Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 22

MISGIVING OF THE FRENCH CAPTAINS

By the successes of that day only a single fort on the opposite shore, the Bastille des Toumelles, re- mained in English hands. But it was the strongest of all--on one side confronting the broken bridge with its massy and towering wall--on the land side intrenched by a formidable bulwark--and a deep ditch before it, filled with water from the Loire. More than all, it was held by the brave Gladsdule and his best battalions. A spirit of prudence and of mi^ving as to the continued success of the Maid became predominant among the French captains. Thej resolved to rest contented with the freedom of communication now secured with their own provinces, and to postpone any farther attacks until they should receive farther reinforcements. But to this resolution it was found impossible to obtain the assent of Joan. " You have been to your council," die said, " and I have been to mine. Be assured that the coimcil of Messire will hold good, and that the council of men will perish." What the chiefs dreaded more than her celestial council, she had with her the hearts both of soldiery and people. Entreaties and arguments to prove the superior advantage of doing nothing were urged on her in vain. They did not leave untried even the slight temptation of a shad-fish for her dinner! The story is told as follows, in a chronicle of the time:--

"Whilst the Maid was in thought whether she should go forward, it happened that a shad-fish was brought in to her host Jacques Boucher, who then said to her, 'Joan, let us eat this shad-fish to dinner before you set out.' 'In the name of God,' said she, 'it shall not be eaten till sup- per, by which time we will return by way of the bridge and bring back with us as prisoner a Goddam, who shall eat his share of it ! '"*

* Memoirs concerning the Maid (Collection, vol. viii. p. 173).

This nickname of Goddam--which in more angry times than the present we have often heard muttered behind our coxmtrymen in the streets of Paris --was, we had always fancied, of very modem origin. Till now we could not trace it higher than Beaumarchais, in his * Mariage de Figaro.' We now find, however, that all future anti- Anglicans may plead for it, if they please, the venerable antiquity of four centuries, and the high precedent of Joan of Arc.

Not trusting wholly to persuasion,--or to the shad-fish,--the Sire de Gaucourt, governor of the city, with some soldiers, stationed himself before the Porte Bourgogne, through which Joan would have to pass, and resolutely refused to unbar it. " You are an ill man," cried the Maid ; " but whether you will or not. the men-at-arms shall come and shall conquer, as they have conquered before." The people, and even the soldiers themselves, stirred by her vehemence, rushed upon the Sire de Graucourt, threatening to tear him in pieces, and he was con- strained to yield. Joan accordingly went forth, followed by an eager multitude of townsmen and soldiers, and passed the Loire in boats to attack the Toumelles by their bulwark, on the opposite side. Thus finding the attack inevitable, the French leaders, Dimois, La Hire, Gaucourt him- self, and a host of others, determined to bear their part in it, and embarked like Joan for the opposite shore; and all of them by their conduct in the engagement most fully proved that their former xeluctaiice to engage had not flowed from want of valour.

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