It was even better than your own, eh?"
"As to that, I--I believe I cannot say," said she, and was going on, but stopped. Then she added, almost as if she were saying it to herself, "Still, it was an improvement on yours!"
I knew there was a chuckle back of her eyes, for all their innocence. Everybody shouted. Brother S‚guin was nettled, and asked brusquely:
"Do you believe in God?"
Joan answered with an irritating nonchalance:
"Oh, well, yes--better than you, it is likely."
Brother S‚guin lost his patience, and heaped sarcasm after sarcasm upon her, and finally burst out in angry earnest, exclaiming:
"Very well, I can tell you this, you whose believe in God is so great: God has not willed that any shall believe in you without a sign. Where is your sign?--show it!"
This roused Joan, and she was on her feet in a moment, and flung out her retort with spirit:
"I have not come to Poitiers to show signs and do miracles. Send me to Orleans and you shall have signs enough. Give me men-at-arms--few or many--and let me go!"
The fire was leaping from her eyes--ah, the heroic little figure! can't you see her? There was a great burst of acclamations, and she sat down blushing, for it was not in her delicate nature to like being conspicuous.
This speech and that episode about the French language scored two points against Brother S‚guin, while he scored nothing against Joan; yet, sour man as he was, he was a manly man, and honest, as you can see by the histories; for at the Rehabilitation he could have hidden those unlucky incidents if he had chosen, but he didn't do it, but spoke them right out in his evidence.
On one of the lat3er days of that three-weeks session the gowned scholars and professors made one grand assault all along the line, fairly overwhelming Joan with objections and arguments culled from the writings of every ancient and illustrious authority of the Roman Church. She was well-nigh smothered; but at last she shook herself free and struck back, crying out:
"Listen! The Book of God is worth more than all these ye cite, and I stand upon it. And I tell ye there are things in that Book that not one among ye can read, with all your learning!"
From the first she was the guest, by invitation, of the dame De Rabateau, wife of a councilor of the Parliament of Poitiers; and to that house the great ladies of the city came nightly to see Joan and talk with her; and not these only, but the old lawyers, councilors and scholars of the Parliament and the University. And these grave men, accustomed to weigh every strange and questionable thing, and cautiously consider it, and turn it about this way and that and still doubt it, came night after night, and night after night, falling ever deeper and deeper under the influence of that mysterious something, that spell, that elusive and unwordable fascination, which was the supremest endowment of Joan of Arc, that winning and persuasive and convincing something which high and low alike recognized and felt, but which neither high nor low could explain or describe, and one by one they all surrendered, saying, "This child is sent of God."
All day long Joan, in the great court and subject to its rigid rules of procedure, was at a disadvantage; her judges had things their own way; but at night she held court herself, and matters were reversed, she presiding, with her tongue free and her same judges there before her. There could not be but one result: all the objections and hindrances they could build around her with their hard labors of the day she would charm away at night. In the end, she carried her judges with her in a mass, and got her great verdict without a dissenting voice.
The court was a sight to see when the president of it read it from his throne, for all the great people of the town were there who could get admission and find room. First there were some solemn ceremonies, proper and usual at such times; then, when there was silence again, the reading followed, penetrating the deep hush so that every word was heard in even the remotest parts of the house:
"It is found, and is hereby declared, that Joan of Arc, called the Maid, is a good Christian and a good Catholic; that there is nothing in her person or her words contrary to the faith; and that the King may and ought to accept the succor she offers; for to repel it would be to offend the Holy Spirit, and render him unworthy of the air of God."
The court rose, and then the storm of plaudits burst forth unrebuked, dying down and bursting forth again and again, and I lost sight of Joan, for she was swallowed up in a great tide of people who rushed to congratulate her and pour out benedictions upon her and upon the cause of France, now solemnly and irrevocably delivered into her little hands.