ANTOINE COURCY was one of those who are fitted and trained
by nature for the cure of souls. If you had spoken to him of psychiatry he
would not have understood you. The long word would have been Greek to him.
But the thing itself he knew well. The preliminary penance which he laid
upon Pierre Duval was remedial. It belonged to the true healing art, which
works first in the spirit.
When the broken soldier went down the hill, in the blaze
of the mid-morning sunlight, toward Domrémy, there was much misgiving
and confusion in his thoughts. He did not comprehend why he was going, except
that he had promised. He was not sure that some one might not know him, or
perhaps out of mere curiosity stop him and question him. It was a reluctant
Yet it was in effect an unconscious pilgrimage to the
one health-resort that his soul needed. For Domrémy and the region
round about are saturated with the most beautiful story of France. The life
of Jeanne d'Arc, simple and mysterious, humble and glorious, most human and
most heavenly, flows under that place like a hidden stream, rising at every
turn in springs and fountains. The poor little village lives in and for her
memory. Her presence haunts the ridges and the woods, treads the green pastures,
follows the white road beside the river, and breathes in the never-resting
valley-wind that marries the flowers in June and spreads their seed in August.
At the small basilica built to her memory on the place
where her old beech-tree, "Fair May," used to stand, there was an ancient
caretaker who explained to Pierre the pictures from the life of the Maid
with which the walls are decorated. They are stiff and conventional, but
the old man found them wonderful and told with zest the story of La Pucelle
-- how she saw her first vision; how she recognized the Dauphin in his palace
at Chinon; how she broke the siege of Orléans; how she saw Charles
crowned in the cathedral at Rheims; how she was burned at the stake in Rouen.
But they could not kill her soul. She saved France.
In the village church there was a priest from the border
of Alsace, also a pilgrim like Pierre, but one who knew the shrine better.
He showed the difference between the new and the old parts of the building.
Certain things the Maid herself had seen and touched,
"Here is the old holy-water basin, an antique, broken
column hollowed out on top. Here her fingers must have rested often. Before
this ancient statue of St. Michel she must have often knelt to say her prayers.
The curé of the parish was a friend of hers and loved to talk with
her. She was a good girl, devout and obedient, not learned, but a holy and
great soul. She saved France."
In the house where she was born, and passed her childhood,
a crippled old woman was custodian. It was a humble dwelling of plastered
stone standing between two tall fir-trees, with ivy growing over the walls,
lilies and hollyhocks blooming in the garden. Pierre found it not half so
good a house as "L'Alouette." But to the custodian it was more precious than
a palace. In this upper room with its low mullioned window the Maid began
her life. Here, in the larger room below, is the kneeling statue which the
Princess Marie d'Orléans made of her. Here, to the right, under the
sloping roof, with its worm-eaten beams, she slept and prayed and worked.
"See, here is the bread-board between two timbers where
she cut the bread for the croûte-au-pot. From this small window she
looked at night and saw the sanctuary light burning in the church. Here,
also, as well as in the garden and in the woods, her heavenly voices spoke
to her and told her what she must do for her king and her country. She was
not afraid or ashamed, though she lived in so small a house. Here in this
very room she braided her hair and put on her red dress, and set forth on
foot for her visit to Robert de Baudricourt at Vaucouleurs. He was a rough
man and at first he received her roughly. But at last she convinced him.
He gave her a horse and arms and sent her to the king. She saved France."
At the rustic inn Pierre ate thick slices of dark bread
and drank a stoup of thin red wine at noon. He sat at a bare table in the
comer of the room. Behind him, at a table covered with a white cloth, two
captains on furlough had already made their breakfast. They also were pilgrims,
drawn by the love of Jeanne d'Arc to Domrémy. They talked of nothing
else but of her. Yet their points of view were absolutely different.
One of them, the younger, was short and swarthy, a Savoyard,
the son of an Italian doctor at St. Jean de Maurienne. He was a skeptic;
he believed in Jeanne, but not in the legends about her.
"I tell you," said he, eagerly, "she was one of the greatest
among women. But all about her ' voices ' was illusion. The priests suggested
it. She had hallucinations. Remember her age when they began -- just thirteen.
She was clever and strong; doubtless she was pretty; certainly she was very
courageous. She was only a girl. But she had a big, brave idea which possessed
her -- the liberation of her country. Pure? Yes. I am sure she was virtuous.
Otherwise the troops would not have followed and obeyed her as they did.
Soldiers are very quick about those things. They recognize and respect an
honest woman. Several men were in love with her, I think. But she was 'une
nature froide.' The only thing that moved her was her big, brave idea --
to save France. The Maid was a mother, but not of a mortal child. Her offspring
was the patriotism of France."
The other captain was a man of middle age, from Lyons,
the son of an architect. He was tall and pale and his large brown eyes had
the tranquility of a devout faith in them. He argued with quiet tenacity
for his convictions,
"You are right to believe in her," said he," but I think
you are mistaken to deny her ' voices.' They were as real as anything in
her life. You credit her when she says that she was born here, that she went
to Chinon and saw the king, that she delivered Orléans. Why not credit
her when she says she heard God and the saints speaking to her? The proof
of it was in what she did. Have you read the story of her trial? How clear
and steady her answers were! The judges could not shake her. Yet at any moment
she could have saved her life by denying the voices. It was because she knew,
because she was sure, that she could not deny. Her vision was a part of her
real life. She was the mother of French patriotism -- yes. But she was also
the daughter of true faith. That was her power."
"Well," said the younger man, "she sacrificed herself
and she saved France. That was the great thing."
"Yes," said the elder man, stretching his hand across
the table to clasp the hand of his companion, "there is nothing greater than
that. If we do that, God will forgive us all."
They put on their caps to go. Pierre rose and stood at
attention. They returned his salute with a friendly smile and passed out.
After a few moments he finished his bread and wine, paid
his score, and followed them. He watched them going down the village street
toward the railway station. Then he turned and walked slowly back to the
spring in the dell.
The afternoon was hot, in spite of the steady breeze
which came out of the north. The air felt as if it had passed through a furnace.
The low, continuous thunder of the guns rolled up from Verdun, with now and
then a sharper clap from St. Mihiel.
Pierre was very tired. His head was heavy, his heart
troubled. He lay down among the ferns, looking idly at the fox. glove spires
above him and turning over in his mind the things he had heard and seen at
Domrémy. Presently he fell into a profound sleep.
How long it was he could not tell, but suddenly he became
aware of some one near him. He sprang up. A girl was standing beside the
She wore a bright-red dress and her feet were bare. Her
black hair hung down her back. Her eyes were the color of a topaz. Her form
was tall and straight. She carried a distaff under her arm and looked as
if she had just come from following the sheep.
"Good day, shepherdess," said Pierre. Then a strange
thought struck him, and he fell on his knees. "Pardon, lady," he stammered.
"Forgive my rudeness. You are of the high society of heaven, a saint. You
are called Jeanne d'Arc?"
She nodded and smiled. "That is my name," said she.
"Sometimes they call me La Pucelle, or the Maid of France. But you were right,
I am a shepherdess, too. I have kept my father's sheep in the fields down
there, and spun from the distaff while I watched them. I knew how to sew
and spin as well as any girl in the Barrois or Lorraine. Will you not stand
up and talk with me?"
Pierre rose, still abashed and confused. He did not quite
understand how to take this strange experience -- too simple for a heavenly
apparition, too real for a common dream. "Well, then," said he, "if you are
a shepherdess why are you here? There are no sheep here."
"But yes. You are one of mine. I have come here to seek
"Do you know me, then? How can I be one of yours?"
"Because you are a soldier of France and you are in trouble."
Pierre's head drooped. "A broken soldier,'' he muttered,
"not fit to speak to you. I am running away because I am afraid of fear."
She threw back her head and laughed. "You speak very
bad French. There is no such thing as being afraid of fear. For if you are
afraid of it, you hate it. If you hate it, you will have nothing to do with
it. And if you have nothing to do with it, it cannot touch you; it is nothing."
"But for you, a saint, it is easy to say that. You had
no fear when you fought. You knew you would not be killed."
"I was no more sure of that than the other soldiers.
Besides, when they bound me to the stake at Rouen and kindled the fire around
me I knew very well that I should be killed. But there was no fear in it.
"Ah, you were strong, a warrior born. You were not wounded
"Four times I was wounded," she answered, gravely. "At
Orléans a bolt went through my right shoulder. At Paris a lance tore
my thigh. I never saw the blood of Frenchmen flow without feeling my heart
stand still. I was not a warrior born. I knew not how to ride or fight. But
I did it. What we must needs do that we can do. Soldier, do not look on the
ground. Look up."
Then a strange thing took place before his eyes. A wondrous
radiance, a mist of light, enveloped and hid the shepherdess. When it melted
she was clad in shining armor, sitting on a white horse, and lifting a bare
sword in her left hand.
"God commands you," she cried. "It is for France. Be
of good cheer. Do not retreat. The fort will soon be yours!"
How should Pierre know that this was the cry with which
the Maid had rallied her broken men at Orleans when the fort of Les Tourelles
fell? What he did know was that something seemed to spring up within him
to answer that call. He felt that he would rather die than desert such a
The figure on the horse turned away as if to go.
"Do not leave me," he cried, stretching out his hands
to her. "Stay with me. I will obey you joyfully."
She turned again and looked at him very earnestly. Her
eyes shone deep into his heart. "Here I cannot stay," answered a low, sweet,
womanly voice. "It is late, and my other children need me."
"But forgiveness? Can you give that to me -- a coward?"
"You are no coward. Your only fault was to doubt a brave
"And my wife? May I go back and tell her?"
"No, surely. Would you make her hear slander of the man
she loves? Be what she believes you and she will be satisfied."
"And the absolution, the word of peace? Will you speak
that to me?"
Her eyes shone more clearly; the voice sounded sweeter
and steadier than ever. "After the penance comes the absolution. You will
find peace only at the lance's point. Son of France, go, go, go! I will help
you. Go hardily to Verdun."
Pierre sprang forward after the receding figure, tried
to clasp the knee, the foot of the Maid. As he fell to the ground something
sharp pierced his hand. It must be her spur, thought he.
Then he was aware that his eyes were shut. He opened
them and looked at his hand carefully. There was only a scratch on it, and
a tiny drop of blood. He had torn it on the thorns of the wild-gooseberry
His head lay close to the clear pool of the spring. He
buried his face in it and drank deep. Then he sprang up, shaking the drops
from his mustache, found his cap and pistol, and hurried up the glen toward
the old Roman road.
"No more of that darned foolishness about Switzerland,"
he said, aloud. "I belong to France. I am going with the other boys to save
her. I was born for that." He took off his cap and stood still for a moment.
He spoke as if he were taking an oath. "By Jeanne d'Arc!"