Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc - LightNovelsOnl.com
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La Hire survived the martyrdom thirteen years; and always fighting, of course, for that was all he enjoyed in life. I did not see him in all that time, for we were far apart, but one was always hearing of him.
The b.a.s.t.a.r.d of Orleans and D'Alencon and D'Aulon lived to see France free, and to testify with Jean and Pierre d'Arc and Pasquerel and me at the Rehabilitation. But they are all at rest now, these many years.
I alone am left of those who fought at the side of Joan of Arc in the great wars.
She said I would live until those wars were forgotten--a prophecy which failed. If I should live a thousand years it would still fail. For whatsoever had touch with Joan of Arc, that thing is immortal.
Members of Joan's family married, and they have left descendants. Their descendants are of the n.o.bility, but their family name and blood bring them honors which no other n.o.bles receive or may hope for. You have seen how everybody along the way uncovered when those children came yesterday to pay their duty to me. It was not because they are n.o.ble, it is because they are grandchildren of the brothers of Joan of Arc.
Now as to the Rehabilitation. Joan crowned the King at Rheims. For reward he allowed her to be hunted to her death without making one effort to save her. During the next twenty-three years he remained indifferent to her memory; indifferent to the fact that her good name was under a d.a.m.ning blot put there by the priest because of the deeds which she had done in saving him and his scepter; indifferent to the fact that France was ashamed, and longed to have the Deliverer's fair fame restored. Indifferent all that time. Then he suddenly changed and was anxious to have justice for poor Joan himself. Why? Had he become grateful at last? Had remorse attacked his hard heart? No, he had a better reason--a better one for his sort of man. This better reason was that, now that the English had been finally expelled from the country, they were beginning to call attention to the fact that this King had gotten his crown by the hands of a person proven by the priests to have been in league with Satan and burned for it by them as a sorceress--therefore, of what value or authority was such a Kings.h.i.+p as that? Of no value at all; no nation could afford to allow such a king to remain on the throne.
It was high time to stir now, and the King did it. That is how Charles VII. came to be smitten with anxiety to have justice done the memory of his benefactress.
He appealed to the Pope, and the Pope appointed a great commission of churchmen to examine into the facts of Joan's life and award judgment.
The Commission sat at Paris, at Domremy, at Rouen, at Orleans, and at several other places, and continued its work during several months.
It examined the records of Joan's trials, it examined the b.a.s.t.a.r.d of Orleans, and the Duke d'Alencon, and D'Aulon, and Pasquerel, and Courcelles, and Isambard de la Pierre, and Manchon, and me, and many others whose names I have made familiar to you; also they examined more than a hundred witnesses whose names are less familiar to you--the friends of Joan in Domremy, Vaucouleurs, Orleans, and other places, and a number of judges and other people who had a.s.sisted at the Rouen trials, the abjuration, and the martyrdom. And out of this exhaustive examination Joan's character and history came spotless and perfect, and this verdict was placed upon record, to remain forever.
I was present upon most of these occasions, and saw again many faces which I have not seen for a quarter of a century; among them some well-beloved faces--those of our generals and that of Catherine Boucher (married, alas!), and also among them certain other faces that filled me with bitterness--those of Beaupere and Courcelles and a number of their fellow-fiends. I saw Haumette and Little Mengette--edging along toward fifty now, and mothers of many children. I saw Noel's father, and the parents of the Paladin and the Sunflower.
It was beautiful to hear the Duke d'Alencon praise Joan's splendid capacities as a general, and to hear the b.a.s.t.a.r.d indorse these praises with his eloquent tongue and then go on and tell how sweet and good Joan was, and how full of pluck and fire and impetuosity, and mischief, and mirthfulness, and tenderness, and compa.s.sion, and everything that was pure and fine and n.o.ble and lovely. He made her live again before me, and wrung my heart.
I have finished my story of Joan of Arc, that wonderful child, that sublime personality, that spirit which in one regard has had no peer and will have none--this: its purity from all alloy of self-seeking, self-interest, personal ambition. In it no trace of these motives can be found, search as you may, and this cannot be said of any other person whose name appears in profane history.
With Joan of Arc love of country was more than a sentiment--it was a pa.s.sion. She was the Genius of Patriotism--she was Patriotism embodied, concreted, made flesh, and palpable to the touch and visible to the eye.
Love, Mercy, Charity, Fort.i.tude, War, Peace, Poetry, Music--these may be symbolized as any shall prefer: by figures of either s.e.x and of any age; but a slender girl in her first young bloom, with the martyr's crown upon her head, and in her hand the sword that severed her country's bonds--shall not this, and no other, stand for PATRIOTISM through all the ages until time shall end?