McMurdos face fell. Dont tell me that
youre Marvin of the Chicago Central! he cried.
Just the same old Teddy Marvin, at your service. We
havent forgotten the shooting of Jonas Pinto up there.
I never shot him.
Did you not? Thats good impartial evidence,
aint it? Well, his death came in uncommon handy for you, or they would have had you
for shoving the queer. Well, we can let that be bygones; for, between you and meand
perhaps Im  going
further than my duty in saying itthey could get no clear case against you, and
Chicagos open to you to-morrow.
Im very well where I am.
Well, Ive given you the pointer, and youre a
sulky dog not to thank me for it.
Well, I suppose you mean well, and I do thank you,
said McMurdo in no very gracious manner.
Its mum with me so long as I see you living on the
straight, said the captain. But, by the Lord! if you get off after this,
its another story! So good-night to youand good-night, Councillor.
He left the barroom; but not before he had created a local
hero. McMurdos deeds in far Chicago had been whispered before. He had put off all
questions with a smile, as one who did not wish to have greatness thrust upon him. But now
the thing was officially confirmed. The bar loafers crowded round him and shook him
heartily by the hand. He was free of the community from that time on. He could drink hard
and show little trace of it; but that evening, had his mate Scanlan not been at hand to
lead him home, the feted hero would surely have spent his night under the bar.
On a Saturday night McMurdo was introduced to the lodge. He
had thought to pass in without ceremony as being an initiate of Chicago; but there were
particular rites in Vermissa of which they were proud, and these had to be undergone by
every postulant. The assembly met in a large room reserved for such purposes at the Union
House. Some sixty members assembled at Vermissa; but that by no means represented the full
strength of the organization, for there were several other lodges in the valley, and
others across the mountains on each side, who exchanged members when any serious business
was afoot, so that a crime might be done by men who were strangers to the locality.
Altogether there were not less than five hundred scattered over the coal district.
In the bare assembly room the men were gathered round a long
table. At the side was a second one laden with bottles and glasses, on which some members
of the company were already turning their eyes. McGinty sat at the head with a flat black
velvet cap upon his shock of tangled black hair, and a coloured purple stole round his
neck; so that he seemed to be a priest presiding over some diabolical ritual. To right and
left of him were the higher lodge officials, the cruel, handsome face of Ted Baldwin among
them. Each of these wore some scarf or medallion as emblem of his office.
They were, for the most part, men of mature age; but the rest
of the company consisted of young fellows from eighteen to twenty-five, the ready and
capable agents who carried out the commands of their seniors. Among the older men were
many whose features showed the tigerish, lawless souls within; but looking at the rank and
file it was difficult to believe that these eager and open-faced young fellows were in
very truth a dangerous gang of murderers, whose minds had suffered such complete moral
perversion that they took a horrible pride in their proficiency at the business, and
looked with deepest respect at the man who had the reputation of making what they called
a clean job.
To their contorted natures it had become a spirited and
chivalrous thing to volunteer for service against some man who had never injured them, and
whom in many cases they had never seen in their lives. The crime committed, they
quarrelled as to who had actually struck the fatal blow, and amused one another and the
company by describing the cries and contortions of the murdered man.
first they had shown some secrecy in their arrangements; but at the time which this
narrative describes their proceedings were extraordinarily open, for the repeated failures
of the law had proved to them that, on the one hand, no one would dare to witness against
them, and on the other they had an unlimited number of stanch witnesses upon whom they
could call, and a well filled treasure chest from which they could draw the funds to
engage the best legal talent in the state. In ten long years of outrage there had been no
single conviction, and the only danger that ever threatened the Scowrers lay in the victim
himself who, however outnumbered and taken by surprise, might and occasionally did
leave his mark upon his assailants.
McMurdo had been warned that some ordeal lay before him; but
no one would tell him in what it consisted. He was led now into an outer room by two
solemn brothers. Through the plank partition he could hear the murmur of many voices from
the assembly within. Once or twice he caught the sound of his own name, and he knew that
they were discussing his candidacy. Then there entered an inner guard with a green and
gold sash across his chest.
The Bodymaster orders that he shall be trussed, blinded,
and entered, said he.
The three of them removed his coat, turned up the sleeve of
his right arm, and finally passed a rope round above the elbows and made it fast. They
next placed a thick black cap right over his head and the upper part of his face, so that
he could see nothing. He was then led into the assembly hall.
It was pitch dark and very oppressive under his hood. He heard
the rustle and murmur of the people round him, and then the voice of McGinty sounded dull
and distant through the covering of his ears.
John McMurdo, said the voice, are you
already a member of the Ancient Order of Freemen?
He bowed in assent.
Is your lodge No. 29, Chicago?
He bowed again.
Dark nights are unpleasant, said the voice.
Yes, for strangers to travel, he answered.
The clouds are heavy.
Yes, a storm is approaching.
Are the brethren satisfied? asked the Bodymaster.
There was a general murmur of assent.
We know, Brother, by your sign and by your countersign
that you are indeed one of us, said McGinty. We would have you know, however,
that in this county and in other counties of these parts we have certain rites, and also
certain duties of our own which call for good men. Are you ready to be tested?
Are you of stout heart?
Take a stride forward to prove it.
As the words were said he felt two hard points in front of his
eyes, pressing upon them so that it appeared as if he could not move forward without a
danger of losing them. None the less, he nerved himself to step resolutely out, and as he
did so the pressure melted away. There was a low murmur of applause.
He is of stout heart, said the voice. Can
you bear pain?
As well as another, he answered.
It was all he could do to keep himself from screaming out, for
an agonizing pain shot through his forearm. He nearly fainted at the sudden shock of it;
but he bit his lip and clenched his hands to hide his agony.
I can take more than that, said he.
This time there was loud applause. A finer first appearance
had never been made in the lodge. Hands clapped him on the back, and the hood was plucked
from his head. He stood blinking and smiling amid the congratulations of the brothers.
One last word, Brother McMurdo, said McGinty.
You have already sworn the oath of secrecy and fidelity, and you are aware that the
punishment for any breach of it is instant and inevitable death?
I am, said McMurdo.
And you accept the rule of the Bodymaster for the time
being under all circumstances?
Then in the name of Lodge 341, Vermissa, I welcome you
to its privileges and debates. You will put the liquor on the table, Brother Scanlan, and
we will drink to our worthy brother.
McMurdos coat had been brought to him; but before
putting it on he examined his right arm, which still smarted heavily. There on the flesh
of the forearm was a circle with a triangle within it, deep and red, as the branding iron
had left it. One or two of his neighbours pulled up their sleeves and showed their own
Weve all had it, said one; but not all
as brave as you over it.
Tut! It was nothing, said he; but it burned and
ached all the same.
When the drinks which followed the ceremony of initiation had
all been disposed of, the business of the lodge proceeded. McMurdo, accustomed only to the
prosaic performances of Chicago, listened with open ears and more surprise than he
ventured to show to what followed.
The first business on the agenda paper, said
McGinty, is to read the following letter from Division Master Windle of Merton
County Lodge 249. He says:
- DEAR SIR:
There is a job to be done on Andrew Rae of Rae &
Sturmash, coal owners near this place. You will remember that your lodge owes us a return,
having had the service of two brethren in the matter of the patrolman last fall. You will
send two good men, they will be taken charge of by Treasurer Higgins of this lodge, whose
address you know. He will show them when to act and where. Yours in freedom,
- J. W. WINDLE, D. M. A. O. F.
Windle has never refused us when we have had occasion
to ask for the loan of a man or two, and it is not for us to refuse him. McGinty
paused and looked round the room with his dull, malevolent eyes. Who will volunteer
for the job?
Several young fellows held up their hands. The Bodymaster
looked at them with an approving smile.
Youll do, Tiger Cormac. If you handle it as well
as you did the last, you wont be wrong. And you, Wilson.
Ive no pistol, said the volunteer, a mere
boy in his teens.
your first, is it not? Well, you have to be blooded some time. It will be a great start
for you. As to the pistol, youll find it waiting for you, or Im mistaken. If
you report yourselves on Monday, it will be time enough. Youll get a great welcome
when you return.
Any reward this time? asked Cormac, a thick-set,
dark-faced, brutal-looking young man, whose ferocity had earned him the nickname of
Never mind the reward. You just do it for the honour of
the thing. Maybe when it is done there will be a few odd dollars at the bottom of the
What has the man done? asked young Wilson.
Sure, its not for the likes of you to ask what the
man has done. He has been judged over there. Thats no business of ours. All we have
to do is to carry it out for them, same as they would for us. Speaking of that, two
brothers from the Merton lodge are coming over to us next week to do some business in this
Who are they? asked someone.
Faith, it is wiser not to ask. If you know nothing, you
can testify nothing, and no trouble can come of it. But they are men who will make a clean
job when they are about it.
And time, too! cried Ted Baldwin. Folk are
gettin out of hand in these parts. It was only last week that three of our men were
turned off by Foreman Blaker. Its been owing him a long time, and hell get it
full and proper.
Get what? McMurdo whispered to his neighbour.
The business end of a buckshot cartridge! cried
the man with a loud laugh. What think you of our ways, Brother?
McMurdos criminal soul seemed to have already absorbed
the spirit of the vile association of which he was now a member. I like it
well, said he. Tis a proper place for a lad of mettle.
Several of those who sat around heard his words and applauded
Whats that? cried the black-maned Bodymaster
from the end of the table.
Tis our new brother, sir, who finds our ways to
McMurdo rose to his feet for an instant. I would say,
Eminent Bodymaster, that if a man should be wanted I should take it as an honour to be
chosen to help the lodge.
There was great applause at this. It was felt that a new sun
was pushing its rim above the horizon. To some of the elders it seemed that the progress
was a little too rapid.
I would move, said the secretary, Harraway, a
vulture-faced old graybeard who sat near the chairman, that Brother McMurdo should
wait until it is the good pleasure of the lodge to employ him.
Sure, that was what I meant; Im in your
hands, said McMurdo.
Your time will come, Brother, said the chairman.
We have marked you down as a willing man, and we believe that you will do good work
in these parts. There is a small matter to-night in which you may take a hand if it so
I will wait for something that is worth while.
You can come to-night, anyhow, and it will help you to
know what we stand for in this community. I will make the announcement later.
Meanwhile, he glanced at his agenda paper, I have one or two more points to
bring before the meeting. First of all, I will ask the treasurer as to our bank balance.
There is the pension to Jim Carnaways widow. He was struck down doing the work of
the lodge, and it is for us to see that she is not the loser.
was shot last month when they tried to kill Chester Wilcox of Marley Creek,
McMurdos neighbour informed him.
The funds are good at the moment, said the
treasurer, with the bankbook in front of him. The firms have been generous of late.
Max Linder & Co. paid five hundred to be left alone. Walker Brothers sent in a
hundred; but I took it on myself to return it and ask for five. If I do not hear by
Wednesday, their winding gear may get out of order. We had to burn their breaker last year
before they became reasonable. Then the West Section Coaling Company has paid its annual
contribution. We have enough on hand to meet any obligations.
What about Archie Swindon? asked a brother.
He has sold out and left the district. The old devil
left a note for us to say that he had rather be a free crossing sweeper in New York than a
large mine owner under the power of a ring of blackmailers. By Gar! it was as well that he
made a break for it before the note reached us! I guess he wont show his face in
this valley again.
An elderly, clean-shaved man with a kindly face and a good
brow rose from the end of the table which faced the chairman. Mr. Treasurer,
he asked, may I ask who has bought the property of this man that we have driven out
of the district?
Yes, Brother Morris. It has been bought by the State
& Merton County Railroad Company.
And who bought the mines of Todman and of Lee that came
into the market in the same way last year?
The same company, Brother Morris.
And who bought the ironworks of Manson and of Shuman,
and of Van Deher and of Atwood, which have all been given up of late?
They were all bought by the West Gilmerton General
I dont see, Brother Morris, said the
chairman, that it matters to us who buys them, since they cant carry them out
of the district.
With all respect to you, Eminent Bodymaster, I think it
may matter very much to us. This process has been going on now for ten long years. We are
gradually driving all the small men out of trade. What is the result? We find in their
places great companies like the Railroad or the General Iron, who have their directors in
New York or Philadelphia, and care nothing for our threats. We can take it out of their
local bosses; but it only means that others will be sent in their stead. And we are making
it dangerous for ourselves. The small men could not harm us. They had not the money nor
the power. So long as we did not squeeze them too dry, they would stay on under our power.
But if these big companies find that we stand between them and their profits, they will
spare no pains and no expense to hunt us down and bring us to court.
There was a hush at these ominous words, and every face
darkened as gloomy looks were exchanged. So omnipotent and unchallenged had they been that
the very thought that there was possible retribution in the background had been banished
from their minds. And yet the idea struck a chill to the most reckless of them.
It is my advice, the speaker continued, that
we go easier upon the small men. On the day that they have all been driven out the power
of this society will have been broken.
Unwelcome truths are not popular. There were angry cries as
the speaker resumed his seat. McGinty rose with gloom upon his brow.
Morris, said he, you were always a croaker. So long as the members of this
lodge stand together there is no power in the United States that can touch them. Sure,
have we not tried it often enough in the law courts? I expect the big companies will find
it easier to pay than to fight, same as the little companies do. And now, Brethren,
McGinty took off his black velvet cap and his stole as he spoke, this lodge has
finished its business for the evening, save for one small matter which may be mentioned
when we are parting. The time has now come for fraternal refreshment and for
Strange indeed is human nature. Here were these men, to whom
murder was familiar, who again and again had struck down the father of the family, some
man against whom they had no personal feeling, without one thought of compunction or of
compassion for his weeping wife or helpless children, and yet the tender or pathetic in
music could move them to tears. McMurdo had a fine tenor voice, and if he had failed to
gain the good will of the lodge before, it could no longer have been withheld after he had
thrilled them with Im Sitting on the Stile, Mary, and On the Banks
of Allan Water.
In his very first night the new recruit had made himself one
of the most popular of the brethren, marked already for advancement and high office. There
were other qualities needed, however, besides those of good fellowship, to make a worthy
Freeman, and of these he was given an example before the evening was over. The whisky
bottle had passed round many times, and the men were flushed and ripe for mischief when
their Bodymaster rose once more to address them.
Boys, said he, theres one man in this
town that wants trimming up, and its for you to see that he gets it. Im
speaking of James Stanger of the Herald. Youve seen how hes been
opening his mouth against us again?
There was a murmur of assent, with many a muttered oath.
McGinty took a slip of paper from his waistcoat pocket.
LAW AND ORDER!
Thats how he heads it.
- REIGN OF TERROR IN THE COAL AND IRON DISTRICT
- Twelve years have now elapsed since the first
assassinations which proved the existence of a criminal organization in our midst. From
that day these outrages have never ceased, until now they have reached a pitch which makes
us the opprobrium of the civilized world. Is it for such results as this that our great
country welcomes to its bosom the alien who flies from the despotisms of Europe? Is it
that they shall themselves become tyrants over the very men who have given them shelter,
and that a state of terrorism and lawlessness should be established under the very shadow
of the sacred folds of the starry Flag of Freedom which would raise horror in our minds if
we read of it as existing under the most effete monarchy of the East? The men are known.
The organization is patent and public. How long are we to endure it? Can we forever
Sure, Ive read enough of the slush! cried the chairman, tossing the paper
down upon the table. Thats what he says of us. The question Im asking
you is what shall we say to him?
Kill him! cried a dozen fierce voices.
I protest against that, said Brother Morris, the
man of the good brow and  shaved
face. I tell you, Brethren, that our hand is too heavy in this valley, and that
there will come a point where in self-defense every man will unite to crush us out. James
Stanger is an old man. He is respected in the township and the district. His paper stands
for all that is solid in the valley. If that man is struck down, there will be a stir
through this state that will only end with our destruction.
And how would they bring about our destruction, Mr.
Standback? cried McGinty. Is it by the police? Sure, half of them are in our
pay and half of them afraid of us. Or is it by the law courts and the judge? Havent
we tried that before now, and what ever came of it?
There is a Judge Lynch that might try the case,
said Brother Morris.
A general shout of anger greeted the suggestion.
I have but to raise my finger, cried McGinty,
and I could put two hundred men into this town that would clear it out from end to
end. Then suddenly raising his voice and bending his huge black brows into a
terrible frown, See here, Brother Morris, I have my eye on you, and have had for
some time! Youve no heart yourself, and you try to take the heart out of others. It
will be an ill day for you, Brother Morris, when your own name comes on our agenda paper,
and Im thinking that its just there that I ought to place it.
Morris had turned deadly pale, and his knees seemed to give
way under him as he fell back into his chair. He raised his glass in his trembling hand
and drank before he could answer. I apologize, Eminent Bodymaster, to you and to
every brother in this lodge if I have said more than I should. I am a faithful
memberyou all know thatand it is my fear lest evil come to the lodge which
makes me speak in anxious words. But I have greater trust in your judgment than in my own,
Eminent Bodymaster, and I promise you that I will not offend again.
The Bodymasters scowl relaxed as he listened to the
humble words. Very good, Brother Morris. Its myself that would be sorry if it
were needful to give you a lesson. But so long as I am in this chair we shall be a united
lodge in word and in deed. And now, boys, he continued, looking round at the
company, Ill say this much, that if Stanger got his full deserts there would
be more trouble than we need ask for. These editors hang together, and every journal in
the state would be crying out for police and troops. But I guess you can give him a pretty
severe warning. Will you fix it, Brother Baldwin?
Sure! said the young man eagerly.
How many will you take?
Half a dozen, and two to guard the door. Youll
come, Gower, and you, Mansel, and you, Scanlan, and the two Willabys.
I promised the new brother he should go, said the
Ted Baldwin looked at McMurdo with eyes which showed that he
had not forgotten nor forgiven. Well, he can come if he wants, he said in a
surly voice. Thats enough. The sooner we get to work the better.
The company broke up with shouts and yells and snatches of
drunken song. The bar was still crowded with revellers, and many of the brethren remained
there. The little band who had been told off for duty passed out into the street,
proceeding in twos and threes along the sidewalk so as not to provoke attention. It was a
bitterly cold night, with a half-moon shining brilliantly in a frosty, star-spangled sky.
The men stopped and gathered in a yard which faced a high building. The  words Vermissa Herald
were printed in gold lettering between the brightly lit windows. From within came the
clanking of the printing press.
Here, you, said Baldwin to McMurdo, you can
stand below at the door and see that the road is kept open for us. Arthur Willaby can stay
with you. You others come with me. Have no fears, boys; for we have a dozen witnesses that
we are in the Union Bar at this very moment.
It was nearly midnight, and the street was deserted save for
one or two revellers upon their way home. The party crossed the road, and, pushing open
the door of the newspaper office, Baldwin and his men rushed in and up the stair which
faced them. McMurdo and another remained below. From the room above came a shout, a cry
for help, and then the sound of trampling feet and of falling chairs. An instant later a
gray-haired man rushed out on the landing.
He was seized before he could get farther, and his spectacles
came tinkling down to McMurdos feet. There was a thud and a groan. He was on his
face, and half a dozen sticks were clattering together as they fell upon him. He writhed,
and his long, thin limbs quivered under the blows. The others ceased at last; but Baldwin,
his cruel face set in an infernal smile, was hacking at the mans head, which he
vainly endeavoured to defend with his arms. His white hair was dabbled with patches of
blood. Baldwin was still stooping over his victim, putting in a short, vicious blow
whenever he could see a part exposed, when McMurdo dashed up the stair and pushed him
Youll kill the man, said he. Drop
Baldwin looked at him in amazement. Curse you! he
cried. Who are you to interfereyou that are new to the lodge? Stand
back! He raised his stick; but McMurdo had whipped his pistol out of his hip pocket.
Stand back yourself! he cried. Ill
blow your face in if you lay a hand on me. As to the lodge, wasnt it the order of
the Bodymaster that the man was not to be killedand what are you doing but killing
Its truth he says, remarked one of the men.
By Gar! youd best hurry yourselves! cried
the man below. The windows are all lighting up, and youll have the whole town
here inside of five minutes.
There was indeed the sound of shouting in the street, and a
little group of compositors and pressmen was forming in the hall below and nerving itself
to action. Leaving the limp and motionless body of the editor at the head of the stair,
the criminals rushed down and made their way swiftly along the street. Having reached the
Union House, some of them mixed with the crowd in McGintys saloon, whispering across
the bar to the Boss that the job had been well carried through. Others, and among them
McMurdo, broke away into side streets, and so by devious paths to their own homes.