THE MAID FIGHTS ON
Next morning Jeanne wished to renew the attempt on Paris, and ordered d'Alencon to get his men under arms, which he promptly did. Presently, however, they received the king's command to retreat; not only this, he had caused the bridge crossing the Seine at St. Denis to be destroyed, thus effectually cutting off an approach to the city from that quarter, which Jeanne had planned. Having thereby protected his august honor as regards the pact with Philip, he proceeded to the foolish business of causing himself to be enthroned among the dead and silent kings in St. Denis—the royal necropolis of old France. There was a fitness beyond his ken in the ceremony, for Charles at that moment was very much of a dead king himself.
He alleged the lack of funds as his chief reason for giving up the expedition against Paris. The secret of the infamous treaty was closely kept—Jeanne never seems to have learned it.
It is nevertheless true that if Paris had yielded to the Maid on the mere demonstration she was allowed to make, Charles would have been well content, in spite of his treaties with Burgundy. Honor and
plighted faith were at much of a parity between them.
Jeanne now hung up her white armor and sword in the abbey church, a traditional custom; no doubt, too, she was sadly prescient that there would not be much further use for them. This was not the famous sword of Ste. Catherine of Fierbois, which she had previously broken upon a light woman of the camp. The venerable weapon could not be repaired, to Jeanne's great sorrow. Was this an ill omen?—all is marvelous in the history of the Maid.
About this time her noble page, Louis de Coutes, who had been inseparably attached to her from the beginning—Charles had designated him to the service —was obliged to leave her. Another sorrow for Jeanne.
Charles now made arrangements for holding the towns recently conquered, appointed the Comte de Clermont viceroy of the country on the right bank of the Loire, and placed the Admiral de Culant in charge of St. Denis. He then proceeded to Gien, taking Jeanne with him almost by force; urged by her Voices, she had wished to remain at St. Denis.
From Gien, after a short stay, the king proceeded to Bourges, where Marie d'Anjou awaited him, with as much joy as royal consorts who have to share their husbands with other women are supposed to feel. She was still kind to Jeanne, the kinder no doubt because of what she saw and divined of the latter's changed status; and she lodged Jeanne with one of her own dames of honor, Marguerite Touroulde.
Dame Touroulde has a gracious part in the story
from the details which she later gave regarding the personality of her young charge, her sweetness of disposition, true humanity, and, above all, her unaffected piety. It was at her house that Jeanne made the celebrated reply to some women urging her to touch certain pious objects, chaplets and medals, etc. —"Pray touch them yourselves; it will do just as much good."
Nothing better reveals the fine sanity of Jeanne; truly, as a reverend commentator (Mgr. Touchet, Bishop of Orleans, Ce Que Fut Jeanne d'Arc.) has pointed out, her faith was pure, without any admixture of mediaeval superstition.
The popular love and enthusiasm of which the Maid was always assured overflowed in these days at Bourges, making her some requital, we may hope, for her late sorrows and disappointments. That love for Jeanne has continued ever since among the French people; it is one, and not the least, of their spiritual treasures. Now that she is venerated as a saint, one may observe that no altar receives more sincere homage than hers, no glorified image witnesses more tears, more sacred pledges of loving devotion. This remains the true glory of Jeanne—glory that is worth the uttermost price!
Charles discharged his expeditionary force, and Jeanne saw with deep regret the departure of those brave soldiers with whom she had hoped to render her crowning service! Her loyal friend the Duc d'Alencon, planning a military enterprise in Normandy,
made request to the king that Jeanne be assigned to it as chef de guerre. The royal council refused, seeing doubtless too much possible glory for Jeanne in the projected expedition; instead, they resolved to employ her against some fortresses on the Loire. That is, they intended to keep Jeanne close under hand until they might conveniently dispose of her.
Presently, then, behold the Maid, again equipped for war, marching with a small army upon St. Pierre-le-Moutier. The force was under general command of the Sire d'Albret, a man whose attitude toward her was never clearly defined, but who was taking his orders from the council. Jeanne was permitted to lead the assault, which was repulsed with severe loss to the French. Alone, or with but a few companions, she stood her ground until d'Aulon, himself wounded, was helped to a mount and went to her assistance.
"What are you doing here, alone?" demanded the brave equerry.
"I am not alone," she answered, taking off her helmet; "I have still 50,000 soldiers, and shall not leave this spot until the town is taken."
At this moment there were near her only four or five men-at-arms. D'Aulon stood in wonderment. Suddenly she cried out in that tone he had come to know so well, presaging victory:
"To the fascines, to the hurdles, everybody, and let us bridge the fosse!"
These orders were instantly obeyed by soldiers who but a few minutes before, under a hot fire from the
town, had suffered a repulse. Now, all filled with an ardor that astonished themselves, they rushed to the assault and took the place in short order.
But the royal councilors were ill pleased with this un-looked for success. They feared nothing so much as a recurrence of the old furor about Jeanne; they intended that she should ride for a fall and not for more victories. So they hampered and embarrassed her little army in every way possible, especially in the matter of supplies and the payment of the soldiers. Jeanne was forced to ask help from her friends in Orleans and other places; she went to make the appeal in person or she had letters written to them. The Sire d'Albret seemed to lend himself in good faith to these proceedings of Jeanne, and one is almost tempted to believe that he was not privy to the worst designs of the council.
Jeanne besieged La Charite, an unimportant place that was able to hold out against her little force, now at length without food, money, or munitions. Betrayed, unsupported, she was obliged to accept defeat, although of a character that leaves no reproach in the record.
But it is a triumph none the less for Tremoille and his malignant confreres. The invincible one is beaten at last. She is humbled now, this peasant, this bergerette, who dared dictate to king and council. And they make mouths over the event, already tasting the fruition of their evil designs against her.