Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 19

HER ENTRY INTO ORLEANS

Having thus succeeded with regard to the first convoy, the French captains had resolved to wend back to Blois and escort the second, without them- selves entering the city. This resolution had been kept secret from Joan, and she showed herself much displeased, but at length agreed to it, provided Father Pasquerel and the other priests from Blois stayed with the army to maintain its morals. She likewise obtained a promise that the next convoy should proceed, according to her injunctions, through Beauce, instead of Sologne. For herself she under- took, at the earnest entreaty of Dunois and the citizens, to throw herself into the beleaguered city and partake its fortunes. She accordingly made her entry late that same night, the 29 th of April, ac- companied by the brave La Hire and two hundred lances, and having embarked close under the English bastille of St. Jean le Blanc without any molestation from the awe-struck garrison. High beat the hearts of the poor besieged with joy and wonder at the midnight appearance of their promised deliverer, or rather, as they well-nigh deemed, their guardian angel, heralded by the rolling thunders, with the lightning to guide her on her way, unharmed by a victonous enemy, and bringing long-forgotten plenty in her tiain! All pressed around her with loud acclamations, eager to touch for a moment her ar- mour, her holy standard, or the white charger which she rode, and believed that they drew a blessing from that touch!

Late as was the hour, the Maid of Orleans (so we may already term her) repaired first to the cathedral, where the solemn service of "Te Deum" was chanted by torchlight. She then betook herself to her intended dwelling, which she had chosen on careful inquiry, according to her constant practice, as belonging to a lady amongst the most esteemed and unblemished of the place. The very house is still shown: it is now No. 35, in the Eue du Ta- bourg, and, though the inner apartments have been altered, the street-front is believed by antiquaries to be the same as in the days of Joan.* A splendid entertainment had been prepared for her, but she refused to partake of it, and only dipping a piece of bread into some wine and water, laid herself down to rest.

* Trollope's 'Western France,' vol. i. pp. 80-83. He quotes a 'History of Orleans' bv E. F. V. Bomagnesi.

The impression made upon the people of Orleans by the first appearance of the Maid was confirmed and strengthened by her conduct on the following days. Her beauty of person, her gentleness of manner, and her purity of life--her prayers, so long and so devout--her custom of beginning every sen- tence with the words " In the name of God," after the fashion of the heralds--her resolute will and undaunted courage in all that related to her mission, compared with her simplicity and humility upon any other subject--her zeal to reform as well as to rescue the citizens--all this together would be striking even in our own times, and seemed miraculous in theirs. Of speedily raising the siege she spoke with- out doubt or hesitation : her only anxiety appeared to be to raise it, if she might, without bloodshed. She directed an archer to shoot, attached to his arrow, another letter of warning into the English lines, and herself, advancing along the bridge unto the broken arch, oppasite the enemy's fort of Tour- nelles, exhorted them in a loud voice to depart, or they should feel disaster and shame. Sir William Gladsdale whom all the French writers call Gla- cidas, still commanded in this quarter. He and his soldiers only answered the Maid with scoffs and ribaldry, bidding her go "home and keep her cows. She was moved to tears at their insulting words. But it soon appeared that their derision was affected, and their apprehension real. When on the fourth day the new convoy came in sight by way of Beauce --when the Maid and La Hire sallied forth with their troops to meet and to escort it--not one note' of defiance was heard, not one man was seen to pro- ceed from the English bastilles--the long line of waggons, flocks, and herds passed between them un- molested--and the spirit of the victors seemed already transferred to the vanquished.

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