We sat wondering and still. This was for a whole minute, she looking at the floor and her lips moving but uttering nothing. Then came these words, but hardly audible: "And in a thousand years the English power in France will not rise up from that blow."
It made my flesh creep. It was uncanny. She was in a trance again--I could see it--just as she was that day in the pastures of Domremy when she prophesied about us boys in the war and afterward did not know that she had done it. She was not conscious now; but Catherine did not know that, and so she said, in a happy voice:
"Oh, I believe it, I believe it, and I am so glad! Then you will come back and bide with us all your life long, and we will love you so, and honor you!"
A scarcely perceptible spasm flitted across Joan's face, and the dreamy voice muttered:
"Before two years are sped I shall die a cruel death!"
I sprang forward with a warning hand up. That is why Catherine did not scream. She was going to do that--I saw it plainly. Then I whispered her to slip out of the place, and say nothing of what had happened. I said Joan was asleep--asleep and dreaming. Catherine whispered back, and said:
"Oh, I am so grateful that it is only a dream! It sounded like prophecy." And she was gone.
Like prophecy! I knew it was prophecy; and I sat down crying, as knowing we should lose her. Soon she started, shivering slightly, and came to herself, and looked around and saw me crying there, and jumped out of her chair and ran to me all in a whirl of sympathy and compassion, and put her hand on my head, and said:
"My poor boy! What is it? Look up and tell me."
I had to tell her a lie; I grieved to do it, but there was no other way. I picked up an old letter from my table, written by Heaven knows who, about some matter Heaven knows what, and told her I had just gotten it from PŠre Fronte, and that in it it said the children's Fairy Tree had been chopped down by some miscreant or other, and-- I got no further. She snatched the letter from my hand and searched it up and down and all over, turning it this way and that, and sobbing great sobs, and the tears flowing down her cheeks, and ejaculating all the time, "Oh, cruel, cruel! how could any be so heartless? Ah, poor Arbre F‚e de Bourlemont gone--and we children loved it so! Show me the place where it says it!"
And I, still lying, showed her the pretended fatal words on the pretended fatal page, and she gazed at them through her tears, and said she could see herself that they were hateful, ugly words--they "had the very look of it."
Then we heard a strong voice down the corridor announcing:
"His majesty's messenger--with despatches for her Excellency the Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of France!"
Chapter 29 Fierce Talbot Reconsiders
I KNEW she had seen the wisdom of the Tree. But when? I could not know. Doubtless before she had lately told the King to use her, for that she had but one year left to work in. It had not occurred to me at the time, but the conviction came upon me now that at that time she had already seen the Tree. It had brought her a welcome message; that was plain, otherwise she could not have been so joyous and light-hearted as she had been these latter days. The death-warning had nothing dismal about it for her; no, it was remission of exile, it was leave to come home.
Yes, she had seen the Tree. No one had taken the prophecy to heart which she made to the King; and for a good reason, no doubt; no one wanted to take it to heart; all wanted to banish it away and forget it. And all had succeeded, and would go on to the end placid and comfortable. All but me alone. I must carry my awful secret without any to help me. A heavy load, a bitter burden; and would cost me a daily heartbreak. She was to die; and so soon. I had never dreamed of that. How could I, and she so strong and fresh and young, and every day earning a new right to a peaceful and honored old age? For at that time I though old age valuable. I do not know why, but I thought so.