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Four Short Stories

Chapter IV
A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE
At dawn a clamor of voices shook the mill. Pere Merlier opened the door of Francoise's
chamber. She went down into the courtyard, pale and very calm. But there she could not
repress a shiver as she saw the corpse of a Prussian soldier stretched out on a cloak beside
the well.
Around the body troops gesticulated, uttering cries of fury. Many of them shook their
fists at the village. Meanwhile the officer had summoned Pere Merlier as the mayor of the
commune.
"Look!" he said to him in a voice almost choking with anger. "There lies one of our men
who was found assassinated upon the bank of the river. We must make a terrible
example, and I count on you to aid us in discovering the murderer."
"As you choose," answered the miller with his usual stoicism, "but you will find it no
easy task."
The officer stooped and drew aside a part of the cloak which hid the face of the dead
man. Then appeared a horrible wound. The sentinel had been struck in the throat, and the
weapon had remained in the cut. It was a kitchen knife with a black handle.
"Examine that knife," said the officer to Pere Merlier; "perhaps it will help us in our
search."
The old man gave a start but recovered control of himself immediately. He replied
without moving a muscle of his face:
"Everybody in the district has similar knives. Doubtless your man was weary of fighting
and put an end to his own life. It looks like it!"
"Mind what you say!" cried the officer furiously. "I do not know what prevents me from
setting fire to the four corners of the village!"
Happily in his rage he did not notice the deep trouble pictured on Francoise's
countenance. She had been forced to sit down on a stone bench near the well. Despite
herself her eyes were fixed upon the corpse stretched our on the ground almost at her
feet. It was that of a tall and handsome man who resembled Dominique, with flaxen hair
and blue eyes. This resemblance made her heart ache. She thought that perhaps the dead
soldier had left behind him in Germany a sweetheart who would weep her eyes out for
him. She recognized her knife in the throat of the murdered man. She had killed him.
The officer was talking of striking Rocreuse with terrible measures, when soldiers came
running to him. Dominique's escape had just been discovered. It caused an extreme
 
 
 
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