A lengthy historical novel written because Joan of Arc was Clemens' favorite historical character. He stated: "It means more to me than anything I have ever undertaken." Clemens devoted twelve years to researching and writing this novel. Harper's Magazine serialized it first in three monthly installments (April 1895-April 1896) without his name. He used the pseudonym Sieur Louis de Conte to prevent the work's not being taken seriously under his own name, while the name of the translator, Jean Francois Alden, is referred to as a pun on John Alden. This edition contains many of the fine drawings that had appeared in the periodical. (From "A Centennial For Tom Sawyer")
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Personal Recollections OfJoan Of Arc
Personal Recollections Of Joan Of Arc
A Peculiarity Of Joan Of Arc's History
The Sieur Louis De Conte
Book I - In Domremy
Chapter 1 When Wolves Ran Free In Paris
Chapter 2 The Fairy Tree Of Domremy
Chapter 3 All Aflame With Love Of France
Chapter 4 Joan Tames The Mad Man
Chapter 5 Domremy Pillaged And Burned
Chapter 6 Joan And Archangel Michael
Chapter 7 She Delivers The Divine Command
Chapter 8 Why The Scorners Relented
Book II - In Court And Camp
Chapter 1 Joan Says Good-By
Chapter 2 The Governor Speeds Joan
Chapter 3 The Paladin Groans And Boasts
Chapter 4 Joan Leads Us Through The Enemy
Chapter 5 We Pierce The Last Ambuscades
Chapter 6 Joan Convinces The King
Chapter 7 Our Paladin In His Glory
Chapter 8 Joan Persuades Her Inquisitors
Chapter 9 She Is Made General-In-Chief
Chapter 10 The Maid's Sword And Banner
Chapter 11 The War March Is Begun
Chapter 12 Joan Puts Heart In Her Army
Chapter 13 Checked By The Folly Of The Wise
Chapter 14 What The English Answered
Chapter 15 My Exquisite Poem Goes To Smash
Chapter 16 The Finding Of The Dwarf
Chapter 17 Sweet Fruit Of Bitter Truth
Chapter 18 Joan's First Battle-Field
Chapter 19 We Burst In Upon Ghosts
Chapter 20 Joan Makes Cowards Brave Victors
Chapter 21 She Gently Reproves Her Dear Friend
Chapter 22 The Fate Of France Decided
Chapter 23 Joan Inspires The Tawdry King
Chapter 24 Tinsel Trappings Of Nobility
Chapter 25 At Last—Forward!
Chapter 26 The Last Doubts Scattered
Chapter 27 How Joan Took Jargeau
28 Joan Foretells Her Doom
29 Fierce Talbot Reconsiders
30 The Red Field Of Patay
31 France Begins To Live Again
32 The Joyous News Flies Fast
33 Joan's Five Great Deeds
34 The Jests Of The Burgundians
35 The Heir Of France Is Crowned
36 Joan Hears News From Home
37 Again To Arms
38 The King Cries "Forward!"
39 We Win, But The King Balks
40 Treachery Conquers Joan
41 The Maid Will March No More
Book III - Trial And Martyrdom
1 The Maid In Chains
2 Joan Sold To The English
3 Weaving The Net About Her
4 All Ready To Condemn
5 Fifty Experts Against A Novice
6 The Maid Baffles Her Persecutors
7 Craft That Was In Vain
8 Joan Tells Of Her Visions
9 Her Sure Deliverance Foretold
10 The Inquisitors At Their Wits' End
11 The Court Reorganized For Assassination
12 Joan's Master-Stroke Diverted
13 The Third Trial Fails
14 Joan Struggles With Her Twelve Lies
15 Undaunted By Threat Of Burning
16 Joan Stands Defiant Before The Rack
17 Supreme In Direst Peril
18 Condemned Yet Unafraid
19 Our Last Hopes Of Rescue Fail
20 The Betrayal
21 Respited Only For Torture
22 Joan Gives The Fatal Answer
23 The Time Is At Hand
24 Joan The Martyr
Personal Recollections Of Joan Of Arc, M. Twain
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Mark Twain was the nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), an American author who was born on the 30th of November 1835, at Florida, Missouri. His father was a country merchant from Tennessee, who moved soon after his son's birth to Hannibal, Missouri, a little town on the Mississippi. When the boy was only twelve his father died, and thereafter he had to get his education as best he could. Of actual schooling he had little. He learned how to set type, and as a journeyman printer he wandered widely, going even as far east as New York. At seventeen he went back to the Mississippi, determined to become a pilot on a river-steamboat. In his Life on the Mississippi he has recorded graphically his experiences while “learning the river.” But in 1861 the war broke out, and the pilot's occupation was gone. After a brief period of uncertainty the young man started West with his brother, who had been appointed lieutenant-governor of Nevada. He went to the mines for a season, and there he began to write in the local newspapers, adopting the pen name of “Mark Twain,” from a call used in taking soundings on the Mississippi steamboats. He drifted in time to San Francisco, and it was a newspaper of that city which in 1867 supplied the money for him to join a party going on a chartered steamboat to the Mediterranean ports. The letters which he wrote during this voyage were gathered in 1869 into a volume, The Innocents Abroad, and the book immediately won a wide and enduring popularity. This popularity was of service to him when he appeared on the platform with a lecture or rather with an apparently informal talk, rich in admirably delivered anecdote. He edited a daily newspaper in Buffalo for a few months, and in 1870 he married Miss Olivia L. Langdon (d. 1904), removing a year later to Hartford, where he established his home. Roughing It was published in 1872, and in 1874 he collaborated with Charles Dudley Warner in The Gilded Age, from which he made a play, acted many hundred times with John T. Raymond as “Colonel Sellers.” In 1875 he published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the sequel to which, Huckleberry Finn, did not appear until 1884. The result of a second visit to Europe was humorously recorded in A Tramp Abroad (1880), followed in 1882 by a more or less historical romance, The Prince and the Pauper; and a year later came Life on the Mississippi. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the next of his books, was published (in 1884) by a New York firm in which the author was chief partner. This firm prospered for a while, and issued in 1889 Mark Twain's own comic romance, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, and in 1892 a less successful novel, The American Claimant. But after a severe struggle the publishing house failed, leaving the author charged with its very heavy debts. After this disaster he issued a third Mississippi Valley novel, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson, in 1894, and in 1896 another historical romance, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, wherein the maid is treated with the utmost sympathy and reverence. He went on a tour round the world, partly to make money by lecturing and partly to get material for another book of travels, published in 1897, and called in America Following the Equator, and in England More Tramps Abroad. From time to time he had collected into volumes his scattered sketches; of these the first, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, appeared in 1867, and the latest, The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, in 1900. To be recorded also is a volume of essays and literary criticisms, How to Tell a Story (1897). A complete edition of his works was published in twenty-two volumes in 1890-1900 by the American Publishing Company of Hartford. And in this last year, having paid off all the debts of his old firm, he returned to America. By the time he died his books had brought him a considerable fortune. In later years he published a few minor volumes of fiction, and a series of severe and also amusing criticisms of Christian Science (published as a book in 1907), and in 1906 he began an autobiography in the North American Review. He had a great reception in England in 1907, when he went over to receive from Oxford the degree of Doctor of Literature. He died at Redding, Connecticut, on the 21st of April 1910. Of his four daughters only one, who married the Russian pianist Gabrilowitch, survived him. Mark Twain was an outstanding figure for many years as a popular American personality in the world of letters. He is commonly considered as a humorist, and no doubt he is a humorist of a remarkable comic force and of a refreshing fertility. But the books in which his humour is broadly displayed, the travels and the sketches, are not really so significant of his power as the three novels of the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Pudd'nhead Wilson, wherein we have preserved a vanished civilization, peopled with typical figures, and presented with inexorable veracity. There is no lack of humour in them, and there is never a hint of affectation in the writing; indeed, the author, doing spontaneously the work nearest to his hand, was very likely unconscious that he was making a contribution to history. But such Huckleberry Finn is, beyond all question; it is a story of very varied interest, now comic, now almost tragic, frequently poetic, unfailingly truthful, although not always sustained at its highest level. And in these three works of fiction there are not only humour and pathos, character and truth, there is also the largeness of outlook on life such as we find only in the works of the masters. Beneath his fun-making we can discern a man who is fundamentally serious, and whose ethical standards are ever lofty. Like Cervantes at times, Mark Twain reveals a depth of melancholy beneath his playful humour, and like Molière always, he has a deep scorn and a burning detestation of all sorts of sham and pretence, a scorching hatred of humbug and hypocrisy. Like Cervantes and like Molière, he is always sincere and direct.
To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man's character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of to-day, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet the test at all points. But the character of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached by any other mere mortal.
When we reflect that her century was the brutalest, the wickedest, the rottenest in history since the darkest ages, we are lost in wonder at the miracle of such a product from such a soil. The contrast between her and her century is the contrast between day and night. She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honesty was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; she gave her great mind to great thoughts and great purposes when other great minds wasted themselves upon pretty fancies or upon poor ambitions; she was modest, and fine, and delicate when to be loud and coarse might be said to be universal; she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true to an age that was false to the core; she maintained her personal dignity unimpaired in an age of fawnings and servilities; she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation; she was spotlessly pure in mind and body when society in the highest places was foul in both—she was all these things in an age when crime was the common business of lords and princes, and when the highest personages in Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era and make it stand aghast at the spectacle of their atrocious lives black with unimaginable treacheries, butcheries, and beastialities.
She was perhaps the only entirely unselfish person whose name has a place in profane history. No vestige or suggestion of self-seeking can be found in any word or deed of hers. When she had rescued her King from his vagabondage, and set his crown upon his head, she was offered rewards and honors, but she refused them all, and would take nothing. All she would take for herself—if the King would grant it—was leave to go back to her village home, and tend her sheep again, and feel her mother's arms about her, and be her housemaid and helper. The selfishness of this unspoiled general of victorious armies, companion of princes, and idol of an applauding and grateful nation, reached but that far and no farther.
The work wrought by Joan of Arc may fairly be regarded as ranking any recorded in history, when one considers the conditions under which it was undertaken, the obstacles in the way, and the means at her disposal. Caesar carried conquests far, but he did it with the trained and confident veterans of Rome, and was a trained soldier himself; and Napoleon swept away the disciplined armies of Europe, but he also was a trained soldier, and he began his work with patriot battalions inflamed and inspired by the miracle-working new breath of Liberty breathed upon them by the Revolution—eager young apprentices to the splendid trade of war, not old and broken men-at-arms, despairing survivors of an age-long accumulation of monotonous defeats; but Joan of Arc, a mere child in years, ignorant, unlettered, a poor village girl unknown and without influence, found a great nation lying in chains, helpless and hopeless under an alien domination, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers disheartened and dispersed, all spirit torpid, all courage dead in the hearts of the people through long years of foreign and domestic outrage and oppression, their King cowed, resigned to its fate, and preparing to fly the country; and she laid her hand upon this nation, this corpse, and it rose and followed her. She led it from victory to victory, she turned back the tide of the Hundred Years' War, she fatally crippled the English power, and died with the earned title of DELIVERER OF FRANCE, which she bears to this day.
And for all reward, the French King, whom she had crowned, stood supine and indifferent, while French priests took the noble child, the most innocent, the most lovely, the most adorable the ages have produced, and burned her alive at the stake.
The details of the life of Joan of Arc form a biography which is unique among the world's biographies in one respect: It is the only story of a human life which comes to us under oath, the only one which comes to us from the witness-stand. The official records of the Great Trial of 1431, and of the Process of Rehabilitation of a quarter of a century later, are still preserved in the National Archives of France, and they furnish with remarkable fullness the facts of her life. The history of no other life of that remote time is known with either the certainty or the comprehensiveness that attaches to hers.
The Sieur Louis de Conte is faithful to her official history in his Personal Recollections, and thus far his trustworthiness is unimpeachable; but his mass of added particulars must depend for credit upon his word alone.
This is the year 1492. I am eighty-two years of age. The things I am going to tell you are things which I saw myself as a child and as a youth.
In all the tales and songs and histories of Joan of Arc, which you and the rest of the world read and sing and study in the books wrought in the late invented art of printing, mention is made of me, the Sieur Louis de Conte—I was her page and secretary, I was with her from the beginning until the end.
I was reared in the same village with her. I played with her every day, when we were little children together, just as you play with your mates. Now that we perceive how great she was, now that her name fills the whole world, it seems strange that what I am saying is true; for it is as if a perishable paltry candle should speak of the eternal sun riding in the heavens and say, "He was gossip and housemate to me when we were candles together." And yet it is true, just as I say. I was her playmate, and I fought at her side in the wars; to this day I carry in my mind, fine and clear, the picture of that dear little figure, with breast bent to the flying horse's neck, charging at the head of the armies of France, her hair streaming back, her silver mail plowing steadily deeper and deeper into the thick of the battle, sometimes nearly drowned from sight by tossing heads of horses, uplifted sword-arms, wind-blow plumes, and intercepting shields. I was with her to the end; and when that black day came whose accusing shadow will lie always upon the memory of the mitered French slaves of England who were her assassins, and upon France who stood idle and essayed no rescue, my hand was the last she touched in life.
As the years and the decades drifted by, and the spectacle of the marvelous child's meteor flight across the war firmament of France and its extinction in the smoke-clouds of the stake receded deeper and deeper into the past and grew ever more strange, and wonderful, and divine, and pathetic, I came to comprehend and recognize her at last for what she was—the most noble life that was ever born into this world save only One.
I, THE SIEUR LOUIS DE CONTE, was born in Neufchateau, on the 6th of January, 1410; that is to say, exactly two years before Joan of Arc was born in Domremy. My family had fled to those distant regions from the neighborhood of Paris in the first years of the century. In politics they were Armagnacs—patriots; they were for our own French King, crazy and impotent as he was. The Burgundian party, who were for the English, had stripped them, and done it well. They took everything but my father's small nobility, and when he reached Neufchateau he reached it in poverty and with a broken spirit. But the political atmosphere there was the sort he liked, and that was something. He came to a region of comparative quiet; he left behind him a region peopled with furies, madmen, devils, where slaughter was a daily pastime and no man's life safe for a moment. In Paris, mobs roared through the streets nightly, sacking, burning, killing, unmolested, uninterrupted. The sun rose upon wrecked and smoking buildings, and upon mutilated corpses lying here, there, and yonder about the streets, just as they fell, and stripped naked by thieves, the unholy gleaners after the mob. None had the courage to gather these dead for burial; they were left there to rot and create plagues.
And plagues they did create. Epidemics swept away the people like flies, and the burials were conducted secretly and by night, for public funerals were not allowed, lest the revelation of the magnitude of the plague's work unman the people and plunge them into despair. Then came, finally, the bitterest winter which had visited France in five hundred years. Famine, pestilence, slaughter, ice, snow—Paris had all these at once. The dead lay in heaps about the streets, and wolves entered the city in daylight and devoured them.
Ah, France had fallen low—so low! For more than three quarters of a century the English fangs had been bedded in her flesh, and so cowed had her armies become by ceaseless rout and defeat that it was said and accepted that the mere sight of an English army was sufficient to put a French one to flight.
When I was five years old the prodigious disaster of Agincourt fell upon France; and although the English King went home to enjoy his glory, he left the country prostrate and a prey to roving bands of Free Companions in the service of the Burgundian party, and one of these bands came raiding through Neufchateau one night, and by the light of our burning roof-thatch I saw all that were dear to me in this world (save an elder brother, your ancestor, left behind with the court) butchered while they begged for mercy, and heard the butchers laugh at their prayers and mimic their pleadings. I was overlooked, and escaped without hurt. When the savages were gone I crept out and cried the night away watching the burning houses; and I was all alone, except for the company of the dead and the wounded, for the rest had taken flight and hidden themselves.
I was sent to Domremy, to the priest, whose housekeeper became a loving mother to me. The priest, in the course of time, taught me to read and write, and he and I were the only persons in the village who possessed this learning.
At the time that the house of this good priest, Guillaume Fronte, became my home, I was six years old. We lived close by the village church, and the small garden of Joan's parents was behind the church. As to that family there were Jacques d'Arc the father, his wife Isabel Romee; three sons—Jacques, ten years old, Pierre, eight, and Jean, seven; Joan, four, and her baby sister Catherine, about a year old. I had these children for playmates from the beginning. I had some other playmates besides—particularly four boys: Pierre Morel, Etienne Roze, Noel Rainguesson, and Edmond Aubrey, whose father was maire at that time; also two girls, about Joan's age, who by and by became her favorites; one was named Haumetter, the other was called Little Mengette. These girls were common peasant children, like Joan herself. When they grew up, both married common laborers. Their estate was lowly enough, you see; yet a time came, many years after, when no passing stranger, howsoever great he might be, failed to go and pay his reverence to those two humble old women who had been honored in their youth by the friendship of Joan of Arc.
These were all good children, just of the ordinary peasant type; not bright, of course—you would not expect that—but good-hearted and companionable, obedient to their parents and the priest; and as they grew up they became properly stocked with narrowness and prejudices got at second hand from their elders, and adopted without reserve; and without examination also—which goes without saying. Their religion was inherited, their politics the same. John Huss and his sort might find fault with the Church, in Domremy it disturbed nobody's faith; and when the split came, when I was fourteen, and we had three Popes at once, nobody in Domremy was worried about how to choose among them—the Pope of Rome was the right one, a Pope outside of Rome was no Pope at all. Every human creature in the village was an Armagnac—a patriot—and if we children hotly hated nothing else in the world, we did certainly hate the English and Burgundian name and polity in that way.
OUR DOMREMY was like any other humble little hamlet of that remote time and region. It was a maze of crooked, narrow lanes and alleys shaded and sheltered by the overhanging thatch roofs of the barnlike houses. The houses were dimly lighted by wooden-shuttered windows—that is, holes in the walls which served for windows. The floors were dirt, and there was very little furniture. Sheep and cattle grazing was the main industry; all the young folks tended flocks.
The situation was beautiful. From one edge of the village a flowery plain extended in a wide sweep to the river—the Meuse; from the rear edge of the village a grassy slope rose gradually, and at the top was the great oak forest—a forest that was deep and gloomy and dense, and full of interest for us children, for many murders had been done in it by outlaws in old times, and in still earlier times prodigious dragons that spouted fire and poisonous vapors from their nostrils had their homes in there. In fact, one was still living in there in our own time. It was as long as a tree, and had a body as big around as a tierce, and scales like overlapping great tiles, and deep ruby eyes as large as a cavalier's hat, and an anchor-fluke on its tail as big as I don't know what, but very big, even unusually so for a dragon, as everybody said who knew about dragons. It was thought that this dragon was of a brilliant blue color, with gold mottlings, but no one had ever seen it, therefore this was not known to be so, it was only an opinion. It was not my opinion; I think there is no sense in forming an opinion when there is no evidence to form it on. If you build a person without any bones in him he may look fair enough to the eye, but he will be limber and cannot stand up; and I consider that evidence is the bones of an opinion. But I will take up this matter more at large at another time, and try to make the justness of my position appear. As to that dragon, I always held the belief that its color was gold and without blue, for that has always been the color of dragons. That this dragon lay but a little way within the wood at one time is shown by the fact that Pierre Morel was in there one day and smelt it, and recognized it by the smell. It gives one a horrid idea of how near to us the deadliest danger can be and we not suspect it.
In the earliest times a hundred knights from many remote places in the earth would have gone in there one after another, to kill the dragon and get the reward, but in our time that method had gone out, and the priest had become the one that abolished dragons. Pere Guillaume Fronte did it in this case. He had a procession, with candles and incense and banners, and marched around the edge of the wood and exorcised the dragon, and it was never heard of again, although it was the opinion of many that the smell never wholly passed away. Not that any had ever smelt the smell again, for none had; it was only an opinion, like that other—and lacked bones, you see. I know that the creature was there before the exorcism, but whether it was there afterward or not is a thing which I cannot be so positive about.
In a noble open space carpeted with grass on the high ground toward Vaucouleurs stood a most majestic beech tree with wide-reaching arms and a grand spread of shade, and by it a limpid spring of cold water; and on summer days the children went there—oh, every summer for more than five hundred years—went there and sang and danced around the tree for hours together, refreshing themselves at the spring from time to time, and it was most lovely and enjoyable. Also they made wreaths of flowers and hung them upon the tree and about the spring to please the fairies that lived there; for they liked that, being idle innocent little creatures, as all fairies are, and fond of anything delicate and pretty like wild flowers put together in that way. And in return for this attention the fairies did any friendly thing they could for the children, such as keeping the spring always full and clear and cold, and driving away serpents and insects that sting; and so there was never any unkindness between the fairies and the children during more than five hundred years—tradition said a thousand—but only the warmest affection and the most perfect trust and confidence; and whenever a child died the fairies mourned just as that child's playmates did, and the sign of it was there to see; for before the dawn on the day of the funeral they hung a little immortelle over the place where that child was used to sit under the tree. I know this to be true by my own eyes; it is not hearsay. And the reason it was known that the fairies did it was this—that it was made all of black flowers of a sort not known in France anywhere.
Now from time immemorial all children reared in Domremy were called the Children of the Tree; and they loved that name, for it carried with it a mystic privilege not granted to any others of the children of this world. Which was this: whenever one of these came to die, then beyond the vague and formless images drifting through his darkening mind rose soft and rich and fair a vision of the Tree—if all was well with his soul. That was what some said. Others said the vision came in two ways: once as a warning, one or two years in advance of death, when the soul was the captive of sin, and then the Tree appeared in its desolate winter aspect—then that soul was smitten with an awful fear. If repentance came, and purity of life, the vision came again, this time summer-clad and beautiful; but if it were otherwise with that soul the vision was withheld, and it passed from life knowing its doom. Still others said that the vision came but once, and then only to the sinless dying forlorn in distant lands and pitifully longing for some last dear reminder of their home. And what reminder of it could go to their hearts like the picture of the Tree that was the darling of their love and the comrade of their joys and comforter of their small griefs all through the divine days of their vanished youth?
Now the several traditions were as I have said, some believing one and some another. One of them I knew to be the truth, and that was the last one. I do not say anything against the others; I think they were true, but I only know that the last one was; and it is my thought that if one keep to the things he knows, and not trouble about the things which he cannot be sure about, he will have the steadier mind for it—and there is profit in that. I know that when the Children of the Tree die in a far land, then—if they be at peace with God—they turn their longing eyes toward home, and there, far-shining, as through a rift in a cloud that curtains heaven, they see the soft picture of the Fairy Tree, clothed in a dream of golden light; and they see the bloomy mead sloping away to the river, and to their perishing nostrils is blown faint and sweet the fragrance of the flowers of home. And then the vision fades and passes—but they know, they know! and by their transfigured faces you know also, you who stand looking on; yes, you know the message that has come, and that it has come from heaven.
Joan and I believed alike about this matter. But Pierre Morel and Jacques d'Arc, and many others believed that the vision appeared twice—to a sinner. In fact, they and many others said they knew it. Probably because their fathers had known it and had told them; for one gets most things at second hand in this world.
Now one thing that does make it quite likely that there were really two apparitions of the Tree is this fact: From the most ancient times if one saw a villager of ours with his face ash-white and rigid with a ghastly fright, it was common for every one to whisper to his neighbor, "Ah, he is in sin, and has got his warning." And the neighbor would shudder at the thought and whisper back, "Yes, poor soul, he has seen the Tree."
Such evidences as these have their weight; they are not to be put aside with a wave of the hand. A thing that is backed by the cumulative evidence of centuries naturally gets nearer and nearer to being proof all the time; and if this continue and continue, it will some day become authority—and authority is a bedded rock, and will abide.
In my long life I have seen several cases where the tree appeared announcing a death which was still far away; but in none of these was the person in a state of sin. No; the apparition was in these cases only a special grace; in place of deferring the tidings of that soul's redemption till the day of death, the apparition brought them long before, and with them peace—peace that might no more be disturbed—the eternal peace of God. I myself, old and broken, wait with serenity; for I have seen the vision of the Tree. I have seen it, and am content.
Always, from the remotest times, when the children joined hands and danced around the Fairy Tree they sang a song which was the Tree's song, the song of L'Arbre fee de Bourlemont. They sang it to a quaint sweet air—a solacing sweet air which has gone murmuring through my dreaming spirit all my life when I was weary and troubled, resting me and carrying me through night and distance home again. No stranger can know or feel what that song has been, through the drifting centuries, to exiled Children of the Tree, homeless and heavy of heart in countries foreign to their speech and ways. You will think it a simple thing, that song, and poor, perchance; but if you will remember what it was to us, and what it brought before our eyes when it floated through our memories, then you will respect it. And you will understand how the water wells up in our eyes and makes all things dim, and our voices break and we cannot sing the last lines:
"And when, in Exile wand'ring, we Shall fainting yearn for glimpse of thee, Oh, rise upon our sight!"
And you will remember that Joan of Arc sang this song with us around the Tree when she was a little child, and always loved it. And that hallows it, yes, you will grant that:
L'ARBRE FEE DE BOURLEMONT
SONG OF THE CHILDREN
Now what has kept your leaves so green,
Arbre Fee de Bourlemont?
The children's tears! They brought each grief,
And you did comfort them and cheer
Their bruised hearts, and steal a tear
That, healed, rose a leaf.
And what has built you up so strong,
Arbre Fee de Bourlemont?
The children's love! They've loved you long
Ten hundred years, in sooth,
They've nourished you with praise and song,
And warmed your heart and kept it young—
A thousand years of youth!
Bide always green in our young hearts,
Arbre Fee de Bourlemont!
And we shall always youthful be,
Not heeding Time his flight;
And when, in exile wand'ring, we
Shall fainting yearn for glimpse of thee,
Oh, rise upon our sight!
The fairies were still there when we were children, but we never saw them; because, a hundred years before that, the priest of Domremy had held a religious function under the tree and denounced them as being blood-kin to the Fiend and barred them from redemption; and then he warned them never to show themselves again, nor hang any more immortelles, on pain of perpetual banishment from that parish.
All the children pleaded for the fairies, and said they were their good friends and dear to them and never did them any harm, but the priest would not listen, and said it was sin and shame to have such friends. The children mourned and could not be comforted; and they made an agreement among themselves that they would always continue to hang flower-wreaths on the tree as a perpetual sign to the fairies that they were still loved and remembered, though lost to sight.
But late one night a great misfortune befell. Edmond Aubrey's mother passed by the Tree, and the fairies were stealing a dance, not thinking anybody was by; and they were so busy, and so intoxicated with the wild happiness of it, and with the bumpers of dew sharpened up with honey which they had been drinking, that they noticed nothing; so Dame Aubrey stood there astonished and admiring, and saw the little fantastic atoms holding hands, as many as three hundred of them, tearing around in a great ring half as big as an ordinary bedroom, and leaning away back and spreading their mouths with laughter and song, which she could hear quite distinctly, and kicking their legs up as much as three inches from the ground in perfect abandon and hilarity—oh, the very maddest and witchingest dance the woman ever saw.
But in about a minute or two minutes the poor little ruined creatures discovered her. They burst out in one heartbreaking squeak of grief and terror and fled every which way, with their wee hazel-nut fists in their eyes and crying; and so disappeared.
The heartless woman—no, the foolish woman; she was not heartless, but only thoughtless—went straight home and told the neighbors all about it, whilst we, the small friends of the fairies, were asleep and not witting the calamity that was come upon us, and all unconscious that we ought to be up and trying to stop these fatal tongues. In the morning everybody knew, and the disaster was complete, for where everybody knows a thing the priest knows it, of course. We all flocked to Pere Fronte, crying and begging—and he had to cry, too, seeing our sorrow, for he had a most kind and gentle nature; and he did not want to banish the fairies, and said so; but said he had no choice, for it had been decreed that if they ever revealed themselves to man again, they must go. This all happened at the worst time possible, for Joan of Arc was ill of a fever and out of her head, and what could we do who had not her gifts of reasoning and persuasion? We flew in a swarm to her bed and cried out, "Joan, wake! Wake, there is no moment to lose! Come and plead for the fairies—come and save them; only you can do it!"
But her mind was wandering, she did not know what we said nor what we meant; so we went away knowing all was lost. Yes, all was lost, forever lost; the faithful friends of the children for five hundred years must go, and never come back any more.
It was a bitter day for us, that day that Pere Fronte held the function under the tree and banished the fairies. We could not wear mourning that any could have noticed, it would not have been allowed; so we had to be content with some poor small rag of black tied upon our garments where it made no show; but in our hearts we wore mourning, big and noble and occupying all the room, for our hearts were ours; they could not get at them to prevent that.
The great tree—l'Arbre Fee de Bourlemont was its beautiful name—was never afterward quite as much to us as it had been before, but it was always dear; is dear to me yet when I go there now, once a year in my old age, to sit under it and bring back the lost playmates of my youth and group them about me and look upon their faces through my tears and break my heart, oh, my God! No, the place was not quite the same afterward. In one or two ways it could not be; for, the fairies' protection being gone, the spring lost much of its freshness and coldness, and more than two-thirds of its volume, and the banished serpents and stinging insects returned, and multiplied, and became a torment and have remained so to this day.
When that wise little child, Joan, got well, we realized how much her illness had cost us; for we found that we had been right in believing she could save the fairies. She burst into a great storm of anger, for so little a creature, and went straight to Pere Fronte, and stood up before him where he sat, and made reverence and said:
"The fairies were to go if they showed themselves to people again, is it not so?"
"Yes, that was it, dear."
"If a man comes prying into a person's room at midnight when that person is half-naked, will you be so unjust as to say that that person is showing himself to that man?"
"Well—no." The good priest looked a little troubled and uneasy when he said it.
"Is a sin a sin, anyway, even if one did not intend to commit it?"
Pere Fronte threw up his hands and cried out:
"Oh, my poor little child, I see all my fault," and he drew her to his side and put an arm around her and tried to make his peace with her, but her temper was up so high that she could not get it down right away, but buried her head against his breast and broke out crying and said:
"Then the fairies committed no sin, for there was no intention to commit one, they not knowing that any one was by; and because they were little creatures and could not speak for themselves and say the law was against the intention, not against the innocent act, because they had no friend to think that simple thing for them and say it, they have been sent away from their home forever, and it was wrong, wrong to do it!"
The good father hugged her yet closer to his side and said:
"Oh, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings the heedless and unthinking are condemned; would God I could bring the little creatures back, for your sake. And mine, yes, and mine; for I have been unjust. There, there, don't cry—nobody could be sorrier than your poor old friend—don't cry, dear."
"But I can't stop right away, I've got to. And it is no little matter, this thing that you have done. Is being sorry penance enough for such an act?"
Pere Fronte turned away his face, for it would have hurt her to see him laugh, and said:
"Oh, thou remorseless but most just accuser, no, it is not. I will put on sackcloth and ashes; there—are you satisfied?"
Joan's sobs began to diminish, and she presently looked up at the old man through her tears, and said, in her simple way:
"Yes, that will do—if it will clear you."
Pere Fronte would have been moved to laugh again, perhaps, if he had not remembered in time that he had made a contract, and not a very agreeable one. It must be fulfilled. So he got up and went to the fireplace, Joan watching him with deep interest, and took a shovelful of cold ashes, and was going to empty them on his old gray head when a better idea came to him, and he said:
"Would you mind helping me, dear?"
He got down on his knees and bent his head low, and said:
"Take the ashes and put them on my head for me."
The matter ended there, of course. The victory was with the priest. One can imagine how the idea of such a profanation would strike Joan or any other child in the village. She ran and dropped upon her knees by his side and said:
"Oh, it is dreadful. I didn't know that that was what one meant by sackcloth and ashes—do please get up, father."
"But I can't until I am forgiven. Do you forgive me?"
"I? Oh, you have done nothing to me, father; it is yourself that must forgive yourself for wronging those poor things. Please get up, father, won't you?"
"But I am worse off now than I was before. I thought I was earning your forgiveness, but if it is my own, I can't be lenient; it would not become me. Now what can I do? Find me some way out of this with your wise little head."
The Pere would not stir, for all Joan's pleadings. She was about to cry again; then she had an idea, and seized the shovel and deluged her own head with the ashes, stammering out through her chokings and suffocations:
"There—now it is done. Oh, please get up, father."
The old man, both touched and amused, gathered her to his breast and said:
"Oh, you incomparable child! It's a humble martyrdom, and not of a sort presentable in a picture, but the right and true spirit is in it; that I testify."
Then he brushed the ashes out of her hair, and helped her scour her face and neck and properly tidy herself up. He was in fine spirits now, and ready for further argument, so he took his seat and drew Joan to his side again, and said:
"Joan, you were used to make wreaths there at the Fairy Tree with the other children; is it not so?"
That was the way he always started out when he was going to corner me up and catch me in something—just that gentle, indifferent way that fools a person so, and leads him into the trap, he never noticing which way he is traveling until he is in and the door shut on him. He enjoyed that. I knew he was going to drop corn along in front of Joan now. Joan answered:
"Did you hang them on the tree?"
"Didn't hang them there?"
"Why didn't you?"
"I—well, I didn't wish to."
"Didn't wish to?"
"What did you do with them?"
"I hung them in the church."
"Why didn't you want to hang them in the tree?"
"Because it was said that the fairies were of kin to the Fiend, and that it was sinful to show them honor."
"Did you believe it was wrong to honor them so?"
"Yes. I thought it must be wrong."
"Then if it was wrong to honor them in that way, and if they were of kin to the Fiend, they could be dangerous company for you and the other children, couldn't they?"
"I suppose so—yes, I think so."
He studied a minute, and I judged he was going to spring his trap, and he did. He said:
"Then the matter stands like this. They were banned creatures, of fearful origin; they could be dangerous company for the children. Now give me a rational reason, dear, if you can think of any, why you call it a wrong to drive them into banishment, and why you would have saved them from it. In a word, what loss have you suffered by it?"
How stupid of him to go and throw his case away like that! I could have boxed his ears for vexation if he had been a boy. He was going along all right until he ruined everything by winding up in that foolish and fatal way. What had she lost by it! Was he never going to find out what kind of a child Joan of Arc was? Was he never going to learn that things which merely concerned her own gain or loss she cared nothing about? Could he never get the simple fact into his head that the sure way and the only way to rouse her up and set her on fire was to show her where some other person was going to suffer wrong or hurt or loss? Why, he had gone and set a trap for himself—that was all he had accomplished.
The minute those words were out of his mouth her temper was up, the indignant tears rose in her eyes, and she burst out on him with an energy and passion which astonished him, but didn't astonish me, for I knew he had fired a mine when he touched off his ill-chosen climax.
"Oh, father, how can you talk like that? Who owns France?"
"God and the King."
"Satan, my child? This is the footstool of the Most High—Satan owns no handful of its soil."
"Then who gave those poor creatures their home? God. Who protected them in it all those centuries? God. Who allowed them to dance and play there all those centuries and found no fault with it? God. Who disapproved of God's approval and put a threat upon them? A man. Who caught them again in harmless sports that God allowed and a man forbade, and carried out that threat, and drove the poor things away from the home the good God gave them in His mercy and His pity, and sent down His rain and dew and sunshine upon it five hundred years in token of His peace? It was their home—theirs, by the grace of God and His good heart, and no man had a right to rob them of it. And they were the gentlest, truest friends that children ever had, and did them sweet and loving service all these five long centuries, and never any hurt or harm; and the children loved them, and now they mourn for them, and there is no healing for their grief. And what had the children done that they should suffer this cruel stroke? The poor fairies could have been dangerous company for the children? Yes, but never had been; and could is no argument. Kinsmen of the Fiend? What of it? Kinsmen of the Fiend have rights, and these had; and children have rights, and these had; and if I had been there I would have spoken—I would have begged for the children and the fiends, and stayed your hand and saved them all. But now—oh, now, all is lost; everything is lost, and there is no help more!"
Then she finished with a blast at that idea that fairy kinsmen of the Fiend ought to be shunned and denied human sympathy and friendship because salvation was barred against them. She said that for that very reason people ought to pity them, and do every humane and loving thing they could to make them forget the hard fate that had been put upon them by accident of birth and no fault of their own. "Poor little creatures!" she said. "What can a person's heart be made of that can pity a Christian's child and yet can't pity a devil's child, that a thousand times more needs it!"
She had torn loose from Pere Fronte, and was crying, with her knuckles in her eyes, and stamping her small feet in a fury; and now she burst out of the place and was gone before we could gather our senses together out of this storm of words and this whirlwind of passion.
The Pere had got upon his feet, toward the last, and now he stood there passing his hand back and forth across his forehead like a person who is dazed and troubled; then he turned and wandered toward the door of his little workroom, and as he passed through it I heard him murmur sorrowfully:
"Ah, me, poor children, poor fiends, they have rights, and she said true—I never thought of that. God forgive me, I am to blame."
When I heard that, I knew I was right in the thought that he had set a trap for himself. It was so, and he had walked into it, you see. I seemed to feel encouraged, and wondered if mayhap I might get him into one; but upon reflection my heart went down, for this was not my gift.
SPEAKING of this matter reminds me of many incidents, many things that I could tell, but I think I will not try to do it now. It will be more to my present humor to call back a little glimpse of the simple and colorless good times we used to have in our village homes in those peaceful days—especially in the winter. In the summer we children were out on the breezy uplands with the flocks from dawn till night, and then there was noisy frolicking and all that; but winter was the cozy time, winter was the snug time. Often we gathered in old Jacques d'Arc's big dirt-floored apartment, with a great fire going, and played games, and sang songs, and told fortunes, and listened to the old villagers tell tales and histories and lies and one thing and another till twelve o'clock at night.
One winter's night we were gathered there—it was the winter that for years afterward they called the hard winter—and that particular night was a sharp one. It blew a gale outside, and the screaming of the wind was a stirring sound, and I think I may say it was beautiful, for I think it is great and fine and beautiful to hear the wind rage and storm and blow its clarions like that, when you are inside and comfortable. And we were. We had a roaring fire, and the pleasant spit-spit of the snow and sleet falling in it down the chimney, and the yarning and laughing and singing went on at a noble rate till about ten o'clock, and then we had a supper of hot porridge and beans, and meal cakes with butter, and appetites to match.
Little Joan sat on a box apart, and had her bowl and bread on another one, and her pets around her helping. She had more than was usual of them or economical, because all the outcast cats came and took up with her, and homeless or unlovable animals of other kinds heard about it and came, and these spread the matter to the other creatures, and they came also; and as the birds and the other timid wild things of the woods were not afraid of her, but always had an idea she was a friend when they came across her, and generally struck up an acquaintance with her to get invited to the house, she always had samples of those breeds in stock. She was hospitable to them all, for an animal was an animal to her, and dear by mere reason of being an animal, no matter about its sort or social station; and as she would allow of no cages, no collars, no fetters, but left the creatures free to come and go as they liked, that contented them, and they came; but they didn't go, to any extent, and so they were a marvelous nuisance, and made Jacques d'Arc swear a good deal; but his wife said God gave the child the instinct, and knew what He was doing when He did it, therefore it must have its course; it would be no sound prudence to meddle with His affairs when no invitation had been extended. So the pets were left in peace, and here they were, as I have said, rabbits, birds, squirrels, cats, and other reptiles, all around the child, and full of interest in her supper, and helping what they could. There was a very small squirrel on her shoulder, sitting up, as those creatures do, and turning a rocky fragment of prehistoric chestnut-cake over and over in its knotty hands, and hunting for the less indurated places, and giving its elevated bushy tail a flirt and its pointed ears a toss when it found one—signifying thankfulness and surprise—and then it filed that place off with those two slender front teeth which a squirrel carries for that purpose and not for ornament, for ornamental they never could be, as any will admit that have noticed them.
Everything was going fine and breezy and hilarious, but then there came an interruption, for somebody hammered on the door. It was one of those ragged road-stragglers—the eternal wars kept the country full of them. He came in, all over snow, and stamped his feet, and shook, and brushed himself, and shut the door, and took off his limp ruin of a hat, and slapped it once or twice against his leg to knock off its fleece of snow, and then glanced around on the company with a pleased look upon his thin face, and a most yearning and famished one in his eye when it fell upon the victuals, and then he gave us a humble and conciliatory salutation, and said it was a blessed thing to have a fire like that on such a night, and a roof overhead like this, and that rich food to eat, and loving friends to talk with—ah, yes, this was true, and God help the homeless, and such as must trudge the roads in this weather.
Nobody said anything. The embarrassed poor creature stood there and appealed to one face after the other with his eyes, and found no welcome in any, the smile on his own face flickering and fading and perishing, meanwhile; then he dropped his gaze, the muscles of his face began to twitch, and he put up his hand to cover this womanish sign of weakness.
This thunder-blast was from old Jacques d'Arc, and Joan was the object of it. The stranger was startled, and took his hand away, and there was Joan standing before him offering him her bowl of porridge. The man said:
"God Almighty bless you, my darling!" and then the tears came, and ran down his cheeks, but he was afraid to take the bowl.
"Do you hear me? Sit down, I say!"
There could not be a child more easy to persuade than Joan, but this was not the way. Her father had not the art; neither could he learn it. Joan said:
"Father, he is hungry; I can see it."
"Let him work for food, then. We are being eaten out of house and home by his like, and I have said I would endure it no more, and will keep my word. He has the face of a rascal anyhow, and a villain. Sit down, I tell you!"
"I know not if he is a rascal or no, but he is hungry, father, and shall have my porridge—I do not need it."
"If you don't obey me I'll—Rascals are not entitled to help from honest people, and no bite nor sup shall they have in this house. Joan!"
She set her bowl down on the box and came over and stood before her scowling father, and said:
"Father, if you will not let me, then it must be as you say; but I would that you would think—then you would see that it is not right to punish one part of him for what the other part has done; for it is that poor stranger's head that does the evil things, but it is not his head that is hungry, it is his stomach, and it has done no harm to anybody, but is without blame, and innocent, not having any way to do a wrong, even if it was minded to it. Please let—"
"What an idea! It is the most idiotic speech I ever heard."
But Aubrey, the maire, broke in, he being fond of an argument, and having a pretty gift in that regard, as all acknowledged. Rising in his place and leaning his knuckles upon the table and looking about him with easy dignity, after the manner of such as be orators, he began, smooth and persuasive:
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