McMurdo stared at him in astonishment. Why, man,
youre crazy, he said. Isnt the place full of police and
detectives, and what harm did they ever do us?
No, no, its no man of the district. As you say, we
know them, and it is little that they can do. But youve heard of
Ive read of some folk of that name.
Well, you can take it from me youve no show when
they are on your trail. Its not a take-it-or-miss-it government concern. Its a
dead earnest business proposition thats out for results and keeps out till by hook
or crook it gets them. If a Pinkerton man is deep in this business, we are all
We must kill him.
Ah, its the first thought that came to you! So it
will be up at the lodge. Didnt I say to you that it would end in murder?
Sure, what is murder? Isnt it common enough in
It is, indeed; but its not for me to point out the
man that is to be murdered. Id never rest easy again. And yet its our own
necks that may be at stake. In Gods name what shall I do? He rocked to and fro
in his agony of indecision.
But his words had moved McMurdo deeply. It was easy to see
that he shared the others opinion as to the danger, and the need for meeting it. He
gripped Morriss shoulder and shook him in his earnestness.
See here, man, he cried, and he almost screeched
the words in his excitement, you wont gain anything by sitting keening like an
old wife at a wake. Lets have the facts. Who is the fellow? Where is he? How did you
hear of him? Why did you come to me?
I came to you; for you are the one man that would advise
me. I told you that I had a store in the East before I came here. I left good friends
behind me, and one  of
them is in the telegraph service. Heres a letter that I had from him yesterday.
Its this part from the top of the page. You can read it yourself.
This was what McMurdo read:
- How are the Scowrers getting on in your parts? We read
plenty of them in the papers. Between you and me I expect to hear news from you before
long. Five big corporations and the two railroads have taken the thing up in dead earnest.
They mean it, and you can bet theyll get there! They are right deep down into it.
Pinkerton has taken hold under their orders, and his best man, Birdy Edwards, is
operating. The thing has got to be stopped right now.
Now read the postscript.
- Of course, what I give you is what I learned in business; so
it goes no further. Its a queer cipher that you handle by the yard every day and can
get no meaning from.
McMurdo sat in silence for some time, with the letter in
his listless hands. The mist had lifted for a moment, and there was the abyss before him.
Does anyone else know of this? he asked.
I have told no one else.
But this manyour friendhas he any other
person that he would be likely to write to?
Well, I dare say he knows one or two more.
Of the lodge?
Its likely enough.
I was asking because it is likely that he may have given
some description of this fellow Birdy Edwardsthen we could get on his trail.
Well, its possible. But I should not think he knew
him. He is just telling me the news that came to him by way of business. How would he know
this Pinkerton man?
McMurdo gave a violent start.
By Gar! he cried, Ive got him. What a
fool I was not to know it. Lord! but were in luck! We will fix him before he can do
any harm. See here, Morris, will you leave this thing in my hands?
Sure, if you will only take it off mine.
Ill do that. You can stand right back and let me
run it. Even your name need not be mentioned. Ill take it all on myself, as if it
were to me that this letter has come. Will that content you?
Its just what I would ask.
Then leave it at that and keep your head shut. Now
Ill get down to the lodge, and well soon make old man Pinkerton sorry for
You wouldnt kill this man?
The less you know, Friend Morris, the easier your
conscience will be, and the better you will sleep. Ask no questions, and let these things
settle themselves. I have hold of it now.
Morris shook his head sadly as he left. I feel that his
blood is on my hands, he groaned.
Self-protection is no murder, anyhow, said
McMurdo, smiling grimly. Its him or us. I guess this man would destroy us all
if we left him long in the valley.  Why,
Brother Morris, well have to elect you Bodymaster yet; for youve surely saved
And yet it was clear from his actions that he thought more
seriously of this new intrusion than his words would show. It may have been his guilty
conscience, it may have been the reputation of the Pinkerton organization, it may have
been the knowledge that great, rich corporations had set themselves the task of clearing
out the Scowrers; but, whatever his reason, his actions were those of a man who is
preparing for the worst. Every paper which would incriminate him was destroyed before he
left the house. After that he gave a long sigh of satisfaction; for it seemed to him that
he was safe. And yet the danger must still have pressed somewhat upon him; for on his way
to the lodge he stopped at old man Shafters. The house was forbidden him; but when
he tapped at the window Ettie came out to him. The dancing Irish deviltry had gone from
her lovers eyes. She read his danger in his earnest face.
Something has happened! she cried. Oh, Jack,
you are in danger!
Sure, it is not very bad, my sweetheart. And yet it may
be wise that we make a move before it is worse.
Make a move?
I promised you once that I would go some day. I think
the time is coming. I had news to-night, bad news, and I see trouble coming.
Well, a Pinkerton. But, sure, you wouldnt know
what that is, acushla, nor what it may mean to the likes of me. Im too deep in this
thing, and I may have to get out of it quick. You said you would come with me if I
Oh, Jack, it would be the saving of you!
Im an honest man in some things, Ettie. I
wouldnt hurt a hair of your bonny head for all that the world can give, nor ever
pull you down one inch from the golden throne above the clouds where I always see you.
Would you trust me?
She put her hand in his without a word. Well, then,
listen to what I say, and do as I order you; for indeed its the only way for us.
Things are going to happen in this valley. I feel it in my bones. There may be many of us
that will have to look out for ourselves. Im one, anyhow. If I go, by day or night,
its you that must come with me!
Id come after you, Jack.
No, no, you shall come with me. If this valley is closed
to me and I can never come back, how can I leave you behind, and me perhaps in hiding from
the police with never a chance of a message? Its with me you must come. I know a
good woman in the place I come from, and its there Id leave you till we can
get married. Will you come?
Yes, Jack, I will come.
God bless you for your trust in me! Its a fiend
out of hell that I should be if I abused it. Now, mark you, Ettie, it will be just a word
to you, and when it reaches you, you will drop everything and come right down to the
waiting room at the depot and stay there till I come for you.
Day or night, Ill come at the word, Jack.
Somewhat eased in mind, now that his own preparations for
escape had been begun, McMurdo went on to the lodge. It had already assembled, and only by
complicated signs and countersigns could he pass through the outer guard and inner guard
who close-tiled it. A buzz of pleasure and welcome greeted him as he  entered. The long room was crowded,
and through the haze of tobacco smoke he saw the tangled black mane of the Bodymaster, the
cruel, unfriendly features of Baldwin, the vulture face of Harraway, the secretary, and a
dozen more who were among the leaders of the lodge. He rejoiced that they should all be
there to take counsel over his news.
Indeed, its glad we are to see you, Brother!
cried the chairman. Theres business here that wants a Solomon in judgment to
set it right.
Its Lander and Egan, explained 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 Stylestown, and whos to say which fired the
McMurdo rose in his place and raised his hand. The expression
of his face froze the attention of the audience. There was a dead hush of expectation.
Eminent Bodymaster, he said, in a solemn voice,
I claim urgency!
Brother McMurdo claims urgency, said McGinty.
Its a claim that by the rules of this lodge takes precedence. Now, Brother, we
McMurdo took the letter from his pocket.
Eminent Bodymaster and Brethren, he said, I
am the bearer of ill news this day; but it is better that it should be known and
discussed, than that a blow should fall upon us without warning which would destroy us
all. I have information that the most powerful and richest organizations in this state
have bound themselves together for our destruction, and that at this very moment there is
a Pinkerton detective, one Birdy Edwards, at work in the valley collecting the evidence
which may put a rope round the necks of many of us, and send every man in this room into a
felons cell. That is the situation for the discussion of which I have made a claim
There was a dead silence in the room. It was broken by the
What is your evidence for this, Brother McMurdo?
It is in this letter which has come into my hands,
said McMurdo. He read the passage aloud. It is a matter of honour with 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 which can affect the interests of the lodge. I put the
case before you as it has reached me.
Let me say, Mr. Chairman, said one of the older
brethren, that I have heard of Birdy Edwards, and that he has the name of being the
best man in the Pinkerton service.
Does anyone know him by sight? asked McGinty.
Yes, said McMurdo, I do.
There was a murmur of astonishment through the hall.
I believe we hold him in the hollow of our hands,
he continued with an exulting smile upon his face. If we act quickly and wisely, we
can cut this thing short. If I have your confidence and your help, it is little that we
have to fear.
What have we to fear, anyhow? What can he know of our
You might say so if all were as stanch as you,
Councillor. But this man has all the millions of the capitalists at his back. Do you think
there is no weaker brother among all our lodges that could not be bought? He will get at
our secretsmaybe has got them already. Theres only one sure cure.
That he never leaves the valley, said Baldwin.
McMurdo nodded. Good for you, Brother Baldwin, he
said. You and I have had our differences, but you have said the true word
is he, then? Where shall we know him?
Eminent Bodymaster, said McMurdo, earnestly,
I would put it to you that this is too vital a thing for us to discuss in open
lodge. God forbid that I should throw a doubt on anyone here; but if so much as a word of
gossip got to the ears of this man, there would be an end of any chance of our getting
him. I would ask the lodge to choose a trusty committee, Mr. Chairmanyourself, if I
might suggest it, and Brother Baldwin here, and five more. Then I can talk freely of what
I know and of what I advise should be done.
The proposition was at once adopted, and the committee chosen.
Besides the chairman and Baldwin there were the vulture-faced secretary, Harraway, Tiger
Cormac, the brutal young assassin, Carter, the treasurer, and the brothers Willaby,
fearless and desperate men who would stick at nothing.
The usual revelry of the lodge was short and subdued: for
there was a cloud upon the mens spirits, and many there for the first time began to
see the cloud of avenging Law drifting up in that serene sky under which they had dwelt 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 now that it came so closely upon them. They broke up early and left their
leaders to their council.
Now, McMurdo! said McGinty when they were alone.
The seven men sat frozen in their seats.
I said just now that I knew Birdy Edwards, McMurdo
explained. I need not tell you that he is not here under that name. Hes a
brave man, but not a crazy one. He passes under the name of Steve Wilson, and he is
lodging at Hobsons Patch.
How do you know this?
Because I fell into talk with him. I thought little of
it at the time, nor would have given it a second thought but for this letter; but now
Im sure its the man. I met him on the cars when I went down the line on
Wednesdaya hard case if ever there was one. He said he was a reporter. I believed it
for the moment. Wanted to know all he could about the Scowrers and what he called
the outrages for a New York paper. Asked me every kind of question so as to
get something. You bet I was giving nothing away. Id pay for it and pay
well, said he, if I could get some stuff that would suit my editor. I
said what I thought would please him best, and he handed me a twenty-dollar bill for my
information. Theres ten times that for you, said he, if you can
find me all that I want.
What did you tell him, then?
Any stuff I could make up.
How do you know he wasnt a newspaper man?
Ill tell you. He got out at Hobsons Patch,
and so did I. I chanced into the telegraph bureau, and he was leaving it.
See here, said the operator after hed
gone out, I guess we should charge double rates for this.I guess
you should, said I. He had filled the form with stuff that might have been Chinese,
for all we could make of it. He fires a sheet of this off every day, said the
clerk. Yes, said I; its special news for his paper, and hes
scared that the others should tap it. That was what the operator thought and what I
thought at the time; but I think differently now.
By Gar! I believe you are right, said McGinty.
But what do you allow that we should do about it?
not go right down now and fix him? someone suggested.
Ay, the sooner the better.
Id start this next minute if I knew where we could
find him, said McMurdo. Hes in Hobsons Patch; but I dont
know the house. Ive got a plan, though, if youll only take my advice.
Well, what is it?
Ill go to the Patch to-morrow morning. Ill
find him through the operator. He can locate him, I guess. Well, then Ill tell him
that Im a Freeman myself. Ill offer him all the secrets of the lodge for a
price. You bet hell tumble to it. Ill tell him the papers are at my house, and
that its as much as my life would be worth to let him come while folk were about.
Hell see that thats horse sense. Let him come at ten oclock at night,
and he shall see everything. That will fetch him sure.
You can plan the rest for yourselves. Widow
MacNamaras is a lonely house. Shes as true as steel and as deaf as a post.
Theres only Scanlan and me in the house. If I get his promiseand Ill let
you know if I doId have the whole seven of you come to me by nine
oclock. Well get him in. If ever he gets out alivewell, he can talk of
Birdy Edwards luck for the rest of his days!
Theres going to be a vacancy at Pinkertons
or Im mistaken. Leave it at that, McMurdo. At nine to-morrow well be with you.
You once get the door shut behind him, and you can leave the rest with us.