Part 1 out of 5
Prepared by David Reed firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc Vol. 1
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
A Peculiarity of Joan of Arc's History
The Sieur Louis de Conte
Book I -- IN DOMREMY
1 When Wolves Ran Free in Paris
2 The Fa�ry Tree of Domremy
3 All Aflame with Love of France
4 Joan Tames the Mad Man
5 Domremy Pillaged and Burned
6 Joan and Archangel Michael
7 She Delivers the Divine Command
8 Why the Scorners Relented
Book II -- IN COURT AND CAMP
1 Joan Says Good-By
2 The Governor Speeds Joan
3 The Paladin Groans and Boasts
4 Joan Leads Us Through the Enemy
5 We Pierce the Last Ambuscades
6 Joan Convinces the King
7 Our Paladin in His Glory
8 Joan Persuades the Inquisitors
9 She Is Made General-in-Chief
10 The Maid's Sword and Banner
11 The War March Is Begun
12 Joan Puts Heart in Her Army
13 Checked by the Folly of the Wise
14 What the English Answered
15 My Exquisite Poem Goes to Smash
16 The Finding of the Dwarf
17 Sweet Fruit of Bitter Truth
18 Joan's First Battle-Field
19 We Burst In Upon Ghosts
20 Joan Makes Cowards Brave Victors
21 She Gently Reproves Her Dear Friend
22 The Fate of France Decided
23 Joan Inspires the Tawdry King
24 Tinsel Trappings of Nobility
25 At Last--Forward!
26 The Last Doubts Scattered
27 How Joan Took Jargeau
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from the original unpublished manuscript in the National Archives
by JEAN FRAN�OIS ALDEN
Authorities examined in verification of the truthfulness of this
J. E. J. QUICHERAT, Condamnation et R�habilitation de Jeanne
J. FABRE, Proc�s 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 V�n�rable.
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,
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 hi8s 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
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 the 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 preser4ved 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 youth.
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 only One.
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 create plagues.
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
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
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 this learning.
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, No�l 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 to 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 Fa�ry 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
h8im 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.
P�re 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
st3eadier 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--b 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 F�E DE BOURLEMONT
SONG OF THE CHILDREN
Now what has kept your leaves so green,
Arbre F�e 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 F�e 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 F�e 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 P�re 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
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 P�re 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
The great tree--l'Arbre F�e do 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 got 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 P�re 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 not so?"
"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 said it.
"Is a sin a sin, anyway, even if one did not intend to commit it?"
P�re Fronte threw up his hands and cried out:
"Oh, my poor little child, I see all my fault," and he drew here 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 saw 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 act?"
P�re 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."
P�re 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, gather, won't you?"
"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 P�re 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
"There--now it is done. Oh, please get up, father."
The old man, both touched and amused, gathered her to his breast
"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 testify."
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 answered:
"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
"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 P�re 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 P�re 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 sorrowfully:
"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
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
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 them.
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 said:
"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 said:
"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 tell you!"
"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.
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 and persuasive:
"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 togs, 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 deat; and out
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
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 don 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 kisses.
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
"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
�tienne 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 forever!"
"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,
"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, �tienne."
"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 must sign."
"I will ask you another thing. What is the King's condition? Mad,
"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
"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 cur� 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. No�l Rainguesson said:
"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 black insult."
"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
"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 C�cile 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 talke 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
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 well again."
"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 up.
C�cile 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 h3er 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
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. No�l Rainguesson fidgeted awhile, then broke out
with a remark which showed what his mind had been running on:
"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
Th�ophile 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
On the steps of the church stood a stranger, a Burgundian priest,
who was telling the people new 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, "Good 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, earnest
"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 she lived.
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 Neufch�teau, 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
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
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 over them.
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
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. The fumed and fretted in a fine
"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
"You way well," said the maire. "He should be informed, and that
at once. It is an outrage that such things whould be permitted.
Why, we are not safe in our beds, and he taking his case 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 Donois, Bastard of Orleans--call him a eneral! 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 is!"
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 olor 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 near."
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 Jean said:
"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 five years."
"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.
No�l 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
"He will march with Jean and Pierre, and live till these wars are
forgotten," Joan muttered; "and at the eleventh hour No�l 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," No�l 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
"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 promptly:
"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,
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 that.
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 she said:
"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 taxed."
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 herself.
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 sayingq1qstill 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
"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
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, her eon 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