"I would rather die than be in the hands of the English."
For the sixth time, on March 3d, in the great hall of the Earl of Warwick's Castle of Rouen, Joan of Arc was brought early in the morning to find Bishop Cauchon and forty-one, of the previous fifty-eight Assessors waiting for her. A half-hour was as usual spent trying to surprise her, and, failing that, to force her into taking an unconditional oath to answer everything. Joan held out and at last was allowed to take oath "with her hands on the Holy Gospels" to answer all questions touching the trial."
She had in one examination mentioned St. Michael's wings, but in another she said she did not know if St. Catharine and St. Margaret had limbs—she only looked at their beautiful faces and heads. The judges began by cross-questioning her about the physical appearances of the Saints.
"I have told you what I know. I saw St. Michael and those two Saints so well 'that I know they are Saints of Paradise."
"Did you see anything else of them but the face? "
"To tell you all I know I would rather that you made me cut my throat. All that I know touching the trial I will tell you willingly."
How often and often she had to use that same phrase " on everything touching the trial" during the few months before her death! The ignorant young girl having to keep a great bench full of Canon law doctors to 'the letter of the law! But she could not. They probed her secrets and made her lay bare her great, brave heart for their cruel curiosity—not their pity nor admiration.
Again they return to catch her contradicting herself about the Saints. "Do you think that St. Gabriel and St. Michael have human heads?"
"Yes, I saw them with my eyes."
"Did God create them from the first in 'this form and fashion?"
"What a question to a child from theologians! But Joan was able for them:
"You will have no more on that at present than what I have answered." They gave it up and changed the subject.
"Do you know by revelation if you will escape?"
"That does not touch on your Case.
Do you wish me to speak against myself? If all concerned you I would tell you all. By my faith, I know neither the day nor the hour that I shall escape."
"Have your Voices told you anything in a general way?"
"Yes, truly, they have told me that I shall be delivered, but I know neither the day nor the hour. They said to me: I Be of good courage and keep a cheerful countenance!' "
Then a dozen questions followed about her military dress—when she adopted it and by whose advice. Questions she had answered a dozen times and would be asked again another dozen times and more. She told them all they needed to know without satisfying their curiosity as to just how, and when, and by whom, was she told to adopt it. About being asked to take it off she admitted:
"Yes, truly, I was asked to take it off; and I answered that I would not take it off without leave from God. The Demoiselle de Luxembourg and the Lady de Beaurevoir offered to me a woman's dress, or cloth to make one, 'telling me to wear it. I answered that I had not leave from Our Lord and that it was not time. Messire Jeane de Pressy and others at Arras, offered to get me woman's dress."
"Do you think you would have done wrong or committed mortal sin by taking a woman's dress?"
"I did better to obey and serve my Sovereign Lord, who is God. Had I dared 'to do it, I would sooner have done it at the request of these ladies than of any other in France, excepting my Queen."
"When God revealed to you that you should change your dress, was it by the voice of St. Michael, St. Catherine or St. Margaret?"
"You shall have nothing more from me about it at present."
And they never got from her any more particulars of how she was told to change her dress than that it was by God's command. They turned now to her banner, hoping to prove the spells and enchantment woven round it. They tried to get it out of her that others had banners just like hers because she told them to copy hers for good luck.
"What I told my followers was 'go in boldly against the English' and I did it myself."
"Did you or they put Holy Water on the pennons?"
"I know nothing of it."
"Have you not carried cloth around the Church, in procession, and then had it made into pennons?"
"No! and I have never seen it done."
There was no grist to their mill in that kind of testimony so they turned from her dress and her banners to herself personally. If she claimed honors and homage for herself she was a sinner.
"Did you not cause paintings of yourself to be made?"
"I saw at Arras a painting in the hands of a Scot; it was like me. I was represented fully armed, presenting a letter to my King, one knee on the ground. I have never seen any other image or painting in my likeness nor had one made."
"Do you know that the people of your party had Mass, services, and prayers offered for you?"
"I know nothing of it; if they had it was not by my order; but if they prayed for me, my opinion is they did not do ill."
"Did those of your party firmly believe that you were sent from God?"
"I do not know if they believed it, and in this I refer to their own feeling in the matter. But even though they do not believe, yet am I sent from God."
"Do you not think they have a good belief, if they believe this?"
"If they think that I am sent from God, they will not be deceived."
"In what spirit did the people of your party kiss your hands and feet? "
"Many came to see me but they kissed my hands as little as I could help. The poor came to me readily, because I never did them an unkindness, on the contrary I loved to help them."
"What honor did the people of Troyes do you on your entry?"
"None at all."
"Were you many days at Reims?"
"Five or six, I believe."
"Did you not act there as God-mother?
At Troyes, I did. At Reims I do not remember, nor at Chateau-Thierry. I was Godmother twice at St. Denis. Usually I give to the boys the name Charles in honor of my King; and to the girls, Jeanne. At other times such names as pleased the mothers."
"Did not the good women of the town touch with their rings one that you wore?"
"Many women touched my hands and my rings; but I know nothing of their feelings nor intentions."
"Who of your people caught butterflies in your standard?"
"My people never did such a thing; it is your side who have invented it."
"When you were going through the country did you often receive the sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist in the good towns?"
"And in man's dress?"
"Why did you take the horse of the Bishop of Senlis?"
"It was bought for 200 salute (about $1,000 ). (This book was written in 1910 and so the amount would be a LOT MORE in 2008 dollars. VF) I do not know if he received the money. There was a place fixed at which it was to be paid. I wrote to him he might have his horse back if he wished. As for me, I did not wish it; it was worth nothing for weight carrying."
Notwithstanding this straightforward and evidently fair statement, the horse of the Bishop of Senlis was a large item in the charges against her as summed up later. Suddenly the scene was shifted:
"It is reported you brought a dead child 'to life at Lagny. How old was the child you visited at Lagny?"
"Three days old. It was brought before an image of Our Lady. The young girls of the village were praying before this image, that God might restore the infant. She had not been baptized. I prayed with them. At last life returned to the child, it yawned three times and was baptized; soon after it died and was buried in consecrated ground. It had been three days dead and was black as my coat."
"Did they not say in the village that it was through your prayers it was restored?"
"I did not enquire about it."
Well, there was no self-glorification nor presumption proven there. But did she not try to commit suicide and failing in her effort, did she not get angry, curse and blaspheme?
"Were you not a long time in the Tower of Beaurevoir?"
"About four months. When I knew the English were coming to take me, I was angry, nevertheless my Voices forbade me to leap. But in the end full of the fear of the English, I did leap after commending myself to God and Our Lady. I was wounded. After I had leaped the Voice of St. Catherine bade me be of good cheer, for Compiegne would have succor. I had prayers for the relief of Compiegne, with my Counsel."
"Did you not say that you would rather die than be in the hands of the English?"
"I said I would rather give up my soul to God than be in the hands of the English."
"Were you not very angry to the extent of blaspheming the name of God?"
"I have never blasphemed. It is not my habit to swear. Those who say so have misunderstood."
There was no arrangement for another day recorded at the end of that day's examination. Cauchon was angry. The trial thus far gave him no satisfaction. Among 'the Assessors, new friends of Joan appeared each day. As they listened to the "grueling," or took part in it, they were edified with the brave, honest front she presented to them. They found her womanly and soldierly in the glimpses of her public and private life wrung from her by her enemies. By look and word and gesture 'they let their sympathy with Joan be known, to the great chagrin of Cauchon and his English backers. Clearly this could not go on. The object of the trial was to prove that all her acts of valor, her prophecies, her victories, were inspired and aided by Beelzebub : Her Saints were merely hallucinations of a diseased mind or inventions of a depraved one. Her courage was brazen audacity. Her piety was blasphemous hypocrisy. Her power to sway men to her way of thinking was sorcery. Her victories on a score of great occasions were due to the aid of the powers of darkness. He who thought otherwise was of no use in this Trial.
So Cauchon who had been noting his colleagues, chose a few of his own color from among the great array of legal talent he had gathered around him; out of the seventy not more than seven, and dismissed the rest with great show of thanks for their pains, etc. He decreed that "if any further inquiries are thought necessary they shall be made henceforth in private."
The official document reads:
"Sunday, March 4th, and the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, of the same month, We, the Bishop, assembled in Our dwelling, many grave doctors and masters in law, sacred and civil, who were charged by us to collect all that has been confessed or answered by Jeanne in these Enquiries, and to extract there from the points on which she answered in an incomplete manner, and which seem to these doctors susceptible of further examination."
During the five days these chosen few French accomplices of English animosity to the Maid of Orleans, the great stumbling block to English aggression in Europe, met and went over the evidence drawn from Joan so far. They sifted it over and over. They picked out of it and twisted to their own design what suited them, rejecting everything that could not be made to tell against Joan from their point of view.
Wherever a damaging meaning could be construed into a word or phrase or sentence they so construed it.
Coolly throwing over the work of the past month, and of the sixty or more learned judges he had gathered to aid him in it, but whose sympathy for Joan angered him, Cauchon planned a new trial. It was to be strictly private and only a chosen few were to aid him in worrying their prey, and framing some plausible excuse for a public and ignominious death, 'that would please his English masters, strike terror into the French party, and avenge the insult put upon himself when he was driven from his See of Beauvais.
On the tenth of March the secret trial was begun. The Bishop and his accomplices went to Joan's prison. Bishop Cauchon, Master Jean Delafontaine, and two Doctors in Theology, Nicholas Midi and Gerard Feuillet. As witnesses they brought a lawyer, Jean Fecard, and a priest, Jean Massieu.
They had Joan now at close quarters, with no likely obstruction to their own peculiar method of harrowing the poor soul; and for nine more days, with no intermission, morning and afternoon, they closed around her, hungry, weary, and lonely, as she was, and put her through a series of questions and cross-questions about things she had a hundred times said she would not tell.
They would double back one day on what she said the day before, trying to prove to her that she admitted certain damaging things, and then simulate great horror at her duplicity in denying them.
It was a most cruel proceeding all through, but it is interesting to us now because in it the heart and soul of this wonderful woman were wrenched open, as it were, and laid bare to the world and God's providence singularly proved. Some of it shall be the burden of the succeeding chapter.