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The Story of Joan of Arc by  Andrew Lang


 

 

HOW THE MAID TOOK THE TOWN OF JARGEAU

[49] AFTER Orleans was quite safe, and when Talbot had led the English army to the town of Meun, Joan wanted to take the Dauphin to Rheims, to be crowned and anointed with the holy oil, and made King in earnest. But the way was long, and the road passed through towns which were held by friends of the English. So the Dauphin loitered about in pleasant castles near the Loire, in the bright May weather, and held councils, and wondered what he ought to do. Then Joan rode with the brave Dunois to Loches where the Dauphin was. Some lords and priests were in the room with him, but Joan went straight in, and knelt before him, saying, "Fair Dauphin, do not [50] hold so many weary councils, but come to Rheims, and take your crown."

So they said that they would think about it, but was it safe to leave English armies behind them, at Meun, where Talbot was, and at Jargeau, where the Earl of Suffolk was the English captain? Joan said that she and the young Duke of Alenšon would make their minds easy on that point, and would begin by taking Jargeau, where the French, without Joan, had fought already and been beaten. The Duke was newly married to a young wife, who was anxious about him, but Joan said, "Madam, I will bring back the Duke to you, safe and well!"

So they rode away, six hundred lances, with some infantry, and slept in a wood. The Duke of Alenšon has left an account of all that they did. Next day Dunois and other captains joined them with another six hundred lances, so that, with the infantry, they would be about five thousand men. Some of the captains thought they were not strong enough, as Jargeau had thick walls and towers, and cannon. But Joan insisted on fighting, and first she led her men to drive the English from the houses lying [51] under the walls on the outside, which is dangerous fighting, as all the garden walls would protect English cross-bowmen, and men with muskets, who could shoot in safety, many of them from windows of houses, at the French in the open. The French, however, drove the English from the houses and gardens, and brought up their cannon, and fired at the town.

In these days cannon were small, and shot small balls, which did not carry far, and could do no damage to thick stone walls. There were no shells, which explode, but there were a few very large iron guns, like Mons Meg in Edinburgh Castle. Out of these they shot huge, heavy stone balls, and if one of them fell into a street, and broke, the splinters flew about dangerously. But, somehow, they seldom did much harm, besides Joan's army had none of these great guns, which are not easily dragged about.

So for days the French fired at the town, and it is to be supposed that they broke a hole, or breach, in a part of the wall, for they decided to rush in and take the place sword in hand.

"Forward, fair Duke!" said Joan to the [52] Duke of Alenšon, who rather thought that they had not made a good enough breach in the wall. "You know that I told the Duchess I would bring you back safe? But do not stand there," she said, "or that English cannon on the wall will kill you."

The Duke moved from the place where he was, and a gentleman named de Lude went to it, and was killed.

So Joan saved the Duke, as she had promised.

Then they ran together to the wall, and Joan was climbing up a ladder, when a heavy stone thrown by the English struck her helmet, and she fell.

She rose again at once, crying, "Forward, we shall take them all," and the English ran through the streets to the bridges, the French following and cutting them down, or taking them prisoners. It is said that the Earl of Suffolk surrendered to Joan, as "the bravest woman in the world." If this is true, she might have made a great deal of money out of his ransom, that is, the price which a prisoner paid for his freedom. There is another story that Suffolk was taken by a squire, and that he dubbed him [53] knight before he surrendered, as it was more honourable to yield to a knight. This is more likely to be true, for the English thought that Joan was a witch. Now, as Suffolk was general of all the English forces on the Loire, he would not choose to surrender to a lass of sixteen, whether he believed in witches or not. Besides, he could not dub Joan a knight.


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