Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
Volume 1 (of 2)
VOLUME 1 (of 2)
By Mark Twain
Consider this unique and imposing distinction. Since the writing of
human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who
has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the
age of seventeen
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF JOAN OF ARC
By The Sieur Louis De Conte
(her page and secretary)
In Two Volumes
Freely translated out of the ancient French into modern English from the
original unpublished manuscript in the National Archives of France
By Jean Francois Alden
Authorities examined in verification of the truthfulness of this
J. E. J. QUICHERAT, Condamnation et Rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc.
J. FABRE, Proces de Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc.
H. A. WALLON, Jeanne d'Arc.
M. SEPET, Jeanne d'Arc.
J. MICHELET, Jeanne d'Arc.
BERRIAT DE SAINT-PRIX, La Famille de Jeanne d'Arc.
La Comtesse A. DE CHABANNES, La Vierge Lorraine.
Monseigneur RICARD, Jeanne d'Arc la Venerable.
Lord RONALD GOWER, F.S.A., Joan of Arc. JOHN O'HAGAN, Joan of Arc.
JANET TUCKEY, Joan of Arc the Maid.
To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man's character one must
judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards
of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of
their luster; judged by the standards of to-day, there is probably no
illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet
the test at all points. But the character of Joan of Arc is unique.
It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving
or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, it is still
flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest
place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached
by any other mere mortal.
When we reflect that her century was the brutalest, the wickedest, the
rottenest in history since the darkest ages, we are lost in wonder at
the miracle of such a product from such a soil. The contrast between her
and her century is the contrast between day and night. She was truthful
when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honesty was
become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of
a promise was expected of no one; she gave her great mind to great
thoughts and great purposes when other great minds wasted themselves
upon pretty fancies or upon poor ambitions; she was modest, and fine,
and delicate when to be loud and coarse might be said to be universal;
she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was
steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had
forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when
men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly
true to an age that was false to the core; she maintained her personal
dignity unimpaired in an age of fawnings and servilities; she was of a
dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of
her nation; she was spotlessly pure in mind and body when society in the
highest places was foul in both—she was all these things in an age when
crime was the common business of lords and princes, and when the highest
personages in Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era
and make it stand aghast at the spectacle of their atrocious lives black
with unimaginable treacheries, butcheries, and beastialities.
She was perhaps the only entirely unselfish person whose name has a
place in profane history. No vestige or suggestion of self-seeking can
be found in any word or deed of hers. When she had rescued her King
from his vagabondage, and set his crown upon his head, she was offered
rewards and honors, but she refused them all, and would take nothing.
All she would take for herself—if the King would grant it—was leave
to go back to her village home, and tend her sheep again, and feel
her mother's arms about her, and be her housemaid and helper. The
selfishness of this unspoiled general of victorious armies, companion of
princes, and idol of an applauding and grateful nation, reached but that
far and no farther.
The work wrought by Joan of Arc may fairly be regarded as ranking any
recorded in history, when one considers the conditions under which it
was undertaken, the obstacles in the way, and the means at her disposal.
Caesar carried conquests far, but he did it with the trained and
confident veterans of Rome, and was a trained soldier himself; and
Napoleon swept away the disciplined armies of Europe, but he also was a
trained soldier, and he began his work with patriot battalions inflamed
and inspired by the miracle-working new breath of Liberty breathed upon
them by the Revolution—eager young apprentices to the splendid trade of
war, not old and broken men-at-arms, despairing survivors of an age-long
accumulation of monotonous defeats; but Joan of Arc, a mere child in
years, ignorant, unlettered, a poor village girl unknown and without
influence, found a great nation lying in chains, helpless and hopeless
under an alien domination, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers
disheartened and dispersed, all spirit torpid, all courage dead in the
hearts of the people through long years of foreign and domestic outrage
and oppression, their King cowed, resigned to its fate, and preparing
to fly the country; and she laid her hand upon this nation, this corpse,
and it rose and followed her. She led it from victory to victory, she
turned back the tide of the Hundred Years' War, she fatally crippled the
English power, and died with the earned title of DELIVERER OF FRANCE,
which she bears to this day.
And for all reward, the French King, whom she had crowned, stood supine
and indifferent, while French priests took the noble child, the most
innocent, the most lovely, the most adorable the ages have produced, and
burned her alive at the stake.
A PECULIARITY OF JOAN OF ARC'S HISTORY
The details of the life of Joan of Arc form a biography which is unique
among the world's biographies in one respect: It is the only story of a
human life which comes to us under oath, the only one which comes to us
from the witness-stand. The official records of the Great Trial of 1431,
and of the Process of Rehabilitation of a quarter of a century later,
are still preserved in the National Archives of France, and they furnish
with remarkable fullness the facts of her life. The history of no other
life of that remote time is known with either the certainty or the
comprehensiveness that attaches to hers.
The Sieur Louis de Conte is faithful to her official history in
his Personal Recollections, and thus far his trustworthiness is
unimpeachable; but his mass of added particulars must depend for credit
upon his word alone.
THE SIEUR LOUIS DE CONTE
To his Great-Great-Grand Nephews and Nieces
This is the year 1492. I am eighty-two years of age. The things I am
going to tell you are things which I saw myself as a child and as a
In all the tales and songs and histories of Joan of Arc, which you and
the rest of the world read and sing and study in the books wrought in
the late invented art of printing, mention is made of me, the Sieur
Louis de Conte—I was her page and secretary, I was with her from the
beginning until the end.
I was reared in the same village with her. I played with her every day,
when we were little children together, just as you play with your mates.
Now that we perceive how great she was, now that her name fills the
whole world, it seems strange that what I am saying is true; for it is
as if a perishable paltry candle should speak of the eternal sun riding
in the heavens and say, "He was gossip and housemate to me when we
were candles together." And yet it is true, just as I say. I was her
playmate, and I fought at her side in the wars; to this day I carry in
my mind, fine and clear, the picture of that dear little figure, with
breast bent to the flying horse's neck, charging at the head of the
armies of France, her hair streaming back, her silver mail plowing
steadily deeper and deeper into the thick of the battle, sometimes
nearly drowned from sight by tossing heads of horses, uplifted
sword-arms, wind-blow plumes, and intercepting shields. I was with her
to the end; and when that black day came whose accusing shadow will lie
always upon the memory of the mitered French slaves of England who were
her assassins, and upon France who stood idle and essayed no rescue, my
hand was the last she touched in life.
As the years and the decades drifted by, and the spectacle of the
marvelous child's meteor flight across the war firmament of France
and its extinction in the smoke-clouds of the stake receded deeper and
deeper into the past and grew ever more strange, and wonderful, and
divine, and pathetic, I came to comprehend and recognize her at last for
what she was—the most noble life that was ever born into this world save
BOOK I IN DOMREMY
Chapter 1 When Wolves Ran Free in Paris
I, THE SIEUR LOUIS DE CONTE, was born in Neufchateau, on the 6th of
January, 1410; that is to say, exactly two years before Joan of Arc was
born in Domremy. My family had fled to those distant regions from the
neighborhood of Paris in the first years of the century. In politics
they were Armagnacs—patriots; they were for our own French King, crazy
and impotent as he was. The Burgundian party, who were for the English,
had stripped them, and done it well. They took everything but my
father's small nobility, and when he reached Neufchateau he reached it
in poverty and with a broken spirit. But the political atmosphere there
was the sort he liked, and that was something. He came to a region of
comparative quiet; he left behind him a region peopled with furies,
madmen, devils, where slaughter was a daily pastime and no man's life
safe for a moment. In Paris, mobs roared through the streets nightly,
sacking, burning, killing, unmolested, uninterrupted. The sun rose upon
wrecked and smoking buildings, and upon mutilated corpses lying here,
there, and yonder about the streets, just as they fell, and stripped
naked by thieves, the unholy gleaners after the mob. None had the
courage to gather these dead for burial; they were left there to rot and
And plagues they did create. Epidemics swept away the people like
flies, and the burials were conducted secretly and by night, for public
funerals were not allowed, lest the revelation of the magnitude of the
plague's work unman the people and plunge them into despair. Then came,
finally, the bitterest winter which had visited France in five hundred
years. Famine, pestilence, slaughter, ice, snow—Paris had all these at
once. The dead lay in heaps about the streets, and wolves entered the
city in daylight and devoured them.
Ah, France had fallen low—so low! For more than three quarters of a
century the English fangs had been bedded in her flesh, and so cowed
had her armies become by ceaseless rout and defeat that it was said and
accepted that the mere sight of an English army was sufficient to put a
French one to flight.
When I was five years old the prodigious disaster of Agincourt fell upon
France; and although the English King went home to enjoy his glory, he
left the country prostrate and a prey to roving bands of Free Companions
in the service of the Burgundian party, and one of these bands came
raiding through Neufchateau one night, and by the light of our burning
roof-thatch I saw all that were dear to me in this world (save an elder
brother, your ancestor, left behind with the court) butchered while
they begged for mercy, and heard the butchers laugh at their prayers and
mimic their pleadings. I was overlooked, and escaped without hurt. When
the savages were gone I crept out and cried the night away watching the
burning houses; and I was all alone, except for the company of the dead
and the wounded, for the rest had taken flight and hidden themselves.
I was sent to Domremy, to the priest, whose housekeeper became a loving
mother to me. The priest, in the course of time, taught me to read and
write, and he and I were the only persons in the village who possessed
At the time that the house of this good priest, Guillaume Fronte, became
my home, I was six years old. We lived close by the village church, and
the small garden of Joan's parents was behind the church. As to that
family there were Jacques d'Arc the father, his wife Isabel Romee; three
sons—Jacques, ten years old, Pierre, eight, and Jean, seven; Joan, four,
and her baby sister Catherine, about a year old. I had these
children for playmates from the beginning. I had some other playmates
besides—particularly four boys: Pierre Morel, Etienne Roze, Noel
Rainguesson, and Edmond Aubrey, whose father was maire at that time;
also two girls, about Joan's age, who by and by became her favorites;
one was named Haumetter, the other was called Little Mengette. These
girls were common peasant children, like Joan herself. When they grew
up, both married common laborers. Their estate was lowly enough, you
see; yet a time came, many years after, when no passing stranger,
howsoever great he might be, failed to go and pay his reverence to
those two humble old women who had been honored in their youth by the
friendship of Joan of Arc.
These were all good children, just of the ordinary peasant type;
not bright, of course—you would not expect that—but good-hearted and
companionable, obedient to their parents and the priest; and as they
grew up they became properly stocked with narrowness and prejudices
got at second hand from their elders, and adopted without reserve; and
without examination also—which goes without saying. Their religion was
inherited, their politics the same. John Huss and his sort might find
fault with the Church, in Domremy it disturbed nobody's faith; and when
the split came, when I was fourteen, and we had three Popes at once,
nobody in Domremy was worried about how to choose among them—the Pope of
Rome was the right one, a Pope outside of Rome was no Pope at all.
Every human creature in the village was an Armagnac—a patriot—and if we
children hotly hated nothing else in the world, we did certainly hate
the English and Burgundian name and polity in that way.
Chapter 2 The Fairy Tree of Domremy
OUR DOMREMY was like any other humble little hamlet of that remote time
and region. It was a maze of crooked, narrow lanes and alleys shaded and
sheltered by the overhanging thatch roofs of the barnlike houses. The
houses were dimly lighted by wooden-shuttered windows—that is, holes in
the walls which served for windows. The floors were dirt, and there was
very little furniture. Sheep and cattle grazing was the main industry;
all the young folks tended flocks.
The situation was beautiful. From one edge of the village a flowery
plain extended in a wide sweep to the river—the Meuse; from the rear
edge of the village a grassy slope rose gradually, and at the top was
the great oak forest—a forest that was deep and gloomy and dense, and
full of interest for us children, for many murders had been done in it
by outlaws in old times, and in still earlier times prodigious dragons
that spouted fire and poisonous vapors from their nostrils had their
homes in there. In fact, one was still living in there in our own time.
It was as long as a tree, and had a body as big around as a tierce, and
scales like overlapping great tiles, and deep ruby eyes as large as a
cavalier's hat, and an anchor-fluke on its tail as big as I don't know
what, but very big, even unusually so for a dragon, as everybody
said who knew about dragons. It was thought that this dragon was of a
brilliant blue color, with gold mottlings, but no one had ever seen it,
therefore this was not known to be so, it was only an opinion. It was
not my opinion; I think there is no sense in forming an opinion when
there is no evidence to form it on. If you build a person without any
bones in him he may look fair enough to the eye, but he will be limber
and cannot stand up; and I consider that evidence is the bones of an
opinion. But I will take up this matter more at large at another time,
and try to make the justness of my position appear. As to that dragon,
I always held the belief that its color was gold and without blue, for
that has always been the color of dragons. That this dragon lay but a
little way within the wood at one time is shown by the fact that Pierre
Morel was in there one day and smelt it, and recognized it by the smell.
It gives one a horrid idea of how near to us the deadliest danger can be
and we not suspect it.
In the earliest times a hundred knights from many remote places in the
earth would have gone in there one after another, to kill the dragon and
get the reward, but in our time that method had gone out, and the priest
had become the one that abolished dragons. Pere Guillaume Fronte did it
in this case. He had a procession, with candles and incense and banners,
and marched around the edge of the wood and exorcised the dragon, and it
was never heard of again, although it was the opinion of many that the
smell never wholly passed away. Not that any had ever smelt the smell
again, for none had; it was only an opinion, like that other—and lacked
bones, you see. I know that the creature was there before the exorcism,
but whether it was there afterward or not is a thing which I cannot be
so positive about.
In a noble open space carpeted with grass on the high ground toward
Vaucouleurs stood a most majestic beech tree with wide-reaching arms and
a grand spread of shade, and by it a limpid spring of cold water; and on
summer days the children went there—oh, every summer for more than five
hundred years—went there and sang and danced around the tree for hours
together, refreshing themselves at the spring from time to time, and
it was most lovely and enjoyable. Also they made wreaths of flowers and
hung them upon the tree and about the spring to please the fairies that
lived there; for they liked that, being idle innocent little creatures,
as all fairies are, and fond of anything delicate and pretty like wild
flowers put together in that way. And in return for this attention the
fairies did any friendly thing they could for the children, such as
keeping the spring always full and clear and cold, and driving away
serpents and insects that sting; and so there was never any unkindness
between the fairies and the children during more than five hundred
years—tradition said a thousand—but only the warmest affection and the
most perfect trust and confidence; and whenever a child died the fairies
mourned just as that child's playmates did, and the sign of it was there
to see; for before the dawn on the day of the funeral they hung a little
immortelle over the place where that child was used to sit under the
tree. I know this to be true by my own eyes; it is not hearsay. And the
reason it was known that the fairies did it was this—that it was made
all of black flowers of a sort not known in France anywhere.
Now from time immemorial all children reared in Domremy were called the
Children of the Tree; and they loved that name, for it carried with it
a mystic privilege not granted to any others of the children of this
world. Which was this: whenever one of these came to die, then beyond
the vague and formless images drifting through his darkening mind rose
soft and rich and fair a vision of the Tree—if all was well with his
soul. That was what some said. Others said the vision came in two ways:
once as a warning, one or two years in advance of death, when the soul
was the captive of sin, and then the Tree appeared in its desolate
winter aspect—then that soul was smitten with an awful fear. If
repentance came, and purity of life, the vision came again, this time
summer-clad and beautiful; but if it were otherwise with that soul the
vision was withheld, and it passed from life knowing its doom. Still
others said that the vision came but once, and then only to the sinless
dying forlorn in distant lands and pitifully longing for some last dear
reminder of their home. And what reminder of it could go to their hearts
like the picture of the Tree that was the darling of their love and the
comrade of their joys and comforter of their small griefs all through
the divine days of their vanished youth?
Now the several traditions were as I have said, some believing one and
some another. One of them I knew to be the truth, and that was the last
one. I do not say anything against the others; I think they were true,
but I only know that the last one was; and it is my thought that if one
keep to the things he knows, and not trouble about the things which he
cannot be sure about, he will have the steadier mind for it—and there is
profit in that. I know that when the Children of the Tree die in a far
land, then—if they be at peace with God—they turn their longing eyes
toward home, and there, far-shining, as through a rift in a cloud that
curtains heaven, they see the soft picture of the Fairy Tree, clothed
in a dream of golden light; and they see the bloomy mead sloping away to
the river, and to their perishing nostrils is blown faint and sweet
the fragrance of the flowers of home. And then the vision fades and
passes—but they know, they know! and by their transfigured faces you
know also, you who stand looking on; yes, you know the message that has
come, and that it has come from heaven.
Joan and I believed alike about this matter. But Pierre Morel and
Jacques d'Arc, and many others believed that the vision appeared
twice—to a sinner. In fact, they and many others said they knew it.
Probably because their fathers had known it and had told them; for one
gets most things at second hand in this world.
Now one thing that does make it quite likely that there were really two
apparitions of the Tree is this fact: From the most ancient times if one
saw a villager of ours with his face ash-white and rigid with a ghastly
fright, it was common for every one to whisper to his neighbor, "Ah, he
is in sin, and has got his warning." And the neighbor would shudder at
the thought and whisper back, "Yes, poor soul, he has seen the Tree."
Such evidences as these have their weight; they are not to be put
aside with a wave of the hand. A thing that is backed by the cumulative
evidence of centuries naturally gets nearer and nearer to being proof
all the time; and if this continue and continue, it will some day become
authority—and authority is a bedded rock, and will abide.
In my long life I have seen several cases where the tree appeared
announcing a death which was still far away; but in none of these was
the person in a state of sin. No; the apparition was in these cases
only a special grace; in place of deferring the tidings of that soul's
redemption till the day of death, the apparition brought them long
before, and with them peace—peace that might no more be disturbed—the
eternal peace of God. I myself, old and broken, wait with serenity; for
I have seen the vision of the Tree. I have seen it, and am content.
Always, from the remotest times, when the children joined hands and
danced around the Fairy Tree they sang a song which was the Tree's song,
the song of L'Arbre fee de Bourlemont. They sang it to a quaint sweet
air—a solacing sweet air which has gone murmuring through my dreaming
spirit all my life when I was weary and troubled, resting me and
carrying me through night and distance home again. No stranger can know
or feel what that song has been, through the drifting centuries, to
exiled Children of the Tree, homeless and heavy of heart in countries
foreign to their speech and ways. You will think it a simple thing, that
song, and poor, perchance; but if you will remember what it was to
us, and what it brought before our eyes when it floated through our
memories, then you will respect it. And you will understand how the
water wells up in our eyes and makes all things dim, and our voices
break and we cannot sing the last lines:
"And when, in Exile wand'ring, we Shall fainting yearn for glimpse of
thee, Oh, rise upon our sight!"
And you will remember that Joan of Arc sang this song with us around the
Tree when she was a little child, and always loved it. And that hallows
it, yes, you will grant that:
L'ARBRE FEE DE BOURLEMONT
SONG OF THE CHILDREN
Now what has kept your leaves so green,
Arbre Fee de Bourlemont?
The children's tears! They brought each grief,
And you did comfort them and cheer
Their bruised hearts, and steal a tear
That, healed, rose a leaf.
And what has built you up so strong,
Arbre Fee de Bourlemont?
The children's love! They've loved you long
Ten hundred years, in sooth,
They've nourished you with praise and song,
And warmed your heart and kept it young—
A thousand years of youth!
Bide always green in our young hearts,
Arbre Fee de Bourlemont!
And we shall always youthful be,
Not heeding Time his flight;
And when, in exile wand'ring, we
Shall fainting yearn for glimpse of thee,
Oh, rise upon our sight!
The fairies were still there when we were children, but we never saw
them; because, a hundred years before that, the priest of Domremy had
held a religious function under the tree and denounced them as being
blood-kin to the Fiend and barred them from redemption; and then
he warned them never to show themselves again, nor hang any more
immortelles, on pain of perpetual banishment from that parish.
All the children pleaded for the fairies, and said they were their good
friends and dear to them and never did them any harm, but the priest
would not listen, and said it was sin and shame to have such friends.
The children mourned and could not be comforted; and they made an
agreement among themselves that they would always continue to hang
flower-wreaths on the tree as a perpetual sign to the fairies that they
were still loved and remembered, though lost to sight.
But late one night a great misfortune befell. Edmond Aubrey's mother
passed by the Tree, and the fairies were stealing a dance, not thinking
anybody was by; and they were so busy, and so intoxicated with the wild
happiness of it, and with the bumpers of dew sharpened up with honey
which they had been drinking, that they noticed nothing; so Dame Aubrey
stood there astonished and admiring, and saw the little fantastic atoms
holding hands, as many as three hundred of them, tearing around in a
great ring half as big as an ordinary bedroom, and leaning away back
and spreading their mouths with laughter and song, which she could hear
quite distinctly, and kicking their legs up as much as three inches
from the ground in perfect abandon and hilarity—oh, the very maddest and
witchingest dance the woman ever saw.
But in about a minute or two minutes the poor little ruined creatures
discovered her. They burst out in one heartbreaking squeak of grief and
terror and fled every which way, with their wee hazel-nut fists in their
eyes and crying; and so disappeared.
The heartless woman—no, the foolish woman; she was not heartless, but
only thoughtless—went straight home and told the neighbors all about it,
whilst we, the small friends of the fairies, were asleep and not witting
the calamity that was come upon us, and all unconscious that we ought to
be up and trying to stop these fatal tongues. In the morning everybody
knew, and the disaster was complete, for where everybody knows a thing
the priest knows it, of course. We all flocked to Pere Fronte, crying
and begging—and he had to cry, too, seeing our sorrow, for he had a most
kind and gentle nature; and he did not want to banish the fairies, and
said so; but said he had no choice, for it had been decreed that if they
ever revealed themselves to man again, they must go. This all happened
at the worst time possible, for Joan of Arc was ill of a fever and out
of her head, and what could we do who had not her gifts of reasoning and
persuasion? We flew in a swarm to her bed and cried out, "Joan, wake!
Wake, there is no moment to lose! Come and plead for the fairies—come
and save them; only you can do it!"
But her mind was wandering, she did not know what we said nor what we
meant; so we went away knowing all was lost. Yes, all was lost, forever
lost; the faithful friends of the children for five hundred years must
go, and never come back any more.
It was a bitter day for us, that day that Pere Fronte held the function
under the tree and banished the fairies. We could not wear mourning that
any could have noticed, it would not have been allowed; so we had to be
content with some poor small rag of black tied upon our garments where
it made no show; but in our hearts we wore mourning, big and noble and
occupying all the room, for our hearts were ours; they could not get at
them to prevent that.
The great tree—l'Arbre Fee de Bourlemont was its beautiful name—was
never afterward quite as much to us as it had been before, but it was
always dear; is dear to me yet when I go there now, once a year in my
old age, to sit under it and bring back the lost playmates of my youth
and group them about me and look upon their faces through my tears
and break my heart, oh, my God! No, the place was not quite the same
afterward. In one or two ways it could not be; for, the fairies'
protection being gone, the spring lost much of its freshness and
coldness, and more than two-thirds of its volume, and the banished
serpents and stinging insects returned, and multiplied, and became a
torment and have remained so to this day.
When that wise little child, Joan, got well, we realized how much her
illness had cost us; for we found that we had been right in believing
she could save the fairies. She burst into a great storm of anger, for
so little a creature, and went straight to Pere Fronte, and stood up
before him where he sat, and made reverence and said:
"The fairies were to go if they showed themselves to people again, is it
"Yes, that was it, dear."
"If a man comes prying into a person's room at midnight when that person
is half-naked, will you be so unjust as to say that that person is
showing himself to that man?"
"Well—no." The good priest looked a little troubled and uneasy when he
"Is a sin a sin, anyway, even if one did not intend to commit it?"
Pere Fronte threw up his hands and cried out:
"Oh, my poor little child, I see all my fault," and he drew her to his
side and put an arm around her and tried to make his peace with her, but
her temper was up so high that she could not get it down right away, but
buried her head against his breast and broke out crying and said:
"Then the fairies committed no sin, for there was no intention to commit
one, they not knowing that any one was by; and because they were little
creatures and could not speak for themselves and say the law was against
the intention, not against the innocent act, because they had no friend
to think that simple thing for them and say it, they have been sent away
from their home forever, and it was wrong, wrong to do it!"
The good father hugged her yet closer to his side and said:
"Oh, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings the heedless and
unthinking are condemned; would God I could bring the little creatures
back, for your sake. And mine, yes, and mine; for I have been unjust.
There, there, don't cry—nobody could be sorrier than your poor old
friend—don't cry, dear."
"But I can't stop right away, I've got to. And it is no little matter,
this thing that you have done. Is being sorry penance enough for such an
Pere Fronte turned away his face, for it would have hurt her to see him
laugh, and said:
"Oh, thou remorseless but most just accuser, no, it is not. I will put
on sackcloth and ashes; there—are you satisfied?"
Joan's sobs began to diminish, and she presently looked up at the old
man through her tears, and said, in her simple way:
"Yes, that will do—if it will clear you."
Pere Fronte would have been moved to laugh again, perhaps, if he had not
remembered in time that he had made a contract, and not a very agreeable
one. It must be fulfilled. So he got up and went to the fireplace, Joan
watching him with deep interest, and took a shovelful of cold ashes, and
was going to empty them on his old gray head when a better idea came to
him, and he said:
"Would you mind helping me, dear?"
He got down on his knees and bent his head low, and said:
"Take the ashes and put them on my head for me."
The matter ended there, of course. The victory was with the priest. One
can imagine how the idea of such a profanation would strike Joan or any
other child in the village. She ran and dropped upon her knees by his
side and said:
"Oh, it is dreadful. I didn't know that that was what one meant by
sackcloth and ashes—do please get up, father."
"But I can't until I am forgiven. Do you forgive me?"
"I? Oh, you have done nothing to me, father; it is yourself that must
forgive yourself for wronging those poor things. Please get up, father,
"But I am worse off now than I was before. I thought I was earning
your forgiveness, but if it is my own, I can't be lenient; it would not
become me. Now what can I do? Find me some way out of this with your
wise little head."
The Pere would not stir, for all Joan's pleadings. She was about to cry
again; then she had an idea, and seized the shovel and deluged her
own head with the ashes, stammering out through her chokings and
"There—now it is done. Oh, please get up, father."
The old man, both touched and amused, gathered her to his breast and
"Oh, you incomparable child! It's a humble martyrdom, and not of a sort
presentable in a picture, but the right and true spirit is in it; that I
Then he brushed the ashes out of her hair, and helped her scour her face
and neck and properly tidy herself up. He was in fine spirits now, and
ready for further argument, so he took his seat and drew Joan to his
side again, and said:
"Joan, you were used to make wreaths there at the Fairy Tree with the
other children; is it not so?"
That was the way he always started out when he was going to corner me up
and catch me in something—just that gentle, indifferent way that fools
a person so, and leads him into the trap, he never noticing which way he
is traveling until he is in and the door shut on him. He enjoyed that.
I knew he was going to drop corn along in front of Joan now. Joan
"Did you hang them on the tree?"
"Didn't hang them there?"
"Why didn't you?"
"I—well, I didn't wish to."
"Didn't wish to?"
"What did you do with them?"
"I hung them in the church."
"Why didn't you want to hang them in the tree?"
"Because it was said that the fairies were of kin to the Fiend, and that
it was sinful to show them honor."
"Did you believe it was wrong to honor them so?"
"Yes. I thought it must be wrong."
"Then if it was wrong to honor them in that way, and if they were of
kin to the Fiend, they could be dangerous company for you and the other
children, couldn't they?"
"I suppose so—yes, I think so."
He studied a minute, and I judged he was going to spring his trap, and
he did. He said:
"Then the matter stands like this. They were banned creatures, of
fearful origin; they could be dangerous company for the children. Now
give me a rational reason, dear, if you can think of any, why you call
it a wrong to drive them into banishment, and why you would have saved
them from it. In a word, what loss have you suffered by it?"
How stupid of him to go and throw his case away like that! I could have
boxed his ears for vexation if he had been a boy. He was going along all
right until he ruined everything by winding up in that foolish and fatal
way. What had she lost by it! Was he never going to find out what kind
of a child Joan of Arc was? Was he never going to learn that things
which merely concerned her own gain or loss she cared nothing about?
Could he never get the simple fact into his head that the sure way and
the only way to rouse her up and set her on fire was to show her where
some other person was going to suffer wrong or hurt or loss? Why, he had
gone and set a trap for himself—that was all he had accomplished.
The minute those words were out of his mouth her temper was up, the
indignant tears rose in her eyes, and she burst out on him with an
energy and passion which astonished him, but didn't astonish me, for I
knew he had fired a mine when he touched off his ill-chosen climax.
"Oh, father, how can you talk like that? Who owns France?"
"God and the King."
"Satan, my child? This is the footstool of the Most High—Satan owns no
handful of its soil."
"Then who gave those poor creatures their home? God. Who protected them
in it all those centuries? God. Who allowed them to dance and play there
all those centuries and found no fault with it? God. Who disapproved of
God's approval and put a threat upon them? A man. Who caught them again
in harmless sports that God allowed and a man forbade, and carried out
that threat, and drove the poor things away from the home the good God
gave them in His mercy and His pity, and sent down His rain and dew and
sunshine upon it five hundred years in token of His peace? It was their
home—theirs, by the grace of God and His good heart, and no man had a
right to rob them of it. And they were the gentlest, truest friends that
children ever had, and did them sweet and loving service all these five
long centuries, and never any hurt or harm; and the children loved them,
and now they mourn for them, and there is no healing for their grief.
And what had the children done that they should suffer this cruel
stroke? The poor fairies could have been dangerous company for the
children? Yes, but never had been; and could is no argument. Kinsmen of
the Fiend? What of it? Kinsmen of the Fiend have rights, and these had;
and children have rights, and these had; and if I had been there I would
have spoken—I would have begged for the children and the fiends, and
stayed your hand and saved them all. But now—oh, now, all is lost;
everything is lost, and there is no help more!"
Then she finished with a blast at that idea that fairy kinsmen of the
Fiend ought to be shunned and denied human sympathy and friendship
because salvation was barred against them. She said that for that very
reason people ought to pity them, and do every humane and loving thing
they could to make them forget the hard fate that had been put upon them
by accident of birth and no fault of their own. "Poor little creatures!"
she said. "What can a person's heart be made of that can pity a
Christian's child and yet can't pity a devil's child, that a thousand
times more needs it!"
She had torn loose from Pere Fronte, and was crying, with her knuckles
in her eyes, and stamping her small feet in a fury; and now she burst
out of the place and was gone before we could gather our senses together
out of this storm of words and this whirlwind of passion.
The Pere had got upon his feet, toward the last, and now he stood there
passing his hand back and forth across his forehead like a person who is
dazed and troubled; then he turned and wandered toward the door of
his little workroom, and as he passed through it I heard him murmur
"Ah, me, poor children, poor fiends, they have rights, and she said
true—I never thought of that. God forgive me, I am to blame."
When I heard that, I knew I was right in the thought that he had set
a trap for himself. It was so, and he had walked into it, you see. I
seemed to feel encouraged, and wondered if mayhap I might get him into
one; but upon reflection my heart went down, for this was not my gift.
Chapter 3 All Aflame with Love of France
SPEAKING of this matter reminds me of many incidents, many things that I
could tell, but I think I will not try to do it now. It will be more
to my present humor to call back a little glimpse of the simple and
colorless good times we used to have in our village homes in those
peaceful days—especially in the winter. In the summer we children were
out on the breezy uplands with the flocks from dawn till night, and then
there was noisy frolicking and all that; but winter was the cozy time,
winter was the snug time. Often we gathered in old Jacques d'Arc's big
dirt-floored apartment, with a great fire going, and played games, and
sang songs, and told fortunes, and listened to the old villagers tell
tales and histories and lies and one thing and another till twelve
o'clock at night.
One winter's night we were gathered there—it was the winter that for
years afterward they called the hard winter—and that particular night
was a sharp one. It blew a gale outside, and the screaming of the wind
was a stirring sound, and I think I may say it was beautiful, for I
think it is great and fine and beautiful to hear the wind rage and storm
and blow its clarions like that, when you are inside and comfortable.
And we were. We had a roaring fire, and the pleasant spit-spit of the
snow and sleet falling in it down the chimney, and the yarning and
laughing and singing went on at a noble rate till about ten o'clock,
and then we had a supper of hot porridge and beans, and meal cakes with
butter, and appetites to match.
Little Joan sat on a box apart, and had her bowl and bread on another
one, and her pets around her helping. She had more than was usual of
them or economical, because all the outcast cats came and took up with
her, and homeless or unlovable animals of other kinds heard about it and
came, and these spread the matter to the other creatures, and they came
also; and as the birds and the other timid wild things of the woods were
not afraid of her, but always had an idea she was a friend when they
came across her, and generally struck up an acquaintance with her to get
invited to the house, she always had samples of those breeds in stock.
She was hospitable to them all, for an animal was an animal to her,
and dear by mere reason of being an animal, no matter about its sort
or social station; and as she would allow of no cages, no collars, no
fetters, but left the creatures free to come and go as they liked, that
contented them, and they came; but they didn't go, to any extent, and
so they were a marvelous nuisance, and made Jacques d'Arc swear a good
deal; but his wife said God gave the child the instinct, and knew what
He was doing when He did it, therefore it must have its course; it would
be no sound prudence to meddle with His affairs when no invitation had
been extended. So the pets were left in peace, and here they were, as
I have said, rabbits, birds, squirrels, cats, and other reptiles, all
around the child, and full of interest in her supper, and helping what
they could. There was a very small squirrel on her shoulder, sitting
up, as those creatures do, and turning a rocky fragment of prehistoric
chestnut-cake over and over in its knotty hands, and hunting for the
less indurated places, and giving its elevated bushy tail a flirt and
its pointed ears a toss when it found one—signifying thankfulness and
surprise—and then it filed that place off with those two slender front
teeth which a squirrel carries for that purpose and not for ornament,
for ornamental they never could be, as any will admit that have noticed
Everything was going fine and breezy and hilarious, but then there came
an interruption, for somebody hammered on the door. It was one of those
ragged road-stragglers—the eternal wars kept the country full of them.
He came in, all over snow, and stamped his feet, and shook, and brushed
himself, and shut the door, and took off his limp ruin of a hat, and
slapped it once or twice against his leg to knock off its fleece of
snow, and then glanced around on the company with a pleased look upon
his thin face, and a most yearning and famished one in his eye when it
fell upon the victuals, and then he gave us a humble and conciliatory
salutation, and said it was a blessed thing to have a fire like that on
such a night, and a roof overhead like this, and that rich food to eat,
and loving friends to talk with—ah, yes, this was true, and God help the
homeless, and such as must trudge the roads in this weather.
Nobody said anything. The embarrassed poor creature stood there and
appealed to one face after the other with his eyes, and found no welcome
in any, the smile on his own face flickering and fading and perishing,
meanwhile; then he dropped his gaze, the muscles of his face began to
twitch, and he put up his hand to cover this womanish sign of weakness.
This thunder-blast was from old Jacques d'Arc, and Joan was the object
of it. The stranger was startled, and took his hand away, and there
was Joan standing before him offering him her bowl of porridge. The man
"God Almighty bless you, my darling!" and then the tears came, and ran
down his cheeks, but he was afraid to take the bowl.
"Do you hear me? Sit down, I say!"
There could not be a child more easy to persuade than Joan, but this was
not the way. Her father had not the art; neither could he learn it. Joan
"Father, he is hungry; I can see it."
"Let him work for food, then. We are being eaten out of house and home
by his like, and I have said I would endure it no more, and will keep
my word. He has the face of a rascal anyhow, and a villain. Sit down, I
"I know not if he is a rascal or no, but he is hungry, father, and shall
have my porridge—I do not need it."
"If you don't obey me I'll—Rascals are not entitled to help from honest
people, and no bite nor sup shall they have in this house. Joan!"
She set her bowl down on the box and came over and stood before her
scowling father, and said:
"Father, if you will not let me, then it must be as you say; but I would
that you would think—then you would see that it is not right to punish
one part of him for what the other part has done; for it is that poor
stranger's head that does the evil things, but it is not his head that
is hungry, it is his stomach, and it has done no harm to anybody, but is
without blame, and innocent, not having any way to do a wrong, even if
it was minded to it. Please let—"
"What an idea! It is the most idiotic speech I ever heard."
But Aubrey, the maire, broke in, he being fond of an argument, and
having a pretty gift in that regard, as all acknowledged. Rising in his
place and leaning his knuckles upon the table and looking about him with
easy dignity, after the manner of such as be orators, he began, smooth
"I will differ with you there, gossip, and will undertake to show
the company"—here he looked around upon us and nodded his head in a
confident way—"that there is a grain of sense in what the child has
said; for look you, it is of a certainty most true and demonstrable that
it is a man's head that is master and supreme ruler over his whole body.
Is that granted? Will any deny it?" He glanced around again; everybody
indicated assent. "Very well, then; that being the case, no part of
the body is responsible for the result when it carries out an order
delivered to it by the head; ergo, the head is alone responsible for
crimes done by a man's hands or feet or stomach—do you get the idea? am
I right thus far?" Everybody said yes, and said it with enthusiasm, and
some said, one to another, that the maire was in great form to-night and
at his very best—which pleased the maire exceedingly and made his eyes
sparkle with pleasure, for he overheard these things; so he went on in
the same fertile and brilliant way. "Now, then, we will consider what
the term responsibility means, and how it affects the case in point.
Responsibility makes a man responsible for only those things for which
he is properly responsible"—and he waved his spoon around in a
wide sweep to indicate the comprehensive nature of that class of
responsibilities which render people responsible, and several exclaimed,
admiringly, "He is right!—he has put that whole tangled thing into a
nutshell—it is wonderful!" After a little pause to give the interest
opportunity to gather and grow, he went on: "Very good. Let us suppose
the case of a pair of tongs that falls upon a man's foot, causing a
cruel hurt. Will you claim that the tongs are punishable for that? The
question is answered; I see by your faces that you would call such a
claim absurd. Now, why is it absurd? It is absurd because, there being
no reasoning faculty—that is to say, no faculty of personal command—in
a pair of tongs, personal responsibility for the acts of the tongs is
wholly absent from the tongs; and, therefore, responsibility being
absent, punishment cannot ensue. Am I right?" A hearty burst of applause
was his answer. "Now, then, we arrive at a man's stomach. Consider how
exactly, how marvelously, indeed, its situation corresponds to that of
a pair of tongs. Listen—and take careful note, I beg you. Can a man's
stomach plan a murder? No. Can it plan a theft? No. Can it plan an
incendiary fire? No. Now answer me—can a pair of tongs?" (There were
admiring shouts of "No!" and "The cases are just exact!" and "Don't he
do it splendid!") "Now, then, friends and neighbors, a stomach which
cannot plan a crime cannot be a principal in the commission of it—that
is plain, as you see. The matter is narrowed down by that much; we will
narrow it further. Can a stomach, of its own motion, assist at a crime?
The answer is no, because command is absent, the reasoning faculty is
absent, volition is absent—as in the case of the tongs. We perceive
now, do we not, that the stomach is totally irresponsible for crimes
committed, either in whole or in part, by it?" He got a rousing cheer
for response. "Then what do we arrive at as our verdict? Clearly this:
that there is no such thing in this world as a guilty stomach; that
in the body of the veriest rascal resides a pure and innocent stomach;
that, whatever it's owner may do, it at least should be sacred in our
eyes; and that while God gives us minds to think just and charitable and
honorable thoughts, it should be, and is, our privilege, as well as
our duty, not only to feed the hungry stomach that resides in a
rascal, having pity for its sorrow and its need, but to do it gladly,
gratefully, in recognition of its sturdy and loyal maintenance of
its purity and innocence in the midst of temptation and in company so
repugnant to its better feelings. I am done."
Well, you never saw such an effect! They rose—the whole house rose—an
clapped, and cheered, and praised him to the skies; and one after
another, still clapping and shouting, they crowded forward, some with
moisture in their eyes, and wrung his hands, and said such glorious
things to him that he was clear overcome with pride and happiness,
and couldn't say a word, for his voice would have broken, sure. It was
splendid to see; and everybody said he had never come up to that speech
in his life before, and never could do it again. Eloquence is a power,
there is no question of that. Even old Jacques d'Arc was carried away,
for once in his life, and shouted out:
"It's all right, Joan—give him the porridge!"
She was embarrassed, and did not seem to know what to say, and so didn't
say anything. It was because she had given the man the porridge long ago
and he had already eaten it all up. When she was asked why she had not
waited until a decision was arrived at, she said the man's stomach was
very hungry, and it would not have been wise to wait, since she could
not tell what the decision would be. Now that was a good and thoughtful
idea for a child.
The man was not a rascal at all. He was a very good fellow, only he was
out of luck, and surely that was no crime at that time in France. Now
that his stomach was proved to be innocent, it was allowed to make
itself at home; and as soon as it was well filled and needed nothing
more, the man unwound his tongue and turned it loose, and it was really
a noble one to go. He had been in the wars for years, and the things he
told and the way he told them fired everybody's patriotism away up high,
and set all hearts to thumping and all pulses to leaping; then, before
anybody rightly knew how the change was made, he was leading us a
sublime march through the ancient glories of France, and in fancy we saw
the titanic forms of the twelve paladins rise out of the mists of the
past and face their fate; we heard the tread of the innumerable hosts
sweeping down to shut them in; we saw this human tide flow and ebb, ebb
and flow, and waste away before that little band of heroes; we saw each
detail pass before us of that most stupendous, most disastrous, yet most
adored and glorious day in French legendary history; here and there and
yonder, across that vast field of the dead and dying, we saw this and
that and the other paladin dealing his prodigious blows with weary arm
and failing strength, and one by one we saw them fall, till only one
remained—he that was without peer, he whose name gives name to the Song
of Songs, the song which no Frenchman can hear and keep his feelings
down and his pride of country cool; then, grandest and pitifulest scene
of all, we saw his own pathetic death; and our stillness, as we sat with
parted lips and breathless, hanging upon this man's words, gave us a
sense of the awful stillness that reigned in that field of slaughter
when that last surviving soul had passed.
And now, in this solemn hush, the stranger gave Joan a pat or two on the
head and said:
"Little maid—whom God keep!—you have brought me from death to life this
night; now listen: here is your reward," and at that supreme time for
such a heart-melting, soul-rousing surprise, without another word he
lifted up the most noble and pathetic voice that was ever heard, and
began to pour out the great Song of Roland!
Think of that, with a French audience all stirred up and ready. Oh,
where was your spoken eloquence now! what was it to this! How fine he
looked, how stately, how inspired, as he stood there with that mighty
chant welling from his lips and his heart, his whole body transfigured,
and his rags along with it.
Everybody rose and stood while he sang, and their faces glowed and their
eyes burned; and the tears came and flowed down their cheeks and their
forms began to sway unconsciously to the swing of the song, and their
bosoms to heave and pant; and moanings broke out, and deep ejaculations;
and when the last verse was reached, and Roland lay dying, all alone,
with his face to the field and to his slain, lying there in heaps and
winrows, and took off and held up his gauntlet to God with his failing
hand, and breathed his beautiful prayer with his paling pips, all burst
out in sobs and wailings. But when the final great note died out and the
song was done, they all flung themselves in a body at the singer, stark
mad with love of him and love of France and pride in her great deeds and
old renown, and smothered him with their embracings; but Joan was there
first, hugged close to his breast, and covering his face with idolatrous
The storm raged on outside, but that was no matter; this was the
stranger's home now, for as long as he might please.
Chapter 4 Joan Tames the Mad Man
ALL CHILDREN have nicknames, and we had ours. We got one apiece early,
and they stuck to us; but Joan was richer in this matter, for, as time
went on, she earned a second, and then a third, and so on, and we gave
them to her. First and last she had as many as half a dozen. Several
of these she never lost. Peasant-girls are bashful naturally; but she
surpassed the rule so far, and colored so easily, and was so easily
embarrassed in the presence of strangers, that we nicknamed her the
Bashful. We were all patriots, but she was called the Patriot, because
our warmest feeling for our country was cold beside hers. Also she
was called the Beautiful; and this was not merely because of the
extraordinary beauty of her face and form, but because of the loveliness
of her character. These names she kept, and one other—the Brave.
We grew along up, in that plodding and peaceful region, and got to be
good-sized boys and girls—big enough, in fact, to begin to know as much
about the wars raging perpetually to the west and north of us as our
elders, and also to feel as stirred up over the occasional news from
these red fields as they did. I remember certain of these days very
clearly. One Tuesday a crowd of us were romping and singing around the
Fairy Tree, and hanging garlands on it in memory of our lost little
fairy friends, when Little Mengette cried out:
"Look! What is that?"
When one exclaims like that in a way that shows astonishment and
apprehension, he gets attention. All the panting breasts and flushed
faces flocked together, and all the eager eyes were turned in one
direction—down the slope, toward the village.
"It's a black flag."
"A black flag! No—is it?"
"You can see for yourself that it is nothing else."
"It is a black flag, sure! Now, has any ever seen the like of that
"What can it mean?"
"Mean? It means something dreadful—what else?"
"That is nothing to the point; anybody knows that without the telling.
But what?—that is the question."
"It is a chance that he that bears it can answer as well as any that are
here, if you contain yourself till he comes."
"He runs well. Who is it?"
Some named one, some another; but presently all saw that it was Etienne
Roze, called the Sunflower, because he had yellow hair and a round
pock-marked face. His ancestors had been Germans some centuries ago.
He came straining up the slope, now and then projecting his flag-stick
aloft and giving his black symbol of woe a wave in the air, whilst all
eyes watched him, all tongues discussed him, and every heart beat faster
and faster with impatience to know his news. At last he sprang among us,
and struck his flag-stick into the ground, saying:
"There! Stand there and represent France while I get my breath. She
needs no other flag now."
All the giddy chatter stopped. It was as if one had announced a death.
In that chilly hush there was no sound audible but the panting of the
breath-blown boy. When he was presently able to speak, he said:
"Black news is come. A treaty has been made at Troyes between France
and the English and Burgundians. By it France is betrayed and delivered
over, tied hand and foot, to the enemy. It is the work of the Duke of
Burgundy and that she-devil, the Queen of France. It marries Henry of
England to Catharine of France—"
"Is not this a lie? Marries the daughter of France to the Butcher of
Agincourt? It is not to be believed. You have not heard aright."
"If you cannot believe that, Jacques d'Arc, then you have a difficult
task indeed before you, for worse is to come. Any child that is born of
that marriage—if even a girl—is to inherit the thrones of both England
and France, and this double ownership is to remain with its posterity
"Now that is certainly a lie, for it runs counter to our Salic law, and
so is not legal and cannot have effect," said Edmond Aubrey, called the
Paladin, because of the armies he was always going to eat up some day.
He would have said more, but he was drowned out by the clamors of the
others, who all burst into a fury over this feature of the treaty, all
talking at once and nobody hearing anybody, until presently Haumette
persuaded them to be still, saying:
"It is not fair to break him up so in his tale; pray let him go on.
You find fault with his history because it seems to be lies. That were
reason for satisfaction—that kind of lies—not discontent. Tell the rest,
"There is but this to tell: Our King, Charles VI., is to reign until he
dies, then Henry V. of England is to be Regent of France until a child
of his shall be old enough to—"
"That man is to reign over us—the Butcher? It is lies! all lies!" cried
the Paladin. "Besides, look you—what becomes of our Dauphin? What says
the treaty about him?"
"Nothing. It takes away his throne and makes him an outcast."
Then everybody shouted at once and said the news was a lie; and all
began to get cheerful again, saying, "Our King would have to sign the
treaty to make it good; and that he would not do, seeing how it serves
his own son."
But the Sunflower said: "I will ask you this: Would the Queen sign a
treaty disinheriting her son?"
"That viper? Certainly. Nobody is talking of her. Nobody expects better
of her. There is no villainy she will stick at, if it feed her spite;
and she hates her son. Her signing it is of no consequence. The King
"I will ask you another thing. What is the King's condition? Mad, isn't
"Yes, and his people love him all the more for it. It brings him near to
them by his sufferings; and pitying him makes them love him."
"You say right, Jacques d'Arc. Well, what would you of one that is mad?
Does he know what he does? No. Does he do what others make him do? Yes.
Now, then, I tell you he has signed the treaty."
"Who made him do it?"
"You know, without my telling. The Queen."
Then there was another uproar—everybody talking at once, and all heaping
execrations upon the Queen's head. Finally Jacques d'Arc said:
"But many reports come that are not true. Nothing so shameful as this
has ever come before, nothing that cuts so deep, nothing that has
dragged France so low; therefore there is hope that this tale is but
another idle rumor. Where did you get it?"
The color went out of his sister Joan's face. She dreaded the answer;
and her instinct was right.
"The cure of Maxey brought it."
There was a general gasp. We knew him, you see, for a trusty man.
"Did he believe it?"
The hearts almost stopped beating. Then came the answer:
"He did. And that is not all. He said he knew it to be true."
Some of the girls began to sob; the boys were struck silent. The
distress in Joan's face was like that which one sees in the face of a
dumb animal that has received a mortal hurt. The animal bears it, making
no complaint; she bore it also, saying no word. Her brother Jacques put
his hand on her head and caressed her hair to indicate his sympathy, and
she gathered the hand to her lips and kissed it for thanks, not saying
anything. Presently the reaction came, and the boys began to talk. Noel
"Oh, are we never going to be men! We do grow along so slowly, and
France never needed soldiers as she needs them now, to wipe out this
"I hate youth!" said Pierre Morel, called the Dragon-fly because his
eyes stuck out so. "You've always got to wait, and wait, and wait—and
here are the great wars wasting away for a hundred years, and you never
get a chance. If I could only be a soldier now!"
"As for me, I'm not going to wait much longer," said the Paladin; "and
when I do start you'll hear from me, I promise you that. There are some
who, in storming a castle, prefer to be in the rear; but as for me, give
me the front or none; I will have none in front of me but the officers."
Even the girls got the war spirit, and Marie Dupont said:
"I would I were a man; I would start this minute!" and looked very proud
of herself, and glanced about for applause.
"So would I," said Cecile Letellier, sniffing the air like a war-horse
that smells the battle; "I warrant you I would not turn back from the
field though all England were in front of me."
"Pooh!" said the Paladin; "girls can brag, but that's all they are good
for. Let a thousand of them come face to face with a handful of soldiers
once, if you want to see what running is like. Here's little Joan—next
she'll be threatening to go for a soldier!"
The idea was so funny, and got such a good laugh, that the Paladin gave
it another trial, and said: "Why you can just see her!—see her plunge
into battle like any old veteran. Yes, indeed; and not a poor shabby
common soldier like us, but an officer—an officer, mind you, with
armor on, and the bars of a steel helmet to blush behind and hide her
embarrassment when she finds an army in front of her that she hasn't
been introduced to. An officer? Why, she'll be a captain! A captain,
I tell you, with a hundred men at her back—or maybe girls. Oh, no
common-soldier business for her! And, dear me, when she starts for that
other army, you'll think there's a hurricane blowing it away!"
Well, he kept it up like that till he made their sides ache with
laughing; which was quite natural, for certainly it was a very funny
idea—at that time—I mean, the idea of that gentle little creature, that
wouldn't hurt a fly, and couldn't bear the sight of blood, and was so
girlish and shrinking in all ways, rushing into battle with a gang of
soldiers at her back. Poor thing, she sat there confused and ashamed to
be so laughed at; and yet at that very minute there was something about
to happen which would change the aspect of things, and make those young
people see that when it comes to laughing, the person that laughs last
has the best chance. For just then a face which we all knew and all
feared projected itself from behind the Fairy Tree, and the thought that
shot through us all was, crazy Benoist has gotten loose from his cage,
and we are as good as dead! This ragged and hairy and horrible creature
glided out from behind the tree, and raised an ax as he came. We all
broke and fled, this way and that, the girls screaming and crying. No,
not all; all but Joan. She stood up and faced the man, and remained so.
As we reached the wood that borders the grassy clearing and jumped
into its shelter, two or three of us glanced back to see if Benoist was
gaining on us, and that is what we saw—Joan standing, and the maniac
gliding stealthily toward her with his ax lifted. The sight was
sickening. We stood where we were, trembling and not able to move. I did
not want to see the murder done, and yet I could not take my eyes away.
Now I saw Joan step forward to meet the man, though I believed my eyes
must be deceiving me. Then I saw him stop. He threatened her with his
ax, as if to warn her not to come further, but she paid no heed, but
went steadily on, until she was right in front of him—right under his
ax. Then she stopped, and seemed to begin to talk with him. It made me
sick, yes, giddy, and everything swam around me, and I could not see
anything for a time—whether long or brief I do not know. When this
passed and I looked again, Joan was walking by the man's side toward the
village, holding him by his hand. The ax was in her other hand.
One by one the boys and girls crept out, and we stood there gazing,
open-mouthed, till those two entered the village and were hid from
sight. It was then that we named her the Brave.
We left the black flag there to continue its mournful office, for we had
other matter to think of now. We started for the village on a run,
to give warning, and get Joan out of her peril; though for one, after
seeing what I had seen, it seemed to me that while Joan had the ax the
man's chance was not the best of the two. When we arrived the danger
was past, the madman was in custody. All the people were flocking to the
little square in front of the church to talk and exclaim and wonder over
the event, and it even made the town forget the black news of the treaty
for two or three hours.
All the women kept hugging and kissing Joan, and praising her, and
crying, and the men patted her on the head and said they wished she
was a man, they would send her to the wars and never doubt but that she
would strike some blows that would be heard of. She had to tear herself
away and go and hide, this glory was so trying to her diffidence.
Of course the people began to ask us for the particulars. I was so
ashamed that I made an excuse to the first comer, and got privately away
and went back to the Fairy Tree, to get relief from the embarrassment of
those questionings. There I found Joan, but she was there to get relief
from the embarrassment of glory. One by one the others shirked the
inquirers and joined us in our refuge. Then we gathered around Joan, and
asked her how she had dared to do that thing. She was very modest about
it, and said:
"You make a great thing of it, but you mistake; it was not a great
matter. It was not as if I had been a stranger to the man. I know him,
and have known him long; and he knows me, and likes me. I have fed him
through the bars of his cage many times; and last December, when
they chopped off two of his fingers to remind him to stop seizing and
wounding people passing by, I dressed his hand every day till it was
"That is all well enough," said Little Mengette, "but he is a madman,
dear, and so his likings and his gratitude and friendliness go for
nothing when his rage is up. You did a perilous thing."
"Of course you did," said the Sunflower. "Didn't he threaten to kill you
with the ax?"
"Didn't he threaten you more than once?"
"Didn't you feel afraid?"
"No—at least not much—very little."
"Why didn't you?"
She thought a moment, then said, quite simply:
"I don't know."
It made everybody laugh. Then the Sunflower said it was like a lamb
trying to think out how it had come to eat a wolf, but had to give it
Cecile Letellier asked, "Why didn't you run when we did?"
"Because it was necessary to get him to his cage; else he would kill
some one. Then he would come to the like harm himself."
It is noticeable that this remark, which implies that Joan was entirely
forgetful of herself and her own danger, and had thought and wrought
for the preservation of other people alone, was not challenged, or
criticized, or commented upon by anybody there, but was taken by all
as matter of course and true. It shows how clearly her character was
defined, and how well it was known and established.
There was silence for a time, and perhaps we were all thinking of the
same thing—namely, what a poor figure we had cut in that adventure as
contrasted with Joan's performance. I tried to think up some good way of
explaining why I had run away and left a little girl at the mercy of
a maniac armed with an ax, but all of the explanations that offered
themselves to me seemed so cheap and shabby that I gave the matter up
and remained still. But others were less wise. Noel Rainguesson fidgeted
awhile, then broke out with a remark which showed what his mind had been
"The fact is, I was taken by surprise. That is the reason. If I had had
a moment to think, I would no more have thought of running that I would
think of running from a baby. For, after all, what is Theophile Benoist,
that I should seem to be afraid of him? Pooh! the idea of being afraid
of that poor thing! I only wish he would come along now—I'd show you!"
"So do I!" cried Pierre Morel. "If I wouldn't make him climb this
tree quicker than—well, you'd see what I would do! Taking a person by
surprise, that way—why, I never meant to run; not in earnest, I mean. I
never thought of running in earnest; I only wanted to have some fun, and
when I saw Joan standing there, and him threatening her, it was all I
could do to restrain myself from going there and just tearing the livers
and lights out of him. I wanted to do it bad enough, and if it was to do
over again, I would! If ever he comes fooling around me again, I'll—"
"Oh, hush!" said the Paladin, breaking in with an air of disdain; "the
way you people talk, a person would think there's something heroic
about standing up and facing down that poor remnant of a man. Why, it's
nothing! There's small glory to be got in facing him down, I should say.
Why, I wouldn't want any better fun than to face down a hundred like
him. If he was to come along here now, I would walk up to him just as I
am now—I wouldn't care if he had a thousand axes—and say—"
And so he went on and on, telling the brave things he would say and the
wonders he would do; and the others put in a word from time to time,
describing over again the gory marvels they would do if ever that madman
ventured to cross their path again, for next time they would be ready
for him, and would soon teach him that if he thought he could surprise
them twice because he had surprised them once, he would find himself
very seriously mistaken, that's all.
And so, in the end, they all got back their self-respect; yes, and even
added somewhat to it; indeed when the sitting broke up they had a finer
opinion of themselves than they had ever had before.
Chapter 5 Domremy Pillaged and Burned
THEY WERE peaceful and pleasant, those young and smoothly flowing days
of ours; that is, that was the case as a rule, we being remote from the
seat of war; but at intervals roving bands approached near enough for
us to see the flush in the sky at night which marked where they were
burning some farmstead or village, and we all knew, or at least felt,
that some day they would come yet nearer, and we should have our turn.
This dull dread lay upon our spirits like a physical weight. It was
greatly augmented a couple of years after the Treaty of Troyes.
It was truly a dismal year for France. One day we had been over to have
one of our occasional pitched battles with those hated Burgundian boys
of the village of Maxey, and had been whipped, and were arriving on our
side of the river after dark, bruised and weary, when we heard the bell
ringing the tocsin. We ran all the way, and when we got to the square
we found it crowded with the excited villagers, and weirdly lighted by
smoking and flaring torches.
On the steps of the church stood a stranger, a Burgundian priest, who
was telling the people news which made them weep, and rave, and rage,
and curse, by turns. He said our old mad King was dead, and that now we
and France and the crown were the property of an English baby lying in
his cradle in London. And he urged us to give that child our allegiance,
and be its faithful servants and well-wishers; and said we should now
have a strong and stable government at last, and that in a little time
the English armies would start on their last march, and it would be a
brief one, for all that it would need to do would be to conquer what
odds and ends of our country yet remained under that rare and almost
forgotten rag, the banner of France.
The people stormed and raged at him, and you could see dozens of them
stretch their fists above the sea of torch-lighted faces and shake them
at him; and it was all a wild picture, and stirring to look at; and
the priest was a first-rate part of it, too, for he stood there in the
strong glare and looked down on those angry people in the blandest and
most indifferent way, so that while you wanted to burn him at the stake,
you still admired the aggravating coolness of him. And his winding-up
was the coolest thing of all. For he told them how, at the funeral of
our old King, the French King-at-Arms had broken his staff of office
over the coffin of "Charles VI. and his dynasty," at the same time
saying, in a loud voice, "God grant long life to Henry, King of France
and England, our sovereign lord!" and then he asked them to join him
in a hearty Amen to that! The people were white with wrath, and it tied
their tongues for the moment, and they could not speak. But Joan was
standing close by, and she looked up in his face, and said in her sober,
"I would I might see thy head struck from thy body!"—then, after a
pause, and crossing herself—"if it were the will of God."
This is worth remembering, and I will tell you why: it is the only harsh
speech Joan ever uttered in her life. When I shall have revealed to you
the storms she went through, and the wrongs and persecutions, then you
will see that it was wonderful that she said but one bitter thing while
From the day that that dreary news came we had one scare after another,
the marauders coming almost to our doors every now and then; so that we
lived in ever-increasing apprehension, and yet were somehow mercifully
spared from actual attack. But at last our turn did really come. This
was in the spring of '28. The Burgundians swarmed in with a great noise,
in the middle of a dark night, and we had to jump up and fly for our
lives. We took the road to Neufchateau, and rushed along in the wildest
disorder, everybody trying to get ahead, and thus the movements of all
were impeded; but Joan had a cool head—the only cool head there—and
she took command and brought order out of that chaos. She did her work
quickly and with decision and despatch, and soon turned the panic flight
into a quite steady-going march. You will grant that for so young a
person, and a girl at that, this was a good piece of work.
She was sixteen now, shapely and graceful, and of a beauty so
extraordinary that I might allow myself any extravagance of language in
describing it and yet have no fear of going beyond the truth. There was
in her face a sweetness and serenity and purity that justly reflected
her spiritual nature. She was deeply religious, and this is a thing
which sometimes gives a melancholy cast to a person's countenance, but
it was not so in her case. Her religion made her inwardly content and
joyous; and if she was troubled at times, and showed the pain of it in
her face and bearing, it came of distress for her country; no part of it
was chargeable to her religion.
A considerable part of our village was destroyed, and when it became
safe for us to venture back there we realized what other people had
been suffering in all the various quarters of France for many years—yes,
decades of years. For the first time we saw wrecked and smoke-blackened
homes, and in the lanes and alleys carcasses of dumb creatures that had
been slaughtered in pure wantonness—among them calves and lambs that had
been pets of the children; and it was pity to see the children lament
And then, the taxes, the taxes! Everybody thought of that. That burden
would fall heavy now in the commune's crippled condition, and all faces
grew long with the thought of it. Joan said:
"Paying taxes with naught to pay them with is what the rest of France
has been doing these many years, but we never knew the bitterness of
that before. We shall know it now."
And so she went on talking about it and growing more and more troubled
about it, until one could see that it was filling all her mind.
At last we came upon a dreadful object. It was the madman—hacked and
stabbed to death in his iron cage in the corner of the square. It was a
bloody and dreadful sight. Hardly any of us young people had ever seen
a man before who had lost his life by violence; so this cadaver had an
awful fascination for us; we could not take our eyes from it. I mean, it
had that sort of fascination for all of us but one. That one was Joan.
She turned away in horror, and could not be persuaded to go near it
again. There—it is a striking reminder that we are but creatures of use
and custom; yes, and it is a reminder, too, of how harshly and unfairly
fate deals with us sometimes. For it was so ordered that the very ones
among us who were most fascinated with mutilated and bloody death were
to live their lives in peace, while that other, who had a native and
deep horror of it, must presently go forth and have it as a familiar
spectacle every day on the field of battle.
You may well believe that we had plenty of matter for talk now, since
the raiding of our village seemed by long odds the greatest event that
had really ever occurred in the world; for although these dull peasants
may have thought they recognized the bigness of some of the previous
occurrences that had filtered from the world's history dimly into their
minds, the truth is that they hadn't. One biting little fact, visible
to their eyes of flesh and felt in their own personal vitals, became
at once more prodigious to them than the grandest remote episode in the
world's history which they had got at second hand and by hearsay. It
amuses me now when I recall how our elders talked then. They fumed and
fretted in a fine fashion.
"Ah, yes," said old Jacques d'Arc, "things are come to a pretty pass,
indeed! The King must be informed of this. It is time that he cease from
idleness and dreaming, and get at his proper business." He meant our
young disinherited King, the hunted refugee, Charles VII.
"You say well," said the maire. "He should be informed, and that at
once. It is an outrage that such things would be permitted. Why, we are
not safe in our beds, and he taking his ease yonder. It shall be made
known, indeed it shall—all France shall hear of it!"
To hear them talk, one would have imagined that all the previous ten
thousand sackings and burnings in France had been but fables, and this
one the only fact. It is always the way; words will answer as long as it
is only a person's neighbor who is in trouble, but when that person gets
into trouble himself, it is time that the King rise up and do something.
The big event filled us young people with talk, too. We let it flow in
a steady stream while we tended the flocks. We were beginning to feel
pretty important now, for I was eighteen and the other youths were from
one to four years older—young men, in fact. One day the Paladin was
arrogantly criticizing the patriot generals of France and said:
"Look at Dunois, Bastard of Orleans—call him a general! Just put me in
his place once—never mind what I would do, it is not for me to say,
I have no stomach for talk, my way is to act and let others do the
talking—but just put me in his place once, that's all! And look at
Saintrailles—pooh! and that blustering La Hire, now what a general that
It shocked everybody to hear these great names so flippantly handled,
for to us these renowned soldiers were almost gods. In their far-off
splendor they rose upon our imaginations dim and huge, shadowy and
awful, and it was a fearful thing to hear them spoken of as if they were
mere men, and their acts open to comment and criticism. The color rose
in Joan's face, and she said:
"I know not how any can be so hardy as to use such words regarding these
sublime men, who are the very pillars of the French state, supporting it
with their strength and preserving it at daily cost of their blood. As
for me, I could count myself honored past all deserving if I might be
allowed but the privilege of looking upon them once—at a distance, I
mean, for it would not become one of my degree to approach them too
The Paladin was disconcerted for a moment, seeing by the faces around
him that Joan had put into words what the others felt, then he pulled
his complacency together and fell to fault-finding again. Joan's brother
"If you don't like what our generals do, why don't you go to the great
wars yourself and better their work? You are always talking about going
to the wars, but you don't go."
"Look you," said the Paladin, "it is easy to say that. Now I will tell
you why I remain chafing here in a bloodless tranquillity which my
reputation teaches you is repulsive to my nature. I do not go because
I am not a gentleman. That is the whole reason. What can one private
soldier do in a contest like this? Nothing. He is not permitted to
rise from the ranks. If I were a gentleman would I remain here? Not one
moment. I can save France—ah, you may laugh, but I know what is in me, I
know what is hid under this peasant cap. I can save France, and I stand
ready to do it, but not under these present conditions. If they want me,
let them send for me; otherwise, let them take the consequences; I shall
not budge but as an officer."
"Alas, poor France—France is lost!" said Pierre d'Arc.
"Since you sniff so at others, why don't you go to the wars yourself,
"Oh, I haven't been sent for, either. I am no more a gentleman than you.
Yet I will go; I promise to go. I promise to go as a private under your
orders—when you are sent for."
They all laughed, and the Dragon-fly said:
"So soon? Then you need to begin to get ready; you might be called for
in five years—who knows? Yes, in my opinion you'll march for the wars in
"He will go sooner," said Joan. She said it in a low voice and musingly,
but several heard it.
"How do you know that, Joan?" said the Dragon-fly, with a surprised
look. But Jean d'Arc broke in and said:
"I want to go myself, but as I am rather young yet, I also will wait,
and march when the Paladin is sent for."
"No," said Joan, "he will go with Pierre."
She said it as one who talks to himself aloud without knowing it, and
none heard it but me. I glanced at her and saw that her knitting-needles
were idle in her hands, and that her face had a dreamy and absent look
in it. There were fleeting movements of her lips as if she might be
occasionally saying parts of sentences to herself. But there was no
sound, for I was the nearest person to her and I heard nothing. But I
set my ears open, for those two speeches had affected me uncannily, I
being superstitious and easily troubled by any little thing of a strange
and unusual sort.
Noel Rainguesson said:
"There is one way to let France have a chance for her salvation. We've
got one gentleman in the commune, at any rate. Why can't the Scholar
change name and condition with the Paladin? Then he can be an officer.
France will send for him then, and he will sweep these English and
Burgundian armies into the sea like flies."
I was the Scholar. That was my nickname, because I could read and write.
There was a chorus of approval, and the Sunflower said:
"That is the very thing—it settles every difficulty. The Sieur de Conte
will easily agree to that. Yes, he will march at the back of Captain
Paladin and die early, covered with common-soldier glory."
"He will march with Jean and Pierre, and live till these wars are
forgotten," Joan muttered; "and at the eleventh hour Noel and the
Paladin will join these, but not of their own desire." The voice was so
low that I was not perfectly sure that these were the words, but they
seemed to be. It makes one feel creepy to hear such things.
"Come, now," Noel continued, "it's all arranged; there's nothing to do
but organize under the Paladin's banner and go forth and rescue France.
You'll all join?"
All said yes, except Jacques d'Arc, who said:
"I'll ask you to excuse me. It is pleasant to talk war, and I am with
you there, and I've always thought I should go soldiering about this
time, but the look of our wrecked village and that carved-up and bloody
madman have taught me that I am not made for such work and such sights.
I could never be at home in that trade. Face swords and the big guns and
death? It isn't in me. No, no; count me out. And besides, I'm the eldest
son, and deputy prop and protector of the family. Since you are going to
carry Jean and Pierre to the wars, somebody must be left behind to take
care of our Joan and her sister. I shall stay at home, and grow old in
peace and tranquillity."
"He will stay at home, but not grow old," murmured Joan.
The talk rattled on in the gay and careless fashion privileged to youth,
and we got the Paladin to map out his campaigns and fight his battles
and win his victories and extinguish the English and put our King upon
his throne and set his crown upon his head. Then we asked him what he
was going to answer when the King should require him to name his
reward. The Paladin had it all arranged in his head, and brought it out
"He shall give me a dukedom, name me premier peer, and make me
Hereditary Lord High Constable of France."
"And marry you to a princess—you're not going to leave that out, are
The Paladin colored a trifle, and said, brusquely:
"He may keep his princesses—I can marry more to my taste."
Meaning Joan, though nobody suspected it at that time. If any had, the
Paladin would have been finely ridiculed for his vanity. There was no
fit mate in that village for Joan of Arc. Every one would have said
In turn, each person present was required to say what reward he would
demand of the King if he could change places with the Paladin and do the
wonders the Paladin was going to do. The answers were given in fun, and
each of us tried to outdo his predecessors in the extravagance of the
reward he would claim; but when it came to Joan's turn, and they rallied
her out of her dreams and asked her to testify, they had to explain to
her what the question was, for her thought had been absent, and she had
heard none of this latter part of our talk. She supposed they wanted a
serious answer, and she gave it. She sat considering some moments, then
"If the Dauphin, out of his grace and nobleness, should say to me, 'Now
that I am rich and am come to my own again, choose and have,' I should
kneel and ask him to give command that our village should nevermore be
It was so simple and out of her heart that it touched us and we did not
laugh, but fell to thinking. We did not laugh; but there came a day when
we remembered that speech with a mournful pride, and were glad that
we had not laughed, perceiving then how honest her words had been, and
seeing how faithfully she made them good when the time came, asking
just that boon of the King and refusing to take even any least thing for
Chapter 6 Joan and Archangel Michael
ALL THROUGH her childhood and up to the middle of her fourteenth year,
Joan had been the most light-hearted creature and the merriest in the
village, with a hop-skip-and-jump gait and a happy and catching laugh;
and this disposition, supplemented by her warm and sympathetic nature
and frank and winning ways, had made her everybody's pet. She had been
a hot patriot all this time, and sometimes the war news had sobered
her spirits and wrung her heart and made her acquainted with tears, but
always when these interruptions had run their course her spirits rose
and she was her old self again.
But now for a whole year and a half she had been mainly grave; not
melancholy, but given to thought, abstraction, dreams. She was carrying
France upon her heart, and she found the burden not light. I knew that
this was her trouble, but others attributed her abstraction to religious
ecstasy, for she did not share her thinkings with the village at large,
yet gave me glimpses of them, and so I knew, better than the rest, what
was absorbing her interest. Many a time the idea crossed my mind that
she had a secret—a secret which she was keeping wholly to herself,
as well from me as from the others. This idea had come to me because
several times she had cut a sentence in two and changed the subject when
apparently she was on the verge of a revelation of some sort. I was to
find this secret out, but not just yet.
The day after the conversation which I have been reporting we were
together in the pastures and fell to talking about France, as usual. For
her sake I had always talked hopefully before, but that was mere lying,
for really there was not anything to hang a rag of hope for France upon.
Now it was such a pain to lie to her, and cost me such shame to offer
this treachery to one so snow-pure from lying and treachery, and even
from suspicion of such baseness in others, as she was, that I was
resolved to face about now and begin over again, and never insult her
more with deception. I started on the new policy by saying—still opening
up with a small lie, of course, for habit is habit, and not to be flung
out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time:
"Joan, I have been thinking the thing all over last night, and have
concluded that we have been in the wrong all this time; that the case
of France is desperate; that it has been desperate ever since Agincourt;
and that to-day it is more than desperate, it is hopeless."
I did not look her in the face while I was saying it; it could not be
expected of a person. To break her heart, to crush her hope with a so
frankly brutal speech as that, without one charitable soft place in
it—it seemed a shameful thing, and it was. But when it was out, the
weight gone, and my conscience rising to the surface, I glanced at her
face to see the result.
There was none to see. At least none that I was expecting. There was a
barely perceptible suggestion of wonder in her serious eyes, but that
was all; and she said, in her simple and placid way:
"The case of France hopeless? Why should you think that? Tell me."
It is a most pleasant thing to find that what you thought would inflict
a hurt upon one whom you honor, has not done it. I was relieved now,
and could say all my say without any furtivenesses and without
embarrassment. So I began:
"Let us put sentiment and patriotic illusions aside, and look at the
facts in the face. What do they say? They speak as plainly as the
figures in a merchant's account-book. One has only to add the two
columns up to see that the French house is bankrupt, that one-half of
its property is already in the English sheriff's hands and the other
half in nobody's—except those of irresponsible raiders and robbers
confessing allegiance to nobody. Our King is shut up with his favorites
and fools in inglorious idleness and poverty in a narrow little patch
of the kingdom—a sort of back lot, as one may say—and has no authority
there or anywhere else, hasn't a farthing to his name, nor a regiment of
soldiers; he is not fighting, he is not intending to fight, he means to
make no further resistance; in truth, there is but one thing that he is
intending to do—give the whole thing up, pitch his crown into the sewer,
and run away to Scotland. There are the facts. Are they correct?"
"Yes, they are correct."
"Then it is as I have said: one needs but to add them together in order
to realize what they mean."
She asked, in an ordinary, level tone:
"What—that the case of France is hopeless?"
"Necessarily. In face of these facts, doubt of it is impossible."
"How can you say that? How can you feel like that?"
"How can I? How could I think or feel in any other way, in the
circumstances? Joan, with these fatal figures before, you, have you
really any hope for France—really and actually?"
"Hope—oh, more than that! France will win her freedom and keep it. Do
not doubt it."
It seemed to me that her clear intellect must surely be clouded to-day.
It must be so, or she would see that those figures could mean only one
thing. Perhaps if I marshaled them again she would see. So I said:
"Joan, your heart, which worships France, is beguiling your head. You
are not perceiving the importance of these figures. Here—I want to make
a picture of them, here on the ground with a stick. Now, this rough
outline is France. Through its middle, east and west, I draw a river."
"Yes, the Loire."
"Now, then, this whole northern half of the country is in the tight grip
of the English."
"And this whole southern half is really in nobody's hands at all—as our
King confesses by meditating desertion and flight to a foreign land.
England has armies here; opposition is dead; she can assume full
possession whenever she may choose. In very truth, all France is gone,
France is already lost, France has ceased to exist. What was France is
now but a British province. Is this true?"
Her voice was low, and just touched with emotion, but distinct:
"Yes, it is true."
"Very well. Now add this clinching fact, and surely the sum is complete:
When have French soldiers won a victory? Scotch soldiers, under the
French flag, have won a barren fight or two a few years back, but I
am speaking of French ones. Since eight thousand Englishmen nearly
annihilated sixty thousand Frenchmen a dozen years ago at Agincourt,
French courage has been paralyzed. And so it is a common saying to-day
that if you confront fifty French soldiers with five English ones, the
French will run."
"It is a pity, but even these things are true."
"Then certainly the day for hoping is past."
I believed the case would be clear to her now. I thought it could not
fail to be clear to her, and that she would say, herself, that there
was no longer any ground for hope. But I was mistaken; and disappointed
also. She said, without any doubt in her tone:
"France will rise again. You shall see."
"Rise?—with this burden of English armies on her back!"
"She will cast it off; she will trample it under foot!" This with
"Without soldiers to fight with?"
"The drums will summon them. They will answer, and they will march."
"March to the rear, as usual?"
"No; to the front—ever to the front—always to the front! You shall see."
"And the pauper King?"
"He will mount his throne—he will wear his crown."
"Well, of a truth this makes one's head dizzy. Why, if I could believe
that in thirty years from now the English domination would be broken
and the French monarch's head find itself hooped with a real crown of
"Both will have happened before two years are sped."
"Indeed? and who is going to perform all these sublime impossibilities?"
It was a reverent low note, but it rang clear.
What could have put those strange ideas in her head? This question kept
running in my mind during two or three days. It was inevitable that I
should think of madness. What other way was there to account for such
things? Grieving and brooding over the woes of France had weakened that
strong mind, and filled it with fantastic phantoms—yes, that must be it.
But I watched her, and tested her, and it was not so. Her eye was clear
and sane, her ways were natural, her speech direct and to the point. No,
there was nothing the matter with her mind; it was still the soundest in
the village and the best. She went on thinking for others, planning for
others, sacrificing herself for others, just as always before. She went
on ministering to her sick and to her poor, and still stood ready to
give the wayfarer her bed and content herself with the floor. There was
a secret somewhere, but madness was not the key to it. This was plain.
Now the key did presently come into my hands, and the way that it
happened was this. You have heard all the world talk of this matter
which I am about to speak of, but you have not heard an eyewitness talk
of it before.
I was coming from over the ridge, one day—it was the 15th of May,
'28—and when I got to the edge of the oak forest and was about to step
out of it upon the turfy open space in which the haunted beech tree
stood, I happened to cast a glance from cover, first—then I took a step
backward, and stood in the shelter and concealment of the foliage. For
I had caught sight of Joan, and thought I would devise some sort of
playful surprise for her. Think of it—that trivial conceit was neighbor,
with but a scarcely measurable interval of time between, to an event
destined to endure forever in histories and songs.
The day was overcast, and all that grassy space wherein the Tree stood
lay in a soft rich shadow. Joan sat on a natural seat formed by gnarled
great roots of the Tree. Her hands lay loosely, one reposing in the
other, in her lap. Her head was bent a little toward the ground, and her
air was that of one who is lost to thought, steeped in dreams, and
not conscious of herself or of the world. And now I saw a most strange
thing, for I saw a white shadow come slowly gliding along the grass
toward the Tree. It was of grand proportions—a robed form, with
wings—and the whiteness of this shadow was not like any other whiteness
that we know of, except it be the whiteness of lightnings, but even
the lightnings are not so intense as it was, for one can look at them
without hurt, whereas this brilliancy was so blinding that it pained my
eyes and brought the water into them. I uncovered my head, perceiving
that I was in the presence of something not of this world. My breath
grew faint and difficult, because of the terror and the awe that
Another strange thing. The wood had been silent—smitten with that deep
stillness which comes when a storm-cloud darkens a forest, and the wild
creatures lose heart and are afraid; but now all the birds burst forth
into song, and the joy, the rapture, the ecstasy of it was beyond
belief; and was so eloquent and so moving, withal, that it was plain
it was an act of worship. With the first note of those birds Joan cast
herself upon her knees, and bent her head low and crossed her hands upon
She had not seen the shadow yet. Had the song of the birds told her
it was coming? It had that look to me. Then the like of this must have
happened before. Yes, there might be no doubt of that.
The shadow approached Joan slowly; the extremity of it reached her,
flowed over her, clothed her in its awful splendor. In that immortal
light her face, only humanly beautiful before, became divine; flooded
with that transforming glory her mean peasant habit was become like to
the raiment of the sun-clothed children of God as we see them thronging
the terraces of the Throne in our dreams and imaginings.
Presently she rose and stood, with her head still bowed a little, and
with her arms down and the ends of her fingers lightly laced together in
front of her; and standing so, all drenched with that wonderful light,
and yet apparently not knowing it, she seemed to listen—but I heard
nothing. After a little she raised her head, and looked up as one might
look up toward the face of a giant, and then clasped her hands and
lifted them high, imploringly, and began to plead. I heard some of the
words. I heard her say:
"But I am so young! oh, so young to leave my mother and my home and go
out into the strange world to undertake a thing so great! Ah, how can I
talk with men, be comrade with men?—soldiers! It would give me over to
insult, and rude usage, and contempt. How can I go to the great wars,
and lead armies?—I a girl, and ignorant of such things, knowing
nothing of arms, nor how to mount a horse, nor ride it.... Yet—if it is
Her voice sank a little, and was broken by sobs, and I made out no
more of her words. Then I came to myself. I reflected that I had been
intruding upon a mystery of God—and what might my punishment be? I was
afraid, and went deeper into the wood. Then I carved a mark in the bark
of a tree, saying to myself, it may be that I am dreaming and have not
seen this vision at all. I will come again, when I know that I am awake
and not dreaming, and see if this mark is still here; then I shall know.
Chapter 7 She Delivers the Divine Command
I HEARD my name called. It was Joan's voice. It startled me, for how
could she know I was there? I said to myself, it is part of the dream;
it is all dream—voice, vision and all; the fairies have done this. So I
crossed myself and pronounced the name of God, to break the enchantment.
I knew I was awake now and free from the spell, for no spell can
withstand this exorcism. Then I heard my name called again, and I
stepped at once from under cover, and there indeed was Joan, but not
looking as she had looked in the dream. For she was not crying now, but
was looking as she had used to look a year and a half before, when her
heart was light and her spirits high. Her old-time energy and fire were
back, and a something like exaltation showed itself in her face and
bearing. It was almost as if she had been in a trance all that time and
had come awake again. Really, it was just as if she had been away and
lost, and was come back to us at last; and I was so glad that I felt
like running to call everybody and have them flock around her and give
her welcome. I ran to her excited and said:
"Ah, Joan, I've got such a wonderful thing to tell you about! You would
never imagine it. I've had a dream, and in the dream I saw you right
here where you are standing now, and—"
But she put up her hand and said:
"It was not a dream."
It gave me a shock, and I began to feel afraid again.
"Not a dream?" I said, "how can you know about it, Joan?"
"Are you dreaming now?"
"I—I suppose not. I think I am not."
"Indeed you are not. I know you are not. And yow were not dreaming when
you cut the mark in the tree."
I felt myself turning cold with fright, for now I knew of a certainty
that I had not been dreaming, but had really been in the presence of a
dread something not of this world. Then I remembered that my sinful feet
were upon holy ground—the ground where that celestial shadow had rested.
I moved quickly away, smitten to the bones with fear. Joan followed, and
"Do not be afraid; indeed there is no need. Come with me. We will sit by
the spring and I will tell you all my secret."
When she was ready to begin, I checked her and said:
"First tell me this. You could not see me in the wood; how did you know
I cut a mark in the tree?"
"Wait a little; I will soon come to that; then you will see."
"But tell me one thing now; what was that awful shadow that I saw?"
"I will tell you, but do not be disturbed; you are not in danger. It was
the shadow of an archangel—Michael, the chief and lord of the armies of
I could but cross myself and tremble for having polluted that ground
with my feet.
"You were not afraid, Joan? Did you see his face—did you see his form?"
"Yes; I was not afraid, because this was not the first time. I was
afraid the first time."
"When was that, Joan?"
"It is nearly three years ago now."
"So long? Have you seen him many times?"
"Yes, many times."
"It is this, then, that has changed you; it was this that made you
thoughtful and not as you were before. I see it now. Why did you not
tell us about it?"
"It was not permitted. It is permitted now, and soon I shall tell all.
But only you, now. It must remain a secret for a few days still."
"Has none seen that white shadow before but me?"
"No one. It has fallen upon me before when you and others were present,
but none could see it. To-day it has been otherwise, and I was told why;
but it will not be visible again to any."
"It was a sign to me, then—and a sign with a meaning of some kind?"
"Yes, but I may not speak of that."
"Strange—that that dazzling light could rest upon an object before one's
eyes and not be visible."
"With it comes speech, also. Several saints come, attended by myriads
of angels, and they speak to me; I hear their voices, but others do not.
They are very dear to me—my Voices; that is what I call them to myself."
"Joan, what do they tell you?"
"All manner of things—about France, I mean."
"What things have they been used to tell you?"
She sighed, and said:
"Disasters—only disasters, and misfortunes, and humiliation. There was
naught else to foretell."
"They spoke of them to you beforehand?" "Yes. So that I knew what was
going to happen before it happened. It made me grave—as you saw. It
could not be otherwise. But always there was a word of hope, too. More
than that: France was to be rescued, and made great and free again. But
how and by whom—that was not told. Not until to-day." As she said those
last words a sudden deep glow shone in her eyes, which I was to see
there many times in after-days when the bugles sounded the charge and
learn to call it the battle-light. Her breast heaved, and the color
rose in her face. "But to-day I know. God has chosen the meanest of His
creatures for this work; and by His command, and in His protection, and
by His strength, not mine, I am to lead His armies, and win back France,
and set the crown upon the head of His servant that is Dauphin and shall
I was amazed, and said:
"You, Joan? You, a child, lead armies?"
"Yes. For one little moment or two the thought crushed me; for it is as
you say—I am only a child; a child and ignorant—ignorant of everything
that pertains to war, and not fitted for the rough life of camps and the
companionship of soldiers. But those weak moments passed; they will not
come again. I am enlisted, I will not turn back, God helping me, till
the English grip is loosed from the throat of France. My Voices have
never told me lies, they have not lied to-day. They say I am to go to
Robert de Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs, and he will give me
men-at-arms for escort and send me to the King. A year from now a blow
will be struck which will be the beginning of the end, and the end will
"Where will it be struck?"
"My Voices have not said; nor what will happen this present year, before
it is struck. It is appointed me to strike it, that is all I know; and
follow it with others, sharp and swift, undoing in ten weeks England's
long years of costly labor, and setting the crown upon the Dauphin's
head—for such is God's will; my Voices have said it, and shall I doubt
it? No; it will be as they have said, for they say only that which is
These were tremendous sayings. They were impossibilities to my reason,
but to my heart they rang true; and so, while my reason doubted, my
heart believed—believed, and held fast to the belief from that day.
Presently I said:
"Joan, I believe the things which you have said, and now I am glad that
I am to march with you to the great wars—that is, if it is with you I am
to march when I go."
She looked surprised, and said:
"It is true that you will be with me when I go to the wars, but how did
"I shall march with you, and so also will Jean and Pierre, but not
"All true—it is so ordered, as was revealed to me lately, but I did not
know until to-day that the marching would be with me, or that I should
march at all. How did you know these things?"
I told her when it was that she had said them. But she did not remember
about it. So then I knew that she had been asleep, or in a trance or an
ecstasy of some kind, at that time. She bade me keep these and the other
revelations to myself for the present, and I said I would, and kept the
faith I promised.
None who met Joan that day failed to notice the change that had come
over her. She moved and spoke with energy and decision; there was
a strange new fire in her eye, and also a something wholly new and
remarkable in her carriage and in the set of her head. This new light in
the eye and this new bearing were born of the authority and leadership
which had this day been vested in her by the decree of God, and they
asserted that authority as plainly as speech could have done it, yet
without ostentation or bravado. This calm consciousness of command, and
calm unconscious outward expression of it, remained with her thenceforth
until her mission was accomplished.
Like the other villagers, she had always accorded me the deference due
my rank; but now, without word said on either side, she and I changed
places; she gave orders, not suggestions. I received them with the
deference due a superior, and obeyed them without comment. In the
evening she said to me:
"I leave before dawn. No one will know it but you. I go to speak with
the governor of Vaucouleurs as commanded, who will despise me and treat
me rudely, and perhaps refuse my prayer at this time. I go first to
Burey, to persuade my uncle Laxart to go with me, it not being meet that
I go alone. I may need you in Vaucouleurs; for if the governor will not
receive me I will dictate a letter to him, and so must have some one by
me who knows the art of how to write and spell the words. You will go
from here to-morrow in the afternoon, and remain in Vaucouleurs until I
I said I would obey, and she went her way. You see how clear a head she
had, and what a just and level judgment. She did not order me to go with
her; no, she would not subject her good name to gossiping remark. She
knew that the governor, being a noble, would grant me, another noble,
audience; but no, you see, she would not have that, either. A poor
peasant-girl presenting a petition through a young nobleman—how would
that look? She always protected her modesty from hurt; and so, for
reward, she carried her good name unsmirched to the end. I knew what I
must do now, if I would have her approval: go to Vaucouleurs, keep out
of her sight, and be ready when wanted.
I went the next afternoon, and took an obscure lodging; the next day I
called at the castle and paid my respects to the governor, who invited
me to dine with him at noon of the following day. He was an ideal
soldier of the time; tall, brawny, gray-headed, rough, full of strange
oaths acquired here and there and yonder in the wars and treasured as if
they were decorations. He had been used to the camp all his life, and to
his notion war was God's best gift to man. He had his steel cuirass on,
and wore boots that came above his knees, and was equipped with a huge
sword; and when I looked at this martial figure, and heard the marvelous
oaths, and guessed how little of poetry and sentiment might be looked
for in this quarter, I hoped the little peasant-girl would not get the
privilege of confronting this battery, but would have to content herself
with the dictated letter.
I came again to the castle the next day at noon, and was conducted to
the great dining-hall and seated by the side of the governor at a small
table which was raised a couple of steps higher than the general table.
At the small table sat several other guests besides myself, and at the
general table sat the chief officers of the garrison. At the entrance
door stood a guard of halberdiers, in morion and breastplate.
As for talk, there was but one topic, of course—the desperate situation
of France. There was a rumor, some one said, that Salisbury was making
preparations to march against Orleans. It raised a turmoil of excited
conversation, and opinions fell thick and fast. Some believed he would
march at once, others that he could not accomplish the investment before
fall, others that the siege would be long, and bravely contested; but
upon one thing all voices agreed: that Orleans must eventually fall, and
with it France. With that, the prolonged discussion ended, and there was
silence. Every man seemed to sink himself in his own thoughts, and to
forget where he was. This sudden and profound stillness, where before
had been so much animation, was impressive and solemn. Now came a
servant and whispered something to the governor, who said:
"Would talk with me?"
"Yes, your Excellency."
"H'm! A strange idea, certainly. Bring them in."
It was Joan and her uncle Laxart. At the spectacle of the great people
the courage oozed out of the poor old peasant and he stopped midway and
would come no further, but remained there with his red nightcap crushed
in his hands and bowing humbly here, there, and everywhere, stupefied
with embarrassment and fear. But Joan came steadily forward, erect and
self-possessed, and stood before the governor. She recognized me, but in
no way indicated it. There was a buzz of admiration, even the governor
contributing to it, for I heard him mutter, "By God's grace, it is a
beautiful creature!" He inspected her critically a moment or two, then
"Well, what is your errand, my child?"
"My message is to you, Robert de Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs,
and it is this: that you will send and tell the Dauphin to wait and not
give battle to his enemies, for God will presently send him help."
This strange speech amazed the company, and many murmured, "The poor
young thing is demented." The governor scowled, and said:
"What nonsense is this? The King—or the Dauphin, as you call him—needs
no message of that sort. He will wait, give yourself no uneasiness as to
that. What further do you desire to say to me?"
"This. To beg that you will give me an escort of men-at-arms and send me
to the Dauphin."
"That he may make me his general, for it is appointed that I shall drive
the English out of France, and set the crown upon his head."
"What—you? Why, you are but a child!"
"Yet am I appointed to do it, nevertheless."
"Indeed! And when will all this happen?"
"Next year he will be crowned, and after that will remain master of
There was a great and general burst of laughter, and when it had
subsided the governor said:
"Who has sent you with these extravagant messages?"
"The King of Heaven."
Many murmured, "Ah, poor thing, poor thing!" and others, "Ah, her mind
is but a wreck!" The governor hailed Laxart, and said:
"Harkye!—take this mad child home and whip her soundly. That is the best
cure for her ailment."
As Joan was moving away she turned and said, with simplicity:
"You refuse me the soldiers, I know not why, for it is my Lord that has
commanded you. Yes, it is He that has made the command; therefore I must
come again, and yet again; then I shall have the men-at-arms."
There was a great deal of wondering talk, after she was gone; and the
guards and servants passed the talk to the town, the town passed it to
the country; Domremy was already buzzing with it when we got back.
Chapter 8 Why the Scorners Relented
HUMAN NATURE is the same everywhere: it defies success, it has nothing
but scorn for defeat. The village considered that Joan had disgraced it
with her grotesque performance and its ridiculous failure; so all the
tongues were busy with the matter, and as bilious and bitter as they
were busy; insomuch that if the tongues had been teeth she would not
have survived her persecutions. Those persons who did not scold did what
was worse and harder to bear; for they ridiculed her, and mocked at her,
and ceased neither day nor night from their witticisms and jeerings and
laughter. Haumette and Little Mengette and I stood by her, but the
storm was too strong for her other friends, and they avoided her, being
ashamed to be seen with her because she was so unpopular, and because
of the sting of the taunts that assailed them on her account. She shed
tears in secret, but none in public. In public she carried herself
with serenity, and showed no distress, nor any resentment—conduct which
should have softened the feeling against her, but it did not. Her father
was so incensed that he could not talk in measured terms about her wild
project of going to the wars like a man. He had dreamed of her doing
such a thing, some time before, and now he remembered that dream with
apprehension and anger, and said that rather than see her unsex herself
and go away with the armies, he would require her brothers to drown her;
and that if they should refuse, he would do it with his own hands.
But none of these things shook her purpose in the least. Her parents
kept a strict watch upon her to keep her from leaving the village, but
she said her time was not yet; that when the time to go was come she
should know it, and then the keepers would watch in vain.
The summer wasted along; and when it was seen that her purpose continued
steadfast, the parents were glad of a chance which finally offered
itself for bringing her projects to an end through marriage. The Paladin
had the effrontery to pretend that she had engaged herself to him
several years before, and now he claimed a ratification of the
She said his statement was not true, and refused to marry him. She was
cited to appear before the ecclesiastical court at Toul to answer
for her perversity; when she declined to have counsel, and elected to
conduct her case herself, her parents and all her ill-wishers rejoiced,
and looked upon her as already defeated. And that was natural enough;
for who would expect that an ignorant peasant-girl of sixteen would be
otherwise than frightened and tongue-tied when standing for the first
time in presence of the practised doctors of the law, and surrounded
by the cold solemnities of a court? Yet all these people were mistaken.
They flocked to Toul to see and enjoy this fright and embarrassment
and defeat, and they had their trouble for their pains. She was modest,
tranquil, and quite at her ease. She called no witnesses, saying she
would content herself with examining the witnesses for the prosecution.
When they had testified, she rose and reviewed their testimony in a few
words, pronounced it vague, confused, and of no force, then she placed
the Paladin again on the stand and began to search him. His previous
testimony went rag by rag to ruin under her ingenious hands, until at
last he stood bare, so to speak, he that had come so richly clothed
in fraud and falsehood. His counsel began an argument, but the court
declined to hear it, and threw out the case, adding a few words of grave
compliment for Joan, and referring to her as "this marvelous child."
After this victory, with this high praise from so imposing a source
added, the fickle village turned again, and gave Joan countenance,
compliment, and peace. Her mother took her back to her heart, and even
her father relented and said he was proud of her. But the time hung
heavy on her hands, nevertheless, for the siege of Orleans was begun,
the clouds lowered darker and darker over France, and still her Voices
said wait, and gave her no direct commands. The winter set in, and wore
tediously along; but at last there was a change.
BOOK II IN COURT AND CAMP
Chapter 1 Joan Says Good-By
THE 5th of January, 1429, Joan came to me with her uncle Laxart, and
"The time is come. My Voices are not vague now, but clear, and they have
told me what to do. In two months I shall be with the Dauphin."
Her spirits were high, and her bearing martial. I caught the infection
and felt a great impulse stirring in me that was like what one feels
when he hears the roll of the drums and the tramp of marching men.
"I believe it," I said.
"I also believe it," said Laxart. "If she had told me before, that she
was commanded of God to rescue France, I should not have believed; I
should have let her seek the governor by her own ways and held myself
clear of meddling in the matter, not doubting she was mad. But I have
seen her stand before those nobles and mighty men unafraid, and say her
say; and she had not been able to do that but by the help of God. That
I know. Therefore with all humbleness I am at her command, to do with me
as she will."
"My uncle is very good to me," Joan said. "I sent and asked him to come
and persuade my mother to let him take me home with him to tend his
wife, who is not well. It is arranged, and we go at dawn to-morrow. From
his house I shall go soon to Vaucouleurs, and wait and strive until my
prayer is granted. Who were the two cavaliers who sat to your left at
the governor's table that day?"
"One was the Sieur Jean de Novelonpont de Metz, the other the Sieur
Bertrand de Poulengy."
"Good metal—good metal, both. I marked them for men of mine.... What is
it I see in your face? Doubt?"
I was teaching myself to speak the truth to her, not trimming it or
polishing it; so I said:
"They considered you out of your head, and said so. It is true they
pitied you for being in such misfortune, but still they held you to be
This did not seem to trouble her in any way or wound her. She only said:
"The wise change their minds when they perceive that they have been in
error. These will. They will march with me. I shall see them presently..
.. You seem to doubt again? Do you doubt?"
"N-no. Not now. I was remembering that it was a year ago, and that they
did not belong here, but only chanced to stop a day on their journey."
"They will come again. But as to matters now in hand; I came to leave
with you some instructions. You will follow me in a few days. Order your
affairs, for you will be absent long."
"Will Jean and Pierre go with me?"
"No; they would refuse now, but presently they will come, and with them
they will bring my parents' blessing, and likewise their consent that
I take up my mission. I shall be stronger, then—stronger for that; for
lack of it I am weak now." She paused a little while, and the tears
gathered in her eyes; then she went on: "I would say good-by to Little
Mengette. Bring her outside the village at dawn; she must go with me a
little of the way—"
She broke down and began to cry, saying:
"No, oh, no—she is too dear to me, I could not bear it, knowing I should
never look upon her face again."
Next morning I brought Mengette, and we four walked along the road in
the cold dawn till the village was far behind; then the two girls said
their good-bys, clinging about each other's neck, and pouring out their
grief in loving words and tears, a pitiful sight to see. And Joan took
one long look back upon the distant village, and the Fairy Tree, and the
oak forest, and the flowery plain, and the river, as if she was trying
to print these scenes on her memory so that they would abide there
always and not fade, for she knew she would not see them any more in
this life; then she turned, and went from us, sobbing bitterly. It was
her birthday and mine. She was seventeen years old.
Chapter 2 The Governor Speeds Joan
After a few days, Laxart took Joan to Vaucouleurs, and found lodging
and guardianship for her with Catherine Royer, a wheelwright's wife, an
honest and good woman. Joan went to mass regularly, she helped do the
housework, earning her keep in that way, and if any wished to talk
with her about her mission—and many did—she talked freely, making no
concealments regarding the matter now. I was soon housed near by, and
witnessed the effects which followed. At once the tidings spread that a
young girl was come who was appointed of God to save France. The common
people flocked in crowds to look at her and speak with her, and her fair
young loveliness won the half of their belief, and her deep earnestness
and transparent sincerity won the other half. The well-to-do remained
away and scoffed, but that is their way.
Next, a prophecy of Merlin's, more than eight hundred years old, was
called to mind, which said that in a far future time France would be
lost by a woman and restored by a woman. France was now, for the first
time, lost—and by a woman, Isabel of Bavaria, her base Queen; doubtless
this fair and pure young girl was commissioned of Heaven to complete the
This gave the growing interest a new and powerful impulse; the
excitement rose higher and higher, and hope and faith along with it; and
so from Vaucouleurs wave after wave of this inspiring enthusiasm
flowed out over the land, far and wide, invading all the villages and
refreshing and revivifying the perishing children of France; and from
these villages came people who wanted to see for themselves, hear for
themselves; and they did see and hear, and believe. They filled the
town; they more than filled it; inns and lodgings were packed, and
yet half of the inflow had to go without shelter. And still they came,
winter as it was, for when a man's soul is starving, what does he care
for meat and roof so he can but get that nobler hunger fed? Day after
day, and still day after day the great tide rose. Domremy was dazed,
amazed, stupefied, and said to itself, "Was this world-wonder in our
familiar midst all these years and we too dull to see it?" Jean and
Pierre went out from the village, stared at and envied like the great
and fortunate of the earth, and their progress to Vaucouleurs was like a
triumph, all the country-side flocking to see and salute the brothers
of one with whom angels had spoken face to face, and into whose hands by
command of God they had delivered the destinies of France.
The brothers brought the parents' blessing and godspeed to Joan, and
their promise to bring it to her in person later; and so, with this
culminating happiness in her heart and the high hope it inspired, she
went and confronted the governor again. But he was no more tractable
than he had been before. He refused to send her to the King. She was
disappointed, but in no degree discouraged. She said:
"I must still come to you until I get the men-at-arms; for so it is
commanded, and I may not disobey. I must go to the Dauphin, though I go
on my knees."
I and the two brothers were with Joan daily, to see the people that came
and hear what they said; and one day, sure enough, the Sieur Jean de
Metz came. He talked with her in a petting and playful way, as one talks
with children, and said:
"What are you doing here, my little maid? Will they drive the King out
of France, and shall we all turn English?"
She answered him in her tranquil, serious way:
"I am come to bid Robert de Baudricourt take or send me to the King, but
he does not heed my words."
"Ah, you have an admirable persistence, truly; a whole year has not
turned you from your wish. I saw you when you came before."
Joan said, as tranquilly as before:
"It is not a wish, it is a purpose. He will grant it. I can wait."
"Ah, perhaps it will not be wise to make too sure of that, my child.
These governors are stubborn people to deal with. In case he shall not
grant your prayer—"
"He will grant it. He must. It is not a matter of choice."
The gentleman's playful mood began to disappear—one could see that, by
his face. Joan's earnestness was affecting him. It always happened that
people who began in jest with her ended by being in earnest. They soon
began to perceive depths in her that they had not suspected; and then
her manifest sincerity and the rocklike steadfastness of her convictions
were forces which cowed levity, and it could not maintain its
self-respect in their presence. The Sieur de Metz was thoughtful for a
moment or two, then he began, quite soberly:
"Is it necessary that you go to the King soon?—that is, I mean—"
"Before Mid-Lent, even though I wear away my legs to the knees!"
She said it with that sort of repressed fieriness that means so much
when a person's heart is in a thing. You could see the response in that
nobleman's face; you could see his eye light up; there was sympathy
there. He said, most earnestly:
"God knows I think you should have the men-at-arms, and that somewhat
would come of it. What is it that you would do? What is your hope and
"To rescue France. And it is appointed that I shall do it. For no one
else in the world, neither kings, nor dukes, no any other, can recover
the kingdom of France, and there is no help but in me."
The words had a pleading and pathetic sound, and they touched that good
nobleman. I saw it plainly. Joan dropped her voice a little, and said:
"But indeed I would rather spin with my poor mother, for this is not my
calling; but I must go and do it, for it is my Lord's will."
"Who is your Lord?"
"He is God."
Then the Sieur de Metz, following the impressive old feudal fashion,
knelt and laid his hands within Joan's in sign of fealty, and made oath
that by God's help he himself would take her to the king.
The next day came the Sieur Bertrand de Poulengy, and he also
pledged his oath and knightly honor to abide with her and follow her
witherosever she might lead.
This day, too, toward evening, a great rumor went flying abroad through
the town—namely, that the very governor himself was going to visit the
young girl in her humble lodgings. So in the morning the streets and
lanes were packed with people waiting to see if this strange thing would
indeed happen. And happen it did. The governor rode in state, attended
by his guards, and the news of it went everywhere, and made a great
sensation, and modified the scoffings of the people of quality and
raised Joan's credit higher than ever.
The governor had made up his mind to one thing: Joan was either a witch
or a saint, and he meant to find out which it was. So he brought a
priest with him to exorcise the devil that was in her in case there
was one there. The priest performed his office, but found no devil. He
merely hurt Joan's feelings and offended her piety without need, for he
had already confessed her before this, and should have known, if he knew
anything, that devils cannot abide the confessional, but utter cries
of anguish and the most profane and furious cursings whenever they are
confronted with that holy office.
The governor went away troubled and full of thought, and not knowing
what to do. And while he pondered and studied, several days went by and
the 14th of February was come. Then Joan went to the castle and said:
"In God's name, Robert de Baudricourt, you are too slow about sending
me, and have caused damage thereby, for this day the Dauphin's cause has
lost a battle near Orleans, and will suffer yet greater injury if you do
not send me to him soon."
The governor was perplexed by this speech, and said:
"To-day, child, to-day? How can you know what has happened in that
region to-day? It would take eight or ten days for the word to come."
"My Voices have brought the word to me, and it is true. A battle was
lost to-day, and you are in fault to delay me so."
The governor walked the floor awhile, talking within himself, but
letting a great oath fall outside now and then; and finally he said:
"Harkye! go in peace, and wait. If it shall turn out as you say, I will
give you the letter and send you to the King, and not otherwise."
Joan said with fervor:
"Now God be thanked, these waiting days are almost done. In nine days
you will fetch me the letter."
Already the people of Vaucouleurs had given her a horse and had armed
and equipped her as a soldier. She got no chance to try the horse and
see if she could ride it, for her great first duty was to abide at her
post and lift up the hopes and spirits of all who would come to talk
with her, and prepare them to help in the rescue and regeneration of
the kingdom. This occupied every waking moment she had. But it was no
matter. There was nothing she could not learn—and in the briefest time,
too. Her horse would find this out in the first hour. Meantime the
brothers and I took the horse in turn and began to learn to ride. And we
had teaching in the use of the sword and other arms also.
On the 20th Joan called her small army together—the two knights and
her two brothers and me—for a private council of war. No, it was not a
council, that is not the right name, for she did not consult with us,
she merely gave us orders. She mapped out the course she would travel
toward the King, and did it like a person perfectly versed in geography;
and this itinerary of daily marches was so arranged as to avoid here and
there peculiarly dangerous regions by flank movements—which showed that
she knew her political geography as intimately as she knew her physical
geography; yet she had never had a day's schooling, of course, and was
without education. I was astonished, but thought her Voices must have
taught her. But upon reflection I saw that this was not so. By her
references to what this and that and the other person had told her,
I perceived that she had been diligently questioning those crowds of
visiting strangers, and that out of them she had patiently dug all this
mass of invaluable knowledge. The two knights were filled with wonder at
her good sense and sagacity.
She commanded us to make preparations to travel by night and sleep by
day in concealment, as almost the whole of our long journey would be
through the enemy's country.
Also, she commanded that we should keep the date of our departure a
secret, since she meant to get away unobserved. Otherwise we should
be sent off with a grand demonstration which would advertise us to the
enemy, and we should be ambushed and captured somewhere. Finally she
"Nothing remains, now, but that I confide to you the date of our
departure, so that you may make all needful preparation in time, leaving
nothing to be done in haste and badly at the last moment. We march the
23d, at eleven of the clock at night."
Then we were dismissed. The two knights were startled—yes, and troubled;
and the Sieur Bertrand said:
"Even if the governor shall really furnish the letter and the escort,
he still may not do it in time to meet the date she has chosen. Then how
can she venture to name that date? It is a great risk—a great risk to
select and decide upon the date, in this state of uncertainty."
"Since she has named the 23d, we may trust her. The Voices have told
her, I think. We shall do best to obey."
We did obey. Joan's parents were notified to come before the 23d, but
prudence forbade that they be told why this limit was named.
All day, the 23d, she glanced up wistfully whenever new bodies of
strangers entered the house, but her parents did not appear. Still she
was not discouraged, but hoped on. But when night fell at last, her
hopes perished, and the tears came; however, she dashed them away, and
"It was to be so, no doubt; no doubt it was so ordered; I must bear it,
De Metz tried to comfort her by saying:
"The governor sends no word; it may be that they will come to-morrow,
He got no further, for she interrupted him, saying:
"To what good end? We start at eleven to-night."
And it was so. At ten the governor came, with his guard and arms, with
horses and equipment for me and for the brothers, and gave Joan a letter
to the King. Then he took off his sword, and belted it about her waist
with his own hands, and said:
"You said true, child. The battle was lost, on the day you said. So I
have kept my word. Now go—come of it what may."
Joan gave him thanks, and he went his way.
The lost battle was the famous disaster that is called in history the
Battle of the Herrings.
All the lights in the house were at once put out, and a little while
after, when the streets had become dark and still, we crept stealthily
through them and out at the western gate and rode away under whip and
Chapter 3 The Paladin Groans and Boasts
WE WERE twenty-five strong, and well equipped. We rode in double file,
Joan and her brothers in the center of the column, with Jean de Metz
at the head of it and the Sieur Bertrand at its extreme rear. In two
or three hours we should be in the enemy's country, and then none
would venture to desert. By and by we began to hear groans and sobs and
execrations from different points along the line, and upon inquiry found
that six of our men were peasants who had never ridden a horse before,
and were finding it very difficult to stay in their saddles, and
moreover were now beginning to suffer considerable bodily torture. They
had been seized by the governor at the last moment and pressed into the
service to make up the tale, and he had placed a veteran alongside of
each with orders to help him stick to the saddle, and kill him if he
tried to desert.
These poor devils had kept quiet as long as they could, but their
physical miseries were become so sharp by this time that they were
obliged to give them vent. But we were within the enemy's country now,
so there was no help for them, they must continue the march, though
Joan said that if they chose to take the risk they might depart.
They preferred to stay with us. We modified our pace now, and moved
cautiously, and the new men were warned to keep their sorrows to
themselves and not get the command into danger with their curses and
Toward dawn we rode deep into a forest, and soon all but the sentries
were sound asleep in spite of the cold ground and the frosty air.
I woke at noon out of such a solid and stupefying sleep that at first my
wits were all astray, and I did not know where I was nor what had been
happening. Then my senses cleared, and I remembered. As I lay there
thinking over the strange events of the past month or two the thought
came into my mind, greatly surprising me, that one of Joan's prophecies
had failed; for where were Noel and the Paladin, who were to join us at
the eleventh hour? By this time, you see, I had gotten used to expecting
everything Joan said to come true. So, being disturbed and troubled by
these thoughts, I opened my eyes. Well, there stood the Paladin leaning
against a tree and looking down on me! How often that happens; you think
of a person, or speak of a person, and there he stands before you, and
you not dreaming he is near. It looks as if his being near is really the
thing that makes you think of him, and not just an accident, as people
imagine. Well, be that as it may, there was the Paladin, anyway, looking
down in my face and waiting for me to wake. I was ever so glad to see
him, and jumped up and shook him by the hand, and led him a little way
from the camp—he limping like a cripple—and told him to sit down, and
"Now, where have you dropped down from? And how did you happen to light
in this place? And what do the soldier-clothes mean? Tell me all about
"I marched with you last night."
"No!" (To myself I said, "The prophecy has not all failed—half of it
has come true.") "Yes, I did. I hurried up from Domremy to join, and was
within a half a minute of being too late. In fact, I was too late, but I
begged so hard that the governor was touched by my brave devotion to
my country's cause—those are the words he used—and so he yielded, and
allowed me to come."
I thought to myself, this is a lie, he is one of those six the governor
recruited by force at the last moment; I know it, for Joan's prophecy
said he would join at the eleventh hour, but not by his own desire. Then
I said aloud:
"I am glad you came; it is a noble cause, and one should not sit at home
in times like these."
"Sit at home! I could no more do it than the thunderstone could stay hid
in the clouds when the storm calls it."
"That is the right talk. It sounds like you."
That pleased him.
"I'm glad you know me. Some don't. But they will, presently. They will
know me well enough before I get done with this war."
"That is what I think. I believe that wherever danger confronts you you
will make yourself conspicuous."
He was charmed with this speech, and it swelled him up like a bladder.
"If I know myself—and I think I do—my performances in this campaign will
give you occasion more than once to remember those words."
"I were a fool to doubt it. That I know."
"I shall not be at my best, being but a common soldier; still, the
country will hear of me. If I were where I belong; if I were in the
place of La Hire, or Saintrailles, or the Bastard of Orleans—well, I
say nothing. I am not of the talking kind, like Noel Rainguesson and his
sort, I thank God. But it will be something, I take it—a novelty in this
world, I should say—to raise the fame of a private soldier above theirs,
and extinguish the glory of their names with its shadow."
"Why, look here, my friend," I said, "do you know that you have hit out
a most remarkable idea there? Do you realize the gigantic proportions
of it? For look you; to be a general of vast renown, what is that?
Nothing—history is clogged and confused with them; one cannot keep their
names in his memory, there are so many. But a common soldier of
supreme renown—why, he would stand alone! He would the be one moon in a
firmament of mustard-seed stars; his name would outlast the human race!
My friend, who gave you that idea?"
He was ready to burst with happiness, but he suppressed betrayal of it
as well as he could. He simply waved the compliment aside with his hand
and said, with complacency:
"It is nothing. I have them often—ideas like that—and even greater ones.
I do not consider this one much."
"You astonish me; you do, indeed. So it is really your own?"
"Quite. And there is plenty more where it came from"—tapping his head
with his finger, and taking occasion at the same time to cant his morion
over his right ear, which gave him a very self-satisfied air—"I do not
need to borrow my ideas, like Noel Rainguesson."
"Speaking of Noel, when did you see him last?"
"Half an hour ago. He is sleeping yonder like a corpse. Rode with us
I felt a great upleap in my heart, and said to myself, now I am at rest
and glad; I will never doubt her prophecies again. Then I said aloud:
"It gives me joy. It makes me proud of our village. There is not keeping
our lion-hearts at home in these great times, I see that."
"Lion-heart! Who—that baby? Why, he begged like a dog to be let off.
Cried, and said he wanted to go to his mother. Him a lion-heart!—that
"Dear me, why I supposed he volunteered, of course. Didn't he?"
"Oh, yes, he volunteered the way people do to the headsman. Why, when he
found I was coming up from Domremy to volunteer, he asked me to let
him come along in my protection, and see the crowds and the excitement.
Well, we arrived and saw the torches filing out at the Castle, and ran
there, and the governor had him seized, along with four more, and
he begged to be let off, and I begged for his place, and at last the
governor allowed me to join, but wouldn't let Noel off, because he was
disgusted with him, he was such a cry-baby. Yes, and much good he'll
do the King's service; he'll eat for six and run for sixteen. I hate a
pygmy with half a heart and nine stomachs!"
"Why, this is very surprising news to me, and I am sorry and
disappointed to hear it. I thought he was a very manly fellow."
The Paladin gave me an outraged look, and said:
"I don't see how you can talk like that, I'm sure I don't. I don't see
how you could have got such a notion. I don't dislike him, and I'm not
saying these things out of prejudice, for I don't allow myself to have
prejudices against people. I like him, and have always comraded with him
from the cradle, but he must allow me to speak my mind about his faults,
and I am willing he shall speak his about mine, if I have any. And, true
enough, maybe I have; but I reckon they'll bear inspection—I have that
idea, anyway. A manly fellow! You should have heard him whine and wail
and swear, last night, because the saddle hurt him. Why didn't the
saddle hurt me? Pooh—I was as much at home in it as if I had been born
there. And yet it was the first time I was ever on a horse. All those
old soldiers admired my riding; they said they had never seen anything
like it. But him—why, they had to hold him on, all the time."
An odor as of breakfast came stealing through the wood; the Paladin
unconsciously inflated his nostrils in lustful response, and got up and
limped painfully away, saying he must go and look to his horse.
At bottom he was all right and a good-hearted giant, without any harm
in him, for it is no harm to bark, if one stops there and does not bite,
and it is no harm to be an ass, if one is content to bray and not kick.
If this vast structure of brawn and muscle and vanity and foolishness
seemed to have a libelous tongue, what of it? There was no malice behind
it; and besides, the defect was not of his own creation; it was the work
of Noel Rainguesson, who had nurtured it, fostered it, built it up and
perfected it, for the entertainment he got out of it. His careless light
heart had to have somebody to nag and chaff and make fun of, the
Paladin had only needed development in order to meet its requirements,
consequently the development was taken in hand and diligently attended
to and looked after, gnat-and-bull fashion, for years, to the neglect
and damage of far more important concerns. The result was an unqualified
success. Noel prized the society of the Paladin above everybody else's;
the Paladin preferred anybody's to Noel's. The big fellow was often seen
with the little fellow, but it was for the same reason that the bull is
often seen with the gnat.
With the first opportunity, I had a talk with Noel. I welcomed him to
our expedition, and said:
"It was fine and brave of you to volunteer, Noel."
His eye twinkled, and he answered:
"Yes, it was rather fine, I think. Still, the credit doesn't all belong
to me; I had help."
"Who helped you?"
"Well, I'll tell you the whole thing. I came up from Domremy to see the
crowds and the general show, for I hadn't ever had any experience of
such things, of course, and this was a great opportunity; but I hadn't
any mind to volunteer. I overtook the Paladin on the road and let him
have my company the rest of the way, although he did not want it and
said so; and while we were gawking and blinking in the glare of the
governor's torches they seized us and four more and added us to the
escort, and that is really how I came to volunteer. But, after all, I
wasn't sorry, remembering how dull life would have been in the village
without the Paladin."
"How did he feel about it? Was he satisfied?"
"I think he was glad."
"Because he said he wasn't. He was taken by surprise, you see, and it is
not likely that he could tell the truth without preparation. Not that
he would have prepared, if he had had the chance, for I do not think he
would. I am not charging him with that. In the same space of time that
he could prepare to speak the truth, he could also prepare to lie;
besides, his judgment would be cool then, and would warn him against
fooling with new methods in an emergency. No, I am sure he was glad,
because he said he wasn't."
"Do you think he was very glad?"
"Yes, I know he was. He begged like a slave, and bawled for his mother.
He said his health was delicate, and he didn't know how to ride a horse,
and he knew he couldn't outlive the first march. But really he wasn't
looking as delicate as he was feeling. There was a cask of wine there,
a proper lift for four men. The governor's temper got afire, and he
delivered an oath at him that knocked up the dust where it struck the
ground, and told him to shoulder that cask or he would carve him to
cutlets and send him home in a basket. The Paladin did it, and that
secured his promotion to a privacy in the escort without any further
"Yes, you seem to make it quite plain that he was glad to join—that is,
if your premises are right that you start from. How did he stand the
march last night?"
"About as I did. If he made the more noise, it was the privilege of his
bulk. We stayed in our saddles because we had help. We are equally lame
to-day, and if he likes to sit down, let him; I prefer to stand."
Chapter 4 Joan Leads Us Through the Enemy
WE WERE called to quarters and subjected to a searching inspection by
Joan. Then she made a short little talk in which she said that even the
rude business of war could be conducted better without profanity and
other brutalities of speech than with them, and that she should strictly
require us to remember and apply this admonition. She ordered half an
hour's horsemanship drill for the novices then, and appointed one of the
veterans to conduct it. It was a ridiculous exhibition, but we learned
something, and Joan was satisfied and complimented us. She did not take
any instruction herself or go through the evolutions and manoeuvres, but
merely sat her horse like a martial little statue and looked on. That
was sufficient for her, you see. She would not miss or forget a detail
of the lesson, she would take it all in with her eye and her mind, and
apply it afterward with as much certainty and confidence as if she had
already practised it.
We now made three night marches of twelve or thirteen leagues each,
riding in peace and undisturbed, being taken for a roving band of Free
Companions. Country-folk were glad to have that sort of people go
by without stopping. Still, they were very wearying marches, and not
comfortable, for the bridges were few and the streams many, and as we
had to ford them we found the water dismally cold, and afterward had to
bed ourselves, still wet, on the frosty or snowy ground, and get warm
as we might and sleep if we could, for it would not have been prudent
to build fires. Our energies languished under these hardships and deadly
fatigues, but Joan's did not. Her step kept its spring and firmness and
her eye its fire. We could only wonder at this, we could not explain it.
But if we had had hard times before, I know not what to call the five
nights that now followed, for the marches were as fatiguing, the baths
as cold, and we were ambuscaded seven times in addition, and lost two
novices and three veterans in the resulting fights. The news had leaked
out and gone abroad that the inspired Virgin of Vaucouleurs was making
for the King with an escort, and all the roads were being watched now.
These five nights disheartened the command a good deal. This was
aggravated by a discovery which Noel made, and which he promptly made
known at headquarters. Some of the men had been trying to understand why
Joan continued to be alert, vigorous, and confident while the strongest
men in the company were fagged with the heavy marches and exposure and
were become morose and irritable. There, it shows you how men can have
eyes and yet not see. All their lives those men had seen their own
women-folks hitched up with a cow and dragging the plow in the fields
while the men did the driving. They had also seen other evidences that
women have far more endurance and patience and fortitude than men—but
what good had their seeing these things been to them? None. It had
taught them nothing. They were still surprised to see a girl of
seventeen bear the fatigues of war better than trained veterans of the
army. Moreover, they did not reflect that a great soul, with a great
purpose, can make a weak body strong and keep it so; and here was the
greatest soul in the universe; but how could they know that, those dumb
creatures? No, they knew nothing, and their reasonings were of a piece
with their ignorance. They argued and discussed among themselves, with
Noel listening, and arrived at the decision that Joan was a witch, and
had her strange pluck and strength from Satan; so they made a plan to
watch for a safe opportunity to take her life.
To have secret plottings of this sort going on in our midst was a very
serious business, of course, and the knights asked Joan's permission to
hang the plotters, but she refused without hesitancy. She said:
"Neither these men nor any others can take my life before my mission is
accomplished, therefore why should I have their blood upon my hands? I
will inform them of this, and also admonish them. Call them before me."
When they came she made that statement to them in a plain matter-of-fact
way, and just as if the thought never entered her mind that any one
could doubt it after she had given her word that it was true. The men
were evidently amazed and impressed to hear her say such a thing in
such a sure and confident way, for prophecies boldly uttered never fall
barren on superstitious ears. Yes, this speech certainly impressed
them, but her closing remark impressed them still more. It was for the
ringleader, and Joan said it sorrowfully:
"It is a pity that you should plot another's death when your own is so
close at hand."
That man's horse stumbled and fell on him in the first ford which we
crossed that night, and he was drowned before we could help him. We had
no more conspiracies.
This night was harassed with ambuscades, but we got through without
having any men killed. One more night would carry us over the hostile
frontier if we had good luck, and we saw the night close down with
a good deal of solicitude. Always before, we had been more or less
reluctant to start out into the gloom and the silence to be frozen in
the fords and persecuted by the enemy, but this time we were impatient
to get under way and have it over, although there was promise of more
and harder fighting than any of the previous nights had furnished.
Moreover, in front of us about three leagues there was a deep stream
with a frail wooden bridge over it, and as a cold rain mixed with snow
had been falling steadily all day we were anxious to find out whether we
were in a trap or not. If the swollen stream had washed away the bridge,
we might properly consider ourselves trapped and cut off from escape.
As soon as it was dark we filed out from the depth of the forest where
we had been hidden and began the march. From the time that we had begun
to encounter ambushes Joan had ridden at the head of the column, and she
took this post now. By the time we had gone a league the rain and snow
had turned to sleet, and under the impulse of the storm-wind it lashed
my face like whips, and I envied Joan and the knights, who could close
their visors and shut up their heads in their helmets as in a box. Now,
out of the pitchy darkness and close at hand, came the sharp command:
We obeyed. I made out a dim mass in front of us which might be a body of
horsemen, but one could not be sure. A man rode up and said to Joan in a
tone of reproof:
"Well, you have taken your time, truly. And what have you found out? Is
she still behind us, or in front?"
Joan answered in a level voice:
"She is still behind."
This news softened the stranger's tone. He said:
"If you know that to be true, you have not lost your time, Captain. But
are you sure? How do you know?"
"Because I have seen her."
"Seen her! Seen the Virgin herself?"
"Yes, I have been in her camp."
"Is it possible! Captain Raymond, I ask you to pardon me for speaking in
that tone just now. You have performed a daring and admirable service.
Where was she camped?"
"In the forest, not more than a league from here."
"Good! I was afraid we might be still behind her, but now that we know
she is behind us, everything is safe. She is our game. We will hang her.
You shall hang her yourself. No one has so well earned the privilege of
abolishing this pestilent limb of Satan."
"I do not know how to thank you sufficiently. If we catch her, I—"
"If! I will take care of that; give yourself no uneasiness. All I want
is just a look at her, to see what the imp is like that has been able to
make all this noise, then you and the halter may have her. How many men
"I counted but eighteen, but she may have had two or three pickets out."
"Is that all? It won't be a mouthful for my force. Is it true that she
is only a girl?"
"Yes; she is not more than seventeen."
"It passes belief! Is she robust, or slender?"
The officer pondered a moment or two, then he said:
"Was she preparing to break camp?"
"Not when I had my last glimpse of her."
"What was she doing?"
"She was talking quietly with an officer."
"Quietly? Not giving orders?"
"No, talking as quietly as we are now."
"That is good. She is feeling a false security. She would have been
restless and fussy else—it is the way of her sex when danger is about.
As she was making no preparation to break camp—"
"She certainly was not when I saw her last."
"—and was chatting quietly and at her ease, it means that this weather
is not to her taste. Night-marching in sleet and wind is not for chits
of seventeen. No; she will stay where she is. She has my thanks. We will
camp, ourselves; here is as good a place as any. Let us get about it."
"If you command it—certainly. But she has two knights with her. They
might force her to march, particularly if the weather should improve."
I was scared, and impatient to be getting out of this peril, and it
distressed and worried me to have Joan apparently set herself to work
to make delay and increase the danger—still, I thought she probably knew
better than I what to do. The officer said:
"Well, in that case we are here to block the way."
"Yes, if they come this way. But if they should send out spies, and find
out enough to make them want to try for the bridge through the woods? Is
it best to allow the bridge to stand?"
It made me shiver to hear her.
The officer considered awhile, then said:
"It might be well enough to send a force to destroy the bridge. I was
intending to occupy it with the whole command, but that is not necessary
Joan said, tranquilly:
"With your permission, I will go and destroy it myself."
Ah, now I saw her idea, and was glad she had had the cleverness to
invent it and the ability to keep her head cool and think of it in that
tight place. The officer replied:
"You have it, Captain, and my thanks. With you to do it, it will be well
done; I could send another in your place, but not a better."
They saluted, and we moved forward. I breathed freer. A dozen times I
had imagined I heard the hoofbeats of the real Captain Raymond's troop
arriving behind us, and had been sitting on pins and needles all the
while that that conversation was dragging along. I breathed freer, but
was still not comfortable, for Joan had given only the simple command,
"Forward!" Consequently we moved in a walk. Moved in a dead walk past
a dim and lengthening column of enemies at our side. The suspense was
exhausting, yet it lasted but a short while, for when the enemy's bugles
sang the "Dismount!" Joan gave the word to trot, and that was a great
relief to me. She was always at herself, you see. Before the command
to dismount had been given, somebody might have wanted the countersign
somewhere along that line if we came flying by at speed, but now we
seemed to be on our way to our allotted camping position, so we were
allowed to pass unchallenged. The further we went the more formidable
was the strength revealed by the hostile force. Perhaps it was only a
hundred or two, but to me it seemed a thousand. When we passed the
last of these people I was thankful, and the deeper we plowed into the
darkness beyond them the better I felt. I came nearer and nearer to
feeling good, for an hour; then we found the bridge still standing,
and I felt entirely good. We crossed it and destroyed it, and then I
felt—but I cannot describe what I felt. One has to feel it himself in
order to know what it is like.
We had expected to hear the rush of a pursuing force behind us, for
we thought that the real Captain Raymond would arrive and suggest that
perhaps the troop that had been mistaken for his belonged to the Virgin
of Vaucouleurs; but he must have been delayed seriously, for when we
resumed our march beyond the river there were no sounds behind us except
those which the storm was furnishing.
I said that Joan had harvested a good many compliments intended for
Captain Raymond, and that he would find nothing of a crop left but a
dry stubble of reprimands when he got back, and a commander just in the
humor to superintend the gathering of it in.
"It will be as you say, no doubt; for the commander took a troop for
granted, in the night and unchallenged, and would have camped without
sending a force to destroy the bridge if he had been left unadvised,
and none are so ready to find fault with others as those who do things
worthy of blame themselves."
The Sieur Bertrand was amused at Joan's naive way of referring to her
advice as if it had been a valuable present to a hostile leader who was
saved by it from making a censurable blunder of omission, and then he
went on to admire how ingeniously she had deceived that man and yet had
not told him anything that was not the truth. This troubled Joan, and
"I thought he was deceiving himself. I forbore to tell him lies, for
that would have been wrong; but if my truths deceived him, perhaps that
made them lies, and I am to blame. I would God I knew if I have done
She was assured that she had done right, and that in the perils and
necessities of war deceptions that help one's own cause and hurt the
enemy's were always permissible; but she was not quite satisfied with
that, and thought that even when a great cause was in danger one ought
to have the privilege of trying honorable ways first. Jean said:
"Joan, you told us yourself that you were going to Uncle Laxart's to
nurse his wife, but you didn't say you were going further, yet you did
go on to Vaucouleurs. There!"
"I see now," said Joan, sorrowfully. "I told no lie, yet I deceived. I
had tried all other ways first, but I could not get away, and I had
to get away. My mission required it. I did wrong, I think, and am to
She was silent a moment, turning the matter over in her mind, then she
added, with quiet decision, "But the thing itself was right, and I would
do it again."
It seemed an over-nice distinction, but nobody said anything. If we had
known her as well as she knew herself, and as her later history revealed
her to us, we should have perceived that she had a clear meaning there,
and that her position was not identical with ours, as we were supposing,
but occupied a higher plane. She would sacrifice herself—and her best
self; that is, her truthfulness—to save her cause; but only that; she
would not buy her life at that cost; whereas our war-ethics permitted
the purchase of our lives, or any mere military advantage, small or
great, by deception. Her saying seemed a commonplace at the time, the
essence of its meaning escaping us; but one sees now that it contained a
principle which lifted it above that and made it great and fine.
Presently the wind died down, the sleet stopped falling, and the cold
was less severe. The road was become a bog, and the horses labored
through it at a walk—they could do no better. As the heavy time wore
on, exhaustion overcame us, and we slept in our saddles. Not even the
dangers that threatened us could keep us awake.
This tenth night seemed longer than any of the others, and of course
it was the hardest, because we had been accumulating fatigue from the
beginning, and had more of it on hand now than at any previous time.
But we were not molested again. When the dull dawn came at last we saw
a river before us and we knew it was the Loire; we entered the town of
Gien, and knew we were in a friendly land, with the hostiles all behind
us. That was a glad morning for us.
We were a worn and bedraggled and shabby-looking troop; and still, as
always, Joan was the freshest of us all, in both body and spirits. We
had averaged above thirteen leagues a night, by tortuous and wretched
roads. It was a remarkable march, and shows what men can do when they
have a leader with a determined purpose and a resolution that never
Chapter 5 We Pierce the Last Ambuscades
WE RESTED and otherwise refreshed ourselves two or three hours at Gien,
but by that time the news was abroad that the young girl commissioned
of God to deliver France was come; wherefore, such a press of people
flocked to our quarters to get sight of her that it seemed best to seek
a quieter place; so we pushed on and halted at a small village called
We were now within six leagues of the King, who was at the Castle of
Chinon. Joan dictated a letter to him at once, and I wrote it. In it she
said she had come a hundred and fifty leagues to bring him good news,
and begged the privilege of delivering it in person. She added that
although she had never seen him she would know him in any disguise and
would point him out.
The two knights rode away at once with the letter. The troop slept
all the afternoon, and after supper we felt pretty fresh and fine,
especially our little group of young Domremians. We had the comfortable
tap-room of the village inn to ourselves, and for the first time in ten
unspeakably long days were exempt from bodings and terrors and hardships
and fatiguing labors. The Paladin was suddenly become his ancient
self again, and was swaggering up and down, a very monument of
self-complacency. Noel Rainguesson said:
"I think it is wonderful, the way he has brought us through."
"Who?" asked Jean.
"Why, the Paladin."
The Paladin seemed not to hear.
"What had he to do with it?" asked Pierre d'Arc.
"Everything. It was nothing but Joan's confidence in his discretion that
enabled her to keep up her heart. She could depend on us and on herself
for valor, but discretion is the winning thing in war, after all;
discretion is the rarest and loftiest of qualities, and he has got more
of it than any other man in France—more of it, perhaps, than any other
sixty men in France."
"Now you are getting ready to make a fool of yourself, Noel
Rainguesson," said the Paladin, "and you want to coil some of that long
tongue of yours around your neck and stick the end of it in your ear,
then you'll be the less likely to get into trouble."
"I didn't know he had more discretion than other people," said Pierre,
"for discretion argues brains, and he hasn't any more brains than the
rest of us, in my opinion."
"No, you are wrong there. Discretion hasn't anything to do with brains;
brains are an obstruction to it, for it does not reason, it feels.
Perfect discretion means absence of brains. Discretion is a quality
of the heart—solely a quality of the heart; it acts upon us through
feeling. We know this because if it were an intellectual quality it
would only perceive a danger, for instance, where a danger exists;
"Hear him twaddle—the damned idiot!" muttered the Paladin.
"—whereas, it being purely a quality of the heart, and proceeding by
feeling, not reason, its reach is correspondingly wider and sublimer,
enabling it to perceive and avoid dangers that haven't any existence at
all; as, for instance, that night in the fog, when the Paladin took his
horse's ears for hostile lances and got off and climbed a tree—"
"It's a lie! a lie without shadow of foundation, and I call upon you
all to beware you give credence to the malicious inventions of this
ramshackle slander-mill that has been doing its best to destroy my
character for years, and will grind up your own reputations for you
next. I got off to tighten my saddle-girth—I wish I may die in my tracks
if it isn't so—and whoever wants to believe it can, and whoever don't
can let it alone."
"There, that is the way with him, you see; he never can discuss a theme
temperately, but always flies off the handle and becomes disagreeable.
And you notice his defect of memory. He remembers getting off his horse,
but forgets all the rest, even the tree. But that is natural; he would
remember getting off the horse because he was so used to doing it.
He always did it when there was an alarm and the clash of arms at the
"Why did he choose that time for it?" asked Jean.
"I don't know. To tighten up his girth, he thinks, to climb a tree, I
think; I saw him climb nine trees in a single night."
"You saw nothing of the kind! A person that can lie like that deserves
no one's respect. I ask you all to answer me. Do you believe what this
reptile has said?"
All seemed embarrassed, and only Pierre replied. He said, hesitatingly:
"I—well, I hardly know what to say. It is a delicate situation. It seems
offensive to me to refuse to believe a person when he makes so direct a
statement, and yet I am obliged to say, rude as it may appear, that I
am not able to believe the whole of it—no, I am not able to believe that
you climbed nine trees."
"There!" cried the Paladin; "now what do you think of yourself, Noel
Rainguesson? How many do you believe I climbed, Pierre?"
The laughter that followed inflamed the Paladin's anger to white heat,
and he said:
"I bide my time—I bide my time. I will reckon with you all, I promise
"Don't get him started," Noel pleaded; "he is a perfect lion when he
gets started. I saw enough to teach me that, after the third skirmish.
After it was over I saw him come out of the bushes and attack a dead man
"It is another lie; and I give you fair warning that you are going too
far. You will see me attack a live one if you are not careful."
"Meaning me, of course. This wounds me more than any number of injurious
and unkind speeches could do. In gratitude to one's benefactor—"
"Benefactor? What do I owe you, I should like to know?"
"You owe me your life. I stood between the trees and the foe, and kept
hundreds and thousands of the enemy at bay when they were thirsting for
your blood. And I did not do it to display my daring. I did it because I
loved you and could not live without you."
"There—you have said enough! I will not stay here to listen to
these infamies. I can endure your lies, but not your love. Keep that
corruption for somebody with a stronger stomach than mine. And I want to
say this, before I go. That you people's small performances might appear
the better and win you the more glory, I hid my own deeds through all
the march. I went always to the front, where the fighting was thickest,
to be remote from you in order that you might not see and be discouraged
by the things I did to the enemy. It was my purpose to keep this a
secret in my own breast, but you force me to reveal it. If you ask for
my witnesses, yonder they lie, on the road we have come. I found that
road mud, I paved it with corpses. I found that country sterile, I
fertilized it with blood. Time and again I was urged to go to the rear
because the command could not proceed on account of my dead. And yet
you, you miscreant, accuse me of climbing trees! Pah!"
And he strode out, with a lofty air, for the recital of his imaginary
deeds had already set him up again and made him feel good.
Next day we mounted and faced toward Chinon. Orleans was at our back
now, and close by, lying in the strangling grip of the English; soon,
please God, we would face about and go to their relief. From Gien the
news had spread to Orleans that the peasant Maid of Vaucouleurs was on
her way, divinely commissioned to raise the siege. The news made a great
excitement and raised a great hope—the first breath of hope those poor
souls had breathed in five months. They sent commissioners at once to
the King to beg him to consider this matter, and not throw this help
lightly away. These commissioners were already at Chinon by this time.
When we were half-way to Chinon we happened upon yet one more squad
of enemies. They burst suddenly out of the woods, and in considerable
force, too; but we were not the apprentices we were ten or twelve days
before; no, we were seasoned to this kind of adventure now; our hearts
did not jump into our throats and our weapons tremble in our hands. We
had learned to be always in battle array, always alert, and always ready
to deal with any emergency that might turn up. We were no more dismayed
by the sight of those people than our commander was. Before they could
form, Joan had delivered the order, "Forward!" and we were down upon
them with a rush. They stood no chance; they turned tail and scattered,
we plowing through them as if they had been men of straw. That was our
last ambuscade, and it was probably laid for us by that treacherous
rascal, the King's own minister and favorite, De la Tremouille.
We housed ourselves in an inn, and soon the town came flocking to get a
glimpse of the Maid.
Ah, the tedious King and his tedious people! Our two good knights
came presently, their patience well wearied, and reported. They and we
reverently stood—as becomes persons who are in the presence of kings and
the superiors of kings—until Joan, troubled by this mark of homage and
respect, and not content with it nor yet used to it, although we had not
permitted ourselves to do otherwise since the day she prophesied that
wretched traitor's death and he was straightway drowned, thus confirming
many previous signs that she was indeed an ambassador commissioned of
God, commanded us to sit; then the Sieur de Metz said to Joan:
"The King has got the letter, but they will not let us have speech with
"Who is it that forbids?"
"None forbids, but there be three or four that are nearest his
person—schemers and traitors every one—that put obstructions in the
way, and seek all ways, by lies and pretexts, to make delay. Chiefest of
these are Georges de la Tremouille and that plotting fox, the Archbishop
of Rheims. While they keep the King idle and in bondage to his sports
and follies, they are great and their importance grows; whereas if ever
he assert himself and rise and strike for crown and country like a man,
their reign is done. So they but thrive, they care not if the crown go
to destruction and the King with it."
"You have spoken with others besides these?"
"Not of the Court, no—the Court are the meek slaves of those reptiles,
and watch their mouths and their actions, acting as they act, thinking
as they think, saying as they say; wherefore they are cold to us, and
turn aside and go another way when we appear. But we have spoken with
the commissioners from Orleans. They said with heat: 'It is a marvel
that any man in such desperate case as is the King can moon around in
this torpid way, and see his all go to ruin without lifting a finger to
stay the disaster. What a most strange spectacle it is! Here he is,
shut up in this wee corner of the realm like a rat in a trap; his
royal shelter this huge gloomy tomb of a castle, with wormy rags for
upholstery and crippled furniture for use, a very house of desolation;
in his treasure forty francs, and not a farthing more, God be witness!
no army, nor any shadow of one; and by contrast with his hungry poverty
you behold this crownless pauper and his shoals of fools and favorites
tricked out in the gaudiest silks and velvets you shall find in any
Court in Christendom. And look you, he knows that when our city falls—as
fall it surely will except succor come swiftly—France falls; he knows
that when that day comes he will be an outlaw and a fugitive, and that
behind him the English flag will float unchallenged over every acre of
his great heritage; he knows these things, he knows that our faithful
city is fighting all solitary and alone against disease, starvation, and
the sword to stay this awful calamity, yet he will not strike one blow
to save her, he will not hear our prayers, he will not even look
upon our faces.' That is what the commissioners said, and they are in
Joan said, gently:
"It is pity, but they must not despair. The Dauphin will hear them
presently. Tell them so."
She almost always called the King the Dauphin. To her mind he was not
King yet, not being crowned.
"We will tell them so, and it will content them, for they believe you
come from God. The Archbishop and his confederate have for backer that
veteran soldier Raoul de Gaucourt, Grand Master of the Palace, a worthy
man, but simply a soldier, with no head for any greater matter. He
cannot make out to see how a country-girl, ignorant of war, can take a
sword in her small hand and win victories where the trained generals of
France have looked for defeats only, for fifty years—and always found
them. And so he lifts his frosty mustache and scoffs."
"When God fights it is but small matter whether the hand that bears His
sword is big or little. He will perceive this in time. Is there none in
that Castle of Chinon who favors us?"
"Yes, the King's mother-in-law, Yolande, Queen of Sicily, who is wise
and good. She spoke with the Sieur Bertrand."
"She favors us, and she hates those others, the King's beguilers," said
Bertrand. "She was full of interest, and asked a thousand questions, all
of which I answered according to my ability. Then she sat thinking over
these replies until I thought she was lost in a dream and would wake no
more. But it was not so. At last she said, slowly, and as if she
were talking to herself: 'A child of seventeen—a
girl—country-bred—untaught—ignorant of war, the use of arms, and
the conduct of battles—modest, gentle, shrinking—yet throws away her
shepherd's crook and clothes herself in steel, and fights her way
through a hundred and fifty leagues of fear, and comes—she to whom a
king must be a dread and awful presence—and will stand up before such
an one and say, Be not afraid, God has sent me to save you! Ah, whence
could come a courage and conviction so sublime as this but from very God
Himself!' She was silent again awhile, thinking and making up her mind;
then she said, 'And whether she comes of God or no, there is that in
her heart that raises her above men—high above all men that breathe in
France to-day—for in her is that mysterious something that puts heart
into soldiers, and turns mobs of cowards into armies of fighters that
forget what fear is when they are in that presence—fighters who go into
battle with joy in their eyes and songs on their lips, and sweep over
the field like a storm—that is the spirit that can save France, and that
alone, come it whence it may! It is in her, I do truly believe, for what
else could have borne up that child on that great march, and made her
despise its dangers and fatigues? The King must see her face to face—and
shall!' She dismissed me with those good words, and I know her promise
will be kept. They will delay her all they can—those animals—but she
will not fail in the end."
"Would she were King!" said the other knight, fervently. "For there is
little hope that the King himself can be stirred out of his lethargy. He
is wholly without hope, and is only thinking of throwing away everything
and flying to some foreign land. The commissioners say there is a
spell upon him that makes him hopeless—yes, and that it is shut up in a
mystery which they cannot fathom."
"I know the mystery," said Joan, with quiet confidence; "I know it,
and he knows it, but no other but God. When I see him I will tell him a
secret that will drive away his trouble, then he will hold up his head
I was miserable with curiosity to know what it was that she would tell
him, but she did not say, and I did not expect she would. She was but a
child, it is true; but she was not a chatterer to tell great matters and
make herself important to little people; no, she was reserved, and kept
things to herself, as the truly great always do.
The next day Queen Yolande got one victory over the King's keepers,
for, in spite of their protestations and obstructions, she procured an
audience for our two knights, and they made the most they could out
of their opportunity. They told the King what a spotless and beautiful
character Joan was, and how great and noble a spirit animated her, and
they implored him to trust in her, believe in her, and have faith that
she was sent to save France. They begged him to consent to see her. He
was strongly moved to do this, and promised that he would not drop the
matter out of his mind, but would consult with his council about it.
This began to look encouraging. Two hours later there was a great
stir below, and the innkeeper came flying up to say a commission of
illustrious ecclesiastics was come from the King—from the King his
very self, understand!—think of this vast honor to his humble little
hostelry!—and he was so overcome with the glory of it that he could
hardly find breath enough in his excited body to put the facts
into words. They were come from the King to speak with the Maid of
Vaucouleurs. Then he flew downstairs, and presently appeared again,
backing into the room, and bowing to the ground with every step, in
front of four imposing and austere bishops and their train of servants.
Joan rose, and we all stood. The bishops took seats, and for a while
no word was said, for it was their prerogative to speak first, and they
were so astonished to see what a child it was that was making such a
noise in the world and degrading personages of their dignity to the base
function of ambassadors to her in her plebeian tavern, that they could
not find any words to say at first. Then presently their spokesman told
Joan they were aware that she had a message for the King, wherefore she
was now commanded to put it into words, briefly and without waste of
time or embroideries of speech.
As for me, I could hardly contain my joy—our message was to reach the
King at last! And there was the same joy and pride and exultation in the
faces of our knights, too, and in those of Joan's brothers. And I knew
that they were all praying—as I was—that the awe which we felt in the
presence of these great dignitaries, and which would have tied our
tongues and locked our jaws, would not affect her in the like degree,
but that she would be enabled to word her message well, and with little
stumbling, and so make a favorable impression here, where it would be so
valuable and so important.
Ah, dear, how little we were expecting what happened then! We were
aghast to hear her say what she said. She was standing in a reverent
attitude, with her head down and her hands clasped in front of her; for
she was always reverent toward the consecrated servants of God. When
the spokesman had finished, she raised her head and set her calm eye on
those faces, not any more disturbed by their state and grandeur than a
princess would have been, and said, with all her ordinary simplicity and
modesty of voice and manner:
"Ye will forgive me, reverend sirs, but I have no message save for the
King's ear alone."
Those surprised men were dumb for a moment, and their faces flushed
darkly; then the spokesman said:
"Hark ye, to you fling the King's command in his face and refuse to
deliver this message of yours to his servants appointed to receive it?"
"God has appointed me to receive it, and another's commandment may not
take precedence of that. I pray you let me have speech for his grace the
"Forbear this folly, and come at your message! Deliver it, and waste no
more time about it."
"You err indeed, most reverend fathers in God, and it is not well. I am
not come hither to talk, but to deliver Orleans, and lead the Dauphin to
his good city of Rheims, and set the crown upon his head."
"Is that the message you send to the King?"
But Joan only said, in the simple fashion which was her wont:
"Ye will pardon me for reminding you again—but I have no message to send
to any one."
The King's messengers rose in deep anger and swept out of the place
without further words, we and Joan kneeling as they passed.
Our countenances were vacant, our hearts full of a sense of disaster.
Our precious opportunity was thrown away; we could not understand Joan's
conduct, she who had been so wise until this fatal hour. At last the
Sieur Bertrand found courage to ask her why she had let this great
chance to get her message to the King go by.
"Who sent them here?" she asked.
"Who moved the King to send them?" She waited for an answer; none came,
for we began to see what was in her mind—so she answered herself: "The
Dauphin's council moved him to it. Are they enemies to me and to the
Dauphin's weal, or are they friends?"
"Enemies," answered the Sieur Bertrand.
"If one would have a message go sound and ungarbled, does one choose
traitors and tricksters to send it by?"
I saw that we had been fools, and she wise. They saw it too, so none
found anything to say. Then she went on:
"They had but small wit that contrived this trap. They thought to get
my message and seem to deliver it straight, yet deftly twist it from its
purpose. You know that one part of my message is but this—to move the
Dauphin by argument and reasonings to give me men-at-arms and send me
to the siege. If an enemy carried these in the right words, the exact
words, and no word missing, yet left out the persuasions of gesture and
supplicating tone and beseeching looks that inform the words and make
them live, where were the value of that argument—whom could it convince?
Be patient, the Dauphin will hear me presently; have no fear."
The Sieur de Metz nodded his head several times, and muttered as to
"She was right and wise, and we are but dull fools, when all is said."
It was just my thought; I could have said it myself; and indeed it was
the thought of all there present. A sort of awe crept over us, to think
how that untaught girl, taken suddenly and unprepared, was yet able to
penetrate the cunning devices of a King's trained advisers and defeat
them. Marveling over this, and astonished at it, we fell silent and
spoke no more. We had come to know that she was great in courage,
fortitude, endurance, patience, conviction, fidelity to all duties—in
all things, indeed, that make a good and trusty soldier and perfect
him for his post; now we were beginning to feel that maybe there
were greatnesses in her brain that were even greater than these great
qualities of the heart. It set us thinking.
What Joan did that day bore fruit the very day after. The King was
obliged to respect the spirit of a young girl who could hold her own and
stand her ground like that, and he asserted himself sufficiently to put
his respect into an act instead of into polite and empty words. He moved
Joan out of that poor inn, and housed her, with us her servants, in the
Castle of Courdray, personally confiding her to the care of Madame de
Bellier, wife of old Raoul de Gaucourt, Master of the Palace. Of course,
this royal attention had an immediate result: all the great lords
and ladies of the Court began to flock there to see and listen to the
wonderful girl-soldier that all the world was talking about, and who had
answered the King's mandate with a bland refusal to obey. Joan charmed
them every one with her sweetness and simplicity and unconscious
eloquence, and all the best and capablest among them recognized that
there was an indefinable something about her that testified that she was
not made of common clay, that she was built on a grander plan than the
mass of mankind, and moved on a loftier plane. These spread her fame.
She always made friends and advocates that way; neither the high nor the
low could come within the sound of her voice and the sight of her face
and go out from her presence indifferent.
Chapter 6 Joan Convinces the King
WELL, anything to make delay. The King's council advised him against
arriving at a decision in our matter too precipitately. He arrive at a
decision too precipitately! So they sent a committee of priests—always
priests—into Lorraine to inquire into Joan's character and history—a
matter which would consume several weeks, of course. You see how
fastidious they were. It was as if people should come to put out the
fire when a man's house was burning down, and they waited till they
could send into another country to find out if he had always kept the
Sabbath or not, before letting him try.
So the days poked along; dreary for us young people in some ways, but
not in all, for we had one great anticipation in front of us; we had
never seen a king, and now some day we should have that prodigious
spectacle to see and to treasure in our memories all our lives; so we
were on the lookout, and always eager and watching for the chance. The
others were doomed to wait longer than I, as it turned out. One day
great news came—the Orleans commissioners, with Yolande and our knights,
had at last turned the council's position and persuaded the King to see
Joan received the immense news gratefully but without losing her head,
but with us others it was otherwise; we could not eat or sleep or do any
rational thing for the excitement and the glory of it. During two days
our pair of noble knights were in distress and trepidation on Joan's
account, for the audience was to be at night, and they were afraid that
Joan would be so paralyzed by the glare of light from the long files
of torches, the solemn pomps and ceremonies, the great concourse of
renowned personages, the brilliant costumes, and the other splendors
of the Court, that she, a simple country-maid, and all unused to such
things, would be overcome by these terrors and make a piteous failure.
No doubt I could have comforted them, but I was not free to speak. Would
Joan be disturbed by this cheap spectacle, this tinsel show, with its
small King and his butterfly dukelets?—she who had spoken face to face
with the princes of heaven, the familiars of God, and seen their retinue
of angels stretching back into the remoteness of the sky, myriads upon
myriads, like a measureless fan of light, a glory like the glory of the
sun streaming from each of those innumerable heads, the massed radiance
filling the deeps of space with a blinding splendor? I thought not.
Queen Yolande wanted Joan to make the best possible impression upon
the King and the Court, so she was strenuous to have her clothed in the
richest stuffs, wrought upon the princeliest pattern, and set off with
jewels; but in that she had to be disappointed, of course, Joan not
being persuadable to it, but begging to be simply and sincerely dressed,
as became a servant of God, and one sent upon a mission of a serious
sort and grave political import. So then the gracious Queen imagined and
contrived that simple and witching costume which I have described to
you so many times, and which I cannot think of even now in my dull age
without being moved just as rhythmical and exquisite music moves one;
for that was music, that dress—that is what it was—music that one saw
with the eyes and felt in the heart. Yes, she was a poem, she was a
dream, she was a spirit when she was clothed in that.
She kept that raiment always, and wore it several times upon occasions
of state, and it is preserved to this day in the Treasury of Orleans,
with two of her swords, and her banner, and other things now sacred
because they had belonged to her.
At the appointed time the Count of Vendome, a great lord of the court,
came richly clothed, with his train of servants and assistants, to
conduct Joan to the King, and the two knights and I went with her, being
entitled to this privilege by reason of our official positions near her
When we entered the great audience-hall, there it all was just as I have
already painted it. Here were ranks of guards in shining armor and with
polished halberds; two sides of the hall were like flower-gardens for
variety of color and the magnificence of the costumes; light streamed
upon these masses of color from two hundred and fifty flambeaux. There
was a wide free space down the middle of the hall, and at the end of it
was a throne royally canopied, and upon it sat a crowned and sceptered
figure nobly clothed and blazing with jewels.
It is true that Joan had been hindered and put off a good while, but
now that she was admitted to an audience at last, she was received with
honors granted to only the greatest personages. At the entrance door
stood four heralds in a row, in splendid tabards, with long slender
silver trumpets at their mouths, with square silken banners depending
from them embroidered with the arms of France. As Joan and the Count
passed by, these trumpets gave forth in unison one long rich note, and
as we moved down the hall under the pictured and gilded vaulting, this
was repeated at every fifty feet of our progress—six times in all. It
made our good knights proud and happy, and they held themselves erect,
and stiffened their stride, and looked fine and soldierly. They were
not expecting this beautiful and honorable tribute to our little
Joan walked two yards behind the Count, we three walked two yards behind
Joan. Our solemn march ended when we were as yet some eight or ten steps
from the throne. The Count made a deep obeisance, pronounced Joan's
name, then bowed again and moved to his place among a group of officials
near the throne. I was devouring the crowned personage with all my eyes,
and my heart almost stood still with awe.
The eyes of all others were fixed upon Joan in a gaze of wonder which
was half worship, and which seemed to say, "How sweet—how lovely—how
divine!" All lips were parted and motionless, which was a sure sign that
those people, who seldom forget themselves, had forgotten themselves
now, and were not conscious of anything but the one object they were
gazing upon. They had the look of people who are under the enchantment
of a vision.
Then they presently began to come to life again, rousing themselves out
of the spell and shaking it off as one drives away little by little a
clinging drowsiness or intoxication. Now they fixed their attention
upon Joan with a strong new interest of another sort; they were full of
curiosity to see what she would do—they having a secret and particular
reason for this curiosity. So they watched. This is what they saw:
She made no obeisance, nor even any slight inclination of her head, but
stood looking toward the throne in silence. That was all there was to
see at present.
I glanced up at De Metz, and was shocked at the paleness of his face. I
whispered and said:
"What is it, man, what is it?"
His answering whisper was so weak I could hardly catch it:
"They have taken advantage of the hint in her letter to play a trick
upon her! She will err, and they will laugh at her. That is not the King
that sits there."
Then I glanced at Joan. She was still gazing steadfastly toward the
throne, and I had the curious fancy that even her shoulders and the back
of her head expressed bewilderment. Now she turned her head slowly, and
her eye wandered along the lines of standing courtiers till it fell
upon a young man who was very quietly dressed; then her face lighted
joyously, and she ran and threw herself at his feet, and clasped his
knees, exclaiming in that soft melodious voice which was her birthright
and was now charged with deep and tender feeling:
"God of his grace give you long life, O dear and gentle Dauphin!"
In his astonishment and exultation De Metz cried out:
"By the shadow of God, it is an amazing thing!" Then he mashed all the
bones of my hand in his grateful grip, and added, with a proud shake of
his mane, "Now, what have these painted infidels to say!"
Meantime the young person in the plain clothes was saying to Joan:
"Ah, you mistake, my child, I am not the King. There he is," and he
pointed to the throne.
The knight's face clouded, and he muttered in grief and indignation:
"Ah, it is a shame to use her so. But for this lie she had gone through
safe. I will go and proclaim to all the house what—"
"Stay where you are!" whispered I and the Sieur Bertrand in a breath,
and made him stop in his place.
Joan did not stir from her knees, but still lifted her happy face toward
the King, and said:
"No, gracious liege, you are he, and none other."
De Metz's troubles vanished away, and he said:
"Verily, she was not guessing, she knew. Now, how could she know? It is
a miracle. I am content, and will meddle no more, for I perceive that
she is equal to her occasions, having that in her head that cannot
profitably be helped by the vacancy that is in mine."
This interruption of his lost me a remark or two of the other talk;
however, I caught the King's next question:
"But tell me who you are, and what would you?"
"I am called Joan the Maid, and am sent to say that the King of Heaven
wills that you be crowned and consecrated in your good city of Rheims,
and be thereafter Lieutenant of the Lord of Heaven, who is King of
France. And He willeth also that you set me at my appointed work and
give me men-at-arms." After a slight pause she added, her eye lighting
at the sound of her words, "For then will I raise the siege of Orleans
and break the English power!"
The young monarch's amused face sobered a little when this martial
speech fell upon that sick air like a breath blown from embattled camps
and fields of war, and this trifling smile presently faded wholly away
and disappeared. He was grave now, and thoughtful. After a little he
waved his hand lightly, and all the people fell away and left those two
by themselves in a vacant space. The knights and I moved to the opposite
side of the hall and stood there. We saw Joan rise at a sign, then she
and the King talked privately together.
All that host had been consumed with curiosity to see what Joan would
do. Well, they had seen, and now they were full of astonishment to see
that she had really performed that strange miracle according to the
promise in her letter; and they were fully as much astonished to find
that she was not overcome by the pomps and splendors about her, but was
even more tranquil and at her ease in holding speech with a monarch than
ever they themselves had been, with all their practice and experience.
As for our two knights, they were inflated beyond measure with pride in
Joan, but nearly dumb, as to speech, they not being able to think
out any way to account for her managing to carry herself through this
imposing ordeal without ever a mistake or an awkwardness of any kind to
mar the grace and credit of her great performance.
The talk between Joan and the King was long and earnest, and held in low
voices. We could not hear, but we had our eyes and could note effects;
and presently we and all the house noted one effect which was memorable
and striking, and has been set down in memoirs and histories and in
testimony at the Process of Rehabilitation by some who witnessed it; for
all knew it was big with meaning, though none knew what that meaning
was at that time, of course. For suddenly we saw the King shake off his
indolent attitude and straighten up like a man, and at the same time
look immeasurably astonished. It was as if Joan had told him something
almost too wonderful for belief, and yet of a most uplifting and welcome
It was long before we found out the secret of this conversation, but we
know it now, and all the world knows it. That part of the talk was like
this—as one may read in all histories. The perplexed King asked Joan for
a sign. He wanted to believe in her and her mission, and that her Voices
were supernatural and endowed with knowledge hidden from mortals, but
how could he do this unless these Voices could prove their claim in some
absolutely unassailable way? It was then that Joan said:
"I will give you a sign, and you shall no more doubt. There is a secret
trouble in your heart which you speak of to none—a doubt which wastes
away your courage, and makes you dream of throwing all away and fleeing
from your realm. Within this little while you have been praying, in your
own breast, that God of his grace would resolve that doubt, even if the
doing of it must show you that no kingly right is lodged in you."
It was that that amazed the King, for it was as she had said: his prayer
was the secret of his own breast, and none but God could know about it.
So he said:
"The sign is sufficient. I know now that these Voices are of God. They
have said true in this matter; if they have said more, tell it me—I will
"They have resolved that doubt, and I bring their very words, which are
these: Thou art lawful heir to the King thy father, and true heir of
France. God has spoken it. Now lift up thy head, and doubt no more, but
give me men-at-arms and let me get about my work."
Telling him he was of lawful birth was what straightened him up and
made a man of him for a moment, removing his doubts upon that head and
convincing him of his royal right; and if any could have hanged his
hindering and pestiferous council and set him free, he would have
answered Joan's prayer and set her in the field. But no, those creatures
were only checked, not checkmated; they could invent some more delays.
We had been made proud by the honors which had so distinguished Joan's
entrance into that place—honors restricted to personages of very high
rank and worth—but that pride was as nothing compared with the pride
we had in the honor done her upon leaving it. For whereas those first
honors were shown only to the great, these last, up to this time, had
been shown only to the royal. The King himself led Joan by the hand down
the great hall to the door, the glittering multitude standing and making
reverence as they passed, and the silver trumpets sounding those rich
notes of theirs. Then he dismissed her with gracious words, bending low
over her hand and kissing it. Always—from all companies, high or low—she
went forth richer in honor and esteem than when she came.
And the King did another handsome thing by Joan, for he sent us back
to Courdray Castle torch-lighted and in state, under escort of his own
troop—his guard of honor—the only soldiers he had; and finely equipped
and bedizened they were, too, though they hadn't seen the color of their
wages since they were children, as a body might say. The wonders which
Joan had been performing before the King had been carried all around
by this time, so the road was so packed with people who wanted to get
a sight of her that we could hardly dig through; and as for talking
together, we couldn't, all attempts at talk being drowned in the storm
of shoutings and huzzas that broke out all along as we passed, and kept
abreast of us like a wave the whole way.
Chapter 7 Our Paladin in His Glory
WE WERE doomed to suffer tedious waits and delays, and we settled
ourselves down to our fate and bore it with a dreary patience, counting
the slow hours and the dull days and hoping for a turn when God should
please to send it. The Paladin was the only exception—that is to say, he
was the only one who was happy and had no heavy times. This was partly
owing to the satisfaction he got out of his clothes. He bought them at
second hand—a Spanish cavalier's complete suit, wide-brimmed hat with
flowing plumes, lace collar and cuffs, faded velvet doublet and trunks,
short cloak hung from the shoulder, funnel-topped buskins, long rapier,
and all that—a graceful and picturesque costume, and the Paladin's great
frame was the right place to hang it for effect. He wore it when off
duty; and when he swaggered by with one hand resting on the hilt of his
rapier, and twirling his new mustache with the other, everybody stopped
to look and admire; and well they might, for he was a fine and stately
contrast to the small French gentlemen of the day squeezed into the
trivial French costume of the time.
He was king bee of the little village that snuggled under the shelter
of the frowning towers and bastions of Courdray Castle, and acknowledged
lord of the tap-room of the inn. When he opened his mouth there, he got
a hearing. Those simple artisans and peasants listened with deep and
wondering interest; for he was a traveler and had seen the world—all of
it that lay between Chinon and Domremy, at any rate—and that was a wide
stretch more of it than they might ever hope to see; and he had been
in battle, and knew how to paint its shock and struggle, its perils and
surprises, with an art that was all his own. He was cock of that walk,
hero of that hostelry; he drew custom as honey draws flies; so he was
the pet of the innkeeper, and of his wife and daughter, and they were
his obliged and willing servants.
Most people who have the narrative gift—that great and rare
endowment—have with it the defect of telling their choice things over
the same way every time, and this injures them and causes them to sound
stale and wearisome after several repetitions; but it was not so with
the Paladin, whose art was of a finer sort; it was more stirring and
interesting to hear him tell about a battle the tenth time than it
was the first time, because he did not tell it twice the same way, but
always made a new battle of it and a better one, with more casualties
on the enemy's side each time, and more general wreck and disaster all
around, and more widows and orphans and suffering in the neighborhood
where it happened. He could not tell his battles apart himself, except
by their names; and by the time he had told one of then ten times it had
grown so that there wasn't room enough in France for it any more, but
was lapping over the edges. But up to that point the audience would not
allow him to substitute a new battle, knowing that the old ones were
the best, and sure to improve as long as France could hold them; and so,
instead of saying to him as they would have said to another, "Give us
something fresh, we are fatigued with that old thing," they would say,
with one voice and with a strong interest, "Tell about the surprise at
Beaulieu again—tell it three or four times!" That is a compliment which
few narrative experts have heard in their lifetime.
At first when the Paladin heard us tell about the glories of the Royal
Audience he was broken-hearted because he was not taken with us to it;
next, his talk was full of what he would have done if he had been there;
and within two days he was telling what he did do when he was there. His
mill was fairly started, now, and could be trusted to take care of its
affair. Within three nights afterward all his battles were taking a
rest, for already his worshipers in the tap-room were so infatuated with
the great tale of the Royal Audience that they would have nothing else,
and so besotted with it were they that they would have cried if they
could not have gotten it.
Noel Rainguesson hid himself and heard it, and came and told me, and
after that we went together to listen, bribing the inn hostess to let us
have her little private parlor, where we could stand at the wickets in
the door and see and hear.
The tap-room was large, yet had a snug and cozy look, with its inviting
little tables and chairs scattered irregularly over its red brick floor,
and its great fire flaming and crackling in the wide chimney. It was a
comfortable place to be in on such chilly and blustering March nights
as these, and a goodly company had taken shelter there, and were sipping
their wine in contentment and gossiping one with another in a neighborly
way while they waited for the historian. The host, the hostess, and
their pretty daughter were flying here and there and yonder among the
tables and doing their best to keep up with the orders. The room was
about forty feet square, and a space or aisle down the center of it had
been kept vacant and reserved for the Paladin's needs. At the end of
it was a platform ten or twelve feet wide, with a big chair and a small
table on it, and three steps leading up to it.
Among the wine-sippers were many familiar faces: the cobbler, the
farrier, the blacksmith, the wheelwright, the armorer, the maltster, the
weaver, the baker, the miller's man with his dusty coat, and so on; and
conscious and important, as a matter of course, was the barber-surgeon,
for he is that in all villages. As he has to pull everybody's teeth and
purge and bleed all the grown people once a month to keep their health
sound, he knows everybody, and by constant contact with all sorts of
folk becomes a master of etiquette and manners and a conversationalist
of large facility. There were plenty of carriers, drovers, and their
sort, and journeymen artisans.
When the Paladin presently came sauntering indolently in, he was
received with a cheer, and the barber hustled forward and greeted him
with several low and most graceful and courtly bows, also taking his
hand and touching his lips to it. Then he called in a loud voice for a
stoup of wine for the Paladin, and when the host's daughter brought it
up on the platform and dropped her courtesy and departed, the barber
called after her, and told her to add the wine to his score. This won
him ejaculations of approval, which pleased him very much and made his
little rat-eyes shine; and such applause is right and proper, for when
we do a liberal and gallant thing it is but natural that we should wish
to see notice taken of it.
The barber called upon the people to rise and drink the Paladin's
health, and they did it with alacrity and affectionate heartiness,
clashing their metal flagons together with a simultaneous crash, and
heightening the effect with a resounding cheer. It was a fine thing to
see how that young swashbuckler had made himself so popular in a strange
land in so little a while, and without other helps to his advancement
than just his tongue and the talent to use it given him by God—a talent
which was but one talent in the beginning, but was now become ten
through husbandry and the increment and usufruct that do naturally
follow that and reward it as by a law.
The people sat down and began to hammer on the tables with their flagons
and call for "the King's Audience!—the King's Audience!—the King's
Audience!" The Paladin stood there in one of his best attitudes, with
his plumed great hat tipped over to the left, the folds of his short
cloak drooping from his shoulder, and the one hand resting upon the hilt
of his rapier and the other lifting his beaker. As the noise died down
he made a stately sort of a bow, which he had picked up somewhere, then
fetched his beaker with a sweep to his lips and tilted his head back and
drained it to the bottom. The barber jumped for it and set it upon the
Paladin's table. Then the Paladin began to walk up and down his platform
with a great deal of dignity and quite at his ease; and as he walked he
talked, and every little while stopped and stood facing his house and so
standing continued his talk.
We went three nights in succession. It was plain that there was a
charm about the performance that was apart from the mere interest which
attaches to lying. It was presently discoverable that this charm lay in
the Paladin's sincerity. He was not lying consciously; he believed what
he was saying. To him, his initial statements were facts, and whenever
he enlarged a statement, the enlargement became a fact too. He put his
heart into his extravagant narrative, just as a poet puts his heart into
a heroic fiction, and his earnestness disarmed criticism—disarmed it as
far as he himself was concerned. Nobody believed his narrative, but all
believed that he believed it.
He made his enlargements without flourish, without emphasis, and so
casually that often one failed to notice that a change had been made.
He spoke of the governor of Vaucouleurs, the first night, simply as the
governor of Vaucouleurs; he spoke of him the second night as his uncle
the governor of Vaucouleurs; the third night he was his father. He did
not seem to know that he was making these extraordinary changes; they
dropped from his lips in a quite natural and effortless way. By his
first night's account the governor merely attached him to the Maid's
military escort in a general and unofficial way; the second night his
uncle the governor sent him with the Maid as lieutenant of her rear
guard; the third night his father the governor put the whole command,
Maid and all, in his special charge. The first night the governor spoke
of him as a youth without name or ancestry, but "destined to achieve
both"; the second night his uncle the governor spoke of him as the
latest and worthiest lineal descendent of the chiefest and noblest of
the Twelve Paladins of Charlemagne; the third night he spoke of him as
the lineal descendent of the whole dozen. In three nights he promoted
the Count of Vendome from a fresh acquaintance to a schoolmate, and then
At the King's Audience everything grew, in the same way. First the four
silver trumpets were twelve, then thirty-five, finally ninety-six; and
by that time he had thrown in so many drums and cymbals that he had to
lengthen the hall from five hundred feet to nine hundred to accommodate
them. Under his hand the people present multiplied in the same large
The first two nights he contented himself with merely describing and
exaggerating the chief dramatic incident of the Audience, but the third
night he added illustration to description. He throned the barber in his
own high chair to represent the sham King; then he told how the Court
watched the Maid with intense interest and suppressed merriment,
expecting to see her fooled by the deception and get herself swept
permanently out of credit by the storm of scornful laughter which would
follow. He worked this scene up till he got his house in a burning fever
of excitement and anticipation, then came his climax. Turning to the
barber, he said:
"But mark you what she did. She gazed steadfastly upon that sham's
villain face as I now gaze upon yours—this being her noble and simple
attitude, just as I stand now—then turned she—thus—to me, and stretching
her arm out—so—and pointing with her finger, she said, in that firm,
calm tone which she was used to use in directing the conduct of a
battle, 'Pluck me this false knave from the throne!' I, striding forward
as I do now, took him by the collar and lifted him out and held him
aloft—thus—as if he had been but a child." (The house rose, shouting,
stamping, and banging with their flagons, and went fairly mad over this
magnificent exhibition of strength—and there was not the shadow of
a laugh anywhere, though the spectacle of the limp but proud barber
hanging there in the air like a puppy held by the scruff of its neck was
a thing that had nothing of solemnity about it.) "Then I set him down
upon his feet—thus—being minded to get him by a better hold and heave
him out of the window, but she bid me forbear, so by that error he
escaped with his life.
"Then she turned her about and viewed the throng with those eyes of
hers, which are the clear-shining windows whence her immortal wisdom
looketh out upon the world, resolving its falsities and coming at the
kernel of truth that is hid within them, and presently they fell upon
a young man modestly clothed, and him she proclaimed for what he
truly was, saying, 'I am thy servant—thou art the King!' Then all were
astonished, and a great shout went up, the whole six thousand joining in
it, so that the walls rocked with the volume and the tumult of it."
He made a fine and picturesque thing of the march-out from the Audience,
augmenting the glories of it to the last limit of the impossibilities;
then he took from his finger and held up a brass nut from a bolt-head
which the head ostler at the castle had given him that morning, and made
"Then the King dismissed the Maid most graciously—as indeed was her
desert—and, turning to me, said, 'Take this signet-ring, son of the
Paladins, and command me with it in your day of need; and look you,'
said he, touching my temple, 'preserve this brain, France has use for
it; and look well to its casket also, for I foresee that it will be
hooped with a ducal coronet one day.' I took the ring, and knelt and
kissed his hand, saying, 'Sire, where glory calls, there will I be
found; where danger and death are thickest, that is my native air; when
France and the throne need help—well, I say nothing, for I am not of the
talking sort—let my deeds speak for me, it is all I ask.'
"So ended the most fortunate and memorable episode, so big with future
weal for the crown and the nation, and unto God be the thanks! Rise!
Fill your flagons! Now—to France and the King—drink!"
They emptied them to the bottom, then burst into cheers and huzzas, and
kept it up as much as two minutes, the Paladin standing at stately ease
the while and smiling benignantly from his platform.
Chapter 8 Joan Persuades Her Inquisitors
WHEN JOAN told the King what that deep secret was that was torturing his
heart, his doubts were cleared away; he believed she was sent of God,
and if he had been let alone he would have set her upon her great
mission at once. But he was not let alone. Tremouille and the holy fox
of Rheims knew their man. All they needed to say was this—and they said
"Your Highness says her Voices have revealed to you, by her mouth, a
secret known only to yourself and God. How can you know that her Voices
are not of Satan, and she his mouthpiece?—for does not Satan know the
secrets of men and use his knowledge for the destruction of their
souls? It is a dangerous business, and your Highness will do well not to
proceed in it without probing the matter to the bottom."
That was enough. It shriveled up the King's little soul like a raisin,
with terrors and apprehensions, and straightway he privately appointed a
commission of bishops to visit and question Joan daily until they should
find out whether her supernatural helps hailed from heaven or from hell.
The King's relative, the Duke of Alencon, three years prisoner of war to
the English, was in these days released from captivity through promise
of a great ransom; and the name and fame of the Maid having reached
him—for the same filled all mouths now, and penetrated to all parts—he
came to Chinon to see with his own eyes what manner of creature she
might be. The King sent for Joan and introduced her to the Duke. She
said, in her simple fashion:
"You are welcome; the more of the blood of France that is joined to this
cause, the better for the cause and it."
Then the two talked together, and there was just the usual result: when
they departed, the Duke was her friend and advocate.
Joan attended the King's mass the next day, and afterward dined with the
King and the Duke. The King was learning to prize her company and value
her conversation; and that might well be, for, like other kings, he
was used to getting nothing out of people's talk but guarded phrases,
colorless and non-committal, or carefully tinted to tally with the color
of what he said himself; and so this kind of conversation only vexes and
bores, and is wearisome; but Joan's talk was fresh and free, sincere and
honest, and unmarred by timorous self-watching and constraint. She
said the very thing that was in her mind, and said it in a plain,
straightforward way. One can believe that to the King this must have
been like fresh cold water from the mountains to parched lips used to
the water of the sun-baked puddles of the plain.
After dinner Joan so charmed the Duke with her horsemanship and lance
practice in the meadows by the Castle of Chinon whither the King
also had come to look on, that he made her a present of a great black
Every day the commission of bishops came and questioned Joan about her
Voices and her mission, and then went to the King with their report.
These pryings accomplished but little. She told as much as she
considered advisable, and kept the rest to herself. Both threats and
trickeries were wasted upon her. She did not care for the threats, and
the traps caught nothing. She was perfectly frank and childlike about
these things. She knew the bishops were sent by the King, that their
questions were the King's questions, and that by all law and custom a
King's questions must be answered; yet she told the King in her naive
way at his own table one day that she answered only such of those
questions as suited her.
The bishops finally concluded that they couldn't tell whether Joan was
sent by God or not. They were cautious, you see. There were two
powerful parties at Court; therefore to make a decision either way would
infallibly embroil them with one of those parties; so it seemed to them
wisest to roost on the fence and shift the burden to other shoulders.
And that is what they did. They made final report that Joan's case was
beyond their powers, and recommended that it be put into the hands of
the learned and illustrious doctors of the University of Poitiers. Then
they retired from the field, leaving behind them this little item of
testimony, wrung from them by Joan's wise reticence: they said she was
a "gentle and simple little shepherdess, very candid, but not given to
It was quite true—in their case. But if they could have looked back
and seen her with us in the happy pastures of Domremy, they would have
perceived that she had a tongue that could go fast enough when no harm
could come of her words.
So we traveled to Poitiers, to endure there three weeks of tedious delay
while this poor child was being daily questioned and badgered before a
great bench of—what? Military experts?—since what she had come to apply
for was an army and the privilege of leading it to battle against
the enemies of France. Oh no; it was a great bench of priests and
monks—profoundly leaned and astute casuists—renowned professors of
theology! Instead of setting a military commission to find out if this
valorous little soldier could win victories, they set a company of holy
hair-splitters and phrase-mongers to work to find out if the soldier was
sound in her piety and had no doctrinal leaks. The rats were devouring
the house, but instead of examining the cat's teeth and claws, they only
concerned themselves to find out if it was a holy cat. If it was a pious
cat, a moral cat, all right, never mind about the other capacities, they
were of no consequence.
Joan was as sweetly self-possessed and tranquil before this grim
tribunal, with its robed celebrities, its solemn state and imposing
ceremonials, as if she were but a spectator and not herself on trial.
She sat there, solitary on her bench, untroubled, and disconcerted the
science of the sages with her sublime ignorance—an ignorance which was
a fortress; arts, wiles, the learning drawn from books, and all like
missiles rebounded from its unconscious masonry and fell to the ground
harmless; they could not dislodge the garrison which was within—Joan's
serene great heart and spirit, the guards and keepers of her mission.
She answered all questions frankly, and she told all the story of her
visions and of her experiences with the angels and what they said to
her; and the manner of the telling was so unaffected, and so earnest and
sincere, and made it all seem so lifelike and real, that even that hard
practical court forgot itself and sat motionless and mute, listening
with a charmed and wondering interest to the end. And if you would have
other testimony than mine, look in the histories and you will find where
an eyewitness, giving sworn testimony in the Rehabilitation process,
says that she told that tale "with a noble dignity and simplicity," and
as to its effect, says in substance what I have said. Seventeen, she
was—seventeen, and all alone on her bench by herself; yet was not
afraid, but faced that great company of erudite doctors of law and
theology, and by the help of no art learned in the schools, but using
only the enchantments which were hers by nature, of youth, sincerity, a
voice soft and musical, and an eloquence whose source was the heart, not
the head, she laid that spell upon them. Now was not that a beautiful
thing to see? If I could, I would put it before you just as I saw it;
then I know what you would say.
As I have told you, she could not read. "One day they harried and
pestered her with arguments, reasonings, objections, and other windy and
wordy trivialities, gathered out of the works of this and that and the
other great theological authority, until at last her patience vanished,
and she turned upon them sharply and said:
"I don't know A from B; but I know this: that I am come by command of
the Lord of Heaven to deliver Orleans from the English power and crown
the King of Rheims, and the matters ye are puttering over are of no
Necessarily those were trying days for her, and wearing for everybody
that took part; but her share was the hardest, for she had no holidays,
but must be always on hand and stay the long hours through, whereas
this, that, and the other inquisitor could absent himself and rest up
from his fatigues when he got worn out. And yet she showed no wear, no
weariness, and but seldom let fly her temper. As a rule she put her
day through calm, alert, patient, fencing with those veteran masters of
scholarly sword-play and coming out always without a scratch.
One day a Dominican sprung upon her a question which made everybody cock
up his ears with interest; as for me, I trembled, and said to myself she
is done this time, poor Joan, for there is no way of answering this. The
sly Dominican began in this way—in a sort of indolent fashion, as if the
thing he was about was a matter of no moment:
"You assert that God has willed to deliver France from this English
"Yes, He has willed it."
"You wish for men-at-arms, so that you may go to the relief of Orleans,
"Yes—and the sooner the better."
"God is all-powerful, and able to do whatsoever thing He wills to do, is
it not so?"
"Most surely. None doubts it."
The Dominican lifted his head suddenly, and sprung that question I have
spoken of, with exultation:
"Then answer me this. If He has willed to deliver France, and is able to
do whatsoever He wills, where is the need for men-at-arms?"
There was a fine stir and commotion when he said that, and a sudden
thrusting forward of heads and putting up of hands to ears to catch the
answer; and the Dominican wagged his head with satisfaction, and looked
about him collecting his applause, for it shone in every face. But Joan
was not disturbed. There was no note of disquiet in her voice when she
"He helps who help themselves. The sons of France will fight the
battles, but He will give the victory!"
You could see a light of admiration sweep the house from face to face
like a ray from the sun. Even the Dominican himself looked pleased, to
see his master-stroke so neatly parried, and I heard a venerable bishop
mutter, in the phrasing common to priest and people in that robust
time, "By God, the child has said true. He willed that Goliath should be
slain, and He sent a child like this to do it!"
Another day, when the inquisition had dragged along until everybody
looked drowsy and tired but Joan, Brother Seguin, professor of theology
at the University of Poitiers, who was a sour and sarcastic man, fell to
plying Joan with all sorts of nagging questions in his bastard Limousin
French—for he was from Limoges. Finally he said:
"How is it that you understand those angels? What language did they
"In-deed! How pleasant to know that our language is so honored! Good
"Perfect, eh? Well, certainly you ought to know. It was even better than
your own, eh?"
"As to that, I—I believe I cannot say," said she, and was going on, but
stopped. Then she added, almost as if she were saying it to herself,
"Still, it was an improvement on yours!"
I knew there was a chuckle back of her eyes, for all their innocence.
Everybody shouted. Brother Seguin was nettled, and asked brusquely:
"Do you believe in God?"
Joan answered with an irritating nonchalance:
"Oh, well, yes—better than you, it is likely."
Brother Seguin lost his patience, and heaped sarcasm after sarcasm upon
her, and finally burst out in angry earnest, exclaiming:
"Very well, I can tell you this, you whose belief in God is so great:
God has not willed that any shall believe in you without a sign. Where
is your sign?—show it!"
This roused Joan, and she was on her feet in a moment, and flung out her
retort with spirit:
"I have not come to Poitiers to show signs and do miracles. Send me
to Orleans and you shall have signs enough. Give me men-at-arms—few or
many—and let me go!"
The fire was leaping from her eyes—ah, the heroic little figure! can't
you see her? There was a great burst of acclamations, and she sat
down blushing, for it was not in her delicate nature to like being
This speech and that episode about the French language scored two points
against Brother Seguin, while he scored nothing against Joan; yet, sour
man as he was, he was a manly man, and honest, as you can see by the
histories; for at the Rehabilitation he could have hidden those unlucky
incidents if he had chosen, but he didn't do it, but spoke them right
out in his evidence.
On one of the latter days of that three-weeks session the gowned
scholars and professors made one grand assault all along the line,
fairly overwhelming Joan with objections and arguments culled from the
writings of every ancient and illustrious authority of the Roman Church.
She was well-nigh smothered; but at last she shook herself free and
struck back, crying out:
"Listen! The Book of God is worth more than all these ye cite, and I
stand upon it. And I tell ye there are things in that Book that not one
among ye can read, with all your learning!"
From the first she was the guest, by invitation, of the dame De
Rabateau, wife of a councilor of the Parliament of Poitiers; and to that
house the great ladies of the city came nightly to see Joan and talk
with her; and not these only, but the old lawyers, councilors and
scholars of the Parliament and the University. And these grave men,
accustomed to weigh every strange and questionable thing, and cautiously
consider it, and turn it about this way and that and still doubt it,
came night after night, and night after night, falling ever deeper and
deeper under the influence of that mysterious something, that spell,
that elusive and unwordable fascination, which was the supremest
endowment of Joan of Arc, that winning and persuasive and convincing
something which high and low alike recognized and felt, but which
neither high nor low could explain or describe, and one by one they all
surrendered, saying, "This child is sent of God."
All day long Joan, in the great court and subject to its rigid rules of
procedure, was at a disadvantage; her judges had things their own way;
but at night she held court herself, and matters were reversed, she
presiding, with her tongue free and her same judges there before her.
There could not be but one result: all the objections and hindrances
they could build around her with their hard labors of the day she would
charm away at night. In the end, she carried her judges with her in a
mass, and got her great verdict without a dissenting voice.
The court was a sight to see when the president of it read it from his
throne, for all the great people of the town were there who could get
admission and find room. First there were some solemn ceremonies, proper
and usual at such times; then, when there was silence again, the reading
followed, penetrating the deep hush so that every word was heard in even
the remotest parts of the house:
"It is found, and is hereby declared, that Joan of Arc, called the Maid,
is a good Christian and a good Catholic; that there is nothing in her
person or her words contrary to the faith; and that the King may and
ought to accept the succor she offers; for to repel it would be to
offend the Holy Spirit, and render him unworthy of the air of God."
The court rose, and then the storm of plaudits burst forth unrebuked,
dying down and bursting forth again and again, and I lost sight of
Joan, for she was swallowed up in a great tide of people who rushed to
congratulate her and pour out benedictions upon her and upon the cause
of France, now solemnly and irrevocably delivered into her little hands.
Chapter 9 She Is Made General-in-Chief
IT WAS indeed a great day, and a stirring thing to see.
She had won! It was a mistake of Tremouille and her other ill-wishers to
let her hold court those nights.
The commission of priests sent to Lorraine ostensibly to inquire into
Joan's character—in fact to weary her with delays and wear out her
purpose and make her give it up—arrived back and reported her character
perfect. Our affairs were in full career now, you see.
The verdict made a prodigious stir. Dead France woke suddenly to life,
wherever the great news traveled. Whereas before, the spiritless and
cowed people hung their heads and slunk away if one mentioned war to
them, now they came clamoring to be enlisted under the banner of the
Maid of Vaucouleurs, and the roaring of war-songs and the thundering of
the drums filled all the air. I remembered now what she had said, that
time there in our village when I proved by facts and statistics that
France's case was hopeless, and nothing could ever rouse the people from
"They will hear the drums—and they will answer, they will march!"
It has been said that misfortunes never come one at a time, but in a
body. In our case it was the same with good luck. Having got a start, it
came flooding in, tide after tide. Our next wave of it was of this sort.
There had been grave doubts among the priests as to whether the Church
ought to permit a female soldier to dress like a man. But now came a
verdict on that head. Two of the greatest scholars and theologians
of the time—one of whom had been Chancellor of the University of
Paris—rendered it. They decided that since Joan "must do the work of
a man and a soldier, it is just and legitimate that her apparel should
conform to the situation."
It was a great point gained, the Church's authority to dress as a man.
Oh, yes, wave on wave the good luck came sweeping in. Never mind about
the smaller waves, let us come to the largest one of all, the wave that
swept us small fry quite off our feet and almost drowned us with joy.
The day of the great verdict, couriers had been despatched to the King
with it, and the next morning bright and early the clear notes of a
bugle came floating to us on the crisp air, and we pricked up our
ears and began to count them. One—two—three; pause; one—two; pause;
one—two—three, again—and out we skipped and went flying; for that
formula was used only when the King's herald-at-arms would deliver a
proclamation to the people. As we hurried along, people came racing
out of every street and house and alley, men, women, and children, all
flushed, excited, and throwing lacking articles of clothing on as they
ran; still those clear notes pealed out, and still the rush of people
increased till the whole town was abroad and streaming along the
principal street. At last we reached the square, which was now packed
with citizens, and there, high on the pedestal of the great cross, we
saw the herald in his brilliant costume, with his servitors about him.
The next moment he began his delivery in the powerful voice proper to
"Know all men, and take heed therefore, that the most high, the most
illustrious Charles, by the grace of God King of France, hath been
pleased to confer upon his well-beloved servant Joan of Arc, called
the Maid, the title, emoluments, authorities, and dignity of
General-in-Chief of the Armies of France—"
Here a thousand caps flew in the air, and the multitude burst into a
hurricane of cheers that raged and raged till it seemed as if it would
never come to an end; but at last it did; then the herald went on and
finished:—"and hath appointed to be her lieutenant and chief of staff a
prince of his royal house, his grace the Duke of Alencon!"
That was the end, and the hurricane began again, and was split up into
innumerable strips by the blowers of it and wafted through all the lanes
and streets of the town.
General of the Armies of France, with a prince of the blood for
subordinate! Yesterday she was nothing—to-day she was this. Yesterday
she was not even a sergeant, not even a corporal, not even a
private—to-day, with one step, she was at the top. Yesterday she was
less than nobody to the newest recruit—to-day her command was law to
La Hire, Saintrailles, the Bastard of Orleans, and all those others,
veterans of old renown, illustrious masters of the trade of war. These
were the thoughts I was thinking; I was trying to realize this strange
and wonderful thing that had happened, you see.
My mind went travelling back, and presently lighted upon a picture—a
picture which was still so new and fresh in my memory that it seemed a
matter of only yesterday—and indeed its date was no further back than
the first days of January. This is what it was. A peasant-girl in a
far-off village, her seventeenth year not yet quite completed, and
herself and her village as unknown as if they had been on the other
side of the globe. She had picked up a friendless wanderer somewhere
and brought it home—a small gray kitten in a forlorn and starving
condition—and had fed it and comforted it and got its confidence and
made it believe in her, and now it was curled up in her lap asleep, and
she was knitting a coarse stocking and thinking—dreaming—about what, one
may never know. And now—the kitten had hardly had time to become a cat,
and yet already the girl is General of the Armies of France, with a
prince of the blood to give orders to, and out of her village obscurity
her name has climbed up like the sun and is visible from all corners of
the land! It made me dizzy to think of these things, they were so out of
the common order, and seemed so impossible.
Chapter 10 The Maid's Sword and Banner
JOAN'S first official act was to dictate a letter to the English
commanders at Orleans, summoning them to deliver up all strongholds in
their possession and depart out of France. She must have been thinking
it all out before and arranging it in her mind, it flowed from her
lips so smoothly, and framed itself into such vivacious and forcible
language. Still, it might not have been so; she always had a quick mind
and a capable tongue, and her faculties were constantly developing
in these latter weeks. This letter was to be forwarded presently from
Blois. Men, provisions, and money were offering in plenty now, and
Joan appointed Blois as a recruiting-station and depot of supplies, and
ordered up La Hire from the front to take charge.
The Great Bastard—him of the ducal house, and governor of Orleans—had
been clamoring for weeks for Joan to be sent to him, and now came
another messenger, old D'Aulon, a veteran officer, a trusty man and fine
and honest. The King kept him, and gave him to Joan to be chief of her
household, and commanded her to appoint the rest of her people herself,
making their number and dignity accord with the greatness of her office;
and at the same time he gave order that they should be properly equipped
with arms, clothing, and horses.
Meantime the King was having a complete suit of armor made for her at
Tours. It was of the finest steel, heavily plated with silver, richly
ornamented with engraved designs, and polished like a mirror.
Joan's Voices had told her that there was an ancient sword hidden
somewhere behind the altar of St. Catherine's at Fierbois, and she sent
De Metz to get it. The priests knew of no such sword, but a search was
made, and sure enough it was found in that place, buried a little way
under the ground. It had no sheath and was very rusty, but the priests
polished it up and sent it to Tours, whither we were now to come. They
also had a sheath of crimson velvet made for it, and the people of Tours
equipped it with another, made of cloth-of-gold. But Joan meant to carry
this sword always in battle; so she laid the showy sheaths away and
got one made of leather. It was generally believed that this sword had
belonged to Charlemagne, but that was only a matter of opinion. I wanted
to sharpen that old blade, but she said it was not necessary, as she
should never kill anybody, and should carry it only as a symbol of
At Tours she designed her Standard, and a Scotch painter named James
Power made it. It was of the most delicate white boucassin, with fringes
of silk. For device it bore the image of God the Father throned in the
clouds and holding the world in His hand; two angels knelt at His feet,
presenting lilies; inscription, JESUS, MARIA; on the reverse the crown
of France supported by two angels.
She also caused a smaller standard or pennon to be made, whereon was
represented an angel offering a lily to the Holy Virgin.
Everything was humming there at Tours. Every now and then one heard
the bray and crash of military music, every little while one heard the
measured tramp of marching men—squads of recruits leaving for Blois;
songs and shoutings and huzzas filled the air night and day, the town
was full of strangers, the streets and inns were thronged, the bustle
of preparation was everywhere, and everybody carried a glad and cheerful
face. Around Joan's headquarters a crowd of people was always massed,
hoping for a glimpse of the new General, and when they got it, they went
wild; but they seldom got it, for she was busy planning her campaign,
receiving reports, giving orders, despatching couriers, and giving what
odd moments she could spare to the companies of great folk waiting in
the drawing-rooms. As for us boys, we hardly saw her at all, she was so
We were in a mixed state of mind—sometimes hopeful, sometimes not;
mostly not. She had not appointed her household yet—that was our
trouble. We knew she was being overrun with applications for places in
it, and that these applications were backed by great names and weighty
influence, whereas we had nothing of the sort to recommend us. She could
fill her humblest places with titled folk—folk whose relationships
would be a bulwark for her and a valuable support at all times. In these
circumstances would policy allow her to consider us? We were not as
cheerful as the rest of the town, but were inclined to be depressed and
worried. Sometimes we discussed our slim chances and gave them as good
an appearance as we could. But the very mention of the subject was
anguish to the Paladin; for whereas we had some little hope, he had none
at all. As a rule Noel Rainguesson was quite willing to let the dismal
matter alone; but not when the Paladin was present. Once we were talking
the thing over, when Noel said:
"Cheer up, Paladin, I had a dream last night, and you were the only one
among us that got an appointment. It wasn't a high one, but it was an
appointment, anyway—some kind of a lackey or body-servant, or something
of that kind."
The Paladin roused up and looked almost cheerful; for he was a believer
in dreams, and in anything and everything of a superstitious sort, in
fact. He said, with a rising hopefulness:
"I wish it might come true. Do you think it will come true?"
"Certainly; I might almost say I know it will, for my dreams hardly ever
"Noel, I could hug you if that dream could come true, I could, indeed!
To be servant of the first General of France and have all the world hear
of it, and the news go back to the village and make those gawks stare
that always said I wouldn't ever amount to anything—wouldn't it be
great! Do you think it will come true, Noel? Don't you believe it will?"
"I do. There's my hand on it."
"Noel, if it comes true I'll never forget you—shake again! I should be
dressed in a noble livery, and the news would go to the village, and
those animals would say, 'Him, lackey to the General-in-Chief, with the
eyes of the whole world on him, admiring—well, he has shot up into the
sky now, hasn't he!"
He began to walk the floor and pile castles in the air so fast and so
high that we could hardly keep up with him. Then all of a sudden all the
joy went out of his face and misery took its place, and he said:
"Oh, dear, it is all a mistake, it will never come true. I forgot that
foolish business at Toul. I have kept out of her sight as much as I
could, all these weeks, hoping she would forget that and forgive it—but
I know she never will. She can't, of course. And, after all, I wasn't to
blame. I did say she promised to marry me, but they put me up to it and
persuaded me. I swear they did!" The vast creature was almost crying.
Then he pulled himself together and said, remorsefully, "It was the only
lie I've ever told, and—"
He was drowned out with a chorus of groans and outraged exclamations;
and before he could begin again, one of D'Aulon's liveried servants
appeared and said we were required at headquarters. We rose, and Noel
"There—what did I tell you? I have a presentiment—the spirit of prophecy
is upon me. She is going to appoint him, and we are to go there and do
him homage. Come along!"
But the Paladin was afraid to go, so we left him.
When we presently stood in the presence, in front of a crowd of
glittering officers of the army, Joan greeted us with a winning smile,
and said she appointed all of us to places in her household, for she
wanted her old friends by her. It was a beautiful surprise to have
ourselves honored like this when she could have had people of birth and
consequence instead, but we couldn't find our tongues to say so, she
was become so great and so high above us now. One at a time we stepped
forward and each received his warrant from the hand of our chief,
D'Aulon. All of us had honorable places; the two knights stood highest;
then Joan's two brothers; I was first page and secretary, a young
gentleman named Raimond was second page; Noel was her messenger; she
had two heralds, and also a chaplain and almoner, whose name was Jean
Pasquerel. She had previously appointed a maitre d'hotel and a number of
domestics. Now she looked around and said:
"But where is the Paladin?"
The Sieur Bertrand said:
"He thought he was not sent for, your Excellency."
"Now that is not well. Let him be called."
The Paladin entered humbly enough. He ventured no farther than just
within the door. He stopped there, looking embarrassed and afraid. Then
Joan spoke pleasantly, and said:
"I watched you on the road. You began badly, but improved. Of old you
were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it
out." It was fine to see the Paladin's face light up when she said that.
"Will you follow where I lead?"
"Into the fire!" he said; and I said to myself, "By the ring of that,
I think she has turned this braggart into a hero. It is another of her
miracles, I make no doubt of it."
"I believe you," said Joan. "Here—take my banner. You will ride with me
in every field, and when France is saved, you will give it me back."
He took the banner, which is now the most precious of the memorials that
remain of Joan of Arc, and his voice was unsteady with emotion when he
"If I ever disgrace this trust, my comrades here will know how to do
a friend's office upon my body, and this charge I lay upon them, as
knowing they will not fail me."
Chapter 11 The War March Is Begun
NOEL and I went back together—silent at first, and impressed.
Finally Noel came up out of his thinkings and said:
"The first shall be last and the last first—there's authority for this
surprise. But at the same time wasn't it a lofty hoist for our big
"It truly was; I am not over being stunned yet. It was the greatest
place in her gift."
"Yes, it was. There are many generals, and she can create more; but
there is only one Standard-Bearer."
"True. It is the most conspicuous place in the army, after her own."
"And the most coveted and honorable. Sons of two dukes tried to get
it, as we know. And of all people in the world, this majestic windmill
carries it off. Well, isn't it a gigantic promotion, when you come to
look at it!"
"There's no doubt about it. It's a kind of copy of Joan's own in
"I don't know how to account for it—do you?"
"Yes—without any trouble at all—that is, I think I do."
Noel was surprised at that, and glanced up quickly, as if to see if I
was in earnest. He said:
"I thought you couldn't be in earnest, but I see you are. If you can
make me understand this puzzle, do it. Tell me what the explanation is."
"I believe I can. You have noticed that our chief knight says a good
many wise things and has a thoughtful head on his shoulders. One day,
riding along, we were talking about Joan's great talents, and he said,
'But, greatest of all her gifts, she has the seeing eye.' I said, like
an unthinking fool, 'The seeing eye?—I shouldn't count on that for
much—I suppose we all have it.' 'No,' he said; 'very few have it.' Then
he explained, and made his meaning clear. He said the common eye sees
only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye
pierces through and reads the heart and the soul, finding there
capacities which the outside didn't indicate or promise, and which the
other kind of eye couldn't detect. He said the mightiest military genius
must fail and come to nothing if it have not the seeing eye—that is
to say, if it cannot read men and select its subordinates with an
infallible judgment. It sees as by intuition that this man is good for
strategy, that one for dash and daredevil assault, the other for patient
bulldog persistence, and it appoints each to his right place and wins,
while the commander without the seeing eye would give to each the
other's place and lose. He was right about Joan, and I saw it. When she
was a child and the tramp came one night, her father and all of us took
him for a rascal, but she saw the honest man through the rags. When I
dined with the governor of Vaucouleurs so long ago, I saw nothing in our
two knights, though I sat with them and talked with them two hours;
Joan was there five minutes, and neither spoke with them nor heard them
speak, yet she marked them for men of worth and fidelity, and they have
confirmed her judgment. Whom has she sent for to take charge of this
thundering rabble of new recruits at Blois, made up of old disbanded
Armagnac raiders, unspeakable hellions, every one? Why, she has sent
for Satan himself—that is to say, La Hire—that military hurricane,
that godless swashbuckler, that lurid conflagration of blasphemy, that
Vesuvius of profanity, forever in eruption. Does he know how to deal
with that mob of roaring devils? Better than any man that lives; for
he is the head devil of this world his own self, he is the match of the
whole of them combined, and probably the father of most of them. She
places him in temporary command until she can get to Blois herself—and
then! Why, then she will certainly take them in hand personally, or I
don't know her as well as I ought to, after all these years of intimacy.
That will be a sight to see—that fair spirit in her white armor,
delivering her will to that muck-heap, that rag-pile, that abandoned
refuse of perdition."
"La Hire!" cried Noel, "our hero of all these years—I do want to see
"I too. His name stirs me just as it did when I was a little boy."
"I want to hear him swear."
"Of course, I would rather hear him swear than another man pray. He is
the frankest man there is, and the naivest. Once when he was rebuked
for pillaging on his raids, he said it was nothing. Said he, 'If God
the Father were a soldier, He would rob.' I judge he is the right man to
take temporary charge there at Blois. Joan has cast the seeing eye upon
him, you see."
"Which brings us back to where we started. I have an honest affection
for the Paladin, and not merely because he is a good fellow, but because
he is my child—I made him what he is, the windiest blusterer and most
catholic liar in the kingdom. I'm glad of his luck, but I hadn't the
seeing eye. I shouldn't have chosen him for the most dangerous post in
the army. I should have placed him in the rear to kill the wounded and
violate the dead."
"Well, we shall see. Joan probably knows what is in him better than
we do. And I'll give you another idea. When a person in Joan of Arc's
position tells a man he is brave, he believes it; and believing it is
enough; in fact, to believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one
only essential thing."
"Now you've hit it!" cried Noel. "She's got the creating mouth as well
as the seeing eye! Ah, yes, that is the thing. France was cowed and a
coward; Joan of Arc has spoken, and France is marching, with her head
I was summoned now to write a letter from Joan's dictation. During the
next day and night our several uniforms were made by the tailors, and
our new armor provided. We were beautiful to look upon now, whether
clothed for peace or war. Clothed for peace, in costly stuffs and rich
colors, the Paladin was a tower dyed with the glories of the sunset;
plumed and sashed and iron-clad for war, he was a still statelier thing
to look at.
Orders had been issued for the march toward Blois. It was a clear,
sharp, beautiful morning. As our showy great company trotted out in
column, riding two and two, Joan and the Duke of Alencon in the lead,
D'Aulon and the big standard-bearer next, and so on, we made a handsome
spectacle, as you may well imagine; and as we plowed through the
cheering crowds, with Joan bowing her plumed head to left and right and
the sun glinting from her silver mail, the spectators realized that
the curtain was rolling up before their eyes upon the first act of a
prodigious drama, and their rising hopes were expressed in an enthusiasm
that increased with each moment, until at last one seemed to even
physically feel the concussion of the huzzas as well as hear them. Far
down the street we heard the softened strains of wind-blown music, and
saw a cloud of lancers moving, the sun glowing with a subdued light upon
the massed armor, but striking bright upon the soaring lance-heads—a
vaguely luminous nebula, so to speak, with a constellation twinkling
above it—and that was our guard of honor. It joined us, the procession
was complete, the first war-march of Joan of Arc was begun, the curtain
Chapter 12 Joan Puts Heart in Her Army
WE WERE at Blois three days. Oh, that camp, it is one of the treasures
of my memory! Order? There was no more order among those brigands than
there is among the wolves and the hyenas. They went roaring and drinking
about, whooping, shouting, swearing, and entertaining themselves with
all manner of rude and riotous horse-play; and the place was full of
loud and lewd women, and they were no whit behind the men for romps and
noise and fantastics.
It was in the midst of this wild mob that Noel and I had our first
glimpse of La Hire. He answered to our dearest dreams. He was of great
size and of martial bearing, he was cased in mail from head to heel,
with a bushel of swishing plumes on his helmet, and at his side the vast
sword of the time.
He was on his way to pay his respects in state to Joan, and as he passed
through the camp he was restoring order, and proclaiming that the Maid
had come, and he would have no such spectacle as this exposed to the
head of the army. His way of creating order was his own, not borrowed.
He did it with his great fists. As he moved along swearing and
admonishing, he let drive this way, that way, and the other, and
wherever his blow landed, a man went down.
"Damn you!" he said, "staggering and cursing around like this, and the
Commander-in-Chief in the camp! Straighten up!" and he laid the man
flat. What his idea of straightening up was, was his own secret.
We followed the veteran to headquarters, listening, observing,
admiring—yes, devouring, you may say, the pet hero of the boys of France
from our cradles up to that happy day, and their idol and ours. I called
to mind how Joan had once rebuked the Paladin, there in the pastures
of Domremy, for uttering lightly those mighty names, La Hire and the
Bastard of Orleans, and how she said that if she could but be permitted
to stand afar off and let her eyes rest once upon those great men, she
would hold it a privilege. They were to her and the other girls just
what they were to the boys. Well, here was one of them at last—and what
was his errand? It was hard to realize it, and yet it was true; he was
coming to uncover his head before her and take her orders.
While he was quieting a considerable group of his brigands in his
soothing way, near headquarters, we stepped on ahead and got a glimpse
of Joan's military family, the great chiefs of the army, for they had
all arrived now. There they were, six officers of wide renown, handsome
men in beautiful armor, but the Lord High Admiral of France was the
handsomest of them all and had the most gallant bearing.
When La Hire entered, one could see the surprise in his face at Joan's
beauty and extreme youth, and one could see, too, by Joan's glad smile,
that it made her happy to get sight of this hero of her childhood at
last. La Hire bowed low, with his helmet in his gauntleted hand, and
made a bluff but handsome little speech with hardly an oath in it, and
one could see that those two took to each other on the spot.
The visit of ceremony was soon over, and the others went away; but La
Hire stayed, and he and Joan sat there, and he sipped her wine, and they
talked and laughed together like old friends. And presently she gave him
some instructions, in his quality as master of the camp, which made his
breath stand still. For, to begin with, she said that all those loose
women must pack out of the place at once, she wouldn't allow one of them
to remain. Next, the rough carousing must stop, drinking must be brought
within proper and strictly defined limits, and discipline must take the
place of disorder. And finally she climaxed the list of surprises with
this—which nearly lifted him out of his armor:
"Every man who joins my standard must confess before the priest and
absolve himself from sin; and all accepted recruits must be present at
divine service twice a day."
La Hire could not say a word for a good part of a minute, then he said,
in deep dejection:
"Oh, sweet child, they were littered in hell, these poor darlings of
mine! Attend mass? Why, dear heart, they'll see us both damned first!"
And he went on, pouring out a most pathetic stream of arguments and
blasphemy, which broke Joan all up, and made her laugh as she had not
laughed since she played in the Domremy pastures. It was good to hear.
But she stuck to her point; so the soldier yielded, and said all right,
if such were the orders he must obey, and would do the best that was in
him; then he refreshed himself with a lurid explosion of oaths, and said
that if any man in the camp refused to renounce sin and lead a pious
life, he would knock his head off. That started Joan off again; she was
really having a good time, you see. But she would not consent to that
form of conversions. She said they must be voluntary.
La Hire said that that was all right, he wasn't going to kill the
voluntary ones, but only the others.
No matter, none of them must be killed—Joan couldn't have it. She said
that to give a man a chance to volunteer, on pain of death if he didn't,
left him more or less trammeled, and she wanted him to be entirely free.
So the soldier sighed and said he would advertise the mass, but said he
doubted if there was a man in camp that was any more likely to go to it
than he was himself. Then there was another surprise for him, for Joan
"But, dear man, you are going!"
"I? Impossible! Oh, this is lunacy!"
"Oh, no, it isn't. You are going to the service—twice a day."
"Oh, am I dreaming? Am I drunk—or is my hearing playing me false? Why, I
would rather go to—"
"Never mind where. In the morning you are going to begin, and after that
it will come easy. Now don't look downhearted like that. Soon you won't
La Hire tried to cheer up, but he was not able to do it. He sighed like
a zephyr, and presently said:
"Well, I'll do it for you, but before I would do it for another, I swear
"But don't swear. Break it off."
"Break it off? It is impossible! I beg you to—to—Why—oh, my General, it
is my native speech!"
He begged so hard for grace for his impediment, that Joan left him one
fragment of it; she said he might swear by his baton, the symbol of his
He promised that he would swear only by his baton when in her presence,
and would try to modify himself elsewhere, but doubted he could manage
it, now that it was so old and stubborn a habit, and such a solace and
support to his declining years.
That tough old lion went away from there a good deal tamed and
civilized—not to say softened and sweetened, for perhaps those
expressions would hardly fit him. Noel and I believed that when he was
away from Joan's influence his old aversions would come up so strong in
him that he could not master them, and so wouldn't go to mass. But we
got up early in the morning to see.
Satan was converted, you see. Well, the rest followed. Joan rode up
and down that camp, and wherever that fair young form appeared in its
shining armor, with that sweet face to grace the vision and perfect
it, the rude host seemed to think they saw the god of war in person,
descended out of the clouds; and first they wondered, then they
worshiped. After that, she could do with them what she would.
In three days it was a clean camp and orderly, and those barbarians were
herding to divine service twice a day like good children. The women
were gone. La Hire was stunned by these marvels; he could not understand
them. He went outside the camp when he wanted to swear. He was that sort
of a man—sinful by nature and habit, but full of superstitious respect
for holy places.
The enthusiasm of the reformed army for Joan, its devotion to her,
and the hot desire she had aroused in it to be led against the enemy,
exceeded any manifestations of this sort which La Hire had ever seen
before in his long career. His admiration of it all, and his wonder over
the mystery and miracle of it, were beyond his power to put into words.
He had held this army cheap before, but his pride and confidence in it
knew no limits now. He said:
"Two or three days ago it was afraid of a hen-roost; one could storm the
gates of hell with it now."
Joan and he were inseparable, and a quaint and pleasant contrast they
made. He was so big, she so little; he was so gray and so far along in
his pilgrimage of life, she so youthful; his face was so bronzed
and scarred, hers so fair and pink, so fresh and smooth; she was so
gracious, and he so stern; she was so pure, so innocent, he such a
cyclopedia of sin. In her eye was stored all charity and compassion,
in his lightnings; when her glance fell upon you it seemed to bring
benediction and the peace of God, but with his it was different,
They rode through the camp a dozen times a day, visiting every corner
of it, observing, inspecting, perfecting; and wherever they appeared
the enthusiasm broke forth. They rode side by side, he a great figure of
brawn and muscle, she a little masterwork of roundness and grace; he a
fortress of rusty iron, she a shining statuette of silver; and when the
reformed raiders and bandits caught sight of them they spoke out, with
affection and welcome in their voices, and said:
"There they come—Satan and the Page of Christ!"
All the three days that we were in Blois, Joan worked earnestly and
tirelessly to bring La Hire to God—to rescue him from the bondage of
sin—to breathe into his stormy heart the serenity and peace of religion.
She urged, she begged, she implored him to pray. He stood out, three
days of our stay, begging about piteously to be let off—to be let off
from just that one thing, that impossible thing; he would do anything
else—anything—command, and he would obey—he would go through the fire
for her if she said the word—but spare him this, only this, for he
couldn't pray, had never prayed, he was ignorant of how to frame a
prayer, he had no words to put it in.
And yet—can any believe it?—she carried even that point, she won that
incredible victory. She made La Hire pray. It shows, I think, that
nothing was impossible to Joan of Arc. Yes, he stood there before her
and put up his mailed hands and made a prayer. And it was not borrowed,
but was his very own; he had none to help him frame it, he made it out
of his own head—saying:
"Fair Sir God, I pray you to do by La Hire as he would do by you if you
were La Hire and he were God." 1
Then he put on his helmet and marched out of Joan's tent as satisfied
with himself as any one might be who had arranged a perplexed and
difficult business to the content and admiration of all the parties
concerned in the matter.
If I had know that he had been praying, I could have understood why he
was feeling so superior, but of course I could not know that.
I was coming to the tent at that moment, and saw him come out, and
saw him march away in that large fashion, and indeed it was fine and
beautiful to see. But when I got to the tent door I stopped and stepped
back, grieved and shocked, for I heard Joan crying, as I mistakenly
thought—crying as if she could not contain nor endure the anguish of
her soul, crying as if she would die. But it was not so, she was
laughing—laughing at La Hire's prayer.
It was not until six-and-thirty years afterward that I found that out,
and then—oh, then I only cried when that picture of young care-free
mirth rose before me out of the blur and mists of that long-vanished
time; for there had come a day between, when God's good gift of laughter
had gone out from me to come again no more in this life.
(1) This prayer has been stolen many times and by many nations in the
past four hundred and sixty years, but it originated with La Hire, and
the fact is of official record in the National Archives of France. We
have the authority of Michelet for this.—TRANSLATOR
Chapter 13 Checked by the Folly of the Wise
WE MARCHED out in great strength and splendor, and took the road toward
Orleans. The initial part of Joan's great dream was realizing itself at
last. It was the first time that any of us youngsters had ever seen an
army, and it was a most stately and imposing spectacle to us. It was
indeed an inspiring sight, that interminable column, stretching
away into the fading distances, and curving itself in and out of the
crookedness of the road like a mighty serpent. Joan rode at the head of
it with her personal staff; then came a body of priests singing the Veni
Creator, the banner of the Cross rising out of their midst; after these
the glinting forest of spears. The several divisions were commanded by
the great Armagnac generals, La Hire, and Marshal de Boussac, the Sire
de Retz, Florent d'Illiers, and Poton de Saintrailles.
Each in his degree was tough, and there were three degrees—tough,
tougher, toughest—and La Hire was the last by a shade, but only a shade.
They were just illustrious official brigands, the whole party; and
by long habits of lawlessness they had lost all acquaintanceship with
obedience, if they had ever had any.
But what was the good of saying that? These independent birds knew no
law. They seldom obeyed the King; they never obeyed him when it didn't
suit them to do it. Would they obey the Maid? In the first place they
wouldn't know how to obey her or anybody else, and in the second place
it was of course not possible for them to take her military character
seriously—that country-girl of seventeen who had been trained for the
complex and terrible business of war—how? By tending sheep.
They had no idea of obeying her except in cases where their veteran
military knowledge and experience showed them that the thing she
required was sound and right when gauged by the regular military
standards. Were they to blame for this attitude? I should think not.
Old war-worn captains are hard-headed, practical men. They do not
easily believe in the ability of ignorant children to plan campaigns
and command armies. No general that ever lived could have taken Joan
seriously (militarily) before she raised the siege of Orleans and
followed it with the great campaign of the Loire.
Did they consider Joan valueless? Far from it. They valued her as the
fruitful earth values the sun—they fully believed she could produce the
crop, but that it was in their line of business, not hers, to take
it off. They had a deep and superstitious reverence for her as being
endowed with a mysterious supernatural something that was able to do a
mighty thing which they were powerless to do—blow the breath of life and
valor into the dead corpses of cowed armies and turn them into heroes.
To their minds they were everything with her, but nothing without her.
She could inspire the soldiers and fit them for battle—but fight
the battle herself? Oh, nonsense—that was their function. They, the
generals, would fight the battles, Joan would give the victory. That was
their idea—an unconscious paraphrase of Joan's reply to the Dominican.
So they began by playing a deception upon her. She had a clear idea
of how she meant to proceed. It was her purpose to march boldly upon
Orleans by the north bank of the Loire. She gave that order to her
generals. They said to themselves, "The idea is insane—it is blunder No.
1; it is what might have been expected of this child who is ignorant of
war." They privately sent the word to the Bastard of Orleans. He also
recognized the insanity of it—at least he thought he did—and privately
advised the generals to get around the order in some way.
They did it by deceiving Joan. She trusted those people, she was not
expecting this sort of treatment, and was not on the lookout for it. It
was a lesson to her; she saw to it that the game was not played a second
Why was Joan's idea insane, from the generals' point of view, but not
from hers? Because her plan was to raise the siege immediately, by
fighting, while theirs was to besiege the besiegers and starve them out
by closing their communications—a plan which would require months in the
The English had built a fence of strong fortresses called bastilles
around Orleans—fortresses which closed all the gates of the city but
one. To the French generals the idea of trying to fight their way past
those fortresses and lead the army into Orleans was preposterous; they
believed that the result would be the army's destruction. One may not
doubt that their opinion was militarily sound—no, would have been, but
for one circumstance which they overlooked. That was this: the English
soldiers were in a demoralized condition of superstitious terror; they
had become satisfied that the Maid was in league with Satan. By reason
of this a good deal of their courage had oozed out and vanished. On the
other hand, the Maid's soldiers were full of courage, enthusiasm, and
Joan could have marched by the English forts. However, it was not to be.
She had been cheated out of her first chance to strike a heavy blow for
In camp that night she slept in her armor on the ground. It was a cold
night, and she was nearly as stiff as her armor itself when we resumed
the march in the morning, for iron is not good material for a blanket.
However, her joy in being now so far on her way to the theater of her
mission was fire enough to warm her, and it soon did it.
Her enthusiasm and impatience rose higher and higher with every mile
of progress; but at last we reached Olivet, and down it went, and
indignation took its place. For she saw the trick that had been played
upon her—the river lay between us and Orleans.
She was for attacking one of the three bastilles that were on our
side of the river and forcing access to the bridge which it guarded (a
project which, if successful, would raise the siege instantly), but
the long-ingrained fear of the English came upon her generals and they
implored her not to make the attempt. The soldiers wanted to attack,
but had to suffer disappointment. So we moved on and came to a halt at a
point opposite Checy, six miles above Orleans.
Dunois, Bastard of Orleans, with a body of knights and citizens, came
up from the city to welcome Joan. Joan was still burning with resentment
over the trick that had been put upon her, and was not in the mood for
soft speeches, even to revered military idols of her childhood. She
"Are you the bastard?"
"Yes, I am he, and am right glad of your coming."
"And did you advise that I be brought by this side of the river instead
of straight to Talbot and the English?"
Her high manner abashed him, and he was not able to answer with anything
like a confident promptness, but with many hesitations and partial
excuses he managed to get out the confession that for what he and the
council had regarded as imperative military reasons they so advised.
"In God's name," said Joan, "my Lord's counsel is safer and wiser than
yours. You thought to deceive me, but you have deceived yourselves, for
I bring you the best help that ever knight or city had; for it is God's
help, not sent for love of me, but by God's pleasure. At the prayer of
St. Louis and St. Charlemagne He has had pity on Orleans, and will not
suffer the enemy to have both the Duke of Orleans and his city. The
provisions to save the starving people are here, the boats are below the
city, the wind is contrary, they cannot come up hither. Now then, tell
me, in God's name, you who are so wise, what that council of yours was
thinking about, to invent this foolish difficulty."
Dunois and the rest fumbled around the matter a moment, then gave in and
conceded that a blunder had been made.
"Yes, a blunder has been made," said Joan, "and except God take your
proper work upon Himself and change the wind and correct your blunder
for you, there is none else that can devise a remedy."
Some of these people began to perceive that with all her technical
ignorance she had practical good sense, and that with all her native
sweetness and charm she was not the right kind of a person to play with.
Presently God did take the blunder in hand, and by His grace the wind
did change. So the fleet of boats came up and went away loaded with
provisions and cattle, and conveyed that welcome succor to the hungry
city, managing the matter successfully under protection of a sortie
from the walls against the bastille of St. Loup. Then Joan began on the
"You see here the army?"
"It is here on this side by advice of your council?"
"Now, in God's name, can that wise council explain why it is better to
have it here than it would be to have it in the bottom of the sea?"
Dunois made some wandering attempts to explain the inexplicable and
excuse the inexcusable, but Joan cut him short and said:
"Answer me this, good sir—has the army any value on this side of the
The Bastard confessed that it hadn't—that is, in view of the plan of
campaign which she had devised and decreed.
"And yet, knowing this, you had the hardihood to disobey my orders.
Since the army's place is on the other side, will you explain to me how
it is to get there?"
The whole size of the needless muddle was apparent. Evasions were of
no use; therefore Dunois admitted that there was no way to correct the
blunder but to send the army all the way back to Blois, and let it begin
over again and come up on the other side this time, according to Joan's
Any other girl, after winning such a triumph as this over a veteran
soldier of old renown, might have exulted a little and been excusable
for it, but Joan showed no disposition of this sort. She dropped a word
or two of grief over the precious time that must be lost, then began at
once to issue commands for the march back. She sorrowed to see her army
go; for she said its heart was great and its enthusiasm high, and that
with it at her back she did not fear to face all the might of England.
All arrangements having been completed for the return of the main body
of the army, she took the Bastard and La Hire and a thousand men and
went down to Orleans, where all the town was in a fever of impatience
to have sight of her face. It was eight in the evening when she and the
troops rode in at the Burgundy gate, with the Paladin preceding her with
her standard. She was riding a white horse, and she carried in her hand
the sacred sword of Fierbois. You should have seen Orleans then. What
a picture it was! Such black seas of people, such a starry firmament of
torches, such roaring whirlwinds of welcome, such booming of bells
and thundering of cannon! It was as if the world was come to an end.
Everywhere in the glare of the torches one saw rank upon rank of
upturned white faces, the mouths wide open, shouting, and the unchecked
tears running down; Joan forged her slow way through the solid masses,
her mailed form projecting above the pavement of heads like a silver
statue. The people about her struggled along, gazing up at her through
their tears with the rapt look of men and women who believe they are
seeing one who is divine; and always her feet were being kissed by
grateful folk, and such as failed of that privilege touched her horse
and then kissed their fingers.
Nothing that Joan did escaped notice; everything she did was commented
upon and applauded. You could hear the remarks going all the time.
"Now she's taking her little plumed cap off to somebody—ah, it's fine
"She's patting that woman on the head with her gauntlet."
"Oh, she was born on a horse—see her turn in her saddle, and kiss the
hilt of her sword to the ladies in the window that threw the flowers
"Now there's a poor woman lifting up a child—she's kissed it—oh, she's
"What a dainty little figure it is, and what a lovely face—and such
color and animation!"
Joan's slender long banner streaming backward had an accident—the fringe
caught fire from a torch. She leaned forward and crushed the flame in
"She's not afraid of fire nor anything!" they shouted, and delivered a
storm of admiring applause that made everything quake.
She rode to the cathedral and gave thanks to God, and the people crammed
the place and added their devotions to hers; then she took up her march
again and picked her slow way through the crowds and the wilderness
of torches to the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer of the Duke of
Orleans, where she was to be the guest of his wife as long as she stayed
in the city, and have his young daughter for comrade and room-mate. The
delirium of the people went on the rest of the night, and with it the
clamor of the joy-bells and the welcoming cannon.
Joan of Arc had stepped upon her stage at last, and was ready to begin.
Chapter 14 What the English Answered
SHE WAS ready, but must sit down and wait until there was an army to
Next morning, Saturday, April 30, 1429, she set about inquiring after
the messenger who carried her proclamation to the English from Blois—the
one which she had dictated at Poitiers. Here is a copy of it. It is
a remarkable document, for several reasons: for its matter-of-fact
directness, for its high spirit and forcible diction, and for its naive
confidence in her ability to achieve the prodigious task which she had
laid upon herself, or which had been laid upon her—which you please. All
through it you seem to see the pomps of war and hear the rumbling of
the drums. In it Joan's warrior soul is revealed, and for the moment the
soft little shepherdess has disappeared from your view. This untaught
country-damsel, unused to dictating anything at all to anybody,
much less documents of state to kings and generals, poured out this
procession of vigorous sentences as fluently as if this sort of work had
been her trade from childhood:
JESUS MARIA King of England and you Duke of Bedford who call yourself
Regent of France; William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; and you Thomas
Lord Scales, who style yourselves lieutenants of the said Bedford—do
right to the King of Heaven. Render to the Maid who is sent by God the
keys of all the good towns you have taken and violated in France. She
is sent hither by God, to restore the blood royal. She is very ready to
make peace if you will do her right by giving up France and paying
for what you have held. And you archers, companions of war, noble and
otherwise, who are before the good city of Orleans, begone into your own
land in God's name, or expect news from the Maid who will shortly go to
see you to your very great hurt. King of England, if you do not so, I
am chief of war, and whenever I shall find your people in France, I will
drive them out, willing or not willing; and if they do not obey I will
slay them all, but if they obey, I will have them to mercy. I am come
hither by God, the King of Heaven, body for body, to put you out of
France, in spite of those who would work treason and mischief against
the kingdom. Think not you shall ever hold the kingdom from the King of
Heaven, the Son of the Blessed Mary; King Charles shall hold it, for God
wills it so, and has revealed it to him by the Maid. If you believe not
the news sent by God through the Maid, wherever we shall meet you we
will strike boldly and make such a noise as has not been in France these
thousand years. Be sure that God can send more strength to the Maid than
you can bring to any assault against her and her good men-at-arms; and
then we shall see who has the better right, the King of Heaven, or
you. Duke of Bedford, the Maid prays you not to bring about your own
destruction. If you do her right, you may yet go in her company where
the French shall do the finest deed that has been done in Christendom,
and if you do not, you shall be reminded shortly of your great wrongs.
In that closing sentence she invites them to go on crusade with her
to rescue the Holy Sepulcher. No answer had been returned to this
proclamation, and the messenger himself had not come back.
So now she sent her two heralds with a new letter warning the English
to raise the siege and requiring them to restore that missing messenger.
The heralds came back without him. All they brought was notice from the
English to Joan that they would presently catch her and burn her if she
did not clear out now while she had a chance, and "go back to her proper
trade of minding cows."
She held her peace, only saying it was a pity that the English would
persist in inviting present disaster and eventual destruction when she
was "doing all she could to get them out of the country with their lives
still in their bodies."
Presently she thought of an arrangement that might be acceptable, and
said to the heralds, "Go back and say to Lord Talbot this, from me:
'Come out of your bastilles with your host, and I will come with mine;
if I beat you, go in peace out of France; if you beat me, burn me,
according to your desire.'"
I did not hear this, but Dunois did, and spoke of it. The challenge was
Sunday morning her Voices or some instinct gave her a warning, and
she sent Dunois to Blois to take command of the army and hurry it to
Orleans. It was a wise move, for he found Regnault de Chartres and some
more of the King's pet rascals there trying their best to disperse the
army, and crippling all the efforts of Joan's generals to head it for
Orleans. They were a fine lot, those miscreants. They turned their
attention to Dunois now, but he had balked Joan once, with unpleasant
results to himself, and was not minded to meddle in that way again. He
soon had the army moving.
Chapter 15 My Exquisite Poem Goes to Smash
WE OF the personal staff were in fairyland now, during the few days that
we waited for the return of the army. We went into society. To our two
knights this was not a novelty, but to us young villagers it was a new
and wonderful life. Any position of any sort near the person of the Maid
of Vaucouleurs conferred high distinction upon the holder and caused
his society to be courted; and so the D'Arc brothers, and Noel, and the
Paladin, humble peasants at home, were gentlemen here, personages
of weight and influence. It was fine to see how soon their country
diffidences and awkwardnesses melted away under this pleasant sun of
deference and disappeared, and how lightly and easily they took to their
new atmosphere. The Paladin was as happy as it was possible for any one
in this earth to be. His tongue went all the time, and daily he got new
delight out of hearing himself talk. He began to enlarge his ancestry
and spread it out all around, and ennoble it right and left, and it was
not long until it consisted almost entirely of dukes. He worked up his
old battles and tricked them out with fresh splendors; also with new
terrors, for he added artillery now. We had seen cannon for the first
time at Blois—a few pieces—here there was plenty of it, and now and then
we had the impressive spectacle of a huge English bastille hidden from
sight in a mountain of smoke from its own guns, with lances of red
flame darting through it; and this grand picture, along with the quaking
thunders pounding away in the heart of it, inflamed the Paladin's
imagination and enabled him to dress out those ambuscade-skirmishes of
ours with a sublimity which made it impossible for any to recognize them
at all except people who had not been there.
You may suspect that there was a special inspiration for these great
efforts of the Paladin's, and there was. It was the daughter of the
house, Catherine Boucher, who was eighteen, and gentle and lovely in her
ways, and very beautiful. I think she might have been as beautiful as
Joan herself, if she had had Joan's eyes. But that could never be. There
was never but that one pair, there will never be another. Joan's eyes
were deep and rich and wonderful beyond anything merely earthly. They
spoke all the languages—they had no need of words. They produced all
effects—and just by a glance, just a single glance; a glance that could
convict a liar of his lie and make him confess it; that could bring down
a proud man's pride and make him humble; that could put courage into a
coward and strike dead the courage of the bravest; that could appease
resentments and real hatreds; that could make the doubter believe and
the hopeless hope again; that could purify the impure mind; that could
persuade—ah, there it is—persuasion! that is the word; what or who is
it that it couldn't persuade? The maniac of Domremy—the fairy-banishing
priest—the reverend tribunal of Toul—the doubting and superstitious
Laxart—the obstinate veteran of Vaucouleurs—the characterless heir
of France—the sages and scholars of the Parliament and University
of Poitiers—the darling of Satan, La Hire—the masterless Bastard of
Orleans, accustomed to acknowledge no way as right and rational but his
own—these were the trophies of that great gift that made her the wonder
and mystery that she was.
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 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
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 Noel 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 if desired.
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. Noel 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 have nobody but
Noel. So then, as I wanted the poem to make the best possible impression
on Catherine and the company, I told Noel 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 Noel
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 here.
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 Noel 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 Noel 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 inspired Noel
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 Noel 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 Noel 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 Noel 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 Noel 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 repeated 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
Noel 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 twisted 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. Noel 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 Noel 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
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
"You have done well, and you have my thanks. It may be that you have
prevented a disaster. Your name and service shall receive official
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 Hotel 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 a subtle
something somewhere about her beauty that differed it from the human
types of your experience and exalted it above them.
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
"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 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 was 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 otherwise."
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
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
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
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
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 out.
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 Noel. "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 Noel; "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
"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
"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 ashamed of."
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 scrape.
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 peace.
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,
"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 was gone.
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 recognized leader. 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
"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
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 naked ghastliness.
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.
"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 back."
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 and enemies.
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 from 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
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 could.
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
silence and solemnity ensued which was dismaler to me than the mute
march past the bastilles. We sat looking 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 rotten
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 speaking of?"
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 storm!"
He saluted in his large way and came up and shook Joan by the hand.
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 itself."
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
Everybody was tired out with this long day's hard 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 Pere Fronte to read to her mother. I came,
and she began to dictate. After some loving words and greetings to her
mother and family, came this:
"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
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,
"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 tomorrow."
Catherine had the look of one who is trying to understand a puzzling
proposition but cannot quite do it. She said, in a distraught fashion:
"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.
"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 France.'"
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
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—therefore they had decided accordingly.
"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 sir."
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
"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; wait—be persuaded."
"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 corpse-like 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 excited people.
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 were right.
When we reached the gate, Joan told Gaucourt to open it and let her
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
"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 arbaquest 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
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
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 the truth.
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 succession. 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
"Now, then," said Joan to the waiting battalions, "the place is
yours—enter in! Bugles, sound the assault! Now, then—all together—go!"
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 cannon-shots fired, but they were
fired a moment after Joan had ordered the assault; and so, while we were
hammering and being hammered 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
"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
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 worded it.
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 peace herself."
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. (1)
(1)It is still celebrated every year with civic and military pomps and
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 girl.
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 feted 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 were in 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 chiefs 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
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
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
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. If—"
"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 butterfly clothes.
"To Rheims—oh, impossible, my General! We march through the heart of
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 to do?"
"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,
"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
"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
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 large."
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 truth,
the ungilded truth—how seldom I hear it! With all this tinsel on me and
all this tinsel about me, I am but a sheriff after all—a poor shabby
two-acre sheriff—and you are but a constable," and he laughed his
cordial laugh again. "Joan, my frank, honest General, will you name your
reward? I would ennoble you. You shall quarter the crown and the lilies
of France for blazon, and with them your victorious sword to defend
them—speak the word."
It made an eager buzz of surprise and envy in the assemblage, but Joan
shook her head and said:
"Ah, I cannot, dear and noble Dauphin. To be allowed to work for France,
to spend one's self for France, is itself so supreme a reward that
nothing can add to it—nothing. Give me the one reward I ask, the dearest
of all rewards, the highest in your gift—march with me to Rheims and
receive your crown. I will beg it on my knees."
But the King put his hand on her arm, and there was a really brave
awakening in his voice and a manly fire in his eye when he said:
"No, sit. You have conquered me—it shall be as you—"
But a warning sign from his minister halted him, and he added, to the
relief of the court:
"Well, well, we will think of it, we will think it over and see. Does
that content you, impulsive little soldier?"
The first part of the speech sent a glow of delight to Joan's face, but
the end of it quenched it and she looked sad, and the tears gathered
in her eyes. After a moment she spoke out with what seemed a sort of
terrified impulse, and said:
"Oh, use me; I beseech you, use me—there is but little time!"
"But little time?"
"Only a year—I shall last only a year."
"Why, child, there are fifty good years in that compact little body
"Oh, you err, indeed you do. In one little year the end will come. Ah,
the time is so short, so short; the moments are flying, and so much to
be done. Oh, use me, and quickly—it is life or death for France."
Even those insects were sobered by her impassioned words. The King
looked very grave—grave, and strongly impressed. His eyes lit suddenly
with an eloquent fire, and he rose and drew his sword and raised it
aloft; then he brought it slowly down upon Joan's shoulder and said:
"Ah, thou art so simple, so true, so great, so noble—and by this
accolade I join thee to the nobility of France, thy fitting place! And
for thy sake I do hereby ennoble all thy family and all thy kin; and all
their descendants born in wedlock, not only in the male but also in the
female line. And more!—more! To distinguish thy house and honor it
above all others, we add a privilege never accorded to any before in the
history of these dominions: the females of thy line shall have and hold
the right to ennoble their husbands when these shall be of inferior
degree." [Astonishment and envy flared up in every countenance when the
words were uttered which conferred this extraordinary grace. The
King paused and looked around upon these signs with quite evident
satisfaction.] "Rise, Joan of Arc, now and henceforth surnamed Du Lis,
in grateful acknowledgment of the good blow which you have struck
for the lilies of France; and they, and the royal crown, and your own
victorious sword, fit and fair company for each other, shall be grouped
in you escutcheon and be and remain the symbol of your high nobility
As my Lady Du Lis rose, the gilded children of privilege pressed forward
to welcome her to their sacred ranks and call her by her new name; but
she was troubled, and said these honors were not meet for one of her
lowly birth and station, and by their kind grace she would remain simple
Joan of Arc, nothing more—and so be called.
Nothing more! As if there could be anything more, anything higher,
anything greater. My Lady Du Lis—why, it was tinsel, petty, perishable.
But, JOAN OF ARC! The mere sound of it sets one's pulses leaping.
Chapter 24 Tinsel Trappings of Nobility
IT WAS vexatious to see what a to-do the whole town, and next the whole
country, made over the news. Joan of Arc ennobled by the King! People
went dizzy with wonder and delight over it. You cannot imagine how she
was gaped at, stared at, envied. Why, one would have supposed that some
great and fortunate thing had happened to her. But we did not think any
great things of it. To our minds no mere human hand could add a glory to
Joan of Arc. To us she was the sun soaring in the heavens, and her new
nobility a candle atop of it; to us it was swallowed up and lost in her
own light. And she was as indifferent to it and as unconscious of it as
the other sun would have been.
But it was different with her brothers. They were proud and happy in
their new dignity, which was quite natural. And Joan was glad it had
been conferred, when she saw how pleased they were. It was a clever
thought in the King to outflank her scruples by marching on them under
shelter of her love for her family and her kin.
Jean and Pierre sported their coats-of-arms right away; and their
society was courted by everybody, the nobles and commons alike. The
Standard-Bearer said, with some touch of bitterness, that he could
see that they just felt good to be alive, they were so soaked with the
comfort of their glory; and didn't like to sleep at all, because when
they were asleep they didn't know they were noble, and so sleep was a
clean loss of time. And then he said:
"They can't take precedence of me in military functions and state
ceremonies, but when it comes to civil ones and society affairs I judge
they'll cuddle coolly in behind you and the knights, and Noel and I will
have to walk behind them—hey?"
"Yes," I said, "I think you are right."
"I was just afraid of it—just afraid of it," said the Standard-Bearer,
with a sigh. "Afraid of it? I'm talking like a fool; of course I knew
it. Yes, I was talking like a fool."
Noel Rainguesson said, musingly:
"Yes, I noticed something natural about the tone of it."
We others laughed.
"Oh, you did, did you? You think you are very clever, don't you? I'll
take and wring your neck for you one of these days, Noel Rainguesson."
The Sieur de Metz said:
"Paladin, your fears haven't reached the top notch. They are away
below the grand possibilities. Didn't it occur to you that in civil
and society functions they will take precedence of all the rest of the
personal staff—every one of us?"
"You'll find it's so. Look at their escutcheon. Its chiefest feature is
the lilies of France. It's royal, man, royal—do you understand the size
of that? The lilies are there by authority of the King—do you understand
the size of that? Though not in detail and in entirety, they do
nevertheless substantially quarter the arms of France in their coat.
Imagine it! consider it! measure the magnitude of it! We walk in front
of those boys? Bless you, we've done that for the last time. In my
opinion there isn't a lay lord in this whole region that can walk in
front of them, except the Duke d'Alencon, prince of the blood."
You could have knocked the Paladin down with a feather. He seemed to
actually turn pale. He worked his lips a moment without getting anything
out; then it came:
"I didn't know that, nor the half of it; how could I? I've been an
idiot. I see it now—I've been an idiot. I met them this morning, and
sung out hello to them just as I would to anybody. I didn't mean to
be ill-mannered, but I didn't know the half of this that you've been
telling. I've been an ass. Yes, that is all there is to it—I've been an
Noel Rainguesson said, in a kind of weary way:
"Yes, that is likely enough; but I don't see why you should seem
surprised at it."
"You don't, don't you? Well, why don't you?"
"Because I don't see any novelty about it. With some people it is a
condition which is present all the time. Now you take a condition which
is present all the time, and the results of that condition will be
uniform; this uniformity of result will in time become monotonous;
monotonousness, by the law of its being, is fatiguing. If you had
manifested fatigue upon noticing that you had been an ass, that would
have been logical, that would have been rational; whereas it seems to me
that to manifest surprise was to be again an ass, because the condition
of intellect that can enable a person to be surprised and stirred by
inert monotonousness is a—"
"Now that is enough, Noel Rainguesson; stop where you are, before you
get yourself into trouble. And don't bother me any more for some days or
a week an it please you, for I cannot abide your clack."
"Come, I like that! I didn't want to talk. I tried to get out of
talking. If you didn't want to hear my clack, what did you keep
intruding your conversation on me for?"
"I? I never dreamed of such a thing."
"Well, you did it, anyway. And I have a right to feel hurt, and I do
feel hurt, to have you treat me so. It seems to me that when a person
goads, and crowds, and in a manner forces another person to talk, it is
neither very fair nor very good-mannered to call what he says clack."
"Oh, snuffle—do! and break your heart, you poor thing. Somebody fetch
this sick doll a sugar-rag. Look you, Sir Jean de Metz, do you feel
absolutely certain about that thing?"
"Why, that Jean and Pierre are going to take precedence of all the lay
noblesse hereabouts except the Duke d'Alencon?"
"I think there is not a doubt of it."
The Standard-Bearer was deep in thoughts and dreams a few moments, then
the silk-and-velvet expanse of his vast breast rose and fell with a
sigh, and he said:
"Dear, dear, what a lift it is! It just shows what luck can do. Well, I
don't care. I shouldn't care to be a painted accident—I shouldn't value
it. I am prouder to have climbed up to where I am just by sheer natural
merit than I would be to ride the very sun in the zenith and have to
reflect that I was nothing but a poor little accident, and got shot up
there out of somebody else's catapult. To me, merit is everything—in
fact, the only thing. All else is dross."
Just then the bugles blew the assembly, and that cut our talk short.
Chapter 25 At Last—Forward!
THE DAYS began to waste away—and nothing decided, nothing done. The army
was full of zeal, but it was also hungry. It got no pay, the treasury
was getting empty, it was becoming impossible to feed it; under pressure
of privation it began to fall apart and disperse—which pleased the
trifling court exceedingly. Joan's distress was pitiful to see. She was
obliged to stand helpless while her victorious army dissolved away until
hardly the skeleton of it was left.
At last one day she went to the Castle of Loches, where the King was
idling. She found him consulting with three of his councilors, Robert le
Maton, a former Chancellor of France, Christophe d'Harcourt, and Gerard
Machet. The Bastard of Orleans was present also, and it is through him
that we know what happened. Joan threw herself at the King's feet and
embraced his knees, saying:
"Noble Dauphin, prithee hold no more of these long and numerous
councils, but come, and come quickly, to Rheims and receive your crown."
Christophe d'Harcourt asked:
"Is it your Voices that command you to say that to the King?"
"Yes, and urgently."
"Then will you not tell us in the King's presence in what way the Voices
communicate with you?"
It was another sly attempt to trap Joan into indiscreet admissions and
dangerous pretensions. But nothing came of it. Joan's answer was simple
and straightforward, and the smooth Bishop was not able to find any
fault with it. She said that when she met with people who doubted the
truth of her mission she went aside and prayed, complaining of the
distrust of these, and then the comforting Voices were heard at her
ear saying, soft and low, "Go forward, Daughter of God, and I will help
thee." Then she added, "When I hear that, the joy in my heart, oh, it is
The Bastard said that when she said these words her face lit up as with
a flame, and she was like one in an ecstasy.
Joan pleaded, persuaded, reasoned; gaining ground little by little, but
opposed step by step by the council. She begged, she implored, leave to
march. When they could answer nothing further, they granted that perhaps
it had been a mistake to let the army waste away, but how could we help
it now? how could we march without an army?
"Raise one!" said Joan.
"But it will take six weeks."
"No matter—begin! let us begin!"
"It is too late. Without doubt the Duke of Bedford has been gathering
troops to push to the succor of his strongholds on the Loire."
"Yes, while we have been disbanding ours—and pity 'tis. But we must
throw away no more time; we must bestir ourselves."
The King objected that he could not venture toward Rheims with those
strong places on the Loire in his path. But Joan said:
"We will break them up. Then you can march."
With that plan the King was willing to venture assent. He could sit
around out of danger while the road was being cleared.
Joan came back in great spirits. Straightway everything was stirring.
Proclamations were issued calling for men, a recruiting-camp was
established at Selles in Berry, and the commons and the nobles began to
flock to it with enthusiasm.
A deal of the month of May had been wasted; and yet by the 6th of June
Joan had swept together a new army and was ready to march. She had eight
thousand men. Think of that. Think of gathering together such a body
as that in that little region. And these were veteran soldiers, too. In
fact, most of the men in France were soldiers, when you came to that;
for the wars had lasted generations now. Yes, most Frenchmen were
soldiers; and admirable runners, too, both by practice and inheritance;
they had done next to nothing but run for near a century. But that was
not their fault. They had had no fair and proper leadership—at least
leaders with a fair and proper chance. Away back, King and Court got the
habit of being treacherous to the leaders; then the leaders easily
got the habit of disobeying the King and going their own way, each for
himself and nobody for the lot. Nobody could win victories that way.
Hence, running became the habit of the French troops, and no wonder. Yet
all that those troops needed in order to be good fighters was a leader
who would attend strictly to business—a leader with all authority in his
hands in place of a tenth of it along with nine other generals equipped
with an equal tenth apiece. They had a leader rightly clothed with
authority now, and with a head and heart bent on war of the most
intensely businesslike and earnest sort—and there would be results. No
doubt of that. They had Joan of Arc; and under that leadership their
legs would lose the art and mystery of running.
Yes, Joan was in great spirits. She was here and there and everywhere,
all over the camp, by day and by night, pushing things. And wherever she
came charging down the lines, reviewing the troops, it was good to hear
them break out and cheer. And nobody could help cheering, she was such
a vision of young bloom and beauty and grace, and such an incarnation of
pluck and life and go! she was growing more and more ideally beautiful
every day, as was plain to be seen—and these were days of development;
for she was well past seventeen now—in fact, she was getting close upon
seventeen and a half—indeed, just a little woman, as you may say.
The two young Counts de Laval arrived one day—fine young fellows allied
to the greatest and most illustrious houses of France; and they could
not rest till they had seen Joan of Arc. So the King sent for them and
presented them to her, and you may believe she filled the bill of their
expectations. When they heard that rich voice of hers they must have
thought it was a flute; and when they saw her deep eyes and her face,
and the soul that looked out of that face, you could see that the sight
of her stirred them like a poem, like lofty eloquence, like martial
music. One of them wrote home to his people, and in his letter he said,
"It seemed something divine to see her and hear her." Ah, yes, and it
was a true word. Truer word was never spoken.
He saw her when she was ready to begin her march and open the campaign,
and this is what he said about it:
"She was clothed all in white armor save her head, and in her hand she
carried a little battle-ax; and when she was ready to mount her great
black horse he reared and plunged and would not let her. Then she said,
'Lead him to the cross.' This cross was in front of the church close by.
So they led him there. Then she mounted, and he never budged, any more
than if he had been tied. Then she turned toward the door of the church
and said, in her soft womanly voice, 'You, priests and people of the
Church, make processions and pray to God for us!' Then she spurred
away, under her standard, with her little ax in her hand, crying
'Forward—march!' One of her brothers, who came eight days ago, departed
with her; and he also was clad all in white armor."
I was there, and I saw it, too; saw it all, just as he pictures it.
And I see it yet—the little battle-ax, the dainty plumed cap, the
white armor—all in the soft June afternoon; I see it just as if it were
yesterday. And I rode with the staff—the personal staff—the staff of
Joan of Arc.
That young count was dying to go, too, but the King held him back for
the present. But Joan had made him a promise. In his letter he said:
"She told me that when the King starts for Rheims I shall go with him.
But God grant I may not have to wait till then, but may have a part in
She made him that promise when she was taking leave of my lady the
Duchess d'Alencon. The duchess was exacting a promise, so it seemed a
proper time for others to do the like. The duchess was troubled for her
husband, for she foresaw desperate fighting; and she held Joan to her
breast, and stroked her hair lovingly, and said:
"You must watch over him, dear, and take care of him, and send him
back to me safe. I require it of you; I will not let you go till you
"I give you the promise with all my heart; and it is not just words, it
is a promise; you shall have him back without a hurt. Do you believe?
And are you satisfied with me now?"
The duchess could not speak, but she kissed Joan on the forehead; and so
We left on the 6th and stopped over at Romorantin; then on the 9th Joan
entered Orleans in state, under triumphal arches, with the welcoming
cannon thundering and seas of welcoming flags fluttering in the breeze.
The Grand Staff rode with her, clothed in shining splendors of costume
and decorations: the Duke d'Alencon; the Bastard of Orleans; the Sire
de Boussac, Marshal of France; the Lord de Granville, Master of the
Crossbowmen; the Sire de Culan, Admiral of France; Ambroise de Lor;
Etienne de Vignoles, called La Hire; Gautier de Brusac, and other
It was grand times; the usual shoutings and packed multitudes, the usual
crush to get sight of Joan; but at last we crowded through to our old
lodgings, and I saw old Boucher and the wife and that dear Catherine
gather Joan to their hearts and smother her with kisses—and my heart
ached for her so! for I could have kissed Catherine better than anybody,
and more and longer; yet was not thought of for that office, and I so
famished for it. Ah, she was so beautiful, and oh, so sweet! I had loved
her the first day I ever saw her, and from that day forth she was sacred
to me. I have carried her image in my heart for sixty-three years—all
lonely thee, yes, solitary, for it never has had company—and I am grown
so old, so old; but it, oh, it is as fresh and young and merry and
mischievous and lovely and sweet and pure and witching and divine as
it was when it crept in there, bringing benediction and peace to its
habitation so long ago, so long ago—for it has not aged a day!
Chapter 26 The Last Doubts Scattered
THIS TIME, as before, the King's last command to the generals was this:
"See to it that you do nothing without the sanction of the Maid." And
this time the command was obeyed; and would continue to be obeyed all
through the coming great days of the Loire campaign.
That was a change! That was new! It broke the traditions. It shows you
what sort of a reputation as a commander-in-chief the child had made for
herself in ten days in the field. It was a conquering of men's doubts
and suspicions and a capturing and solidifying of men's belief and
confidence such as the grayest veteran on the Grand Staff had not been
able to achieve in thirty years. Don't you remember that when at sixteen
Joan conducted her own case in a grim court of law and won it, the old
judge spoke of her as "this marvelous child"? It was the right name, you
These veterans were not going to branch out and do things without the
sanction of the Maid—that is true; and it was a great gain. But at the
same time there were some among them who still trembled at her new and
dashing war tactics and earnestly desired to modify them. And so, during
the 10th, while Joan was slaving away at her plans and issuing order
after order with tireless industry, the old-time consultations and
arguings and speechifyings were going on among certain of the generals.
In the afternoon of that day they came in a body to hold one of these
councils of war; and while they waited for Joan to join them they
discussed the situation. Now this discussion is not set down in the
histories; but I was there, and I will speak of it, as knowing you will
trust me, I not being given to beguiling you with lies.
Gautier de Brusac was spokesman for the timid ones; Joan's side was
resolutely upheld by d'Alencon, the Bastard, La Hire, the Admiral of
France, the Marshal de Boussac, and all the other really important
De Brusac argued that the situation was very grave; that Jargeau,
the first point of attack, was formidably strong; its imposing walls
bristling with artillery; with seven thousand picked English veterans
behind them, and at their head the great Earl of Suffolk and his
two redoubtable brothers, the De la Poles. It seemed to him that the
proposal of Joan of Arc to try to take such a place by storm was a most
rash and over-daring idea, and she ought to be persuaded to relinquish
it in favor of the soberer and safer procedure of investment by regular
siege. It seemed to him that this fiery and furious new fashion of
hurling masses of men against impregnable walls of stone, in defiance of
the established laws and usages of war, was—
But he got no further. La Hire gave his plumed helm an impatient toss
and burst out with:
"By God, she knows her trade, and none can teach it her!"
And before he could get out anything more, D'Alencon was on his feet,
and the Bastard of Orleans, and a half a dozen others, all thundering at
once, and pouring out their indignant displeasure upon any and all
that might hold, secretly or publicly, distrust of the wisdom of the
Commander-in-Chief. And when they had said their say, La Hire took a
chance again, and said:
"There are some that never know how to change. Circumstances may change,
but those people are never able to see that they have got to change too,
to meet those circumstances. All that they know is the one beaten
track that their fathers and grandfathers have followed and that they
themselves have followed in their turn. If an earthquake come and rip
the land to chaos, and that beaten track now lead over precipices and
into morasses, those people can't learn that they must strike out a new
road—no; they will march stupidly along and follow the old one, to death
and perdition. Men, there's a new state of things; and a surpassing
military genius has perceived it with her clear eye. And a new road is
required, and that same clear eye has noted where it must go, and has
marked it out for us. The man does not live, never has lived, never
will live, that can improve upon it! The old state of things was defeat,
defeat, defeat—and by consequence we had troops with no dash, no heart,
no hope. Would you assault stone walls with such? No—there was but one
way with that kind: sit down before a place and wait, wait—starve it
out, if you could. The new case is the very opposite; it is this: men
all on fire with pluck and dash and vim and fury and energy—a restrained
conflagration! What would you do with it? Hold it down and let it
smolder and perish and go out? What would Joan of Arc do with it? Turn
it loose, by the Lord God of heaven and earth, and let it swallow up the
foe in the whirlwind of its fires! Nothing shows the splendor and wisdom
of her military genius like her instant comprehension of the size of the
change which has come about, and her instant perception of the right and
only right way to take advantage of it. With her is no sitting down and
starving out; no dilly-dallying and fooling around; no lazying, loafing,
and going to sleep; no, it is storm! storm! storm! and still storm!
storm! storm! and forever storm! storm! storm! hunt the enemy to his
hole, then turn her French hurricanes loose and carry him by storm!
And that is my sort! Jargeau? What of Jargeau, with its battlements and
towers, its devastating artillery, its seven thousand picked veterans?
Joan of Arc is to the fore, and by the splendor of God its fate is
Oh, he carried them. There was not another word said about persuading
Joan to change her tactics. They sat talking comfortably enough after
By and by Joan entered, and they rose and saluted with their swords, and
she asked what their pleasure might be. La Hire said:
"It is settled, my General. The matter concerned Jargeau. There were
some who thought we could not take the place."
Joan laughed her pleasant laugh, her merry, carefree laugh; the laugh
that rippled so buoyantly from her lips and made old people feel young
again to hear it; and she said to the company:
"Have no fears—indeed, there is no need nor any occasion for them. We
will strike the English boldly by assault, and you will see." Then a
faraway look came into her eyes, and I think that a picture of her home
drifted across the vision of her mind; for she said very gently, and as
one who muses, "But that I know God guides us and will give us success,
I had liefer keep sheep than endure these perils."
We had a homelike farewell supper that evening—just the personal staff
and the family. Joan had to miss it; for the city had given a banquet in
her honor, and she had gone there in state with the Grand Staff, through
a riot of joy-bells and a sparkling Milky Way of illuminations.
After supper some lively young folk whom we knew came in, and we
presently forgot that we were soldiers, and only remembered that we
were boys and girls and full of animal spirits and long-pent fun; and so
there was dancing, and games, and romps, and screams of laughter—just as
extravagant and innocent and noisy a good time as ever I had in my life.
Dear, dear, how long ago it was!—and I was young then. And outside, all
the while, was the measured tramp of marching battalions, belated odds
and ends of the French power gathering for the morrow's tragedy on the
grim stage of war. Yes, in those days we had those contrasts side by
side. And as I passed along to bed there was another one: the big Dwarf,
in brave new armor, sat sentry at Joan's door—the stern Spirit of War
made flesh, as it were—and on his ample shoulder was curled a kitten
Chapter 27 How Joan Took Jargeau
WE MADE a gallant show next day when we filed out through the frowning
gates of Orleans, with banners flying and Joan and the Grand Staff in
the van of the long column. Those two young De Lavals were come now, and
were joined to the Grand Staff. Which was well; war being their proper
trade, for they were grandsons of that illustrious fighter Bertrand du
Guesclin, Constable of France in earlier days. Louis de Bourbon, the
Marshal de Rais, and the Vidame de Chartres were added also. We had a
right to feel a little uneasy, for we knew that a force of five thousand
men was on its way under Sir John Fastolfe to reinforce Jargeau, but I
think we were not uneasy, nevertheless. In truth, that force was not yet
in our neighborhood. Sir John was loitering; for some reason or other he
was not hurrying. He was losing precious time—four days at Etampes, and
four more at Janville.
We reached Jargeau and began business at once. Joan sent forward a heavy
force which hurled itself against the outworks in handsome style, and
gained a footing and fought hard to keep it; but it presently began to
fall back before a sortie from the city. Seeing this, Joan raised her
battle-cry and led a new assault herself under a furious artillery fire.
The Paladin was struck down at her side wounded, but she snatched her
standard from his failing hand and plunged on through the ruck of flying
missiles, cheering her men with encouraging cries; and then for a good
time one had turmoil, and clash of steel, and collision and confusion
of struggling multitudes, and the hoarse bellowing of the guns; and
then the hiding of it all under a rolling firmament of smoke—a firmament
through which veiled vacancies appeared for a moment now and then,
giving fitful dim glimpses of the wild tragedy enacting beyond; and
always at these times one caught sight of that slight figure in white
mail which was the center and soul of our hope and trust, and whenever
we saw that, with its back to us and its face to the fight, we knew that
all was well. At last a great shout went up—a joyous roar of shoutings,
in fact—and that was sign sufficient that the faubourgs were ours.
Yes, they were ours; the enemy had been driven back within the walls. On
the ground which Joan had won we camped; for night was coming on.
Joan sent a summons to the English, promising that if they surrendered
she would allow them to go in peace and take their horses with them.
Nobody knew that she could take that strong place, but she knew it—knew
it well; yet she offered that grace—offered it in a time when such a
thing was unknown in war; in a time when it was custom and usage to
massacre the garrison and the inhabitants of captured cities without
pity or compunction—yes, even to the harmless women and children
sometimes. There are neighbors all about you who well remember the
unspeakable atrocities which Charles the Bold inflicted upon the men and
women and children of Dinant when he took that place some years ago. It
was a unique and kindly grace which Joan offered that garrison; but that
was her way, that was her loving and merciful nature—she always did her
best to save her enemy's life and his soldierly pride when she had the
mastery of him.
The English asked fifteen days' armistice to consider the proposal
in. And Fastolfe coming with five thousand men! Joan said no. But she
offered another grace: they might take both their horses and their
side-arms—but they must go within the hour.
Well, those bronzed English veterans were pretty hard-headed folk. They
declined again. Then Joan gave command that her army be made ready to
move to the assault at nine in the morning. Considering the deal of
marching and fighting which the men had done that day, D'Alencon thought
the hour rather early; but Joan said it was best so, and so must be
obeyed. Then she burst out with one of those enthusiasms which were
always burning in her when battle was imminent, and said:
"Work! work! and God will work with us!"
Yes, one might say that her motto was "Work! stick to it; keep on
working!" for in war she never knew what indolence was. And whoever will
take that motto and live by it will likely to succeed. There's many a
way to win in this world, but none of them is worth much without good
hard work back out of it.
I think we should have lost our big Standard-Bearer that day, if our
bigger Dwarf had not been at hand to bring him out of the melee when he
was wounded. He was unconscious, and would have been trampled to death
by our own horse, if the Dwarf had not promptly rescued him and haled
him to the rear and safety. He recovered, and was himself again after
two or three hours; and then he was happy and proud, and made the most
of his wound, and went swaggering around in his bandages showing off
like an innocent big-child—which was just what he was. He was prouder of
being wounded than a really modest person would be of being killed. But
there was no harm in his vanity, and nobody minded it. He said he was
hit by a stone from a catapult—a stone the size of a man's head. But
the stone grew, of course. Before he got through with it he was claiming
that the enemy had flung a building at him.
"Let him alone," said Noel Rainguesson. "Don't interrupt his processes.
To-morrow it will be a cathedral."
He said that privately. And, sure enough, to-morrow it was a cathedral.
I never saw anybody with such an abandoned imagination.
Joan was abroad at the crack of dawn, galloping here and there and
yonder, examining the situation minutely, and choosing what she
considered the most effective positions for her artillery; and with such
accurate judgment did she place her guns that her Lieutenant-General's
admiration of it still survived in his memory when his testimony was
taken at the Rehabilitation, a quarter of a century later.
In this testimony the Duke d'Alencon said that at Jargeau that morning
of the 12th of June she made her dispositions not like a novice, but
"with the sure and clear judgment of a trained general of twenty or
thirty years' experience."
The veteran captains of the armies of France said she was great in war
in all ways, but greatest of all in her genius for posting and handling
Who taught the shepherd-girl to do these marvels—she who could not read,
and had had no opportunity to study the complex arts of war? I do not
know any way to solve such a baffling riddle as that, there being no
precedent for it, nothing in history to compare it with and examine
it by. For in history there is no great general, however gifted, who
arrived at success otherwise than through able teaching and hard study
and some experience. It is a riddle which will never be guessed. I think
these vast powers and capacities were born in her, and that she applied
them by an intuition which could not err.
At eight o'clock all movement ceased, and with it all sounds, all noise.
A mute expectancy reigned. The stillness was something awful—because it
meant so much. There was no air stirring. The flags on the towers and
ramparts hung straight down like tassels. Wherever one saw a person,
that person had stopped what he was doing, and was in a waiting
attitude, a listening attitude. We were on a commanding spot, clustered
around Joan. Not far from us, on every hand, were the lanes and humble
dwellings of these outlying suburbs. Many people were visible—all were
listening, not one was moving. A man had placed a nail; he was about
to fasten something with it to the door-post of his shop—but he had
stopped. There was his hand reaching up holding the nail; and there
was his other hand in the act of striking with the hammer; but he had
forgotten everything—his head was turned aside listening. Even children
unconsciously stopped in their play; I saw a little boy with his
hoop-stick pointed slanting toward the ground in the act of steering the
hoop around the corner; and so he had stopped and was listening—the hoop
was rolling away, doing its own steering. I saw a young girl prettily
framed in an open window, a watering-pot in her hand and window-boxes of
red flowers under its spout—but the water had ceased to flow; the girl
was listening. Everywhere were these impressive petrified forms; and
everywhere was suspended movement and that awful stillness.
Joan of Arc raised her sword in the air. At the signal, the silence was
torn to rags; cannon after cannon vomited flames and smoke and delivered
its quaking thunders; and we saw answering tongues of fire dart from the
towers and walls of the city, accompanied by answering deep thunders,
and in a minute the walls and the towers disappeared, and in their place
stood vast banks and pyramids of snowy smoke, motionless in the dead
air. The startled girl dropped her watering-pot and clasped her hands
together, and at that moment a stone cannon-ball crashed through her
The great artillery duel went on, each side hammering away with all its
might; and it was splendid for smoke and noise, and most exalting to
one's spirits. The poor little town around about us suffered cruelly.
The cannon-balls tore through its slight buildings, wrecking them as if
they had been built of cards; and every moment or two one would see a
huge rock come curving through the upper air above the smoke-clouds and
go plunging down through the roofs. Fire broke out, and columns of flame
and smoke rose toward the sky.
Presently the artillery concussions changed the weather. The sky became
overcast, and a strong wind rose and blew away the smoke that hid the
Then the spectacle was fine; turreted gray walls and towers, and
streaming bright flags, and jets of red fire and gushes of white smoke
in long rows, all standing out with sharp vividness against the deep
leaden background of the sky; and then the whizzing missiles began to
knock up the dirt all around us, and I felt no more interest in the
scenery. There was one English gun that was getting our position down
finer and finer all the time. Presently Joan pointed to it and said:
"Fair duke, step out of your tracks, or that machine will kill you."
The Duke d'Alencon did as he was bid; but Monsieur du Lude rashly took
his place, and that cannon tore his head off in a moment.
Joan was watching all along for the right time to order the assault. At
last, about nine o'clock, she cried out:
"Now—to the assault!" and the buglers blew the charge.
Instantly we saw the body of men that had been appointed to this service
move forward toward a point where the concentrated fire of our guns had
crumbled the upper half of a broad stretch of wall to ruins; we saw this
force descend into the ditch and begin to plant the scaling-ladders.
We were soon with them. The Lieutenant-General thought the assault
premature. But Joan said:
"Ah, gentle duke, are you afraid? Do you not know that I have promised
to send you home safe?"
It was warm work in the ditches. The walls were crowded with men, and
they poured avalanches of stones down upon us. There was one gigantic
Englishman who did us more hurt than any dozen of his brethren.
He always dominated the places easiest of assault, and flung down
exceedingly troublesome big stones which smashed men and ladders
both—then he would near burst himself with laughing over what he had
done. But the duke settled accounts with him. He went and found the
famous cannoneer, Jean le Lorrain, and said:
"Train your gun—kill me this demon."
He did it with the first shot. He hit the Englishman fair in the breast
and knocked him backward into the city.
The enemy's resistance was so effective and so stubborn that our people
began to show signs of doubt and dismay. Seeing this, Joan raised her
inspiring battle-cry and descended into the fosse herself, the Dwarf
helping her and the Paladin sticking bravely at her side with the
standard. She started up a scaling-ladder, but a great stone flung from
above came crashing down upon her helmet and stretched her, wounded and
stunned, upon the ground. But only for a moment. The Dwarf stood her
upon her feet, and straightway she started up the ladder again, crying:
"To the assault, friends, to the assault—the English are ours! It is the
There was a grand rush, and a fierce roar of war-cries, and we swarmed
over the ramparts like ants. The garrison fled, we pursued; Jargeau was
The Earl of Suffolk was hemmed in and surrounded, and the Duke d'Alencon
and the Bastard of Orleans demanded that he surrender himself. But he
was a proud nobleman and came of a proud race. He refused to yield his
sword to subordinates, saying:
"I will die rather. I will surrender to the Maid of Orleans alone, and
to no other."
And so he did; and was courteously and honorably used by her.
His two brothers retreated, fighting step by step, toward the bridge,
we pressing their despairing forces and cutting them down by scores.
Arrived on the bridge, the slaughter still continued. Alexander de la
Pole was pushed overboard or fell over, and was drowned. Eleven hundred
men had fallen; John de la Pole decided to give up the struggle. But he
was nearly as proud and particular as his brother of Suffolk as to whom
he would surrender to. The French officer nearest at hand was Guillaume
Renault, who was pressing him closely. Sir John said to him:
"Are you a gentleman?"
"And a knight?"
Then Sir John knighted him himself there on the bridge, giving him the
accolade with English coolness and tranquillity in the midst of that
storm of slaughter and mutilation; and then bowing with high courtesy
took the sword by the blade and laid the hilt of it in the man's hand in
token of surrender. Ah, yes, a proud tribe, those De la Poles.
It was a grand day, a memorable day, a most splendid victory. We had a
crowd of prisoners, but Joan would not allow them to be hurt. We took
them with us and marched into Orleans next day through the usual tempest
of welcome and joy.
And this time there was a new tribute to our leader. From everywhere in
the packed streets the new recruits squeezed their way to her side to
touch the sword of Joan of Arc, and draw from it somewhat of that
mysterious quality which made it invincible.