Her enthusiasm drove the hesitating generals to engage the handful of besiegers, and the enormous disproportion of forces at once made itself felt. Fort after fort was taken, till only the strongest remained, and then the council of war resolved to adjourn the attack. "You have taken your counsel," replied Jeanne, "and I take mine." Placing herself at the head of the men-at-arms, she ordered the gates to be thrown open, and led them against the fort. Few as they were, the English fought desperately, and the Maid, who had fallen wounded while endeavouring to scale its walls, was borne into a vineyard, while Dunois sounded the retreat. "Wait a while!" the girl imperiously pleaded, "eat and drink! so soon as my standard touches the wall you shall enter the fort." It touched, and the assailants burst in. On the next day the siege was abandoned, and the force which had conducted it withdrew in good order to the north. In the midst of her triumph Jeanne still remained the pure, tender-hearted peasant girl of the Vosges. Her first visit as she entered Orleans was to the great church, and there, as she knelt at mass, she wept in such a passion of devotion that "all the people wept with her." Her tears burst forth afresh at her first sight of bloodshed and of the corpses strewn over the battle-field. She grew frightened at her first wound, and only threw off the touch of womanly fear when she heard the signal for retreat.
Yet more womanly was the purity with which she passed through the brutal warriors of a mediaeval camp. It was her care for her honour that had led her to clothe herself in a soldier's dress. She wept hot tears when told of the foul taunts of the English, and called passionately on God to witness her chastity. "Yield thee, yield thee, Glasdale," she cried to the English warrior whose insults had been foulest, as he fell wounded at her feet, "you called me harlot! I have great pity on your soul." But all thought of herself was lost in the thought of her mission. It was in vain that the French generals strove to remain on the Loire. Jeanne was resolute to complete her task, and while the English remained panic-stricken around Paris the army followed her from Gien through Troyes, growing in number as it advanced, till it reached the gates of Rheims. With the coronation of Charles, the Maid felt her errand to be over. "O gentle King, the pleasure of God is done," she cried, as she flung herself at the feet of Charles the Seventh and asked leave to go home. "Would it were His pleasure," she pleaded with the Archbishop as he forced her to remain, "that I might go and keep sheep once more with my sisters and my brothers: they would be so glad to see me again!"
The policy of the French Court detained her while the cities of the north of France opened their gates to the newly-consecrated King. Bedford, however, who had been left without money or men, had now received reinforcements, and Charles, after a repulse before the walls of Paris, fell back behind the Loire; while the towns on the Oise submitted again to the Duke of Burgundy. In this later struggle Jeanne fought with her usual bravery, but with the fatal consciousness that her mission was at an end, and during the defence of Compiégne she fell into the power of the Bastard of Vendôme, to be sold by her captor into the hands of the Duke of Burgundy and by the Duke into the hands of the English. To the English her triumphs were victories of sorcery, and after a year's imprisonment she was brought to trial on a charge of heresy before an ecclesiastical court with the Bishop of Beauvais at its head. Throughout the long process which followed every art was employed to entangle her in her talk. But the simple shrewdness of the peasant girl foiled the efforts of her judges. "Do you believe," they asked, "that you are in a state of grace? " " If I am not," she replied, " God will put me in it.
If I am, God will keep me in it." Her capture, they argued, showed that God had forsaken her. " Since it has pleased God that I should be taken," she answered meekly, "it is for the best." "Will you submit," they demanded at last, "to the judgement of the Church Militant?" "I have come to the King of France," Jeanne replied, " by commission from God and from the Church Triumphant above: to that Church I submit." " I had far rather die," she ended, passionately, " than renounce what I have done by my Lord's command." They deprived her of mass. " Our Lord can make me hear it without your aid," she said, weeping. " Do your voices," asked the judges, " forbid you to submit to the Church and the Pope?" " Ah, no! Our Lord first served." Sick, and deprived of all religious aid, it was no wonder that as the long trial dragged on and question followed question Jeanne's firmness wavered. On the charge of sorcery and diabolical possession she still appealed firmly to God. " I hold to my Judge," she said, as her earthly judges gave sentence against her, "to the King of Heaven and Earth. God has always been my Lord in all that I have done.
The devil has never had power over me." It was only with a view to be delivered from the military prison and transferred to the prisons of the Church that she consented to a formal abjuration of heresy. She feared in fact among the English soldiery those outrages to her honour, to guard against which she had from the first assumed the dress of a man. In the eyes of the Church her dress was a crime and she abandoned it; but a renewed insult forced her to resume the one safeguard left her, and the return to it was treated as a relapse into heresy which doomed her to death. A great pile was raised in the market-place of Rouen where her statue stands now. Even the brutal soldiers who snatched the hated " witch " from the hands of the clergy and hurried her to her doom were hushed as she reached the stake. One indeed passed to her a rough cross he had made from a stick he held, and she clasped it to her bosom. " Oh! Rouen, Rouen," she was heard to murmur, as her eyes ranged over the city from the lofty scaffold, " I have great fear lest you suffer for my death." " Yes! my voices were of God!" she suddenly cried as the last moment came; " they have never deceived me! " Soon the flames reached her, the girl's head sank on her breast, there was one cry of " Jesus! " - " We are lost," an English soldier muttered as the crowd broke up, " we have burned a Saint".