Summary (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition, European Fiction Series)
It was the evening of the twenty-second of June, about nine o’clock, and Seraphin Carrupt and Antoine Pont were sitting in their little shepherd’s cabin at some pasture fields called Derborence. They were pasturing their cattle there for the summer, as was the custom of those people in the towns lower down in the mountains. In the summer the towns were left with women, children, and old men in them, while the able men went up to tend the cattle and goats. In those days Derborence was a lovely valley pasture, but that was before the twenty-second of June.
Antoine had been married only two months before he left Aire to come up to Derborence with Seraphin. He was already becoming bored with the daily milking and cheese making, already anxious to go back to his wife Therese. That night, as they sat together, Seraphin suggested that Antoine go home for a weekend to see that Therese was all right. It was a beautifully moonlit night and the air was crackling, so much so that Seraphin said the Devil, up there on the peak called The Devil’s Tower, must have told his children to get out the ninepins. What they tried to hit was a spot that hung right over the cabin, and when they missed you could see, particularly on such a bright moonlit night, the balls skidding over into space and falling down. When the two men went to sleep, the crackling had stopped; but they dreamed of strange noises in the night.
The men of nearby Anzeindaz said it all started like a salvo of cannon; then came a blast of wind and finally a great pale cloud of dust. The noise was terrific. The wind pinned men in their beds, and the cloud obscured everything for a long time. When men dared to go near Derborence and could see through the cloud, the fine pastureland was gone; everywhere rocks, large at the bottom, smaller at the top, covered the land where the cabins and the cattle had been.
One man, old Barthelemy, crept out of the cloud. Friends carried him down the mountain on an improvised stretcher, but there was a second beard of pink froth over his own black one before he got down. His chest had been crushed, and he died before he reached the town.
All the people in Aire, except Maurice Nendaz, a lame man who walked with a cane, thought a storm had struck, though there was no lightning....
(The entire section is 941 words.)
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