At the fall of night we the Domremy contingent of the personal staff were with the father and uncle at the inn, in their private parlor, brewing generous drinks and breaking ground for a homely talk about Domremy and the neighbors, when a large parcel arrived from Joan to be kept till she came; and soon she came herself and sent her guard away, saying she would take one of her father's rooms and sleep under his roof, and so be at home again. We of the staff rose and stood, as was meet, until she made us sit. Then she turned and saw that the two old men had gotten up too, and were standing in an embarrassed and unmilitary way; which made her want to laugh, but she kept it in, as not wishing to hurt them; and got them to their seats and snuggled down between them, and took a hand of each of them upon her knees and nestled her own hands in them, and said:
"Now we will nave no more ceremony, but be kin and playmates as in other times; for I am done with the great wars now, and you two will take me home with you, and I shall see--" She stopped, and for a moment her happy face sobered, as if a doubt or a presentiment had flitted through her mind; then it cleared again, and she said, with a passionate yearning, "Oh, if the day were but come and we could start!"
The old father was surprised, and said:
"Why, child, are you in earnest? Would you leave doing these wonders that make you to be praised by everybody while there is still so much glory to be won; and would you go out from this grand comradeship with princes and generals to be a drudging villager again and a nobody? It is not rational."
"No," said the uncle, Laxart, "it is amazing to hear, and indeed not understandable. It is a stranger thing to hear her say she will stop the soldiering that it was to hear her say she would begin it; and I who speak to you can say in all truth that that was the strangest word that ever I had heard till this day and hour. I would it could be explained."
"It is not difficult," said Joan. "I was not ever fond of wounds and suffering, nor fitted by my nature to inflict them; and quarrelings did always distress me, and noise and tumult were against my liking, my disposition being toward peace and quietness, and love for all things that have life; and being made like this, how could I bear to think of wars and blood, and the pain that goes with them, and the sorrow and mourning that follow after? But by his angels God laid His great commands upon me, and could I disobey? I did as I was bid. Did He command me to do many things? No; only two: to raise the siege of Orleans, and crown the King at Rheims. The task is finished, and I am free. Has ever a poor soldier fallen in my sight, whether friend or foe, and I not felt the pain in my own body, and the grief of his home-mates in my own heart? No, not one; and, oh, it is such bliss to know that my release is won, and that I shall not any more see these cruel things or suffer these tortures of the mind again! Then why should I not go to my village and be as I was before? It is heaven! and ye wonder that I desire it. Ah, ye are men--just men! My mother would understand."
They didn't quite know what to say; so they sat still awhile, looking pretty vacant. Then old D'Arc said:
"Yes, your mother--that is true. I never saw such a woman. She worries, and worries, and worries; and wakes nights, and lies so, thinking--that is, worrying; worrying about you. And when the night storms go raging along, she moans and says, 'Ah, God pity her, she is out in this with her poor wet sodliers.' And when the lightning glares and the thunder crashes she wrings her hands and trembles, saying, 'It is like the awful cannon and the flash, and yonder somewhere she is riding down upon the spouting guns and I not there to protect her."
"Ah, poor mother, it is pity, it is pity!"
"Yes, a most strange woman, as I have noticed a many times. When there is news of a victory and all the village goes mad with pride and joy, she rushes here and there in a maniacal frenzy till she finds out the one only thing she cares to know--that you are safe; then down she goes on her knees in the dirt and praises God as long as there is any breath left in her body; and all on your account, for she never mentions the battle once.