Page:Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.djvu/249

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shouting encouragements to her men, started to climb a scaling-ladder, when that misfortune happened which we knew was to happen—the iron bolt from an arbalest struck between her neck and her shoulder, and tore its way down through her armor. When she felt the sharp pain and saw her blood gushing over her breast, she was frightened, poor girl, and as she sank to the ground she began to cry bitterly.

The English sent up a glad shout and came surging down in strong force to take her, and then for a few minutes the might of both adversaries was concentrated upon that spot. Over her and above her, English and French fought with desperation—for she stood for France, indeed she was France to both sides—whichever won her won France, and could keep it forever. Right there in that small spot, and in ten minutes by the clock, the fate of France, for all time, was to be decided, and was decided.

If the English had captured Joan then, Charles VII. would have flown the country, the Treaty of Troyes would have held good, and France, already English property, would have become, without further dispute, an English province, to so remain until Judgment Day. A nationality and a kingdom were at stake there, and no more time to decide it in than it takes to hard-boil an egg. It was the most momentous ten minutes that the clock has ever ticked in France, or ever will. Whenever you read in histories about hours or days or weeks in which the fate of one or another nation hung in the balance, do not you fail to remember, nor your French hearts to beat the quicker for the remembrance, the ten minutes that France, called otherwise Joan of Arc, lay bleeding in the fosse that day, with two nations struggling over her for her possession.

And you will not forget the Dwarf. For he stood over her, and did the work of any six of the others. He swung his axe with both hands; whenever it came down, he said those two words, "For France!" and a splintered helmet flew like eggshells, and the skull that carried it had learned its manners and would offend the French no more. He piled