The Headsman eBook

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

Chapter III.

  Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen
  That, that this knight and I have seen!

  King Henry IV.

The calculating patron of the Winkelried had patiently watched the progress of the foregoing scene with great inward satisfaction, but now that the strangers seemed to be assured of support powerful as that of Melchior de Willading, he was disposed to turn it to account without farther delay.  The old men were still standing with their hands grasping each other, after another warm and still closer embrace, and with tears rolling down the furrowed face of each, when Baptiste advanced to put in his raven-like remonstrance.

“Noble gentlemen,” he said, “if the felicitations of one humble as I can add to the pleasure of this happy meeting, I beg you to accept them; but the wind has no heart for friendships nor any thought for the gains or losses of us watermen.  I feel it my duty, as patron of the bark, to recall to your honors that many poor travellers, far from their homes and pining families, are waiting our leisure, not to speak of foot-sore pilgrims and other worthy adventurers, who are impatient in their hearts, though respect for their superiors keeps them tongue-tied, while we are losing the best of the breeze.”

“By San Francesco! the varlet is right;” said the Genoese, hurriedly erasing the marks of his recent weakness from his cheeks.  “We are forgetful of all these worthy people while joy at our meeting is so strong, and it is time that we thought of others.  Canst thou aid me in dispensing with the city’s signatures?”

The Baron de Willading paused; for well-disposed at first to assist any gentlemen who found themselves in an unpleasant embarrassment, it will be readily imagined that the case lost none of its interest, when he found that his oldest and most tried friend was the party in want of his influence.  Still it was much easier to admit the force of this new and unexpected appeal than to devise the means of success.  The officer was, to use a phrase which most men seem to think supplies a substitute for reason and principle, too openly committed to render it probable he would easily yield.  It was necessary, however, to make the trial, and the baron, therefore, addressed the keeper of the water-gate more urgently than he had yet done in behalf of the strangers.

“It is beyond my functions; there is not one of our Syndics whom I would more gladly oblige than yourself, noble baron,” answered the officer; “but the duty of the watchman is to adhere strictly to the commands of those who have placed him at his post.”

“Gaetano, we are not the men to complain of this!  We have stood together too long in the same trench, and have too often slept soundly, in situations where failure in this doctrine might have cost us our lives, to quarrel with the honest Genevese for his watchfulness.  To be frank, ’twere little use to tamper with the fidelity of a Swiss or with that of his ally.”

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The Headsman from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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