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

The crowded and overloaded bark might have been compared to the vessel of human life, which floats at all times subject to the thousand accidents of a delicate and complicated machinery:  the lake, so smooth and alluring in its present tranquillity, but so capable of lashing its iron-bound coasts with fury, to a treacherous world, whose smile is almost always as dangerous as its frown; and, to complete the picture, the idle, laughing, thoughtless, and yet inflammable group that surrounded the buffoon, to the unaccountable medley of human sympathies, of sudden and fierce passions, of fun and frolic, so inexplicably mingled with the grossest egotism that enters into the heart of man:  in a word, to so much that is beautiful and divine, with so much that would seem to be derived directly from the demons, a compound which composes this mysterious and dread state of being, and which we are taught, by reason and revelation, is only a preparation for another still more incomprehensible and wonderful.

Chapter V.

  “How like a fawning publican he looks!”

  Shylock.

The change of the juggler’s scene of action left the party in the stern of the barge, in quiet possession of their portion of the vessel.  Baptiste and his boatmen still slept among the boxes; Maso continued to pace his elevated platform above their heads; and the meek-looking stranger, whose entrance into the barge had drawn so many witticisms from Pippo, sate a little apart, silent, furtively observant, and retiring, in the identical spot he had occupied throughout the day.  With these exceptions, the whole of the rest of the travellers were crowding around the person of the mountebank.  Perhaps we have not done well, however, in classing either of the two just named with the more common herd, for there were strong points of difference to distinguish both from most of their companions.

The exterior and the personal appointments of the unknown traveller, who had shrunk so sensitively before the hits of the Neapolitan, was greatly superior to those of any other in the bark beneath the degree of the gentle, not even excepting those of the warm peasant Nicklaus Wagner, the owner of so large a portion of the freight.  There was a decency of air that commanded more respect than it was then usual to yield to the nameless, a quietness of demeanor that denoted reflection and the habit of self-study and self-correction, together with a deference to others that was well adapted to gain friends.  In the midst of the noisy, clamorous merriment of all around him, his restrained and rebuked manner had won upon the favor of the more privileged, who had unavoidably noticed the difference, and had prepared the way to a more frank communication between the party of the noble, and one who, if not their equal in the usual points of worldly distinction, was greatly superior to those among whom he had been accidentally cast by the chances of his journey. 

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