Visitors to the mountain were extremely rare. In fact, aside from the night that I’m about to recount, I can only remember one other occasion in the year when we had visitors, but that’s a tale for another day.
The other children and I slept in the same room. We had a motley assortment of beds and mismatched bedding, and I was in charge of making the beds every morning. We generally slept well after our daily wanders in the mountain air. On this particular night, we had gone to bed. As usual. And drifted off easily. As usual. I couldn’t tell you what time it was, but sometime after we had fallen asleep, we were awoken by the sound of loud bangs. Pounding bangs. We sprang up sharply in our beds. Confused. Fearful. More bangs. After some whispered discussion we concluded that it must be someone at the door. Somebody was pounding at the door. Who? It wasn’t a noise we were used to.
We sat very still. Unsure. Afraid. Shortly afterwards, we heard the adults lumber down the stairs. More bangs. Raised voices . The door must have been opened because the banging stopped, and new voices were heard. Muffled. We couldn’t make out what was being said, and people were shouting over each other.
Next, the sound of something being dragged. Furniture being moved? Why? Doors being open and closed. Still the raised voices. What was happening? Why was nobody coming to tell us what was happening? We had instinctively clustered together on the same bed now and held each other tightly. Joanne said that she would creep down the stairs a little to peep. Joanne was brave, but we said she was too young, so Valerie went instead. We urged caution, and let her go. We waited. Clutched each other in the darkness. Hurry back Valerie.
After a short amount of time, she scampered back in. She didn’t speak until she was right back into our huddle, and in urgent hushed tones announced “C’est la police!”
This is my fourth memoir piece from the year I spent as a child living self-sufficiently with my mother and another family in an abandoned village in the French Alps, with no electricity, or any modern conveniences. If you missed the previous parts, they are here: A year in the French Alps