Jean d'Aulon, Part XVI
FAILURE AT PARIS
On Friday the 19th of August, to the acclaim of the people, the King, with Jeanne by his side, entered Compiegne. Despite the King's external show of approval for Jeanne, he held her at bay for the next several days. Jeanne, unable to take this treatment any longer, burst unannounced upon another of the King's endless discussions with Lord de la Tremoille and the Archbishop of Reims. She marched right up to where the King was seated, while his two favorites who were always near at hand, stood and gasped at Jeanne's audacity. Her temper was running high. "Your most gracious Majesty, forgive my intrusion, but I must speak with you!" The King stunned by her boldness, could do nothing but nod his head a little. The Lord and Archbishop could see God's awesome power coming from her as she locked her stern, angry gaze at them. In fear they moved back from her, but only for a moment, because they were overtaken by another power, a dark power which filled them with a supreme sense of rage.
"My King," Jeanne continued, "you are being lead astray, by these stupid and narrow-minded men whom you call your advisors. They are bad men, for they would lead you away from what God wants, to follow what they want!" She did not stop there but falling to her knees before the King, Jeanne begged, "It is God's will that you should not be without your Capital! You must give the order for an immediate march on...."
The Archbishop livid with anger, finally cut in. "Why you insolent little tart! How dare you speak to us, your betters, in this vile way? When you speak in this contemptuous way, it only proves that you have fallen from God's grace. Be warned, you, you egotistical wench, you will fall from the King's good graces if you do not learn to control you sharp tongue."
"I do not know what egotistical means, but I do know that what I say is the TRUTH."
The Duke cut in, "The truth! You presumptuous peasant. You think that God can speak only through you?
"No, of course not!" came her strong reply.
"God speaks to man through His Church." The Archbishop reminded her, "Through His hierarchy, which means me and the other Cardinals and Bishops that the Holy Spirit selects to rule over the spiritual good of the Church's children, even when they are puffed up with pride and presumption!
Ignoring his last comment, Jeanne turned to the still silent King. "Your Majesty, you know full well that when you listened to what I said in the past, only good came of it. Will you not listen now, when the time for winning this great prize is so short."
The King, saying nothing, waved her off with his usual flip of his wrist. Jeanne was well out of the room when I reached the door. I turned to see the three of them huddled together. "She is far too dangerous." I heard one say. "That is most definitely true," said the other. But what froze the very marrow of my bones was the King's cold and calculating comment, "What shall we do about her?" I could take no more and with the tears building up in my eyes I hurried after Jeanne.
Jeanne continued pleading, begging and nagging Charles to give the order to attack Paris. He was in a quandary trying to decide what to do next. On one side was Jeanne who urged the attack. On the other side was La Tremoille who urged patience and negotiations. He did this solely to maintain his secret and sizable Burgundian payoffs.
If the Duke of Burgundy really did want peace, thought the King, why did he have troops supporting the English, during the encounter at Montepilloy, especially when negotiations were in progress? This tipped the scales slightly in favor of Jeanne's request and he gave her half-hearted approval for the attack on Paris.
Jeanne came to life, full of her old vigor and optimism! She was as hopeful as she had been before the attack on the Tourelles. "My good Duke, make ready your men and the other captains too. By my staff! I want to see Paris closer than I have seen it yet!"
Jeanne, d'Alençon, La Hire, Sainte-Severe, Gilles de Rais, Ambrose de Loré, and the Duke de Bourbon, with all their men, as well as Sir Jean Foucault with his regiment of archers made the day's ride to Saint Denis. There after a short skirmish, we won the place from the English. Jeanne made this town her headquarters. On this same day, the King departed Compiegne to travel all the way back to Senlis! Three times, d'Alençon made the long rode to plead with the King to come to Saint Denis and three times the King refused!
As we waited for the king, there were daily skirmishes with the forces of Paris, first in one place and then another. Jeanne spent the time reconnoitering the great town in hopes of finding a weak point in its defenses. On September 7th, the King finally arrived at Saint Denis, a total of ten days wasted. That evening, Charles invited Jeanne and all his captains to dine with him. Our hearts filled with joyous anticipation as we celebrated.., the taking of Paris!
Thursday, September 8th, was Our Lady's feast day. In honor of the day, Jeanne did not want to have any military actions take place but the captains and soldiers were eager for a fight. She was only able to contain them until noon when our troops took to the field. After setting up the artillery on a nearby hill, we began the bombardment of Paris. The Captains concentrated the attack on the gates of Saint-Honore and Saint-Denis. Two trenches protected the walls of Paris. One was filled with water; the other was dry.
It was not until two in the afternoon that the combined English and Burgundian garrison came out of Paris to take their positions before the gate of Saint-Honore. Jeanne, wanting to support her troops, joined in the attack. Our forces bravely engaged the enemy in bloody conflict. For an hour, the air rang with the clash of arms, the call of the trumpeters' signals and the cries of the combatants. With great enthusiasm, I fell upon my adversaries as I brandished my bright blade before me. I saw limbs shatter into pieces from the force of my blows. I struck one of my opponents on the head with such force that the blood gushed forth from his wound like wine from a broken keg! The savagery of the battle was extreme. The air was filled with swarms of stinging arrows and crossbow bolts.
True to his word, "Canède." and his men were no more than ten feet from Jeanne's side as they ferociously grappled with the foe.
We fought hard in hand to hand combat until at last the enemy gave way and retreated inside the walls of Paris. The outer defenses were ours, yet a much harder task lay ahead of us.
Ever since Jeanne had broken the sword of Saint Catherine, she had been without one, that is, until she vanquished a Burgundian knight, and won his in the process. This new blade was a fine, well-made weapon with a bull-hide sheath and belt decorated with gold rings. She was in high spirits from the victory and told the captains that surrounded her, "You commanders wanted to skirmish before Paris. But I want to do more! Let us cross the moats and take the prize. Go forward, my friends, and do not give up the assault until Paris is taken!"
A roar went up from the men, "For God and Saint Denis!" Wave after wave of men came charging forward, constantly hurling more and more faggots into the water. The moat around Paris had been created by diverting part of the river Seine around the city. It was very wide, at least one hundred feet, and the water ran swiftly in it. The current seemed to carry off the faggots as fast as they were thrown in.
While the French pressed the assault, the English and Burgundian garrisons were not idle. They shot large and small cannon balls and innumerable arrows at us. Crossbow bolts constantly whizzed by, like a swarm of deadly flies. This only made the French soldiers work harder. Jeanne was constantly in the front lines, shouting and cheering the men on. "Be of good cheer, soldiers of France. God is with us. On! On! Come, men, bring more faggots. We shall win this place!"
In between her encouraging words to her own men, she commanded the enemy, "Surrender the city to the King of France! For if you do not do so by nightfall, we shall enter by force whether you will or no, and all shall be put to death without mercy!"
For five hours the assault continued, without the moat's getting anywhere near filled. Jeanne tried to determine the depth of the water by sounding it with a lance. I was by her side at this time. "How deep is it, Jeanne?"
"At least ten feet, Jean, no more than twelve. It's the speed of the current that holds up our progress." Turning to the men around her she ordered, "More faggots there, hurry!" Then she yelled once more to the enemy garrison, "Yield up the city to the King of France!"
A Burgundian soldier answered Jeanne as he shot his crossbow bolt at her. "This is for you, whoring slut from hell!" The bolt pierced her left mid-thigh. The force of the blow caused her to go crashing backwards headlong down into the ditch. The wound was bleeding profusely. At the same instant, Raymond, who was at her side holding her pennon, was struck in the foot. He lifted his helmet, so he could better see to pull it out. As he did so another bolt struck him right between his eyes. He was dead before his body hit the ground.
Jean and Bertrand, ever protective of 'their Maid' pulled her to the comparative safety of the dry moat's ascending wall. The tip of the bolt had lodged deeply into Jeanne's thigh and I had a difficult time removing it. It was with a feeling of triumph that I finally pulled it free. I stemmed the tide of her gushing blood as I did in Orléans by using a large amount of lard and then applying a heavy bandage soaked in wine. It is my conviction that this was the third time God's Providence had saved Jeanne's life. While I was tending her wound and trying to make her comfortable, Jeanne asked, "Where is Raymond?"
Engrossed in my work I answered with a curt, "He's dead." Realizing what I had just said, I took a quick look to see how she was taking the news. She bit her bottom lip hard and with her tears cascading down her cheeks she folded her hands together to pray for his soul.
Though I stemmed the blood flow, the damage to her thigh muscle was so extensive that she was unable to stand. She remained there sitting by the side of the dry moat, constantly encouraging the troops to go forward as she shouted her exhortations. Many times the captains requested that she and the army retire, but she would have none of it! "If we but stay here and hold our ground, the place will be ours!"
When the King heard how badly the attack was going, he ordered the assault halted. He sent Lords Gaucourt and Bournel along with their men to find and carry Jeanne off the field. Notwithstanding our stalwart struggle against these lords' numerous soldiers Jean, Bertrand and I could not prevent them from seizing her. We asked for the right to remove our beloved Maid to safety but even this simple request was denied us. Despite Jeanne's strong verbal protests she was unceremoniously picked up and thrown over Lord Bournel's shoulder. "In God's name!" she cried out in pain and frustration, "The place would have been taken!"
That night, Jeanne developed a high fever, with chills and profuse sweating. Throughout the night, I heard her moan and sob quietly to herself, as she was disturbed frequently by the throbbing pain. Despite her poor physical condition, Jeanne rose early the next morning and using her pennant staff as a crutch she limped to d' Alençon's tent there to urge him to renew the attack on Paris. It was at this time that we learned a Burgundian Baron named Montmorency and sixty of his knights had left Paris to take up the King's cause! The news greatly encouraged us and if we had any misgivings about continuing the fight, the sight of this Lord with his squadron at once dispelled them. With renewed hope of winning Paris, Jeanne ordered the trumpeters to sound! In a whirlwind of activity the soldiers and knights scrambled to and fro, assembling in battle order. I helped Jeanne to mount her charger and saw her grimace from the fierce pain that she continued to experience. Yet despite this she was eager to return to the assault. "By my staff! I will never retreat till I have this town! Sound the charge! To the attack!"
Again the trumpeters sounded the advance. With a loud rousing cheer the army marched forward! At that very moment, the Duke de Bar and the Count de Clarmont came riding hot and fast toward us. "Stop! Stop! In the King's name, stop!"
The Count de Clarmont and his steed slid to a halt in front of d'Alençon and Jeanne. Even though he had seen Jeanne before, he could never get used to the fact that she led the King's forces. Nor could he accept that she wore armor and fought as well as any man he knew. This time was no exception. Composing himself, the best he could, he sternly delivered the King's message. "His Royal Majesty states that you all are to cease and desist any further attack upon Paris. If you do not obey his command, the King has commanded us to stop you by force if need be. His Royal Majesty bids and commands that you all return without delay to his court at Saint Denis." And at that very instant, we saw their formidable force coming over the crest of the hill.
"In God's name, this is ill done!" yelled Jeanne. "We can win this place, if we but go forward!"
La Hire aggressively joined in as he shouted and swung his staff at the Count's head! "By the thunder of God, I will have none of it. I say attack and to hell with your order!"
The Duke de Bar put his hand to his sword as he rode up behind him. "If you make one move toward Paris, I will personally cut you down!"
La Hire swiftly turned his stallion as he too reached for his sword. Scornfully he laughed in the Duke's face. "You are not man enough!"
Thus provoked, the Duke de Bar abruptly brandished his weapon against La Hire. La Hire in turn drew his and waved it in defiance. With a violent sweep of his arm, La Hire crashed his blade against the Duke's broad sword! This unexpected explosion of steel clashing against steel, reverberated through the air. Their chargers whinnied and neighed, as their powerful hooves nervously pranced in place. With each blow the men groaned as they strenuously swung and blocked the others' attack. La Hire rose up in his stirrups to take full advantage of his height. His gigantic arm fell swiftly to strike a forceful blow, while at the same moment he reined his stallion back to escape the Duke's murderous response. Though hard pressed by La Hire's intense buffets, to his credit the Duke returned equal measure to what he took!
The other captains and knights stood idly by, content to watch La Hire and the Duke de Bar fight to the death! Not Jeanne, who at full-tilt sprung into action and took a lance from the hand of a surprised knight. With a fearless maneuver she guided her horse between the two combatants while using the lance to block their blows. Jeanne more annoyed than anything else said hotly, "Enough! I will not have Frenchmen slay Frenchmen. We will return to Saint Denis and there I will personally protest this treachery to the King!"
As we sadly rode back to Saint Denis, Jeanne spoke quietly to d'Alençon. "My good Duke, is the bridge you ordered built over the Seine completed?"
D'Alençon face instantly lit up with a smile. "Yes, Jeanne. It is!"
"Good, my friend. Then tomorrow, we will cross the bridge and attack Paris from the other side. There we shall stay until Paris is won! Agreed?"
Tuesday, September 10th, very early in the morning, even before the crest of the sun had risen above the horizon, Jeanne, d'Alençon, La Hire and their men left Saint Denis. Quietly, we hurried through the thick mist, toward the bridge that we believed awaited our use. Alas! It was no longer standing, for during the night La Tremoille's men had demolished it so that no one would disrupt his plans. This Lord was shrewd enough to know that the building of this bridge by d'Alençon could only mean one thing, an assault on Paris from the far side.
Without a word's being spoken, we rode heavy hearted, back to Saint Denis. Stricken into silent grief, we all held the same thought. Because of this betrayal, our last chance to take Paris for a very long time was stolen from us by a man who was supposedly loyal to the King.
Right from the beginning, when Jeanne started her active service for the King, I had this uneasy perception that the King's counselors were suspicious and mistrustful of her. They tolerated her presence, feeling that she could be useful to further their goals. As the weeks wore on, they found that they could not control her, that she was her own person. Instead of helping them to gain their ends, she did just the opposite. This, they could not allow. Their fear and hatred of her rose as her fame and renown grew. At the point when the enemy feared her most, the Lord and the Archbishop's hatred of her was the strongest. Jeanne proved to be a pest and a great annoyance to them in the past, but now she was a threat to their power, prestige and wealth. What gave them this idea? Why, Jeanne herself! Although she did not realize what she had done, I refer to the letter she wrote to the people of Reims, in which she said she might not comply with the truce with Burgundy.
Jeanne was popular with and had the support of many captains. Had she not wanted to preserve the King's good name and honor, Paris would have been theirs. The taking of Paris would have caused the King's advisers to forfeit of their profitable enterprise. They might even have lost their status with Charles. They knew this and that is why they quietly began making plans to betray Jeanne to the enemy. By nine o'clock that same morning, our unhappy band was back in Saint Denis. The thick morning mists had cleared and the bright, hot September sun beat down on us oppressing our bodies as the heaviness of our hearts oppressed our souls. The King and everyone else knew exactly where we had gone, but they were discreet enough not to speak of it.
I never saw Jeanne so disheartened as she was on that day. I think she never really recovered from the King's betrayal, although in the days ahead, she made a valiant attempt to regain her former enthusiasm and exude a happy, self-confident facade. While others thought she was her old self again, I knew better and could daily see the hurt reflected in her eyes.
She believed the King was the noblest in all Christendom, but he showed himself the least. The King she wanted was honest, brave, and true, but he showed himself to be cheating, cowardly and conniving. She felt hurt at his betrayal of her, but the thought that Charles could so easily betray God, Who had sent her, cut the deepest!
Retreating to her room, she did not bother to get out of her armor but sat like stone on the edge of her bed. She said nothing, but just stared at the empty plaster wall across from her. I tried to make her talk. I offered her food. I offered her drink. I offered to help her out of her armor. The only response I received was a mute, despondent shake of her head "no." For an hour or two she stared at that same spot on the wall until she became agitated and restless. "The walls are closing in on me! I have to get out of here! I have to walk!"
Jeanne's severe leg wound forced her to use a tall staff as a crutch. With one hand higher than the other, she leaned heavily on it as she limped along. Dolefully with head bowed and shoulders stooped she walked along the main street of Saint Denis. Her whole body expressed her inner distress. She looked longingly to heaven as she shook her head from side to side. "He and his advisers never believed in me or my words. My mission was only a joke or a game to them. Even when God had worked His might among them, still they were not impressed! They just used me, used me to gain their own ends. They don't care in the least for what God wants." She stopped to rest as she wiped the tears from her eyes. "What kind of men are they, that they can so callously disregard God's wishes?" I looked into her eyes as I rested my hand on her shoulder, trying in this way to express that I too felt and shared in her pain. "Jean, I am so very tired. I am sick to death with grief for what has happened. I want to go home. I want to go back home to my mamma and papa. I am tired of this sick courtly life! I long for the simple pleasures of my father's farm."
Suddenly a new flicker of light returned to her eyes. She picked up her head and straightened her posture. "Jean, fetch Father Pasquerel and tell him to come to the Abbey of Saint Denis. For this very day, I will leave my white armor there as an offering to God for all that He did for France. Afterward I will leave the King's service."
"Are you sure, Jeanne? Do you really want to leave? Maybe if you wait...."
Without a word and with the same intensity that she exhibited at the Tourelles she clasped my shoulder. I knew then that she meant every word.
Sadly, I bowed to her request. The thought of losing so dear a comrade caused me great torment. I had lost all spring to my step and I walked very slowly to accomplish my task. I was like a dead man inside and my body, this earthen shell, moved I knew not how. A half an hour later, Jeanne, Father Pasquerel and I deliberately, yet silently, walked to the Abbey. We walked as if we were in a funeral procession and I guess in a way we were.
The heat of that September day was dreadful! Without a breeze to comfort us, the air was stifling and oppressive. We walked quietly down the old, narrow, cobblestone street that led to the square and there before us stood the ancient Abbey church of Saint Denis. This sacred building contained the bodily remains of the past Kings of France. The imposing square structure built with stark white sandstone blocks looked more like a fortress than a church. It was one hundred feet from the ground to the parapets that lined the top of its impressive façade. Crowning the Abbey were two massive square bell towers, the right one stretched an additional one hundred feet above the roof while the left's sharp pointed spire soared two hundred feet into the sky. This church was not elegant or beautiful as was the cathedral at Reims, but it stood defiantly shouting to the world, 'here I am and here I will stay!'
Quietly and solemnly we entered the church. The welcome coolness of the interior rushed over us, refreshing our sweating bodies. I would have enjoyed the sensation more had our purpose not been so somber. With her eyes fixed upon the main altar, most appropriately dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, she slowly advanced down the nave. The sound of her crutch echoed off the high ceiling. Step, thud, step, thud, down the long nave she went. Father Pasquerel and I followed silently five feet behind her. In the dark stillness of this hallowed place, we advanced reverently toward the altar that rose over the tomb of Saint Denis. The tomb, created from a single large block of white marble, was decorated with intricate carvings. Randomly placed around the tomb and altar were at least fifty to seventy candles of different sizes. As we advanced closer, I could feel the warmth of their flickering flames upon my face and smell the fragrance of the melting wax.
With her gaze fixed on the golden doors of the tabernacle, she genuflected as deeply as she could. She signaled me with the wave of her hand to come and remove her armor. Memories of a happier ceremony came rushing to mind. With a smile I remembered how I had placed this very same armor on her for the first time. Yes, it was in the private chapel of Father Pasquerel's monastery. In my mind I counted back the months, September, August, July, June, May, April. My God, it was only five and a half months since that ceremony took place! I pondered Jeanne's career further, thinking back to the time when she first met the Dauphin. By all the saints! It was exactly seven months to the day since she had first come to our aid! Was I wrong? I again counted the months, September, August, July, June, May, April, March! Yes, I was off, but only by four days! Jeanne had met the Dauphin in the great hall at Chinon, on March 6th and today was September 10th! I wondered if Jeanne was aware that little more than seven months ago she first encountered her "gentle Dauphin?"
The past seven months Jeanne, the whirlwind, had ripped through all the walls that tried to contain and prevent her from accomplishing God's will! In seven short months, she had defeated and driven the English out of the Loire valley! In seven brief months, she had changed a miserable, defeated and derided young man, who was not even sure of his own legitimacy, into the King of France! In seven little months, she had revived a divided and dying people and made them one in purpose and vision! In seven fleeting months, she had breathed new life into a fallen and cowardly kingdom! As these thoughts whirled through my mind, I trembled! Truly, it was the hand of God that wrought this miracle! In silence my soul was stirred to proclaim, "All praise be to our God, Who has shown Himself to be so powerful in our land!" Finishing my sorrowful task, I stepped back to my place next to Father Pasquerel. Jeanne, now dressed in her armoring doublet, hose and thick black boots, painfully went to her knees to kneel at the foot of the altar. Motionless as stone she knelt looking at the Tabernacle. Without prompting from anyone, Father Pasquerel began reciting Psalm 34.
"I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be ever on my lips; my soul glories in the Lord, let the humble hear and rejoice. Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord, together let us extol His name. I seek the Lord, and He answers me and frees me from all my fears. Every face turned to Him grows brighter and is never ashamed. A cry goes up from the poor man, and the Lord hears, and helps him in all his troubles."
Too distraught to continue, Father Pasquerel abruptly fell silent. Before the shrine, Jeanne's tears also flowed as she bent low from grief. "Lord, I tried to accomplish Your will but I have failed You. I am no longer worthy to be called Your messenger. Nor am I worthy to wear this armor."
With difficulty she straightened herself up while she stretched out her arms toward Our Lord in the tabernacle. "I offer to You my white armor as a gift in thanksgiving for all Your kindness and goodness. May this gift please You, my Lord, my Savior and my true King. May it also please You that I may now go home and serve my parents in their old age. May I live out my life, in quiet obscurity, dying of old age in my own home. Amen."
Father Pasquerel moved closer and placed his hand on her head. "My poor little child. It is not true! Not true, I say. God has not abandoned you. You have not sinned nor done anything that would ever displease Him. No, no, it is not that at all." He took his sleeve and gently began to wipe away her red-hot tears.
"Yes, Father, but oh, how my anguish crushes me! The fact that our King ordered the army’s withdrawal when we were so close to winning Paris for him causes me more torment than my leg wound!"
"Listen, and I will explain it all to you. Jeanne, you must use your sufferings that are caused by others."
Puzzled, Jeanne asked, "How do I use them?
"The best way is to thank God for everything that happens to you. Thank Him for the things that you like - your joys. But also thank Him for the things you don't like – your sorrows. Thank Him for the misery that others cause you by their hurtful looks, their sharp words or their cruel actions. Those kinds of things that wound one’s very soul and cause the fire of revenge to rise up inside us until we want to lash back at them with anger and hate. These are the emotions that are vanquished when we turn to God and ‘thank Him’ for the abuse that we are called by Christ to endure. Why? Because if we unite these wounds with those Christ suffered, He will change them into redeeming graces for us and for those who hurt us.
"Even thank God for the suffering due to your own sins because if you do, God in His mercy will lessen your time in purgatory. The key, Jeanne, is to thank Him always and in all things. By these continuous acts of "Thank You" you will increase your humility before God."
In the deepest distress, Jeanne, buried her face into her hands as she cried and her body trembled. "Father Pasquerel! Father, please help me! Help me! I am alone and afraid.... My Voices no longer come to counsel or comfort me as often as they once did. Even my dear Lord is far from me because when I pray, I no longer feel His loving warmth or tender presence. Oh, Father, I am blind and.., and in terrible.., terrible darkness."
Reaching out, Jeanne took hold of Pasquerel's sleeve and drew him closer to her side. "Have I sinned so badly.., have I fallen so low, that God can on longer stand to see my face?"
Father Pasquerel lovingly embraced her shoulders as he replied. "What you are experiencing is called, 'the dark night of the soul,' when a soul, who is loved very dearly by God, is called to an even higher, closer union with Him. God is taking you into the spiritual desert so that anything that remains of the world in you might be pruned away, so that you can be totally HIS. Jeanne do you know what a desert is?"
Mutely she shook her head ‘no.’
"It is a place where there is no water, nothing green grows there and it is very hot and dry. It is a place of desolation and aloneness. So too with the person whom God draws into the 'dark night of the soul.' You will not find any spiritual consolation, no light, and no experience of God's loving warmth. You must travel this place alone and in darkness. It will seem to you that you are struggling blindly under the heavy weight of your cross. You will think you are groping in the darkness as you struggle toward God. But if you continue, if you do not falter nor fall into the pit of despair, you will come to a place of glory, of holiness, that the greatest saints have ever reached. You are being called to this same kind of spiritual greatness, Jeanne, to soar in the heights of heaven if only you will obey and follow."
"How long will I have to be here.., in this desert, Father?"
"I can't answer that Jeanne, I don't know. All I do know is that you must continue to go forward in blind faith, trusting only in God's love and care for you."
Jeanne was silent in her thoughts and her prayers. I saw only a slight movement of her head as she gave assent to this tremendous cross, a cross that with all my physical strength and stamina I would not be able to lift nor carry.
She stirred, and taking hold of her sword she struggled to her feet with little help from us. Then without the aid of her walking staff she slowly climbed the four steps that led up to the altar. With great reverence and love, she carefully laid the sword there, after which she humbly bowed low to Our Lord concealed within the tabernacle. She returned to where Father Pasquerel was standing and knelt to kiss the hem of his stole. "Thank you, Father, for your prayers and counsel."
With all my soul I wanted to sweep her up into my strong arms and cover her tear stained face with my kisses. I wanted to tell her how much I loved and cared for her. With trembling hands and tear filled eyes, I wanted to enfold her in my arms. I was so close, so very close, but I could not. All I could do was to be near her and in my own little way share in her pain.
I know now that, no matter how much or how pure my love for Jeanne was, I would not have been good for her. I would have kept her earth bound. She who was not of this earth was meant to soar like an eagle in the heights of the heavens. I'm glad that I did not stop her from climbing and soaring to reach her destiny.