Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
JOAN'S FIRST official act was to dictate a letter to the English
commanders at Orleans, summoning them to deliver up all strongholds in
their possession and depart out of France. She must have been thinking it
all out before and arranging it in her mind, it flowed from her lips so
smoothly, and framed itself into such vivacious and forcible language.
Still, it might not have been so; she always had a quick mind and a
capable tongue, and her faculties were constantly developing in these
latter weeks. This letter was to be forwarded presently from Blois. Men,
provisions, and money were offering in plenty now, and Joan appointed
Blois as a recruiting-station and depot of supplies, and ordered up La
Hire from the front to take charge.
The Great Bastard--him of the ducal house, and governor of Orleans--had
been clamoring for weeks for Joan to be sent to him, and now came another
messenger, old D'Aulon, a veteran officer, a trusty man and fine and
honest. The King kept him, and gave him to Joan to be chief of her
household, and commanded her to appoint the rest of her people herself,
making their number and dignity accord with the greatness of her office;
and at the same time he gave order that they should be properly equipped
with arms, clothing, and horses.
Meantime the King was having a complete suit of armor made for her at
Tours. It was of the finest steel, heavily plated with silver, richly
ornamented with engraved designs, and polished like a mirror.
Joan's Voices had told her that there was an ancient sword hidden
somewhere behind the altar of St. Catherine's at Fierbois, and she sent
De Metz to get it. The priests knew of no such sword, but a search was
made, and sure enough it was found in that place, buried a little way
under the ground. It had no sheath and was very rusty, but the priests
polished it up and sent it to Tours, whither we were now to come. They
also had a sheath of crimson velvet made for it, and the people of Tours
equipped it with another, made of cloth-of-gold. But Joan meant to carry
this sword always in battle; so she laid the showy sheaths away and got
one made of leather. It was generally believed that his sword had
belonged to Charlemagne, but that was only a matter of opinion. I wanted
to sharpen that old blade, but she said it was not necessary, as she
should never kill anybody, and should carry it only as a symbol of
At Tours she designed her Standard, and a Scotch painter named James
Power made it. It was of the most delicate white boucassin, with fringes
of silk. For device it bore the image of God the Father throned in the
clouds and holding the world in His hand; two angels knelt at His feet,
presenting lilies; inscription, JESUS, MARIA; on the reverse the crown of
France supported by two angels.
She also caused a smaller standard or pennon to be made, whereon was
represented an angel offering a lily to the Holy Virgin.
Everything was humming there at Tours. Every now and then one heard the
bray and crash of military music, every little while one heard the
measured tramp of marching men--squads of recruits leaving for Blois;
songs and shoutings and huzzas filled the air night and day, the town was
full of strangers, the streets and inns were thronged, the bustle of
preparation was everywhere, and everybody carried a glad and cheerful
face. Around Joan's headquarters a crowd of people was always massed,
hoping for a glimpse of the new General, and when they got it, they went
wild; but they seldom got it, for she was busy planning her campaign,
receiving reports, giving orders, despatching couriers, and giving what
odd moments she could spare to the companies of great folk waiting in the
drawing-rooms. As for us boys, we hardly saw her at all, she was so
We were in a mixed state of mind--sometimes hopeful, sometimes not;
mostly not. She had not appointed her household yet--that was our
trouble. We knew she was being overrun with applications for places in
it, and that these applications were backed by great names and weighty
influence, whereas we had nothing of the sort to recommend us. She could
fill her humblest places with titled folk--folk whose relationships would
be a bulwark for her and a valuable support at all times. In these
circumstances would policy allow her to consider us? We were not as
cheerful as the rest of the town, but were inclined to be depressed and
worried. Sometimes we discussed our slim chances and gave them as good an
appearance as we could. But the very mention of the subject was anguish
to the Paladin; for whereas we had some little hope, he had none at all.
As a rule Noel Rainguesson was quite with Hireing to let the dismal
matter alone; but not when the Paladin was present. Once we were talking
the thing over, when Noel said:
"Cheer up, Paladin, I had a dream last night, and you were the only one
among us that got an appointment. It wasn't a high one, but it was an
appointment, anyway--some kind of a lackey or body-servant, or something
of that kind."
The Paladin roused up and looked almost cheerful; for he was a believer
in dreams, and in anything and everything of a superstitious sort, in
fact. He said, with a rising hopefulness:
"I wish it might come true. Do you think it will come true?"
"Certainly; I might almost say I know it will, for my dreams hardly ever
"Noel, I could hug you if that dream could come true, I could, indeed! To
be servant of the first General of France and have all the world hear of
it, and the news go back to the village and make those gawks stare that
always said I wouldn't ever amount to anything--wouldn't it be great! Do
you think it will come true, Noel? Don't you believe it will?"
"I do. There's my hand on it."
"Noel, if it comes true I'll never forget you--shake again! I should be
dressed in a noble livery, and the news would go to the village, and
those animals would say, 'Him, lackey to the General-in-Chief, with the
eyes of the whole world on him, admiring--well, he has shot up into the
sky now, hasn't he!"
He began to walk the floor and pile castles in the air so fast and so
high that we could hardly keep up with him. Then all of a sudden all the
joy went out of his face and misery took its place, and he said:
"Oh, dear, it is all a mistake, it will never come true. I forgot that
foolish business at Toul. I have kept out of her sight as much as I
could, all these weeks, hoping she would forget that and forgive it --but
I know she never will. She can't, of course. And, after all, I wasn't to
blame. I did say she promised to marry me, but they put me up to it and
persuaded me. I swear they did!" The vast creature was almost crying.
Then he pulled himself together and said, remorsefully, "It was the only
lie I've ever told, and--"
He was drowned out with a chorus of groans and outraged exclamations; and
before he could begin again, one of D'Aulon's liveried servants appeared
and said we were required at headquarters. We rose, and Noel said:
"There--what did I tell you? I have a presentiment--the spirit of
prophecy is upon me. She is going to appoint him, and we are to go there
and do him homage. Come along!"
But the Paladin was afraid to go, so we left him.
When we presently stood in the presence, in front of a crowd of
glittering officers of the army, Joan greeted us with a winning smile,
and said she appointed all of us to places in her household, for she
wanted her old friends by her. It was a beautiful surprise to have
ourselves honored like this when she could have had people of birth and
consequence instead, but we couldn't find our tongues to say so, she was
become so great and so high above us now. One at a time we stepped
forward and each received his warrant from the hand of our chief,
D'Aulon. All of us had honorable places; the two knights stood highest;
then Joan's two brothers; I was first page and secretary, a young
gentleman named Raimond was second page; Noel was her messenger; she had
two heralds, and also a chaplain and almoner, whose name was Jean
Pasquerel. She had previously appointed a maitre d'hotel and a number of
domestics. Now she looked around and said:
"But where is the Paladin?"
The Sieur Bertrand said:
"He thought he was not sent for, your Excellency."
"Now that is not well. Let him be called."
The Paladin entered humbly enough. He ventured no farther than just
within the door. He stopped there, looking embarrassed and afraid. Then
Joan spoke pleasantly, and said:
"I watched you on the road. You began badly, but improved. Of old you
were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it
out." It was fine to see the Paladin's face light up when she said that.
"Will you follow where I lead?"
"Into the fire!" he said; and I said to myself, "By the ring of that, I
think she has turned this braggart into a hero. It is another of her
miracles, I make no doubt of it."
"I believe you," said Joan. "Here--take my banner. You will ride with me
in every field, and when France is saved, you will give it me back."
He took the banner, which is now the most precious of the memorials that
remain of Joan of Arc, and his voice was unsteady with emotion when he
"If I ever disgrace this trust, my comrades here will know how to do a
friend's office upon my body, and this charge I lay upon them, as knowing
they will not fail me."
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