His ancestors had been Germans some centuries ago. He came straining up the slope, now and then projecting his flag-stick aloft and giving his black symbol of woe a wave in the air, whilst all eyes watched him, all tongues discussed him, and every heart beat faster and faster with impatience to know his news. At last he sprang among us, and struck his flag-stick into the ground, saying:
"There! Stand there and represent France while I get my breath. She needs no other flag now."
All the giddy chatter stopped. It was as if one had announced a death. In that chilly hush there was no sound audible but the panting of the breath-blown boy. When he was presently able to speak, he said:
"Black news is come. A treaty has been made at Troyes between France and the English and Burgundians. By it France is betrayed and delivered over, tied hand and foot, to the enemy. It is the work of the Duke of Burgundy and that she-devil, the Queen of France. It marries Henry of England to Catharine of France--"
"Is not this a lie? Marries the daughter of France to the Butcher of Agincourt? It is not to be believed. You have not heard aright."
"If you cannot believe that, Jacques d'Arc, then you have a difficult task indeed before you, for worse is to come. Any child that is born of that marriage--if even a girl--is to inherit the thrones of both England and France, and this double ownership is to remain with its posterity forever!"
"Now that is certainly a lie, for it runs counter to our Salic law, and so is not legal and cannot have effect," said Edmond Aubrey, called the Paladin, because of the armies he was always going to eat up some day. He would have said more, but he was drowned out by the clamors of the others, who all burst into a fury over this feature of the treaty, all talking at once and nobody hearing anybody, until presently Haumette persuaded them to be still, saying:
"It is not fair to break him up so in his tale; pray let him go on. You find fault with his history because it seems to be lies. That were reason for satisfaction--that kind of lies--not discontent. Tell the rest, Étienne."
"There is but this to tell: Our King, Charles VI., is to reign until he dies, then Henry V. of England is to be Regent of France until a child of his shall be old enough to--"
"That man is to reign over us--the Butcher? It is lies! all lies!" cried the Paladin. "Besides, look you--what becomes of our Dauphin? What says the treaty about him?"
"Nothing. It takes away his throne and makes him an outcast."
Then everybody shouted at once and said the news was a lie; and all began to get cheerful again, saying, "Our King would have to sign the treaty to make it good; and that he would not do, seeing how it serves his own son."
But the Sunflower said: "I will ask you this: Would the Queen sign a treaty disinheriting her son?"
"That viper? Certainly. Nobody is talking of her. Nobody expects better of her. There is no villainy she will stick at, if it feed her spite; and she hates her son. Her signing it is of no consequence. The King must sign."
"I will ask you another thing. What is the King's condition? Mad, isn't he?"
"Yes, and his people love him all the more for it. It brings him near to them by his sufferings; and pitying him makes them love him."
"You say right, Jacques d'Arc. Well, what would you of one that is mad? Does he know what he does? No. Does he do what others make him do? Yes. Now, then, I tell you he has signed the treaty."
"Who made him do it?"
"You know, without my telling. The Queen."
Then there was another uproar--everybody talking at once, and all heaping execrations upon the Queen's head. Finally Jacques d'Arc said:
"But many reports come that are not true. Nothing so shameful as this has ever come before, nothing that cuts so deep, nothing that has dragged France so low; therefore there is hope that this tale is but another idle rumor. Where did you get it?"
The color went out of his sister Joan's face. She dreaded the answer; and her instinct was right.