Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French II).djvu/53

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——"The rascals have taken to the forest," he muttered. "They know we are here."

Then the firing kept up harder, and harder, between the French soldiers, stationed round the mill, and the Prussians, hidden behind the trees. The bullets whistled across the Morelle, without occasioning any loss on one side or the other. The shots were irregular, came from every bush; and all you saw was still the little clouds of smoke gently wafted away by the wind. This lasted for nearly two hours. The officer hummed a tune, as if indifferent. Françoise and Dominique, who had stayed in the courtyard, raised themselves up on tiptoe, and looked over the wall. They were particularly interested in watching a little soldier, stationed on the brink of the Morelle, behind the hulk of an old boat; he was flat on his belly, watched his chance, fired his shot, then let himself slide down into a ditch, a little behind him, to reload his rifle; and his movements were so droll, so cunning, so supple, that it made one smile to see him. He must have espied the head of some Prussian, for he got up quickly and brought his piece to his shoulder; but, before he fired, he gave a cry, turned over upon himself, and rolled into the ditch, where his legs stiffened out with the momentary, convulsive jerk of those of a chicken with its neck wrung. The little soldier had received a bullet full in the breast. He was the