The Maid waits for her army
JOAN next morning was ready to begin battle, with such soldiers as remained in Orleans. Rather unwillingly she allowed herself to be persuaded by Dunois to wait until her own troops returned from Blois. He would go, he said, with certain of his captains, to direct their course back to Orleans. The Maid contented herself with sending a message to Lord Talbot, commander of the English forces, warning him that unless he returned to England his army would be driven out by force. No reply came; but, according to Dunois, Joan's letter, "couched in her maternal tongue, and all in very simple words," put fear into the hearts of the English. Two hundred of the English were no longer able to put to flight a thousand of the French, he declared; indeed, it was soon the other way about.
In return the English may nave thought to frighten Joan, for during the day they sent word to her that she was nothing but a cowherd, and that unless she went back to her cattle they would burn her. In the evening Joan went out on the
bridge and called to Glasdale, English commander of the Tourelles (the towers at the farther end) bidding him, in the name of God, to surrender, thus saving the lives of his soldiers. Glasdale and those with him called back insults, and again threatened to burn her. But this was bravado. The Maid's letter and her warning had been as effective as a victory. The enemy could insult her, but their hearts were dead within them.
Next morning Dunois, d'Aulon, and others set out for Blois, Joan with La Hire and a guard of soldiers conducting them through the gates and past the English forts, or bastiles, as they were called, from which not a shot was fired, the English apparently regarding them with superstitious awe. Returning to the city the people thronged about her, sweeping her with them to her lodgings, where they nearly broke down the entrance to Jacques Boucher's home.
That evening she again spoke to the English, this time from the city walls. They replied as cruelly as before, but though she was within range they made no attempt to reach her with their cannons. Perhaps no gunner could be brought to aim at the "witch." The appearance in the sunset of that fearless figure in white armor, uttering such warnings, as even the commonest soldier could understand, had an effect hard to
realize today. Next morning she even rode out on the fields the direction of the English forts, followed by a great crowd of the people of Orleans. They were sure that no harm could
befall them, and certain it is they all came back safely. Joan and her company were within easy cannon range, probably within bowshot of the enemy, the five bastiles being no more than a third of a mile from the city walls, which they had often bombarded.
A word about the situation of Orleans. These five bastiles, or stone towers, some of them with outer embankments called boulevards, were located to the west of Orleans, in the general direction of Blois. A few hundred yards apart, they were intended by the English to control the entrance to Orleans in that direction. It was between these fortresses that Joan had intended to march her army, straight into Orleans. To the eastward of the city was the fortified church of St. Loup, supposed to control the river in that direction, though, as we have seen, Joan and her provision train had entered from that side. On an island below Orleans was a fortress, and across from it, on the south bank, another, so that the river was really well guarded in that direction. The English also held the south end of the bridge, and the near-by fortress of St. Augustine, with still another fortress, a distance up the river, that of St. Jean le Blanc, which Joan had wished to attack on the evening of her arrival. The reader cannot be expected to keep these various points in his head, for which reason a map, drawn as simply as possible, has been provided. The sandy bed of the Loire is always changing. The islands as shown bear no close resemblance to those of the present day.
There is one more incident, of the few days when Joan was waiting for the return of her army, that is worth remembering. Riding through the streets, encouraging the people and the soldiers, she happened upon a rich merchant who unluckily was fiercely swearing at the moment when Joan appeared. The Maid briskly dismounted and laid her hand on his throat.
"Ah, friend," she said, "dare you forswear our Lord and Master? In God's name, you will recant before I leave here!"
The rich man was startled and ashamed.
"I am sorry, Joan," he said; "I will make amends."
Joan was no meek and lowly reformer. She believed in sudden and vigorous measures. One is reminded of Christ and the money changers.