The fate of Troyes decided that of Chalons, the only other important town on the way, the gates of which were thrown open as Charles and his army, which grew and increased every day, proceeded on its road. Every promise of the Maid had been so far accomplished, both in the greater object and in the details: and now there was nothing between Charles the disinherited and almost ruined Dauphin of three months ago, trying to forget himself in the seclusion and the sports of Chinon—and the sacred ceremonial which drew with it every tradition and every assurance of an ancient and lawful throne.
Jeanne had her little adventure, personal to herself on the way. Though there were neither posts nor telegraphs in those days, there has always been a strange swift current in the air or soil which has conveyed news, in a great national crisis, from one end of the country to the other. It was not so great a distance to Domremy on the Meuse from Troyes on the Loire, and it appears that a little group of peasants, bolder than the rest, had come forth to hang about the road when the army passed and see what was so fine a sight, and perhaps to catch a glimpse of their payse, their little neighbour, the commere who was godmother to Gerard d’Epinal’s child, the youthful gossip of his young wife—but who was now, if all tales were true, a great person, and rode by the side of the King. They went as far as Chalons to see if perhaps all this were true and not a fable; and no doubt stood astonished to see her ride by, to hear all the marvellous tales that were told of her, and to assure themselves that it was truly Jeanne upon whom, more than upon the King, every eye was bent. This small scene in the midst of so many great ones would probably have been the most interesting of all had it been told us at any length. The peasant travellers surrounded her with wistful questions, with wonder and admiration. Was she never afraid among all those risks of war, when the arrows hailed about her and the bouches de feu, the mouths of fire, bellowed and flung forth great stones and bullets upon her? “I fear nothing but treason,” said the victorious Maid. She knew, though her humble visitors did not, how that base thing skulked at her heels, and infested every path. It must not be forgotten that this wonderful and victorious campaign, with all its lists of towns taken and armies discomfited, lasted six weeks only, almost every day of which was distinguished by some victory.
(1) The former story was written in 1429, by the Greffier of Rochelle. “I will yield me only to her, the most valiant woman in the world.” The Greffier was writing at the moment, but not, of course, as an eyewitness.—A. L.