Jean d'Aulon, Part IX
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At dawn, Jeanne was awakened with the news that the English had left their forts that were located to the west and north of Orleans and were now in battle order before the city's western gate. She got up at once. "In God's name, we will face them!"
The sun shone brightly upon the field that separated us from the English. For an hour the English and French armies faced each other. In spite of the great multitude of men on both sides, it was eerily quiet as we each waited to see what the other would do. The Church did not allow offensive aggression on Sunday or Holy days. It did allow the people to defend themselves if attacked. On our part we were eager to attack because we felt invincible from the resounding victory we had won yesterday, but Jeanne restrained us. One of the captains respectfully asked, "Maid, is it immoral to fight on Sunday?"
"We must hear Mass first." Jeanne replied, giving orders for the portable altar to be set up the field. There, in plain view of the enemy, Father Pasquerel said two Masses. When the celebration of the second Mass was over, Jeanne asked, "Look and see whether the English are facing our way."
The captain's tone of voice revealed his sense of disbelief at what he saw. "Their backs are to us, Maid!"
My amazement too knew no bounds as I watched the English form into orderly ranks! My mind flew back to the previous battles and I remembered how many of the English soldiers and some of their knights would lay down their arms before Jeanne. They did not do this out of fear, for their countenance reflected a profound respect. Now that I thought more clearly about it all, it seemed to me as if they knew she was truly sent by God, the Father and they did not want to fight against HIM. As often as she could, Jeanne placed these Englishmen into the good care of Father Pasquerel but more times than not their own comrades would fall upon them cursing and calling them 'traitor and coward' as they hacked them to death. With their life's blood these brave English soldiers and knights paid the ultimate price to follow after the Prince of Peace and not their own rancorous warlords.
"Then," Jeanne said in a most jubilant voice, "in God's name, they are withdrawing. Let them go, while we give thanks to God. Pursue them no further since today is Sunday. You will have them another time." La Hire, Ambrose de Lore and Sir Hamilton, hotheads that they were, would not listen. They gathered their men and rode off after the English. "Let the English go," she shouted after them, annoyed by their disobedience, but they were too dogged to give any heed to her words. When they did finally return, Mortain was informed by La Hire that he and his troops had harassed the enemy for six miles before giving up the chase.
After the completion of the third Mass, a chant rose up among the men of the army, but soon it spread to all the people. "The victory was wrought by Jeanne! Jeanne saved us! Long live the Maid who delivered us from the enemy!"
Jeanne was extremely embarrassed by their words. Jumping to her feet she cried her protests in a loud but tremulous voice, "I did nothing, nothing! It was God! God gave you the victory! He alone should be praised!"
Yet the people paid no heed and continued to chant as before. With each passing moment, Jeanne became more upset until she could no longer take their praises. In tears she hurriedly pushed her way through the adoring throng.
It took me an hour before I finally found her in the Church of Saint Paul. This small church was only a hundred paces from the back door of the Boucher's home. There in the cool, quiet of this sacred place, I found her absorbed in prayer. I quietly crept up behind her and watched. In peace she humbly knelt before the tabernacle as she softly implored God, "Lord, wash me in Your Blood, strengthen me in Your love, guide me with Your Spirit, that I may always live according to Your Holy Will without fear, in true humility, self-control and love. Amen."
At the end of her heartfelt prayer, she slowly bowed her head until it touched the first of several steps that led up to the altar. In this position of supplication and profound silent prayer she remained for a long time. Presently though, she straightened herself up. Turning to the right, she looked upon the ancient statue of Our Lady of Miracles. Jeanne raised her arms up; this gesture looked to me like a loving embrace directed toward the Blessed Mother. I heard her pray, "Most sweet Mother Mary, help me always to remain faithful to your Son. Keep me safe beneath your mantle of love, while interceding for me before the Throne of God. Amen."
Outside the quiet church the people sang and danced in delirious joy at their newly won freedom! The date, May 8th, 1429, is a day that will live in the hearts and minds of the people of Orleans forever!
A miracle occurred on that day. I do not know if I am the only one who noticed it or not, but I will tell you this. Whenever I took note of the humble brown dove's song I always heard it sing, "coo, coo, coo, coo," but something marvelous happened on that day. God changed their song to a praise of Jeanne! From May 8th on, even to this day, these humble little birds joyful sing, "BRA-VO, JEANNE. BRA-VO, JEANNE."
On the morning of May 9th, I gave orders not to disturb Jeanne's slumber. I felt she needed her sleep to help her recover from her serious chest wound. It was well into mid-morning when she finally awoke on her own. At that time she was notified that the Dauphin awaited her at Chinon. Jeanne was annoyed with me for allowing her to sleep so long, because she did not want to cause the Dauphin any inconvenience. I happily took her reprimand as I considered her welfare far more important than those few hours of waiting might cause him!
By noon Jeanne and her household staff were ready to leave. The place was filled with well-wishers. In addition to the Boucher and Martan families, there were the Mayor and his counselors, Bishop Jean and other important city dignitaries. The more wealthy among them offered her money while the others offered her their services in compensation for all she had done. With many tears they begged her not to go. Jeanne was moved by their pleas but told them that it was impossible for her to stay. She declined their offers of money, gifts and services. "My very good and dear friends, I did not come to your assistance for the purpose of receiving gifts and money. I did it at the command of God. He is the One Whom you should thank."
Still, Jacques Boucher pleaded for himself and his friends. "Maid, we are so beholden to you. You have no idea how grateful we are and we long to repay you for your hard work. That is why we are eager to give you these gifts. Please grant us our hearts' desire."
"I understand that you want to reward me," Jeanne softly began, "but I cannot accept these gifts from you." For a moment she was in a quandary as how best to solve this perplexing problem. "I am concerned for the welfare of the wounded soldiers who fought to set you free. Instead of giving the money to me why not use it for their recovery?"
The officials told Jeanne not to worry about the injured as they would receive the best of care.
Jeanne pressed those assembled, in the name of Jesus and Holy Mother Church, to also take care of the injured English. She knew what she was asking would be very hard for them to do because they carried a deep hatred for the English. Nevertheless, Jeanne humbly asked that they show the kindness of Jesus towards the defeated and injured English. Their hatred was so great that it cut the air and her request was received in icy silence. She dropped to her knees and pleaded for the officials to allow the Mercy of Jesus to fill their hearts. Many who saw this were deeply moved by her humility and their anger turned to forgiveness.
Jeanne received their change of heart with great joy. Turning to me she said, "Jean, please get my helmet." I instantly replied with a silent but brisk military salute. Moments later I returned and placed it into her hands.
Jeanne, helmet in hand, walked over to Bishop Jean and knelt before him. With tears streaming down her face, she looked up as she gave him her helmet. "Most Reverend Father, please take my helmet as a votive offering to God, for the victory He has granted the people of Orleans, as well as for the protection He extended to me."
The Bishop accepted her helmet as he blessed her. "But my child, what gift can the citizens of Orleans give to you, to show you their love and appreciation?"
"The gift that I most desire is your prayers and the prayers of all the people of Orleans. I ask that a procession and a Mass of thanksgiving be arranged by Your Grace during which you will give praise and thanks to God and pray for me and for the success of the remainder of my mission. Have all the citizens of Orleans participate no matter what rank or station in life, that they may freely mingle with one another in love and respect."
Bishop John was so overwhelmed by her humility that he bent down and kissed her forehead. "I am most honored and edified by your request. It shall be done as you desire. The freeing of Orleans is a true and blessed miracle, so your helmet will be installed next to the statue of Our Lady of Miracles, high above the altar in the Church of Saint Paul. And there your helmet will remain forever, a constant reminder of Godís love and mercy to the good people of Orleans."
Jeanne kissed his ring and rose to her feet. All were tearful at her departure, but none more than Charlotte. The poor child cried as she tightly clung to Jeanne's waist. Jeanne knelt down before the girl giving her hugs and kisses as she tried to wipe away her copious tears. "I will come back, my little friend, I promise!"
Charlotte continued to cry as she shook her head 'no.' "You... are... only saying that... Jeannette," she said through her tears. "You won't come back, your work here is... done. Why should you come back?"
Jeanne smiled while she stroked her face. "It is true that I must deliver to the Dauphin the good news of this victory. More importantly though, I must urge him on to his coronation at Reims. Yet, once my work is done, what prevents me from returning?"
Charlotte clung tighter to Jeanne. "I don't want you to leave. I don't want to lose my big sister!"
"I don't want to lose my little sister either, and you will always be my little sister, but sometimes we have to do things that are difficult for us. Like saying good-by to a dear sister, like you. Charlotte, you said you wanted to give me a gift, is that not true?"
Charlotte wiped the tears from her eyes. "Yes, Jeannette, that is true. What can I give you?"
"I want you to be a brave little soldier. I always want you to listen to and obey your parents, for God gave them to you for your protection and guidance. Never forget that I love you and, more importantly, that God loves you very much. Will you do that for me?"
The child nodded as she tightly embraced Jeanne's neck. Just then Jeanne's brother, John, entered the room. "John, please get me my personal clothing chest."
His face clouded over as he stiffened his posture. "By all the thunders of hell, Jeannette, I just packed that blasted box on top of the blasted pack horse!"
If Jeanne had not been held in place by the grip of the child's arms, I am sure that she would have slapped him silly for the way he spoke to her. At any rate her eyes flared with rage as she just barely controlled her temper. "Brother or no, John, the next time I hear you use such language in front of me, I... I... I will box your ears! Now go and get that chest!"
He did not move, but stupidly stood where he was. "Now, John!" she yelled and with that he slowly walked out of the room. I heard her apologize to the people as I, hot on his heels, left the room. Filled with such rage at his slovenly behavior, I wanted to thrash him soundly. I found him by the front door angrily talking to himself. "Who does she think she is, talking to me like that! I am her older brother. She should show me a little respect! I work bloody hard for her and what do I get, nothing, but a kick in the head!"
As I came up to him, he greeted me, "Oh, good day, Squire."
He said no more because I grabbed his doublet and shoved him against the sandstone wall. "I will give you a kick in the head! What the hell do you think you are doing, to talk to the Maid like that!"
With his eyes wide with terror he stared at me. I had pushed him against the wall so hard that the air was knocked out of him. With a second violent thud I cracked his head against the stone. "What the hell's wrong with you, Jean. She is my sister, for Christ's sake!"
I pulled him from the wall only to slam him back against it. "First, flea brain, you will address me as Sir Squire!" With my hands still tightly grasping his doublet, I lifted him up until he stood on his toes. "Second, she is not your sister any more. She is your commanding officer! And she will be treated as such! Do you understand, fly speck?!" and I slammed him against the wall!
John just mutely nodded his head. So I said, "I can't hear you!" Slam went his body. Crack went his head.
He looked at me with a blank stare and mumbled, "Yes, Sir!"
Wrong answer and I pushed him down. There, sprawled on the ground, he gave me such a look of hate. I reached down and swiftly pulled him back up. When he was back on his feet, I screamed, "What did you say?"
"Yes, Sir Squire, Sir!" he hoarsely replied.
Slam! Crack! "I still can't hear you!"
So John yelled, "Yes, Sir Squire, Sir!"
He closed his eyes and stiffened his body, expecting to be slammed up against the wall. "Now you are starting to learn, Jackass!" With his eyes still closed and his body rigid, he tried to ready himself for another hit, but it did not come. "Look at me when I am speaking to you, soldier!" He instantly opened his eyes and stared at me like a frightened rabbit. "Third, if you ever use that kind of language before your commanding officer or speak to her in that tone of voice ever again, you will have hell to pay. Because after she boxes your ears, I will beat the living crap out of you! And you will wear the toe print of my boot up your backside permanently! Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
John stiffened himself up and this time he saluted me as he screamed, "Yes, Sir Squire, Sir!"
This pleased me so I let go of his doublet and patted his face with the palm of my hand. "There is hope for you yet, soldier. Now get the chest that the Maid wants."
"Yes, Sir Squire, Sir! Right away, Sir!" He yelled as he ran to the packhorse, untied the heavy wooden chest, dragged it down and placed it on his back.
Marching in double time, John returned to his sister. Stunned by his sudden transformation, Jeanne mutely pointed to the center of the room. He placed the box down, went quickly to attention giving her a brisk military salute. Then he marched himself out of the chamber. Jeanne, still in shock but pleased, gave me a quick nod of approval.
She opened the chest to reveal a magnificent nine-inch tall gray felt hat. She looked at it considering whether it would make an appropriate gift for a little girl. The front of the hat had a large upturned brim that was attached to the body by a gilded copper fleur-de-lis. On the very top there was another gilded fleur-de-lis from which hung down a number of little chains each ending in a small fleur-de-lis. A blue cloth lined it's interior. Content that it would make a good gift, Jeanne giggled as she placed it on her own head and went over to Charlotte. "This is for you Charlotte, something to remember me by."
The hat, way too big for the child, quickly sank over her eyes and ears leaving just her mouth exposed. Charlotte laughed as she tilted the brim back so that it rested on her forehead. Flinging her arms around Jeanne's neck, she kissed her cheek several times. "You will be my friend and sister forever!"
Jeanne gave Charlotte a big hug. "You will always be my special little sister, Charlotte. I promise!"
The time had come for our departure. Tearfully they crowded around Jeanne as they gave their final farewells with salutes, handshakes, hugs and kisses. The townsfolk expressed their love in cheers and waving hands as they followed us to Fox Gate. All the while Jeanne waved and smiled at the people that she had come to love so dearly. I think the departure was as hard on Jeanne as it was for the people.