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Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/49

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shoved her back with their pikes, and finally one of them struck her for her persistence.

"Pierre, look at her old mother; ah, Holy Virgin, what a stubborn lot are these heretics."

Her mother! Great powers of heaven, could it be possible? My indignation blazed out against the inhuman guard.

"Why do ye this most un-Christian thing?" and to the crowd:

"Do you call yourselves men to stand by and witness this?"

At my words one sturdy young fellow, of the better, peasant-farmer class, broke from those who held him and would have thrown himself unarmed against the mail-clad guard. Many strong arms kept him back. He struggled furiously for a while, then sank in the sheer desperation of exhaustion upon the road. As soon as he was quiet the mob, gathering about the more attractive spectacle, left him quite alone. I went up to him, laid my hand upon his shoulder, and spoke to him kindly. He looked up, surprised that one wearing a uniform should show him human sympathy. He had a good, honest face, blue-eyed and frank, yet such an expression of utter hopelessness as never marred a mortal countenance. It haunts me to this day.

I was touched by the man's sullen apathy, succeeding so quickly to the desperate energy I had seen him display, and asked concerning his trouble.

"Oh, God, Monsieur, my wife, Celeste, my young wife! Only a year married, Monsieur." He raised upon