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A Heroine of France by Evelyn Everett-Green

And so at last the King was anointed and crowned


But

the King and the people willed it otherwise. The thing which was about to be done was the work of the Maid, and she must be there to see all, and the people should see her, too--see her close to the King himself, who owed to her dauntless courage and devotion the crown he was about to assume, the realm he had begun to conquer.

So she stood near at hand to him all through that long, impressive ceremony--a still, almost solemn figure in her silver armour, a long white velvet mantle, embroidered in silver, flowing from her shoulders, her hand grasping the staff of her great white banner, which had been borne into the Cathedral by D'Aulon, and beside which she stood, her hand upon the staff.

She was bareheaded, and the many-coloured lights streamed in upon her slim, motionless figure, and the face which she lifted in adoration and thanksgiving. I trow that none in that vast assembly, who could see her as she thus stood, doubted but that she stood there the accredited messenger of the Most High. The light from Heaven itself was shining on her upturned face, the reflection of an unearthly glory beamed in her eyes. From time to time her lips moved, as though words of thanksgiving broke silently forth; but save for that she scarcely moved all through the long and solemn ceremony. Methinks that she saw it rather in the spirit than in the flesh; and the knights and nobles who had poured in from the surrounding country

to witness this great function, and had not companied with the Maid before, but had only heard of her fame from afar, these regarded her with looks of wonder and of awe, and whispering together, asked of each other whether in truth she were a creature of flesh and blood, or whether it were not some angelic presence, sent down direct from Heaven.

And so at last the King was anointed and crowned! The blare of the thousand trumpets, the acclamations of a vast multitude proclaimed the thing done! Charles the Seventh stood before his people, their King, in fact as well as in name.

The work of the Maid was indeed accomplished!

CHAPTER XVII. HOW THE MAID WAS PERSUADED.

The ceremony was over. The Dauphin stood in our midst a crowned and anointed King. We were back in the great hall of the Archeveche, and the thunders of triumphant applause which had been restrained within the precincts of the sacred edifice now broke forth again, and yet again, in long bursts of cheering, which were echoed from without by the multitudes in the street and great square Place, and came rolling through the open windows in waves of sound like the beating of the surf upon the shore.

The King stood upon a raised dais; his chiefest nobles and peers around him. He was magnificently robed, as became so great an occasion, and for the first time that I had ever seen, he looked an imposing and a dignified figure. Something there was of true kingliness in his aspect. It seemed as though the scene through which he had passed had not been without effect upon his nature, and that something regal had been conveyed to him through the solemnities which had just taken place.

The Maid was present also; but she had sought to efface herself in the crowd, and stood thoughtfully apart in an embrasure of the wall, half concealed by the arras, till the sound of her name, proclaimed aloud in a hundred different tones, warned her that something was required of her, and she stepped forward with a questioning look in her startled eyes, as though just roused from some dream.

She had been one of the first to prostrate herself at the new-made King's feet when the coronation ceremony was over; and the tears streaming down her face had been eloquent testimony of her deep emotion. But she had only breathed a few broken words of devotion and of joy, and had added something in a choked whisper which none but he had been able to hear.


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