THE VOICES DIE OUT
I would not expose my beloved in her final agony, in her poor tortured nudity, thinking less of the pain than of shielding her virgin modesty from the public gaze and the mocking, hateful glare of her enemies. No, I would not add to the horror of that scene, as certain writers have done, denying to the martyr the charity of silence, since they could say no fitting word. They were badly inspired: not so would I conceive the very truth of what occurred in those last solemn moments while Jeanne awaited the end.
Scarcely has Jeanne felt the first sting of the fire when she is surrounded by angel forms, the celestial friends of her childhood. They cover and protect her, shutting out the hellish scene below, the leaping tongues of flame, the horrified crowd, the jeering and brutal soldiers. Even so, they will not suffer her to mark the shouts, the cries of grief, the oaths and imprecations. Fondly they press upon her, claiming her eyes, her ears, her thoughts, and wrap her in a sweet euthanasia.
Confused and wondering at first, she seeks to know them for her blessed friends, the heavenly ones, who
have cheered her on with their Voices since that far day at Domremy. They will not release her eyes, her ears; they caress her as in the old days, when she stood barefoot before them, and the sheep, unconscious of the miracle, cropped beside her. Their amaranthine hair blows about her face, fragrant with the odors of paradise. Ah, what love in their eyes, what yearning of divine compassion; and something infinitely tender in their gaze which she had never marked before.
Yes, dear Jeanne, it is we, your old friends, Catherine and Marguerite, come to greet and succor you, most faithful and beloved! Look at us, Jeanne, look at us! Do not turn your head aside—there is nothing else to see, dear, and nothing to fear'
And the pain it is no more. Listen, cherished one, we have been with your mother at Domremy, even this morning, and she believes rightly that all is well with you, there was such joy about her heart.
And Jeanne dearest, we have gladdened your old playmates Guillemette and Mengette with remembrances of you, and left them wondering and happy.
Sweet sister, great-hearted daughter of God! You have not forgotten our old meetings when we lingered with you in the garden at Domremy, and you wished to come away with us always-ah, child, that it might so have been! Listen, Jeanne, beloved, we have something very sweet and wonderful to tell you: The time is now come; we shall leave you no more!
And oh, Jeanne, there is One awaits thee whose love and welcome are infinitely more worth than ours. Come away, sister, come away!
The Voices die out with her expiring consciousness. No pain, no pain!—is heaven then so near? ...
A last sigh is wafted down from the scaffold, breathing the name of JESUS.
Some of the English gave way to their emotion and were affected with a religious terror. A common soldier who had boasted that he would bring a log to the pyre, on witnessing that serene and beautiful death, was seized with remorse and despair. A secretary of the English king, similarly moved, cried out, "We are all lost—we have killed a saint!"
Searching the ashes, the executioners found that Jeanne's body had not been entirely consumed; her noble heart, perfect and entire, remained intact from the fire. By order of Winchester the last sad relics were taken to a bridge on the Seine and thence cast into the river. The base men who performed this office were unable to see the Angel who descended in a flashing ray of sunlight, rescued from their hands that precious heart, at once transmuted into a glorious ruby, and again soaring aloft, placed it in the eternal treasury of God!
IN THE MARKET PLACE MIDNIGHT
("At the Hotel de Ville in Tours one may see a painting, which represents Cauchon standing alone at night in the old marketplace in Rouen where Jeanne d'Arc was burned the morning of that day (May 30, 1431). A little smoke still rises from the embers. Owing to the bad light in which it was hung I could not as sure myself as to the artistic merit of the work, or whether the execution was equal to the subject. But the figure of Cauchon seemed dreadfully impressive, and looking upon it one could but recall the solemn accusation of his victim: "Bishop, I die through you!")
Midnight falls on Rouen, hushed and dark
The city lies under the curfew pall,
And few and furtive they abroad to-night
In wynds and alleys tortuous. Still as death
The houses stand, within all hearts convulsed
By the great pain and anguish of this day,
Would fain forget in sleep. But some do watch
Through wakeful hours, while women pray and weep;
No chamber there that hears not the low sob
Of grief—no eye but closes on a tear.
Breathless the city lies as one who fears
To wake and see the sun of life again,
After this day of death. But some are there
Who watch with grim resolve and bide the hour
When the oppressor shall due measure pay
For his fell work--God speed the reckoning!
Meantime the sentries make their ordered round,
Flashing their lantern signals through the night;
The slow bells toll—the watchman gives his word
That all is well for England and her power!
How sleep the men who guiltiest have borne
The burden of this day? Doth Cauchon lie
As one whom conscience lulls to dreamless rest,
The good and faithful servant of his Lord?
And how sleeps Winchester, the haughty priest,
Who raged because her heart refused to burn?—
That precious heart, to France and Heaven dear.
And Bedford, too, how slumbers he to-night,
Now that his great revenge has had its fill,
And his dread enemy shall rise no more
To loosen England's grip upon her prey?
But who is he that seeks the market-place
At this forbidden hour? What errand grim
Has drawn him from his bed, or ghostly tryst,
Across the fearsome blackness of the town,
Muffled and cloaked, with hat low o'er his brows,
And leads him to the stage where, seated now,
And where her judges sate this very morn,
He stares with eyes aghast upon the scene
Of her calm death, his crime inexpiable,
The while his guilty memory, appalled,
Shrinks from the words –
"Bishop, I die through you!"
A little flame leaped up and shook his soul
With sudden terror and a late remorse.
What devil had led him into this foul trap
For his eternal peace?—and he a priest
Of Jesus Christ to bring a girl to death
Who had but served her country and her God!
Even to madness stung, the wretch cried out—
"I did not seek her life, nor could I save,
The guilt is to the English, not to me!"
Then shuddering sank, as tho' he heard the words
Blown from an angel's trump
"Bishop, through you I die!"