Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 10

HER DEPARTURE FOR THE COURT

Joan set forth from Vaucouleurs on the first Sunday in Lent, the 13th of Febniary, 1429. Her escort consisted of six persons, the Sires de Metz and de Poiilengy, with one attendant of each, Colet de Vienne, who is styled a King's messenger, and Richard, a King's archer. It was no slight enterprise to pass through so wide a tract of hostile coimtry, exposed to fall in every moment with wandering parties of English or Burgundian soldiery, or obliged, in order to avoid them, to ford large rivers, to thread extensive forests, and to select unfrequented by paths at that wintry season. The Maid herself took little heed of toil or danger ; her chief complaint was that her companions would not allow her to stop every morning to hear Mass. They, on the contrary, felt fix)m time to time their confidence decline, and strange misgivings arise in their minds ; more than once the idea occurred to them that after all they might only be conducting a mad woman or a sorceress, and they were tempted to hurl her down some stone-quarry as they passed, or to leave her alone upon the road. Joan, however, happily surmounting these dangers, both from her enemies and from h6r escort, succeeded in crossing the Loire at Gien, after which she found herself on friendly ground. There she openly announced to all she met that she was sent from Grod to crown the King and to free the good city of Orleans. The tidings began to spread, even to Orleans itself; and, as drowning men are said to catch at straws, so the poor besieged, now hard-pressed and well nigh hopeless, eagerly welcomed this last faint gleam for their deliverance.

On earthly succour they could indeed no longer rely. While Joan was yet delayed at Vaucouleurs, they had been urging the King in repeated embassies to afford them some assistance. It was with dif- ficulty that Charles could muster an army of 3000 men--so dispirited were his soldiers, and so unwilliiig to serve !--whose command he intrusted to his kins man the Count of Clermont. On these troops approaching Orleans they were joined by Dunois and another thousand men from the garrison, and they resolved to intercept a large convoy of provisions which Sir John Fastolf was escorting from Paris. Fastolf had under his command scarcely more than 2000 soldiers ; nevertheless, in the action which ensued the French were completely routed, and left 500 dead upon the field. This engagement was fought on the 12th of February, the day before Joan commenced her jour- ney from Vaucouleurs, and was called the " Battle of Herrings," because the provisions brought by Fastolf were chiefly salt-fish for the use of the EngUsh army during Lent.

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