Early the next morning, Wednesday, Martin Ladvenu and another friar were sent to Joan to prepare her for death; and Manchon and I went with them—a hard service for me. We tramped through the dim corridors, winding this way and that, and piercing ever deeper and deeper into that vast heart of stone, and at last we stood before Joan. But she did not know it. She sat with her hands in her lap and her head bowed, thinking, and her face was very sad. One might not know what she was thinking of. Of her home, and the peaceful pastures, and the friends she was no more to see? Of her wrongs, and her forsaken estate, and the cruelties which had been put upon her? Or was it of death—the death which she had longed for, and which was now so close? Or was it of the kind of death she must suffer? I hoped not; for she feared only one kind, and that one had for her unspeakable terrors. I believed she so feared that one that with her strong will she would shut the thought of it wholly out of her mind, and hope and believe that God would take pity on her and grant her an easier one; and so it might chance that the awful news which we were bringing might come as a surprise to her at last.
We stood silent awhile, but she was still unconscious of us, still deep in her sad musings and far away. Then Martin Ladvenu said, softly—
She looked up then, with a little start and a wan smile, and said—
"Speak. Have you a message for me?"
"Yes, my poor child. Try to bear it. Do you think you can bear it?"
"Yes"—very softly, and her head drooped again.
"I am come to prepare you for death."
A faint shiver trembled through her wasted body. There was a pause. In the stillness we could hear our breathings. Then she said, still in that low voice—
"When will it be?"
The muffled notes of a tolling bell floated to our ears out of the distance.