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A Heroine of France by Evelyn Everett-Green

Blushing now at the tumult of applause


The Generals formed an advance guard before her. The soldiers followed, rank behind rank, in the rear. We of her household rode immediately in her wake, ready to protect her, if need be, from the too great pressure of the crowd. And so we crossed the hastily-repaired bridge, and entered by the Bride Gate--or St. Catherine's gate, as it was equally called; for a figure of St. Catherine stands carved in a niche above the porch, and I saw the Maid glance upwards at it as she passed through, a smile upon her lips.

Shall I ever forget the thunder of applause which fell upon our ears as we passed into the city through the bridge? It was like the "sound of many waters"--deafening in volume and intensity. And was it wonder? Had not something very like a miracle been wrought? For had not rumours reached the city many times that day of the death of the Deliverer in the hour of victory? None well knew what to believe till they saw her in their midst, and then the cry which rent the heavens was such as methinks is heard but once in a lifetime.

I know not who first spoke the words; but once spoken, they were caught up by ten thousand lips, and the blazing heavens echoed them back in great waves of rolling sound:

"THE MAID OF ORLEANS! THE MAID OF ORLEANS! Welcome, honour, glory, praise to THE MAID OF ORLEANS!"

The people were well-nigh mad with joy; they rushed upon her to kiss her hands, her knees, the folds of her banner, the neck or the flanks of her horse. In the red glare of the hundred bonfires the whiteness of her armour seemed to take a new lustre. The rent upon the shoulder could be plainly seen, showing where the arrow had torn its way. Women sobbed aloud as they looked; men cursed the hand which had shot the bolt; all joined in frantic cheers of joy to see her riding alone, erect and smiling, though with a dreamy stillness of countenance which physical lassitude in part accounted for.

"I thank you, my friends, I thank you," she kept saying, as though no other words would come, save when now and again she would add, "But to God must you give your thanks and blessings. It is He who has delivered you."

It was not far to the house of the Treasurer, and there in the threshold stood the little Charlotte, a great wreath of bay and laurel in her tiny hands. She was lifted up in her father's strong arms, and ere the Maid was able to dismount from her horse the little one had placed the triumphal wreath upon her fair head.

O, what a shout arose! It was like the mighty burst of some great thunderstorm. The Maid, blushing now at the tumult of applause, stretched out her arms, took the little one into them, and held her in a close embrace whilst she bowed her last graceful thanks to the joy-maddened crowd. Then she slipped from her horse, and holding the little one fast by the hand, disappeared into the house, whilst the people reluctantly dispersed to hear the story all over again from the soldiers pouring in, each with some tale of his own to tell of the prowess of THE MAID OF ORLEANS.


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