The servants of the convent and Pierre, whose long services rendered him a familiar of the brotherhood, now re-entered the building, while those without impatiently awaited the result. A cry from the interior prepared the latter for some fresh subject of horror, when Pierre and his companion quickly reappeared, dragging a living man into the open air. When the light permitted, those who knew him recognized the mild demeanor, the subdued look, and the uneasy, distrustful glance of Balthazar.
The first sensation of the spectators was that of open amazement; but dark suspicion followed. The baron, the two Genoese, and the monk, had all been witnesses of the scene in the great square of Vevey. The person of the headsman had become so well known to them by the passage on the lake and the event just alluded to, that there was not a moment of doubt touching his identity, and, coupled with the circumstances of that morning, there remained little more that the clue was now found to the cause of the murder.
We shall not stop to relate the particulars of the examination. It was short, reserved, and had the character of an investigation instituted more for the sake of form, than from any incertitude there could exist on the subject of the facts. When the necessary-inquiries were ended, the two nobles mounted. Father Xavier led the way, and the whole party proceeded towards the summit of the pass, leading Balthazar a prisoner, and leaving the body of Jacques Colis to its final rest, in that place where so many human forms had evaporated into air before him, unless those who had felt an interest in him in life should see fit to claim his remains.
The ascent between the Refuge and the summit of St. Bernard is much more severe than on any other part of the road. The end of the convent, overhanging the northern brow of the gorge, and looking like a mass of that ferruginous and melancholy rock which gave the whole region so wild and so unearthly an aspect, soon became visible, carved and moulded into the shape of a rude human habitation. The last pitch was so steep as to be formed into a sort of stair-way, up which the groaning mules toiled with difficulty. This labor overcome, the party stood on the highest point of the pass. Another minute brought them to the door of the convent.
------Hadst thou not been by, A fellow by the hand of nature mark’d, Noted, and sign’d to do a deed of shame, This murder had not come into my mind.
The arrival of Sigismund’s party at the hospice preceded that of the other travellers more than an hour. They were received with the hospitality with which all were then welcomed at this celebrated convent; the visits of the curious and the vulgar not having blunted the benevolence of the monks, who, mostly accustomed to entertain the low-born and ignorant, were always happy to relieve the monotony of their