The Headsman eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 563 pages of information about The Headsman.

The Col of St. Bernard, as has been stated already, lies within the limits of the present canton but what then the allied state of the Valais.  The crime had consequently been committed within the jurisdiction of that country; but as the Valais was thus leagued with Switzerland, there existed such an intimate understanding between the two, that it was rare any grave proceedings were had against a citizen of either in the dominion of the other, without paying great deference to the feelings and the rights of the country of the accused.  Messengers were therefore dispatched to Vevey, to inform the authorities of that place of a transaction which involved the safety of an officer of the great canton, (for such was Balthazar,) and which had cost a citizen of Vaud his life.  On the other hand, a similar communication was sent to Sion, the two places being about equidistant from the convent, with such pressing invitations to the authorities to be prompt, as were deemed necessary to bring on an immediate investigation.  Melchior de Willading, in a letter to his friend the bailiff, set forth the inconvenience of his return with Adelheid at that late season, and the importance of the functionary’s testimony, with such other statements as were likely to effect his wishes; while the superior of the brotherhood charged himself with making representations, with a similar intent, to the heads of his own republic.  Justice in that age was not administered as frankly and openly as in this later period, its agents in the old world exercising even now a discretion that we are not accustomed to see confided to them.  Her proceedings were enveloped in darkness, the blind deity being far more known in her decrees than in her principles, and mystery was then deemed an important auxiliary of power.

With this brief explanation we shall shift the time to the third day from that on which the travellers reached the convent, referring the reader to the succeeding chapter for an account of what it brought forth.

Chapter XXVI.

  Anon a figure enters, quaintly neat,
  All pride and business, bustle and conceit;
  With looks unalter’d by these scenes of woe,
  With speed that, ent’ring, speaks his haste to go. 
  He bids the gazing throng around him fly,
  And carries fate and physic in his eye.


There is another receptacle for those who die on the Great St. Bernard, hard by the convent itself.  At the close of the time mentioned in the last, chapter, and near the approach of night, Sigismund was pacing the rocks on which this little chapel stands, buried in reflections to which his own history and the recent events had given birth.  The snow that fell during the late storm had entirely disappeared, and the frozen element was now visible only on those airy pinnacles that form the higher peaks of the Alps.  Twilight had already settled into the lower valleys, but the

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The Headsman from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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