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

There are few people so debased in their own opinion as, not to be proud of their peculiar origin and character.  The habit of always viewing ourselves, our motives, and even our conduct, on the favorable side, is the parent of self-esteem; and this weakness, carried into communities, commonly gets to be the cause of a somewhat fallacious gauge of merit among the population of entire countries.  The chatelain, Melchior de Willading, and the Prior, all of whom came from the same Teutonic root, received the remark complacently; for each felt it an honor to be descended from, such ancestors; while the more polished and artificial Italian succeeded in concealing the smile that, on such an occasion, would be apt to play about the mouth of a man whose parentage ran, through a long line of sophisticated and politic nobles, into the consuls and patricians of Rome, and most probably, through these again into the wily and ingenious Greek, a root distinguished for civilization when these patriarchs of the north lay buried in the depths of barbarism.

This little display of national vanity ended, the discourse took a more general turn.  Nothing occurred during the entertainment, however, to denote that any of the company bethought him of the business on which they had met.  But, just as twilight foiled, and the repast was ended, the Prior invited his guests to lend their attention to the matter in hand, recalling them from their friendly attacks, their time-worn jokes, and their attenuated logic, in all of which Peterchen, Melchior, and the chatelain had indulged with some freedom, to a question involving the life or death of at least one of their fellow-creatures.

The subordinates of the convent were occupied during the supper with the arrangements that had been previously commanded; and when Father Michael arose and intimated to his companions that their presence was now expected elsewhere, he led them to a place that had been completely prepared for their reception.

Chapter XXVII.

  Was ever tale
  With such a gallant modesty rehearsed?

  Home.

Purposes of convenience, as well as others that were naturally connected with the religious opinions, not to say the superstitions, of most of the prisoners, had induced the monks to select the chapel of the convent for the judgment-hall.  This consecrated part of the edifice was of sufficient size to contain all who were accustomed to assemble within its walls.  It was decorated in the manner that is usual to churches of the Romish persuasion, having its master-altar, and two of smaller size that were dedicated to esteemed saints.  A large lamp illuminated the place, though the great altar lay in doubtful light, leaving play for the imagination to people and adorn that part of the chapel.  Within the railing of the choir there stood a table:  it held some object that was concealed from view by a sweeping pall.  Immediately

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