The Headsman eBook

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

Chapter XXIV.

                     Side by side,
  Within they lie, a mournful company.

Rogers.

The sleep of the weary is sweet.  In after-life, Adelheid, when dwelling in a palace, reposing on down, and canopied by the rich stuffs of a more generous climate, was often heard to say that she had never taken rest grateful as that she found in the Refuge of St. Bernard.  So easy, natural, and refreshing, had been her slumbers, unalloyed even by those dreams of precipices and avalanches which, long afterwards, haunted her slumbers, that she was the first to open her eyes on the following morning, awaking like an infant that had enjoyed a quiet and healthful repose.  Her movements aroused Christine.  They threw aside the cloaks and coats that covered them, and sat gazing about the place in the confusion that the novelty of their situation would be likely to produce.  All the rest of the travellers still slumbered; and, arising without noise, they passed the silent and insensible sleepers, the quiet mules which had stretched themselves near the entrance of the place, and quitted the hut.

Without, the scene was wintry:  but, as is usual in the Alps let what may be the season, its features of grand and imposing sublimity were prominent The day was among the peaks above them, while the shades of night still lay upon the valleys, forming a landscape like that exquisite and poetical picture of the lower world, which Guido has given in the celebrated al-fresco painting of Aurora.  The ravines and glens were covered with snow, but the sides of the rugged rocks were bare in their eternal hue of ferruginous brown.  The little knoll on which the Refuge stood was also nearly naked, the wind having driven the light particles of the snow into the ravine of the path.  The air of the morning is keen at that great height even in midsummer, and the shivering girls drew their mantles about them, though they breathed the clear, elastic, inspiring element with pleasure.  The storm was entirely past, and the pure sapphire-colored sky was in lovely contrast with the shadows beneath, raising their thoughts naturally to that heaven which shone in a peace and glory so much in harmony with the ordinary images we shadow forth of the abode of the blessed.  Adelheid pressed the hand of Christine, and they knelt together, bowing their heads to a rock.  As fervent, pure, and sincere orisons ascended to God, from these pious and innocent spirits, as it belongs to poor mortality to offer.

This general, and in their peculiar situation especial, duty performed, the gentle girls felt more assured.  Relieved of a heavy and imperative obligation, they ventured to look about them with greater confidence.  Another building, similar in form and material to that in which their companions were still sleeping, stood on the same swell of rock, and their first inquiries naturally took that direction.  The entrance, or

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The Headsman from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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