It chanced that on the same evening McMurdo had another more
pressing interview which urged him in the same direction. It may have been that his
attentions to Ettie had been more evident than before, or that they had gradually obtruded
themselves into the slow mind of his good German host; but, whatever the cause, the
boarding-house keeper beckoned the young man into his private room and started on the
subject without any circumlocution.
It seems to me, mister, said he, that you
are gettin set on my Ettie. Aint that so, or am I wrong?
Yes, that is so, the young man answered.
Vell, I vant to tell you right now that it aint no
manner of use. Theres someone slipped in afore you.
She told me so.
Vell, you can lay that she told you truth. But did she
tell you who it vas?
No, I asked her; but she wouldnt tell.
I dare say not, the leetle baggage! Perhaps she did not
vish to frighten you avay.
Frighten! McMurdo was on fire in a moment.
Ah, yes, my friend! You need not be ashamed to be
frightened of him. It is Teddy Baldwin.
And who the devil is he?
He is a boss of Scowrers.
Scowrers! Ive heard of them before. Its
Scowrers here and Scowrers there, and always in a whisper! What are you all afraid of? Who
are the Scowrers?
The boarding-house keeper instinctively sank his voice, as
everyone did who talked about that terrible society. The Scowrers, said he,
are the Eminent Order of Freemen!
The young man stared. Why, I am a member of that order
You! I vould never have had you in my house if I had
known itnot if you vere to pay me a hundred dollar a veek.
Whats wrong with the order? Its for charity
and good fellowship. The rules say so.
Maybe in some places. Not here!
What is it here?
Its a murder society, thats vat it is.
McMurdo laughed incredulously. How can you prove
that? he asked.
Prove it! Are there not fifty murders to prove it? Vat
about Milman and Van Shorst, and the Nicholson family, and old Mr. Hyam, and little Billy
James, and  the others?
Prove it! Is there a man or a voman in this valley vat does not know it?
See here! said McMurdo earnestly. I want you
to take back what youve said, or else make it good. One or the other you must do
before I quit this room. Put yourself in my place. Here am I, a stranger in the town. I
belong to a society that I know only as an innocent one. Youll find it through the
length and breadth of the States; but always as an innocent one. Now, when I am counting
upon joining it here, you tell me that it is the same as a murder society called the
Scowrers. I guess you owe me either an apology or else an explanation, Mr. Shafter.
I can but tell you vat the whole vorld knows, mister.
The bosses of the one are the bosses of the other. If you offend the one, it is the other
vat vill strike you. We have proved it too often.
Thats just gossipI want proof! said
If you live here long you vill get your proof. But I
forget that you are yourself one of them. You vill soon be as bad as the rest. But you
vill find other lodgings, mister. I cannot have you here. Is it not bad enough that one of
these people come courting my Ettie, and that I dare not turn him down, but that I should
have another for my boarder? Yes, indeed, you shall not sleep here after to-night!
McMurdo found himself under sentence of banishment both from his
comfortable quarters and from the girl whom he loved. He found her alone in the
sitting-room that same evening, and he poured his troubles into her ear.
Sure, your father is after giving me notice, he
said. Its little I would care if it was just my room, but indeed, Ettie,
though its only a week that Ive known you, you are the very breath of life to
me, and I cant live without you!
Oh, hush, Mr. McMurdo, dont speak so! said
the girl. I have told you, have I not, that you are too late? There is another, and
if I have not promised to marry him at once, at least I can promise no one else.
Suppose I had been first, Ettie, would I have had a
The girl sank her face into her hands. I wish to heaven
that you had been first! she sobbed.
McMurdo was down on his knees before her in an instant.
For Gods sake, Ettie, let it stand at that! he cried. Will you
ruin your life and my own for the sake of this promise? Follow your heart, acushla!
Tis a safer guide than any promise before you knew what it was that you were
He had seized Etties white hand between his own strong
Say that you will be mine, and we will face it out
No, no, Jack! His arms were round her now.
It could not be here. Could you take me away?
A struggle passed for a moment over McMurdos face; but
it ended by setting like granite. No, here, he said. Ill hold you
against the world, Ettie, right here where we are!
Why should we not leave together?
No, Ettie, I cant leave here.
Id never hold my head up again if I felt that I
had been driven out. Besides, what is there to be afraid of? Are we not free folks in a
free country? If you love me, and I you, who will dare to come between?
dont know, Jack. Youve been here too short a time. You dont know this
Baldwin. You dont know McGinty and his Scowrers.
No, I dont know them, and I dont fear them,
and I dont believe in them! said McMurdo. Ive lived among rough
men, my darling, and instead of fearing them it has always ended that they have feared
mealways, Ettie. Its mad on the face of it! If these men, as your father says,
have done crime after crime in the valley, and if everyone knows them by name, how comes
it that none are brought to justice? You answer me that, Ettie!
Because no witness dares to appear against them. He
would not live a month if he did. Also because they have always their own men to swear
that the accused one was far from the scene of the crime. But surely, Jack, you must have
read all this. I had understood that every paper in the United States was writing about
Well, I have read something, it is true; but I had
thought it was a story. Maybe these men have some reason in what they do. Maybe they are
wronged and have no other way to help themselves.
Oh, Jack, dont let me hear you speak so! That is
how he speaksthe other one!
Baldwinhe speaks like that, does he?
And that is why I loathe him so. Oh, Jack, now I can
tell you the truth. I loathe him with all my heart; but I fear him also. I fear him for
myself; but above all I fear him for father. I know that some great sorrow would come upon
us if I dared to say what I really felt. hat is why I have put him off with
half-promises. It was in real truth our only hope. But if you would fly with me, Jack, we
could take father with us and live forever far from the power of these wicked men.
Again there was the struggle upon McMurdos face, and
again it set like granite. No harm shall come to you, Ettienor to your father
either. As to wicked men, I expect you may find that I am as bad as the worst of them
before were through.
No, no, Jack! I would trust you anywhere.
McMurdo laughed bitterly. Good Lord! how little you know
of me! Your innocent soul, my darling, could not even guess what is passing in mine. But,
hullo, whos the visitor?
The door had opened suddenly, and a young fellow came
swaggering in with the air of one who is the master. He was a handsome, dashing young man
of about the same age and build as McMurdo himself. Under his broad-brimmed black felt
hat, which he had not troubled to remove, a handsome face with fierce, domineering eyes
and a curved hawk-bill of a nose looked savagely at the pair who sat by the stove.
Ettie had jumped to her feet full of confusion and alarm.
Im glad to see you, Mr. Baldwin, said she. Youre earlier
than I had thought. Come and sit down.
Baldwin stood with his hands on his hips looking at McMurdo.
Who is this? he asked curtly.
Its a friend of mine, Mr. Baldwin, a new boarder
here. Mr. McMurdo, may I introduce you to Mr. Baldwin?
The young men nodded in surly fashion to each other.
Maybe Miss Ettie has told you how it is with us?
I didnt understand that there was any relation
Didnt you? Well, you can understand it now. You
can take it from me that this young lady is mine, and youll find it a very fine
evening for a walk.
Thank you, I am in no humour for a walk.
you? The mans savage eyes were blazing with anger. Maybe you are in a
humour for a fight, Mr. Boarder!
That I am! cried McMurdo, springing to his
feet. You never said a more welcome word.
For Gods sake, Jack! Oh, for Gods
sake! cried poor, distracted Ettie. Oh, Jack, Jack, he will hurt you!
Oh, its Jack, is it? said Baldwin with an
oath. Youve come to that already, have you?
Oh, Ted, be reasonablebe kind! For my sake, Ted,
if ever you loved me, be big-hearted and forgiving!
I think, Ettie, that if you were to leave us alone we
could get this thing settled, said McMurdo quietly. Or maybe, Mr. Baldwin, you
will take a turn down the street with me. Its a fine evening, and theres some
open ground beyond the next block.
Ill get even with you without needing to dirty my
hands, said his enemy. Youll wish you had never set foot in this house
before I am through with you!
No time like the present, cried McMurdo.
Ill choose my own time, mister. You can leave the
time to me. See here! He suddenly rolled up his sleeve and showed upon his forearm a
peculiar sign which appeared to have been branded there. It was a circle with a triangle
within it. Dyou know what that means?
I neither know nor care!
Well, you will know, Ill promise you that. You
wont be much older, either. Perhaps Miss Ettie can tell you something about it. As
to you, Ettie, youll come back to me on your kneesdye hear,
girl?on your kneesand then Ill tell you what your punishment may be.
Youve sowedand by the Lord, Ill see that you reap! He glanced at
them both in fury. Then he turned upon his heel, and an instant later the outer door had
banged behind him.
For a few moments McMurdo and the girl stood in silence. Then
she threw her arms around him.
Oh, Jack, how brave you were! But it is no use, you must
fly! To-night Jackto-night! Its your only hope. He will have your life.
I read it in his horrible eyes. What chance have you against a dozen of them, with Boss
McGinty and all the power of the lodge behind them?
McMurdo disengaged her hands, kissed her, and gently pushed
her back into a chair. There, acushla, there! Dont be disturbed or fear for
me. Im a Freeman myself. Im after telling your father about it. Maybe I am no
better than the others; so dont make a saint of me. Perhaps you hate me too, now
that Ive told you as much?
Hate you, Jack? While life lasts I could never do that!
Ive heard that there is no harm in being a Freeman anywhere but here; so why should
I think the worse of you for that? But if you are a Freeman, Jack, why should you not go
down and make a friend of Boss McGinty? Oh, hurry, Jack, hurry! Get your word in first, or
the hounds will be on your trail.
I was thinking the same thing, said McMurdo.
Ill go right now and fix it. You can tell your father that Ill sleep
here to-night and find some other quarters in the morning.
The bar of McGintys saloon was crowded as usual; for it
was the favourite loafing place of all the rougher elements of the town. The man was
popular; for he  had a
rough, jovial disposition which formed a mask, covering a great deal which lay behind it.
But apart from this popularity, the fear in which he was held throughout the township, and
indeed down the whole thirty miles of the valley and past the mountains on each side of
it, was enough in itself to fill his bar; for none could afford to neglect his good will.
Besides those secret powers which it was universally believed
that he exercised in so pitiless a fashion, he was a high public official, a municipal
councillor, and a commissioner of roads, elected to the office through the votes of the
ruffians who in turn expected to receive favours at his hands. Assessments and taxes were
enormous; the public works were notoriously neglected, the accounts were slurred over by
bribed auditors, and the decent citizen was terrorized into paying public blackmail, and
holding his tongue lest some worse thing befall him.
Thus it was that, year by year, Boss McGintys diamond
pins became more obtrusive, his gold chains more weighty across a more gorgeous vest, and
his saloon stretched farther and farther, until it threatened to absorb one whole side of
the Market Square.
McMurdo pushed open the swinging door of the saloon and made
his way amid the crowd of men within, through an atmosphere blurred with tobacco smoke and
heavy with the smell of spirits. The place was brilliantly lighted, and the huge, heavily
gilt mirrors upon every wall reflected and multiplied the garish illumination. There were
several bartenders in their shirt sleeves, hard at work mixing drinks for the loungers who
fringed the broad, brass-trimmed counter.
At the far end, with his body resting upon the bar and a cigar
stuck at an acute angle from the corner of his mouth, stood a tall, strong, heavily built
man who could be none other than the famous McGinty himself. He was a black-maned giant,
bearded to the cheek-bones, and with a shock of raven hair which fell to his collar. His
complexion was as swarthy as that of an Italian, and his eyes were of a strange dead
black, which, combined with a slight squint, gave them a particularly sinister appearance.
All else in the manhis noble proportions, his fine
features, and his frank bearingfitted in with that jovial, man-to-man manner which
he affected. Here, one would say, is a bluff, honest fellow, whose heart would be sound
however rude his outspoken words might seem. It was only when those dead, dark eyes, deep
and remorseless, were turned upon a man that he shrank within himself, feeling that he was
face to face with an infinite possibility of latent evil, with a strength and courage and
cunning behind it which made it a thousand times more deadly.
Having had a good look at his man, McMurdo elbowed his way
forward with his usual careless audacity, and pushed himself through the little group of
courtiers who were fawning upon the powerful boss, laughing uproariously at the smallest
of his jokes. The young strangers bold gray eyes looked back fearlessly through
their glasses at the deadly black ones which turned sharply upon him.
Well, young man, I cant call your face to
Im new here, Mr. McGinty.
You are not so new that you cant give a gentleman
his proper title.
Hes Councillor McGinty, young man, said a
voice from the group.
Im sorry, Councillor. Im strange to the ways
of the place. But I was advised to see you.
Well, you see me. This is all there is. What dyou
think of me?
its early days. If your heart is as big as your body, and your soul as fine as your
face, then Id ask for nothing better, said McMurdo.
By Gar! youve got an Irish tongue in your head
anyhow, cried the saloonkeeper, not quite certain whether to humour this audacious
visitor or to stand upon his dignity.
So you are good enough to pass my appearance?
Sure, said McMurdo.
And you were told to see me?
And who told you?
Brother Scanlan of Lodge 341, Vermissa. I drink your
health, Councillor, and to our better acquaintance. He raised a glass with which he
had been served to his lips and elevated his little finger as he drank it.
McGinty, who had been watching him narrowly, raised his thick
black eyebrows. Oh, its like that, is it? said he. Ill have
to look a bit closer into this, Mister
A bit closer, Mr. McMurdo; for we dont take folk
on trust in these parts, nor believe all were told neither. Come in here for a
moment, behind the bar.
There was a small room there, lined with barrels. McGinty
carefully closed the door, and then seated himself on one of them, biting thoughtfully on
his cigar and surveying his companion with those disquieting eyes. For a couple of minutes
he sat in complete silence. McMurdo bore the inspection cheerfully, one hand in his coat
pocket, the other twisting his brown moustache. Suddenly McGinty stooped and produced a
See here, my joker, said he, if I thought
you were playing any game on us, it would be short work for you.
This is a strange welcome, McMurdo answered with
some dignity, for the Bodymaster of a lodge of Freemen to give to a stranger
Ay, but its just that same that you have to
prove, said McGinty, and God help you if you fail! Where were you made?
Lodge 29, Chicago.
June 24, 1872.
James H. Scott.
Who is your district ruler?
Hum! You seem glib enough in your tests. What are you
Working, the same as youbut a poorer job.
You have your back answer quick enough.
Yes, I was always quick of speech.
Are you quick of action?
I have had that name among those that knew me
Well, we may try you sooner than you think. Have you
heard anything of the lodge in these parts?
Ive heard that it takes a man to be a
True for you, Mr. McMurdo. Why did you leave
Im damned if I tell you that!
opened his eyes. He was not used to being answered in such fashion, and it amused him.
Why wont you tell me?
Because no brother may tell another a lie.
Then the truth is too bad to tell?
You can put it that way if you like.
See here, mister, you cant expect me, as
Bodymaster, to pass into the lodge a man for whose past he cant answer.
McMurdo looked puzzled. Then he took a worn newspaper cutting
from an inner pocket.
You wouldnt squeal on a fellow? said he.
Ill wipe my hand across your face if you say such
words to me! cried McGinty hotly.
You are right, Councillor, said McMurdo meekly.
I should apologize. I spoke without thought. Well, I know that I am safe in your
hands. Look at that clipping.
McGinty glanced his eyes over the account of the shooting of
one Jonas Pinto, in the Lake Saloon, Market Street, Chicago, in the New Year week of 1874.
Your work? he asked, as he handed back the paper.
Why did you shoot him?
I was helping Uncle Sam to make dollars. Maybe mine were
not as good gold as his, but they looked as well and were cheaper to make. This man Pinto
helped me to shove the queer
To do what?
Well, it means to pass the dollars out into circulation.
Then he said he would split. Maybe he did split. I didnt wait to see. I just killed
him and lighted out for the coal country.
Why the coal country?
Cause Id read in the papers that they
werent too particular in those parts.
McGinty laughed. You were first a coiner and then a
murderer, and you came to these parts because you thought youd be welcome.
Thats about the size of it, McMurdo
Well, I guess youll go far. Say, can you make
those dollars yet?
McMurdo took half a dozen from his pocket. Those never
passed the Philadelphia mint, said he.
You dont say! McGinty held them to the light
in his enormous hand, which was hairy as a gorillas. I can see no difference.
Gar! youll be a mighty useful brother, Im thinking! We can do with a bad man
or two among us, Friend McMurdo: for there are times when we have to take our own part.
Wed soon be against the wall if we didnt shove back at those that were pushing
Well, I guess Ill do my share of shoving with the
rest of the boys.
You seem to have a good nerve. You didnt squirm
when I shoved this gun at you.
It was not me that was in danger.
It was you, Councillor. McMurdo drew a cocked
pistol from the side pocket of his pea-jacket. I was covering you all the time. I
guess my shot would have been as quick as yours.
By Gar! McGinty flushed an angry red and then
burst into a roar of laughter. Say, weve had no such holy terror come to hand
this many a year. I reckon  the
lodge will learn to be proud of you. . . . Well, what the hell do you want? And cant
I speak alone with a gentleman for five minutes but you must butt in on us?
The bartender stood abashed. Im sorry, Councillor,
but its Ted Baldwin. He says he must see you this very minute.
The message was unnecessary; for the set, cruel face of the
man himself was looking over the servants shoulder. He pushed the bartender out and
closed the door on him.
So, said he with a furious glance at McMurdo,
you got here first, did you? Ive a word to say to you, Councillor, about this
Then say it here and now before my face, cried
Ill say it at my own time, in my own way.
Tut! Tut! said McGinty, getting off his barrel.
This will never do. We have a new brother here, Baldwin, and its not for us to
greet him in such fashion. Hold out your hand, man, and make it up!
Never! cried Baldwin in a fury.
Ive offered to fight him if he thinks I have
wronged him, said McMurdo. Ill fight him with fists, or, if that
wont satisfy him, Ill fight him any other way he chooses. Now, Ill leave
it to you, Councillor, to judge between us as a Bodymaster should.
What is it, then?
A young lady. Shes free to choose for
Is she? cried Baldwin.
As between two brothers of the lodge I should say that
she was, said the Boss.
Oh, thats your ruling, is it?
Yes, it is, Ted Baldwin, said McGinty, with a
wicked stare. Is it you that would dispute it?
You would throw over one that has stood by you this five
years in favour of a man that you never saw before in your life? Youre not
Bodymaster for life, Jack McGinty, and by God! when next it comes to a vote
The Councillor sprang at him like a tiger. His hand closed
round the others neck, and he hurled him back across one of the barrels. In his mad
fury he would have squeezed the life out of him if McMurdo had not interfered.
Easy, Councillor! For heavens sake, go
easy! he cried, as he dragged him back.
McGinty released his hold, and Baldwin, cowed and shaken,
gasping for breath, and shivering in every limb, as one who has looked over the very edge
of death, sat up on the barrel over which he had been hurled.
Youve been asking for it this many a day, Ted
Baldwinnow youve got it! cried McGinty, his huge chest rising and
falling. Maybe you think if I was voted down from Bodymaster you would find yourself
in my shoes. Its for the lodge to say that. But so long as I am the chief Ill
have no man lift his voice against me or my rulings.
I have nothing against you, mumbled Baldwin,
feeling his throat.
Well, then, cried the other, relapsing in a moment
into a bluff joviality, we are all good friends again and theres an end of the
He took a bottle of champagne down from the shelf and twisted
out the cork.
See now, he continued, as he filled three high
glasses. Let us drink the quarrelling toast of the lodge. After that, as you know,
there can be no bad blood between us. Now, then, the left hand on the apple of my throat.
I say to you, Ted Baldwin, what is the offense, sir?
clouds are heavy, answered Baldwin.
But they will forever brighten.
And this I swear!
The men drank their glasses, and the same ceremony was
performed between Baldwin and McMurdo.
There! cried McGinty, rubbing his hands.
Thats the end of the black blood. You come under lodge discipline if it goes
further, and thats a heavy hand in these parts, as Brother Baldwin knowsand as
you will damn soon find out, Brother McMurdo, if you ask for trouble!
Faith, Id be slow to do that, said McMurdo.
He held out his hand to Baldwin. Im quick to quarrel and quick to forgive.
Its my hot Irish blood, they tell me. But its over for me, and I bear no
Baldwin had to take the proffered hand; for the baleful eye of
the terrible Boss was upon him. But his sullen face showed how little the words of the
other had moved him.
McGinty clapped them both on the shoulders. Tut! These
girls! These girls! he cried. To think that the same petticoats should come
between two of my boys! Its the devils own luck! Well, its the colleen
inside of them that must settle the question; for its outside the jurisdiction of a
Bodymaster and the Lord be praised for that! We have enough on us, without the women
as well. Youll have to be affiliated to Lodge 341, Brother McMurdo. We have our own
ways and methods, different from Chicago. Saturday night is our meeting, and if you come
then, well make you free forever of the Vermissa Valley.