After Many Days: Chapter 2: A New Owner

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FOR thirty years the pretty cottage that had been the loved home of Peter Hollman and his daughters stood untenanted, for though sometimes the villagers would speak to each other of the martyred family, saying, "What a pity they refused to go to confession, and would not attend mass; they were always so kind to the poor, and had a smile and a pleasant word for every one," they were, as far as possible, careful to avoid being in the neighborhood of the cottage after the evening shadows began to gather, and even the children seldom, if ever, played near its crumbling walls.
And so, year after year, the work of decay went on. A few garden flowers still reared their heads and unfolded their fragrant blossoms among the mass of weeds and undergrowth that had changed the once well-kept garden into a wilderness. The vines, no longer trained by skilled hands, drooped and died. The walls and roof of the cottage suffered greatly from the storms of many winters, and the whole place seemed given over to ruin and desolation.
Such was the state of things when, after an absence of nearly forty years, Adolf Pascilin returned, with his wife and two children, to his native valley. He had left it as a youth of not more than seventeen or eighteen years of age to seek employment elsewhere. Sober, steady, industrious, and possessed of considerable ability, he had had no difficulty in finding work; but, like many of his countrymen, to return to the scenes of his boyhood had been the hope to which he had clung through all those years. For this he had toiled and saved, and when he had acquired what, to a man of his simple tastes and habits, seemed almost a small fortune, he gladly bade good-bye to the busy town in which, for so many years, he had lived and worked, and turned his steps to the valleys of the Tyrol.
Almost his first care after his return was to provide a home for his family, and he remembered how often as a boy he had admired the cottage of Peter Hollman, and, on making inquiries, he found that, owing to its ruinous condition, he could purchase it for a sum much below its real value.
“Why did Peter Hollman leave the cottage?" he asked.
“Ah, my friend, it was a sad day for our village when a party of soldiers, whose business it was to hunt for heretics, entered it. No mercy is, as you know, shown to those who will not confess and return to the true church, and as Peter and his daughters were obstinate (I have heard the story from my mother), they were killed, and that grassy mound at the foot of the garden marks their graves. Well, all I can say is that I am sorry, for though a heretic, Peter Hollman always acted like a good Christian man, and his daughters were fair, gentle girls, and so young. Ah! we are living in troublesome times.”
“Heresy is doubtless a great sin," replied Adolf, who thought himself a devout Romanist; he then continued in an easy, good-natured manner, "Yes, it is a sad story, but I do not see why it need prevent me from buying the cottage; I like the situation. We shall not disturb the dead, and the dead cannot harm the living.”
In less than a week the purchase was made, the titlc-deeds of the cottage duly signed and witnessed, and its new owner was busily engaged in making such repairs as he thought necessary before bringing his wife and children beneath its roof.
The work was still unfinished when the family took possession of their new home. Though the cottage and garden had begun to recover something of their, former beauty and order, much still remained to be done, and when autumn came, with its chilly nights and mornings, Adolf set to work to repair the large, old-fashioned fireplace. While doing so he took up the hearthstone, and great was his surprise on finding beneath it a large, flat parcel, carefully wrapped in many coverings.
“Come here, Annette," he exclaimed to his wife, "and see what I have found. It must be something of great value by the care that has been taken to preserve it from damp.”
Together they removed the wrappings and found a large copy of Luther's translation of the New Testament, with some portions of the Old. Both Adolf and his wife, who had never seen a Bible, and, like most of their neighbors, were quite ignorant of God's way of salvation, were greatly surprised.
Adolf opened it at the title page, and after reading the words, "THE NEW TESTAMENT Of our Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST," exclaimed in horror, "Why it must be the book of the heretics! Let us burn it at once, and so rid the house of heresy, or it will surely bring trouble.”
“Let us look into it before you destroy it, Adolf," pleaded his wife. "We will hide it again now, but will you not read some of its words to me when the children are in bed? Old Lena, who lives in the hut on the other side of the forest, has told me so much about the Hollmans that I should like to hear some of the words of their book. She says they were good, so it is strange their book should be a bad one.”
So the Bible was again hidden to bear fruit "after many days.”