On the 23d Joan gave command to move upon Paris. The King and the clique were not satisfied with this, and retired sulking to Senlis, which had just surrendered. Within a few days many strong places submitted--Creil, Pont-Saint-Maxence, Choisy, Gournay-sur-Aronde, Remy, Le Neufville-en-Hez, Moguay, Chantilly, Saintines. The English power was tumbling, crash after crash! And still the King sulked and disapproved, and was afraid of our movement against the capital.
On the 26th of August, 1429, Joan camped at St. Denis; in effect, under the walls of Paris.
And still the King hung back and was afraid. If we could but have had him there to back us with his authority! Bedford had lost heart and decided to waive resistance and go an concentrate his strength in the best and loyalest province remaining to him--Normandy. Ah, if we could only have persuaded the King to come and countenance us with his presence and approval at this supreme moment!
Chapter 40 Treachery Conquers Joan
COURIER after courier was despatched to the King, and he promised to come, but didn't. The Duke d'Alen‡on went to him and got his promise again, which he broke again. Nine days were lost thus; then he came, arriving at St. Denis September 7th.
Meantime the enemy had begun to take heart: the spiritless conduct of the King could have no other result. Preparations had now been made to defend the city. Joan's chances had been diminished, but she and her generals considered them plenty good enough yet. Joan ordered the attack for eight o'clock next morning, and at that hour it began.
Joan placed her artillery and began to pound a strong work which protected the gate St. Honor‚. When it was sufficiently crippled the assault was sounded at noon, and it was carried by storm. Then we moved forward to storm the gate itself, and hurled ourselves against it again and again, Joan in the le3ad with her standard at her side, the smoke enveloping us in choking clouds, and the missiles flying over us and through us as thick as hail.
In the midst of our last assault, which would have carried the gate sure and given us Paris and in effect France, Joan was struck down by a crossbow bolt, and our men fell back instantly and almost in a panic--for what were they without her? She was the army, herself.
Although disabled, she refused to retire, and begged that a new assault be made, say8ing it must win; and adding, with the battle-light rising in her eyes, "I will take Paris now or die!" She had to be carried away by force, and this was done by Gaucourt and the Duke d'Alen‡on.
But her spirits were at the very top notch, now. She was brimming with enthusiasm. She said she would be carried before the gate in the morning, and in half an hour Paris would be ours without any question. She could have kept her word. About this there was no doubt. But she forgot one factor--the King, shadow of that substance named La Tremouille. The King forbade the attempt!
You see, a new Embassy had just come from the Duke of Burgundy, and another sham private trade of some sort was on foot.
You would know, without my telling you, that Joan's heart was nearly broken. Because of the pain of her wound and the pain at her heart she slept little that night. Several times the watchers heard muffled sobs from the dark room where she lay at St. Denis, and many times the grieving words, "It could have been taken!--it could have been taken!" which were the only ones she said.
She dragged herself out of bed a day later with a new hope. D'Alen‡on had thrown a bridge across the Seine near St. Denis. Might she not cross by that and assault Paris at another point? But the King got wind of it and broke the bridge down! And more--he declared the campaign ended! And more still--he had made a new truce and a long one, in which he had agreed to leave Paris unthreatened and unmolested, and go back to the Loire whence he had come!
Joan of Arc, who had never been defeated by the enemy, was defeated by her own King. She had said once that all she feared for her cause was treachery.