Part 4 out of 5
We mingled companionably with the great folk who flocked to the
big house to make Joan's acquaintance, and they made much of us
and we lived in the clouds, so to speak. But what we preferred
even to this happiness was the quieter occasions, when the formal
guests were gone and the family and a few dozen of its familiar
friends were gathered together for a social good time. It was then
that we did our best, we five youngsters, with such fascinations as
we had, and the chief object of them was Catherine. None of us
had ever been in love been in love before, and now we had the
misfortune to all fall in love with the same person at the same
time--which was the first moment we saw her. She was a merry
heart, and full of life, and I still remember tenderly those few
evenings that I was permitted to have my share of her dear society
and of comradeship with that little company of charming people.
The Paladin made us all jealous the first night, for when he got
fairly started on those battles of his he had everything to himself,
and there was no use in anybody else's trying to get any attention.
Those people had been living in the midst of real war for seven
months; and to hear this windy giant lay out his imaginary
campaigns and fairly swim in blood and spatter it all around,
entertained them to the verge of the grave. Catherine was like to
die, for pure enjoyment. She didn't laugh loud--we, of course,
wished she would--but kept in the shelter of a fan, and shook until
there was danger that she would unhitch her ribs from her spine.
Then when the Paladin had got done with a battle and we began to
feel thankful and hope for a change, she would speak up in a way
that was so sweet and persuasive that it rankled in me, and ask him
about some detail or other in the early part of his battle which she
said had greatly interested her, and would he be so good as to
describe that part again and with a little more particularity?--which
of course precipitated the whole battle on us, again, with a hundred
lies added that had been overlooked before.
I do not know how to make you realize the pain I suffered. I had
never been jealous before, and it seemed intolerable that this
creature should have this good fortune which he was so ill entitled
to, and I have to sit and see myself neglected when I was so
longing for the least little attention out of the thousand that this
beloved girl was lavishing on him. I was near her, and tried two or
three times to get started on some of the things that I had done in
those battles--and I felt ashamed of myself, too, for stooping to
such a business--but she cared for nothing but his battles, and
could not be got to listen; and presently when one of my attempts
caused her to lose some precious rag or other of his mendacities
and she asked him to repeat, thus bringing on a new engagement,
of course, and increasing the havoc and carnage tenfold, I felt so
humiliated by this pitiful miscarriage of mine that I gave up and
tried no more.
The others were as outraged by the Paladin's selfish conduct as I
was--and by his grand luck, too, of course--perhaps, indeed, that
was the main hurt. We talked our trouble over together, which was
natural, for rivals become brothers when a common affliction
assails them and a common enemy bears off the victory.
Each of us could do things that would please and get notice if it
were not for this person, who occupied all the time and gave others
no chance. I had made a poem, taking a whole night to it--a poem
in which I most happily and delicately celebrated that sweet girl's
charms, without mentioning her name, but any one could see who
was meant; for the bare title--"The Rose of Orleans"--would reveal
that, as it seemed to me. It pictured this pure and dainty white rose
as growing up out of the rude soil of war and looking abroad out of
its tender eyes upon the horrid machinery of death, and then--note
this conceit--it blushes for the sinful nature of man, and turns red
in a single night. Becomes a red rose, you see--a rose that was
white before. The idea was my own, and quite new. Then it sent its
sweet perfume out over the embattled city, and when the
beleaguering forces smelt it they laid down their arms and wept.
This was also my own idea, and new. That closed that part of the
poem; then I put her into the similitude of the firmament--not the
whole of it, but only part. That is to say, she was the moon, and all
the constellations were following her about, their hearts in flames
for love of her, but she would not halt, she would not listen, for
'twas thought she loved another. 'Twas thought she loved a poor
unworthy suppliant who was upon the earth, facing danger, death,
and possible mutilation in the bloody field, waging relentless war
against a heartless foe to save her from an all too early grave, and
her city from destruction. And when the sad pursuing
constellations came to know and realize the bitter sorrow that was
come upon them--note this idea--their hearts broke and their tears
gushed forth, filling the vault of heaven with a fiery splendor, for
those tears were falling stars. It was a rash idea, but beautiful;
beautiful and pathetic; wonderfully pathetic, the way I had it, with
the rhyme and all to help. At the end of each verse there was a
two-line refrain pitying the poor earthly lover separated so far, and
perhaps forever, from her he loved so well, and growing always
paler and weaker and thinner in his agony as he neared the cruel
grave--the most touching thing--even the boys themselves could
hardly keep back their tears, the way No�l said those lines. There
were eight four-line stanzas in the first end of the poem--the end
about the rose, the horticultural end, as you may say, if that is not
too large a name for such a little poem--and eight in the
astronomical end--sixteen stanzas altogether, and I could have
made it a hundred and fifty if I had wanted to, I was so inspired
and so all swelled up with beautiful thoughts and fancies; but that
would have been too many to sing or recite before a company that
way, whereas sixteen was just right, and could be done over again
The boys were amazed that I could make such a poem as that out
of my own head, and so was I, of course, it being as much a
surprise to me as it could be to anybody, for I did not know that it
was in me. If any had asked me a single day before if it was in me,
I should have told them frankly no, it was not.
That is the way with us; we may go on half of our life not knowing
such a thing is in us, when in reality it was there all the time, and
all we needed was something to turn up that would call for it.
Indeed, it was always so without family. My grandfather had a
cancer, and they never knew what was the matter with him till he
died, and he didn't know himself. It is wonderful how gifts and
diseases can be concealed in that way. All that was necessary in
my case was for this lovely and inspiring girl to cross my path, and
out came the poem, and no more trouble to me to word it and
rhyme it and perfect it than it is to stone a dog. No, I should have
said it was not in me; but it was.
The boys couldn't say enough about it, they were so charmed and
astonished. The thing that pleased them the most was the way it
would do the Paladin's business for him. They forgot everything in
their anxiety to get him shelved and silenced. No�l Rainguesson
was clear beside himself with admiration of the poem, and wished
he could do such a thing, but it was out of his line, and he couldn't,
of course. He had it by heart in half an hour, and there was never
anything so pathetic and beautiful as the way he recited it. For that
was just his gift--that and mimicry. He could recite anything better
than anybody in the world, and he could take of La Hire to the very
life--or anybody else, for that matter. Now I never could recite
worth a farthing; and when I tried with this poem the boys
wouldn't let me finish; they would nave nobody but No�l. So then,
as I wanted the poem to make the best possible impression on
Catherine and the company, I told No�l he might do the reciting.
Never was anybody so delighted. He could hardly believe that I
was in earnest, but I was. I said that to have them know that I was
the author of it would be enough for me. The boys were full of
exultation, and No�l said if he could just get one chance at those
people it would be all he would ask; he would make them realize
that there was something higher and finer than war-lies to be had
But how to get the opportunity--that was the difficulty. We
invented several schemes that promised fairly, and at last we hit
upon one that was sure. That was, to let the Paladin get a good
start in a manufactured battle, and then send in a false call for him,
and as soon as he was out of the room, have No�l take his place
and finish the battle himself in the Paladin's own style, imitated to
a shade. That would get great applause, and win the house's favor
and put it in the right mood to hear the poem. The two triumphs
together with finish the Standard-Bearer--modify him, anyway, to
a certainty, and give the rest of us a chance for the future.
So the next night I kept out of the way until the Paladin had got his
start and was sweeping down upon the enemy like a whirlwind at
the head of his corps, then I stepped within the door in my official
uniform and announced that a messenger from General La Hire's
quarters desired speech with the Standard-Bearer. He left the
room, and No�l took his place and said that the interruption was to
be deplored, but that fortunately he was personally acquainted with
the details of the battle himself, and if permitted would be glad to
state them to the company. Then without waiting for the
permission he turned himself to the Paladin--a dwarfed Paladin, of
course--with manner, tones, gestures, attitudes, everything exact,
and went right on with the battle, and it would be impossible to
imagine a more perfectly and minutely ridiculous imitation than he
furnished to those shrieking people. They went into spasms,
convulsions, frenzies of laughter, and the tears flowed down their
cheeks in rivulets. The more they laughed, the more inspires No�l
grew with his theme and the greater marvels he worked, till really
the laughter was not properly laughing any more, but screaming.
Blessedest feature of all, Catherine Boucher was dying with
ecstasies, and presently there was little left of her but gasps and
suffocations. Victory? It was a perfect Agincourt.
The Paladin was gone only a couple of minutes; he found out at
once that a trick had been played on him, so he came back. When
he approached the door he heard No�l ranting in there and
recognized the state of the case; so he remained near the door but
out of sight, and heard the performance through to the end. The
applause No�l got when he finished was wonderful; and they kept
it up and kept it up, clapping their hands like mad, and shouting to
him to do it over again.
But No�l was clever. He knew the very best background for a
poem of deep and refined sentiment and pathetic melancholy was
one where great and satisfying merriment had prepared the spirit
for the powerful contrast.
So he paused until all was quiet, then his face grew grave and
assumed an impressive aspect, and at once all faces sobered in
sympathy and took on a look of wondering and expectant interest.
Now he began in a low but distinct voice the opening verses of
The Rose. As he breathed the rhythmic measures forth, and one
gracious line after another fell upon those enchanted ears in that
deep hush, one could catch, on every hand, half-audible
ejaculations of "How lovely--how beautiful--how exquisite!"
By this time the Paladin, who had gone away for a moment with
the opening of the poem, was back again, and had stepped within
the door. He stood there now, resting his great frame against the
wall and gazing toward the reciter like one entranced. When No�l
got to the second part, and that heart-breaking refrain began to
melt and move all listeners, the Paladin began to wipe away tears
with the back of first one hand and then the other. The next time
the refrain was repe3ated he got to snuffling, and sort of half
sobbing, and went to wiping his eyes with the sleeves of his
doublet. He was so conspicuous that he embarrassed No�l a little,
and also had an ill effect upon the audience. With the next
repetition he broke quite down and began to cry like a calf, which
ruined all the effect and started many to the audience to laughing.
Then he went on from bad to worse, until I never saw such a
spectacle; for he fetched out a towel from under his doublet and
began to swab his eyes with it and let go the most infernal
bellowings mixed up with sobbings and groanings and retchings
and barkings and coughings and snortings and screamings and
howlings--and he tdwisted himself about on his heels and
squirmed this way and that, still pouring out that brutal clamor and
flourishing his towel in the air and swabbing again and wringing it
out. Hear? You couldn't hear yourself think. No�l was wholly
drowned out and silenced, and those people were laughing the very
lungs out of themselves. It was the most degrading sight that ever
was. Now I heard the clankety-clank that plate-armor makes when
the man that is in it is running, and then alongside my head there
burst out the most inhuman explosion of laughter that ever rent the
drum of a person's ear, and I looked, and it was La Hire; and the
stood there with his gauntlets on his hips and his head tilted back
and his jaws spread to that degree to let out his hurricanes and his
thunders that it amounted to indecent exposure, for you could see
everything that was in him. Only one thing more and worse could
happen, and it happened: at the other door I saw the flurry and
bustle and bowings and scrapings of officials and flunkeys which
means that some great personage is coming--then Joan of Arc
stepped in, and the house rose! Yes, and tried to shut its
indecorous mouth and make itself grave and proper; but when it
saw the Maid herself go to laughing, it thanked God for this mercy
and the earthquake that followed.
Such things make a life of bitterness, and I do not wish to dwell
upon them. The effect of the poem was spoiled.
Chapter 16 The Finding of the Dwarf
THIS EPISODE disagreed with me and I was not able to leave my
bed the next day. The others were in the same condition. But for
this, one or another of us might have had the good luck that fell to
the Paladin's share that day; but it is observable that God in His
compassion sends the good luck to such as are ill equipped with
gifts, as compensation for their defect, but requires such as are
more fortunately endowed to get by labor and talent what those
others get by chance. It was No�l who said this, and it seemed to
me to be well and justly thought.
The Paladin, going about the town all the day in order to be
followed and admired and overhear the people say in an awed
voice, "'Ssh!--look, it is the Standard-Bearer of Joan of Arc!" had
speech with all sorts and conditions of folk, and he learned from
some boatmen that there was a stir of some kind going on in the
bastilles on the other side of the river; and in the evening, seeking
further, he found a deserter from the fortress called the
"Augustins," who said that the English were going to send me over
to strengthen the garrisons on our side during the darkness of the
night, and were exulting greatly, for they meant to spring upon
Dunois and the army when it was passing the bastilles and destroy
it; a thing quite easy to do, since the "Witch" would not be there,
and without her presence the army would do like the French
armies of these many years past--drop their weapons and run when
they saw an English face.
It was ten at night when the Paladin brought this news and asked
leave to speak to Joan, and I was up and on duty then. It was a
bitter stroke to me to see what a chance I had lost. Joan made
searching inquiries, and satisfied herself that the word was true,
then she made this annoying remark:
"You have done well, and you have my thanks. It may be that you
have prevented a disaster. Your name and service shall receive
Then he bowed low, and when he rose he was eleven feet high. As
he swelled out past me he covertly pulled down the corner of his
eye with his finger and muttered part of that defiled refrain, "Oh,
tears, ah, tears, oh, sad sweet tears!--name in General
Orders--personal mention to the King, you see!"
I wished Joan could have seen his conduct, but she was busy
thinking what she would do. Then she had me fetch the knight
Jean de Metz, and in a minute he was off for La Hire's quarters
with orders for him and the Lord de Villars and Florent d'Illiers to
report to her at five o'clock next morning with five hundred picked
men well mounted. The histories say half past four, but it is not
true, I heard the order given.
We were on our way at five to the minute, and encountered the
head of the arriving column between six and seven, a couple of
leagues from the city. Dunois was pleased, for the army had begun
to get restive and show uneasiness now that it was getting so near
to the dreaded bastilles. But that all disappeared now, as the word
ran down the line, with a huzza that swept along the length of it
like a wave, that the Maid was come. Dunois asked her to halt and
let the column pass in review, so that the men could be sure that
the reports of her presence was not a ruse to revive their courage.
So she took position at the side of the road with her staff, and the
battalions swung by with a martial stride, huzzaing. Joan was
armed, except her head. She was wearing the cunning little velvet
cap with the mass of curved white ostrich plumes tumbling over its
edges which the city of Orleans had given her the night she
arrived--the one that is in the picture that hangs in the H�tel de
Ville at Rouen. She was looking about fifteen. The sight of
soldiers always set her blood to leaping, and lit the fires in her eyes
and brought the warm rich color to her cheeks; it was then that you
saw that she was too beautiful to be of the earth, or at any rate that
there was s subtle something somewhere about her beauty that
differed it from the human types of your experience and exalted it
In the train of wains laden with supplies a man lay on top of the
goods. He was stretched out on his back, and his hands were tied
together with ropes, and also his ankles. Joan signed to the officer
in charge of that division of the train to come to her, and he rode
up and saluted.
"What is he that is bound there?" she asked.
"A prisoner, General."
"What is his offense?"
"He is a deserter."
"What is to be done with him?"
"He will be hanged, but it was not convenient on the march, and
there was no hurry."
"Tell me about him."
"He is a good soldier, but he asked leave to go and see his wife
who was dying, he said, but it could not be granted; so he went
without leave. Meanwhile the march began, and he only overtook
us yesterday evening."
"Overtook you? Did he come of his own will?"
"Yes, it was of his own will."
"He a deserter! Name of God! Bring him to me."
The officer rode forward and loosed the man's feet and brought
him back with his hands still tied. What a figure he was--a good
seven feet high, and built for business! He had a strong face; he
had an unkempt shock of black hair which showed up a striking
way when the officer removed his morion for him; for weapon he
had a big ax in his broad leathern belt. Standing by Joan's horse, he
made Joan look littler than ever, for his head was about on a level
with her own. His face was profoundly melancholy; all interest in
life seemed to be dead in the man. Joan said:
"Hold up your hands."
The man's head was down. He lifted it when he heard that soft
friendly voice, and there was a wistful something in his face which
made one think that there had been music in it for him and that he
would like to hear it again. When he raised his hands Joan laid her
sword to his bonds, but the officer said with apprehension:
"Ah, madam--my General!"
"What is it?" she said.
"He is under sentence!"
"Yes, I know. I am responsible for him"; and she cut the bonds.
They had lacerated his wrists, and they were bleeding. "Ah,
pitiful!" she said; "blood--I do not like it"; and she shrank from the
sight. But only for a moment. "Give me something, somebody, to
bandage his wrists with."
The officer said:
"Ah, my General! it is not fitting. Let me bring another to do it."
"Another? De par le Dieu! You would seek far to find one that can
do it better than I, for I learned it long ago among both men and
beasts. And I can tie better than those that did this; if I had tied
him the ropes had not cut his flesh."
The man looked on silent, while he was being bandaged, stealing a
furtive glance at Joan's face occasionally, such as an animal might
that is receiving a kindness form an unexpected quarter and is
gropingly trying to reconcile the act with its source. All the staff
had forgotten the huzzaing army drifting by in its rolling clouds of
dust, to crane their necks and watch the bandaging as if it was the
most interesting and absorbing novelty that ever was. I have often
seen people do like that--get entirely lost in the simplest trifle,
when it is something that is out of their line. Now there in Poitiers,
once, I saw two bishops and a dozen of those grave and famous
scholars grouped together watching a man paint a sign on a shop;
they didn't breathe, they were as good as dead; and when it began
to sprinkle they didn't know it at first; then they noticed it, and
each man hove a deep sigh, and glanced up with a surprised look
as wondering to see the others there, and how he came to be there
himself--but that is the way with people, as I have said. There is no
way of accounting for people. You have to take them as they are.
"There," said Joan at last, pleased with her success; "another could
have done it no better--not as well, I think. Tell me--what is it you
did? Tell me all."
The giant said:
"It was this way, my angel. My mother died, then my three little
children, one after the other, all in two years. It was the famine;
others fared so--it was God's will. I saw them die; I had that grace;
and I buried them. Then when my poor wife's fate was come, I
begged for leave to go to her--she who was so dear to me--she who
was all I had; I begged on my knees. But they would not let me.
Could I let her die, friendless and alone? Could I let her die
believing I would not come? Would she let me die and she not
come--with her feet free to do it if she would, and no cost upon it
but only her life? Ah, she would come--she would come through
the fire! So I went. I saw her. She died in my arms. I buried her.
Then the army was gone. I had trouble to overtake it, but my legs
are long and there are many hours in a day; I overtook it last
Joan said, musingly, as as if she were thinking aloud:
"It sounds true. If true, it were no great harm to suspend the law
this one time--any would say that. It may not be true, but if it is
true--" She turned suddenly to the man and said, "I would see your
eyes--look up!" The eyes of the two met, and Joan said to the
officer, "This man is pardoned. Give you good day; you may go."
Then she said to the man, "Did you know it was death to come
back to the army?"
"Yes," he said, "I knew it."
"Then why did you do it?"
The man said, quite simply:
"Because it ws death. She was all I had. There was nothing left to
"Ah, yes, there was--France! The children of France have always
their mother--they cannot be left with nothing to love. You shall
live--and you shall serve France--"
"I will serve you!"
--"you shall fight for France--"
"I will fight for you!"
"You shall be France's soldier--"
"I will be your soldier!"
--"you shall give all your heart to France--"
"I will give all my heart to you--and all my soul, if I have one--and
all my strength, which is great--for I was dead and am alive again;
I had nothing to live for, but now I have! You are France for me.
You are my France, and I will have no other."
Joan smiled, and was touched and pleased at the man's grave
enthusiasm--solemn enthusiasm, one may call it, for the manner of
it was deeper than mere gravity--and she said:
"Well, it shall be as you will. What are you called?"
The man answered with unsmiling simplicity:
"They call me the Dwarf, but I think it is more in jest than
It made Joan laugh, and she said:
"It has something of that look truly! What is the office of that vast
The soldier replied with the same gravity--which must have been
born to him, it sat upon him so naturally:
"It is to persuade persons to respect France."
Joan laughed again, and said:
"Have you given many lessons?"
"Ah, indeed, yes--many."
"The pupils behaved to suit you, afterward?"
"Yes; it made them quiet--quite pleasant and quiet."
"I should think it would happen so. Would you like to be my
man-at-arms?--orderly, sentinel, or something like that?"
"If I may!"
"Then you shall. You shall have proper armor, and shall go on
teaching your art. Take one of those led horses there, and follow
the staff when we move."
That is how we came by the Dwarf; and a good fellow he was.
Joan picked him out on sight, but it wasn't a mistake; no one could
be faithfuler than he was, and he was a devil and the son of a devil
when he turned himself loose with his ax. He was so big that he
made the Paladin look like an ordinary man. He liked to like
people, therefore people liked him. He liked us boys from the start;
and he liked the knights, and liked pretty much everybody he came
across; but he thought more of a paring of Joan's finger-nail than
he did of all the rest of the world put together.
Yes, that is where we got him--stretched on the wain, going to his
death, poor chap, and nobody to say a good word for him. He was
a good find. Why, the knights treated him almost like an equal--it
is the honest truth; that is the sort of a man he was. They called
him the Bastille sometimes, and sometimes they called him
Hellfire, which was on account of his warm and sumptuous style in
battle, and you know they wouldn't have given him pet names if
they hadn't had a good deal of affection for him.
To the Dwarf, Joan was France, the spirit of France made flesh--he
never got away from that idea that he had started with; and God
knows it was the true one. That was a humble eye to see so great a
truth where some others failed. To me that seems quite
remarkable. And yet, after all, it was, in a way, just what nations
do. When they love a great and noble thing, they embody it--they
want it so that they can see it with their eyes; like liberty, for
instance. They are not content with the cloudy abstract idea, they
make a beautiful statue of it, and then their beloved idea is
substantial and they can look at it and worship it. And so it is as I
say; to the Dwarf, Joan was our country embodied, our country
made visible flesh cast in a gracious form. When she stood before
others, they saw Joan of Arc, but he saw France.
Sometimes he would speak of her by that name. It shows you how
the idea was embedded in his mind, and how real it was to him.
The world has called our kings by it, but I know of none of them
who has had so good a right as she to that sublime title.
When the march past was finished, Joan returned to the front and
rode at the head of the column. When we began to file past those
grim bastilles and could glimpse the men within, standing to their
guns and ready to empty death into our ranks, such a faintness
came over me and such a sickness that all things seemed to turn
dim and swim before my eyes; and the other boys looked droopy,
too, I thought--including the Paladin, although I do not know this
for certain, because he was ahead of me and I had to keep my eyes
out toward the bastille side, because I could wince better when I
saw what to wince at.
But Joan was at home--in Paradise, I might say. She sat up straight,
and I could see that she was feeling different from me. The
awfulest thing was the silence; there wasn't a sound but the
screaking of the saddles, the measured tramplings, and the
sneezing of the horses, afflicted by the smothering dust-clouds
which they kicked up. I wanted to sneeze myself, but it seemed to
me that I would rather go unsneezed, or suffer even a bitterer
torture, if there is one, than attract attention to myself.
I was not of a rank to make suggestions, or I would have suggested
that if we went faster we should get by sooner. It seemed to me
that it was an ill-judged time to be taking a walk. Just as we were
drifting in that suffocating stillness past a great cannon that stood
just within a raised portcullis, with nothing between me and it but
the moat, a most uncommon jackass in there split the world with
his bray, and I fell out of the saddle. Sir Bertrand grabbed me as I
went, which was well, for if I had gone to the ground in my armor
I could not have gotten up again by myself. The English warders
on the battlements laughed a coarse laugh, forgetting that every
one must begin, and that there had been a time when they
themselves would have fared no better when shot by a jackass.
The English never uttered a challenge nor fired a shot. It was said
afterward that when their men saw the Maid riding at the front and
saw how lovely she was, their eager courage cooled down in many
cases and vanished in the rest, they feeling certain that the creature
was not mortal, but the very child of Satan, and so the officers
were prudent and did not try to make them fight. It was said also
that some of the officers were affected by the same superstitious
fears. Well, in any case, they never offered to molest us, and we
poked by all the grisly fortresses in peace. During the march I
caught up on my devotions, which were in arrears; so it was not all
loss and no profit for me after all.
It was on this march that the histories say Dunois told Joan that the
English were expecting reinforcements under the command of Sir
John Fastolfe, and that she turned upon him and said:
"Bastard, Bastard, in God's name I warn you to let me know of his
coming as soon as you hear of it; for if he passes without my
knowledge you shall lose your head!"
It may be so; I don't deny it; but I didn't her it. If she really said it I
think she only meant she would take off his official head--degrade
him from his command. It was not like her to threaten a comrade's
life. She did have her doubts of her generals, and was entitled to
them, for she was all for storm and assault, and they were for
holding still and tiring the English out. Since they did not believe
in her way and were experienced old soldiers, it would be natural
for them to prefer their own and try to get around carrying hers
But I did hear something that the histories didn't mention and don't
know about. I heard Joan say that now that the garrisons on the
other wide had been weakened to strengthen those on our side, the
most effective point of operations had shifted to the south shore;
so she meant to go over there and storm the forts which held the
bridge end, and that would open up communication with our own
dominions and raise the siege. The generals began to balk,
privately, right away, but they only baffled and delayed her, and
that for only four days.
All Orleans met the army at the gate and huzzaed it through the
bannered streets to its various quarters, but nobody had to rock it
to sleep; it slumped down dog-tired, for Dunois had rushed it
without mercy, and for the next twenty-four hours it would be
quiet, all but the snoring.
Chapter 17 Sweet Fruit of Bitter Truth
WHEN WE got home, breakfast for us minor fry was waiting in
our mess-room and the family honored us by coming in to eat it
with us. The nice old treasurer, and in fact all three were
flatteringly eager to hear about our adventures. Nobody asked the
Paladin to begin, but he did begin, because now that his specially
ordained and peculiar military rank set him above everybody on
the personal staff but old D'Aulon, who didn't eat with us, he didn't
care a farthing for the knights' nobility no mine, but took
precedence in the talk whenever it suited him, which was all the
time, because he was born that way. He said:
"God be thanked, we found the army in admirable condition I
think I have never seen a finer body of animals."
"Animals!" said Miss Catherine.
"I will explain to you what he means," said No�l. "He--"
"I will trouble you not to trouble yourself to explain anything for
me," said the Paladin, loftily. "I have reason to think--"
"That is his way," said No�l; "always when he thinks he has reason
to think, he thinks he does think, but this is an error. He didn't see
the army. I noticed him, and he didn't see it. He was troubled by
his old complaint."
"What s his old complaint?" Catherine asked.
"Prudence," I said, seeing my chance to help.
But it was not a fortunate remark, for the Paladin said:
"It probably isn't your turn to criticize people's prudence--you who
fall out of the saddle when a donkey brays."
They all laughed, and I was ashamed of myself for my hasty
smartness. I said:
"It isn't quite fair for you to say I fell out on account of the
donkey's braying. It was emotion, just ordinary emotion."
"Very well, if you want to call it that, I am not objecting. What
would you call it, Sir Bertrand?"
"Well, it--well, whatever it was, it was excusable, I think. All of
you have learned how to behave in hot hand-to-hand engagements,
and you don't need to be ashamed of your record in that matter; but
to walk along in front of death, with one's hands idle, and no noise,
no music, and nothing going on, is a very trying situation. If I were
you, De Conte, I would name the emotion; it's nothing to be
It was as straight and sensible a speech as ever I heard, and I was
grateful for the opening it gave me; so I came out and said:
"It was fear--and thank you for the honest idea, too."
"It was the cleanest and best way out," said the old treasurer;
"you've done well, my lad."
That made me comfortable, and when Miss Catherine said, "It's
what I think, too," I was grateful to myself for getting into that
Sir Jean de Metz said:
"We were all in a body together when the donkey brayed, and it
was dismally still at the time. I don't see how any young
campaigner could escape some little touch of that emotion."
He looked about him with a pleasant expression of inquiry on his
good face, and as each pair of eyes in turn met his head they were
in nodded a confession. Even the Paladin delivered his nod. That
surprised everybody, and saved the Standard-Bearer's credit. It was
clever of him; nobody believed he could tell the truth that way
without practice, or would tell that particular sort of a truth either
with or without practice. I suppose he judged it would favorably
impress the family. Then the old treasurer said:
"Passing the forts in that trying way required the same sort of
nerve that a person must have when ghosts are about him in the
dark, I should think. What does the Standard-Bearer think?"
"Well, I don't quite know about that, sir. I've often thought I would
like to see a ghost if I--"
"Would you?" exclaimed the young lady. "We've got one! Would
you try that one? Will you?"
She was so eager and pretty that the Paladin said straight out that
he would; and then as none of the rest had bravery enough to
expose the fear that was in him, one volunteered after the other
with a prompt mouth and a sick heart till all were shipped for the
voyage; then the girl clapped her hands in glee, and the parents
were gratified, too, saying that the ghosts of their house had been a
dread and a misery to them and their forebears for generations, and
nobody had ever been found yet who was willing to confront them
and find out what their trouble was, so that the family could heal it
and content the poor specters and beguile them to tranquillity and
Chapter 18 Joan's First Battle-Field
ABOUT NOON I was chatting with Madame Boucher; nothing
was going on, all was quiet, when Catherine Boucher suddenly
entered in great excitement, and said:
"Fly, sir, fly! The Maid was doing in her chair in my room, when
she sprang up and cried out, 'French blood is flowing!--my arms,
give me my arms!' Her giant was on guard at the door, and he
brought D'Aulon, who began to arm her, and I and the giant have
been warning the staff. Fly!--and stay by her; and if there really is a
battle, keep her out of it--don't let her risk herself--there is no
need--if the men know she is near and looking on, it is all that is
necessary. Keep her out of the fight--don't fail of this!"
I started on a run, saying, sarcastically--for I was always fond of
sarcasm, and it was said that I had a most neat gift that way:
"Oh, yes, nothing easier than that--I'll attend to it!"
At the furthest end of the house I met Joan, fully armed, hurrying
toward the door, and she said:
"Ah, French blood is being spilt, and you did not tell me."
"Indeed I did not know it," I said; "there are no sounds of war;
everything is quiet, your Excellency."
"You will hear war-sounds enough in a moment," she said, and
It was true. Before one could count five there broke upon the
stillness the swelling rush and tramp of an approaching multitude
of men and horses, with hoarse cries of command; and then out of
the distance came the muffled deep boom!--boom-boom!--boom!
of cannon, and straightway that rushing multitude was roaring by
the house like a hurricane.
Our knights and all our staff came flying, armed, but with no
horses ready, and we burst out after Joan in a body, the Paladin in
the lead with the banner. The surging crowd was made up half of
citizens and half of soldiers, and had no recognizedleader. When
Joan was seen a huzza went up, and she shouted:
"A horse--a horse!"
A dozen saddles were at her disposal in a moment. She mounted, a
hundred people shouting:
"Way, there--way for the MAID OF ORLEANS!" The first time
that that immortal name was ever uttered--and I, praise God, was
there to hear it! The mass divided itself like the waters of the Red
Sea, and down this lane Joan went skimming like a bird, crying,
"Forward, French hearts--follow me!" and we came winging in her
wake on the rest of the borrowed horses, the holy standard
streaming above us, and the lane closing together in our rear.
This was a different thing from the ghastly march past the dismal
bastilles. No, we felt fine, now, and all awhirl with enthusiasm.
The explanation of this sudden uprising was this. The city and the
little garrison, so long hopeless and afraid, had gone wild over
Joan's coming, and could no longer restrain their desire to get at
the enemy; so, without orders from anybody, a few hundred
soldiers and citizens had plunged out at the Burgundy gate on a
sudden impulse and made a charge on one of Lord Talbot's most
formidable fortresses--St. Loup--and were getting the worst of it.
The news of this had swept through the city and started this new
crowd that we were with.
As we poured out at the gate we met a force bringing in the
wounded from the front. The sight moved Joan, and she said:
"Ah, French blood; it makes my hair rise to see it!"
We were soon on the field, soon in the midst of the turmoil. Joan
was seeing her first real battle, and so were we.
It was a battle in the open field; for the garrison of St. Loup had
sallied confidently out to meet the attack, being used to victories
when "witches" were not around. The sally had been reinforced by
troops from the "Paris" bastille, and when we approached the
French were getting whipped and were falling back. But when
Joan came charging through the disorder with her banner
displayed, crying "Forward, men--follow me!" there was a change;
the French turned about and surged forward like a solid wave of
the sea, and swept the English before them, hacking and slashing,
and being hacked and slashed, in a way that was terrible to see.
In the field the Dwarf had no assignment; that is to say, he was not
under orders to occupy any particular place, therefore he chose his
place for himself, and went ahead of Joan and made a road for her.
It was horrible to see the iron helmets fly into fragments under his
dreadful ax. He called it cracking nuts, and it looked like that. He
made a good road, and paved it well with flesh and iron. Joan and
the rest of us followed it so briskly that we outspeeded our forces
and had the English behind us as well as before. The knights
commanded us to face outward around Joan, which we did, and
then there was work done that was fine to see. One was obliged to
respect the Paladin, now. Being right under Joan's exalting and
transforming eye, he forgot his native prudence, he forgot his
diffidence in the presence of danger, he forgot what fear was, and
he never laid about him in his imaginary battles in a more
tremendous way that he did in this real one; and wherever he
struck there was an enemy the less.
We were in that close place only a few minutes; then our forces to
the rear broke through with a great shout and joined us, and then
the English fought a retreating fight, but in a fine and gallant way,
and we drove them to their fortress foot by foot, they facing us all
the time, and their reserves on the walls raining showers of arrows,
cross-bow bolts, and stone cannon-balls upon us.
The bulk of the enemy got safely within the works and left us
outside with piles of French and English dead and wounded for
company--a sickening sight, an awful sight to us youngsters, for
our little ambush fights in February had been in the night, and the
blood and the mutilations and the dead faces were mercifully dim,
whereas we saw these things now for the first time in all their
Now arrived Dunois from the city, and plunged through the battle
on his foam-flecked horse and galloped up to Joan, saluting, and
uttering handsome compliments as he came. He waved his hand
toward the distant walls of the city, where a multitude of flags
were flaunting gaily in the wind, and said the populace were up
there observing her fortunate performance and rejoicing over it,
and added that she and the forces would have a great reception
"Now? Hardly now, Bastard. Not yet!"
"Why not yet? Is there more to be done?"
"More, Bastard? We have but begun! We will take this fortress."
"Ah, you can't be serious! We can't take this place; let me urge you
not to make the attempt; it is too desperate. Let me order the forces
Joan's heart was overflowing with the joys and enthusiasms of war,
and it made her impatient to hear such talk. She cried out:
"Bastard, Bastard, will ye play always with these English? Now
verily I tell you we will not budge until this place is ours. We will
carry it by storm. Sound the charge!"
"Ah, my General--"
"Waste no more time, man--let the bugles sound the assault!" and
we saw that strange deep light in her eye which we named the
battle-light, and learned to know so well in later fields.
The martial notes pealed out, the troops answered with a yell, and
down they came against that formidable work, whose outlines
were lost in its own cannon-smoke, and whose sides were spouting
flame and thunder.
We suffered repulse after repulse, but Joan was here and there and
everywhere encouraging the men, and she kept them to their work.
During three hours the tide ebbed and flowed, flowed and ebbed;
but at last La Hire, who was now come, made a final and resistless
charge, and the bastille St. Loup was ours. We gutted it, taking all
its stores and artillery, and then destroyed it.
When all our host was shouting itself hoarse with rejoicings, and
there went up a cry for the General, for they wanted to praise her
and glorify her and do her homage for her victory, we had trouble
to find her; and when we did find her, she was off by herself,
sitting among a ruck of corpses, with her face in her hands,
crying--for she was a young girl, you know, and her hero heart was
a young girl's heart too, with the pity and the tenderness that are
natural to it. She was thinking of the mothers of those dead friends
Among the prisoners were a number of priests, and Joan took these
under her protection and saved their lives. It was urged that they
were most probably combatants in disguise, but she said:
"As to that, how can any tell? They wear the livery of God, and if
even one of these wears it rightfully, surely it were better that all
the guilty should escape than that we have upon our hands the
blood of that innocent man. I will lodge them where I lodge, and
feed them, and sent them away in safety."
We marched back to the city with our crop of cannon and
prisoners on view and our banners displayed. Here was the first
substantial bit of war-work the imprisoned people had seen in the
seven months that the siege had endured, the first chance they had
had to rejoice over a French exploit. You may guess that they
made good use of it. They and the bells went mad. Joan was their
darling now, and the press of people struggling and shouldering
each other to get a glimpse of her was so great that we could
hardly push our way through the streets at all. Her new name had
gone all about, and was on everybody's lips. The Holy Maid of
Vaucouleurs was a forgotten title; the city had claimed her for its
own, and she was the MAID OF ORLEANS now. It is a happiness
to me to remember that I heard that name the first time it was ever
uttered. Between that first utterance and the last time it will be
uttered on this earth--ah, think how many moldering ages will lie
in that gap!
The Boucher family welcomed her back as if she had been a child
of the house, and saved frm death against all hope or probability.
They chided her for going into the battle and exposing herself to
danger during all those hours. They could not realize that she had
meant to carry her warriorship so far, and asked her if it had really
been her purpose to go right into the turmoil of the fight, or hadn't
she got swept into it by accident and the rush of the troops? They
begged her to be more careful another time. It was good advice,
maybe, but it fell upon pretty unfruitful soil.
Chapter 19 We Burst In Upon Ghosts
BEING WORN out with the long fight, we all slept the rest of the
afternoon away and two or three hours into the night. Then we got
up refreshed, and had supper. As for me, I could have been willing
to let the matter of the ghost drop; and the others were of a like
mind, no doubt, for they talked diligently of the battle and said
nothing of that other thing. And indeed it was fine and stirring to
hear the Paladin rehearse his deeds and see him pile his dead,
fifteen here, eighteen there, and thirty-five yonder; but this only
postponed the trouble; it could not do more. He could not go on
forever; when he had carried the bastille by assault and eaten up
the garrison there was nothing for it but to stop, unless Catherine
Boucher would give him a new start and have it all done over
again--as we hoped she would, this time--but she was otherwise
minded. As soon as there was a good opening and a fair chance,
she brought up her unwelcome subject, and we faced it the best we
We followed her and her parents to the haunted room at eleven
o'clock, with candles, and also with torches to place in the sockets
on the walls. It was a big house, with very thick walls, and this
room was in a remote part of it which had been left unoccupied for
nobody knew how many years, because of its evil repute.
This was a large room, like a salon, and had a big table in it of
enduring oak and well preserved; but the chair were worm-eaten
and the tapestry on the walls was rotten and discolored by age. The
dusty cobwebs under the ceiling had the look of not having had
any business for a century.
"Tradition says that these ghosts have never been seen--they have
merely been heard. It is plain that this room was once larger than it
is now, and that the wall at this end was built in some bygone time
to make and fence off a narrow room there. There is no
communication anywhere with that narrow room, and if it
exists--and of that there is no reasonable doubt--it has no light and
no air, but is an absolute dungeon. Wait where you are, and take
note of what happens."
That was all. Then she and her parents left us. When their footfalls
had died out in the distance down the empty stone corridors an
uncanny si8lence and solemnity ensued which was dismaler to me
than the mute march past the bastilles. We sat loking vacantly at
each other, and it was easy to see that no one there was
comfortable. The longer we sat so, the more deadly still that
stillness got to be; and when the wind began to moan around the
house presently, it made me sick and miserable, and I wished I had
been brave enough to be a coward this time, for indeed it is no
proper shame to be afraid of ghosts, seeing how helpless the living
are in their hands. And then these ghosts were invisible, which
made the matter the worse, as it seemed to me. They might be in
the room with us at that moment--we could not know. I felt airy
touches on my shoulders and my hair, and I shrank from them and
cringed, and was not ashamed to show this fear, for I saw the
others doing the like, and knew that they were feeling those faint
contacts too. As this went on--oh, eternities it seemed, the time
dragged so drearily--all those faces became as wax, and I seemed
sitting with a congress of the dead.
At last, faint and far and weird and slow, came a
"boom!--boom!--boom!"--a distant bell tolling midnight. When the
last stroke died, that depressing stillness followed again, and as
before I was staring at those waxen faces and feeling those airy
touches on my hair and my shoulders once more.
One minute--two minutes--three minutes of this, then we heard a
long deep groan, and everybody sprang up and stood, with his legs
quaking. It came from that little dungeon. There was a pause, then
we herd muffled sobbings, mixed with pitiful ejaculations. Then
there was a second voice, low and not distinct, and the one seemed
trying to comfort the other; and so the two voices went on, with
moanings, and soft sobbings, and, ah, the tones were so full of
compassion and sorry and despair! Indeed, it made one's heart sore
to hear it.
But those sounds were so real and so human and so moving that
the idea of ghosts passed straight out of our minds, and Sir Jean de
Metz spoke out and said:
"Come! we will smash that wall and set those poor captives free.
Here, with your ax!"
The Dwarf jumped forward, swinging his great ax with both hands,
and others sprang for torches and brought them.
Bang!--whang!--slam!--smash went the ancient bricks, and there
was a hole an ox could pass through. We plunged within and held
up the torches.
Nothing there but vacancy! On the floor lay a rusty sword and a
Now you know all that I know. Take the pathetic relics, and weave
about them the romance of the dungeon's long-vanished inmates as
best you can.
Chapter 20 Joan Makes Cowards Brave Victors
THE NEXT day Joan wanted to go against the enemy again, but it
was the feast of the Ascension, and the holy council of bandit
generals were too pious to be willing to profane it with bloodshed.
But privately they profaned it with plottings, a sort of industry just
in their line. They decided to do the only thing proper to do now in
the new circumstances of the case--feign an attack on the most
important bastille on the Orleans side, and then, if the English
weakened the far more important fortresses on the other side of the
river to come to its help, cross in force and capture those works.
This would give them the bridge and free communication with the
Sologne, which was French territory. They decided to keep this
latter part of the program secret from Joan.
Joan intruded and took them by surprise. She asked them what
they were about and what they had resolved upon. They said they
had resolved to attack the most important of the English bastilles
on the Orleans side next morning--and there the spokesman
stopped. Joan said:
"Well, go on."
"There is nothing more. That is all."
"Am I to believe this? That is to say, am I to believe that you have
lost your wits?" She turned to Dunois, and said, "Bastard, you have
sense, answer me this: if this attack is made and the bastille taken,
how much better off would we be than we are now?"
The Bastard hesitated, and then began some rambling talk not
quite germane to the question. Joan interrupted him and said:
"That will not do, good Bastard, you have answered. Since the
Bastard is not able to mention any advantage to be gained by
taking that bastille and stopping there, it is not likely that any of
you could better the matter. You waste much time here in
inventing plans that lead to nothing, and making delays that are a
damage. Are you concealing something from me? Bastard, this
council has a general plan, I take it; without going into details,
what is it?"
"It is the same it was in the beginning, seven months ago--to get
provisions for a long siege, then sit down and tire the English out."
"In the name of God! As if seven months was not enough, you
want to provide for a year of it. Now ye shall drop these
pusillanimous dreams--the English shall go in three days!"
"Ah, General, General, be prudent!"
"Be prudent and starve? Do ye call that war? I tell you this, if you
do not already know it: The new circumstances have changed the
face of matters. The true point of attack has shifted; it is on the
other side of the river now. One must take the fortifications that
command the bridge. The English know that if we are not fools
and cowards we will try to do that. They are grateful for your piety
in wasting this day. They will reinforce the bridge forts from this
side to-night, knowing what ought to happen to-morrow. You have
but lost a day and made our task harder, for we will cross and take
the bridge forts. Bastard, tell me the truth--does not this council
know that there is no other course for us than the one I am
Dunois conceded that the council did know it to be the most
desirable, but considered it impracticable; and he excused the
council as well as he could by saying that inasmuch as nothing was
really and rationally to be hoped for but a long continuance of the
siege and wearying out of the English, they were naturally a little
afraid of Joan's impetuous notions. He said:
"You see, we are sure that the waiting game is the best, whereas
you would carry everything by storm."
"That I would!--and moreover that I will! You have my
orders--here and now. We will move upon the forts of the south
bank to-morrow at dawn."
"And carry them by storm?"
"Yes, carry them by storm!"
La Hire came clanking in, and heard the last remark. He cried out:
"By my baton, that is the music I love to hear! Yes, that is the right
time and the beautiful words, my General--we will carry them by
He saluted in his large way and came up and shook Joan by the
Some member of the council was heard to say:
"It follows, then, that we must begin with the bastille St. John, and
that will give the English time to--"
Joan turned and said:
"Give yourselves no uneasiness about the bastille St. John. The
English will know enough to retire from it and fall back on the
bridge bastilles when they see us coming." She added, with a touch
of sarcasm, "Even a war-council would know enough to do that
Then she took her leave. La Hire made this general remark to the
"She is a child, and that is all ye seem to see. Keep to that
superstition if you must, but you perceive that this child
understands this complex game of war as well as any of you; and if
you want my opinion without the trouble of asking for it, here you
have it without ruffles or embroidery--by God, I think she can
teach the best of you how to play it!"
Joan had spoken truly; the sagacious English saw that the policy of
the French had undergone a revolution; that the policy of paltering
and dawdling was ended; that in place of taking blows, blows were
ready to be struck now; therefore they made ready for the new
state of things by transferring heavy reinforcements to the bastilles
of the south bank from those of the north.
The city learned the great news that once more in French history,
after all these humiliating years, France was going to take the
offensive; that France, so used to retreating, was going to advance;
that France, so long accustomed to skulking, was going to face
about and strike. The joy of the people passed all bounds. The city
walls were black with them to see the army march out in the
morning in that strange new position--its front, not its tail, toward
an English camp. You shall imagine for yourselves what the
excitement was like and how it expressed itself, when Joan rode
out at the head of the host with her banner floating above her.
We crossed the five in strong force, and a tedious long job it was,
for the boats were small and not numerous. Our landing on the
island of St. Aignan was not disputed. We threw a bridge of a few
boats across the narrow channel thence to the south shore and took
up our march in good order and unmolested; for although there
was a fortress there--St. John--the English vacated and destroyed it
and fell back on the bridge forts below as soon as our first boats
were seen to leave the Orleans shore; which was what Joan had
said would happen, when she was disputing with the council.
We moved down the shore and Joan planted her standard before
the bastille of the Augustins, the first of the formidable works that
protected the end of the bridge. The trumpets sounded the assault,
and two charges followed in handsome style; but we were too
weak, as yet, for our main body was still lagging behind. Before
we could gather for a third assault the garrison of St. Prive were
seen coming up to reinforce the big bastille. They came on a run,
and the Augustins sallied out, and both forces came against us with
a rush, and sent our small army flying in a panic, and followed us,
slashing and slaying, and shouting jeers and insults at us.
Joan was doing her best to rally the men, but their wits were gone,
their hearts were dominated for the moment by the old-time dread
of the English. Joan's temper flamed up, and she halted and
commanded the trumpets to sound the advance. Then she wheeled
about and cried out:
"If there is but a dozen of you that are not cowards, it is
Away she went, and after her a few dozen who had heard her
words and been inspired by them. The pursuing force was
astonished to see her sweeping down upon them with this handful
of men, and it was their turn now to experience a grisly
fright--surely this is a witch, this is a child of Satan! That was their
thought--and without stopping to analyze the matter they turned
and fled in a panic.
Our flying squadrons heard the bugle and turned to look; and when
they saw the Maid's banner speeding in the other direction and the
enemy scrambling ahead of it in disorder, their courage returned
and they came scouring after us.
La Hire heard it and hurried his force forward and caught up with
us just as we were planting our banner again before the ramparts of
the Augustins. We were strong enough now. We had a long and
tough piece of work before us, but we carried it through before
night, Joan keeping us hard at it, and she and La Hire saying we
were able to take that big bastille, and must. The English fought
like--well, they fought like the English; when that is said, there is
no more to say. We made assault after assault, through the smoke
and flame and the deafening cannon-blasts, and at last as the sun
was sinking we carried the place with a rush, and planted our
standard on its walls.
The Augustins was ours. The Tourelles must be ours, too, if we
would free the bridge and raise the siege. We had achieved one
great undertaking, Joan was determined to accomplish the other.
We must lie on our arms where we were, hold fast to what we had
got, and be ready for business in the morning. So Joan was not
minded to let the men be demoralized by pillage and riot and
carousings; she had the Augustins burned, with all its stores in it,
excepting the artillery and ammunition.
Everybody was tired out with this long day's har work, and of
course this was the case with Joan; still, she wanted to stay with
the army before the Tourelles, to be ready for the assault in the
morning. The chiefs argued with her, and at last persuaded her to
go home and prepare for the great work by taking proper rest, and
also by having a leech look to a wound which she had received in
her foot. So we crossed with them and went home.
Just as usual, we found the town in a fury of joy, all the bells
clanging, everybody shouting, and several people drunk. We never
went out or came in without furnishing good and sufficient reasons
for one of these pleasant tempests, and so the tempest was always
on hand. There had been a blank absence of reasons for this sort of
upheavals for the past seven months, therefore the people too to
the upheavals with all the more relish on that account.
Chapter 21 She Gently Reproves Her Dear Friend
TO GET away from the usual crowd of visitors and have a rest,
Joan went with Catherine straight to the apartment which the two
occupied together, and there they took their supper and there the
wound was dressed. But then, instead of going to bed, Joan, weary
as she was, sent the Dwarf for me, in spite of Catherine's protests
and persuasions. She said she had something on her mind, and
must send a courier to Domremy with a letter for our old P�re
Fronte to read to her mother. I came, and she began to dictate.
After some loving words and greetings to her mother and family,
"But the thing which moves me to write now, is to say that when
you presently hear that I am wounded, you shall give yourself no
concern about it, and refuse faith to any that shall try to make you
believe it is serious."
She was going on, when Catherine spoke up and said:
"Ah, but it will fright her so to read these words. Strike them out,
Joan, strike them out, and wait only one day--two days at
most--then write and say your foot was wounded but is well
again--for it surely be well then, or very near it. Don't distress her,
Joan; do as I say."
A laugh like the laugh of the old days, the impulsive free laugh of
an untroubled spirit, a laugh like a chime of bells, was Joan's
answer; then she said:
"My foot? Why should I write about such a scratch as that? I was
not thinking of it, dear heart."
"Child, have you another wound and a worse, and have not spoken
of it? What have you been dreaming about, that you--"
She had jumped up, full of vague fears, to have the leech called
back at once, but Joan laid her hand upon her arm and made her sit
down again, saying:
"There, now, be tranquil, there is no other wound, as yet; I am
writing about one which I shall get when we storm that bastille
Catherine had the look of one who is trying to understand a
puzzling proposition but cannot quite do it. She said, in a
"A wound which you are going to get? But--but why grieve your
mother when it--when it may not happen?"
"May not? Why, it will."
The puzzle was a puzzle still. Catherine said in that same
abstracted way as before:
"Will. It is a strong word. I cannot seem to--my mind is not able to
take hold of this. Oh, Joan, such a presentiment is a dreadful
thing--it takes one's peace and courage all away. Cast it from
you!--drive it out! It will make your whole night miserable, and to
no good; for we will hope--"
"But it isn't a presentiment--it is a fact. And it will not make me
miserable. It is uncertainties that do that, but this is not an
"Joan, do you know it is going to happen?"
"Yes, I know it. My Voices told me."
"Ah," said Catherine, resignedly, "if they told you-- But are you
sure it was they?--quite sure?"
"Yes, quite. It will happen--there is no doubt."
"It is dreadful! Since when have you know it?"
"Since--I think it is several weeks." Joan turned to me. "Louis, you
will remember. How long is it?"
"Your Excellency spoke of it first to the King, in Chinon," I
answered; "that was as much as seven weeks ago. You spoke of it
again the 20th of April, and also the 22d, two weeks ago, as I see
by my record here."
These marvels disturbed Catherine profoundly, but I had long
ceased to be surprised at them. One can get used to anything in this
world. Catherine said:
"And it is to happen to-morrow?--always to-morrow? Is it the same
date always? There has been no mistake, and no confusion?"
"No," Joan said, "the 7th of May is the date--there is no other."
"Then you shall not go a step out of this house till that awful day is
gone by! You will not dream of it, Joan, will you?--promise that
you will stay with us."
But Joan was not persuaded. She said:
"It would not help the matter, dear good friend. The wound is to
come, and come to-morrow. If I do not seek it, it will seek me. My
duty calls me to that place to-morrow; I should have to go if my
death were waiting for me there; shall I stay away for only a
wound? Oh, no, we must try to do better than that."
"Then you are determined to go?"
"Of a certainty, yes. There is only one thing that I can do for
France--hearten her soldiers for battle and victory." She thought a
moment, then added, "However, one should not be unreasonable,
and I would do much to please you, who are so good to me. Do
you love France?"
I wondered what she might be contriving now, but I saw no clue.
Catherine said, reproachfully:
"Ah, what have I done to deserve this question?"
"Then you do love France. I had not doubted it, dear. Do not be
hurt, but answer me--have you ever told a lie?"
"In my life I have not wilfully told a lie--fibs, but no lies."
"That is sufficient. You love France and do not tell lies; therefore I
will trust you. I will go or I will stay, as you shall decide."
"Oh, I thank you from my heart, Joan! How good and dear it is of
you to do this for me! Oh, you shall stay, and not go!"
In her delight she flung her arms about Joan's neck and squandered
endearments upon her the least of which would have made me
rich, but, as it was, they only made me realize how poor I
was--how miserably poor in what I would most have prized in this
world. Joan said:
"Then you will send word to my headquarters that I am not going?"
"Oh, gladly. Leave that to me."
"It is good of you. And how will you word it?--for it must have
proper official form. Shall I word it for you?"
"Oh, do--for you know about these solemn procedures and stately
proprieties, and I have had no experience."
"Then word it like this: 'The chief of staff is commanded to make
known to the King's forces in garrison and in the field, that the
General-in-Chief of the Armies of France will not face the English
on the morrow, she being afraid she may get hurt. Signed, JOAN
OF ARC, by the hand of CATHERINE BOUCHER, who loves
There was a pause--a silence of the sort that tortures one into
stealing a glance to see how the situation looks, and I did that.
There was a loving smile on Joan's face, but the color was
mounting in crimson waves into Catherine's, and her lips were
quivering and the tears gathering; then she said:
"Oh, I am so ashamed of myself!--and you are so noble and brave
and wise, and I am so paltry--so paltry and such a fool!" and she
broke down and began to cry, and I did so want to take her in my
arms and comfort her, but Joan did it, and of course I said nothing.
Joan did it well, and most sweetly and tenderly, but I could have
done it as well, though I knew it would be foolish and out of place
to suggest such a thing, and might make an awkwardness, too, and
be embarrassing to us all, so I did not offer, and I hope I did right
and for the best, though I could not know, and was many times
tortured with doubts afterward as having perhaps let a chance pass
which might have changed all my life and made it happier and
more beautiful than, alas, it turned out to be. For this reason I
grieve yet, when I think of that scene, and do not like to call it up
out of the deeps of my memory because of the pangs it brings.
Well, well, a good and wholesome thing is a little harmless fun in
this world; it tones a body up and keeps him human and prevents
him from souring. To set that little trap for Catherine was as good
and effective a way as any to show her what a grotesque thing she
was asking of Joan. It was a funny idea now, wasn't it, when you
look at it all around? Even Catherine dried up her tears and
laughed when she thought of the English getting hold of the French
Commander-in-Chief's reason for staying out of a battle. She
granted that they could have a good time over a thing like that.
We got to work on the letter again, and of course did not have to
strike out the passage about the wound. Joan was in fine spirits;
but when she got to sending messages to this, that, and the other
playmate and friend, it brought our village and the Fairy Tree and
the flowery plain and the browsing sheep and all the peaceful
beauty of our old humble home-place back, and the familiar names
began to tremble on her lips; and when she got to Haumette and
Little Mengette it was no use, her voice broke and she couldn't go
on. She waited a moment, then said:
"Give them my love--my warm love--my deep love--oh, out of my
heart of hearts! I shall never see our home any more."
Now came Pasquerel, Joan's confessor, and introduced a gallant
knight, the Sire de Rais, who had been sent with a message. He
said he was instructed to say that the council had decided that
enough had been done for the present; that it would be safest and
best to be content with what God had already done; that the city
was now well victualed and able to stand a long siege; that the
wise course must necessarily be to withdraw the troops from the
other side of the river and resume the defensive--therfore they had
"The incurable cowards!" exclaimed Joan. "So it was to get me
away from my men that they pretended so much solicitude about
my fatigue. Take this message back, not to the council--I have no
speeches for those disguised ladies' maids--but to the Bastard and
La Hire, who are men. Tell them the army is to remain where it is,
and I hold them responsible if this command miscarries. And say
the offensive will be resumed in the morning. You may go, good
Then she said to her priest:
"Rise early, and be by me all the day. There will be much work on
my hands, and I shall be hurt between my neck and my shoulder."
Chapter 22 The Fate of France Decided
WE WERE up at dawn, and after mass we started. In the hall we
met the master of the house, who was grieved, good man, to see
Joan going breakfastless to such a day's work, and begged her to
wait and eat, but she couldn't afford the time--that is to say, she
couldn't afford the patience, she being in such a blaze of anxiety to
get at that last remaining bastille which stood between her and the
completion of the first great step in the rescue and redemption of
France. Boucher put in another plea:
"But think--we poor beleaguered citizens who have hardly known
the flavor of fish for these many months, have spoil of that sort
again, and we owe it to you. There's a noble shad for breakfast;
"Oh, there's going to be fish in plenty; when this day's work is done
the whole river-front will be yours to do as you please with."
"Ah, your Excellency will do well, that I know; but we don't
require quite that much, even of you; you shall have a month for it
in place of a day. Now be beguiled--wait and eat. There's a saying
that he that would cross a river twice in the same day in a boat,
will do well to eat fish for luck, lest he have an accident."
"That doesn't fit my case, for to-day I cross but once in a boat."
"Oh, don't say that. Aren't you coming back to us?"
"Yes, but not in a boat."
"By the bridge."
"Listen to that--by the bridge! Now stop this jesting, dear General,
and do as I would have done you. It's a noble fish."
"Be good then, and save me some for supper; and I will bring one
of those Englishmen with me and he shall have his share."
"Ah, well, have your way if you must. But he that fasts must
attempt but little and stop early. When shall you be back?"
"When we've raised the siege of Orleans. FORWARD!"
We were off. The streets were full of citizens and of groups and
squads of soldiers, but the spectacle was melancholy. There was
not a smile anywhere, but only universal gloom. It was as if some
vast calamity had smitten all hope and cheer dead. We were not
used to this, and were astonished. But when they saw the Maid,
there was an immediate stir, and the eager question flew from
mouth to mouth.
"Where is she going? Whither is she bound?"
Joan heard it, and called out:
"Whither would ye suppose? I am going to take the Tourelles."
It would not be possible for any to describe how those few words
turned that mourning into joy--into exaltation--into frenzy; and
how a storm of huzzas burst out and swept down the streets in
every direction and woke those corpselike multitudes to vivid life
and action and turmoil in a moment. The soldiers broke from the
crowd and came flocking to our standard, and many of the citizens
ran and got pikes and halberds and joined us. As we moved on, our
numbers increased steadily, and the hurrahing continued--yes, we
moved through a solid cloud of noise, as you may say, and all the
windows on both sides contributed to it, for they were filled with
You see, the council had closed the Burgundy gate and placed a
strong force there, under that stout soldier Raoul de Gaucourt,
Bailly of Orleans, with orders to prevent Joan from getting out and
resuming the attack on the Tourelles, and this shameful thing had
plunged the city into sorrow and despair. But that feeling was gone
now. They believed the Maid was a match for the council, and they
When we reached the gate, Joan told Gaucourt to open it and let
He said it would be impossible to do this, for his orders were from
the council and were strict. Joan said:
"There is no authority above mine but the King's. If you have an
order from the King, produce it."
"I cannot claim to have an order from him, General."
"Then make way, or take the consequences!"
He began to argue the case, for he was like the rest of the tribe,
always ready to fight with words, not acts; but in the midst of his
gabble Joan interrupted with the terse order:
We came with a rush, and brief work we made of that small job. It
was good to see the Bailly's surprise. He was not used to this
unsentimental promptness. He said afterward that he was cut off in
the midst of what he was saying--in the midst of an argument by
which he could have proved that he could not let Joan pass--an
argument which Joan could not have answered.
"Still, it appears she did answer it," said the person he was talking
We swung through the gate in great style, with a vast accession of
noise, the most of which was laughter, and soon our van was over
the river and moving down against the Tourelles.
First we must take a supporting work called a boulevard, and
which was otherwise nameless, before we could assault the great
bastille. Its rear communicated with the bastille by a drawbridge,
under which ran a swift and deep strip of the Loire. The boulevard
was strong, and Dunois doubted our ability to take it, but Joan had
no such doubt. She pounded it with artillery all the forenoon, then
about noon she ordered an assault and led it herself. We poured
into the fosse through the smoke and a tempest of missiles, and
Joan, 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 ax 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 a bulwark of iron-clad dead in front of him and
fought from behind it; and at last when the victory was ours we
closed about him, shielding him, and he ran up a ladder with Joan
as easily as another man would carry a child, and bore her out of
the battle, a great crowd following and anxious, for she was
drenched with blood to her feet, half of it her own and the other
half English, for bodies had fallen across her as she lay and had
poured their red life-streams over her. One couldn't see the white
armor now, with that awful dressing over it.
The iron bolt was still in the wound--some say it projected out
behind the shoulder. It may be--I did not wish to see, and did not
try to. It was pulled out, and the pain made Joan cry again, poor
thing. Some say she pulled it out herself because others refused,
saying they could not bear to hurt her. As to this I do not know; I
only know it was pulled out, and that the wound was treated with
oil and properly dressed.
Joan lay on the grass, weak and suffering, hour after hour, but still
insisting that the fight go on. Which it did, but not to much
purpose, for it was only under her eye that men were heroes and
not afraid. They were like the Paladin; I think he was afraid of his
shadow--I mean in the afternoon, when it was very big and long;
but when he was under Joan's eye and the inspiration of her great
spirit, what was he afraid of? Nothing in this world--and that is just
Toward night Dunois gave it up. Joan heard the bugles.
"What!" she cried. "Sounding the retreat!"
Her wound was forgotten in a moment. She countermanded the
order, and sent another, to the officer in command of a battery, to
stand ready to fire five shots in quick successin. This was a signal
to the force on the Orleans side of the river under La Hire, who
was not, as some of the histories say, with us. It was to be given
whenever Joan should feel sure the boulevard was about to fall
into her hands--then that force must make a counter-attack on the
Tourelles by way of the bridge.
Joan mounted her horse now, with her staff about her, and when
our people saw us coming they raised a great shout, and were at
once eager for another assault on the boulevard. Joan rode straight
to the fosse where she had received her wound, and standing there
in the rain of bolts and arrows, she ordered the Paladin to let her
long standard blow free, and to note when its fringes should touch
the fortress. Presently he said:
"Now, then," said Joan to the waiting battalions, "the place is
yours--enter in! Bugles, sound the assault! Now, then--all
And go it was. You never saw anything like it. We swarmed up the
ladders and over the battlements like a wave--and the place was
our property. Why, one might live a thousand years and never see
so gorgeous a thing as that again. There, hand to hand, we fought
like wild beasts, for there was no give-up to those English--there
was no way to convince one of those people but to kill him, and
even then he doubted. At least so it was thought, in those days, and
maintained by many.
We were busy and never heard the five cannonshots fired, but they
were fired a moment after Joan had ordered the assault; and so,
while we were hammering and being hammerd in the smaller
fortress, the reserve on the Orleans side poured across the bridge
and attacked the Tourelles from that side. A fire-boat was brought
down and moored under the drawbridge which connected the
Tourelles with our boulevard; wherefore, when at last we drove
our English ahead of us and they tried to cross that drawbridge and
join their friends in the Tourelles, the burning timbers gave way
under them and emptied them in a mass into the river in their
heavy armor--and a pitiful sight it was to see brave men die such a
death as that.
"Ah, God pity them!" said Joan, and wept to see that sorrowful
spectacle. She said those gentle words and wept those
compassionate tears although one of those perishing men had
grossly insulted her with a coarse name three days before, when
she had sent him a message asking him to surrender. That was
their leader, Sir Williams Glasdale, a most valorous knight. He
was clothed all in steel; so he plunged under water like a lance,
and of course came up no more.
We soon patched a sort of bridge together and threw ourselves
against the last stronghold of the English power that barred
Orleans from friends and supplies. Before the sun was quite down,
Joan's forever memorable day's work was finished, her banner
floated from the fortress of the Tourelles, her promise was
fulfilled, she had raised the siege of Orleans!
The seven months' beleaguerment was ended, the thing which the
first generals of France had called impossible was accomplished;
in spite of all that the King's ministers and war-councils could do
to prevent it, this little country-maid at seventeen had carried her
immortal task through, and had done it in four days!
Good news travels fast, sometimes, as well as bad. By the time we
were ready to start homeward by the bridge the whole city of
Orleans was one red flame of bonfires, and the heavens blushed
with satisfaction to see it; and the booming and bellowing of
cannon and the banging of bells surpassed by great odds anything
that even Orleans had attempted before in the way of noise.
When we arrived--well, there is no describing that. Why, those
acres of people that we plowed through shed tears enough to raise
the river; there was not a face in the glare of those fires that hadn't
tears streaming down it; and if Joan's feet had not been protected
by iron they would have kissed them off of her. "Welcome!
welcome to the Maid of Orleans!" That was the cry; I heard it a
hundred thousand times. "Welcome to our Maid!" some of them
No other girl in all history has ever reached such a summit of glory
as Joan of Arc reached that day. And do you think it turned her
head, and that she sat up to enjoy that delicious music of homage
and applause? No; another girl would have done that, but not this
one. That was the greatest heart and the simplest that ever beat.
She went straight to bed and to sleep, like any tired child; and
when the people found she was wounded and would rest, they shut
off all passage and traffic in that region and stood guard
themselves the whole night through, to see that he slumbers were
not disturbed. They said, "She has given us peace, she shall have
All knew that that region would be empty of English next day, and
all said that neither the present citizens nor their posterity would
ever cease to hold that day sacred to the memory of Joan of Arc.
That word has been true for more than sixty years; it will continue
so always. Orleans will never forget the 8th of May, nor ever fail
to celebrate it. It is Joan of Arc's day--and holy. 
 It is still celebrated every year with civic and military pomps
and solemnities. -- TRANSLATOR.
Chapter 23 Joan Inspires the Tawdry King
IN THE earliest dawn of morning, Talbot and his English forces
evacuated their bastilles and marched away, not stopping to burn,
destroy, or carry off anything, but leaving their fortresses just as
they were, provisioned, armed, and equipped for a long siege. It
was difficult for the people to believe that this great thing had
really happened; that they were actually free once more, and might
go and come through any gate they pleased, with none to molest or
forbid; that the terrible Talbot, that scourge of the French, that
man whose mere name had been able to annul the effectiveness of
French armies, was gone, vanished, retreating--driven away by a
The city emptied itself. Out of every gate the crowds poured. They
swarmed about the English bastilles like an invasion of ants, but
noisier than those creatures, and carried off the artillery and stores,
then turned all those dozen fortresses into monster bonfires,
imitation volcanoes whose lofty columns of thick smoke seemed
supporting the arch of the sky.
The delight of the children took another form. To some of the
younger ones seven months was a sort of lifetime. They had
forgotten what grass was like, and the velvety green meadows
seemed paradise to their surprised and happy eyes after the long
habit of seeing nothing but dirty lanes and streets. It was a wonder
to them--those spacious reaches of open country to run and dance
and tumble and frolic in, after their dull and joyless captivity; so
they scampered far and wide over the fair regions on both sides of
the river, and came back at eventide weary, but laden with flowers
and flushed with new health drawn from the fresh country air and
the vigorous exercise.
After the burnings, the grown folk followed Joan from church to
church and put in the day in thanksgivings for the city's
deliverance, and at night they f�ted her and her generals and
illuminated the town, and high and low gave themselves up to
festivities and rejoicings. By the time the populace were fairly in
bed, toward dawn, we wer ein the saddle and away toward Tours
to report to the King.
That was a march which would have turned any one's head but
Joan's. We moved between emotional ranks of grateful
country-people all the way. They crowded about Joan to touch her
feet, her horse, her armor, and they even knelt in the road and
kissed her horse's hoof-prints.
The land was full of her praises. The most illustrious cheifs of the
church wrote to the King extolling the Maid, comparing her to the
saints and heroes of the Bible, and warning him not to let
"unbelief, ingratitude, or other injustice" hinder or impair the
divine help sent through her. One might think there was a touch of
prophecy in that, and we will let it go at that; but to my mind it had
its inspiration in those great men's accurate knowledge of the
King's trivial and treacherous character.
The King had come to Tours to meet Joan. At the present day this
poor thing is called Charles the Victorious, on account of victories
which other people won for him, but in our time we had a private
name for him which described him better, and was sanctified to
him by personal deserving--Charles the Base. When we entered the
presence he sat throned, with his tinseled snobs and dandies
around him. He looked like a forked carrot, so tightly did his
clothing fit him from his waist down; he wore shoes with a
rope-like pliant toe a foot long that had to be hitched up to the
knee to keep it out of the way; he had on a crimson velvet cape
that came no lower than his elbows; on his head he had a tall felt
thing like a thimble, with a feather it its jeweled band that stuck up
like a pen from an inkhorn, and from under that thimble his bush
of stiff hair stuck down to his shoulders, curving outward at the
bottom, so that the cap and the hair together made the head like a
shuttlecock. All the materials of his dress were rich, and all the
colors brilliant. In his lap he cuddled a miniature greyhound that
snarled, lifting its lip and showing its white teeth whenever any
slight movement disturbed it. The King's dandies were dressed in
about the same fashion as himself, and when I remembered that
Joan had called the war-council of Orleans "disguised ladies'
maids," it reminded me of people who squander all their money on
a trifle and then haven't anything to invest when they come across
a better chance; that name ought to have been saved for these
Joan fell on her knees before the majesty of France, and the other
frivolous animal in his lap--a sight which it pained me to see.
What had that man done for his country or for anybody in it, that
she or any other person should kneel to him? But she--she had just
done the only great deed that had been done for France in fifty
years, and had consecrated it with the libation of her blood. The
positions should have been reversed.
However, to be fair, one must grant that Charles acquitted himself
very well for the most part, on that occasion--very much better
than he was in the habit of doing. He passed his pup to a courtier,
and took off his cap to Joan as if she had been a queen. Then he
stepped from his throne and raised her, and showed quite a spirited
and manly joy and gratitude in welcoming her and thanking her for
her extraordinary achievement in his service. My prejudices are of
a later date than that. If he had continued as he was at that
moment, I should not have acquired them.
He acted handsomely. He said:
"You shall not kneel to me, my matchless General; you have
wrought royally, and royal courtesies are your due." Noticing that
she was pale, he said, "But you must not stand; you have lost blood
for France, and your wound is yet green--come." He led her to a
seat and sat down by her. "Now, then, speak out frankly, as to one
who owes you much and freely confesses it before all this courtly
assemblage. What shall be your reward? Name it."
I was ashamed of him. And yet that was not fair, for how could he
be expected to know this marvelous child in these few weeks,
when we who thought we had known her all her life were daily
seeing the clouds uncover some new altitudes of her character
whose existence was not suspected by us before? But we are all
that way: when we know a thing we have only scorn for other
people who don't happen to know it. And I was ashamed of these
courtiers, too, for the way they licked their chops, so to speak, as
envying Joan her great chance, they not knowing her any better
than the King did. A blush began to rise in Joan's cheeks at the
thought that she was working for her country for pay, and she
dropped her head and tried to hide her face, as girls always do
when they find themselves blushing; no one knows why they do,
but they do, and the more they blush the more they fail to get
reconciled to it, and the more they can't bear to have people look at
them when they are doing it. The King made it a great deal worse
by calling attention to it, which is the unkindest thing a person can
do when a girl is blushing; sometimes, when there is a big crowd
of strangers, it is even likely to make her cry if she is as young as
Joan was. God knows the reason for this, it is hidden from men. As
for me, I would as soon blush as sneeze; in fact, I would rather.
However, these meditations are not of consequence: I will go on
with what I was saying. The King rallied her for blushing, and this
brought up the rest of the blood and turned her face to fire. Then
he was sorry, seeing what he had done, and tried to make her
comfortable by saying the blush was exceeding becoming to her
and not to mind it--which caused even the dog to notice it now, so
of course the red in Joan's face turned to purple, and the tears
overflowed and ran down--I could have told anybody that that
would happen. The King was distressed, and saw that the best
thing to do would be to get away from this subject, so he began to
say the finest kind of things about Joan's capture of the Tourelles,
and presently when she was more composed he mentioned the
reward again and pressed her to name it. Everybody listened with
anxious interest to hear what her claim was going to be, but when
her answer came their faces showed that the thing she asked for
was not what they had been expecting.
"Oh, dear and gracious Dauphin, I have but one desire--only one.
"Do not be afraid, my child--name it."
"That you will not delay a day. My army is strong and valiant, and
eager to finish its work--march with me to Rheims and receive
your crown." You could see the indolent King shrink, in his
"To Rheims--oh, impossible, my General! We march through the
heart of England's power?"
Could those be French faces there? Not one of them lighted in
response to the girl's brave proposition, but all promptly showed
satisfaction in the King's objection. Leave this silken idleness for
the rude contact of war? None of these butterflies desired that.
They passed their jeweled comfit-boxes one to another and
whispered their content in the head butterfly's practical prudence.
Joan pleaded with the King, saying:
"Ah, I pray you do not throw away this perfect opportunity.
Everything is favorable--everything. It is as if the circumstances
were specially made for it. The spirits of our army are exalted with
victory, those of the English forces depressed by defeat. Delay will
change this. Seeing us hesitate to follow up our advantage, our
men will wonder, doubt, lose confidence, and the English will
wonder, gather courage, and be bold again. Now is the
time--pritheee let us march!"
The King shook his head, and La Tremouille, being asked for an
opinion, eagerly furnished it:
"Sire, all prudence is against it. Think of the English strongholds
along the Loire; think of those that lie between us and Rheims!"
He was going on, but Joan cut him short, and said, turning to him:
"If we wait, they will all be strengthened, reinforced. Will that
"Then what is your suggestion?--what is it that you would propose
"My judgment is to wait."
"Wait for what?"
The minister was obliged to hesitate, for he knew of no
explanation that would sound well. Moreover, he was not used to
being catechized in this fashion, with the eyes of a crowd of people
on him, so he was irritated, and said:
"Matters of state are not proper matters for public discussion."
Joan said placidly:
"I have to beg your pardon. My trespass came of ignorance. I did
not know that matters connected with your department of the
government were matters of state."
The minister lifted his brows in amused surprise, and said, with a
touch of sarcasm:
"I am the King's chief minister, and yet you had the impression that
matters connected with my department are not matters of state?
Pray, how is that?"
Joan replied, indifferently:
"Because there is no state."
"No, sir, there is no state, and no use for a minister. France is
shrunk to a couple of acres of ground; a sheriff's constable could
take care of it; its affairs are not matters of state. The term is too
The King did not blush, but burst into a hearty, careless laugh, and
the court laughed too, but prudently turned its head and did it
silently. La Tremouille was angry, and opened his mouth to speak,
but the King put up his hand, and said:
"There--I take her under the royal protection. She has spoken the