Chapter 8





The moon is up; by Heaven a lovely eve!
Long streams of light, o'er glancing waves expand,
Now lads on shore may sigh and maids believe:
Such be our fate when we return to land!

Byron.


The approach of the Winkelried had been seen from Vévey throughout the
afternoon and evening. The arrival of the Baron de Willading and his
daughter was expected by many in the town, the rank and influence of the
former in the great canton rendering him an object of interest to more
than those who felt affection for his person and respect for his upright
qualities. Roger de Blonay had not been his only youthful friend, for the
place contained another, with whom he was intimate by habit, if not from a
community of those principles which are the best cement of friendships.

The officer charged with the especial supervision of the districts or
circles, into which Berne had caused its dependent territory of Vaud to be
divided, was termed a _bailli_, a title that our word bailiff will
scarcely render, except as it may strictly mean a substitute for the
exercise of authority that is the property of another, but which, for the
want of a better term, we may be compelled occasionally to use. The
bailli, or bailiff, of Vévey was Peter Hofmeister, a member of one of
those families of the bürgerschaft, or the municipal aristocracy of the
canton, which found its institutions venerable, just, and, and if one
might judge from their language, almost sacred, simply because it had been
in possession of certain exclusive privileges under their authority, that
were not only comfortable in their exercise but fecund in other worldly
advantages. This Peter Hofmeister was, in the main, a hearty,
well-meaning, and somewhat benevolent person, but, living as he did under
the secret consciousness that all was not as it should be, he pushed his
opinions on the subject of vested interests, and on the stability of
temporal matters, a little into extremes, pretty much on the same
principle as that on which the engineer expends the largest portion of his
art in fortifying the weakest point of the citadel, taking care that there
shall be a constant flight of shot, great and small, across the most
accessible of its approaches. By one of the exclusive ordinances of those
times, in which men were glad to get relief from the violence and rapacity
of the baron and the satellite of the prince, ordinances that it was the
fashion of the day to term liberty, the family of Hofmeister had come into
the exercise of a certain charge, or monopoly, that, in truth, had always
constituted its wealth and importance, but of which it was accustomed to
speak as forming its principal claim to the gratitude of the public, for
duties that had been performed not only so well, but for so long a period,
by an unbroken succession of patriots descended from the same stock. They
who judged of the value attached to the possession of this charge, by the
animation with which all attempts to relieve them of the burthen were
repelled, must have been in error; for, to hear their friends descant on
the difficulties of the duties, of the utter impossibility that they
should be properly discharged by any family that had not been in their
exercise just one hundred and seventy-two years and a half, the precise
period of the hard servitude of the Hofmeisters, and the rare merit of
their self-devotion to the common good, it would seem that they were so
many modern Curtii, anxious to leap into the chasm of uncertain and
endless toil, to save the Republic from the ignorance and peculations of
certain interested and selfish knaves, who wished to enjoy the same high
trusts, for a motive so unworthy as that of their own particular
advantage. This subject apart, however, and with a strong reservation in
favor of the supremacy of Berne, on whom his importance depended, a better
or a more philanthropic man than Peter Hofmeister would not have been
easily found. He was a hearty laugher, a hard drinker, a common and
peculiar failing of the age, a great respecter of the law, as was meet in
one so situated, and a bachelor of sixty-eight, a time of life that, by
referring his education to a period more remote by half a century, than
that in which the incidents of our legend took place, was not at all in
favor of any very romantic predilection in behalf of the rest of the human
race. In short, the Herr Hofmeister was a bailiff, much as Balthazar was a
headsman, on account of some particular merit or demerit, (it might now be
difficult to say which,) of one of his ancestors, by the laws of the
canton, and by the opinions of men. The only material difference between
them was in the fact, that the one greatly enjoyed his station, while the
other had but an indifferent relish for his trust.

When Roger de Blonay, by the aid of a good glass, had assured himself that
the bark which lay off St. Saphorin, in the even tide, with yards
a-cock-bill, and sails pendent in their picturesque drapery, contained a
party of gentle travellers who occupied the stern, and saw by the plumes
and robes that a female of condition was among them, he gave an order to
prepare the beacon-fire, and descended to the port, in order to be in
readiness to receive his friend. Here he found the bailiff, pacing the
public promenade, which is washed by the limpid water of the lake, with
the air of a man who had more on his mind than the daily cares of office.
Although the Baron de Blonay was a Vaudois, and looked upon all the
functionaries of his country's conquerors with a species of hereditary
dislike, he was by nature a man of mild and courteous qualities, and the
meeting was, as usual, friendly in the externals, and of seeming
cordiality. Great care was had by both to speak in the second person; on
the part of the Vaudois, that it might be seen he valued himself as, at
least, the equal of the representative of Berne, and, on that of the
bailiff, in order to show that his office made him as good as the head of
the oldest house in all that region.

"Thou expectest to see friends from Genf in yonder bark?" said the Herr
Hofmeister, abruptly.

"And thou?"

"A friend, and one more than a friend;" answered the bailiff, evasively.
"My advices tell me that Melchior de Willading will sojourn among us
during the festival of the Abbaye, and secret notice has been sent that
there will be another here, who wishes to see our merry-making, without
pretension to the honors that he might fairly claim."

"It is not rare for nobles of mark, and even princes, to visit us on these
occasions, under feigned names and without the _éclat_ of their rank, for
the great, when they descend to follies, seldom like to bring their high
condition within their influence."

"The wiser they. I have my own troubles with these accursed fooleries,
for--it may be a weakness, but it is one that is official--I cannot help
imagining that a bailiff cuts but a shabby figure before the people, in
the presence of so many gods and goddesses. To own to thee the truth, I
rejoice that he who cometh, cometh as he doth.--Hast letters of late date
from Berne?"

"None; though report says that there is like to be a change among some of
those who fill the public trusts."

"So much the worse!" growled the bailiff. "Is it to be expected that men
who never did an hour's duty in a charge can acquit themselves like those
who have, it might be said, sucked in practice with their mother's milk?"

"Ay; this is well enough for thee; but others say that even the Erlachs
had a beginning."

"Himmel! Am I a heathen to deny this? As many beginnings as thou wilt,
good Roger, but I like not thy ends. No doubt an Erlach is mortal, like
all of us, and even a created being; but a man is not a charge. Let the
clay die, if thou wilt, but, if thou wouldst have faithful or skilful
servants look to the true successor. But we will have none of this
to-day.--Hast many guests at Blonay?"

"Not one. I look for the company of Melchior de Willading and his
daughter--and yet I like not the time! There are evil signs playing about
the high peaks and in the neighborhood of the Dents since the sun has
set!"

"Thou art ever in a storm up in thy castle there! The Leman was never more
peaceable, and I should take it truly in evil part, were the rebellious
lake to get into one of its fits of sudden anger with so precious a
freight on its bosom."

"I do not think the Genfer See will regard even a bailiff's displeasure!"
rejoined the Baron de Blonay, laughing. "I repeat it; the signs are
suspicious. Let us consult the watermen, for it may be well to send a
light-pulling boat to bring the travellers to land."

Roger de Blonay and the bailiff walked towards the little earthen mole,
that partially protects the roadstead of Vévey, and which is for ever
forming and for ever washing away before the storms of winter, in order to
consult some of those who were believed to be expert in detecting the
symptoms that precede any important changes of the atmosphere. The
opinions were various. Most believed there would be a gust; but, as the
Winkelried was known to be a new and well-built bark, and none could tell
how much beyond her powers she had been loaded by the cupidity of
Baptiste, and as it was generally thought the wind would be as likely to
bring her up to her haven as to be against her, there appeared no
sufficient reason for sending off the boat; especially as it was believed
the bark would be not only drier but safer than a smaller craft, should
they be overtaken by the wind. This indecision, so common in cases of
uncertainty, was the means of exposing Adelheid and her father to all
those fearful risks they had just run.

When the night came on, the people of the town began to understand that
the tempest would be grave for those who were obliged to encounter it,
even in the best bark on the Leman. The darkness added to the danger, for
vessels had often run against the land by miscalculating their distances;
and the lights were shown along the strand, by order of the bailiff, who
manifested an interest so unusual in those on board the Winkelried, as to
draw about them more than the sympathy that would ordinarily be felt for
travellers in distress. Every exertion that the case admitted was made in
their behalf, and, the moment the state of the lake allowed, boats were
sent off, in every probable direction, to their succor. But the Winkelried
was running along the coast of Savoy, ere any ventured forth, and the
search proved fruitless. When the rumor spread, however, that a sail was
to be discerned coming out from under the wide shadow of the opposite
mountains, and that it was steering for La Tour de Peil, a village with a
far safer harbor than that of Vévey, and but an arrow's flight from the
latter town, crowds rushed to the spot. The instant it was known that the
missing party was in her, the travellers were received with cheers of
delight and cries of hearty greeting.

The bailiff and Roger de Blonay hastened forward to receive the Baron de
Willading and his friends, who were carried in a tumultuous and joyful
manner into the old castle that adjoins the port, and from which, in
truth, the latter derives its name. The Bernois noble was too much
affected with the scenes through which he had so lately passed, and with
the strong and ungovernable tenderness of Adelheid, who had wept over him
as a mother sobs over her recovered child, to exchange greetings with him
of Vaud, in the hearty, cordial manner that ordinarily characterized their
meetings. Still their peculiar habits shone through the restraint.

"Thou seest me just rescued from the fishes of thy Leman, dear de Blonay,"
he said, squeezing the other's hand with emotion, as, leaning on his
shoulder, they went into the château. "But for yonder brave youth, and as
honest a mariner as ever floated on water, fresh or salt, all that is left
of old Melchior de Willading would, at this moment, be of less value than
the meanest férà in thy lake!"

"God be praised that thou art as we see thee! We feared for thee, and
boats are out at this moment in search of thy bark: but it has been wiser
ordered. This brave young man, who, I see, is both a Swiss and a soldier,
is doubly welcome among us,--in the two characters just named, and as one
that hath done thee and us so great a service."

Sigismund received the compliments which he so well merited with modesty.
The bailiff, however, not content with making the usual felicitations,
whispered in his ear that a service like this, rendered to one of its most
esteemed nobles, would not be forgotten by the Councils on a proper
occasion.

"Thou art happily arrived, Herr Melchior," he then added, aloud; "come as
thou wilt, floating or sailing in air. We have thee among us none the
worse for the accident, and we thank God, as Roger de Blonay has just so
well observed. Our Abbaye is like to be a gallant ceremony, for divers
gentlemen of name are in the town, and I hear of more that are pricking
forward among the mountains from countries beyond the Rhine. Hadst thou no
other companions in the bark but these I see around us?"

"There is another, and I wonder that he is not here! 'Tis a noble Genoese,
that thou hast often heard me name, Sire de Blonay, as one that I love.
Gaetano Grimaldi is a name familiar to thee, or the words of friendship
have been uttered in an idle ear."

"I have heard so much of the Italian that I can almost fancy him an old
and tried acquaintance. When thou first returnedst from the Italian wars,
thy tongue was never weary of recounting his praises: it was Gaetano said
this--Gaetano thought thus--Gaetano did that! Surely he is not of thy
company?"

"He, and no other! A lucky meeting on the quay of Genf brought us together
again after a separation of full thirty years, and, as if Heaven had
reserved its trials for the occasion, we have been made to go through the
late danger in company. I had him in my arms in that fearful moment,
Roger, when the sky, and the mountains, and all of earth, even to that
dear girl, were fading, as I thought for ever, from my sight,--he, that
had already been my partner in so many risks, who had bled for me, watched
for me, ridden for me, and did all other things that love could prompt for
me, was brought by Providence to be my companion in the awful strait
through which I have just passed!"

While the Baron was still speaking, his friend entered with the quiet and
dignified mien he always maintained, when it was not his pleasure to throw
aside the reserve of high station, or when he yielded to the torrents of
feeling that sometimes poured through his southern temperament, in a way
to unsettle the deportment of mere convention. He was presented to Roger
de Blonay and the bailiff, as the person just alluded to, and as the
oldest and most tried of the friends of his introducer. His reception by
the former was natural and warm, while the Herr Hofmeister was so
particular in his professions of pleasure and respect as to excite not
only notice but surprise.

"Thanks, thanks, good Peterchen," said the Baron de Willading, for such
was the familiar diminutive by which the bustling bailiff was usually
addressed by those who could take the liberty; thanks, honest Peterchen;
thy kindness to Gaetano is so much love shown to myself."

"I honor thy friends as thyself, Herr von Willading," returned the
bailiff; "for thou hast a claim to the esteem of the bürgerschaft and all
its servants; but the homage paid to the Signor Grimaldi is due on his own
account. We are but poor Swiss, that dwell in the midst of wild mountains,
little favored by the sun if ye will, and less known to the world;--but we
have our manners! A man that hath been intrusted with authority as long as
I were unfit for his trust, did he not tell, as it might be by instinct,
when he has those in his presence that are to be honored. Signore, the
loss of Melchior von Willading before our haven, would have made the lake
unpleasant to us all, for months, not to say years; but, had so great a
calamity arrived as that of your death by means of our waters, I could
have prayed that the mountains might fall into the basin, and bury the
offending Leman under their rocks!"

Melchior de Willading and old Roger de Blonay laughed heartily at
Peterchen's hyperbolical compliments; though it was quite plain that the
worthy bailiff himself fancied he had said a clever thing.

"I thank you, Signore, no less than my friend de Willading," returned the
Genoese, a gleam of humor lighting his eye. "This courteous reception
quite outdoes us of Italy; for I doubt if there be a man south of the
Alps, who would be willing to condemn either of our seas to so
overwhelming a punishment, for a fault so venial, or at least so natural.
I beg, however, that the lake may be pardoned; since, at the worst, it was
but a secondary agent in the affair, and, I doubt not, it would have
treated us as it treats all travellers, had we kept out of its embraces.
The crime must be imputed to the winds, and as they are the offspring of
the hills, I fear it will be found that these very mountains, to which you
look for retribution, will be convicted at last as the true devisers and
abettors of the plot against our lives."

The bailiff chuckled and simpered, like a man pleased equally with his own
wit and with that he had excited in others, and the discourse changed;
though, throughout the night, as indeed was the fact on all other
occasions during his visit, the Signor Grimaldi received from him so
marked and particular attentions, as to create a strong sentiment in favor
of the Italian among those who had been chiefly accustomed to see
Peterchen enact the busy, important, dignified, local functionary.

Attention was now paid to the first wants of the travellers, who had great
need of refreshments after the fatigues and exposure of the day. To obtain
the latter, Roger de Blonay insisted that they should ascend to his
castle, in whose grate the welcoming beacon still blazed. By means of
_chars-à-banc_, the peculiar vehicle of the country, the short distance
was soon overcome, the bailiff, not a little to the surprise of the owner
of the house, insisting on seeing the strangers safely housed within its
walls. At the gate of Blonay, however, Peterchen took his leave, making a
hundred apologies for his absence, on the ground of the extensive duties
that had devolved on his shoulders in consequence of the approaching fête.

"We shall have a mild winter, for I have never known the Herr Hofmeister
so courteous;" observed Roger de Blonay, while showing his guests into the
castle. "Thy Bernese authorities, Melchior, are little apt to be lavish of
their compliments to us poor nobles of Vaud."

"Signore, you forget the interest of our friend;" observed the laughing
Genoese. "There are other and better bailiwicks, beyond a question, in
the gifts of the Councils, and the Signor de Willading has a loud voice in
their disposal. Have I found a solution for this zeal?"

"Thou hast not," returned the baron, "for Peterchen hath little hope
beyond that of dying where he has lived, the deputed ruler of a small
district. The worthy man should have more credit for a good heart, his
own, no doubt, being touched at seeing those who are, as it may be,
redeemed from the grave. I owe him grace for the kindness, and should a
better thing really offer, and could my poor voice be of account, why, I
do not say it should be silent; it is serving the public well, to put men
of these kind feelings into places of trust."

This opinion appeared very natural to the listeners, all of whom, with the
exception of the Signor Grimaldi, joined in echoing the sentiment. The
latter, more experienced in the windings of the human heart, or possessing
some reasons known only to himself, merely smiled at the remarks that he
heard, as if he thoroughly understood the difference between the homage
that is paid to station, and that which a generous and noble nature is
compelled to yield to its own impulses.

An hour later, the light repast was ended, and Roger de Blonay informed
his guests that they would be well repaid for walking a short distance, by
a look at the loveliness of the night. In sooth, the change was already so
great, that it was not easy for the imagination to convert the soft and
smiling scene that lay beneath and above the towers of Blonay, into the
dark vault and the angry lake from which they had so lately escaped.

Every cloud had already sailed far away towards the plains of Germany, and
the moon had climbed so high above the ragged Dent de Jaman as to its rays
to stream into, the basin of the Leman. A thousand pensive stars spangled
the vauk images of the benign omnipotence which unceasingly pervades and
governs the universe, whatever may be the local derangements or accidental
struggles of the inferior agents. The foaming and rushing waves had gone
down nearly as fast as they had arisen, and, in their stead, remained
myriads of curling ridges along which the glittering moonbeams danced,
rioting with mild impunity on the surface of the placid sheet. Boats were
out again, pulling for Savoy or the neighboring villages: and the whole
view betokened the renewed confidence of those who trusted habitually to
the fickle and blustering elements.

"There is a strong and fearful resemblance between the human passions and
these hot and angry gusts of nature;" observed the Signor Grimaldi, after
they had stood silently regarding the scene for several musing
minutes--"alike quick to be aroused and to be appeased; equally
ungovernable while in the ascendant, and admitting the influence of a
wholesome reaction, that brings a more sober tranquillity, when the fit is
over. Your northern phlegm may render the analogy less apparent, but it is
to be found as well among the cooler temperaments of the Teutonic stock,
as among us of warmer blood. Do not this placid hill-side, yon lake, and
the starry heavens, look as if they regretted their late unseemly
violence, and wished to cheat the beholder into forgetfulness of their
attack on our safety, as an impetuous but generous nature would repent it
of the blow given in anger, or of the cutting speech that had escaped in a
moment of spleen? What hast thou to say to my opinion, Signor Sigismund,
for none know better than thou the quality of the tempest we have
encountered?"

"Signore," answered the young soldier, modestly, "you forget this brave
mariner, without whose coolness and forethought all would have been lost.
He has come up to Blonay, at our own request, but, until now, he has been
overlooked."

Maso came forward at a signal from Sigismund, and stood before the party
to whom he had rendered so signal aid, with a composure that was not
easily disturbed.

"I have come up to the castle, Signore, at your commands," he said,
addressing the Genoese; "but, having my own affairs on hand, must now beg
to know your pleasure?"

"We have, in sooth, been negligent of thy merit. On landing, my first
thought was of thee, as thou knowest: but other things had caused me to
forget thee. Thou art, like myself, an Italian?"

"Signore, I am."

"Of what country?"

"Of your own, Signore; a Genoese, as I have said before."

The other remembered the circumstance, though it did not seem to please
him. He looked around, as if to detect what others thought, and then
continued his questions.

"A Genoese!" he repeated, slowly: "if this be so, we should know something
of each other. Hast ever heard of me, in thy frequent visits to the port?"

Maso smiled; at first, he appeared disposed to be facetious; but a dark
cloud passed over his swarthy lineaments, and he lost his pleasantry, in
an air of thoughtfulness that struck his interrogator as singular.

"Signore," he said, after a pause, "most that follow my manner of life
know something of your eccellenza; if it is only to be questioned of this
that I am here, I pray leave to be permitted to go my way."

"No, by San Francesco! thou quittest us not so unceremoniously. I am
wrong to assume the manner of a superior with one to whom I owe my life,
and am well answered. But there is a heavy account to be settled between
us, and I will do something towards wiping out the balance, which is so
greatly against me, now; leaving thee to apply for a further statement,
when we shall both be again in our own Genoa."

The Signor Grimaldi had reached forth an arm, while speaking, and received
a well-filled purse from his countryman and companion, Marcelli. This was
soon emptied of its contents, a fair show of sequins, all of which were
offered to the mariner, without reservation. Maso looked coldly at the
glittering pile, and, by his hesitation, left a doubt whether he did not
think the reward insufficient.

"I tell thee it is but the present gage of further payment. At Genoa our
account shall be fairly settled; but this is all that a traveller can
prudently spare. Thou wilt come to me in our own town, and we will look to
all thy interests."

"Signore, you offer that for which men do all acts, whether of good or of
evil. They jeopard their souls for this very metal; mock at God's laws;
overlook the right; trifle with justice, and become devils incarnate to
possess it; and yet, though nearly penniless, I am so placed as to be
compelled to refuse what you offer."

"I tell thee, Maso, that it shall be increased hereafter--or--we are not
so poor as to go a-begging! Good Marcelli, empty thy hoards, and I will
have, recourse to Melchior de Willading's purse for our wants, until we
can get nearer to our own supplies."

"And is Melchior de Willading to pass for nothing, in all this!" exclaimed
the Baron; "put up thy gold, Gaetano, and leave me to satisfy the honest
mariner for the present. At a later day, he can come to thee, in Italy:
but here, on my own ground, I claim the right to be his banker."

"Signore," returned Maso, earnestly and with more of gentle feeling than
he was accustomed to betray, "you are both liberal beyond my desires, and
but too well disposed for my poor wants. I have come up to the castle at
your order, and to do you pleasure, but not in the hope to get money. I am
poor; that it would be useless to deny, for appearances are against me--"
here he laughed, his auditors thought in a manner that was forced--"but
poverty and meanness are not always inseparable. You have more than
suspected to-day that my life is free, and I admit it; but it is a mistake
to believe that, because men quit the high-road which some call honesty,
in any particular practice, they are without human feeling. I have been
useful in saving your lives, Signori, and there is more pleasure in the
reflection, than I should find in having the means to earn twice the gold
ye offer. Here is the Signor Capitano," he added, taking Sigismund by the
arm, and dragging him forward, "lavish your favors on him, for no practice
of mine could have been of use without his bravery. If ye give him all in
your treasuries, even to its richest pearl, ye will do no more than
reason."

As Maso ceased, he cast a glance towards the attentive, breathless
Adelheid, that continued to utter his meaning even after the tongue was
silent The bright suffusion that covered the maiden's face was visible
even by the pale moonlight, and Sigismund shrunk back from his rude grasp
in the manner in which the guilty retire from notice.

"These opinions are creditable to thee, Maso," returned the Genoese,
affecting not to understand his more particular meaning, "and they excite
a stronger wish to be thy friend. I will say no more on the subject at
present, for I see thy humor. Thou wilt let me see thee at Genoa?"

The expression of Maso's countenance was inexplicable, but he retained his
usual indifference of manner.

"Signor Gaetano," he said, using a mariner's freedom in the address,
"there are nobles in Genoa that might better knock at the door of your
palace than I; and there are those, too, in the city that would gossip,
were it known that you received such guests."

"This is tying thyself too closely to an evil and a dangerous trade. I
suspect thee to be of the contraband, but surely it is not a pursuit so
free from danger, of so much repute, or, judging by thy attire, of so much
profit even, that thou needest be wedded to it for life. Means can be
found to relieve thee from its odium, by giving thee a place in those
customs with which thou hast so often trifled."

Maso laughed outright.

"So it is, Signore, in this moral world of ours. He who would run a fair
course, in any particular trust has only to make himself dangerous to be
bought up. Your thief-takers are desperate rogues out of business; your
tide-waiter has got his art by cheating the revenue; and I have been in
lands where it was said, that all they who most fleeced the people began
their calling as suffering patriots. The rule is firmly enough established
without the help of my poor name, and, by your leave, I will remain as I
am; one that hath his pleasure in living amid risks, and who takes his
revenge of the authorities by railing at them when defeated, and in
laughing at them when in success."

"Young man, thou hast in thee the materials of a better life!"

"Signore, this may be true," answered Maso, whose countenance again grew
dark; "we boast of being the lords of the creation, but the bark of poor
Baptista was not less master of its movements, in the late gust, than we
are masters of our fortunes. Signor Grimaldi, I have in me the materials
that make a man; but the laws, and the opinions, and the accursed strife
of men, have left me what I am. For the first fifteen years of my career,
the church was to be my stepping-stone to a cardinal's hat or a fat
priory; but the briny sea-water washed out the necessary unction."

"Thou art better born than thou seemest--thou hast friends who should be
grieved at this?"

The eye of Maso flashed, but he bent it aside, as if bearing down, by the
force of an indomitable will, some sudden and fierce impulse.

"I was born of woman!" he said, with singular emphasis.

"And thy mother--is she not pained at thy present course--does she know of
thy career?"

The haggard smile to which this question gave birth induced the Genoese to
regret that he had put it. Maso evidently struggled to subdue some feeling
which harrowed his very soul, and his success was owing to such a command
of himself as men rarely obtain.

"She is dead," he answered, huskily; "she is a saint with the angels. Had
she lived, I should never have been a mariner, and--and--" laying his hand
on his throat, as if to keep down the sense of suffocation, he smiled, and
added, laughingly,--"ay, and the good Winkelried would have been a
wreck."

"Maso, thou must come to me at Genoa. I must see more of thee, and
question thee further of thy fortunes. A fair spirit has been perverted in
thy fall, and the friendly aid of one who is not without influence may
still restore its tone."

The Signor Grimaldi spoke warmly, like one who sincerely felt regret, and
his voice had all the melancholy and earnestness of such a sentiment. The
truculent nature of Maso was touched by this show of interest, and a
multitude of fierce passions were at once subdued. He approached the noble
Genoese, and respectfully took his hand.

"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.



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