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Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc: Chapter 12

We prayed before we left Blois, led by Father Pasquerel and Archbishop Regnault de Chartres, who seemed to ignore Jeannette whenever he could; I did not like him, despite his high position. And then we set off along the Loire, on the muddy south bank. It was more than a few leagues to Orléans, and we were several thousand strong. The land was flat, which made for easy marching, but it was also marshy, which meant the carts sometimes became mired and had to be pulled free, and many men complained loudly of sodden feet. We pages, who had to wait till everyone else had passed, were in charge of the armor; the men did not wear it to march, for it was too heavy and cumbersome. It was loaded on carts instead, and weighed them down.

First to pass us while we waited were the priests, singing “Veni Creator Spiritus,” plus psalms and anthems, and holding high a banner showing a painting of Our Lord. Then came the knights and swordsmen and archers, some on horseback, with squires and heralds as well. Workers came next, stout men to help us cross rivers and scale walls and fences. Then more archers and men-at-arms and infantry, laughing and joking as they passed, with carts bearing the guns and other arms, household goods, and food, most of it for the besieged citizens of Orléans. We left more food for them behind in Blois, to fetch later. Last came the beasts, some for food, but others carrying still more supplies. My gentle Yarrow tossed her head at the huge plodding horses that pulled groaning carts laden with leather boats for crossing rivers, and barrel staves and hoops, and some barrels already assembled, and many ropes. Most barrels we had were for storing goods, but these were for making bridges, with wooden boards laid over them by the workers, on which men and horses could pass.

With the army rode the captains, with their bright standards flying before them. Jeanne wore her armor, again uncovered, so it shone in the sun. I heard one man say she was vain of it, and kept it on even to sleep, but I had seen no sign of that.

Altogether it was a splendid sight, and sound, too, for the men sang with the priests, and all seemed to feel great joy and hope. My spirits were high and happy when we pages finally followed the others. I led Yarrow, who picked her way daintily, as if she were a great lady, lifting each hoof high, away from the mud. I was cheered by the thought that Louis and Pierre were nearby; and as to healing, I had greater hope of that now, for it was said that the dauphin had sent his own surgeon to tend the wounded, and I prayed that I might meet him soon, and learn from him.

We marched for two days before we drew near to Orléans, sleeping in the wet fields at night. That made my muscles ache, but it did not seem much sacrifice to make for the honor of freeing Orléans and keeping the enemy from taking more of France. We lesser people were ordered to eat only food we had brought ourselves or food we found along the way, lest we deplete that which we carried for the besieged city. This was hard on the men, and also on us few pages, who were appointed to guard the beasts and food intended for Orléans. Several times in the night we had to chase hungry men-at-arms away from the pigs, who luckily squealed whenever they were disturbed.

At last on a dismal, stormy morning, the twenty-ninth of April 1429, I saw the men ahead of me swing sharply south, away from the river. “We are nearly there” was on more than one tongue.

“We go south to avoid the English forts,” said one man, “for the north side of the river bristles with them.”

I felt my throat tighten with sudden fear, and I am sure I was not alone. But soon we were ordered to turn once more, farther away from the city, and I heard the men muttering angrily among themselves. “It is madness,” said a page I had befriended, as we slithered along on the wet grass at the edge of the muddy path that the men and horses marching before us had made. “The city itself is on the north bank, and we are on the south. Perhaps this is what comes of having a woman lead an army.”

I was angry at his words, and wanted to argue against him, but dared not. As it was, I later learned it was not Jeanne but the captains who had turned us farther south.

So we marched below the city, and partway around it, till we came to a village across the river from Saint-Loup, one of the English forts.

When we halted, it was still rainy and cold. I left my new acquaintance, and found Pierre toward the front of the line, standing a little way from Jeanne, sheltering under a broad-branched tree. She was in heated discussion with a tall man I had not seen before. “That is Dunois,” Pierre told me, “called, with affection and respect, the Bastard of Orléans. He is the son of Louis of Orléans and some other man’s wife, but no shame attaches to it. Orléans has been in his charge since his half-brother, the Duke of Orléans, has been held captive in London.” He held up his hand as I started to protest that I could not follow all this. “It matters only that you remember Dunois is another captain for us to recognize and obey.”

“The Lion,” I said softly, studying the man’s strong, honest face and his steely gaze; I had heard the lion was the noblest of beasts.

A sword clanked behind us then, and I turned. There at last was Louis, in a tight leather doublet that looked as if at least five others had worn it before him, and with his hair shaggy and wet with rain. “The Bastard Dunois is indeed in charge of Orléans,” he said, grinning at me out of a face as grimy as I was sure mine must be—but happy, for I knew he had his wish at last, to be a soldier. I could see that he had learned his lessons well, for he sat his horse with ease, and seemed not clumsy with his sword. Perhaps not having his brothers and father nearby had made him surer of his skill. “And I hear that Dunois is a good man,” he went on, dismounting and grinning more broadly, “although the Maid does not seem to agree.”

I listened then, and heard Jeanne say loudly, “Was it you, Dunois, who advised me to come here, on this side of the river, instead of going straight to where Talbot and the English are?”

“Madame, it was,” Dunois replied with a grave bow. “I and your captain, the Duke of Alençon, we deemed it best because …”

But Jeanne gave him no chance to finish. She stamped her foot as well as she could in her heavy armor, and said, “The counsel of the Lord God is wiser and surer than yours. You thought you had deceived me, but it is you who have deceived yourselves. I am bringing you better help than you ever got from any soldiers or any city. It is the help of the King of Heaven.”

Here Dunois inclined his head and seemed about to speak again, but Jeanne would not permit it. Louis rolled his eyes and looked askance at Pierre, who reddened as if in embarrassment at his sister’s persistence and anger.

“This comes from God Himself,” Jeanne was saying, “who, on the petition of Saint Louis and Saint Charlemagne, has had pity on the town of Orléans, and has refused to suffer the enemy to have both the body of your brother the lord of Orléans and his city.”

Dunois looked much less lionlike when he smiled. “Madame,” he said, “as long as Orléans itself has my body, I will not surrender her. With that and your spirit, and God’s help, we should do well. But,” he added, glancing at the nearly still river, “I fear we are ill-served even so, for the water is low despite the rain, and what little wind there is blows downstream.”

“Why do you speak of wind and rain, Bastard,” Jeanne asked impatiently, “when there is a besieged city before us? We must cross this river to save her and to prevent those who threaten her from going farther into France.”

“That is the very reason that I speak,” said Dunois, moving closer to the tree under which they sheltered. “You have brought much aid to Orléans and we are grateful for it. Our plan is—was—to send barges upstream from the city to this shore, load them with food and cannons, and then, while engaging the English at Saint-Loup, which is their only fortification to the east, float them downstream and back across to the city …”

“Under the very noses of the English,” said Jeanne, smiling at last, “while their attention is on saving their skins at Saint-Loup; I like that, Bastard.”

Dunois’s smile widened and he looked pleased with himself; house cat now, I thought, instead of lion. “As you see,” he told her, “it is not so much a matter of deceit toward you as it is of strategy against the English.”

“You would not have deceived me,” Jeanne said generously, “but this one”—here she turned to La Hire, who stood nearby—“my lusty friend who has only lately learned how to swear gently, has deceived me.”

“By my—staff,” roared La Hire, “approaching from the south was the only way, madame, for the northern bank is full of English. But you would have held us in argument had we broached it to you, and delayed the march. We are defeated nonetheless,” he said, turning back to Dunois, “for the wind blows strongly in the wrong direction; no barge could make its way against it.”

“You are right,” Dunois answered, “and so we must wait for a fair wind.” The cat-look faded with his smile, and the lion-look returned.

“If it is a fair wind you want,” said Jeanne, “why not pray for it, and it will come.” She walked a little away from the men, and went stiffly down on her knees despite her armor and the mud and rain. She had been thus only a moment when the ripples on the surface of the water seemed to stop. Then they turned, and I felt the wind blow against my face, whereas before it had blown on my back.

“It is witchcraft,” I heard someone behind me whisper, and Louis, who looked as amazed as I felt, whirled at that, saying angrily, “Do not speak of witchcraft when the wind has changed because of honest prayer.” The man fell back, red-faced.

“A fair westerly wind!” cried La Hire. “By my …” He snapped his lips together as if to cut off an unseemly oath, and finally spat out, “staff!” Jeanne, returning to the tree, laughed and thumped him on the back.

Dunois looked at Jeanne with what appeared to be a mixture of joy and awe. “It is a miracle,” he said softly, “and you are what they say you are—truly from God.” He went down on his knees in the mud as if to worship her—although under the tree the mud was less. She raised him up quickly, saying, “Come, there is no time for such fawning. We must prepare to load the barges, La Hire and I and the men—and you.”

“I,” said Dunois, “go to Saint-Loup, to distract the English. Will you give me men?” he asked La Hire.

“Gladly,” said La Hire, “and I will give you myself as well. I am hungry for those English,” he said to Jeanne. “Surely you will not begrudge me the first taste of them. Others can direct the loading.”

“It is as you wish,” Jeanne said graciously, and, turning, she came closer to where we stood. “Is it not wonderful,” she said, as if she did not quite believe her own miracle, “that the wind changed? God is truly on our side!”

I believed her then, with all my heart.

So the barges came up the river in the rain, and were loaded with food for the inhabitants of Orléans, who had been getting some, I learned, from the east through what was called the Burgundy Gate. The English were weakest on that side, and held only Saint-Loup there, about a mile away. But though the open gate kept the Orléanais from starving, not enough food got through to feed them well or even very comfortably, and they sorely needed the supplies we brought.

While the barges were moved and loaded, La Hire took men to Saint-Loup as he promised, “distracting” the English, and came back triumphantly late in the afternoon with few men wounded and a captured English standard, at which we cheered. I had a while to talk with Louis, and to learn that he had found a nobleman from Avallon, who knew his father, under whom to serve, at which he was well pleased.

Not long after, I had my first taste of war healing when Pierre led a gunner to me, with his arm bleeding so heavily from an arrow wound that I was afraid I would be unable to stanch the flow. “This is my page, of whom I told you,” Pierre said gravely to the man. “He has some knowledge of healing. Gabrielle, look you at this man’s wound; the dauphin’s surgeon is somewhere else, it seems.”

I wished fervently that the dauphin’s surgeon were there with me, though I was glad to hear he had arrived!

When I examined the man’s arm more closely, I rejoiced to see that the arrow had only grazed it; the blood must have looked more than it was, spread by the rain. I dressed the wound easily with pig’s grease mixed with dried yarrow from my purse.

I went then to where Pierre was huddled near the carts with Jeanne’s page, Louis de Coutes, who was so anxious to please he was like a puppy. He was younger than I, and seemed amazed at the people and activity around him, as indeed was I. I tried to disguise it, but de Coutes’s eyes bulged out of his head at every new thing, and he was always saying “Mon Dieu, mon bon Dieu!—My God, my good God!” We were standing there, exclaiming about the elegant armor a nobleman we did not know was trying to protect from the rain, and complaining, too, of the cold and the wet, when up rode Jean d’Aulon. As Jeanne’s squire, he was in charge of managing her household, which now included me, as Pierre’s page. D’Aulon was a good soldier, Pierre said, more honest than most men. Though he looked at me with his round brown eyes in a way that made me suspect he knew who I was, he seemed to respect my need for disguise, and if he guessed my secret, he kept it to himself.

“The Maid enters the city this very night,” d’Aulon announced to Pierre—and so we did also, near midnight, while Father Pasquerel and all but around two hundred of the men returned to Blois for the remaining supplies—but Louis was among those who stayed. The rain worsened and thunder sounded as I mounted Yarrow, who seemed glad to march again. I rode at Pierre’s side with the others across the river and thence to the Burgundy Gate, which, as I said, was little protected by the enemy. “What a fine group we are,” Pierre whispered as we went through. “Jeannette, you, me, and Jean—four peasants from Domremy, going into one of the great gates of Orléans, in procession as if we were royal—for look behind us, Gabrielle!”

I looked and it was true. There was the elegant nobleman, his armor unprotected now despite the rain, and all those who rode closest to us seemed noble. But the townspeople who greeted us were mostly plain folk, and I felt better, seeing them.

Jeanne herself rode right in front of us, with her lion Dunois on her left side, she on a white horse and he on a brown. Her standard was on her right, borne by, I think, d’Aulon. A shout rose as we entered the gate, drowning out the thunder, and the light from the torches the townspeople bore was almost as bright as the lightning that preceded the thunder. Men, women, even small children surged forward, impeding our progress; someone had to walk before our procession, waving a sword to clear the way. There was singing and laughter and shouting and gaiety, as if Jeanne were indeed come from Heaven, or we all were.

Yarrow stepped forward daintily and held her head as high as a noblewoman’s palfrey, and Pierre winked at me. I knew he was again thinking “four peasants from Domremy.” I was proud to be one of them, but I was angry to see Jeannette’s brother Jean bowing in his saddle and waving, as if the crowd had come to see him instead of his sister.

Suddenly there was a cry ahead and a flaring of torchlight. Yellow flames flickered near Jeanne’s beautiful white standard and along one edge of her pennon, from, someone said, a torch waving too close. I saw Jeanne put the spurs to her horse and turn him toward the pennon. A moment later the fire was out, extinguished by her, I was told, before it could damage the cloth. Some folk spoke of a miracle, but though I could not see how she did it, it seemed to me that the cloth must have been too wet to burn easily.

At last we came to the cathedral of Sainte-Croix, which had two square towers rising above its entrance, and Jeanne dismounted and went inside to give thanks. We made our horses stand waiting for her; they were more patient than we, there in the streaming rain.

When she returned, we went on, borne ahead by the crowd, who flowed with us as if we were the Loire itself. At length we stopped in a street called the rue du Tabour, where lodgings had been prepared for Jeanne and all her household at the home of the treasurer of Orléans, one Jacques Boucher. The house was tall, five stories, with a peaked roof protected by an arch like that in a church, and cross-timbered with many stout beams. The Boucher family burst into the street to greet us, with smiles as welcoming as sunlight, and Monsieur Boucher himself helped Jeanne from her horse with great respect. We were soon indoors out of the rain, apologizing for the puddles our sodden garments made on the rush-strewn floor, and I was trying not to worry about how long it would be before I would see Louis again, for of course he lodged elsewhere, with the men.

Jeanne was to sleep on the second story, with Madame Boucher or with her daughter, and d’Aulon would sleep nearby. I, being as they thought a very young page, was to stay with their littlest children, two small boys. I was relieved and I could see that Pierre was, too, for had I to lodge with the men, my disguise might not have held.

The children slept at the very top of the house, from which they could see across nearly all the red-tiled rooftops of Orléans. It was from there, while I tried to wring out my wet clothes without removing them, that I got my first sight of the badly damaged twin towers called Les Tourelles, which were in English hands. Before the siege, Les Tourelles, which stood on the Loire’s south bank, had been connected to Orléans by a long stone bridge with many arches. But the arches nearest Les Tourelles had been broken, so the Orléanais could not cross the bridge and take Les Tourelles back from that direction. Neither, though, could the English cross there into Orléans.

On the other side of Les Tourelles, I was told, was a mounded earthwork and a wooden drawbridge leading to a ruined church called the Augustins. The English held those firmly, so the Orléanais could not storm Les Tourelles from that direction either.

The older of the Bouchers’ little boys, Charles, who was wide awake despite the hour, pointed all this out to me from the window of the room where I was to sleep. He showed me the fort the English had built around the ruined church, saying, “We Orléanais tore the church down to keep it from the English. There was a great battle there last year, when I was very small. But I saw the smoke, and watched from here, and I didn’t cry at the cannons, though they were very loud, and Jacquemin did cry.” Jacquemin was his younger brother.

“The English have set up another fort in the river,” young Charles went on importantly, “called Saint-Antoine, there under the bridge, in the middle, and there are more enemy forts all around, so you see why we cannot move out of our city, we French. Were you and I on the other side of our house, we could see still more forts, four to the west—more, if you count the river forts.”

I began to see why we had gone around Orléans to the south and east in order to enter, and I thought this lad very bright for a child no older than my sister Cécile.

“The English have a huge cannon,” Charles told me, moving away from the window and sitting on a carved chest that stood beneath it, “which we cannot see from here. It is at Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, on the other side of the river. It can hurl stones far out into the river, big stones. But some of ours are bigger, more than twice theirs. It is true that their big cannon has broken many houses, but it has killed only one person, a woman.”

“Is that so?” I said, sitting beside him, for I suddenly felt overcome by tiredness. Still, now that I was somewhat drier, I wanted to go below to the celebration I knew had been hastily planned to welcome Jeanne.

“Yes,” he said, “but my father says we have not had a victory since last year. Do you know what that was?” He seized me by the hand and smiled so disarmingly that I could not resist him.

“No,” I said wearily. “What was that?”

“It was when the English Earl of Salisbury, who was in Les Tourelles, was looking out. They say a boy—a boy like me, you understand, not very much older—shot off a cannon. His father was a gunner, so he knew how. And the ball hit the window where the earl was, and an iron piece came off the window and took away half his face. And then he died, but not right away. That,” Charles said, “was our last victory. So you see how badly we need another, and we will have it now that the Maid has come.”

“But not,” I said as gently as I could, “if those who follow her are allowed to starve. They say a feast has been prepared for us, and your mother says, I think, that you are to be asleep by now, is it not so?”

“It is so,” he admitted sadly, glancing toward Jacquemin, who was breathing deeply and regularly, his eyes closed. “But will you tell me about the feast if I am awake when you return?”

“I will,” I promised, “but now you must let me go.”

It was indeed a feast, a feast to a soldier anyway, and one that I wished Louis could share, even though Madame Boucher called it poor because of the siege.

There was a long table in the room called the hall, and a shorter one, for servants, coming down from it, so that the whole looked like the letter T, which I now know but did not then. Rushes were strewn on the floor, as they were throughout the house, and two small thin dogs darted in and out, hungry for scraps.

Someone had contrived to roast a pig and to make a thick savory sauce, and had cooked pike and carp and other river fish, and had made a jelly of some other meat. There was soft bread, and wine to drink, and a pudding made of spiced grain and milk. Jeanne ate lightly, only soaking a few bits of toasted bread in wine and water, and I ate only two or three morsels of the roast pig—well, perhaps a little more—and some sweet spiced pudding with my bread. There were pewter spoons for eating soft food like the pudding, and the pig was handed around with a pronged tool I had never seen, nor had most of the others there. It was called a fork, and seemed more useful than a knife for such a purpose, for it held what it speared much more securely.

Musicians played while we ate, and afterwards a jongleur recited Le Roman de Renart—The Romance of the Fox. That was the first I had heard of the adventures of this clever animal, who seemed much like some people.

When I returned to my room near dawn, young Charles was sleeping as soundly as his brother, so I was spared having to recite the evening’s pleasures. I soon fell soundly asleep myself, grateful to be indoors out of the rain, which still pelted down but now lulled me pleasantly, beating against the roof.

For the next few days, little happened. We awaited the return of the army and the remaining supplies from Blois, and I found myself surprised at how often my thoughts turned to Louis, who was busy with the men preparing for the battle that was to come. Pierre said that the captains and Jeanne did not agree about what course to follow, and that most of them thought she could not know how to wage war. This, as I could understand, much vexed Jeanne. But whenever she went out into the city, the people swarmed around her, and there were always crowds outside the house, for it seemed everyone wanted to see her or touch her or speak to her. It annoyed her, I know, and she told me once she longed for Domremy. I was surprised that I did not, for despite my feeling against cities, I found I liked the friendliness of Orléans.

As a mere page, I could go where I pleased once I had threaded my way through the throngs around the house. I left Yarrow in a stable with Pierre’s horse, and young Charles accompanied me as I walked. He showed me the churches, and the quarter where meat was sold when there was meat; when we passed it, the butchers were happily cleaning their empty stalls, expecting, they told us, that they would soon be able to fill them. It was the same in other streets, with other merchants. Peasants outside the city had not been able to bring their goods through any but the Burgundy Gate, and since most had to pass by English forts to get there, they had not dared to come—though fish sellers, Charles said, had sometimes been able to fish secretly in the Loire, and thus have goods to sell.

Charles pointed out the public steam baths, two for men and one for women, and I marveled at them, for I had never heard of such. He showed me the great Châtelet, too, from which the city was governed. But best of all were the hospitals, now that I had learned what such places were. There were some for special diseases, like leprosy and plague, though those were outside the walls for fear of contagion. Within the walls, along with almshouses for the poor and homeless, was the Aumône-de-Sainte-Croix, for poor people who were ill. I vowed to visit there, if I could find out how.

On the day after we arrived, Jeanne spent the morning with a scribe on the rue des Ecrivains, dictating a letter to the English. I was there when she did so, and in it she told the English that since she was going to drive them out anyway, they should surrender. She also told them to free her herald Guyenne, whom they had kept when she had sent a letter to them by him from Blois. The other herald, Ambleville, whom she sent with this new letter, returned to the Bouchers’ house later that day without Guyenne, so distraught he could hardly speak. “They—they will burn him,” he said finally, trembling despite Jeanne’s hand firmly on his shoulder. “They have set up a stake in their camp ready to tie him to, and piled faggots under it to light. Burn him—and he has done no wrong!” He collapsed in Jeanne’s arms then, weeping.

Little Charles Boucher and Jeanne’s young page Louis de Coutes, who were nearby, turned to me, clearly frightened. “See,” I whispered to them, frightened myself, “war is not an easy thing, nor is it a game.” My own voice shook with the words, whose truth I was only just beginning to discover.

“They said they would burn you, too, madame,” Ambleville told Jeanne, his voice muffled against her shoulder.

Jeanne gave a short hard laugh at this and said, “In God’s name, lad, they will not hurt your friend, or you, or me either. Return to them and tell Talbot that if he arms himself, I will arm myself also. Let him come before the city, and if he takes me, let him burn me, and if I discomfit him, then let the English raise the siege and go back to their own country.”

By Talbot, she meant the powerful baron who commanded all the English at Orléans.

Poor Ambleville left, murmuring prayers, and I thought Jeanne cruel to make him go. But Pierre said it was a herald’s lot to carry messages, and that since killing a messenger was against all rules of war, the English threat was no doubt an idle one. For safety’s sake, though, Dunois—the Lion—imprisoned two English heralds and said he would kill them if harm came to Guyenne or Ambleville.

And so we waited, but Talbot sent no message back.

That evening, Jeanne, with Louis de Coutes, and Pierre, with me as his page, and a few others rode through the gate and onto the broken-arched bridge, going as far as we dared toward Les Tourelles. “In the name of God,” Jeanne cried to the English there, “surrender or forfeit your lives!”

There were shouted words and laughter from inside Les Tourelles, and Jeanne turned to one among us who knew English, asking, “What do they say?”

The man looked uncomfortable and replied only, “They refuse.” But when she pressed him further, he said, “They ask if you think they will surrender to a woman,” at which Jeanne stamped her foot and said, “It is to God and the dauphin that they must surrender.”

“They call us your pimps, madame,” the man continued, his face reddening as the English shouts continued, “and—forgive me—they call you whore and peasant, a mere girl who herds cows.”

I saw Jeanne’s lips tighten and her eyes fill with tears; my own face felt hot with shame and anger. There was more shouting from a single loud voice, which our translator said belonged to Sir William Glasdale, the captain in charge of the English force at Les Tourelles, under Talbot. “And he says what, this Glasdale?” Jeanne asked.

Our translator looked as if he wished the Loire to flood suddenly and sweep him away, but when Jeanne demanded impatiently, “Well?” he replied, “He says he will see you burned, and he calls you witch.”

For a moment Jeanne was silent, but I could feel her fury, although for a few seconds she seemed to listen to something none of us could hear. “You are a liar, Glasdale,” she shouted at last, “and you will die without having a chance to confess and be forgiven for your sins.” Then she turned her horse abruptly and rode straight for the cathedral, where she flung herself off her horse and bolted inside.

This time I followed her into the silent church, nearly empty now of daytime crowds. I gave her a few moments alone, then went to where she was kneeling, and touched her shoulder.

“Leave me,” she said, her voice muffled, “in God’s name.”

“It is only I,” I told her. “Gabrielle.”

She gave a great sob then, and turned, burying her face against me, and wept.

For a while we stayed there without speaking, and I comforted her as best I could. But finally she lifted her head and said, “I was weak just now, Gabrielle, but I cannot let myself be weak again, for I must do this thing.”

“Why?” I asked softly. “Why must you do it?”

“Because I have begun it,” she replied, “and because it is God’s will.”

“Can you be sure of that, Jeannette?” I asked, deliberately using her old name.

“Yes. Oh, yes. I have no doubt.” She looked at me oddly, then touched my lips gently with her finger. “Can you keep a secret?”

I nodded.

“Do you remember that long-ago day when you and Pierre came upon me in the garden, and you heard me speaking?”

“I do.”

“I told you I addressed no one, but that was untrue. I spoke to the blessed Saint Michael, who came to me when the bells rang and told me to be a good girl. He came again many times after that, as did Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, and they all told me I must remain pure and a virgin and serve God. It was they who told me I must raise the siege of Orléans and have the dauphin crowned at Reims.”

I had suspected that was the way of it, of course, or something like it, but I crossed myself to hear it confirmed.

“Everything has gone as they told me it would, which is why I am impatient, for I know it will continue as they say, and they say the siege will be lifted.” She stood up and took my hand. “If the foolish English would only surrender, then we would not need to fight, and I fear that if we do fight, many men will be killed and wounded. But you will help them, will you not, those who are hurt? That is God’s work, too, surely.”

“If I can, Jeannette,” I said, “I will help them.”

“And you will speak nothing of this, of what I have said to you here.”

“I swear that I will not.”

She stooped quickly and kissed me, then strode, warlike again, back outside, and mounted. I followed, and we mentioned it no more.

The Lion, Dunois, and Jeanne’s fatherly squire, d’Aulon, left the next day to meet the returning army, and Jeanne rode with Pierre around the English camps, trying again to get them to surrender. But they replied as harshly as before, and as crudely. I did not go with them, for Louis was free of his tasks at last, and I was eager to show him the parts of the city Charles had shown me, and to hear his voice and talk with him again. I longed to tell him of my conversation with Jeanne in the church, but of course I did not. And I found myself wondering at the strength of my joy at seeing him. I had never felt that way about Pierre—but of course Pierre was like a brother to me, and Louis was a friend. Still, that did not seem enough to explain the smile I felt creeping across my face when I saw him or thought of him, or the lightness in my head.

We spent as much time together as we could, Louis and I, but not as much as I would have liked, for we feared gossip, especially since I was still dressed as a page. Then one day he reached for my hand, bent his head to mine, and brushed my lips with his own. I felt a stirring inside that I had never felt before, and I wanted to cling to him and never let him go.


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