"Did you not say that you would rather die than be delivered into the power of the English?"
Joan answered frankly; without perceiving the trap:
"Yes; my words were, that I would rather that my soul be returned unto God than that I should fall into the hands of the English."
It was now insinuated that when she came to, after jumping from the tower, she was angry and blasphemed the name of God; and that she did it again when she heard of the defection of the Commandant of Soissons. She was hurt and indignant at this, and said:
"It is not true. I have never cursed. It is not my custom to swear."
Chapter 11 The Court Reorganized for Assassination
A HALT was called. It was time. Cauchon was losing ground in the fight, Joan was gaining it.
There were signs that here and there in the court a judge was being softened toward Joan by her courage, her presence of mind, her fortitude, her constancy, her piety, her simplicity and candor, her manifest purity, the nobility of her character, her fine intelligence, and the good brave fight she was making, all friendless and alone, against unfair odds, and there was grave room for fear that this softening process would spread further and presently bring Cauchon's plans in danger.
Something must be done, and it was done. Cauchon was not distinguished for compassion, but he now gave proof that he had it in his character. He thought it pity to subject so many judges to the prostrating fatigues of this trial when it could be conducted plenty well enough by a handful of them. Oh, gentle judge! But he did not remember to modify the fatigues for the little captive.
He would let all the judges but a handful go, but he would select the handful himself, and he did.
He chose tigers. If a lamb or two got in, it was by oversight, not intention; and he knew what to do with lambs when discovered.
He called a small council now, and during five days they sifted the huge bulk of answers thus far gathered from Joan. They winnowed it of all chaff, all useless matter--that is, all matter favorable to Joan; they saved up all matter which could be twisted to her hurt, and out of this they constructed a basis for a new trial which should have the semblance of a continuation of the old one. Another change. It was plain that the public trial had wrought damage: its proceedings had been discussed all over the town and had moved many to pity the abused prisoner. There should be no more of that. The sittings should be secret hereafter, and no spectators admitted. So NoČl could come no more. I sent this news to him. I had not the heart to carry it myself. I would give the pain a chance to modify before I should see him in the evening.
On the 10th of March the secret trial began. A week had passed since I had seen Joan. Her appearance gave me a great shock. She looked tired and weak. She was listless and far away, and her answers showed that she was dazed and not able to keep perfect run of all that was done and said. Another court would not have taken advantage of her state, seeing that her life was at stake here, but would have adjourned and spared her. Did this one? No; it worried her for hours, and with a glad and eager ferocity, making all it could out of this great chance, the first one it had had.
She was tortured into confusing herself concerning the "sign" which had been given the King, and the next day this was continued hour after hour. As a result, she made partial revealments of particulars forbidden by her Voice3s; and seemed to me to state as facts things which were but allegories and visions mixed with facts.
The third day she was brighter, and looked less worn. She was almost her normal self again, and did her work well. Many attempts were made to beguile her into saying indiscreet things, but she saw the purpose in view and answered with tact and wisdom.
"Do you know if St. Catherine and St. Marguerite hate the English?"
"They love whom Our Lord loves, and hate whom He hates."
"Does God hate the English?"
"Of the love or the hatred of God toward the English I know nothing." Then she spoke up with the old martial ring in her voice and the old audacity in her words, and added, "But I know this--that God will send victory to the French, and that all the English will be flung out of France but the dead ones!"
"Was God on the side of the English when they were prosperous in France?"
"I do not know if God hates the French, but I think that He allowed them to be chastised for their sins."
It was a sufficiently načve way to account for a chastisement which had now strung out for ninety-six years.