There were only four soldiers left in the hall. The Prussians showed themselves in a body on the other bank of the Morelle, and it was evident that they might cross the river at any time. A few minutes more elapsed. The captain stuck to it obstinately, would not give the order to retreat, when a sergeant came running up, saying.—
——"They are on the road, they are going to take us in the rear."
The Prussians must have found the bridge. The captain pulled out his watch.
——"Five minutes more," said he. "They won't be here for five minutes."
Then, at the stroke of six, he at last consented to order his men out by a little door, opening upon an alleyway. From there they threw themselves into a ditch, they reached the Sauval forest. Before going, the captain saluted old Merlier very politely, excusing himself. And he even added,—
——"Make them lose time. . . . We shall be back again."
Meanwhile Dominique stayed on in the hall. He still kept firing, hearing nothing, understanding nothing. He only felt that he must defend Françoise. The soldiers were gone, without his suspecting it the least in the world. He took aim and killed his man at every shot. Suddenly there was a loud noise. The Prussians, from