There is, alas! no other word to write at the head of this chapter: Compiegne stands out dolorous, detestable, the city of the betrayal, an eternal disgrace to the false friends of Jeanne who there achieved their crowning perfidy.
But we must glance briefly at some preceding events. Shortly after setting on foot her little troop of free-lances, La Pucelle learned to her dismay that the plot at Paris had failed and one hundred and fifty persons involved had been thrown into prison. Among them was one Jacquet Guillaume, Seigneur of Ours, a strong believer in Jeanne and a true patriot.
At this juncture a certain adventurer called Franquet d'Arras, who with a band of four hundred men had lately been terrorizing the Isle de France, was about to cross Jeanne's path, on his return to Paris. Franquet was of the Burgundian following, a routier of the worst reputation. Jeanne marched upon him and defeated him after a severe engagement, in which she had used some light pieces of artillery—the first use of this arm in a field battle. We have heretofore noted the special aptitude of Jeanne in regard to
artillery. Franquet's followers were mostly killed or made prisoners, and he was himself captured. The Maid wished to exchange him against her friend in Paris, who was presently executed. While still in doubt what to do with Franquet, the sheriff of Lagny came to claim him at her hands, on account of various crimes and malfeasance’s. Jeanne felt bound to give him up, and after a long trial he was decapitated.
It is noteworthy that this matter of delivering up a prisoner of war to civic authorities was later on raised against the Maid by her judges—no doubt because he was of the Burgundian interest.
After Easter, Jeanne still further sought to increase her small army, and with this end in view visited Melun, which had recently expelled its English garrison. Here she was warned by her Voices that she would be taken before the feast of St. John, and that she was to accept all in good part, as God would not fail her. Terribly cast down as she was by this prophecy of her angelic friends, Jeanne did not give way to repining, but continued her valiant efforts for the country.
Since her flight from Sully she had received no succors from the king; from that time forward, I believe, she was practically ignored by him. Such is the gratitude of kings—in truth, of all those in high station who, receiving too much aid from the humble, fail not to avenge it upon them.
Philip the far-from-good, who made truces only for his own benefit, now proposed to have a look at Compiegne, held in the interest of Charles. On the
way he picked up a town or two, and then came to besiege Choisy-au-Bac, which stood in his road to Compiegne. The reader will note the curious coincidental character of all that follows in this fateful chapter.
By this time Jeanne had strengthened her fighting force, which included a thousand cavalry. That she was able to raise and maintain such an army, deserted as she was by the king, and without powerful aid of any sort, is a great testimony of her hold upon the loyal affection of the people. Without delay she decides to go to the relief of Choisy, threatened by Philip. But at this moment her evil fate appears in the person of Regnault de Chartres, chancellor of the king, ear and conscience of La Tremoille, good and useful friend of Burgundy. He is accompanied by the Comte de Vendome, and both urge her to lead her soldiers to Soissons, where she might cross the Aisne with more security.
This was a detour, and it seems wonderful that Jeanne did not suspect a snare. Or was it that, being so religious herself, she could not but give faith to a high priest of the church? Ah, Jeanne, thou avast not born to have much luck with bishops!
Behold, now the people of Soissons, instigated by their governor Guillaume Bournel, refused to admit within their gates a large force of armed men, permitting entrance only to Jeanne, the chancellor, Vendome, and a small escort. No sooner were the gates closed than some agents of Tremoille and the archbishop himself persuaded Jeanne's soldiers to abandon
her and to retrace their course. Which they did with the facility of faith or unfaith, of loyalty or treachery, characteristic of those happy times.
Never was treachery more gross and palpable; but that Jeanne, after her experience of traitors high and low, should have allowed herself to be so clumsily ensnared, is a thing that troubles us not a little. Again we must have recourse to the archbishop for the answer to this enigma. He was her evil genius, as I have previously pointed out; had been since the triumph of Orleans. She had foiled his plans and bruised his pride, and he, meek follower of Christ, had vowed her destruction. At that work, indeed, he was busy until the end.
On May 13 Jeanne arrived at Compiegne. It is a matter of faithful record that at the Church of St. Jacques next day she received communion and afterward knelt weeping and in prayer. To a large number of children and other persons who had gathered in sympathy around her, she made a notable confession. "My children and dear friends," she said, "I must tell you that they have sold and betrayed me. In a little while I shall be delivered unto death. I implore you to pray God for me, for I shall never again have the power to serve the king and the Kingdom of France!"
Many years afterward several of the young auditors recalled her words.
Jeanne, with a small remnant of her troops, now attacked the town of Pont l'Eveque, with a view to relieving Choisy-au-Bac, still besieged by Philip.
Reinforcements from the latter compelled a retreat to Compiegne, and Choisy yielded on May 16. Seeking to recruit her little force, Jeanne hurried to Crepy-enValois, where she had many friends and supporters.
Philip was now preparing a strong effort to retake Compiegne, which had fallen to Charles in the Loire campaign. The place was of strategic importance to him, commanding the approach to his territories and the road to Paris. It is situated on the left bank of the Oise, communicating with the other shore by a bridge which the besiegers now held. Thither they had come after possessing themselves of Choisy. The leaders with their forces were thus distributed: Jean de Luxembourg at Clairoix, Baudol de Noyelles at Margny, Philip himself at Coudun, and on the west side the English occupying Venette. The villages here named are all in the environs of Compiegne. Ringed about with this cordon of wolves, there seemed but little hope for Compiegne, defended only by her citizens and the petty force of Jeanne d'Arc.
At Crept'-en-Valois the Maid hears of Philip's preparations to block Compiegne, and at once she resolves to go to its support. Starting at midnight with her small column, she reaches Compiegne at morning and gets safely within its walls. Pressed by Guillaume de Flavy, governor of the town—a man of peculiar infamy even among the picked scoundrels of this history—she organized a sortie for the same day, May 23.
It was already late and there was some hope of catching the enemy unprepared. The people of Compiegne,
mostly loyal to Jeanne, were all afire with enthusiasm for the planned attack. She marched out of the town at near six o'clock and to her surprise found the Burgundians fully alert, with Jean de Luxembourg on horseback before the advanced posts. Nevertheless, Jeanne urged her soldiers to a charge upon Margny, crying, "In the name of God, forward!"
At this instant the bells of Compiegne began to ring with all their force, but seemingly unremarked by Jeanne in the heat of the attack. The Burgundians were driven back into Margny, but they were immediately supported by the troops from Clairoix, and Jeanne's soldiers were obliged to give ground. Her captains now advised a retreat and wished to take Jeanne with them. "Be quiet," she commanded; "it depends but on you to beat them. Think only of fighting!"
She launched them upon a second and more violent attack, driving the enemy back to quarters; but they returned at once in multiplied strength, and the French weakened before them. At this critical instant the English appeared, summoned by the bells of Compiegne, and prepared to cut off Jeanne's retreat. It was then sauve qui peat with the French; they rushed in wild panic toward the city gates, overthrowing the archers there posted. The question has been asked, why did not these archers fire upon the pursuing enemy, not one of whom was touched at this pass?
Flavy now orders the bridge to be raised and the
gates closed. The rest of the fugitives are picked up by some boats awaiting them and brought into the city. Only Jeanne and her small body-guard are left outside!
Surrounded by enemies, she is dragged from her horse and made prisoner by a soldier of the company of Lionel de Wandonne, called the Bastard of Wandonne by way of distinguishing honor. Her brother Pierre, the brave d'Aulon, her chaplain Frere Pasquerel, and Poton le Bourguignon, defending her to the last, are captured with her.
Not a single attempt was made to save her from within the city, not a piece of cannon discharged, no demonstration of any sort. In a shameful silence was consummated one of the vilest perfidies on the page of history.
There is not the least doubt that her undoing had been contrived by La Tremoille and Regnault de Chartres, and the final act of treachery executed by Flavy, who proposed the sortie and closed the gates upon her. This miscreant was a connection of La Tremoille and, like the latter, a secret ally of Philip. He was popular with the Compieonois, who were resolved not to accept the Burgundian domination; and in the end Philip was obliged to give up the siege. It is probable that he felt amply compensated by the capture of Jeanne d'Arc, knowing as he did what price the English set upon her.
There came an hour when Judas, brooding long
O'er his fell sentence and atoneless wrong,
Grasped at a hope—"Perchance my fate would be
Less black did one accurst but share my infamy."
Then cried he to the Angel at his gate,
And with his voice and visage asperate,
Entreated as the least of Heaven's grace
That he might learn if e'er his evil case
Bechanced to any of our fallen race.
The Angel nodded silent and withdrew,
The monster's sight still wounding him anew.
And ages passed, and still no fellow came
To share the burden of Iscariot's shame;
But hoping aye to find some little room
For comfort if but one should meet his doom,
He spoke the Angel oft, yet all in vain;
Then sank with curses deep in his eternal chain!
At length, and when his hope was all but dead
(For even the damned have nothing worse to dread).
The Angel to his dungeon silent came
And whispered in his ear the wished-for name.
A traitor found at last to cope the guilt
Of him who had the blood of Jesus spilt!
But if that name were FLAVY, who can tell?—
Such secrets are well kept in Heaven and Hell!