LA BELLE GUERRIERE
THE world is in love with youth as never before, and this is fortunate for the new Jeanne d'Arc, who in the modern sense typifies youth and achievement. Also, there is a keener interest in her personality, induced of late years by various attempts to dramatize her legend—superficially no difficult matter, since the story in itself is so dramatic, furnished with so much passion, eloquence, pathos, not lacking even flashes of delightful comedy, that he would be a poor enough playwright who should fail at it. Hence the public wish to know if Jeanne was beautiful in her features as well as young, heroic, devoted, and, in certain respects, of an intelligence beyond her time.
Now at this juncture certain writers are perversely interested to depict Jeanne as plain even to uncomeliness, though they be utterly without facts or authorities to go upon. Mr. Bernard Shaw, who has exploited and maltreated her legend with his peculiar talent and his no less peculiar idiosyncrasy, seizes upon an ancient unidentified mask found at Orleans and claims it as a true likeness of the Maid.
What precisely is the value of Mr. Shaw's find? Little or nothing. This head of a young woman wearing
a helmet may have been intended as a likeness of Jeanne d'Arc, but it was not done by a contemporary artist, since it dates from the end of the fifteenth century. And so far as we know, there were no pictures or statues to serve as model. Certain images of Jeanne are indeed mentioned as having been shown in churches during the active period of her career, but they were undoubtedly of the crudest, and none of them has come down to us. We may well doubt if there was any artist in France at that time capable of transmitting her exact likeness in marble, and the chronicles are dumb as to any such matter. Also, we may be sure, had such a thing happened it would not have escaped the jealous perquisition of her judges, eager as they were to prove her of ungodly pride and vanity. She told them indeed that a Scottish artist had made her picture, apparently unknown to her, and had afterward shown it to her in prison, the only likeness of herself she had ever seen. Needless to say, this has not reached us.
Finally, the maker of this Orleans head is unknown and the work itself of very mediocre skill, turned out probably by some "gifted amateur" more than a half century after Jeanne's time. Such apocryphal finds are attached to every foreign museum—there is always somebody to show them to you for an extra tip. The Orleans mask is no more authentic as a likeness of the Maid than the Shavian dialogue pretending to report her familiarities with Charles VII.
The chronicles, then, give no support to Mr. Shaw, nor do the writers to whom he is indebted for whatever
ever knowledge he may have acquired about his heroine. On this point we have minute and veracious testimony from many witnesses, the friends of Jeanne's early girlhood and her companions in arms. Hanotaux gives this pleasing and no doubt faithful picture of her as she appeared on setting forth for Chinon—and the king:
"A handsome girl of seventeen to eighteen years; tall and strong, with a round neck and full throat, smiling face, black hair; speaking little but easily, her voice sweet and very feminine; sober, chaste, pious; always cheerful, always lively, decided and prompt, without hesitation or fear, but measured and prudent, bold and restrained, exercising upon men that grasp of serious souls, the ascendancy—such was the extraordinary girl who was starting from her village to save the Kingdom of France."
The scrupulous Michelet writes: "She was a beautiful and most desirable girl, of good height, and with a most sweet and heart-touching voice."
"She was tall and very handsome," "she was strong and of graceful limbs," "she was of a very pleasing face"—such is the varying yet accordant testimony of the old chroniclers. An Englishman, Grafton, puts in a surly denial, but of such obvious prejudice that it cannot be received, and of such coarse malignity that I shall not record it.
At the Rehabilitation, d'Alencon, the gentil duc whom Jeanne preferred among all her comrades-at-arms, recalling his memories of the glorious past, gave witness qu'elle itait de visage agriable, et bier
faite, et qu'elle avait la poitrine belle—"that she was of pleasing face and of good figure, and that her bosom was beautiful."
Other surviving comrades, of lower rank, those who had been near her in the marches and the bivouacs, the soldiers of her escort, also testified before a solemn tribunal that, in spite of her beauty, they were not moved by her sex—rough fellows, of a truth, they scarcely knew why, but no doubt it was the invisible veil of purity in which she walked and the awful prestige of her heavenly mission that safeguarded her amongst them. Be it observed that they feared Jeanne also as their commander, and she was prompt to rebuke the least undue familiarity. We hear of but one incident of this kind. A soldier of her "household" related that in helping her to dress he touched her bosom—as he protested, without evil thought or intent; perhaps in rough wonderment, for the fellow was not likely to have known much about virgins. At any rate, Jeanne admonished him out of all desire to repeat the offense.
When we consider the stuff of which soldiers were made in those rude times, and that the army of Charles contained some of the worst specimens to be found anywhere—one of whom a few years later achieved the most horrible infamy of that or any other so-called Christian age—we are disposed to accept in Jeanne's favor the hypothesis of heavenly protection. At the same time, we think she was extremely competent to take care of herself. Wicked were some heads that slept only too near her, blood-
stained and guilty of all manner of crime some hands that dipped with her in the same dish; but they were without power to harm that virginal treasure which she bore as a hostage to her friends in heaven.' ('Copains du ciel is the beautiful expression of a recent French writer.)
Sleep, dear and lovely child, sleep unscathed and safe, amid the rude camp, under the cold night stars, guarded by invisible presences, hallowed by thy innocent dreams, sustained by the mystic purpose that is leading thee on. It is so that we prefer to think of thee, fille de Dieu, as we recall thy marvelous legend, consecrated as thou art by the love of humanity, inspirer as thou art of our own dreams and hopes when we turn from a world defaced by evil to renew our trust in the eternal providence of God!
Sleep well and soundly, Jeanne, as only youth may, for to-morrow thou must ride harder and faster through a hostile country wasted by war, where watchful enemies wait to ambush thee and thy little troop. Better lie by till the night come again, when thou mayst proceed with less peril. For it is many a league to Chinon (The journey to Chinon, distant one hundred and fifty leagues from Vaucouleurs, occupied twelve days. It was not the least hazardous of Jeanne's exploits, and of itself contributed to procure her a favorable hearing.) where the king is, the thought of whom thrills thy prescient soul, and where thou shalt make first proof of thy mission.
THE RIDE TO CHINON
(RICHARD THE ARCHER'S TALE)
In and out, in and out, now the forest cover,
Now a stretch of naked road, with the pale moon over;
Spying every patch of shade where the foe might hover.
Eyes and ears at keenest strain, stern and steady every man,
So we scamper thro' the night for God and Jeanne!
We are six, but she is more than the host of Heaven,
Or the rack of clouds that race, backward wildly driven,
Or the pelting April rain when the sky is riven.
That red star careering far, ever in the van,
Lo, our sentinel to-night, with God and Jeanne!
Thus we ride the long hours through, oft in mists that blind us,
While our horses feel the road till the dawning find us
Far advanced upon our way, many leagues behind us.
Seek we then the wooded shade, eat a crust with vin,
Sleep without a care, for near are God and Jeanne.
Strange the tale I tell you, mates, true as God shall hear me,
That I never gave a thought to the maiden near me,
And she never had a cause, on my soul, to fear me.
Faith, it wasn't for my fright—women ever were my plan,
But all that now had left me quite, with God and Jeanne.
Sure she looked a handsome lad in her braies and jacket,
With her dark hair curling short, a mighty winsome packet;
But of nonsense not a thought—that's my word, I'll back it!
How we longed to prove our mettle on the hostile clan,
If any such should bar our way, with God and Jeanne!
When I helped her to her mount, pulses calm and steady,
Sure I wondered at myself, for tricks so often ready,
Turned into a lady's maid, this routier rough and heady!
But something in her quiet look seemed my soul to scan,
Made me play the chevalier for God and Jeanne.
When she said her little prayer, evils from us warding,
And the snares along our way 'soaping or retarding,
Sure I felt a hundred spears round the camp were guarding.
Never did I know the fear of foeman hate or ban,
When we made the journey straight with God and Jeanne.
Stranger yet, for our good steel need was none to any,
Through the hostile ways we went, tho' the foes were many;
And they kept a watch for us resolute and canny.
Once they ambushed us in force—passed we by within a span;
Not a man dared lift his hand 'gainst God and Jeanne!
Nights and days full twelve we made through the bitter weather,
Slept in frost and woke in snow, gay as in the heather;
Seven hearty pals were we, Maid and all together.
God He knows that old wild life His mercy oft outran,
But those twelve days may clear my score with Heaven and Jeanne.
Chinon! Chinon! Your lofty towers peer from a distant hill,
And all this friendly land is ours, where none will do us ill:
The course is run, the goal is won, and God has had His will!
Ho, keeper of the outer gate, your heavy wards unspan,
And bid the King 'tis we who bring the hope of France in Jeanne!