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

“Pardon the freedom, Signore,” he said more mildly, intently regarding the wrinkled and attenuated fingers, with the map-like tracery of veins, that he held in his own brown and hard palm; “this is not the first time that our flesh has touched each other, though it is the first time that our hands have joined.  Let it now be in amity.  A humor has come over me, and I would crave your pardon, venerable noble, for the freedom.  Signore, you are aged, and honored, and stand high, doubtless, in Heaven’s favor, as in that of man—­grant me, then, your blessing, ere I go my way.”

As Maso preferred this extraordinary request, he knelt with an air of so much reverence and sincerity as to leave little choice as to granting it.  The Genoese was surprised, but not disconcerted.  With perfect dignity and self-possession, and with a degree of feeling that was not unsuited to the occasion, the fruit of emotions so powerfully awakened, he pronounced the benediction.  The mariner arose, kissed the hand which he still held, made a hurried sign of salutation to all, leaped down the declivity on which they stood, and vanished among the shadows of a copse.

Sigismund, who had witnessed this unusual scene with surprise, watched him to the last, and he saw, by the manner in which he dashed his hand across his eyes, that his fierce nature had been singularly shaken.  On recovering his thoughts, the Signor Grimaldi, too, felt certain there had been no mockery in the conduct of their inexplicable preserver, for a hot tear had fallen on his hand ere it was liberated.  He was himself strongly agitated by what had passed, and, leaning on his friend, he slowly re-entered the gates of Blonay.

“This extraordinary demand of Maso’s has brought up the sad image of my own poor son, dear Melchior,” he said; “would to Heaven that he could have received this blessing, and that it might have been of use to him, in the sight of God!  Nay, he may yet hear of it—­for, canst thou believe it, I have thought that Maso may be one of his lawless associates, and that some wild desire to communicate this scene has prompted the strange request I granted.”

The discourse continued, but it became secret, and of the most confidential kind.  The rest of the party soon sought their beds, though lamps were burning in the chambers of the two old nobles to a late hour of the night.

Chapter IX.

  Where are my Switzers?  Let them guard the door: 
  What is the matter?

  Hamlet.

The American autumn, or fall, as we poetically and affectionately term this generous and mellow season among ourselves, is thought to be unsurpassed, in its warm and genial lustre, its bland and exhilarating airs, and its admirable constancy, by the decline of the year in nearly every other portion of the earth.  Whether attachment to our own fair and generous land, has led us to over-estimate its advantages or not,

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