JOAN ENTERS ON HER MILITARY CAREER.SHE GOES TO VAUCOULEURS
AT length her Voices became imperative. The need of her country was extreme; its cause, but for her, hopeless. She must leave the peaceful home of pious childhood, her parents and brothers, the persons and the places that she had known so long and loved. She was only seventeen. Durand Laxart, called her uncle, the first and one of the staunchest and truest believers in her mission, invited her to his house under pretense of assisting his sick wife, Joan's own cousin, and then conducted her to the fortress of Vaucouleurs, in order to persuade the hardened old captain, Robert de Baudricourt, to give her a guard to seek the king. Laxart's call to Joan was probably not later, according to the documents, than December, 1428. Joan says she stayed with him a week before going to Vaucouleurs. Laxart says she stayed six weeks altogether in his house. Poulengy affirms that Joan returned to Domremy after her first visit to Vaucouleurs. So we have four or five weeks for her second sojourn at her uncle's, when he went himself several times to Baudricourt. Then Joan herself came to stay
at Vaucouleurs, in the house of Henri le Charron. Here she remained three weeks. Meanwhile occurred her pilgrimage to the famous shrine of St. Nicholas, and the interview with the Duke of Lorraine. In all, there must have been at least eight weeks between her departure from Domremy and her journey "into France," 23rd February, 1429. Hence she left home toward the end of December. In this interval her father and mother came to Bury, Laxart's home, and to Vaucouleurs. At this time they made a last attempt to restrain Joan by having her cited before the Bishop of Toul for breach of promise. The charge was baseless. Her knightly companion, Jean de Metz, says he accompanied her to Toul, naturally enough to see how the affair would end and so test the alleged mission of the Maid. He then left her, although she had to make four leagues to Nancy, in answer to the invitation of the Duke of Lorraine. De Metz must have returned to tell Baudricourt of the result of Joan's trial before her Bishop. The desire of the Duke of Lorraine to see Joan, and have her pray for his recovery, shows that her reputation was already becoming great. On her way Joan made a pilgrimage to the famous shrine of St. Nicholas du Port. Bertrand de Poulengy, her other knightly companion, puts this pilgrimage before the visit to the Duke. Alain and Laxart led her to the Duke, and bravely wished to bring her to the king. But she saw it was impossible and returned.
She had put on male attire furnished by Laxart and Poulengy; but when she returned the people of Vaucouleurs, convinced of her mission, gave her a fitting outfit.
Vaucouleurs was the only place on the Meuse that held out for the king of France. It was commanded by a rough captain named Robert de Baudricourt, whom Joan tells us she knew when she saw him for the first time, for her Voice said to her when in his presence, "It is he." He laughed at her, however; and "repelled" her rudely enough, recommending Laxart to take her home and have her flogged. He was evidently not much better than his fellows of the time, since he thought of handing over the pure-hearted Maiden to the bestiality of his soldiers. Her snowy innocence, however, abashed him. She determined, too, to remain in Vaucouleurs until Heaven would open a way to the king and the city of Orleans. So her uncle Laxart took her to the house of a friend, Henri le Charron, who, with his wife, Catherine le Royer, tells us that Joan prayed and worked in their house as she used to do in Domremy. She used to go to the church of St. Mary each morning; and after the Masses, she descended into the crypt, where, supposing herself to be alone, she prayed with many tears before a venerated statue of Our Lady. Finding no one to help her to reach the king, her interior sufferings were so great as to be compared by her hostess to the pains of childbirth. Then it was that Alain and Laxart offered to go with her.
Opportunely came the invitation of the Duke of Lorraine, whom Joan went to see at Nancy.
Charles II, Duke of Lorraine, had been from youth a favorite of the Duke of Burgundy. He became a bitter enemy of the Duke of Orleans and France, and remained a consistent supporter of the traitorous cause, which had invited the English invader. His early career, however, had been honorable and glorious, before the bitter feuds of Armagnac and Burgundian had desolated France. He was a patron of letters, and had been a devoted defender of the faith. His exploits in Tunis and Hungary had merited for him the hand of the saintly princess, Margaret of Bavaria. But later on, he scandalously abandoned her for a low-born concubine, by whom he had five children. When he died, in 1431, the people of Nancy dragged the unfortunate woman through the streets, and killed her in the most revolting manner. When Joan of Arc visited him, he questioned her about the recovery of his health. She knew nothing of that, she replied; but would recommend him to God if he gave her an escort to reach the king. She warned him as a prophetess to take back his lawful wife; but nothing came of the visit. About the 12th of February she returned to Vaucouleurs.
When she first came to see Robert de Baudricourt, two noble-hearted soldiers serving under him were impressed by her appearance and story—Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy.
The former, Seigneur of Novelonpont or Nouillonpont, was thirty years of age when he offered to guide Joan to the king. He was ennobled in 1449; and the royal patent speaks of his gallant and honorable life, and his gratuitous service in the wars of his country. He followed Joan through her campaigns, which he survived for he is mentioned as living at Vaucouleurs in 1455. Of the other brave and faithful knight, Bertrand, we know almost nothing beyond his own testimony in favor of Joan of Are at her Rehabilitation.
On the very day, it seems, of Joan's return to Vaucouleurs, she approached de Baudricourt, and announced the terrible defeat of Rouvray, which occurred on that very day, one hundred leagues away; and she foretold disasters yet more terrible if she were not sent on her Heaven-appointed mission. De Baudricourt soon learned, probably from a royal courier, Collet de Vienne, the confirmation of the fatal news, and determined at last to furnish Joan with the means of beginning her mission. Before setting out, Joan sent a message to her parents, and, as she says, obtained their forgiveness. They were moved, no doubt, by the popular conviction of her extraordinary destiny. She wore male attire by the sheer necessity of her situation as well as for the sake of modesty; but she understood from her Voices that it was fitting she should assume it. Jean
de Metz, who used to visit her in the house of Henri le Charron, speaks of her "poor garments of a red color," to replace which the people of Vaucouleurs gave her complete male attire, and presented her with a horse. Bertrand de Poulengy specifies that it was Jean de Metz and himself, aided by some others of the town, that provided Joan with a tunic and other garments of a soldier; with "spurs, boots, a sword, and such like things; and, moreover, with a horse." "Then," he continues, "Jean de Metz and myself, with Jeanne, escorted by Julien, my servant, and Jean de Honnecourt, the servant of Jean de Metz, in company with Collet de Vienne and Richard the Archer, set out to go to the Dauphin."
Joan had made an extraordinary impression on the two knights. Her intense earnestness, her unhesitating declaration that she was sent by God, her knowledge of the state of France and of particular things just then occurring, such as the betrothal of the infant son of Charles VII to the infant Margaret of Scotland—these, and perhaps signs more conclusive of her mission, moved the knightly companions to risk all, even life, in her cause. She said to de Metz that she must be en route to the king before mid-Lent, even though she wore her feet off; that this was the command of God, although naturally she would prefer to remain spinning with her mother. Then the gallant soldier took her by the hand, and pledged his knightly word
to lead her, under the guidance of God, to the king. "When do you wish to go?" he asked; and she said, "To-day rather than to-morrow, or to-morrow rather than the day after." The captain of the fortress, Robert de Baudricourt gave her a sword—the only arm she had, she says; made her escort swear to guide her safely; and sent her on her way with the soldierly word, which shows he risked not a little, "Go, whatever comes of it!" Thus in the evening of February 23rd, 1429, Joan and her little company set out on a journey that never will be forgotten.