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The Story of Joan of Arc by  Andrew Lang


 

 

HOW THE MAID WAS BETRAYED AT PARIS

[72] THE French should have followed the Maid straight to Paris, as she bade them do. But they went here and went there, and one day their army and that of the Duke of Bedford met, but did not fight; and another day there were skirmishes between the English and the Scots, "who fought very bravely," says the Burgundian knight, Enguerrand de Monstrelet, who wrote a history of those times. The strong town of Compiègne, which had often been taken and retaken, yielded to Joan's army, and the King stayed there, doing nothing, which was what he liked, and the Duke of Burgundy gave him excuses for loitering by sending ambassadors, and pretending that he would give up Paris, for at this time there was no [73] English garrison there. The poor people of the town were on the side of Joan and the King, and now, when the English were out of the great city, was the time to take it. But the King kept hoping to make peace with the Duke of Burgundy, so Joan, with her friend the Duke of Alençon, went to Saint Denis, quite close to Paris, where the Kings of France used to be buried: Saint Denis was the Saint of France, as Saint George was the Saint of England, and Saint Andrew of Scotland. There fought the Duke and the Maid, but the King came on very slowly, while Joan was in the front of battle every day, at one gate of Paris or another. At last, by often going to him, and urging him to come, Alençon brought the King to Saint Denis, but not before a strong new English army had arrived in the town, of which the walls and towers were very high and thick, and the fosses broad and deep, and full of water.


[Illustration]

JOAN FALLEN WOUNDED UNDER THE WALLS OF PARIS.

Then Joan led on her men and the Duke's, with her banner in her hand, and cried them on to break down a gate called the Porte St. Honoré.

[74] Percival de Cagny, who rode under the standard of Alençon, was in the battle, and he says, "The fight was long and fierce, and it was wonderful to hear the noise of guns and culverins from the walls, and to see the arrows fly like clouds. Few of those who went down into the dry ditch with the Maid were hurt, though many others were wounded with arrows and stone cannon balls, but, by God's grace and the Maid's favour, there were none but could return without help. We fought from noon till darkness began. After the sun set, the Maid was wounded by a bolt from a cross-bow in the thigh, but she only shouted louder to 'come on and the place was ours.' But when it was dark and all were weary, men came from the King and brought her up out of the ditch against her will."

Next day the Maid rose early, and went to the Duke of Alençon, who never failed her. The trumpets blew, and a new ally came, the Baron de Montmorency, with sixty gentlemen and their men-at-arms, and they were riding to attack Paris again when the King sent messengers to forbid [75] them to do as their hearts desired. So they had to go to see him at Saint Denis. But the Duke of Alençon was having a bridge of wood thrown across the river Seine, at a new place, and they meant to cross by that bridge next day, and attack Paris again.

Shameful to say, the King had that bridge taken to pieces during the night, and when Joan and the Duke led their men there next day, they found only the river, which they could not ford. So the King of France saved Paris from d'Alençon and the Maid.

Richard I. of England would have battered down the Paris gate with his own battle-axe; Henry V. or James IV. of Scotland, or Prince Charlie, would have been foremost in the fight; but this King of France, Charles VII., unworthy of his country and his ancestors, sneaked off to his pretty little town of Gien, on the Loire.

"And thus was the will of the Maid broken, and the army of the King," says Percival de Cagny.

The Duke of Alençon kept his men together, and told the King that, if he would [76] let the Maid ride with him, they would march into Normandy, and attack the English where they were strongest. But the King would not hear of it, and the Maid, with almost a broken heart, hung up her armour at the altar of Saint Denis, in his Cathedral. Half of her year was spent, and the King made her stay with him in the towns on the Loire, when he might have been in Paris, his capital, if he had only trusted Joan.

In the meantime the English retook some of the French towns that Joan had given to the King, and seized her sacred armour in the Church of Saint Denis, and punished and plundered the people, who were worse off than before, while the Maid was only allowed now and then to attack the English, and defeat them in the old way.


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