Page:Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.djvu/480

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

406


On this fair second of May, then, the black company gathered itself together in the spacious chamber at the end of the great hall of the castle—the Bishop of Beauvais on his throne, and sixty-two minor judges massed before him, with the guards and recorders at their stations and the orator at his desk.

Then we heard the far clank of chains, and presently Joan entered with her keepers and took her seat upon her isolated bench. She was looking well now, and most fair and beautiful after her fortnight's rest from wordy persecution.

She glanced about and noted the orator. Doubtless she divined the situation.

The orator had written his speech all out, and had it in his hand, though he held it back of him out of sight. It was so thick that it resembled a book. He began flowing, but in the midst of a flowery period his memory failed him and he had to snatch a furtive glance at his manuscript—which much injured the effect. Again this happened, and then a third time. The poor man's face was red with embarrassment, the whole great house was pitying him, which made the matter worse; then Joan dropped in a remark which completed the trouble. She said:

"Read your book—and then I will answer you!"

Why, it was almost cruel the way those mouldy veterans laughed; and as for the orator, he looked so flustered and helpless that almost anybody would have pitied him, and I had difficulty to keep from doing it myself. Yes, Joan was feeling very well after her rest, and the native mischief that was in her lay near the surface. It did not show when she made the remark, but I knew it was close in there back of the words.

When the orator had gotten back his composure he did a wise thing; for he followed Joan's advice: he made no more attempts at sham impromptu oratory, but read his speech straight from his "book." In the speech he compressed the Twelve Articles into six, and made these his text.

Every now and then he stopped and asked questions, and Joan replied. The nature of the Church Militant was ex-