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The Honor of the Name

Chapter 27
In the citadel of Montaignac, within the second line of fortifications, stands an old
building known as the chapel.
Originally consecrated to worship, the structure had, at the time of which we write, fallen
into disuse. It was so damp that it would not even serve as an arsenal for an artillery
regiment, for the guns rusted there more quickly than in the open air. A black mould
covered the walls to a height of six or seven feet.
This was the place selected by the Duc de Sairmeuse and the Marquis de Courtornieu for
the assembling of the military commission.
On first entering it, Maurice and the abbe felt a cold chill strike to their very hearts; and
an indefinable anxiety paralyzed all their faculties.
But the commission had not yet commenced its seance; and they had time to look about
them.
The arrangements which had been made in transforming this gloomy hall into a tribunal,
attested the precipitancy of the judges and their determination to finish their work
promptly and mercilessly.
The arrangements denoted an absence of all form; and one could divine at once the
frightful certainty of the result.
Three large tables taken from the mess-room, and covered with horse- blankets instead of
tapestry, stood upon the platform. Some unpainted wooden chairs awaited the judges; but
in the centre glittered the president's chair, a superbly carved and gilded fauteuil, sent by
the Duc de Sairmeuse.
Several wooden benches had been provided for the prisoners.
Ropes stretched from one wall to the other divided the chapel into two parts. It was a
precaution against the public.
A superfluous precaution, alas!
The abbe and Maurice had expected to find the crowd too great for the hall, large as it
was, and they found the chapel almost unoccupied.
There were not twenty persons in the building. Standing back in the shadow of the wall
were perhaps a dozen men, pale and gloomy, a sullen fire smouldering in their eyes, their
teeth tightly clinched. They were army officers retired on half pay. Three men, attired in
black, were conversing in low tones near the door. In a corner stood several country-
 
 
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