The judge and half the court were on their feet in a moment, and all shaking their fists at the prisoner, and all storming and vituperating at once, so that you could hardly hear yourself think. They kept this up several minutes; and because Joan sat untroubled and indifferent they grew madder and noisier all the time. Once she said, with a fleeting trace of the old-time mischief in her eye and manner:

"Prithee, speak one at a time, fair lords, then I will answer all of you."

At the end of three whole hours of furious debating over the oath, the situation had not changed a jot. The Bishop was still requiring an unmodified oath, Joan was refusing for the twentieth time to take any except the one which she had herself proposed. There was a physical change apparent, but it was confined to the court and judge; they were hoarse, droopy, exhausted by their long frenzy, and had a sort of haggard look in their faces, poor men, whereas Joan was still placid and reposeful and did not seem noticeably tired.

The noise quieted down; there was a waiting pause of some moments' duration. Then the judge surrendered to the prisoner, and with bitterness in his voice told her to take the oath after her own fashion. Joan sunk at once to her knees; and as she laid her hands upon the Gospels, that big English soldier set free his mind:

"By God, if she were but English, she were not in this place another half a second!"

It was the soldier in him responding to the soldier in her. But what a stinging rebuke it was, what an arraignment of French character and French royalty! Would that he could have uttered just that one phrase in the hearing of Orleans! I know that that grateful city, that adoring city, would have risen to the last man and the last woman, and marched upon Rouen. Some speeches--speeches that shame a man and humble him--burn themselves into the memory and remain there. That one is burned into mine.

After Joan had made oath, Cauchon asked her her name, and where she was born, and some questions about her family; also what her age was. She answered these. Then he asked her how much education she had.

"I have learned from my mother the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria, and the Belief. All that I know was taught me by my mother."

Questions of this unessential sort dribbled on for a considerable time. Everybody was tired out by now, except Joan. The tribunal prepared to rise. At this point Cauchon forbade Joan to try to escape from prison, upon pain of being held guilty of the crime of heresy--singular logic! She answered simply:

"I am not bound by this proposition. If I could escape I would not reproach myself, for I have given no promise, and I shall not."

Then she complained of the burden of her chains, and asked that they might be removed, for she was strongly guarded in that dungeon and there was no need of them. But the Bishop refused, and reminded her that she had broken out of prison twice before. Joan of Arc was too proud to insist. She only said, as she rose to go with the guard:

"It is true, I have wanted to escape, and I do want to escape." Then she added, in a way that would touch the pity of anybody, I think, "It is the right of every prisoner."

And so she went from the place in the midst of an impressive stillness, which made the sharper and more distressful to me the clank of those pathetic chains.

What presence of mind she had! One could never surprise her out of it. She saw NoČl and me there when she first took her seat on the bench, and we flushed to the forehead with excitement and emotion, but her face showed nothing, betrayed nothing. Her eyes sought us fifty times that day, but they passed on and there was never any ray of recognition in them. Another would have started upon seeing us, and then--why, then there could have been trouble for us, of course.

We walked slowly home together, each busy with his own grief and saying not a word.

[1] He kept his word. His account of the Great Trial will be found to be in strict and detailed accordance with the sworn facts of history.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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