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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 470 pages of information about The Headsman.

As soon as Pierre was informed of the circumstance, he eagerly issued an order to collect the stragglers without delay, and at every hazard.  Benumbed, bewildered, and unable to see beyond a few yards, this embarrassing duty was not easily performed.  One after another of the party joined in the pursuit, for all the effects of the travellers were on the beasts; and after some ten minutes of delay, blended with an excitement which helped to quicken the blood and to awaken the faculties of even the females, the mules were all happily regained.  They were secured to each other head and tail, in the manner so usual in the droves of these animals, and Pierre turned to resume the order of the march.  But on seeking the path, it was not to be found!  Search was made on every side, and yet none could meet with the smallest of its traces.  Broken, rough fragments of rock, were all that rewarded the most anxious investigation; and after a few precious minutes uselessly wasted, they all assembled around the guide, as if by common consent, to seek his counsel.  The truth was no longer to be concealed—­the party was lost!

Chapter XXIII.

  Let no presuming railer tax
  Creative wisdom, as if aught was form’d
  In vain, or not for admirable ends.

  Thomson.

So long as we possess the power to struggle, hope is the last feeling to desert the human mind.  Men are endowed with every gradation of courage, from the calm energy of reflection, which is rendered still more effective by physical firmness, to the headlong precipitation of reckless spirit:  from the resolution that grows more imposing and more respectable as there is greater occasion for its exercise, to the fearful and ill-directed energies of despair.  But no description with the pen can give the reader a just idea of the chill that comes over the heart when accidental causes rob us, suddenly and without notice, of those resources on which we have been habitually accustomed to rely.  The mariner without his course or compass loses his audacity and coolness, though the momentary danger be the same; the soldier will fly, if you deprive him of his arms; and the hunter of our own forests who has lost his landmarks, is transformed from the bold and determined foe of its tenants, into an anxious and dependent fugitive, timidly seeking the means of retreat.  In short, the customary associations of the mind being rudely and suddenly destroyed, we are made to feel that reason, while it elevates us so far above the brutes as to make man their lord and governor, becomes a quality less valuable than instinct, when the connecting link in its train of causes and effects is severed.

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