Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French II).djvu/61

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the rear, had just overrun the courtyard. He fired his last shot, and they fell upon him as his piece was still smoking.

Four men held him. Others shouted round him in a frightful language. They all but cut his throat off-hand. Françoise threw herself before him in supplication; but an officer came in and took charge of the prisoner. After a few sentences exchanged in German with the soldiers, he turned to Dominique and said roughly, and in very good French,—

——"You will be shot in two hours."


It was a rule made by the German staff: every Frenchman not belonging to the regular army, and taken with arms in his hands, should be shot. Even the guerilla companies were not recognized as belligerents. By thus making terrible examples of the peasants who defended their own firesides, the Germans wished to prevent the uprising of the whole country en masse, which they dreaded.

The officer, a tall, lean man of about fifty, put Dominique through a brief examination. Although he spoke very pure French, he had quite the Prussian stiffness.

——"You belong in these parts?"

——"No, I am a Belgian."