It was away past midnight,
and had been a tremendous day in the matter of excitement
and fatigue, but that was no matter to Joan when there
was business on hand. She did not think of bed.
The generals followed her to her official quarters,
and she delivered her orders to them as fast as she
could talk, and they sent them off to their different
commands as fast as delivered; wherefore the messengers
galloping hither and thither raised a world of clatter
and racket in the still streets; and soon were added
to this the music of distant bugles and the roll of
drums notes of preparation; for the vanguard
would break camp at dawn.
The generals were soon dismissed,
but I wasn’t; nor Joan; for it was my turn to
work, now. Joan walked the floor and dictated
a summons to the Duke of Burgundy to lay down his
arms and make peace and exchange pardons with the
King; or, if he must fight, go fight the Saracens.
“Pardonnez-vous l’un l’autre
de bon coeligeur, entièrement, ainsi que
doivent faire loyaux chretiens, et, s’il
vous plait de guerroyer, allez contre
les Sarrasins.” It was long, but it
was good, and had the sterling ring to it. It
is my opinion that it was as fine and simple and straightforward
and eloquent a state paper as she ever uttered.
It was delivered into the hands of
a courier, and he galloped away with it. The
Joan dismissed me, and told me to go to the inn and
stay, and in the morning give to her father the parcel
which she had left there. It contained presents
for the Domremy relatives and friends and a peasant
dress which she had bought for herself. She said
she would say good-by to her father and uncle in the
morning if it should still be their purpose to go,
instead of tarrying awhile to see the city.
I didn’t say anything, of course,
but I could have said that wild horses couldn’t
keep those men in that town half a day. They waste
the glory of being the first to carry the great news
to Domremy the taxes remitted forever! and
hear the bells clang and clatter, and the people cheer
and shout? Oh, not they. Patay and Orleans
and the Coronation were events which in a vague way
these men understood to be colossal; but they were
colossal mists, films, abstractions; this was a gigantic
When I got there, do you suppose they
were abed! Quite the reverse. They and the
rest were as mellow as mellow could be; and the Paladin
was doing his battles in great style, and the old
peasants were endangering the building with their
applause. He was doing Patay now; and was bending
his big frame forward and laying out the positions
and movements with a rake here and a rake there of
his formidable sword on the floor, and the peasants
were stooped over with their hands on their spread
knees observing with excited eyes and ripping out ejaculations
of wonder and admiration all along:
“Yes, here we were, waiting waiting
for the word; our horses fidgeting and snorting and
dancing to get away, we lying back on the bridles till
our bodies fairly slanted to the rear; the word rang
out at last ’Go!’ and we went!
“Went? There was nothing
like it ever seen! Where we swept by squads of
scampering English, the mere wind of our passage laid
them flat in piles and rows! Then we plunged
into the ruck of Fastolfe’s frantic battle-corps
and tore through it like a hurricane, leaving a causeway
of the dead stretching far behind; no tarrying, no
slacking rein, but on! on! on! far yonder in the distance
lay our prey Talbot and his host looming
vast and dark like a storm-cloud brooding on the sea!
Down we swooped upon them, glooming all the air with
a quivering pall of dead leaves flung up by the whirlwind
of our flight. In another moment we should have
struck them as world strikes world when disorbited
constellations crash into the Milky way, but by misfortune
and the inscrutable dispensation of God I was recognized!
Talbot turned white, and shouting, ’Save yourselves,
it is the Standard-Bearer of Joan of Arc!’ drove
his spurs home till they met in the middle of his horse’s
entrails, and fled the field with his billowing multitudes
at his back! I could have cursed myself for not
putting on a disguise. I saw reproach in the
eyes of her Excellency, and was bitterly ashamed.
I had caused what seemed an irreparable disaster.
Another might have gone aside to grieve, as not seeing
any way to mend it; but I thank God I am not of those.
Great occasions only summon as with a trumpet-call
the slumbering reserves of my intellect. I saw
my opportunity in an instant in the next
I was away! Through the woods I vanished fst! like
an extinguished light! Away around through the
curtaining forest I sped, as if on wings, none knowing
what was become of me, none suspecting my design.
Minute after minute passed, on and on I flew; on, and
still on; and at last with a great cheer I flung my
Banner to the breeze and burst out in front of Talbot!
Oh, it was a mighty thought! That weltering chaos
of distracted men whirled and surged backward like
a tidal wave which has struck a continent, and the
day was ours! Poor helpless creatures, they were
in a trap; they were surrounded; they could not escape
to the rear, for there was our army; they could not
escape to the front, for there was I. Their hearts
shriveled in their bodies, their hands fell listless
at their sides. They stood still, and at our leisure
we slaughtered them to a man; all except Talbot and
Fastolfe, whom I saved and brought away, one under
Well, there is no denying it, the
Paladin was in great form that night. Such style!
such noble grace of gesture, such grandeur of attitude,
such energy when he got going! such steady rise, on
such sure wing, such nicely graduated expenditures
of voice according to the weight of the matter, such
skilfully calculated approaches to his surprises and
explosions, such belief-compelling sincerity of tone
and manner, such a climaxing peal from his brazen
lungs, and such a lightning-vivid picture of his mailed
form and flaunting banner when he burst out before
that despairing army! And oh, the gentle art
of the last half of his last sentence delivered
in the careless and indolent tone of one who has finished
his real story, and only adds a colorless and inconsequential
detail because it has happened to occur to him in a
It was a marvel to see those innocent
peasants. Why, they went all to pieces with enthusiasm,
and roared out applauses fit to raise the roof and
wake the dead. When they had cooled down at last
and there was silence but for the heaving and panting,
old Laxart said, admiringly:
“As it seems to me, you are
an army in your single person.”
“Yes, that is what he is,”
said Noel Rainguesson, convincingly. “He
is a terror; and not just in this vicinity. His
mere name carries a shudder with it to distant lands just
his mere name; and when he frowns, the shadow of it
falls as far as Rome, and the chickens go to roost
an hour before schedule time. Yes; and some say ”
“Noel Rainguesson, you are preparing
yourself for trouble. I will say just one word
to you, and it will be to your advantage to ”
I saw that the usual thing had got
a start. No man could prophesy when it would
end. So I delivered Joan’s message and went
off to bed.
Joan made her good-byes to those old
fellows in the morning, with loving embraces and many
tears, and with a packed multitude for sympathizers,
and they rode proudly away on their precious horses
to carry their great news home. I had seen better
riders, some will say that; for horsemanship was a
new art to them.
The vanguard moved out at dawn and
took the road, with bands braying and banners flying;
the second division followed at eight. Then came
the Burgundian ambassadors, and lost us the rest of
that day and the whole of the next. But Joan
was on hand, and so they had their journey for their
pains. The rest of us took the road at dawn, next
morning, July 20th. And got how far? Six
leagues. Tremouille was getting in his sly work
with the vacillating King, you see. The King stopped
at St. Marcoul and prayed three days. Precious
time lost for us; precious time gained
for Bedford. He would know how to use it.
We could not go on without the King;
that would be to leave him in the conspirators’
camp. Joan argued, reasoned, implored; and at
last we got under way again.
Joan’s prediction was verified.
It was not a campaign, it was only another holiday
excursion. English strongholds lined our route;
they surrendered without a blow; we garrisoned them
with Frenchmen and passed on. Bedford was on
the march against us with his new army by this time,
and on the 25th of July the hostile forces faced each
other and made preparation for battle; but Bedford’s
good judgment prevailed, and he turned and retreated
toward Paris. Now was our chance. Our men
were in great spirits.
Will you believe it? Our poor
stick of a King allowed his worthless advisers to
persuade him to start back for Gien, whence he had
set out when we first marched for Rheims and the Coronation!
And we actually did start back. The fifteen-day
truce had just been concluded with the Duke of Burgundy,
and we would go and tarry at Gien until he should deliver
Paris to us without a fight.
We marched to Bray; then the King
changed his mind once more, and with it his face toward
Paris. Joan dictated a letter to the citizens
of Rheims to encourage them to keep heart in spite
of the truce, and promising to stand by them.
She furnished them the news herself that the Kin had
made this truce; and in speaking of it she was her
usual frank self. She said she was not satisfied
with it, and didn’t know whether she would keep
it or not; that if she kept it, it would be solely
out of tenderness for the King’s honor.
All French children know those famous words.
How naïve they are! “De cette
trêve qui a été faîte, je
ne suis pas contente, et
je ne saïs si je la tiendrai.
Si je la tiens, ce sera
seulement pour garder l’honneur
du roi.” But in any case, she said, she
would not allow the blood royal to be abused, and would
keep the army in good order and ready for work at
the end of the truce.
Poor child, to have to fight England,
Burgundy, and a French conspiracy all at the same
time it was too bad. She was a match
for the others, but a conspiracy ah, nobody
is a match for that, when the victim that is to be
injured is weak and willing. It grieved her, these
troubled days, to be so hindered and delayed and baffled,
and at times she was sad and the tears lay near the
surface. Once, talking with her good old faithful
friend and servant, the Bastard of Orleans, she said:
“Ah, if it might but please
God to let me put off this steel raiment and go back
to my father and my mother, and tend my sheep again
with my sister and my brothers, who would be so glad
to see me!”
By the 12th of August we were camped
near Dampmartin. Later we had a brush with Bedford’s
rear-guard, and had hopes of a big battle on the morrow,
but Bedford and all his force got away in the night
and went on toward Paris.
Charles sent heralds and received
the submission of Beauvais. The Bishop Pierre
Cauchon, that faithful friend and slave of the English,
was not able to prevent it, though he did his best.
He was obscure then, but his name was to travel round
the globe presently, and live forever in the curses
of France! Bear with me now, while I spit in fancy
upon his grave.
Compiègne surrendered, and hauled
down the English flag. On the 14th we camped
two leagues from Senlis. Bedford turned and approached,
and took up a strong position. We went against
him, but all our efforts to beguile him out from his
intrenchments failed, though he had promised us a
duel in the open field. Night shut down.
Let him look out for the morning! But in the
morning he was gone again.
We entered Compiègne the 18th of August,
turning out the English garrison and hoisting our
On the 23d Joan gave command to move
upon Paris. The King and the clique were not
satisfied with this, and retired sulking to Senlis,
which had just surrendered. Within a few days
many strong places submitted Creil, Pont-Saint-Maxence,
Choisy, Gournay-sur-Aronde, Remy, Le Neufville-en-Hez,
Moguay, Chantilly, Saintines. The English power
was tumbling, crash after crash! And still the
King sulked and disapproved, and was afraid of our
movement against the capital.
On the 26th of August, 1429, Joan
camped at St. Denis; in effect, under the walls of
And still the King hung back and was
afraid. If we could but have had him there to
back us with his authority! Bedford had lost heart
and decided to waive resistance and go an concentrate
his strength in the best and loyalest province remaining
to him Normandy. Ah, if we could only
have persuaded the King to come and countenance us
with his presence and approval at this supreme moment!