Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French II).djvu/86

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she clasped her hands and prayed. Old Merlier, beside her, maintained his mute and rigid attitude of an old peasant who does not struggle with the fatality of facts.

——"Oh, my God! oh, my God!" stammered Françoise, "they are going to kill him."

The miller drew her close to him and took her upon his knees, like a child.

Just then the officer came out, while, behind him, two men led Dominique.

——"Never, never!" cried the latter. "I am ready to die."

——"Think of it well," replied the officer. "This service that you refuse us will be done for us by another. I offer you your life, I am generous. . . . It is only to be our guide to Montredon, through the woods. There must be paths."

Dominique made no answer.

——"Then you are still obstinate?"

——"Kill me, and let us have done with it," he answered.

Françoise, with hands clasped, implored him from across the yard. She had forgotten all, she would have urged him to some piece of cowardice. But old Merlier grasped her hands, that the Prussians might not see her delirious gesture.

——"He is right," he murmured, "it's better to die."

The firing party was there. The officer was