Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 17


Amidst all these proofs and preparations two months had glided away, and it was past mid- April when the Maid appeared before the troops assembling at Blois. She made her entry on horseback, and in complete armour, but her head imcovered; and neither her tall and graceful figure, nor the skill with which she rode her palfrey and poised her lance, remained unnoticed. Her fame had gone forth before her, inspiriting the soldiers with the confidence of Divine support, and consoling them under their repeated reverses. Numbers who had oast aside their arms in despair, buckled them on anew for the cause of France and in the name of the Maid. Nearly six thousand men were thus assembled. Charles himself had again withdrawn itom the cares and toils of royalty to his favourite liaunt of Chinon, but in his place his most valiant captain^s, the Mareschal de Boussac, the Admiral de CJulant, La Hire, the Sires de Eetz and De Lore, 'were ready for the field. It had not been clearly tiefined at Coui:t whether Joan was only to cheer and animiate, or to command and direct the troops ; but the rising enthusiasm of the common men at once awarded to her an ascendancy which the chiefs could not withstand. She began with reforming the morals of the camp, expelled from it all women of ill fame, and called upon the men to prepare for battle by confession and prayer. Night and morn- ing Father Pasquerel, bearing aloft her holy banner, and followed by herself and by all the priests of Blois, walked in procession through the town, chant- ing hymns, and calling sinners to repentance. Many, very many, obeyed the unexpected summons. Even La Hire, a rough soldier, bred up in camps from his childhood, and seldom speaking without an imprecation, yielded to her influence, and went grumbling and swearing to Mass!

From Blois the Maid, herself untaught in writing and reading, dictated a letter to the English captains before Orleans, announcing her mission, and com- manding them under pain of vengeance from heaven to yield to King Charles all the good cities which they held in his realm of France. She afterwards oomplained at her trial that thia kttet bad wot boen written according to her dictation, and that, while she had said " Restore to the King," her scribes had made her say "Eestore to the Maid." All her letters (one of which, to the Duke of Burgundy, was discovered not many years since amongst the archives of Lille) were headed with the words Jhesus Maria, and with the sign of the cross. So far from paying any regard to this summons, the English chiefs threatened to bum alive the herald who brought it, as coming from a sorceress and ally of Satan. A message from Dunois, however, that he would use reprisals on an English herald, re- strained them. But, notwithstanding their lofty tone and aiSFected scorn, a secret feeling of doubt and dismay began to pervade the minds of their soldiery, and even their own. The fame of the marvellous Maid, of the coming deliverer of Orleans, had already reached them, magnified as usual by distance, by uncertainty, and by popular tales of miracles. K she were indeed, as she pretended, commissioned from on high, how dreadful would be the fate of all who ventured to withstand her I But if even their own assertion were well-founded, if indeed she wrought by spells and sorcery, even then it seemed no very cheering prospect to begin a contest against the powers of darkness !


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