Four Short Stories
It was a settled rule of the German staff that every Frenchman, not belonging to the
regular army, taken with arms in his hands should be shot. The militia companies
themselves were not recognized as belligerents. By thus making terrible examples of the
peasants who defended their homes, the Germans hoped to prevent the levy en masse,
which they feared.
The officer, a tall, lean man of fifty, briefly questioned Dominique. Although he spoke
remarkably pure French he had a stiffness altogether Prussian.
"Do you belong to this district?" he asked.
"No; I am a Belgian," answered the young man.
"Why then did you take up arms? The fighting did not concern you!"
Dominique made no reply. At that moment the officer saw Francoise who was standing
by, very pale, listening; upon her white forehead her slight wound had put a red bar. He
looked at the young folks, one after the other, seemed to understand matters and
contented himself with adding:
"You do not deny having fired, do you?"
"I fired as often as I could!" responded Dominique tranquilly.
This confession was useless, for he was black with powder, covered with sweat and
stained with a few drops of blood which had flowed from the scratch on his shoulder.
"Very well," said the officer. "You will be shot in two hours!"
Francoise did not cry out. She clasped her hands and raised them with a gesture of mute
despair. The officer noticed this gesture. Two soldiers had taken Dominique to a
neighboring apartment, where they were to keep watch over him. The young girl had
fallen upon a chair, totally overcome; she could not weep; she was suffocating. The
officer had continued to examine her. At last he spoke to her.
"Is that young man your brother?" he demanded.
She shook her head negatively. The German stood stiffly on his feet with out a smile.
Then after a short silence he again asked: