Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc/Book II/Chapter 10
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Book II - The Maid's Sword and Banner
|Book II - The War March Is Begun→|
Joan's first official act was to dictate a letter to the English commanders at Orleans, summoning them to deliver up all strongholds in their possession and depart out of France. She must have been thinking it all out before and arranging it in her mind, it flowed from her lips so smoothly, and framed itself into such vivacious and forcible language. Still, it might not have been so; she always had a quick mind and a capable tongue, and her faculties were constantly developing in these latter weeks. This letter was to be forwarded presently from Blois. Men, provisions, and money were offering in plenty now, and Joan appointed Blois as a recruiting-station and depot of supplies, and ordered up La Hire from the front to take charge.
The Great Bastard—him of the ducal house, and governor of Orleans—had been clamoring for weeks for Joan to be sent to him, and now came another messenger, old D'Aulon, a veteran officer, a trusty man and fine and honest. The King kept him, and gave him to Joan to be chief of her household, and commanded her to appoint the rest of her people herself, making their number and dignity accord with the greatness of her office; and at the same time he gave order that they should be properly equipped with arms, clothing, and horses.
Meantime the King was having a complete suit of armor made for her at Tours. It was of the finest steel, heavily plated with silver, richly ornamented with engraved designs, and polished like a mirror.
Joan's Voices had told her that there was an ancient sword hidden somewhere behind the altar of St. Catherine's at Fierbois, and she sent De Metz to get it. The priests knew of no such sword, but a search was made, and sure enough it was found in that place, buried a little way under the ground. It had no sheath and was very rusty, but the priests polished it up and sent it to Tours, whither we were now to come. They also had a sheath of crimson velvet made for it, and the people of Tours equipped it with another one, made of cloth of gold. But Joan meant to carry this sword always in battle; so she laid the showy sheaths away and got one made of leather. It was generally believed that his sword had belonged to Charlemagne, but that was only a matter of opinion. I wanted to sharpen that old blade, but she said it was not necessary, as she should never kill anybody, and should carry it only as a symbol of authority.
At Tours she designed her Standard, and a Scotch painter named James Power made it. It was of the most delicate white boucassin, with fringes of silk. For device it bore the image of God the Father throned in the clouds and holding the world in His hand; two angels knelt at His feet, presenting lilies; inscription, Jesus, Maria; on the reverse the crown of France supported by two angels.
She also caused a smaller standard or pennon to be made, whereon was represented an angel offering a lily to the Holy Virgin.
Everything was humming, there at Tours. Every now and then one heard the bray and crash of military music, every little while one heard the measured tramp of marching men—squads of recruits leaving for Blois; songs and shoutings and huzzas filled the air night and day, the town was full of strangers, the streets and inns were thronged, the bustle of preparation was everywhere, and everybody carried a glad and cheerful face. Around Joan's headquarters a crowd of people was always massed, hoping for a glimpse of the new General, and when they got it, they went wild; but they seldom got it, for she was busy planning her campaign, receiving reports, giving orders, despatching couriers, and giving what odd moments she could spare to the companies of great folk waiting in the drawing-rooms. As for us boys, we hardly saw her at all, she was so occupied.
We were in a mixed state of mind—sometimes hopeful, sometimes not; mostly not. She had not appointed her household yet—that was our trouble. We knew she was being overrun with applications for places in it, and that these applications were backed by great names and weighty influence, whereas we had nothing of the sort to recommend us. She could fill her humblest places with titled folk—folk whose relationships would be a bulwark for her and a valuable support at all times. In these circumstances would policy allow her to consider us? We were not as cheerful as the rest of the town, but were inclined to be depressed and worried. Sometimes we discussed our slim chances and gave them as good an appearance as we could. But the very mention of the subject was anguish to the Paladin; for whereas we had some little hope, he had none at all. As a rule Noël Rainguesson was quite willing to let the dismal matter alone; but not when the Paladin was present. Once we were talking the thing over, when Noël said—
"Cheer up, Paladin; I had a dream last night, and you were the only one among us that got an appointment. It wasn't a high one, but it was an appointment, anyway—some kind of a lackey or body-servant, or something of that kind."
The Paladin roused up and looked almost cheerful; for he was a believer in dreams, and in anything and everything of a superstitious sort, in fact. He said, with a rising hopefulness—
"I wish it might come true. Do you think it will come true?"
"Certainly; I might almost say I know it will, for my dreams hardly ever fail."
"Noël, I could hug you if that dream could come true, I could indeed! To be servant of the first General of France and have all the world hear of it, and the news go back to the village and make those gawks stare that always said I wouldn't ever amount to anything—wouldn't it be great! Do you think it will come true, Noël? Don't you believe it will?"
"I do. There's my hand on it."
"Noël, if it comes true I'll never forget you—shake again! I should be dressed in a noble livery, and the news would go to the village, and those animals would say, 'Him, lackey to the General-in-Chief, with the eyes of the whole world on him, admiring—well, he has shot up into the sky, now, hasn't he!'"
He began to walk the floor and pile castles in the air so fast and so high that we could hardly keep up with him. Then all of a sudden all the joy went out of his face and misery took its place, and he said:
"Oh, dear, it is all a mistake, it will never come true. I forgot about that foolish business at Toul. I have kept out of her sight as much as I could, all these weeks, hoping she would forget that and forgive it—but I know she never will. She can't, of course. And after all, I wasn't to blame. I did say she promised to marry me, but they put me up to it and persuaded me, I swear they did!" The vast creature was almost crying. Then he pulled himself together and said, remorsefully, "It was the only lie I've ever told, and—"
He was drowned out with a chorus of groans and outraged exclamations; and before he could begin again, one of D'Aulon's liveried servants appeared and said we were required at headquarters. We rose, and Noël said—
"There—what did I tell you? I have a presentiment—the spirit of prophecy is upon me. She is going to appoint him, and we are to go there and do him homage. Come along!"
But the Paladin was afraid to go, so we left him.
When we presently stood in the presence, in front of a crowd of glittering officers of the army, Joan greeted us with a winning smile, and said she appointed all of us to places in her household, for she wanted her old friends by her. It was a beautiful surprise to have ourselves honored like this when she could have had people of birth and consequence instead, but we couldn't find our tongues to say so, she was become so great and so high above us now. One at a time we stepped forward and each received his warrant from the hand of our chief, D'Aulon. All of us had honorable places; the two knights stood highest; then Joan's two brothers; I was first page and secretary, a young gentleman named Raimond was second page; Noël was her messenger; she had two heralds, and also a chaplain and almoner, whose name was Jean Pasquerel. She had previously appointed a maître d'hôtel and a number of domestics. Now she looked around and said—
"But where is the Paladin?"
The Sieur Bertrand said—
"He thought he was not sent for, your Excellency."
"Now that is not well. Let him be called."
The Paladin entered humbly enough. He ventured no farther than just within the door. He stopped there, looking embarrassed and afraid. Then Joan spoke pleasantly, and said—
"I watched you on the road. You began badly, but improved. Of old you were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it out." It was fine to see the Paladin's face light up when she said that. "Will you follow where I lead?"
"Into the fire!" he said; and I said to myself, "By the ring of that, I think she has turned this braggart into a hero. It is another of her miracles, I make no doubt of it."
"I believe you," said Joan. "Here—take my banner. You will ride with me in every field, and when France is saved, you will give it me back."
He took the banner, which is now the most precious of the memorials that remain of Joan of Arc, and his voice was unsteady with emotion when he said—
"If I ever disgrace this trust, my comrades here will know how to do a friend's office upon my body, and this charge I lay upon them, as knowing they will not fail me."