Upon all these contentions followed the calm of Palm Sunday, a great and touching festival, the first break upon the gloom of Lent, and a forerunner of the blessedness of Easter. We have already told how—a semblance of charity with which the reader might easily be deceived—the Bishop and four of his assessors had gone to the prison to offer to the Maid permission to receive the sacrament if she would do so in a woman’s dress: and how after pleading that she might be allowed that privilege as she was, in her male costume, and with a pathetic statement that she would have yielded if she could, but that it was impossible—she finally refused; and was so left in her prison to pass that sacred day unsuccoured and alone. The historian Michelet, in the wonderful sketch in which he rises superior to himself, and which amidst all after writings remains the most beautiful and touching memorial of Jeanne d’Arc, has made this day a central point in his tale, using with the skill of genius the service of the Church appropriate to the day, in heart-rending contrast with those doors of the prison which did not open, and the help of God which did not come to the young and solitary captive. Le beau jour fleuri passed over her in darkness and desertion: her agony and passion lay before her like those of the Divine Sufferer, to whom every day of the succeeding week is specially consecrated. There is almost indeed a painful following of the Saviour’s steps in these dark days, the circumstances lending themselves in a wonderful way to the comparison which French writers love to make, but which many of us must always feel, however spotless the sufferer, to have a certain irreverence in them. But if ever martyr were worthy of being called a partaker of the sufferings of Christ it was surely this girl, free, if ever human creature was, from self-seeking, or thought of reward, or ambitious hope, in whose heart there had never been any motive but the service of God and the deliverance of her country, who had neither looked before nor after, nor put her own interests into consideration in any way. Silently the feast passed with no holy privileges of religion, no blessed token of the spring, no remembrance of the waving palms and scattered blossoms over which her Lord rode into Jerusalem to die. She had not that sweet fallacious triumph; but the darker ordeal remained for her to follow.
On Tuesday the 27th of March, her troubles began again. Before Palm Sunday, the report of the trial had been read to her. She had now to hear the formal reading of the articles founded upon it, to give a final response if she had any to give, or explanation, or addition, if she thought proper. The sitting was held in the great hall of the Castle of Rouen before a band of more than forty, all assembled for this final test. The Bishop made a prefactory speech to the prisoner, pointing out to her how benign and merciful were the judges now assembled, that they had no wish to punish, but rather to instruct and lead her in the right way; and requesting her at this late period in the proceedings to choose one or more from among them to help her. To which Jeanne replied; “In the first place concerning my good and our faith, I thank you and all the company. As for the counsellor you offer me I thank you also, but I have no need to depart from our Lord as my counsellor.”