Her miraculous march to the King—He gives her command of the armies of France.
Great was the joy of Joan to hear Baudricourt's words. "Go then in God's name and let come of it what may." The grave patience of her countenance during the weary ten months of waiting and pleading to be sent on her mission, now gave place to a look of exultation that reflected itself on the faces of her escort —the "men-at-arms "—that she had at last obtained from the Governor.
God's ways are not man's ways. Else the Almighty power that chose so weak an instrument for so seemingly impossible a work would have somewhat smoothed the way for her at the start. But those weary months of waiting tested and strengthened her patience and her confidence, and, by so much, prepared her for further and heavier trials. That Baudricourt, bluff, rough, skeptical old soldier, should believe in her and send her on her way, was in itself a miracle most encouraging. And he made every one of the twenty men-at-arms swear to conduct her safely and well to the king.
Joan's task was well begun now, as she started out of the " Gate of France" of the walled town of Vaucouleurs at the head of her little company.
Between her and the Dauphin at Chinon lay the width of France. Over four hundred miles of English-infested land and fully a score of streams to cross. No convoy of supplies for food or shelter accompanied or met them. No guarantee of any kind for safety went with them, except the word of God in the heart of a maiden, and her courage reflected in the faces and hearts of her comrades.
Looking back through history at that march with all its circumstances, we see in it again 'the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, that led the Israelites of old.
Jean de Metz, testifying to this journey on oath years afterwards, swore:
"We traveled for the most part at night for fear of the Burgundians and the English, who were masters of the roads. We journeyed eleven days always riding (westward), towards the said town of Chinon where the Dauphin was. On the way I asked her many times if she would really do all she said. 'Have no fear,' she answered me, I what I am commanded to do I will do;
my brothers in Paradise have told me how to act; it is four or five years since my brothers in Paradise, and my Lord—that is, God 'told me that I must go and fight in order to regain the kingdom of France.' On the way Bertrand and I slept every night by her—Jeanne being at my side fully dressed. She inspired me with such respect that for nothing in the world would I have dared to molest her; ‘also never did I feel towards her—I say it on oath—any carnal desire. On the way she always wished to hear Mass. She said to us: 'If we can we shall do well to hear Mass.' But for fear of being recognized we were able only to hear it twice. I had absolute faith in her. Her words and her ardent faith in God inflamed me."
Bertrand de Poulengy testified:
"I felt myself inspired by her words, for I saw she was indeed a messenger of God; never did I see in her any evil, but always she was as good as if she had been a saint. We took our road thus and without many obstacles gained Chinon, where the king, the Dauphin, was then staying."
The first place of any interest recorded in their journey was the little town of St. Catherine de Fierbois, about a half day's journey by horse, from Chinon. Here in a famous chapel dedicated to the St. Catherine of her visions and voices, they arrived on Sunday, March 6, 1429.
Three Masses after one another they stopped to hear. Then the Maid sent her two faithful friends, Sir Bertrand and Jean de Metz, ahead of her to Chinon with Baudricourt's letter to the Dauphin and a letter of her own, which she dictated to Jean de Metz. In it she told the Dauphin that she had come a hundred and fifty leagues to bring him good news, and begged the privilege of delivering it in person. She added that though she had never seen him she would recognize him in any disguise.
After resting a few hours her little cavalcade started again for Chinon and arriving in the evening took lodgings in an inn—awaiting the Dauphin's commands.
Just as Joan rode into Chinon there came there also two knightly messengers from beleaguered Orleans, appealing to the king for immediate help or the city must fall.
There was a good man and a capable soldier at the time in command of Orleans. He was Jean, a natural son of the Duke of Orleans, and is well known in French and English his story as "The Bastard of Orleans." That was his popular title at the time, though when peace returned to France 'ten years later he was created Count de Dunois.
We shall call him Dunois for we shall meet him often in this story, and learn to love him for his splendid courage and good sense.
He was the king's Lieutenant-General of the wars. He was in despair of Orleans when the news reached him that a maid was advancing from Lorraine to the rescue of Orleans and the king. That she had just passed Orleans on her way to Chinon. That she promised no less than the raising of the siege of Orleans, the crowning of the King at Reims, the reunion of Burgundy with the king, and the final expulsion of the English from France.
The besieged Orleanists drank in new life and hope with the news. Dunois sent trusted messengers to Chinon to learn the truth.
These soon returned to Orleans and reported to Dunois that they had seen the maid; they had 'talked with her men; that she came to beg men and arms and authority from the Dauphin to raise the siege of Orleans. She had not asked for a great army—had not specified for any number of men—if only the king would give her soldiers and authority—saying:
" When God fights it is but small matter whether the hand that holds the sword is big or little."
But the King had at first as little mind to heed her as Baudricourt had before him.
He was too bothered and bewildered—too overwhelmed with disasters, to sense the amazing offer of help so near and so boldly held out.
He sent councilors to Joan to find out her business with him and act for him in the matter. But Joan gently refused to treat with 'them. Her business was with the Dauphin and she keenly suspected that her business would never get to him through these councilors.
"Be patient, the Dauphin will hear me presently. Have no fear," she would say to those who expressed anger at the delays put upon her.
God raised for her a friend at Court in the person of Yolande, queen of Sicily, mother of the Dauphin's wife, a sensible, pious woman, who prevailed upon the king not to turn his back on any promise of help in his straitened condition without investigating it. She caused Joan to be brought to the Castle of Chinon and lodged near herself. Here for two days 'the humble girl from Domremy met the chivalry of France, talked with everybody but the one with whom she longed to have speech. The elegance of the court life, the gay attire, the stately ceremonies, and fine speeches, had no attraction for her. The echo in her heart was her pity for France made her sad, but the knowledge that it must end happily kept her patient.
After two days word came that the Dauphin would see her. He sent a great lord of the court, Count de Vendome, to escort her to the throne room. As she followed her guide in through the great door at one end of the long hall she took in at a glance the three hundred and more splendidly dressed courtiers and soldiers that lined both sides, leaving a wide free space down the middle. At the farther end opposite the entrance was the canopied throne and on its comely occupant the brave girl fixed her gaze as she advanced with the simple dignity of the true woman, untrained, unspoiled, unconscious of herself, and of everything around not directly concerned with her mission.
All eyes were fixed upon the maid. And indeed according to all accounts Joan was good to look at.
No Amazon, no weakling, but a fair good figure, graceful enough to cause no comment in any crowd. From long and frequent converse with her heavenly visitants it is no wonder her countenance was beautiful, but now when joy and hope ran unwonted riot in her heart, her face was radiant beyond telling. Yet awe of her great task doubtless was in it, too.
Joan of Arc never sat for a picture, but she has been a favorite with painters and we are at no loss to imagine how she must have looked at this audience with the favored-of-Heaven Charles VI.
Orleans still shows in its Treasury the dress worn by Joan of Arc at this first interview with the king. A simple white dress of fine material and make—procured for her so the history attached says, by Yolande.
She herself never mentions it in any of her depositions. The great soul of the woman was too full of the fate of the nation to note trifles. Neither should we. Sufficient to know that some reflection of heaven was in her face and the glory of it was the courage of her friends and the confusion of her enemies.
Joan was led quite to the foot of the throne, her name pronounced, the Count de Vendome made his obeisance and bowed himself out of 'the way. But Joan made no obeisance. One long, silent puzzled look she gave the throne and then slowly turned her eyes down the long line of waiting knights on one side till they rested on one. A joyous light came into her face, with one swift motion she was on her knees before him, her hands clasped together and lifted 'to him as she said:
"God of His grace give you long life, o dear and gentle Dauphin."
She had recognized him, though he had changed places with another to test her.
"Do you seek the king?" asked he, pointing to the throne as if to make or to shake her sureness.
"Ah, my gracious liege, you are he, and none other."
"But who are you and what would you? "
"I am Joan 'the maid, and am sent to you by the King of Heaven to tell you that you shall be consecrated and crowned at Reims, and shall be thereafter Lieutenant of the Lord of Heaven, who is King of France."
She paused and no one found words to utter. She spoke again: "The Lord of Heaven wills that you set me at my appointed work, and give me men-at-arms. For then will I raise the siege of Orleans and break the English power."
More than three hundred men of the king's immediate following, had seen that humble girl face unabashed, and yet with no boldness, that grand assembly. They had been eye-witness to her quick penetration of the king's disguise and now their ears are filled with a message of impossible meaning.
While they looked and listened for more of that blessed voice, the King made a sign for all to withdraw and Joan and himself were left alone in a vacant space.
The two talked long and earnestly. This was a most momentous conversation for Joan gave him a sign by which he might know she came from God to him.
What this sign was no one was told at the time. It was seen to make a new man of the doubting, despairing king, but no one guessed it even. At Joan's trial two years afterwards she was tortured unmercifully to make her reveal it but she did not. Of course the whole world knows it since. From depositions on oath of eye-witnesses, from confessions of the King to favorites in after years—handed down by these the whole story is told and in substance it is this:
Naturally the King wished to believe that Joan was sent to him to help him. The couriers from Orleans were even then clamoring at his gate for him to come and bring what men he had to the help of Orleans. But many reverses had made him timorous.
"I wish I knew what to do," he said to Joan at last.
"I will give you a sign and you shall no more doubt," said Joan. "There is a secret trouble in your heart which you have not even put into words. A doubt which wastes your courage and makes you wish to fly from France and hide your head in ignoble peace."
The King was amazed. Only that morning he bad gone to his chapel alone and prayed in his heart that if through his weak mother's sin he was only an imposition on 'the people of France and no true heir to Charles VI, God would make it known to him and he would relinquish all right to the throne of Charlemagne and St. Louis.
"Thou art lawful heir to the king, thy father, and true heir of France. God has spoken it. Now lift up thy head and doubt no more, but give me men-at-arms and let me get about my work, for I must raise the siege of Orleans."
No one but God knew of his doubt or his resolve, and now here was a quick and complete answer to both. The King was satisfied.
Not so his councilors. The old soldiers among them made sport of the very idea of a country maid raising the siege of Orleans, where grim old veterans were trembling for the morrow. When the King mentioned the accuracy of the sign she gave him, the Archbishop of Reims reminded him gravely that Satan knows the secrets of men.
And so the King was persuaded to form a commission to examine Joan as to her authority from God and to report to him.
Several bishops and their secretaries met Joan every day for several days, asking her questions about her Voices and her mission to France.
Joan's answers were always simple and direct. The Commission did not like to countenance the irregularity of a girl leading an army, but they could not decide against Joan.
They advised the king 'to let her case go before the doctors of the university of Poitiers.
Once more must the heroic little woman summon all her fortitude and her patience.
While the English were landing reinforcements and strengthening their bastiles around Orleans; and the people of Orleans facing slow death by hunger, or, later violent death and everlasting disgrace, Joan must wait and wait and wait for leave to succor them. One great sign of the orthodoxy of Joan's mission was her submission to the proper authority. She would not, though guided by God and strong in His care and lead, go from Vaucouleurs to Chinon without proper authority and escort from the Governor there. Nor would she lift a finger to aid Orleans except under the lawful authority of the king. There were men enough who would follow her lead to the rescue of Orleans if she gave the word. But she went nowhere of her own free will. "Send me to Orleans," she cried; "give me fighting men—few or many—and let me go!"
That was peculiarity her plea always. "Gideon's few " even, if only 'there was lawful authority behind them.
For three weeks Joan had to undergo trial as to her orthodoxy before a corps of learned ecclesiastics at Poitiers. She sat or stood by turns before them while they cross-questioned her, badgered her, insulted her. She all the while answering them patiently and sometimes very pointedly.
"I don't know A from B; but I know this: that I am come by command of the Lord of Heaven to deliver Orleans from the English power and crown the King at Reims, and the matters ye are pottering over are of no consequence."
"You assert that God has willed to deliver France from this English bondage?
"Yes; He has so willed it."
"You wish for men-at-arms so that you may go to the relief of Orleans?"
"Yes; and the sooner the better."
"God is all powerful, and able to do whatsoever thing He wills to do, is it not so?"
"Most surely—none doubts it."
" Then answer me. If He has willed to deliver France, and is able to do whatsoever He wills, where is the need for men-at-arms?"
"The sons of France will fight the battles, but God will give the victory! "
The testimony of some of these doctors of theology, who rigorously questioned Joan, taken on oath, is 'to be seen in the archives of Paris today. We shall quote one here as a sample of the rest for they all under oath told the same story in almost the very same words:
Brother Seguin de Seguin, Dominican, Professor of Theology, Dean of the Faculty of Theology of Poitiers.
"I saw Jeanne for the first time at Poitiers. The King's Council was assembled in the house of the Lady La Macee, the Archbishop of Reims, then Chancellor of France, being of their number. I was summoned as was also the Professor of Theology of the University of Paris * * * and many others.
"The Council told us we were summoned, in the King's name, to question Jeanne and give our opinion upon her.
"I, in my turn, asked Jeanne what dialect the Voices spoke. " 'A better one than yours,' she replied. I speak the Limousin dialect.
"Do you believe in God? I asked her. 'In truth, more than you do,' she answered.
‘But God wills that you should not be believed unless you show signs to prove that you ought to be believed. We shall not advise the king to risk an army on your simple statement.'
"In God's name, I am not come to Poitiers to show signs; but send me to Orleans where I shall show you the signs for which I am sent?’
"And then she foretold to me and to the others these four things which should happen, and which did afterwards come to pass. First, that the English would be destroyed, 'the siege of Orleans raised, and the town delivered from the English. Secondly, that the King would be crowned at Reims. Thirdly, that Paris would be restored to his dominion; and fourthly, that the Duke of Orleans (then a prisoner in England) would be brought back from England.
"And I who speak have in 'truth seen these four things accomplished.
"We reported all this to the king, and gave our opinion that considering the extreme necessity, the king might make use of her help and Bend her to Orleans.
"Besides we enquired into her life and morals. We found she was a good Christian, living as a Catholic and never idle. In order that her manner of living might better be known women were placed with her who were to report to the king's council her actions and her ways.
"As for me, I believe she was sent from God, because, at the time when she appeared, the king and all the French people with him had lost hope; no one thought of aught but to save himself."
The verdict made a prodigious stir. The news of it flew like wildfire and every man in France awoke to the meaning of it. For a long time past there had been no French army in the field. The king's authority was openly flouted. The Duke of Burgundy openly for the English side was making friends with the Dukes of Lorraine and Brittany for the English alliance. Money had run out. There was absolutely no hope left. And in this strait the king and his council decided to stake their last chance in the proffered help of this maid, who claimed to come from God.
In truth there was no help for France now but from God. The council of theologians announced also 'that as Joan must do the work of a man she could do it better in the dress of a man.
A day later with a great blare of trumpets the King announced that Joan of Arc, called the Maid, was appointed general in chief of the armies of France. The Duke d'Alencon, a relative of the king, a brave soldier newly
ransomed from a three years' captivity in England was made her lieutenant.
It was a great day for Joan. Her happiness found vent in fervent thanks to her Divine Lord that now France's long night was near its end. Her enthusiasm was caught up by the people near her and spread far and quickly until all France was eager to begin the work of redemption.
Joan went to Tours at once where a suit of armor was fitted for her.
She sent at the same time to Fierbois asking the churchmen of St. Catherine's to send her an old sword they would find buried behind the altar. They found the sword, and cleaned it and fitting a sheath to it sent it to her.
Now was Joan equipped and ready for Orleans.