Baudricourt gave me, but no other weapon."
"Who was it that advised you to wear the dress of a man?"
Joan was suspicious again. She would not answer.
The question was repeated.
She refused again.
"Answer. It is a command!"
"Passez outre," was all she said.
So Beaupere gave up the matter for the present.
"What did Baudricourt say to you when you left?"
"He made them that were to go with me promise to take charge of me, and to me he said, 'Go, and let happen what may!'" (Advienne que pourra!)
After a good deal of questioning upon other matters she was asked again about her attire. She said it was necessary for her to dress as a man.
"Did your Voice advise it?"
Joan merely answered placidly—
"I believe my Voice gave me good advice."
It was all that could be got out of her, so the questions wandered to other matters, and finally to her first meeting with the King at Chinon. She said she chose out the King, who was unknown to her, by the revelation of her Voices. All that happened at that time was gone over. Finally—
"Do you still hear those Voices?"
"They come to me every day."
"What do you ask of them?"
"I have never asked of them any recompense but the salvation of my soul."
"Did the Voice always urge you to follow the army?"
He is creeping upon her again. She answered—
"It required me to remain behind at St. Denis. I would have obeyed if I had been free, but I was helpless by my wound, and the knights carried me away by force."
"When were you wounded?"
"I was wounded in the moat before Paris, in the assault."
The next question reveals what Beaupere had been leading up to—
"Was it a feast-day?"
You see? The suggestion that a voice coming from God would hardly advise or permit the violation, by war and bloodshed, of a sacred day.
Joan was troubled a moment, then she answered yes, it was a feast-day.
"Now, then, tell the this: did you hold it right to make the attack on such a day?"
This was a shot which might make the first breach in a wall which had suffered no damage thus far. There was immediate silence in the court and intense expectancy noticeable all about. But Joan disappointed the house. She merely made a slight little motion with her hand, as when one brushes away a fly, and said with reposeful indifference—
Smiles danced for a moment in some of the sternest faces there, and several men even laughed outright. The trap had been long and laboriously prepared; it fell, and was empty.
The court rose. It had sat for hours, and was cruelly fatigued. Most of the time had been taken up with apparently idle and purposeless inquiries about the Chinon events, the exiled Duke of Orleans, Joan's first proclamation, and so on, but all this seemingly random stuff had really been sown thick with hidden traps. But Joan had fortunately escaped them all, some by the protecting luck which attends upon ignorance and innocence, some by happy accident, the others by force of her best and surest helper, the clear vision and lightning intuitions of her extraordinary mind.
Now, then, this daily baiting and badgering of this friendless girl, a captive in chains, was to continue a long, long time—dignified sport, a kennel of mastiffs and bloodhounds harassing a kitten!—and I may as well tell you, upon sworn testimony, what it was like from the first day to the last. When poor Joan had been in her grave a quarter of a century, the Pope called together that great court which was to re-examine her history, and whose just verdict cleared her illustrious name from every spot and stain, and laid upon the verdict and conduct of our Rouen tribunal the blight of its executing execrations. Manchon and several of the judges who had been members of our court were among the witnesses who appeared before that Tribunal of Rehabilitation. Recalling these miserable proceedings which I have been telling you about, Manchon testified thus:—here you have it, all in fair print in the official history:
When Joan spoke of her apparitions she was interrupted at almost every word. They wearied her with long and multiplied interrogatories upon all sorts of things. Almost every day the interrogatories of the morning lasted three or four hours; then from these morning interrogatories they extracted the particularly difficult and subtle points, and these served as material for the afternoon interrogatories, which lasted two or three hours. Moment by moment they skipped from one subject to another; yet in spite of this she always responded with an astonishing wisdom and memory. She often corrected the judges, saying, "But I have already answered that once before—ask the recorder," referring them to me.
And here is the testimony of one of Joan's judges. Re-member, these witnesses are not talking about two or three days, they are talking about a tedious long procession of days:
They asked her profound questions, but she extricated herself quite well. Sometimes the questioners changed suddenly and passed on to another subject to see if she would not contradict herself. They burdened her with long interrogatories of two or three hours, from which the judges themselves went forth fatigued. From the snares with which she was beset the expertest man in the world could not have extricated himself but with difficulty. She gave her responses with great prudence; indeed to such a degree that during three weeks I believed she was inspired.
Ah, had she a mind such as I have described? You see what these priests say under oath—picked men, men chosen for their places in that terrible court on account of their learning, their experience, their keen and practised intellects, and their strong bias against the prisoner. They make that poor country-girl out the match, and more than the match, of the sixty-two trained adepts. Isn't it so? They from the University of Paris, she from the sheepfold and the cow-stable! Ah, yes, she was great, she was wonderful. It took six thousand years to produce her; her like will not be seen in the earth again in fifty thousand. Such is my opinion.