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The Story of Joan of Arc by  Andrew Lang


 

 

HOW THE MAID SAW THE DAUPHIN

[28] WHEN Joan reached Chinon, she was lodged with a lady who was very kind, and she waited to see the Dauphin. His advisers were not sure that he ought to see the Maid at all; but probably he was curious, and at last she was brought to the castle, and led up the stairs to a great hall, where were many men in splendid dresses. The castle is in ruins now, and the hall has no roof over it, but you can still go in and see the walls, and empty windows, and the great fireplace. A man plainly dressed was in the crowd of magnificent courtiers in silk and gold embroidery. Joan went straight up, and kneeling on one knee, said, "Fair Sir, you are the Dauphin to whom I am come." But the man pointed to a knight, very richly dressed, and said, "That is the King."

[29] "No, fair Sir," said Joan; "it is to you that I am sent."

The Dauphin, for the man was the Dauphin, was surprised at this, for she had never seen him before. He allowed Joan to come to the castle and talk to him, but he was not sure that she was not an impostor, or a silly girl.

One day, however, she took him aside, into a corner where nobody could hear what they were talking about. When their conversation was ended, the Dauphin looked very grave, and Jeanne looked very glad. She had told him something that made him believe in her.

What had Joan told to the King? It was known at the time that she had told him something that amazed him, for it is mentioned in a letter written a few weeks later by Alan Chartier, a famous poet. But nobody knew the secret: Joan would never let any one know. When she was a prisoner among the English, the French priests and lawyers tried to make her speak, but she would not. It was her King's secret.


[Illustration]

JOAN KNEELING TO THE KING AT CHINON.

Eight years after Joan was dead, a very [30] strange thing happened. A woman who said that Joan had not died, and that she was Joan, came to Orleans with Joan's brothers. The people of Orleans, who had known the Maid very well, believed that this woman was Joan come again, and feasted her and gave her presents. Then she was taken to the King. He himself was puzzled, and said, "Maid, my dear, I am glad to see you again. Do you remember the secret between you and me?"

Then this false pretender to be the Maid confessed that she knew nothing.

When the King was old, he revealed the secret to a friend.

On that day when they went apart together at Chinon, Joan reminded him of the secret prayer which, as I told you, the Dauphin had made when alone, asking that he might know whether he really was the son of the late King, and himself the rightful King of France.

"You are  the rightful King," Joan said.

When the Dauphin heard her words, he made things go on quicker. Priests were sent to Joan's village to find out if she had been a good girl when she was at home. [31] Then she was taken to Poitiers, to be examined by many learned men, priests and lawyers. They tried to perplex her by their questions, but she was straightforward, and told them how the Voices had come to her. One man asked her to give a sign by working a miracle.

"I have not come to Poitiers to give signs," said Joan; "but let me go to Orleans, and you shall see what I will do."

She never professed to work miracles. She wanted to lead an army to Orleans, and the sign to be given was the defeat of the English, and the rescue of the besieged town.

For six weary weeks the learned men and priests examined Joan, and tried in every way to find some fault in her answers. At last they drew up a report and signed it, saying that "to doubt the Maid would be to resist the Holy Spirit." What they were afraid of all the time was that Joan might be advised by spirits, to be sure, but evil spirits or devils. The English and the French lawyers on the English side, declared that Joan was  possessed by devils. They thought that, because they could not [32] deny her powers; but, as she was not on their side, her powers could not come from God, but from Satan. To think in that way is common: people always believe that their own side is the right side. But nobody ever heard of evil spirits taking possession of any one who was really good; and no man could ever find any single bad thing in Joan the Maid.

So now the Dauphin began to collect an army to march with Joan to Orleans. Of course he ought to have done that before, even if there had been no Joan. It was a shameful thing that a strong town, full of brave men, should be taken by four thousand Englishmen, without an effort by the French to drive the English away. But the French had lost all heart and courage: the brave Dunois himself said that a large force of French would run away from a little company of English. All that the French of the Dauphin's party needed was courage and confidence. As soon as they believed in Joan they were full of confidence. They could not turn their backs as long as a girl of sixteen ran forward in front of them, through the rain of arrows, [33] and bullets, and cannon balls, waving her banner, and crying "Come on!"

At this time Joan prophesied that she would be wounded by an arrow at Orleans, but not to death. So a Flemish ambassador at Chinon wrote to the magistrates of his town at home, and his letter was copied into the town council's book, before the Maid went to the war.

White armour was made for Joan to wear, and a Scottish painter made a banner with sacred pictures for her to carry: his daughter was a great friend of Joan.

The Maid said that, as for a sword, if they dug in the ground behind the altar at the chapel of St. Catherine, in Fierbois, they would find a buried sword, which she wished to carry; and it was found, old and rusty, with five crosses on the blade. The Duke of Alenšon, a young cousin of the King's, who had been a prisoner of the English, saw Joan riding one day, and was so pleased with her grace and good horsemanship, that he gave her a very good horse, and became one of her best friends. "My fair Duke" was what she used to call him. Every one said that Joan's manners [34] were as gentle and courteous as those of the greatest ladies, though she had been brought up in a poor cottage. Everything that she did was done in the best way and the noblest.


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