Almost before one could draw breath the University of Paris claimed her as a proper victim for the Inquisition. Compiegne made no sally for her deliverance; Charles, no attempt to ransom her. From end to end of France not a finger was lifted for her rescue; the women wept over her, the poor people still crowded around the prisoner wherever seen, but the France of every public document, of every practical power, the living nation, when it did not utter cries of hatred, kept silence. We in England have over and over again acknowledged with shame our guilty part in her murder; but still to this day the Frenchman tries to shield his under cover of the English influence and terror. He cannot deny La Tremoille, nor Cauchon, nor the University, nor the learned doctors who did the deed; individually he is ready to give them all up to the everlasting fires which one cannot but hope are kept alive for some people in spite of all modern benevolences; but he skilfully turns back to the English as a moving cause of everything. Nothing can be more untrue. The English were not better than the French, but they had the excuse at least of being the enemy. France saved by a happy chance her blanches mains from the actual blood of the pure and spotless Maid; but with exultation she prepared the victim for the stake, sent her thither, played with her like a cat with a mouse and condemned her to the fire. This is not to free us from our share: but it is the height of hypocrisy to lay the blood of Jeanne, entirely to our door.
Thus Jeanne’s inspiration proved itself over again in blood and tears; it had been proved already on battle-field and city wall, with loud trumpets of joy and victory. But the “voices” had spoken again, sounding another strain; not always of glory—it is not the way of God; but of prison, downfall, distress. “Be not astonished at it,” they said to her; “God will be with you.” From day to day they had spoken in the same strain, with no joyful commands to go forth and conquer, but the one refrain: “Before the St. Jean.” Perhaps there was a certain relief in her mind at first when the blow fell and the prophecy was accomplished. All she had to do now was to suffer, not to be surprised, to trust in God that He would support her. To Jeanne, no doubt, in the confidence and inexperience of her youth, that meant that God would deliver her. And so He did; but not as she expected. The sunshine of her life was over, and now the long shadow, the bitter storm was to come.
Nothing could be more remarkable than the response of France in general to this extraordinary event. In Paris there were bonfires lighted to show their joy, the Te Deum was sung at Notre Dame. At the Court Charles and his counsellors amused themselves with another prophet, a shepherd from the hills who was to rival Jeanne’s best achievements, but never did so. Only the towns which she had delivered had still a tender thought for Jeanne. At Tours