Sitting much of her time at or outside the cottage door with her needlework, in itself an occupation so apt to encourage musing and dreams, the bells were one of Jeanne’s great pleasures. We know a traveller, of the calmest English temperament and sobriety of Protestant fancy, to whom the midday Angelus always brings, he says, a touching reminder—which he never neglects wherever he may be—to uncover the head and lift up the heart; how much more the devout peasant girl softly startled in the midst of her dreaming by that call to prayer. She was so fond of those bells that she bribed the careless bell-ringer with simple presents to be more attentive to his duty. From the garden where she sat with her work, the cloudy foliage of the bois de chene, the oak wood, where were legends of fairies and a magic well, to which her imagination, better inspired, seems to have given no great heed, filled up the prospect on one side. At a later period, her accusers attempted to make out that she had been a devotee of these nameless woodland spirits, but in vain. No doubt she was one of the procession on the holy day once a year, when the cure of the parish went out through the wood to the Fairies’ Well to say his mass, and exorcise what evil enchantment might be there. But Jeanne’s imagination was not of the kind to require such stimulus. The saints were enough for her; and indeed they supplied to a great extent the fairy tales of the age, though it was not of love and fame and living happy ever after, but of sacrifice and suffering and valorous martyrdom that their glory was made up.
We hear of the woods, the fields, the cottages, the little church and its bells, the garden where she sat and sewed, the mother’s stories, the morning mass, in this quiet preface of the little maiden’s life; but nothing of the highroad with its wayfarers, the convoys of provisions for the war, the fighting men that were coming and going. Yet these, too, must have filled a large part in the village life, and it is evident that a strong impression of the pity of it all, of the distraction of the country and all the cruelties and miseries of which she could not but hear, must have early begun to work in Jeanne’s being, and that while she kept silence the fire burned in her heart. The love of God, and that love of country which has nothing to say to political patriotism but translates itself in an ardent longing and desire to do “some excelling thing” for the benefit and glory of that country, and to heal its wounds—were the two principles of her life. We have not the slightest indication how much or how little of this latter sentiment was shared by the simple community about her; unless from the fact that the Domremy children fought with those of Maxey, their disaffected neighbours, to the occasional effusion of blood. We do not know even of any volunteer from the village, or enthusiasm for the King.(3) The district was voiceless, the little clusters of cottages fully occupied in getting their own bread, and probably like most other village societies, disposed to treat any military impulse among their sons as mere vagabondism and love of adventure and idleness.