Return me to God, from whom I came."
It was piteous to hear; it was the same as saying, "You only want my life; take it and let me be at peace."
The Bishop stormed out again:
"Once more I command you to--"
Joan cut in with a nonchalant "Passez outre," and Cauchon retired from the struggle; but he retired with some credit this time, for he offered a compromise, and Joan, always clear-headed, saw protection for herself in it and promptly and willingly accepted it. She was to swear to tell the truth "as touching the matters et down in the procŠs verbal." They could not sail her outside of definite limits, now; her course was over a charted sea, henceforth. The Bishop had granted more than he had intended, and more than he would honestly try to abide by.
By command, Beaupere resumed his examination of the accused. It being Lent, there might be a chance to catch her neglecting some detail of her religious duties. I could have told him he would fail there. Why, religion was her life!
"Since when have you eaten or drunk?"
If the least thing had passed her lips in the nature of sustenance, neither her youth nor the fact that she was being half starved in her prison could save her from dangerous suspicion of contempt for the commandments of the Church.
"I have done neither since yesterday at noon."
The priest shifted to the Voices again.
"When have you heard your Voice?"
"Yesterday and to-day."
"At what time?"
"Yesterday it was in the morning."
"What were you doing then?"
"I was asleep and it woke me."
"By touching your arm?"
"No, without touching me."
"Did you thank it? Did you kneel?"
He had Satan in his mind, you see; and was hoping, perhaps, that by and by it could be shown that she had rendered homage to the arch enemy of God and man.
"Yes, I thanked it; and knelt in my bed where I was chained, and joined my hands and begged it to implore God's help for me so that I might have light and instruction as touching the answers I should give here."
"Then what did the Voice say?"
"It told me to answer boldly, and God would help me." Then she turned toward Cauchon and said, "You say that you are my judge; now I tell you again, take care what you do, for in truth I am sent of God and you are putting yourself in great danger."
Beaupere asked her if the Voice's counsels were not fickle and variable.
"No. It never contradicts itself. This very day it has told me again to answer boldly."
"Has it forbidden you to answer only part of what is asked you?"
"I will tell you nothing as to that. I have revelations touching the King my master, and those I will not tell you." Then she was stirred by a great emotion, and the tears sprang to her eyes and she spoke out as with strong conviction, saying:
"I believe wholly--as wholly as I believe the Christian faith and that God has redeemed us from the fires of hell, that God speaks to me by that Voice!"
Being questioned further concerning the Voice, she said she was not at liberty to tell all she knew.
"Do you think God would be displeased at your telling the whole truth?"
"The Voice has commanded me to tell the King certain things, and not you--and some very lately--even last night; things which I would he knew. He would be more easy at his dinner."
"Why doesn't the Voice speak to the King itself, as it did when you were with him? Would it not if you asked it?"
"I do not know if it be the wish of God." She was pensive a moment or two, busy with her thoughts and far away, no doubt; then she added a remark in which Beaupere, always watchful, always alert, detected a possible opening--a chance to set a trap. Do you think he jumped at it instantly, betraying the joy he had in his mind, as a young hand at craft and artifice would do?
No, oh, no, you could not tell that he had noticed the remark at all. He slid indifferently away from it at once, and began to ask idle questions about other things, so as to slip around and spring on it from behind, so to speak: tedious and empty questions as to whether the Voice had told her she would escape from this prison; and if it had furnished answers to be used by her in to-day's s‚ance; if it was accompanied with a glory of light; if it had eyes, etc.