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A Heroine of France by Evelyn Everett-Green

The morrow saw us before Jargeau


This

news reached us at Orleans itself, whither we had returned in the course of our march, to be received with wild acclamations by the people there. So loving were the citizens, that they were loth indeed to see the Maid set forth upon any mission which threatened danger to herself or her army; and their protestations and arguments so wrought upon many of the generals and officers, that they united to beg her to remain inactive awhile, and send to the King for fresh reinforcements before attempting any such arduous task.

The Maid listened with her grave eyes wide in amazement.

"You say this to me--here in Orleans! You who have seen what my Lord accomplished for us before! Shame upon you for your lack of faith--for your unworthy thoughts. We march for Jargeau at dawn tomorrow!"

Never before had we heard the Maid speak with quite such severity of tone and word. Her glorious eyes flashed with a strange lambent light. She looked every inch the ruler of men. All heads were bent before her. None dared speak a word to hinder her in her purpose.

The morrow saw us before Jargeau. Its walls were strong, it was well supplied with those great guns that belched forth fire and smoke, and scattered huge stone balls against any attacking force. But we had brought guns with us--great pieces of ordnance, to set against the city walls, and the Maid ordered these

to be brought and placed in certain positions, never asking counsel, always acting on her own initiative, without hesitation and without haste, calm and serene; with that deep, farseeing gaze of hers turned from her own position to the city and back again, as though she saw in some miraculous vision what must be the end of all this toil.

"Mort de Dieu!" cried La Hire, forgetting in his wonder the loyally kept promise to swear only by his baton, "but the Maid has nothing to learn in the art of gunnery! Where hath she learnt such skill, such wisdom! We never had guns to place at Orleans! Where has the child seen warfare, that she places her artillery with the skill of a tried general of forces!"

Ah!--where had the Maid learned her skill in any kind of warfare? Had we not been asking this from the first? This was but another development of the same miracle. For my part I had ceased now to wonder at anything which she said or did.

At daybreak on the morrow the roar of battle began. The air was shaken by the crash and thunder of the guns from both sides. But it was plain to all eyes how that the cunning disposition of our pieces, set just where they could deal most effectively with a weak point in the fortifications, or a gateway less capable than others of defence, were doing far more hurt to the enemy than their fire did to us. For the most part their balls passed harmlessly over our heads, and the clouds of arrows were for us the greater danger, though our armour protected us from over-much damage.

But it was before Jargeau that the incident happened, which so many writers have told of the Maid and the Duc d'Alencon; how that she did suddenly call to him, nay more, drew him with her own hand out of the place where he had stood for some time near to her, saying in a voice of warning, "Have a care, my lord, there is death at hand!"


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