We were now within six leagues of the King, who was a the Castle of Chinon. Joan dictated a letter to him at once, and I wrote it. In it she said she had come a hundred and fifty leagues to bring him good news, and begged the privilege of delivering it in person. She added that although she had never seen him she would know him in any disguise and would point him out.
The two knights rode away at once with the letter. The troop slept all the afternoon, and after supper we felt pretty fresh and fine, especially our little group of young Domremians. We had the comfortable tap-room of the village inn to ourselves, and for the first time in ten unspeakably long days were exempt from bodings and terrors and hardships and fatiguing labors. The Paladin was suddenly become his ancient self again, and was swaggering up and down, a very monument of self-complacency. NoČl Rainguesson said:
"I think it is wonderful, the way he has brought us through."
"Who?" asked Jean.
"Why, the Paladin."
The Paladin seemed not to hear.
"What had he to do with it?" asked Pierre d'Arc.
"Everything. It was nothing but Joan's confidence in his discretion that enabled her to keep up her heart. She could depend on us and on herself for valor, but discretion is the winning thing in war, after all; discretion is the rarest and loftiest of qualities, and he has got more of it than any other man in France--more of it, perhaps, than any other sixty men in France."
"Now you are getting ready to make a fool of yourself, NoČl Rainguesson," said the Paladin, "and you want to coil some of that long tongue of yours around your neck and stick the end of it in your ear, then you'll be the less likely to get into trouble."
"I didn't know he had more discretion than other people," said Pierre, "for discretion argues brains, and he hasn't any more brains than the rest of us, in my opinion."
"No, you are wrong there. Discretion hasn't anything to do with brains; brains are an obstruction to it, for it does not reason, it feels. Perfect discretion means absence of brains. Discretion is a quality of the heart--solely a quality of the heart; it acts upon us through feeling. We know this because if it were an intellectual quality it would only perceive a danger, for instance, where a danger exists; whereas--"
"Hear him twaddle--the damned idiot!" muttered the Paladin.
"--whereas, it being purely a quality of the heart, and proceeding by feeling, not reason, its reach is correspondingly wider and sublimer, enabling it to perceive and avoid dangers that haven't any existence at all; as, for instance, that night in the fog, when the Paladin took his horse's ears for hostile lances and got off and climbed a tree--"
"It's a lie! a lie without shadow of foundation, and I call upon you all to beware you you give credence to the malicious inventions of this ramshackle slander-mill that has been doing its best to destroy my character for years, and will grind up your own reputations for you next. I got off to tighten my saddle-girth--I wish I may die in my tracks if it isn't so--and whoever wants to believe it can, and whoever don't can let it alone."
"There, that is the way with him, you see; he never can discuss a theme temperately, but always flies off the handle and becomes disagreeable. And you notice his defect of memory. He remembers getting off his horse, but forgets all the rest, even the tree. But that is natural; he would remember getting off the horse because he was so used to doing it. He always did it when there was an alarm and the clash of arms at the front."
"Why did he choose that time for it?" asked Jean.
"I don't know. To tighten up his girth, he thinks, to climb a tree, I think; I saw him climb nine trees in a single night."
"You saw nothing of the kind! A person that can lie like that deserves no one's respect. I ask you all to answer me. Do you believe what this reptile has said?"
All seemed embarrassed, and only Pierre replied. He said, hesitatingly:
"I--well, I hardly know what to say.