The Headsman eBook

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

The struggle between the two bodies of air ceased, that on the surface of the lake yielding to the avalanche from above, and the tempest came howling upon the bark.

Chapter VII.

                         —–­and now the glee
  Of the loud hills shakes with their mountain-mirth.

  Byron.

It is necessary to recapitulate a little, in order to connect events.  The signs of the hour had been gradually but progressively increasing.  While the lake was unruffled, a stillness so profound prevailed, that sounds from the distant port, such as the heavy fall of an oar, or a laugh from the waterman, had reached the ears of those in the Winkelried, bringing with them the feeling of security, and the strong charm of a calm at even.  To these succeeded the gathering in the heavens, and the roaring of the winds, as they came rushing down the sides of the Alps, in their first descent into the basin of the Leman.  As the sight grew useless, except as it might study the dark omens of the impending vault, the sense of hearing became doubly acute, and it had been a powerful agent in heightening the vague but acute apprehensions of the travellers.  The rushes of the wind, which at first were broken, at intervals resembling the roar of a chimney-top in a gale, had soon reached the fearful grandeur of those aerial wheelings of squadrons, to which we have more than once alluded, passing off in dread mutterings, that, in the deep quiet of all other things, bore a close affinity to the rumbling of a surf upon the sea-shore.  The surface of the lake was first broken after one of these symptoms, and it was this infallible sign of a gale which had assured Maso there was no time to lose.  This movement of the element in a calm is a common phenomenon on waters that are much environed with elevated and irregular head-lands, and it is a certain proof that wind is on some distant portion of the sheet.  It occurs frequently on the ocean, too, where the mariner is accustomed to find a heavy sea setting in one direction, the effects of some distant storm, while the breeze around him is blowing in its opposite.  It had been succeeded by the single rolling swell, like the outer circle of waves produced by dropping a stone into the water, and the regular and increasing agitation of the lake, until the element broke as in a tempest, and that seemingly of its own volition, since not a breath of air was stirring.  This last and formidable symptom of the force of the coming gust, however, had now become so unequivocal, that, at the moment when the three travellers and the patron fell from her gangway, the Winkelried, to use a seaman’s phrase, was literally wallowing in the troughs of the seas.

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The Headsman from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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