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The Glorious Return

A Story of the Vaudois in 1698

118 pages
Library of Alexandria
THE sunlight was fading from the hills, and the pine-forests were growing grey in the creeping shadow. A northerly breeze had been blowing from the mountains, but it had died down, as north winds do, with the sunsetting; a great stillness had fallen upon the valleys. One could hear the torrent as it leapt from the snows above, rushing and gurgling in the gorge it had graven for itself on its way to the Pélice River. One could hear too, faint and far away, the cry of the ravens as they circled over a meadow; and one might catch the jarring call of a night-hawk as it woke from its daylight sleep. But these sounds rather blended with than broke upon the silence. And there seemed besides no sign of life or motion in all the width of the valley. There were traces of cultivation on the hill-sides where careful hands had terraced and tilled the stony soil, winning from the wilderness fields for pastures and for corn. There were also buildings that had the semblance of cottages, a group of ruins here by the stream-side, and single ones standing yonder beyond the spurs of the pine-woods. But in those fields were now neither flocks nor herds, nor any sign of corn; and from those broken chimneys no smoke-wreaths drifted to tell of human lives about the warm hearth-stones. It was the year 1687, and the valley was the Valley of Luserna, in the Piedmontese Alps. This was the country of the Vaudois, and it was indeed desolate after the bitter persecution which had followed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Storms of cruelty and the bitterness of superstition had swept the valleys at various times, but never a storm so devastating and terrible as this. From Fenestrelle to Rora, from the Pra Pass to the plains of Piedmont, fire and sword had driven forth the remnant of the Vaudois. Hundreds had fallen, fighting for their faith and for their homes; hundreds had perished under the white pall of the winter snows; and hundreds more had died on the scaffold or in the prisons of the plain. And the remnant, the poor harried and hunted souls, had gone forth to seek an asylum—if such there might be found—where they might worship their God according to His Word. The sun sank lower yet; the line of light retreated farther up the mountain-peaks. The ravens sullenly stooped and settled on the rocks. The torrent kept its noisy way, charged with the blue snow-water that came glancing from the hills. Suddenly a woman’s voice rose on the air, clear, and very sweet. It came through the sprays of creeping plants that veiled a crag so steep that one might marvel how human being could have climbed there. It was a haunt fit only for the chamois or the hill-sheep; and on either hand spread dense forests and ravines where the snow-wreaths lay yet unmelted.