From there the Maid rode to attack La Charite. But, though the towns helped her as well as they might with money and food, her force was too small and was too ill provided with everything, for the king did not send supplies. She abandoned the siege and departed in great displeasure. The court now moved from place to place, with Joan following in its train; for three weeks she stayed with a lady who describes her as very devout and constantly in church.
Thinking her already a saint, people brought her things to touch.
"Touch them yourselves," she said; "your touch is as good as mine."
Winter was over and spring came on, but still the king did nothing.
The Maid could be idle no longer. Without a word to the king, she rode to Lagny, "for there they had fought bravely against the English." These men were Scots, under Sir Hugh Kennedy. In mid-April she was at Melun. There "she heard her Voices almost every day, and many a time they told her that she would presently be taken prisoner." Her year was over. She prayed that she might die as soon as she was taken, without the long sorrow of imprisonment. Then her Voices told her to bear graciously whatever befell her, for so it must be. But they told her not the hour of her captivity. "If she had known the hour she would not then have gone to war. And often she prayed them to tell her of that hour, but they did not answer."
These words are Joan's. She spoke them to her judges at Rouen.
The name of Joan was now such a terror to the English that men deserted rather than face her in arms. At this time the truce with Burgundy ended, and the duke openly set out to besiege the strong town of Compiegne, held by De Flavy for France. Burgundy had invested Compiegne, when Joan, with four hundred men, rode into the town secretly at dawn. That day Joan led a sally against the Burgundians. Her Voices told her nothing, good or bad, she says.
The Burgundians were encamped at Margny and at Clairoix, the English at Venette, villages on a plain near the walls. Joan crossed the bridge on a gray charger, in a surcoat of crimson silk, rode through the redoubt beyond the bridge, and attacked the Burgundians. De Flavy in the town was to prevent the English from attacking her in the rear. He had boats on the river to secure Joan's retreat, if necessary.
Joan swept through Margny driving the Burgundians before her; the garrison of Clairoix came to their help; the battle was doubtful.
Meanwhile the English came up; they could not have reached the Burgundians, to aid them, but some of the Maid's men, seeing the English standards, fled. The English followed them under the walls of Compiegne; the gate of the redoubt was closed to prevent the English from entering with the runaways. Like Hector under Troy, the Maid was shut out from the town which she came to save.
Joan was with her own foremost line when the rear fled. They told her of her danger; she heeded not. Her men seized her bridle and turned her horse's head about. The English held the entrance from the causeway; Joan and a few men were driven into a corner of the outer wall. A rush was made at Joan. "Yield! yield to me!" each man cried.
"I have given my faith to Another," she said, "and I will keep my oath."
Her enemies confess that on this day Joan did great feats of arms, covering the rear of her force when they had to fly. Some French historians hold that the gates were closed, by treason, that the Maid might be taken.
The Maid, as a prisoner, was led to Margny, where the Burgundian and English captains rejoiced over her. They had her at last, the girl who had driven them from fort and field. Not a French lance was raised to rescue her; not a sou did the king send to ransom her.
Within two days of her capture, the Vicar-General of the Inquisition in France claimed her as a heretic and a witch. The English knights let the doctors of the University of Paris judge and burn the girl whom they seldom dared to face in war. She was the enemy of the English, and the English believed in witchcraft. Joan was now kept in a high tower and was allowed to walk on the leads. She knew she was sold to England, she had heard that the people of Compiegne were to be massacred. She would rather die than fall into English hands, but she hoped to escape and relieve Compiegne. She therefore prayed for counsel to her Saints; might she leap from the top of the tower? Would they not bear her up in their hands? St. Catherine bade her not to leap; God would help her and the people of Compiegne.
Then, for the first time, as far as we know, the Maid wilfully disobeyed her Voices. She leaped from the tower. They found her, not wounded, not a limb broken, but stunned. She knew not what had happened; they told her she had leaped down For three days she could not eat, "yet was she comforted by St. Catherine, who bade her confess and seek pardon of God, and told her that, without fail, they of Compiegne should be relieved before Martinmas." This prophecy was fulfilled. Joan was more troubled about Compiegne than about her own coming doom.
She was now locked up in an iron cage at Rouen. The person who conducted the trial was her deadly enemy, the Bishop of Beauvais, Cauchon, whom she and her men had turned out of his bishopric.
Next, Joan was kept in strong irons day and night, always guarded by five English soldiers. Weakened by long captivity and ill usage, she, an untaught girl, was questioned repeatedly for three months by the most cunning and learned doctors of law of the Paris University. Often many spoke at once, to perplex her mind. But Joan always showed a wisdom which confounded them, and which is at least as extraordinary as her skill in war. She would never swear an oath to answer _all_ their questions. About herself, and all matters bearing on her own conduct, she would answer. About the king, and the secrets of the king, she would not answer. If they forced her to reply about these things, she frankly said, she would not tell them the truth. The whole object of the trial was to prove that she dealt with powers of evil, and that her king had been crowned and aided by the devil. Her examiners, therefore, attacked her day by day, in public and in her dungeon, with questions about these visions which she held sacred and could only speak of with a blush among her friends. She maintained that she certainly did see and hear her Saints, and that they came to her by the will of God. This was called blasphemy and witchcraft.
Most was made of her refusal to wear woman's dress. For this she seems to have had two reasons: first, that to give up her old dress would have been to acknowledge that her mission was ended; next, for reasons of modesty, she being alone in prison among ruffianly men. She would wear woman's dress if they would let her take the Holy Communion, but this they refused. To these points she was constant: she would not deny her visions; she would not say one word against her king, "the noblest Christian in the world" she called him, who had deserted her. She would not wear woman's dress in prison. They took her to the torture-chamber, and threatened her with torture. Finally, they put her up in public, opposite a pile of wood ready for burning, where she was solemnly preached to for the last time. All through her trial, her Voices bade her answer boldly, in three months she would give her last answer, in three months "she would be free with great victory, and come into the Kingdom of Paradise."
At last, in fear of the fire and the stake before her, and on promise of being taken to a kindlier prison among women, and released from chains, she promised to renounce her visions, and submit to Cauchon and her other enemies. Some little note on paper she now signed with a cross, and repeated a short form of words. By some trick this signature was changed for a long document, in which she was made to confess all her visions false.
Cauchon had triumphed. The blame of heresy and witchcraft was cast on Joan, and on her king as an accomplice. But the English were not satisfied; they made an uproar, they threatened Cauchon, for Joan's life was to be spared. She was to be in prison all her days, on bread and water, but while she lived they dared scarcely stir against the French. They were soon satisfied.
Joan's prison was not changed. There soon came news that she had put on man's dress again. The judges went to her. She told them (they say) that she put on this dress of her own free will. In confession, later, she told her priest that she had been refused any other dress, and had been brutally treated both by the soldiers and by an English lord.
In any case, the promises made to her had been broken. The judge asked her if her Voices had been with her again.
"What did they say?"
"God told me by the Voices of the great sorrow of my treason, when I abjured to save my life."
"Do you believe the Voices came from St. Margaret and St. Catherine?"
"Yes, and that they are from God."
She added that she had never meant to deny this, had not understood that she had denied it.
All was over now; she was a "relapsed heretic."
Enough. They burned Joan the Maid. She did not suffer long. Her eyes were fixed on a cross which a priest, Martin l'Advenu, held up before her. She maintained, he says, to her dying moment, the truth of her Voices. With a great cry of JESUS! she gave up her life. Even the English wept, even a secretary of the English king said that they had burned a Saint.
Twenty years after her death Charles VII, in his own interest, induced the Pope to try the case of Joan over again. They collected the evidence of most of the living people who had known her, the Domremy peasants, from Dunois, d'Alencon, d'Aulon, from Isambart and l'Advenu, they learned how nobly she died, and how she never made one complaint, but forgave all her enemies freely. All these old Latin documents were collected, edited, and printed, in 1849, by Monsieur Jules Quicherat, a long and noble labor.
HOW CATHERINE DOUGLAS TRIED TO SAVE KING JAMES OF SCOTLAND
By Charlotte M. Yonge
It was bedtime, and the old vaulted chambers of the Dominican monastery at Perth echoed with sounds that would seem incongruous in such a home of austerity, but that the disturbed state of Scotland rendered it the habit of her kings to attach their palaces to convents, that they themselves might benefit by the "peace of the Church," which was in general accorded to all sacred spots.
Thus it was that Christmas and Carnival time of 1435-6 had been spent by the court in the cloisters of Perth, and the dance, the song, and the tourney had strangely contrasted with the grave and self-denying habits to which the Dominicans were devoted in their neighboring cells. The festive season was nearly at an end, for it was the 20th of February, but the evening had been more than usually gay, and had been spent in games at chess, tables, or backgammon, reading romances of chivalry, harping and singing. King James himself, brave and handsome, and in the prime of life, was the blithest of the whole joyous party. He was the most accomplished man in his dominions; for though he had been basely kept a prisoner at Windsor throughout his boyhood by Henry IV of England, an education had been bestowed on him far above what he would have otherwise obtained; and he was naturally a man of great ability, refinement, and strength of character. Not only was he a perfect knight on horseback, but in wrestling and running, throwing the hammer, and "putting the stane," he had scarcely a rival, and he was skilled in all the learned lore of the time, wrote poetry, composed music both sacred and profane, and was a complete minstrel, able to sing beautifully and to play on the harp and organ. His queen, the beautiful Joan Beaufort, had been the lady of his minstrelsy in the days of his captivity, ever since he had watched her walking on the slopes of Windsor Park, and wooed her in verses that are still preserved. They had now been eleven years married, and their court was one bright spot of civilization, refinement, and grace, amid the savagery of Scotland. And now, after the pleasant social evening, the queen, with her long fair hair unbound, was sitting under the hands of her tirewomen, who were preparing her for the night's rest; and the king, in his furred nightgown, was standing before the bright fire on the hearth of the wide chimney, laughing and talking with the attendant ladies.
Yet dark hints had already been whispered, which might have cast a shadow over that careless mirth. Always fierce and vindictive, the Scots had been growing more and more lawless and savage ever since the disputed succession of Bruce and Balliol had unsettled all royal authority, and led to one perpetual war with the English. The twenty years of James's captivity had been the worst of all--almost every noble was a robber chief, Scottish borderer preyed upon English borderer, Highlander upon Lowlander, knight upon traveler, every one who had armor upon him who had not; each clan was at deadly feud with its neighbor; blood was shed like water from end to end of the miserable land, and the higher the birth of the offender the greater the impunity he claimed.
Indeed, James himself had been brought next to the throne by one of the most savage and horrible murders ever perpetrated--that of his elder brother, David, by his own uncle; and he himself had probably been only saved from sharing the like fate by being sent out of the kingdom. His earnest words on his return to take the rule of this unhappy realm were these: "Let God but grant me life, and there shall not be a spot in my realm where the key shall not keep the castle, and the bracken bush the cow, though I should lead the life of a dog to accomplish it."
This great purpose had been before James through the eleven years of his reign, and he had worked it out resolutely. The lawless nobles would not brook his ruling hand, and strong and bitter was the hatred that had arisen against him. In many of his transactions he was far from blameless: he was sometimes tempted to craft, sometimes to tyranny; but his object was always a high and kingly one, though he was led by the horrible wickedness of the men he had to deal with more than once to forget that evil is not to be overcome with evil, but with good. In the main, it was his high and uncompromising resolution to enforce the laws upon high and low alike that led to the nobles' conspiracies against him; though, if he had always been true to his purpose of swerving neither to the right nor to the left, he might have avoided the last fatal offense that armed the murderer against his life.
The chief misdoers in the long period of anarchy had been his uncles and cousins; nor was it till after his eldest uncle's death that his return home had been possible. With a strong hand had he avenged upon the princes and their followers the many miseries they had inflicted upon his people; and in carrying out these measures he had seized upon the great earldom of Strathern, which had descended to one of their party in right of his wife, declaring that it could not be inherited by a female. In this he appears to have acted unjustly, from the strong desire to avail himself by any pretext of an opportunity of breaking the overweening power of the great turbulent nobles; and, to make up for the loss, he created the new earldom of Menteith, for the young Malise Graham, the son of the dispossessed earl. But the proud and vindictive Grahams were not thus to be pacified. Sir Robert Graham, the uncle of the young earl, drew off into the Highlands, and there formed a conspiracy among other discontented men who hated the resolute government that repressed their violence. Men of princely blood joined in the plot, and 300 Highland catherans were ready to accompany the expedition that promised the delights of war and plunder.
Even when the hard-worked king was setting forth to enjoy his holiday at Perth, the traitors had fixed upon that spot as the place of his doom; but the scheme was known to so many, that it could not be kept entirely secret, and warnings began to gather round the king. When, on his way to Perth, he was about to cross the Firth of Forth, the wild figure of a Highland woman appeared at his bridle rein, and solemnly warned him "that, if he crossed that water, he would never return alive." He was struck by the apparition, and bade one of his knights to inquire of her what she meant; but the knight must have been a dullard or a traitor, for he told the king that the woman was either mad or drunk, and no notice was taken of her warning.
There was likewise a saying abroad in Scotland, that the new year, 1436, should see the death of a king; and this same carnival night, James, while playing at chess with a young friend, whom he was wont to call the king of love, laughingly observed that "it must be you or I, since there are but two kings in Scotland--therefore, look well to yourself."
Little did the blithe monarch guess that at that moment one of the conspirators, touched by a moment's misgiving, was hovering round, seeking in vain for an opportunity of giving him warning; that even then his chamberlain and kinsman, Sir Robert Stewart, was enabling the traitors to place boards across the moat for their passage, and to remove the bolts and bars of all the doors in their way.
And the Highland woman was at the door, earnestly entreating to see the king if but for one moment! The message was even brought to him, but alas! he bade her wait till the morrow, and she turned away, declaring that she should never more see his face!
And now, as before said, the feast was over, and the king stood, gayly chatting with his wife and her ladies, when the clang of arms was heard, and the glare of torches in the court below flashed on the windows. The ladies flew to secure the doors. Alas! the bolts and bars were gone! Too late the warnings returned upon the king's mind, and he knew it was he alone who was sought. He tried to escape by the windows, but here the bars were but too firm. Then he seized the tongs, and tore up a board in the floor, by which he let himself down into the vault below, just as the murderers came rushing along the passage, slaying on their way a page named Walter Straiton.
There was no bar to the door. Yes, there was. Catherine Douglas, worthy of her name, worthy of the cognizance of the bleeding heart, thrust her arm through the empty staples to gain for her sovereign a few moments more for escape and safety! But though true as steel, the brave arm was not as strong. It was quickly broken. She was thrust fainting aside, and the ruffians rushed in. Queen Joan stood in the midst of the room, with her hair streaming round her, and her mantle thrown hastily on. Some of the wretches even struck and wounded her, but Graham called them off, and bade them search for the king. They sought him in vain in every corner of the women's apartments, and dispersed through the other rooms in search of their prey. The ladies began to hope that the citizens and nobles in the town were coming to their help, and that the king might have escaped through an opening that led from the vault into the tennis-court. Presently, however, the king called to them to draw him up again, for he had not been able to get out of the vault, having a few days before caused the hole to be bricked up, because his tennis-balls used to fly into it and be lost. In trying to draw him up by the sheets, Elizabeth Douglas, another of the ladies, was actually pulled down into the vault; the noise was heard by the assassins, who were still watching outside, and they returned.
There is no need to tell of the foul and cruel slaughter that ensued, nor of the barbarous vengeance that visited it. Our tale is of golden, not of brazen deeds; and if we have turned our eyes for a moment to the Bloody Carnival of Perth, it is for the sake of the king, who was too upright for his bloodthirsty subjects, and, above all, for that of the noble-hearted lady whose frail arm was the guardian of her sovereign's life in the extremity of peril.
THE BRAVE QUEEN OF HUNGARY
By Charlotte M. Yonge