’My thoughts are whirled
like a potter’s wheel;
I know not where I am, nor what I do:
A witch, by fear, not force, like Hannibal,
Drives back our troops, and conquers as she lists.’
But although retire he had to, Talbot’s retreat was made in perfect order, and in a kind of defiant fashion. Ranging his forces near to and facing the town, he seemed inclined to make a further stand, if not to carry out an attack against the city. Joan was prepared to repel such an attack, but the English contented themselves with a mere feint, a military demonstration.
The day was a Sunday, and Joan, ever loath to fight on that day, refused to give the signal for attack, saying that if the enemy chose to begin an engagement they would be met and defeated; but that she could not sanction fighting on that holy day. Prepared for whatever might occur, the Maid of Orleans then ordered that Mass should be said at the head of her troops.
When the religious act was over:
‘Look,’ she said, ’whether the English have their faces or their backs turned to us.’
And when she heard that they were in full retreat on Mehun-sur-Loire, she added, ’Let them depart, in God’s name: it is not His wish that you should attack them to-day, and you will meet them again.’
After an hour’s halt, the English continued to retreat, previously setting fire to their bastilles, and carrying their prisoners with them.
The day that saw the deliverance of Orleans was held for centuries as a national day of rejoicing in the town, and seldom have the citizens of any place had better cause for celebrating so joyful and honourable an event. The siege which Joan had thus brought to an end began on the 12th of October (1428), and ended on the 8th of May (1429). Ten days had sufficed for the heroic Maid to raise the English blockade.
Throughout France the effect of the news of the deliverance of Orleans was prodigious; and although most of the English, no doubt, believed that the result was owing to the instrumentality of the powers of darkness, many saw in it the finger of God.
When the great news reached Paris on the 10th of May, Fauconbridge, a clerk of Parliament, made the following note in his register:—’Quis eventus fuerit novit Deus bellorum’; and on the margin of the register he has traced a little profile sketch of a woman in armour, holding in her right hand a pennon on which are inscribed the letters I.H.S. In the other hand she holds a sword. This parchment may still be seen in the National Archives in Paris.
Joan, having accomplished her undertaking, lost no time in returning to the King at Chinon.
THE CORONATION AT RHEIMS.