Thesisters of the dead woman and various other relatives got into the cart, andthe curt: as well, for he was old and very fat and could walk only with thegreatest difficulty. They drove off into the wood, and in silence reached thewide open fields, where they saw the dead soldiers, stripped naked, and thehorses lying on their backs on the shining ice among the trees.
Theywent on toward the farm, which was still burning in the midst of the openfields.
Whenthey reached the orchard of the burning house, they stopped short before thegarden gate and looked upon the terrible tragedy. Korneliz` wife hung, naked,from the branches of a huge chestnut. He himself climbed up a ladder into thebranches of the tree, below which his nine little girls awaited their mother onthe lawn. Korneliz made his way through the arching boughs overhead when all atonce, outlined against the bright snow, he caught sight of the crowd beneath,looking up at him.
Weeping,he signed to them to come to his help, and they came into the garden, and thesacristan, the Red Dwarf, the innkeepers of the Blue Lion and the Golden Sun,the curd carrying a lantern, and several other peasants, climbed into thesnow-covered chestnut to cut down the body of the hanged woman. The women tookthe body into their arms at the foot of the tree, as those other women oncereceived Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Shewas buried on the following day, and for the next week nothing unusual occurredin Nazareth, but the next Sunday famished wolves ran through the village afterHigh Mass, and the snow fell until noon. Then the sun came out and shone brightin the sky, and the peasants went home to dinner as usual, and dressed forBenediction.
Atthis time there was no one out on the square, for it was bitter cold. Only dogsand chickens wandered here and there among the trees, and sheep nibbled at thetriangular spot of grass, and the curd`s maid swept the snow in the garden.
Thena troop of armed men crossed the stone bridge at the far end of the village,and pulled up at the orchard. A few peasants came out of their houses, buthurried back terror-stricken when they saw that the horsemen were Spaniards,and went to their windows to watch what was going to happen.
Therewere thirty horsemen, in armor. They gathered round an old man with a whitebeard. Each horseman carried with him a foot-soldier dressed in yellow or red.These dismounted and ran about over the snow to warm themselves, while a numberof armored soldiers also dismounted.
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