Jean d'Aulon, Part XIV

CHAPTER 21

FAMILY'S WARM EMBRACE

 

I had to fight my way through the crowds that pressed after the King to reach Jeanne. "I am so proud of you! But it is you who should be receiving the cheers of the crowd and not the King! If it were not for you, he would not be here today!"

Jeanne pressed her fingertips gently against my lips. "Peace, Squire. Let the King have his acclaim. My reward is in the knowledge that I did my best to serve my King and Savior, and accomplished His will."

Jeanne's brothers happily fought their way through the teeming throng as they yelled, "Jeannette, mamma and papa are here to see you. They are waiting for you at a nearby inn."

Jeanne could not contain her surprise. Her face reflected her joy and she jumped up and down like a little girl. "Oh! Where are they? Take me to them!" She instantly forgot everything else but her desire to be with her parents. Jeanne, her brothers and I slowly weaved our way through the crowd until we came to a side door of the cathedral. We exited the church and found ourselves on a deserted, dimly lit, back street. Several rats screeched in protest at being disturbed as they ran for cover. Briskly we walked on, down one street, turning a corner, down the next until we came to an inn called Ane Rayé. Except for the somber half-light that shone through the two front windows, the interior of the inn was dark and drab. It was deserted and quiet because all the people had gone after the King. "Where are my parents?"

"They are upstairs, Jeannette," her brothers answered in unison as they pointed the way.

In spite of being in her heavy armor she flew up the stairs taking three to four steps at a time. "Mamma! Papa!"

Her parents were overcome with happiness as their joyous tears flowed down their cheeks. "Jeannette, Jeannette!"

Jeanne threw herself into their open arms. With one arm around her mother's neck and the other around her father's, she embraced them with great emotion. They must have kissed a hundred times, embracing each other over and over again, not totally believing the dream was real. Their love filled the emptiness of the inn with its hallowed presence. "I am so glad you came. No one told me that you were here! Or I would have come to you sooner."

Her father was a man in his late forties to early fifties. His skin was wrinkled and weather beaten. He had a strong face with deep set, light brown eyes, a long thin nose and mouth and square jaw. He looked like a man that you did not want to annoy unnecessarily.

Her mother had a kind, gentle face. I, for one, felt at ease with her immediately. A white linen wimple completely covered her black hair, except for a few wild wisps that peeked out from underneath. She had thin black eyebrows that arched over her prominent, yet warm, blue eyes. Her full round face sat sturdily on top of her short neck. How her peaceful expression glowed, with a beautiful smile that beamed with love and pride.

As I examined her parents' features, I pondered whom Jeanne resembled. From her father she received her long thin nose and strong chin. From her mother she received those soft, blue and mildly protruding eyes. I could also see that she was more like her mother than her father, with her mother's physique down to her short neck. Yet most of all, she had her mother's smile.

Jeanne interrupted my thoughts as she ordered me to her lodging. "Squire, please fetch the large cloth bag that is in the corner of my room. Also bring back my gold and green brocade tunic and matching hose."

I found everything she wanted and returned quickly to the Ane Rayé. In my absence, two new guests had arrived; an older man about her father's age and a young man closer to Jeanne's age. She introduced them as Durand Laxart who was really a cousin even though she called him her uncle and a friend from her childhood named Jean Watrin.

"Thank you, Good squire. Just put the bag down by the table and I will see to it after I change into my tunic and hose. While I change, please entertain my parents with your company. John can help me out of my armor." Jeanne motioned to her brother to come with her. This he did without complaint as compared to the time back in Orleans where I had to discipline him for his disrespectful laziness.

The upstairs sitting room was fairly large with one narrow window. Scattered throughout were some old rustic pine chairs and near the room's center there was one moderate sized pine table. The uneven and ragged floor was made up of wide oak planks that were held in place by wooden pegs.

I introduced myself. "I am very pleased to meet you both, Madame and Monsieur D' Arc. Jeanne has told me so much about you, that I feel I already know you quite well. There has not been a day when she has not spoken of you." I thought I would be more comfortable if I had something to drink, so I went to the door of the room and yelled down the stairs for the proprietor to bring up his best wine and beer. I then went over to Jeanne's mother. "Madame, the ring you gave your daughter has not been off her finger in all the time that I have known her. Many times a day, I saw her kiss it for love of you and your husband."

Madame D' Arc appeared nervous as she smoothed out the wrinkles of her apron. "I am so happy to hear that. I was a little worried that she would forget us now that she is so important."

"Have no fear of that, Madame. Jeanne cannot wait until she can go home to resume her former life."

The barrel shaped innkeeper came into the room carrying a large tray filled with mugs of ale and wine. With his services no longer needed, I threw him a gold coin as I curtly ordered him out. In spite of his great size, he nimbly caught it with one hand as the coin sailed through the air.

"Were you able to see the King's coronation?" I asked.

Madame D' Arc beamed with pride as she sipped her wine. "Oh, yes! It is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to us. I think there can be no greater day that we could ever experience, even if we were to live another hundred years!"

"Maybe even a thousand years," Monsieur D' Arc laughed as he interrupted his wife. "We were about to enter the cathedral when a guard stopped us. 'Your kind are not allowed in here today!' 'But sir, I am the father and this is the mother of Jeannette - I mean the Maid. We are her parents!' His attitude changed quickly then. 'Well if that is the case, I will personally help you in and find you a place to stand.' The kind guard continued to speak with us as he led us through the massive crowd. 'I am proud to say that I served under the Maid at Orleans. No finer captain lives than she.' I proudly replied, 'Thank you, sir. There is no finer daughter, either!' "

"He led us up a narrow spiral staircase. Winded, exhausted and dizzy from the steep climb we reached a narrow walkway that went all the way around the cathedral. 'This is the monks' prayer walk,' the soldier said. 'No one will be using it today, so you can stay here and be able to see everything better than anyone else.' The soldier pointed out the way. 'Just continue to walk down this way, and you will reach an area that overlooks the main altar. You will be able to see your daughter and the King very well from there.' We sincerely thanked him for his kindness. He answered, 'It is the least I can do for the parents of the Maid.' Then he left. We followed his directions and came to the area that overlooked the main altar. There we waited, breathless for what seemed like an eternity. Then with a blare of trumpets...."

Madame D'Arc cut in. "They were so loud we had to cover our ears! We thought the walls of the cathedral would shake apart from their force!"

Monsieur D' Arc gave his wife an annoyed look. "...the ceremony started! We saw the Archbishop of Reims, and the three other bishops. I don't know who they were. We saw the great Lords of the realm riding into the cathedral on their chargers! I thought horses were not allowed in church? Oh anyway... then we saw the King! I thought I was in heaven."

Eager to join in with the conversation, Madame D' Arc interrupted him with an abrupt wave of her hand. "We looked with love, pride and joy, and I really can't express it.., the feelings we had, I mean.., as we watched our mind you..., our little Jeannette! In such beautiful armor and vestments walking down the aisle next to the King! We cried through most of the ceremony. It all seems like such a beautiful, fantastic dream. I thank God for granting us this great honor to see with our own eyes this wondrous event. I still can't believe that it really happened," she said as she dabbed her tears with her apron.

I laughed a little at her reaction. "Believe it, Madame and Monsieur, for it is true! Your Jeannette accomplished God's will and helped to crown the King."

Monsieur D' Arc returned to his thoughts. "After they crowned the King, we left, because we heard a noise and were afraid that someone might find us there. We did not want any trouble with the guards, so we hurried back to the inn. None too soon, for the crush of the crowd was building up mighty fast. I suppose the King was leaving the cathedral then, too."

With pride and love, Madame D' Arc took hold of my hand. "Didn't Jeannette look wonderful? She was the most splendid of them all, if I do say so myself!"

"You are right! She was the most splendid! You are both very lucky to have such a fine girl as Jeanne for a daughter."

They both answered enthusiastically. "Ah! That we know!"

Feeling less self-conscious because of the wine, I questioned, "Monsieur D' Arc, is it true that you had some sort of premonition concerning Jeanne?"

Pleased to be the center of attention again, he eagerly started his tale. "Yes, I did. A couple of years before my daughter left, I had the same dream three nights in a row. The first night, all I remember was Jeannette with a band of soldiers. I didn't connect the two. The second night, it seemed to me that the band of soldiers was kidnapping Jeannette! That thought was very upsetting, believe me! By the third night, I saw clearly that Jeannette went willingly with them. I was afraid she was going to lead a life of sin by becoming a camp follower."

From the agitation in his voice, I could tell that this thought still bothered him even after all this time. "This part of my dream so disturbed me that I immediately woke my wife up. She told me I was crazy. How could our little Jeannette behave in such a disgraceful way? I was not convinced, and in the morning, without Jeannette's knowing, I told her brothers. 'If I truly believed that this thing that I have dreamed about her might happen, I would want you to drown her, and if you would not, I would drown her myself.' I would rather see her dead than for her to turn away from God and become a prostitute. After that, we were a little hard on her I'm afraid, keeping a very close watch on her behavior." Embarrassed, Monsieur D' Arc looked sheepishly at the floor. "I'm glad now that I did not have my way in this matter."

Not to prolong his discomfort, I turned my attention back to Madame D' Arc. "What was Jeanne like when she was a little girl?"

She paused a moment and looked out the window. A smile crossed her face as a flood of memories came rushing into her mind. "What a great blessing my daughter, Jeannette, is. I believe that God Himself sent her to me because as she grew, the bond between us became so strong that nothing could ever break it.

"When Jeannette was quite young, I would smile as I watched her explore her father's garden. How she marveled at the world and all the creatures in it. I imagine this was so, because she saw God there. In return she wanted to give everything that was beautiful back to Him.

"How I loved to hold my little girl. As I rocked her in my arms I would try to instill into her very sensitive the importance to love and trust Jesus and His dear Blessed Mother with all her heart.

"I am proud to say that my efforts were not in vain for even at this young age, Jeannette saw little difference in the love I showed her and the love Jesus had for her. With her little arms opened wide she would come to me and say, 'Mamma, hold! Mamma, Jesus!' I guess it brought a sense of security to her heart that could not be found in this most insecure world."

Madame Isabelle gave her husband a loving glance as she continued, "We both loved Jehannette very much and we both tried to protect her in our own way. I wanted my daughter to see the world through the gentle eyes of Christ, whereas her father believed in teaching her how to deal with the harsh realities of this world.

"I wanted Jeannette to go out into the world to help others while her father wanted to protect her from it.

By this time Monsieur D' Arc could not hold his peace. "Don't speak for me, woman! Sir Squire, I did what I did to teach and protect my daughter because I believed I would be a failure in the eyes of God if any harm came to her or any member of my family."

Madame D' Arc quickly soothed her husband's ruffled feathers. "Yes, dear, yes, you are a good man and a good father. Here, have some more of this excellent wine and calm yourself."

I could tell from how sweetly Madame Isabelle had handled her disgruntled husband that she knew how to use her words carefully. Then it came to me, and I realized that Jeanne must have inherited this trait from her mother. Jeanne also was quite diplomatic in her tone of voice and the words she used. I remembered how she once told me that her words 'had to be spoken as if they came from the lips of Christ.'

Madame D' Arc laughed as she continued, "I must have hugged and embraced Jeannette more than any other child in our family. Jacques was the strong one. I on the other hand was the gentle one.

"I found her to be a very sensitive young girl who became exceedingly upset when people made fun of her or seemed to question her truthfulness. This would always bring a red blush of embarrassment to her face. She was very shy and constantly held onto my skirt."

I laughed and shook my head in disbelief. "That doesn't sound at all like the Jeanne I know, Madame! You should see her in action! She is not shy at all on a campaign!"

"Yes, Monsieur it is all true!" Her mother insisted. "When she grew older and could help in the fields, we found her very often in church. At first we thought she went to church to avoid her chores. But we would always find out later that she went to pray only after she had completed her duties. She worked very hard around the house and farm for her father and me. Yet we always marveled at how she loved to go to church. Every Saturday she, her sister and her friends would make the strenuous pilgrimage to the nearby hermitage of Our Lady of Bermont."

"As a young child Jeannette would always run to me to find her comfort and strength. But as she grew older, she turned more and more to Jesus to find the comfort and strength she needed to face her fears and disappointments. One time I said to her, 'Why don't you come to me with your problems? Don't you love your poor old mother any more?'

"She gave me the brightest smile and kissed my cheek as she replied, 'Oh mamma, you know I do! But when I go to Jesus, I feel His loving embrace. I so love Him, mamma. I hope you understand.' "

"Yes," Jean Watrin interrupted as he rose from his chair. "All the boys and girls of the village who played with her teased her for being pious and so deeply devoted to God and the Blessed Mother. When we were at play, Jeanne would often leave to go alone to 'talk with God.' Behind her back the others and I would whisper, giggle and laugh at her piety. I am ashamed about it now, but we would play tricks on her while she prayed, like tugging at her dress or tickling her ear with a blade of grass. We even threw little stones at her, all in an attempt to distract her. We did not succeed, mind you, though the fun was in the attempt. It became one of our favorite sports."

After confessing this prank, Jean turned a deep red. I suppose he did not want to give a bad impression of himself, so he quickly changed the subject. "She loved to run and rarely did I see her walk slowly even when she was barefoot.

"I loved to see her expression of joy as she watched the animals and birds. My Jeannette was so full of life and it was always the little things that brought her the most pleasure from noting the circle of life in the changing seasons, to watching the dancing flames in her father's hearth.

"She really enjoyed her motherís cooking for she told me that her mother was the best cook in all of Domremy! Oh how she loved the taste of freshly baked bread.

"She enjoyed making clothing for her friends and those in need. Once she made a fine shirt for me!" A broad smile crossed his face as he said this.

"But my fondest memory is the way she would always greet me with a warm smile and hearty, 'Greetings good friend!' "

Madame D' Arc motioned for him to sit back down. "Sometimes Jeannette would complain to me that the bell ringer did not ring for Mass or for morning and evening prayers properly. She would ask me for an extra loaf of bread or a piece of cloth, to bribe the man into being more punctual with the ringing of the church bells."

Jeanne's Uncle Laxart, mellowed by his wine, finally joined the conversation. "I was the first to help Jeannette on her way to the King. I brought her to Sir Robert de Baudricourt and when this first attempt failed, I protected her from her father's wrath."

"You lying toadstool! You did not!" Monsieur D' Arc yelled. "I had no intention of beating my daughter."

Laxart was frightened as he shrank back down into his chair yet he maintained his statement. "You could have fooled me. You were so angry with Jeannette that had I not stepped in, you would have struck her senseless."

Menacingly, Jeanne's father strode toward Laxart. "You lie, Laxart!" He turned to me pleading in protest. "Do not believe him. I ask you, how could I have hurt my own daughter?!"

I just smiled and said nothing. It seems to me that if he were capable of drowning her, he certainly was capable of striking her unconscious for shaming him like that. "Enough of your bickering," Madame D' Arc said waving them apart. "We are here to celebrate Jeannette's great achievement, not to argue about what we did or did not do in the past!"

At this point Jeanne emerged from the other room. "What's the matter, Mamma?"

"Nothing, Jeannette, just two silly old men bickering," Madame D' Arc answered diplomatically.

Jean Watrin tenderly took hold of her hand and with great love, led her into the warmth of her family and friends. "Jeanne, you looked so powerful and invincible in your armor! Is there anything that you are afraid of?"

Jeanne stopped abruptly and her countenance filled with a grave uneasiness. "I fear nothing, except treachery." It seemed like a curious statement for her to make but we let it pass.

Distressed by Jeanne's reaction, Madame D' Arc refused to allow her daughter to remain in this gloom, but broke through it with a happy confidence. "What is in the bag, Jeannette?"

Heaving a deep sigh, Jeanne looked into her mother's happy face. "Oh! They are gifts for you. I was going to send them home, but the Good Lord has blessed me with your presence! So now I can give them to you personally!" She at once went over to the bag and began opening it. A fancy brown felt hat, that unfortunately had gotten crushed while in the parcel, was on top. Jeanne was embarrassed as she tried to remove the wrinkles, all the while begging Uncle Laxart's pardon. "I am so sorry, Uncle, I wanted it to be perfect for you."

With outstretched arms Jeanne's uncle walked over and gave her a big hug. "It is all right, Jeannette. May I have it any way?"

Jeanne gave him a kiss on his cheek. "This once fine hat is for you, Uncle Laxart. I am truly sorry about its condition."

"Jeannette, it's a fine gift, a very fine gift, indeed!" he said as he put it on. "Thank you for remembering me."

Next she pulled out a gift for her father. Jeanne presented him with a bright blue coat made from a warm material that was good for the cold winter months. "Papa here, this is just for you."

He took the coat from his daughter's hands as he kissed her cheek. "Thank you, Jeannette."

While her father was admiring his new coat, Jeanne took out the next object and extended it to her mother. "Mamma, this is for you."

"Oh! Thank you, Jeannette," Madame D' Arc said as she held the long dark green dress up for all to admire.

Jeanne removed the final item from the bag and strolled over to where Jean Watrin was standing. "Jean, this is for you.," she said as she gave him her old red dress. The one she wore when she left Domremy. This surprised me because I knew she had always prized this particular garment highly.

Jean was a tall, strongly built young man about twenty-one or twenty-two years old. He had a long and thin face with light blue eyes. As I looked at him, I cruelly thought that he had the face of a horse. His hair was a muddy blonde, which he wore cut high over his ears and neck. His nose was long and full and his mouth wide and ample. He looked with tender love at her and I thought, if just for a brief moment, that Jeanne returned the same look of love to him! I instantly became jealous, considering him my rival! "How dare he look so at the woman I love," I thought! I imagined that in the past he must have dreamed about having Jeanne for his wife! Perhaps had things not turned out the way they did, they might have married by now with a baby or two to bless their home.

Forthwith in an attempt to quiet this demon of jealousy, I turned my back on the scene and took a long drink of wine! I had to calm myself with thoughts that neither of us could have her love, as long as she belonged to God! And for a fleeting moment I was even jealous of God! Finishing my drink, I hit my leg with the mug as I thought, "what a fool I am to think such thoughts. Did I not swear to myself that I would never think of her so!" Sadly but resolutely, I had to bury my feelings as I had done once before, swearing to God that I would never bring them to mind - ever again! I then was able to turn back to see how overwhelmed Jean was by the gift as he stammered. "Thank you, Jeannette, thank you so very much but I can't accept it." He shook his head and tried to decline her gift by pushing it back into her arms.

"The fool!" I thought.

Jeanne laughed at his reaction and pushed it back to him. "Please, Jean, I want you to have it as a souvenir of the Coronation. Take it.., if for no other reason than to make me happy."

I clenched my fists and gritted my teeth. "Take it you idiot!"

Shamed-faced he bowed his head and clutched the dress tightly to his chest. "Thank you, Jeannette! I will treasure it always.., because it came from you!"

I took several slow breaths in an attempt to calm myself. Yet throughout the evening, I found myself very often staring with resentment at him.

Jeanne's mother spoke hesitantly as she fumbled for something in her apron pocket. "I was going to give you a gift, Jeannette, but after seeing all these fine treasures and all your wonderful belongings that the King has given you, I feel ashamed, as mine is so small and pale next to these."

Jeanne rushed over to her mother. She knelt before her, placed her arms around her waist and rested her head upon her mother's breast. "Mamma, please don't say that. I would love your gift and prize it above all others. Please show it to me, mamma."

Her mother pulled from her pocket a dark blue ribbon about a yard and a half long and placed it into Jeanne's outstretched hand. She then clasped her hands tightly around Jeanne's as she raised her child's hands up to her lips and kissed them.

"It is wonderful, and my favorite color too. Thank you, mamma. You know what I shall do! I shall decorate my helmet with it! That way all my friends can see it. That way too, it will always be with me even in battle!" She dashed to her armor and quickly returned with the helmet placing it on her mother's lap. "Here, mamma, help me put it on my helmet." When her mother finished tying the last securing knot, Jeanne laughed while lifting it up high over her head. "Thank you, mamma. It looks lovely there. All the captains will be so envious of your gift. They will wish that they had one just like it!" This made her mother beam with joy.

Uncle Laxart asked Jeanne, "Where does your great courage come from, little one?

Jeanne walked over to her dear uncle and embraced him warmly. "Dearest uncle, it is so simple. I thought you knew. I thought it would be obvious to everyone! As a child mamma would always say to me, 'God is in command of all things.' I would often think about this to the point where it became second nature to me and I embraced it with all my heart. How true this statement was, I thought. 'The King of Heaven was in command of the earth, heaven and all things!' So this simple statement of faith became the source of my courage as my reception of Our Dear Lord in Holy Communion became the source of my strength. I knew that God was on my side and that I was on His. Jesus is my true King and I am His humble Captain."

The rest of the evening passed swiftly. Before anyone realized it, the church bells were tolling eleven o'clock at night! Jeanne saw how exhausted her parents were by the day's excitement. "I will leave now, mamma and papa, but I will see you again tomorrow. I am so very happy that you came to see me but more importantly that you were here to witness the coronation of the King. This is the happiest day of my life!"

Monsieur D' Arc embraced his daughter tightly. "Ours too, my dearest daughter. No words can ever tell how proud we are of you and what you have done."

"I owe it all to God, Who guided and helped me. I am but His servant."

Madame D' Arc embraced her once more. "God could have no better servant than you, my little child!"

For three days Jeanne visited with her parents and friends from Domremy. Those were happy days filled with good talk, laughter and dreams of the future. On the afternoon of the third day the King summoned Jeanne into his presence. "My dear and most loyal servant, we have missed you during these days of celebration and feasting. It would have pleased us if you had shared in it." His words were empty, because if he really had wanted Jeanne to share in the feasting, he would have summoned her before this. He knew very well where she was!

Jeanne bowed low before him. "I am sorry, Your Majesty. I did not know you wanted to see me, or I would have come to you. I was visiting with my parents and friends from Domremy. We toasted to your health and wished you a long life, my King!"

"We thank you. We would like to show you our appreciation for what God has done for us, through you. So we shall grant you any boon, that is in our power to give. Speak, my good and faithful servant; what is your pleasure?"

Jeanne did not hesitate to answer as she stamped her fist on her open hand. "The immediate march on Paris! We must not stop our advance until that city is obedient to you!"

King Charles was momentarily dazed and under Jeanne's intense gaze he grew defensive and angry. "We are sorry, Maid, but we have already made plans to march toward Soissons on the morrow!"

Jeanne, bewildered, could only stare at him with a look of deep-felt hurt. He made only fleeting eye contact with her as he continued to speak in this cool manner. "We cannot discuss it further because you would not understand." With that, he flippantly waved her off!

Dismayed by his response, she left the King's presence without a word. Jeanne was all for going to Soissons, but she knew that if Paris were captured, all the other towns and cities around the Capitol would declare their allegiance to the King. Thus another large portion of France would be free and the course of the war would be shortened. Thinking only after his own safety and pleasures, Charles lacked the determination necessary to regain his kingdom. This upset Jeanne greatly.

She walked slowly back to her parents' lodging. Once there she tried valiantly to hide from them the intense pain that she was feeling. "What did the King want?" her father asked.

Jeanne was silent while she fought back her tears. "He wanted to grant me a boon in return for what God had done for him through me." Unable to control her pain and hurt any longer, she burst into a flood of tears as she hid her face in her hands.

Madame D' Arc became concerned. "What is the matter, Jeannette? What is wrong?"

Jeanne could do no more than run crying to her open arms and buried her face on her mother's shoulder. Both her parents turned to me with questioning eyes. I had to force myself to respond to their unspoken question. "The boon that Jeanne asked for was the taking of Paris from the enemy."

Her father shook his head in agreement. "Yes, that is a good request. What is the King without his Capitol?" Puzzled by Jeanne's reaction he inquired, "But why should that make her cry?"

I tried my best to explain the unexplainable. "You see, Monsieur D' Arc. The King rejected her proposal out of hand. He told her that we were going to march toward Soissons, and not to Paris."

Monsieur D' Arc's face turned an ugly shade of red. "Why, that is crazy! Our King is such a coward! How can he do such a thing? He must be told what a mistake he is making!"

Madame D' Arc coolly interjected, "And who will tell him when he does not listen to Jeannette, who is guided by God in these matters? There is only one thing to do."

She gently picked up her child's head from off her shoulder and using the corner of her apron wiped the tears from her face. "When the King moves on to Soissons, you shall not be with him. You will come home with us and be done with this arrogant King!" Jeanne still unable to speak could only shake her head slowly 'no.' "Why not, Jeannette? There is no use in your staying with the King, if he does not follow God's directions. Let him drown in his own folly!"

"Mamma, I cannot do that. The King needs me to guide him into becoming the kind of king that God wants him to be!" She took her mother's hand and placed it next to her heart. "Remember, mamma, if the King drowns in his folly, he will take the kingdom and all his people with him! How can I go home with that on my conscience? No, mamma, I must stay, though it breaks my heart into a thousand pieces to say good-by to you again. I have no choice. God is not done with me yet! You can see that, can't you? Oh! Please tell me that at least you understand."

They were both crying by now and embraced each other tightly. Madame D' Arc answered as she sobbed, "Yes my love, my dearest daughter, I... I understand. But Oh! What a heavy cross God has laid upon us all."

Jeanne could barely speak. "Mamma, Papa, I think it is best for us to say good-by here., now.., while I still have the courage and determination, because tomorrow I may lose all heart and decide to go home with you."

"You know your home is always open to you, my love," her mother tenderly said.

"Thank you. I know that, and I won't forget. When I have finished my work for God, then I will come home." She then knelt before her father. "Papa, may I have your blessing, please?"

 

He nodded and placed both his hands on the top of her head. He lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed, "May God bless you! May God, keep you in His loving hands. May God protect you from all harm!" Because of his distress he could hardly form the words of his blessing. It was only the sheer force of his will that made him continue, "May God grant you.., long life.., in His grace!"

"Amen," her mother mournfully replied.

Jeanne embraced her father tearfully and kissed him. Meanwhile her mother came over to me. "You will stay with my daughter? You will be loyal to her? Please, give me your word that you will do this for me."

Choked with emotion I could hardly answer. "Yes, Madame, I will remain loyal to her always!"

She embraced me tightly and kissed my cheek. "Thank you."

Jeanne returned to her mother for one final embrace. They said nothing but only held each other for a long time. At last breaking the embrace, Jeanne turned and hurried out of the room. I said farewell to Jeanne's parents. "Good-by, Monsieur. Madame, I promise I shall do as you ask." I caught up with Jeanne and found her stumbling through the darkened alley. Blinded by her tears, she could hardly see where she was going, so I took hold of her arm and guided her through the darkness.