Blood Ties : The Continuing Tale of the French Executioner
This unusual tale conjures visions of an Errol Flynn-type Hollywood swashbuckler A gory but fascinating Don't miss this wonderful saga of magic and heroism For sheer pleasure I've read nothing to match it all year. This is as good. It was to her a grievous sorrow to renounce going every day to the clear fountain and the shady spot where she derived so much pleasure from listening to the chimes of the bells, the last vibrations of which had latterly reached her ears as a celestial whisper of silvery voices.
She submitted to the paternal will, however, and occupied herself during the morning with household duties. More indulgent than her husband, Isabelle said to her daughter shortly before noon, "Go and play in the garden until the meal hour.
The summer's sun darted its burning rays upon Jeannette's head. Enfeebled by the fast of the previous night  and fatigued by her distressing dreams, she sat down upon a bench with her forehead resting on her hands and dropped into a revery, thinking of the prophecy of Merlin. Presently, as the bells of Greux began to sound from afar, she listened to their chimes with rapture, wholly forgetful of the fact that the sun's rays beat down perpendicularly upon her head.
As the sound of the bells was gradually dying away the child suddenly saw a light, so intense, so dazzling in its splendor, that the sunshine reflected from the white wall of the church opposite seemed darkness in comparison.
The voice stopped and the dazzling splendor disappeared. Distracted and seized with an uncontrollable fear, Jeannette took a few steps in the garden and, falling upon her knees, joined her hands in prayer, invoking the aid of her good saints, St. Catherine, as she believed herself possessed of the devil.
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That July day of the year decided the future of Joan Darc. The brilliant light that had dazzled her eyes, the mysterious voice that had sounded in her ear, were the first communications of the spirits that protected Joan, or of her saints , as she expressed herself in later years. Differently from most other visionaries, whose hallucinations, disconnected and aimless, floated at the caprice of their disordered minds, the communications to Joan from the invisible world were ever connected with their original cause—her horror of the English and her wish to drive them out of Gaul.
Finally, her spirit, nursed by the mysterious legends of her god-mother; her imagination struck by the prophecy of Merlin; her heart filled with ineffable compassion for the young King, whom she believed worthy of interest; above all deeply affected by the shocking ills to which the rustics of her condition were exposed by the acts of rapine and sanguinary violence of the English; and, finally, feeling against the invaders the dauntless hatred with which William of the Swallows and Grand-Ferre—obscure heroes, sons of the Jacquerie and precursors of the shepherdess of Domremy—pursued them, Joan was driven to look upon herself as called upon to thrust the strangers out of France and restore to the King his throne.
During the next three years, from July, , to February, , that is from Joan's fourteenth to her seventeenth year, the communications from the spirit world became ever more and more frequent. Joan saw St. Catherine approach her with smiles on their faces and tenderly embrace her.
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Michael who appeared before her, holding his flaming sword in one hand and in the other the crown of France. Again, a multitude of angels played before her wondering eyes in the midst of an immense and dazzling ray of light that shot out from heaven, wherein they gamboled like the atoms that swarm before our eyes in a ray of sunlight across a dark space. You will drive away the English! You will restore the crown to the gentle Sire! But the recollections of the prophetic legend of Merlin at times dispelled these doubts, and she would then ask herself why she should not be called to fulfil the prediction.
Was not the Lord urging her by the voices of her saints: Go to the assistance of the King? Was she not born and brought up on the borders of Lorraine and near a forest of oaks? Was she not a virgin? Had she not voluntarily consecrated herself to eternal celibacy, yielding perhaps in that matter no less to the repugnance of an invincible chastity than to the desire of giving an additional pledge to the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Gallic bard? Did she not, when only sixteen years of age, in the presence of a large assemblage, confute and prove a liar, by the irresistible sincerity of her words, a lad of her village who pretended to have received from her a promise of marriage?
Finally, did she not remember how, on the occasion of the infantine battle between the urchins of Maxey and those of Domremy, her courage, her prompt decisiveness, her enthusiasm changed defeat into victory? With the aid of God and His saints, could she not be victorious in an actual battle, also? Joan was a pious girl. She was instinct with that genuine piety that raises and connects all things to and with God, the creator of the universe. She thanked Him effusively for manifesting Himself to her through the intermediation of her saints, whom she ever continued to see and hear.
At the same time, however, she did not feel for the priests the confidence that St. Marguerite inspired her with. She piously fulfilled her Catholic duties: She confessed, and often attended communion service, according to the common usage, without, nevertheless, ever speaking either with Master Minet, the curate, or with any other clergymen on the subject of her communications with the beings of the invisible world.
During three years she imposed upon herself an absolute silence regarding these mysteries. Thanks to the powerful control that she exercised over herself, Joan showed herself, the same as before, industrious, taking her part in the field and household labors, despite her being increasingly beset by her "voices," that, ever more imperiously, repeated to her almost daily:.
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The time has come! March to the rescue of the invaded fatherland!
You will drive away the English, you will deliver your King, you will return to him his crown! The communications of the spirits became more and more pressing in the measure that Joan approached her seventeenth year. The great designs, that she felt driven to be the instrument of, took an ever stronger hold upon her.
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Unremitting and painful the obsession pursued her everywhere. Catherine appeared before the young girl, encouraged her, reassured her, promised her the help of God in the deeds that she was to achieve; when the vision vanished the poor child would break out in tears, regretting, as she later expressed it, that her good saints did not take her with them to the angels in the paradise of the good God. Despite these alternations between faith and doubt concerning her mission, Joan gradually familiarized herself with the thought at which her modesty and simplicity had at first recoiled, the thought of commanding armed men and of vanquishing the English at their head.
In that wonderful organism a rare sagacity, an excellent judgment, an astonishing military aptitude were, without losing any of these qualities, without losing aught of virtue, blended with the exaltations of an inspired woman. Often, recalling as she constantly did, the infantine battle in which victory remained with her, Joan would say:.
If it succeeds, the consequences of a first victory, by rekindling the fire of an army demoralized by the habit of defeat, are incalculable. Thoughts like these revealed in Joan a profound intuition in matters of war. Joan, moreover, was not of those puling visionaries, who expect from God alone the triumph of a good cause. One of her favorite sayings was: "Help yourself, and heaven will help you. When on a later occasion a captain said to her disdainfully: "If God wished to drive the English out of Gaul, He could do so by the sole power of His will; He would need neither you, Joan, nor any men-at-arms," Joan answered:.
The three years of mysterious obsessions—between and —which preluded her glory were for Joan a period of secret and distressing struggles.
In order to obey her "voices," in order to carry out her divine mission and fulfil the prophecy of Merlin she would have to battle—and her horror of blood was such that, as she one day said, her "hair stood on end at the sight of French blood flowing. She would, in short, be forced to bid adieu to her young friends, her brothers, her father and her mother, all of whom she tenderly loved, and move—she, a poor and unknown peasant from a corner of Lorraine—to the court of Charles VII, and say to him: "Sire, I am sent to you by our Lord God; confide to me the command of your troops; I shall drive the English out of France and shall restore your crown to you!
When these thoughts assailed Joan during her intervals of doubt when, her ecstasy over, she fell back upon actual reality, the poor child recoiled before an abyss of difficulties and of impossibilities without number. She derided and pitied herself. The past would then seem a dream; she would ask herself whether she was not out of her mind; she would beseech "her voices" to speak, and her saints to appear before her, in order that her faith in her divine mission might be revived, and prove to her that she had not been the sport of some mental aberration.
But Joan's crisis had passed. Even if on such occasions the mysterious voices remained silent and she began to look upon herself as a demented wretch, the next day, perhaps that very night, she again saw her beautiful saints approaching, adorned with their golden crowns draped in brocade, exhaling a celestial odor,  and, smiling, say to her: "Courage, Joan, daughter of God! You will deliver Gaul. Your King will owe his crown to you! The time approaches! Stand ready to fulfil your mission! The young virgin would then again recover confidence in her predestination, until the day when fresh doubts would assail her, and again melt away.
Nevertheless, the doubts were on the decrease, and the moment came when, no longer faint-hearted, but invincibly penetrated with the divine source of her mission, Joan decided to fulfil it at any price, and only awaited an opportune circumstance. From that moment on, above all, and realizing then more than ever the necessity of practicing her favorite adage, Help yourself, and heaven will help you , Joan turned the full bent of her mind upon quickly gathering information on the condition of Gaul, and of acquiring the elementary knowledge of arms.
Public events, together with the geographic location of the valley, joined in meeting Joan's wishes. The borders of Lorraine were frequently crossed by the messengers to and from Germany. Anxious for news, as are all people living at a distance from the country's center, James Darc often extended the hospitality of his house to these riders. They gossiped on the English war, the only concern of those sad days.
Always reserved before her parents, who were foreign to the vast designs fermenting within her brain, Joan silently worked away at her distaff, losing not a single word of the reports that she heard. At times, however, she would venture one question or another to the travelers, suggested by her secret thoughts, and gradually enlightened herself.
Nor was that all. The heroic resistance of the inhabitants of Vaucouleurs several times forced the English to raise the siege; towards the approach of the bad season these took up their winter quarters in Champagne, always to return with the spring. During these marches and counter-marches the hostile army ravaged anew the valley of the Meuse.