Jeanne D'Arc: her life and death eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 397 pages of information about Jeanne D'Arc.

But when the proceedings had been opened, and in place of some dark-browed and termagant sorceress, with the mark of every evil passion in her face, there appeared before the spectators crowding into every available corner, the slim, youthful figure—­was it boy or girl?—­the serene and luminous countenance of the Maid, the flower of youth raising its whiteness and innocence in the midst of all those black-robed, subtle Doctors, it is impossible but that the very first glance must have given a shock and thrill of amazement and doubt to what may be called the lay spectators, those who had no especial bias more than common report, and whose credit or interest were not involved in bringing this unlikely criminal to condemnation.  “A girl!  Like our own Jeanne at home,” might many a father have said, dismayed and confounded.  She had, they all say, those eyes of innocence which it is so impossible not to believe, and that virginal voice, assez femme, which a sentimental Frenchman insists upon as belonging only to the spotless.  At all events she had the bearing of honesty, purity, and truth.  She was not afraid though all the powers of hell—­or was it only of the Church and the Law?—­were arrayed against her:  no guilty mystery to be discovered, was in her countenance.  But it must have been plain to the keen and not too charitable Normans that such semblances are not always to be trusted, and that the devil himself even, on occasion, can take upon himself the appearance of an angel of light; so that after the first shock of wonder they no doubt settled themselves to listen, believing that soon they would have their imaginations fed with tales of horror, and would discover the hoofs and the horns and unveil with triumph the lurking demon.  The French historians never take into consideration the fact that it was the belief of Rouen and Normandy, as well as of any similar town or province in England, that the child Henry VI. was lawful king, and that whatever was on the other side was a hateful adversary, to be brought to such disaster and shame as was possible, without mercy and without delay.

But after a few days of the examination which we have just reported, public opinion was greatly staggered, and knew not how to turn.  Gradually the conviction must have been forced upon every mind which had any candour left, that Jeanne, at that dreadful bar, with the stake in sight, and all the learning of Paris—­the entire power of one great national and half of another, all England and half France against—­(many more than half France, for the other part had abandoned her cause),—­showed nothing of the demon, but all—­if not of the angel, yet of the Maid, the emblem of perfection to that rude world, though often so barbarously handled.  It might almost be said of the age, notwithstanding its immorality and rampant viciousness, that in its eyes a true virgin could do no harm.  And hers was one if ever such a thing existed on earth.  The talk in the streets

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Jeanne D'Arc: her life and death from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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