Quatrain by Medler, John - HTML preview
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April 1429. Vaucouleurs, France.
Cate was afraid. This was her first birth and her mother Isabelle was gone. The pain in her swollen stomach was like a blacksmith’s molten poker. Her fever had not broken in the last two days. The midwife had told her that this kind of pain was normal, but she didn’t think so. She knew that girls her age often died in childbirth, but she wasn’t worried about herself. Her Savior would take care of her if anything happened. Cate was worried about the baby. If the baby should die before being baptized…. No, she could not think of such things. She stretched out on the small wooden cot, trying to get comfortable. Each position was worse than the last. Her white cotton robe was saturated. The midwife tried to calm her by rubbing her wrinkled hands on her neck and pressing wet strips of cloth onto her forehead. Cate wished that her sister….
Her thought was interrupted by an agonizing convulsion of pain. Her scream caused villagers in the fields to turn their heads. Blood started pouring out between her legs. She grabbed the midwife’s blue shirt in desperation. “If it is a boy, I want his name to be Jacquemin, after my brother….” Cate didn’t get time to express her name preference if the child was a girl. Before she blacked out, all Cate could see was the grimaced look of concern on the face of the midwife.
Ann, the midwife, had seen cases like this before. The placenta had ripped from its moorings. She acted quickly, using a metal tool to pry the infant’s head through the birth canal. Seconds counted. She expertly removed the umbilical cord from around the child’s neck and the mucous from the child’s mouth. The infant looked a little blue, but within a few seconds, the infant gasped and began wailing. Success. The infant was a girl! She had beautiful red hair, like Cate’s sister. She placed the child and the umbilical cord in a pre-arranged bassinette. Her assistant Marie attended to the child while Ann attempted to save the mother, but there was not much she could do. Cate had lost a lot of blood. She kept placing water on the girl’s face, but after a few minutes, she realized Cate was lost. Her soul was now with Jesus Christ. She sent for the local priest.
Jean Colin, Cate’s new husband, was a young tax collector for the duchy of Bar. He was the son of the Mayor of the nearby town of Greux. He was not a horrible man, and he had his tender moments, but for the most part, he was someone who thought of himself first and everyone else last. He had not even wanted children, seeing them as a nuisance and an expense, but his beautiful wife Cate had insisted that God’s plan was for them to have children. Colin had fallen for her as soon as he had seen her pale cheek, her long blonde tresses, and her beautiful blue eyes. Cate’s father was a tax collector like him, and her dowry had been sufficient. She was by far the fairest young girl in Domremy. His hope was to move to Chinon or even Paris someday, where he might move up the ranks and improve his position.
Ann left the birthing room and went out to see Colin, who was nervously waiting in the hall.
“I am terribly sorry, Monsieur Colin, but your wife has passed.”
“What?” demanded Colin. “What do you mean she has passed?”
“Sir, the Lord has taken her. There was nothing we could do. She had lost so much blood.”
“No!” Colin pushed passed the hefty midwife, and rushed into the birthing chamber, where his wife lay on the cot, in a clump of sweaty and bloody sheets.
“No!” Colin lifted up his wife’s head, and looked for any signs of life. He could see she was gone. He didn’t cry. He was just numb. “My God! Cate, I love you so! Do not leave me!”
Ann watched from the hallway as Jean Colin cradled his wife’s body, willing her to return to him. Ann brought over his baby daughter in a blanket, hoping that the sight of the newborn would comfort him.
“Monsieur, you have a baby girl. She is just as beautiful as her mother.”
Colin took the infant in his arms gingerly, worried he would break the small thing. She was so tiny. Colin was happy to see his new child, but the loss of his wife was devastating. And he had to admit he was disappointed that the child was not a boy. All of his plans were dashed. He looked down at his daughter. A baby girl-- what could he do with a baby girl? He was certainly not going to raise a baby girl by himself. That was for sure. He resigned himself to thinking it might all work itself out somehow.
For the next several months, as was the custom, the child was raised and breastfed by the midwife. Colin went about his tax collecting business for the most part, and visited his daughter once or twice a week. He seemed to take some comfort in the fact that the child had her mother’s beautiful blue eyes and his sister-in-law’s red hair. He loved his daughter, but he realized that he would soon either have to re-marry or do something with the child. By early July, Colin had heard news of the battles at Fort St. Loup, Fort St. Jean le Blanc, and Les Tourelles. Fearing that the English might kill him or his child if they learned that his sister-in-law had a surviving heir, Colin arranged for a traveling group of Visitation nuns to secret the child to Bordeaux in the south of France. Before he surrendered his daughter, Colin gazed at the wicker basket and gave his daughter one last tender look. She should have something to remember him by. That was only proper. He took out a small cloth. On it was stitched the Colin family crest—a shield of blue stripes, a knight’s helmet, and swirls of blue and silver. He tucked the cloth around the child like a blanket and kissed her goodbye. The nuns, believing they were doing God’s work, agreed to the mission, and by October 1429, young Jeanette Colin, niece of Joan of Arc, was safe in the convent in Bordeaux.