She worked hard that night, slaving away with her own hands like a common soldier. She ordered fascines and fagots to be prepared and thrown into the fosse, thereby to bridge it; and in this rough labor she took a man's share.
At dawn she took her place at the head of the storming force and the bugles blew the assault. At that moment a flag of truce was flung to the breeze from the walls, and Troyes surrendered without firing a shot.
The next day the King with Joan at his side and the Paladin bearing her banner entered the town in state at the head of the army. And a goodly army it was now, for it had been growing ever bigger and bigger from the first.
And now a curious thing happened. By the terms of the treaty made with the town the garrison of English and Burgundian soldiery were to be allowed to carry away their "goods" with them. This was well, for otherwise how would they buy the wherewithal to live? Very well; these people were all to go out by the one gate, and at the time set for them to depart we young fellows went to that gate, along with the Dwarf, to see the march-out. Presently here they came in an interminable file, the foot-soldiers in the lead. As they approached one could see that each bore a burden of a bulk and weight to sorely tax his strength; and we said among ourselves, truly these folk are well off for poor common soldiers. When they were come nearer, what do you think? Every rascal of them had a French prisoner on his back! They were carrying away their "goods," you see--their property--strictly according to the permission granted by the treaty.
Now think how clever that was, how ingenious. What could a body say? what could a body do? For certainly these people were within their right. These prisoners were property; nobody could deny that. My dears, if those had been English captives, conceive of the richness of that booty! For English prisoners had been scarce and precious for a hundred years; whereas it was a different matter with French prisoners. They had been over-abundant for a century. The possessor of a French prisoner did not hold him long for ransom, as a rule, but presently killed him to save the cost of his keep. This shows you how small was the value of such a possession in those times. When we took Troyes a calf was worth thirty francs, a sheep sixteen, a French prisoner eight. It was an enormous price for those other animals--a price which naturally seems incredible to you. It was the war, you see. It worked two ways: it made meat dear and prisoners cheap.
Well, here were these poor Frenchmen being carried off. What could we do? Very little of a permanent sort, but we did what we could. We sent a messenger flying to Joan, and we and the French guards halted the procession for a parley--to gain time, you see. A big Burgundian lost his temper and swore a great oath that none should stop him; he would go, and would take his prisoner with him. But we blocked him off, and he saw that he was mistaken about going--he couldn't do it. He exploded into the maddest cursings and revilings, then, and, unlashing his prisoner from his back, stood him up, all bound and helpless; then drew his knife, and said to us with a light of sarcasting triumph in his eye:
"I may not carry him away, you say--yet he is mine, none will dispute it. Since I may not convey him hence, this property of mine, there is another way. Yes, I can kill him; not even the dullest among you will question that right. Ah, you had not thought of that--vermin!"
That poor starved fellow begged us with his piteous eyes to save him; then spoke, and said he had a wife and little children at home. Think how it wrung our heartstrings. But what could we do? The Burgundian was within his right. We could only beg and plead for the prisoner. Which we did. And the Burgundian enjoyed it. He stayed his hand to hear more of it, and laugh at it. That stung. Then the Dwarf said:
"Prithee, young sirs, let me beguile him; for when a matter requiring permission is to the fore, I have indeed a gift in that sort, as any will tell you that know me well.