After Many Days: Chapter 1: An Alpine Tragedy

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 11
WHEN we hear or read of the Alpine valleys we shall be reminded not only of snow-crowned mountain peaks, lovely waterfalls, terraced vineyards, and fields where in the early springtime many-colored flowers form a carpet of no common beauty, but also, I hope, of fellow-Christians, who in days of great darkness and difficulty held a pure faith, and in many instances chose to die rather than give up the simple teachings of the word of God.
Though a large number of the inhabitants of the Tyrol are, and have been for generations past, Roman Catholics, here and there amid the darkness there were gleams of light: little groups of simple and industrious peasants, who, having found in the Bible a treasure far more precious than gems or gold, would not give up their faith or bow to the authority of the Popes of Rome. They knew that they might have to suffer, or even to die for the faith they held, but they had counted the cost, and counting upon God to keep them true and faithful, refused to attend mass or worship the Virgin Mary. "We love and honor her," they said, "but we cannot give to her the worship that belongs only to God and to His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The hour of danger and of death had come. A terrible persecution had broken out against the Huguenots, who lived in the part of the Tyrol called Zillerthal, and many, leaving their flocks and vines, had sought safety in flight.
Peter Hollman, the owner of one of the prettiest cottages in the district, was, at the time of which I write, too feeble and aged to join a party of his friends and neighbors who had made up their minds to quit the valley before the arrival of a band of soldiers, who they had learned were already on their way to force them to submit to the Pope. His two daughters, Anna and Eloise, firmly refused to leave their father, saying, "No, dear father, if we are called to lay down our lives for our faith, let us all die together.”
Their first care was to seek a place for their much-loved Bible. Hollman knew only too well that it would be destroyed if it fell into the hands of the soldiers, and though he expected no mercy for himself, he wished and prayed that when he should be no more God might speak through its pages to some other heart.
As the shades of evening began to gather, Hollman drew his daughters to his side, and after repeating the Savior's words, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1, 21Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1‑2)), the family knelt in prayer. He prayed as one to whom "unseen things" were very near and real, as one who expected very soon to be with the Savior whom he had long known and trusted.
He prayed for his daughters and for himself, that faith and courage might be given to them to suffer death, if such were the will of God, rather than deny their Lord.
They had not risen from their knees when the sound of firearms was heard, and a moment later a band of soldiers burst into the cottage, shouting, "Down with the heretics. We will make short work of the heretics." Going up to the old man, the leader of the band, shaking him roughly, said, "Confess your errors and return to the only true church, or die on the spot, the wretched heretic that you are.”
Calmly and gently Hollman replied, "I cannot confess as an error that I have loved and read the Bible; neither can I own as the true church one which has so forgotten the spirit of the Savior as to persecute and kill His humble followers.”
Eloise was the younger of Peter Hollman's daughters. She was only fifteen years of age, and her life had been a very bright and happy one. Naturally timid and gentle, it was not surprising that she turned pale and trembled violently. Anna, who was several years older, was pale but calm; she threw her arms round the trembling girl, whispering tenderly, "Courage, my darling sister; let us be faithful unto death, we shall then receive a crown of life. We shall not be parted in death, but dwell together with our Lord and Savior.”
A crucifix was then thrust before the face of each, and they were ordered to kiss it and repeat a Latin prayer to the Virgin Mary. Their refusal to do so was followed by the gleam of swords and the flash of pistols, and in a few minutes Peter Hollman and his daughters, absent from their bodies, were present with the Lord.
The soldiers then plundered the cottage, and twice set it on fire, but surely the eye of God was upon the carefully hidden Bible, and the cottage was not allowed to burn, for each time the flames went out of themselves.
The soldiers at last left the cottage. A day or two later the bodies of the father and daughters were buried in the garden where they had trained the vines and tended the flowers with such loving care.