Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 24
Jeanne’s Last Field

I fear naught but treachery.
Jeanne’s own words.

Saith each to other, ‘Be near me still;
We will die together, if God so will.’

John O’Hagan. “The Song of Roland.

No longer buoyed up by hope Jeanne began to feel her wound to faintness, and was compelled to seek her room for rest. As she lay on her bed, despondent and heavy-hearted, her Saints came to her with words of comfort. Daily they appeared, but since the crowning of Charles at Reims they had given the maiden no specific direction. There had been no further definite message. They had said, “Raise the siege of Orléans and lead the Dauphin to his crowning”; and she had done both things. Now they consoled the girl in her humiliation and sorrow, and uttered a message:

“Remain at St. Denys, Daughter of God,” they said. “Remain at St. Denys.”

And Jeanne resolved to do so, but this was not allowed. After a few days Charles announced his intention of returning to the Loire, and ordered the army to make ready for the march. And now the cause of the shameful treason at Paris was learned. There was a new treaty with Burgundy. Charles had signed it just before coming to St. Denys. La Trémouille and his party had triumphed, and an inglorious armistice which was to last until Christmas was the result. The position of the Favorite was becoming precarious under the great national feeling that was beginning to sweep the land, and his only safety from his foes was to keep his hold upon Charles. To this end the King was persuaded to consent to the abandonment of the campaign. Charles was not difficult to win over, for by so doing he would be left in peace to pursue his pleasures, and La Trémouille would be free to misrule France as he liked.

The truce covered the whole of the country north of the Seine from Nogent, sixty miles above Paris, to the sea. While it lasted Charles might not receive the submission of any city or town, however desirous it might be to acknowledge him, although strangely enough he might attack Paris, while equally as strange, Burgundy might assist the Regent to defend it against him. Compiègne was to be given as hostage to Burgundy. The French hoped by giving him this city that he might be drawn from the English alliance.

Compiègne, however, refused to be given, thereby showing more loyalty to the cause of France than did the poor stick of a King. Burgundy entered into the truce for his own purposes, playing France against England to increase his power at French expense. Philip was justified in seeking a truce, for many towns which had been Burgundian had thrown off such allegiance, and turned to Charles. He wished to prevent such desertions for the future. England might come into this peace at any time if she wished. This left England free to wage war against France, and the French could move against the English, but not if any stronghold was held for the English by the Burgundians. It is difficult to see what France hoped to gain by such an armistice, though there were those among the Councillors who sincerely believed that from the arrangement a lasting peace might result both with Burgundy and the English. Later it was learned how Burgundy had beguiled them. Alençon and the captains denounced the truce bitterly.

“If the King had taken Paris, he could have made his own terms with Philip,” the young duke told Jeanne.

“The noble King is deceived,” said the girl sorrowfully. “There will be no peace with Burgundy for six years, and not until seven are sped shall the King enter his capital.”

“Jeanne, do you in truth know that?” questioned the young man quickly. “You speak as though you do.”

“I do know, gentle duke. My Voices have told me. Paris would have been ours had we but persisted in the attack, and in a few months northern France would have been clear of the English. Now it will take twenty years to drive them out.”

“Twenty years,” repeated Alençon aghast. “Have your voices told you that also, Jeanne?”

“Yes, fair duke. And the pity of it! Oh, the pity of it!”

“The pity of it,” he echoed. “For now we must start for the Loire, leaving all these cities and towns that have made submission to Charles to the mercies of the Regent. They have written piteous letters to the King, entreating him not to abandon them, but he consoles them by telling them that he is withdrawing because he does not wish to strip the country to feed the army; yet the English are left free to harry the towns, and their state will be worse than before they made submission. We should not leave.”

“I shall not go,” returned Jeanne quietly. “My Voices have told me to remain at St. Denys. I shall obey them.”

She reckoned without her host. When the King was ready to march he commanded her attendance. She refused to go. She had never disobeyed her Heavenly Guides, she told him, so she gave the King her duty, and begged of him to let her stay. Charles was not minded to do this, so he ordered that she be brought along. Jeanne’s wound was not yet healed, and she was scarcely able to get about. So the helpless maiden was forced against her will to go with the King.

It was a dreary march back to Gien, but it was made quickly. So eager was the King to return to his amusements that the one hundred and fifty miles’ distance from St. Denys to Gien was traversed in eight days. When the city was reached Charles disbanded the army; so that of all the great number of men who had set forth from the place three months agone with banners flying nothing remained but the men of the King’s body guard. Some were free lances from many lands, but for the most part they were French gentlemen who had served without pay for the love of France and the Maid. Jeanne took farewell of them with sadness: the brave Dunois, the bold La Hire, Poton Zaintrailles, Boussac, Culent, and others. The great army was never mustered again.

Normandy, being an English possession, was exempt from the truce, so Alençon prayed permission to lead troops against the English strongholds there, wishing also to take the Maid with him. “For many,” he said, “would come with them for her sake who would not budge without her.”

But neither the King nor La Trémouille would grant the grace. They did not wish the ardent young prince to become a leader of the French against the enemy, and the Maid had become too much of a power to be lost sight of. So firmly and decidedly the project was dismissed, and he was relieved of his command. In disgust the young duke retired to his estates. He and Jeanne had grown to be great friends. He believed in her implicitly, and she was fond of him that he did so believe; and also because of his nobility of character, and his connection with the house of Orléans. It was the last time that they ever met. “And thus was broken the spirit of the Maid, and of the army.”[23]

Jeanne pined in the days that followed; for the Court drifted from castle to castle and from town to town in search of amusement. Its frivolity and idle merrymaking were not to her liking, but she was forced to follow in its train. She had her own Household, to which were now added women and maidens of rank, and everything which could show that she was one whom the King delighted to honor. The Queen came up from Bourges, and gave her a warm welcome. Rich apparel, gorgeous in coloring, was bestowed upon her, and, be it said to the credit of Charles, she was not stinted for money. The King was not ungrateful. He knew that it was almost impossible to estimate the moral effects of Jeanne’s victories about Orléans and upon the Loire. All Europe was filled with wonder, and sent eagerly to him for news of her. All this he knew, but he misjudged the girl, and tried to pay his debt to her by showering gifts upon her when she wanted only to fight for France. Pretty clothes and a life of ease might satisfy other girls, but not Jeanne D’Arc, who lived only for the welfare of the country. Had Charles but availed himself of her influence, the splendid confidence of his soldiers, and the loyalty of the country people, treating with Burgundy after taking Paris, it is more than likely that the English power in France would have been broken in 1429 as quickly as it was twenty years later.

There was one who recognized Jeanne’s services to the French to the full: the English Regent, Bedford. Writing to England four years later he acknowledged that the gains France had made against England were due mainly to the “panic caused by the Maid, and the encouragement given by her to the French.” Had Bedford been King of France he would have known how to use such a power.

The leaders did not mind if Jeanne worked, but they were not desirous that there should be more individual triumphs. It threw their own treachery to the realm into strong relief, and made for their downfall. On the upper Loire were several strongholds which did not come under the truce with Burgundy, and these might be proceeded against with impunity. The strong town of La Charité was held by Perrinet Gressart, who had begun life as a mason but, war being the best trade, made a fine living out of the rich district of the upper Loire. He was in a measure under Philip of Burgundy, but when the duke pressed him too hard he threatened to sell out to the enemy, so that he was left in peace to pillage to his heart’s content. Early in his career this soldier of fortune had seized La Trémouille as he was passing through the Burgundian country, and the rich favorite was allowed to proceed on his journey only at the price of a month’s captivity and a heavy ransom.

The little town of St. Pierre le Moustier, which stood about thirty-five miles above La Charité, was held by a Spanish Free Lance who had married a niece of Gressart. Its garrison waged a war of wastry, pillaging the peasants and the country far and wide, and holding all whom they could take to ransom. It was decided to launch an expedition against these strongholds under Jeanne. If they fell it would satisfy the grudge that La Trémouille held for his captivity; if they did not fall there would be further loss of Jeanne’s influence, and the favorite would be rid of a danger that was threatening his control of France.

Jeanne preferred to go against Paris, but the capital was at this time under the government of Burgundy, who had been appointed lieutenant by Bedford, and therefore was within the truce. So, glad of any sort of a dash against the enemy, Jeanne went to Bourges to muster the men. The force was to be under d’Albret, a son-in-law of La Trémouille, a man not inclined to be friendly to the Maid. By the end of October all was in readiness, and it was decided to go against St. Pierre le Moustier before marching against La Charité. It was a strong little town with fosses, towers, and high walls some two miles east of the River Allier, overlooking the fields which lay between the walls and the river.

The town was plied by the artillery for several days, and after a breach was made Jeanne ordered an assault, herself leading with standard in hand. The men rushed to the walls, but were driven back; the retreat sounded, and the troops were retiring from the point of attack when Jean D’Aulon, Jeanne’s squire, being himself wounded in the heel and unable to stand or walk, saw the Maid standing almost alone near the walls. He dragged himself up as well as he could upon his horse, and galloped up to her, crying:

“What are you doing here alone, Pucelle? Why do you not retreat with the others?”

“Alone?” questioned Jeanne, raising the visor of her helmet and gazing at him with glowing eyes. “I am not alone. Fifty thousand of my people are about me. I will not leave until this town is mine.”

The squire looked about him in bewilderment, for there were not more than five men of her Household near her, yet there she stood waving her standard while the arrows and bolts from the town rained and whistled about her.

“You are mistaken, Jeanne,” he said. “I see not such a host. Come away, I beseech you. The troops are in full retreat.”

“Look after the screens and faggots,” ordered the Maid. Mystified, the worthy man did as he was bid, while the clear voice rang out the command:

“To the bridge, every man of you.”

Back came the men on the run with planks and faggots, and so filling the moat returned to the assault, and the town was taken. D’Aulon watched the onslaught in wonder.

“The deed is divine,” he exclaimed in amazement. “Truly the will and the guidance of our Lord are with her, else how could so young a maid accomplish such a marvel.”

The town was taken, and the soldiers would have pillaged even the churches, but Jeanne, remembering Jargeau, firmly forbade it, and nothing was stolen.

Then the Maid and d’Albret proceeded to Moulins, an important town further up the river in the Bourbonnais, whence they sent letters to the loyal towns requiring munitions for the attack on La Charité. It was to the interest of the neighboring towns that this place should be cleared away, for the garrison was a plague to the surrounding country, but only a few of them responded to the appeal for money and supplies. Orléans, generous as always, sent money, gunners, artillery and warm clothing, but the army was ill-equipped for the siege. Jeanne moved her forces before the strong town and settled down for the siege, but the King neither forwarded money nor supplies. Riom promised money, but that was the end of it. Left without the munitions necessary, her army ill-fed, ill-clothed against the bitter November weather, Jeanne wrote to the citizens of Bourges an urgent appeal. “The troops must have help,” she said, “else the siege must be abandoned, which would be a great misfortune to your city and to all the country of Berri.”

Bourges voted to send the money, but it was never received. Vigorously the troops pummelled the strong town with what artillery they had, but a siege can not be prosecuted without provisions and other supplies, and the King left them to get along without any support. The men naturally became discontented. A month was wasted in artillery play, and an assault resulted only in loss of men. In great displeasure Jeanne raised the siege. She could inspire men to fight as they never fought before, but she could not work miracles. God would give the victory to those who helped themselves. Hungry, cold, disheartened troops could not fight without munitions and provisions. So they were disbanded, and retreated from the town, leaving some of their artillery on the field.

Thus ended the fighting for the year 1429, and sadly the Maid returned to the Court. In spite of unbelief and opposition she had accomplished incredible deeds since her setting forth from Vaucouleurs, and would have done them again had she not been hampered by the King and his Council.

Charles was at his beautiful Château at Méhun-sur-Yèvre, where Jeanne joined him. She was overcast and sorrowful at the failure of the siege of La Charité. She had wished to go into the Isle of France to help the people of the loyal towns there, whose state was pitiful, but had been sent on the unsuccessful expedition instead. Invaders and robbers alike were made bold by the withdrawal of Charles from northern France; and the English were active, forcing exile or death on the defenseless people, who would not forswear their loyalty. Many villages were forsaken, the inhabitants having been driven into other parts of France. There was pestilence and famine everywhere. In Paris wolves prowled openly, and its citizens died orchards, and vineyards and towered fortresses, had been abandoned by the English and Burgundians to its own protection; Burgundy going to look after his personal concerns, while Bedford swept the adjacent country with fire and sword. She had been needed in northern France, and Jeanne’s heart was heavy with tenderness for the suffering people of that region.

Many feasts were held in her honour, and both the King and the Queen showered attentions upon her, trying by fine clothes and caresses to make her forget her mission and her despair. In December the King, in the presence of La Trémouille, Le Macon, and other courtiers, conferred upon Jeanne a patent of nobility, sealed with a great seal of green wax upon ribbons of green and crimson, the Orléans colours.

“In consideration of the praiseworthy and useful services which she has rendered to the realm and which she may still render, and to the end that the divine glory and the memory of such favors may endure and increase to all time, we bestow upon our beloved Jehanne d’Ay[24] the name of Du Lys in acknowledgment of the blows which she had struck for the lilies of France. And all her kith and kin herewith, her father, mother, brothers and their descendants in the male and female line to the farthest generation are also ennobled with her, and shall also bear the name Du Lys, and shall have for their arms a shield azure with a sword supporting the crown and golden fleur-de-lis on either side.” Charles was a “well languaged prince,” and he conferred the patent with fine and noble words, but Jeanne would far rather have had a company of men to lead into the suffering country of northern France. She cared nothing for either the grant of nobility or the blazon, and never used them, preferring to be known simply as Jeanne the Maid. Her brothers, however, Pierre and Jean, were delighted, and ever after bore the name of Du Lys.

The winter passed, bringing with it Jeanne’s eighteenth birthday. The truce with Burgundy had been extended until Easter, and the Maid waited the festival with what grace she could, determined that the end of the truce should find her near Paris. March found her at Sully, where the Court was visiting at La Trémouille. Easter was early that year, falling on March twenty-seventh, and as soon as it was over Jeanne left the Court, and rode northward with her Company.

On her way north she heard of the disaffection of Melun, a town some twenty-one miles south of Paris, which had been in English hands for ten years. When the English took the place they had locked up its brave captain, Barbazon, in Louvier, from which place he had recently been released by La Hire. In the Autumn of 1429 Bedford had turned the town over to Burgundy; but during April on the return of Barbazon the burghers rose, and turned out the captain and his Burgundian garrison, and declared for France. It was a three days’ ride from Sully-sur-Loire to Melun across rough country and up the long ridge of Fontainebleau forest, but Jeanne arrived with her men in time to help the citizens resist the onset made against the town by a company of English which had been sent to restore the English allegiance. Joyfully they welcomed her, giving over the defense into her charge.

The first thing that Jeanne did was to make a survey of the walls, that she might consider their strength and how best to fortify them against assault. One warm pleasant day in April she stood on the ramparts superintending some repairs that she had ordered when all at once her Voices came to her.

“Daughter of God,” they said, “you will be taken before the Feast of St. Jean. So it must be. Fear not, but accept it with resignation. God will aid you.”

Jeanne stood transfixed as she heard the words. The feast of St. Jean was near the end of June. Only two months more in which to fight for France. Her face grew white as the words were repeated, and a great fear fell upon her. A prisoner? Better, far better would it be to die than to be a prisoner in the hands of the English. All their taunts, their gibes, their threats came to her in a rush of memory. She knew what to expect; the stake and the fire had been held up as a menace often enough. Terrified, the young girl fell on her knees, uttering a broken cry of appeal:

“Not that! Not that! Out of your grace I beseech you that I may die in that hour.”

“Fear not; so it must be,” came the reply. “Be of good courage. God will aid you.”

“Tell me the hour, and the day,” she pleaded brokenly.

“Before the St. Jean. Before the St. Jean,” came the reply. And that was all.

For a long moment Jeanne knelt, her face bowed upon her hands; then she bent and kissed the ground before her.

“God’s Will be done,” she said. Rising she went on with her work, as calmly, as serenely as though knowledge of her fate had not been vouchsafed her.

She knew, but she did not falter. A braver deed was never done. Who else has shown such courage and high heart since the beginning of the world? To know that she was to be taken, and yet to proceed with her task as though she knew it not! There is an ecstasy in the whirl of battle; a wild joy in the mad charge of cavalry and the clash of steel on steel. There is contagion in numbers filled with the thought that the enemy must be overcome, the fortress taken; a contagion that leads to deeds of valour. There is inspiration in the call of the bugle, or sound of the trumpet, in the waving of banners, in the war cries of the captains. But for the prisoner there is no ecstasy, no joy, no valorous contagion induced by numbers, no inspiration of music, or banners, or war cries. There are only the chill of the dungeon, the clank of the chain, the friendless loneliness, and at length the awful death. But with capture certain, with the consciousness of what was in store, this girl of eighteen went her way doing all that she could in the little time that was left her for France.

The fighting of the Spring was to be along the River Oise. While Charles and his Council had rested serenely reliant upon the faith of Burgundy, the duke and the Regent had completed their plans for the Spring campaign. An army, victualled in Normandy and Picardy, was to take the towns near Paris and thereby relieve the city, which was to be well garrisoned. Only by recovering these towns from the French could Paris be made secure. The good town of Compiègne was especially to be desired, for whosoever held Compiègne would come in time to hold Paris. It was thirty leagues to the north and west of the capital, lying on the River Oise. It will be recalled that Charles had offered the city as a bribe to Burgundy to woo him from the English allegiance, but the city had refused to be lent. It had submitted to the King and the Maid the August before, and its people remained loyal, declaring that they would die and see their wives and children dead before they would yield to England or Burgundy; saying that they preferred death to dishonour. They had imbibed Jeanne’s spirit, and the Maid loved them.

It was further planned by the Regent to clear the road to Reims so that young Henry of England might be crowned there. Bedford was bringing him over from England for that purpose, believing that the French would be more inclined to support him if he were crowned at Reims. This plan was given up, however, for Burgundy warned Bedford against attempting to imitate the feat of the Maid, saying that it was too difficult. So the real objective of the spring campaign became Compiègne, other movements being to relieve Paris, and to distract the French on their rear. For the French were rising; rising without their King. All over northern France there were stir and activity as troops began to gather to go against the enemy.

From Melun Jeanne journeyed to Lagny, which was but a short distance away, but the road was through a country full of enemies, in which she was subject to attack from every direction. It was one of the towns recovered for France the August before, and was now held for Ambrose de Loré by Foucault with a garrison of Scots under Kennedy, and a Lombard soldier of fortune, Baretta, with his company of men-at-arms, cross-bowmen and archers. It was making “good war on the English in Paris,” and “choking the heart of the kingdom.”

Paris itself became greatly excited when it heard of the arrival of the Maid at Lagny, its ill-neighbor, and feared that she was coming to renew her attack on the city. Among the English also there was consternation when the tidings spread that again Jeanne had taken to the field. “The witch is out again,” they declared to their captains when the officers sought to embark troops for France, and many refused to go. They deserted in crowds. Beating and imprisonment had no effect upon them, and only those who could not escape were forced on board.

Jeanne had scarcely reached Lagny when news came that a band of Anglo-Burgundians was traversing the Isle of France, under one Franquet d’Arras, burning and pillaging the country, damaging it as much as they could. The Maid, with Foucault, Kennedy and Baretta, determined to go against the freebooters.

They came up with the raiders when they were laying siege to a castle, and were laden with the spoils of a recently sacked village. The assault was made, and “hard work the French had of it,” for the enemy was superior in numbers. But after a “bloody fight” they were all taken or slain, with losses also to the French in killed and wounded.

For some reason the leader, Franquet d’Arras, was given to Jeanne. There had been an Armagnac plot in Paris in March to deliver the city to the loyalists, but it had failed. The Maid hoped to exchange the leader of the freebooters for one of the chief conspirators who had been imprisoned, but it was found that the man had died in prison, so the burghers demanded Franquet of Jeanne, claiming that he should be tried as a murderer and thief by the civil law. Jeanne did as requested, saying as she released him to the Bailly of Senlis:

“As my man is dead, do with the other what you should do for justice.”

Franquet’s trial lasted two weeks; he confessed to the charges against him, and was executed. The Burgundians although accustomed to robbery, murder and treachery, charged Jeanne with being guilty of his death, and later this was made a great point against her.

There was another happening at Lagny that was later made the basis of a charge against the Maid. A babe about three days old died, and so short a time had it lived that it had not received the rites of baptism, and must needs therefore be buried in unconsecrated ground. In accordance with the custom in such cases the child was placed upon the altar in the hope of a miracle, and the parents came to Jeanne requesting her to join with the maidens of the town who were assembled in the church praying God to restore life that the little one might be baptized.

Jeanne neither worked, nor professed to work miracles. She did not pretend to heal people by touching them with her ring, nor did the people attribute miracles to her. But she joined the praying girls in the church, and entreated Heaven to restore the infant to life, if only for so brief a space of time as might allow it to be received into the Church. Now as they knelt and prayed the little one seemed suddenly to move. It gasped three times and its color began to come back.

Crying, “A miracle! A miracle!” the maidens ran for the priest, and brought him. When he came to the side of the child he saw that it was indeed alive, and straightway baptized it and received it into the Church. And as soon as this had been done the little life that had flared up so suddenly went out, and the infant was buried in holy ground. If receiving an answer to earnest prayer be witchcraft were not the maidens of Lagny equally guilty with Jeanne? But this act was later included in the list of charges brought against her.

From Lagny Jeanne went to various other places in danger, or that needed encouragement or help. She made two hurried visits to Compiègne which was being menaced in more than one direction by both parties of the enemy, and was now at Soissons, now at Senlis, and presently in the latter part of May came to Crépy-en-Valois.

And here came the news that Compiègne was being invested on all sides, and that preparations to press the siege were being actively made. Eager to go at once to the aid of the place Jeanne ordered her men to get ready for the march. She had but few in her company, not more than two or three hundred, and some of them told her that they were too few to pass through the hosts of the enemy. A warning of this sort never had any effect upon Jeanne.

“By my staff, we are enough,” she cried. “I will go to see my good friends at Compiègne.”[25]

At midnight of the twenty-second, therefore, she set forth from Crépy, and by hard riding arrived at Compiègne in the early dawn, to the great joy and surprise of the Governor, Guillaume de Flavy, and the people who set the bells to ringing and the trumpets to sounding a glad welcome.

The men-at-arms were weary with the night’s ride, but Jeanne, after going to mass, met with the Governor to arrange a plan of action.

Now Compiègne in situation was very like to Orléans, in that it lay on a river, but it was on the south instead of the north bank. Behind the city to the southward stretched the great forest of Pierrefonds, and at its feet was the River Oise. In front of the city across the river a broad meadow extended to the low hills of Picardy. It was low land, subject to floods, so that there was a raised road or causeway from the bridge of Compiègne to the foot of the hills, a mile distant. Three villages lay on this bank: at the end of the causeway was the tower and village of Margny, where was a camp of Burgundians; on the left, a mile and a half below the causeway, was Venette, where the English lay encamped; and to the right, a league distant above the causeway, stood Clairoix, where the Burgundians had another camp. The first defence of the city, facing the enemy, was a bridge fortified with a tower and boulevard, which were in turn guarded by a deep fosse.

It was Jeanne’s plan to make a sally in the late afternoon when an attack would not be expected, against Margny, which lay at the other end of the raised road. Margny taken, she would turn to the right and strike at Clairoix, the second Burgundian camp, and so cut off the Burgundians from their English allies at Venette. De Flavy agreed to the sortie, and proposed to line the ramparts of the boulevard with culverins, men, archers, and cross-bowmen to keep the English troops from coming up from below and seizing the causeway and cutting off retreat should Jeanne have to make one; and to station a number of small boats filled with archers along the further bank of the river to shoot at the enemy if the troops should be driven back, and for the rescue of such as could not win back to the boulevard.

Joan Leading the Charge - Warrior Maid

The whole of the long May day was occupied in completing arrangements, and it was not until five o’clock in the afternoon that everything was in readiness. It had been a beautiful day, warm with May sunshine, but cooled by a breeze from the west, sweet with the scent of flowers and growing grass. The walls of the city, the windows and roofs of the houses, the buildings on the bridge, and the streets were lined with people waiting to see the Maid and her companions set forth. Presently Jeanne appeared, standard in hand, mounted on a great grey horse, and clad in a rich hucque of crimson cramoisie over her armour. At sight of her the people went wild with joy, shouting:

“Noël! Noël! Noël!” while women and girls threw flowers before her. Jeanne turned a happy face toward them, bowing and smiling, as she rode forth to her last field.

With her rode D’Aulon, his brother, Pothon le Bourgnignon, her brothers, Jean and Pierre, and her Confessor, Father Pasquerel, and a company of five hundred men. Across the bridge they clattered, then took at speed the long line of the causeway to Margny.

“Forward! they are ours!” called Jeanne’s clear voice as the village was reached.

With a shout the troops hurled themselves upon the Burgundians, taking the enemy completely by surprise. A scene of confusion ensued. There were cries of triumph from the French as they chased the Burgundians hither and thither, and cries of dismay and clashing of steel from the Burgundians as they scattered before the French through the village. Everything was going as the Maid had planned; for the town was taken.

Just at this juncture Jean de Luxembourg, commander of the Burgundian camp at Clairoix, with several companions, was riding from Clairoix on a visit to the commander at Margny. They had drawn rein on the cliff above Margny, and were discussing the defences of Compiègne when, hearing the clash of arms, they looked over the bluff and saw the scrimmage. Wheeling, they made for Clairoix, and brought up their troops on a gallop. To render the post of Margny untenable took time; so when, flushed with triumph, Jeanne’s men turned into the plain toward Clairoix, Luxembourg’s men-at-arms set upon them, attacking their right flank. The French rolled back, overwhelmed by the onslaught. Rallying her men, Jeanne charged, and swept back the enemy. Again the French were repulsed; again the Maid drove back the Burgundians; and thus the fray raged on the flat ground of the meadow, first in favor of the one, and then of the other. As they surged with this alternative of advance and retreat the French were pressed back to the causeway. And then, as reinforcements of the Burgundians continued to arrive a panic suddenly seized the French, and they broke and ran for the bridge and the boats. In vain Jeanne tried to rally them to the charge. For once they were deaf to her voice.

Caring only for the safety of her band Jeanne covered the rear, charging the enemy with those who remained with her, with such effect that they were driven back full half the length of the causeway. “She that was the chief and most valiant of her band, doing deeds beyond the nature of woman.”[26]

Suddenly there sounded a loud hurrah, and from a little wood on the left there came galloping and running across the meadow land from Venette the men-at-arms and the archers of England. Assailed on all sides, for the Burgundians at Margny had rallied and re-entered the fray, the confusion of the French became extreme. A struggling, seething mass of fugitives crowded the causeway, running for their lives. Men and foot soldiers, and behind them mounted men-at-arms, spurring hard, and all making for the boulevard. The gunners on the walls trained their cannon on the mass of men, but fugitives and enemy were so commingled that friend and foe could not be distinguished, and they dared not fire. And De Flavy did nothing.

Roused to the danger of their position D’Aulon entreated Jeanne to make for the town.

“The day is lost, Pucelle,” he cried. “All are in retreat. Make for the town.” But Jeanne shook her head.

“Never,” she cried. “To the charge!”

D’Aulon, Jean and Pierre, her brothers, all her own little company, closed around her, resolved to sell their lives dearly in her defence, and D’Aulon and Pierre, seizing hold of her bridle rein, forcibly turned her toward the town, carrying her back in spite of herself.

But now they were assailed from all sides, the little company fighting, struggling, contesting every inch of ground, beating off their adversaries, and advancing little by little toward the boulevard.

“We shall make it, Jeanne,” exulted Pierre D’Arc when they were within a stone’s throw of the walls, but the words died on his lips, for at this moment came a ringing order from the gate:

“Up drawbridge: close gates: down portcullis!”

Instantly the drawbridge flew up, down came the portcullis, the gates were closed and barred. Jeanne the Maid was shut out.

A groan came from Pierre’s lips, but his sister smiled at him bravely; as old D’Aulon shouted:

“Treachery! In God’s name, open for the Maid.”

But the gates were closed, and the drawbridge remained up. There was a second’s interchange of looks between the brothers and sister as the enemy with shouts of triumph closed around them in overwhelming numbers. Only a second, but in that brief time they took a mute farewell of each other. Man after man of the little company was cut down or made prisoner. D’Aulon was seized, then Jean, then Pierre, and Jeanne found herself struggling in the midst of a multitude of Anglo-Burgundians. One seized her wrists, while a Picard archer tore her from the saddle by the long folds of her crimson hucque, and in a moment they were all upon her.

“Yield your faith to me,” cried the Picard archer, who had seized her hucque.

“I have given my faith to another than you, and I will keep my oath,” rang the undaunted girl’s answer.

At this moment there came a wild clamour of bells from the churches of Compiègne in a turbulent call to arms to save the Maid. Their urgent pealing sounded too late.

Jeanne D’Arc had fought on her last field. The inspired Maid was a prisoner.

[23] Percéval De Cagny.
[24] So spelled in the patent. A softening of the Lorraine D’Arc.
[25] These words are on the base of a statue of her that stands in the square of the town.
[26] Monstrelet––a Burgundian Chronicler––so writes of her.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 25 Warrior Maid

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