All this, however, was lost on Sigismund. He was too much occupied with the events of the morning to note other things; and, first committing Adelheid and his sister to the care of their women, he went into the open air in order to await the arrival of the rest.
As it has been mentioned, the existence of the venerable convent of St. Bernard dates from a very remote period of Christianity. It stands on the very brow of the precipice which forms the last steep ascent in mounting to the Col. The building is a high, narrow, but vast, barrack-looking edifice, built of the ferruginous stone of the region, having its gable placed toward the Valais, and its front stretching in the direction of the gorge in which it stands. Immediately before its principal door, the rock rises in an ill-shapen hillock, across which runs the path to Italy. This is literally the highest point of the pass, as the building itself is the most elevated habitable abode in Europe. At this spot, the distance from rock to rock, spanning the gorge, may be a hundred yards, the wild and reddish piles rising on each side for more than a thousand feet. These are merely dwarfs, however, among their sister piles, several of which, in plain view of the convent, reach to the height of eternal snow. This point in the road attained, the path began immediately to descend, and the drippings of a snow-bank before the convent door, which had resisted the greatest heat of the past summer, ran partly into the valley of the Rhone, and partly into Piedmont; the waters, after a long and devious course through the plains of France and Italy, meeting again in the common basin of the Mediterranean. The path, on quitting the convent, runs between the base of the rocks on its right and a little limpid lake on its left, the latter occupying nearly the entire cavity of the valley of the gorge. It then disappears between natural palisades of rock, at the other extremity of the Col. This is the point where the superfluous waters of the lake find their outlet, descending swiftly, in a brawling little brook, on the sunny side of the Alps. The frontier of Italy is met on the margin of the lake, a long musket-shot from the abode of the Augustines, and near the site of a temple that the Romans had raised in honor of Jupiter, in his attribute of director of storms.