Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc/Book III/Chapter 8

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Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Book III - Joan Tells of Her Visions
THE CAPTURE OF JOAN OF ARC AT COMPIÉGNE
Chapter VIII

The court met next on Monday the 27th. Would you believe it? The Bishop ignored the contract limiting the examination to matters set down in the proces verbal and again commanded Joan to take the oath without reservations. She said:

"You should be content I have sworn enough."

She stood her ground, and Cauchon had to yield.

The examination was resumed, concerning Joan's Voices.

"You have said that you recognized them as being the voices of angels the third time that you heard them. What angels were they?"

"St. Catherine and St. Marguerite."

"How did you know that it was those two saints? How could you tell the one from the other?"

"I know it was they; and I know how to distinguish them."

"By what sign?"

"By their manner of saluting me. I have been these seven years under their direction, and I knew who they were because they told me."

"Whose was the first Voice that came to you when you were thirteen years old?"

"It was the Voice of St. Michael. I saw him before my eyes; and he was not alone, but attended by a cloud of angels."

"Did you see the archangel and the attendant angels in the body, or in the spirit?"

"I saw them with the eyes of my body, just as I see you; and when they went away I cried because they did not take me with them."

It made me see that awful shadow again that fell dazzling white upon her that day under l'Arbre Fée de Bourlemont, and it made me shiver again, though it was so long ago. It was really not very long gone by, but it seemed so, because so much had happened since.

"In what shape and form did St. Michael appear?"

"As to that, I have not received permission to speak."

"What did the archangel say to you that first time?"

"I cannot answer you to-day."

Meaning, I think, that she would have to get permission of her Voices first.

Presently, after some more questions as to the revelations which had been conveyed through her to the King, she complained of the unnecessity of all this, and said—

"I will say again, as I have said before many times in these sittings, that I answered all questions of this sort before the court at Poitiers, and I would that you would bring here the record of that court and read from that. Prithee, send for that book."

There was no answer. It was a subject that had to be got around and put aside. That book had wisely been gotten out of the way, for it contained things which would be very awkward here.

Among them was a decision that Joan's mission was from God, whereas it was the intention of this inferior court to show that it was from the devil; also a decision permitting Joan to wear male attire, whereas it was the purpose of this court to make the male attire do hurtful work against her.

"How was it that you were moved to come into France—by your own desire?"

"Yes, and by command of God. But that it was his will I would note have come. I would sooner have had my body torn in sunder by horses than come, lacking that."

Beaupere shifted once more to the matter of the male attire, now, and proceeded to make a solemn talk about it. That tried Joan's patience; and presently she interrupted and said— "It is a trifling thing and of no consequence. And I did not put it on by counsel of any man, but by command of God."

"Robert de Baudricourt did not order you to wear it?"

"No."

"Did you think you did well in taking the dress of a man?"

"I did well to do whatsoever thing God commanded me to do."

"But in this particular case do you think you did well in taking the dress of a man?"

"I have done nothing but by command of God."

Beaupere made various attempts to lead her into contradictions of herself; also to put her words and acts in disaccord with the Scriptures. But it was lost time. He did not succeed. He returned to her visions, the light which shone about them, her relations with the King, and so on.

"Was there an angel above the King's head the first time you saw him?"

"By the Blessed Mary!—"

She forced her impatience down, and finished her sentence with tranquillity: "If there was one I did not see it."

"Was there light?"

"There were more than three thousand soldiers there, and five hundred torches, without taking account of spiritual light."

"What made the King believe in the revelations which you brought him?"

"He had signs; also the counsel of the clergy."

"What revelations were made to the King?"

"You will not get that out of me this year."

Presently she added: "During three weeks I was questioned by the clergy at Chinon and Poitiers. The King had a sign before he would believe; and the clergy were of opinion that my acts were good and not evil."

The subject was dropped now for a while, and Beaupere took up the matter of the miraculous sword of Fierbois to see if he could not find a chance there to fix the crime of sorcery upon Joan.

"How did you know that there was an ancient sword buried in the ground under the rear of the altar of the church of St. Catherine of Fierbois?"

Joan had no concealments to make as to this:

"I knew the sword was there because my Voices told me so; and I sent to ask that it be given to me to carry in the wars. It seemed to me that it was not very deep in the ground. The clergy of the church caused it to be sought for and dug up; and they polished it, and the rust fell easily off from it."

"Were you wearing it when you were taken in battle at Compiègne?"

"No. But I wore it constantly until I left St. Denis after the attack upon Paris."

This sword, so mysteriously discovered and so long and so constantly victorious, was suspected of being under the protection of enchantment.

"Was that sword blest? What blessing had been invoked upon it?"

"None. I loved it because it was found in the church of St. Catherine, for I loved that church very dearly."

She loved it because it had been built in honor of one of her angels.

"Didn't you lay it upon the altar, to the end that it might be lucky?" (The altar of St. Denis.) "No."

"Didn't you pray that it might be made lucky?"

"Truly it were no harm to wish that my harness might be fortunate."

"Then it was not that sword which you wore in the field of Compiègne? What sword did you wear there?"

"The sword of the Burgundian Franquet d'Arras, whom I took prisoner in the engagement at Lagny. I kept it because it was a good war-sword—good to lay on stout thumps and blows with."

She said that quite simply; and the contrast between her delicate little self and the grim soldier words which she

dropped with such easy familiarity from her lips made many spectators smile.

"What is become of the other sword? Where is it now?"

"Is that in the proces verbal?"

Beaupere did not answer.

"Which do you love best, your banner or your sword?"

Her eye lighted gladly at the mention of her banner, and she cried out:

"I love my banner best—oh, forty times more than the sword! Sometimes I carried it myself when I charged the enemy, to avoid killing any one." Then she added, naively, and with again that curious contrast between her girlish little personality and her subject, "I have never killed anyone."

It made a great many smile; and no wonder, when you consider what a gentle and innocent little thing she looked. One could hardly believe she had ever even seen men slaughtered, she look so little fitted for such things.

"In the final assault at Orleans did you tell your soldiers that the arrows shot by the enemy and the stones discharged from their catapults would not strike any one but you?"

"No. And the proof its, that more than a hundred of my men were struck. I told them to have no doubts and no fears; that they would raise the siege. I was wounded in the neck by an arrow in the assault upon the bastille that commanded the bridge, but St. Catherine comforted me and I was cured in fifteen days without having to quit the saddle and leave my work."

"Did you know that you were going to be wounded?"

"Yes; and I had told it to the King beforehand. I had it from my Voices."

"When you took Jargeau, why did you not put its commandant to ransom?"

"I offered him leave to go out unhurt from the place, with all his garrison; and if he would not I would take it by storm."

"And you did, I believe."

"Yes."

"Had your Voices counselled you to take it by storm?"

"As to that, I do not remember."

Thus closed a weary long sitting, without result. Every device that could be contrived to trap Joan into wrong thinking, wrong doing, or disloyalty to the Church, or sinfulness as a little child at home or later, had been tried, and none of them had succeeded. She had come unscathed through the ordeal.

Was the court discouraged? No. Naturally it was very much surprised, very much astonished, to find its work baffling and difficult instead of simple and easy, but it had powerful allies in the shape of hunger, cold, fatigue, persecution, deception, and treachery; and opposed to this array nothing but a defenceless and ignorant girl who must some time or other surrender to bodily and mental exhaustion or get caught in one of the thousand traps set for her.

And had the court made no progress during these seemingly resultless sittings? Yes. It had been feeling its way, groping here, groping there, and had found one or two vague trails which might freshen by and by and lead to something. The male attire, for instance, and the visions and Voices. Of course no one doubted that she had seen supernatural beings and been spoken to and advised by them. And of course no one doubted that by supernatural help miracles had been done by Joan, such as choosing out the King in a crowd when she had never seen him before, and her discovery of the sword buried under the altar. It would have been foolish to doubt these things, for we all know that the air is full of devils and angels that are visible to traffickers in magic on the one hand and to the stainlessly holy on the other; but what many and perhaps most did doubt was, that Joan's visions, Voices, and miracles came from God. It was hoped that in time they could be proven to have been of satanic origin. Therefore, as you see, the court's persistent fashion of coming back to that subject every little while and spooking around it and prying into it was not to pass the time—it had a strictly business end in view.