Jean d'Aulon, Part XVII
FAREWELL TO OLD FRIENDS
Tuesday, September 13th was newly born when Jeanne came to the door of my room. "Jean, wake up."
In a flash, I sat up and I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I could barely see the dark outline of her figure standing in my doorway. "What is the matter, Jeanne?"
"My Voices just spoke to me."
"Praise God, Jeanne, that is wonderful!"
"No, Jean, they did not come to comfort me but to order me not to leave Saint Denis." Her chin fell to her chest. "But you are right... I should be grateful... for any little shade that they deem to give me as I walk through this desert, this dark night of the soul as Father Pasquerel calls it."
I thought I saw her head shake but I was not sure because the movement was so slight. I also thought that I heard her whisper her apologies to her heavenly guidance but that too I am not sure of.
"Why do they want you to do that?" I asked, still half asleep.
Standing in the darkened hallway, it seemed to me that she looked away. "I don't know but they seemed very insistent about it."
My head sunk back into the comfort of my pillow as I pulled the covers up around my neck. "So Jeanne, we will not leave here, but will do as they command. The time does not make that much difference." I started to mumble my words as I began to drift back off to sleep. "A few days either way, before we head to Domremy, won't...." As I turned over on my side, I think I said, "Try to get some sleep. You'll need it." But I don't know if my words reached her ears.
Rising late, I leisurely ate my breakfast. As I did so, I heard a great noise coming from the street below. Jeanne entered my room also in response to the noise. We walked together over to the window, as we were both curious to see what was going on. We leaned out over the windowsill to watch the passing parade. "It looks as if the King and his entourage are leaving Saint Denis. Well, I cannot say that I will miss them." Mockingly, I waved my hand. "Good-by to bad blood."
We were still watching the procession when suddenly a cracking sound came from the door and with a loud bang, it burst open. In walked two captains whom I recognized immediately to be from the King's personal guard. Jeanne straightened herself up to stand defiantly before them. "How dare you enter the room like that!"
Contempt filled their voices. "We came on the King's business."
Jeanne stood her ground, as she demanded, "What business does the King have with me?"
With a smirking grin, one of them scornfully replied, "The King has sent us to fetch you and bring you along, with the rest of his baggage!"
Jeanne was belligerent as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Well, go back to the King and tell him, I cannot go. My Voices told me to stay at Saint Denis, and stay here I will!"
"We have our orders!"
I jumped for my sword and drew it from its sheath. "You will have to fight me first!" Forcefully I threw down the scabbard and went into my fighting stance. Two of the captains drew their swords against me, while the rest of the King's thugs went for Jeanne. She tried mightily to fight her way out of their grasp. "Stop, you brigands, put me down. My Voices told me to stay here. I must stay. Stop! Stop!" She fought hard, but because of her severe leg wound she was no match for these muscular men. They would not listen to her pleas, but among the four of them, they carried her down the stairs. I tried to go to her aid by attempting to bypass the men with whom I fought. As I did so, one hit me with a hard blow to my head and I fell to the floor. I don't know how long I was unconscious but when I did revive I found my face in a pool of my own blood. Seconds passed before my mind cleared enough for me to stumble back to my feet. I ripped some linen from the bed sheet to make a bandage for my throbbing, bloody head. By the time I reached the street, this gang of ruffians was galloping away with Jeanne as their prisoner.
I ran to the barn, saddled my horse, and was after her within minutes. Now this was the lowest sort of treachery the King had perpetrated against Jeanne thus far, kidnapping and holding her prisoner! Had Jeanne not been injured at Paris, I am sure those foul brigands would not have found their task so easy to accomplish!
I first went looking for the rest of Jeanne's staff. When I found them, I related what had just occurred. Filled with fury they joined me in a desperate search for our beloved Maid. After God knows how long, we found her in the middle of the departing column surrounded by the King's goons. Out numbered by these loathsome henchmen, Jeanne urged us to take our places near her quietly.
"Are you all right, Jeanne? Did these animals hurt you?" I asked.
"I am fine, Jean. But you are hurt!" She exclaimed at seeing my blood soaked bandage.
"It's nothing, Jeanne. I will be all right."
The guards, who over herd our conversation, cruelly laughed at my expense. We rode the rest of that day in mute resignation. When we finally stopped for the night, Jeanne took me aside to care for my wound. Alone with her, I asked, "Jeanne, what do you make of this? What are you going to do about it?"
Jeanne watched the setting sun edge its way down behind the horizon. "Obviously, Jean, I am now a prisoner of the King! Thus, he prevents me from going home. What I plan to do about it is to go to him and strongly complain! I can't understand why he is doing this." A tear came to her eyes as she shook her head in disbelief.
"I can answer that. The King does not trust you to keep the truce he has signed with the Burgundians. He is keeping you around to make sure that you behave yourself and not interfere with his plans."
"Well Jean, I am going to have a word with His Royal Majesty." Jeanne stormed off to the King's tent and I followed her. Unannounced, she entered to find Charles seated comfortably at the table eating his evening meal. Jeanne bowed to him and without giving him a chance to speak said, "Your Majesty, now that I am your prisoner, what are you going to do with me!"
"Prisoner!" He put down his wineglass, bewildered by her statement. Perhaps he truly believed that what he did to Jeanne was for her own good. I don't know. He continued in a soothing tone of voice, "You are our most beloved servant of all our subjects. How can you be our prisoner?"
Sarcastically, Jeanne answered as she folded her arms across her chest. "You have a strange way of showing your gratitude, Your Highness, sending four of your men to take me prisoner!"
The King motioned for her to sit down at the table with him. "We sent them not to take you prisoner Jeanne, but to escort you out of the town. Once we had left, the place would have become unsafe for you and your household."
Jeanne refused to move from where she stood. "My Voices told me to stay there. I must obey their counsel."
His countenance and tone of voice swiftly changed from tender to dispassionate as he once more took up his glass. "We are sorry, but we cannot let you go back there. It is far too dangerous. We are sure your Voices will understand." Coolly, Charles returned his attention to his meal. As a heartless sarcastic smile came across his face, he glanced up at her. "Besides, we want you to enjoy the pleasures of our court."
"The only joys I love are the open fields and their fresh breezes."
"We are sorry, Maid, but you must stay at court until we decide otherwise."
I stepped forward and boldly spoke, "At least call off your dogs!"
Jeanne immediately added in a stern voice, "I won't annoy you any more. You will never know that I am around."
It seemed like an eternity as Charles casually sipped his wine and thought over our proposal. He then ordered the four guards into his presence and told them to desist from following Jeanne at a close distance. When this was done, Jeanne and I took our leave. As we walked back to our tent, I asked, "Are you going to stay with the King, Jeanne?"
"No," she replied in a measured tone. "As soon as I see an opportunity to leave, I will take it!"
Pleased with her decision, I patted her back reassuringly. "Good for you! Jeanne, why don't you complain openly about the King's ill-treatment of you?"
She stopped dead in her tracks and wheeled swiftly around her eyes narrowing on me. "I will protect the honor of His Royal Majesty to my last breath!" No other than Jeanne could be capable of such staunch loyalty to he, who was in fact, her betrayer. Yet some greater force was blinding her to the reality of the situation she now faced.
When we arrived at Gien on Wednesday, September 21st, the King ordered his army disbanded. After Mass, desiring to give a final show of respect to Jeanne, all the captains, knights, squires and men-at-arms assembled in the field just outside of town. Jeanne, facing her troops, sat proudly upon her black charger at the edge of the meadow.
Heading this glorious procession was her household staff who, after slowly passing her in review, took up our positions behind her. Next, displaying all their splendid colors and trappings, came the captains. In unison they swiftly lowered their pennants as they solemnly yet proudly rode by. After they were well past her, they raised them just as swiftly. The knights came next, followed by their squires and pages. One of the knights, Sir Jean de Gamaches, I believe, could not contain his emotions any longer and cried out in a full loud voice, "God bless the Maid! Long live the Maid!" His enthusiasm was infectious and spread like wild fire throughout the troops. To a man, the chant was taken up as they vigorously waved their weapons on high saluting their beloved Maid! The noise was deafening, wonderful and heartfelt. For most of them, it would be the last time that they would ever see her! Jeanne smiled broadly through her cascading tears as she waved her hand and nodded her head in acknowledgment of their acclamation. Her heart filled to overflowing with the love that she received from her beloved men-at-arms.
That same afternoon, the King gave a grand ball for all his courtiers. Awash in color and bedecked with flowers, banners and hanging cloths displayed the King's colors: green, white and red. The hall's decor stunned the eye! To enhance the pleasurable mood of the gathering, the scent of exotic fragrances perfumed the air. The assembled courtiers gracefully swirled and glided in time to the sweet melodies played exquisitely by a large group of musicians.
The Duke d'Alençon, Mortain and La Hire were already in attendance when Jeanne entered the room. She hesitated near the door to survey the scene, looking for her comrades. When she caught sight of her friends, she quickly went to join them. We were all of the same mind, coming not to rejoice or dance, but to resign our military commissions. Count Mortain, the spokesman of the small group, sorrowfully addressed her. "We have come to say good-by to you, Jeanne. We have resigned our commissions and are now returning to our homes to fight the English and Burgundians the best we can. It is no use for us to stay, since the King no longer wishes to fight. We can do more good elsewhere."
Her tears quickly welled up as she reached out to them and clasped their hands as she moved from one to the other. "It is hard to say good-by to you, my dear, good and faithful friends. I will miss your company very much. I wish you God's protection and help in all your undertakings." Jeanne folded her hands prayerfully together. "Please, promise me that you will always be God's soldiers as I taught you. Promise me that you will continue to fight so that God's will may be done in France."
They emphatically but sadly nodded as one man, "We promise!"
Then one by one, they took their leave of her. Count Mortain was first, speaking in a soft but tremulous voice, "The future was now in God's Hands."
Gently he embraced her face. "I must admit, Jeannette, that we had served you far less well than you deserved. For this I ask your forgiveness. The best I can say is that I hope to do better in the future."
He then took hold of her hands and looked tenderly into her eyes. "I am glad I had the honor to fight by your side! You are the finest soldier I have ever met."
Jeanne smiled through her tears and reaching out with both her hands she blessed him. "May God bless and keep you always."
Made speechless by his emotions, the Count could only smile and nod his thanks. He then gave her a quick loving embrace, before departing.
Next to speak his words of farewell was La Hire. "Well, Maid, this is a God da-."
"La Hire!" Jeanne abruptly interrupted him but her severity quickly abated as a smile returned to her face. "I thought you promised you would never swear again."
La Hire looked down at the floor while he shuffled his foot back and forth. "I am sorry, Maid. I did promise, but it is hard for me, especially at times like these!" He made a tight fist with his gigantic hand and shook it hard at the King's advisors. "By my staff! I wish I were King! We would be in Paris for a month, by now!"
Jeanne continued to smile at him as she placed her hands over his shaking fist. Gently she pulled it down and out from view of the advisers. "I know that would be so, La Hire. You are a brave man and a fine soldier, I am glad to have known you." With a bit of whimsy she added, "Even if you do swear a bit too much!"
La Hire snapped to attention and gave her a sharp military salute. "I shall remember you, Maid."
Jeanne returned his brisk salute. "And I, you." Swiftly though she grabbed his arm. "La Hire, may I give you a blessing?"
The old bear was embarrassed. He doffed his hat sweeping it down and out to the side as he bent his head down to Jeanne's eye level. She smiled with love as she tenderly placed her hands on his old balding head. "God grant you His protection, guidance, love and forgiveness, old friend - always." Jeanne ended her prayer by kissing his bald spot. La Hire flushed a deep crimson at Jeanne's show of affection. He took hold of her hands as he silently looked at her for the last time. I thought I saw a glint of a tear in his eyes before he turned to lumber out of the hall.
The Duke d'Alençon stood gazing at Jeanne for some time before he could bring himself to speak. "Jeanne," he began slowly and with emotion. "This is a very sad day for me. Earlier, I had asked the King's permission to take you with me back to my home in Normandy. I wanted your help in regaining my lands. For a moment, I thought Charles was going to allow it. Until that pig, La Tremoille, stepped in and flatly refused, saying it would be against the terms of the truce they had just signed." He said this as he glared with rage at Lord George. He quickly cooled his temper though, as he returned his eyes to Jeanne. Filled with compassion he cupped his left hand over her cheek. "So, my little soldier, we must say farewell. I go to my home, and you, where will you go?"
Jeanne looked up at him through her tears. Using both her hands she tenderly brought down his hand yet she continued to hold it tightly. "I am going back home to my parents." She then motioned for him to lower his head. "I wish you well, my good Duke. God bless, protect and guide you and your family always. Please bring back my love to your dear wife and mother."
The Duke replied with a sad smile as he rose, "That I will. Your blessing, Jeanne, means much to my family and - to me."
With her tears now flooding her face, she choked upon her words. "You know, Jean, of all the captains', I have admired you most of all."
Smiling, the Duke gently returned his hand to her cheek. "I know that, Jeanne. I thank you for your love. You, too, will always have a special place in my heart."
Before he left, he snapped to attention and gave her a brisk military salute, which she returned in like manner. In silence Jeanne's eyes followed her friend as he walked out of the hall and out of her life. Ultimately though, she turned back to me and said with a faint smile, "Now, it is my turn to resign my commission and take leave of the King."
All the while Jeanne was saying good-by to her friends, Charles danced with the women of the court. The music played, and the minstrels sang, oblivious to the sadness that we felt. She waited impatiently for the King to finish his dance. As he bowed to his partner, Jeanne marched herself up to him. "Your most Royal Majesty," she began solemnly. "I have come to tell you that I am resigning my commission and tomorrow I am leaving for home."
Charles ignored Jeanne's words until he had finished flirting and kissing the hand of the lady. He then reluctantly turned his attention to her. Cocking his head to the side he looked at her for a moment while he played with the tip of his nose. "We are sorry, Maid. We cannot let you go." He suddenly took notice of a buxom and voluptuous woman standing near by. As he strolled toward her, he quipped, "We have not sufficiently shown our appreciation for your help."
"The only appreciation I ask, Your Majesty, is leave to go home, there to live and die in obscurity."
He did not answer her right away, but much preferred to stare lustfully at the salacious woman, who seductively motioned to him. Not bothering to face Jeanne when he did answer, Charles rejected her request with his usual flip and twist of his hand. "No, Maid, we do not give you leave." He followed after the seductive woman as he waved Jeanne off. "You must do as we say and attend court. This is our pleasure for you."
Jeanne bristled with anger as she blushed an extreme red from the shame she felt at his offensive behavior. Eager to leave his presence she bowed and turned quickly. While walking away, she muttered under her breath, "We shall see!"
I am afraid the King heard her comment, for he immediately called La Tremoille over to him for a hasty conference. They stared at Jeanne while she marched from the ballroom.
Jeanne fumed at the King's disgraceful behavior and had to find a quiet place to compose herself. She was crossing the courtyard, on her way to the serenity of the chateau's private chapel, when she came upon her page, Louis, who was crying and moaning uncontrollably.
"What's wrong with you, boy!" I said gruffly. "Get a hold of yourself and stop acting like a little girl and BE A MAN!"
In sharp reaction to my words Jeanne, pushed me hard to one side. "Jean! Can't you see that his spirit is crushed? Be silent!"
Tenderly Jeanne took Louis over to a nearby bench and there they sat. The young man buried his face on Jeanne's shoulder while she embraced him as a mother would her child.
Louis complained, "I have lost my very best friend, Raymond, during the fighting at Paris. At the time I thought he had died for a good and noble cause. But NOW! Now that the King had disbanded the army and stopped the fight before we have won, I feel so betrayed, so frustrated. I am starting to think that my good friend, Raymond, and the others too have all died in vain."
Jeanne wiped his tears with her hand. "Louis, I too feel exactly the same way. But I know that during these very dark times we have to hang onto our trust and faith in Jesus. What more do we really have in this uncertain world? NOTHING!
I heard no more of what was said between them because I had to retreat to a quiet corner to hide my deep sorrow.
After a while I saw Jeanne and Louis rise and slowly walk through the open door of the chapel. I soon followed them in and we spent a long time in prayer. This peaceful and holy place was in no way reflective of Jeanne's reeling emotions, or mine for that matter. At last, in the cool of the early evening air, we walked Louis to his lodgings and then headed for ours.
Unexpectedly we came upon Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy who were walking briskly toward us. Bertrand shouted to Jeanne, "Maid, did you just come from the King?"
"It has been several hours since I have seen him. Why do you ask?"
"Did he say anything to you?" questioned De Metz.
I quickly responded, "Yes, only that she could not leave the court."
"But we will see about that!" Jeanne declared. Puzzled by his question, she inquired, "Jean, why do you ask?"
Not knowing exactly how to reply, de Metz hesitated. "We were ordered by the King's advisors back to Vaucouleurs. They even took little Louis away from you."
She put her hands to her head and cried, "Oh, God, will it never end? Why must all my friends leave me!"
"No, Jeanne," Bertrand said as he came to her side. "They have allowed Jean, your two brothers and Father Pasquerel to remain with you."
"My friends, when do you leave for Vaucouleurs?"
"This very evening! That is why we were looking for you, Maid." Jean de Metz softly answered.
Jeanne's body swayed under the weight of this disturbing news, as she clutched Bertrand's arm. Jean de Metz paused a moment, moved by her heartfelt distress. "I am proud to be known as your first helper. It was a great honor for me to have served with you. I will never forget you, Jeanne." He said while giving her a quick embrace.
Jeanne, fighting to maintain her composure, bit her bottom lip hard! "I will never forget you either, Jean. Bertrand, I wish you well and Godspeed." Placing her arms around both their necks at the same time she pulled them closer to her. "You both are the finest soldiers I have ever met.
"Thank you, Jeanne. God bless you." Bertrand said as he embraced her, giving her a little peck on her forehead. They saluted her for the last time before mounting their nearby horses. Just as they were about to pull away, Jeanne rushed toward them while she signaled and placed her hand upon his knee. "Bertrand, please do me a favor, if you will."
"Of course! Anything! Just name it!" they said one after the other.
Tears began to flow freely again as she looked into their faces. "Please, would you look in on my parents from time to time? This act of kindness will mean a great deal to me, to know that you both are watching out for them."
"We will. That's a promise," they emphatically replied.
Scarcely able to speak because of her grief and pain, she sobbed, "When you see my parents, tell them... give them my love."
Bertrand's eyes were moist as he bent down low over his saddle. Tightly yet tenderly he took hold of her hand. "That we will do; you have my word on it!" Jeanne, smiling through her tears, stepped back to allow them room to maneuver. With a final wave of farewell, they spurred their horses, quickly riding out of sight. Poor Jeanne! In one day, her whole world had crumbled before her eyes. She not only lost her army but also most of her faithful friends. Frustration filled me, for neither she nor I could do anything about it. At that point, Jeanne gave up all hope of ever being allowed to do great things again for the Lord or for the Kingdom of France.
From Gien the King and his entourage made their way to Bourges. Here Jeanne spent three weeks with Madame Marguerite la Touroule, the wife of the King's tax collector.