Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 20
Jeanne Shows Her Sign

But never a son of Adam, since the song of man was scrolled,
Has followed the golden lily, by wood or wave or wold,
To triumph after triumph for which the people prayed
In vain through years of anguish, as has the matchless Maid,
The girl with the soldier spirit shrined in the angel mould––

Justin Huntly McCarthy.
The Flower of France.

For fear that the men would fall into disorder while plundering the fortress Jeanne had the buildings of the Augustins burned. On the morrow the Tourelles must be attacked and taken, and the men must be in readiness for it. For this reason they were to encamp for the night on the hard won field. Jeanne wished to remain with them so that she might be ready to push the assault in the early morning; then too, she feared that a night attack might be made by the English, which of course was the proper procedure for the enemy. Jeanne always foresaw what an opposing force ought to do, and then tried to forestall it. But La Hire and the captains besought her to return to the city and seek the services of a leech.[9] She had been wounded in the foot by a chausse-trape (a small piece of iron, which, falling in any position, turned a foot-piercing point uppermost). Both English and French lances carried them as part of their equipment. To be ready for the great work of the next day she must have proper rest, they told her. Finally the maiden consented, and with most of the captains and squires crossed the river to the town. The archers with a body of citizens remained on the field.

It was Friday, and Jeanne was wont to fast on that day, but on this night she broke her fast and ate a little meat, for she was worn and weary. While she was eating a knight came to tell her that the captains were in Council, and that it had been decided that enough had already been done; that their forces were too much inferior to those of the English to hazard an attack upon the Tourelles the next day; that God had greatly favored them already, and that now it seemed wisest to await reinforcements from the King. The town was now well victualled and could afford to wait. Therefore, it did not seem best to the Council to fight the next day.

Jeanne heard the announcement with quiet disdain.

“You have been with your Council,” she said, “and I have been in mine, and you may believe that the counsel of my Lord, the King of Heaven, shall prevail, while councils of your sort shall come to naught. Get up early to-morrow morning, fight your best, and you shall accomplish more than you have done to-day.”

As the knight left she turned to her confessor, and said:

“Rise to-morrow even earlier than to-day. Do your best to keep near me, for to-morrow I shall have yet more to do, and much greater things. To-morrow also blood will flow from my body here.” And again she placed her hand upon a spot above her right breast between her neck and shoulder.

The Maid was up early the next morning, but early as it was some of the burghers were waiting to see her. They had heard the decision of the captains not to fight, and had held a meeting of their own. They were not minded to wait for reinforcements from the King, they said. They had been in siege for seven months, and had nothing but broken promises from the King and his Councillors. Therefore, as God was with her, and had sent them succour through her it seemed madness not to avail themselves of the divine favour. And they besought her to go out against the enemy that day in spite of the captains, and so accomplish the mission with which she had been charged.

Jeanne needed no urging, but answered them with solemn intensity:

“Be of good cheer. In God’s name I will go against the English to-day. And the captains will go also, and will fight with us.”

The delighted burghers departed to spread the tidings, while the maiden ran down to the courtyard to mount her charger, followed by her attendants.

“Stay, Jeanne,” spoke her host Jacques Boucher, coming into the yard with a large fish, a shad, in his hand. “This is for your breakfast. Wait until it is cooked before you go. You need food before starting upon so great an enterprise.”

“Keep it until supper, messire,” cried the girl gaily. “I will back a Godon to share it with me, and to-night, gentle sir, I will come back by the bridge.”

“To-night, Pucelle? That may not be, for an arch of the bridge is broken.”

Jeanne laughed again without replying, and was off. The decision of the captains not to fight had been far from unanimous. There were those who felt that the assault ought not to be postponed, and who were desirous of following the Maid, for over some of them she had gained great influence. Consequently when the great standard appeared in the streets, and the Maid with her company was making for the Burgundy Gate these men gladly flocked to her. Dunois, La Hire, Florent d’Illiers, Poton Zaintrailles, Gaucourt, and many others crossed the river with her; there were some who remained in the city to guard it against attack.

“I will have much to do, more than ever I had,” Jeanne had said the night before. In truth it was no easy task that lay before the French.

There was first a supporting work called a boulevard, on the south bank of the Loire, on solid land, to be taken before the Tourelles could be assailed. Its rear communicated with the bastille by a drawbridge, under which ran a deep, swift strip of the river. It was strong, with high walls and surrounded by a deep fosse. Should it be taken the garrison could retire by the drawbridge to the Tourelles which, being shut off by the Loire into an islanded position was considered impregnable. Its six hundred men, the pick of the English army, were made a host by their captain, Sir William Glasdale, a brave and valorous knight. To drive such a man from such a position would be no light feat. The garrison was amply provided with cannon and small arms, and were full of determined courage.

The French were as well equipped as the English with everything necessary for the attack: arrows and crossbolts, and all small arms, “pavoises,” or strong wide screen shields, and movable wooden shelters to protect the advance of small advancing companies of assailants, cannon, ladders, beams for the ditches, and all the munitions of war. The French had the advantage in numbers over the English, but the latter were possessed of a seemingly unconquerable position.

The French army, whom the men of Orléans had been busy all night feeding and encouraging, lay in the morning sunlight waiting for the leaders. When Jeanne and the captains appeared there was instantly the bustle of activity. With D’Aulon carrying her standard, accompanied by her faithful knights, her brothers and pages, the Maid passed through the ranks and took up her place on the border of the moat of the boulevard. About her the army was arranged in companies under its several captains, each flying its own standard.

At six o’clock the assault began by a bombardment of the boulevard by the artillery, the stone balls of the cannons being thrown sometimes as far as the Tourelles itself. From the town the guns kept up a constant fire against the fortress.

With uncalculating valour the French made the assault, varying the bombardment by furious sorties against the walls. The noise of attack and repulse was terrific. From every side the onset was made. Stooping forward with their shields slung over their backs for protection the French ran up the scaling ladders in swarms, attacking the men at the top with such hardihood that the English cried in amazement:

“Do they think that they are immortal?”

Joan at Orleans at Les Tourelles - Warrior Maid

Again and again the ladders were flung down, the climbers were shot, or smitten, or grappled with and dashed into the fosse. Valiantly the English fought with bow-shot and gunshot, with axes, lances, bills, and leaden maces, and even with their fists, so that there were many killed and wounded. But like Antaeus, of whom it was fabled that being a son of the goddess, Tellus, or the earth, every fall he received from Hercules gave him more strength, so the French returned to the charge after every repulse with such vigour that it was marvellous to behold. The air was filled with shouts and cries of the captains: “France and St. Denys!” “St. George for England!” It whirled to the singing of arrows, the twang of bowstrings, the clang of axes on armour, and the roar of guns.

Exposed to all the dangers of the fray Jeanne stood, her clear girlish voice sounding high above the din and confusion of battle:

“Be of good cheer. The hour is at hand!”

But after many hours of desperate fighting the spirit of the assailants began to flag. Seeing this the Maid seized a scaling ladder, and placing it against the walls started to mount amid a rain of arrows and stones. As she did so she cried clearly:

“On, on! Be of good courage! They are ours.”

With a shout the French swarmed over the fosse with their ladders until there seemed a forest of ladders against the walls. Up Jeanne mounted, still crying out encouragements, and then––all in a moment a bolt whizzed, and uttering a cry of terror and pain the maiden reeled and fell. A great Hurrah! went up from the English––a mighty shout of triumph and rejoicing. The witch had fallen, and with her went the mysterious force that had overwhelmed them. She was slain, or if not killed her blood was shed, which forever spoiled her witchcraft; for such was the superstition. Therefore they rejoiced, and renewed the defence with confidence.

It was De Gamache, the captain who had said that he would not follow a girl of the fields whom nobody knew, who raised her, and carried her back.

“Take my horse, brave creature,” he said. “Bear no malice. I confess that I was in the wrong.”

“It is I that should be wrong if I bore malice,” cried Jeanne, “for never was knight so courteous.”

Her own people had followed her when she was carried out of the fray. The bolt stood out a hand-breadth behind her shoulder, and the maiden wept with the pain. She was General-in-Chief of the army, but she was seventeen, and after all but a girl, so she cried just as any girl would have done. Some one of the soldiers proposed to charm the wound with a song of healing, but the maiden cried:

“I would rather die than do so, for it would be sin.”

And then, because none of her attendants would drag the bolt from her shoulder for fear of hurting her, she herself pulled it out, and as the blood gushed out she swooned. Father Pasquerel, who was surgeon as well as priest, dressed the wound with a compress soaked in oil, and Jeanne, recovering from her faint, made her confession to him, then lay quiet.

Meantime the battle languished. Discouraged assailants were drawing back from the boulevard out of bow-shot, and Dunois himself thought that there was no hope of victory, the day being nearly spent, and the men weary. So he had the recall sounded, and gave orders to retreat across the river. Brave work had been done, and the captains had not hoped to take the place in a month. The bugle notes of the retreat were welcome music to the English, and to the wearied French who had fought without cessation for thirteen hours. But when they sounded on the ears of the wounded Maid she heard them with amazement.

She rose in haste, and somehow managed to mount her horse, and so rode to Dunois.

“Doubt not,” she said. “They are ours. Rest a little. Eat something. Refresh yourselves, and wait for me a little.”

With that she withdrew into a little vineyard close by, and prayed for the half of a quarter of an hour. When she appeared again her eyes were shining, her whole appearance that of one inspired.

“On,” she cried, “the place is ours.” And she spurred toward the fosse.

Now her standard had not been removed from the edge of the moat, for D’Aulon had kept it there to be a terror to the English and an inspiration to the French. When the trumpets had sounded the retreat he, being weary and outworn, had handed it to a Basque to be carried in the retirement. But after the order for the recall had been countermanded by Dunois at the request of the Maid, D’Aulon, moved to do a feat of arms, said to the Basque:

“If I dismount and go forward to the foot of the wall, will you follow me?”

“I will,” said the Basque.

So D’Aulon leaped into the fosse, his shield up, defying the English, but the Basque did not follow; for Jeanne, seeing her standard in the hands of a man whom she did not know, thought that it was lost, and seized hold of the floating end.

“Ha! my standard! My standard!” she cried, and as she and the Basque struggled for it, the banner waved wildly like a signal for an immediate onset. The men-at-arms conceived it to be such and gathered for the attack.

“Ha, Basque! Is this what you promised me?” cried D’Aulon, and the Basque tore the banner from the Maid, ran through the ditch and stood beside the emblem. By this time Jeanne’s company stood about her.

“Watch,” said she to the knight at her side. “Watch till the tail of the standard touches the wall.”

A few moments passed. The great standard fluttered with the movements of the Maytime breeze. Presently the knight cried:

“Jeanne, it touches!”

“Then enter,” cried Jeanne her voice thrilling through the air. “In God’s name, enter! All is yours.”

The troops rose as one man, and flung themselves against the walls. Up they swarmed, “as thick as a cloud of birds lighting on a bush,” says the old chronicle.[10] “Never was assault so fierce and wonderful seen within the memory of living man.” The English, amazed at the new onset, defended themselves valiantly, but the French were irresistible. The defenders became panic-stricken as the French swarmed over the top of the earthwork. Panic-stricken, not by the enemy but by that white figure standing there beneath her standard, the rays of the setting sun striking a dazzling radiance from her shining armour. The witch was there. They had thought her dead, yet there she stood without sign of injury.

“A crowd of butterflies hangs about her,” a soldier cried in terror, throwing down his weapon and turning to flee into the Tourelles.

“No; it is a dove,” gasped another who followed him.

Arrows flew on every side of the maiden, but never touched her, and on the French sped, incited to superhuman effort by the bell-like voice:

“On, on! All is yours!”

And the boulevard was taken.

Showering down blasphemies Glasdale stood on the drawbridge making a desperate effort to save his men by covering their retreat over the bridge into the Tourelles. Suddenly a foul smoke rolled up from the river, suffocating all who stood with him. The citizens had loaded a barque with sulphur and all manner of evil smelling things, and floated it under the drawbridge. Presently tongues of flames shot up from it, licking the rafters of the drawbridge, and darting through the planks, while all about them fell the stone bullets of the guns of Orléans, lighting on the roofs and walls of the Tourelles, and splashing in the waters of the Loire. Jeanne’s quick eye saw the men’s danger.

“Classidas! Classidas!” she cried. “Yield thee, yield thee to the King of Heaven. I have great pity on thee and thy people.”

Before the compassionate voice died away the bridge bent under the rush of armoured men, and broke. Glasdale and his companions plunged downward into the great river and were seen no more, for the weight of their armour, the fire and the water all conspired against them. And at the sight Jeanne broke down and wept, then kneeling began to pray for their souls.

Yet the greater part of the surviving English had succeeded in reaching the fortress, but here they found themselves assailed from another quarter––Orléans. The gap whence the arches had been broken had been spanned by gutters and beams, and through the smoke and dusk came the knights from the city, the Tourelles from that side. The struggle was soon over. Of all the stout defenders of the fort not one escaped; all were slain, drowned, or taken and held to ransom. Talbot with his English in the forts before the city had heard the French trumpets sound the recall, and had believed that the battle was over. Now the flames of boulevard and bridge blazed out the story of a new defeat.

The bells of Orléans pealed forth joyously as Jeanne re-entered the town by the bridge, as she had said she would do. The streets were crowded with people so that it was with difficulty that she could make her way through them. They pressed about her as closely as they could, to kiss her hand, her greaves, her mailed shoes, her charger, or the floating folds of her banner, while others went before her, crying:

“Room! Room for the Maid of Orléans!”

She was no longer the holy Maid from Vaucouleurs or Domremy, she was their Maid; the Heaven-sent deliverer of their city; their Maid whom God had raised from among His poor for their salvation; their Maid, and so she has remained, and always will remain––The Maid of Orléans.

Through all the delirious joy Jeanne rode in a maze of happiness, fatigue, languor, pain, and profound pity for the souls of those who had gone unshriven to their maker. She stopped only to return thanks in the Church of St. Paul, and then rode to her lodgings, and went to bed.

On Sunday morning she arose and, weak from her wound, put on a coat of armour lighter than she had worn, and with Dunois and the captains marched out of the Regnart Gate, for the English had come out of their fortresses and were drawn up outside in battle array. The confident French soldiers were eager to attack them, but Jeanne was reluctant to do so.

“Let us not attack them, for it is Sunday,” she said. “But if they attack you, fight bravely, and you will get the better of them.”

She then sent for an altar and a priest, and bade him celebrate mass in front of both armies. When one mass was done, she bade him celebrate another, both of which she and the French and English soldiers heard with devotion.

“Now look,” she said, “and see if their faces are set toward us.”

“No,” was the answer. “They have turned their backs and are retreating toward Meung.”

“In God’s name, let them go,” she said. “Our Lord does not wish us to fight them to-day. You shall have them another time.”

La Hire with a hundred lances followed the English and found that the retreat was genuine. They had collected their prisoners and all the property they could carry, leaving their sick, their heavy guns and ammunition, huge shields and provisions behind them. Jeanne’s first herald, Guienne, was found bound to a stake preparatory to burning him. The English but waited for the decision of the University at Paris before the execution. Before it had time to arrive the siege was raised.

The army of the French returned to the city and gave thanks, and made a procession; for they were delivered of the ancient enemies of the realm.[11]

That which had been declared impossible was done. The siege of Orléans was raised. Jeanne D’Arc had shown her sign.

[9] Leech: surgeon.
[10] Percéval de Cagny.
[11] This was the foundation of the festival that has been held ever since at Orléans on the eighth of May. It was suspended for a short time during the French Revolution, but resumed afterward. Since 1429 the day has been considered as belonging to the Maid, and so throughout the centuries it has been observed. Orléans does not forget Jeanne D’Arc.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 21 Warrior Maid

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