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Regarded by many as the most luminous example of Twain’s work, this historical novel chronicles the French heroine’s life, as purportedly told by her longtime friend — Sieur Louis de Conté. A panorama of stirring scenes recount Joan’s childhood in Domremy, the story of her voices, the fight for Orleans, the splendid march to Rheims, and much more. An amazing record that disclosed Twain’s unrestrained admiration for Joan’s nobility of character, the book is matchless in its workmanship — one of Twain’s lesser-known novels that will charm and delightfully surprise his admirers and devotees.
71,000 words, with a reading time of ~ 4.3 hours (~ 284 pages), and first published in 1896. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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The troops must have a rest. Two days would be allowed for this. The morning of the 14th I was writing from Joan’s dictation in a small room which she sometimes used as a private office when she wanted to get away from officials and their interruptions. Catherine Boucher came in and sat down and said:
“Joan, dear, I want you to talk to me.”
“Indeed, I am not sorry for that, but glad. What is in your mind?”
“This. I scarcely slept last night, for thinking of the dangers you are running. The Paladin told me how you made the duke stand out of the way when the cannon-balls were flying all about, and so saved his life.”
“Well, that was right, wasn’t it?”
“Right? Yes; but you stayed there yourself. Why will you do like that? It seems such a wanton risk.”
“Oh, no, it was not so. I was not in any danger.”
“How can you say that, Joan, with those deadly things flying all about you?”
Joan laughed, and tried to turn the subject, but Catherine persisted. She said:
“It was horribly dangerous, and it could not be necessary to stay in such a place. And you led an assault again. Joan, it is tempting Providence. I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise me that you will let others lead the assaults, if there must be assaults, and that you will take better care of yourself in those dreadful battles. Will you?”
But Joan fought away from the promise and did not give it. Catherine sat troubled and discontented awhile, then she said:
“Joan, are you going to be a soldier always? These wars are so long–so long. They last forever and ever and ever.”
There was a glad flash in Joan’s eye as she cried:
“This campaign will do all the really hard work that is in front of it in the next four days. The rest of it will be gentler–oh, far less bloody. Yes, in four days France will gather another trophy like the redemption of Orleans and make her second long step toward freedom!”
Catherine started (and so did I); then she gazed long at Joan like one in a trance, murmuring “four days–four days,” as if to herself and unconsciously. Finally she asked, in a low voice that had something of awe in it:
“Joan, tell me–how is it that you know that? For you do know it, I think.”
“Yes,” said Joan, dreamily, “I know–I know. I shall strike–and strike again. And before the fourth day is finished I shall strike yet again.” She became silent. We sat wondering and still. This was for a whole minute, she looking at the floor and her lips moving but uttering nothing. Then came these words, but hardly audible: “And in a thousand years the English power in France will not rise up from that blow.”
It made my flesh creep. It was uncanny. She was in a trance again–I could see it–just as she was that day in the pastures of Domremy when she prophesied about us boys in the war and afterward did not know that she had done it. She was not conscious now; but Catherine did not know that, and so she said, in a happy voice:
“Oh, I believe it, I believe it, and I am so glad! Then you will come back and bide with us all your life long, and we will love you so, and honor you!”
A scarcely perceptible spasm flitted across Joan’s face, and the dreamy voice muttered:
“Before two years are sped I shall die a cruel death!”
I sprang forward with a warning hand up. That is why Catherine did not scream. She was going to do that–I saw it plainly. Then I whispered her to slip out of the place, and say nothing of what had happened. I said Joan was asleep–asleep and dreaming. Catherine whispered back, and said:
“Oh, I am so grateful that it is only a dream! It sounded like prophecy.” And she was gone.
Like prophecy! I knew it was prophecy; and I sat down crying, as knowing we should lose her. Soon she started, shivering slightly, and came to herself, and looked around and saw me crying there, and jumped out of her chair and ran to me all in a whirl of sympathy and compassion, and put her hand on my head, and said:
“My poor boy! What is it? Look up and tell me.”
I had to tell her a lie; I grieved to do it, but there was no other way. I picked up an old letter from my table, written by Heaven knows who, about some matter Heaven knows what, and told her I had just gotten it from Pere Fronte, and that in it it said the children’s Fairy Tree had been chopped down by some miscreant or other, and– I got no further. She snatched the letter from my hand and searched it up and down and all over, turning it this way and that, and sobbing great sobs, and the tears flowing down her cheeks, and ejaculating all the time, “Oh, cruel, cruel! how could any be so heartless? Ah, poor Arbre Fee de Bourlemont gone–and we children loved it so! Show me the place where it says it!”
And I, still lying, showed her the pretended fatal words on the pretended fatal page, and she gazed at them through her tears, and said she could see herself that they were hateful, ugly words–they “had the very look of it.”