On the Heights A Novel

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 5 days ago
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CHAPTER I.


Early mass was being celebrated in the chapel attached to the royal summer palace.

The palace stood on a slight eminence in the center of the park. The eastern slope of the hill had been planted with vineyards, and its crest was covered with mighty, towering beeches. The park abounded with maples, plane-trees and elms, with their rich foliage, and firs of various kinds, while the thick clusters of needles on the fir-leaved mountain pine showed that it had become acclimated. On grassy lawns there were solitary tall pines of perfect growth. A charming variety of flowers and leaf plants lent grace to the picture which, in all its details, showed evidence of artistic design and exquisite taste.

The paths were neatly kept. The flowers were sparkling with the dews of morning; birds were singing and the air was laden with the fragrant perfume of the new-mown grass. Swans, and rare varieties of ducks from foreign lands, were swimming in the large lake, on the banks of which the bright-hued flamingo might also have been seen. The fountain in the center of the lake sent its waters to such a height that they were lost in spray.

A clear mountain brook, running between alders and weeping-willows, and under many a rustic bridge, emptied into the lake, flowing thence through the valley until it reached the river, bright glimpses of which might here and there be caught through openings in the shrubbery.

Tables, chairs and benches of graceful form had been placed under the trees and at various points that commanded a fine prospect.

Seated near the chapel there was a man of impressive appearance. His dress betokened scrupulous care. His thick hair was as white as his cravat. His eyes were blue and sparkling, and full of youthful fire. He looked out upon the broad landscape, the valley crowded with fruit-trees, the near-lying hills, and the mountain beyond, whose lines stood out in bold relief against the blue sky above. He had a book in his hand, but now laid it aside and drank in the peaceful influences of the scene before him.

The great door of the chapel was open: the mighty sounds of the organ were heard; a soft cloud of incense floated out on the morning air and then vanished into space.

This impressive-looking man was the king's physician, Doctor Gunther, who, being a Protestant, had not attended mass.

Just then, a beautiful woman, carrying an open sunshade, stepped out from the veranda which was almost concealed by trellised vines. She wore a full, white robe, and her headdress was a simple morning cap with blue ribbons. Her bright, rosy face beamed with youth and beauty; her hair was of a golden hue and she seemed the very incarnation of glorious day.

The doctor, hearing the rustling of her dress, had at once advanced and made his obeisance.

"Good-morning, doctor!" said the lady, whose two female companions had kept a few steps to the rear. Her voice was not clear and bright, but suggestive of the soulful violoncello-tone which is more properly the vehicle of intense and fervent feeling, than of loud-voiced joy....