These are in one sense the words of Jeanne; the last we have from her in her prison, the last of her consistent and unbroken life. After, there was a deeper horror to go through, a moment when all her forces failed. Here on the verge of eternity she stands heroic and unyielding, brave, calm, and steadfast as at the outset of her career, the Maid of France. Were the fires lighted and the faggots burning, and she herself within the fire, she had no other word to say.
(1) It is correct in French to use the second person plural in addressing God, thou being a more intimate and less respectful form of speech. Such a difference is difficult to remember, and troubles the ear. The French, even those who ought to know better, sometimes speak of it as a supreme profanity on the part of the profane English, that they address God as thou.
(2) The French report goes on, “et requiert ——,” but no more. It is not in the Latin. The scribe was stopped by the Bishop’s profane outcry, and forbidden to register the fact she was about to make a direct appeal to the Pope.
CHAPTER XVI — THE ABJURATION. MAY 24, 1431.
On the 23d of May Jeanne was taken back to her prison attended by the officer of the court, Massieu, her frame still thrilling, her heart still high, with that great note of constancy yet defiance. She had been no doubt strongly excited, the commotion within her growing with every repetition of these scenes, each one of which promised to be the last. And the fire and the stake and the executioner had come very near to her; no doubt a whole murmuring world of rumour, of strange information about herself, never long inaudible, never heard outside of the Castle of Rouen, rose half-comprehended from the echoing courtyard outside and the babble of her guards within. She would hear even as she was conveyed along the echoing stone passages something here and there of the popular expectation:—a burning! the wonderful unheard of sight, which by hook or by crook everyone must see; and no doubt among the English talk she might now be able to make out something concerning this long business which had retarded all warlike proceedings but which would soon be over now, and the witch burnt. There must have been some, even among those rude companions, who would be sorry, who would feel that she was no witch, yet be helpless to do anything for her, any more than Massieu could, or Frere Isambard: and if it was all for the sake of certain words to be said, was the wench mad? would it not be better to say anything, to give up anything rather than be burned at the stake? Jeanne, notwithstanding the wonderful courage of her last speech, must have returned to her cell with small illusion possible to her intelligent spirit. The stake had indeed come very near, the flames already dazzled her eyes, she must have felt her slender form shrink together