Jean d'Aulon, Part X
THE DAUPHIN'S FEARFUL HEART
We rode for quite awhile with only the sound of our horses' hooves marking the time as we headed for Chinon. At last I broke the silence with an apology. "Maid, please forgive my failure in my duty to you."
"What failure was that, Squire?"
"I failed you by not maintaining discipline within your household, Maid. And for that I am truly sorry. However, you may want to discipline me, I will accept."
"Oh, you mean John, don't you. Well I failed too by not noticing it either, so we are both at fault. I never had any trouble with him before. What went wrong?"
"Well, before this you never asked him to do any thing extra for you."
"Ah, that is so, Good friend. But how did you work that wonderful change in him so quickly?"
I grinned. "Oh, Jeanne, that is a professional secret, which I cannot divulge."
"Squire, you were not cruel to my brother, were you?"
"I was as gentle with him as I could possibly be, Maid,"
Her gaze was intense. "You know you can't deceive me, My friend. You must have been very stern with him and for that I feel bad. Yet he seems better for the experience, so I thank you for your efforts."
To help pass the time I struck up a conversation. "Jeanne, did you hear what Alain Chartier, the court poet, is writing about you?"
Jeanne gave me a half grin as she slowly shook her head. "No, Squire, I did not. I suppose you are going to tell me, right?"
"Ah, Jeanne, you are such a wise woman."
She playfully cocked her head to the side, "Go ahead, get it over with. Tell me what Monsieur Chartier is saying."
"Well, Jeanne, he says you came from heaven to raise up fallen France."
Jeanne giggled. "He's wrong there. I come from Domremy."
"He goes on to say that you are astonishing! Worthy of all fame, praise, and divine honors!"
"What a bunch of folderol that all is!"
"He also says that you are the honor of the realm, the splendor not only of France but of all Christendom!"
I could hear the annoyance in her voice when she said, "Mush!"
"He compares you to Hector, Caesar, Alexander and Hannibal."
Puzzled she questioned, "Who are they?"
"Why, they are nothing less than the greatest military leaders of the past!"
Jeanne said no more and turned from me. Amazed by her reaction, I studied her face and saw it turn a vivid red. Looking back on it now, I should have ended the conversation at this point, but I was enjoying my game too much. "Did you hear the latest stories that the people are telling about you?"
"Are they as wild as the others I heard?"
"They are even more fantastic. Listen to this one. According to this story, the night you were born, the people of Domremy were awakened by the early and sudden, loud crowing of all the roosters. The people were moved by a strange and powerful feeling of joy, came out of their homes rejoicing and marveling at the wondrous event. They ran up and down the street in the darkness trying to find out what new and marvelous thing had come to pass, for at the time they had no knowledge of your birth."
Jeanne entered the fun, laughing at the silly story. "It sounds as though the people had too much strong wine to drink, poor dears."
"Listen to this one! When you were a child you ran foot races with your friends. In fact, you ran so fast that your feet did not touch the ground!" Impishly I questioned, "How come you do not run like that any more?"
"Oh! I guess I am too heavy now that I wear armor! Good squire, did you hear this one?" she said as she playfully jabbed my arm. "When I tended my father's sheep, I never lost any. All I had to do was call and they came scampering back to me as if I were their mother."
I faked a surprised look. "Now I know why the army always rallies around you. You had practice!" Our laughter filled the air. "Jeanne, listen. In this story you are another Saint Francis because whenever you sat in the fields, the wild animals would come to you to be fed. The deer, the fox, the birds of the forest, they all came, even the wolf. The wondrous part of it was that in your presence all the animals mingled together in peace, as tame as house cats."
"I must admit that when I prayed in the fields or at the shrine of Our Lady of Bermont, that the wild birds and small forest creatures were not afraid to scamper near me. But I think it was because I remained still for long periods of time, so to them I was nothing more than another rock or plant."
"Your explanation seems reasonable. But, Jeanne, I've got to tell you this one last story."
Jeanne smiled, "If you must, Squire. Tell me your favorite story."
"Well, Jeanne, this story tells how you learned to ride horses. It states that in your youth you could run so fast that you would run along-side a wild colt and, grabbing hold of its mane, leap in one swift move onto its back. Then you would ride like the wind along the hills, as free as the herd was wild."
Jeanne heaved a deep sigh. "How people can believe such stories is beyond me."
"I do not know if they really believe them, but they are fun to listen to and to tell."
We expected to meet the Dauphin at Chinon, but he had already departed for Loches. We rested here for the night before continuing our journey the next mourning.
As we approached Loches, Jeanne became excited by the thought of greeting her prince. With Jeanne ever urging her horse on, we galloped the last five miles to Loches. When she saw the Dauphin and his party in the distance coming out of the town to greet her, Jeanne jubilantly raced toward him. As for us, we were hard pressed to keep up with her. Jeanne pulled up her horse in front of the Dauphin. There she doffed her hat in a sweeping motion while bowing low over her saddle. She remained motionless in this awkward position until the Dauphin raised her. So delighted was he in her achievements that he gallantly took off his hat and acted as though he would have liked to kiss her forehead. This was the only time Charles ever showed any real emotion toward her.
We stayed at Loches for ten days. During this time Jeanne became frustrated by the inaction. Each day, she went before the Dauphin urging and begging him to go to Reims. Each day the Dauphin's counsel rejected her pleas, for everyone had his own idea. Some wanted to go into Normandy while others wanted to attack Paris itself. Still others wanted to clear the English out of Meung, Beaugency, and Jargeau. Doggedly Jeanne kept insisting on going to Reims. At one of these countless meetings, a nobleman was annoyed with her insistence. "Why are you so stubborn and set upon going to Reims first?"
"It is so simple, sir, even I can see it. In Reims the gentle Dauphin will be crowned and anointed! When that happens, then and only then, will the enemy have no power to harm either him or his kingdom because he will be consecrated to God and become His steward."
Though Jeanne tried mightily to persuade the King's counsel, she was unsuccessful and there was no decision. How Jeanne hated all these meetings and the delays they caused. The only solace she found for her sorrow and impatience was in her fervent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. There kneeling on the hard, cold, stone floor she would spend countless hours in contemplation, adoration, supplication and reparation, just as Father Pasquerel had described to me.
When she was not engaged in trying to persuade the Dauphin and his counsel to go to Reims or in prayer, Jeanne spent her free time with the town's children. She loved going to Mass with them and played with them afterward. She would gather the children around her as a mother hen her chicks. Happily, Jeanne spent her time telling them stories from her childhood and then she would politely listen to their stories.
As a pastime she passionately loved riding her stallion through the lush green forests that surrounded Loches. By this time, Jeanne possessed twelve horses of different breeds and types. She kept the horse on which she had ridden to Chinon, as it was a gift from her Uncle Durand and the people of Vaucouleurs. The Dauphin gave her one as well as the Duke d'Alençon. Each horse was trained for a specific task. In battle for instance, she could use a charger when riding on hard ground or a demi-charger when on soft and muddy ground. For her everyday use she had several regular riding horses to choose from. Finally, rounding out her stables were packhorses to carry the equipment.
Jeanne was an embarrassment to the members of the court for many reasons. They were embarrassed by what they considered to be her most unwomanly behavior, from the cut of her hair, to her insistence on wearing male clothing even while she was at court. She enjoyed wearing finely made and colorful male garments. She admired beautiful armor and well-made swords. Jeanne considered herself to be a knight in God's army and she conducted herself accordingly. It is for this reason, in spite of the complaints and comments from people around her, I believe, that Jeanne insisted on sustaining the dress of a man. Thus she ensured that her status as a knight would be taken seriously by all who met her.
Behind her back the members of the court would ridicule and make fun of her because they resented her pious ways and her calling herself God's messenger. The ultimate insult to their sensibilities, was her association with the rabble. This above all else drove them to distraction.
One lady voiced her complaint directly to Jeanne. As this grand lady clutched the folds of her long flowing dress, she stood proudly before Jeanne. "Why do you continue to have dealings with these waifs and nobodies?" she said with a condescending air. "This is not seemly, now that you are a member of His Majesty's court!"
Her tone and attitude annoyed Jeanne. She stood rigidly with her arms crossed before her chest. "Your attitude is not a Christian one, lady. As for my spending time with them, I have done so ever since coming to Chinon. God sent me to comfort the poor and needy and I will continue to do so for as long as I live!" Jeanne was about to leave when she decided to give the lady a parting shot and with a suppressed giggle added, "Besides, you forget - I too am a gueuse!"
The insulted lady turned in a huff, her nose high in the air. "You certainly are!" No longer able to contain herself Jeanne laughed heartily as she watched the irate woman storm down the hall.
Jeanne enjoyed spending her time and energy giving alms to the poor of the town. One time Father Pasquerel read to Jeanne from Luke's Gospel, Chapter 14:
"Jesus said, 'When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you at the resurrection of the just.' "
Jeanne took this Gospel passage to heart and used the money she had to give lavish feasts for all the poor, crippled and destitute of the town. She always treated the people with respect as she seated them and served them the food. How her face glowed with joy as she looked with love upon all who came, no matter how poor, how old, or how sick they might be. She gave to all with a glad and caring heart. She encouraged them to remain in God's love, to be faithful and to trust in Him. In response to her generosity the people flocked to her, kissing her hands and feet, even after she asked them not to do so. All of this adoration greatly disturbed and some times even angered Jeanne. Yet, no matter how hard she tried to stop them, they did it all the more.
The Archbishop of Reims happened upon a similar scene one day as the people gathered around her. Motivated by hate and not by true Christian concern, he did not care if what he said would hurt or embarrass her. Heartlessly he spoke to Jeanne in front of the crowd and sternly reprimanded her for allowing this attention. "Jeanne, you are wrong to allow the people to do such things. You must forbid it because you lead the people into idolatry and you place your own soul in danger!"
Jeanne humbly received his warning. "You are right, my Lord Archbishop. It is so. I will continue trying to keep the people from adoring me. In truth, if God did not protect me from pride, I would not know how to protect myself."
One afternoon, at another of those endless meetings, Jeanne boldly proclaimed, "Gentle Dauphin, I am impatient for you to go to Reims."
The Dauphin benevolently walked over to her. "Come Jeanne, there is no need for impatience. All things will come about in God's good time."
Jeanne fell to her knees begging him, "I shall last a year and a little more. Therefore, my Dauphin, see to it that you make good use of me during the time that God has allotted me."
Charles was surprised by her words. He reared back on his heels for a brief moment before returning to his usual indifference. "I will consider your words. Until then, you may go."
A few days later the Dauphin invited Jeanne, Count Mortain, and me to another council meeting. Jeanne approached the door briskly. Knocking firmly on it twice, she boldly entered the chamber. Swiftly she walked over to the Dauphin and flung herself at his feet. "Noble Dauphin, hold no longer these many and long councils, but come quickly to Reims to take the crown for which you are entitled!"
Bishop Christopher de Harcourt, the Dauphin's confessor, asked, "Jeanne, is it your counsel who told you this?"
"Yes, and most of all my counsel urges me to do this."
"Will you not here say, in the presence of the King, what manner of counsel it is which thus speaks to you?"
This made Jeanne blush a bright red. "I think, I understand what you want to know, and I will tell it to you willingly."
Charles then spoke up, "Jeanne, will it please you to tell, in the presence of these persons, what is asked of you?"
"Yes, Sire. When I am hurt because what I say, as God's messenger is not readily believed, I retire alone and pray to God. I complain to Him that those to whom I am sent do not believe my words. When I have finished praying, I hear a voice which says...." As she spoke of her Voices, an extraordinary ecstasy came over her. She raised her eyes to heaven as her face filled with an inexplicable joy. " 'Daughter of God, go on, go on, go on! I will be your help. Go on!' When I hear this voice, I feel such great joy that I wish I could always hear it!" Returning from her ecstasy she added, "Will you not go to Reims and take your rightful crown?"
Charles pondered the situation in silence as he fingered his chain of state. "We have decided that after the English strongholds along the Loire are taken we will go to Reims for the anointing."
Jeanne gave a sigh of relief. "We will accomplish it, as you request, my gentle Dauphin!" She then placed her hand on Mortain's and my shoulders. "My friends! It is time for us to return to the plow!"