Then they presently began to come to life again, rousing themselves out of the spell and shaking it off as one drives away little by little a clinging drowsiness or intoxication. Now they fixed their attention upon Joan with a strong new interest of another sort; they were full of curiosity to see what she would do--they having a secret and particular reason for this curiosity. So they watched. This is what they saw:
She made no obeisance, nor even any slight inclination of her head, but stood looking toward the throne in silence. That was all there was to see at present.
I glanced up at De Metz, and was shocked at the paleness of his face. I whispered and said:
"What is it, man, what is it?"
His answering whisper was so weak I could hardly catch it:
"They have taken advantage of the hint in her letter to play a trick upon her! She will err, and they will laugh at her. That is not the King that sits there."
Then I glanced at Joan. She was still gazing steadfastly toward the throne, and I had the curious fancy that even her shoulders and the back of her head expressed bewilderment. Now she turned her head slowly, and her eye wandered along the lines of standing courtiers till it fell upon a young man who was very quietly dressed; then her face lighted joyously, and she ran and threw herself at his feet, and clasped his knees, exclaiming in that soft melodious voice which was her birthright and was now charged with deep and tender feeling:
"God of his grace give you long life, O dear and gentle Dauphin!"
In his astonishment and exultation De Metz cried out:
"By the shadow of God, it is an amazing thing!" Then he mashed all the bones of my hand in his grateful grip, and added, with a proud shake of his mane, "Now, what have these painted infidels to say!"
Meantime the young person in the plain clothes was saying to Joan:
"Ah, you mistake, my child, I am not the King. There he is," and he pointed to the throne.
The knight's face clouded, and he muttered in grief and indignation:
"Ah, it is a shame to use her so. But for this lie she had gone through safe. I will go and proclaim to all the house what--"
"Stay where you are!" whispered I and the Sieur Bertrand in a breath, and made him stop in his place.
Joan did not stir from her knees, but still lifted her happy face toward the King, and said:
"No, gracious liege, you are he, and none other."
De Metz's troubles vanished away, and he said:
"Verily, she was not guessing, she knew. Now, how could she know? It is a miracle. I am content, and will meddle no more, for I perceive that she is equal to her occasions, having that in her head that cannot profitably be helped by the vacancy that is in mine."
This interruption of his lost me a remark or two of the other talk; however, I caught the King's next question:
"But tell me who you are, and what would you?"
"I am called Joan the Maid, and am sent to say that the King of Heaven wills that you be crowned and consecrated in your good city of Rheims, and be thereafter Lieutenant of the Lord of Heaven, who is King of France. And He willeth also that you set me at my appointed work and give me men-at-arms." After a slight pause she added, her eye lighting at the sound of her words, "For then will I raise the siege of Orleans and break the English power!"
The young monarch's amused face sobered a little when this martial speech fell upon that sick air like a breath blown from embattled camps and fields of war, and this trifling smile presently faded wholly away and disappeared. He was grave now, and thoughtful. After a little he waved his hand lightly, and all the people fell away and left those two by themselves in a vacant space. The knights and I moved to the opposite side of the hall and stood there. We saw Joan rise at a sign, then she and the King talked privately together.
All that host had been consumed with curiosity to see what Joan would do. Well, they had seen, and now they were full of astonishment to see that she had really performed that strange miracle according to the promise in her letter; and they were fully as much astonished to find that she was not overcome by the pomps and splendors about her, but was even more tranquil and at her ease in holding speech with a monarch than ever they themselves had been, with all their practice and experience.