Story of Joan of Arc - Andrew Lang

How the Maid Saved Orleans

The Dauphin had given Joan a gentleman of good character to be with her always, and take care of her. This gentleman was named Jean d'Aulon, and, as he has left an account of what Joan did at Orleans, we give what he said. On the day after Joan took the fortress of St. Loup from the English, she led her men to attack another English work on the farther side of the river. They could not cross by the bridge, of course, for the English held the strong building, Les Tourelles, at the bridge end, the place where the Earl of Salisbury was killed by the cannon shot; moreover an arch of the bridge had been broken, lest the English should cross. So they went in boats to an island in the middle of the river, and then made a bridge of boats across the other branch of the Loire. But they found that the English had left the place which they meant to attack, and were in a much stronger fortress. The French, therefore, were returning to their boats, when the English rushed out of the second fortress to attack them when off their guard. But Joan and her friend La Hire, who had crossed the river with their horses, saw the English coming on, and put their lances in rest (a kind of support for the level spear), and spurred their horses at their enemies. The rest of the French followed Joan, and drove the English back into their fortress. Meanwhile d'Aulon, and a Spanish gentleman on the French side, took each other by the hand, and ran as fast as they could till they struck their swords against the outer fence, or strong wooden palisade of the English. But in the narrow gateway stood a tall and very strong Englishman, who drove back the French. So d'Aulon asked a Frenchman, a good shot, to aim at the Englishman, whom he killed, and then d'Aulon and the Spaniard ran into the gateway, and held it, while Joan and the rest of the French rushed in, and all the English were killed or gave themselves up as prisoners.

By this time the French army which went down to Blois to cross the bridge, had returned to Orleans, and gone past the English fortresses without being attacked. So there were now many fighting men in Orleans. Next day, therefore, Joan insisted that they should attack the strongest of all the English forts, Les Tourelles, at the end of the bridge farthest from the town. The generals thought this plan too dangerous, as the fortress was so strong; but no doubt Joan was right, because the English on the town side of the river could not cross over to help their countrymen. If they crossed in boats, they would be shot, and cut down as they landed. If the French generals did not understand that, Joan did. She was full of confidence. A man asked her to wait for breakfast, and offered her a big trout caught in the Loire. She said, "Keep it for supper. I will bring back an English prisoner to help to eat it.

And I will come back by the bridge."  Now the bridge, we saw, was broken. D'Aulon heard her say this, and no doubt he wondered what she meant. He understood her, at night.

So Joan caused the gate to be thrown open, and the town's people, who were very eager, rushed to the river bank, and crossed in boats. The regular soldiers followed, and all day long they attacked the walls, carrying ladders to climb them with, while Joan stood under the wall, waving her banner, and crying "Forward!" But from behind the battlement, the English kept shooting with arrows and muskets, so that many of the French were killed, and a strong Englishman threw down the ladders as they were pushed to the top of the walls. There were five or six hundred of the best of the English in this castle, under two leaders whom the French call "Bumus" and "Glasidas." The name of "Glasidas" was Glasdale; we do not know who "Bumus" was! So all day companies of the French and Scots, carrying ladders, and with banners flying, went down into the deep ditch below the wall, and were shot or driven out.

Now the great Dunois, the most famous of the French leaders, tells us what Joan did. It was about one o'clock in the afternoon, when the thing that she had prophesied happened to her. A bolt from an English cross-bow passed through her armour between the collar-bone and the shoulder-blade, and stood out six inches behind her shoulder. She was carried out of range, and the arrow was drawn out. Another witness says that a soldier wished to sing a magical song over the wound, to heal it, but she would not allow this to be done, and went back into the battle, hurt as she was. She cried a little.

They fought on: they had begun in the early morning, and it was eight o'clock, and past sunset, when Dunois said that they could not take the fort that day, and wished to call off the soldiers from the ditch. But Joan came to him, and asked him to wait a little while. She mounted her horse, and rode to a vineyard, and there she prayed, "for half a quarter of an hour." Then she rode back, and went through the hail of shot and arrows to the edge of the ditch, while d'Aulon covered her, he says, with his shield. She saw that a soldier had taken her standard into the ditch. She seized the standard, and it waved so that all her men saw it, and rushed up; "we shall take the fort," said Joan, "when my standard touches the wall." The wind blew the banner fringe against the wall, and the French made one more rush, they climbed the ladders, they tumbled into the fort, and the English were slain or taken, and Glasdale, their leader, who tried to cross to another tower by a plank, fell into the river and was drowned.

Then Joan crossed back to Orleans by the bridge, as d'Aulon heard her say that she would, when she set out in the morning. For the town's people laid a beam across the broken arch, and on this she walked over, after winning so great a victory by her own courage. For Dunois says that the English were terrified when they saw her under the wall again, in the growing darkness, and that they had no more heart to fight.

Joan was very tired: she had her wound dressed by a surgeon, and, for supper, she had four or five little pieces of toast, dipped in weak wine and water: that was all she ate, Dunois says, all that long day.

Early next morning the English left their forts, and drew up in line of battle. Joan had put on a very light shirt of mail, made of steel rings, because her wound did not permit her to wear the usual armour made of heavy steel plates. She said that the English must be allowed to go away, and must not be attacked.

Thus the town of Orleans was delivered on 8th May, and ever since, to this day, they keep a festival on 8th May in every year, and rejoice in honour of the Maid. All the expense and labour of the English in the seven months' siege had been turned to waste by Joan in four days, France was free, south of the Loire, and Joan had kept her word, she had shown a sign at Orleans.

It sounds like a fairy-tale, but it certainly happened. Joan made the French able to do what they did merely by giving them courage. Her army would not have come together if she had not given them something to believe in—herself. She thought that she led about 10,000 men; but it is not easy to be sure of the numbers. The English, if they were only 4000, could not resist the new army and the old garrison of Orleans, if the French had faith in themselves; and Joan gave them faith. At the same time the English seem to have arranged their army in a very foolish way. About 1000 were on the farther side of a river which the 3000 on the right bank could not, or did not try to cross, to help their friends. The larger part of the English army might have attacked one of the gates of Orleans, and frightened Joan's army, who would have come back across the river to defend the town. The English in the fortress at the farther end of the bridge would then have been safe. But the English on the right bank did nothing at all, for some reason which we do not understand.