He knows what he would do in our place. He would hang his traitors and march upon Paris! O gentle King, rouse! The way is open, Paris beckons, France implores, Speak and we--"
"Sire, it is madness, sheer madness! Your Excellency, we cannot, we must not go back from what we have done; we have proposed to treat, we must treat with the Duke of Burgundy."
"And we will!" said Joan.
"At the point of the lance!"
The house rose, to a man--all that had French hearts--and let go a crach of applause--and kept it up; and in the midst of it one heard La Hire growl out: "At the point of the lance! By God, that is music!" The King was up, too, and drew his sword, and took it by the blade and strode to Joan and delivered the hilt of it into her hand, saying:
"There, the King surrenders. Carry it to Paris."
And so the applause burst out again, and the historical co9uncil of war that has bred so many legends was over.
Chapte 39 We Win, but the King Balks
IT WAS away past midnight, and had been a tremendous day in the matter of excitement and fatigue, but that was no matter to Joan when there was business on hand. She did not think of bed. The generals followed her to her official quarters, and she delivered her orders to them as fast as she could talk, and they sent them off to their different commands as fast as delivered; wherefore the messengers galloping hither and thither raised a world of clatter and racket in the still streets; and soon were added to this the music of distant bugles and the roll of drums--notes of preparation; for the vanguard would break camp at dawn.
The generals were soon dismissed, but I wasn't; nor Joan; for it was my turn to work, now. Joan walked the floor and dictated a summons to the Duke of Burgundy to lay down his arms and make peace and exchange pardons with the King; or, if he must fight, go fight the Saracens. "Pardonnez-vous l'un … l'autre de bon cœur, entiŠrement, ainsi que doivent faire loyaux chr‚tiens, et, s'il vous plait de guerroyer, allez contre les Sarrasins." It was long, but it was good, and had the sterling ring to it. It is my opinion that it was as fine and simple and straightforward and eloquent a state paper as she ever uttered.
It was delivered into the hands of a courier, and he galloped away with it. The Joan dismissed me, and told me to go to the inn and stay, and in the morning give to her father the parcel which she had left there. It contained presents for the Domremy relatives and friends and a peasant dress which she had bought for herself. She said she would say good-by to her father and uncle in the morning if it should still be their purpose to go, instead of tarrying awhile to see the city.
I didn't say anything, of course, but I could have said that wild horses couldn't keep those men in that town half a day. They waste the glory of being the first to carry the great news to Domremy--the taxes remitted forever!--and hear the bells clang and clatter, and the people cheer and shout? Oh, not they. Patay and Orleans and the Coronation were events which in a vague way these men understood to be colossal; but they were colossal mists, films, abstractions; this was a gigantic reality!
When I got there, do you suppose they were abed! Quite the reverse. They and the rest were as mellow as mellow could be; and the Paladin was doing his battles in great style, and the old peasants were endangering the building with their applause. He was doing Patay now; and was bending his big frame forward and laying out the positions and movements with a rake here and a rake there of his formidable sword on the floor, and the peasants were stooped over with their hands on their spread knees observing with excited eyes and ripping out ejaculations of wonder and admiration all along:
"Yes, here we were, waiting--waiting for the word; our horses fidgeting and snorting and dancing to get away, we lying back on the bridles till our bodies fairly slanted to the rear; the word rang out at last--'Go!' and we went!
"Went? There was nothing like it ever seen! Where we swept by squads of scampering English, the mere wind of our passage laid them flat in piles and rows! Then we plunged into the ruck of Fastolfe's frantic battle-corps and tore through it like a hurricane, leaving a causeway of the dead stretching far behind; no tarrying, no slacking rein, but on! on! on! far yonder in the distance lay our prey--Talbot and his host looming vast and dark like a storm-cloud brooding on the sea! Down we swooped upon them, glooming all the air with a quivering pall of dead leaves flung up by the whirlwind of our flight.