"I wish to see Paris at closer range"
COMPIEGNE was a strong town and Charles now established himself there. Senlis, as soon as the English were gone, offered submission; also Beauvais, from which retired the Burgundian bishop, Pierre Cauchon, nursing his wrath for a day of fearful revenge. Other towns of Normandy and Picardy submitted, and many more were ready to do so, if only the King would but take the trouble to visit them.
Charles in Compiegne, flattered and lulled by La Tremoille and his kind, was satisfied with what had been done already. He was tired with all this marching and fighting. Why must Joan always keep on fighting? No other King had accomplished so much in so short a time; why not rest, and think it over? Besides, there was Burgundy, ready to make a new treaty. The first had not been kept, but that, no doubt, had been largely Joan's fault. La Tremoille said so, and the archbishop, and they were in a position to know. If Joan had not kept bothering Bedford, probably Burgundy would have surrendered Paris, as agreed. This was about the way Charles
reasoned, directed by his capable counselors. We sicken to think of Joan's high-hearted nobility wasted on one so paltry as Charles—for the moment, tragically enough, heir to the throne of France.
At Compiegne the Maid once more took matters into her own hands; de Cagny writes that eight days after Montepilloy she called Alencon and said to him:
"Mon beau duc, make ready your men and some other captains. By my staff, I wish to see Paris at closer range."
They prepared to leave at once, and August 23 marched out of Compiegne with a fine body of troops. Three days later they were at St. Denis, near the gates of Paris. Bedford, now in Rouen, and Burgundy in Paris were alarmed. Burgundy hastily sent an emissary to the King, to complete the new treaty.
The emissary had little trouble. Advised by La Tremoille and the archbishop, Charles within a week signed a treaty which gave Burgundy control of most of northern France, for allowing Joan to attack Paris; the King himself remaining neutral, though from what followed it is clear that he had pledged himself to the Maid's failure. Charles, prompted by the archbishop, even tried to give Burgundy Compiegne, his best stronghold of the region, but the people of that city feared and hated the duke, and in an open and formal protest refused to be given.
The Maid's troops, in camp at La Chapelle, skirmished
about the gates of the capital, while Joan and her captains daily considered the defenses and the best point of attack. They did not know that the King had pledged their defeat; they thought that if he would only come his presence would inspire the soldiers to deeds of valor. Urged by the Maid and Alencon the King did come a step nearer to Paris, as far as Senlis. Perhaps if he would write a letter to the citizens, such as he had written at Troyes, the gates might even be opened without assault. The greater number in Paris were loyal, or could easily become so. The King's presence before the gates might be all that was needed. Alencon went to Senlis, and urged him to come to St. Denis. The pusillanimous Charles promised, but did not come. Alencon went again, and this time spoke so vigorously that Charles actually started, and on Wednesday, September 7, was at dinner at St. Denis, to the great joy of the Maid, and also of the army, who said: "She will put the King inside Paris, if it only depends
Joan did not wait for Charles to run away. With all her force and with such preparation as had been made, attacked next day the walls of Paris. She confessed later that she had not been ordered by her Voices to make the assault,
and that her captains had only intended a demonstration of arms, but that it was her intention to pass the moats- that it, to attack the walls. Moreover, it was the day of the Virgin’s nativity, unsanctioned as a day of battle. That Joan would make such an assault shows the desperate state her mind. The King was not on the filed, but he was as close as he was ever likely to be. His coming had given the army a kind of confidence. It was now or never.
The attack began in the early afternoon, at the Porte St. Honore. There were two moats outside the walls, the outer one empty, the other full of water. Joan with her standard, followed by her captains and soldiers, the latter with a quantity of scaling material, advanced to the dry moat. Looking up to those on the walls the Maid called out:
"Surrender to the King of France!"
The answer was a flight of arrows; the Maid and her men descending into the ditch, crossed it and the space beyond, dragging bundles of wood and faggots to fling into the
Water filled moat next to the walls. Meantime the cannons had opened, flinging stone balls among them, while arrows, darts, and javelins rained from the parapets. De Cagny, who was present, wrote:
"The assault was severe and long, and it was marvelous to hear the noise of the cannons and the culverins that those within directed on those without, and from all manner of shafts, so thickly planted as it seems innumerable."
Unknown to those without, friends of the King had started an alarm within the walls, shouting that all was lost, hoping to create a panic, in the midst of which the gates would be opened. Many ran to their homes and barred the doors, but the outcry produced no other effect. According to de Cagny, though many of the Maid's soldiers were struck, their wounds were not serious. He thinks that none were killed, but this is probably a mistake. In any case Joan's men could not cross the water moat, though they brought a great quantity of filling material and worked until sunset of that long September day. Even then the Maid refused to give up the attack. She thought there must be a place, where the water was less deep, that they could fill and so get their scaling ladders across and against the walls.
But then came the end. According to one account, she stood calmly testing the depth of the moat with a lance when a shaft fired from above pierced her thigh, even as her shoulder had been pierced at the Tourelles. She fell, but refused to be carried from the field. De Cagny writes:
"And after she was struck, she insisted more strongly than ever that the soldiers should attack the walls, and that the place would be taken. But because it was nightfall and she was wounded, and because the soldiers were weary with the long assault they had made, the Sire de Gaucourt and others came to take the Maid, and
against her wish carried her from the moats.
"And thus failed the assault. And she had very great regret thus to depart, saying: 'By my staff, the place would have been taken!"'
They placed her on a horse and conducted her to her lodgings at La Chapelle, this time wounded body and soul, for she had met defeat.
Wounds seemed to have troubled Joan little. Next morning sending for Alencon she begged him to have the trumpets sounded for an assault on Paris, saying she would never leave until she had the city.
The prospect of taking the capital could not have been wholly discouraging, for Alencon and some of the other leaders favored her proposal to return. While they were discussing, the Baron of Montmorency, heretofore with the Burgundians, arrived with reinforcements for the Maid. This was encouraging; a hearty and determined assault might still win.
It was not undertaken. A message from the King commanded Alencon and other captains to appear before him at St. Denis, bringing the Maid with them. They obeyed unwillingly enough, for they believed it meant the end of any action for that day. Alencon had caused a bridge to be built across the Seine near St. Denis; their hope now was to cross it and attack Paris from the other side.
Charles did put an end to action for that day. Nor was that all, for next morning when the Maid, Alencon, and others determined to cross the Seine and attack Paris from another
point they found that during the night the King had caused the bridge to be destroyed!
It was now all too clear how completely Charles had been delivered to Burgundy. The treachery, which Joan had mentioned at Chalons, and more than suspected at Reims, was complete; the cause of France had been sold like merchandise. As for Joan herself, if she had been lured into a wilderness and struck down she could not have been more deliberately or basely betrayed. What did she think of it all? What did she say to the King? We shall never know.
Charles, rejoicing in the thought that he had a long truce with Burgundy—it was to last until Christmas—was in haste to get to his castles on the Loire, where he could enjoy it. The Maid now could not constantly be urging him to march against cities. Why attack Paris, anyway? It was no winter residence for a King. For two days he discussed these things, "tending always toward returning to the Loire," says de Cagny, "to the great affliction of the Maid." On the third day he made ready to depart. Joan's Voices having told her to remain at St. Denis, she went all the more unwillingly.
And before going she had her white armor brought, and gazing upon it knew that she would never wear it again. How proud she had been to see it grow under the deft hands of the workmen at Tours! Battle had dented and stained it since then: the patch on the shoulder was from the day before the Tourelles; the dent in the helmet was from a stone at
Jargeau; the freshly pierced plate in the cuissard told of her failure before Paris.
"Take it to the church," she said.
They carried it to the church, and with her own hands she laid it, with her sword, upon the altar. Then because she had been wounded, and because these had been the arms of victory and could not remain the arms of defeat, kneeling she offered them to St. Denis, whose name was the war-cry of France.