"Not a dream?" I said, "how can you know about it, Joan?"
"Are you dreaming now?"
"I--I suppose not. I think I am not."
"Indeed you are not. I know you are not. And yow were not dreaming when you cut the mark in the tree."
I felt myself turning cold with fright, for now I knew of a certainty that I had not been dreaming, but had really been in the presence of a dread something not of this world. Then I remembered that my sinful feet were upon holy ground--the ground where that celestial shadow had rested. I moved quickly away, smitten to the bones with fear. Joan followed, and said:
"Do not be afraid; indeed there is no need. Come with me. We will sit by the spring and I will tell you all my secret."
When she was ready to begin, I checked her and said:
"First tell me this. You could not see me in the wood; how did you know I cut a mark in the tree?"
"Wait a little; I will soon come to that; then you will see."
"But tell me one thing now; what was that awful shadow that I saw?"
"I will tell you, but do not be disturbed; you are not in danger. It was the shadow of an archangel--Michael, the chief and lord of the armies of heaven."
I could but cross myself and tremble for having polluted that ground with my feet.
"You were not afraid, Joan? Did you see his face--did you see his form?"
"Yes; I was not afraid, because this was not the first time. I was afraid the first time."
"When was that, Joan?"
"It is nearly three years ago now."
"So long? Have you seen him many times?"
"Yes, many times."
"It is this, then, that has changed you; it was this that made you thoughtful and not as you were before. I see it now. Why did you not tell us about it?"
"It was not permitted. It is permitted now, and soon I shall tell all. But only you, now. It must remain a secret for a few days still."
"Has none seen that white shadow before but me?"
"No one. It has fallen upon me before when you and others were present, but none could see it. To-day it has been otherwise, and I was told why; but it will not be visible again to any."
"It was a sign to me, then--and a sign with a meaning of some kind?"
"Yes, but I may not speak of that."
"Strange--that that dazzling light could rest upon an object before one's eyes and not be visible."
"With it comes speech, also. Several saints come, attended by myriads of angels, and they speak to me; I hear their voices, but others do not. They are very dear to me--my Voices; that is what I call them to myself."
"Joan, what do they tell you?"
"All manner of things--about France, I mean."
"What things have they been used to tell you?"
She sighed, and said:
"Disasters--only disasters, and misfortunes, and humiliation. There was naught else to foretell."
"They spoke of them to you beforehand? "Yes. So that I knew what was going to happen before it happened. It made me grave--as you saw. It could not be otherwise. But always there was a word of hope, too. More than that: France was to be rescued, and made great and free again. But how and by whom--that was not told. Not until to-day." As she said those last words a sudden deep glow shone in her eyes, which I was to see there many times in after-days when the bugles sounded the charge and learn to call it the battle-light. Her breast heaved, and the color rose in her face. "But to-day I know. God has chosen the meanest of His creatures for this work; and by His command, and in His protection, and by His strength, not mine, I am to lead His armies, and win back France, and set the crown upon the head of His servant that is Dauphin and shall be King."
I was amazed, and said:
"You, Joan? You, a child, lead armies?"
"Yes. For one little moment or two the thought crushed me; for it is as you say--I am only a child; a child and ignorant--ignorant of everything that pertains to war, and not fitted for the rough life of camps and the companionship of soldiers. But those weak moments passed; they will not come again. I am enlisted, I will not turn back, God helping me, till the English grip is loosed from the throat of France.