Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


ON the evening of Thursday, the 28th of April, Jeanne was able to discern from the heights of Olivet the belfries of the town, the towers of Saint-Paul and Saint-Pierre-Empont, whence the watchmen announced her approach. The army descended the slopes towards the Loire and stopped at the Bouchet wharf, while the carts and the cattle continued their way along the bank as far as l'Île-aux-Bourdons, opposite Chécy, two and a half miles further up the river.[922] There the unloading was to take place. At a signal from the watchmen my Lord the Bastard, accompanied by Thibaut de Termes and certain other captains, left the town by the Burgundian Gate, took a boat at Saint-Jean-de-Braye, and came down to hold counsel with the Lords de Rais and de Loré, who commanded the convoy.[923]

Meanwhile the Maid had only just perceived that she was on the Sologne bank,[924] and that she had been[Pg i.259] deceived concerning the line of march. Sorrow and wrath possessed her. She had been misled, that was certain. But had it been done on purpose? Had they really intended to deceive her? It is said that she had expressed a wish to go through La Beauce and not through La Sologne, and that she had received the answer: "Jeanne, be reassured; we will take you through La Beauce."[925] Is it possible? Why should the barons have thus trifled with the holy damsel, whom the King had confided to their care, and who already inspired most of them with respect? Certain of them, it is true, believing her not to be in earnest, would willingly have turned her to ridicule; but if one of them had played her the trick of representing La Beauce as La Sologne, how was it there was no one to undeceive her? How could Brother Pasquerel, her chaplain, her steward, and the honest squire d'Aulon, have become the accomplices of so clumsy a jest? It is all very mysterious, and, when one comes to think of it, what is most mysterious is that Jeanne should have expressly asked to go to Orléans through La Beauce. Since she was so ignorant of the way that when crossing the Blois bridge she never suspected that she was going into La Sologne, there is not much likelihood of her realising so exactly the lie of Orléans as to choose between entering it from the south or the west. A damsel knowing naught beyond the name of the gate through which she is to enter the city, and who is yet persuaded by malicious captains to take one road rather than another, sounds too much like a Mother Goose's tale.

Jeanne knew no more of Orléans than she did of[Pg i.260] Babylon. We may therefore conjecture that there was a misunderstanding. She had spoken neither of Sologne nor of Beauce. Her Voices had told her that the English would not budge. They had not shown her a picture of the town, they had not given her either maps or plans: soldiers did not use them. Doubtless Jeanne had said to the captains and priests what she was soon to repeat to the Bastard: "I must go to Talbot and the English." And the priests and soldiers had replied quite frankly: "Jeanne, we are going to Talbot and the English."[926] They had thought they were speaking the truth, since Talbot, who was conducting the siege, would be before them, so to speak, from whatever side they approached the town. But apparently they had not thoroughly understood what the Maid said, and the Maid had not understood what they had replied. For now she was angry and sad at finding herself separated from the town by the sands and waters of the river. What was there to vex her in this? Those who were with her then did not discover; and perhaps her reasons were misunderstood because they were spiritual and mystic. She certainly could not have judged that a military mistake had been made by the bringing of troops and victuals through La Sologne. As she did not know the roads, it was impossible for her to tell which was the best. She was ignorant alike of the enemy's position, of the outworks of the besiegers, and of the defences of the besieged. She had just learnt on what bank of the river the town was situated, yet she must have thought she had good ground for complaint; for she approached the Lord Bastard and inquired sharply: "Are you the Bastard of Orléans?"[Pg i.261] "I am he. I rejoice at your coming." "Was it through your counsel that I came hither on this side of the river, and that I did not go straight to where Talbot and the English are?" "It was I and those wiser than I who gave this counsel, believing we acted for the best and for the greatest safety." But Jeanne retorted: "In God's name! Messire's counsel is better and wiser than yours. You thought to deceive me, but you deceive yourselves. For I bring you surer aid than ever came yet to knight or city; it is the aid of the King of Heaven and comes from God himself, who not merely for my sake but at the prayer of Saint Louis and Saint Charlemagne has had pity upon the town of Orléans, and will not suffer the enemy to hold at once both the body and the city of the Duke."[927]

One may conclude that what really vexed her was that she had not been taken straight to Talbot and the English. She had just heard that Talbot with his camp was on the right bank. And when she spoke of Talbot and the English she meant only those English who were with Talbot. For, as she came down into the Loire valley, near the ford of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, she must have seen the bastion of Les Augustins and Les Tourelles at the end of the bridge; and she must have known that there were also English on the left bank. But still, it is not clear why she should have desired to appear first before Talbot and his English, and why she was now so annoyed at being separated from him by the Loire. Did she think that the entrenched camp, Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils, commanded by Scales, Suffolk, and Talbot would be attacked immediately? Such an idea would never of[Pg i.262] itself have occurred to her, since she did not know the place, and no soldier would ever have put such madness into her head as an attack on an entrenched camp by a convoy of cattle and wagons. Neither, as has so often been asserted, can she have thought of forcing a passage between the bastion Saint-Pouair and the outskirts of the wood, since of the bastions and of the forest she knew as little as of the rest. If such had been her intention she would have announced it plainly to the Bastard; for she knew how to make her meaning clear, and even educated persons considered that she spoke well. Then what was her idea? It is not impossible to discover it if one remembers what must have been in the saint's mind at that time, or if one merely recollects by what words and deeds Jeanne had announced and prepared her mission. She had said to the doctors of Poitiers: "The siege of Orléans shall be raised and the town delivered from the enemy after I have summoned it to surrender in God's name."[928] In the name of the King of Heaven she had called upon Scales, Suffolk, and Talbot to raise the siege. She had written that she was ready to make peace, and had bidden them return to England. Now she asked Talbot, Suffolk, and Scales for an answer. Since the English had not sent back her herald she herself came to their leaders as the herald of Messire. She came to require them to make peace, and if they would not make peace she was ready to fight. It was not until they had refused that she could be certain of conquering, not for any human reason, but because her Council had so promised her. Perhaps even she may have hoped that by appearing to the English captains, her standard in[Pg i.263] hand, accompanied by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret and Saint Michael the Archangel, she would persuade them to leave France. She may have believed that Talbot, falling on his knees, would obey not her, but Him who sent her; that thus she would accomplish that for which she came, without shedding one drop of that French blood which was so dear to her; neither would the English whom she pitied lose their bodies or their souls. In any case God must be obeyed and charity shown: it was only at such a price that victory could be gained. A victory so spiritual, a conquest so angelic, she had come to win; but now it was snatched from her by the false wisdom of the leaders of her party. They were hindering her from fulfilling her mission,—perhaps from giving the promised sign,—and they were involving her with themselves in enterprises less certain of success and less noble in spirit. Hence her sorrow and her wrath.

Even after the discomfiture of her arrival, in order that she might please God, she did not consider herself freed from the obligation of offering peace to her enemies.[929] And since she could not go straight to Talbot's camp she wanted to appear before the fort of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc.[930]

There was no one left behind the palisades. But if she had gone and found any of the enemy there she would first have offered them peace. Of this her subsequent behaviour within the city walls is positive proof. Her mission was not to contribute to the defence of Orléans plans of campaign or stratagems of war; her share in the work of deliverance was[Pg i.264] higher and nobler. To suffering men, weak, unhappy, and selfish, she brought the invincible forces of love and faith, the virtue of sacrifice.

My Lord the Bastard who regarded Jeanne's mission as purely religious, and who would have been greatly astonished had any one told him that he ought to consult this peasant on military matters,[931] appeared as if he did not understand the reproaches she addressed to him. And he went away to see that operations were carried out according to the plans he had made.

Everything had been carefully concerted and prepared, but a slight obstacle occurred. The barges that the people of Orléans were to send for the victuals were not yet unmoored.[932] They were sailing vessels, and, as the wind was blowing from the east, they could not set out. No one knew how long they would be delayed, and time was precious. Jeanne said confidently to those who were growing anxious: "Wait a little, for in God's name everything shall enter the town."[933]

She was right. The wind changed: the sails were unfurled, and the barges were borne up the river by a favourable wind, so strong that one boat was able to tow two or three others.[934] Without hindrance they passed the Saint-Loup bastion. My Lord the Bastard sailed in one of these boats with Nicole de Giresme, Grand Prior of France of the order of Rhodes. And the flotilla came to the port of Chécy,[Pg i.265] where it remained at anchor all night.[935] It was decided that the relieving army should that night encamp at the port of Bouchet and guard the convoy by watching down the river, while one detachment was stationed near the Islands of Chécy to watch up the river in the direction of Jargeau. In company with certain captains, and with a body of men-at-arms and archers, the Maid followed the bank as far as l'Île-aux-Bourdons.[936]

The lords who had brought the convoy decided that they would set out immediately after the unloading. Having accomplished the first part of its task, the army would return to Blois to fetch the remaining victuals and ammunition, for everything had not been brought at once. Hearing that the soldiers, with whom she had come, were going away, Jeanne wished to go with them; and, after having so urgently asked to be taken to Orléans, now that she was before the gates of the city, her one idea was to go back.[937] Thus is the soul of the mystic blown hither and thither by the breath of the Spirit. Now as always Jeanne was guided by impulses purely spiritual. She would not be parted from these soldiers because she believed they had made their peace with God, and she feared that she might not find others as contrite. For her, victory or defeat depended absolutely on whether the combatants were in a state of grace or of sin. To lead them to confession was her only art of war; no[Pg i.266] other science did she know, whether for fighting behind ramparts or in the open field.[938]

"As for entering the town," she said, "it would hurt me to leave my men, and I ought not to do it. They have all confessed, and in their company I should not fear the uttermost power of the English."[939]

In reality, as one may well imagine, whether or no they had confessed, whether they were near or far from her, these mercenaries committed all the sins compatible with the simplicity of their minds. But the innocent damsel did not see them. Sensitive to things invisible, her eyes were closed to things material.

She was confirmed in her resolution to return to Blois by the captains who had brought her and who wanted to take her back, alleging the King's command. They wished to keep her because she brought good luck. My Lord the Bastard, however, saw serious obstacles and even dangers in the way of her return.[940] In the state in which he had left the people of Orléans, if their Maid were not straightway brought before them they would rise in fury and despair, with cries, threats, rioting, and violence; everything was to be feared, even massacres. He entreated the captains, in the King's interest, to agree to Jeanne's entering Orléans; and without great difficulty, he induced them to return to Blois without her. But Jeanne did not give in so quickly. He besought her to decide to cross the Loire. She refused and with such insistence that he must have realised how difficult it is to influence a saint. It was necessary for one of the lords who had brought her, the Sire de Rais[Pg i.267] or the Sire de Loré, to join his entreaties to those of the Bastard, and to say to her: "Assuredly you must go, for we promise to return to you shortly."[941]

At last, when she heard that Brother Pasquerel would go with them to Blois, accompanied by the priests and bearing her standard, believing that her men would have a good spiritual director, she consented to stay.[942] She crossed the Loire with her brothers, her little company, the Bastard, the Marshal de Boussac, the Captain La Hire, and reached Chécy, which was then quite a town, with two churches, an infirmary, and a lepers' hospital.[943] She was received by a rich burgess, one Guy de Cailly, in whose manor of Reuilly she passed the night.[944]

On the morning of the 29th the barges, which had been anchored at Chécy, crossed the Loire, and those who were with the convoy loaded them with victuals, ammunition, and cattle.[945] The river was high.[946] The barges were able to drift down the navigable channel near the left bank. The birches and osiers of l'Île-aux-Bœufs hid them from the English in the Saint-[Pg i.268]Loup bastion. Besides, at that moment, the enemy was occupied elsewhere. The town garrison was skirmishing with them in order to distract their attention. The fighting was somewhat hard. There were slain and wounded; prisoners were taken on both sides; and the English lost a banner.[947] Beneath the deserted[948] watch of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc the barges passed unprotected. Between l'Île-aux-Bœufs and the Islet of Les Martinets they turned starboard, to go down again, following the right bank, under l'Île-aux-Toiles, as far as La Tour Neuve, the base of which was washed by the Loire, at the south-eastern corner of the town. Then they took shelter in the moat near the Burgundian Gate.[949]

The whole day the manor of Reuilly was besieged by a procession of citizens, who could not forbear coming at the risk of their lives to see the promised Maid. It was six o'clock in the evening before she left Chécy. The captains wanted her to enter the town at nightfall for fear of disorders and lest the crush around her should be too great.[950] Doubtless they passed along the broad valleys leading from Semoy towards the south, on the borders of the parishes of Saint-Marc and Saint-Jean-de-Braye. On the way she said to those who rode with her: "Fear nothing. No harm shall happen to you."[951] And indeed the only danger was for pedestrians. Horsemen ran little risk of being pursued by the English, who were short of horses in their bastions.

[Pg i.269]

On that Friday, the 29th of April, in the darkness, she entered Orléans, by the Burgundian Gate. She was in full armour and rode a white horse.[952] A white horse was the steed of heralds and archangels.[953] The Bastard had placed her on his right. Before her was borne her standard, on which figured two angels, each holding a flower de luce, and her pennon, painted with the picture of the Annunciation. Then came the Marshal de Boussac, Guy de Cailly, Pierre and Jean d'Arc, Jean de Metz, and Bertrand de Poulengy, the Sire d'Aulon, and those lords, captains, men-of-war, and citizens who had come to meet her at Chécy.[954] Bearing torches and rejoicing as heartily as if they had seen God himself descending among them, the townfolk of Orléans pressed around her.[955] They had suffered great privations, they had feared that help would never come; but now they were heartened and felt as if the siege had been raised already by the divine virtue, which they had been told resided in this Maid. They looked at her with love and veneration; elbowing and pushing each other, men, women, and children rushed forward to touch her and her white horse, as folk touch the relics of saints. In the crush a torch set her pennon on fire. The Maid, beholding it, spurred on her horse and galloped to the flame, which she extinguished with a skill apparently mirac[Pg i.270]ulous; for everything in her was marvellous.[956] Men-at-arms and citizens, enraptured, accompanied her in crowds to the Church of Sainte-Croix, whither she went first to give thanks, then to the house of Jacques Boucher, where she was to lodge.[957]

Jacques or Jacquet Boucher, as he was called, had been the Duke of Orléans' treasurer for several years. He was a very rich man and had married the daughter of one of the most influential burgesses of the city.[958] Having stayed in the town throughout the siege, he contributed to the defence by gifts of wheat, oats, and wine, and by advancing funds for the purchase of ammunition and weapons. As the care of the ramparts fell to the burgesses, it was Jacques' duty to keep in repair and ready for defence the Renard Gate, where he dwelt, which was the most exposed to the English attack. His mansion, one of the finest and largest in the town, once inhabited by Regnart or Renard, the family which had given its name to the gate, was in the Rue des Talmeliers, quite near the fortifications. The captains held their councils of war there, when they did not meet at the house of Chancellor Guillaume Cousinot in the Rue de la Rose.[959] Jacques Boucher's dwelling was doubtless well furnished with silver plate and storied tapestry.[Pg i.271] It would appear that in one of the rooms there was a picture representing three women and bearing this inscription: Justice, Peace, Union.[960]

Into this house the Maid was received with her two brothers, the two comrades who had brought her to the King, and their valets. She had her armour taken off.[961] Jacques Boucher's wife and daughter passed the night with her. Jeanne shared the child's bed. She was nine years old and was called Charlotte after Duke Charles, who was her father's lord.[962] It was the custom in those days for the host to share his bed with his man guest and the hostess with her woman guest. This was the rule of courtesy; kings observed it as well as burgesses. Children were taught how to behave towards a sleeping companion, to keep to their own part of the bed, not to fidget, and to sleep with their mouths shut.[963]

Thus the Duke's treasurer took the Maid into his house and entertained her at the town's expense. Jeanne's horses were stabled by a burgess named Jean Pillas.

As for the D'Arc brothers, they did not stay with[Pg i.272] their sister, but lodged in the house of Thévenin Villedart. The town paid all their expenses; for example it furnished them with the shoes and gaiters they needed and gave them a few gold crowns. Three of the Maid's comrades, who were very destitute and came to see her at Orléans, received food.[964]

On the next day, the 30th of April, the town bands of Orléans were early afoot. From morn till eve everything in the town was topsy-turvy; the rebellion, which had been repressed so long, now broke forth. As early as February the citizens had begun to mistrust and hate the knights;[965] now at last they shook off their yoke and broke it.[966] Henceforth they would recognise no King's lieutenant, no governor, no lords, no generals; there was but one power and one defence: the Maid.[967] The Maid was the people's captain. This damsel, this shepherdess, this nun did the knights the greatest injury they ever experienced: she reduced them to nothing. On the morning of the 30th they must have been convinced that the popular revolution had taken place. The town bands were waiting for the Maid to put herself at their head, and with her to march immediately against the Godons. The captains endeavoured to make them understand that they must wait for the army from Blois and the company of Marshal de Boussac, who that night had set out to meet the army. The citizens in arms would listen to nothing, and with loud cries clamoured for the Maid. She did not appear. My Lord the Bastard, who was honey-tongued, had[Pg i.273] advised her to keep away.[968] This was the last advantage the leaders gained over her. And now as before, when she appeared to give way to them, she was merely doing as she liked. As for the citizens, with the Maid or without her, they were determined to fight. The Bastard could not hinder them. They sallied forth,[969] accompanied by the Gascons of Captain La Hire and the men of Messire Florent d'Illiers. They bravely attacked the bastion Saint-Pouair, which the English called Paris, and which was about eight hundred yards from the walls. They overcame the outposts and approached so close to the bastion that they were already clamouring for faggots and straw to be brought from the town to set fire to the palisades. But at the cry "Saint George!" the English gathered themselves together, and after a sore and sanguinary fight repulsed the attack of the citizens and free-lances.[970]

The Maid had known nothing of it. Sent from God, on her white horse, a messenger armed yet peaceful, she held it neither just nor pious to fight the English before they had refused her offers of peace. On that day as before her one wish was to go in true saintly wise straight to Talbot. She asked for tidings of her letter and learnt that the English captains had paid no heed to it, and had detained her herald, Guyenne.[971] This is what had happened:

That letter, which the Bastard deemed couched in[Pg i.274] vulgar phrase, produced a marvellous impression on the English. It filled them with fear and rage. They kept the herald who had brought it; and, although use and custom insisted on the person of such officers being respected, alleging that a sorceress's messenger must be a heretic, they put him in chains, and after some sort of a trial condemned him to be burnt as the accomplice of the seductress.[972]

They even put up the stake to which he was to be bound. And yet, before executing the sentence, they judged it well to consult the University of Paris, as in like manner the Bishop of Beauvais was to consult it eighteen months later.[973] Their evil disposition arose from fear. These unfortunates, who were treated as devils, were afraid of devils. They suspected the subtle French of being necromancers and sorcerers. They said that by repeating magic lines the Armagnacs had compassed the death of the great King, Henry V. Fearing lest their enemies should make use of sorcery and enchantment against them, in order to protect themselves from all evil influences, they wore bands of parchment inscribed with the formulæ of conjuration and called periapts.[974] The most efficacious of these amulets was the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John. At this time the stars were unfavourable to them, and astrologers were reading their approaching ruin in the sky. Their late King, Henry V, when he was studying at Oxford, had learnt there the rules of divination by the stars. For his own special use he kept in his coffers two astrolabes,[Pg i.275] one of silver and one of gold. When his queen, Catherine of France, was about to be confined, he himself cast the horoscope of the expected child. And further, as there was a prophecy in England[975] which said that Windsor would lose what Monmouth had gained, he determined that the Queen should not be confined at Windsor. But destiny cannot be thwarted. The royal child was born at Windsor. His father was in France when he heard the tidings. He held them to be of ill omen, and summoned Jean Halbourd of Troyes, minister general of the Trinitarians or Mathurins, "excellent in astrology," who, having drawn up the scheme of nativity, could only confirm the King in his doleful presentiments.[976] And now the time had come. Windsor reigned; all would be lost. Merlin had predicted that they would be driven out of France and by a Virgin utterly undone. When the Maid appeared they grew pale with fright, and fear fell upon captains and soldiers.[977] Those whom no man could make afraid, trembled before this girl whom they held to be a witch. They could not be expected to regard her as a saint sent of God. The best they could think of her was that she was a very learned sorceress.[978] To those she came to help she appeared a daughter of God, to those she came to destroy she appeared a horrid monster in woman's form. In this double aspect lay all her strength: angelic for the French, devilish for the English, to one and the other she appeared invincible and supernatural.

In the evening of the 30th she sent her herald,[Pg i.276] Ambleville, to the camp of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils to ask for Guyenne, who had borne the letter from Blois and had not returned. Ambleville was also instructed to tell Sir John Talbot, the Earl of Suffolk, and the Lord Scales that in God's name the Maid required them to depart from France and go to England; otherwise they would suffer hurt. The English sent back Ambleville with an evil message.

"The English," he said to the Maid, "are keeping my comrade to burn him."

She made answer: "In God's name they will do him no harm." And she commanded Ambleville to return.[979]

She was indignant, and, no doubt, greatly disappointed. In truth, she had never anticipated that Talbot and the leaders of the siege would give such a welcome to a letter inspired by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret and Saint Michael; but so broad was her charity that she was still willing to offer peace to the English. In her innocence she may have believed that her proclamations in God's name were misunderstood after all. Besides, whatever happened, she was determined to go through with her duty to the end. At night she sallied forth from the Bridge Gate and went as far as the outwork of La Belle-Croix. It was not unusual for the two sides to address each other. La Belle-Croix was within ear-shot of Les Tourelles. The Maid mounted the rampart and cried to the English: "Surrender in God's name. I will grant you your lives only."

But the garrison and even the Captain, William Glasdale himself, hurled back at her coarse insults and horrible threats.[Pg i.277]

"Milk-maid! If ever we get you, you shall be burned alive."[980]

She answered that it was a lie. But they were in earnest and sincere. They firmly believed that this damsel was arming legions of devils against them.

On Sunday, the 1st of May, my Lord the Bastard went to meet the army from Blois.[981] He knew the country; and, being both energetic and cautious, he was desirous to superintend the entrance of this convoy as he had done that of the other. He set out with a small escort. He did not dare to take with him the Saint herself; but, in order, so to speak, to put himself under her protection and tactfully to flatter the piety and affections of the folk of Orléans, he took a member of her suite, her steward, Sire Jean d'Aulon.[982] Thus he grasped the first opportunity of showing his good will to the Maid, feeling that henceforth nothing could be done except with her or under her patronage.

The fervour of the citizens was not abated. That very day, in their passionate desire to see the Saint, they crowded round Jacques Boucher's house as turbulently as the pilgrims from Puy pressed into the sanctuary of La Vierge Noire. There was a danger of the doors being broken in. The cries of the townsfolk reached her. Then she appeared: good, wise, equal to her mission, one born for the salvation of the people. In the absence of captains and men-at-arms, this wild multitude only awaited a sign from her to throw itself in tumult on the bastions and perish there. Notwithstanding the visions of war that[Pg i.278] haunted her, that sign she did not give. Child as she was, and as ignorant of war as of life, there was that within her which turned away disaster. She led this crowd of men, not to the English bastions, but to the holy places of the city. Down the streets she rode, accompanied by many knights and squires; men and women pressed to see her and could not gaze upon her enough. They marvelled at the manner of her riding and of her behaviour, in every point like a man-at-arms; and they would have hailed her as a veritable Saint George had they not suspected Saint George of turning Englishman.[983]

That Sunday, for the second time, she went forth to offer peace to the enemies of the kingdom. She passed out by the Renard Gate and went along the Blois Road, through the suburbs that had been burnt down, towards the English bastion. Surrounded by a double moat, it was planted on a slope at the crossroads called La Croix Boissée or Buissée, because the townsfolk of Orléans had erected a cross there, which every Palm Sunday they dressed with a branch of box blessed by the priest. Doubtless she intended to reach this bastion, and perhaps to go on to the camp of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils situated between La Croix Boissée and the Loire, where, as she had said, were Talbot and the English. For she had not yet given up hope of gaining a hearing from the leaders of the siege. But at the foot of the hill, at a place called La Croix-Morin, she met some Godons who were keeping watch. And there, in tones grave, pious, and noble, she summoned them to retreat before the hosts of the Lord. "Surrender, and your lives shall be spared. In God's name go[Pg i.279] back to England. If ye will not I will make you suffer for it."[984]

These men-at-arms answered her with insults as those of Les Tourelles had done. One of them, the Bastard of Granville, cried out to her: "Would you have us surrender to a woman?"

The French, who were with her, they dubbed pimps and infidels, to shame them for being in the company of a bad woman and a witch.[985] But whether because they thought her magic rendered her invulnerable, or because they held it dishonourable to strike a messenger, now, as on other occasions, they forbore to fire on her.

That Sunday, Jacquet le Prestre, the town varlet, offered the Maid wine.[986] The magistrates and citizens could not have more highly honoured her whom they regarded as their captain. Thus they treated barons, kings and queens when they were entertained in the city. In those days wine was highly valued on account of its beneficent power. Jeanne, when she emphasised a wish, would say: "If I were never to drink wine between now and Easter!..."[987] But in reality she never drank wine except mixed with water, and she ate little.[988]

Throughout this time of waiting the Maid never rested for a moment. On Monday, May 2nd, she mounted her horse and rode out into the country to view the English bastions. The people followed her[Pg i.280] in crowds; they had no fear and were glad to be near her. And when she had seen all that she wanted, she returned to the city, to the cathedral church, where she heard vespers.[989]

On the morrow, the 3rd of May, the day of the Invention of the Holy Cross, which was the Cathedral Festival, she followed in the procession, with the magistrates and the townsfolk. It was then that Maître Jean de Mâcon, the precentor of the cathedral,[990] greeted her with these words: "My daughter, are you come to raise the siege?"

She replied: "Yea, in God's name."[991]

The people of Orléans all believed that the English round the city were as innumerable as the stars in the sky; the notary, Guillaume Girault, expected nothing short of a miracle.[992] Jean Luillier, woollen draper[993] by trade, thought it impossible for the citizens to hold out longer against an enemy so enormously their superior.[994] Messire Jean de Mâcon was likewise alarmed at the power and the numbers of the Godons.

"My daughter," he said to the Maid, "their force is great and they are strongly intrenched. It will be a difficult matter to turn them out."[995]

If notary Guillaume Girault, if draper Jean Luillier,[Pg i.281] if Messire Jean de Mâcon, instead of fostering these gloomy ideas, had counted the numbers of the besieged and the besieging, they would have found that the former were more numerous than the latter; and that the army of Scales, of Suffolk, of Talbot appeared mean and feeble when compared with the great besieging armies of the reign of King Henry V. Had they looked a little more closely they would have perceived that the bastions, with the formidable names of London and of Paris, were powerless to prevent either corn, cattle, pigs, or men-at-arms being brought into the city; and that these gigantic dolls were being mocked at by the dealers, who, with their beasts, passed by them daily. In short, they would have realised that the people of Orléans were for the moment better off than the English. But they had examined nothing for themselves. They were content to abide by public opinion which is seldom either just or correct. The Maid did not share Messire Jean de Mâcon's illusions. She knew no more of the English than he did; yet because she was a saint, she replied tranquilly: "With God all things are possible."[996] And Maître Jean de Mâcon thought it well that such should be her opinion.

What aggravated the trouble, the danger, and the panic of the situation, was that the citizens believed they were betrayed. They recollected the Count of Clermont at the Battle of the Herrings, and they suspected the King's men of deserting them once again. After having done so much and spent so much they saw themselves given up to the English. This idea made them mad.[997] There was a rumour that the Marshal de Boussac, who had started with my Lord[Pg i.282] the Bastard to meet the second convoy of supplies, and who was to return on Tuesday the 3rd, would not come back. It was said that the Chancellor of France wanted to disband the army. It was absurd. On the contrary, great efforts for the deliverance of the city were being made by the King's Council and that of the Queen of Sicily. But the people's brains had been turned by their long suffering and their terrible danger. A more reasonable fear was lest any mishap should occur on the road from Blois like that which had overtaken the force at Rouvray. The Maid's comrades were infected with the anxieties of the townsfolk; one of them betrayed his fears to her, but she was not affected by them. With the radiant tranquillity of the illuminated, she said:[998] "The Marshal will come. I am confident that no harm will happen to him."[999]

On that day there entered into the city the little garrisons of Gien, of Château-Regnard, and of Montargis.[1000] But the Blois army did not come. On the morrow, at daybreak, it was descried in the plain of La Beauce. And, indeed, the Sire de Rais and his company, escorted by the Marshal de Boussac and my Lord the Bastard, were skirting the Forest of Orléans.[1001] At these tidings the citizens must needs exclaim that the Maid had been right in wishing to march straight against Talbot since the captains now followed the[Pg i.283] very road she had indicated. But in reality it was not just as they thought. Only one part of the Blois army had risked forcing its way between the western bastions; the convoy, with its escort, like the first convoy, was coming through La Sologne and was to enter the town by water. Those arrangements for the entrance of supplies, which, in the first instance, had proved successful, were naturally now repeated.[1002]

Captain La Hire and certain other commanders, who had remained in the city with five hundred fighting men, went out to meet the Sire de Rais, the Marshal de Boussac and the Bastard. The Maid mounted her horse and went with them. They passed through the English lines; and, a little further on, having met the army, they returned to the town together. The priests, and among them Brother Pasquerel bearing the banner, were the first to pass beneath the Paris bastion, singing psalms.[1003]

Jeanne dined at Jacques Boucher's house with her steward, Jean d'Aulon. When the table was cleared, the Bastard, who had come to the treasurer's house, talked with her for a moment. He was gracious and polite, but spoke with restraint.

"I have heard on good authority," he remarked, "that Fastolf is soon to join the English who are conducting the siege. He brings them supplies and reinforcements and is already at Janville."

At these tidings Jeanne appeared very glad and[Pg i.284] said, laughing: "Bastard, Bastard, in God's name, I command thee to let me know as soon as thou shalt hear of Fastolf's arrival. For should he come without my knowledge, I warn thee thou shalt lose thy head."[1004]

Far from betraying any annoyance at so rude a jest, he replied that she need have no fear, he would let her know.[1005]

The approach of Sir John Fastolf had already been announced on the 26th of April. It was expressly in order to avoid him that the army had come through La Sologne. It is possible that on the 4th of May the tidings of his coming had no surer foundation. But the Bastard knew something else. The corn of the second convoy, like that of the first, was coming down the river. It had been resolved, in a council of war, that in the afternoon the captains should attack the Saint-Loup bastion, and divert the English as had been done on the 29th of April.[1006] The attack had already begun. But of this the Bastard breathed not a word to the Maid. He held her to be the one source of strength in the town. But he believed that in war her part was purely spiritual.[1007]

After he had withdrawn, Jeanne, worn out by her morning's expedition, lay down on her bed with her hostess for a short sleep. Sire Jean d'Aulon, who was very weary, stretched himself on a couch in the same room, thinking to take the rest he so greatly needed. But scarce had he fallen asleep when the[Pg i.285] Maid leapt from her bed and roused him with a great noise. He asked her what she wanted.

"In God's name," she answered in great agitation, "my Council have told me to go against the English; but I know not whether I am to go against their bastions or against Fastolf, who is bringing them supplies."[1008]

In her dreams she had been present at her Council, that is to say, she had beheld her saints. She had seen Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. There had happened to her what always happens. The saints had told her no more than she herself knew. They had revealed to her nothing of what she needed to know. They had not informed her how, at that very moment, the French were attacking the Saint-Loup bastion and suffering great hurt. And the Blessed Ones had departed leaving her in error and in ignorance of what was going on, and in uncertainty as to what she was to do. The good Sire d'Aulon was not the one to relieve her from her embarrassment. He, too, was excluded from the Councils of War. Now he answered her nothing, and set to arming himself as quickly as possible. He had already begun when they heard a great noise and cries coming up from the street. From the passers-by, they gleaned that there was fighting near Saint-Loup and that the enemy was inflicting great hurt on the French. Without staying to inquire further, Jean d'Aulon went straightway to his squire to have his armour put on. Almost at the same time Jeanne went down and asked: "Where are my armourers? The blood of our folk is flowing."[1009]

In the street she found Brother Pasquerel, her chaplain, with other priests, and Mugot, her page, to[Pg i.286] whom she cried: "Ha! cruel boy, you did not tell me that the blood of France was being shed!... In God's name, our people are hard put to it."[1010]

She bade him bring her horse and leave the wife and daughter of her host to finish arming her. On his return the page found her fully accoutred. She sent him to fetch her standard from her room. He gave it her through the window. She took it and spurred on her horse into the high street, towards the Burgundian Gate, at such a pace that sparks flashed from the pavement.

"Hasten after her!" cried the treasurer's wife.[1011]

Sire d'Aulon had not seen her start. He imagined, why, it is impossible to say, that she had gone out on foot, and, having met a page on horseback in the street, had made him dismount and give her his horse.[1012] The Renard Gate and the Burgundian Gate were on opposite sides of the town. Jeanne, who for the last three days had been going up and down the streets of Orléans, took the most direct way. Jean d'Aulon and the page, who were hastily pursuing her, did not come up with her until she had reached the gate. There they met a wounded man being brought into the town. The Maid asked his bearers who the man was. He was a Frenchman, they replied. Then she said: "I have never seen the blood of a Frenchman flow without feeling my heart stand still."[1013]

The Maid and Sire d'Aulon, with a few fighting men of their company, pressed on through the fields to Saint-Loup. On the way they saw certain of their party. The good squire, unaccustomed to great[Pg i.287] battles, never remembered having seen so many fighting men at once.[1014]

For an hour the Sire de Rais' Bretons and the men from Le Mans had been skirmishing before the bastion. As the custom was those who had arrived last were keeping watch.[1015] But if these combatants, who had reached the town only that very morning, had attacked without taking time to breathe, they must have been hard pressed. They were doing what had been done on the 29th of April, and for the same reason:[1016] namely, occupying the English while the barges corn-laden were coming down the river to the moat. On the top of their high hill, in their strong fortress, the English had easily held out albeit they were but few; and the French King's men can hardly have been able to make head against them, since the Maid and Sire d'Aulon found them scattered through the fields. She gathered them together and led them back to the attack. They were her friends: they had journeyed together: they had sung psalms and hymns together: together they had heard mass in the fields. They knew that she brought good luck: they followed her. As she marched at their head her first idea was a religious one. The bastion was built upon the church and convent of the Ladies of Saint-Loup. With the sound of a trumpet she had it proclaimed that nothing should be taken from the church.[1017] She remembered how Salisbury had come to a bad end for having pillaged the Church of Notre Dame de[Pg i.288] Cléry; and she desired to keep her men from an evil death.[1018] This was the first time she had seen fighting; and no sooner had she entered into the battle than she became the leader because she was the best. She did better than others, not because she knew more; she knew less. But her heart was nobler. When every man thought of himself, she alone thought of others: when every man took heed to defend himself, she defended herself not at all, having previously offered up her life. And thus this child,—who feared suffering and death like every human being, who knew by her Voices and her presentiments that she would be wounded,—went straight on and stood beneath showers of arrows and cannon-balls on the edge of the moat, her standard in hand, rallying her men.[1019] Through her what had been merely a diversion became a serious attack. The bastion was stormed.

When he heard that the fort of Saint-Loup was being attacked, Sir John Talbot sallied forth from the camp of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils. In order to reach the threatened bastion he had some distance to go down his lines and along the border of the forest. He set out, and on his way was reinforced by the garrisons of the western bastions. The town watchmen observed his movements and sounded the alarm. Marshal Boussac passing through the Parisis Gate, went out to meet Talbot on the north, towards Fleury. The English captain was preparing to break through the French force when he saw a thick cloud[Pg i.289] of smoke rising over the fort Saint-Loup. He understood that the French had captured and set fire to it; and sadly he returned to the camp of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils.[1020]

The attack had lasted three hours. After the burning of the bastion the English climbed into the church belfry. The French had difficulty in dislodging them; but they ran no danger thereby. Of prisoners, they took two score, and the rest they slew. The Maid was very sorrowful when she saw so many of the enemy dead. She pitied these poor folk who had died unconfessed.[1021] Certain Godons, wearing the ecclesiastical habit and ornaments, came to meet her. She perceived that they were soldiers disguised in stoles and hoods taken from the sacristy of the Abbaye aux Dames. But she pretended to take them for what they represented themselves to be. She received them and had them conducted to her house without allowing any harm to come to them. With a charitable jest she said: "One should never question priests."[1022]

Before leaving the fort she confessed to Brother[Pg i.290] Pasquerel, her chaplain. And she charged him to make the following announcement to all the men-at-arms: "Confess your sins and thank God for the victory. If you do not, the Maid will never help you more and will not remain in your company."[1023]

The Saint-Loup bastion, attacked by fifteen hundred French, had been defended by only three hundred English. That they made no vigorous defence is indicated by the fact that only two or three Frenchmen were slain.[1024] It was not by any severe mental effort or profound calculation that the French King's men had gained this advantage. It had cost them little, and yet it was immense. It meant the cutting off of the besiegers' communications with Jargeau: it meant the opening of the upper Loire: it was the first step towards the raising of the siege. Better still, it afforded positive proof that these devils who had inspired such fear were miserable creatures, who[Pg i.291] might be entrapped like mice and smoked out like wasps in their nest. Such unhoped-for good fortune was due to the Maid. She had done everything, for without her nothing would have been done. She it was, who, in ignorance wiser than the knowledge of captains and free-lances, had converted an idle skirmish into a serious attack and had won the victory by inspiring confidence.

That very evening the magistrates sent workmen to Saint-Loup to demolish the captured fortifications.[1025]

When at night she returned to her lodging, Jeanne told her chaplain that on the morrow, which was the day of the Ascension of Our Lord, she would keep the Festival by not wearing armour and by abstaining from fighting. She commanded that no one should think of quitting the town, of attacking or making an assault, until he had first confessed. She added that the men-at-arms must pay heed that no dissolute women followed in their train for fear lest God should cause them to be defeated on account of their sins.[1026]

When need was the Maid herself saw that her orders concerning bad women and blasphemers were scrupulously obeyed. More than once she drove away the camp-followers. She rebuked men-at-arms who swore and blasphemed. One day, in the open street, a knight began to swear and take God's name in vain. Jeanne heard him. She seized him by the throat, exclaiming, "Ah, Sir! dare you take in vain the name of Our Lord and Master? In God's name you shall take back those words before I move from this place."

A citizen's wife, passing down the street at that[Pg i.292] moment, beheld this man, who seemed to her to be a great baron, humbly receiving the Saint's reproaches and testifying his repentance.[1027]

On the morrow, which was Ascension Day, the captains held a council-of-war in the house of Chancellor Cousinot in the Rue de la Rose.[1028] There were present, as well as the Chancellor, my Lord the Bastard, the Sire de Gaucourt, the Sire de Rais, the Sire de Graville, Captain La Hire, my Lord Ambroise de Loré and several others. It was decided that Les Tourelles, the chief stronghold of the besiegers, should be attacked on the morrow. Meanwhile, it would be necessary to hold in check the English of the camp of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils. On the previous day, when Talbot set out from Saint-Laurent, he had not been able to reach Saint-Loup in time because he had been obliged to make a long circuit, going round the town from west to east. But, although, on that previous day, the enemy had lost command of the Loire above the town, they still held the lower river. They could cross it between Saint-Laurent and Saint-Privé[1029] as rapidly as the French could cross it by the Île-aux-Toiles; and thus the English might gather in force at Le Portereau. This, the French must prevent and, if possible, draw off the garrisons from Les Augustins and Les Tourelles to Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils. With this object it was decided that the people of[Pg i.293] Orléans with the folk from the communes, that is, from the villages, should make a feigned attack on the Saint-Laurent camp, with mantelets, faggots, and ladders. Meanwhile, the nobles would cross the Loire by l'Île-aux-Toiles, would land at Le Portereau under the watch of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc which had been abandoned by the English, and attack the bastion of Les Augustins; and when that was taken, the fort of Les Tourelles.[1030] Thus there would be one assault made by the citizens, another by the nobles; one real, the other feigned; both useful, but only one glorious and worthy of knights. When the plan was thus drawn up, certain captains were of opinion that it would be well to send for the Maid and tell her what had been decided.[1031] And, indeed, on the previous day, she had done so well that there was no longer need to hold her aloof. Others deemed that it would be imprudent to tell her what was contemplated concerning Les Tourelles. For it was important that the undertaking should be kept secret, and it was feared that the holy damsel might speak of it to her friends among the common people. Finally, it was agreed that she should know those decisions which affected the train-bands of Orléans, since, indeed, she was their captain, but that such matters as could not be safely communicated to the citizens should be concealed from her.

Jeanne was in another room of the house with the Chancellor's wife. Messire Ambroise de Loré went to fetch her; and, when she had come, the Chancellor told her that the camp of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils was to be attacked on the morrow. She divined that something was being kept back; for she possessed a[Pg i.294] certain acuteness. Besides, since they had hitherto concealed everything, it was natural she should suspect that something was still being kept from her. This mistrust annoyed her. Did they think her incapable of keeping a secret? She said bitterly: "Tell me what you have concluded and ordained. I could keep a much greater secret than that."[1032]

And refusing to sit down she walked to and fro in the room.

My Lord the Bastard deemed it well to avoid exasperating her by telling her the truth. He pacified her without incriminating anybody: "Jeanne, do not rage. It is impossible to tell you everything at once. What the Chancellor has said has been concluded and ordained. But if those on the other side [of the water, the English of La Sologne] should depart to come and succour the great bastion of Saint-Laurent and the English who are encamped near this part of the city, we have determined that some of us shall cross the river to do what we can against those on the other side [those of Les Augustins and Les Tourelles]. And it seems to us that such a decision is good and profitable."

The Maid replied that she was content, that such a decision seemed to her good, and that it should be carried out in the manner determined.[1033]

It will be seen that by this proceeding the secrecy of the deliberations had been violated, and that the nobles had not been able to do what they had determined or at least not in the way they had determined. On that Ascension Day the Maid for the last time sent a message of peace to the English, which she[Pg i.295] dictated to Brother Pasquerel in the following terms: Ye men of England, who have no right in the realm of France, the King of Heaven enjoins and commands you by me, Jeanne the Maid, to leave your forts and return to your country. If ye will not I will make so great a noise as shall remain for ever in the memory of man: This I write to you for the third and last time, and I will write to you no more.

Signed thus: Jhesus—Maria. Jeanne the Maid.

And below: I should have sent to you with more ceremony. But you keep my heralds. You kept my herald Guyenne. If you will send him back to me, I will send you some of your men taken at the bastion Saint-Loup; they are not all dead.[1034]

Jeanne went to La Belle Croix, took an arrow, and tied her letter to it with a string, then told an archer to shoot it to the English, crying: "Read! This is the message."

The English received the arrow, untied the letter, and having read it they cried: "This a message from the Armagnac strumpet."

When she heard them, tears came into Jeanne's eyes and she wept. But soon she beheld her saints, who spoke to her of Our Lord, and she was comforted. "I have had a message from my Lord," she said joyfully.[1035]

My Lord the Bastard himself demanded the Maid's herald, threatening that if he were not sent back he would keep the heralds whom the English had sent to treat for the exchange of prisoners. It is asserted that he even threatened to put those prisoners to death. But Ambleville did not return.[1036]


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