Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 9

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

It was not till the 25th of July, nine days after Charles VII. had been well and duly crowned, that the cardinal entered with his army into Paris. Bedford lost not a moment, but put himself in motion with these troops to watch Charles VII. Twice they were in presence, and some skirmishing occurred. Bedford feared for Nor mandy, and covered it; meanwhile, the king marched upon Paris (Au gust).

This was contrary to the advice of the Pucelle ; her voices warned her to go no further than St. Denys. The city of royal burials, like the city of coronations, was a holy city ; beyond, she had a presentiment, lay a some thing over which she would have no power. Charles VIL must have thought so likewise. Was there not danger in bringing this inspiration of warlike sanctity, this poesy of crusade which had so deeply moved the rural districts, face to face with this reason ing, prosaic city, with its sarcastic population, with pedants and Cabo chiens ?

It was an imprudent step. A city of the kind is not to be carried by a coup de main; it is only to be carried by starving it out. But this was out of the question, for the English held the Seine both above and below. They were in force ; and were, besides, supported by a considerable number of citizens who had compromised themselves for them. A report, too, was spread that the Armagnacs were coming to destroy the city and raze it to the ground.

Nevertheless, the French carried one of the outposts. The Pucelle crossed the first fosse, and even cleared the mound which separated it from the second. Arrived at the brink of the latter, she found it full of water; when, regardless of a shower of ar rows poured upon her from the city walls, she called for fascines, and began sounding the depth of the water with her lance. Here she stood, almost alone, a mark to all; and, at last, an arrow pierced her thigh. Still, she strove to overcome the pain, and to remain to cheer on the troops to the assault. But loss of blood compelled her to seek the shelter of the first fosse; and it was ten or eleven o'clock at night before she could be persuaded to withdraw to the camp. She seemed to be con scious that this stern check before the walls of Paris must ruin her beyond all hope.

Fifteen hundred men were wounded in this attack, which she was wrong fully accused of having advised. She withdrew, cursed by her own side, by the French, as well as by the English. She had not scrupled to give the assault on the anniversary of the Nativity of Our Lady (September 8th), and the pious city of Paris was exceedingly scandalized thereat.

Still more scandalized was the court of Charles VII. Libertines, the po litic, the blind devotees of the letter - sworn enemies of the spirit, all declared stoutly against the spirit, the instant it seemed to fail. The arch bishop of Bheims, chancellor of Prance, who had ever looked but coldly on the Pucelle, insisted, in opposition to her advice, on commencing a negotiation. He himself came to SaintDenys to propose terms of truce, with, perhaps, a secret hope of gaining over the Duke of Bur gundy, at the time at Paris.

Evil regarded and badly supported, the Pucelle laid siege during the win ter to SaintPierreleMoustiers, and la Charity. At the siege of the first, though almost deserted by her men, she persevered in delivering the as sault and carried the town. The siege of the second dragged on, languished, and a panic terror dispersed the besiegers.

CAPTURE OP THE PUCELLE.

Meanwhile, the English had per suaded the Duke of Burgundy to aid them in good earnest. The weaker he saw them to be, the stronger was his hope of retaining the places which he might take in Picardy. The English, who had just lost Louviers, placed themselves at his disposal ; and the duke, the richest prince in Christen dom, no longer hesitated to embark men and money in a war of which he hoped to reap all the profit. He bribed the governor of Soissons to surrender that city; and then laid siege to Compidgne, the governor of which was, likewise, obnoxious to sus picion. The citizens, however, had compromised themselves too much in the cause of Charles VII. to allow of their town's being betrayed. The Pucelle threw herself into it. On the very same day she headed a sortie, and had nearly surprised the besieg ers; but they quickly recovered, and vigorously drove back their assailants as far as the city bridge. The Pu celle, who had remained in the rear to cover the retreat, was too late to enter the gates, either hindered by the crowd that thronged the bridge, or by the sudden shutting of the bar riers. She was conspicuous by her dress, and was soon surrounded, seized, and dragged from her horse. Her captor, a Picard archer, - accord ing to others, the bastard of Vendo me, - sold her to John of Luxem bourg. All, English and Burgundi ans, saw with astonishment that this object of terror, this monster, this devil, was after all only a girl of eighteen.

That it would end so, she knew be forehand; her cruel fate was inevita ble, and - we must say the word - necessary. It was necessary that she should suffer. If she had not gone through her last trial and purification, doubtful shadows would have interposed amidst the rays of glory which rest on that holy figure.: she would not have lived. in men's minds the Maid of Otleans.

When speaking of raising the siege of Orleans, and of the coronation at Rheims, she had said, "Tis for this that I was born." These two things accomplished, her sanctity was in peril.

War, sanctity, two contradictory words ! Seemingly, sanctity is the direct opposite of war, it is rather love and peac^. What young,, coura geous heart can mingle in battle with out participating in the sanguinary intoxication of the struggle and of the victory? ... On setting out, she had said that sh^ would not use her sword to kill any one. At a later moment she expatiates with pleasure on the sword whichsahe wore at Compidgne, "excellent," as she said, "either for thrusting or cutting." Is not this proof of a change?* The saint has become a captain. The Duke of Alen^on deposed that she displayed a singular aptitude for the modern arm, the murderous arm, - artillery. The leader of indisciplinable sol diers, and incessantly hurt and ag grieved by their disorders, she became rude and choleric, at least when bent on restraining their excesses. In par ticular, she was relentless towards the dissolute women who accompanied the camp. One day she struck one of these wretched beings with St. Cathe rine's sword, with the flat of the sword only ; but the virginal weapon, unable to endure the contact, broke, and it could never be reunited.

A short time before her capture, she had herself made prisoner a Burgundian partisan, Franquet d' Arras, a bri gand held in execration throughout the whole north of France. The king's bailli claimed him, in order to hang him. At first she refused, think ing to exchange him ; but, at last, con sented to give him up to justice. He had deserved hanging a hundred times over. Nevertheless, the having given up a prisoner, the having consented to the death of a human being, must have lowered, even in the eyes of her own party, her character for sanctity.

Unhappy condition of such a soul, fallen upon the realities of this world ! Each day she must have lost something of herself. One does not suddenly be come rich, noble, honored, the equal of lords and princes, with impunity. Rich dress, letters of nobility, royal favor - all this could not fail at the last to have altered her heroic simplicity. She had obtained for her native village exemption from taxes, and the king had bestowed on one of her brothers the provostship of Vau couleurs.

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