All those are words which my secretary substituted; or mayhap he misheard me or forgot what I said."
She did not look at me when she said it: she spared me that embarrassment. I hadn't misheard her at all, and hadn't forgotten. I changed her language purposely, for she was Commander-in-Chief and entitled to call herself so, and it was becoming and proper, too; and who was going to surrender anything to the King?--at that time a stick, a cipher? If any surrendering was done, it would be to the noble Maid of Vaucouleurs, already famed and formidable though she had not yet struck a blow.
Ah, there would have been a fine and disagreeable episode (for me) there, if that pitiless court had discovered that the very scribbler of that piece of dictation, secretary to Joan of Arc, was present--and not only present, but helping build the record; and not only that, but destined at a far distant day to testify against lies and perversions smuggled into it by Cauchon and deliver them over to eternal infamy!
"Do you acknowledge that you dictated this proclamation?"
"Have you repented of it? Do you retract it?"
Ah, then she was indignant!
"No! Not even these chains"--and she shook them--"not even these chains can chill the hopes that I uttered there. And more!"--she rose, and stood a moment with a divine strange light kindling in her face, then her words burst forth as in a flood--"I warn you now that before seven years a disaster will smite the English, oh, many fold greater than the fall of Orleans! and--"
"Silence! Sit down!"
"--and then, soon after, they will lose all France!"
Now consider these things. The French armies no longer existed. The French cause was standing still, our King was standing still, there was no hint that by and by the Constable Richemont would come forward and take up the great work of Joan of Arc and finish it. In face of all this, Joan made that prophecy--made it with perfect confidence--and it came true. For within five years Paris fell--1436--and our King marched into it flying the victor's flag. So the first part of the prophecy was then fulfilled--in fact, almost the entire prophecy; for, with Paris in our hands, the fulfilment of the rest of it was assured.
Twenty years later all France was ours excepting a single town--Calais.
Now that will remind you of an earlier prophecy of Joan's. At the time that she wanted to take Paris and could have done it with ease if our King had but consented, she said that that was the golden time; that, with Paris ours, all France would be ours in six months. But if this golden opportunity to recover France was wasted, said she, "I give you twenty years to do it in."
She was right. After Paris fell, in 1436, the rest of the work had to be done city by city, castle by castle, and it took twenty years to finish it.
Yes, it was the first day of March, 1431, there in the court, that she stood in the view of everybody and uttered that strange and incredible prediction. Now and then, in this world, somebody's prophecy turns up correct, but when you come to look into it there is sure to be considerable room for suspicion that the prophecy was made after the fact. But here the matter is different. There in that court Joan's prophecy was set down in the official record at the hour and moment of its utterance, years before the fulfilment, and there you may read it to this day.
Twenty-five years after Joan's death the record was produced in the great Court of the Rehabilitation and verified under oath by Manchon and me, and surviving judges of our court confirmed the exactness of the record in their testimony.
Joan' startling utterance on that now so celebrated first of March stirred up a great turmoil, and it was some time before it quieted down again. Naturally, everybody was troubled, for a prophecy is a grisly and awful thing, whether one thinks it ascends from hell or comes down from heaven.
All that these people felt sure of was, that the inspiration back of it was genuine and puissant.