Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Chapter 10

    THE COURT rested a day, then took up work again on Saturday, the third of March.
    This was one of our stormiest sessions. The whole court was out of patience; and with good reason. These threescore distinguished churchmen, illustrious tacticians, veteran legal gladiators, had left important posts where their supervision was needed, to journey hither from various regions and accomplish a most simple and easy matter--condemn and send to death a country-lass of nineteen who could neither read nor write, knew nothing of the wiles and perplexities of legal procedure, could not call a single witness in her defense, was allowed no advocate or adviser, and must conduct her case by herself against a hostile judge and a packed jury. In two hours she would be hopelessly entangled, routed, defeated, convicted. Nothing could be more certain that this--so they thought. But it was a mistake. The two hours had strung out into days; what promised to be a skirmish had expanded into a siege; the thing which had looked so easy had proven to be surprisingly difficult; the light victim who was to have been puffed away like a feather remained planted like a rock; and on top of all this, if anybody had a right to laugh it was the country-lass and not the court.
    She was not doing that, for that was not her spirit; but others were doing it. The whole town was laughing in its sleeve, and the court knew it, and its dignity was deeply hurt. The members could not hide their annoyance.
    And so, as I have said, the session was stormy. It was easy to see that these men had made up their minds to force words from Joan to-day which should shorten up her case and bring it to a prompt conclusion. It shows that after all their experience with her they did not know her yet.
    They went into the battle with energy. They did not leave the questioning to a particular member; no, everybody helped. They volleyed questions at Joan from all over the house, and sometimes so many were talking at once that she had to ask them to deliver their fire one at a time and not by platoons. The beginning was as usual:
    "You are once more required to take the oath pure and simple."
    "I will answer to what is in the proces verbal. When I do more, I will choose the occasion for myself."
    That old ground was debated and fought over inch by inch with great bitterness and many threats. But Joan remained steadfast, and the questionings had to shift to other matters. Half an hour was spent over Joan's apparitions--their dress, hair, general appearance, and so on--in the hope of fishing something of a damaging sort out of the replies; but with no result.
    Next, the male attire was reverted to, of course. After many well-worn questions had been re-asked, one or two new ones were put forward.
    "Did not the King or the Queen sometimes ask you to quit the male dress?"
    "That is not in your proces."
    "Do you think you would have sinned if you had taken the dress of your sex?"
    "I have done best to serve and obey my sovereign Lord and Master."
    After a while the matter of Joan's Standard was taken up, in the hope of connecting magic and witchcraft with it.
    "Did not your men copy your banner in their pennons?"
    "The lancers of my guard did it. It was to distinguish them from the rest of the forces. It was their own idea."
    "Were they often renewed?"
    "Yes. When the lances were broken they were renewed."
    The purpose of the question unveils itself in the next one.
    "Did you not say to your men that pennons made like your banner would be lucky?"
    The soldier-spirit in Joan was offended at this puerility. She drew herself up, and said with dignity and fire: "What I said to them was, 'Ride those English down!' and I did it myself."
    Whenever she flung out a scornful speech like that at these French menials in English livery it lashed them into a rage; and that is what happened this time. There were ten, twenty, sometimes even thirty of them on their feet at a time, storming at the prisoner minute after minute, but Joan was not disturbed.
    By and by there was peace, and the inquiry was resumed.
    It was now sought to turn against Joan the thousand loving honors which had been done her when she was raising France out of the dirt and shame of a century of slavery and castigation.
    "Did you not cause paintings and images of yourself to be made?"
    "No. At Arras I saw a painting of myself kneeling in armor before the King and delivering him a letter; but I caused no such things to be made."
    "Were not masses and prayers said in your honor?"
    "If it was done it was not by my command. But if any prayed for me I think it was no harm."
    "Did the French people believe you were sent of God?"
    "As to that, I know not; but whether they believed it or not, I was not the less sent of God."
    "If they thought you were sent of God, do you think it was well thought?"
    "If they believed it, their trust was not abused."
    "What impulse was it, think you, that moved the people to kiss your hands, your feet, and your vestments?"
    "They were glad to see me, and so they did those things; and I could not have prevented them if I had had the heart. Those poor people came lovingly to me because I had not done them any hurt, but had done the best I could for them according to my strength."
    See what modest little words she uses to describe that touching spectacle, her marches about France walled in on both sides by the adoring multitudes: "They were glad to see me." Glad?
    Why they were transported with joy to see her. When they could not kiss her hands or her feet, they knelt in the mire and kissed the hoof-prints of her horse. They worshiped her; and that is what these priests were trying to prove. It was nothing to them that she was not to blame for what other people did. No, if she was worshiped, it was enough; she was guilty of mortal sin.
    Curious logic, one must say.
    "Did you not stand sponsor for some children baptized at Rheims?"
    "At Troyes I did, and at St. Denis; and I named the boys Charles, in honor of the King, and the girls I named Joan."
    "Did not women touch their rings to those which you wore?"
    "Yes, many did, but I did not know their reason for it."
    "At Rheims was your Standard carried into the church? Did you stand at the altar with it in your hand at the Coronation?"
    "In passing through the country did you confess yourself in the Churches and receive the sacrament?"
    "In the dress of a man?"
    "Yes. But I do not remember that I was in armor."
    It was almost a concession! almost a half-surrender of the permission granted her by the Church at Poitiers to dress as a man. The wily court shifted to another matter: to pursue this one at this time might call Joan's attention to her small mistake, and by her native cleverness she might recover her lost ground. The tempestuous session had worn her and drowsed her alertness.
    "It is reported that you brought a dead child to life in the church at Lagny. Was that in answer to your prayers?"
    "As to that, I have no knowledge. Other young girls were praying for the child, and I joined them and prayed also, doing no more than they."
    "While we prayed it came to life, and cried. It had been dead three days, and was as black as my doublet. It was straight way baptized, then it passed from life again and was buried in holy ground."
    "Why did you jump from the tower of Beaurevoir by night and try to escape?"
    "I would go to the succor of Compiegne."
    It was insinuated that this was an attempt to commit the deep crime of suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the English.
    "Did you not say that you would rather die than be delivered into the power of the English?"
    Joan answered frankly; without perceiving the trap:
    "Yes; my words were, that I would rather that my soul be returned unto God than that I should fall into the hands of the English."
    It was now insinuated that when she came to, after jumping from the tower, she was angry and blasphemed the name of God; and that she did it again when she heard of the defection of the Commandant of Soissons. She was hurt and indignant at this, and said:
    "It is not true. I have never cursed. It is not my custom to swear."

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