A STATUE of pure white marble stands in the famous gallery of Versailles in France. It represents a fair young girl, in shining armor with sword clasped firmly in her strong eager hands.
It is the figure of Joan of Arc, the sweet simple maiden who rose from a small unknown village in France, and whose unconquerable faith aided her country when it had the most need of her courage.
Tinged with grey in a grey atmosphere, the village of Domremy is built on the side of a little hill which is crowned by a grove of oak and silver birch trees.
The Meuse river flows lazily through meadows where the peasant folk, who lived in this village in the fifteenth century, sent their cows and sheep to graze.
The humble villagers lived together happily close by the rivulet of Three-Fountains, a little stream rolling with a constant murmur over white pebbles and nourishing the large vineyards which grew so plentifully throughout the countryside.
Between the village church and the rivulet of Three-Fountains stood a rustic, weatherbeaten, ivy-covered cottage, with a garden all around it. It was situated in the Duchy of Lorraine and was a part of the province of Chaumont. Here, then, lived Jacques d'Arc, the worthy peasant-farmer, a quiet, unimaginative man, who loved his family, and who was heartily liked by all of his neighbors. It was here that the little peasant girl, the future Martyr and Saviour of France, Joan of Arc, was born on the sixth of January, 1412. She was really called Jeannette by all her friends and neighbors in her early years.
The child grew up there, under the care of God, whom she dearly loved. She delighted to hear the church bells ring, calling her to the daily Mass, and she learned the stories of the saints with simple homely faith, often remaining a long time in the little grey village church that stood so close by her cottage door.
Joan's father was a man of importance in the village, for he was the mayor of the community. He had charge of the prisoners; he was also in charge of collecting the taxes of the village.
This worthy farmer owned rich lands and gave goodly sums to charity, and never failed to offer hospitality to travellers. It was he, who, with six other villagers, took a lease on a curious old fortress called the "Castle of the Island," a strong place of defense, surrounded by ditches and fences, for the protection of families and cattle in times of war. Indeed, there was a great deal of battle and warfare at this time, and it was necessary to send out alarms very often to protect the people.
Joan sometimes led the animals to pasture, and often played with her brothers, Jacques, Jean, and Pierre, and her sister, Catherine, near the deserted old castle. Many times she was forced to run in haste to the "Castle of the Island" urging the cows and sheep before her, when the alarm was given warning her of the approach of enemy soldiers.
Driving their cattle before them, they hurried to the fortress.
In the evenings, Joan's mother, Isabella Romée, taught her to sew and embroider and to spin flax into linen for shirts for her father and brothers. She was indeed an industrious little girl, but when it was time for play Joan was often the first one to reach the flowery fields where she joined in games with her companions. During the Week of Fountains, at the festivities, on the last Sunday of Lent, the children delighted in hanging garlands of flowers on the branches of the trees, in the gloomy Oak Wood, a half-mile from Domremy, and here they told age-old traditions and strange stories of fairy folk.
Thus the little maid of Domremy lived until her thirteenth year, sharing the work and the play of her family and her friends. Nothing but sunshine crossed her path.