One of the penalties of greatness is to attract counterfeits—the servile herd of imitators, as Horace calls them. All the heroes have been imitated, simulated, caricatured, sometimes almost disgraced by the creatures whom their glory had called into a spurious life. There have been false messiahs, hierophants, pretenders, and impostors of every species.
What tale is so familiar as that of the false Demetrius, the Perkin Warbecks, the Lambert Simnels? Before and after her death Jeanne was to suffer from this curse appointed to those who surpass mankind." (See Last Records: The False Jeanne d'Arc.)
We have already mentioned Catherine of La Rochelle, a false visionary and impudent faker, part fool, part knave; always in company with the vagrant Frere Richard, she continued to pester Jeanne as occasion offered. The woman was madly envious of Jeanne and wanted to get some countenance from her in her own pretensions, but in this she was disappointed. There are some indications that this plaguy fool had been "wished" on Jeanne by her good friends of the royal council. Even Charles himself was or affected to be interested in her. Meantime she enjoyed
a degree of tolerance which, her character being what it was, she could not have obtained without powerful backing.
Catherine told a story enforcing her supernatural claims, which points to some coaching on the part of persons familiar with Jeanne's legend. A white lady had appeared to her, dressed in cloth-of-gold, and ordered her to overrun the good cities of France, seeking help for the king. She was to be accompanied by royal heralds, who were to warn all persons having money or treasure hidden to produce the same. In case of any refusing to obey or dissimulating their secret hoard, Catherine proposed to bring them to book herself.
Evidently Catherine was more knave than fool. She pretended to ask the counsel of Jeanne, the while she carefully "understudied" her. Jeanne urged her kindly to return to her house and children. But Catherine liked the role of a "seeress" and proposed to stay on. Jeanne then asked:
"You see this white lady every night?"
"Very well, we will sleep together this night, so that I may see her myself."
Agreed. Jeanne kept awake until midnight, seeing no apparition; then she yielded to weariness. In the morning she said to Catherine:
"Did your lady come?"
"Yes, just after you had gone to sleep. I tried tar wake you, but, my! what a sound sleeper you are!"
"Will she come again to-morrow?"
Then Jeanne took the precaution of resting some hours of the day in order to keep strict watch during the night. As before, she shared Catherine's couch, but the "white lady" remained coy and refused to show herself, though the pair remained broad awake the whole night. Jeanne was content; she had taken Catherine's number.
Some time later Jeanne, being at Jargeau, encountered Catherine again, who was now proposing to go and treat of peace with the Duc de Bourgogne. Jeanne commented, "We shall obtain that only on the point of a lance."
Charles having asked La Pucelle what she really thought of this Rochelle fairy, her visions and pretended revelations, received for answer:
"All that is but folly and emptiness." Which coming to the ears of Catherine and her trusty friend Frere Richard, made both exceedingly wroth and aggrieved.
I willingly pass by the incident of Jeanne's resuscitating a dead child at Lagny. It may have been true, but the Maid never boasted of it. Besides, we are carrying enough of the marvelous without running in adscititious matter. And this book is mainly for consumption in partibus infideliorum.
The Maid deprived of military command, of any part or lot in the king's councils, was yet treated by Charles with marked personal consideration. She and her family were ennobled, and by an exception
made in their favor the nobility might descend in either the male or female line. We don't know what Jeanne thought of this business; we do know that she never pretended to use the titles conferred upon her.
La Tremoille, well knowing that she pined under inaction, and always fearing lest she regain ascendancy over the king, contrived to have them both for a time at his grand chateau of Sully-sur-Loire. The councilor treated her with the greatest show of honor and respect; on every hand there were compliments and flatteries for the ennobled warrior; but she was not deceived for a moment, nor diverted from her purpose; and she languished as in a prison. During four months following the attack on La Charite, she suffered terribly from the restraint and consumed herself like "the sword laid by to rust ingloriously."
No pleasures or blandishments that Sully offered her could efface the memory of what she had been at Orleans and Patay. But at length there came a promise of diversion; she was to leave these hateful pleasures and pamperings to feel once more the breath of heroic air on her cheek, the thrill of action as she led her soldiers into battle, the wild pulse of glory as she snatched the victory!
More "pourparlerine" with Philip the no-good; the truce which expired at Christmas would be continued until Easter.
Again these idle and mischievous conferences set Jeanne in revolt—they had taken away her true occur pation, and were threatening the life of the country which she had saved, even when it was at the point
of death. Well, they should not prevail! She would break away from this soft durance and fight for her own hand. She would arouse the people to their danger from the English, from the Bourguignons. Ah! she would save the king in spite of himself.
In the last days of March Jeanne left Sully, without taking leave of Charles, on pretext of some cavalry exercises in the country. The fact is she had recruited a force of three or four hundred free-lances, and had been enabled by some miracle to put them on a military footing. Among them were some of those most devoted to her in the past—brave and tried men of her personal guard. She now speedily rejoined them at a place appointed and took command of her little army. There was plenty doing, besides, in spite of the fatal pacifism of Charles: stirrings in the Isle de France, threatenings of revolt in Paris which might come to a good head. How glad she was to be in the saddle again, with a reliable lot of daredevils behind her. En avant, mes amis! Forward! Forward!