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IV.

With the fading of the light the Conclave passed into its most secret stage.

The formal report of the voting in the “Session of Denunciation” was delivered to the “One” by Johnson, the leader who had presided. And the “One” required of the “Three” by their oath to him and the Ring, whether the condemned Henry Reynell had had a fair trial according to the Society's usage?




  ― 86 ―

And two of the “Three” affirmed that he had. Peake, the third man of the “Three,” as the accuser, was silent.

“Had the accused been notified that he had been condemned after the trial and in due form?”

Peake affirmed he had borne the message of condemnation “with truth, without prejudice, without fear, and without favour.” The message had been of necessity sent through Peake, although he was Reynell's prosecutor, because Peake was the “Threer” having earliest access to the condemned.

“And the condemned! Does he appeal?”

“No. By his oath to the Society, admits he forfeited allegiance by promising to be true man to an Establishment officer, but craves, if the doom be death, one favour.”

“What?”

“That he may not be drowned or strangled, but that having been a soldier, he may be shot or stabbed.”

Then, after a pause, which held possession of this temple of damned souls as does the tragic interval before the anathema claim the vast spaces of a cathedral of the Church in the hour of excommunication, the “One” pronounced the Doom.

“By the power that is mine, by the authority


  ― 87 ―
conferred upon one by our dread Society of the Ring, do I issue my fiat to and make order of doom upon Brother Henry Reynell under bond to the Crown, upon the Crown's register No. 37-889 per colonial ship Coquette, and upon the roll of the Society for this year current, No. 12 of our Circle of ‘Seven.’

“And the Doom is, That he shall die the death!

So be it, O One! So be thy fiat obeyed, O Mighty One! So be thy order of Doom completed, O Thrice Mighty One!” Thus, in their argôt, responded the “Three”; and when their murmur had been swallowed by the silence, the “One” went on:

“Who, of his brethren of the Ring, stands nearest to the condemned Henry Reynell in brotherly affection—to whom is he most dear?”

Quaking, shiveringly, Peake made answer: “William Felix, under bond to the Crown, and on the Crown's register No. 39-204, on our roll No. 20 of Circle of ‘Nine,’ stands nearest to the condemned.”

“Speaketh the deponent truly?”

“The deponent brother speaketh truly within our knowledge,” confirmed the others of the “Three.”

“Then let the warrant of doom go forth to Brother William Felix, No. 20 of our Circle of ‘Nine,’ that he shall do the deed of death within the circling of


  ― 88 ―
a moon's orbit upon his brother the condemned by act of shooting or by act of stabbing, though the testimony be true that the condemned is near to him and dear to him—aye, though the condemned be bone of his bone, blood of his blood, flesh of his flesh, let him do the deed, on peril of his suffering like doom. And from this fiat shall there be no appeal, because ——”

The “One” waited for the antiphon. It came solemnly from the “Three”:

Our Society has been wounded, and it heals its hurt by blood.”

“So cut we off all traitors! So doom we all that ally themselves to the Law which persecuteth us —the Law which hath given us over to the living death!”

So cut we off all traitors! So doom we all that ally themselves to our persecutors!

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