Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc— Volume 2

Author: Mark Twain

Chapter 37 Again to Arms

NOW THESE were nobles, you know, by decree of the King!—these precious old infants. But they did not realize it; they could not be called conscious of it; it was an abstraction, a phantom; to them it had no substance; their minds could not take hold of it. No, they did not bother about their nobility; they lived in their horses. The horses were solid; they were visible facts, and would make a mighty stir in Domremy. Presently something was said about the Coronation, and old D’Arc said it was going to be a grand thing to be able to say, when they got home, that they were present in the very town itself when it happened. Joan looked troubled, and said:

"Ah, that reminds me. You were here and you didn’t send me word. In the town, indeed! Why, you could have sat with the other nobles, and ben welcome; and could have looked upon the crowning itself, and carried that home to tell. Ah, why did you use me so, and send me no word?"

The old father was embarrassed, now, quite visibly embarrassed, and had the air of one who does not quite know what to say. But Joan was looking up in his face, her hands upon his shoulders—waiting. He had to speak; so presently he drew her to his breast, which was heaving with emotion; and he said, getting out his words with difficulty:

"There, hide your face, child, and let your old father humble himself and make his confession. I—I—don’t you see, don’t you understand?—I could not know that these grandeurs would not turn your young head—it would be only natural. I might shame you before these great per—"


"And then I was afraid, as remembering that cruel thing I said once in my sinful anger. Oh, appointed of God to be a soldier, and the greatest in the land! and in my ignorant anger I said I would drown you with my own hands if you unsexed yourself and brought shame to your name and family. Ah, how could I ever have said it, and you so good and dear and innocent! I was afraid; for I was guilty. You understand it now, my child, and you forgive?"

Do you see? Even that poor groping old land-crab, with his skull full of pulp, had pride. Isn’t it wonderful? And more—he had conscience; he had a sense of right and wrong, such as it was; he was able to find remorse. It looks impossible, it looks incredible, but it is not. I believe that some day it will be found out that peasants are people. Yes, beings in a great many respects like ourselves. And I believe that some day they will find this out, too—and then! Well, then I think they will rise up and demand to be regarded as part of the race, and that by consequence there will be trouble. Whenever one sees in a book or in a king’s proclamation those words "the nation," they bring before us the upper classes; only those; we know no other "nation"; for us and the kings no other "nation" exists. But from the day that I saw old D’Arc the peasant acting and feeling just as I should have acted and felt myself, I have carried the conviction in my heart that our peasants are not merely animals, beasts of burden put here by the good God to produce food and comfort for the "nation," but something more and better. You look incredulous. Well, that is your training; it is the training of everybody; but as for me, I thank that incident for giving me a better light, and I have never forgotten it.

Let me see—where was I? One’s mind wanders around here and there and yonder, when one is old. I think I said Joan comforted him. Certainly, that is what she would do—there was no need to say that. She coaxed him and petted him and caressed him, and laid the memory of that old hard speech of his to rest. Laid it to rest until she should be dead. Then he would remember it again—yes, yes! Lord, how those things sting, and burn, and gnaw—the things which we did against the innocent dead! And we say in our anguish, "If they could only come back!" Which is all very well to say, but, as far as I can see, it doesn’t profit anything. In my opinion the best way is not to do the thing in the first place. And I am not alone in this; I have heard our two knights say the same thing; and a man there in Orleans—no, I believe it was at Beaugency, or one of those places—it seems more as if it was at Beaugency than the others—this man said the same thing exactly; almost the same words; a dark man with a cast in his eye and one leg shorter than the other. His name was—was—it is singular that I can’t call that man’s name; I had it in my mind only a moment ago, and I know it begins with—no, I don’t remember what it begins with; but never mind, let it go; I will think of it presently, and then I will tell you.

Well, pretty soon the old father wanted to know how Joan felt when she was in the thick of a battle, with the bright blades hacking and flashing all around her, and the blows rapping and slatting on her shield, and blood gushing on her from the cloven ghastly face and broken teeth of the neighbor at her elbow, and the perilous sudden back surge of massed horses upon a person when the front ranks give way before a heavy rush of the enemy, and men tumble limp and groaning out of saddles all around, and battle-flags falling from dead hands wipe across one’s face and hide the tossing turmoil a moment, and in the reeling and swaying and laboring jumble one’s horse’s hoofs sink into soft substances and shrieks of pain respond, and presently—panic! rush! swarm! flight! and death and hell following after! And the old fellow got ever so much excited; and strode up and down, his tongue going like a mill, asking question after question and never waiting for an answer; and finally he stood Joan up in the middle of the room and stepped off and scanned her critically, and said:

"No—I don’t understand it. You are so little. So little and slender. When you had your armor on, to-day, it gave one a sort of notion of it; but in these pretty silks and velvets, you are only a dainty page, not a league-striding war-colossus, moving in clouds and darkness and breathing smoke and thunder. I would God I might see you at it and go tell your mother! That would help her sleep, poor thing! Here—teach me the arts of the soldier, that I may explain them to her."

And she did it. She gave him a pike, and put him through the manual of arms; and made him do the steps, too. His marching was incredibly awkward and slovenly, and so was his drill with the pike; but he didn’t know it, and was wonderfully pleased with himself, and mightily excited and charmed with the ringing, crisp words of command. I am obliged to say that if looking proud and happy when one is marching were sufficient, he would have been the perfect soldier.

And he wanted a lesson in sword-play, and got it. But of course that was beyond him; he was too old. It was beautiful to see Joan handle the foils, but the old man was a bad failure. He was afraid of the things, and skipped and dodged and scrambled around like a woman who has lost her mind on account of the arrival of a bat. He was of no good as an exhibition. But if La Hire had only come in, that would have been another matter. Those two fenced often; I saw them many times. True, Joan was easily his master, but it made a good show for all that, for La Hire was a grand swordsman. What a swift creature Joan was! You would see her standing erect with her ankle-bones together and her foil arched over her head, the hilt in one hand and the button in the other—the old general opposite, bent forward, left hand reposing on his back, his foil advanced, slightly wiggling and squirming, his watching eye boring straight into hers—and all of a sudden she would give a spring forward, and back again; and there she was, with the foil arched over her head as before. La Hire had been hit, but all that the spectator saw of it was a something like a thin flash of light in the air, but nothing distinct, nothing definite.

We kept the drinkables moving, for that would please the Bailly and the landlord; and old Laxart and D’Arc got to feeling quite comfortable, but without being what you could call tipsy. They got out the presents which they had been buying to carry home—humble things and cheap, but they would be fine there, and welcome. And they gave to Joan a present from PŠre Fronte and one from her mother—the one a little leaden image of the Holy Virgin, the other half a yard of blue silk ribbon; and she was as pleased as a child; and touched, too, as one could see plainly enough. Yes, she kissed those poor things over and over again, as if they had been something costly and wonderful; and she pinned the Virgin on her doublet, and sent for her helmet and tied the ribbon on that; first one way, then another; then a new way, then another new way; and with each effort perching the helmet on her hand and holding it off this way and that, and canting her head to one side and then the other, examining the effect, as a bird does when it has got a new bug. And she said she could almost wish she was going to the wars again; for then she would fight with the better courage, as having always with her something which her mother’s touch had blessed.

Old Laxart said he hoped she would go to the wars again, but home first, for that all the people there were cruel anxious to see her—and so he went on:

"They are proud of you, dear. Yes, prouder than any village ever was of anybody before. And indeed it is right and rational; for it is the first time a village has ever had anybody like you to be proud of and call its own. And it is strange and beautiful how they try to give your name to every creature that has a sex that is convenient. It is but half a year since you began to be spoken of and left us, and so it is surprising to see how many babies there are already in that region that are named for you. First it was just Joan; then it was Joan-Orleans; then Joan-Orleans-Beaugency-Patay; and now the next ones will have a lot of towns and the Coronation added, of course. Yes, and the animals the same. They know how you love animals, and so they try to do you honor and show their love for you by naming all those creatures after you; insomuch that if a body should step out and call "Joan of Arc—come!’ ’there would be a landslide of cats and all such things, each supposing it was the one wanted, and all willing to take the benefit of the doubt, anyway, for the sake of the food that might be on delivery. The kitten you left behind—the last estray you fetched home—bears you name, now, and belongs to PŠre Fronte, and is the pet nad pride of the village; and people have come miles to look at it and pet it and stare at it and wonder over it because it was Joan of Arc’s cat. Everybody will tell you that; and one day when a stranger threw a stone at it, not knowing it was your cat, the village rose against him as one man and hanged him! And but for PŠre Fronte—"

There was an interruption. It was a messenger from the King, bearing a note for Joan, which I read to her, saying he had reflected, and had consulted his other generals, and was obliged to ask her to remain at the head of the army and withdraw her resignation. Also, would she come immediately and attend a council of war? Straightway, at a little distance, military commands and the rumble of drums broke on the still night, and we knew that her guard was approaching.

Deep disappointment clouded her face for just one moment and no more—it passed, and with it the homesick girl, and she was Joan of Arc, Commander-in-Chief again, and ready for duty.


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Chicago: Mark Twain, "Chapter 37 Again to Arms," Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc— Volume 2, ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc—Volume 2 (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed December 11, 2023,

MLA: Twain, Mark. "Chapter 37 Again to Arms." Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc— Volume 2, edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc—Volume 2, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 11 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Twain, M, 'Chapter 37 Again to Arms' in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc— Volume 2, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc—Volume 2, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 11 December 2023, from