The Red True Story Book
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Edited by


With Numerous Illustrations by Henry J. Ford

London Longmans, Green, and Co. and New York 1895

All rights reserved


The Red True Story Book needs no long Introduction. The Editor, in presenting The Blue True Story Book, apologised for offering tales so much less thrilling and romantic than the legends of the Fairies, but he added that even real facts were, sometimes, curious and interesting. Next year he promises something quite as true as History, and quite as entertaining as Fairies!

For this book, Mr. Rider Haggard has kindly prepared a narrative of 'Wilson's Last Fight,' by aid of conversations with Mr. Burnham, the gallant American scout. But Mr. Haggard found, while writing his chapter, that Mr. Burnham had already told the story in an 'Interview' published by the Westminster Gazette. The courtesy of the proprietor of that journal, and of Mr. Burnham, has permitted Mr. Haggard to incorporate the already printed narrative with his own matter.

'The Life and Death of Joan the Maid' is by the Editor, who has used M. Quicherat's Proces (five volumes, published for the Historical Society of France), with M. Quicherat's other researches. He has also used M. Wallon's Biography, the works of Father Ayroles, S.J., the Jeanne d'Arc a Domremy of M. Simeon Luce, the works of M. Sepet, of Michelet, of Henri Martin, and, generally, all printed documents to which he has had access. Of unprinted contemporary matter perhaps none is known to exist, except the Venetian Correspondence, now being prepared for publication by Father Ayroles.

'How the Bass was held for King James' is by the Editor, mainly from Blackadder's Life.

'The Crowning of Ines de Castro' is by Mrs. Lang, from Schaefer. 'Orthon,' from Froissart, 'Gustavus Vasa,' 'Monsieur de Bayard's Duel' (Brantome), are by the same lady; also 'Gaston de Foix,' from Froissart, and 'The White Man,' from Mile. Aisse's Letters.

Mrs. McCunn has told the story of the Prince's Scottish Campaign, from the contemporary histories of the Rising of 1745, contemporary tracts, The Lyon in Mourning, Chambers, Scott, Maxwell of Kirkconnel, and other sources.

The short Sagas are translated from the Icelandic by the Rev. W. C. Green, translator of Egil Skalagrim's Saga.

Mr. S. R. Crockett, Author of The Raiders, told the tales of 'The Bull of Earlstoun' and 'Grisell Baillie.'

Miss May Kendall and Mrs. Bovill are responsible for the seafarings and shipwrecks; the Australian adventures are by Mrs. Bovill.

Miss Minnie Wright compiled 'The Conquest of Peru,' from Prescott's celebrated History.

Miss Agnes Repplier, that famed essayist of America, wrote the tale of Molly Pitcher.

'The Adventures of General Marbot' are from the translation of his Autobiography by Mr. Butler.

With this information the Editor leaves the book to children, assuring them that the stories are true, except perhaps that queer tale of 'Orthon'; and some of the Sagas also may have been a little altered from the real facts before the Icelanders became familiar with writing.



Wilson's Last Fight 1

The Life and Death of Joan the Maid 19

How the Bass was held for King James 92

The Crowning of Ines de Castro 99

The Story of Orthon 105

How Gustavus Vasa won his Kingdom 114

Monsieur de Bayard's Duel 122

Story of Gudbrand of the Dales 125

Sir Richard Grenville 132

The Story of Molly Pitcher 137

The Voyages, Dangerous Adventures, and Imminent Escapes of Captain Richard Falconer 141

Marbot's March 150

Eylau. The Mare Lisette 162

How Marbot crossed the Danube 175

The piteous Death of Gaston, Son of the Count of Foix 186

Rolf Stake 191

The Wreck of the 'Wager' 195

Peter Williamson 213

A Wonderful Voyage 226

The Pitcairn Islanders 238

A Relation of three years' Suffering of Robert Everard upon the Island of Assada, near Madagascar, in a Voyage to India, in the year 1686 247

The Fight at Svolder Island 252

The Death of Hacon the Good 261

Prince Charlie's War 265

The Burke and Wills Exploring Expedition 324

The Story of Emund 346

The Man in White 354

The Adventures of 'the Bull of Earlstoun' 358

The Story of Grisell Baillie's Sheep's Head 366

The Conquest of Peru 371



'In the Borghese gardens practised that royal game of golf' Frontispiece

Just as his arm was poised I fired To face p. 10

Joan in church " 24

Joan rides to Chinon " 38

Joan tells the King his secret " 42

The English Archers betrayed by the Stag " 64

The Coronation of Charles VII " 68

'Instantly a gust of wind blew her off the rock into the sea' " 92

'One man . . . stalked about the deck and flourished a cutlass . . . shouting that he was "king of the country"' " 196

The Indian threatens Peter Williamson " 214

'Another party of Indians arrived, bringing twenty scalps and three prisoners' " 218

The savages attack the boat " 230

'The madman dwelt alone' " 242

King Olaf leaps overboard " 256

'In the Borghese gardens practised that royal game of golf " 266

'I will, though not another man in the Highlands should draw a sword' " 272

'He galloped up the streets of Edinburgh shouting, "Victory! Victory!"' " 294

Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo Huaco, the Children of the Sun, come from Lake Titicaca to govern and civilise the tribes of Peru " 374

In one cave the soldiers found vases of pure gold, etc. " 412



One of them lifted his assegai 17

'The Fairy Tree' 20

Joan hears the Voice 28

Robert thinks Joan crazed 34

'Sir, this is ill done of you' 37

'In a better language than yours,' said Joan 46

'Lead him to the Cross!' cried she 50

'Then spurred she her horse . . . and put out the flame' 53

Joan is wounded by the arrow 57

'Now arose a dispute among the captains' 61

One Englishman at least died well 63

Joan challenges the English to sally forth 73

'Go she would not till she had taken that town' 79

Joan Captured 83

Joan at Beaurevoir 85

'The burned Joan the Maid' 89

The Bass attacked by the frigates 97

Ines pleads for her life 101

'I will send you a champion whom you will fear more than you fear me' 107

Orthon's last appearance 112

Gustavus leaves school for good! 115

'Lazy loon! Have you no work to do?' 119

'Surrender, Don Alonzo, or you are a dead man!' 123

'In the following night Gudbrand dreamed a dream' 127

The destruction of the idol 130

'Still he cried to his men, "Fight on, fight on!"' 134

Molly takes her husband's place 139

'As we approached we saw the pirate sinking' 143

Falconer knocks down a bird 145

Falconer returns to his companions 148

'Then, drawing their swords, they dashed at the rest' 152

Marbot's fight with the Carabineers in the alley 157

Lisette catches the thief in the stable 164

'I regarded myself as a horseman who is trying to win a steeplechase' 166

Lisette carries off the Russian officer 169

'Guided by the transport man he reached me and found me living' 172

'"I will go, sir," I cried' 177

'We had to saw the rope' 182

'The Count leaped up, a knife in his hand' 188

Gaston in prison 189

'But now here sits in the high seat a thin stake' 192

'He fleeth not the flame Who leapeth o'er the same' 193

The Captain shoots Mr. Cozens 202

Mr. Hamilton's fight with the sea-lion 205

The Cacique fires off the gun 208

Byron rides past the turnpikes 211

The captain guarded by the mutineers 228

The Pitcairn islanders on board the English frigate 239

Old John Adams teaches the children 245

Death of the supercargo 248

'None will now deny that "Long Snake" sails by' 255

Hacon casts his shield away 263

'Go, sir, to your general; tell him what you have seen . . .' 276

Escape of the Duke of Perth 281

'In many a panelled parlour' 284

'Och no! she be relieved' 287

Mrs. Murray of Broughton distributes cockades to the crowd 289

James More wounded at Prestonpans 293

Crossing Shap Fell 301

'Many had their broadswords and dirks sharpened' 304

'The Prince caught him by the hair' 307

The poor boy fell, mortally wounded 311

The 'Rout of Moy' 315

The end of Culloden 322

'The advance party of eight started on October 29' 327

Golah is abandoned 332

'King, they are gone!' 337

Death of Burke 342

Besse introduced to the Man in White 355

'Saw reflected in the mirror the white figure' 356

'Sometimes he would find a party searching for him quite close at hand' 360

Alexander Gordon wood-chopping in the disguise of a labourer 362

Grisell brings the sheep's head to her father in the vault 367

A Peruvian postman 381

Almagro wounded in the eye 387

Many of the Spaniards were killed by the snakes and alligators 389

Amazement of the Indians at seeing a cavalier fall from his horse 391

Pizarro sees llamas for the first time 393

The cavalier displays his horsemanship before Atahuallpa 401

The friar urges Pizarro to attack the Peruvians 404

The Spaniards destroy the idol at Pachacamac 407


'They were men whose fathers were men'

TO make it clear how Major Wilson and his companions came to die on the banks of the Shangani on December 4, 1893, it will be necessary, very briefly, to sketch the events which led to the war between the English settlers in Mashonaland in South Africa and the Matabele tribe, an offshoot of the Zulu race.

In October 1889, at the instance of Mr. Cecil Rhodes and others interested, the Chartered Company of British South Africa was incorporated, with the sanction of Her Majesty's Government.

In 1890 Mashonaland was occupied, a vast and fertile territory nominally under the rule of Lobengula, king of the Matabele, which had been ceded by him to the representatives of the Company in return for certain valuable considerations. It is, however, an easier task for savage kings to sign concessions than to ensure that such concessions will be respected by their subjects, especially when those 'Subjects' are warriors by nature, tradition, and practice, as in the present case, and organised into regiments, kept from year to year in perfect efficiency and readiness for attack. Whatever may have been Lobengula's private wishes and opinions, it soon became evident that the gathering of the white men upon their borders, and in a country which they claimed by right of conquest if they did not occupy it, was most distasteful to the more warlike sections of the Matabele.

Mashonaland takes its name from the Mashona tribes who inhabit it, a peaceful and, speaking by comparison, an industrious race, whom, ever since they first settled in the neighbourhood, it had been the custom of the subjects of Lobengula and of his predecessor, Mosilikatze, 'the lion,' to attack with every cruelty conceivable, raiding their cattle, slaughtering their men, and sweeping their maidens and young children into captivity. Terrified, half exterminated indeed, as they were by these constant and unprovoked onslaughts, the Mashonas welcomed with delight the occupation of their country by white men, and thankfully placed themselves under the protection of the Chartered Company.

The Matabele regiments, however, took a different view of the question, for now their favourite sport was gone: they could no longer practise rapine and murder, at least in this direction, whenever the spirit moved them. Presently the force of habit overcame their fear of the white men and their respect for treaties, and towards the end of 1891 the chief Lomaghondi, who lived under the protection of the Company, was killed by them. Thereon Dr. Jameson, the Administrator of Mashonaland, remonstrated with Lobengula, who expressed regret, saying that the incident had happened by mistake.

This repudiation notwithstanding, an impi, or armed body of savages, again crossed the border in 1892, and raided in the Victoria district. Encouraged by the success of these proceedings, in July 1893 Lobengula sent a picked company to harry in the neighbourhood of Victoria itself, writing to Dr. Jameson that he made no excuse for so doing, claiming as he did the right to raid when, where, and whom he chose. The 'indunas,' or captains, in command of this force were instructed not to kill white men, but to fall particularly upon those tribes who were in their employ. On July 9, 1893, and the following days came the climax, for then the impi began to slaughter every Mashona whom they could find. Many of these unfortunates were butchered in the presence of their masters, who were bidden to 'stand upon one side as the time of the white men had not yet come.'

Seeing that it was necessary to take action, Dr. Jameson summoned the head indunas of the impi, and ordered them to cross the border within an hour or to suffer the consequences of their disobedience. The majority obeyed, and those who defied him were attacked by Captain Lendy and a small force while in the act of raiding a kraal, some of them being killed and the rest driven away.

From this moment war became inevitable, for the question lay between the breaking of the power of Lobengula and the evacuation of Mashonaland. Into the details of that war it is not proposed to enter; they are outside the scope of this narrative. It is enough to say that it was one of the most brilliant and successful ever carried out by Englishmen. The odds against the little force of a thousand or twelve hundred white men who invaded Matabeleland were almost overwhelming, and when it is remembered that the Imperial troops did not succeed in their contest against Cetywayo, the Zulu king, until nearly as many soldiers were massed in the country as there were able-bodied Zulus left to oppose them, the brilliancy of the achievement of these colonists led by a civilian, Dr. Jameson, can be estimated. The Matabele were beaten in two pitched battles: that of the Shangani on October 25, and that of the Imbembezi on November 1. They fought bravely, even with desperation, but their valour was broken by the skill and the cool courage of the white man. Those terrible engines of war, the Maxim guns and the Hotchkiss shells, contributed largely to our success on these occasions. The Matabele, brave as they were, could not face the incessant fire of the Maxims, and as to the Hotchkiss they developed a curious superstition. Seeing that men fell dead in all directions after the explosion of a shell, they came to believe that as it burst out of each missile numbers of tiny and invisible imps ran forth carrying death and destruction to the white men's foes, and thus it happened that to their minds moral terrors were added to the physical dangers of warfare. So strong was this belief among them, indeed, that whenever a shell struck they would turn and fire at it in the hope that thus they might destroy the 'live devils' who dwelt within it.

After these battles Lobengula, having first set fire to it, fled from his chief place, Buluwayo, which was occupied by the white men within a month of the commencement of the campaign.

In reply to a letter sent to him by Dr. Jameson, demanding his surrender and guaranteeing his safety, Lobengula wrote that he 'would come in.'

The promised period of two days' grace having gone by, however, and there being no sign of his appearance, a force was despatched from Buluwayo to follow and capture him. This force, which was under the leadership of Major Patrick W. Forbes, consisted of ninety men of the Salisbury Column, with Captains Heany and Spreckley and a mule Maxim gun under Lieutenant Biscoe, R.N.; sixty men of the Victoria Column commanded by Major Wilson, with a horse Maxim under Captain Lendy; sixty men of the Tuli Column, and ninety men of the Bechuanaland Border Police, commanded by Captain Raaf, C.M.G., accompanied by two horse Maxims and a mule seven-pounder, commanded by Captain Tancred.

The column, which started on or about November 14, took with it food for three days only, carried by natives, and a hundred rounds of ammunition per man. After several days' journeying northward the patrol reached the Bubye River, where dissensions arose between Captain Raaf and Major Forbes, the former being of opinion, rightly enough as the issue showed, that the mission was too dangerous to be pursued by a small body of men without supplies of food, and having no reserve of ammunition and no means of carrying the wounded. The upshot was that Major Forbes decided to return, but was prevented from doing so by a letter received from Dr. Jameson, stating that he was sending forward a reinforcement of dismounted men under Captain Napier with food, ammunition, and wagons, also sixteen mounted men under Captain Borrow. The force then proceeded to a deserted Mission Station known as Shiloh. On November 25 the column, three hundred strong and carrying with it three-quarter rations for twelve days, took up the King's wagon spoor about one mile from Shiloh, and followed it through much discomfort, caused by the constant rain and the lack of roads, till, on December S, a point was reached on the Shangani River, N.N.W. of Shiloh and distant from it about eighty miles.

On November 29, however, Major Forbes, finding that he could make small progress with the wagons, sent them away, and proceeded with the best mounted men and two Maxims only, so that the actual force which reached the Shangani on the 3rd consisted of about one hundred and sixty men and a couple of machine guns.

At this time the information in possession of the leaders of the column was to the effect that the King was just in front of them across the river, accompanied only by a few of his followers. Under these circumstances Major Forbes instructed Major Wilson and eighteen men to go forward and reconnoitre along Lobengula's spoor; the understanding seeming to have been that the party was to return by sundown, but that if it did not return it was, if necessary, to be supported by the whole column. With this patrol went Mr. Burnham, the American scout, one of the three surviving white men who were eye-witnesses of that eventful night's work, which ended so tragically at dawn.

What followed is best told as he narrated it by word of mouth to the compiler of this true story, and to a reporter of the 'Westminster Gazette,' the editor of which paper has courteously given permission for the reproduction of the interview. Indeed, it would be difficult to tell it so well in words other than Mr. Burnham's own.

'In the afternoon of December 8,' says Mr. Burnham, 'I was scouting ahead of the column with Colenbrander, when in a strip of bush we lit on two Matabele boys driving some cattle, one of whom we caught and brought in. He was a plucky boy, and when threatened he just looked us sullenly in the face. He turned out to be a sort of grandson or grand-nephew of Lobengula himself. He said the King's camp was just ahead, and the King himself near, with very few men, and these sick, and that he wanted to give himself up. He represented that the King had been back to this place that very day to get help because his wagons were stuck in a bog. The column pushed on through the strip of bush, and there, near by, was the King's camp—quite deserted. We searched the huts, and in one lay a Maholi slave-boy, fast asleep. (The Maholis are the slaves of the Matabele.) We pulled him out, and were questioning him, when the other boy, the sulky Matabele, caught his eye, and gave him a ferocious look, shouting across to him to take care what he told.

'The slave-boy agreed with the others that the King had only left this camp the day before; but as it was getting dark, Major Forbes decided to reconnoitre before going on with the column. I learnt of the decision to send forward Major Wilson and fifteen men on the best horses when I got my orders to accompany them, and, along with Bayne, to do their scouting. My horse was exhausted with the work he had done already; I told Major Forbes, and he at once gave me his. It was a young horse, rather skittish, but strong and fairly fresh by comparison.

'Ingram, my fellow-scout, remained with the column, and so got some hours' rest; thanks to which he was able not only to do his part of tracking for the twenty men afterwards sent on to us through the bush at night, but also, when he and I got through after the smash, to do the long and dangerous ride down country to Buluwayo with the despatches—a ride on which he was accompanied by Lynch.

'So we set off along the wagon track, while the main body of the column went into laager.

'Close to the river the track turned and led down stream along the west bank. Two miles down was a drift' (they call a fordable dip a drift in South Africa), 'and here the track crossed the Shangani. We splashed through, and the first thing we scouts knew on the other side was that we were riding into the middle of a lot of Matabele among some scherms, or temporary shelters. There were men, and some women and children. The men were armed. We put a bold face on it, and gave out the usual announcement that we did not want to kill anybody, but must have the King. The natives seemed surprised and undecided; presently, as Major Wilson and the rest of the patrol joined us, one of them volunteered to come along with us and guide us to the King. He was only just ahead, the man said. How many men were with him? we asked. The man put up his little finger—dividing it up, so. Five fingers mean an impi; part of the little finger, like that, should mean fifty to one hundred men. Wilson said to me, "Go on ahead, taking that man beside your saddle; cover him, fire if necessary, but don't you let him slip."

'So we started off again at a trot, for the light was failing, the man running beside my horse, and I keeping a sharp eye on him. The track led through some thick bush. We passed several scherms. Five miles from the river we came to a long narrow vlei [a vlei is a shallow valley, generally with water in it], which lay across our path. It was now getting quite dark. Coming out of the bush on the near edge of the vlei, before going down into it, I saw fires lit, and scherms and figures showing dark against the fires right along the opposite edge of the vlei. We skirted the vlei to our left, got round the end of it, and at once rode through a lot of scherms containing hundreds of people. As we went, Captain Napier shouted the message about the King wherever there was a big group of people. We passed scherm after scherm, and still more Matabele, more fires, and on we rode. Instead of the natives having been scattering from the King, they had been gathering. But it was too late to turn. We were hard upon our prize, and it was understood among the Wilson patrol that they were going to bring the King in if man could do it. The natives were astonished: they thought the whole column was on them: men jumped up, and ran hither and thither, rifle in hand. We went on without stopping, and as we passed more and more men came running after us. Some of them were crowding on the rearmost men, so Wilson told off three fellows to "keep those niggers back." They turned, and kept the people in check. At last, nearly at the other end of the vlei, having passed five sets of scherms, we came upon what seemed to be the King's wagons, standing in a kind of enclosure, with a saddled white horse tethered by it. Just before this, in the crowd and hurry, my man slipped away, and I had to report to Wilson that I had lost him. Of course it would not have done to fire. One shot would have been the match in the powder magazine. We had ridden into the middle of the Matabele nation.

'At this enclosure we halted and sang out again, making a special appeal to the King and those about him. No answer came. All was silence. A few drops of rain fell. Then it lightened, and by the flashes we could just see men getting ready to fire on us, and Napier shouted to Wilson, "Major, they are about to attack." I at the same-time saw them closing in on us rapidly from the right. The next thing to this fifth scherm was some thick bush; the order was given to get into that, and in a moment we were out of sight there. One minute after hearing us shout, the natives with the wagons must have been unable to see a sign of us. Just then it came on to rain heavily; the sky, already cloudy, got black as ink; the night fell so dark that you could not see your hand before you.

'We could not stay the night where we were, for we were so close that they would hear our horses' bits. So it was decided to work down into the vlei, creep along close to the other edge of it to the end we first came round, farthest from the King's camp, and there spend the night. This, like all the other moves, was taken after consultation with the officers, several of whom were experienced Kaffir campaigners. It was rough going; we were unable to see our way, now splashing through the little dongas that ran down into the belly of the vlei, now working round them, through bush and soft bottoms. At the far end, in a clump of thick bush, we dismounted, and Wilson sent off Captain Napier, with a man of his called Robinson, and the Victoria scout, Bayne, to go back along the wagon-track to the column, report how things stood, and bring the column on, with the Maxims, as sharp as possible. Wilson told Captain Napier to tell Forbes if the bush bothered the Maxim carriages to abandon them and put the guns on horses, but to bring the Maxims without fail. We all understood—and we thought the message was this—that if we were caught there at dawn without the Maxims we were done for. On the other hand was the chance of capturing the King and ending the campaign at a stroke.

'The spot we had selected to stop in until the arrival of Forbes was a clump of heavy bush not far from the King's spoor—and yet so far from the Kaffir camps that they could not hear us if we kept quiet. We dismounted, and on counting it was found that three of the men were missing. They were Hofmeyer, Bradburn and Colquhoun. Somewhere in winding through the bush from the King's wagons to our present position these men were lost. Not a difficult thing, for we only spoke in whispers, and, save for the occasional click of a horse's hoof, we could pass within ten feet of each other and not be aware of it.

'Wilson came to me and said, "Burnham, can you follow back along the vlei where we've just come?" I doubted it very much as it was black and raining; I had no coat, having been sent after the patrol immediately I came in from firing the King's huts, and although it was December, or midsummer south of the line, the rain chilled my fingers. Wilson said, "Come, I must have those men back." I told him I should need some one to lead my horse so as to feel the tracks made in the ground by our horses. He replied, "I will go with you. I want to see how you American fellows work."

'Wilson was no bad hand at tracking himself, and I was put on my mettle at once. We began, and I was flurried at first, and did not seem to get on to it somehow; but in a few minutes I picked up the spoor and hung to it.

'So we started off together, Wilson and I, in the dark. It was hard work, for one could see nothing; one had to feel for the traces with one's fingers. Creeping along, at last we stood close to the wagons, where the patrol had first retreated into the bush.

'"If we only had the force here now," said Wilson, "we would soon finish."

'But there was still no sign of the three men, so there was nothing for it but to shout. Retreating into the vlei in front of the King's camp, we stood calling and cooeying for them, long and low at first, then louder. Of course there was a great stir along the lines of the native scherms, for they did not know what to make of it. We heard afterwards that the natives were greatly alarmed as the white men seemed to be everywhere at once, and the indunas went about quieting the men, and saying "Do you think the white men are on you, children? Don't you know a wolf's howl when you hear it?"

'After calling for a bit, we heard an answering call away down the vlei, and the darkness favouring us, the lost men soon came up and we arrived at the clump of bushes where the patrol was stationed. We all lay down in the mud to rest, for we were tired out. It had left off raining, but it was a miserable night, and the hungry horses had been under saddle, some of them twenty hours, and were quite done.

'So we waited for the column.

'During the night we could hear natives moving across into the bush which lay between us and the river. We heard the branches as they pushed through. After a while Wilson asked me if I could go a little way around our position and find out what the Kaffirs were doing. I always think he heard something, but he did not say so. I slipped out and on our right heard the swirl of boughs and the splash of feet. Circling round for a little time I came on more Kaffirs. I got so close to them I could touch them as they passed, but it was impossible to say how many there were, it was so dark. This I reported to Wilson. Raising his head on his hand he asked me a few questions, and made the remark that if the column failed to come up before daylight, "we are in a hard hole," and told me to go out on the King's spoor and watch for Forbes, so that by no possibility should he pass us in the darkness. It was now, I should judge, 1 A.M. on the 4th of December.

'I went, and for a long, long time I heard only the dropping of the rain from the leaves and now and then a dog barking in the scherms, but at last, just as it got grey in the east, I heard a noise, and placing my ear close to the ground, made it out to be the tramp of horses. I ran back to Wilson and said "The column is here."

'We all led our horses out to the King's spoor. I saw the form of a man tracking. It was Ingram. I gave him a low whistle; he came up, and behind him rode—not the column, not the Maxims, but just twenty men under Captain Borrow. It was a terrible moment—"If we were caught there at dawn"—and already it was getting lighter every minute.

'One of us asked "Where is the column?" to which the reply was, "You see all there are of us." We answered, "Then you are only so many more men to die."

'Wilson went aside with Borrow, and there was earnest talk for a few moments. Presently all the officers' horses' heads were together; and Captain Judd said in my hearing, "Well, this is the end." And Kurten said quite quietly, "We shall never get out of this."

'Then Wilson put it to the officers whether we should try and break through the impis which were now forming up between us and the river, or whether we would go for the King and sell our lives in trying to get hold of him. The final decision was for this latter.

'So we set off and walked along the vlei back to the King's wagons. It was quite light now and they saw us from the scherms all the way, but they just looked at us and we at them, and so we went along. We walked because the horses hadn't a canter in them, and there was no hurry anyway.

'At the wagons we halted and shouted out again about not wanting to kill anyone. There was a pause, and then came shouts and a volley. Afterwards it was said that somebody answered, "If you don't want to kill, we do." My horse jumped away to the right at the volley, and took me almost into the arms of some natives who came running from that side. A big induna blazed at me, missed me, and then fumbled at his belt for another cartridge. It was not a proper bandolier he had on, and I saw him trying to pluck out the cartridge instead of easing it up from below with his finger. As I got my horse steady and threw my rifle down to cover him, he suddenly let the cartridge be and lifted an assegai. Waiting to make sure of my aim, just as his arm was poised I fired and hit him in the chest; he dropped. All happened in a moment. Then we retreated. Seeing two horses down, Wilson shouted to somebody to cut off the saddle pockets which carried extra ammunition. Ingram picked up one of the dismounted men behind him, Captain Fitzgerald the other. The most ammunition anyone had, by the way, was a hundred and ten rounds. There was some very stiff fighting for a few minutes, the natives having the best of the position; indeed they might have wiped us out but for their stupid habit of firing on the run, as they charged. Wilson ordered us to retire down the vlei; some hundred yards further on we came to an ant-heap and took our second position on that, and held it for some time. Wilson jumped on the top of the ant-heap and shouted—"Every man pick his nigger." There was no random firing, I would be covering a man when he dropped to somebody's rifle, and I had to choose another.

'Now we had the best of the position. The Matabele came on furiously down the open. Soon we were firing at two hundred yards and less; and the turned-up shields began to lie pretty thick over the ground. It got too hot for them; they broke and took cover in the bush. We fired about twenty rounds per man at this ant-heap. Then the position was flanked by heavy reinforcements from among the timbers; several more horses were knocked out and we had to quit. We retreated in close order into the bush on the opposite side of the vlei—the other side from the scherms. We went slowly on account of the disabled men and horses.

'There was a lull, and Wilson rode up to me and asked if I thought I could rush through to the main column. A scout on a good horse might succeed, of course, where the patrol as a whole would not stand a chance. It was a forlorn hope, but I thought it was only a question of here or there, and I said I'd try, asking for a man to be sent with me. A man called Gooding said he was willing to come, and I picked Ingram also because we had been through many adventures together, and I thought we might as well see this last one through together.

'So we started, and we had not gone five hundred yards when we came upon the horn of an impi closing in from the river. We saw the leading men, and they saw us and fired. As they did so I swerved my horse sharp to the left, and shouting to the others, "Now for it!" we thrust the horses through the bush at their best pace. A bullet whizzed past my eye, and leaves, cut by the firing, pattered down on us; but as usual the natives fired too high.

'So we rode along, seeing men, and being fired at continually, but outstripping the enemy. The peculiar chant of an advancing impi, like a long, monotonous baying or growling, was loud in our ears, together with the noise they make drumming on their hide shields with the assegai—you must hear an army making those sounds to realise them. As soon as we got where the bush was thinner, we shook off the niggers who were pressing us, and, coming to a bit of hard ground, we turned on our tracks and hid in some thick bush. We did this more than once and stood quiet, listening to the noise they made beating about for us on all sides. Of course we knew that scores of them must have run gradually back upon the river to cut us off, so we doubled and waited, getting so near again to the patrol that once during the firing which we heard thickening back there, the spent bullets pattered around us. Those waiting moments were bad. We heard firing soon from the other side of the river too, and didn't know but that the column was being wiped out as well as the patrol.

'At last, after no end of doubling and hiding and riding in a triple loop, and making use of every device known to a scout for destroying a spoor—it took us about three hours and a half to cover as many miles—we reached the river, and found it a yellow flood two hundred yards broad. In the way African rivers have, the stream, four feet across last night, had risen from the rain. We did not think our horses could swim it, utterly tired as they now were; but we were just playing the game through, so we decided to try. With their heads and ours barely above the water, swimming and drifting, we got across and crawled out on the other side. Then for the first time, I remember, the idea struck me that we might come through it after all, and with that the desire of life came passionately back upon me.

We topped the bank, and there, five hundred yards in front to the left, stood several hundred Matabele! They stared at us in utter surprise, wondering, I suppose, if we were the advance guard of some entirely new reinforcement. In desperation we walked our horses quietly along in front of them, paying no attention to them. We had gone some distance like this, and nobody followed behind, till at last one man took a shot at us; and with that a lot more of them began to blaze away. Almost at the same moment Ingram caught sight of horses only four or five hundred yards distant; so the column still existed—and there it was. We took the last gallop out of our horses then, and—well, in a few minutes I was falling out of the saddle, and saying to Forbes: "It's all over; we are the last of that party!" Forbes only said, "Well, tell nobody else till we are through with our own fight," and next minute we were just firing away along with the others, helping to beat off the attack on the column.'

Here Mr. Burnham's narrative ends.

* * * * *

What happened to Wilson and his gallant companions, and the exact manner of their end after Burnham and his two comrades left them, is known only through the reports of natives who took part in the fight. This, however, is certain: since the immortal company of Greeks died at Thermopylae, few, if any, such stands have been made in the face of inevitable death. They knew what the issue must be; for them there was no possibility of escape; the sun shone upon them for the last time, and for the last time the air of heaven blew upon their brows. Around them, thousand upon thousand, were massed their relentless foes, the bush echoed with war-cries, and from behind every tree and stone a ceaseless fire was poured upon their circle. But these four-and-thirty men never wavered, never showed a sign of fear. Taking shelter behind the boles of trees, or the bodies of their dead horses, they answered the fire shot for shot, coolly, with perfect aim, without haste or hurry.

The bush around told this tale of them in after days, for the bark of every tree was scored with bullets, showing that wherever an enemy had exposed his head there a ball had been sent to seek him. Also there was another testimony—that of the bones of the dead Matabele, the majority of whom had clearly fallen shot through the brain. The natives themselves state that for every white man who died upon that day, there perished at least ten of their own people, picked off, be it remembered, singly as they chanced to expose themselves. Nor did the enemy waste life needlessly, for their general ordered up the King's elephant hunters, trained shots, every one of them, to compete with the white man's fire.

For two long hours or more that fight went on. Now and again a man was killed, and now and again a man was wounded, but the wounded still continued to load the rifles that they could not fire, handing them to those of their companions who were as yet unhurt. At some period during the fray, so say the Matabele, the white men began to 'sing.' What is meant by the singing we can never know, but probably they cheered aloud after repelling a rash of the enemy. At length their fire grew faint and infrequent, till by degrees it flickered away, for men were lacking to handle the rifles. One was left, however, who stood alone and erect in the ring of the dead, no longer attempting to defend himself, either because he was weak with wounds, or because his ammunition was exhausted. There he stood silent and solitary, presenting one of the most pathetic yet splendid sights told of in the generation that he adorned. There was no more firing now, but the natives stole out of their cover and came up to the man quietly, peering at him half afraid. Then one of them lifted his assegai and drove it through his breast. Still he did not fall; so the soldier drew out the spear and, retreating a few yards, he hurled it at him, transfixing him. Now, very slowly, making no sound, the white man sank forward upon his face, and so lay still.

There seems to be little doubt but that this man was none other than Major Allan Wilson, the commander of the patrol. Native reports of his stature and appearance suggest this, but there is a stronger piece of evidence. The Matabele told Mr. Burnham who repeated it to the present writer, that this man wore a hat of a certain shape and size, fastened up at the side in a peculiar fashion; a hat similar to that which Mr. Burnham wore himself. Now, these hats were of American make, and Major Wilson was the only man in that party who possessed one of them, for Mr. Burnham himself had looped it up for him in the American style, if indeed he had not presented it to him.

The tragedy seemed to be finished, but it was not so, for as the natives stood and stared at the fallen white men, from among the dead a man rose up, to all appearance unharmed, holding in each hand a revolver, or a 'little Maxim' as they described it. Having gained his feet he walked slowly and apparently aimlessly away towards an ant-heap that stood at some distance. At the sight the natives began to fire again, scores, and even hundreds, of shots being aimed at him, but, as it chanced, none of them struck him. Seeing that he remained untouched amidst this hail of lead, they cried out that he was 'tagati,' or magic-guarded, but the indunas ordered them to continue their fire. They did so, and a bullet passing through his hips, the Englishman fell down paralysed. Then finding that he could not turn they ran round him and stabbed him, and he died firing with either hand back over his shoulders at the slaughterers behind him.

So perished the last of the Wilson patrol. He seems to have been Alexander Hay Robertson—at least Mr. Burnham believes that it was he, and for this reason. Robertson, he says, was the only man of the party who had grey hair, and at a little distance from the other skeletons was found a skull to which grey hair still adhered.

It is the custom among savages of the Zulu and kindred races, for reasons of superstition, to rip open and mutilate the bodies of enemies killed in war, but on this occasion the Matabele general, having surveyed the dead, issued an order: 'Let them be,' he said; 'they were men who died like men, men whose fathers were men.'

No finer epitaph could be composed in memory of Wilson and his comrades. In truth the fame of this death of theirs has spread far and wide throughout the native races of Southern Africa, and Englishmen everywhere reap the benefit of its glory. They also who lie low, they reap the benefit of it, for their story is immortal, and it will be told hundreds of years hence when it matters no more to them whether they died by shot and steel on the banks of the Shangani, or elsewhere in age and sickness. At least through the fatal storm of war they have attained to peace and honour, and there within the circle of the ruins of Zimbabwe they sleep their sleep, envied of some and revered by all. Surely it is no small thing to have attained to such a death, and England may be proud of her sons who won it.




FOUR hundred and seventy years ago, the children of Domremy, a little village near the Meuse, on the borders of France and Lorraine, used to meet and dance and sing beneath a beautiful beech-tree, 'lovely as a lily.' They called it 'The Fairy Tree,' or 'The Good Ladies' Lodge,' meaning the fairies by the words 'Good Ladies.' Among these children was one named Jeanne (born 1412), the daughter of an honest farmer, Jacques d'Arc. Jeanne sang more than she danced, and though she carried garlands like the other boys and girls, and hung them on the boughs of the Fairies' Tree, she liked better to take the flowers into the parish church, and lay them on the altars of St. Margaret and St. Catherine. It was said among the villagers that Jeanne's godmother had once seen the fairies dancing; but though some of the older people believed in the Good Ladies, it does not seem that Jeanne and the other children had faith in them or thought much about them. They only went to the tree and to a neighbouring fairy well to eat cakes and laugh and play. Yet these fairies were destined to be fatal to Jeanne d'Arc, JOAN THE MAIDEN, and her innocent childish sports were to bring her to the stake and the death by fire. For she was that famed Jeanne la Pucelle, the bravest, kindest, best, and wisest of women, whose tale is the saddest, the most wonderful, and the most glorious page in the history of the world. It is a page which no good Englishman and no true Frenchman can read without sorrow and bitter shame, for the English burned Joan with the help of bad Frenchmen, and the French of her party did not pay a sou, or write a line, or strike a stroke to save her. But the Scottish, at least, have no share in the disgrace. The Scottish archers fought on Joan's side; the only portrait of herself that Joan ever saw belonged to a Scottish man-at-arms; their historians praised her as she deserved; and a Scottish priest from Fife stood by her to the end.[1]

To understand Joan's history it is necessary to say, first, how we come to know so much about one who died so many years ago, and, next, to learn how her country chanced to be so wretched before Joan came to deliver it and to give her life for France.

We know so much about her, not from poets and writers of books who lived in her day, but because she was tried by French priests (1431), and all her answers on everything that she ever did in all her life were written down in Latin. These answers fill most of a large volume. Then, twenty years later (1550-1556), when the English had been driven out of France, the French king collected learned doctors, who examined witnesses from all parts of the country, men and women who had known Joan as a child, and in the wars, and in prison, and they heard her case again, and destroyed the former unjust judgment. The answers of these witnesses fill two volumes, and thus we have all the Maid's history, written during her life, or not long after her death, and sworn to on oath. We might expect that the evidence of her friends, after they had time to understand her, and perhaps were tempted to overpraise her, would show us a picture different from that given in the trial by her mortal enemies. But though the earlier account, put forth by her foes, reads like a description by the Scribes and Pharisees of the trial of Our Lord, yet the character of Joan was so noble that the versions by her friends and her enemies practically agree in her honour. Her advocates cannot make us admire her more than we must admire her in the answers which she gave to her accusers. The records of these two trials, then, with letters and poems and histories written at the time, or very little later, give us all our information about Joan of Arc.

Next, as to 'the great pitifulness that was in France' before Joan of Arc came to deliver her country, the causes of the misery are long to tell and not easy to remember. To put it shortly, in Joan's childhood France was under a mad king, Charles VI., and was torn to pieces by two factions, the party of Burgundy and the party of Armagnac. The English took advantage of these disputes, and overran the land. France was not so much one country, divided by parties, as a loose knot of states, small and great, with different interests, obeying greedy and selfish chiefs rather than the king. Joan cared only for her country, not for a part of it. She fought not for Orleans, or Anjou, or Britanny, or Lorraine, but for France. In fact, she made France a nation again. Before she appeared everywhere was murder, revenge, robbery, burning of towns, slaughter of peaceful people, wretchedness, and despair. It was to redeem France from this ruin that Joan came, just when, in 1429, the English were besieging Orleans. Had they taken the strong city of Orleans, they could have overrun all southern and central France, and would have driven the natural king of France, Charles the Dauphin, into exile. From this ruin Joan saved her country; but if you wish to know more exactly how matters stood, and who the people were with whom Joan had to do, you must read what follows. If not, you can 'skip' to Chapter III.



AS you know, Edward III. had made an unjust claim to the French crown, and, with the Black Prince, had supported it by the victories of Crecy and Poictiers. But Edward died, and the Black Prince died, and his son, Richard II., was the friend of France, and married a French princess. Richard, too, was done to death, but Henry IV., who succeeded him, had so much work on his hands in England that he left France alone. Yet France was wretched, because when the wise Charles V. died in 1380, he left two children, Charles the Dauphin, and his brother, Louis of Orleans. They were only little boys, and the Dauphin became weak-minded; moreover, they were both in the hands of their uncles. The best of these relations, Philip, Duke of Burgundy, died in 1404. His son, John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, was the enemy of his own cousin, Louis of Orleans, brother of the Dauphin Charles, who was now king, under the title of Charles VI. John the Fearless had Louis of Orleans murdered, yet Paris, the capital of France, was on the side of the murderer. He was opposed by the Count of Armagnac. Now, the two parties of Armagnac and Burgundy divided France; the Armagnacs professing to be on the side of Charles the Dauphin. They robbed, burned, and murdered on all sides. Meanwhile, in England, Henry V. had succeeded to his father, and the weakness of France gave him a chance to assert his unjust claim to its throne. He defeated the French at Agincourt in 1415, he carried the Duke of Orleans a prisoner to London, he took Rouen, and overran Normandy. The French now attempted to make peace among themselves. The Duke of Burgundy had the mad Charles VI. in his power. The Dauphin was with the opposite faction of Armagnac. But, if the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy became friends, the Armagnacs would lose all their importance. The power would be with the Duke of Burgundy. The Armagnacs, therefore, treacherously murdered the duke, in the name of the Dauphin, at a meeting on the Bridge of Montereau (1419). The son of the duke, Philip the Good, now became Duke of Burgundy, and was determined to revenge his murdered father. He therefore made friends with Henry V. and the English. The English being now so strong in the Burgundian alliance, their terms were accepted in the Peace of Troyes (1420). The Dauphin was to be shut out from succeeding to the French crown, and was called a Pretender. Henry V. married the Dauphin's sister Catherine, and when the mad Charles VI. died, Henry and Catherine were to be King and Queen of England and France. Meantime, Henry V. was to punish the Dauphin and the Armagnacs. But Henry V. died first, and, soon after, the mad Charles died. Who, then, was to be King of France? The Armagnacs held for the Dauphin, the rightful heir. The English, of course, and the Burgundians, were for Henry VI., a baby of ten months old. He, like other princes, had uncles, one of them, the Duke of Gloucester, managed affairs in England; another, the Duke of Bedford, the Regent, was to keep down France. The English possessed Paris and the North; the Dauphin retained the Centre of France, and much of the South, holding his court at Bourges. It is needless to say that the uncles of the baby Henry VI., the Dukes of Gloucester and Bedford, were soon on bad terms, and their disputes made matters easier for the Dauphin. He lost two great battles, however, Crevant and Verneuil, where his Scottish allies were cut to pieces. The hearts of good Frenchmen were with him, but he was indolent, selfish, good-humoured, and governed by a fat, foolish favourite, La Tremouille. The Duke of Bedford now succeeded in patching up the quarrels among the English, and then it was determined (but not by Bedford's advice) to cross the Loire, to invade Southern France, to crush the Dauphin, and to conquer the whole country. But, before he could do all this, Bedford had to take the strong city of Orleans, on the Loire. And against the walls of Orleans the tide of English victory was broken, for there the flag of England went down before the peasant girl who had danced below the Fairy Tree of Domremy, before Joan the Maiden.



THE English were besieging Orleans; Joan the Maid drove them from its walls. How did it happen that a girl of seventeen, who could neither read nor write, became the greatest general on the side of France? How did a woman defeat the hardy English soldiers who were used to chase the French before them like sheep?

We must say that France could only be saved by a miracle, and by a miracle she was saved. This is a mystery; we cannot understand it. Joan the Maiden was not as other men and women are. But, as a little girl, she was a child among children, though better, kinder, stronger than the rest, and, poor herself, she was always good and helpful to those who were poorer still.

Joan's parents were not indigent; they had lands and cattle, and a little money laid by in case of need. Her father was, at one time, doyen, or head-man, of Domremy. Their house was hard by the church, and was in the part of the hamlet where the people were better off, and had more freedom and privileges than many of their neighbours. They were devoted to the Royal House of France, which protected them from the tyranny of lords and earls further east. As they lived in a village under the patronage of St. Remigius, they were much interested in Reims, his town, where the kings of France were crowned, and were anointed with Holy Oil, which was believed to have been brought in a sacred bottle by an angel.

In the Middle Ages, the king was not regarded as really king till this holy oil had been poured on his head. Thus we shall see, later, how anxious Joan was that Charles VII., then the Dauphin, should be crowned and anointed in Reims, though it was still in the possession of the English. It is also necessary to remember that Joan had once an elder sister named Catherine, whom she loved dearly. Catherine died, and perhaps affection for her made Joan more fond of bringing flowers to the altar of her namesake, St. Catherine, and of praying often to that saint.

Joan was brought up by her parents, as she told her judges, to be industrious, to sew and spin. She did not fear to match herself at spinning and sewing, she said, against any woman in Rouen. When very young she sometimes went to the fields to watch the cattle, like the goose-girl in the fairy tale. As she grew older, she worked in the house, she did not any longer watch sheep and cattle. But the times were dangerous, and, when there was an alarm of soldiers or robbers in the neighbourhood, she sometimes helped to drive the flock into a fortified island, or peninsula, for which her father was responsible, in the river near her home. She learned her creed, she said, from her mother. Twenty years after her death, her neighbours, who remembered her, described her as she was when a child. Jean Morin said that she was a good industrious girl, but that she would often be praying in church when her father and mother did not know it. Beatrix Estellin, an old widow of eighty, said Joan was a good girl. When Domremy was burned, Joan would go to church at Greux, 'and there was not a better girl in the two towns.' A priest, who had known her, called her 'a good, simple, well-behaved girl.' Jean Waterin, when he was a boy, had seen Joan in the fields; 'and when they were all playing together, she would go apart, and pray to God, as he thought, and he and the others used to laugh at her. She was good and simple, and often in churches and holy places. And when she heard the church bell ring, she would kneel down in the fields.' She used to bribe the sexton to ring the bells (a duty which he rather neglected) with presents of knitted wool.

All those who had seen Joan told the same tale: she was always kind, simple, industrious, pious, and yet merry and fond of playing with the others round the Fairy Tree. They say that the singing birds came to her, and nestled in her breast.[2]

Thus, as far as anyone could tell, Joan was a child like other children, but more serious and more religious. One of her friends, a girl called Mengette, whose cottage was next to that of Joan's father, said: 'Joan was so pious that we other children told her she was too good.'

In peaceful times Joan would have lived and married and died and been forgotten. But the times were evil. The two parties of Burgundy and Armagnac divided town from town and village from village. It was as in the days of the Douglas Wars in Scotland, when the very children took sides for Queen Mary and King James, and fought each other in the streets. Domremy was for the Armagnacs—that is, against the English and for the Dauphin, the son of the mad Charles VI. But at Maxey, on the Meuse, a village near Domremy, the people were all for Burgundy and the English. The boys of Domremy would go out and fight the Maxey boys with fists and sticks and stones. Joan did not remember having taken part in those battles, but she had often seen her brothers and the Domremy boys come home all bruised and bleeding.


Once Joan saw more of war than these schoolboy bickers. It was in 1425, when she was a girl of thirteen. There was a kind of robber chief on the English side, a man named Henri d'Orly, from Savoy, who dwelt in the castle of Doulevant. There he and his band of armed men lived and drank and plundered far and near. One day there galloped into Domremy a squadron of spearmen, who rode through the fields driving together the cattle of the villagers, among them the cows of Joan's father. The country people could make no resistance; they were glad enough if their houses were not burned. So off rode Henri d'Orly's men, driving the cattle with their spear-points along the track to the castle of Doulevant. But cows are not fast travellers, and when the robbers had reached a little village called Dommartin le France they rested, and went to the tavern to make merry. But by this time a lady, Madame d'Ogevillier, had sent in all haste to the Count de Vaudemont to tell him how the villagers of Domremy had been ruined. So he called his squire, Barthelemy de Clefmont, and bade him summon his spears and mount and ride. It reminds us of the old Scottish ballad, where Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead has seen all his cattle driven out of his stalls by the English; and he runs to Branxholme and warns the water, and they with Harden pursue the English, defeat them, and recover Telfer's kye, with a great spoil out of England. Just so Barthelemy de Clefmont, with seven or eight lances, galloped down the path to Dommartin le France. There they found the cattle, and d'Orly's men fled like cowards. So Barthelemy with his comrades was returning very joyously, when Henri d'Orly rode up with a troop of horse and followed hard after Barthelemy. He was wounded by a lance, but he cut his way through d'Orly's men, and also brought the cattle back safely—a very gallant deed of arms. We may fancy the delight of the villagers when 'the kye cam' hame.' It may have been now that an event happened, of which Joan does not tell us herself, but which was reported by the king's seneschal, in June 1429, when Joan had just begun her wonderful career. The children of the village, says the seneschal, were running races and leaping in wild joy about the fields; possibly their gladness was caused by the unexpected rescue of their cattle. Joan ran so much more fleetly than the rest, and leaped so far, that the children believed she actually flew, and they told her so! Tired and breathless, 'out of herself,' says the seneschal, she paused, and in that moment she heard a Voice, but saw no man; the Voice bade her go home, because her mother had need of her. And when she came home the Voice said many things to her about the great deeds which God bade her do for France. We shall later hear Joan's own account of how her visions and Voices first came to her.[3]

Three years later there was an alarm, and the Domremy people fled to Neufchateau, Joan going with her parents. Afterwards her enemies tried to prove that she had been a servant at an inn in Neufchateau, had lived roughly with grooms and soldiers, and had learned to ride. But this was absolutely untrue. An ordinary child would have thought little of war and of the sorrows of her country in the flowery fields of Domremy and Vaucouleurs; but Joan always thought of the miseries of France la belle, fair France, and prayed for her country and her king. A great road, on the lines of an old Roman way, passed near Domremy, so Joan would hear all the miserable news from travellers. Probably she showed what was in her mind, for her father dreamed that she 'had gone off with soldiers,' and this dream struck him so much, that he told his sons that he, or they, must drown Joan if she so disgraced herself. For many girls of bad character, lazy and rude, followed the soldiers, as they always have done, and always will. Joan's father thought that his dream meant that Joan would be like these women. It would be interesting to know whether he was in the habit of dreaming true dreams. For Joan, his child, dreamed when wide awake, dreamed dreams immortal, which brought her to her glory and her doom.


When Joan was between twelve and thirteen, a wonderful thing befell her. We have already heard one account of it, written when Joan was in the first flower of her triumph, by the seneschal of the King of France. A Voice spoke to her and prophesied of what she was to do. But about all these marvellous things it is more safe to attend to what Joan always said herself. She told the same story both to friends and foes; to the learned men who, by her king's desire, examined her at Poictiers, before she went to war (April 1429); and to her deadly foes at Rouen. No man can read her answers to them and doubt that she spoke what she believed. And she died for this belief. Unluckily the book that was kept of what she said at Poictiers is lost. Before her enemies at Rouen there were many things which she did not think it right to say. On one point, after for long refusing to speak, she told her foes a kind of parable, which we must not take as part of her real story.

When Joan was between twelve and thirteen (1424), so she swore, 'a Voice came to her from God for her guidance, but when first it came, she was in great fear. And it came, that Voice, about noonday, in the summer season, she being in her father's garden. And Joan had not fasted the day before that, but was fasting when the Voice came.[4] And she heard the Voice on her right side, towards the church, and rarely did she hear it but she also saw a great light.' These are her very words. They asked her if she heard these Voices there, in the hall of judgment, and she answered, 'If I were in a wood, I should well hear these Voices coming to me.' The Voices at first only told her 'to be a good girl, and go to church.' She thought it was a holy Voice, and that it came from God; and the third time she heard it she knew it was the voice of an angel. The Voice told her of 'the great pity there was in France,' and that one day she must go into France and help the country. She had visions with the Voices; visions first of St. Michael, and then of St. Catherine and St. Margaret.[5] She hated telling her hypocritical judges anything about these heavenly visions, but it seems that she really believed in their appearance, believed that she had embraced the knees of St. Margaret and St. Catherine, and she did reverence to them when they came to her. 'I saw them with my bodily eyes, as I see you,' she said to her judges, 'and when they departed from me I wept, and well I wished that they had taken me with them.'

What are we to think about these visions and these Voices which were with Joan to her death?

Some have thought that she was mad; others that she only told the story to win a hearing and make herself important; or, again, that a trick was played on her to win her aid. The last idea is impossible. The French Court did not want her. The second, as everyone will admit who reads Joan's answers, and follows her step by step from childhood to victory, to captivity, to death, is also impossible. She was as truthful as she was brave and wise. But was she partially insane? It is certain that mad people do hear voices which are not real, and believe that they come to them from without. But these mad voices say mad things. Now, Joan's Voices never said anything but what was wise beyond her own wisdom, and right and true. She governed almost all her actions by their advice. When she disobeyed 'her counsel,' as she called it, the result was evil, and once, as we shall see, was ruinous. Again, Joan was not only healthy, but wonderfully strong, ready, and nimble. In all her converse with princes and priests and warriors, she spoke and acted like one born in their own rank. In mind, as in body, she was a marvel, none such has ever been known. It is impossible, then, to say that she was mad.

In the whole history of the world, as far as we know it, there is only one example like that of Joan of Arc. Mad folk hear voices; starved nuns, living always with their thoughts bent on heaven, women of feeble body, accustomed to faints and to fits, have heard voices and seen visions. Some of them have been very good women; none have been strong, good riders, skilled in arms, able to march all day long with little food, and to draw the arrow from their own wound and mount horse and charge again, like Joan of Arc. Only one great man, strong, brave, wise, and healthy, has been attended by a Voice, which taught him what to do, or rather what not to do. That man was Socrates, the most hardy soldier, the most unwearied in the march, and the wisest man of Greece. Socrates was put to death for this Voice of his, on the charge of 'bringing in new gods.' Joan of Arc died for her Voices, because her enemies argued that she was no saint, but a witch! These two, the old philosopher and the untaught peasant girl of nineteen, stand alone in the endless generations of men, alone in goodness, wisdom, courage, strength, combined with a mysterious and fatal gift. More than this it is now forbidden to us to know. But, when we remember that such a being as Joan of Arc has only appeared once since time began, and that once just when France seemed lost beyond all hope, we need not wonder at those who say that France was saved by no common good fortune and happy chance, but by the will of Heaven.[6]

In one respect, Joan's conduct after these Voices and visions began, was perhaps, as regarded herself, unfortunate. She did not speak of them to her parents, nor tell about them to the priest when she confessed. Her enemies were thus able to say, later, that they could not have been holy visions or Voices, otherwise she would not have concealed them from her father, her mother, and the priest, to whom she was bound to tell everything, and from whom she should have sought advice. Thus, long afterwards, St. Theresa had visions, and, in obedience to her priest, she at first distrusted these, as perhaps a delusion of evil, or a temptation of spiritual pride. Joan, however, was afraid that her father would interfere with her mission, and prevent her from going to the king. She believed that she must not be 'disobedient to the heavenly vision.'


It was in 1424 that the Voices first came to Joan the Maid. The years went on, bringing more and more sorrow to France. In 1428 only a very few small towns in the east still held out for the Dauphin, and these were surrounded on every side by enemies. Meanwhile the Voices came more frequently, urging Joan to go into France, and help her country. She asked how she, a girl, who could not ride or use sword and lance, could be of any help? Rather would she stay at home and spin beside her dear mother. At the same time she was encouraged by one of the vague old prophecies which were as common in France as in Scotland. A legend ran 'that France was to be saved by a Maiden from the Oak Wood,' and there was an Oak Wood, le bois chenu, near Domremy. Some such prophecy had an influence on Joan, and probably helped people to believe in her. The Voices, moreover, instantly and often commanded her to go to Vaucouleurs, a neighbouring town which was loyal, and there meet Robert de Baudricourt, who was captain of the French garrison. Now, Robert de Baudricourt was not what is called a romantic person. Though little over thirty, he had already married, one after the other, two rich widows. He was a gallant soldier, but a plain practical man, very careful of his own interest, and cunning enough to hold his own among his many enemies, English, Burgundian, and Lorrainers. It was to him that Joan must go, a country girl to a great noble, and tell him that she, and she alone, could save France! Joan knew what manner of man Robert de Baudricourt was, for her father had been obliged to visit him, and speak for the people of Domremy when they were oppressed. She could hardly hope that he would listen to her, and it was with a heavy heart that she found a good reason for leaving home to visit Vaucouleurs. Joan had a cousin, a niece of her mother's, who was married to one Durand Lassois, at Burey en Vaux, a village near Vaucouleurs. This cousin invited Joan to visit her for a week. At the end of that time she spoke to her cousin's husband. There was an old saying, as we saw, that France would be rescued by a Maid, and she, as she told Lassois, was that Maid. Lassois listened, and, whatever he may have thought of her chances, he led her to Robert de Baudricourt.

Joan came, on May 18, 1423, in her simple red dress, and walked straight up to the captain among his men. She knew him, she said, by what her Voices had told her, but she may also have heard him described by her father. She told him that the Dauphin must keep quiet, and risk no battle, for before the middle of Lent next year (1429) God would send him succour. She added that the kingdom belonged, not to the Dauphin, but to her Master, who willed that the Dauphin should be crowned, and she herself would lead him to Reims, to be anointed with the holy oil.

'And who is your Master?' said Robert.

'The King of Heaven!'

Robert, very naturally, thought that Joan was crazed, and shrugged his shoulders. He bluntly told Lassois to box her ears, and take her back to her father. So she had to go home; but here new troubles awaited her. The enemy came down on Domremy and burned it; Joan and her family fled to Neufchateau, where they stayed for a few days. It was perhaps about this time that a young man declared that Joan had promised to marry him, and he actually brought her before a court of justice, to make her fulfil her promise.

Joan was beautiful, well-shaped, dark-haired, and charming in her manner.

We have a letter which two young knights, Andre and Guy de Laval, wrote to their mother in the following year. 'The Maid was armed from neck to heel,' they say, 'but unhelmeted; she carried a lance in her hand. Afterwards, when we lighted down from our horses at Selles, I went to her lodging to see her, and she called for wine for me, saying she would soon make me drink wine in Paris' (then held by the English), 'and, indeed, she seems a thing wholly divine, both to look on her and to hear her sweet voice.'

It is no wonder that the young man of Domremy wanted to marry Joan; but she had given no promise, and he lost his foolish law-suit. She and her parents soon went back to Domremy.[7]


In Domremy they found that the enemy had ruined everything. Their cattle were safe, for they had been driven to Neufchateau, but when Joan looked from her father's garden to the church, she saw nothing but a heap of smoking ruins. She had to go to say her prayers now at the church of Greux. These things only made her feel more deeply the sorrows of her country. The time was drawing near when she had prophesied that the Dauphin was to receive help from heaven—namely, in the Lent of 1429. On that year the season was held more than commonly sacred, for Good Friday and the Annunciation fell on the same day. So, early in January, 1429, Joan the Maid turned her back on Domremy, which she was never to see again. Her cousin Lassois came and asked leave for Joan to visit him again; she said good-bye to her father and mother, and to her friend Mengette, but to her dearest friend Hauvette she did not even say good-bye, for she could not bear it. She went to her cousin's house at Burey, and there she stayed for six weeks, hearing bad news of the siege of Orleans by the English. Meanwhile, Robert de Baudricourt, in Vaucouleurs, was not easy in his mind, for he was likely to lose the protection of Rene of Anjou, the Duc de Bar, who was on the point of joining the English. Thus Robert may have been more inclined to listen to Joan than when he bade her cousin box her ears and take her back to her father. A squire named Jean de Nouillompont met Joan one day.

'Well, my lass,' said he, 'is our king to be driven from France, and are we all to become English?'

'I have come here,' said Joan, 'to bid Robert de Baudricourt lead me to the king, but he will not listen to me. And yet to the king I must go, even if I walk my legs down to the knees; for none in all the world—king, nor duke, nor the King of Scotland's daughter—can save France, but myself only. Certes, I would rather stay and spin with my poor mother, for to fight is not my calling; but I must go and I must fight, for so my Lord will have it.'

'And who is your Lord?' said Jean de Nouillompont.

'He is God,' said the Maiden.

'Then, so help me God, I shall take you to the king,' said Jean, putting her hands in his. 'When do we start?'

'To-day is better than to-morrow,' said the Maid.

Joan was now staying in Vaucouleurs with Catherine le Royer. One day, as she and Catherine were sitting at their spinning-wheels, who should come in but Robert de Baudricourt with the cure of the town. Robert had fancied that perhaps Joan was a witch! He told the priest to perform some rite of the Church over her, so that if she were a witch she would be obliged to run away. But when the words were spoken, Joan threw herself at the knees of the priest, saying, 'Sir, this is ill done of you, for you have heard my confession and know that I am not a witch.'

Robert was now half disposed to send her to the king and let her take her chance. But days dragged on, and when Joan was not working she would be on her knees in the crypt or underground chapel of the Chapel Royal in Vaucouleurs. Twenty-seven years later a chorister boy told how he often saw her praying there for France. Now people began to hear of Joan, and the Duke of Lorraine asked her to visit him at Nancy, where she bade him lead a better life. He is said to have given her a horse and some money. On February 12 the story goes that she went to Robert de Baudricourt.

'You delay too long,' she said. 'On this very day, at Orleans, the gentle Dauphin has lost a battle.'

This was, in fact, the Battle of Herrings, so called because the English defeated and cut off a French and Scottish force which attacked them as they were bringing herrings into camp for provisions in Lent. If this tale is true, Joan cannot have known of the battle by any common means; but though it is vouched for by the king's secretary, Joan has told us nothing about it herself.[8]

Now the people of Vaucouleurs bought clothes for Joan to wear on her journey to the Dauphin. They were such clothes as men wear—doublet, hose, surcoat, boots, and spurs—and Robert de Baudricourt gave Joan a sword.

In the end this man's dress, which henceforth she always wore, proved the ruin of Joan. Her enemies, the English and false French, made it one of their chief charges against her that she dressed, as they chose to say, immodestly. It is not very clear how she came to wear men's garments. Jean de Nouillompont, her first friend, asked her if she would go to the king (a ten days' journey on horseback) dressed as she was, in her red frock. She answered 'that she would gladly have a man's dress,' which he says that he provided. Her reason was that she would have to be living alone among men-at-arms, and she thought that it was more modest to wear armour like the rest. Also her favourite saint, St. Margaret, had done this once when in danger. St. Marina had worn a monk's clothes when obliged to live in a monastery. The same thing is told of St. Eugenia.[9] Besides, in all the romances of chivalry, and the favourite poems of knights and ladies, we find fair maidens fighting in arms like men, or travelling dressed as pages, and nobody ever thought the worse of them. Therefore this foolish charge of the English against Joan the Maid was a mere piece of cruel hypocrisy.


On February 23, 1429, the gate of the little castle of Vaucouleurs, 'the Gate of France,' which is still standing, was thrown open. Seven travellers rode out, among them two squires, Jean de Nouillompont and Bertrand de Poulengy, with their attendants, and Joan the Maid. 'Go, and let what will come of it come!' said Robert de Baudricourt. He did not expect much to come of it. It was a long journey—they were eleven days on the road—and a dangerous. But Joan laughed at danger. 'God will clear my path to the king, for to this end I was born.' Often they rode by night, stopping at monasteries when they could. Sometimes they slept out under the sky. Though she was so young and so beautiful, with the happiness of her long desire in her eyes, and the glory of her future shining on her, these two young gentlemen never dreamed of paying their court to her and making love, as in romances they do, for they regarded her 'as if she had been an angel.' 'They were in awe of her,' they said, long afterwards, long after the angels had taken Joan to be with their company in heaven. And all the knights who had seen her said the same. Dunois and d'Aulon and the beautiful Duc d'Alencon, 'le beau Duc' as Joan called him, they all said that she was 'a thing enskied and sainted.' So on they rode, six men and a maid, through a country full of English and Burgundian soldiery. There were four rivers to cross, Marne, Aube, Seine, and Yonne, and the rivers were 'great and mickle o' spate,' running red with the rains from bank to bank, so that they could not ford the streams, but must go by unfriendly towns, where alone there were bridges. Joan would have liked to stay and go to church in every town, but this might not be. However, she heard mass thrice at the church of her favourite saint, Catherine de Fierbois, between Loches and Chinon, in a friendly country. And a strange thing happened later in that church.

From Fierbois Joan made some clerk write to the king that she was coming to help him, and that she would know him among all his men. Probably it was here that she wrote to beg her parents' pardon, and they forgave her, she says. Meanwhile news reached the people then besieged in Orleans that a marvellous Maiden was riding to their rescue. On March 6 Joan arrived in Chinon, where for two or three days the king's advisers would not let him see her. At last they yielded, and she went straight up to him, and when he denied that he was the king, she told him that she knew well who he was.

'There is the king,' said Charles, pointing to a richly dressed noble.

'No, fair sire. You are he!'

Still, it was not easy to believe. Joan stayed at Chinon in the house of a noble lady. The young Duc d'Alencon was on her side from the first, bewitched by her noble horsemanship, which she had never learned. Great people came to see her, but, when she was alone, she wept and prayed. The king sent messengers to inquire about her at Domremy, but time was going on, and Orleans was not relieved.


Joan was weary of being asked questions. One day she went to Charles and said, 'Gentle Dauphin, why do you delay to believe me? I tell you that God has taken pity on you and your people, at the prayer of St. Louis and St. Charlemagne. And I will tell you, by your leave, something which will show you that you should believe me.'

Then she told him secretly something which, as he said, none could know but God and himself. A few months later, in July, a man about the court wrote a letter, in which he declares that none knows what Joan told the king, but he was plainly as glad as if something had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. We have three witnesses of this, one of them is the famous Dunois, to whom the king himself told what happened.

What did Joan say to the king, and what was the sign? About this her enemies later examined her ten times. She told them from the very first that she would never let them know; that, if they made her speak, what she spoke would not be the truth. At last she told them a kind of parable about an angel and a crown, which neither was nor was meant to be taken as true. It was the king's secret, and Joan kept it.

We learn the secret in this way. There was a man named Pierre Sala in the service of Louis XI. and Charles VIII. of France. In his youth, Pierre Sala used to hunt with M. de Boisy, who, in his youth, had been gentleman of the bedchamber to Charles VII., Joan's king. To de Boisy Charles VII. told the secret, and de Boisy told it to Pierre Sala. At this time of his misfortunes (1429), when his treasurer had only four crowns in his coffers, Charles went into his oratory to pray alone, and he made his prayer to God secretly, not aloud, but in his mind.

Now, what Joan told the king was the secret prayer which he had made in his own heart when alone. And, ten years later, when Joan was long dead, an impostor went about saying that she was the Maid, who had come to life again. She was brought to Charles, who said, 'Maiden, my Maid, you are welcome back again if you can tell me the secret that is between you and me.' But the false Maid, falling on her knees, confessed all her treason.

This is the story of the sign given to the king, which is not the least strange of the things done by Joan the Maid. But there is a thing stranger yet, though not so rare.

The king to whom Joan brought this wonderful message, the king whom she loved so loyally, and for whom she died, spoiled all her plans. He, with his political advisers, prevented her from driving the English quite out of France. These favourites, men like the fat La Tremouille, found their profit in dawdling and delaying, as politicians generally do. Thus, in our own time, they hung off and on, till our soldiers were too late to rescue Gordon from the Arabs. Thus, in Joan's time, she had literally to goad them into action, to drag them on by constant prayers and tears. They were lazy, comfortable, cowardly, disbelieving; in their hearts they hated the Maid, who put them to so much trouble. As for Charles, to whom the Maid was so loyal, had he been a man like the Black Prince, or even like Prince Charlie, Joan would have led him into Paris before summer was ended. 'I shall only last one year and little more,' she often said to the king. The Duc d'Alencon heard her,[10] and much of that precious year was wasted. Charles, to tell the truth, never really believed in her; he never quite trusted her; he never led a charge by her side; and, in the end, he shamefully deserted her, and left the Maid to her doom.


Weeks had passed, and Joan had never yet seen a blow struck in war. She used to exercise herself in horsemanship, and knightly sports of tilting, and it is wonderful that a peasant girl became, at once, one of the best riders among the chivalry of France. The young Duc d'Alencon, lately come from captivity in England, saw how gallantly she rode, and gave her a horse. He and his wife were her friends from the first, when the politicians and advisers were against her. But, indeed, whatever the Maid attempted, she did better than others, at once, without teaching or practice. It was now determined that Joan should be taken to Poictiers, and examined before all the learned men, bishops, doctors, and higher clergy who still were on the side of France. There was good reason for this delay. It was plain to all, friends and foes, that the wonderful Maid was not like other men and women, with her Voices, her visions, her prophecies, and her powers. All agreed that she had some strange help given to her; but who gave it? This aid must come, people thought then, either from heaven or hell—either from God and his saints, or from the devil and his angels. Now, if any doubt could be thrown on the source whence Joan's aid came, the English might argue (as of course they did), that she was a witch and a heretic. If she was a heretic and a witch, then her king was involved in her wickedness, and so he might be legally shut out from his kingdom. It was necessary, therefore, that Joan should be examined by learned men. They must find out whether she had always been good, and a true believer, and whether her Voices always agreed in everything with the teachings of the Church. Otherwise her angels must be devils in disguise. For these reasons Joan was carried to Poictiers. During three long weeks the learned men asked her questions, and, no doubt, they wearied her terribly. But they said it was wonderful how wisely this girl, who 'did not know A from B,' replied to their puzzling inquiries. She told the story of her visions, of the command laid upon her to rescue Orleans. Said Guillaume Aymeri, 'You ask for men-at-arms, and you say that God will have the English to leave France and go home. If that is true, no men-at-arms are needed; God's pleasure can drive the English out of the land.'

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