books ordering info
Arx Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 1333
Merchantville NJ 08109, USA

Tarpeian Rock

An Annual Literary Magazine

"Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit
aurea nunc, olim siluestribus horrida dumis."

                    --Virgil's Aeneid, VIII, l. 347-8
Articles from
the 2019 issue...

The Kisses That Killed Prejudice

La Pucelle

"It's Either Surrender or Fight!"

Return to
Tarpeian Rock homepage

La Pucelle

by J. L. Rowan

Mama said that Jehanne should be dragged back to Domrémy and beaten by her father. Papa had said as much himself the first two times she’d come to Vaucouleurs asking him to send her to the Dauphin in Chinon. Papa was the captain of the royal garrison here and thought that any girl who claimed that she could drive out the English and restore France was mad and needed her ears boxed.
     Yet here she was again, and in our house this time, sitting with Papa at the near end of the table. Her hair was long and pretty, the color of honey, but her dress, a faded red, was threadbare and patched in places. I couldn’t help but stare at her as I worked at my spinning wheel. Surely she did not think such a dress would serve as a proper gown in which to meet the Dauphin.
 Joan Voices    “Take this to your father,” said Mama with a scowl, drawing near with a tray of food and drink. “He’s as much a fool as Jacques d’Arc.” She thrust the tray into my hands and stalked to the narrow staircase at the end of the hall that led above stairs.
     With careful step, mindful of Papa’s full goblet of wine, I brought the tray to the far end of the table.
     “Seigneur de Baudricourt, did I not in truth tell you of the English victory at Rouvray, days before anyone brought word rom the field of battle?” Jehanne leaned closer to Papa, a fervent entreaty in her eyes. “Will you still deny my request?”
     I set down the tray and brought Papa his wine.
     “It is compelling, I admit,” he said, “but—” She shot to her feet, her fists clenched.
     “I have come to you on the part of my Lord, who wills that the Dauphin be made King and have the kingdom in command." She paced in short turns before the window. “Notwithstanding his enemies, the Dauphin will be made King, and it is I who will conduct him to the coronation. If I must, I shall walk to Chinon on my knees!” Her gaze was so earnest, her conviction so certain, I forgot why I stood there.
     “Very well,” said Papa with a deep sigh. “Let it be as you wish.” He drank deep from his goblet and pushed back his chair to stand. “I will make preparations for your departure.” He nodded to me. “My daughter, Nicolle, will attend you until I return.”
     With a start, I came to myself as he strode from the room, and fetched the tray.
     Heat flooded my cheeks as I noticed milk in the cup I set before Jehanne, an insult from Mama. Only the very young, or the old and sick, drank milk. Even I didn’t drink milk, and I was nearly five years younger than she.
     But she offered me a smile like sunshine after rain as she resumed her seat. “Thank you.”
     Her slight frame prompted me to cut thick slices of bread and cheese. “Will you really do what you say? Will you restore France?” I set a plate before her.
     “Yes, with God’s help, I will.” She crossed herself and broke off a small crust of bread.
     I sat across from her and bit into some cheese. “Aren’t you afraid? Papa says there are soldiers at every turn.” We had survived a Burgundian attack last summer, and the soldiers still haunted my dreams at night.
     She took her cup. “I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me, and if the soldiers come, I have God, my Lord, who will know how to clear the route that leads to the Dauphin.” Her voice was strong, her eyes fearless. “It is for this that I was born.” She drank, unashamed.
     Would I ever have her courage or her certainty? I picked at my bread. “I don’t know why I was born.”
     “You were born to do God’s will, as are we all.” She reached across the table and laid her hand on mine. “Be a good girl, go to church, and obey your parents. He will show you the way you must take.”


The Young Catholic's Bookshelf

     Like an arrow, her words shot straight and true, piercing me, and I glanced away. I was not always good or obedient, and sometimes made excuse to stay home from church. “They say you are mad,” I murmured, offering her a faint smile, “but I don’t believe it.”
     Heavy footfalls heralded Papa’s return, and she stood and adjusted her cloak. He entered with two of his knights. “It is done. These gentlemen will accompany you to Chinon. They have sworn to conduct you well and safely.”
     “Thank you, my lord.” She favored me with a sweet smile. “Remember well what I have said.”
     Papa frowned and gestured to the door. “Go, and let come what may!”
     And they were gone.
     His frown deepened and he snatched his goblet from the table. “Whatever she told you, Nicolle, pay it no heed.”
     He drank the rest of his wine. I lowered my gaze. “Yes, Papa.” But Jehanne’s words rang in my ears and settled deep in my heart.
     Muttering beneath his breath, he shook his head and tramped across the room and up the stairs to Mama.
     I stepped around the table to the window and watched her lead the knights down the path until she disappeared from view. I whispered a prayer for her protection and success, and hoped I would see her again—hoped I would be more like her when next we met.
     Alone with my thoughts, alone with the words she had left me, I picked up her cup, crossed myself, and drained it.

J. L. Rowan is from the Midwest and has her Master of Library Science/Archives, with a special study fo- cus on rare books and illuminated manuscripts. When not writing, she enjoys practicing the book arts and penning actual letters.

Home | The Tarpeian Rock | The Arx Literary Catalog