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Chapter 5 The Darkest Hour If anything had been needed to give an impetus to Jack McMurdo's popularity among his

fello s it ould have been his arrest and ac!uittal" That a man on the very night of #oining the lodge should have done something hich brought him before the magistrate as a ne record in the annals of the society" $lready he had earned the reputation of a good boon companion% a cheery reveller% and ithal a man of high temper% ho ould not take an insult even from the all&po erful 'oss himself" 'ut in addition to this he impressed his comrades ith the idea that among them all there as not one hose brain as so ready to devise a bloodthirsty scheme% or hose hand ould be more capable of carrying it out" (He'll be the boy for the clean #ob%( said the oldsters to one another% and aited their time until they could set him to his ork" Mc)inty had instruments enough already* but he recogni+ed that this as a supremely able one" He felt like a man holding a fierce bloodhound in leash" There ere curs to do the smaller ork* but some day he ould slip this creature upon its prey" $ fe members of the lodge% Ted 'ald in among them% resented the rapid rise of the stranger and hated him for it* but they kept clear of him% for he as as ready to fight as to laugh" 'ut if he gained favour ith his fello s% there as another !uarter% one hich had become even more vital to him% in hich he lost it" ,ttie -hafter's father ould have nothing more to do ith him% nor ould he allo him to enter the house" ,ttie herself as too deeply in love to give him up altogether% and yet her o n good sense arned her of hat ould come from a marriage ith a man ho as regarded as a criminal" .ne morning after a sleepless night she determined to see him% possibly for the last time% and make one strong endeavour to dra him from those evil influences hich ere sucking him do n" -he ent to his house% as he had often begged her to do% and made her ay into the room hich he used as his sitting& room" He as seated at a table% ith his back turned and a letter in front of him" $ sudden spirit of girlish mischief came over her && she as still only nineteen" He had not heard her hen she pushed open the door" /o she tiptoed for ard and laid her hand lightly upon his bended shoulders" If she had e0pected to startle him% she certainly succeeded* but only in turn to be startled herself" 1ith a tiger spring he turned on her% and his right hand as feeling for her throat" $t the same instant ith the other hand he crumpled up the paper that lay

before him" 2or an instant he stood glaring" Then astonishment and #oy took the place of the ferocity hich had convulsed his features && a ferocity hich had sent her shrinking back in horror as from something hich had never before intruded into her gentle life" (It's you3( said he% mopping his bro " ($nd to think that you should come to me% heart of my heart% and I should find nothing better to do than to ant to strangle you3 Come then% darling%( and he held out his arms% (let me make it up to you"( 'ut she had not recovered from that sudden glimpse of guilty fear hich she had read in the man's face" $ll her oman's instinct told her that it as not the mere fright of a man ho is startled" )uilt && that as it && guilt and fear3 (1hat's come over you% lack4( she cried" (1hy ere you so scared of me4 .h% Jack% if your conscience as at ease% you ould not have looked at me like that3( (-ure% I as thinking of other things% and hen you came tripping so lightly on those fairy feet of yours &&( (/o% no% it as more than that% Jack"( Then a sudden suspicion sei+ed her" (5et me see that letter you ere riting"( ($h% ,ttie% I couldn't do that"( Her suspicions became certainties" (It's to another oman%( she cried" (I kno it3 1hy else should you hold it from me4 1as it to your ife that you ere riting4 Ho am I to kno that you are not a married man && you% a stranger% that nobody kno s4( (I am not married% ,ttie" -ee no % I s ear it3 6ou're the only one oman on earth to me" 'y the cross of Christ I s ear it3( He as so hite ith passionate earnestness that she could not but believe him" (1ell% then%( she cried% ( hy ill you not sho me the letter4( (I'll tell you% acushla%( said he" (I'm under oath not to sho it% and #ust as I ouldn't break my ord to you so I ould keep it to those ho hold my promise" It's the business of the lodge% and even to you it's secret" $nd if I as scared hen a hand fell on me% can't you understand it hen it might have been the hand of a detective4( -he felt that he as telling the truth" He gathered her into his arms and kissed a ay her fears and doubts" (-it here by me% then" It's a !ueer throne for such a !ueen* but it's the best your poor lover can find" He'll do better for you some of these days% I'm thinking" /o your mind is easy once again% is it not4( (Ho can it ever be at ease% Jack% hen I kno that you are a criminal among criminals% hen I never kno the day that I may

hear you are in court for murder4 'McMurdo the -co rer%' that's hat one of our boarders called you yesterday" It ent through my heart like a knife"( (-ure% hard ords break no bones"( ('ut they ere true"( (1ell% dear% it's not so bad as you think" 1e are but poor men that are trying in our o n ay to get our rights"( ,ttie thre her arms round her lover's neck" ()ive it up% Jack3 2or my sake% for )od's sake% give it up3 It as to ask you that I came here to&day" .h% Jack% see && I beg it of you on my bended knees3 7neeling here before you I implore you to give it up3( He raised her and soothed her ith her head against his breast" (-ure% my darlin'% you don't kno hat it is you are asking" Ho could I give it up hen it ould be to break my oath and to desert my comrades4 If you could see ho things stand ith me you could never ask it of me" 'esides% if I anted to% ho could I do it4 6ou don't suppose that the lodge ould let a man go free ith all its secrets4( (I've thought of that% Jack" I've planned it all" 2ather has saved some money" He is eary of this place here the fear of these people darkens our lives" He is ready to go" 1e ould fly together to 8hiladelphia or /e 6ork% here e ould be safe from them"( McMurdo laughed" (The lodge has a long arm" Do you think it could not stretch from here to 8hiladelphia or /e 6ork4( (1ell% then% to the 1est% or to ,ngland% or to )ermany% here father came from && any here to get a ay from this 9alley of 2ear3( McMurdo thought of old 'rother Morris" (-ure% it is the second time I have heard the valley so named%( said he" (The shado does indeed seem to lie heavy on some of you"( (It darkens every moment of our lives" Do you suppose that Ted 'ald in has ever forgiven us4 If it ere not that he fears you% hat do you suppose our chances ould be4 If you sa the look in those dark% hungry eyes of his hen they fall on me3( ('y )ar3 I'd teach him better manners if I caught him at it3 'ut see here% little girl" I can't leave here" I can't && take that from me once and for all" 'ut if you ill leave me to find my o n ay% I ill try to prepare a ay of getting honourably out of it"( (There is no honour in such a matter"( (1ell% ell% it's #ust ho you look at it" 'ut if you'll give me si0 months% I'll ork it so that I can leave ithout being ashamed to look others in the face"( The girl laughed ith #oy" (-i0 months3( she cried" (Is it a

promise4( (1ell% it may be seven or eight" 'ut ithin a year at the furthest e ill leave the valley behind us"( It as the most that ,ttie could obtain% and yet it as some& thing" There as this distant light to illuminate the gloom of the immediate future" -he returned to her father's house more light& hearted than she had ever been since Jack McMurdo had come into her life" It might be thought that as a member% all the doings of the society ould be told to him* but he as soon to discover that the organi+ation as ider and more comple0 than the simple lodge" ,ven 'oss Mc)inty as ignorant as to many things* for there as an official named the County Delegate% living at Hobson's 8atch farther do n the line% ho had po er over several different lodges hich he ielded in a sudden and arbitrary ay" .nly once did McMurdo see him% a sly% little gray& haired rat of a man% ith a slinking gait and a sidelong glance hich as charged ith malice" ,vans 8ott as his name% and even the great 'oss of 9ermissa felt to ards him something of the repulsion and fear hich the huge Danton may have felt for the puny but dangerous :obespierre" .ne day -canlan% ho as McMurdo's fello boarder% received a note from Mc)inty inclosing one from ,vans 8ott% hich informed him that he as sending over t o good men 5a ler and $ndre s% ho had instructions to act in the neighbourhood* though it as best for the cause that no particulars as to their ob#ects should be given" 1ould the 'odymaster see to it that suitable arrangements be made for their lodgings and comfort until the time for action should arrive4 Mc)inty added that it as impossible for anyone to remain secret at the ;nion House% and that% therefore% he ould be obliged if McMurdo and -canlan ould put the strangers up for a fe days in their boarding house" The same evening the t o men arrived% each carrying his gripsack" 5a ler as an elderly man% shre d% silent% and self& contained% clad in an old black frock coat% hich ith his soft felt hat and ragged% gri++led beard gave him a general resemblance to an itinerant preacher" His companion $ndre s as little more than a boy% frank&faced and cheerful% ith the bree+y manner of one ho is out for a holiday and means to en#oy every minute of it" 'oth men ere total abstainers% and behaved in all ays as e0emplary members of the society% ith the one simple e0ception that they ere assassins ho had often proved them& selves to be most capable instruments for this association of murder" 5a ler had already carried out fourteen commissions of the kind% and $ndre s three"

They ere% as McMurdo found% !uite ready to converse about their deeds in the past% hich they recounted ith the half& bashful pride of men ho had done good and unselfish service for the community" They ere reticent% ho ever% as to the immediate #ob in hand" (They chose us because neither I nor the boy here drink%( 5a ler e0plained" (They can count on us saying no more than e should" 6ou must not take it amiss% but it is the orders of the County Delegate that e obey"( (-ure% e are all in it together%( said -canlan% McMurdo's mate% as the four sat together at supper" (That's true enough% and e'll talk till the co s come home of the killing of Charlie 1illiams or of -imon 'ird% or any other #ob in the past" 'ut till the ork is done e say nothing"( (There are half a do+en about here that I have a ord to say to%( said McMurdo% ith an oath" (I suppose it isn't Jack 7no0 of Ironhill that you are after" I'd go some ay to see him get his deserts"( (/o% it's not him yet"( (.r Herman -trauss4( (/o% nor him either"( (1ell% if you on't tell us e can't make you* but I'd be glad to kno "( 5a ler smiled and shook his head" He as not to be dra n" In spite of the reticence of their guests% -canlan and McMurdo ere !uite determined to be present at hat they called (the fun"( 1hen% therefore% at an early hour one morning McMurdo heard them creeping do n the stairs he a akened -canlan% and the t o hurried on their clothes" 1hen they ere dressed they found that the others had stolen out% leaving the door open behind them" It as not yet da n% and by the light of the lamps they could see the t o men some distance do n the street" They follo ed them arily% treading noiselessly in the deep sno " The boarding house as near the edge of the to n% and soon they ere at the crossroads hich is beyond its boundary" Here three men ere aiting% ith hom 5a ler and $ndre s held a short% eager conversation" Then they all moved on together" It as clearly some notable #ob hich needed numbers" $t this point there are several trails hich lead to various mines" The strangers took that hich led to the Cro Hill% a huge business hich as in strong hands hich had been able% thanks to their energetic and fearless /e ,ngland manager% Josiah H" Dunn% to keep some order and discipline during the long reign of terror" Day as breaking no % and a line of orkmen ere slo ly making their ay% singly and in groups% along the blackened path"

McMurdo and -canlan strolled on ith the others% keeping in sight of the men hom they follo ed" $ thick mist lay over them% and from the heart of it there came the sudden scream of a steam histle" It as the ten&minute signal before the cages descended and the day's labour began" 1hen they reached the open space round the mine shaft there ere a hundred miners aiting% stamping their feet and blo ing on their fingers* for it as bitterly cold" The strangers stood in a little group under the shado of the engine house" -canlan and McMurdo climbed a heap of slag from hich the hole scene lay before them" They sa the mine engineer% a great bearded -cotchman named Men+ies% come out of the engine house and blo his histle for the cages to be lo ered" $t the same instant a tall% loose&framed young man ith a clean&shaved% earnest face advanced eagerly to ards the pit head" $s he came for ard his eyes fell upon the group% silent and motionless% under the engine house" The men had dra n do n their hats and turned up their collars to screen their faces" 2or a moment the presentiment of Death laid its cold hand upon the manager's heart" $t the ne0t he had shaken it off and sa only his duty to ards intrusive strangers" (1ho are you4( he asked as he advanced" (1hat are you loitering there for4( There as no ans er* but the lad $ndre s stepped for ard and shot him in the stomach" The hundred aiting miners stood as motionless and helpless as if they ere paraly+ed" The manager clapped his t o hands to the ound and doubled himself up" Then he staggered a ay* but another of the assassins fired% and he ent do n side ise% kicking and cla ing among a heap of clinkers" Men+ies% the -cotchman% gave a roar of rage at the sight and rushed ith an iron spanner at the murderers* but as met by t o balls in the face hich dropped him dead at their very feet" There as a surge for ard of some of the miners% and an inarticulate cry of pity and of anger* but a couple of the strangers emptied their si0&shooters over the heads of the cro d% and they broke and scattered% some of them rushing ildly back to their homes in 9ermissa" 1hen a fe of the bravest had rallied% and there as a return to the mine% the murderous gang had vanished in the mists of morning% ithout a single itness being able to s ear to the identity of these men ho in front of a hundred spectators had rought this double crime" -canlan and McMurdo made their ay back* -canlan some& hat subdued% for it as the first murder #ob that he had seen ith his o n eyes% and it appeared less funny than he had been

led to believe" The horrible screams of the dead manager's ife pursued them as they hurried to the to n" McMurdo as absorbed and silent* but he sho ed no sympathy for the eakening of his companion" (-ure% it is like a ar%( he repeated" (1hat is it but a ar bet een us and them% and e hit back here e best can"( There as high revel in the lodge room at the ;nion House that night% not only over the killing of the manager and engineer of the Cro Hill mine% hich ould bring this organi+ation into line ith the other blackmailed and terror&stricken companies of the district% but also over a distant triumph hich had been rought by the hands of the lodge itself" It ould appear that hen the County Delegate had sent over five good men to strike a blo in 9ermissa% he had demanded that in return three 9ermissa men should be secretly selected and sent across to kill 1illiam Hales of -take :oyal% one of the best kno n and most popular mine o ners in the )ilmerton district% a man ho as believed not to have an enemy in the orld* for he as in all ays a model employer" He had insisted% ho ever% upon efficiency in the ork% and had% therefore% paid off certain drunken and idle employees ho ere members of the all& po erful society" Coffin notices hung outside his door had not eakened his resolution% and so in a free% civili+ed country he found himself condemned to death" The e0ecution had no been duly carried out" Ted 'ald in% ho spra led no in the seat of honour beside the 'odymaster% had been chief of the party" His flushed face and gla+ed% blood& shot eyes told of sleeplessness and drink" He and his t o comrades had spent the night before among the mountains" They ere unkempt and eather&stained" 'ut no heroes% returning from a forlorn hope% could have had a armer elcome from their comrades" The story as told and retold amid cries of delight and shouts of laughter" They had aited for their man as he drove home at nightfall% taking their station at the top of a steep hill% here his horse must be at a alk" He as so furred to keep out the cold that he could not lay his hand on his pistol" They had pulled him out and shot him again and again" He had screamed for mercy" The screams ere repeated for the amusement of the lodge" (5et's hear again ho he s!uealed%( they cried" /one of them kne the man* but there is eternal drama in a killing% and they had sho n the -co rers of )ilmerton that the 9ermissa men ere to be relied upon" There had been one contretemps* for a man and his ife had driven up hile they ere still emptying their revolvers into the silent body" It had been suggested that they should shoot them

both* but they ere harmless folk ho ere not connected ith the mines% so they ere sternly bidden to drive on and keep silent% lest a orse thing befall them" $nd so the blood&mottled figure had been left as a arning to all such hard&hearted employers% and the three noble avengers had hurried off into the mountains here unbroken nature comes do n to the very edge of the furnaces and the slag heaps" Here they ere% safe and sound% their ork ell done% and the plaudits of their companions in their ears" It had been a great day for the -co rers" The shado had fallen even darker over the valley" 'ut as the ise general chooses the moment of victory in hich to redouble his efforts% so that his foes may have no time to steady themselves after disaster% so 'oss Mc)inty% looking out upon the scene of his operations ith his brooding and malicious eyes% had devised a ne attack upon those ho opposed him" That very night% as the half&drunken company broke up% he touched McMurdo on the arm and led him aside into that inner room here they had their first intervie " (-ee here% my lad%( said he% (I've got a #ob that's orthy of you at last" 6ou'll have the doing of it in your o n hands"( (8roud I am to hear it%( McMurdo ans ered" (6ou can take t o men ith you && Manders and :eilly" They have been arned for service" 1e'll never be right in this district until Chester 1ilco0 has been settled% and you'll have the thanks of every lodge in the coal fields if you can do n him"( (I'll do my best% anyho " 1ho is he% and here shall I find him4( Mc)inty took his eternal half&che ed% half&smoked cigar from the corner of his mouth% and proceeded to dra a rough diagram on a page torn from his notebook" (He's the chief foreman of the Iron Dike Company" He's a hard citi+en% an old colour sergeant of the ar% all scars and gri++le" 1e've had t o tries at him* but had no luck% and Jim Carna ay lost his life over it" /o it's for you to take it over" That's the house && all alone at the Iron Dike crossroad% same as you see here on the map && ithout another ithin earshot" It's no good by day" He's armed and shoots !uick and straight% ith no !uestions asked" 'ut at night && ell% there he is ith his ife three children% and a hired help" 6ou can't pick or choose" It's all or none" If you could get a bag of blasting po der at the front door ith a slo match to it ( (1hat's the man done4( (Didn't I tell you he shot Jim Carna ay4( (1hy did he shoot him4( (1hat in thunder has that to do ith you4 Carna ay as

about his house at night% and he shot him" That's enough for me and you" 6ou've got to settle the thing right"( (There's these t o omen and the children" Do they go up too4( (They have to && else ho can e get him4( (It seems hard on them* for they've done nothing"( (1hat sort of fool's talk is this4 Do you back out4( (,asy% Councillor% easy3 1hat have I ever said or done that you should think I ould be after standing back from an order of the 'odymaster of my o n lodge4 If it's right or if it's rong% it's for you to decide"( (6ou'll do it% then4( (.f course I ill do it"( (1hen4( (1ell% you had best give me a night or t o that I may see the house and make my plans" Then &&( (9ery good%( said Mc)inty% shaking him by the hand" (I leave it ith you" It ill be a great day hen you bring us the ne s" It's #ust the last stroke that ill bring them all to their knees"( McMurdo thought long and deeply over the commission hich had been so suddenly placed in his hands" The isolated house in hich Chester 1ilco0 lived as about five miles off in an ad#acent valley" That very night he started off all alone to prepare for the attempt" It as daylight before he returned from his reconnaissance" /e0t day he intervie ed his t o subordinates% Manders and :eilly% reckless youngsters ho ere as elated as if it ere a deer&hunt" T o nights later they met outside the to n% all three armed% and one of them carrying a sack stuffed ith the po der hich as used in the !uarries" It as t o in the morning before they came to the lonely house" The night as a indy one% ith broken clouds drifting s iftly across the face of a three&!uarter moon" They had been arned to be on their guard against bloodhounds* so they moved for ard cautiously% ith their pistols cocked in their hands" 'ut there as no sound save the ho ling of the ind% and no movement but the s aying branches above them" McMurdo listened at the door of the lonely house* but all as still ithin" Then he leaned the po der bag against it% ripped a hole in it ith his knife% and attached the fuse" 1hen it as ell alight he and his t o companions took to their heels% and ere some distance off% safe and snug in a sheltering ditch% before the shattering roar of the e0plosion% ith the lo % deep rumble of the collapsing building% told them that their ork as done" /o cleaner #ob had ever been carried out in the bloodstained annals

of the society" 'ut alas that ork so ell organi+ed and boldly carried out should all have gone for nothing3 1arned by the fate of the various victims% and kno ing that he as marked do n for destruction% Chester 1ilco0 had moved himself and his family only the day before to some safer and less kno n !uarters% here a guard of police should atch over them" It as an empty house hich had been torn do n by the gunpo der% and the grim old colour sergeant of the ar as still teaching discipline to the miners of Iron Dike" (5eave him to me%( said McMurdo" (He's my man% and I'll get him sure if I have to ait a year for him"( $ vote of thanks and confidence as passed in full lodge% and so for the time the matter ended" 1hen a fe eeks later it as reported in the papers that 1ilco0 had been shot at from an ambuscade% it as an open secret that McMurdo as still at ork upon his unfinished #ob" -uch ere the methods of the -ociety of 2reemen% and such ere the deeds of the -co rers by hich they spread their rule of fear over the great and rich district hich as for so long a period haunted by their terrible presence" 1hy should these pages be stained by further crimes4 Have I not said enough to sho the men and their methods4 These deeds are ritten in history% and there are records herein one may read the details of them" There one may learn of the shooting of 8olicemen Hunt and ,vans because they had ventured to arrest t o members of the society && a double outrage planned at the 9ermissa lodge and carried out in cold blood upon t o helpless and disarmed men" There also one may read of the shooting of Mrs" 5arbey hen she as nursing her husband% ho had been beaten almost to death by orders of 'oss Mc)inty" The killing of the elder Jenkins% shortly follo ed by that of his brother% the mutilation of James Murdoch% the blo ing up of the -taphouse family% and the murder of the -tendals all follo ed hard upon one another in the same terrible inter" Darkly the shado lay upon the 9alley of 2ear" The spring had come ith running brooks and blossoming trees" There as hope for all /ature bound so long in an iron grip* but no here as there any hope for the men and omen ho lived under the yoke of the terror" /ever had the cloud above them been so dark and hopeless as in the early summer of the year <=>5" Chapter ? Danger It as the height of the reign of terror" McMurdo% ho had

already been appointed Inner Deacon% ith every prospect of some day succeeding Mc)inty as 'odymaster% as no so necessary to the councils of his comrades that nothing as done ithout his help and advice" The more popular he became% ho ever% ith the 2reemen% the blacker ere the sco ls hich greeted him as he passed along the streets of 9ermissa" In spite of their terror the citi+ens ere taking heart to band themselves together against their oppressors" :umours had reached the lodge of secret gatherings in the Herald office and of distribution of firearms among the la &abiding people" 'ut Mc)inty and his men ere undisturbed by such reports" They ere numerous% resolute% and ell armed" Their opponents ere scattered and po erless" It ould all end% as it had done in the past% in aimless talk and possibly in impotent arrests" -o said Mc)inty% McMurdo% and all the bolder spirits" It as a -aturday evening in May" -aturday as al ays the lodge night% and McMurdo as leaving his house to attend it hen Morris% the eaker brother of the order% came to see him" His bro as creased ith care% and his kindly face as dra n and haggard" (Can I speak ith you freely% Mr" McMurdo4( (-ure"( (I can't forget that I spoke my heart to you once% and that you kept it to yourself% even though the 'oss himself came to ask you about it"( (1hat else could I do if you trusted me4 It asn't that I agreed ith hat you said"( (I kno that ell" 'ut you are the one that I can speak to and be safe" I've a secret here%( he put his hand to his breast% (and it is #ust burning the life out of me" I ish it had come to any one of you but me" If I tell it% it ill mean murder% for sure" If I don't% it may bring the end of us all" )od help me% but I am near out of my its over it3( McMurdo looked at the man earnestly" He as trembling in every limb" He poured some hisky into a glass and handed it to him" (That's the physic for the likes of you%( said he" (/o let me hear of it"( Morris drank% and his hite face took a tinge of colour" (I can tell it to you all in one sentence%( said he" (There's a detective on our trail"( McMurdo stared at him in astonishment" (1hy% man% you're cra+y%( he said" (Isn't the place full of police and detectives and hat harm did they ever do us4( (/o% no% it's no man of the district" $s you say% e kno them% and it is little that they can do" 'ut you've heard of 8inkerton's4(

(I've read of some folk of that name"( (1ell% you can take it from me you've no sho hen they are on your trail" It's not a take&it&or&miss&it government concern" It's a dead earnest business proposition that's out for results and keeps out till by hook or crook it gets them" If a 8inkerton man is deep in this business% e are all destroyed"( (1e must kill him"( ($h% it's the first thought that came to you3 -o it ill be up at the lodge" Didn't I say to you that it ould end in murder4( (-ure% hat is murder4 Isn't it common enough in these parts4( (It is% indeed* but it's not for me to point out the man that is to be murdered" I'd never rest easy again" $nd yet it's our o n necks that may be at stake" In )od's name hat shall I do4( He rocked to and fro in his agony of indecision" 'ut his ords had moved McMurdo deeply" It as easy to see that he shared the other's opinion as to the danger% and the need for meeting it" He gripped Morris's shoulder and shook him in his earnestness" (-ee here% man%( he cried% and he almost screeched the ords in his e0citement% (you on't gain anything by sitting keening like an old ife at a ake" 5et's have the facts" 1ho is the fello 4 1here is he4 Ho did you hear of him4 1hy did you come to me4( (I came to you* for you are the one man that ould advise me" I told you that I had a store in the ,ast before I came here" I left good friends behind me% and one of them is in the telegraph service" Here's a letter that I had from him yesterday" It's this part from the top of the page" 6ou can read it yourself"( This as hat McMurdo read@ Ho are the -co rers getting on in your parts4 1e read plenty of them in the papers" 'et een you and me I e0pect to hear ne s from you before long" 2ive big corporations and the t o railroads have taken the thing up in dead earnest" They mean it% and you can bet they'll get there3 They are right deep do n into it" 8inkerton has taken hold under their orders% and his best man% 'irdy ,d ards% is operating" The thing has got to be stopped right no " (/o read the postscript"(

.f course% hat I give you is hat I learned in business* so it goes no further" It's a !ueer cipher that you handle by the yard every day and can get no meaning from" McMurdo sat in silence for some time% ith the letter in his

listless hands" The mist had lifted for a moment% and there as the abyss before him" (Does anyone else kno of this4( he asked" (I have told no one else"( ('ut this man && your friend && has he any other person that he ould be likely to rite to4( (1ell% I dare say he kno s one or t o more"( (.f the lodge4( (It's likely enough"( (I as asking because it is likely that he may have given some description of this fello 'irdy ,d ards && then e could get on his trail"( (1ell% it's possible" 'ut I should not think he kne him" He is #ust telling me the ne s that came to him by ay of business" Ho ould he kno this 8inkerton man4( McMurdo gave a violent start" ('y )ar3( he cried% (I've got him" 1hat a fool I as not to kno it" 5ord3 but e're in luck3 1e ill fi0 him before he can do any harm" -ee here% Morris% ill you leave this thing in my hands4( (-ure% if you ill only take it off mine"( (I'll do that" 6ou can stand right back and let me run it" ,ven your name need not be mentioned" I'll take it all on myself% as if it ere to me that this letter has come" 1ill that content you4( (lt's #ust hat I ould ask"( (Then leave it at that and keep your head shut" /o I'll get do n to the lodge% and e'll soon make old man 8inkerton sorry for himself"( (6ou ouldn't kill this man4( (The less you kno % 2riend Morris% the easier your conscience ill be% and the better you ill sleep" $sk no !uestions% and let these things settle themselves" I have hold of it no "( Morris shook his head sadly as he left" (I feel that his blood is on my hands%( he groaned" (-elf&protection is no murder% anyho %( said McMurdo% smiling grimly" (It's him or us" I guess this man ould destroy us all if e left him long in the valley" 1hy% 'rother Morris% e'll have to elect you 'odymaster yet* for you've surely saved the lodge"( $nd yet it as clear from his actions that he thought more seriously of this ne intrusion than his ords ould sho " It may have been his guilty conscience% it may have been the reputation of the 8inkerton organi+ation% it may have been the kno ledge that great% rich corporations had set themselves the task of clearing out the -co rers* but% hatever his reason% his actions ere those of a man ho is preparing for the orst"

,very paper hich ould incriminate him as destroyed before he left the house" $fter that he gave a long sigh of satisfaction* for it seemed to him that he as safe" $nd yet the danger must still have pressed some hat upon him* for on his ay to the lodge he stopped at old man -hafter's" The house as forbidden him* but hen he tapped at the indo ,ttie came out to him" The dancing Irish deviltry had gone from her lover's eyes" -he read his danger in his earnest face" (-omething has happened3( she cried" (.h% Jack% you are in danger3( (-ure% it is not very bad% my s eetheart" $nd yet it may be ise that e make a move before it is orse"( (Make a move4( (I promised you once that I ould go some day" I think the time is coming" I had ne s to&night% bad ne s% and I see trouble coming"( (The police4( (1ell% a 8inkerton" 'ut% sure% you ouldn't kno hat that is% acushla% nor hat it may mean to the likes of me" I'm too deep in this thing% and I may have to get out of it !uick" 6ou said you ould come ith me if I ent"( (.h% Jack% it ould be the saving of you3( (I'm an honest man in some things% ,ttie" I ouldn't hurt a hair of your bonny head for all that the orld can give% nor ever pull you do n one inch from the golden throne above the clouds here I al ays see you" 1ould you trust me4( -he put her hand in his ithout a ord" (1ell% then% listen to hat I say% and do as I order you% for indeed it's the only ay for us" Things are going to happen in this valley" I feel it in my bones" There may be many of us that ill have to look out for ourselves" I'm one% anyho " If I go% by day or night% it's you that must come ith me3( (I'd come after you% Jack"( (/o% no% you shall come ith me" If this valley is closed to me and I can never come back% ho can I leave you behind% and me perhaps in hiding from the police ith never a chance of a message4 It's ith me you must come" I kno a good oman in the place I come from% and it's there I'd leave you till e can get married" 1ill you come4( (6es% Jack% I ill come"( ()od bless you for your trust in me3 It's a fiend out of hell that I should be if I abused it" /o % mark you% ,ttie% it ill be #ust a ord to you% and hen it reaches you% you ill drop everything and come right do n to the aiting room at the depot and stay there till I come for you"( (Day or night% I'll come at the ord% Jack"(

-ome hat eased in mind% no that his o n preparations for escape had been begun% McMurdo ent on to the lodge" It had already assembled% and only by complicated signs and counter& signs could he pass through the outer guard and inner guard ho close&tiled it" $ bu++ of pleasure and elcome greeted him as he entered" The long room as cro ded% and through the ha+e of tobacco smoke he sa the tangled black mane of the 'odymaster the cruel% unfriendly features of 'ald in% the vulture face of Harra ay% the secretary% and a do+en more ho ere among the leaders of the lodge" He re#oiced that they should all be there to take counsel over his ne s" (Indeed% it's glad e are to see you% 'rother3( cried the chairman" (There's business here that ants a -olomon in #udgment to set it right"( (It's 5ander and ,gan%( e0plained his neighbour as he took his seat" (They both claim the head money given by the lodge for the shooting of old man Crabbe over at -tylesto n% and ho's to say hich fired the bullet4( McMurdo rose in his place and raised his hand" The e0pression of his face fro+e the attention of the audience" There as a dead hush of e0pectation" (,minent 'odymaster%( he said% in a solemn voice% (I claim urgency3( ('rother McMurdo claims urgency%( said Mc)inty" (It's a claim that by the rules of this lodge takes precedence" /o 'rother% e attend you"( McMurdo took the letter from his pocket" (,minent 'odymaster and 'rethren%( he said% (I am the bearer of ill ne s this day* but it is better that it should be kno n and discussed% than that a blo should fall upon us ithout arning hich ould destroy us all" I have information that the most po erful and richest organi+ations in this state have bound themselves together for our destruction% and that at this very moment there is a 8inkerton detective% one 'irdy ,d ards% at ork in the valley collecting the evidence hich may put a rope round the necks of many of us% and send every man in this room into a felon's cell" That is the situation for the discussion of hich I have made a claim of urgency"( There as a dead silence in the room" It as broken by the chairman" (1hat is your evidence for this% 'rother McMurdo4( he asked" (It is in this letter hich has come into my hands%( said McMurdo" Me read the passage aloud" (It is a matter of honour ith me that I can give no further particulars about the letter% nor put it into your hands* but I assure you that there is nothing else

in it hich can affect the interests of the lodge" I put the case before you as it has reached me"( (5et me say% Mr" Chairman%( said one of the older brethren% (that I have heard of 'irdy ,d ards% and that he has the name of being the best man in the 8inkerton service"( (Does anyone kno him by sight4( asked Mc)inty" (6es%( said McMurdo% (I do"( There as a murmur of astonishment through the hall" (I believe e hold him in the hollo of our hands%( he continued ith an e0ulting smile upon his face" (If e act !uickly and isely% e can cut this thing short" If I have your confidence and your help% it is little that e have to fear"( (1hat have e to fear% anyho 4 1hat can he kno of our affairs4( (6ou might say so if all ere as stanch as you% Councillor" 'ut this man has all the millions of the capitalists at his back" Do you think there is no eaker brother among all our lodges that could not be bought4 He ill get at our secrets && maybe has got them already" There's only one sure cure"( (That he never leaves the valley%( said 'ald in" McMurdo nodded" ()ood for you% 'rother 'ald in%( he said" (6ou and I have had our differences% but you have said the true ord to&night"( (1here is he% then4 1here shall e kno him4( (,minent 'odymaster%( said McMurdo% earnestly% (I ould put it to you that this is too vital a thing for us to discuss in open lodge" )od forbid that I should thro a doubt on anyone here* but if so much as a ord of gossip got to the ears of this man% there ould be an end of any chance of our getting him" I ould ask the lodge to choose a trusty committee% Mr" Chairman && yourself% if I might suggest it% and 'rother 'ald in here% and five more" Then I can talk freely of hat I kno and of hat I advise should be done"( The proposition as at once adopted% and the committee chosen" 'esides the chairman and 'ald in there ere the vulture& faced secretary% Harra ay% Tiger Cormac% the brutal young assassin% Carter% the treasurer% and the brothers 1illaby% fearless and desperate men ho ould stick at nothing" The usual revelry of the lodge as short and subdued@ for there as a cloud upon the men's spirits% and many there for the first time began to see the cloud of avenging 5a drifting up in that serene sky under hich they had d elt so long" The horrors they had dealt out to others had been so much a part of their settled lives that the thought of retribution had become a remote one% and so seemed the more startling no that it came so closely upon them" They broke up early and left their leaders to

their council" (/o % McMurdo3( said Mc)inty hen they ere alone" The seven men sat fro+en in their seats" (I said #ust no that I kne 'irdy ,d ards%( McMurdo e0plained" (I need not tell you that he is not here under that name" He's a brave man% but not a cra+y one" He passes under the name of -teve 1ilson% and he is lodging at Hobson's 8atch"( (Ho do you kno this4( ('ecause I fell into talk ith him" I thought little of it at the time% nor ould have given it a second thought but for this letter* but no I'm sure it's the man" I met him on the cars hen I ent do n the line on 1ednesday && a hard case if ever there as one" He said he as a reporter" I believed it for the moment" 1anted to kno all he could about the -co rers and hat he called 'the outrages' for a /e 6ork paper" $sked me every kind of !uestion so as to get something" 6ou bet I as giving nothing a ay" 'I'd pay for it and pay ell%' said he% 'if I could get some stuff that ould suit my editor"' I said hat I thought ould please him best% and he handed me a t enty&dollar bill for my information" 'There's ten times that for you%' said he% 'if you can find me all that I ant"' ( (1hat did you tell him% then4( ($ny stuff I could make up"( (Ho do you kno he asn't a ne spaper man4( (I'll tell you" He got out at Hobson's 8atch% and so did I" I chanced into the telegraph bureau% and he as leaving it" ( '-ee here%' said the operator after he'd gone out% 'I guess e should charge double rates for this"' && 'I guess you should%' said I" He had filled the form ith stuff that might have been Chinese% for all e could make of it" 'He fires a sheet of this off every day%' said the clerk" '6es%' said I* 'it's special ne s for his paper% and he's scared that the others should tap it"' That as hat the operator thought and hat I thought at the time* but I think differently no "( ('y )ar3 I believe you are right%( said Mc)inty" ('ut hat do you allo that e should do about it4( (1hy not go right do n no and fi0 him4( someone suggested" ($y% the sooner the better"( (I'd start this ne0t minute if I kne here e could find him%( said McMurdo" (He's in Hobson's 8atch* but I don't kno the house" I've got a plan% though% if you'll only take my advice"( (1ell% hat is it4( (I'll go to the 8atch to&morro morning" I'll find him through the operator" He can locate him% I guess" 1ell% then I'll tell him that I'm a 2reeman myself" I'll offer him all the secrets of the

lodge for a price" 6ou bet he'll tumble to it" I'll tell him the papers are at my house% and that it's as much as my life ould be orth to let him come hile folk ere about" He'll see that that's horse sense" 5et him come at ten o'clock at night% and he shall see everything" That ill fetch him sure"( (1ell4( (6ou can plan the rest for yourselves" 1ido Mac/amara's is a lonely house" -he's as true as steel and as deaf as a post" There's only -canlan and me in the house" If I get his promise && and I'll let you kno if I do && I'd have the hole seven of you come to me by nine o'clock" 1e'll get him in" If ever he gets out alive && ell% he can talk of 'irdy ,d ards's luck for the rest of his days3( (There's going to be a vacancy at 8inkerton's or I'm mistaken" 5eave it at that% McMurdo" $t nine to&morro e'll be ith you" 6ou once get the door shut behind him% and you can leave the rest ith us"(

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