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through a track of hostile country, where they would be exposed to
the attacks of Burgundian and English soldiery; to avoid which
danger they chose the most unfrequented by-paths, traversed thick
forests, and forded large rivers. But the maid seemed indifferent
to toil or danger, her chief complaint being, that her escort would
not allow her to stop so often as she desired to attend public worship
in the churches.

They crossed the Loire at Gien, and, now on friendly ground, Joan
began openly to declare her mission, announcing to all whom she
met that she was sent from God to crown the king, and release
the faithful city of Orleans. Wild as the story was, we should
remember that it was an age when religion was superstition ; and
no wonder that, when the news of a coming deliverer sent from
Heaven reached the poor besieged, the hard-pressed dispirited band
should welcome this bright ray of hope with renewed confidence.
They seemed indeed well-nigh to have despaired of human aid.
While Joan was detained at Vaucouleurs by Baudricourt's indecision,
the besieged had besought the king once more to afford them
some assistance ; and it was with the utmost difficulty Charles had
mustered 3000 men. These, under the command of the Count of
Clermont, were joined by 1000 men from the garrison, the plan
being to intercept a large convoy of provisions which Sir John
Fastolf was escorting from Paris. Fastolf opposed only 2000
soldiers to this force ; but so harassed, and weakened, and dispirited
must the French have been, that they were completely routed,
leaving 500 dead upon the field. This engagement was called
49 9


the ' Battle of Herrings,' because the provisions under the charge of
Fastolf chiefly consisted of salt-fish, for the use of the English army
during Lent.

In the meantime, the young king, surrounded at the castle of
Chinon, the retreat he had chosen, by pusillanimous counsellors, was
more than half persuaded to abandon Orleans to its fate, and at
once take refuge in the mountainous recesses of Dauphine" and
Languedoc. But happily, the advice of some more patriotic spirit
prevailed, and no such craven steps were taken.

Arrived at the village of St Catharine de Fierbois, a fexfl leagues
from Chinon, a messenger was despatched from Joan to the king;
and though permission was easily awarded for her to proceed to a
hostelry at the latter place, much grave deliberation ensued before
she could be admitted to the royal presence. Some considered her
a sorceress empowered by the Evil One; others looked upon her
as a mad enthusiast ; while not a few considered that, at so sad a
crisis as the present, no promised means of deliverance, however
extraordinary, should be rashly spurned. At last it was agreed that
a commission should be appointed to receive her answers to certain
questions; and their report proving favourable, and several lords
of the court, whose curiosity had led them to visit her, being forcibly
struck by her fervid piety and exalted strain of inspiration, the
wavering Charles, after some further delay, decided to receive her.

It was in the hall of Chinon, lighted up for the occasion with fifty
torches, and crowded with knights and nobles, that this remarkable
audience took place. The king, the better to test Joan's powers,
had so far disguised himself as to appear in plain clothes, mingling
without ceremony among his courtiers, while some of them, splendidly
attired, took the upper places. Undismayed at the splendour of
the scene, or the gaze of the spectators, she advanced with a firm
step, and with her acute eye at once singled out the king in a
moment, and bending her knee before him, exclaimed : ' God give
you good life, gentle king !'

' I am not the king; he is there,' replied Charles, pointing to one
of his nobles, and condescending to a falsehood.

' In the name of God, you are he, and no other,' returned Joan. 'O
most noble Dauphin!' she continued, 'I am Joan the Maid, sent
by God to aid you and your kingdom. I am ready to take arms
against the English. And I am commanded to announce to you
that you shall be crowned in the city of Rheims. Gentle Dauphin,
why will you not believe me ? I tell you that God has pity upon
you and upon your people, and that St Louis and Charlemagne are
interceding for you now before him.'

Charles then drew her aside, and, after conversing with her for
some time in an under-tone, he declared himself in favour of her
oracular gifts.

While at Chinon, an incident occurred which went far to strengthen


the popular belief in Joan's powers. A soldier, when she was
passing by, addressed some rudeness to her, to which she gently
replied, that such words ill became a man who might be so near
his end. The soldier was drowned that very day in attempting
to ford a river, and Joan's reproof was immediately regarded as a
prophecy. The populace, indeed, were now growing warm in her
behalf; and it is worthy of remark, that with them the maid always
retained her ascendency, while the faith of those more exalted in
rank, and more about her person, constantly wavered ; a proof,
to our mind, of her own sincerity, for the reverse is always the case
with a clever charlatan. There can be no doubt that the more closely
she was seen, the more evident did her fervid piety and religious
and political enthusiasm appear; but the warriors about her must
also have discovered that she was totally ignorant of war and
politics, and unable even without their mediation to reach the army.
Charles's doubts returned, notwithstanding her marvellous com-
munication to himself, and the case was referred to the university
and parliament at Poitiers. A long and tedious theological examina-
tion ensued; messengers were despatched to Domremy to learn
all the particulars of her early life ; and every means being resorted
to that could prove her spotless purity, the learned doctors such
learning ! gave it as their opinion, that Charles might accept her
services without harm to his souL


Joan being now recognised as a useful auxiliary in the almost
hopeless cause of France, she was equipped with a suit of knight's
armour, and furnished with a certain sword, which she described as
being marked with five crosses, and lying, with other arms, in the
church-vault of St Catharine at Fierbois. A messenger was sent
thither, and the old neglected weapon said by some to have
belonged to the redoubtable Charles M artel was found precisely in
the spot she had mentioned. This was interpreted as a new proof
of her supernatural powers ; but surely it is very possible that she
might have seen the sword during her stay at Fierbois, when, there
is no doubt, according to her usual custom, she attended mass. She
was also provided with a banner of white, strewn with the fleiirs-
de-lis of France, and bearing the figure of the Saviour in his glory,
with the inscription, ' Jhesus Maria.' This was made under her own
direction, according to the instructions she said she had received
from her ' voices.' A brave knight, named the Sire d'Aulon, was
appointed her esquire ; and a good old friar, Father Pasquerel, her
confessor ; and she had two heralds and two pages.

Amid the doubts and difficulties and trials to which Joan had been
subjected, two months had slipped away ; so that it was the middle
of April before these preparations were completed, and the maid


appeared at Blois. She made her entry on horseback, in complete
armour, but with her head uncovered, her beautiful chestnut hair
braided across her forehead, and falling upon her neck, though not
descending lower than her shoulders. Her fame had already so
roused the soldiers' flagging spirits, and her appearance was so
imposing, that, confident now of divine support, numbers who had
flung down their arms in despair, rallied round the standard of the
maid; and thus nearly 6000 men were assembled. The indolent
monarch had again withdrawn to the retirement of Chinon ; but his
most valiant captains, De Boussac, De Culant, La Hire, De Retz,
and De Lord, were ready for the field.

It had not been quite decided whether Joan was to control the
troops, or only cheer them by her presence and promises of divine
assistance. But this was not long a point of dispute ; the rising
enthusiasm among the common people was so marked, that the
chiefs, perforce, gave way. One of her first steps was the bold
endeavour to reform the morals of the camp by expelling all bad
characters from it, and by calling upon the men to prepare for battle
by confession and prayer. From Blois, the maid now dictated a
letter to the English captains before Orleans, commanding them,
under pain of vengeance from Heaven, to yield not only that city,
but all the towns of which they had unjustly acquired possession.
It afterwards appeared that she had directed the scribe to write,
' Yield to the king ;' but that he, instigated no doubt by the warriors
about her, had written, ' Yield to the maid ' a striking proof that
Joan was at this time used rather as an instrument by those near
her person, than looked up to and implicitly obeyed as one divinely

The English affected to treat her summons with scorn ; but the
fame of the maid must already have reached them, with even
exaggerated reports of her supernatural endowments ; and it is very
evident that the English, in their hearts, believed one of two things :
either that she was inspired by God, in which case there would be
sin in opposing her ; or, according to the popular faith of the period,
that she was strengthened by Satanic agency the latter being by
no means an encouraging prospect for the enemy. As for the
wretched besieged, they were now reduced to the utmost need ; and
the first object of the French chiefs was to convey food into the city.
They had for some time been collecting two convoys of provisions
for this purpose : and Joan, now asserting her authority, insisted
they should proceed with one of them along the northern bank of
the Loire ; while her colleagues proposed the southern bank, believing
this to be more weakly guarded by the English. Unable to alter
her decision, and yet distrusting her judgment, they took advantage
of her ignorance of the country, and persuaded her that they were
still on the northern bank when really traversing the southern one.
After two days' march, Joan discovered the deception, and broke out


into angry reproaches at finding that the Loire still flowed between
her and the beleaguered city. It really did seem that her plan, as it
turned out, would have been the safer. The night was coming on, a
storm was raging, and the wind was dead against them, so that the
boats Dunois had brought to receive the supplies bade fair to be of
little use. However, the maid insisted they should be immediately
put on board, although the chiefs now counselled delay. Joan assured
them that the wind would change ; which really happened, and the
welcome convoy reached Orleans in safety.

It was Joan's wish that the army who had accompanied her should
throw themselves into the city, and without delay attack the English,
and force them to raise the siege ; but the captains declared that it
was their duty to return to Blois, for the purpose of escorting the
second convoy of provisions. Finding that she could not shake this
determination, which, till the present moment, had been kept secret
from her, she still obtained a promise that this second convoy should
be brought by the northern bank through Beauce, as she had on the
former occasion directed. She likewise stipulated that Father Pas-
querel and the other priests should remain with the army to preserve
its morality, and perform the religious ceremonies on which she
insisted. While, for herself, she undertook, at the entreaty of Dunois,
to enter the beleaguered city and share its fortunes. Accordingly,
she stepped into his boat, standard in hand, and was followed by the
brave La Hire and several others. Two hundred lances crossed in
other boats. They must actually have embarked close under an
English fort ; but the besieged had sallied out in another direction
to draw off the enemy's attention.

It was late in the evening of the 29th of April 1429 when Joan of
Arc entered the city, having certainly surmounted dangers and diffi-
culties enough in reaching the place to confirm the popular belief in
her divine protection. Moreover, the promised deliverer had come,
heralded by the lightning and the thunder, and the first sign of her
beneficent power was to bring plenty to the starving people. No
wonder that their already excited imaginations were yet more keenly
affected by gratitude and hope, or that they thronged round her with
eager acclamations and devotion. Women, children, and old men
pressed near to touch even her armour, or the white charger on
which she rode, fondly believing they thus drew down a blessing.

Notwithstanding her fatigue, and notwithstanding it was nearly
midnight, the maid first proceeded to the cathedral, where the Te
Deum was chanted by torch-light. She then selected her dwelling,
according to her usual practice, at the house of one of the most
esteemed ladies of the city,' and retired to rest, contenting herself for
refreshment with a piece of bread soaked in wine and water, although
a splendid repast had been prepared for her, and although she had
not tasted food since early in the morning. The house in which
Joan lodged at Orleans is still shewn. The interior has been



altered ; but it is believed by antiquaries that the street-front is the
same as in her time.

The next morning the maid had a conference with Dunois and
others, at which her advice was to proceed immediately to action ;
but her opinion was overruled, and it was decided they should wait
the arrival of the second convoy of provisions. Meanwhile, though
she spoke confidently of raising the siege, she seemed desirous, if
possible, to save bloodshed ; and directed an archer to shoot,
attached to his arrow, a letter of warning into the English lines.
She also advanced along the bridge, and herself exhorted them in a
loud voice to depart. However, as before, they treated her threats
with insult and ridicule ; but their derision was probably only the
readiest mask for real apprehension. Nor can we wonder that the
English were cowed ; for, setting aside any dread of the supernatural,
they must at anyrate have felt that the exertions of the last seven
months were set at nought, since the besieged were again well
stocked with provisions, and full of hope. They must indeed have
been dispirited ; for when the second convoy drew near, they
suffered the heroic Joan and La Hire to sally forth and escort it,
without so much as raising one note of defiance, or one man stirring
to intercept the wagons and herds which came to enrich the city !

Fatigued with this exertion, she had thrown herself on her bed ;
but, as it is reported, she was too much agitated to sleep. At the
same time, unknown to her, a part of the garrison, flushed with the
morning's success, had sallied out and attacked the English bastille
of St Loup. Suddenly, Joan started from her couch, and procuring
her banner, darted full speed in the direction of the uproar ; when
she reached the scene of action, she plunged headlong among the
combatants. The battle raged fiercely for three hours, but it ended
in the overthrow of the English ; all of whom found within the walls
of the fort were put to the sword, except forty prisoners, and a few
who, having disguised themselves in priests' garments, were saved
at the intercession of the maid.

The next day, the fjth of May, was the festival of the Ascension,
and as such was religiously kept by the French. No new attack
was made on the enemy ; but the day was devoted to prayers and
thanksgivings, in which Joan, as usual, was foremost. The following
morning, however, accompanied by La Hire and other chiefs, another
onset was made ; and after a day's hard fighting, their success was
so decided, that only one fort although this was the strongest
remained in the hands of the English. A body of French troops
was planted for the night on the northern shore, but Joan returned
into the city, having been slightly wounded in the fort.

It was the Bastille des Tournelles which the English still retained.

This fort was defended on one side by the broken bridge with its

massy wall ; on the land-side was a formidable bulwark, with a deep

ditch filled with the waters of the Loire. It was commanded by the



brave Gladsdale, and picked soldiers ; and notwithstanding Joan's
wonderful achievements, the French chiefs could not hide their
misgivings as to her future success. They wished to rest content
with the freedom of communication now opened to the provinces,
and to delay any further attack until they should receive fresh rein-
forcements. But Joan would not listen to such arguments. She
talked again of her celestial advisers, and persisted in setting out.
Not, however, till she had actually left the city, followed by an eager
multitude, was she joined by the chiefs, who now determined to
share her perils, and whose valiant conduct certainly proved that
their hesitation had not proceeded from fear.

In proportion as the French were elated by Joan's presence, so
were the English panic-stricken. It was an age in which all classes,
learned as well as ignorant, believed in diabolical agency and witch-
craft ; and hence the English soldiery could scarcely be considered
poltroons for quailing before one whom they imagined to be a
sorceress. The English commanders tried to rally their men, but
they could neither persuade them to assist their comrades, nor to
attack the city while deprived of its best defenders. Gladsdale, in
the Bastille des Tournelles, was left to his own resources ; fortu-
nately, his 500 men of garrison were the flower of the English
army, and his fortifications were of amazing strength, so that his
resistance was long and desperate. A well-sustained discharge
both from bows and firearms was kept up ; and as quickly as
scaling-ladders were placed, they were hewn down by hatchets and
mallets. It was about ten in the morning that the assault had
begun, and about noon when Joan planted a ladder against the
walls, and began ascending. But an arrow from the fort pierced
through her corselet, wounding her in the neck, and she fell into the
ditch beneath. The English were pressing down to make her their
prisoner, when she was rescued by her countrymen, and carried to
a place of safety. The agony of her wound drew a few tears from
her eyes ; but she plucked out the arrow with her own hands, and
assured the bystanders that she had received consolation from her
two saints. She desired that the wound should be quickly dressed,
and insisted on hastening back to head the troops, who, although
the conflict had been suspended in her absence, were no way
disheartened by this accident, as they now remembered she had
more than once foretold that she should be wounded.

Refreshed by this short rest, and yet more inspirited by her
return, they rushed with fresh ardour on the English, who quailed
with astonishment at the sudden appearance in arms of her whom
they had hurled down, and whom they thought they had seen at the
point of death. Bewildered by their fears, some of them declared
they saw angelic forms fighting on the side of the French ; while
the more matter-of-fact party were dismayed at hearing that another
body of the towns-people had advanced to the broken arch, where


they were keeping up a murderous fire, and endeavouring, by the
aid of beams of wood, to force a passage. Sir William Gladsdale,
thus sorely pressed, resolved to withdraw from the outer bulwarks,
and concentrate his remaining force within the towers. While
attempting to do this, he came full in the sight of Joan, who cried
out to him to surrender ; but, heedless of her summons, he pursued
his way along the drawbridge. At this moment, a cannon-ball from
the French batteries broke the drawbridge asunder, and Gladsdale,
with his most valiant followers, perished in the stream. The victory
was now complete. Three hundred of the garrison of the Tournelles
were already slain, and the remaining 200 yielded with scarcely
a show of resistance. The loss of the English before Orleans
amounted to between 7000 and 8000 men.

This remarkable engagement, which relieved Orleans, took place
on the 7th of May 1429. At the close of the struggle, Joan, according
to her prediction, returned by the way of the bridge. It was indeed
a triumphal entry. The joy-bells rang from all the churches, and
the acclamations of the people rent the air. The Te Deum was
chanted in the cathedral, whither the people flocked to offer up their
grateful thanks ; and the victorious troops, proud to relate parti-
culars, were surrounded by eager listeners. But the holy maid was
the centre of all hearts and eyes ; and Dunois and the other captains
who attended her as she entered presumed not to take any merit to
themselves. The next morning, Sunday the 8th of May, the English,
with heavy hearts, began their retreat towards Mehun-sur-Loire,
after committing their remaining lodgments and redoubts to the
flames. For want of the means of transport, they left behind their
baggage, and the sick and wounded ; and they had at the last
moment challenged the enemy to come out in battle-array, and meet
them on the open field. But Joan wisely dissuaded them from so
rash a waste of life and energy, crying : ' In the name of God, let
them depart, and let us go and give thanks to God!' And so
saying, she led the way to high-mass.

The first part of Joan's promise had now been achieved, the result
shewing how much may be done in cases of the worst emergency by
one eager and dauntless mind. Her heroism in relieving the long-
beleaguered city procured her from this time the title of PUCELLE
D'ORLEANS (Maid of Orleans), by which she is still chiefly known
in France. In grateful remembrance of the succour which the
perplexed citizens of Orleans had received through her instrumen-
tality, they set apart the 8th of May for devotional exercises, and this
day is still held sacred as a holiday in Orleans.


The day after the raising of the siege, Joan began the preparations
for her departure. Until the king should be crowned at Rheims,



she considered her mission but half fulfilled ; and neither elated with
her triumphs, and the homage she was receiving, nor wearied with
her toils, she left Orleans on the loth of May, and arrived at Blois
the same day. Indeed, the only way to account for the immense
bodily fatigue Joan so surprisingly endured even granting her to
have had from nature and a hardy training a most robust constitu-
tion is to allow largely for that kind of artificial strength derived
from the excitement of her mind.

Notwithstanding the apparently miraculous fulfilment of her first
prediction, Charles did not at present yield to her urgent entreaties
that he would undertake an expedition to Rheims. It seemed
necessary previously to reduce otber places on the Loire which were
still held by the English ; and, as if the chiefs whom Joan had left
at Orleans were of the same opinion (or it is not unlikely they were
anxious to win some laurels unshared by the heroine), scarcely had
she departed, when they resolved to attack Jargeau, a place now
defended by the Earl of Suffolk and several hundred men. But
after many days being vainly spent, and little progress made, Joan
came to their assistance ; and chiefly, there is no doubt, from the
ardour with which her presence inspired the troops, the town was
taken. Yet here the maid met with an accident very similar to that
which she had encountered at Orleans : she was a second time
thrown from a scaling-ladder which she had planted into the fosse
or ditch ; on this occasion, by a huge stone which rolled from the
wall, struck her on the helmet, and hurled her down. Although
much hurt, she was able to rise again immediately, and to lead on
the soldiers, still crying that victory was sure. The Earl of Suffolk
was made prisoner in this furious encounter.

The fall of Jargeau deterred other garrisons from resistance ; and
Talbot, now at the head of the English forces, gathered them into
one body, and began a hasty retreat towards the Seine. In his
way, he met Fastolf with a reinforcement of 4000 men ; but the

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 2 of 58)