« PreviousContinue »
AT THE HEAD OF THE TROOPS.
to your own country; but if you do not, attend to what the Maid declares to you: that you shall see her shortly, to your destruction. King of England, if you act not thus, I tell you that in whatever place I find your people in France, will they or will they not, I will drive them hence. It is for this purpose that I am sent by the King of Heaven ; body to body, to drive you all out of France.' In this strain, her somewhat long and tedious letter continues its tone of bold defiance. It was treated by the English with derision.1
Jeanne followed up her epistle by leaving Blois on the 28th of April, at the head of a fine body of men. Several of the first commanders of the day rode by her side, among whom were the Marshals de Broussac, De Culaut, De Loré, De Saintrailles, La Hire, and De Retz, of whom Henri Martin says, 'it was a devil riding by the side of an angel.' Jeanne supported the weight of her armour, and managed the warlike animal she rode, as if she had been accustomed to both all the days of her life. Her voices, she said, never forsook her, and her strong religious feelings prompted her to address the men herself, counselling them to make confession before they went into battle, and, as their chief, strictly forbidding all profane oaths and blasphemous expressions.
Jeanne, mounted and bearing her beautiful standard, rode
1 There are many versions of this letter, but they differ from each other in nothing material. The above is only a part of that given in the Mémoire de la Pucelle.
majestically at the head of her people, followed by a vast number of priests, who chanted solemnly the Veni creator spiritus. That night was passed, both by the Maid and her troops, on the ground;-no wonder that, unaccustomed to such a bed, she arose somewhat indisposed at dawn. Jeanne commenced the day with a religious service, receiving the holy communion in the face of all the army. So impressive was her example, that men who had hitherto lived a reckless life of debauchery suddenly became serious, and craved to participate in the sacred rite.
The waggons that Jeanne and her companions were to convoy, heavily laden with provisions for the famishing city, rendered the march somewhat slow and tedious. On the 29th of April they came in sight of Orleans. Jeanne, who believed all that she did was under the immediate inspiration of her voices, on leaving Blois, directed that the convoy should proceed at once along the north bank of the Loire, through the district called Beauce, where the English were in the most strength. But the French captains, her colleagues, who cared little for her spiritual mission (except as of service to give confidence to the men), naturally considered themselves better judges of the art of war than an untaught shepherd girl, and thinking an advance in that quarter would be much too dangerous, advised the south bank of the river in Sologne, where the English forts (bastilles) were less strong, less guarded, and some indeed only in part built. Jeanne,
however, persisted, and the French gentlemen had recourse to mancuvre.
They found that she knew nothing of the country through which they were to pass, and directed the march, therefore, according to their own pleasure. At length, when they came in sight of Orleans, Jeanne, finding the Loire running between her party and the city walls, knew she had been deceived, and was greatly angered. Dunois had come out with boats; but on account of the low state of the river, the boats, it was found, if laden, could not reach any landing, except that of Chéri, two leagues east of the city. The wind was wild and contrary, the heavens black with thick clouds, and all the indications of a coming storm. It seemed madness to put the stores on board.
The captains—even Dunois—advised delay; but Jeanne would not consent to it. All felt distressed and embarrassed. What was to be done?
• You have deceived me,' said Jeanne ; ‘but you are yourselves deceived.' And turning to the captains who were near her, she said, “The counsel of God is more certain than yours: know that I bring relief from heaven.' The chronicler of the time avers that she expressly told them the wind would change and become favourable; and suddenly it did so. This was ascribed by many to her miraculous powers. Under her direction the provisions so needed were placed on board, and were taken into Orleans by the ordinary landing in safety, whilst the English looked on and offered no interruption. What
with surprise, and the fear of an encounter with the powers of darkness in the person of Jeanne, heralded as she was by a night of terror, for the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed with fearful violence, they kept close within their quarters, and made not the slightest offensive movement.
There was another convoy required for a second store of provisions to come from Blois ; and some of the unwearied chiefs determined to return, in order to conduct it as soon as possible. They would not, therefore, on that night enter Orleans. They did not wish for Jeanne's assistance. She was displeased at their evident want of confidence in her mission, but consented to stay in the city with such men-at-arms as were not to accompany them, provided she might have her confessor and some other religious men left with her, to preserve the good conduct she was so desirous to establish among the troops. This settled according to her wishes, she determined to enter Orleans that night, April 29, 1429.
Her welcome was enthusiastic: in despite of the angry elements, old and young rushed forward to receive her. She rode into the city on her noble cream-coloured charger; her standard was borne before her; and as she waved her sword, she looked radiant with the joy of having so far accomplished her mission as to have introduced supplies into the starving city.
Mémoires de Florent d'Illiers.
HER ARRIVAL IN ORLEANS.
“The maid advanced ;
Without dismounting, she led the way to the Cathedral ; Dunois, who had remained, assisted her to dismount, and with raised hands and deep emotion she entered the sacred precincts. The troops and a host of the inhabitants followed, and by torchlight, within that ancient and vaulted pile, a Te Deum of thankfulness was chanted with heart and voice, by priests and people, for the mercy vouchsafed to the sufferers thus rescued from famine and despair.
That night Jeanne lodged at the house of Jean Boucher, who was treasurer to the captive Duke of Orleans. His wife and little daughter were in immediate attendance upon Jeanne, and helped her to disarm. She was worn and weary; and no wonder, since from early morning till the hour she came to the house of Boucher she had not tasted food. Refreshment was now offered to her, and with that hearty welcome which makes hospitality so sweet. But she took from the hand of her hostess only a little wine in a silver cup, and tempered it with water; her supper was a few manchets of bread. She retired to the chamber prepared for her. Her hostess slept in the room, and the little girl shared Jeanne's bed. Such was her prudence, that, being aware her enemies, both English and French, were desirous to detect something amiss in the hope to injure her good name, wherever she lodged she