Page:Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.djvu/319

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hundred years; whereas it was a different matter with French prisoners. They had been over-abundant for a century. The possessor of a French prisoner did not hold him long for ransom, as a rule, but presently killed him to save the cost of his keep. This shows you how small was the value of such a possession in those times. When we took Troyes a calf was worth thirty francs, a sheep sixteen, a French prisoner eight. It was an enormous price for those other animals—a price which naturally seems incredible to you. It was the war, you see. It worked two ways: it made meat dear and prisoners cheap.

Well, here were these poor Frenchmen being carried off. What could we do? Very little of a permanent sort, but we did what we could. We sent a messenger flying to Joan, and we and the French guards halted the procession for a parley—to gain time, you see. A big Burgundian lost his temper and swore a great oath that none should stop him; he would go, and would take his prisoner with him. But we blocked him off, and he saw that he was mistaken about going—he couldn't do it. He exploded into the maddest cursings and revilings, then, and, unlashing his prisoner from his back, stood him up, all bound and helpless; then drew his knife, and said to us with a light of sarcasting triumph in his eye—

"I may not carry him away, you say—yet he is mine, none will dispute it. Since I may not convey him hence, this property of mine, there is another way. Yes, I can kill him; not even the dullest among you will question that right. Ah, you had not thought of that—vermin!"

That poor starved fellow begged us with his piteous eyes to save him; then spoke, and said he had a wife and little children at home. Think how it wrung our heartstrings. But what could we do? The Burgundian was within his right. We could only beg and plead for the prisoner. Which we did. And the Burgundian enjoyed it. He stayed his hand to hear more of it, and laugh at it. That stung. Then the Dwarf said—

"Prithee, young sirs, let me beguile him; for when a mat-