T HE town of Orleans was in a desperate state, for it was surrounded by the English, and could not even get provisions. The people were near starvation. When the army of the Soldier-Maid arrived, she herself brought food to the people who lived there.
As Joan advanced on her white steed, the people gathered around with torches to catch a glimpse of her. They felt comforted that she had arrived at last, for they were certain that she could help them.
A few days later Joan heard a tumult in the street; an attack had been made. Hastily she buckled on her armor, springing on her horse, she snatched up her banner and rode into the midst of the battle.
It was the Maid's first real fight. Hurriedly the troops gathered around the girlish figure, and the battle was begun. For three long hours the fight waxed strong, with the seventeen-year-old girl at the front, urging on her brave men. At last the fort of the English enemy was set afire and left a smoking mass of charred ruins. Joan was victorious, and was hailed and cheered by everyone.
Her next great battle was the attack upon the English fortification at Les Tourelles. It was a dangerous spot and the English had to be repulsed and defeated here.
"Whoever loves me, let him follow me," cried Joan, and all the soldiers advanced, their eyes fixed upon the white banner of the Pucelle. Ladders were set in place, and Joan was the first to climb up one of them. As she neared the top, she was struck by an arrow which pierced her shoulder.
Joan was carried from the field and oil was put on her wound to ease the pain. She was very frightened, but her Voices were heard speaking words of comfort to her. She said a little prayer and then returned to the field of battle where her men fought disheartened, for the English were pushing forward with cries of triumph. Joan was filled with renewed energy and she reappeared among her soldiers and again mounted the ladder. The French cheered, and Joan cried out to them, "Friends, do not hesitate, the victory is yours." Their hopes were kindled anew and with glad hearts they followed their brave-spirited leader.
When the English again saw the radiant young girl in the same spot where a few hours before they had seen her fall, covered with blood, they became frightened and their eyes grew haggard, for they had learned to fear the slim Maid dressed in steel.
Evening was drawing near, but Joan would not put off the battle. "Follow my banner," she cried to her men. Then she gave it to a young soldier and bade him carry the banner to the topmost wall of the tower.
"Follow my banner until it touches the wall," she cried again. The soldiers followed, and soon one of them shouted, "Joan! The flag touches."
"Then enter, my brave men, the way is yours," she cried, and immediately rushed upon the fortress, followed by a great band of soldiers.
Scarcely could the English, beaten and terrified, defend themselves. They were forced to flee. So it was that on Friday, May 7, 1429, the fortress of Les Tourelles fell, and with it all the English hope of victory.
The bells of Orleans pealed out joyously that night, sounding over the dark waters of the Loire river. Within a week's time, the little peasant Maid of seventeen had accomplished the great feat which could not be brought about by the wisest warriors of France in seven weary months, and had driven the enemy from the city of Orleans.