It is May 1, and Dunois is off to help bring in the army, which is making its way back from Blois. He likely is relieved to have a good excuse to leave Orleans. Joan is not easy to manage, and to sit and wait with her may press hard even Dunois’ well-honed political acumen. “They need me dear Maid! I shall see you in a few days!” he might have yelled to her over his shoulder as he ran for his horse and rode into the distance with a sigh of relief.
But he will be back. And things are likely to heat up when he does. The English are not budging. Worse yet, they do not take Joan seriously and merely mock the French. In God’s name we should leave? What did she say? Did we not crush the French at Agincourt almost 14 years ago? Have we not now pressed them to the brink at Orleans? On whose side is God anyway?
We have different points of view. Minds are not meeting. The inevitable is less than a week away.
But let us take today, a day in the eye of the hurricane, and reflect on a most intriguing question. That question would be: Just why were the English being so passive during these days? We witnessed only yesterday that they preferred merely to trade verbal insults with Joan rather than to come after her as she stood defenselessly just within earshot. They sounded quite brave as they stood behind their rampart walls, hiding from a seventeen-year-old lady.
Could it be that the English were just a little bit afraid of this child? More curious still, in just a few days time and with the return of Dunois, we will witness a strange sense of dullness by the English. You will be shocked to discover that the English merely sat silently as the French men at arms made their way past their positions. Could a powerful and well-trained army, such as was that of the English, simply let enemy reinforcements walk by?
What is up with the English?
Vita Sackville-West, a non-Christian believing, non-religiously oriented biographer of Joan’s calls this English passivity during the early days of May simply inexplicable. Though Ms. West buys none of the Catholic Christian explanations for Joan of Arc’s wonder-workings, she nevertheless is so mystified by Joan that she ultimately admits that there had to have been something supernatural about her. Ms. West is intellectually honest on any account. Our non-believing friend shakes her head in wonder. Yes, there is something about this young lady. But as for the English, Ms. West has no such words of admiration:
“Why on earth the English did not attack the Bastard and the Pucelle (Maid) on that occasion passes my comprehension. They might have caught them both, and what a prize that would have been! Still further does it pass my comprehension to understand why they refrained from delivering a decisive assault on Orleans during the three succeeding days (May 1-3)… What an opportunity was theirs had they only chosen to take it!” (Saint Joan of Arc, p.176)
Well, rather than give Ms. West my own biased opinion (which has to do with believing as opposed to not believing!), I shall let those closest to the situation explain this mystery.
At Joan’s trial of rehabilitation some quarter of a century later, our man Dunois would reveal the following:
“She wanted to cite the English besiegers of the city before trying to raise the siege or attacking them; which she did. She cited the English in a letter written in her mother tongue, in very simple language. The substance of this letter was that they, these English, must agree to give up the siege and return to the kingdom of England, or else she would attack them so strongly that they would be forced to retire. This letter was sent to my lord Talbot, and I swear that the English, two hundred of whom had previously been sufficient to rout eight hundred or a thousand of the royal army, from that moment became so powerless that four or five hundred soldiers and men at arms could fight against what seemed to be the whole force of England. And sometimes they so mastered the besieging English that they dared not leave their strongholds and bastilles.” (Pernoud, The Retrial of Joan of Arc, p.138)
Joan’s personal page, Louis de Coutes would give this remarkable testimony at that same trial concerning the battle for Les Tourelles, which we will witness in a few days:
“The King’s men got ready to attack again; and when the English saw this they put up no defense. They were terrified, and practically all of them were drowned. In that last attack, there was no defense put up by the English side.” (Ibid, p. 178)
Aha. These tough talking Englishmen were more afraid of this seventeen-year-old than they let on. Some, including Thomas Marie, a Benedictine monk who was a witness from the original condemnatory trial in Rouen, attributed it to English superstition.
“How do you know that the English are superstitious?”
“Everybody knows it. Why, it is quite proverbial.” (Ibid, p. 199)
Well, whatever it was, it was a mysterious sense of power that clamped down the arms and legs of the besiegers. At her trial of condemnation in Rouen, the English would accuse Joan of sorcery and of casting spells against the English army. Well done, monk Marie, I think you got it. Wait, though, until you hear what the citizens of Orleans have to say about Joan. They beg to differ! Oh yes, to the citizens of Orleans, she was already, in their eyes, Saint Joan!
We wait patiently for Dunois’ return and pray that the English will not misbehave… but one fears the worst in this matter.