IN THE SHADOW
Nicolas Midy, leper futurus, draws twelve condemnatory articles from the mass of charges heretofore noted, scoring heavily against her in all. The twelfth and last article smells of the fire:
"This woman does not wish to submit herself to the decision of the church militant, nor to that of any other that may be in the world, but to God alone. She persists, although the judges and other associates have often recalled to her the article of faith—the church is one, holy, Catholic."
The fatal term approaches. In mid-April a general deliberation is held, and each of the judges and assessors gives his individual opinion. That they give one another courage in the bad work is evident from the increasing emphasis of the collective judgment:
"This woman sustains things going against the unity, authority and power of the church. She is suspect of wandering in the faith if she thinks that the articles of the faith deserve no more belief than that which one gives to those who, she says, have appeared to her."
Three among the judges evince a certain moderation, suggest timidly an appeal to the Pope, to a
general council; let us honor their names for so much: Jean Basset, Raoul Sauvaige, Jean Alespie.
They continue to worry her, striving to break down her powers of resistance, invading her prison, giving her no rest. At length she succumbs to the strain and becomes really ill, to the great concern of Bedford, honorary member of the Rouen chapter, who would not have her die a natural death for anything in the world. Sick and weak, she offers a new hold to the pious hyenas:
"You must submit to the church, else you will not be buried in holy ground."
"I believe that I am in danger of death, but at present I have nothing else to tell you. Whatever may happen to me, I shall not do nor say any other thing than what I have already said in the trial. If my body dies in prison, I expect that you will have it buried in holy ground; if you will not do this, I trust myself to God."
They rage and fume at her, but her will stands firm. "I am a good Christian, I have been baptized, I shall die a good Christian." No more will she say.
Jeanne was bled and recovered quickly; then she suffered a relapse from eating a fish, which Cauchon had sent her. So she told the priestly ruffian d'Estivet, who thereupon called her filthy names, emulating the English, and declared she had purposely brought the sickness on herself. Which painful scene made her still more ill.
Jeanne recovers and on May 2 is solemnly admonished before a large assembly of her judges, sixty-
three in number. Jean de Chatillon (who is to become a cardinal later on) takes the word:
"A revelation made by God should always lead to obedience toward the church, toward one's superiors —never to disobedience. He who, despises the church despises God; he who hears the church hears God." In conclusion he makes the terrible threat:
"If you do not wish to believe in the church and in the article of the Credo, the church, one, holy, Catholic, you will be declared a heretic and by other judges punished with the pain of fire."
Jeanne replies: "I shall make you no other answer, and if I saw the fire I should say what I say now and do nothing else."
"If a council-general were here, that is to say, our Holy Father the Pope, the cardinals, bishops, etc., would you not be willing to trust your cause to them and submit to the sacred council?"
"You shall draw nothing from me on that matter."
"Are you willing to submit yourself to our Holy Father the Pope?"
This was a terribly indiscreet question, since the real prosecutors wanted to avoid nothing so much as that. They knew that she was doomed to death by the English, this proceeding of theirs merely offering the latter a pretext; on their own part it might be called murder in the sacrosanct degree!)
"Lead me there and I will make answer to him."
Thus again declining to recognize them as the rightful judges.
Again they yell at her: "Will you give us one
reason, only one, why you refuse to trust yourself to the church?"
She remains silent.
Beginning the trial she had asked why no priests of her party were allowed to be present. They now proposed to have them come, but Jeanne, divining that the offer was not made in good faith, replied:
"Give me a messenger and I will write to them what I think of all this trial you have made me."
May 9 she was brought into the torture chamber and faced with the dreadful instruments of Christian persuasion. They threatened her if she persisted in contumacy.
But the threat was lost upon her superb courage, heightened by an access of heavenly grace. "The Angel Gabriel," she said, "has appeared to strengthen me. . . . God has ever been my Master in what I, have done. . . . Though you tear off my limbs and pluck my soul from my body, I will say nothing else!"
Chatillon was almost won to her cause by this affecting manifestation of the spirit, moved even to condemn the measures employed to subdue her; but he was harshly silenced by Cauchon.
The University of Paris now ratifies the work of its learned doctors, six of whom have led in the prosecution, and the paper is read to Jeanne in presence of the full tribunal. She is thus admonished charitably:
"Jeanne, let not human respect restrain you; do not allow yourself to go on from a fear of losing the
great honors you have had. Believe rather in the words and opinions of the University of Paris."
Still she remains firm, nay, rises to the full height of the martyr's courage:
"What I have always said and held to I still wish to maintain. . . . If I were under judgment, if I saw the fagots prepared and the executioner about to light them, and if myself I were in the fire, I should say no other thing, and I should sustain until death what I have said!" (Some one wrote in the margin of the ancient MS. of the trial, Responsio superba, Superb answer. He might have had immortality for signing his name!)
Cauchon now set himself to obtain by fraud the abjuration, which he could not wring from Jeanne under any pretense of fair treatment. He must have it; he cannot go before the world with his bon proces, unless it be supported by a recantation, a confession of the accused. He devises the scene at St. Ouen, the hocus-pocus of the abjuration, a trick entirely worthy of the Bishop of Beauvais. All manner of intimidation is resorted to and the blackest perjury is employed to gain this end; Jeanne is promised that she shall be taken from the English and placed in a prison of the church, with women to attend her. Cauchon has no idea of keeping this promise: be knows well that he cannot keep it!
Jeanne a last time appeals to the Pope, "I submit myself to God and to our Holy Father the Pope." Alas! the Pope, far away, yet not out of the reach of information; silent, at any rate, inscrutable,
unconcerned; trusting the business, maybe, to his faithful Winchester and all those notable sons of the church. But how awful if that cry of the innocent should have reached his ear in vain!
The judges ignore Jeanne's appeal. "We cannot go so far in quest of the Pope. Let her hold for true what the priests and the university have said regarding her deeds and words."
Several priests now pressed close upon Jeanne, urging her to save herself, seeking to snatch from her some words of disavowal. One of them, Erard, had prepared a small formula of recantation, and he said to her, "You must sign this or you will be burned!" Jeanne hesitated long; she sought counsel of Massieu, an officer of the court who had shown her some consideration, and he too urged her to comply. But she said to Erard, "You take too much pains to seduce me," a remark proving that she was fully on her guard and mistress of herself.
Some of the English present at the scene, mistaking its purport, began to fear that they would lose their victim. Warwick, her principal gaoler, exclaimed, "The king's affairs are going badly; this girl will escape us!"
Cauchon muttered to him, "Have no fear, my Lord, we shall catch her again."
One of the royal officials accused Cauchon of having plotted treason against the king.
"You lie!" returned the bishop, "and you shall apologize for this." Winchester, who knew all, silenced the irate official.
At this juncture Jeanne raised her voice, declaring that she submitted herself to the church, while praying St. Michael to counsel and direct her. And this was the extent of her "submission," which might indeed be interpreted in a contrary sense.
Again they read to her a formula of abjuration (according to their own report), and she appended a cross to it (or an 0) in lieu of signature. She was able to write her name at this time, and she doubtless knew that a cross was not a valid signature, reserving this knowledge against her possible escape. Moreover, the form of abjuration read to her, very brief and in French, was not the same as that inserted in the record, which was very long and in Latin. Massieu confirmed this at the Rehabilitation twenty-odd years later: "I am absolutely sure that the paper read to La Pucelle was not that mentioned in the proces, for it is different from that which I read to her, and which she signed."
It remains certain that Jeanne agreed to nothing, which she could have regarded as an abjuration. She did not repudiate her mission or deny her Voices or in any degree unsay at the end the truth she had so bravely asserted and maintained through the long trial. But from her deep religious feeling she was doubtless unable to believe that all these priests would lie, deceive, and break their solemn promises to her. This is the only fault of which she may be accused—and it is a fault on the side of virtue.
Cauchon now produced a paper written in Latin and read Jeanne's sentence to her. It condemned her
to "perpetual imprisonment, to the bread of grief and the water of anguish."
The reading ended, Jeanne reclaiming their promise, said to Cauchon and other priests grouped with him:
"Please now, good fathers, take me to your prison, that I may no longer be in the hands of the English."
There was a momentary pause, then the bishop ordered, "Take her back where you found her!"
In the prison Jeanne puts on female dress as she has promised, but within the space of two days she realizes from the obscene conduct of her keepers—expressly primed for this purpose—that it holds no protection for her, and she resumes her male costume. Cauchon run his jackals are instantly informed; they run to the prison and accuse her of relapsing. She explains that she was obliged to protect herself—ah, well they knew it! and further, that she had not understood the matter of the abjuration, and would revoke nothing that was pleasing to God. As a final test of their good faith, Jeanne appeals to them:
"If the judges wish it I will resume woman's dress, but on condition that you fulfil the promise to place me in an ecclesiastical prison. For the rest, I shall do nothing more."
The unknown scribe before referred to has written in the margin, Responsio mortifera fatal answer!
Cauchon, king of rats, has triumphed. Leaving the prison, he sees a group of English, among them War wick,
waiting for what news he may give them. He greets them in jolly humor, and then calls after them in their language, "Farewell, farewell! Be of good cheer. It is done!"
And he himself goes to be felicitated among the long-tailed rats of his own breed.
Even at this moment the priests again ply Jeanne with foolish questions about the sign and the crown. She repulses them: "I would rather die!"
Ah, she will not have to wait long now for the deliverance promised by her trusty angel friends. Hell has scored a momentary triumph, heaven an eternal victory!
Thank God that such another injustice can never again be perpetrated in this world; thank Jeanne also! She has, in long result, abolished the prisons of the church and wiped out the so-called offenses, which brought men there. Never, never again shall priestly men dare to do in the name of God and holy church what bears the express image and likeness of Satan!
At this juncture Xaintrailles, Jeanne's former comrade-at-arms, made an attack upon Rouen with a view to rescuing her. It seems, however, to have been no more than a daring demonstration, un fait de vaillance. But it roused the fears of the English, and they hastened to bring Jeanne to execution, believing as they did that she was able to contrive mischief from her dungeon. All the English, from highest to lowest, shared in this fearful blood-thirst; it was as
if they recognized in Jeanne France victorious, and raged to destroy her!
Michelet pointedly remarks that, though confined in prison, she displayed her power all the same; as long as she lived, her prayers broke through the walls and scattered the enemy. She predicted to the very day the raising of the siege of Compiegne and the discomfiture of Burgundy.
Winchester, d'Estivet, and the Inquisitor each had a key to the tower in which she was confined, and spied on her constantly through a hole in the wall. Even under Torquemada in the following century the Inquisition was not able to refine upon the tactics used against Jeanne d'Arc.