Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French II).djvu/55

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——"Go down to the little cellar; the walls are solid."

But they did not mind him, they went into the great hall, where ten soldiers, or so, were waiting in silence, with shutters closed, peeping through the cracks. The captain had stayed alone in the courtyard, crouched down behind the little wall, while the furious volleys continued. The soldiers he had stationed outside yielded ground only foot by foot. Yet they came in, one by one, crawling on their faces, when the enemy had dislodged them from their hiding-places. Their orders were to gain time, not to show themselves, so that the Prussians might not know what numbers they had before them. Another hour went by; and, as a sergeant came up, saying that there were only two or three men left outside, the officer looked at his watch, muttering,—

——"Half after two. . . . Come, we must hold out four hours."

He had the gate of the courtyard shut, and all preparations were made for an energetic resistance. As the Prussians were on the other side of the Morelle, an immediate assault was not to be feared. To be sure, there was a bridge, a little over a mile off, but they doubtless did not know of its existence, and it was hardly probable that they would try to ford the river. So the officer merely had the road watched. The whole