“Joan lay on the grass, weak and suffering, hour after hour, but still insisting that the fight go on. Which it did, but not to much purpose, for it was only under her eye that men were heroes and not afraid. They were like the Paladin; I think he was afraid of his shadow—I mean in the afternoon, when it was very big and long; but when he was under Joan’s eye and the inspiration of her great spirit, what was he afraid of? Nothing in this world—and that is just the truth.
Toward night Dunois gave it up. Joan heard the bugles.
“What!” she cried. “Sounding the retreat!”
Her wound was forgotten in a moment. She countermanded the order, and sent another, to the officer in command of a battery, to stand ready to fire five shots in quick succession. This was a signal to the force on the Orleans side of the river under La Hire, who was not, as some of the histories say, with us. It was to be given whenever Joan should feel sure the boulevard was about to fall into her hands—then that force must make a counter-attack on the Tourelles by way of the bridge.
Joan mounted her horse now, with her staff about her, and when our people saw us coming they raised a great shout, and were at once eager for another assault on the boulevard. Joan rode straight to the fosse where she had received her wound, and standing there in the rain of bolts and arrows, she ordered the Paladin to let her long standard blow free, and to note when its fringes should touch the fortress. Presently he said:
“Now, then,” said Joan to the waiting battalions, “the place is yours—enter in! Bugles, sound the assault! Now, then—all together—go!”
And go it was. You never saw anything like it. We swarmed up the ladders and over the battlements like a wave—and the place was our property. Why, one might live a thousand years and never see so gorgeous a thing as that again. There, hand to hand, we fought like wild beasts, for there was no give-up to those English—there was no way to convince one of those people but to kill him, and even then he doubted. At least so it was thought, in those days, and maintained by many.
We were busy and never heard the five cannon-shots fired, but they were fired a moment after Joan had ordered the assault; and so, while we were hammering and being hammered in the smaller fortress, the reserve on the Orleans side poured across the bridge and attacked the Tourelles from that side. A fire-boat was brought down and moored under the drawbridge which connected the Tourelles with our boulevard; wherefore, when at last we drove our English ahead of us and they tried to cross that drawbridge and join their friends in the Tourelles, the burning timbers gave way under them and emptied them in a mass into the river in their heavy armor—and a pitiful sight it was to see brave men die such a death as that.
“Ah, God pity them!” said Joan, and wept to see that sorrowful spectacle. She said those gentle words and wept those compassionate tears although one of those perishing men had grossly insulted her with a coarse name three days before, when she had sent him a message asking him to surrender. That was their leader, Sir Williams Glasdale, a most valorous knight. He was clothed all in steel; so he plunged under water like a lance, and of course came up no more.
We soon patched a sort of bridge together and threw ourselves against the last stronghold of the English power that barred Orleans from friends and supplies. Before the sun was quite down, Joan’s forever memorable day’s work was finished, her banner floated from the fortress of the Tourelles, her promise was fulfilled, she had raised the siege of Orleans!
The seven months’ beleaguerment was ended, the thing which the first generals of France had called impossible was accomplished; in spite of all that the King’s ministers and war-councils could do to prevent it, this little country-maid at seventeen had carried her immortal task through, and had done it in four days!
Good news travels fast, sometimes, as well as bad. By the time we were ready to start homeward by the bridge the whole city of Orleans was one red flame of bonfires, and the heavens blushed with satisfaction to see it; and the booming and bellowing of cannon and the banging of bells surpassed by great odds anything that even Orleans had attempted before in the way of noise.
When we arrived—well, there is no describing that. Why, those acres of people that we plowed through shed tears enough to raise the river; there was not a face in the glare of those fires that hadn’t tears streaming down it; and if Joan’s feet had not been protected by iron they would have kissed them off of her. “Welcome! welcome to the Maid of Orleans!” That was the cry; I heard it a hundred thousand times. “Welcome to our Maid!” some of them worded it.
No other girl in all history has ever reached such a summit of glory as Joan of Arc reached that day. And do you think it turned her head, and that she sat up to enjoy that delicious music of homage and applause? No; another girl would have done that, but not this one. That was the greatest heart and the simplest that ever beat. She went straight to bed and to sleep, like any tired child; and when the people found she was wounded and would rest, they shut off all passage and traffic in that region and stood guard themselves the whole night through, to see that he slumbers were not disturbed. They said, “She has given us peace, she shall have peace herself.”
All knew that that region would be empty of English next day, and all said that neither the present citizens nor their posterity would ever cease to hold that day sacred to the memory of Joan of Arc. That word has been true for more than sixty years; it will continue so always. Orleans will never forget the 8th of May, nor ever fail to celebrate it. It is Joan of Arc’s day—and holy.”
From “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc“, by Mark Twain, 1896Subscribe Share on Facebook