And, after all, I wasn't to blame. I did say she promised to marry me, but they put me up to it and persuaded me. I swear they did!" The vast creature was almost crying. Then he pulled himself together and said, remorsefully, "It was the only lie I've ever told, and--"
He was drowned out with a chorus of groans and outraged exclamations; and before he could begin again, one of D'Aulon's liveried servants appeared and said we were required at headquarters. We rose, and NoČl said:
"There--what did I tell you? I have a presentiment--the spirit of prophecy is upon me. She is going to appoint him, and we are to go there and do him homage. Come along!"
But the Paladin was afraid to go, so we left him.
When we presently stood in the presence, in front of a crowd of glittering officers of the army, Joan greeted us with a winning smile, and said she appointed all of us to places in her household, for she wanted her old friends by her. It was a beautiful surprise to have ourselves honored like this when she could have had people of birth and consequence instead, but we couldn't find our tongues to say so, she was become so great and so high above us now. One at a time we stepped forward and each received his warrant from the hand of our chief, D'Aulon. All of us had honorable places; the two knights stood highest; then Joan's two brothers; I was first page and secretary, a young gentleman named Raimond was second page; NoČl was her messenger; she had two heralds, and also a chaplain and almoner, whose name was Jean Pasquerel. She had previously appointed a maĆtre d'hďtel and a number of domestics. Now she looked around and said:
"But where is the Paladin?"
The Sieur Bertrand said:
"He thought he was not sent for, your Excellency."
"Now that is not well. Let him be called."
The Paladin entered humbly enough. He ventured no farther than just within the door. He stopped there, looking embarrassed and afraid. Then Joan spoke pleasantly, and said:
"I watched you on the road. You began badly, but improved. Of old you were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it out." It was fine to see the Paladin's face light up when she said that. "Will you follow where I lead?"
"Into the fire!" he said; and I said to myself, "By the ring of that, I think she has turned this braggart into a hero. It is another of her miracles, I make no doubt of it."
"I believe you," said Joan. "Here--take my banner. You will ride with me in every field, and when France is saved, you will give it me back."
He took the banner, which is now the most precious of the memorials that remain of Joan of Arc, and his voice was unsteady with emotion when he said:
"If I ever disgrace this trust, my comrades here will know how to do a friend's office upon my body, and this charge I lay upon them, as knowing they will not fail me."
Chapter 11 The War March Is Begun
NO L and I went back together--silent at first, and impressed.
Finally NoČl came up out of his thinkings and said:
"The first shall be last and the last first--there's authority for this surprise. But at the same time wasn't it a lofty hoist for our big bull!"
"It truly was; I am not over being stunned yet. It was the greatest place in her gift."
"Yes, it was. There are many generals, and she can create more; but there is only one Standard-Bearer."
"True. It is the most conspicuous place in the army, after her own."
"And the most coveted and honorable. Sons of two dukes tried to get it, as we know. And of all people in the world, this majestic windmill carries it off. Well, isn't it a gigantic promotion, when you come to look at it!"
"There's no doubt about it. It's a kind of copy of Joan's own in miniature."
"I don't know how to account for it--do you?"
"Yes--without any trouble at all--that is, I think I do."
NoČl was surprised at that, and glanced up quickly, as if to see if I was in earnest. He said:
"I thought you couldn't be in earnest, but I see you are. If you can make me understand this puzzle, do it.