The Massacre of the Innocents part 5

The
parishioners inquired of him in undertones, “What does he say? What is he going
to do?” Others, seeing the curt: in the orchard, emerged cautiously from their
huts, and women hastily came near and whispered in small groups among
themselves, while the soldiers who had been besieging the inn, came out again
when they saw the crowd assembling in the square.

Then
he who held the innkeeper’s child by one leg, cut off its head with a stroke of
the sword. The peasants saw the head fall, and the body bleeding on the ground.
The mother gathered it to her arms, forgetting the head, and ran toward her
house. On the way she stumbled against a tree, fell flat on the snow and lay in
a faint, while the father struggled with two soldiers.

Horror to the accompaniment

Some
of the younger peasants threw stones and wood at the Spaniards, but the horsemen
rallied and lowered their lances, the women scattered in all directions, while
the curd with his other parishioners, shrieked with horror to the accompaniment
of the noises made by the sheep, geese, and dogs.

As
the soldiers went off once more down the street, they were quiet again, waiting
to see what would happen. A group went into the shop of the sacristan’s
sisters, but came out again without touching the seven women, who were on their
knees praying within.

Then
they entered the inn of the Hunchback of St. Nicholas. There too the door was
instantly opened in the hope of placating them, but when they appeared again in
the midst of a great tumult, they carried three children in their arms, and
were surrounded by the Hunchback, his wife and daughters, who were begging for
mercy with clasped hands.

When
the soldiers came to their leader they laid the children down at the foot of an
elm, all dressed in their Sunday clothes. One of them, who wore a yellow dress,
got up and ran with unsteady feet toward the sheep. A soldier ran after it with
his naked sword. The child died with its face on the earth.

The
others were killed near the tree. The peasants and the innkeeper’s daughters
took flight, screaming, and went back to their houses. Alone in the orchard,
the curd fell to his knees and begged the Spaniards, in a piteous voice, with
arms crossed over his breast, going from one to the other on his knees, while
the father and mother of the murdered children, seated on the snow, wept
bitterly as they bent over the lacerated bodies.

As
the foot-soldiers went along the street they noticed a large blue farmhouse.
They tried to break in the door, but this was of oak and studded with huge
nails. They therefore took tubs which were frozen in a pond near the entrance,
and used them to enter the house from the second story windows.

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