Flavy's lieutenant, with archers and the artillery of the boulevard, was to keep the English troops from coming up from below and seizing the causeway and cutting off Joan's retreat in case she should have to make one. Also, a fleet of covered boats was to be stationed near the boulevard as an additional help in case a retreat should become necessary.
It was the 24th of May. At four in the afternoon Joan moved out at the head of six hundred cavalry--on her last march in this life!
It breaks my heart. I had got myself helped up onto the walls, and from there I saw much that happened, the rest was told me long afterward by our two knights and other eye-witnesses. Joan crossed the bridge, and soon left the boulevard behind her and went skimming away over the raised road with her horsemen clattering at her heels. She had on a brilliant silver-gilt cape over her armor, and I could see it flap and flare and rise and fall like a little patch of white flame.
It was a bright day, and one could see far and wide over that plain. Soon we saw the English force advancing, swiftly and in handsome order, the sunlight flashing from its arms.
Joan crashed into the Burgundians at Marguy and was repulsed. Then she saw the other Burgundians moving down from Clairoix. Joan rallied her men and charged again, and was again rolled back. Two assaults occupy a good deal of time--and time was precious here. The English were approaching the road now from Venette, but the boulevard opened fire on them and they were checked. Joan heartened her men with inspiring words and led them to the charge again in great style. This time she carried Marguy with a hurrah. Then she turned at once to the right and plunged into the plan and struck the Clairoix force, which was just arriving; then there was heavy work, and plenty of it, the two armies hurling each other backward turn about and about, and victory inclining first to the one, then to the other. Now all of a sudden thee was a panic on our side. Some say one thing caused it, some another. Some say the cannonade made our front ranks think retreat was being cut off by the English, some say the rear ranks got the idea that Joan was killed. Anyway our men broke, and went flying in a wild rout for the causeway. Joan tried to rally them and face them around, crying to them that victory was sure, but it did no good, they divided and swept by her like a wave. Old D'Aulon begged her to retreat while there was yet a chance for safety, but she refused; so he seized her horse's bridle and bore her along with the wreck and ruin in spite of herself. And so along the causeway they came swarming, that wild confusion of frenzied men and horses--and the artillery had to stop firing, of course; consequently the English and Burgundians closed in in safety, the former in front, the latter behind their prey. Clear to the boulevard the French were washed in this enveloping inundation; and there, cornered in an angle formed by the flank of the boulevard and the slope of the causeway, they bravely fought a hopeless fight, and sank down one by one.
Flavy, watching from the city wall, ordered the gate to be closed and the drawbridge raised. This shut Joan out.
The little personal guard around her thinned swiftly. Both of our good knights went down disabled; Joan's two brothers fell wounded; then NoČl Rainguesson--all wounded while loyally sheltering Joan from blows aimed at her. When only the Dwarf and the Paladin were left, they would not give up, but stood their ground stoutly, a pair of steel towers streaked and splashed with blood; and where the ax of one fell, and the sword of the other, an enemy gasped and died.
And so fighting, and loyal to their duty to the last, good simple souls, they came to their honorable end. Peace to their memories! they were very dear to me.
Then there was a cheer and a rush, and Joan, still defiant, still laying about her with her sword, was seized by her cape and dragged from her horse. She was borne away a prisoner to the Duke of Burgundy's camp, and after her followed the victorious army roaring its joy.