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Jeanne D’arc: The Maid Of France
by [?]

THE peaceful little French village of Domremy lies in the valley of the river Meuse, at the south of the duchy of Bar, and there five hundred years ago was born the wonderful “Maid of France,” as she was called; she who at an age when other girls were entirely occupied with simple diversions or matters of household importance was dreaming great dreams, planning that vast military campaign which was to enroll her among the idols of the French nation as well as among heroes of history.

On the parish register of an old chapel in the village of her birth can still be seen the record of the baptism of Jeanette or Jeanne d’Arc, on the sixth of January, 1412, and although her father, Jacques d’Arc, was a man of considerable wealth and importance in the small community of Domremy, yet even so neither he nor any of the nine god-parents of the child–a number befitting her father’s social position–could forecast that the child, then being christened, was so to serve her country, her king, and her God, that through her heroic deeds alone the name of Jacques d’Arc and of little Domremy were to attain a world-wide fame.

At the time of Jeanne’s birth the Hundred Years’ War between England and France was nearing its end. Victorious England was in possession of practically all of France north of the river Loire, while France, defeated and broken in spirit, had completely lost confidence in her own power of conquest and Charles, the Dauphin, rightful heir to the throne of France, had been obliged to flee for his life to the provinces south of the Loire. This was the result of opposition to his claim on the part of his mother, Isabeau, who had always hated the Dauphin, and who, in her Treaty of Troyes, set aside her son’s rights to the throne, and married his sister Catherine to the King of England, thus securing to their children that succession to the throne which was the lawful right of the Dauphin.

France was indeed in the throes of a great crisis, and every remote duchy or tiny village heard rumours of the vast struggle going on in their well loved land, but still the party who were loyal to the Dauphin looked confidently for the day when he should be crowned at Rheims, where French kings for a thousand years had taken oath, although still the opposing party was growing in power and possessions.

Quiet little Domremy lying folded in the embrace of its peaceful valley was thrilled by the tales of chance pilgrims passing through the village, who, stopping for a drink of water or a bite of food, would recount to eager listeners the current saying that, “France, lost by a woman,–and that woman, Isabeau, mother of the Dauphin,–should be saved by a maid who would come with arms and armour from an ancient wood.”

Now, towering high above little Domremy stretches a great forest called the Ancient Wood, and to the village folk there was in all France no other Ancient Wood than this, and so when they heard the travellers’ tales they whispered to one another in hushed voices and with awe-stricken faces that the Wonderful Maid of Prophecy was to come from their own midst, but who was she, where was she, and to whom would she reveal herself?

Many of these queries came to the ears of children busy near their elders, while they spun and talked, and as Jeanne d’Arc, now grown into a bright intelligent young girl, listened to the prophecy and the questions, all else became of no importance except the plight of France and the restoring of the Dauphin to his rightful inheritance. But to her elders or companions she gave no evidence of this absorption, seeming entirely occupied with her out of door tasks such as tending her father’s sheep, helping to harvest grain, or to plough the fields, or at other times with her mother indoors, weaving and spinning,–for there was plenty of work in both house and field to keep all the children busy.