The soldiery found that they could depend utterly on Joan, and upon her alone. With her gone, everything was gone. She was the sun that melted the frozen torrents and set them boiling; with that sun removed, they froze again, and the army and all France became what they had been before, mere dead corpses--that and nothing more; incapable of thought, hope, ambition, or motion.

Chapter 2 Joan Sold to the English

MY WOUND gave me a great deal of trouble clear into the first part of October; then the fresher weather renewed my life and strength. All this time there were reports drifting about that the King was going to ransom Joan. I believed these, for I was young and had not yet found out the littleness and meanness of our poor human race, which brags about itself so much, and thinks it is better and higher than the other animals.

In October I was well enough to go out with two sorties, and in the second one, on the 23d, I was wounded again. My luck had turned, you see. On the night of the 25th the besiegers decamped, and in the disorder and confusion one of their prisoners escaped and got safe into Compiägne, and hobble into my room as pallid and pathetic an object as you would wish to see.

"What? Alive? NoČl Rainguesson!"

It was indeed he. It was a most joyful meeting, that you will easily know; and also as sad as it was joyful. We could not speak Joan's name. One's voice would have broken down. We knew who was meant when she was mentioned; we could say "she" and "her," but we could not speak the name.

We talked of the personal staff. Old D'Aulon, wounded and a prisoner, was still with Joan and serving her, by permission of the Duke of Burgundy. Joan was being treated with respect due to her rank and to her character as a prisoner of war taken in honorable conflict. And this was continued--as we learned later--until she fell into the hands of that bastard of Satan, Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais.

NoČl was full of noble and affectionate praises and appreaciations of our old boastful big Standard-Bearer, now gone silent forever, his real and imaginary battles all fought, his work done, his life honorably closed and completed.

"And think of his luck!" burst out NoČl, with his eyes full of tears. "Always the pet child of luck!

See how it followed him and stayed by him, from his first step all through, in the field or out of it; always a splendid figure in the public eye, courted and envied everywhere; always having a chance to do fine things and always doing them; in the beginning called the Paladin in joke, and called it afterward in earnest because he magnificently made the title good; and at last--supremest luck of all--died in the field! died with his harness on; died faithful to his charg, the Standard in his hand; died--oh, think of it--with the approving eye of Joan of Arc upon him!

He drained the cup of glory to the last drop, and went jubilant to his peace, blessedly spared all part in the disaster which was to follow. What luck, what luck! And we? What was our sin that we are still here, we who have also earned our place with the happy dead?"

And presently he said:

"They tore the sacred Standard from his dead hand and carried it away, their most precious prize after its captured owner. But they haven't it now. A month ago we put our lives upon the risk--our two good knights, my fellow-prisoners, and I--and stole it, and got it smuggled by trusty hands to Orleans, and there it is now, safe for all time in the Treasury."

I was glad and grateful to learn that. I have seen it often since, when I have gone to Orleans on the 8th of May to be the petted old guest of the city and hold the first place of honor at the banquets and in the processions--I mean since Joan's brothers passed from this life. It will still be there, sacredly guarded by French love, a thousand years from now--yes, as long as any shred of it hangs together. [1] Two or three weeks after this talk came tehe tremendous news like a thunder-clap, and we were aghast--Joan of Arc sold to the English!

Not for a moment had we ever dreamed of such a thing.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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