Page:Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.djvu/210

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is the way with people, as I have said. There is no way of accounting for people. You have to take them as they are.

"There," said Joan at last, pleased with her success; "another could have done it no better—not as well, I think. Tell me—what is it you did? Tell me all."

The giant said:

"It was this way, my angel. My mother died, then my three little children, one after the other, all in two years. It was the famine; others fared so—it was God's will. I saw them die; I had that grace; and I buried them. Then when my poor wife's fate was come, I begged for leave to go to her—she who was so dear to me—she who was all I had; I begged on my knees. But they would not let me. Could I let her die, friendless and alone? Could I let her die believing I would not come? Would she let me die and she not come—with her feet free to do it if she would, and no cost upon it but only her life? Ah, she would come—she would come through the fire! So I went. I saw her. She died in my arms. I buried her. Then the army was gone. I had trouble to overtake it, but my legs are long and there are many hours in a day; I overtook it last night."

Joan said, musingly, as if she were thinking aloud:

"It sounds true. If true, it were no great harm to suspend the law this one time—any would say that. It may not be true, but if it is true—" She turned suddenly to the man and said, "I would see your eyes—look up!" The eyes of the two met, and Joan said to the officer, "This man is pardoned. Give you good day; you may go." Then she said to the man, "Did you know it was death to come back to the army?"

"Yes," he said, "I knew it."

"Then why did you do it?"

The man said, quite simply—

"Because it was death. She was all I had. There was nothing left to love."

"Ah, yes, there was—France! The children of France have always their mother—they cannot be left with nothing to love. You shall live—and you shall serve France—"