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´╗┐Title: A Heroine of France
Author: Everett-Green, Evelyn, 1856-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Heroine of France" ***

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A HEROINE OF FRANCE

The Story of Joan of Arc

by

EVELYN EVERETT-GREEN



Contents


  CHAPTER I.     HOW I FIRST HEARD OF THE MAID.

  CHAPTER II.    HOW I FIRST SAW THE MAID.

  CHAPTER III.   HOW THE MAID CAME TO VAUCOULEURS.

  CHAPTER IV.    HOW THE MAID WAS TRIED AND TESTED.

  CHAPTER V.     HOW THE MAID JOURNEYED TO CHINON.

  CHAPTER VI.    HOW THE MAID CAME TO THE KING.

  CHAPTER VII.   HOW THE MAID WAS HINDERED; YET MADE PREPARATION.

  CHAPTER VIII.  HOW THE MAID MARCHED FOR ORLEANS.

  CHAPTER IX.    HOW THE MAID ASSUMED COMMAND AT ORLEANS.

  CHAPTER X.     HOW THE MAID LED US INTO BATTLE.

  CHAPTER XI.    HOW THE MAID BORE TRIUMPH AND TROUBLE.

  CHAPTER XII.   HOW THE MAID RAISED THE SIEGE.

  CHAPTER XIII.  HOW THE MAID WON A NEW NAME.

  CHAPTER XIV.   HOW THE MAID CLEARED THE KING'S WAY.

  CHAPTER XV.    HOW THE MAID RODE WITH THE KING.

  CHAPTER XVI.   HOW THE MAID ACCOMPLISHED HER MISSION.

  CHAPTER XVII.  HOW THE MAID WAS PERSUADED.

  CHAPTER XVIII. HOW I LAST SAW THE MAID.



CHAPTER I. HOW I FIRST HEARD OF THE MAID.


"The age of Chivalry--alas!--is dead. The days of miracles are past
and gone! What future is there for hapless France? She lies in the
dust. How can she hope to rise?"

Sir Guy de Laval looked full in our faces as he spoke these words,
and what could one reply? Ah me!--those were sad and sorrowful days
for France--and for those who thought upon the bygone glories of
the past, when she was mistress of herself, held high her head, and
was a power with hostile nations. What would the great Charlemagne
say, could he see us now? What would even St. Louis of blessed
memory feel, could he witness the changes wrought by only a century
and a half? Surely it were enough to cause them to turn in their
graves! The north lying supine at the feet of the English
conqueror; licking his hand, as a dog licks that of his master,
lost to all sense of shame that an English infant in his cradle (so
to speak) should rule through a regent the fair realm of France,
whilst its own lawful King, banished from his capital and from half
his kingdom, should keep his Court at Bourges or Chinon, passing
his days in idle revelry, heedless of the eclipse of former
greatness, careless of the further aggressions threatened by the
ever-encroaching foe.

Was Orleans to fall next into the greedy maw of the English
adventurers? Was it not already threatened? And how could it be
saved if nothing could rouse the King from his slothful
indifference? O for the days of Chivalry!--the days so long gone
by!

Whilst I, Jean de Novelpont, was musing thus, a curious look
overshadowed the face of Bertrand de Poulengy, our comrade and
friend, with whom, when we had said adieu to Sir Guy a few miles
farther on, I was to return to Vaucouleurs, to pay a long-promised
visit there. I had been journeying awhile with Sir Guy in Germany,
and he was on his way to the Court at Chinon; for we were all of
the Armagnac party, loyal to our rightful monarch, whether King or
only Dauphin still, since he had not been crowned, and had adopted
no truly regal state or authority; and we were earnestly desirous
of seeing him awaken from his lethargy and put himself at the head
of an army, resolved to drive out the invaders from the land, and
be King of France in truth as well as in name. But so far it seemed
as though nothing short of a miracle would effect this, and the
days of miracles, as Sir Guy had said, were now past and gone.

Then came the voice of Bertrand, speaking in low tones, as a man
speaks who communes with himself; but we heard him, for we were
riding over the thick moss of the forest glade, and the horses'
feet sank deep and noiseless in the sod, and our fellows had fallen
far behind, so that their laughter and talk no longer broke upon
our ears. The dreamy stillness of the autumn woodlands was about
us, when the songs of the birds are hushed, and the light falls
golden through the yellowing leaves, and a glory more solemn than
that of springtide lies upon the land.

Methinks there is something in the gradual death of the year which
attunes our hearts to a certain gentle melancholy; and perchance
this was why Sir Guy's words had lacked the ring of hopeful bravery
that was natural to one of his temperament, and why Bertrand's eyes
were so grave and dreamy, and his voice seemed to come from far
away.

"And yet I do bethink me that six months agone I did behold a scene
which seems to me to hold within its scope something of miracle and
of mystery. I have thought of it by day, and dreamed of it by
night, and the memory of it will not leave me, I trow, so long as
breath and being remain!"

We turned and looked at him--the pair of us--with eyes which
questioned better than our tongues. Bertrand and I had been
comrades and friends in boyhood; but of late years we had been much
sundered. I had not seen him for above a year, till he joined us
the previous Wednesday at Nancy, having received a letter I did
send to him from thence. He came to beg of me to visit him at his
kinsman's house, the Seigneur Robert de Baudricourt of Vaucouleurs;
and since my thirst for travel was assuaged, and my purse something
over light to go to Court, I was glad to end my wanderings for the
nonce, in the company of one whom I still loved as a brother.

From the first I had noted that Bertrand was something graver and
more thoughtful than had been his wont. Now I did look at him with
wonder in my eyes. What could he be speaking of?

He answered as though the question had passed my lips.

"It was May of this present year of grace," he said, "I mind it the
better that it was the Feast of the Ascension, and I had kept fast
and vigil, had made my confession and received the Holy Sacrament
early in the day. I was in my lodging overlooking the market place,
and hard by the Castle which as you know hangs, as it were, over
the town, guarding or threatening it, as the case may be, when a
messenger arrived from my kinsman, De Baudricourt, bidding me to a
council which he was holding at noon that day. I went to him
without delay; and he did tell me a strange tale.

"Not long since, so he said, an honest prud'homme of the
neighbouring village of Burey le Petit, Durand Laxart by name, had
asked speech with him, and had then told him that a young niece of
his, dwelling in the village of Domremy, had come to him a few days
since, saying it had been revealed to her how that she was to be
used by the God of Heaven as an instrument in His hands for the
redemption of France; and she had been told in a vision to go first
to the Seigneur de Baudricourt, who would then find means whereby
she should be sent to the Dauphin (as she called him), whom she was
to cause to be made King of France."

"Mort de Dieu!" cried Sir Guy, as he gazed at Bertrand with a look
betwixt laughter and amaze, "and what said your worshipful uncle to
that same message?"

"At the first, he told me, he broke into a great laugh, and bid the
honest fellow box the girl's ears well, and send her back to her
mother. But he added that the man had been to him once again, and
had pleaded that at least he would see his niece before sending her
away; and since by this time he was himself somewhat curious to see
and to question this village maiden, who came with so strange a
tale, he had told Laxart to bring her at noon that very day, and he
desired that I and certain others should be there in the hall with
him, to hear her story, and perhaps suggest some shrewd question
which might help to test her good faith."

"A good thought," spoke Sir Guy, "for it is hard to believe in
these dreamers of dreams. I have met such myself--they talk great
swelling words, but the world wags on its way in spite of them.
They are no prophets; they are bags of wind. They make a stir and a
commotion for a brief while, and then they vanish to be heard of no
more."

"It may be so," answered Bertrand, whose face was grave, and whose
steadfast dark-blue eyes had taken a strange shining, "I can only
speak of that which I did see and hear. What the future may hold
none can say. God alone doth know that."

"Then you saw this maid--and heard her speech. What looked she
like?--and what said she?"

"I will tell you all the tale. We were gathered there in the great
hall. There were perhaps a score of us; the Seigneur at the head of
the council table, the Abbe Perigord on his right, and the Count of
La Roche on his left. There were two priests also present, and the
chiefest knights and gentlemen of the town. We had all been
laughing gaily at the thought of what a village maid of but
seventeen summers--or thereabouts--would feel on being introduced
into the presence of such a company. We surmised that she would
shrink into the very ground for shame. One gentleman declared that
it was cruel to ask her to face so many strangers of condition so
much more exalted than her own; but De Baudricourt cried out, 'Why
man, the wench is clamouring to be taken to the King at his Court!
If she cannot face a score of simple country nobles here, how can
she present herself at Chinon? Let her learn her place by a sharp
lesson here; so may she understand that she had best return to her
distaff and spindle and leave the crowning of Kings to other
hands!' And it was in the midst of the roar of laughter which
greeted this speech that the door opened slowly--and we saw the
maid of whom we had been talking."

"And she doubtless heard your mirth," spoke I, and he bent his head
in assent.

"I trow she did," he answered, "but think you that the ribald jests
of mortal men can touch one of the angels of God? She stood for a
moment framed in the doorway, and I tell you I lie not when I
declare that it seemed to all present as though a halo of pure
white light encircled her. Where the light came from I know not;
but many there were, like myself, who noted it. The far end of the
hall was dim and dark; but yet we saw her clear as she moved
forward. Upon her face was a shining such as I have seen upon none
other. She wore the simple peasant dress of her class, with the
coif upon her head; yet it seemed to me--ay, and to others too--as
though she was habited in rich apparel. Perchance it was that when
one had seen her face, one could no longer think upon her raiment.
If a queen--if an angel--if a saint from heaven stood in stately
calm and dignity before one's eyes, how could we think of the
raiment worn? We should see nothing but the grandeur and beauty of
the face and form!"

"Mort de Dieu!" cried Sir Guy with his favourite oath, "but you
look, good Bertrand, as though you had gazed upon some vision from
the unseen world!"

"Nay," he answered gravely, "but I have looked upon the face of one
whom God has visited through His saints. I have seen the reflection
of His glory in human eyes; and so I can never say with others that
the days of miracles are past."

Bertrand spoke with a solemnity and earnestness which could not but
impress us deeply. Our eyes begged him to continue, and he told the
rest of his tale very simply.

"She came forward with this strange shining in her eyes. She bent
before us with simple reverence; but then lifted herself up to her
full height and looked straight at De Baudricourt without boldness
and without fear, as though she saw in him a tool in the hand of
God, and had no other thought for him besides.

"'Seigneur,' she said, 'my Lord has bidden me come to you, that you
may send me to the Dauphin; for He has given me a message to him
which none else may bear; and He has told me that you will do it,
therefore I know that you will not fail Him, and your laughter
troubles me not.'

"'Who is your Lord, my child?' asked De Baudricourt, not laughing
now, but pulling at his beard and frowning in perplexity.

"'Even the Lord of Heaven, Sire,' she answered, and her hands
clasped themselves loosely together whilst her eyes looked upward
with a smile such as I have seen on none other face before. 'He
that is my Lord and your Lord and the Lord of this realm of France.
But it is His holy will that the Dauphin shall be its King, and
that he shall drive back the English, and that the crown shall be
set upon his head. And this, with other matters which are for his
ear alone I am sent to tell him; and you, good my lord, are he who
shall send me to my King.'

"Thus she spoke, and looked at us all with those shining eyes of
hers; yet it seemed to me she scarce saw us. Her glance did go
beyond, as though she were gazing in vision upon the things which
were to be."

"She was beautiful, you say?" asked Sir Guy, whose interest was
keenly aroused; but who, I saw, was doubtful whether Bertrand had
not been deceived by some witchery of fair face and graceful form;
for Bertrand, albeit a man of thews and sinews and bold as a lion
in fight, was something of the dreamer too, as warriors in all ages
have sometimes been.

"Yes--as an angel of God is beautiful," he answered, "ask me not of
that; for I can tell you nothing. I know not the hue of her hair or
of her eyes, nor what her face was like, nor her form, save that
she was tall and very slender; but beautiful--ah yes!--with the
beauty which this world cannot give; a beauty which silenced every
flippant jest, shamed every scoffing thought, turned ridicule into
wonder, contempt into reverence. Whether this wonderful maiden came
in truth as a messenger of God or no, at least not one present but
saw well that she herself believed heart and soul in her divine
commission."

"And what answer did the Seigneur de Baudricourt make to her?"

"He gazed upon her full for awhile, and then he suddenly asked of
her, 'And when shall all these wonders come to pass?'

"She, with her gaze fixed still a little upwards, answered, 'Before
mid-Lent next year shall succour reach him; then will the city of
Orleans be in sore straight; but help shall come, and the English
shall fly before the sword of the Lord. Afterwards shall the
Dauphin receive consecration at Rheims, and the crown of France
shall be set upon his head, in token that he is the anointed of the
Lord.'

"'And who has told you all this, my child?' asked De Baudricourt
then, answering gently, as one speaks within a church.

"'Mes voix,' she answered, speaking as one who dreams, and in
dreaming listens.

"'What voices?' asked De Baudricourt, 'and have you naught but
voices to instruct you in such great matters?'

"'Yes, Sire,' she answered softly, 'I have seen the great Archangel
Michael, his sword drawn in his hand; and I know that he has drawn
it for the deliverance of France, and that though he has chosen so
humble an instrument as myself, yet that to him and to the Lord of
Heaven will he the victory and the glory.'

"When she had thus spoken there was a great silence in the hall, in
which might have been heard the fall of a pin, and I vow that
whether it were trick of summer sunshine or no, the light about the
maiden seemed to grow brighter and brighter. Her face was just
slightly uplifted as one who listens, and upon her lips there was a
smile.

"'And I know that you will send me to the Dauphin, Robert de
Baudricourt,' she suddenly said, 'because my voices tell me so.'

"We all looked at De Baudricourt, who sat chin on hand, gazing at
the maiden as though he would read her very soul. We waited,
wondering, for him to speak At last he did.

"'Well, my girl, I will think of all this. We have till next year,
by your own showing, ere these great things shall come to pass. So
get you home, and see what your father and mother say to all this,
and whether the Archangel Michael comes again or no. Go home--be a
good girl, and we will see what we will see.'"

"Was that all he promised?" spoke Sir Guy with a short laugh. "I
trow the maiden dreamer would not thank him for that word! A
deliverer of princes to be bidden to go home and be a good girl!
What said she to that counsel?"

"Ay, well you may ask," spoke Bertrand with subdued emotion. "Just
such a question sprang to my lips as I heard my kinsman's answer. I
looked to see her face fall, to see sparks of anger flash from her
eyes, or a great disappointment cloud the serene beauty of her
countenance. But instead of this a wonderful smile lighted it, and
her sweet and resonant voice sounded clear through the hall.

"'Ah, now Seigneur, I know you for a good and true man! You speak
as did my voices when first I heard them. "Jeanne, sois bonne et
sage enfant; va souvent a l'eglise"; that was their first message
to me, when I was but a child; and now you say the same to me--be a
good girl. Thus I know that your heart is right, and that when my
Lord's time is come you will send me with His message to the
Dauphin.'

"And so saying she bent again in a modest reverence before us. Yet
let me tell you that as she did so, every man of us sprang to his
feet by an impulse which each one felt, yet none could explain. As
one man we rose, and bowed before her, as she retired from the hail
with the simple, stately grace of a young queen. Not till the door
had closed behind her did we bethink us that it was to a humble
peasant girl we had paid unconscious homage. We who had thought she
would well-nigh sink to the dust at sight of us, had been made to
feel that we were in the presence of royalty!"

"Tu Dieu! but that is a strange story!" quoth Sir Guy with knitted
brows. "For many a long day I have heard nought so strange! What
think you of it yourself, good Bertrand? For by my troth you speak
like a man convinced that a miracle may even yet be wrought for
France at the hand of this maid."

"And if I do, is that so strange? Cannot it be that the good God
may still speak through His saints to the sons of men, and may
raise up a deliverer for us, even as He did in the days of old for
His chosen people? Is His arm shortened at all? And is it meet that
we Christian knights should trust Him less than did the Jews of
old?"

Sir Guy made no reply, but fell into thought, and then asked a
sudden question:

"Who is this peasant maid of whom you speak? And where is she now?
Is she still abiding content at home, awaiting the time appointed
by her visions?"

"I trow that she is," answered Bertrand. "I did hear that she went
home without delay, as quietly as she had come. Her name is Jeanne
d'Arc. She dwells in the village of Domremy over yonder. Her father
is an honest prud'homme of the place. She has brothers and a
sister. She is known in the village as a pious and gentle maid,
ever ready to tend the sick, hold vigil for the dead, take charge
of an ailing child, or do any such simple service for the
neighbours. She is beloved of all, full of piety and good works,
constant in attendance at church, regular in her confession and at
mass. So much have I heard from her kinsman Laxart, though for mine
own part I have not seen her again."

"And what thinks De Baudricourt of her mission? Does he ever speak
of it?"

"Not often; and yet I know that he has not forgotten it. For
ofttimes he does sink into a deep reverie; and disjointed words
break from him, which tell me whither his thoughts have flown.

"At the first he did say to me, 'Let the girl go home; let us see
if we hear more of her. If this be but a phantasy on her part; if
she has been fasting and praying and dreaming, till she knows not
what is true and what is her own imagining, why, time will cure her
of her fancies and follies. If otherwise--well, we will see when
the time comes. To act in haste were to act with folly.'

"And so he dismissed the matter, though, as I say, he doth not
forget it, and I think never a day comes but he thinks on it."

"And while the Lord waits, the English are active!" cried Sir Guy
with a note of impatience in his voice. "They are already
threatening Orleans. Soon they will march in strength upon it. And
if that city once fall, why what hope is there even for such
remnants of his kingdom as still remain faithful south of the
Loire? The English will have them all. Already they call our King
in mockery 'the King of Bourges;' soon even that small domain will
be reft away, and then what will remain for him or for us? If the
visions of the maiden had been true, why doth not the Lord strike
now, before Salisbury of England can invest the city? If Orleans
fall, all is lost!"

"But Jeanne says that Orleans shall be saved," spoke Bertrand in a
low voice, "and if she speaks sooth, must not she and we alike
leave the times and seasons in the hand of the Lord?"

Sir Guy shrugged his shoulders, and gave me a shrewd glance, the
meaning of which I was at no loss to understand. He thought that
Bertrand's head had been something turned, and that he had become a
visionary, looking rather for a miracle from heaven than for
deliverance from the foe through hard fighting by loyal men
marching under the banner of their King. Truth we all knew well
that little short of a miracle would arouse the indolent and
discouraged Charles, cowed by the English foe, doubtful of his own
right to call himself Dauphin, distrustful of his friends,
despairing of winning the love or trust of his subjects. But could
it indeed be possible that such a miracle could be wrought, and by
an instrument so humble as a village maid--this Jeanne d'Arc?

But the time had come when we must say adieu to our comrade, and
turn ourselves back to Vaucouleurs, if we were not to be benighted
in the forest ere we could reach that place. We halted for our
serving men to come up; and as we did so Bertrand said in a low
voice to Sir Guy:

"I pray you, Seigneur de Laval, speak no word to His Majesty of
this maid and her mission, until such time as news may reach him of
her from other sources."

"I will say no word," answered the other, smiling, and so with many
friendly words we parted, and Bertrand and I, with one servant
behind us, turned our horses' heads back along the road by which we
had come.

"Bertrand," I said, as the shadows lengthened, the soft dusk fell
in the forest, and the witchery of the evening hour fell upon my
heart, "I would that I could see this maiden of whom you speak,
this Jeanne d'Arc of the village of Domremy."

He turned and looked me full in the face; I saw his eyes glow and
the colour deepen in his cheeks.

"You would not go to mock, friend Jean de Metz?" he said, for so I
am generally named amongst my friends.

"Nay," I answered truthfully, "there is no thought of mockery in my
heart; yet I fain would see the Maid."

He paused awhile in thought and then made answer:

"At least we may ride together one day to Domremy; but whether or
no we see the Maid will be according to the will of Heaven."



CHAPTER II. HOW I FIRST SAW THE MAID.


I did not forget my desire to see this maiden of Domremy, nor did
Bertrand, I trow, forget the promise, albeit some days passed by
ere we put our plan into action.

Bad news kept coming in to the little loyal township of
Vaucouleurs. There was no manner of doubt but that the English
Regent, Bedford, was resolved to lose no more time, but seek to put
beneath his iron heel the whole of the realm of France. Gascony had
been English so long that the people could remember nothing
different than the rule of the Roy Outremer--as of old they called
him. Now all France north of the Loire owned the same sway, and as
all men know, the Duke of Burgundy was ally to the English, and
hated the Dauphin with a deadly hatred, for the murder of his
father--for which no man can justly blame him. True, his love for
the English had cooled manifestly since that affair of Duke
Humphrey of Gloucester and Jacquelaine of Brabant, in which as was
natural, he took the part of his brother; but although the Duke of
Bedford was highly indignant with Duke Humphrey, and gave him no
manner of support in his rash expedition, yet the Duke of Burgundy
resented upon the English what had been done, and although it did
not drive him into the arms of the Dauphin, whom he hated worse, it
loosened the bond between him and our foes, and we had hoped it
might bring about a better state of things for our party. Yet
alas!--this seemed as far as ever from being so; and the Burgundian
soldiers still ravaged along our borders, and it seemed ofttimes as
though we little loyal community of the Duchy of Bar would be
swallowed up altogether betwixt the two encroaching foes. So our
hearts were often heavy and our faces grave with fear.

I noted in the manner of the Governor, whose guest I had now
become, a great gravity, which in old days had not been there; for
Robert de Baudricourt, as I remembered him, had ever been a man of
merry mood, with a great laugh, a ready jest, and that sort of
rough, bluff courage that makes light of trouble and peril.

Now, however, we often saw him sunk in some deep reverie, his chin
upon his hand, his eyes gazing full into the blaze of the leaping
fire of logs, which always flamed upon the hearth in the great
hall, where the most part of his time was spent. He would go
hunting or hawking by day, or ride hither and thither through the
town, looking into matters there, or sit to listen to the affairs
of the citizens or soldiers as they were brought before him; and at
such times his manner would be much as it had ever been of
yore--quick, almost rough, yet not unkindly--whilst the shrewd
justice he always meted out won the respect of the people, and made
him a favourite in the town.

But when the evening fell, and the day's work was done, and after
supper we sat in the hall, with the dogs slumbering around us,
talking of any news which might have come in, either of raids by
the roving Burgundians, or the advance of the English towards
Orleans, then these darker moods would fall upon him; and once when
he had sat for well-nigh an hour without moving, his brow drawn and
furrowed, and his eyes seemingly sunk deeper in his head, Bertrand
leaned towards me and whispered in mine ear:

"He is thinking of the Maid of Domremy!"

De Baudricourt could not have heard the words, yet when he spoke a
brief while later, it almost seemed as though he might have done
so.

"Nephew," he said, lifting his head abruptly and gazing across at
us, "tell me again the words of that prophecy of Merlin's, spoken
long, long ago, of which men whisper in these days, and of which
you did speak to me awhile back."

"Marry, good mine uncle, the prophecy runs thus," answered
Bertrand, rising and crossing over towards the great fire before
which his kinsman sat, "'That France should be destroyed by the
wiles of a woman, and saved and redeemed by a maiden.'"

The bushy brows met in a fierce scowl over the burning eyes; his
words came in a great burst of indignation and scorn.

"Ay, truly--he spake truly--the wise man--the wizard! A woman to be
the ruin of the kingdom! Ay, verily, and has it not been so? Who
but that wicked Queen Isabeau is at the bottom of the disgraceful
Treaty of Troyes, wherein France sold herself into the hands of the
English? Did she not repudiate her own son? Did not her hatred burn
so fiercely against him that she was ready to tarnish her own good
fame and declare him illegitimate, rather than that he should
succeed his father as King of France? Did she not give her daughter
to the English King in wedlock, that their child might reign over
this fair realm? Truly has the kingdom been destroyed by the wiles
of a woman! But I vow it will take more than the strength of any
maiden to save and redeem it from the woes beneath which it lies
crushed!"

"In sooth it doth seem so," answered Bertrand with grave and
earnest countenance, "but yet with the good God nothing is
impossible. Hath He not said before this that He doth take of the
mean and humble to confound the great of the earth? Did not the
three hundred with Gideon overcome the hosts of the Moabites? Did
not the cake of barley bread overturn the tent and the camp of the
foe?"

"Ay, if the good God will arise to work miracles again, such things
might be; but how can we look for Him to do so? What manner of man
is the Dauphin of France that he should look for divine
deliverance? 'God helps those who help themselves,' so says the
proverb; but what of those who lie sunk in lethargy or despair, and
seek to drown thought or care in folly and riotous living--heedless
of the ruin of the realm?"

"There is another proverb, good mine uncle, that tells how man's
extremity is God's opportunity," quoth Bertrand thoughtfully; "if
we did judge of God's mercy by man's worthiness to receive the
same, we might well sink in despair. But His power and His goodness
are not limited by our infirmities, and therein alone lies our
hope."

De Baudricourt uttered a sound between a snort and a grunt. I knew
not what he thought of Bertrand's answer; but that brief dialogue
aroused within me afresh the desire I had before expressed to see
the maid, Jeanne of Domremy; and as the sun upon the morrow shone
out bright and clear, after a week of heavy rain storms, we agreed
that no better opportunity could we hope for to ride across to the
little village, and try whether it were possible to obtain speech
with the young girl about whom such interest had been aroused in
some breasts.

We spoke no word to De Baudricourt of our intention. Bertrand knew
from his manner that he was thinking more and more earnestly of
that declaration on the part of the village maiden that her
Lord--the King of Heaven--had revealed to her that she must be sent
to the Dauphin, to help him to drive out the English from his
country, and to place the crown of France upon his head, and that
he, Robert de Baudricourt, was the instrument who would be used to
speed her on her way. Bertrand knew that this thought was weighing
upon the mind of his kinsman, and the more so as the time for the
fulfilment of the prophecy drew nearer.

Autumn had come. Winter was hard at hand; and before Mid-Lent the
promised succour to France was to arrive through the means of this
maiden--this Jeanne d'Arc.

"He is waiting and watching," spoke Bertrand, as we rode through
the forest, the thinning leaves of which allowed the sunlight to
play merrily upon our path. "He says in his heart that if this
thing be of God, the Maid will come again when the time draws near;
but that if it is phantasy, or if she be deluded of the Devil,
perchance his backwardness will put a check upon her ardour, and we
shall hear no more of it. The Abbe Perigord, his Confessor, has
bidden him beware lest it be a snare of the Evil One"--and as he
spoke these words Bertrand crossed himself, and I did the like, for
the forest is an ill place in which to talk of the Devil, as all
men know.

"But for my part, when I think upon her words, and see again the
look of her young face, I cannot believe that she has been thus
deceived; albeit we are told that the Devil can make himself appear
as an angel of light."

This was the puzzle, of course. But surely the Church had power to
discern betwixt the wiles of the Evil One and the finger of God.
There were words and signs which any possessed of the Devil must
needs fly before. I could not think that the Church need fear
deception, even though a village maid might be deceived.

The forest was very beautiful that day, albeit travelling was
something slow, owing to the softness of the ground, and the
swollen condition of the brooks, which often forced us to go round
by the bridges instead of taking the fords; so that we halted a few
miles from Domremy to bait our horses and to appease our own
hunger, for by that time our appetite was sharp set.

It was there, as we sat at table, and talked with mine host, that
we heard somewhat more of this Maid, whom we had started forth in
hopes to see.

Bertrand was known for the kinsman of De Baudricourt and all the
countryside knew well the tale, how that Jeanne d'Arc had gone to
him in the springtide of the year, demanding an escort to the
Dauphin King of France, for whom she had a message from the King of
Heaven, and whom she was to set upon his throne.

"When she came home again, having accomplished nothing," spoke the
innkeeper, leaning his hands upon the table and greatly enjoying
the sound of his own voice, "all the village made great mock of
her! They called her the King's Marshal, the Little Queen, Jeanne
the Prophetess, and I know not what beside. Her father was right
wroth with her. Long ago he had a dream about her, which troubled
him somewhat, as he seemed to see his daughter in the midst of
fighting men, leading them on to battle."

"Did he dream that? Surely that is something strange for the vision
of a village prud'homme anent his little daughter."

"Ay truly, though at the time he thought little of it, but when all
this came to pass he recalled it again; and he smote Jeanne upon
the ear with his open hand, and bid her return to her needle and
her household tasks, and think no more of matters too great for
her. Moreover, he declared that if ever she were to disgrace
herself by mingling with men-at-arms, he would call upon her
brothers to drown her, and if they disobeyed him, he would take and
do it with his own hands!"

"A Spartan father, truly!" murmured Bertrand.

"O ay--but he is a very honest man, is Jacques d'Arc; and he was
very wroth at all the talk about his daughter, and he vowed she
should wed an honest man, as she is now of age to do, and so forget
her dreams and her visions, and take care of her house and her
husband and the children the good God should send them--like other
wedded wives."

"Then has she indeed wedded?" asked Bertrand earnestly.

"Ah, that is another story!" answered our host, wagging his head
and spreading out his hands. "It would take too long were I to tell
you all, messires; but so much will I tell. They did find a man who
had long desired the pretty Jeanne for his wife, and he did
forswear himself and vow that he had been betrothed to Jeanne with
her own free will and consent, and that now he claimed her as his
wife. Jeanne, whose courage is high, though she be so quiet and
modest in her daily life, did vehemently deny the charge, whereupon
the angry father and his friend, the claimant of her hand, did
bring it into the court, and the Maid had to defend herself there
from the accusation of broken faith. But by St. Michael and all his
angels!--how she did confound them all! She asked no help from
lawyers, though one did offer himself to her. She called no
witnesses herself; but she questioned the witnesses brought against
her, and also the man who would fain have become her lord, and out
of their own mouths did she convict them of lying and hypocrisy and
conspiracy, so that she was triumphantly acquitted, and her judges
called her a most wonderful child, and told her mother to be proud
of such a daughter!"

I saw a flush rise to Bertrand's cheek, a flush as of pride and
joy. And indeed, I myself rejoiced to hear the end of the tale; for
it did seem as though this maiden had been persecuted with rancour
and injustice, and that is a thing which no man can quietly endure
to hear or see.

"And how have they of Domremy behaved themselves to her since?" I
asked; and Bertrand listened eagerly for the answer.

"Oh, they have taken her to favour once more; her father has been
kind again; her mother ever loved Jeanne much, for her gentleness
and beauty and helpfulness at home. All the people love her, when
not stirred to mockery by such fine pretensions. If she will remain
quietly at home like a wise and discreet maiden, no one will long
remember against her her foolish words and dreams."

As we rode through the fields and woodlands towards Domremy, the
light began to take the golden hue which it does upon the autumn
afternoon, and upon that day it shone with a wonderful radiance
such as is not uncommon after rain. We were later than we had
meant, but there would be a moon to light us when the sun sank, and
both we and our horses knew the roads well; or we could even sleep,
if we were so minded, at the auberge where we had dined. So we were
in no haste or hurry. We picked our way leisurely towards the
village, and Bertrand told me of the Fairy Well and the Fairy Tree
in the forest hard by, so beloved of the children of Domremy, and
of which so much has been heard of late, though at that time I knew
nothing of any such things.

But fairy lore has ever a charm for me, and I bid him show me these
same things. So we turned a little aside into the forest, and found
ourselves in a lovely glade, where the light shone so soft and
golden, and where the songs of the birds sounded so sweet and
melodious, that I felt as though we were stepping through an
enchanted world, and well could I believe that the fairies danced
around the well, sunk deep in its mossy dell, and fringed about
with ferns and flowers and the shade of drooping trees.

But fairies there were none visible to our eyes, and we moved
softly onwards towards the spreading tree hard by. But ere we
reached it, we both drew rein as by a common impulse, for we had
seen a sight which arrested and held us spellbound, ay, and more
than that, for the wonder and amaze of it fell also upon the horses
we bestrode. For scarcely had we drawn rein, before they both began
to tremble and to sweat, and stood with their forefeet planted,
their necks outstretched, their nostrils distended; uttering short,
gasping, snorting sounds, as a horse will do when overcome by some
terror. But for all this they were as rigid as if they had been
carved in stone.

And now, what did we see? Let me try and tell, so far as my poor
words may avail. Beneath a spreading tree just a stone's throw to
the right of where we stood, and with nothing between to hinder our
view of her, a peasant maiden, dressed in the white coif, red
skirt, and jacket and kerchief of her class, had been bending over
some fine embroidery which she held in her hands. We just caught a
glimpse of her thus before the strange thing happened which caused
us to stop short, as though some power from without restrained us.

Hard by, as I know now, stood the village, shut out from view by
the trees, with its little church, and the homestead of Jacques
d'Arc nestling almost within its shadow. At the moment of which I
speak the bell rang forth for the Angelus, with a full, sweet tone
of silvery melody; and at the very same instant the work dropped
from the girl's hands, and she sank upon her knees. At the first
moment, although instinctively, we reined back our horses and
uncovered our heads, I had no thought but that she was a devout
maiden following the office of the Church out here in the wood. But
as she turned her upraised face a little towards us, I saw upon it
such a look as I have never seen on human countenance before, nor
have ever seen (save upon hers) since. A light seemed to shine
either from it or upon it--how can I tell which?--a light so pure
and heavenly that no words can fully describe it, but which seemed
like the radiance of heaven itself. Her eyes were raised towards
the sky, her lips parted, and through the breathless hush of
silence which had fallen upon the wood, we heard the soft, sweet
tones of her voice.

"Speak, my Lord--Thy servant heareth!"

It was then that our horses showed the signs of terror of which I
have before spoken. For myself, I saw nothing save the shining face
of the Maid--I knew who it was--there was no need for Bertrand's
breathless whisper--"It is she--herself!"--I knew it in my heart
before.

She knelt there amid the fallen leaves, her face raised, her lips
parted, her eyes shining as surely never human eyes have shone
before. A deep strange hush had fallen over all nature, broken only
by the gentle music of the bell. The ruddy gold light of
approaching sunset bathed all the wood in glory, and the rays fell
upon the kneeling figure, forming a halo of glory round it. But she
did not heed, she did not see. She was as one in a trance,
insensible to outward vision. Once and again her lips moved, but we
heard no word proceed from them, only the rapt look upon her face
increased in intensity, and once I thought (for I could not turn my
gaze away) that I saw the gleam of tears in her eyes.

The bell ceased as we stood thus motionless, and as the last note
vibrated through the still air, a change came over the Maid. Her
head drooped, she hid her face in her hands, and thus she knelt as
one absorbed in an intensity of prayer. Even as this happened, the
peculiar glory of the sunlight seemed to change. It shone still,
but without such wonderful glow, and our horses at the same time
ceased their trembling and their rigid stillness of pose. They
shook their heads and jingled their bits, as though striving to
throw off some terrifying impression.

"Let us withdraw from her sight," whispered Bertrand touching my
arm, and very willingly I acceded to this suggestion, and we
silently pressed into the shadow of some great oaks, which stood
hard by, the trunks of which hid us well from view. It seemed
almost like a species of sacrilege to stand there watching the Maid
at her prayers, and yet I vow, that until the bell ceased we had no
more power to move than our horses. Why we were holden by this
strange spell I know not. I can only speak the truth. We saw
nothing and we heard nothing of any miraculous kind, and yet we
were like men in a dream, bound hand and foot by invisible bonds, a
witness of something unseen to ourselves, which we saw was visible
to another.

Beneath the deep shadow of the oaks we looked back. The Maid had
risen to her feet by this, and was stooping to pick up her fallen
work. That done, she stood awhile in deep thought, her face turned
towards the little church, whence the bell had only just ceased to
sound.

I saw her clearly then--a maiden slim and tall, so slender that the
rather clumsy peasant dress she wore could not give breadth or
awkwardness to her lithe figure. The coif had slipped a little out
of place, and some tresses of waving hair had escaped from beneath
it, tresses that looked dark till the sun touched them, and then
glowed like burnished gold. Her face was pale, with features in no
way marked, but so sweet and serene was the expression of the face,
so wonderful was the depth of the great dark eyes, that one was
lost in admiration of her beauty, albeit unable to define wherein
that beauty lay.

When we started forth, I had meant to try and seek speech with this
Jeanne--this Maid of Domremy--and to ask her of her mission, and
whether she were still believing that she would have power to carry
it out; but this purpose now died within me.

How could I dare question such a being as to her visions? Had I not
seen how she was visited by sound or sight not sensible to those
around her? Had I not in some sort been witness to a miracle? Was
it for us to approach and ask of her what had been thus revealed?
No!--a thousand times no! If the good God had given her a message,
she would know when and where to deliver it. She had spoken before
of her voices. Let them instruct her. Let not men seek to
interfere. And so we remained where we were, hidden in the deep
shadows, whilst Jeanne, with bent head and lingering, graceful
steps, utterly unconscious of the eyes that watched her, went
slowly out of sight along the glade leading towards the village and
her home.

Only when she had disappeared did we venture to move on in her
wake, and so passed by the low-browed house, set in its well-tended
little garden, where the d'Arc family lived. It lay close to the
church, and bore a look of pleasant homelike comfort. We saw Jeanne
bending tenderly over a chair, in which reclined the bent form of a
little crippled sister. We even heard the soft, sweet voice of the
Maid, as she answered some question asked her from within the open
door. Then she lifted the bent form in her arms, and I did note how
strong that slim frame must be, for the burden seemed as nothing to
her as she bore it within the house; and then she disappeared from
view, and we rode onwards together.

"There, my friend," spoke Bertrand at last, "I have kept my
promise, you have seen the Maid."

"Yes," I answered gravely, "I have seen the Maid," and after that
we spoke no word for many a mile.



CHAPTER III. HOW THE MAID CAME TO VAUCOULEURS.


It may yet be remembered by some how early the snow came that year,
to the eastern portion of France at least. I think scarce a week
had passed since our journey to Domremy, before a wild gale from
the northeast brought heavy snow, which lay white upon the ground
for many long weeks, and grew deeper and deeper as more fell, till
the wolves ravaged right up to the very walls of Vaucouleurs, and
some of the country villages were quite cut off from intercourse
with the world.

Thus it came about that I was shut up in Vaucouleurs with my good
comrade and friend Bertrand, in the Castle of which Robert de
Baudricourt was governor, and for awhile little news reached us
from the outside world, though such news as did penetrate to our
solitude was all of disaster for the arms of France.

We never spoke to De Baudricourt of our expedition to Domremy, nor
told him that we had seen the Maid again. Yet methinks not a day
passed without our thinking of her, recalling something of that
wonderful look we had seen upon her face, and asking in our hearts
whether indeed she were truly visited by heavenly visions sent by
God, and whether she indeed heard voices which could reach no ears
but hers.

I observed that Bertrand was more regular in attendance at the
services of the Church, and especially at Mass, than was usual with
young knights in those days, and for my part, I felt a stronger
desire after such spiritual aids than I ever remember to have done
in my life before. It became a regular thing with us to attend the
early Mass in the little chapel of the Castle; and, instead of
growing lax (as I had done before many times in my roving life), as
to attending confession and receiving the Holy Sacrament, I now
began to feel the need for both, as though I were preparing me for
some great and solemn undertaking. I cannot well express in words
the feeling which possessed me--ay, and Bertrand too--for we began
to speak of the matter one with another--but it seemed to us both
as though a high and holy task lay before us, for which we must
needs prepare ourselves with fasting and prayer; I wondered if,
perhaps, it was thus that knights and men in days of old felt when
they had taken the Red Cross, and had pledged themselves to some
Crusade in the East.

Well, thus matters went on, quietly enough outwardly, till the
Feast of the Nativity had come and gone, and with that feast came a
wonderful change in the weather. The frost yielded, the south wind
blew soft, the snow melted away one scarce knew how, and a breath
of spring seemed already in the air, though we did not dare to hope
that winter was gone for good and all.

It was just when the year had turned that we heard a rumour in the
town, and it was in this wise that it reached our ears. De
Baudricourt had been out with his dogs, chasing away the wolves
back into their forest lairs. He had left us some business to
attend to for him within the Castle, else should we doubtless have
been of the party. But he was the most sagacious huntsman of the
district, and a rare day's sport they did have, killing more than a
score of wolves, to the great joy of the townsfolk and of the
country people without the walls. It was dark ere he got home, and
he came in covered with mud from head to foot; the dogs, too, were
so plastered over, that they had to be given to the servants to
clean ere they could take their wonted places beside the fire; and
some of the poor beasts had ugly wounds which needed to be washed
and dressed.

But what struck us most was that De Baudricourt, albeit so
successful in his hunt, seemed little pleased with his day's work.
His face was dark, as though a thunder cloud lay athwart it, and he
gave but curt answers to our questions, as he stood steaming before
the fire and quaffing a great tankard of spiced wine which was
brought to him. Then he betook himself to his own chamber to get
him dry garments, and when he came down supper was already served.
He sat him down at the head of the table, still silent and morose;
and though he fell with right good will upon the viands, he scarce
opened his lips the while, and we in our turn grew silent, for we
feared that he had heard the news of some disaster to the French
arms, which he was brooding over in silent gloom.

But when the retainers and men-at-arms had disappeared, and we had
gathered round the fire at the far end of the hall, as was our
wont, then he suddenly began to speak.

"Went ye into the town today?" he suddenly asked of us.

We answered him, Nay, that we had been occupied all day within the
Castle over the services there he had left us to perform.

"And have you heard nought of the commotion going on there?"

"We have heard nought. Pray what hath befallen, good sir? Is it
some disaster? Hath Orleans fallen into the hands of the English?"

For that was the great fear possessing all loyal minds at this
period.

"Nay, it is nought so bad as that," answered De Baudricourt, "and
yet it is bad enough, I trow. That mad girl from Domremy is now in
the town, telling all men that Robert de Baudricourt hath been
appointed of God to send her to the Dauphin at Chinon, and that she
must needs start thither soon, to do the work appointed her of
heaven.

"Dents de Dieu!--the folly of it is enough to raise the hair on
one's head! Send a little paysanne to the King with a wild story
like hers! 'Tis enough to make the name of De Baudricourt the
laughingstock of the whole country!"

I felt a great throb at heart when I heard these words. Then the
Maid had not forgot! This time of waiting had not bred either
indifference or doubt. The time appointed was drawing near, and she
had come to Vaucouleurs once more, to do that which was required of
her!

O, was it not wonderful? Must not it be of heaven, this thing? And
should we seek to put the message aside as a thing of nought?

Bertrand was already speaking eagerly with his kinsman; but it
seemed as though his words did only serve to irritate the Governor
the more. In my heart I was sure that had he been certain the Maid
was an impostor, he would have been in no wise troubled or
disturbed, but would have contented himself by sharply ordering her
to leave the town and return home and trouble him no more. It was
because he was torn by doubts as to her mission that he was thus
perturbed in spirit. He dared not treat her in this summary
fashion, lest haply he should be found to be fighting against God;
and yet he found it hard to believe that any deliverance for
hapless France could come through the hands of a simple, unlettered
peasant girl; and he shrank with a strong man's dislike from making
himself in any sort an object of ridicule, or of seeming to give
credence to a wild tale of visions and voices, such as the world
would laugh to scorn. So he was filled with doubt and perplexity,
and this betrayed itself in gloomy looks and in harsh speech.

"Tush, boy! You are but an idle dreamer. I saw before that you were
fooled by a pretty face and a silvery voice. Go to!--your words are
but phantasy! Who believes in miracles now?"

"If we believe in the power of the good God, shall we not also
believe that He can work even miracles at His holy will?"

"Poof--miracles!--the dreams of a vain and silly girl!" scoffed De
Baudricourt, "I am sick of her name already!"

Then he suddenly turned upon me and spoke.

"Jean de Metz, you are a knight of parts. You have sense and
discretion above your years, and are no featherhead like Bertrand
here. Will you undertake a mission from me to this maiden? Ask of
her the story of her pretended mission. Seek to discover from her
whether she be speaking truth, or whether she be seeking to
deceive. Catch her in her speech if it may be. See whether the tale
she tells hang together, and then come and report to me. If she be
a mad woman, why should I be troubled with her? She cannot go to
the Dauphin yet, come what may. The melting snows have laid the
valleys under water, the roads are impassable; horses would stick
fast in the mire, and we are not at the end of winter yet. She must
needs wait awhile, whatever her message may be, but I would have
you get speech of her, and straightly question her from me. Then if
it seem well, I can see her again; but if you be willing, you shall
do so first."

I was more than willing. I was rejoiced to have this occasion for
getting speech with the Maid. I spoke no word of having had sight
of her already, but fell in with De Baudricourt's wish that I
should go to her as if a mere passing stranger, and only afterwards
reveal myself as his emissary. I slept but little all that night,
making plans as to all that I should speak when I saw her on the
morrow, and, rising early, I betook myself to Mass, not to the
private chapel of the Castle, but to one of the churches in the
town, though I could not have said why it was that I was moved to
do this.

Yet as I knelt in my place I knew, for there amongst the
worshippers, her face upraised and full of holy joy, her eyes
alight with the depth of her devotion, her hands clasped in an
ecstasy of prayer, was the Maid herself; and I found it hard to
turn my eyes from her wonderful face, to think upon the office as
it was recited by the priest.

I did not seek speech of her then, for she tarried long in the
church over her prayers. I felt at last like one espying on
another, and so I came away. But after breakfast, as the sun shone
forth and began to light up the narrow streets of the little town,
I sallied forth again alone, and asked of the first citizen I met
where could be found the dwelling place of one Jeanne d'Arc, from
Domremy, who was paying a visit to the town.

I had scarce need to say so much as this. It seemed that all the
people in the town had heard of the arrival of the Maid. I know not
whether they believed in her mission, or whether they scoffed at
it; but at least it was the talk of the place how she had come
before, and fearlessly faced the Governor and his council, and had
made her great demand from him, and how she had come once again,
now that the year was born and Lent approaching, in the which she
had said she must seek and find the Dauphin. Thus the man was able
at once to give me the information I asked, and told me that the
girl was lodging with Henri Leroyer the saddler, and Catherine his
wife, naming the street where they dwelt, but adding that I should
have no trouble in finding the house, for the people flocked to it
to get a sight of the Maid, and to ask her questions concerning her
mission hither, and what she thought she was about to accomplish.

And truly I did find that this honest citizen had spoken the truth,
for as I turned into the narrow street where Leroyer lived, I saw
quite a concourse of people gathered about the house, and though
they made way for me to approach, knowing that I was from the
Castle, I saw that they were very eager to get sight or speech of
the Maid, who was standing at the open door of the shop, and
speaking in an earnest fashion to those nearest her.

I made as though I were a passing stranger, who had just heard
somewhat of her matter from the bystanders, and I addressed her in
friendly fashion, rather as one who laughs.

"What are you doing here, ma mie? And what is this I hear? Is it
not written in the book of fate that the King or Dauphin of France
must be overcome of England's King, and that we must all become
English, or else be driven into the sea, or banished from the
realm?"

Then for the first time her wonderful eyes fastened themselves on
my face, and I felt as though my very soul were being read.

"Nay, sire," she answered, and there was something so flute-like
and penetrating in her tones that they seemed to sink into my very
soul, "but the Lord of Heaven Himself is about to fight for France,
and He has sent me to the Governor here, who will direct me to the
Dauphin, who knows nothing of me as yet. But I am to bring him
help, and that by Mid-Lent. So I pray you, gentle knight, go tell
Robert de Baudricourt that he must needs bestir himself in this
business, for my voices tell me that the hour is at hand when, come
what may, I must to Chinon, even though I wear my legs to the knees
in going thither."

"Why should I tell this to the Seigneur de Baudricourt?" I asked,
marvelling at her words and the fashion of her speech.

"Because he has sent you to me," she answered, her eyes still on my
face, "and I thank him for having chosen so gracious a messenger;
for you have a good heart, and you are no mocker of the things my
Lord has revealed to me; and you will be one of those to do His
will, and to bring me safely to the Dauphin."

Half confounded by her words I asked:

"Who is your Lord?"

"It is God," she answered, and bent her head in lowly reverence.

And then I did a strange thing; but it seemed to be forced upon me
from above by a power which I could not withstand. I fell suddenly
to my knees before her, and put up my clasped hands, as we do when
we pay homage for our lands and honours to our liege lord. And, I
speak truth, and nought else, the Maid put her hands over mine just
as our lord or sovereign should do, and though I dare swear she had
never heard my name before, she said:

"Jean de Novelpont de Metz, my Lord receives you as His faithful
knight and servant. He will be with us now and to the end."

And the people all uncovered and stood bareheaded round us, whilst
I felt as though I had received a mandate from Heaven.

Then I went into the house with Jeanne, and asked her of herself,
and of her visions and voices. She told me of them with the gentle
frankness of a child, but with a reverence and humility that was
beautiful to see, and which was in strange contrast to some of the
things she spoke, wherein she told how that she herself was to be
used of Heaven for the salvation of France.

I cannot give her words as she spoke them, sitting there in the
window, the light upon her face, her eyes fixed more often upon the
sunny sky than upon her interlocutor, though now and again she
swept me with one of her wonderful glances. She told me how from a
child she had heard voices, which she knew to be from above,
speaking to her, bidding her to be good, to go to the church, to
attend to her simple duties at home. But as she grew older there
came a change. She remembered the day when first she saw a
wonderful white light hovering above her; and this light came
again, and yet again; and the third time she saw in it the figure
of an angel--more than that--of the Archangel Michael himself--the
warrior of Heaven; and from him she first received the message that
she was to be used for the deliverance of her people.

She was long in understanding what this meant. St. Michael told her
she should receive other angelic visitors, and often after this St.
Catherine and St. Margaret appeared to her, and told her what was
required of her, and what she must do. At first she was greatly
affrighted, and wept, and besought them to find some other for the
task, since she was but a humble country maid, and knew nothing of
the art of warfare, and shuddered at the sight of blood. But they
told her to be brave, to trust in the Lord, to think only of Him
and of His holy will towards her. And so, by degrees, she lost all
her fears, knowing that it was not of herself she would do this
thing, and that her angels would be with her, her saints would
watch over her, and her voices direct her in all that she should
speak or do.

"And now," she added, clasping her hands, and looking full into my
face, "now do they tell me that the time is at hand. Since last
Ascensiontide they have bid me wait in quietness for the appointed
hour; but of late my voices have spoken words which may not be set
aside. I must be sent to the Dauphin. Orleans must be saved from
the hosts of the English which encompass it. I am appointed for
this task, and I shall accomplish it by the grace of my Lord and
His holy saints. Then the crown must be set upon the head of the
Dauphin, and he must be anointed as the king. After that my task
will be done; but not till then. And now I must needs set forth
upon the appointed way. To the Dauphin I must go, to speak to him
of things I may tell to none other; and the Sieur Robert de
Baudricourt is appointed of Heaven to send me to Chinon. Wherefore,
I pray you, gentle knight, bid him no longer delay; for I am
straitened in spirit till I may be about my Lord's business, and He
would not have me tarry longer."

I talked with her long and earnestly. Not that I doubted her. I
could not do so. Although no voices came to me, yet my heart was
penetrated by a conviction so deep and poignant that to doubt would
have been impossible. France had been sold and betrayed by one bad
woman; but here was the Maid who should arise to save! I knew it in
my heart; yet I still spoke on and asked questions, for I must
needs satisfy De Baudricourt, I must needs be able to answer all
that he would certainly ask.

"How old are you, fair maiden?" I asked, as at length I rose to
depart, and she stood, tall and slim, before me, straight as a
young poplar, graceful, despite her coarse raiment, her feet and
hands well fashioned, her limbs shapely and supple.

"I was seventeen last week," she answered simply, "the fifth of
January is my jour de fete."

"And your parents, what think they of this? What said they when you
bid them farewell for such an errand?"

The tears gathered slowly in her beautiful eyes; but they did not
fall. She answered in a low voice:

"In sooth they know not for what I did leave them. They believed I
went but to visit a sick friend. I did not dare to tell them all,
lest my father should hold me back: He is very slow to believe my
mission; he chides me bitterly if ever word be spoken anent it. Is
it not always so when the Lord uses one of His children? Even our
Lord's brethren and sisters believed not on Him. How can the
servant be greater than his Lord?"

"You fear not, then, to disobey your parents?"

I had need to put this question; for it was one that De Baudricourt
had insisted upon; for he knew something of Jacques d'Arc's
opposition to his daughter's proposed campaign.

"I must obey my Lord even above my earthly parents," was her
steadfast reply; "His word must stand the first. He knows all, and
He will pardon. He knows that I love my father and my mother, and
that if I only pleased myself I should never leave their side."

Then suddenly as she spoke a strange look of awe fell upon her; I
think she had forgotten my presence, for when she spoke, her words
were so low that I could scarce hear them.

"I go to my death!" she whispered, the colour ebbing from her face,
"but I am in the hands of my Lord; His will alone can be done."

I went out from her presence with bent head. What did those last
words signify--when hitherto all she had spoken was of deliverance,
of victory? She spoke them without knowing it. Of that I was
assured; and therefore I vowed to keep them locked in my heart. But
I knew that I should never forget them.

I found Robert de Baudricourt awaiting my coming in the great hall,
pacing restlessly to and fro. Bertrand was with him, and I saw by
the tense expression upon his face that he was eager for my report.
I gave him one quick glance upon entering, which I trow he read and
understood; but to De Baudricourt I spoke with caution and with
measured words, for he was a man whose scorn and ridicule were
easily aroused, and I knew that Bertrand had fallen into a kind of
contempt with him, in that he had so quickly believed in the
mission of the Maid.

"Well, and what make you of the girl? Is she witch, or mad, or
possessed by some spirit of vainglory and ambition? What has she
said to you, and what think you of her?"

"In all truth, my lord, I believe her to be honest; and more than
this, I believe her to be directed of God. Strange as it may seem,
yet such things have been before, and who are we to say that God's
arm is shortened, or that He is not the same as in the days of old?
I have closely questioned the Maid as to her visions and voices,
and I cannot believe them delusions of the senses. You may ask, are
they of the Devil? Then would I say, if there be doubt, let the
Abbe Perigord approach her with holy water, with exorcisms, or with
such sacred words and signs as devils must needs flee before. Then
if it be established that the thing is not of the Evil One, we may
the better regard it as from the Lord of whom she speaks. At least,
if she can stand this test, I would do this much for her--give her
a small escort to Chinon, with a letter to the Dauphin. After that
your responsibility will cease. The matter will be in the hands of
the King and his advisers."

"Ay, after I have made myself the laughingstock of the realm!"
burst out De Baudricourt grimly; yet after he had questioned me
again, and yet again, and had even held one interview himself with
the Maid, who came of her own accord to the Castle to ask for him
one day, he seemed to come to some decision, after much thought and
wavering.

Bringing out one of his rattling oaths, he cried:

"Then if she can bear the touch of holy water, and the sign of book
and taper and bell--and I know not what beside--then shall she be
sent to the King at Chinon, and I, Robert de Baudricourt, will send
her--come what may of the mission!"



CHAPTER IV. HOW THE MAID WAS TRIED AND TESTED.


I had myself proposed the test, and yet when the moment came I was
ashamed of myself. The Abbe had put on his robes and his stole; a
vessel containing holy water stood before him on the table; the
book of the Blessed Gospels was in his hands, a boy with a taper
stood at his side. The place was the hall of the Castle, and the
Governor with a few of those most in his confidence stood by to see
what would follow. I was at his right hand.

Bertrand brought in the Maid. I know not what he had said to her,
or whether he had prepared her for what was about to take place;
but however that may have been, her face wore that calm and lofty
serenity of expression which seemed to belong to her. As she
approached she made a lowly reverence to the priest, and stood
before him where Bertrand placed her, looking at him with earnest,
shining eyes.

"My daughter," spoke the Abbe gravely, "have you security in your
heart that the visions and voices sent to you come of good and not
of evil? Many men and women have, ere this, been deceived--yea,
even the holy Saints themselves have been tempted of the devil,
that old serpent, who is the great deceiver of the hearts and
spirits of men. Are you well assured in your heart that you are not
thus deceived and led away by whispers and suggestions from the
father of lies?"

There was no anger in her face, but a beautiful look of reverent,
yet joyful, confidence and peace.

"I am well assured, my father, that it is my Lord who speaks to me
through His most holy and blessed Saints, and through the
ever-glorious Archangel Michael."

"And yet, my daughter, you know that it is written in the Holy
Scriptures that the devil can transform himself into an angel of
light."

"Truly that is so, my father; but is it not also written that those
who put their trust in the Lord shall never be confounded?"

"Yes, my daughter; and I pray God you may not be confounded. But it
is my duty to try and test the spirits, so as to be a rock of
defence to those beneath my care. Yet if things be with you as you
say, you will have no fear."

"I have no fear, my father," she answered, and stood with folded
hands and serene and smiling face whilst he went through those
forms of exorcism and adjuration which, it is said, no evil spirit
can endure without crying aloud, or causing that the person
possessed should roll and grovel in agony upon the ground, or rush
frantically forth out of sight and hearing.

But the Maid never moved, save to bend her head in reverence as the
Thrice Holy Name was proclaimed, and as the drops of holy water
fell upon her brow. To me it seemed almost like sacrilege, in face
of that pure and holy calm, to entertain for one moment a doubt of
the origin of her mission. Yet it may be that the test was a wise
one; for De Baudricourt and those about him watched it with close
and breathless wonder, and one and another whispered behind his
hand:

"Of a surety she is no witch. She could never stand thus if there
was aught of evil in her. Truly she is a marvellous Maid. If this
thing be of the Lord, let us not fight against Him."

The trial was over. The Maid received the blessing of the Abbe,
who, if not convinced of the sacredness of her mission, was yet
impotent to prove aught against her. It is strange to me, looking
back at those days, how far less ready of heart the ecclesiastics
were to receive her testimony and recognise in her the messenger of
the Most High than were the soldiers, whether the generals whom she
afterwards came to know, or the men who crowded to fight beneath
her banner. One would have thought that to priests and clergy a
greater grace and power of understanding would have been
vouchsafed; but so far from this, they always held her in doubt and
suspicion, and were her secret foes from first to last.

I made it my task to see her safely home; and as we went, I asked:

"Was it an offence to you, fair Maid, that he should thus seek to
test and try you?"

"Not an offence to me, Seigneur," she answered gently, "but he
should not have had need to do it. For he did hear my confession on
Friday. Therefore he should have known better. It is no offence to
me, save inasmuch as it doth seem a slighting of my Lord."

The people flocked around her as she passed through the streets. It
was wonderful how the common townsfolk believed in her. Already she
was spoken of as a deliverer and a saviour of her country. Nay,
more, her gentleness and sweetness so won upon the hearts of those
who came in contact with her, that mothers prayed of her to come
and visit their sick children, or to speak words of comfort to
those in pain and suffering; and such was the comfort and strength
she brought with her, that there were whispers of miraculous cures
being performed by her. In truth, I have no knowledge myself of any
miracle performed by her, and the Maid denied that she possessed
such gifts of healing. But that she brought comfort and joy and
peace with her I can well believe, and she had some skill with the
sick whom she tended in her own village, so that it is likely that
some may have begun to mend from the time she began to visit them.

As for De Baudricourt, his mind was made up. There was something
about this girl which was past his understanding. Just at present
it was not possible to send her to the King, for the rains,
sometimes mingled with blinding snow storms, were almost incessant,
the country lay partially under water, and though such a journey
might be possible to a seasoned soldier, he declared it would be
rank murder to send a young girl, who, perchance, had never mounted
a horse before, all that great distance. She must needs wait till
the waters had somewhat subsided, and till the cold had abated, and
the days were somewhat longer.

The Maid heard these words with grave regret, and even disapproval.

"My Lord would take care of me. I have no fear," she said; but De
Baudricourt, although he now faithfully promised to send her to
Chinon, would not be moved from his resolution to wait.

For my part, I have always suspected that he sent a private
messenger to Chinon to ask advice what he should do, and desired to
await his return ere acting. But of that I cannot speak certainly,
since he never admitted it himself.

If the delay fretted the Maid's spirit, she never spoke with anger
or impatience; much of her time was spent in a little chapel in the
crypt of the church at Vaucouleurs, where stood an image of Our
Lady, before which she would kneel sometimes for hours together in
rapt devotion. I myself went thither sometimes to pray; and often
have I seen her there, so absorbed in her devotions that she knew
nothing of who came or went.

By this time Bertrand and I had steadfastly resolved to accompany
the Maid not only to Chinon, but upon whatsoever campaign her
voices should afterwards send her. Although we were knights, we
neither of us possessed great wealth; indeed, we had only small
estates, and these were much diminished in value from the wasting
war and misfortunes of the country. Still we resolved to muster
each a few men-at-arms, and form for her a small train; for De
Baudricourt, albeit willing to send her with a small escort to
Chinon, had neither the wish nor the power to equip any sort of
force to accompany her, though there would be no small danger on
the journey, both from the proximity of the English in some parts,
and the greater danger from roving bands of Burgundians, whose sole
object was spoil and plunder, and their pastime the slaughter of
all who opposed them.

And now we began to ask one another in what guise the Maid should
travel; for it was obvious that her cumbrous peasant garb was
little suited for the work she had in hand, and we made many
fanciful plans of robing her after the fashion of some old-time
queen, such as Boadicea or Semiramis, and wondered whether we could
afford to purchase some rich clothing and a noble charger, and so
convey her to the King in something of regal state and pomp.

But when, one day, we spoke something of this to the Maid herself,
she shook her head with a smile, and said:

"Gentle knights, I give you humble and hearty thanks; but such rich
robes and gay trappings are not for me. My voices have bidden me
what to do. I am to assume the dress of a boy, since I must needs
live for a while amongst soldiers and men. I am sent to do a man's
work, therefore in the garb of a man must I set forth. Our good
citizens of Vaucouleurs are already busy with the dress I must
shortly assume. There is none other in which my work can be so well
accomplished."

And in truth we saw at once the sense of her words. She had before
her a toilsome journey in the companionship of men. She must needs
ride, since there was no other way of travelling possible; and why
should the frailest and tenderest of the party be burdened by a
dress that would incommode her at every turn?

And when upon the very next day she appeared in the Castle yard in
the hose and doublet and breeches of a boy, and asked of us to give
her her first lesson in horsemanship, all our doubts and misgivings
fled away. She wore her dress with such grace, such ease, such
simplicity, that it seemed at once the right and fitting thing; and
not one of the soldiers in the courtyard who watched her feats that
day, passed so much as a rude jest upon her, far less offered her
any insult. In truth, they were speedily falling beneath the spell
which she was soon to exercise upon a whole army, and it is no
marvel to me that this was so; for every day I felt the charm of
her presence deepening its hold upon my heart.

Never have I witnessed such quickness of mastery as the Maid
showed, both in her acquirement of horsemanship and in the use of
arms, in both of which arts we instructed her day by day. I had
noted her strength and suppleness of limb the very first day I had
seen her; and she gave marvellous proof of it now. She possessed
also that power over her horse which she exercised over men, and
each charger that she rode in turn answered almost at once to her
voice and hand, with a docility he never showed to other riders.
Yet she never smote or spurred them; the sound of her voice, or the
light pressure of knee or hand was enough. She had never any fear
from the first, and was never unhorsed. Very soon she acquired such
skill and ease that we had no fears for her with regard to the
journey she soon must take.

Although filling the time up thus usefully, her heart was ever set
upon her plan, and daily she would wistfully ask:

"May we not yet sally forth to the Dauphin?"

Still she bore the delay well, never losing opportunities for
learning such things as might be useful to her; and towards the end
of the month there came a peremptory summons to her from the Duke
of Lorraine, who was lying very ill at Nancy.

"They tell me," he wrote to De Baudricourt, "that you have at
Vaucouleurs a woman who may be in sooth that Maid of Lorraine who,
it has been prophesied, is to arise and save France. I have a great
curiosity to see her; wherefore, I pray you, send her to me without
delay. It may be that she will recover me of my sickness. In any
case, I would fain have speech of her; so do not fail to send her
forthwith."

De Baudricourt had no desire to offend his powerful neighbour, and
he forthwith went down to the house of Leroyer, taking Bertrand and
me with him, to ask of the Maid whether she would go to see the
Duke at his Court, since the journey thither was but short, and
would be a fitting preparation for the longer one.

We found her sitting in the saddler's shop, with one of his
children on her lap, watching whilst he fashioned for her a saddle,
which the citizens of Vaucouleurs were to give her. Bertrand and I
were to present the horse she was to ride, and I had also sent to
my home for a certain holiday suit and light armour made for a
brother of mine who had died young. I had noted that the Maid had
just such a slim, tall figure as he, and was certain that this
suit, laid away by our mother in a cedar chest, would fit her as
though made for her. But it had not come yet, and she was habited
in the tunic and hose she now wore at all times. Her beautiful hair
still hung in heavy masses round her shoulders, giving to her
something of the look of a saintly warrior on painted window.

Later on, when she had to wear a headpiece, she cut off her long
curling locks, and then her hair just framed her face like a
nimbus; but today it was still hanging loose upon her shoulders,
and the laughing child had got his little hands well twisted in the
waving mass, upon which the midday sun was shining clear and
strong. She had risen, and was looking earnestly at De Baudricourt;
yet all the while she seemed to be, as it were, listening for other
sounds than those of his voice.

When he ceased she was silent for a brief while, and then spoke.

"I would fain it had been to the Dauphin you would send me,
Seigneur; but since that may not be yet, I will gladly go to the
Duke, if I may but turn aside to make my pilgrimage to the shrine
of St Nicholas, where I would say some prayers, and ask help."

"Visit as many shrines as you like, so as you visit the Duke as
well," answered De Baudricourt, who always spoke with a sort of
rough bluffness to the Maid, not unkindly, though it lacked
gentleness. But she never evinced fear of him, and for that he
respected her. She showed plenty of good sense whilst the details
of the journey were being arranged, and was in no wise abashed at
the prospect of appearing at a Court. How should she be, indeed,
who was looking forward with impatience to her appearance at the
Court of an uncrowned King?

Bertrand and I, with some half-dozen men-at-arms, were to form her
escort, and upon the very next day, the sun shining bright, and the
wind blowing fresh from the north over the wet lands, drying them
somewhat after the long rains, we set forth.

The Maid rode the horse which afterwards was to carry her so many
long, weary miles. He was a tall chestnut, deep in the chest,
strong in the flank, with a proudly arching neck, a great mane of
flowing hair, a haughty fashion of lifting his shapely feet, and an
eye that could be either mild or fierce, according to the fashion
in which he was treated. On his brow was a curious mark, something
like a cross in shape, and the colour of it was something deeper
than the chestnut of his coat. The Maid marked this sign at the
first glance, and she called the horse her Crusader. Methinks she
was cheered and pleased by the red cross she thus carried before
her, and she and her good steed formed one of those friendships
which are good to see betwixt man and beast.

Our journey was not adventurous; nor will I waste time in telling
overmuch about it. We visited the shrine, where the Maid passed a
night in fasting and vigil, and laid thereon a little simple
offering, such as her humble state permitted. The next day she was
presented to the Duke of Lorraine, as he lay wrapped in costly
silken coverlets upon his great bed in one of the most sumptuous
apartments of his Castle.

He gazed long and earnestly at the Maid, who stood beside him,
flinching neither from his hollow gaze, nor from the more open
curiosity or admiration bestowed upon her by the lords and ladies
assembled out of desire to see her. I doubt me if she gave them a
thought. She had come to see the sick Duke, and her thoughts were
for him alone.

There was something very strange and beautiful in her aspect as she
stood there. Her face was pale from her vigil and fast; her hair
hung round it in a dark waving mass, that lighted up at the edges
with gold where the light touched it. Her simple boy's dress was
splashed and travel stained; but her wonderful serene composure was
as marked here as it had been throughout. No fears or tremors shook
her, nor did any sort of consciousness of self or of the
strangeness of her position come to mar the gentle dignity of her
mien or the calm loveliness of her face.

The Duke raised himself on his elbow the better to look at her.

"Is this true what I have heard of you, that you are the Maid of
Lorraine, raised up, according to the word of the wizard Merlin, to
save France in the hour of her extremity?"

"I am come to save France from the English," she answered at once;
"to drive them from the city of Orleans, to bring the Dauphin to
Rheims, and there see the crown set upon his head. This I know, for
my Lord has said it. Who I am matters nothing, save only as I
accomplish the purpose for which I am sent."

Her sweet ringing voice sounded like a silver trumpet through the
room, and the lords and ladies pressed nearer to hear and see.

"In sooth, the Maid herself--the Maid who comes to save France!"

Such was the whisper which went round; and I marvelled not; for the
look upon that face, the glorious shining in those eyes, was enough
to convince the most sceptical that the beatific vision had indeed
been vouchsafed to them.

The Duke fell back on his pillows, regarding her attentively.

"If then, Maiden, you can thus read the future, tell me, shall I
recover me of this sickness?" he gasped.

"Of that, sire, I have no knowledge," she answered. "That lies with
God alone; but if you would be His servant, flee from the wrath to
come, which your sins have drawn upon you. Turn to the Lord in
penitence. Do His will. Be reconciled to your wife; for such is the
commandment of God. Perchance then you will find healing for body
and soul. But seek not that which is hidden. Do only the will of
the Lord, and trust all to Him."

She was hustled from the room by the frightened attendants, who
feared for her very life at the hands of their irate lord. He had
done many a man to death for less than such counsel. But the Maid
felt not fear.

"He cannot touch me," she said, "I have my Lord's work yet to
accomplish."

And in truth the Duke wished her no ill, though he asked not to see
her more. Perhaps--who knows--these words may have aroused in him
some gleams of penitence for his past life. I have heard he made a
better end than was expected of him when his time came. And before
the Maid left the Castle he sent her a present of money, and said
he might even send his son to help the Dauphin, if once Orleans
were relieved, and her words began to fulfil themselves.

So then we journeyed home again, and we reached Vaucouleurs on the
afternoon of the twelfth day of February. The Maid had been smiling
and happy up till that time, and, since the weather was improving,
we had great hopes of soon starting forth upon the journey for
Chinon. Nevertheless, the streams were still much swollen, and in
some places the ground was so soft that it quaked beneath our
horses' feet. We travelled without misadventure, however, and I
wondered what it was that brought the cloud to the brow of the Maid
as we drew nearer and nearer to Vaucouleurs.

But I was to know ere long; for as we rode into the courtyard of
the Castle the Maid slipped from her horse ere any could help her,
and went straight into the room where the Governor was sitting,
with her fearless air of mastery.

"My lord of Baudricourt, you do great ill to your master the
Dauphin in thus keeping me from him in the time of his great need.
Today a battle has been fought hard by the city of Orleans, and the
arms of the French have suffered disaster and disgrace. If this go
on, the hearts of the soldiers will be as water, the purpose of the
Lord will be hindered, and you, Seigneur, will be the cause, in
that you have not hearkened unto me, nor believed that I am sent of
Him."

"How know you the thing of which you speak, girl?" asked De
Baudricourt, startled at the firmness of her speech.

"My voices have told me," she answered; "voices that cannot lie.
The French have met with disaster. The English have triumphed, and
I still waste my time in idleness here! How long is this to
continue, Robert de Baudricourt?"

A new note had come into her voice--the note of the general who
commands. We heard it often enough later; but this was the first
time I had noted it. How would De Baudricourt take it?

"Girl," he said, "I will send forth a courier at once to ride with
all speed to the westward. If this thing be so, he will quickly
meet some messenger with the news. If it be as you have said, if
this battle has been fought and lost, then will I send you forth
without a day's delay to join the King at Chinon."

"So be it," answered the Maid; and turned herself to the chapel,
where she spent the night in prayer.

It was Bertrand who rode forth in search of tidings, his heart
burning within him. It was he who nine days later entered
Vaucouleurs again, weary and jaded, but with a great triumph light
in his eyes. He stood before De Baudricourt and spoke.

"It is even as the Maid hath said. Upon the very day when we
returned to Vaucouleurs, the English--a small handful of
men--overthrew at Rouvray a large squadron of the French, utterly
routing and well-nigh destroying them. The English were but a small
party, convoying herrings to the besiegers of Orleans. The ground
was strewn with herrings after the fight, which men call the Battle
of the Herrings. Consternation reigns in the hearts of the
French--an army flies before a handful! The Maid spake truly; the
need is desperate. If help reach not the Dauphin soon, all will be
lost!"

"Then let the Maid go!" thundered the old man, roused at last like
an angry lion; "and may the God she trusts in guard and keep her,
and give to her the victory!"



CHAPTER V. HOW THE MAID JOURNEYED TO CHINON.


So the thing had come to pass at last--as she had always said it
must. Robert de Baudricourt was about to send her to the Court of
the Dauphin at Chinon. The weary days of waiting were at an end.
She was to start forthwith; she and her escort were alike ready,
willing, and eager. Her strange mystic faith and lofty courage
seemed to have spread through the ranks of the chosen few who were
to attend her.

I trow, had she asked it, half the men of Vaucouleurs would have
gladly followed in her train; for the whole town was moved to its
core by the presence of the Maid in its midst. Almost were the
townsfolk ready to worship her, only that there was something in
her own simplicity and earnest piety which forbade such
demonstration. All knew that the Maid herself would be first to
rebuke any person offering to her homage other than true man can
and ought to offer to true woman.

And now let me speak here, once and for all, of the love and
reverence and devotion which the Maid had power to kindle in the
hearts of those with whom she came in contact. I can indeed speak
of this, for I am proud to this day to call myself her true knight.
From the first I felt towards her as I have felt to none since--not
even to the wife of my manhood's tried affections. It was such a
love as may be inspired by some almost angelic, presence--there was
no passion in it. I believe I speak truly when I say that not one
of the Maid's true followers and knights and comrades-in-arms, ever
thought of her as possible wife--ever even dreamed of her as lover.
She moved amongst us as a being from another sphere. She inspired
us with a courage, a power, and a confidence in her and in our
cause, which nothing could shake or daunt. She was like a star, set
in the firmament of heaven. Our eyes, our hearts turned towards
her, but she was never as one of us.

Still less was she as other women are, fashioned for soft
flatteries, ready to be wooed and won. Ah, no! With the Maid it was
far otherwise. Truly do I think that of herself she had no thought,
save as she was the instrument appointed of her Lord to do the
appointed work. To that task her whole soul was bent. It filled her
to the full with an ecstasy of devotion which required no words in
which to express itself. And I can faithfully say that it was not
the beauty of her face, the sweetness of her ringing voice, nor the
grace and strength of her supple form which made of men her willing
followers and servants.

No, it was a power stronger and more sacred than any such carnal
admiration. It came from the conviction, which none could fail to
reach, that this Maid was indeed chosen and set apart of Heaven for
a great and mighty work, and that in obeying her, one was obeying
the will of God, and working out some purpose determined in the
counsels of the heavenlies.

With her man's garb and light armour, the Maid had assumed an air
of unconscious command which sat with curious graceful dignity upon
the serene calm of her ordinary demeanour. Towards her followers of
the humbler sort she ever showed herself full of consideration and
kindliness. She felt for their fatigues or privations in marching,
was tenderly solicitous later on for the wounded. Above all, she
was insistent that the dying should receive the consolations of
religion, and it was a terrible thought to her that either friend
or foe should perish unshriven and unassoiled.

Her last act at Vaucouleurs, ere we started off in the early dawn
of a late February day, was to attend Mass with all her following.

An hour later, after a hasty meal provided by De Baudricourt, we
were all in the saddle, equipped and eager for the start. The Maid
sat her chestnut charger as to the manner born. The pawings of the
impatient animal caused her no anxiety. She was looking with a keen
eye over her little band of followers, taking in, as a practised
leader of men might do, their equipment and general readiness for
the road. She pointed out to me several small defects which
required adjusting and rectifying.

Already she seemed to have assumed without effort, and as a matter
of course, the position of leader and general. There was no
abatement of her gentle sweetness of voice or aspect, but the air
of command combined with it as though it came direct and without
effort as a gift from heaven. None resented it; all submitted to
it, and submitted with a sense of lofty joy and satisfaction which
I have never experienced since, and which is beyond my power to
describe.

There was one change in the outward aspect of the Maid, for her
beautiful hair had been cut off, and now her head was crowned only
by its cluster of short curling locks, upon which today she wore a
cloth cap, though soon she was to adopt the headpiece which
belonged to the light armour provided. She had been pleased by the
dress of white and blue cut-cloth which I had humbly offered her,
and right well did it become her. The other suit provided by the
townsfolk was carried by one of the squires, that she might have
change of garment if (as was but too probable) we should encounter
drenching rains or blustering snow storms.

So far she had no sword of her own, nor had she spoken of the need
of such a weapon for herself. But as we assembled in the courtyard
of the Castle, getting ourselves into the order of the march, De
Baudricourt himself appeared upon the steps leading into the
building, bearing in his hands a sword in a velvet scabbard, which
he gravely presented to the Maid.

"A soldier, lady, has need of a weapon," were his words, as he
placed it in her hands; "take this sword, then. I trow it will do
you faithful service; and may the Lord in whom you trust lead you
to victory, and save this distracted realm of France from the
perils which threaten to overwhelm her!"

"I thank you, Seigneur de Baudricourt," she answered, as she took
the weapon, and permitted me to sling it for her in the belt for
the purpose which she already wore, "I will keep your gift, and
remember your good words, and how that you have been chosen of
heaven to send me forth thus, and have done the bidding of the
Lord, as I knew that so true a man must needs do at the appointed
time. For the rest, have no fear. The Lord will accomplish that
which He has promised. Before the season now beginning so tardily
has reached its height, the Dauphin will be the anointed King of
France, the English will have suffered defeat and Orleans will be
free!"

"Heaven send you speak sooth, fair Maid," answered the rugged old
soldier, as he eyed the slim figure before him with something of
mingled doubt, wonder, and reverence in his eyes.

Then as though some strange impulse possessed him, he took her hand
and kissed it, and bending the knee before her, said:

"Give me, I pray you, a blessing, ere you depart!"

A wonderful light sprang into her eyes. She laid her hand upon the
grizzled head, and lifted her own face, as was her wont, to the
sunny sky.

"The blessing of the King of Heaven be upon you, Robert de
Baudricourt, in that you have been an instrument chosen of Him. The
grace and love of our Blessed Lady be yours, in that you have shown
kindness and favour to a simple maid of the people, set apart by
Heaven for a certain task. The favour and protection of the Saints
be yours, in that you have believed the words of one who spake of
them, and have been obedient to the command sent to you from them!"

She ceased speaking; but still continued to gaze upward with rapt
and earnest eyes. Every head was bared, and we all gazed upon her,
as upon one who looks through the open Gate of Heaven, and to whom
is vouchsafed a glimpse of the Beatific Vision.

Then clear and sweet her voice rose once more. Her face was
transfigured; a great light seemed to shine either upon or from it,
no man could say which.

"O Lord God, Father of the Heavenlies, O sweet Jesu, Saviour of
mankind, O Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, O Holy Michael,
Archangel of the shining sword, O Blessed Saints--Catherine and
Margaret, beloved of Heaven--give to these, Your children, Your
blessing, Your help, Your protection, Your counsel! Be with us in
our journeyings--in our uprising and down lying, in our going out
and coming in--in all we put our hands unto! Be with us and uphold
us, and bring us in safety to our journey's end; for we go forth in
the strength which is from above, and which can never fail us till
the work appointed be accomplished!"

Then we rode forth, out of the courtyard, and into the streets of
the town, which were thronged and lined with townsfolk, and with
people from the surrounding villages, who had crowded in to see the
wonderful Maid, and witness the outgoing of the little band which
was to accompany her to Chinon.

Two of the Maid's brothers had sought to be of her train, and one
went with us upon that day. The second she sent back with a letter
(written at her dictation by my fingers, for she herself knew not
letters, though of so quick an understanding in other matters) to
her parents, praying earnestly for their forgiveness for what must
seem to them like disobedience, and imploring their blessing. And
this letter she dispatched by Jean, permitting Pierre to accompany
us on the march.

Her mother and two younger brothers, at least, believed in her
mission by this time; but her father was doubtful and displeased,
fearful for her safety, and suspicious of her credentials; and the
eldest son remained of necessity at home to help his father, and
whether or no he believed in his sister's call, I have never truly
heard. But I know it pleased her that Pierre should be in her
escort, though she was careful not to show him any marked favour
above others; and as in days to come she was more and more thrown
with the great ones of the land, she of necessity was much parted
from him, though the bond of sisterly love was never slackened; and
both Pierre, and afterwards Jean, followed her through all the
earlier parts of her victorious career.

Leaving Vaucouleurs, we had need to march with circumspection, for
the country was in no settled state, and it was probable that
rumours of our march might have got abroad, and that roving bands
of English or Burgundian soldiers might be on the look out for us;
for already it was being noised abroad that a miraculous Maid had
appeared to the aid of France, and though, no doubt, men jeered,
and professed incredulity, still it was likely that she would be
regarded in the light of a valuable prize if she could be carried
off, and taken either to Duke Philip or to the Regent Bedford in
Paris.

We had with us a King's archer from Chinon, who had been sent with
news of the disaster at Rouvray. He was to conduct us back to
Chinon by the best and safest routes. But he told us that the
country was beset by roving bands of hostile soldiers, that his
comrades had been slain, and that he himself only escaped as by a
miracle; and his advice was urgent that after the first day we
should travel by night, and lie in hiding during the hours of
daylight--a piece of advice which we were fain to follow, being no
strong force, able to fight our way through a disturbed country,
and being very solicitous for the safety of the precious Maid who
was at once our chiefest hope and chiefest care.

This, then, we did, after that first day's travel in the bright
springtide sunshine. We were attended for many a mile by a
following of mounted men from the district round, and when, as the
sun began to wester in the sky, they took their leave of us, the
Maid thanked them with gracious words for their company and good
wishes, though she would not suffer them to kiss her hand or pay
her homage; and after that they had departed, we did halt for many
hours, eating and resting ourselves; for we meant to march again
when the moon was up, and not lose a single night, so eager was the
Maid to press on towards Chinon.

Of our journey I will not speak too particularly. Ofttimes we were
in peril from the close proximity of armed bands, as we lay in
woods and thickets by day, avoiding towns and villages, lest we
should draw too much notice upon ourselves. Ofttimes we suffered
from cold, from hunger, from drenching rains and bitter winds. Once
our way was barred by snow drifts, and often the swollen rivers and
streams forced us to wander for miles seeking a ford that was
practicable.

But whatever were the hardships encountered, no word of murmuring
ever escaped the lips of the Maid; rather her courage and sweet
serenity upheld us all, and her example of patience and
unselfishness inspired even the roughest of the men-at-arms with a
desire to emulate it. Never, methinks, on such a toilsome march was
so little grumbling, so little discouragement, and, above all, so
little swearing. And this, in particular, was the doing of the
Maid. For habit is strong with us all, and when things went amiss
the oath would rise to the lips of the men about her, and be
uttered without a thought.

But that was a thing she could not bear. Her sweet pained face
would be turned upon the speaker. Her clear, ringing tones would
ask the question:

"Shall we, who go forward in the name of the Lord, dare to take His
holy name lightly upon our lips? What are His own words? Swear not
at all. Shall we not seek to obey Him? Are we not vowed to His
service? And must not the soldier be obedient above all others?
Shall we mock Him by calling ourselves His followers, and yet doing
that without a thought which He hath forbidden?"

Not once nor twice, but many times the Maid had to speak such words
as these; but she never feared to speak them, and her courage and
her purity of heart and life threw its spell over the rough men she
had led, and they became docile in her hands like children, ready
to worship the very ground she trod on.

Long afterwards it was told me by one of mine own men-at-arms that
there had been a regular plot amongst the rougher of the soldiers
at the outset to do her a mischief, and to sell her into the hands
of the Burgundians or the English. But even before leaving
Vaucouleurs the men had wavered, half ashamed of their own doubts
and thoughts, and before we had proceeded two days' journey
forward, all, to a man, would have laid down their lives in her
service.

The only matter that troubled the Maid was that we were unable to
hear Mass, as she longed to do daily. The risk of showing ourselves
in town or village was too great. But there came a night, when, as
we journeyed, we approached the town of Fierbois, a place very well
known to me; and when we halted in a wood with the first light of
day, and the wearied soldiers made themselves beds amid the dried
fern and fallen leaves, I approached the Maid, who was gazing
wistfully towards the tapering spire of a church, visible at some
distance away, and I said to her:

"Gentle Maid, yonder is the church of Sainte Catherine at Fierbois,
and there will be, without doubt, early Mass celebrated within its
walls. If you will trust yourself with Bertrand and myself, I trow
we could safely convey you thither, and bring you back again, ere
the day be so far advanced that the world will be astir to wonder
at us."

Her face brightened as though a sunbeam had touched it. She needed
not to reply in words. A few minutes later, and we were walking
together through the wood, and had quickly reached the church,
where the chiming of the bell told us that we should not be
disappointed of our hope.

We knelt at the back of the church, and there were few worshippers
there that morning. I could not but watch the face of the Maid, and
suddenly I felt a curious thrill run through me, as though I had
been touched by an unseen hand. I looked at her, and upon her face
had come a look which told me that she was listening to some voice
unheard by me. She clasped her hands, her eyes travelled toward the
altar, and remained fixed upon it, as though she saw a vision. Her
lips moved, and I thought I heard the murmured words:

"Blessed Sainte Catherine, I hear. I will remember. When the time
comes I shall know what to do."

When the priest had finished his office we slipped out before any
one else moved, and reached the shelter of the woods again without
encountering any other person. I almost hoped that the Maid would
speak to us of what had been revealed to her in that church, but
she kept the matter in her own heart. Yet, methinks, she pondered
it long and earnestly; for although she laid her down as if to
sleep, her eyes were generally wide open, looking upwards through
the leafless budding boughs of the trees as though they beheld
things not of this earth.

It was upon this day that I wrote, at the Maid's request, a letter
to the uncrowned King at Chinon, asking of him an audience on
behalf of Jeanne d'Arc, the maiden from Domremy, of whom he had
probably heard. This letter I dispatched to Sir Guy de Laval,
asking him to deliver it to the King with his own hands, and to
bring us an answer ere we reached Chinon, which we hoped now to do
in a short while.

The missive was carried by the King's archer, who knew his road
right well, and was acquainted with the person of Sir Guy. He was
to ride forward in all haste, whilst we were to follow in slower
and more cautious fashion.

I think it was about the fifth day of March when the great towers
of Chinon first broke upon our gaze. We had been travelling all the
night, and it was just as the dawn was breaking that we espied the
huge round turrets rising, as it were, from amid the mists which
clung about the river and its banks. There we halted, for no
message had yet come from the King; but upon the Maid's face was a
look of awe and radiant joy as she stood a little apart, gazing
upon the goal of her toilsome journey. No fear beset her as to her
reception, just as no fears had troubled her with regard to perils
by the way.

"God clears the road for me," she said, when news had been brought
from time to time of bands of soldiers whom we had narrowly
escaped; and now, as she looked upon the towers of Chinon, growing
more and more distinct as the daylight strengthened, her face wore
a smile of serene confidence in which natural fear and shrinking
had no part.

"The Dauphin will receive me. Fear nothing. The work which is begun
will go forward to its completion. God hath spoken in His power. He
hath spoken, and His word cannot fail."

So after we had fed she lay down, wrapped in a cloak, and fell
asleep like a child; whilst I rode forward a little way along the
plain, for I had seen a handful of horsemen sallying forth, as it
seemed from the Castle, and I hoped that it was Sir Guy bearing
letter or message from the King.

Nor was I mistaken in this hope. Soon I was certain of my man, and
Sir Guy in turn recognising me, spurred forward in advance of his
followers, and we met alone in the plain, Bertrand, my companion,
being with me.

"So there really is to be a miracle worked, and by a Maid!" cried
Sir Guy, as we rode with him towards our camp; "Mort de Dieu--but
it is passing strange! All the Court is in a fever of wonder about
this Angelic Maid, as some call her; whilst others vow she is
either impostor or witch. Is it the same, Bertrand, of whom you did
speak upon the day we parted company?"

"The same; and yet in one way not the same, for since then she hath
grown apace in power and wonder, so that all who see her marvel at
her, and some be ready to worship her. But we will say no more. You
shall see for yourself, and the King also shall see, if he refuse
not to receive one who comes to him as the messenger of God."

"I am sent to conduct the Maid presently to the Castle," answered
Sir Guy. "There is now great desire to see her and hear her, and to
try and test the truth of her mission. The Generals scoff aloud at
the thought of going to battle with a maid for leader. The
Churchmen look grave, and talk of witchcraft and delusion. The
ladies of the Court are in a fever to see her. As for the King and
his Ministers, they are divided in mind 'twixt hope and fear; but
truly matters are come to such desperate pass with us that, if some
help come not quickly, the King will flee him away from his
distracted realm, and leave the English and Burgundians to ravage
and subdue at will!"

"God forbid!" said I, and crossed myself.

Scarce had I spoken the words before I saw approaching us on her
chestnut charger the Maid herself, who rode forward to meet us at a
foot's pace, and reined back a few yards from us, her eyes fixed
full upon the face of Sir Guy, who uncovered, I scarce know why,
for how should he know that this youthful soldier was indeed the
Maid herself?

"You come from the Dauphin," she said; "go tell him that the
darkest hour but heralds the dawn. He must not flee away. He must
stay to face his foes. I will lead his armies to victory, and he
shall yet be crowned King of France. Let him never speak more of
deserting his realm. That shall not--that must not be!"

Sir Guy was off his horse by now; he bent his knee to the Maid.

"I will tell the King that the Deliverer hath truly come," he said;
and taking her hand, ere she could prevent it, he reverently kissed
it.



CHAPTER VI. HOW THE MAID CAME TO THE KING.


So Guy de Laval had fallen beneath the spell of the Maid, even as
we had done. He spoke of it to me afterwards. It was not because of
her words, albeit she had plainly shown knowledge of that which he
had been saying before her approach. It was not the beauty of her
serene face, or the dignity of her mien. It was as though some
power outside of himself urged him to some act of submission. An
overshadowing presence seemed to rest upon him as with the touch of
a hand, and he who had laughed at the idea of the restoration of
miracles suddenly felt all his doubts and misgivings fall away.

We rode together back to our camp, and there we talked long and
earnestly of many things. The Maid had much to ask of Sir Guy, but
her questions were not such as one would have guessed. She never
inquired how the Dauphin (as she always called him) had first heard
of her, how he regarded her, what his Ministers and the Court
thought of her mission, whether they would receive her in good
part, what treatment she might expect when she should appear at
Chinon.

No; such thoughts as these seemed never to enter her head. She was
in no wise troubled as to the things which appertained to herself.
Not once did a natural curiosity on this ground suggest such
inquiries; and though we, her followers, would fain have asked many
of these questions, something in her own absence of interest, her
own earnestness as to other matters, restrained us from putting
them.

It was of the city of Orleans she desired to know. What was the
condition of the garrison? What were the armies of England doing?
What was the disposition of the beleaguering force? Was any project
of relief on foot amongst the Dauphin's soldiers? Did they
understand how much depended upon the rescue of the devoted town?

Guy de Laval was able to answer these questions, for he had himself
ridden from Chinon to Orleans with messages to the Generals in the
beleaguered city. He reported that the blockade was not perfected;
that provisions could still find their way--though with risk, and
danger of loss--into the town, and that messengers with letters
could pass to and fro by exercising great caution, and by the grace
of Heaven. He told her of the great fortresses the English had
built, where they dwelt in safety, and menaced the town and
battered its walls with their engines of war.

The garrison and the city were yet holding bravely out, and the
Generals Dunois and La Hire were men of courage and capacity. But
when the Maid asked how it came about that the English--who could
not be so numerous as the French forces in the town--had been
suffered to make these great works unmolested, he could only reply
with a shake of the head, and with words of evil omen.

"It is the terror of the English which has fallen upon them. Since
the victory of Agincourt, none have ever been able to see English
soldiers drawn up in battle array without feeling their blood turn
to water, and their knees quake under them. I know not what the
power is; but at Rouvray it was shown forth again. A small force of
soldiers--but a convoy with provisions for the English lines--overcame
and chased to destruction a French army ten times its own strength.
It is as though the English had woven some spell about us. We cannot
face them--to our shame be it spoken! The glorious days of old are
past. If Heaven come not to our aid, the cause of France is lost!"

"Heaven has come to the aid of France," spoke the Maid, with that
calm certainty which never deserted her; "have no fear, gentle
knight. Let the Dauphin but send me to Orleans, and the English
will speedily be chased away."

"It will need a great army to achieve that, fair Maid," spoke Sir
Guy; "and alas, the King has but a small force at his disposal, and
the men are faint hearted and fearful."

"It is no matter," answered the Maid, with shining eyes; "is it
anything to my Lord whether He overcomes by many or by few? Is His
arm shortened at all, that He should not fulfil that which He has
promised? France shall see ere long that the Lord of Hosts fights
for her. Will not that be enough?"

"I trow it will," answered De Laval, baring his head.

It was not until the evening was drawing on that we entered the
fortress of Chinon, where the King held his Court. A very splendid
castle it was, and when, later in my life, I once visited the realm
of England, and looked upon the Castle of Windsor there, it did
bring back greatly to my mind that Castle of Chinon, with its
towers and battlements overhanging, as it were, the river, and the
town clustered at its foot.

We had delayed our approach that our wearied and way-worn men might
rest and give a little care to their clothes and arms, so that we
presented not too travel-stained and forlorn an appearance. We
desired to do honour to the Maid we escorted, and to assume an air
of martial pomp, so far as it was possible to us.

Sir Guy had ridden on in front to announce our coming. He told me
that the King was full of curiosity about the Maid, and that the
ladies of the Court were consumed with wonder and amaze; but that
the Prime Minister, De la Tremouille, was strenuously set against
having aught to do with that "dreamer of dreams," as he slightingly
called her, whilst the King's confessor was much of the same mind,
in spite of what was reported about her from the priests who had
seen and examined her.

There was no mistaking the sensation which our approach occasioned
when at last we reached the walls of the Castle. Soldiers and
townspeople, gentlemen and servants, were assembled at every coign
of vantage to watch us ride in; and every eye was fixed upon the
Maid, who rode as one in a dream, her face slightly raised, her
eyes shining with the great joy of an object at last achieved, and
who seemed unconscious of the scrutiny to which she was subjected,
and unaware of the excitement which her presence occasioned.

For the most part deep silence reigned as we passed by. No
acclamation of welcome greeted us, nor did any murmurs of distrust
smite upon our ears. There was whispering and a rustling of
garments, and the clank of arms; but no articulate words, either
friendly or hostile, till, as we passed the drawbridge, one of the
sentries, a great, brawny fellow, half French half Scottish,
uttered an insult to the Maid, accompanying his words by a horrible
blasphemy.

My hand was upon my sword hilt. I could have slain the man where he
stood; but I felt the Maid's touch on my shoulder, and my hand sank
to my side. She paused before the sentry, gazing at him with
earnest eyes, full of mournful reproach and sorrow.

"O Lord Jesu, forgive him!" she breathed softly, and as the fellow,
half ashamed, but truculent still, and defiant, turned upon her as
though he would have repeated either his insult or his blasphemy,
she held up her hand and spoke aloud, so that all who stood by
might hear her words:

"O, my friend, speak not so rashly, but seek to make your peace
with God. Know you not how near you stand to death this night? May
God pardon and receive your soul!"

The man shrank back as one affrighted. It was scarce two hours
later that as he was crossing a narrow bridge-like parapet, leading
from one part of the Castle to another, he fell into the swollen
and rapid stream beneath, and was heard of no more. Some called it
witchcraft, and said that the Maid had overlooked him; but the more
part regarded it as a sign that she could read the future, and that
things unknown to others were open to her eyes; and this, indeed,
none could doubt who were with her at this time, as I shall
presently show.

I had expected that Sir Guy would come to lead us into the chamber
of audience, where we were told the King would receive us. But he
did not come, and we were handed on from corridor to corridor, from
room to room, first by one richly-apparelled servant of the Court,
then by another.

Our men-at-arms, of course, had been detained in one of the
courtyards, where their lodgings were provided. Only Bertrand and I
were suffered, by virtue of our knighthood, to accompany the Maid
into the presence of royalty; and neither of us had ever seen the
King, or knew what his outward man was like.

But she asked no questions of us as to that, nor how she was to
comport herself when she reached the audience chamber. Neither had
she desired to change her travel-stained suit for any other,
though, in truth, there was little to choose betwixt them now; only
methinks most in her case would have provided some sort of gay
raiment wherewith to appear before the King. But the Maid thought
nought of herself, but all of her mission, and she held that this
was a matter which could be touched by no outward adorning or
bravery of apparel.

None who passed through the galleries and corridors of the Castle
of Chinon in these days would have guessed to what a desperate pass
the young King's affairs had come. Music and laughter resounded
there. Courtiers fluttered about in gorgeous array, and fine ladies
like painted butterflies bore them company. Feasting and revelry
swallowed up the days and nights. No clang of arms disturbed the
gaieties of the careless young monarch.

If despair and desperation were in his heart, he pushed them back
with a strong hand. He desired only to live in the present. He
would not look beyond. So long as he could keep his Court about
him, he would live after this fashion; and when the English had
swept away the last barriers, and were at the very gates, then he
would decide whether to surrender himself upon terms, or to fly to
some foreign land. But to face the foe in gallant fight was an
alternative which had never been entertained by him, until such
time as he had received the message from the Maid; and then it was
rather with wonder and curiosity than any belief in her mission
that he had consented to receive her.

A pair of great double doors was flung open before us. We stood
upon the threshold of a vast room, lighted by some fifty torches,
and by the blaze of a gigantic fire which roared halfway up the
vast chimney. This great audience chamber seemed full of dazzling
jewels and gorgeous raiment. One could scarce see the faces and
figures in the shifting throng for the wonder of this blaze of
colour.

But there was no dais on which the King was seated in state, as I
had expected. No figure stood out conspicuous in the throng as that
of royalty. I gazed at one and another, as we stood in the doorway,
our eyes still half dazzled by the glare of light and by the
brilliance of the assembled company, but I could by no means
distinguish the King from any of the rest. Many men, by their
gorgeous raiment, might well be the greatest one present; but how
to tell?

All were quiet now. They had fallen a little back, as though to
gaze upon the newcomer. Smiling faces were turned upon us. Eager
eyes were fastened upon the Maid's face. She stood there, with the
glare of the torches shining over her, looking upon the scene with
her calm, direct gaze, without tremor of fear or thought of shame.

One of the great Seigneurs--I know not which--came forward with a
smile and a bow, and gave her his hand to lead her forward.

"I will present you to the King," he said; and made in a certain
direction, as though he would lead her to a very kingly-looking
personage in white and crimson velvet, blazing with diamonds; but
ere he had taken many steps, the Maid drew her hand from his, and
turning herself in a different direction, went forward without the
least wavering, and knelt down before a young man in whose attire
there was nothing in any way gorgeous or notable.

"Gentle Dauphin," she said, in that clear voice of hers which
always made itself heard above other sounds, though at this moment
a great hush prevailed throughout the audience chamber, and
wondering eyes were fixed full upon the Maid, "God give you good
life, and victory over your enemies!"

Astonishment was in the young man's face; but he took the Maid by
the hand, and said:

"You mistake, fair damsel; it is not I that am the King. See, he is
there; let me take you to him."

But she would not be raised; she knelt still at his feet, and the
hand which he had given her she held to her lips.

"Gentle Dauphin, think not to deceive me. I know you, who you are.
You are he to whom I am sent, to win you the victory first, and
then to place the crown of France upon your head. It is you, and
none other, who shall rule in France!"

The young man's face had changed greatly now. A deep agitation
replaced the former smile of mockery and amusement. Several of the
courtiers were exchanging meaning glances; in the hush of the hall
every spoken word could be heard.

"Child, how dost thou know me?" asked the King, and his voice shook
with emotion.

Her answer was not strange to us, though it might have been so to
others.

"I am Jeanne the Maid," she replied, as if in so saying she was
saying enough to explain all; "I am sent to you by the King of
Heaven; and it is His Word that I have spoken. You shall be crowned
and consecrated at Rheims, and shall be lieutenant of the King of
Heaven, Who is King of France, but Who wills that you shall reign
over that fair realm!"

"Have you a message from Him to me?" asked the King, speaking like
a man in a dream.

"Ay, verily I have," answered the Maid, "a message which none but
you must hear; for it is to you alone that I may tell it."

Then the King took her by the hand, and raised her up, gazing at
her with a great wonder and curiosity; and he led her behind a
curtain into a deep recess of the window, where prying eyes could
not see them, nor inquisitive ears overhear her words.

And so soon as they had disappeared there, a great hum and buzz of
wonder ran throughout the hall, and we saw Sir Guy detach himself
from a knot of gay courtiers, and come hastily towards us.

"Is it not wonderful!" he cried. "And I had feared that she would
be deceived, and that the mockers would have the laugh against her
in the first moment. Though how they looked for her to have
knowledge of the King's person I know not. Surely none can doubt
but that she is taught by the Spirit of God."

"It was done to prove her!"

"Ay, it was the thought of De la Tremouille, who has ridiculed her
pretensions (the word is his) from first to last. But it was a
thought welcomed by all, as a passing merry jest. Thus was it that
I was not permitted to come and lead you in. They did fear lest I
should tell what was intended, and describe to the Maid the person
or the dress of the King. And now none can doubt; and, in sooth, it
may be a wondrous thing for His Majesty himself, and take from him
for ever that hateful fear which I always do declare has helped to
paralyse him, and hold him back from action."

I lowered my voice to a whisper as I said:

"You mean the fear lest he was not the true son of the King?"

"Yes; his wicked mother hinted away her own honour in her desire to
rob him of his crown. He has known her for an evil woman. Was it
not likely he would fear she might speak truth? Those who know him
best know that he has often doubted his right to style himself
Dauphin or King; but methinks after today that doubt must needs be
set at rest. If the Maid who comes from the King of Heaven puts
that name upon him, need he fear to take it for his own?"

As we were thus speaking the Sieur de Boisi joined us. He was
perchance more fully in the King's confidence than any other person
at Court, and he was kinsman to De Laval, with whom he had plainly
already had much talk upon this subject. He drew us aside, and
whispered a story in our ears.

"His Majesty did tell it me himself," he said, "for there be nights
when he cannot sleep, and he calls me from my couch at his bed's
foot, and makes me lie beside him, that we may talk at ease; and he
told me, not long since, how that this trouble and doubt were so
growing upon him, that once he had fasted for a whole day, and had
passed the night upon his knees in the oratory, praying for a sign
whereby he might truly know whether he were the real heir, and the
kingdom justly his. For that were it not so, he would sooner escape
to Spain or Scotland to pass his days in peace; but that if the
Lord would send him a sign, then he would seek to do his duty by
the realm."

With awe we looked into each other's faces.

"The sign has come!" whispered Bertrand.

"Truly I do think it," answered De Boisi.

"Surely His Majesty will recognise it as such!" said Sir Guy.

"I see not how it can be otherwise; and it will be like a great
load lifted from his heart."

"And he will surely hesitate no more," I said, "but will forthwith
give her a band of armed men, that she may sally forth to the aid
of the beleaguered Orleans!"

But De Boisi and De Laval looked doubtful.

"I know not how that will be. For there are many who will even now
seek to dissuade the King, and will talk of witchcraft, and I know
not what beside. The Abbes and the Bishops and the priests are
alike distrustful and hostile. The Generals of the army openly
scoff and jeer. Some say that if the Maid be sent to Orleans, both
La Hire and Dunois will forthwith retire, and refuse all further
office there. What can a peasant maid know of the art of war? they
ask, and how can she command troops and lead them on to victory,
where veterans have failed again and again? And then the King knows
not what to reply--"

"But she hath given him wherewith to reply!" broke out Bertrand,
with indignation in his tones. "She comes not in her own strength,
but as the envoy of the King of Heaven. Is that not enough?"

"Enough for us who have seen and heard her," answered Sir Guy; "but
will it prove enough for those who only hear of her from others,
and who call her a witch, and say that she works by evil spells,
and has been sent of the Devil for our deception and destruction
and undoing?"

"Then let them send for one of the Generals from Orleans, and let
him judge for himself!" cried Bertrand hotly; "you say the city is
not so closely blockaded but that with care and caution men may get
in or out? Then let some one send and fetch one of these
commanders; and if he be not convinced when he sees her, then he
will be of very different stuff from all else who have doubted, but
whose doubts have been dispelled."

"In faith, that is no bad thought," spoke De Boisi thoughtfully,
"and I trow it might be possible of accomplishment. I will
certainly speak with the King of it. He is young; he is not firm of
purpose; his own heart has never before been set upon his kingdom.
One cannot expect a man's nature to change in a day, even though
his eyes may have been opened, and his misgivings set at rest. If
one of the Generals were won to her side, the troubles that beset
us would be well-nigh overcome."

A great clamour of sound from the larger audience chamber, from
which we had retired to talk at ease, warned us now that the King
and the Maid had appeared from their private conference. His face
was very grave, and there was more of earnestness and nobility in
his expression than I had thought that countenance capable of
expressing. The Maid was pale, as though with deep emotion; but a
glorious light shone in her eyes, and when the Court ladies and
gallants crowded round her, asking her questions, and gazing upon
her as though she were a being from another sphere, she seemed
lifted up above them into another region, and though she answered
them without fear, she put aside, in some wonderful way, all those
questions which were intrusions into holy things, speaking so
fearlessly and so simply that all were amazed at her.

She came to us at last, weary, yet glad at heart; and her first
question was for her followers, and whether they had been lodged
and fed. We supped with her at her request, and in private, and her
face was very calm and glad, though she spoke nothing of what had
passed between her and the King.

Only when Bertrand said:

"You have done a great work today," did she look at him with a
smile as she replied:

"My work hath but just begun, and may yet be hindered; but have no
fear. The Lord has spoken, and He will bring it to pass. He will
not fail us till all be accomplished."



CHAPTER VII. HOW THE MAID WAS HINDERED; YET MADE PREPARATION.


I have no patience to write of the things which followed. I blush
for the King, for his Council, yea, even for the Church itself!
Here was a messenger sent from God, sent to France in the hour of
her direst need. This messenger had been tried and tested by a
score of different methods already, and had in every case come
forth from the trial like gold submitted to the fire. Priests had
examined and found nothing evil in her. Again and again had she
spoken of that which must follow--and so it had been. If her voices
were not from God, then must they be from the devil; yet it had
been proved again, and yet again, that this was impossible, since
she feared nought that was holy or good, but clave unto such, and
was never so joyful and glad at heart as when she was able to
receive the Holy Sacrament, or kneel before the Altar of God whilst
Mass was being said.

She had proved her claim to be called God's messenger. She had
justified herself as such in the eyes of the King and in the
judgment of the two Queens and of half the Court. And yet,
forsooth, he must waver and doubt, and let himself be led by the
counsels of those who had ever set themselves against the Maid and
her mission; and to the shame of the Church be it spoken, the
Archbishop of Rheims was one of those who most zealously sought to
persuade him of the folly of entrusting great matters to the hands
of a simple peasant girl, and warned the whole Court of the perils
of witchcraft and sorcery which were like to be the undoing of all
who meddled therein.

I could have wrung the neck of the wily old fox, whom I did more
blame than I did his friend and advocate, De la Tremouille; for the
latter only professed carnal wisdom and prudence, but the
Archbishop spoke as one who has a mandate from God, and he at least
should have known better.

And so they must needs send her to Poictiers, to a gathering of
ecclesiastics, assembled by her enemy, the Archbishop himself, to
examine into her claims to be that which she professed, and also
into her past life, and what it had been.

I scarce have patience to write of all the wearisome weeks which
were wasted thus, whilst this assembly sat; and the Maid--all alone
in her innocence, her purity, her sweetness, and gentle
reverence--stood before them, day after day, to answer subtle
questions, face a casuistry which sought to entrap her into
contradiction or confusion, or to wring from her a confession that
she was no heaven-sent messenger, but was led away by her own
imaginations and ambitions.

It was an ordeal which made even her devoutest adherents tremble;
for we knew the astuteness of the churchmen, and how that they
would seek to win admissions which they would pervert to their own
uses afterwards. Yet we need not have feared; for the Maid's
simplicity and perfectly fearless faith in her mission carried her
triumphant through all; or perhaps, indeed, her voices whispered to
her what answers she should make, for some of them were remembered
long, and evoked great wonder in the hearts of those who heard
them.

One Dominican monk sought to perplex her by asking why, since God
had willed that France should be delivered through her, she had
need of armed men?

Full fearlessly and sweetly she looked at him as she made answer:

"It is my Lord's will that I ask for soldiers, and that the Dauphin
shall give me them. The men shall fight; it is God who gives the
victory."

Another rough questioner amongst her judges sought to confuse her
by asking what language her voices spoke. They say that a flash
flew from her eyes, though her sweet voice was as gentle as ever as
she made answer:

"A better language than yours, my father."

And again, when the same man sought to know more of her faith and
her love of God, having shown himself very sceptical of her voices
and visions, she answered him, with grave dignity and an earnest,
steadfast gaze:

"I trow I have a better faith than yours, my father."

And so, through all, her courage never failed, her faith never
faltered, her hope shone undimmed.

"They must give me that which I ask; they cannot withstand God.
They cannot hurt me. For this work was I born, and until it be
accomplished I am safe. I have no fear."

Only once did she show anger, and then it was with a quiet dignity
of displeasure, far removed from petulance or impatience. They
asked of her a sign that she was what she professed to be.

"I have not come to Poictiers to give a sign," she answered,
holding her head high, and looking fearlessly into the faces of
those who sat to judge her. "Send me to Orleans, with as small a
band as you will. But send me there, and you shall see signs and to
spare that I come in the power of the King of Heaven."

And so in the end her faith and courage triumphed. The verdict ran
somewhat thus:

"We have found in her nothing but what is good. To deny or hinder
her intentions to serve the King would be to show ourselves
unworthy of the assistance of God."

Yes, they had to come to it; and I trust that there were many
sitting there whose hearts smote them for ever having doubted, or
sought to baffle or entrap her. I cannot tell how far the judges
were moved by the growing feeling in the town and throughout the
district. But the people crowded to see the Maid pass by, and all
were ready to fall at her feet and worship her. In the evenings
they visited her at the house of Jean Ratabeau, the Advocate
General, whose wife formed for her (as did every good and true
woman with whom she came into contact during her life) an ardent
admiration and affection.

And to their earnest questions she gave ready answer, sitting in
the midst of an eager crowd, and telling them in her sweet and
simple way the story of her life in Domremy, and how she had first
heard these voices from Heaven, or seen wondrous visions of
unspeakable glories; and how she had learnt, by slow degrees, that
which her Lord had for her to do, and had lost, by little and
little, the fear which first possessed her, till now she knew not
of the name of the word. She had but to follow where her voices
guided.

And the people believed in her, heart and soul. Her fame spread far
and wide, and had she lifted but a finger, she might have been at
the head of an armed band of citizens and soldiers, yea, and many
gentlemen and knights as well, all vowed to live and die in her
service. But this was not what was her destiny.

"I thank you, my friends," she would say, if such a step were
proposed by any ardent soul, impatient of this long delay; "but
thus it may not be. My Lord has decreed that the Dauphin shall send
me forth at the head of his armies, and with a troop of his
soldiers; and he will do this ere long. Be not afraid. We must
needs have patience, as did our Lord Himself, and be obedient, as
He was. For only as we look to Him for grace and guidance can we
hope to do His perfect will."

Thus spoke the Maid, who, being without letters, and knowing, as
she said, no prayers save the Pater Noster, Ave Maria, and Credo,
yet could speak in such fashion to those who sought her. Was it
wonder that the people believed in her? that they would have been
ready to tear in pieces any who durst contemn her mission, or
declare her possessed of evil spirits?

Yet I will not say that it was fear which possessed the hearts of
her judges, and decided their ruling in this matter. I trow they
could not look upon her, or hear her, without conviction of heart.
Nevertheless it is possible that the respect for popular enthusiasm
led them to speak in such high praise of the Maid, and to add that
she was in the right in assuming the dress which she wore. For she
had been sent to do man's work, and for this a man's garb was the
only fitting one to wear. And this ruling was heard with great
acclamation of satisfaction; for her dress had been almost more
commented upon than any other matter by some, and that the Church
had set its sanction upon that which common sense deemed most right
and fitting, robbed the most doubtful of all scruple, and gave to
the Maid herself no small pleasure.

"I do in this, as in all other things, that which I have been
bidden," she said. "But I would not willingly act unseemly in the
eyes of good men and virtuous women; wherefore I am glad that my
judges have spoken thus, and I thank them from my heart for their
gentle treatment of me."

It was ever thus with the Maid. No anger or impatience overset her
sweet serenity and humility. She would not let herself take
offence, or resent these ordeals to which, time after time, she was
subjected. Nay, it was she who defended the proceedings when we
attacked them, saying that it behoved men to act with care and
caution in these great matters, and that her only trouble in the
delay was the sufferings and sorrows of the poor beleaguered
garrison and citizens in Orleans, to whose help and relief she
longed to fly.

So certain was she that before long she would be upon her way, that
at Poictiers she composed that letter to the English King, his
Regent, and his Generals which has been so much talked of since. It
was a truly wonderful document to be penned by a village maiden;
for in it she adjured them to cease from warring with the rightful
King of France, whom God would have to rule the realm for Him, to
go back to their own country, leaving peace behind them instead of
war, and imploring them then to join with the King of France in a
crusade against the Saracens. She speaks of herself as one who has
power to drive them from the kingdom if they will not go in peace
as adjured. Calling herself throughout "The Maid," she tells them
plainly that they will not be able to stand against her; that she
will come against them in the power of the King of Heaven, Who will
give to her more strength than ever can be brought against her; and
in particular she begs of them to retire from the city of Orleans;
else, if they do not, they shall come to great misfortune there.

This letter took some time in the composition, and was written for
her by Sir Guy de Laval, though we were all in her counsel as she
dictated it.

By this I do not mean that we advised her. On the contrary, we
gazed at her amazed, knowing how fruitless such an injunction must
be to the haughty victorious nation, who had us, so to speak, in
the dust at her feet. But the Maid saw with other eyes than ours.

"It may be that there will be some holy man of God in their camp to
whom my Lord will reveal His will, as He hath done to me, and will
show the things which must come to pass. I would so willingly spare
all the bloodshed and misery which war will bring. It is so
terrible a thing for Christian men to war one with another!"

So this letter, with its superscription "JHESUS MARIA," was written
and dispatched to the English, and the Maid turned her attention to
other matters near her heart, such as the design and execution of
those banners which were to be carried before her armies in battle,
and lead them on to victory. And these same words, "Jhesus Maria,"
she decreed should appear upon each of the three standards, in
token that she went not forth in her own strength, nor even in that
of the King of France; but in the power which was from above, and
in the strength given by those who sent her.

Now there came to Poictiers to see the Maid at this time many
persons from other places, and amongst these was a Scotchman called
Hauves Polnoir, who brought with him his daughter, a fair girl,
between whom and the Maid a great love speedily sprang up. These
Polnoirs were the most skilful workers in embroideries and such
like of all the country round, and to them was entrusted the making
of the three banners, according to the instructions of the Maid.

There was first the great white silken standard, with the golden
fleur-de-lys of France, and a representation on the reverse of the
Almighty God between two adoring angels; then a smaller banner,
with a device representing the Annunciation, which she always gave
to one of her immediate attendants or squires to carry into battle;
and for herself she had a little triangular banneret of white, with
an image of the Crucified Christ upon it, and this she carried
herself, and it was destined to be the rallying point of
innumerable engagements, for the sight of that little fluttering
pennon showed the soldiers where the Maid was leading them, and
though this was in the thickest and sorest of the strife, they
would press towards it with shouts of joy and triumph, knowing
that, where the Maid led, there victory was won.

All these matters were arranged whilst we were kept in waiting at
Poictiers; and the Polnoirs returned to Tours to execute the orders
there in their own workshop. The Maid promised to visit them on her
way from Chinon to Orleans, and so bid them a kindly farewell.
Perhaps I may here add that when the Dauphin, upon his coronation,
insisted upon presenting the Maid with a sum of money, the use she
made of it, after offering at various shrines, was to provide a
marriage dowry for Janet Polnoir. Never did she think of herself;
never did she desire this world's goods.

This was shown very plainly upon her triumphant return to Chinon,
with the blessing and sanction of the Church upon her mission, with
the enthusiasm of the people growing and increasing every day, and
her fame flying throughout the length and breadth of the realm. By
this time the King and all his Court knew that a deliverer had been
raised up in our midst, and instead of lowly lodgings being
allotted to the Maid and her train, the whole Tower of Coudray was
set apart for the use of herself and her suite. The custodian De
Belier and his wife had charge of her, and to her were now
appointed a staff, of which the brave Jean d'Aulon was the chief,
and to which Bertrand and Sir Guy de Laval and myself belonged,
together with many more knights and gentlemen, all anxious to do
service under her banner. Also she had in her train some persons of
lowlier degree, such as her brothers, for whom she always had
tender care, and who believed devoutly in her mission, although
they saw of necessity less and less of one another as the Maid's
mission progressed, and took her into a different world.

But all this grandeur was no delight to her, save inasmuch as it
showed that at last her mission was recognised and honoured. When
asked what she would have for herself in the matter of dress and
armour, her answer was that she had already all she required,
although she only possessed at this time one suit more than she had
started forth with from Vaucouleurs. Although she saw the courtiers
fluttering about like butterflies, and noted how men, as well as
women, decked themselves in choice stuffs and flashing jewels, she
asked none of these things for herself; and when the Queen of
Sicily, always her best and kindest friend, sent to her some
clothing of her own designing--all white, and beautifully worked,
some with silver, and some with gold thread and cord, and a mantle
of white velvet, lined with cloth of silver--she looked at the
beautiful garments with something between a smile and a sigh; then
turning towards the great lady who stood by to watch her, she first
kissed her hand, and then, with a sudden impulse of affection, put
her arms about her neck, and was drawn into a close embrace.

"Are you not pleased with them, my child?" spoke Queen Yolande
gently; "they would have decked you in all the colours of the
rainbow, and made you to blaze with jewels; but I would not have it
The Virgin Maid, I told them, should be clad all in white, and my
word prevailed, and thus you see your snowy raiment. I had thought
you would be pleased with it, ma mie."

"Madame, it is beautiful; I have never dreamed of such. It is too
fine, too costly for such as I. I am but a peasant maid--"

"You are the chosen of the King of Heaven, my child. You must think
also of that. You are now the leader of the King's armies. You have
to do honour alike to a Heavenly and an earthly Monarch; and shall
we let our champion go forth without such raiment as is fitting to
her mission?"

Then the Maid bent her head, and answered with sweet gladness:

"If it is thus that the world regards me, I will wear these
trappings with a glad and thankful heart; for in sooth I would seek
to do honour to His Majesty. As for my Lord in the Heavens, I trow
that He doth look beneath such matters of gay adornment; yet even
so, I would have His mission honoured in the sight of all men, and
His messenger fitly arrayed."

So the Maid put on her spotless apparel, and looked more than ever
like a youthful warrior, going forth with stainless shield, in the
quest of chivalrous adventure. The whole Court was entranced by her
beauty, her lofty dignity, her strange air of aloofness from the
world, which made her move amongst them as a thing apart, and
seemed to set a seal upon her every word and act.

When she spoke of the coming strife, and her plans for the relief
of the beleaguered city, her eyes would shine, a ringing note of
authority would be heard in her voice, she would fearlessly enter
into debate with the King and his Ministers, and tell them that
which she was resolved to do, whether they counselled it or no. At
such moments she appeared gifted with a power impossible rightly to
describe. Without setting herself up in haughtiness, she yet
overbore all opposition by her serene composure and calm serenity
in the result. Men of war said that she spoke like a soldier and a
strategist; they listened to her in amaze, and wondered what the
great La Hire would say when he should arrive, to find that a
country maiden had been set over his head.

In other matters, too, the Maid knew her mind, and spoke it with
calm decision. The Queen of Sicily had not been content with
ordering the Maid's dress alone, she had also given orders to the
first armourer in Tours to fashion her a suit of light armour for
the coming strife. This armour was of white metal, and richly
inlaid with silver, so that when the sun glinted upon it, it shone
with a dazzling white radiance, almost blinding to behold. The
King, also, resolved to do his share, had ordered for her a light
sword, with a blade of Toledo steel; but though the Maid gratefully
accepted the gift of the white armour, and appeared before all the
Court attired therein, and with her headpiece, with its floating
white plumes crowning it all, yet, as she made her reverence before
the King, she gently put aside his gift of the sword.

"Gentle Dauphin," she said, "I thank you from my heart; but for me
there is another sword which I must needs carry with me into
battle; and I pray you give me leave to send and fetch it from
where it lies unknown and forgotten."

"Why, Maiden, of what speak you?" he answered; "is not this
jewelled weapon good enough? You will find its temper of the best.
I know not where you will find a better!"

"No better a sword, Sire," she answered; "and yet the one which I
must use; for so it hath been told me of my Lord. In the church of
Fierbois, six leagues from hence, beneath the high altar, there
lies a sword, and this sword must I use. Suffer me, I pray you, to
send and fetch it thence. Then shall I be ready and equipped to
sally forth against the foes of my country."

"But who has told you of this sword, my maiden?"

"My Lord did tell me of it, as I knelt before the altar, ere I came
to Chinon. It is in the church of St. Catherine; and suffer only my
good knight, Jean de Metz, to go and make search for it, and he
will surely bring it hither to me."

Now I did well remember how, as we knelt in the church at Fierbois
in the dimness of the early morn, the Maid had received some
message, unheard by those beside her; and gladly did I set forth
upon mine errand to seek and bring to her this sword.

When I reached Fierbois, which was in the forenoon of the day
following, the good priests of the church knew nothing of any such
sword; but the fame of the Maid having reached their ears, they
were proud and glad that their church of St. Catherine should be
honoured thus, and calling together some workmen, they made careful
search, and sure enough, before we had dug deep, the spade struck
and clinked against metal, and forth from beneath the altar we drew
a sword, once a strong and well-tempered weapon, doubtless, but now
covered with rust, so that the good priests looked askance at it,
and begged to have it to cleanse and polish.

It was then too late for my return the same day, so I left it to
them, and lodged me in the town, where all the people flocked to
hear news of the Maid and of the coming campaign.

Then in the morning, with the first of the light, the sword was
brought to me; and surely many persons in Fierbois must have sat up
all the night, for every speck of rust had been cleansed away, and
a velvet scabbard made or found for the weapon, which the priests
begged of me to take with it to the Maid as their gift, and with
their benediction upon it and her.

My return was awaited with some stir of interest, and before I had
well dismounted I was hurried, all travel stained as I was, into
the presence of the King. There was the Maid waiting also, calm and
serene, and when she saw the thing which I carried in my hands, her
face lighted; she took several steps forward, and bent her knee as
she reverently took the sword, as though she received it from some
Higher Power.

"It was even as she said?" questioned the King, quickly.

"Even so, Sire; the sword of which no man knew aught, was lying
buried beneath the high altar of St. Catherine's Church, in
Fierbois."

A murmur of surprise and gratification ran through the assembly.
But there was no surprise upon the Maid's face.

"Did you doubt, Sire?" she asked, and he could not meet the glance
of her clear eyes.



CHAPTER VIII. HOW THE MAID MARCHED FOR ORLEANS.


Methinks the Maid loved that ancient sword better than all her
shining armour of silver! Strange to say, the jewelled sheath of
the King's Toledo blade fitted the weapon from Fierbois, and he
supplemented the priests' gift of a scabbard by this second rich
one. The Maid accepted it with graceful thanks; yet both the
gorgeous cases were laid away, and a simple sheath of leather made;
for the sword was to be carried at her side into battle, and
neither white nor crimson velvet was suited to such a purpose.

Nor would the Maid let us have her sword sharpened for her. A
curious look came upon her face as Bertrand pointed out that
although now clean and shining, its edges were too blunt for real
use. She looked round upon us as we stood before her, and passed
her fingers lovingly down the edges of the weapon.

"I will keep it as it is," she answered; "for though I must needs
carry it into battle with me, I pray my Lord that it may never be
my duty to shed Christian blood. And if the English King will but
listen to the words of counsel which I have sent to him, perchance
it may even now be that bloodshed will be spared."

In sooth, I believe that she would far rather have seen the enemy
disperse of their own accord, than win the honour and glory of the
campaign, which she knew beforehand would bring to her renown, the
like of which no woman in the world's history has ever won. She
would have gone back gladly, I truly believe, to her home in
Domremy, and uttered no plaint, even though men ceased after the
event to give her the praise and glory; for herself she never
desired such.

But we, who knew the temper of the English, were well aware that
this would never be. Even though they might by this time have heard
somewhat of the strange thing which had happened, and how the
French were rallying round the standard of the Angelic Maid, yet
would they not readily believe that their crushed and beaten foes
would have power to stand against them. More ready would they be to
scoff than to fear.

Now, at last, after all these many hindrances and delays, all was
in readiness for the start. April had well nigh run its course, and
nature was looking her gayest and loveliest when the day came that
we marched forth out of the Castle of Chinon, a gallant little
army, with the Maid in her shining white armour and her fluttering
white pennon at our head, and took the road to Tours, where the
great and redoubtable La Hire was to meet us, and where we were to
find a great band of recruits and soldiers, all eager now to be led
against the foe.

Much did we wonder how the Generals of the French army would
receive the Maid, set, in a sense, over them as Commander-in-Chief
of this expedition, with a mandate from the King that she was to be
obeyed, and that her counsels and directions were to be followed.
We heard conflicting rumours on this score. There were those who
declared that so desperate was the condition of the city, and so
disheartened the garrison and citizens that they welcomed with joy
the thought of this deliverer, and believed already that she was
sent of God for their succour and salvation. Others, on the
contrary, averred that the officers of the army laughed to scorn
the thought of being aided or led by a woman--a peasant--une
peronelle de bas lieu, as they scornfully called her--and that they
would never permit themselves to be led or guided by one who could
have no knowledge of war, even though she might be able to read the
secrets of the future.

In spite of what had been now ruled by the Church concerning her,
there were always those, both in the French and English camps, who
called her a witch; and we, who heard so many flying rumours,
wondered greatly what view the redoubtable La Hire took of this
matter, and Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans, as he was often called.
For these two men, with Xaintrailles, were the ruling Generals in
Orleans, and their voice would be paramount with the army there,
and would carry much weight with those reinforcements for the
relieving force which we were to find awaiting us at Tours and at
Blois.

Now La Hire, as all men know, was a man of great renown, and of
immense personal weight and influence. He was a giant in stature,
with a voice like a trumpet, and thews of steel; a mighty man in
battle, a daring leader, yet cautious and sagacious withal; a man
feared and beloved by those whom he led in warfare; a gay roysterer
at other times, with as many strange oaths upon his lips as there
are saints in the calendar; what the English call a swashbuckler
and daredevil; a man whom one would little look to be led or guided
by a woman, for he was impatient of counsel, and headstrong alike
in thought and action.

And this was the man who was to meet us at Tours, form his
impression of the Maid, and throw the great weight of his personal
influence either into one scale or the other. Truth to tell, I was
something nervous of this ordeal, and there were many who shared my
doubts and fears. But the Maid rode onward, serene and calm, the
light of joy and hope in her eyes, untroubled by any doubts. At
last she was on her way to the relief of the beleaguered city;
there was no room for misgiving in her faithful heart.

We entered Tours amid the clashing of joy bells, the plaudits of
the soldiers, and the laughter, the weeping, the blessings of an
excited populace, who regarded the Maid as the saviour of the
realm. They crowded to their windows and waved flags and kerchiefs.
They thronged upon her in the streets to gaze at her fair face and
greet her as a deliverer.

It was indeed a moving scene; but she rode through it, calm and
tranquil, pausing in the press to speak a few words of thanks and
greeting, but preserving always her gentle maidenly air of dignity
and reserve. And so we came to the house which had been set apart
for her use on her stay, and there we saw, standing at the foot of
the steps which led from the courtyard into the house, a mighty,
mailed figure, the headpiece alone lacking of his full armour, a
carven warrior, as it seemed, with folded arms and bent brows,
gazing upon us as we filed in under the archway, but making no move
to approach us.

I did not need the whisper which ran through the ranks of our
escort to know that this man was the great and valiant La Hire.

As the Maid's charger paused at the foot of the steps, this man
strode forward with his hand upraised as in a salute, and giving
her his arm, he assisted her to alight, and for a few moments the
two stood looking into each other's eyes with mutual recognition,
taking, as it were, each the measure of the other.

The Maid was the first to speak, her eyes lighting with that deep
down, indescribable smile, which she kept for her friends alone.
When I saw that smile in her eyes, as they were upraised to La
Hire's face, all my fears vanished in a moment.

"You are the Dauphin's brave General La Hire, from Orleans," she
said; "I thank you, monsieur, for your courtesy in coming thus to
meet me. For so can we take counsel together how best the enemies
of our country may be overthrown."

"You are the Maid, sent of God and the King for the deliverance of
the realm," answered La Hire, as he lifted her hand to his lips, "I
bid you welcome in the name of Orleans, its soldiers, and its
citizens. For we have been like men beneath a spell--a spell too
strong for us to break. You come to snap the spell, to break the
yoke, and therefore I bid you great welcome on the part of myself
and the citizens and soldiers of Orleans. Without your counsels to
His Majesty, and the aid you have persuaded him to send, the city
must assuredly have fallen ere this. Only the knowledge that help
was surely coming has kept us from surrender."

"I would the help had come sooner, my General," spoke the Maid;
"but soon or late it is one with my Lord, who will give us the
promised victory."

From that moment friendship, warm and true, was established betwixt
the bronzed warrior and the gentle Maid, who took up, as by natural
right, her position of equal--indeed, of superior--in command, not
with any haughty assumption, not with any arrogant words or looks,
but sweetly and simply, as though there were no question but that
the place was hers; that to her belonged the ordering of the
forces, the overlooking of all. Again and again, even we, who had
come to believe so truly in her divine commission, were astonished
at the insight she showed, the sagacity of her counsels, the
wonderful authority she was able to exert over the soldiers brought
together, a rude, untrained, insubordinate mass of men, collected
from all ranks and classes of the people, some being little better
than bands of marauders, living on prey and plunder, since of
regular fighting there had been little of late; others, mercenaries
hired by the nobles to swell their own retinues; many raw recruits,
fired by ardour at the thought of the promised deliverance; a few
regular trained bands, with their own officers in command, but
forming altogether a heterogeneous company, by no means easy to
drill into order, and swelled by another contingent at Blois, of
very much the same material.

But the Maid assembled the army together, and thus addressed them.
At least, this was the substance of her words; nothing can
reproduce the wonderful earnestness and power of her voice and
look, for her face kindled as she spoke, and the sunshine playing
upon her as she sat her charger in the glory of her silver armour,
seemed to encompass her with a pure white light, so that men's eyes
were dazzled as they looked upon her, and they whispered one to the
other:

"The Angelic Maid! The Angelic Maid! surely it is an Angel of God
come straight down from Heaven to aid and lead us."

"My friends," she spoke, and her voice carried easily to every
corner of the great square, packed with a human mass, motionless,
hanging upon her words; "My friends, we are about to start forth
upon a crusade as holy as it is possible for men to be concerned
in, for it is as saviours and deliverers of your brethren and our
country that we go; and the Lord of Hosts is with us. He has bidden
us march, and He has promised to go with us, even as He was with
the Israelites of old. And if we do not see His presence in pillar
of cloud by day, and pillar of fire by night, we yet do know and
feel Him near us; and He will give abundant proof that He fights
upon our side!"

She lifted her face for a moment to the sky. She was bareheaded,
and every head was bared in that vast crowd as she uttered the name
of the Most High. It seemed as though a light from Heaven fell upon
her as she spoke, and a deep murmur ran through the throng. It was
as if they answered that they needed no other vision than that of
the Maid herself.

"If then the Lord be with us, must we not show ourselves worthy of
His holy presence in our midst? O my friends, since I have been
with you these few days, my heart has been pained and grieved by
that which I have heard and seen. Oaths and blasphemies fall from
your lips, and you scarce know it yourselves. Drunkenness and vice
prevail. O my friends, let this no longer be amongst us! Let us
cleanse ourselves from all impurities; let our conversation be yea,
yea, nay, nay. Let none take the name of the Lord in vain, nor soil
His holy cause by vice and uncleanness. O let us all, day by day,
as the sun rises anew each morning, assemble to hear Mass, and to
receive the Holy Sacrament. Let every man make his confession. Holy
priests are with us to hear all, and to give absolution. Let us
start forth upon the morrow purified and blessed of God, and let us
day by day renew that holy cleansing and blessing, that the Lord
may indeed be with us and rest amongst us, and that His heart be
not grieved and burdened by that which He shall see and hear
amongst those to whom He has promised His help and blessing!"

Thus she spoke; and a deep silence fell upon all, in the which it
seemed to me the fall of a pin might have been heard. The Maid sat
quite still for a moment, her own head bent as though in prayer.
Then she lifted it, and a radiant smile passed over her face, a
smile as of assurance and thankful joy. She raised her hand and
waved it, almost as though she blessed, whilst she greeted her
soldiers, and then she turned her horse, the crowd making way for
her in deep reverential silence, and rode towards her own lodging,
where she remained shut up in her own room for the rest of the day.

But upon the following morning a strange thing had happened. Every
single camp follower--all the women and all the disorderly rabble
that hangs upon the march of an army--had disappeared. They had
slunk off in the night, and were utterly gone. The soldiers were
gathered in the churches to hear Mass. All that could do so
attended where it was known the Maid would be, and when she had
received the Sacrament herself, hundreds crowded to do the like;
and I suppose there were thousands in the city that day, who,
having confessed and received absolution, received the pledge of
the Lord's death, though perhaps some of them had not thought of
such a duty for years and years.

And here I may say that this was not an act for once and all. Day
by day in the camp Mass was celebrated, and the Holy Sacrament
given to all who asked and came. The Maid ever sought to begin the
day thus, and we of her personal household generally followed her
example. Even La Hire would come and kneel beside her, a little
behind, though it was some while before he desired to partake of
the Sacrament himself. But to be near her in this act of devotion
seemed to give him joy and confidence and for her sake, because he
saw it pained her, he sought to break off his habit of profane
swearing, and the use of those strange oaths before which men had
been wont to quake.

And she, seeing how sorely tried he was to keep from his accustomed
habit, did come to his aid with one of her frank and almost
boy-like smiles, and told him that he might swear by his baton if
he needs must use some expletive; but that no holy name must
lightly pass his lips.

Strange indeed was it to see the friendship which had so quickly
sprung up between that rough warrior and the Maid, whom he could
almost have crushed to death between his mighty hands.

If all the Generals in the army were as noble minded as he, and as
ready to receive her whom God had sent them, we should have little
to fear; but there was Dunois yet to reckon with, who had promised
to come forth and meet her outside the town (for the blockade, as I
have before said, was not perfect; and on the south side men could
still come and go with caution and care), and to lead her in
triumph within its walls, if the English showed not too great
resistance.

But even now we were to find how that they did not yet trust the
Maid's authority as it should be trusted; and even La Hire was in
fault here, as afterwards he freely owned. For the Maid had told
them to lead her to the city on the north side, as her plan was to
strike straight through the English lines, and scatter the
besieging force ere ever she entered the town at all. But since the
city lies to the north of the river, and the English had built
around it twelve great bastilles, as they called them, and lay in
all their strength on this side, it seemed too venturesome to
attack in such a manner; and in this La Hire and Dunois were both
agreed. But La Hire did not tell the Maid of any disagreements, but
knowing the country to be strange to her, he led her and the army
by a route which she believed the right one, till suddenly we beheld
the towers of Orleans and the great surrounding fortifications
rising up before our eyes; and, behold! the wide river with its
bridge more than half destroyed, lay between us and our goal!

At this sight the eyes of the Maid flashed fire, and she turned
them upon La Hire, but spoke never a word. His face flushed a dull
crimson with a sudden, unexpected shame. To do him justice be it
said, that (as we later heard) he had been against this deception
after having seen the Maid; but there were now many notable
generals and marshals and officers with the army, all of whom were
resolved upon this course of action, which had been agreed upon
beforehand with Dunois, and they had overborne his objections,
which were something faint-hearted perhaps, for with his love and
admiration for the Maid, he trembled, as he now explained to her,
to lead her by so perilous a route, and declared that she could
well be conducted into the city through the Burgundy gate, by
water, without striking a blow, instead of having to fight her way
in past the English bastions.

"I thank you for your care for me, my friend," she answered, "but
it were better to have obeyed my voice. The English arrows could
not have touched me. We should have entered unopposed. Now much
precious time must needs be lost, for how can this great army be
transported across yonder river?--and the bridge, even if we could
dislodge the English from the tower of Les Tourelles, is broken
down and useless."

Indeed it seemed plain to all that the Generals had made a great
blunder; for though we marched on to Checy, where Dunois met us,
and whence some of the provisions brought for the starving city
could be dispatched in the boats assembled there, it was plain that
there was no transport sufficient for the bulk of the army; and the
Maid, as she and Dunois stood face to face, at last regarded him
with a look of grave and searching scrutiny.

"Are you he whom men call the Bastard of Orleans?"

"Lady, I am; and I come to welcome you with gladness, for we are
sore beset by our foes; yet all within the city are taking heart of
grace, believing that a Deliverer from Heaven has been sent to
them."

"They think well," answered the Maid, "and right glad am I to come.
But wherefore have I been led hither by this bank, instead of the
one upon which Talbot and his English lie?"

"Lady, the wisest of our leaders held that this would be the safest
way."

"The counsel of God and our Lord is more sure and more powerful
than that of generals and soldiers," she answered gravely. "You
have made an error in this. See to it that such error be not
repeated. I will that in all things my Lord be obeyed."

The Generals stood dumb and discomfited before her; a thrill ran
through the army when her words were repeated there; but, indeed,
we all quickly saw the wisdom of her counsel and the folly of her
adversaries; for the bulk of the army had perforce to march back to
Blois to cross the river there, whilst only a thousand picked men
with the chiefest of the Generals and the convoys of provisions
prepared to enter the city by water and pass through the Burgundy
Gate.

At the first it seemed as though even this would be a dangerous
task, for the wind blew hard in a contrary direction, and the
deeply-laden boats began to be in peril of foundering. But as we
stood watching them from the bank, and saw their jeopardy, and some
were for recalling them and waiting, the Maid's voice suddenly rang
forth in command:

"Leave them alone, and hasten forward with the others. The wind
will change, and a favouring breeze shall carry us all safe into
the city. The English shall not fire a shot to hinder us, for the
fear of the Maid has fallen upon them!"

We gazed at her in wonder as she stood a little apart, her face
full of power and calm certainty. And indeed, it was but a very few
minutes later that the wind dropped to a dead calm, and a light air
sprang up from a contrary direction, and the laden boats gladly
spreading sail, floated quietly onwards with their precious load
towards the suffering city.

Then we embarked, somewhat silently, for the awe which fell upon
those who had never seen the Maid before, extended even to us.
Moreover, with those frowning towers of the English so close upon
us, crowded with soldiers who seemed to know what was happening,
and who were coming into Orleans, it was scarce possible not to
look for resistance and hostile attack.

But curious as it may seem, not a shot was fired as we passed
along. A silence strange and sinister seemed to hang over the lines
of the enemy; but when we reached the city how all was changed!

It was about eight o'clock in the evening when at last we finished
our journey by water and land, and entered the devoted town. There
the chiefest citizens came hurrying to meet us, leading a white
charger for their Deliverer to ride upon.

And when she was mounted, the people thronged about her weeping and
shouting, blessing and hailing her as their champion and saviour.
The streets were thronged with pale-faced men; women and children
hung from the windows, showering flowers at our feet. Torches lit
up the darkening scene, and shone from the breastplates and
headpieces of the mailed men. But the Maid in her white armour
seemed like a being from another sphere; and the cry of "St.
Michael! St. Michael himself!" resounded on all sides, and one did
not wonder.

Nothing would serve the Maid but to go straight to the Cathedral
first, and offer thanksgiving for her arrival here, and the people
flocked with her, till the great building was filled to overflowing
with her retinue of soldiers and her self-constituted followers.
Some begged of her to address them from the steps at the conclusion
of the brief service, but she shook her head.

"I have no words for them--only I love them all," she answered,
with a little natural quiver of emotion in her voice. "Tell them
so, and that I have come to save them. And then let me go home."

So La Hire stood forth and gave the Maid's message in his trumpet
tones, and the Maid was escorted by the whole of the joyful and
loving crowd to the house of the Treasurer Boucher, where were her
quarters, and where she was received with acclamation and joy. And
thus the Maid entered the beleaguered city of Orleans.



CHAPTER IX. HOW THE MAID ASSUMED COMMAND AT ORLEANS.


The house of the Treasurer was a beautiful building in the Gothic
style, and weary as was the Maid with the toils and excitements
through which she had passed, I saw her eyes kindle with pleasure
and admiration as she was ceremoniously led into the great
banqueting hall, where the tables were spread with abundant good
cheer (despite the reduced condition of the city), to do honour to
her who came as its Deliverer.

There was something solemn and church-like in these surroundings
which appealed at once to the Maid. She had a keen eye for beauty,
whether of nature or in the handiwork of man, and her quick
penetrating glances missed nothing of the stately grandeur of the
house, the ceremonious and courtly welcome of the Treasurer, its
master, or the earnest, wistful gaze of his little daughter
Charlotte, who stood holding fast to her mother's hand in the
background, but feasting her great dark eyes upon the wonderful
shining figure of the Maid, from whose white armour the lights of
the great hall flashed back in a hundred points of fire.

The greeting of the master of the house being over, the Maid threw
off for a moment the grave dignity of her bearing throughout this
trying day, and became a simple girl again. With a quick grace of
movement she crossed the space which divided her from the little
child, and kneeling suddenly down, took the wondering little one in
her arms, and held her in a close embrace.

"Ma petite, ma mie, ma tres chere," those nearest heard her murmur.
"Love me, darling, love me! I have a little sister at home who
loves me, but I had to go away and leave her. Perhaps I may never
see her again. Try to love me instead, and comfort my heart, for
sometimes I am very, very weary, and hungry for the love that I
have lost!"

Now, one might have thought that so young a child--for she was not
more than eight years old, and small for her years--would have been
affrighted at the sudden approach of the shining warrior, about
whom so many stories had been told, and who looked more like the
Archangel Michael, as many thought, than a creature of human flesh
and blood. But instead of showing any fear, the child flung her
arms about the neck of the Maid, and pressed kisses upon her
face--her headpiece she had removed at her entrance--and when the
mother would have loosened her hold, and sent the child away with
her attendant, little Charlotte resisted, clinging to her new
friend with all her baby strength, and the Maid looked pleadingly
up into the kindly face of the lady, and said:

"Ah, madame, I pray you let her remain with me. It is so long since
I felt the arms of a child about my neck!"

And so the little one stayed to the banquet, and was given the
place of honour beside the Maid. But neither of these twain had any
relish for the dainty meats and rich dishes served for us. As on
the march, so now in the walls of the city, the Maid fared as
simply as the rudest of her soldiers. She mixed water with her
wine, took little save a slice or two of bread, and though to
please her hosts she just touched one or two specially prepared
dishes, it was without any real relish for them, and she was
evidently glad when she was able to make excuse to leave the table
and go to the room prepared for her.

But here again she showed her simple tastes, for when the great
guest chamber was shown her she shrank a little at its size and
luxury, and, still holding the child's hand in hers, she turned to
the mother who was in attendance and said:

"I pray you, sweet lady, let me whilst I am your guest share the
room of this little daughter of yours. I am but a simple country
girl, all this grandeur weighs me down. If I might but sleep with
this little one in my arms--as the little sister at home loved to
lie--I should sleep so peacefully and have such happy dreams! Ah,
madame!--let me have my will in this!"

And Madame Boucher, being a mother and a true woman, understood;
and answered by taking the Maid in her arms and kissing her. And
so, as long as the Maid remained in Orleans, she shared the little
white bedroom of the child of the house, which opened from that of
the mother, and the bond which grew up between the three was so
close and tender a one, that I trow the good Treasurer and his wife
would fain have regarded this wonderful Maid as their own daughter,
and kept her ever with them, had duty and her voices not called her
elsewhere when the first part of her task was done.

Now Bertrand and I, together with Pierre, her brother, and the
Chevalier d'Aulon and Sir Guy de Laval, were lodged in the same
house, and entertained most hospitably by the Treasurer, who sat up
with us far into the night after our arrival, listening with
earnest attention to all we could tell him respecting the Maid, and
telling us on his part of the feeling in Orleans anent her and her
mission, and what we might expect to follow her arrival here.

"The townsfolk seem well-nigh wild for joy at sight of her," spoke
De Laval, "and the more they see of her, the more they will love
her and reverence her mission. I was one who did openly scoff, or
at least had no faith in any miracle, until that I saw her with
mine own eyes; and then some voice in my heart--I know not how to
speak more plainly of it--or some wonderful power in her glance or
in her voice, overcame me. And I knew that she had in very truth
come from God, and I have never doubted of her divine commission
from that day to this. It will be the same here in Orleans, if,
indeed, there be any that doubt."

"Alas! there are--too many!" spoke the Treasurer, shaking his head,
"I am rejoiced that our two greatest Generals, Dunois and La Hire,
have become her adherents, for I myself believe that she has been
sent of God for our deliverance, and so do the townsfolk almost to
a man. But there are numbers of the lesser officers--bold men and
true--who have fought valiantly throughout the siege, and who have
great influence with the soldiers they lead, and these men are full
of disgust at the thought of being led by a woman--a girl--and one
of low degree. They would be willing for her to stand aloft and
prophesy victory for their arms, but that she should arm herself
and lead them in battle, and direct operations herself, fills them
with disgust and contempt. There is like to be trouble, I fear,
with some of these. There is bold De Gamache, for example, who
declares he would sooner fold up his banner and serve as a simple
soldier in the ranks, than hold a command subservient to that of a
low-born woman!"

That name as applied to the Angelic Maid set our teeth on edge; yet
was it wonderful that some should so regard her?

"Let them but see her--and they will change their tune!" spake
Bertrand quickly. "A low-born woman! Would they speak thus of the
Blessed Virgin? And yet according to the wisdom of the flesh it
would be as true of one as of the other."

The Treasurer spoke with grave thoughtfulness:

"Truly do I think that any person honoured by the Lord with a
direct mission from Himself becomes something different by virtue
of that mission from what he or she was before. Yet we may not
confound this mission of the Maid here in Orleans with that one
which came to the Blessed Mary."

"Nor had I any thought," answered Bertrand, "of likening one to the
other, save inasmuch as both have been maidens, born in lowly
surroundings, yet chosen for purity of heart and life, and for
childlike faith and obedience, for the honour of receiving a divine
commission. There the parallel stops; for there can be no
comparison regarding the work appointed to each. Yet even as this
Maid shall fulfil her appointed task in obedience to the
injunctions received, she is worthy to be called the handmaid of
the Lord."

"To that I have nought to say but yea," answered the Treasurer
heartily, "and I pray our Lord and the Blessed Virgin to be with
her and strengthen her, for I fear me she will have foes to contend
with from within as well as from without the city; and as all men
know, it is the distrust and contradiction of so-called friends
which is harder to bear than the open enmity of the foe."

It was difficult for us, vowed heart and soul to the cause of the
Maid, and honoured by her friendship and confidence, to believe
that any could be so blind as not to recognise in her a God-sent
messenger, whom they would delight to follow and to honour. Yet
when I walked out upon the following morning--a sunny first of
May--to have a good look round at the position of the fortifications,
the ring of English bastilles to the north, the blockading towers
upon the southern bank, I was quickly aware of a great deal of talk
going on amongst the soldiers and the officers which was by no means
favourable to the cause of the Maid.

Voices were hushed somewhat at my approach, for though none knew
me, I was of course a stranger, and therefore likely to have
entered the town in the train of the Maid, who had yesterday made
her appearance there. But I heard enough to be sure that what the
Treasurer had said last evening was likely to be true. The soldiers
were disposed to scoff at being led by a woman, and the officers to
grumble at having had to bear all the burden of the long siege, and
then when the King did send an army for the relief, to send it
under the command of this Maid, who would bear away the honour and
glory which otherwise all might have shared.

From their point of view, perhaps, this discontent was not
unreasonable; but as I looked upon the works around me, I marvelled
how it had been possible for the English, unprotected as they must
have originally been, to erect these great towers for their own
shelter, and from which to batter the town with their cannon and
great stone balls, when the French in great numbers and protected
by strong walls, ought to have been able to sally forth continually
and so to harass them that the construction of such buildings
should have been impossible.

The great Dunois had shown considerable acumen. He had himself
destroyed all the suburbs of the town which lay without the walls,
so that the English might find no shelter there, and when they had
effected a lodgment on the south side of the river, he had
destroyed the greater part of the bridge, thus making it impossible
for the enemy to cross and take possession of the town. But he had
not stopped the erection of those threatening towers circling round
the city to the north, nor the construction of those still stronger
blockading fortresses on the south side, Les Tourelles guarding the
fragment of the broken bridge, and Les Augustins not far away.

When I spoke to one grizzled old soldier about it, he shrugged his
shoulders and made reply:

"What would you? Those English are helped of the devil himself. We
have tried to stand against them, but it is all to no purpose. Some
demon of fighting enters into them, and they know that we shall
fly--and fly we do. At last there were none who would face them.
Our generals sought in vain to lead them. You should have heard La
Hire swearing at them. O-he, O-he, he is a master of the art! Some
of us would have followed him; but the rest--one might as well have
asked a flock of sheep to go against the wolf, telling them they
were fifty to one! Not they! It was witchcraft, or something like
it. They sat still on these ramparts and watched the English
working like moles or like ants, and never lifted a finger. Pouf!
When men get to that they are not fit to fight They had better go
home and ply the distaff with the women."

"And let a woman come and lead their comrades to battle!" I said,
laughing. "Have you seen the wonderful Maid of whom all the world
is talking?"

"No; at least, I only caught a gleam of light upon her white armour
last night; but as I said to the boys in the guardroom, I care not
whether she be woman, witch, or angel; if she will bring back heart
and courage, and make men again of all these chicken-hearted
poltroons, I will follow her to the death wherever she may lead. I
am sick with shame for the arms of France!"

"Bravely spoken, my friend!" I cried, giving him my hand; "and if
that be the spirit of the army, I doubt not but that a few days
will see such a turn in the tide of warfare as shall make the whole
world stand aghast!"

"Then you believe in her?" quoth the old soldier, looking me
shrewdly up and down.

"With my whole heart!" I answered, as I turned and took my way back
to my quarters.

That same day the Maid held a council of war, at which all the
officers of any importance were permitted to attend; and here it
was that she received the first real check since she had received
the King's commission and royal command.

"Let us attack the foe at once, and without delay, messires!" she
said, sitting at the head of the council table, fully armed, save
for her headpiece, and speaking in her clear, sweet, full tones,
wherein power and confidence were blended; "the Lord of Hosts is on
our side. Let us go forth in His strength, and the victory will be
ours."

But they listened to her in silent consternation and amaze. Here
was this inexperienced girl, blind with enthusiasm, drunk with
success, her head completely turned by her reception last night,
actually advising an assault upon the enemy before the arrival of
the army of relief, which had been forced to return to Blois to
cross the river, and which could not arrive for a few more days.
What madness would she next propose? Well, at least La Hire and
Dunois were there to curb her folly and impetuosity. A chit of a
girl like that to sit and tell them all to go forth to certain
death at her command! As though they would not want all their
strength to aid the relieving army to enter when it should appear!
As though they were going to weaken themselves beforehand by any
mad scheme of hers!

Thus the storm arose. Even La Hire, Dunois, and the Treasurer
himself, were against her. As for the lesser officers, when they
began to speak, they scarce knew how to contain themselves, and
restrain their anger and scorn from showing itself too markedly
towards one who held the King's mandate of command.

And of late the Maid had always been listened to with such honour
and respect! How would she bear this contradiction and veiled
contempt, she who had come to assume the command of the city and
its armies at the King's desire?

She sat very still and quiet at the table, as the storm hummed
about her. Her clear gaze travelled from face to face as one or
another of the officers rose and spoke. Sometimes a slight flush of
red dyed her cheek for a moment; but never once did anger cloud her
brow, or impatience or contempt mar the wonderful serenity of her
beautiful eyes. Only once did she speak during the whole of the
debate, after her opening words had been delivered, and that was
after a very fiery oration on the part of a youthful officer, whose
words contained more veiled scorn of her and her mission than any
other had dared to show.

Instead of looking at him either in anger or in reproach, the
Maid's own wonderful smile shone suddenly upon him as he concluded.
Then she spoke:

"Captain de Gamache, you think yourself my foe now; but that will
soon be changed, and I thank you beforehand for the brave, true
service which you shall presently render me. But meantime, beware
of rashness; for victory shall not come to the city without the
Maid."

He gazed at her--we all gazed at her--in amaze, not knowing what
her words portended. But she gave no explanation. She only rose to
her feet and said:

"Then, gentlemen, since the attack is not to be yet--not till the
arrival of the relieving force, let me make the tour of the
battlements, and examine the defences of the city. I would that you
had faith to let me lead you forth today; but the time will come
when I shall not have to plead with you--you will follow gladly in
my wake. For the rest, it would perchance be a sorrow to my brave
men, who have marched so far with me, not to partake in the victory
which the Lord is about to send us; wherefore I will the more
readily consent to delay, though, let me tell you, you are in the
wrong to withstand the wishes of the Commander of the King's
armies, and the messenger of the King of Kings."

I verily believe that she shamed them by her gentle friendliness
more than she would have done by any outburst of wrath. Had she
urged them now, I am not sure but what they would have given her
her way; but she did not. She put her white velvet cap, with its
nodding plumes, upon her head, and taking with her the chiefest of
the generals and her own immediate retinue, she made the tour of
the walls and defences of the city, showing such a marvellous
insight into the tactics of war that she astonished all by her
remarks and by her injunctions.

Suddenly, as we were walking onwards, she paused and lifted her
face with a wonderful rapt expression upon it. Then she turned to
Dunois, and said with quiet authority:

"Mon General, I must ask of you to take a small body of picked men,
and ride forth towards Blois, and see what bechances there. I trow
there is trouble among the men. Traitors are at work to daunt their
hearts. Go and say that the Maid bids them fear nothing, and that
they shall enter Orleans in safety. The English shall not be
suffered to touch them. Go at once!"

"In broad daylight, lady, and before the very eyes of the foe?"

"Yes, yes," she answered instantly; "I will stand here and watch
you. No hurt shall be done to you or to your company."

So Dunois went at her command, and we saw him and his little band
ride fearlessly through the English lines; and scarce could we
believe our eyes when we noted that no weapon was raised against
them; not even an arrow was shot off as they passed.

"She speaks the words of God. She is His messenger!" whispered the
men who stood by; and her fame flew from mouth to mouth, till a
strange awe fell upon all.

She was never idle during those days of waiting. She asked news of
the letter she had sent to the English, and heard it had been
delivered duly, though the herald had not returned. She gave
commission to La Hire to demand his instant release, and this was
accomplished speedily; for the bold captain, of his own initiative,
vowed he would behead every prisoner they had in the city if the
man were not given up at the command of the Maid. I am very sure no
such act of summary vengeance would have been permitted, but the
man was instantly released and came and told us how that the letter
had been read with shouts of insulting laughter, and many derisive
answers suggested; none of which, however, had been dispatched, as
Talbot, the chief in command of the English armies, had finally
decreed that it became not his dignity to hold any parley with a
witch.

And yet she could scarce believe that they should none of them
understand how that she was indeed come from God, and that they
must be lamentably overthrown if they would not hear her words. On
the third day of her stay in the city she caused her great white
banner to be carried forth before her, and riding a white horse,
clad in her silver armour, and clasping her banneret in her hand
she rode slowly out upon the broken fragment of the bridge opposite
to the tower of Les Tourelles, and begged a parley from the English
general in command.

It was not Lord Talbot who came forth and stood upon his own end of
the bridge, gazing haughtily across the space which divided them;
but it was a notable soldier, whom the French called Classidas,
though I have been told that his real name was Sir William
Glassdale. To him the Maid addressed herself in her clear mellow
voice, which could be heard across the flowing river:

"Retournez de la part Dieu a l'Angleterre!" was the burden of her
charge, imploring him to have mercy upon himself and his soldiers,
as else many hundreds of them, and himself also, must perish
miserably, and perchance even without the offices of the Church.

But she was answered by roars of mocking laughter from the soldiers
of the fort, and worse still, by gross insults from Classidas
himself, hurled across at her from a biting tongue, which carried
like the note of a trumpet.

Silently she stood and gazed at him; mournfully she turned and rode
back to the town.

"May God have mercy upon their souls!" she prayed; and for the rest
of the day she was sorrowful and sad.

"If it could have been done without bloodshed!" she murmured again
and yet again.

Ah, and then the day when the news came that the relieving army was
in sight! Was she sad or pensive then? No! She sprang to her feet;
she set down the little Charlotte, who was playing in her arms; she
seized her weapons, her page flew to bring her full armour. Her
horse was already in waiting; she swung upon his back. She waved
her hand and called to us to rally about her.

"The English are preparing to fight!" she cried (how did she know?
none had told her), "but follow me, and they will strike no blow."

Already La Hire was at her side, seeking to dissuade her from
leaving the shelter of the town. She smiled at him, and rode
through the gate, her white banner floating in the wind.

"See yonder; that is the point of danger. We will station ourselves
there, and watch our brave army march past. They shall not be hurt
nor dismayed. All shall be well!"

So we rode, wondering and amazed, behind and around her, and at the
appointed spot, in the very midst of the English lines, we halted,
and made a great avenue for the army from Blois to pass through.
All gazed in wonder at the Maid. All saluted deeply. The English in
their towers gazed in amaze, but fired no shot. We all passed into
the city in safety.

Great God, but how would it be with our Maid when the real battle
and bloodshed should begin?



CHAPTER X. HOW THE MAID LED US INTO BATTLE.


"It was well indeed that you sent me forth on that mission, my
Chieftainess," spoke Dunois, as we sat at the long table in the
Treasurer's house, refreshing ourselves after the fatigues of the
march to and from the city, and the anxiety of awaiting an attack,
which had not come. He bowed towards the Maid in speaking, calling
her by a playful title in vogue amongst the officers and Generals
who were her friends. "Though what prompted you to that act of
sagacity is more than I know. I had no misgivings that there would
be trouble with the army."

"My voices warned me," answered the Maid gently. "It was not much;
yet a little leaven often leavens the whole lump. They needed just
the leader's eye and voice to recall them to their duty."

"Truly that is just how the matter stood," spoke Sir Guy in low
tones to us twain, Bertram and I, who sat on either side of him at
the other end of the board.

He had been one to depart and return with Dunois, and we looked
eagerly to him for explanation.

"There are ever timid spirits in all ranks, and traitors or
faint-hearted friends are never far away in such times as these.
The army which would have followed the Maid to the death with joy,
felt depression and disappointment at being parted from her. Had
they been able to ford the river and march straight into the city,
there would have been no trouble, no tremors or doubts; but the
turning back was a discouragement, and alas! the French have had
too much of this of late. There were whisperers at work seeking to
undermine faith in the Maid and her mission. As she says, no great
hurt was done; it was but the work of a few--and some of these
priests, who should better have understood the counsels of God--but
a little leaven will work mightily in the lump, as she herself did
justly remark; and ere we reached Blois, we had heard rumours that
the army was talking of disbanding itself and dispersing hither and
thither. The truth was not so bad as that; but there was wavering
and doubt in the ranks.

"Our appearance with the message from the Maid worked like a charm.
The soldiers, when they knew that she had been told of their
hesitation, were instantly horribly ashamed. They clamoured to be
led back to her, to show the mettle of which they were made. I trow
they will not waver again, now that she hath them beneath her eye."

"It is marvellous how she doth hold them by the power of her
glance, by her gentleness and devotion. And, look you, what hath
she done to the English? It was rumoured through the city that so
soon as the relief army approached the English lines, there would
be an attack in force, and our comrades would be driven back at the
sword's point, and have to fight every inch of the way. Yet what
has been the truth? The Maid led us to the spot which commanded the
road--well in the heart of the English lines. Their fortresses were
humming like hives of bees disturbed. The English knew what was
being done, and watched it all; yet not a gun was fired, not an
archer launched his shaft, not a man moved out to oppose the
entrance of the relief force nor even the convoy of provisions for
the garrison. They watched it all as men in a dream, not a dog
moved his tongue against us."

"She told us it would be so," spoke I, leaning towards Sir Guy,
"there will be fighting anon; but it was not to be then. Surely
their arms were holden by a power they wot not of. If she herself
had not gone forth to guard the way--standing like the flaming
cherubim with the sword which turned every way--I misdoubt me but
that a heavy action must have been fought, ere the army was
suffered to enter the gates."

There was much talk all down the table of these matters; but the
Maid took little part in this. Her eyes were heavy, and she looked
weary and pale. I doubt not she had spent the night previous in
vigil and prayer, as was so often her wont. When we rose from our
repast, she retired into a small inner room reserved for her use,
and the little Charlotte went with her. A curtain, partly drawn,
shut off this room from the outer one in which we knights and some
of her pages and gentlemen sat talking; and I was just able to see
from where I sat that the Maid had laid herself down upon a couch,
the little one nestled beside her, and I felt sure by her stillness
and immobility that she was soon soundly asleep, taking the rest
she sorely needed after the exertions and excitements of the early
hours of the day.

Our conversation languished somewhat, for the warmth of the May
afternoon made us all drowsy. We, like the Maid herself, had laid
aside our coats of mail, and were enjoying a spell of rest and
leisure; and there was silence in both the rooms, when suddenly
we--if indeed we slept--were awakened by the voice of the Maid
speaking in the tones of one who dreams.

"I must up and against the English!" she cried, and at the first
word I started broad awake and was on my feet at the door of
communication, looking towards her.

She still lay upon the couch, but her eyes were wide open and
fixed; her lips moved.

"I hear! I hear!" she went on, yet still as one who dreams, "I am
ready--I will obey. Only tell me what I must do. Is it against the
towers I must go, to assail them? Or is it that Fastolffe comes
against us with yet another host?"

Little Charlotte here pulled the Maid by the hand, crying out:

"What are you saying? To whom do you speak? There is nobody here
but you and me!"

The Maid sprang to her feet, wide awake now in an instant. She bent
for one moment over the wondering child, and kissed her tenderly,
as though to soothe the alarm in the baby eyes.

"Run to your mother, ma mie, for I must off and away on the
instant," then wheeling round with her air of martial command, she
called to me and said, "To arms at once! I must to the front!
French blood is flowing. They are seeking to act without me. O my
poor soldiers, they are falling and dying! To horse! to horse! I
come to save them!"

Was she dreaming? What did it mean? The town seemed as quiet as the
still summer afternoon! Not a sound of tumult broke the silence of
the streets. Yet the Maid was having us arm her with lightning
speed, and Bertrand had rushed off at the first word for her horse
and ours.

"I know not what they are doing," spoke the Maid, "but my voices
tell me to fly to their succour! Ah! why could they not have told
me before! Have I not ever been ready and longing to lead them
against the foe?"

She was ready now. We were all ready, and the echoes of the quiet
house awoke beneath our feet as we clattered down the staircase to
the courtyard below, where already the horses were standing pawing
the ground with impatience, seeming to scent the battle from afar.
The Maid swung herself lightly to the saddle with scarce a touch
from me.

"My banner! My banner!" she suddenly cried; and looking upwards we
saw a pretty sight. The little Charlotte, her mother beside her,
was hanging out of the window, the light staff of the Maid's white
banneret clasped in her chubby hands; and she was leaning out of
the window, holding it towards the white mailed figure, of whom (in
armour) she always spoke, in hushed tone, as mon ange. The Maid
looked upwards, kissed her gauntletted hand to the little one,
seized the staff of her banner, and then, calling upon her
followers in clear tones of command, dashed out through the gateway
into the street beyond, and without an instant's hesitation turned
towards that gate of the city nearest to the English bastille named
St. Loup. And though we all spurred after her, so that the sparks
flew from under our horses' feet, and the Chevalier d'Aulon brought
up the rear bearing the great white standard, which was to lead the
armies into battle, we none of us knew wherefore we had come forth
nor whither we were going; and the city being yet still and quiet,
the citizens rushed to doors and windows to watch us pass by, and
shouted questions to us which we were not able to answer.

Now, the house of the Treasurer is hard by the Renart Gate, and we
were making for the Burgundy Gate; so you who know Orleans will
understand that we had the whole distance of the city to traverse
ere we cleared the walls. And sure enough, as we approached the
fortifications upon the eastern side, a change came over the spirit
of the scene; signs of excitement and fear and wonder began to show
themselves; the walls were alive with men at arms, gazing fixedly
out eastward, shouting, gesticulating, wild with a tumult of
emotion. Soldiers buckling on their arms, citizens with pale, yet
resolute, faces, and swords or axes in their hands, were hurrying
forth, and at sight of the Maid on her chestnut charger (for the
Crusader was ever her favourite horse, and she had declared that he
must carry her into her first battle whenever that should be) they
shouted aloud with joy, and vowed themselves her servants and
followers, wherever she should lead them.

A young blacksmith, armed with a great club, was hanging upon my
stirrup, and bounding along beside my horse with a swiftness and
strength which excited my admiration. From him I heard first of the
thing which had taken place.

"It was De Gamache and some of the other lesser officers who
designed it," he cried. "They declared that the power of the
English was already broken; that they would not leave their walls
or show fight today; that already they had grown faint hearted, and
were ready to fly before the French.

"My Captain, I tell you the truth, these men are jealous of the
Angelic Maid whom Heaven has sent us. They say that she will take
from them all the honour and glory; that they will fight and risk
their lives, but that she alone will have the praise. So they were
full of bitterness and anger; and some, methinks, may have thought
to shame her by showing that they could act without her aid, and do
the work she has come to do, whilst she takes her rest and holds
her councils. So, gathering a band of soldiers together, these
officers have sallied forth to try and storm and take the fortress
of St. Loup, which lies some two thousand English yards from the
walls along the river banks. But the soldiers on the walls are
shouting out that the English have swarmed forth like angry bees,
and are beating back our soldiers and slaying them by the score."

"They should have known better than to go forth without the
knowledge and command of the Maid," I said sternly, and the young
man at my side nodded vehemently, his face alight.

"That is what we said--we others--we citizens, who have seen how
powerless the soldiers are against the English. Have they not
fought again and again, and what has come of it but loss and
defeat? And now that the good God has sent a Deliverer, it is like
flying in His face to seek and do without her. I said as much again
and again. I knew no good would come of it. But when we saw the
Maid herself flying to the rescue, then did I vow that I, too,
would fight under her banner. For now I know that God will give us
the victory!"

We were at the Burgundy Gate by this time and, dashing through, we
saw a terrible sight. The whole open plain between the walls of the
town and the fortress of St. Loup was covered with soldiers, strewn
with dying and dead. A horrible sort of fight was going on,
horrible to us, because the French were in full retreat before our
foe, going down like sheep before the butcher's knife, rushing
panic stricken hither and thither as men demented, whilst the
English soldiers, as though ashamed of their recent inaction and
paralysis, were fiercely pursuing, shouting "Kill! kill! kill!" as
they went about their work of slaughter, driving back their
enemies, and striking at them remorselessly.

Here and there a brave officer, with his band of chosen followers,
would be presenting a bold face to the foe, making a stand and
seeking to rally the flying ranks. I was certain that I saw De
Gamache himself, hewing his way like a very Paladin through the
ranks of the English, and dealing death and destruction wherever he
went. But the valour of a few had no power to turn the fortunes of
the field; and the rout had already begun, when the Maid and her
attendants, closely followed by an enthusiastic band of soldiers
and citizens, dashed forth from the Burgundy Gate, and mingled with
the flying French hastening towards the city for safety.

"Courage, my children, courage!" cried the Maid, waving her white
pennon. "Be not dismayed. The Lord has heard your cries. He has
sent me to your aid. Take courage! Fear nothing, for the victory
shall be ours!"

She did not even pause to note the effect of her words upon them,
but sped onwards, fearless of danger, right into the very heart of
the battle. We followed and closed up round her; but that shining
white figure could not be hidden. The English saw it bearing down
upon them, and instantly there was wavering in their ranks. Before
our swords had had time to strike at them, something touched them
as with an icy hand.

"The Maid! the Maid! The White Witch!" they cried, and they paused
in their pursuit to gaze upon that dazzling figure, and methinks
their hearts melted like wax within them.

From behind now arose a mighty tumult, and shouts and cries as of
triumph thundered from the city walls. Dunois and La Hire, more
tardily advised of what was happening, but prompt and decisive in
action, were galloping out of the Gate at the head of the picked
soldiers under their command. Rank behind rank we could see them
flashing through the shadow into the sunshine, and dashing forward
in compact order, their gaze fixed full upon the Maid in the centre
of the plain, who stood with uplifted sword and fluttering pennon,
a veritable angel of the battle.

But we saw other sights, too; for Lord Talbot was not idle on his
side, but sent forth from other of the bastilles bodies of men to
the aid of the defenders of St. Loup.

The whole plain was filled with surging masses of soldiers, rushing
one upon the other in the fury of the fray.

How would the Maid bear it? She whose tender heart ached at the
thought of human suffering, and whose soul was filled with yearning
sorrow for men struck down in their sins. I pressed up towards her
and saw her pitiful eyes fixed upon a convoy of wounded men, whom
we had sent to rescue from their peril, lying as they did in the
very heart of the plain. The eyes which had been flashing fire a
moment before, were suffused with tears, as the melancholy
procession passed her by.

She turned to her page and said, "Ride quickly into the city, and
bid the priests come forth to hear the confessions and give
absolution to the dying. Lose not a moment! Tell them that souls
are every moment being hurried to their last account. Bid them make
haste and come, and let them give equal care to friend and foe; for
in death all men are equal in the sight of God, and I would not
that any English soldier or prisoner should fall without the
consolations of religion."

Then, having thus done all that she could for the wounded and the
dying, the Maid was once again the resolute soldier. Her keen eyes
swept the plain; she saw with lightning speed where the need was
the greatest, where the peril to the French cause was direst, and
sweeping into the midst of the press, her sword and her banner
flashing in the sunshine, she ever brought succour and victory in
her wake.

No foe could stand before her. Not that she struck blows with her
own hand. There seemed no need for that, and when at the close of
the day I relieved her of her arms, there was no spot of blood upon
her shining blade, though her coat of silver mail had received
stains from the fray. She was like the Angel of Victory, flashing
through the ranks of the combatants. Wherever she appeared, the
flying French turned back to face the foe, and the pursuing English
wavered, paused, and finally broke rank and fled backwards to the
shelter of their walls and forts. Our men fought gallantly--let me
not deny them their due--soldiers and citizens alike, who had come
forth with and after the Maid, all were inspired by confidence and
courage. But it was her presence in the ranks which gave assurance
of victory. Wherever French soldiers wavered it was when she was
far away and her back towards them. Yet so soon as she turned in
their direction--and some power seemed to whisper to her whenever
her soldiers were dismayed--and galloped to their assistance, all
was well again; and ere an hour had passed the English were driven
back within their towers, and the victory was ours.

Dunois and La Hire rode up to the Maid and saluted. From the city
in our rear we could already hear the pealing of the joy bells, the
triumphant acclamation of the populace.

"Let us lead you back thither to receive the plaudits you have so
well deserved," spoke Dunois, who was man enough to give all the
credit of the victory to the Maid. "Right valiantly have you
accomplished your task. Now let us take you to receive the
gratitude of the town."

"Accomplished!" repeated the Maid with a glance of surprise. "Why,
my friends, the task is scarcely yet begun!"

They gazed at her in amazement; but she calmly pointed towards the
frowning walls and battlements of St. Loup.

"We must take yonder tower," she said quietly, "that is what our
brave, but rash young officers set themselves to do. They shall not
be disappointed. It shall be ours ere night fall upon us. Call to
me the bold De Gamache; I would have speech with him and his
comrades."

The greater Generals looked at her and at one another, speaking no
word. The walls and battlements of St. Loup were strong and well
defended. The tower could spout fire and smoke like a living
monster. Already the troops had marched far and fought hotly.
Surely if assault were to be made it should wait for another day.
Thus they communed together a stone's throw from the Maid; but she
only looked upon them with her deep inward smile, and softly I
heard her speak the words:

"No, it must be done today."

De Gamache rode up, and some half dozen other officers with him.
His face was stained with blood and blackened by smoke. He had a
scarf bound about his left arm; but his bearing was bold and
resolute, and though his cheek flushed at the clear, direct gaze of
the Maid's eyes, he neither faltered nor trembled as he stood
before her.

"You did desire a good thing, my Captain," she said, "and had you
told me of your brave wish, I would have put myself at your head
and led you to victory forthwith. Yet this victory has not been
forfeited, only delayed by your eager rashness. Say, if I lead you
myself, this very hour, against yon frowning tower, will you follow
me like brave soldiers of the Cross, and not turn back till my Lord
has given us the victory? For He will deliver yon place into our
hands, albeit not without bloodshed, not without stress or strife.
Many must be slain ere we can call it ours, but will you follow and
take it?"

The shout which arose from a thousand throats rang to the welkin,
and methinks must have smote with dread import upon the English
ears. The Maid's voice seemed to float through the air, and
penetrate to the extreme limits of the crowd, or else her words
were taken up and repeated by a score of eager tongues, and so ran
through the mighty muster with thrilling import. The eyes were
dazzled by the flashing blades as men swung them above their heads.

"Lead us, O Maid, lead us! We follow to death or victory! We fear
nothing so that you are our leader and our guide!"

There was no withstanding a spirit like that! La Hire's voice was
one of the foremost in the cry; his great blade the first to leap
from its scabbard. Sage counsels of war, prompted by experience,
had to give way before a power different from anything which the
veterans had known before. With a dash, the elan of which was a
marvellous sight to see, the soldiers poured themselves like a
living stream against the walls of St. Loup. The English behind the
fortifications rained upon them missiles of every description. The
air was darkened by a cloud of arrows. The cannon from the walls
belched forth smoke and flame, and great stone and iron balls came
hurtling down into our midst, dealing death and destruction. The
English soldiers with their characteristic daring sallied forth
sword in hand to beat us back and yet we pressed on and ever on;
driven backwards here and there by stress of fighting; but never
giving great way, and always rallied by the sight of that gleaming
white armour, and by the clear, sweet voice ringing out through all
the tumult of arms.

"Courage, my children, courage. The fight is fierce; but my Lord
gives you the victory. A little more courage, a little more
patience, and the day is ours!"

She stood unscathed amid the hail of stones and arrows. Her clear
glance never quailed; her sweet voice never faltered; she had
thought for everyone but herself. Again and again with her own
hands she snatched some follower from a danger unseen by him, but
which a moment later would have been his death. She herself stood
unmoved in the awful tumult. She even smiled when Dunois and La
Hire would have drawn her from the hottest of the fighting.

"No, no, my friends, my place is here. Have no fear. I shall not
suffer. I have guardians watching over me that you wot not of."

And so she stood unmoved at the foot of the tower, till the
English, overcome with amaze, gave up the defence, and fled from a
place they believed must surely be bewitched.

And as the last of the sunlight faded from the sky, the fortress of
St. Loup was ours. The Maid had fought her first battle, and had
triumphed.



CHAPTER XI. HOW THE MAID BORE TRIUMPH AND TROUBLE.


The people of Orleans, and we her knights and followers, were
well-nigh wild with joy. I do not think I had ever doubted how she
would bear herself in battle; and yet my heart had sometimes
trembled at the thought of it. For, after all, speaking humanly,
she was but a girl, a gentle maid, loving and tender-hearted, to
whom the sight of suffering was always a sorrow and a pain. And to
picture a young girl, who had perhaps never seen blows struck in
anger in her life--save perchance in some village brawl--suddenly
set in the midst of a battle, arms clashing, blood flowing, all the
hideous din of warfare around her, exposed to all its fearful risks
and perils--was it strange we should ask ourselves how she would
bear it? Was it wonderful that her confidence and calmness and
steadfast courage under the trial should convince us, as never
perhaps we had been convinced before, of the nearness of those
supernatural beings who guarded her so closely, who warned her of
danger, who inspired her with courage, and yet never robbed her for
one moment of the grace and beauty and crown of her pure womanhood?

And so, whilst we were well-nigh mad with joy and triumph, whilst
joy bells pealed from the city, and the soldiers and citizens were
ready to do her homage as a veritable saint from heaven, she was
just her own quiet, thoughtful, retiring self. She put aside the
plaudits of the Generals; she hushed the excited shouting of the
soldiers. She exercised her authority to check and stop the
carnage, to insist that quarter should be given to all who asked
it, to see that the wounded upon both sides were carried into the
city to receive attention and care, and in particular that the
prisoners--amongst whom were several priests--should receive humane
treatment, and escape any sort of insult or reprisal.

These matters occupied her time and thought to the exclusion of any
personal pride or triumph. It was with difficulty that the Generals
could persuade her to ride at their head into the city, to receive
the applause and joyful gratitude of the people; and as soon as she
could without discourtesy extricate herself from the crowd pressing
round to kiss her hands or her feet, or even the horse upon which
she rode, she slipped away to give orders that certain badly
wounded English prisoners were to be carried to the Treasurer's
house, and laid in the spacious guest chamber, which, having been
prepared for her own reception, had been permitted to no one else.
Here she begged of Madame Boucher permission to lodge them, that
she might tend their hurts herself, and assure herself that all was
well with them.

No one could deny the Maid those things she asked, knowing well
that others in her place would have issued commands without
stooping to petition. But with the Maid it was never so. Her gentle
courtesy never deserted her. No association with men, no military
dignity of command, which she could so well assume, ever tarnished
the lustre of her sweet humility. A gentle maiden, full of
tenderness and compassion, she showed herself now. Instead of
resting after the sore strife of the battle, which had exhausted
even strong men, nothing would serve her but that she must herself
dress the wounds of these English prisoners; and so deft was her
touch, and so soft and tender her methods with them, that not a
groan passed the lips of any of them; they only watched her with
wondering eyes of gratitude; and when she had left the room they
looked at each other and asked:

"Who is it? Is it boy, or angel, or what? The voice is as the voice
of a woman, and the touch is as soft; but the dress is the dress of
a man. Who can it be?"

I understood them, for I knew something of the English tongue, and
I saw that they were in great amazement; for all who had seen the
Maid bore her image stamped upon their hearts; and yet it was
impossible for these prisoners of war to believe that the
triumphant, angelic Commander of the Forces could stoop to tend the
hurts of wounded prisoners with her own hands.

"Gentlemen," I said, "that is the Angelic Maid herself--she who has
been sent of Heaven for the deliverance of France. I trow that you
soldiers and knights of England have called her witch, and
threatened to burn her if you can lay hands upon her. Perchance now
that you have seen her thus face to face, your thoughts towards her
will somewhat change."

They gazed at me and at one another in amaze. They broke into
questions, eager and full of curiosity. When I had answered them
they were ready to tell me what was spoken of her in the English
ranks; all averred that some strange power seemed to fall upon them
with the advent of the Maid into the city--a power that withheld
them from sallying forth to hinder her coming, or that of the
relieving army.

"We had meant to fight her to the death," spoke one English knight.
"I was in counsel with the Generals when it was so proposed; and
yet more resolved were we to keep out the army from Blois, which we
heard must needs pass straight through our lines--an easy prey, we
said, to our gunners, archers and swordsmen. All was in readiness
for the attack--and yet no word was ever given. No trumpet sounded,
though the men were drawn up ready. We all stood to arms; but the
sight of that dazzling white figure seemed to close the lips of our
commanders, to numb the limbs of our soldiers. I can say no more.
When the chance was gone--the hour passed--we gazed into each
other's face as men awaking from a dream. We cursed ourselves. We
cursed the witch who had bound us by her spells. We vowed to redeem
and revenge ourselves another day. And when we saw the French
issuing forward to the attack scarce two hours after the entry of
the relieving army, and there was no white figure with them, then
indeed did we tell ourselves that our time was come; and we thought
to win a speedy victory over the men who had so often fled before
us. Yet you know how the day did end. The Maid came--victory rode
beside her! Nought we could do availed when she appeared. I had
thought to be left to die upon the battlefield, but behold I am
here, and she has dressed my wounds with her own hands! It is
wonderful! Past belief! Tell me who and what is she? A creature of
earth or of heaven?"

I had already told him all I knew; but they were never tired of
hearing the story of the Maid; and as I, at her request, watched
beside them during the night, ministering to their wants, and doing
what I was able to relieve their pain, I found that nothing so
helped them to forget the smart of their wounds as the narration of
all the wonderful words and deeds of this Heavenly Deliverer of
France.

They were frank enough on their side also, and told me much of the
disposition of their forces, and how that they were expecting a
strong army to join them quickly, headed by Sir John Fastolffe, a
notable knight, whose name we well knew, and had trembled before
ere this. They admitted that their ranks were somewhat thinned by
disease and death, and that they had scarce sufficient force both
to maintain all the bastilles erected on the north side of the
river and also to hold the great forts of Les Tourelles and Les
Augustins on the south; but that when the reinforcements should
arrive all would be well, and but for the marvellous power of the
Maid, they would have felt no doubt whatever as to the speedy
reduction of the city either by assault or blockade.

With the first golden shafts of sunlight came the Maid once more,
little Charlotte beside her, both bearing in their hands such
cooling drinks and light sustenance as the condition of the wounded
men required. The Maid wore the white, silver embroidered tunic and
silken hose which Queen Yolande had provided for her indoor dress;
she carried no arms, and her clustering curls framed her lovely
face like a nimbus. All eyes were fixed upon her as upon a vision,
and as she bent over each wounded man in turn, asking him of his
welfare and holding a cup to his lips, I could see the amazement
deepening in their eyes; and I am sure that they were well-nigh
ready to worship the ground upon which she trod, so deep was the
impression made upon them by her beauty and her gentle treatment.

When she left the room I followed her at her sign, and asked:

"Then you go not forth to battle today, General?"

"Nay," she replied, "for today the Church keeps the blessed Feast
of the Ascension; which should be to all a day of peace and
thanksgiving and holy joy. I am going forthwith to hear Mass and
receive the Holy Sacrament; and I would have my faithful knights
about me. Let us forget warfare and strife for this day."

Her own face was transfigured as she spoke. The light shone upon it
all the time that she knelt before the high altar in the Cathedral,
rapt in a mystery of thanksgiving and heavenly joy. O how real it
all was to her--those things which were to us articles of faith,
grounds of hope, yet matters which seemed too far above us to
arouse that personal rapture which was shining from the eyes and
irradiating the whole face of the Maid.

It was a beautiful beginning to the day; and all the early hours
were spent by the Maid in meditation and prayer within the walls of
the Cathedral, where the people flocked, as perhaps they had never
done before, to give thanks for the mercies received with the
advent of the Maid, and to gaze upon her, as she knelt in a trance
of rapture and devotion in her appointed place not far from the
altar. We, her knights, went to and fro, some of us always near to
her, that the crowd might not too curiously press upon her when she
went forth, or disturb her devotions by too close an approach.

I noted that none of the Generals appeared or took part in the acts
of devotion that day. And as I issued forth into the sunny street
at the close of the High Mass, Bertrand met me with a look of
trouble and anger on his face.

"They are all sitting in council of war together," he said, "and
they have not even told her of it, nor suffered her to join them!
How can they treat her so--even Dunois and La Hire--when they have
seen again and yet again how futile are all plans made by their
skill without the sanction of her voice? It makes my gorge rise! Do
they think her a mere beautiful image, to ride before them and
carry a white banner to affright the foe? It is a shame, a shame,
that they should treat her so, after all that they have seen and
heard!"

I was as wroth as Bertrand, and as full of surprise. Even now,
looking back after all these years, the blindness of these men of
war astonishes and exasperates me. They had seen with their own
eyes what the Maid could accomplish; again and again she had proved
herself the abler in counsel as in fight; and yet they now
deliberately desired to set her aside from their councils, and only
inform her of their decisions when made, and permit her to take a
share in the fighting they had planned.

Bertrand was furiously angry. He led me up into a lofty turret
which commanded a bird's-eye view of the whole city and its
environs, and he pointed out that which the Maid had declared she
would straightway do, so soon as the Feast of the Ascension was
over, and how the Generals were about to follow a quite different
course.

Orleans, as all men know, lies upon the right--the north--bank of
the Loire, and the country to the north was then altogether in the
power of the English; wherefore they had built their great
bastilles around the city upon that side without molestation, and
were able to receive supplies from their countrymen without let or
hindrance.

But these bastilles were not the chiefest danger to the city, or
rather I should say, it was not these which were the chiefest cause
of peril, since no help could reach the garrison from that side.
They looked to the country to the south to help them, and it was to
stop supplies from reaching them by water or from the south that
the English had long since crossed the river and had established
themselves in certain forts along the south bank. Of these, St.
Jean le Blanc was one; but by far the most important and dangerous
to the city were the two great towers commanding the bridge, whose
names I have given before. Let me explain how these great
fortifications stood.

Les Augustins had once been a convent, and it stood on the south
bank, very near to the end of the bridge, guarding it securely from
attack, and commanding the waterway and the approach to the city.
Les Tourelles was an even stronger tower, constructed upon the very
bridge itself, and menacing the town in formidable fashion. Dunois
had broken down the main portion of the bridge on the north side to
prevent the advance into the city of the English from their tower;
so it stood grimly isolated from either bank; for the permanent
bridge at the south end had been destroyed to be replaced by a
drawbridge which could rise or fall at will.

And it was these towers of Les Augustins and Les Tourelles which
had reduced the city to such straits by hindering the entrance of
food supplies. Moreover, from Les Tourelles great stone cannon
balls had been hurled into the city in vast numbers, battering down
walls and doing untold damage to buildings and their inhabitants.

Now it was evident to all that these fortresses must be taken if
the city were to be relieved and the siege raised. But the Maid,
with her far-seeing eyes, had decreed that first the bastilles upon
the north bank should be attacked and destroyed; and it was easy to
follow her reasoning; "For," she said, "when the English are
fiercely attacked there, they will, without doubt, yield up these
lesser fortresses without a great struggle, concentrating
themselves in force upon the left bank, where they think to do us
most hurt. We shall then destroy their bastilles, so that they will
have no place of shelter to fly back to; and then we shall fall
upon them hip and thigh on the south side, and drive them before us
as chaff before the wind. They must needs then disperse themselves
altogether, having no more cover to hide themselves in; so will the
enemies of the Lord be dispersed, and the siege of Orleans be
raised."

This was the plan she had confided to her own immediate attendants
and staff the previous evening, and which Bertrand repeated to me,
gazing over the ramparts, and pointing out each fortress and
bastion as it was named. But now the Generals in Council, without
reference to the Maid, had decreed something altogether different.
What they desired to do was not to make any real or vigorous attack
upon any of the English forts, but to feign an assault upon the
towers on the south bank, and whilst the attention of the foe was
thus engaged, get great quantifies of stores--all lying in
readiness at hand--into the city, enough to last for a long while,
and then quietly sit down behind the strong walls, and tire out the
English, forcing them thus to retreat of their own accord!

Think of it! After all that had been promised, all that had been
performed! To be content to shut ourselves in a well-provisioned
town, and just weary out the patience of the foe! And, moreover, of
a foe who expected daily reinforcements from the north, and who
would be quite capable of exercising as much patience, and perhaps
more daring than ourselves.

Even now my blood boils at the thought, and I find it hard to
conceive how such men as Dunois and La Hire let themselves be led
from their allegiance and confidence in the Maid to listen to such
counsel as this from her detractors, and those many lesser
commanders who were sorely jealous of her success and influence.
But so it was, not once nor twice, but again and again; though in
action they were staunch to her, would follow her everywhere, rally
round her standard, fly to her defence when danger threatened, and
show themselves gallant soldiers and generous-hearted men, never
denying her all her share of praise and honour. But when sitting in
the council room, surrounded by officers and men of experience in
war disposed to scorn the counsels of an unlettered girl, and scoff
at her pretensions to military rule, they were invariably led away
and overborne, agreeing to act without her sanction, or even
contrary to her advice, notwithstanding their belief in her
mission, and their trust in her power as a leader.

The shades of evening had fallen in the Treasurer's house before
word was brought to the Maid of the decision of the Generals in
Council. We were sitting around her after supper; and she had
fallen into a very thoughtful mood. The Chevalier d'Aulon had been
called away, and now returned with a troubled face. He stood just
within the doorway, as though half afraid to advance. The Maid
lifted her eyes to his and smiled.

"Do not fear to tell me your news, my kind friend. I know that your
faithful heart is sore at the dishonour done to me; but let us not
judge harshly. It is hard for men full of courage and fleshly power
to understand how the Lord works with such humble instruments.
Perchance, in their place, we should not be greatly different.

"So they have refused my plan, and made one of their own. We are to
attack the foe upon the south? Is that agreed? And even so not with
all our heart and strength?"

D'Aulon recoiled a step in amaze.

"Madame, that is indeed so--a feint upon the south bank has been
decreed, whilst provisions are thrown into the city--"

"Yes, yes, I know. Well, so be it. We will attack on the south
bank. It must have come sooner or later, and if we fight with a
will, the Lord will be with us and uphold our cause. But, my
friends, understand this, and let the men likewise understand it.
There shall be no mockery of fighting. It shall be true and
desperate warfare. Let the Generals decree what they will, the Maid
will lead her soldiers to victory! Tomorrow Les Augustins shall be
ours; upon the next day Les Tourelles shall fall--" she paused
suddenly and turned towards Bertrand.

"What day will that be--the day after to-morrow?"

"The seventh day of May," he answered at once.

"Ah!" she said, "then it will be on that day--the day which shall
see Orleans relieved--the power of the English broken."

She spoke dreamily, and only Madame Boucher, who sat in the shadows
with her child upon her lap, ventured to ask of her:

"What will be on that day, gentle Jeanne?"

"That I shall be wounded," she answered quietly.

"Did I not tell you long since," turning to Bertrand and me, "that
I should not come unscathed through the assault; but that on a
certain day I should receive a wound?"

I pulled out my tablets, upon which I often recorded the sayings of
the Maid, and sure enough there it was written down as she said. We
felt a great burning revolt at the thought of any hurt befalling
her, and somebody spoke vehemently, saying that the holy Saints
would surely protect her from harm. But she lifted her hand with
her gentle authority of gesture, and spoke:

"Nay, my kind friends, but thus it must needs be; nor would I have
it otherwise. Listen, and I will tell you all. I often had my days
and hours of fear because this great work was put upon one so weak
and ignorant as I, and it was long before I clearly understood that
I was but the instrument in a mighty Hand, and that power for all
would be given me. Then my fear left and great joy came; perhaps
even some pride and haughtiness of spirit in that I had been chosen
for such a task.

"And then it was that my voices asked of me: 'Jeanne, hast thou no
fear?'

"And I answered without pause, 'I fear nothing now.'

"Then St. Catherine herself suddenly appeared to me in a great
white light and said: 'Child, thou art highly favoured of heaven;
but the flesh is easily puffed up. And for this cause, and because
it may be well that thou thyself and all men shall know that thou
art but human flesh and blood, thou shalt not escape unscathed in
warfare; but thou too shalt feel the sting of fiery dart, and know
the scald of flowing blood.'

"I bowed my head and made answer I would bear whatever my Lord
thought fit to lay upon me; and I asked if I might know when this
thing would happen. It was not told me then; but later it was
revealed to me; and I know that upon the seventh day of May I shall
be wounded--" and she touched her right shoulder as she spoke, just
below the neck.

"But what matter will that be, when the siege of Orleans shall be
raised?"

Her face was aglow; nothing could touch her joy, not the insults of
the proud Generals, nor the knowledge of coming pain for herself.
Her thought was all of the mission entrusted to her; and so, though
thwarted and set aside, she showed no petty anger, dreamed not of
any paltry vengeance such as others might have dealt the soldiers,
by refusing to march with them on the morrow. Oh, no; hurt she
might be--indeed we knew she was--her pain being for the dishonour
done her Lord in this disrespect of His messenger; but no thought
of reprisal entered her head. She rose from her seat, and lifted
the little Charlotte in her strong young arms.

"Gentlemen, let us early to rest," she said, holding her head
proudly, "for tomorrow a great work shall be done, and we must all
have our share in it."



CHAPTER XII. HOW THE MAID RAISED THE SIEGE.


To tell the tale of how Les Augustins was taken is but to tell
again the tale of St Loup.

I know not precisely what instructions the lesser officers
received, nor what they told their men. But whether from
preconcerted arrangement that the attack was only to be a feint, or
whether from the dash and energy of the English, it appeared at
first as though the tide of war was rolling back in its old track,
and that the prowess of the English as destined to win the day.

For one thing the assault was commenced before the Maid had crossed
the river and could put herself at the head of the men. A large
body of troops had been transported to the south side in boats
during the night, under cover of darkness; and this was all very
well; but they should have waited hen daylight came for the Maid to
march at their head, instead of which they sought to rush the
fortress before ever she had appeared at all; and when we arrived
at the river's bank, it was to see a furious battle raging round
the base of Les Augustins, and ere we were half across the river,
we saw only too plainly that the French were being badly beaten,
were fleeing in all directions from the pursuing foe, and were
making for the river bank once more as fast as their legs could
carry them.

The Maid watched it all, with that strange, inscrutable look upon
her face, and that battle light in her eyes which we were all
learning to know. She was sitting upon her horse; for though a
number of animals had been taken across in the night, no horse of
hers had been so conducted, and we had led the creature with its
rider into the great flat-bottomed boat; so that she was on a
higher level than the rest of us, and could better see what was
passing, though it was plain to all that our soldiers were getting
badly beaten.

"O foolish children, silly sheep!" murmured the Maid as she
watched, "and yet you are not to blame, but those who lead you.
When will they understand? When will they believe?"

We reached the shore, and the Maid, without waiting for any of us
to mount or form a bodyguard round her, leaped her horse to the
bank, and charged up it, her pennon flying, her eyes alight with
the greatness of her purpose.

But even as she climbed the slippery bank, a great rush of flying
soldiers met her, and by their sheer weight forced back horse and
rider almost to the river's brink before they were aware who or
what it was.

Then her silver trumpet voice rang out. She called upon them to
reform, to follow her. She cried that her Lord would give them the
victory, and almost before we who had accompanied her had formed
into rank for the charge, the flying, panic-stricken men from the
front, ashamed and filled with fresh ardour, had turned themselves
about, closed up their scattered ranks, and were ready to follow
her whithersoever she might lead them.

Yet it was to no speedy victory she urged them. No angel with a
flaming sword came forth to fight and overcome as by a miracle. But
it was enough for that white-clad figure to stand revealed in the
thickest of the carnage to animate the men to heroic effort. As I
say, it was the story of St. Loup over again; but if anything the
fighting was more severe. What the Generals had meant for a mere
feint, the Maid turned into a desperate battle. The English were
reinforced many times; it seemed as though we had a hopeless task
before us. But confidence and assurance of victory were in our
hearts as we saw our Deliverer stand in the thick of the fight and
heard her clarion voice ringing over the field. Ere the shades of
night fell, not only was Les Augustins ours, but its stores of food
and ammunition had been safely transported into the city, and the
place so destroyed and dismantled that never again could it be a
source of peril to the town.

And now the Maid's eyes were fixed full upon the frowning bulk of
Les Tourelles, rising grim and black against the darkening sky,
with its little "tower of the Boulevard," on this side the
drawbridge. Thither had the whole English force retired--all who
were not lying dead or desperately wounded on the plain or round
the gutted tower of Les Augustins--we saw their threatening faces
looking down fiercely upon us, and heard the angry voices from the
walls, heaping abuse and curses upon the "White Witch," who had
wrought them this evil.

"Would that we could attack at once!" spoke the Maid. "Would that
the sun would stay his course! Truly I do believe that we should
carry all before us!"

The leaders came up to praise and glorify her prowess. They heard
her words, but answered how that the men must needs have a night's
rest ere they tried this second great feat of arms. But, they
added, there should be no going back into the city, no delay on the
morrow in crossing the river.

It was a warm summer-like night. Provisions were abundant, shelter
could be obtained beneath the walls of the captured citadel. They,
with the bulk of the army, would remain on the south bank for the
nonce, and the Maid should return to the city with the convoys of
wounded, to spend a quiet night there, returning with the dawn of
the morrow to renew the attack and take Les Tourelles.

Thus they spoke, and spoke suavely and courteously. But I did note
a strange look in the eyes of the Maid; and I wondered why it was
that Dunois, the speaker, grew red and stumbled over his words,
whilst that La Hire, who had done a giant's work in the fighting
that day, ground his teeth and looked both ashamed and disturbed.

The Maid stood a brief while as though in doubt. But then she made
quiet reply:

"Then, gentlemen, it shall be as you will. I will return to the
city for the night. But with the dawn of day I will be here, and
Les Tourelles shall be ours. The siege of Orleans shall be raised!"

They bowed low to her; every one of them made obeisance. Yet was
there something ironical in the very humility of some? I could not
tell; yet my heart burned within me as I followed our mistress; and
never had I known her so silent as she was upon our journey back,
or as we sat at supper, the rest of us telling of the day's doings,
but the Maid speechless, save when she bent her head to answer some
eager question of little Charlotte's, or to smile at her childish
prattle.

Suddenly the door was flung open, and Sir Guy strode in with a face
like a thundercloud. Behind him came a messenger sent by the
Generals to the Maid, and this was the news he brought:

There had been a council held after dark, and it was then
unanimously agreed that all now had been done that was necessary.
The city was provisioned, the power of the English had been greatly
weakened and broken. The army would now be content with the triumphs
already won, and would quietly await further reinforcements before
taking any fresh step.

The man who brought this message faltered as he delivered it. The
Maid sat very still and quiet, her head lifted in a dignified but
most expressive disdain.

"Monsieur," she replied, when the envoy ceased speaking, "go back
to those who sent you. Tell them that they have had their council
and I have had mine. I leave the city at dawn as I have said. I
return not to it till the siege has been raised."

The man bowed and retired confusedly. The Maid lifted the little
child in her arms, as was her wont, to carry her to bed. She turned
to her chaplain as she did so:

"Come to me at dawn, my father, to hear my confession; and I pray
you accompany me upon the morrow; for my blood will be shed. But do
not weep or fear for me, my friends, nor spread any banquet for me
ere I start forth upon the morrow; but keep all for my return in
the evening, when I will come to you by the bridge."

She was gone as she spoke, and we gazed at her and each other in
amaze; for how could she come back by a bridge which had been
destroyed, and how did she brook such slights as were heaped upon
her without showing anger and hurt pride?

"And there is worse yet to come!" cried Sir Guy in a fury of rage,
"for I lingered behind to hear and see. If you will believe it,
there are numbers and numbers of the lesser officers who would
desire that the Maid should now be told that her work is done, and
that she can retire to her home in Domremy; that the King will come
himself with another reinforcing army to raise the siege, so that
they may get rid of her, and take the glory to themselves whenever
the place shall be truly relieved. Could you believe such folly,
such treachery?"

We could not; we could scarce believe our ears, and right glad was
I to hear how that La Hire had had no part in this shameful
council; and I hope that Dunois had not either, though I fear me he
was less staunch.

La Hire had returned to the city to seek to infuse into the
citizens some of the spirit of the Maid. He was always for bold
attack, and would be ready on the morrow, we did not doubt, for
whatever might betide.

It was little after dawn when we rode forth, the Maid in her white
armour at our head, carrying her small pennon, whilst D'Aulon bore
the great white standard close behind. Her face was pale and rapt.
None of us spoke to her, and Pasquerel, her good chaplain, rode
behind telling his beads as he went.

We reached the Burgundy Gate; and behold it was fast shut. At the
portal stood De Gaucourt, a notable warrior, with a grim look about
his mouth. The Maid saluted him courteously, and quietly bid him
open the gate. But he budged not an inch.

"Madam," he said, "I have my commands from the Generals of the
army. The gate is to remain shut. No one is to be suffered to pass
forth today."

We understood in a moment. This was a ruse to trap the Maid within
the city walls. Our hands were upon the hilts of our swords. At a
word from her, they would have flashed forth, and De Gaucourt would
have been a dead man had he sought to hinder us in the opening of
the gate. But the Maid read our purpose in our eyes and in our
gestures, and she stayed us by her lifted hand.

"Not so, my friends," she answered gravely, "but the Chevalier de
Gaucourt will himself order the opening of the gate. I have to ride
through it and at once. My Lord bids it!"

Her eyes flashed full and suddenly upon him. We saw him quiver from
head to foot. With his own hands he unlocked the gate, and it
seemed to swing of its own accord wide open before us. The Maid
bent her head in gracious acknowledgment, swept through and was off
to the river like a flash of white lightning.

The river lay golden in the glory of the morning. The boats which
had transported us across last night bore us bravely over now. I
know not how the Generals felt when they saw the Maid, a dazzling
vision of brightness, her great white standard close behind, her
phalanx of knights and gentlemen in attendance, gallop up to the
scene of action, from which they thought they had successfully
banished her. I only know that from the throats of the soldiers
there arose a deafening shout of welcome. They at least believed in
her. They looked to her as to none else. They would follow her
unwaveringly, when no other commander could make them budge.

A yell that rent the very firmament went up at sight of her, and
every man seized his arms and sprang to his post, as though
inspired by the very genius of victory.

"Courage, my children, forward! The day shall be ours!" she cried,
as she took her place at the head of the formidable charge against
the walls which frowned and bristled with the pikes and arrows of
the English. Her voice, like a silver clarion, rang clear through
the din of the furious battle which followed:

"Bon coeur, bonne esperance, mes enfants, the hour of victory is at
hand! De la part de Dieu! De la part de Dieu!"

That was her favourite battle cry! It was God who should give the
victory.

But it was no easy victory we were to win that day. The English
fought with the energy of despair. They knew as well as we that
when Les Tourelles fell the siege would be raised. True they had
their bastilles upon the north side of the river to fall back upon,
since the Maid's counsel of destruction had not been followed. But
once dislodged from the south bank, and Orleans would lie open to
the support of her friends in the south, and the position of the
English army would be one of dire peril. For now the French were no
more cowed by craven fear of the power of their enemies. They had
found them capable of defeat and overthrow; the spell was broken.
And it was the Maid who had done it!

Oh, how we fought around her that day! She was on foot now, for the
banks of the moat were slippery, and the press around the walls was
too great to admit easily of the tactics of horsemen. I never saw
her strike at any foe. It was her pennon rather than her sword in
which she trusted. Here was the rallying point for the bravest and
most desperate of the assailants, ever in the thickest of the
strife, ever pointing the way to victory.

It was the tower of the Boulevard against which we were directing
our attack. If that fell, Les Tourelles itself must needs follow,
isolated as it would then be in the midst of the river. We did not
know it then, but we were to learn later, that La Hire in the city
with a great band of citizens and soldiers to help him, was already
hard at work constructing a bridge which should carry him and his
men across to Les Tourelles, to take the English in the rear,
whilst their attention was concentrated upon our work on the other
side.

No wonder that the clash and din was something deafening, that the
boom of the great cannon ceased not; smoke and fire seemed to
envelop the walls of the towers; the air was darkened by clouds of
arrows; great stones came crashing into our midst. Men fell on
every side; we had much ado to press on without treading under foot
the dead and dying; but the white pennon fluttered before us, and
foot by foot we crept up towards the base of the tower.

Victory! Victory! was the cry of our hearts. We were close to the
walls now--the Maid had seized a ladder, and with her own hands was
setting it in position, when--O woe! woe!--a great cloth-yard shaft
from an English bow, tipped with iron and winged with an eagle's
plume, struck upon that white armour with such crashing force that
a rent was made in its shining surface, and the Maid was borne to
the ground.

Oh, the terrible fear of that moment! The yell of triumph and joy
which arose from the walls of the fortress seemed to turn my blood
into liquid fire.

The English had seen the fall of our champion. They shouted like
men drunk with victory! They knew well enough that were she dead,
they would drive back the French as sheep are driven by wolves.

I had been close beside the Maid for hours; for I never forgot what
she had spoken about being wounded that day; yet when she fell I
had been parted from her a brief space, by one of those battle
waves too strong for resistance. But now I fought my way to her
side with irresistible fury, though there was such a struggling
press all about her that I had much ado to force my way through it.
But I was known as one of her especial personal attendants, and way
was made for me somehow; yet it was not I who was the first to
render her assistance.

When I arrived, De Gamache was holding her in his arms; someone had
removed her headpiece, and though her face was as white as the
snowy plumes, her eyes were open, and there was a faint brave smile
upon her lips. De Gamache had his horse beside him, his arm slipped
through the reins.

"My brave General," he said, as the Maid looked in his face, "let
me lift you to my saddle and convey you to a place of safety. I
have done you wrong before; but I pray you forgive me, and bear no
malice; for I am yours till death. Never was woman so brave."

"I should be wrong indeed to bear malice against any, my good
friend," spoke the Maid, in her gentle tones, "above all against
one so courteous, so brave."

We lifted her upon the horse. We formed a bodyguard round her. We
drew her out of the thick of the press, for once unresisting; and
we laid her down in a little adjacent vineyard, where the good
Pasquerel came instantly, and knelt beside her offering prayers for
her recovery. But the great arrow had pierced right through her
shoulder, and stood out a handbreadth upon the other side. We had
sent for a surgeon; but we dreaded to think of the pain she must
suffer; must be suffering even now. Her face was white; her brow
was furrowed.

But suddenly, as we stood looking at her in dismay, she sat up,
took firm hold of the cruel barb with her own hands, and drew it
steadily from the wound.

Was ever courage like hers? As the blood came gushing forth,
staining her white armour red, she uttered a little cry and her
lips grew pale. Yet I think the cry was less from pain than to see
the marring of her shining breastplate; and the tears started to
her eyes. Never before had this suffered hurt; the sight of the
envious rent hurt her, I trow, as much as did the smart of her
wound.

The surgeon came hurrying up, and dressed the wound with a pledget
of linen steeped in oil; and the Maid lay very white and still,
almost like one dying or dead, so that we all held our breath in
fear. In sooth, the faintness was deathlike for awhile, and she did
beckon to her priest to come close to her and receive her
confession, whilst we formed round her in a circle, keeping off all
idle gazers, and standing facing away from her, with bent,
uncovered heads.

Was it possible that her Lord was about to take her from us, her
task yet unfulfilled? It was hard to believe it, and yet we could
not but fear; wherefore our hearts were heavy within us during that
long hour which followed.

And the battle? It was raging still, but the heart of it seemed to
be lacking. The English were crying out that the White Witch was
dead, taunting their foes with being led by a woman, and asking
them where she was gone to now.

Dunois came hurrying up for news of her. The Maid roused herself
and beckoned to him to come to her where she lay, and asked him of
the battle. Dunois told her that the courage of the men seemed
failing, that he thought of sounding the retreat.

For a few moments she lay still; her eyes bent full upon the
blinding blue of the sunny sky. Then she spoke:

"Sound no retreat, my General," she spoke, "but give the men a
breathing space. Let them draw off for a brief moment. Let them eat
and drink and refresh themselves. Tell them that I will come to
them again; and when you and they see my standard floating against
the wall, then know by that token that the place is yours."

Dunois went his way, and soon the sound of the struggle ceased.
There came a strange hush in the heat of the noontide hours. The
Maid lay still a while longer; then raising herself, asked that
water should be brought to cleanse away all stains from her hands
and face and her white armour.

That being done she called to D'Aulon and said to him:

"Take the great standard; plant it again upon the edge of the moat;
and when the silken folds touch the tower wall, call and tell me;
and you, my knights and gentlemen, be ready to follow me to
victory!"

Did we doubt her ability, wounded as she was, to lead us? Not one
whit. We looked to our arms; we stood silently beside her. We
watched D'Aulon move quietly forward to the appointed place, and
unfold the great white banner, which hung down limply in the sultry
heat of the May afternoon. He stood there, and we stood beside the
Maid a great while; she lay upon the heap of cloaks which had been
spread to form a couch for her; her hands were clasped and her eyes
closed as though in prayer.

Then a little puff of wind arose, followed by another, and yet
another--soft, warm wind, but we saw the folds of the banner begin
to unfurl. Little by little the breeze strengthened; breathlessly
we watched the gradual lifting of the silken standard, till, with
an indescribably proud motion--as though some spirit was infused
into the lifeless silk--it launched itself like a living thing
against the tower wall.

"It touches! It touches!" cried D'Aulon.

"It touches! It touches!" we shouted in response.

"It touches! It touches!" came an echoing wave sound from the
soldiers watching from their resting places.

The Maid was on her feet in a moment. Where was the weakness, the
feebleness, the faintness of the wounded girl? All gone--all
swallowed up in the triumph of the victorious warrior.

"Onward! Onward, my children. Onward, de la part de Dieu! He has
given you the victory! Onwards and take the tower! Nothing can
resist you now!"

Her voice was heard all over the field. The white folds of the
banner still fluttered against the wall, the white armour of the
Maid shone dazzling in the sunshine as she dashed forward. The army
to a man sprang forward in her wake with that rush, with that power
of confidence against which nothing can stand.

The English shrieked in their astonishment and affright. The dead
had come to life! The White Witch, struck down as they thought by
mortal wound, was charging at the head of her armies. The French
were swarming up the scaling ladders, pouring into their tower,
carrying all before them.

Fighting was useless. Nothing remained but flight. Helter skelter,
like rabbits or rats, they fled this way and that before us. Not an
Englishman remained upon the south side of the river. The French
flag waved from the top of the tower. The seven months' siege was
raised by the Maid eight days after her entrance into the city.



CHAPTER XIII. HOW THE MAID WON A NEW NAME.


"Entrez, entrez--de la part de Dieu--all is yours!"

Thus spoke the Maid, as we rushed the tower of the boulevard, the
English flying this way and that before us. The Maid found herself
face to face with the commander--that Sir William Glasdale, who had
called her vile names a few days before, and had promised to burn
her for a witch if once she fell into his hands.

But she had no ill words for him, as she saw him, sword in hand,
seeking to make a last stand upon the drawbridge leading to Les
Tourelles.

"Now yield you, Classidas," she said; "I bear you no ill will. I
have great pity for your soul. Yield you, and all shall be well."

But he would not listen; his face was black like a thundercloud,
and with his picked bodyguard of men, he retreated backwards, sword
in hand, upon the bridge, seeking to gain the other tower, not
knowing its desperate condition, and hoping there to make a last
stand.

But he was not destined to achieve his end. Suddenly the bridge
gave way beneath his feet, and he and his men were all precipitated
into the water. It looked to us as though a miracle had been
wrought before our eyes; as though the gaze of the Maid had done
it. But the truth was afterwards told us, that a fire ship from the
city had been sent across and had burned the bridge, cutting off
the retreat of the English that way.

And now we heard the din of battle going on within Les Tourelles;
for La Hire had crossed the repaired bridge with a gallant band of
soldiers, and our men, hearing the shouts of their comrades, and
the cries of the trapped English, flung themselves into boats, or
swam over, sword in mouth, anything to get to the scene of the
fray; whilst others set to work with planks, and whatever they
could lay hands upon, to mend the broken drawbridge that they might
swarm across into Les Tourelles and join in the final act of
victory, that should free Orleans from the iron grip in which she
had been held so long.

But the face of the Maid was troubled, as she looked into the dark
water which had closed over the head of Glasdale and his men. She
had seized upon a coil of rope; she stood ready to fling it towards
them when they rose; but encased as they were in their heavy mail,
there was no rising for them. Long did she gaze into the black,
bloodstained water; but she gazed in vain; and when she raised her
eyes, I saw that they were swimming in tears.

"I would we might have saved them," she spoke, with a little catch
in her voice, "I have such great pity for their souls!"

These were the first words I heard the Maid speak after her
wonderful victory had been won; and whilst others went hither and
thither, mad or drunk with joy, she busied herself about the
wounded, making no distinction betwixt friend or foe, sending
urgent message into the city for priests to come forth and bring
the last Sacraments with them, and so long as there were any dying
to be confessed or consoled, or wounded to be cared for and
transported into the city, she seemed to have no thought for aught
beside. Thankful joy was indeed in her heart, but her tender
woman's pity was so stirred by sights of suffering and death that
for the moment she could think of nothing else.

Thus the daylight faded, and we began to think of return. How shall
I describe the sight which greeted our eyes in the gathering dusk,
as we looked towards the city? One might have thought that the
English had fired it, so bright was the glare in which it was
enveloped; but we knew better. Bonfires were blazing in every
square, in every open place. Nay, more, from the very roofs of
tower and church great pillars of flame were ascending to the
heavens.

Joy bells had rung before this, but never with such a wild
jubilation, such a clamour of palpitating triumph. The city had
gone mad in its joy--and it was no marvel--and all were awaiting
the return of the Maid, to whom this miraculous deliverance was
due. Eight days--eight days of the Maid--and the seven-months'
siege was raised! Was it wonderful they should hunger for her
presence amongst them? Was it wonderful that every house should
seek to hang out a white banner in honour of the Angelic Maid, and
her pure whiteness of soul and body?

"I will come to you by the bridge," had been her own word; and now,
behold, the bridge was there! Like Trojans had the men worked
beneath the eagle eyes of La Hire. An army had already crossed from
the city; now that their task was done, the Maid's white charger
had been led across, and the cry was all for her, for her; that she
should let the people see her alive and well, now that her task was
accomplished and Orleans was free!

She let us mount her upon her horse, and D'Aulon marched in front
with the great white standard. Weary and white and wan was she,
with the stress of the fight, with the pain and loss of blood from
her wound, above all, with her deep, unfailing pity for the
sufferings she had been forced to witness, for the souls gone to
their last account without the sacred offices of the Church.

All this weighed upon her young spirit, and gave a strange,
ethereal loveliness to her pale face and shining eyes. Methought
she seemed almost more like some angelic presence in our midst than
a creature of human flesh and blood.

The Generals formed an advance guard before her. The soldiers followed,
rank behind rank, in the rear. We of her household rode immediately in
her wake, ready to protect her, if need be, from the too great pressure
of the crowd. And so we crossed the hastily-repaired bridge, and entered
by the Bride Gate--or St.  Catherine's gate, as it was equally called;
for a figure of St.  Catherine stands carved in a niche above the porch,
and I saw the Maid glance upwards at it as she passed through, a smile
upon her lips.

Shall I ever forget the thunder of applause which fell upon our
ears as we passed into the city through the bridge? It was like the
"sound of many waters"--deafening in volume and intensity. And was
it wonder? Had not something very like a miracle been wrought? For
had not rumours reached the city many times that day of the death
of the Deliverer in the hour of victory? None well knew what to
believe till they saw her in their midst, and then the cry which
rent the heavens was such as methinks is heard but once in a
lifetime.

I know not who first spoke the words; but once spoken, they were
caught up by ten thousand lips, and the blazing heavens echoed them
back in great waves of rolling sound:

"THE MAID OF ORLEANS! THE MAID OF ORLEANS! Welcome, honour, glory,
praise to THE MAID OF ORLEANS!"

The people were well-nigh mad with joy; they rushed upon her to
kiss her hands, her knees, the folds of her banner, the neck or the
flanks of her horse. In the red glare of the hundred bonfires the
whiteness of her armour seemed to take a new lustre. The rent upon
the shoulder could be plainly seen, showing where the arrow had
torn its way. Women sobbed aloud as they looked; men cursed the
hand which had shot the bolt; all joined in frantic cheers of joy
to see her riding alone, erect and smiling, though with a dreamy
stillness of countenance which physical lassitude in part accounted
for.

"I thank you, my friends, I thank you," she kept saying, as though
no other words would come, save when now and again she would add,
"But to God must you give your thanks and blessings. It is He who
has delivered you."

It was not far to the house of the Treasurer, and there in the
threshold stood the little Charlotte, a great wreath of bay and
laurel in her tiny hands. She was lifted up in her father's strong
arms, and ere the Maid was able to dismount from her horse the
little one had placed the triumphal wreath upon her fair head.

O, what a shout arose! It was like the mighty burst of some great
thunderstorm. The Maid, blushing now at the tumult of applause,
stretched out her arms, took the little one into them, and held her
in a close embrace whilst she bowed her last graceful thanks to the
joy-maddened crowd. Then she slipped from her horse, and holding
the little one fast by the hand, disappeared into the house, whilst
the people reluctantly dispersed to hear the story all over again
from the soldiers pouring in, each with some tale of his own to
tell of the prowess of THE MAID OF ORLEANS.

Yes, that was the name by which she was henceforth to be known. The
city was wild with joy and pride thus to christen her. And she,
having crossed by the bridge, as she had said, sat down for a brief
while to that festal board which had been spread for her. But
fatigue soon over-mastering her, she retired to her room, only
pausing to look at us all and say:

"Tomorrow is the Lord's own day of rest. Remember that, my friends.
Let there be no fighting, no pursuit, no martial exercise, whatever
the foe may threaten or do. Tomorrow must be a day of thanksgiving
and praise. Look to it that my words are obeyed."

They said she slept like a child that night; yet with the early
light of day she was up, kneeling in the Cathedral with her
household beside her, listening to the sound of chant and prayer,
receiving the Holy Sacrament, the pledge of her Lord's love.

Not until we had returned from that first duty did she listen to
what was told her anent the movements of the English. They were
drawn up in battle array upon the north side of the river, spoke
those who had gone to the battlements to look. Thinned as were
their ranks, they were still a formidable host, and from the menace
of their attitude it might be that they expected the arrival of
reinforcements. Would it not be well, spoke La Hire, to go forth
against them at once, whilst the soldiers' hearts were flushed with
victory, whilst the memory of yesterday's triumphs was green within
them?

But the Maid, hitherto all in favour of the most dashing and daring
policy, answered now, with a shake of the head:

"It is Sunday, my Generals," she replied; "the day of my Lord. The
day He has hallowed to His service."

She paused a moment, and added, quite gently, and without reproach,
"Had you acted as I did counsel, the English would now have had no
footing on the north side of the river; they must needs have fled
altogether from the neighbourhood of the city. Nevertheless, my
Lord is merciful. He helps, though men hinder His designs. Let no
man stir forth with carnal weapons against the foe this day. We
will use other means to vanquish them."

Then turning to me, she bid me go to the Bishop, and ask him to
give her audience; and shortly she was ushered into his presence,
and we waited long for her to reappear.

How shall I tell of the wonderful scene which the sun looked down
upon that bright May morning, when the purpose of the Maid became
fully revealed to us? Even now it seems rather as a dream, than as
an incident in a terrible war.

Out upon the level plain, in full sight of the city, in full view
of the serried ranks of the English army, a great white altar was
set up. The army from Orleans marched out and stood bareheaded
beneath the walls, unarmed by order of the Maid, save for the small
weapon every man habitually carried at his belt, citizen as well as
soldier. The townspeople flocked to the walls, or out into the
plain, as pleased them best; and from the Renart Gate there issued
forth a grave and sumptuous procession; the Bishop in his
vestments, accompanied by all the ecclesiastics within the city
walls, each of them robed, attended by acolytes swinging censers,
the incense cloud ascending through the sunny air, tapers swaying
in the breeze, their light extinguished by the brilliance of the
sunshine.

The Maid in her white tunic, with a white mantle over her
shoulders, followed with bent head, leading the little Charlotte by
the hand succeeded by her household.

And there, in the sight of the rival armies, High Mass was
celebrated by the Bishop, both armies kneeling devoutly, and
turning towards the Altar as one man. Never have I witnessed such a
scene. Never shall I witness such another.

The Mass over, the procession filed back through the gate, both
armies kneeling motionless till it had disappeared. Then the Maid
rose, and we with her, and followed her in its wake, and the French
army, in perfect order, re-entered the city by the appointed gates,
as had been ordered.

One hour later and the Maid sent D'Aulon up to the battlements to
look what the English army was doing. He returned to say that they
were still drawn up in rank as before.

"Which way are their faces?" she asked.

"Their faces are turned away from the city," was the reply.

The countenance of the Maid brightened with a great light.

"Then let them go, a part de Dieu!" she answered. "My God, I thank
Thee for this great grace!"

And so, without further battle or bloodshed, the English army
marched away from Orleans; and upon the next morning not a man of
the foe was left; and the citizens pouring out from the town,
destroyed, with acclamations of joy, those great bastilles, which
had so long sheltered the foe and threatened the safety of the
city.

It was a day ever to be remembered. The bells pealed ceaselessly,
the houses were decked with garlands, white banners or silken
pennons floated everywhere, the townsfolk arrayed themselves in
holiday garb, and poured out through the gates to wander at will
over the plain, so lately held by the English. Gladness and the
wonder of a great relief was stamped upon every face, and
constantly songs of triumph arose or thunders of applause, of which
the burden always was--THE MAID OF ORLEANS! THE MAID OF ORLEANS!

They would have kept her with them for ever, if it might so have
been. They talked wildly, yet earnestly, of building her a palace,
where she should live at ease all the rest of her days, the object
of universal admiration and homage.

But the Maid listened to such words, when repeated to her, with a
dreamy smile. Her wound required rest; and for two days she
consented to remain quiet in the house of the Treasurer, lying for
the most part upon a couch in a great cool chamber, with the little
Charlotte for her companion and playfellow. She sometimes rose and
showed herself at a window in answer to the tumultuous shoutings of
the crowd without; and she received with pleasure some great
baskets and bouquets of flowers which the wives and children of the
citizens had culled for her. But she gently put aside all
suggestions of rewards for herself, which some would fain have
bestowed upon the Deliverer, and which men of all ranks were but
too ready to claim and receive for service rendered.

"I have all that I want, myself--and more," she said; "if any would
offer gifts, let them be thank offerings to the Lord. Let the poor
receive alms, let Masses be sung for the souls of those killed in
the war; but for me--I want nothing but the love of the people of
France. I am come to do the will of my Lord. I ask only His
approving smile."

And all the while she was eagerly desirous to return to the King,
and urge upon him the need to repair instantly to Rheims, and there
receive his crown. To her he was not truly King till he had been
anointed as such. She knew that the blow to the English arms just
struck must have a paralysing effect upon their forces, and that a
rapid march with even a small army would be accomplished without
resistance, if only it were quickly made.

I need not say that the city of Rheims lay in the very heart of
territory owning the English sway. To reach that city we must
perforce march right through a hostile country, garrisoned by the
enemy. But of that the Maid made light.

"The hearts of the people will turn towards us," she said. "They
have submitted to the English yoke; but they are Frenchmen still.
Once let them see that the power of the enemy is broken, and they
will rally to our standard. But precious time should not be lost.
The Dauphin should place himself at the head of such an army as he
can spare for the march, and journey forthwith to Rheims. There
shall the crown be set upon his head--the pledge and earnest that
one day he shall rule the whole realm of France, as his fathers did
before him!"

And so, before a week had passed, we set forth with the Maid to go
to the King, who had by this time moved his Court from Chinon to
Loches, another fortress upon the Loire, where there was space for
his train, and which could, if necessary, be fortified against a
siege.

It was a strange journey--more like a triumphal progress than
anything we had yet met with. The fame of the Maid and her
miraculous exploit in the matter of the siege of Orleans had gone
before her, and from every town or village through which she passed
the people flocked out to see her, bearing garlands and banners,
crowding about her, asking her blessing, seeking to touch her,
pouring out blessings and praises, so that the heart of anyone less
filled with the humility which comes from above must needs have
been altogether puffed up and filled with pride.

But it was never so with the Maid. Her gentle courtesy and devout
humility never failed her. Lovingly and gratefully she received
love and affection, but praise and honour she set aside, bidding
all remember that to God alone belonged the issues from death, and
that she was but an instrument in His mighty hands.

We wondered how she would be received at the Court, and whether La
Tremouille and her other adversaries had been convinced of her
divine mission, and would now remove all opposition. As we
approached the fortress we saw that flags were floating from every
tower; that the place wore a festive aspect, and that the town was
pouring out to welcome us and gaze upon the Maid.

Then, with a great fanfare of trumpets, the gates of the fortress
were flung wide open, and forth came a gay procession, in the midst
of which, we could not doubt, rode the King himself.

Yes, there was no doubt of it. The crowd parted this way and that,
and we saw how the young King himself was marching towards us, and
at the sight of the Maid, not only did every courtier in the train
uncover, but the King himself bared his head, and bowed low to the
MAID OF ORLEANS.

She was off her horse in a moment, kneeling at his feet; but he
raised her instantly, held her hands in his, gave her thanks with
true emotion in face and voice, and, turning to her brothers, who
rode amongst us of her household, he cried to them in loud tones,
saying how he had decreed that the family of the D'Arcs should
henceforth have the right to quarter the hues of France on their
arms! An empty honour, perhaps, to simple peasants; and yet an
honour that the proudest families in the land might envy!

They carried her into the fortress. The two Queens and the ladies
of the Court knew not how to make enough of her. They seemed to
think that our coming must be regarded as the signal for an
outburst of merrymaking and carousing, such as the King found so
much to his liking.

It amazed us to find him still wrapped in idle luxury, joyful, it
is true, over the relief of Orleans, over the discomfiture of the
English; but as indisposed as ever to take the field himself, or to
put himself at the head of an army and march to his coronation as
the Maid instantly urged him.

"Gentle Dauphin, the Lord would have you King of your realm; He
would set the crown upon your head. He has smitten your enemies and
scattered them. Then wherefore not do His will and march to the
appointed spot? All will be well if you but follow His counsels."

"But, Maiden, I have so few troops; and I have no money; and the
way lies through a hostile land," the King would urge, when day
after day she pleaded with him. "All my counsellors advise delay.
Is it not right that I should listen to them as well as to you?
Wherefore such haste? Is it not wiser to act with deliberation and
prudence?"

"It is right to follow the voice of the Lord," spoke the Maid with
grave and forceful earnestness, "and to put your trust in Him
rather than in any child of man."

But the King could not be persuaded; indolence and fear held him
captive, whilst his traitorous advisers sought by every means to
undermine the influence of the Maid. And although in this they were
not successful, for he believed in her mission, admired her
prowess, and looked to her for guidance and help, he must needs
listen also to these others who were of contrary mind, and so the
weary days dragged on, and nothing was done.

"Noble Dauphin," pleaded the Maid at last, "hold not such long or
so many councils; or if, indeed, these be needful to you, let me, I
pray you, go forth again with a small army and clear the way. And
when all the country betwixt this place and Rheims has submitted to
your power, then follow yourself, and take your kingdom!"

Ah me!--to think that he, a King, could consent again to let her go
thus, whilst he remained in ease and indolence surrounded by his
Court! But so it was. What she could not persuade him to do
himself, she at last obtained leave to do for him, and with a
joyful face she came to us with the news:

"Gentlemen and my good comrades, be ready for a speedy march; we
will go forward and clear the way; and afterwards the Dauphin shall
follow and be made King!"



CHAPTER XIV. HOW THE MAID CLEARED THE KING'S WAY.


We started forth from Selles, where the army which was to do this
work had assembled. It was not so great a force as it would have
been but for the hesitations of the King, and the delays imposed by
his Council. For the men who had marched from Orleans, flushed with
victory, eager to rush headlong upon the foe and drive them back to
their own shores, had grown weary of the long waiting, and had been
infected by the timidity or the treachery of those about the Court.
They had melted away by little and little, carrying with them the
booty they had found in the English bastilles round Orleans, glad
to return to their homes and their families without further
fighting, though had the Maid been permitted to place herself at
their head at once, as she did desire, they would have followed her
to the death.

Still, when all was said and done, it was a gallant troop that
responded to her call and mustered at her summons. The magic of her
name still thrilled all hearts, and throughout the march of events
which followed, it was always the common soldiers who trusted
implicitly in the Maid; they left doubts and disputings and
unworthy jealousies to the officers and the statesmen.

The Maid went forth with a greater glory and honour than has,
methinks, ever been bestowed upon woman before--certainly upon no
humbly-born maiden of seventeen years. Some said that she was
actually ennobled in her own person by the grant to quarter the
lilies of France, and that her brothers ranked now amongst the
knights and nobles. Others declared that she had refused all
personal honours, and that she still remained a humble peasant,
though so high in the favour of the King, and so great a personage
in the realm.

As for me, I cared nothing for all this. To me she was always the
Angelic Maid, heaven sent, miraculous, apart from the earth, though
living amongst us and leading us on to victory.

To the army she was--and that was enough. She was the companion and
friend of princes, nobles, and knights; but she was never as others
were. An atmosphere of sanctity seemed ever to encompass her. All
who approached her did her unconscious homage. None could be with
her long without being conscious that she was visited by sounds
unheard by them, that her eyes saw sights to which theirs were
closed. We were to have added witness to this in the days which
followed.

So here we were gathered at Selles upon that bright June morning,
just one month after the relief of Orleans. The King had presented
to the Maid a great black charger; a mighty creature of immense
strength and spirit, but with something of a wicked look in his
rolling eyes which made me anxious as he was led forward. The Maid
in her white armour--its rent deftly mended, its silver brilliance
fully restored--with her velvet white-plumed cap upon her head and
a little axe in her hand, stood waiting to mount. But perhaps it
was the gleaming whiteness of this slender figure that startled the
horse, or else the cries and shouts of the populace at sight of the
Maid excited him to the verge of terror; for he reared and plunged
so madly as his rider approached that it was with difficulty he was
held by two stalwart troopers, and we all begged of the Maid not to
trust herself upon his back.

She looked at us with a smile, and made a little courteous gesture
with her hand; then turning to the attendants she said:

"Lead him yonder to the cross at the entrance to the church; I will
mount him there."

Snorting and struggling, casting foam flakes from his lips, and
fighting every inch of the way, the great charger was led whither
the Maid had said. But once arrived at the foot of the cross, he
suddenly became perfectly quiet. He stood like a statue whilst the
Maid approached, caressed him gently with the hand from which she
had drawn her mailed gauntlet, and, after speaking kindly words to
him, vaulted lightly on his back.

From that moment her conquest of the fierce creature was complete.
He carried her throughout that wonderful week with a gentleness and
docility, and an untiring strength which was beautiful to see. The
brute creation owned her sway as well as did men of understanding,
who could watch and weigh her acts and deeds.

So, amid the plaudits of the people, the fanfare of trumpets, the
rolling of drums, the rhythmical tread of thousands of mailed feet,
we rode forth from Selles, led by the Maid, beside whom rode the
King's cousin, the Duc d'Alencon, now resolved to join us, despite
his former hesitancy and the fears of his wife. He had marched with
us to Orleans, but had then turned back, perhaps with the not
unnatural fear of again falling into the hands of the English. This
had happened to him at Agincourt, and only lately had he been
released.

Perhaps his fears were pardonable, and those of his wife more so.
She had sought earnestly to hold him hack from this new campaign;
and, when she could not prevail with him, she had addressed herself
to the Maid with tears in her eyes, telling her how long had been
his captivity in England, and with how great a sum he had been
ransomed. Why must he adventure himself again into danger?

The Maid had listened to all with gentle sympathy. Though so
fearless herself she was never harsh to those who feared, and the
appeal of the Duchesse touched her.

"Fear nothing, Madame," she answered, "I will bring him back to you
safe and sound. Only pray for him always--pray for us day and
night. I will make his safety my special care. He shall return to
you unharmed; but I pray you hinder him not from serving his
country in this great hour of need."

So the Maid prevailed, and the Duc was entrusted with the command
of the army, second only to the Maid herself, who was distinctly
placed at the head of all--whose word was to be supreme; whilst the
King's fiat went forth that no Council should be held without her,
and that she was to be obeyed as the head in all things!

And men like Dunois, La Hire, and the Chevalier Gaucourt heard this
without a murmur! Think of it!--a campaign conducted by a girl of
seventeen, who, until a few weeks before, had never seen a shot
fired in her life! Ah; but all men remembered Orleans, and were not
surprised at the King's decree.

As we marched along in close array, we gathered many recruits by
the way, notwithstanding that we were in the territory which had
submitted to the English rule. Knights and gentlemen flocked forth
from many a chateau to join themselves to the army of the
miraculous Maid, whilst humble peasants, fired by patriotism and
zeal, came nightly into our camp seeking to be enrolled amid those
who followed and fought beneath her banner.

And so for three days we marched, our ranks swelling, our hearts
full of zeal and confidence, till news was brought us that the Duke
of Suffolk, one of the bravest and most chivalrous of English
knights and soldiers, had thrown himself and his followers into
Jargeau, and was hastily fortifying it for a siege.

This news reached us at Orleans itself, whither we had returned in
the course of our march, to be received with wild acclamations by
the people there. So loving were the citizens, that they were loth
indeed to see the Maid set forth upon any mission which threatened
danger to herself or her army; and their protestations and
arguments so wrought upon many of the generals and officers, that
they united to beg her to remain inactive awhile, and send to the
King for fresh reinforcements before attempting any such arduous
task.

The Maid listened with her grave eyes wide in amazement.

"You say this to me--here in Orleans! You who have seen what my
Lord accomplished for us before! Shame upon you for your lack of
faith--for your unworthy thoughts. We march for Jargeau at dawn
tomorrow!"

Never before had we heard the Maid speak with quite such severity
of tone and word. Her glorious eyes flashed with a strange lambent
light. She looked every inch the ruler of men. All heads were bent
before her. None dared speak a word to hinder her in her purpose.

The morrow saw us before Jargeau. Its walls were strong, it was
well supplied with those great guns that belched forth fire and
smoke, and scattered huge stone balls against any attacking force.
But we had brought guns with us--great pieces of ordnance, to set
against the city walls, and the Maid ordered these to be brought
and placed in certain positions, never asking counsel, always
acting on her own initiative, without hesitation and without haste,
calm and serene; with that deep, farseeing gaze of hers turned from
her own position to the city and back again, as though she saw in
some miraculous vision what must be the end of all this toil.

"Mort de Dieu!" cried La Hire, forgetting in his wonder the loyally
kept promise to swear only by his baton, "but the Maid has nothing
to learn in the art of gunnery! Where hath she learnt such skill,
such wisdom! We never had guns to place at Orleans! Where has the
child seen warfare, that she places her artillery with the skill of
a tried general of forces!"

Ah!--where had the Maid learned her skill in any kind of warfare?
Had we not been asking this from the first? This was but another
development of the same miracle. For my part I had ceased now to
wonder at anything which she said or did.

At daybreak on the morrow the roar of battle began. The air was
shaken by the crash and thunder of the guns from both sides. But it
was plain to all eyes how that the cunning disposition of our
pieces, set just where they could deal most effectively with a weak
point in the fortifications, or a gateway less capable than others
of defence, were doing far more hurt to the enemy than their fire
did to us. For the most part their balls passed harmlessly over our
heads, and the clouds of arrows were for us the greater danger,
though our armour protected us from over-much damage.

But it was before Jargeau that the incident happened, which so many
writers have told of the Maid and the Duc d'Alencon; how that she
did suddenly call to him, nay more, drew him with her own hand out
of the place where he had stood for some time near to her, saying
in a voice of warning, "Have a care, my lord, there is death at
hand!"

Another young knight boldly stepped into that very position from
which she had snatched Alencon, and an instant afterwards his head
was struck off by a cannon ball. The Maid saw and covered her eyes
for a moment with her mailed hand.

"Lord have mercy on that brave soul!" she whispered, "but why did
he not heed the warning?"

Well, the fighting round Jargeau was fierce and long; but the Maid
with her standard held stubbornly to the place beside the wall
which she had taken up, and at sight of her, and at the sound of
her clear, silvery voice, encouraging and commanding, the men came
ever on and on, regardless of peril, till the scaling ladders were
set, and through the breaches torn in the walls by the guns, our
soldiers swarmed over into the town, shouting with the shout of
those with whom is the victory.

Again the Maid triumphed. Again the hearts of the English melted
within them at the sight of the White Witch, as they would
tauntingly call her, even whilst they cowered and fled before her.
The French were swarming into the city; the great gates were flung
open with acclamations of triumph; and the Maid marched in to take
possession, her white banner floating proudly before her, her eyes
alight, her cheeks flushed.

One of the young gentlemen not long since added to her household,
Guillame Regnault by name, from Auvergne, a very knightly youth, a
favourite with us all, came striding up to the Maid, and saluting
with deep reverence, begged speech with her. She was never too much
occupied to receive those who came to her, and instantly he had her
ear.

"My General," he said, "the Duke of Suffolk is close at hand. We
pressed him hard, and it seemed as though he would die sword in
hand, ere he would yield. But I did beg of him in his own tongues
with which I am acquainted, not to throw away his noble life;
whereupon he did look hard at me, pausing the while in thrust and
parry, as all others did pause, for us to parley; and he said that
he would give up his sword to THE MAID OF ORLEANS, and to none
other. Wherefore I did tell him that I would run and fetch her to
receive his submission, or take him to her myself. But then his
mind did change, and he said to me, 'Are you noble?' So I told him
that my family was noble, but that I had not yet won my
knighthood's spurs. Then forthwith did he uplift his sword, and I
read his meaning in his eyes. I bent my knee, and there and then he
dubbed me knight, and afterwards would have tendered me his sword,
but I said, 'Not so, gentle Duke, but I hear by the sound of the
silver trumpet that the Maid, our General, is close at hand. Suffer
me to tell her of what has passed, and I trow that she will herself
receive your sword at her hands.'"

"You did well, Sir Guillame," spoke the Maid, using the new title
for the first time, whereat the youth's face kindled and glowed
with pleasure. "Bring the Duke at once to me here. I will receive
his surrender in person."

Truly it was a pretty sight to watch--the dignified approach of the
stalwart soldier; tall, upright, a knightly figure in battered coat
of mail; bleeding from several wounds, but undaunted and
undauntable; and the slim, youthful white figure, with uncovered
head, and a face regal in its dignity; and yet so full of sweet
courtesy and honourable admiration for a beaten, yet noble foe. He
gazed upon her with a great wonder in his eyes, and then, dropping
upon one knee, tendered his sword to her, which the Maid took, held
in her hands awhile, deep in thought, and then, with one of her
wonderfully sweet smiles, held out to him again.

"Gentle Duke," she said, "it hath been told me that you are known
in France as the English Roland; and if so, I would be loth to
deprive so noble a foe of his knightly weapon. Keep it, then, and
all I ask of you is that you use it no more against the soldiers of
France. And now, if you will let my gentlemen lead you to my tent,
your hurts shall be dressed, and you shall receive such tendance as
your condition requires."

But I may not linger over every incident of that march, nor all the
achievements of the Maid in the arts both of peace and of war.
Towns and castles surrendered at her summons, or flung wide their
gates at the news of her approach. Sometimes we fought, but more
often the very sound of her name, or the sight of the white figure
upon the great black horse was sufficient, and fortress after
fortress upon the Loire fell before her, the English garrisons
melting away or marching out, unable or unwilling to try
conclusions with so notable a warrior, who came, as it were, in the
power of the King of Heaven.

And not only did she achieve triumphs in war's domains; she was
equally victorious as a promoter of peace. For when the news was
brought to us that the Comte de Richemont, Constable of France, but
hitherto inimical to the King, desired to join us with a body of
men, the Duc d'Alencon would have sent him away with insult and
refused his proffer of help; but the Maid, with her gentle
authority and reasonable counsel, brought him to a different frame
of mind, and the Constable was received with a fair show of
graciousness. And although in the days which immediately followed
his aid was not of great importance (for when France had the Maid
to fight for her she wanted none beside), yet in the time to come,
when she was no longer there to battle for the salvation of her
country, De Richemont's loyal service to the King was of
inestimable value, and had it not been for the Maid at this
juncture, he might have been lost for ever to the French cause.

Her generosity shone out the more in that De Richemont was no
friend to her; indeed, he had regarded her as little better than a
witch before he came under the magic of her personality. His
greeting to her was rough and blunt.

"Maiden," he said, "they tell me that you are against me, and that
you are a witch. I know not whether you are from God or not. If you
are from Him, I do not fear you. If you are from the devil, I fear
you still less."

She looked him full in the face, gravely at first, but with a smile
kindling deep down in her eyes. Then she held out her hand in token
of amity.

"Brave Constable, this is well spoken. You have no cause to fear
me. You are not here by my will, it is true; for I have enough men
with me to do the will of my Lord; but since you have come for love
of the Dauphin, who soon must be crowned King, you are welcome
indeed; and I know that you will live to serve him faithfully,
though in the present you have foes at Court who turn his heart
from you."

So again she saw what lay beyond our ken, and which the future has
brought to light. Alas, that she never saw the day when the King
threw off his supine fear and idleness, and played the man in the
conquest of his kingdom, and when De Richemont fought like a lion
at his side! Yet who dare say that she did not see and did not
rejoice even then? If the light came only in gleams and flashes,
surely it came to her charged with an infinite joy!

And now I must tell of the last exploit of this wonderful eight
days' triumphal march through a hostile country--that battle of
Patay, where, for the first time, the Maid met the foe in the open,
and directed operations not against stone walls, as in every case
before, but against an army drawn up in a plain.

There had been marching and counter-marching which only a map could
make clear. What matters it the route we pursued, so long only as
our progress had been attended by victory, and the fortresses
cleared of foes, so that the journey of the King could now be taken
in safety? Yet there was one more peril to face; for the army so
long expected, under Sir John Fastolffe, was now heard of somewhere
close at hand. He had joined himself to Talbot, so it was rumoured,
and now a great host was somewhere in our neighbourhood, ready to
fall upon us if they could find us, and cut us to pieces, as they
had done so often before--witness the fields of Crecy, Poictiers,
and Agincourt!

For the first time there was uneasiness and fear in the ranks of
the soldiers. They had infinite confidence in the Maid as a leader
against stone walls, for had they not seen her take tower after
tower, city after city? But she had never led them in the open
field; and how could they expect to meet and triumph over the
English, who had always vanquished them heretofore?

We knew not where the foe lay; all we knew was that it was
somewhere close at hand; and so strong grew the fear in the hearts
of Alencon and many others, that they begged the Maid to fall back
upon the camp at Beaugency, and to wait there for further
reinforcements. But she shook her head with decision.

"Let us find them first, and then ride boldly at them. Be not
afraid; they will not stand. My Lord will give us the victory!"

And how did we come upon them at last? Verily, by a mere accident.
We were marching in good order towards the great plain of Beauce,
which at this time of the year was so thickly overgrown with
vineyards and cornfields that we saw nothing of any lurking foe;
and I trow that we were not seen of them, although a great host was
lying at ease in the noontide heat, watching for our coming, I
doubt not; but not yet drawn up in battle array.

A stag, frightened by our approach, broke from the thicket, and
went thundering across the plain. All at once a shower of arrows
let loose from English bows followed the creature's flight,
together with eager shouts and laughter, betraying the presence of
the unsuspecting foe.

With a lightning swiftness the Maid grasped the whole situation.
Here was an army, waiting to fight, it is true, but for the moment
off its guard. Here were we, in order of march. One word from her,
and our whole force would charge straight upon the foe!

And was that word lacking? Was there an instant's hesitation? Need
such a question be asked of the Maid? Clear and sweet rose her
wonderful voice, thrilling through the hot summer air.

"Forward, my children, forward, and fear not. Fly boldly upon them,
and the day shall be yours!"

She charged, herself, at the head of one column; but La Hire, in
the vanguard, was before her. With shouts of triumph and joy the
old veteran and his followers thundered into the very midst of the
startled English, and we followed in their wake.

The Duc d'Alencon rode beside the Maid. His face was pale with
excitement--perhaps with a touch of fear. He remembered the fight
at Agincourt, and the wound received there, the captivity and weary
waiting for release.

"How will it end, my General, how will it end?" he said, and I
heard his words and her reply, for I was riding close behind.

"Have you good spurs, M. de Duc?" she asked, with one flashing
smile showing the gleam of white teeth.

"Ah Ciel!" he cried in dismay; "then shall we fly before them?"

"Not so," she answered; "but they will fly so fast before us that
we shall need good spurs to keep up with them!"

And so, indeed, it was. Perhaps it was the sight of the elan of the
French troops, perhaps the fear of the White Witch, perhaps because
taken at unawares and in confusion, but the English for once made
no stand. Fastolffe and his men, on the outer skirts of the force,
rode off at once in some order, heading straight for Paris, but the
braver and less prudent Talbot sought, again and again, to rally
his men, and bring them to face the foe.

But it was useless. The rout was utter and complete. They could not
stand before the Maid; and when Talbot himself had fallen a
prisoner into our hands, the army melted away and ran for its life,
so that this engagement is called the "Chasse de Patay" to this
day.



CHAPTER XV. HOW THE MAID RODE WITH THE KING.


Thus the English were routed with great loss, their leading
generals prisoners in the hands of the Maid, and the road for the
King open, not to Rheims alone, but to the very walls of Paris, had
he so chosen.

Indeed, there were those amongst us who would gladly and joyfully
have marched under our great white banner right to the capital of
the kingdom, and driven forth from it the English Regent and all
the soldiers with him, whether Burgundians or those of his own
nation. For Fastolffe was flying along the road which led him
thither, and it would have been a joy to many of us to pursue and
overtake, to rout him and his army, or put them to the sword, and
to march up beneath the walls of Paris itself, and demand its
surrender in the name of the Maid!

Those there were amongst us who even came and petitioned of her to
lead us thither, and strike a death blow, once and for all, against
the power of the alien foe who had ruled our fair realm too long;
but though her eyes brightened as we spoke, and though all that was
martial in her nature responded to the appeal thus made to her--for
by this time she was a soldier through every fibre of her being,
and albeit ever extraordinarily tender towards the wounded, the
suffering, the dying--be they friends or foes--the soldier spirit
within her burned ever higher and higher, and she knew in her clear
head that humanly speaking, we could embark upon such a victorious
march as perchance the world has never seen before--certainly not
beneath such a leader.

And yet she shook her head, even whilst her cheek flushed and her
eyes sparkled. Little as the King had done to merit the deep
devotion of such a nature as hers, the Maid's loving loyalty
towards, and faith in him never wavered. Although we all saw in him
the idle, pleasure loving, indolent weakling, which in those days
he was, she could, or would, find no fault with him. Often as he
disappointed her, she never ceased to love and honour him.
Perchance it was given to her to see something of that manlier
nature which must have underlaid even then that which we saw and
grieved over. For she would hear no word against him. He was the
centre and sun of her purpose, and her answer to us was spoken
without hesitation.

"Nay, my friends, we have other work to do ere we may stand before
the walls of Paris. The Dauphin must be brought to Rheims, and the
crown set upon his head; for thus hath my Lord decreed, and I may
not act other than as my voices direct."

And when the Maid spoke thus, there was no contradicting or
gainsaying her. We had such confidence in her by this, that
whatever she did was right in our eyes The soldiers would have
followed her eagerly to the very walls of Paris; but at her command
they turned back and marched, with pennons flying and music
sounding, to the Court of the King, where news of the Chasse of
Patay had already preceded us, and where a joyous welcome awaited
our return, though even now there were sour and jealous faces
amongst the nearest advisers of the King.

If you would believe it, they still opposed the journey of the King
to Rheims, working on his fears, his irresolution, his indolence,
and seeking to undermine the influence of the Maid, when she went
personally to see him, that she might speak with him face to face.
He himself had many excuses to offer.

"Sweet Chevaliere," he would say, calling her by one of the names
which circulated through the Court, "why such haste? Is it not time
that you should rest and take your ease after your many and arduous
toils? Think what you have accomplished in these few days! Flesh
and blood cannot continue at such a strain. Let us now enjoy the
fruits of these wonderful victories; let us feast and rejoice and
enjoy a period of repose. Surely that is prudent counsel; for we
must have care for our precious Maid, whom none can replace in our
army, if she, by too arduous toil, should do herself an injury!"

But the Maid looked at him with her grave eyes full of earnest
pleading and searching questioning.

"Gentle Dauphin, I beseech you speak not thus, nor reason after
such carnal fashion. Think of what your Lord and my Lord has done
for you! Think of what hath been accomplished by Him since first it
was given to me to look upon your face. Think what He hath decreed
and what He hath already wrought for the furtherance of His purpose
towards your Majesty and this realm! And shall His will be set
aside? Shall we, His children, hang back and thwart Him, just in
the hour when He has put the victory in our hands? Ah, sweet
Dauphin, that would be shame, indeed! That would be pain and grief
to Him. Cast away all such unworthy thought! Press on to the goal,
now in sight! When you stand, crowned and anointed, King of France,
you shall know the power wherewith you have been upheld, and lifted
from the very mire of humiliation and disgrace!"

And at these words the Duc d'Alencon, who was by this an ardent
believer in the Maid, and devotedly attached to her service,
prostrated himself before the King, and cried:

"Sire, this Maid speaks words of wisdom. I pray your Majesty to
give full heed to what she says. Had you watched her as I have
done, had you marched with her and seen her in battle as well as in
scenes of peace, you would know well that the power of God is with
her. Fear not to do her bidding! Go forth as she bids. Let us hail
you King of your fair realm, and then let the Maid lead us on to
other and greater victories!"

We all joined our entreaties to that of the Duke. We marvelled how
the King could be so blind. But whilst others spoke and urged him,
whilst we saw the light kindle in the monarch's eyes, and knew that
her words had prevailed with him, she stood apart as one who
dreams; and over her face there stole a strange, pale shadow,
unlike anything I had seen there before. She saw nothing of the
scene about her; heard no word of what passed. I think she did not
even know what was meant by the great shout which suddenly went up
when the King arose and declared, once and for all, that his mind
was made up, that he would march with the Maid to Rheims; that he
would not be daunted by the fact that in Troyes and in Chalons
English garrisons yet remained, which might give him trouble in
passing. What the Maid had done before she could do again. All that
hitherto she had promised had been fulfilled; the fear of her had
fallen upon the English, and the terror of the English no longer
weighed upon the spirits of the French. He would go, come what
might. He would trust in the power of the Maid to finish that which
she had begun.

The shouts and plaudits of the courtiers within the castle, and of
the soldiers without, when this thing was known, was evidence
enough of the confidence and enthusiasm which the exploits of the
Maid had awakened. Not a soldier who had followed her heretofore
but would follow her now, wherever she should lead them. Surely her
heart must have swelled with joy and pride as she heard the clamour
of frantic applause ringing through the place.

But when she was back in her own apartments, and I was able to
approach her alone, I ventured to ask her something concerning her
silence of a short time back.

I always think with a great pride and tender joy of the trust and
friendship which the Maid reposed in me, thereby doing me a vast
honour. I had often ridden beside her on our marches, especially in
the earlier days, when she had not so many to claim her words and
counsels. Methinks she had spoken to Bertrand, to me, and to Sir
Guy de Laval with more freedom respecting her voices and her
visions than to any others, save, perhaps, the King himself, of
whom she had ever said she had revelations for his ear alone. She
would talk to us of things which for the most part she kept locked
away in her own breast; and now when I did ask her what it was that
had robbed her cheek of its colour, and wrapped her in a strange
trance of grave musing, she passed her hand across her eyes, and
then looked at me full, with a strange intensity of gaze.

"If I only knew! If I only knew myself!" she murmured.

"Did your voices speak to you, mistress mine? I have seen you fall
into such musing fits before this, when something has been
revealed; but then your eyes have been bright with joy--this time
they were clouded as with trouble."

"It was when the Duke spoke of other victories," she said,
dreamily; "I seemed to see before me a great confusion as of men
fighting and struggling. I saw my white banner fluttering, as it
were, victoriously; and yet there was a darkness upon my spirit. I
saw blackness--darkness--confusion; there was battle and
strife--garments rolled in blood. My own white pennon was the
centre of some furious struggle. I could not see what it was, waves
of black vapour rose and obscured my view. Then, in the midst of
the smoke and vapour, I saw a great pillar of fire, rising up as to
the very sky itself, and out of the fire flew a white dove. Then a
voice spoke--one of my own voices; but in tones different from any
I have heard before--'Have courage, even to death, Jeanne,' it
said, 'for we will still be with you.' Then everything faded once
more, and I heard only the shouting of the people, and knew that
the King had made his decision, and that he had promised to receive
his crown, which has waited for him so long."

As she spoke these last words, the cloud seemed to lift. Her own
wonderful smile shone forth again.

"If this be so; if, indeed, the Dauphin shall be made King, what
matters that I be taken away? My work will end when the crown shall
be set upon his head. Then, indeed, my soul shall say: 'Lord, now
lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.'"

Her face was suddenly transfigured--radiant--with some great and
glorious thought. I was glad at heart to see that the shadow had
passed entirely away. Only for a moment could any presage of
personal fear cloud the sweet serenity of the Maid's nature. And
yet I went from her something troubled myself; for had I not reason
to know what strange power she possessed of reading the future, and
what did it mean, that confusion of battle, that intermingling of
victory and defeat, that darkness of smoke and blaze of fire, and
the white dove flying forth unscathed? I had heard too often the
shouts of the infuriated English--"We will take you and burn you,
you White Witch! You shall perish in the flames from whence the
devil, your father, has sent you forth!"--not to hear with a
shudder any vision of smoke and of fire. But again, had not the
Maid ever prevailed in battle over her foes? Might she not laugh to
scorn all such threats?

Ah me! It is well that we may not read the future, else how could
we bear the burden of life?

Joyous and triumphant was the day upon which, after some inevitable
delays, we started forth--a goodly company in sooth--an army at our
back, swelling with pride and triumph--to take our young King to
the appointed place, and see the crown of France there set upon his
head. From all quarters news was pouring in of the hopeless
disruption of the power of the English after the Chasse de Patay.
Towns and villages which had submitted in sullen acquiescence
before, now sent messages of loyalty and love to the King. Men
flocked daily to join our standard as we marched. It was a sight to
see the villagers come forth, clad in their holiday dress, eager to
see and pay homage to the King, but yet more eager to look upon the
white mailed figure at his side and shout aloud the name of THE
MAID OF ORLEANS!

For the place of honour at the King's right hand was reserved for
the Maid, and she rode beside him without fear, without protest,
without shame. Gentle, humble, and simple as she always was, she
knew herself the Messenger of a greater King than that of France,
and the honour done to her she accepted as done to her Lord, and
never faltered beneath it, as she was never puffed up or made
haughty or arrogant thereby. Nor did she ever lose her tenderness
of heart, nor her quick observation of trivial detail in the
absorbing interests of her greatness.

She was the first to note signs of distress upon the part of the
soldiers, during this march in the midsummer heat. It was she who
would suggest a halt in the noontide, in some wooded spot, that
"her children" might rest and refresh themselves, and it was she
who, never tired herself, would go amongst them, asking them of
their well being, and bringing with her own hands some luscious
fruit or some cooling draught to any soldier who might be suffering
from the effects of the sun.

She who rode beside a King, who was the greatest and most renowned
of that great company, would minister with her own hands to the
humblest of her followers; and if ever King or Duke or courtier
jested or remonstrated with her on the matter, her answer was
always something like this:

"They are my own people. I am one of them. At home when any was
sick in the village, I was always sent for. And wherefore not now?
I am the same as I was then. Soon I shall be going back to them, my
task accomplished. Wherefore should I not be their friend and
sister still?"

Then all would laugh to think of the Maid of Orleans going back to
take up the life of a peasant again at Domremy; but the Maid's face
grew grave and earnest as she would make reply:

"Indeed, if my work for my King is accomplished, I would fain do
so. I was so happy, so happy in my sweet home."

But now our triumphal march was suddenly brought to a halt; for we
were approaching the town of Troyes--a place of ill omen to France,
and to the young King in particular, for there the shameful treaty
was signed which robbed him of his crown; and great was the
dissension amongst the King's counsellors as to what should be
done.

The place was strong, the English garrison there large. A summons
to surrender sent on in advance had been ignored, and now came the
question--should the army pass on its way to Rheims leaving this
place in the rear unattacked and untaken, or should it run the risk
of a long delay, and perhaps some peril and loss in attempting to
reduce it?

La Hire and Dunois spoke out insistently. At all costs the town
must be taken. It would be folly and madness to leave such a
stronghold of the enemy in the rear. Other places had fallen before
the victorious Maid, and why not this? The army would go anywhere
with her. The soldiers only desired to be told what she counselled,
and to a man they would support her. They had lost all fear of the
foe, if only the Maid led them into battle, whether in the open or
against massive walls.

But as usual the King's nearest counsellors were all for delay, for
avoiding battle, for retreat rather than risk. The Archbishop of
Rheims, instead of being eager to push on to the place which so far
was only his in name, for he had never been aught but titular
Archbishop as yet, was always one with La Tremouille in advising
caution and a timid policy. Both were the enemies of the Maid,
jealous of her gifts and of her influence with the King, and
fearful lest her power over him should grow and increase. They even
plotted that she should be excluded from the council now sitting
anent this very matter, and it was only when the King and the Duc
d'Alencon, growing restless and impatient at her absence, desired
her presence instantly, that she was sent for.

There was a grave dignity about her as she entered, which sat
impressively upon her young face, so fair and sweet and gentle. She
knew that timid counsels were being held, and that she, the
Commander-in-Chief of the army, was being set aside--the Messenger
from the Lord was being ignored. Not for herself, but for Him was
her spirit moved.

The Archbishop with much circumlocution told her of the difficulty
in which the King's Council was placed, and would have discoursed
for long upon the situation, only that in his first pause the Maid
spoke, addressing herself to the King:

"Shall I be believed if I speak my counsel?" she asked.

"You will be believed according as you speak," answered the King,
thoroughly uneasy, as he ever was, when torn in twain by the
multitude of counsellors with whom he must needs surround himself,
though his heart ever inclined towards the Maid.

"I speak that which my Lord gives me to speak," she answered, her
wonderful eyes full upon the King. "Shall I be believed?"

"If you speak that which is reasonable and profitable, I will
certainly believe you," he answered, still uneasy beneath her look.

"Shall I be believed?" she questioned a third time, and there was a
fire in her eyes which seemed to leap out and scathe the
pusillanimous monarch as he sat quaking in his Council.

"Speak, Maiden," he cried out then, "I at least will believe!"

"Then, noble Dauphin," she cried, "order your army to assault this
city of Troyes, where such despite has been done you, and hold no
more councils; for my Lord has told me that within three days I
shall lead you into the town, and false Burgundy and proud England
shall there be overthrown!"

"Pouf!" cried the Chancellor, one of the Maid's worst foes, "if
there was a chance of doing such a thing in six days we would
willingly wait; but--"

He stopped suddenly--none knew why, save that the Maid's eyes were
fixed full upon him, and in those eyes was that strange shining
light which some of us knew so well. She did not speak to him, but
when his voice suddenly wavered and broke, she addressed herself to
the King, speaking as one who repeats a message.

"You shall be master of the city of Troyes, noble Dauphin, not in
six days--but tomorrow."

And even as she spoke, without waiting for any response, she turned
and went forth, walking with her head well up, and her eyes fixed
straight before her, yet as one who walks in sleep, and pays no
heed to what lies before him. She called for her horse; and leaping
into the saddle, rode out bareheaded in the summer sun to the camp
where the soldiers lay, in doubt and wonderment at this delay; and
as they sprang up to a man at sight of her, and broke into the
acclamations which always greeted her appearance amongst them, she
lifted up her clear ringing voice and cried:

"Be ready, my children, against the morrow, confess your sins, make
your peace with God and man. For tomorrow He will lead you
victorious into yonder frowning city, and not a hair of your heads
shall suffer!"

They crowded about her, filling the air with shouts of triumph;
they clamoured to be led at once against the grim frowning walls. I
verily believe, had she put herself at their head then and there,
that nothing could have withstood the elan of their attack; but the
Maid received her orders from a source we knew not of, and fleshly
pride never tempted her to swerve from the appointed path. She
smiled at the enthusiasm of the men, but she shook her head gently
and firmly.

"Do my bidding, my children, confess yourselves and pray till set
of sun. Then I will come to you and set you your appointed tasks,
and tomorrow I will lead you into the city!"

That night there was no sleep for the Maid or for her soldiers. At
no time was it dark, for midsummer was over the land, and the moon
hung in the sky like a silver lamp when the sun had set. The Maid
came forth as she had said with the last of the daylight, and at
her command a great mound was speedily raised, of earth, brushwood,
faggots, stones--anything that the soldiers could lay hands upon;
and when this hillock was of height sufficient to satisfy the young
General, the great guns were brought and set upon it in such
masterly fashion, and in such a commanding way, that La Hire,
Dunois and Xantrailles, who came to see, marvelled at it, and we
could note from the top of this earthwork that within the city
great commotion reigned, and that it was as busy as a hive that has
been disturbed.

As the first mystic glow of the summer's dawn kindled in the
eastern sky, the Maid stood, a white luminous figure in full
armour, poised lightly on the top of one of our pieces of ordnance,
her drawn sword in her hand, pointing full in the direction of the
city.

I have heard since from those within that the anxious garrison and
citizens saw this motionless figure, and cried aloud in terror and
awe. To them it seemed as though St. Michael himself had come down
to fight against them, and terror stricken they ran to the
governors of the city and implored that surrender might be made,
ere the heavens opened and rained lightnings down upon them.

And thus it came about that ere the dawn had fairly come, an
embassy was sent to the King and terms of surrender offered. The
King, from motives of policy or fear, the Maid, from pity and
generosity, accepted the messengers graciously, and granted the
garrison leave to depart with their horses and their arms, if the
town were peacefully given up; and thus it came about that after
the King had finished his night's slumber, and the Maid had done
her gracious part in redeeming and releasing the French prisoners,
which, but for her, would have been carried away by the retiring
English and Burgundians, she rode beside the King, and at the head
of the cheering and tumultuous army into the city of Troyes, which
had surrendered to the magic of her name without striking a blow.

"O my Chevaliere," cried the happy and triumphant monarch, as he
turned to look into her grave serene face. "What a wonderful Maid
you are! Stay always with me, Jeanne, and be my friend and General
to my life's end."

She looked at him long and earnestly as she made answer:

"Alas, Sire, it may not be! For a year--perhaps for a year. But I
shall last no longer than that!"



CHAPTER XVI. HOW THE MAID ACCOMPLISHED HER MISSION.


Shall I ever forget that evening? No, not if I live to be a
hundred!

June had well-nigh passed ere we began our march from Gien--that
triumphant march headed by the King and the Maid--and July had run
half its course since we had been upon the road. For we had had a
great tract of country to traverse, and a large army must needs
have time in which to move itself.

And now upon a glorious golden evening in that month of sunshine
and summertide, we saw before us--shining in a floating mist of
reflected glory--the spires and towers, the walls and gates of the
great city of Rheims--the goal of our journeyings--the promised
land of the Maid's visions and voices!

Was it indeed a city of stone and wood which shone before us in the
level rays of the sinking sun? I asked that question of myself;
methinks that the Maid was asking it in her heart; for when I
turned my eyes upon her, I caught my breath in amaze at her aspect,
and I know now what it is to say that I have looked upon the face
of an angel!

She had dropped her reins, and they hung loose upon her horse's
neck; her hands were clasped together in a strange rapture of
devotion. Her head was bare; for she often gave her headpiece to
her page to carry for her, and in the evenings did not always
replace it by any other covering. Her hair had grown a little
longer during these months, and curled round her face in a loose
halo, which in the strong and ruddy light of the setting sun, shone
a glorious golden colour, as though a ray of heavenly light were
enmeshed within it.

But it was the extraordinary brightness of those great luminous
eyes, the rapt and intense expression of her face which arrested my
attention, and seemed for a moment to stop the triumphant beating
of my heart. It was not triumph which I read there, though there
was joy and rapture and peace, beyond all power of understanding.
It was the face of one who sees heaven open, and in the wonder and
awe of the beatific vision forgets all else, and feels not the
fetters of the flesh, heeds not those things which must needs
intervene ere the spirit can finally be loosed to enter upon
blessedness and rest, but soars upwards at once into heavenly
regions.

The town of Rheims lay before us. The inhabitants were pouring
forth to meet us. We saw them coming over the plain, as we watched
the walls and buildings, glowing in the mystic radiance of the
summer's evening, loom up larger and grander and sharper before us.
It was no dream!

And yet who would have thought it possible three months ago? In
mid-April the iron grip of the English lay all over the land north
of the Loire, and the south lay supine and helpless, stricken with
the terror of the victorious conqueror. Orleans was at its last
gasp, and with its fall the last bulwark would be swept away; all
France must own the sway of the conqueror. The King was powerless,
indolent, ready to fly at the first approach of peril, with no hope
and no desire for rule, doubtful even if he had the right to take
upon himself the title of King, careless in his despair and his
difficulties. The army was almost non-existent; the soldiers could
scarce be brought to face the foe. One Englishman could chase ten
of ours. The horror as of a great darkness seemed to have fallen
upon the land.

And yet in three months' time what had not been accomplished!

The King was riding into the ancient city of Rheims, to be crowned
King of France; Orleans was relieved; a score of fortresses had
been snatched from the hands of the English. These were fleeing
from us in all directions back to Paris; where they hoped to make a
stand against us, but were in mortal fear of attack; and now it was
our soldiers who clamoured to be led against the English--the
English who fled helter-skelter before the rush and the dash of the
men whom heretofore they had despised.

And all this was the work of yonder marvellous Maid--a girl of
seventeen summers, who, clad in white armour, shining like an
angelic vision, was riding at the King's side towards the city.

He turned and looked at her at the moment my gaze was thus
arrested, and I saw his face change. He put out his hand and
touched hers gently; but he had to touch her twice and to speak
twice ere she heard or knew.

"Jeanne--fairest maiden--what do you see?"

She turned her gaze upon him--radiant, misty, marvellous.

"I see the Land of Promise," she answered, speaking very low, yet
so clearly that I heard every word. "The chosen of the Lord will go
forward to victory. He will drive out the enemy before the face of
him upon whom He shall set the crown of pure gold. France shall
prosper--her enemies shall be confounded. What matter whose the
work, or whose the triumph? What matter who shall fall ere the task
be accomplished--so that it be done according to the mind of the
Lord?"

"And by the power of the Maid--the Deliverer!" spoke the King, a
gush of gratitude filling his heart, as he looked first at the
slight figure and inspired face of the Maid, and then at the city
towards which we were riding, the faint clash of joy bells borne
softly to our ears. "For to you, O my General, I owe it all; and
may the Lord judge betwixt us twain if I share not every honour
that I may yet win with her who has accomplished this miracle!"

But her gaze was full of an inexplicable mystery.

"Nay, gentle Dauphin, but that will not be," she said; "One shall
increase, another shall decrease--hath it not ever been so? My task
is accomplished. My work is done. Let another take my place after
tomorrow, for my mission will be accomplished."

"Never!" cried the King firmly and earnestly, and when I heard him
thus speak my heart rejoiced; for I, no more than others, believed
that success could attend the King's further efforts without her
who was the inspiration of the army, and the worker of these great
miracles which had been wrought. How often have I wondered
since--but that is no part of my story. Let me tell those things
which did happen to us.

How can I tell of our entry into Rheims? Have I not spoken in other
places of other such scenes, often in the early dusk of evening,
when whole cities flocked out to meet the Maid, to gaze in awe and
wonder upon her, to kiss her hands, her feet, her knees, the neck
and flanks of the horse she rode, and even his very footprints in
the road, as he moved along with his precious burden?

As it was there, so was it here--the same joy, the same wonder, the
same enthusiasm. The King was greeted with shouts and acclamations,
it is true; but the greater admiration and wonder was reserved for
the Maid, and he knew it, and smiled, well pleased that it should
be so; for at that time his heart was full of a great gratitude and
affection, and never did he seek to belittle that which she had
wrought on his behalf.

Thankfulness, peace, and happiness shone in the eyes of the Maid as
she rode; but there was a nearer and more personal joy in store for
her; for as we passed through the town, with many pauses on account
of the greatness of the throng, pouring in and out of the churches
(for it was the vigil of the Madelaine), or crowding about the King
and the Maid, she chanced to lift her eyes to the windows of an inn
in the place, and behold her face kindled with a look different
from any I had seen there before, and she looked around for me, and
beckoning with her hand, she pointed upwards, and cried in tones of
strange delight and exultation:

"My father, fair knight, my father! I saw his face!"

Now, I knew that Jacques d'Arc had been greatly set against his
daughter's mission, and it had been declared that he had disowned
her, and would have withheld her from going forth, had such a thing
been within his power. She had never received any message of love
or forgiveness from him all these weeks, though her two younger
brothers had joined the army, and were always included in her
household. So that I was not surprised at the kindling of her
glance, nor at the next words she spoke.

"Go to him, my friend; tell him that I must needs have speech with
him. Ah, say that I would fain return home with him when my task is
done, if it be permitted me. Go, find him speedily, ere he can
betake himself away. My father! My father! I had scarce hoped to
look upon his face again!"

So whilst the King and the Maid and their train rode on to the huge
old palace of the Archeveche, hard by the Cathedral, I slipped out
of my place in the ranks, and passed beneath the archway into the
courtyard of the old inn, where the Maid declared that she had seen
the face of her father looking forth.

I had not much trouble in finding him; for already a whisper had
gone forth that certain friends and relatives of the wonderful Maid
had journeyed from Domremy to witness her triumphant entry into
Rheims. Indeed, some of these had followed us from Chalons, all
unknown to her, who would so gladly have welcomed them. Chalons,
though a fortified town, and with a hostile garrison, had opened
its gates to us without resistance, feeling how hopeless it was to
strive against the power of the Maid.

The wonder and awe inspired by her presence, and by her marvellous
achievements, had sunk deeply into the spirits of these simple
country folk, who had only heretofore known Jeanne d'Arc as a
gentle village maiden, beloved of all, but seeming not in any way
separated from her companions and friends. Now they had seen her,
white and glistening, in martial array, riding beside a King, an
army at her back, acclaimed of the multitude, the idol of the hour,
a victor in a three months' campaign, the like of which never was
before, and methinks can never be again.

So now, when I stood face to face with the rugged prud'homme, the
father of this wonderful Maid, and told him of her desire to speak
with him upon the morrow, when the King should have received his
crown, I saw that many emotions were struggling together in his
breast; for his soul revolted yet, in some measure, at the thought
of his girl a leader of men, the head of an army, the friend of
kings and courtiers, whilst it was impossible but that some measure
of pride and joy should be his at the thought of her achievements,
and in the assurance that at last the King, whom loyal little
Domremy had ever served and loved, was to receive his crown, and be
the anointed sovereign of the land.

"She desires speech with me? She, whom I have seen riding beside
the King? What have I to do with the friends of royalty? How can
she consort with princes and with peasants?"

"Let her show you that herself, my friend," I answered. "We, who
have companied with her through these wonderful weeks, know well
how that she is no less a loving daughter, a friend of the people,
for being the friend of a King and the idol of an army. Give me
some message for her. She longs for a kind word from you. Let me
only take her word that you will see her and receive her as a
father should receive his child, and I trow that it will give her
almost the same joy as the knowledge that by her miraculous call
she has saved her country and crowned her King."

I scarce know what answer Jacques d'Arc would have made, for he was
a proud, unbending man, and his face was sternly set whilst I
pleaded with him. But there were others from Domremy, entirely
filled with admiration of the Maid, and with desire to see her
again; and their voices prevailed, so that he gave the answer for
which I waited. He would remain at the inn over the morrow of the
great function of the coronation, and would receive his daughter
there, and have speech with her.

"Tell her that I will take her home with me, if she will come," he
spoke; "for she herself did say that her work would be accomplished
when the crown was placed upon the King's head. Let her be true to
her word; let her return home, and become a modest maiden again
beneath her mother's care, and all shall be well betwixt us. But if
pride and haughtiness possess her soul, and she prefers the company
of courtiers and soldiers to that of her own people, and the life
of camps to the life of home, then I wash my hands of her. Let her
go her own way. She shall no longer be daughter of mine!"

I did not tell those words to the Maid. My lips refused to speak
them. But I told her that her father would remain in the place till
she had leisure to have speech with him; and her eyes kindled with
joy at hearing such news, for it seemed to her as though this would
be the pledge of his forgiveness, the forgiveness for which she had
longed, and for the lack of which none of her triumphs could
altogether compensate.

There was no sleep for the city of Rheims upon that hot summer's
night. Although the coming of the King had been rumoured for some
time, it had never been fully believed possible till news had been
brought of the fall of Troyes, and the instant submission of
Chalons. Then, and only then, did citizens and prelates truly
realise that the talked-of ceremony could become an accomplished
fact, and almost before they had recovered from their amazement at
the rapidity of the march of events, courtiers brought in word that
the King and his army were approaching.

So all night long the people were hard at work decorating their
city, their churches, above all their Cathedral; and the priests
and prelates were in close conference debating what vestments, what
vessels, what rites and ceremonies should be employed, and how the
lack of certain necessary articles, far away at St. Denis, could be
supplied out of the rich treasuries of the Cathedral.

As the dawn of the morning brightened in the east, the sun rose
upon a scene of such splendour and magnificence as perhaps has
seldom been witnessed at such short notice. The whole city seemed
one blaze of triumphal arches, of summer flowers, of costly stuffs
and rich decoration. Every citizen had donned his best and
brightest suit; the girls and children had clothed themselves in
white, and crowned themselves with flowers. Even the war-worn
soldiers had polished their arms, furbished up their clothes, and
borrowed or bought from the townsfolk such things as were most
lacking; and now, drawn up in array in the great square, with
tossing banners, and all the gay panoply of martial glory, they
looked like some great victorious band--as, indeed, they
were--celebrating the last act of a great and wonderful triumph.

As for the knights, nobles, and courtiers, one need not speak of
the outward glory of their aspect--the shining armour, the gay
dresses, the magnificent trappings of the sleek horses--that can
well be pictured by those who have ever witnessed a like brilliant
scene.

But for the first part of the day, with its many and varied
ceremonies, there was lacking the shining figure of the Maid; nor
did the King himself appear. But forth from the Palace of the
Archeveche rode four of the greatest and most notable peers of the
realm, attended by a gorgeous retinue; and with banners waving, and
trumpets blowing great martial blasts, they paced proudly through
the streets, between the closely-packed ranks of soldiers and
citizens, till they reached the ancient Abbey of Sainte Remy, where
the monks of Sainte Ampoule guard within their shrine the holy oil
of consecration, in that most precious vial which, they said, was
sent down from heaven itself for the consecration of King Clovis
and his successors.

Upon bended knees and with bared heads these great peers of France
then took their solemn oath that the sacred vial should never leave
their sight or care, night or day, till it was restored to the
keeping of the shrine from which the Abbot was about to take it.
Then, and only then, would the Abbot, clothed in his most sumptuous
vestments, and attended by his robed monks, take from its place that
holy vessel, and place it in the hands of the messengers--Knights
Hostages, as they were termed for the nonce--and as they carried it
slowly and reverently forth, and retraced their steps to the Cathedral,
accompanied now by the Abbot and monks, every knee was bent and every
head bowed.

But all the while that this ceremony was taking place, the Maid was
shut up in her room in the Palace, dictating a letter of appeal to
the Duke of Burgundy, and praying him in gentle, yet authoritative
terms, to be reconciled to his King, join hands with him against
the English foe, and then, if need there were to fight, to turn his
arms against the Saracens, instead of warring with his brethren and
kinsmen. I trow that this thing was urged upon her at this time, in
that she believed her mission so nearly accomplished, and that soon
she would have no longer right to style herself "Jeanne the Maid,"
and to speak with authority to princes and nobles.

As yet she was the appointed messenger of Heaven. Her words and
acts all partook of that almost miraculous character which they had
borne from the first. I will not quote the letter here; but it is
writ in the page of history; and I ask of all scholars who peruse
its words, whether any village maiden of but seventeen years,
unlettered, and ignorant of statecraft, could of herself compose so
lofty and dignified an appeal, or speak with such serene authority
to one who ranked as well-nigh the equal of kings. It was her last
act ere she donned her white armour, and passed forth from her
chamber to take part in the ceremony of the coronation. In some
sort it was the last of her acts performed whilst she was yet the
deliverer of her people.

When I looked upon those words, long after they had been penned, I
felt the tears rising in mine eyes. I could have wept tears of
blood to think of the fate which had befallen one whose thoughts
were ever of peace and mercy, even in the hour of her supremest
triumph.

How can my poor pen describe the wonders of the great scene, of
which I was a spectator upon that day? Nay, rather will I only seek
to speak of the Maid, and how she bore herself upon that great
occasion. She would have been content with a very humble place in
the vast Cathedral today; she had no desire to bear a part in the
pageant which had filled the city and packed the great edifice from
end to end.

But the King and the people willed it otherwise. The thing which
was about to be done was the work of the Maid, and she must be
there to see all, and the people should see her, too--see her close
to the King himself, who owed to her dauntless courage and devotion
the crown he was about to assume, the realm he had begun to
conquer.

So she stood near at hand to him all through that long, impressive
ceremony--a still, almost solemn figure in her silver armour, a
long white velvet mantle, embroidered in silver, flowing from her
shoulders, her hand grasping the staff of her great white banner,
which had been borne into the Cathedral by D'Aulon, and beside
which she stood, her hand upon the staff.

She was bareheaded, and the many-coloured lights streamed in upon
her slim, motionless figure, and the face which she lifted in
adoration and thanksgiving. I trow that none in that vast assembly,
who could see her as she thus stood, doubted but that she stood
there the accredited messenger of the Most High. The light from
Heaven itself was shining on her upturned face, the reflection of
an unearthly glory beamed in her eyes. From time to time her lips
moved, as though words of thanksgiving broke silently forth; but
save for that she scarcely moved all through the long and solemn
ceremony. Methinks that she saw it rather in the spirit than in the
flesh; and the knights and nobles who had poured in from the
surrounding country to witness this great function, and had not
companied with the Maid before, but had only heard of her fame from
afar, these regarded her with looks of wonder and of awe, and
whispering together, asked of each other whether in truth she were
a creature of flesh and blood, or whether it were not some angelic
presence, sent down direct from Heaven.

And so at last the King was anointed and crowned! The blare of the
thousand trumpets, the acclamations of a vast multitude proclaimed
the thing done! Charles the Seventh stood before his people, their
King, in fact as well as in name.

The work of the Maid was indeed accomplished!



CHAPTER XVII. HOW THE MAID WAS PERSUADED.


The ceremony was over. The Dauphin stood in our midst a crowned and
anointed King. We were back in the great hall of the Archeveche,
and the thunders of triumphant applause which had been restrained
within the precincts of the sacred edifice now broke forth again,
and yet again, in long bursts of cheering, which were echoed from
without by the multitudes in the street and great square Place, and
came rolling through the open windows in waves of sound like the
beating of the surf upon the shore.

The King stood upon a raised dais; his chiefest nobles and peers
around him. He was magnificently robed, as became so great an
occasion, and for the first time that I had ever seen, he looked an
imposing and a dignified figure. Something there was of true
kingliness in his aspect. It seemed as though the scene through
which he had passed had not been without effect upon his nature,
and that something regal had been conveyed to him through the
solemnities which had just taken place.

The Maid was present also; but she had sought to efface herself in
the crowd, and stood thoughtfully apart in an embrasure of the
wall, half concealed by the arras, till the sound of her name,
proclaimed aloud in a hundred different tones, warned her that
something was required of her, and she stepped forward with a
questioning look in her startled eyes, as though just roused from
some dream.

She had been one of the first to prostrate herself at the new-made
King's feet when the coronation ceremony was over; and the tears
streaming down her face had been eloquent testimony of her deep
emotion. But she had only breathed a few broken words of devotion
and of joy, and had added something in a choked whisper which none
but he had been able to hear.

"The King calls for the Maid! The King desires speech with the
Maid!" such was the word ringing through the hall; and she came
quietly forth from her nook, the crowd parting this way and that
before her, till she was walking up through a living avenue to the
place where the King was now seated upon a throne-like chair on the
dais at the far end of the hall.

As she came towards him the King extended his hand, as though he
would meet her still rather as friend than as subject; but she
kneeled down at his feet, and pressing her lips to the extended
hand, she spoke in a voice full of emotion:

"Gentle King, now is the pleasure of God fulfilled towards you. Now
is the will of my Lord accomplished. To Him alone be the praise and
glory! It was His will that I should be sent before you to raise
the siege of Orleans, to lead you to this city of Rheims, there to
receive your consecration. Now has He shown to all the world that
you are the true King--that it is His will you should reign over
this fair realm, that this kingdom of France belongs to you and you
alone. My task is now accomplished. His will in me is fulfilled. Go
forward, then, noble King--strong in the power of your kingly might
and right, doubting not that He will aid you still; though He will
work with other instruments, with other means, for my task in this
is now accomplished!"

There was a little stir and thrill throughout the hall as these
words were spoken. Dismay fell upon many, wonder upon all, triumph
gleamed from the eyes of a few; but most men looked one at the
other in consternation. What did she mean by these words?--this
Heaven-sent Maid to whom we owed so much? Surely she did not think
to leave us just in the hour of her supreme triumph? How could we
hope to lead on the armies to fresh victories, if the soldiers were
told that the Maid would no longer march with them? Who would
direct us with heavenly counsel, or with that marvellous clearness
of vision which is given only to a few in this sinful world, and to
those only whose hearts are consecrated by a great devotion, and a
great love? She could not mean that! She loved France with an
overwhelming fervour. She was devoted to the service of the King,
in whom she had never been able or willing to see wrong. She knew
her power with the army; she loved the rough soldiers who followed
her unshrinkingly in the teeth of the very fiercest perils, and who
would answer to her least command, when they would obey none other
general.

O no, she could not think of deserting France in this her hour of
need! Much had been done; but much yet remained to do. If she were
to quit her post, there could be no telling what might not follow.
The English, cowed and bewildered now, might well pluck up heart of
grace, and sweep back through the country once owning their sway,
driving all foes before them as in the days of old. The victories
won in these last weeks might soon be swallowed up in fresh defeat
and disaster. How could we expect it to be otherwise if the
presence of the Maid were withdrawn?

These and a hundred other questions and conjectures were buzzing
through the great hall. Wonder and amaze was on every face. The
King himself looked grave for a moment; but then his smile shone
out carelessly gay and confident. He looked down at the Maid, and
there was tender friendliness in his glance. He spoke nothing to
her at the first as to what she had said; he merely asked of her a
question.

"My Chevaliere, my guardian angel, tell me this, I pray. You have
done all these great things for me; what am I to do in return for
you?"

She raised her eyes towards him, and the light sprang into
them--that beautiful, fearless light which shone there when she led
her soldiers into battle.

"Go forward fearlessly, noble King. Go forward in the power of your
anointing; and fear nothing. That is all I ask of you. Do that, and
you will give to me my heart's desire."

"We will talk of that later, Jeanne," he answered, "I have many
things to speak upon that matter yet. But today I would ask you of
something different. You have done great things for me; it is not
fitting that you should refuse to receive something at my hands.
This day I sit a King upon my father's throne. Ask of me some gift
and grace for yourself--I your King and your friend demand it of
you!"

It was spoken in a right kingly and gracious fashion, and we all
held our breath to listen for the answer the Maid should give. We
had known her so long and so well, and we had learned how little
she desired for herself, how hard it was to induce her to express
any wish for her own gratification. She was gentle and gracious in
her acceptance of the gifts received from friends who had furnished
her from the beginning with such things as were needful for her
altered life; but she had ever retained her simplicity of thought
and habit; and though often living in the midst of luxury and
extravagance, she was never touched by those vices herself. And now
she was bidden to ask a boon; and she must needs do it, or the
displeasure of the King would light upon her.

He had raised her to her feet by this time, and she stood before
him, a slim boy-like figure in her white point-device dress, her
cheeks a little flushed, her slender fingers tightly entwined, the
breath coming and going through her parted lips.

"Gentle King," she answered, and her low full voice thrilled
through the hall to its farthermost end in the deep hush which had
fallen upon it, "there is one grace and gift that I would right
gladly ask of you. Here in this city of Rheims are assembled a few
of mine own people from Domremy; my father, my uncle, and with them
some others whom I have known and loved from childhood. I would ask
this thing of you, noble King. Give me at your royal pleasure a
deed, duly signed and sealed by your royal hand, exempting the
village of Domremy, where I was born, from all taxes such as are
levied elsewhere throughout the realm. Let me have this deed to
give to those who have come to see me here, and thus when I return
with them to my beloved childhood's home, I shall be witness to the
joy and gladness which such a kingly boon will convey. Grant me
this--only this, gentle King, and you will grant me all my heart
desires!"

The King spoke aside a few words to one of those who stood about
him, and this person silently bowed and quitted the hail; then he
turned once more to the Maid, standing before him still with a
happy and almost childlike smile playing over her lips.

"The thing shall be done, Jeanne," he said; "and it shall be done
right soon. The first deed to which I set my hand as King shall be
the one which shall for ever exempt Domremy from all taxation. You
shall give it to your father this very day, to take home with him
when he goes. But as for those other words of yours--what did you
mean by them? How can you witness the joy of a distant village,
when you will be leading forward the armies of France to fresh
victories?"

He gazed searchingly into her face as he spoke; and she looked back
at him with a sudden shrinking in her beautiful eyes.

"Sire," she faltered--and anything like uncertainty in that voice
was something new to us--"of what victories do you speak? I have
done my part. I have accomplished that which my Lord has set me to
do. My task ends here. My mission has been fulfilled. I have no
command from Him to go forward. I pray you let me return home to my
mother and my friends."

"Nay, Jeanne, your friends are here," spoke the King gravely, "and
your country is your mother. Would you neglect to hear her cry to
you in the hour of her need? Her voice it was that called you forth
from your obscurity; she calls you yet. Will you cease to hear and
to obey?"

The trouble and perplexity deepened in the eyes of the Maid.

"My voices have not bidden me to go forward," she faltered.

"Have they bidden you to go back--to do no more for France?"

"No," she answered, throwing back her head, her eyes kindling once
again with ardour; "they have not bidden me return, or I would have
done it without wavering. They tell me nothing, save to be of a
good heart and courage. They promise to be with me--my saints, whom
I love. But they give me no commands. I see not the path before me,
as I have seen it hitherto. That is why I say, let me go home. My
work is done; I have no mission more. Shall I take upon me that
which my Lord puts not upon me--whether it be honour or toil or
pain?"

"Yes, Jeanne, you shall take that upon you which your country calls
upon you to take, which your King puts upon you, which even your
saints demand of you, though perchance with no such insistence as
before, since that is no longer needed. Can you think that the mind
of the Lord has changed towards me and towards France? Yet you must
know as well as I and my Generals do, that without you to lead them
against the foe, the soldiers will waver and tremble, and perchance
turn their backs upon our enemies once more. You they will follow
to a man; but will they follow others when they know that you have
deserted them? You tell me to go forward and be of good courage.
How can I do this if you turn back, and take with you the hearts of
my men?"

"Sire, I know not that such would be the case," spoke the Maid
gravely. "You stand amongst them now as their crowned and anointed
King. What need have they of other leader? They have followed me
heretofore, waiting for you; but now--"

"Now they will want you more than ever, since you have ever led
them to victory!" cried the King; and raising his voice and looking
about him, especially to those generals and officers of his staff
who had seen so much of the recent events of the campaign, he cried
out:

"What say you, gentlemen? What is our chance to drive away the
English and become masters of this realm if the MAID OF ORLEANS
take herself away from us, and the soldiers no longer see her
standard floating before them, or hear her voice cheering them to
the battle?"

Some of those present looked sullenly on the ground, unwilling to
own that the Maid was a power greater than any other which could be
brought into the field; but there were numbers of other and greater
men, who had never denied her her meed of praise, though they had
thwarted her at times in the council room; and these with one
accord declared that should the Maid betake herself back to
Domremy, leaving the army to its fate, they would not answer for
the effect which this desertion would have, but would, in fact,
almost expect the melting away of the great body of the trained
soldiers and recruits who had fought with her, and had come to
regard her presence with them as the essential to a perfect
victory.

But we were destined to have a greater testimony than this, for a
whisper of what was passing within the great hall had now filtered
forth into the streets, and all in a moment we were aware of a
mighty tumult and hubbub without, a clamour of voices louder and
more insistent than those which had hailed the King a short time
before, and the words which seemed to form themselves out of the
clamour and gradually grow into the burden of the people's cry was
the repeated and vehement shout, "THE MAID OF ORLEANS! THE MAID OF
ORLEANS! We will fight if the Maid goes with us--without her we be
all dead men!"

They came and told us what the crowd of soldiers in the street was
shouting; they begged that the Maid would show herself at some
window, and promise that she would remain with the army. Indeed,
there was almost a danger of riot and disaster if something were
not done to quell the excitement of the soldiery and the populace;
and at this news the Maid suddenly drew her slender, drooping
figure to its full height, and looked long and steadfastly at the
King.

"Sire," she said, "I give myself to you and to France. My Lord
knows that I seek in this to do His will, though differently from
heretofore. You will be disappointed. Many will misjudge me. There
will be sorrow and anguish of heart as well as triumph and joy. But
if my country calls, I go forth gladly to meet her cry--even though
I go to my death!"

I do not know how many heard her last words; for they were drowned
in the roar of joyful applause which followed her declaration. The
King gave her his hand, and led her forth upon a balcony, where the
great concourse in the street below could see them; and by signs he
made them understand that she would continue with him as one of his
Commanders-in-Chief; and in hearing this the city well nigh went
mad with joy; bonfires blazed and bells pealed madly; and the cry
heard in the streets was less "Long live the King!" than that other
frantic shout, "THE MAID OF ORLEANS! THE MAID OF ORLEANS!"

But the Maid returned to her apartments with a strange look upon
her face; and she held out her hand to me as one who would fain ask
help and sympathy of a trusted comrade, as I am proud to think I
was regarded at that time by her.

"The King's word has prevailed, O my friend," she said, "but I
would that I were sure it will be for the best!"

"How can it be otherwise than for the best?" I answered as I held
her hand in mine, and looked searchingly into her fair, grave face.
"Will not your Lord help you yet? Do not all men trust in you? Will
not the soldiers fight for and with you? And are you not sure in
your heart that the cause of the French King will yet triumph?"

Her eyes were misty with unshed tears as she made reply:

"I know that my Lord will not desert me; and I trust I may serve
Him yet, and the King whom I love. I know that all will be well--at
the last--for this fair realm of France. But I have no commission
direct from my Lord as I have had hitherto. My voices yet speak
gentle and kindly words. I trow that my saints will watch over me,
and that they will give me strength to strive and to overcome. For
myself I fear not--I am ready to die for my King and my country if
that be the will of God. Only the shadow lies athwart my path,
where until today all was brightness and sunshine. It would have
been so sweet to go home to my mother, to see the Fairy Tree, and
the old familiar faces, and listen once more to the Angelus bell! I
had thought that I should by this have earned my rest. I had not
thought that with so many to serve him, the King would have had
further use for me."

"Yet how could it be otherwise, my General, when the soldiers will
follow you alone?--when all look to you as their champion and their
friend?"

"Nay, but I have enemies too," she answered sadly, "and I know that
they will work me ill--greater ill in the future than they have had
power to do heretofore, when I was watched over and guarded for the
task that was set me. That task is now accomplished. Can I look to
receive the same protection as before? The Lord may have other
instruments prepared to carry on His work of deliverance. I doubt
not that He will use me yet, and that I shall never be forsaken;
but my time will not be long. I shall only last a year. Let the
King use me for all that I am worth!--after that he must look for
others to aid him!"

I could not bear to hear her speak so. I would have broken in with
protestations and denials; but something in the look upon her face
silenced me. My heart sank strangely within me, for had I not
learned to know how truly the Maid did read that which the future
hid from our eyes? I could only seek to believe that in this she
might be mistaken, since she herself did say how that things were
something different with her now.

She seemed to read the thoughts that crowded my brain; for she
looked into my face with her tender, far-seeing smile.

"You are sad, my kind friend, my faithful knight, and sometimes
mine own heart is sad also. But yet why should we fear? I know that
I have enemies, and I know that they will have more power to hurt
me in the times that are coming, than has been permitted hitherto,
yet--"

With an uncontrollable impulse I flung myself at her feet.

"O my General--O my dear lady--speak not such things--it breaks my
heart. Or if, indeed, the peril be so great, then let all else go,
and bid your father to take you back to Domremy with him. There, at
least, you will be safe and happy!"

Her eyes were deep with the intensity of her emotion.

"It may not be," she said with grave gentleness and decision. "I
had hoped it for myself, but it may not be. My word is pledged. My
King has commanded. I, too, must learn, in my measure, the lesson
of obedience, even unto death!"

Her hands were clasped; her eyes were lifted heavenwards. A shaft
of light from the sinking sun struck in through the coloured window
behind her, and fell across her face with an indescribable glory. I
was still upon my knees and I could not rise, for it seemed to me
as though at that moment another Presence than that of the Maid was
with us in the room. My limbs shook. My heart seemed to melt within
me; and yet it was not fear which possessed me, but a mysterious
rapture the like of which I can in no wise fathom.

How long it lasted I know not. The light had faded when I rose to
my feet and met her wonderful gaze. She spoke just a few words.

"Now you know what help is given us in our hours of need. My
faithful knight need never mourn or weep for me; for that help and
comfort will never be withheld. Of this I have the promise clear
and steadfast!"

I was with her when she went to see her father. It was dark, and
the old man sat with his brother-in-law, Durand Laxart--he who had
helped her to her first interview with De Baudricourt--in one of
the best rooms of the inn. Since it had been known that these men
were the kinsfolk of the Maid, everything of the best had been put
at their disposal by the desire of the citizens, and horses had
been provided for them for their return to Domremy. For the city of
Rheims was filled with joy at that which had been accomplished, and
the Maid was the hero of the hour.

But I could see that there was a cloud upon the old man's face--the
father's; and he did not rise as his daughter entered--she before
whom nobles had learnt to bend, and who sat at the Council of the
King. His sombre eyes dwelt upon her with a strange expression in
their depths. His rugged face was hard; his knotted hands were
closely locked together.

The Maid gazed at him for a moment, a world of tender emotions in
her eyes; and then she quickly crossed the room and threw herself
at his feet.

"My father! My father! My father!"

The cry seemed to come from her heart, and I saw the old man's face
quiver and twitch; but he did not touch or embrace her.

"It is the dress he cannot bear," whispered Laxart distressfully to
me, "it is as gall and wormwood to him to see his daughter go about
in the garb of a man."

The Maid's face was raised in tender entreaty; she had hold of her
father's hands by now. She was covering them with kisses.

"O my father, have you no word for me? Have you not yet forgiven
your little Jeanne? I have but obeyed our Blessed Lord and His holy
Saints. And see how they have helped and blessed and guided me! O
my father, can you doubt that I was sent of them for this work? How
then could I refuse to do it?"

Then the stern face seemed to melt with a repressed tenderness, and
the father bent and touched the girl's brow with his lips. She
uttered a little cry of joy, and would have flung herself into his
arms; but he held her a little off, his hands upon her shoulders,
and he looked into her face searchingly.

"That may have been well done, my daughter; I will not say, I will
not judge. But your task is now accomplished--your own lips have
said it; and yet you still are to march with the King's army, I am
told. You love better the clash of arms, the glory of victory, the
companionship of soldiers and courtiers to the simple duties which
await you at home, and the protection of your mother's love. That
is not well. That is what no modest maiden should choose. I had
hoped and believed that I should take my daughter home with me. But
she has chosen otherwise. Do I not well to be angry?"

The Maid's face was buried in her hands. She would have buried it
in her father's breast, but he would not have it so.

I could have wept tears myself at the sight of her sorrow. I saw
how utterly impossible it would be to make this sturdy peasant
understand the difficulty of the Maid's position, and the claims
upon her great abilities, her mysterious influence upon the
soldiers. The worthy prud'homme would look upon this as rather a
dishonour and disgrace than a gift from Heaven.

The words I longed to speak died away upon my tongue. I felt that
to speak them would be a waste of breath. Moreover, I was here as a
spectator, not as a partaker in this scene. I held the document,
signed and sealed by the King, which I was prepared to read to the
visitors from Domremy. That was to be my share in this interview--not
to interpose betwixt father and child.

For a few moments there was deep silence in the room; then the Maid
took her hands from her face, and she was calm and tranquil once
again. She possessed herself of one of her father's reluctant
hands.

"My father, I know that this thing is hard for you to understand.
It may be that my brothers could explain it better than I, had you
patience to hear them. But this I say, that I long with an
unspeakable desire to return home with you, for I know that the
path I must tread will darken about me, and that the end will be
sad and bitter. And yet I may not choose for myself. My King
commands. My country calls. I must needs listen to those voices.
Oh, forgive me that I may not follow yours, nor the yearnings of
mine own heart!"

The old man dropped her hand and turned away. He spoke no word; I
think perchance his heart was touched by the tone of the Maid's
voice, by the appealing look in her beautiful eyes. But he would
not betray any sign of weakness. He turned away and leant his brow
upon the hand with which he had grasped the high-carved ledge of
the panelled shelf beside him. The Maid glanced at him, her lips
quivering; and she spoke again in a brighter tone.

"And yet, my father, though you may not take me back with you, you
shall not go away empty-handed. I have that to send home with you
which shall, I trust, rejoice the hearts of all Domremy; and if you
find it hard to forgive that which your child has been called upon
to do, yet methinks there will be others to bless her name and pray
for her, when they learn that which she has been able to
accomplish."

Then she made a little sign to me, and I stepped forward with the
parchment, signed and sealed, and held it towards the Maid's
father. He turned to look at me, and his eyes widened in wonder and
some uneasiness; for the sight of so great a deed filled him and
his kinsman with a vague alarm.

"What is it?" he asked, turning full round, and I made answer:

"A deed signed by the King, exempting Domremy from all taxation,
henceforward and for ever, by right of the great and notable
services rendered to the realm by one born and brought up
there--Jeanne d'Arc, now better known as THE MAID OF ORLEANS."

The two men exchanged wondering glances, and over Laxart's face
there dawned a smile of intense joy and wonder.

"Nay, but this is a wonderful thing--a miracle--the like of which
was never heard or known before! I pray you, noble knight, let me
call hither those of our kinsfolk and acquaintance from Domremy as
have accompanied us hither, that they may hear and understand this
marvellous grace which hath been done us!"

I was glad enough that all should come and hear that which I read
to them from the great document, explaining every phrase that was
hard of comprehension. It was good to see how all faces glowed and
kindled, and how the people crowded about the Maid with words of
gratitude and blessing.

Only the father stood a little apart, sorrowful and stern. And yet
I am sure that his heart, though grieved, was not altogether
hardened against his child; for when at the last, with tears in her
eyes (all other farewells being said), she knelt at his feet
begging his blessing and forgiveness, he laid his hand upon her
head for a moment, and let her embrace his knees with her arms.

"Go your way, my girl, if needs must be. Your mother will ever pray
for you, and I trust the Lord whom you serve will not leave you,
though His ways are too hard of understanding for me."

That was all she could win from him; but her heart was comforted, I
think; for as she reached her lodging and turned at the door of her
room to thank me in the gracious way she never forgot, for such
poor services as I had rendered, she said in a soft and happy
voice:

"I think that in his heart my father hath forgiven me!"



CHAPTER XVIII. HOW I LAST SAW THE MAID.


I had thought, when I started, to tell the whole tale of the
Angelic Maid and all the things which she accomplished, and all
that we who companied with her did and saw, both of success and of
failure. But now my brain and my pen alike refuse the task. I must
needs shorten it. I think my heart would well nigh break a second
time, if I were to seek to tell all that terrible tale which the
world knows so well by now.

Ah me! Ah me!--what a world is this wherein we live, in which such
things can be! I wake sometimes even yet in the night, a cold sweat
upon my limbs, my heart beating to suffocation, a terror as of
great darkness enfolding my spirit.

And is it wonderful that it should be so? Can any man pass through
such experiences as mine, and not receive a wound which time can
never wholly heal? And though great things have of late been done,
and the Pope and his Court have swept away all such stain and taint
as men sought to fasten upon the pure nature of the wonderful and
miraculous Maid, we who lived through those awful days, and heard
and saw the things which happened at that time, can never forget
them, and (God pardon me if I sin in this) never forgive. There are
men, some living still, and some passed to their last account, whom
I would doom to the nethermost hell for their deeds in the days of
which I must now write--though my words will be so few. And (with
horror and shame be it spoken) many of these men were consecrated
servants of the Holy Church, whose very office made the evil of
their deeds to stand out in blacker hues.

It is easy for us to seek to fasten the blame of all upon the
English, who in the end accomplished the hideous task; but at least
the English were the foes against whom she had fought, and they had
the right to hold her as an adversary whose death was necessary for
their success; and had the English had their way she would have met
her end quickly, and without all that long-drawn-out agony and
mockery of a trial, every step and process of which was an outrage
upon the laws of God and of man. No, it was Frenchmen who doomed
her to this--Frenchmen and priests. The University of Paris, the
officers of the Inquisition, the Bishops of the realm. These it was
who formed that hideous Court, whose judgments have now been set
aside with contumely and loathing. These it was who after endless
formalities, against which even some of themselves were forced in
honour to protest, played so base and infamous a part--culminating
in that so-called "Abjuration," as false as those who plotted for
it--capped by their own infamous trick to render even that
"Abjuration" null and void, that she might be given up into the
hands of those who were thirsting for her life!

Oh, how can I write of it? How can I think of it? There be times
yet when Bertrand, and Guy de Laval, and I, talking together of
those days, feel our hearts swell, and the blood course wildly in
our veins, and truly I do marvel sometimes how it was that we and
others were held back from committing some desperate crime to
revenge those horrid deeds, wrought by men who in blasphemous
mockery called themselves the servants and consecrated priests of
God.

But hold! I must not let my pen run away too fast with me! I am
leaping to the end, before the end has come. But, as I say, I have
no heart to write of all those weary months of wearing inactivity,
wherein the spirit of the Maid chafed like that of a caged eagle,
whilst the counsellors of the King--her bitter foes--had his ear,
and held him back from following the course which her spirit and
her knowledge alike advocated.

And yet we made none so bad a start.

"We must march upon Paris next," spoke the Maid at the first
Council of War held in Rheims after the coronation of the King; and
La Hire and the soldiers applauded the bold resolve, whilst La
Tremouille and other timid and treacherous spirits sought ever to
hold him back.

I often thought of the words spoken by the Maid to those friends of
hers from Domremy, when she bid them farewell on the evening of
which I have just written.

"Are you not afraid, Jeanne," they asked, "of going into battle, of
living so strange a life, of being the companion of the great men
of the earth?"

And she, looking at them with those big grave eyes of hers, had
made answer thus:

"I fear nothing but treachery."

I wondered when she spoke what treachery she was to meet with; but
soon it became all too apparent. The King's ministers were
treacherously negotiating with false Burgundy, some say with the
Regent Bedford himself. They cared not to save France. They cared
only to keep out of harm's way--to avoid all peril and danger, and
to thwart the Maid, whose patriotism and lofty courage was such a
foil to their pusillanimity and cowardice.

So that though she led us to the very walls of Paris, and would
have taken the whole city without a doubt, had she been permitted,
though the Duc d'Alencon, now her devoted adherent, went down upon
his very knees to beg of the King to fear nothing, but trust all to
her genius, her judgment; he could not prevail, and orders were
sent forth to break down the bridge that she had built for the
storming party to pass over, and that the army should fall back
with their task undone!

Oh, the folly, the ingratitude, the baseness of it all! How well do
I remember the face of the Maid, as she said:

"The King's word must be obeyed; but truly it will take him seven
years--ah, and twenty years now--to accomplish that which I would
do for him in less than twenty days!"

Think of it--you who have seen what followed. Was Paris in the
King's hands in less than seven years? Were the English driven from
France in less than twenty?

She was wounded, too; and had been forcibly carried away from the
field of battle; but it was against her own will. She would have
fought through thick and thin, had the King's commands not
prevailed; and even then she begged to be left with a band of
soldiers at St. Denis.

"My voices tell me to remain here," she said; but alas! her voices
were regarded no longer by the King, whose foolish head and
cowardly heart were under other influences than that of the Maid,
to whom he had promised so much such a short while since.

And so his word prevailed, and we were perforce obliged to retreat
from those walls we had so confidently desired to storm. And there
in the church of St. Denis, where she had knelt so many hours in
prayer and supplication, the Maid left her beautiful silver armour,
which had so often flashed its radiant message of triumph to her
soldiers, and with it that broken sword--broken outside the walls
of Paris, and which no skill had sufficed to mend--which had been
taken from St Catherine's Church in Fierbois.

It was not altogether an unwonted act for knights to deposit their
arms in churches, though the custom is dying away, with so many
other relics of chivalry; but there was something very strange and
solemn in this act of the Maid. It was to us a significant sign of
that which she saw before her. We dared not ask her wherefore she
did it. Something in her sad, gentle face forbade us. But I felt
the tears rising to my eyes as I watched her kneel long in prayer
when the deed was done, and I heard stifled sobs arising from that
end of the building where some women and children knelt. For the
Maid was ever the friend of all such, and never a woman or child
whom she approached, whether she were clad in peasant's homespun or
in shining coat of mail, but gave her love and trust and friendship
at sight.

Henceforth the Maid went clothed in a light suit of mail, such as
any youthful knight might wear. She never spoke again of her fair
white armour, or of the sword which had shivered in her hand, none
save herself knew how or when.

Alas! for the days of glory which had gone before! Why did we keep
her with the King's armies, when the monarch's ear was engrossed by
adverse counsel, and his heart turned away from her who had been
his Deliverer in the hour of his greatest need?

Methinks she would even now have returned home, but for the
devotion of the soldiers and the persuasions of the Duc d'Alencon,
and of some of the other generals, amongst whom the foremost were
Dunois and La Hire. These chafed equally with the Maid at the
supine attitude of the King; and the Duke, his kinsman, spoke out
boldly and fearlessly, warning him of the peril he was doing to his
kingdom, and the wrong to the Maid who had served him so faithfully
and well, and to whom he had made such fair promises.

But for the present all such entreaties or warnings fell upon deaf
ears. The time for the King's awakening had not yet come.

Nevertheless, we had our days of glory still, under the banner of
the Maid, when, after many months of idleness, the springtide again
awoke the world, and she sallied forth strong in the assurance of
victory, whilst fortress after fortress fell before her, as in the
days of yore. Oh, how joyous were our hearts! Now did we believe
truly that the tide had turned, and that we were marching on to
victory.

But upon the Maid's face a shadow might often be seen to rest; and
once or twice when I would ask her of it, she replied in a low,
sorrowful voice:

"My year is well-nigh ended. Something looms before me. My voices
have told me to be ready for what is coming. I fear me it will be
my fate to fall into the hands of the foe!"

I would not believe it! Almost I was resolved to plunge mine own
dagger into her heart sooner than she should fall into the hand of
the pitiless English. But woe is me! I was not at her side that
dreadful evening at Compiegne, when this terrible mishap befell. I
had been stricken down in that horrid death trap, when, hemmed in
between the ranks of the Burgundians and English, we found our
retreat into the city cut off.

Was it treachery? Was it incapacity upon the part of the leaders of
the garrison, or what was the reason that no rush from the city
behind took the English in the rear, and effected the rescue of the
Maid?

I know not--I have never known--all to me is black mystery. I was
one of those to see the peril first, and with Bertrand and Guy de
Laval beside me, to charge furiously upon the advancing foe, crying
aloud to others to close round the Maid and bear her away into
safety, whilst we engaged the enemy and gave them time.

That is all I know. All the rest vanishes in the mists. When these
mists cleared away, Bertrand and I were in the home of Sir Guy,
tended by his mother and grandmother--both of whom had seen and
loved well the wonderful Maid--and she was in a terrible prison,
some said an iron cage, guarded by brutal English soldiers, and
declared a witch or a sorceress, not fit to live, nor to die a
soldier's death, but only to perish at the stake as an outcast from
God and man.

Months had passed since the battle of Compiegne. Fever had had me
fast in its grip all that while, and the news I heard on recovery
brought it all back again. Bertrand and Guy were in little better
case. We were like pale ghosts of our former selves during those
winter months, when, hemmed in by snow, we could learn so little
news from without, and could only eat out our hearts in rage and
grief.

With the spring came the news of the trial at Rouen--the bitter
hatred of Bishop Cauchon--the awful consummation he had vowed to
bring about.

I know not whether it were folly to hope such a thing, but we three
knights made instantly for the coast and crossed to England, to
seek the ear of the young King there, and plead the cause of the
Maid before him. I need not say how our mission failed. I care not
to recall those sickening days of anxiety and hope deferred, and
utter defeat at the last.

Heartbroken and desperate we returned; and made our way to Rouen.
The whole city was in confusion. Need I say more? That very day,
within an hour, the Maid, the Messenger from God, the Deliverer of
the King, the Saviour of France, was to die by fire, to perish as a
heretic. And the King whom she had saved had not lifted a hand to
save her; the country she had delivered from a crushing disgrace,
stood idly by to watch her perish thus!

Oh, the shame!--the treachery!--the horror! Let me not try to write
of it. The King has striven now to make amends; but I wonder how he
feels sometimes when he sees the May sunshine streaming over the
fair earth--over that realm which he now rules from sea to sea,
when he thinks of the Maid who was led forth in that blaze of glory
to meet her fiery doom.

O God of Heaven look down and judge! How shall I tell of the sight
I beheld?

Suddenly I came upon it--mad with my grief, desperate with horror
and despair. I saw the face of the Maid again! I saw her upraised
eyes, and her hands clasped to her breast, holding thereto a rough
wooden cross, whilst someone from below held high in the air a
crucifix taken from some church and fastened upon a long wand.

The pile on which she stood was so high--so high; they said it was
done in mercy, that the rising clouds of smoke might choke her ere
the flame touched her. She was clad in a long white garment from
head to foot; her hair had grown and fell about and back from her
face in a soft cloud gilded by the sun's rays. Her face was
rapt--smiling--yes, I will swear it--smiling, as a child smiles up
into the face of its father.

There was an awful hush throughout the wide place. Everything
reeled and swam before me; but I saw that face--that serene and
smiling face, wan and pale, but tranquil and glad and triumphant.

Then came the rush of smoke, and the glare of ruddy fire. A stifled
cry, like one immense groan rose from below--above in the reek and
blaze all was silent. But from out that fire I saw--yes, and
another saw it too (an English soldier, rushing to add a faggot to
the pyre, a token of his hate to the Maid), and it so wrought upon
him that he dropped his burden, fell upon his knees and was like to
die of the fear--I saw a white dove rise from the smoke wreaths of
that ghastly pile, hover a moment, just touched by the glare of the
fire, and then dart heavenwards as upon eagle's wings.

Yes, I saw it. To the day of my death will I swear it. I saw what
she had seen in vision long ago; and upon my heart there fell a
strange sense of peace and calm. It had not hurt her--it had been
as she once said. Her saints had been with her to the end. She had
triumphed. All was well. Called of her Country, she had answered
nobly to the call. Her Country had awarded her a fiery death; but
in that fiery chariot she had ascended to the Lord, in whom she
trusted, hereafter to receive the crown of glory that fadeth not
away.





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