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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

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The Valley of Fear


1 PART 1 : The Tragedy of Birlstone

2 CHAPTER 1 : The Warning

3 'I am inclined to think-' said I.
4 'I should do so,' Sherlock Holmes remarked, impatiently.
5 I believe that I am one of the most long-suffering of mortals, but I admit that I was annoyed at the sardonic interruption.
6 'Really, Holmes,' said I, severely, 'you are a little trying at times.'
7 He was too much absorbed with his own thoughts to give any immediate answer to my remonstrance. 8 He leaned upon his hand, with his untasted breakfast before him, and he stared at the slip of paper which he had just drawn from its envelope. 9 Then he took the envelope itself, held it up to the light, and very carefully studied both the exterior and the flap.
10 'It is Porlock's writing,' said he, thoughtfully. 11 'I can hardly doubt that it is Porlock's writing, though I have only seen it twice before. 12 The Greek "e" with the peculiar top flourish is distinctive. 13 But if it is from Porlock, then it must be something of the very first importance.'
14 He was speaking to himself rather than to me, but my vexation disappeared in the interest which the words awakened.
15 'Who, then, is Porlock?' I asked.
16 'Porlock, Watson, is a nom de plume, a mere identification mark, but behind it lies a shifty and evasive personality. 17 In a former letter he frankly informed me that the name was not his own, and defied me ever to trace him among the teeming millions of this great city. 18 Porlock is important, not for himself, but for the great man with whom he is in touch. 19 Picture to yourself the pilot-fish with the shark, the jackal with the lion - anything that is insignificant in companionship with what is formidable. 20 Not only formidable, Watson, but sinister - in the highest degree sinister. 21 That is where he comes within my purview. 22 You have heard me speak of Professor Moriarty?'
23 'The famous scientific criminal, as famous among crooks as-'
24 'My blushes, Watson,' Holmes murmured, in a deprecating voice.
25 'I was about to say "as he is unknown to the public":
26 'A touch - a distinct touch!' cried Holmes. 27 'You are developing a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself. 28 But in calling Moriarty a criminal you are uttering libel in the eyes of the law, and there lies the glory and the wonder of it. 29 The greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every devilry, the controlling brain of the underworld - a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations. 30 That's the man. 31 But so aloof is he from general suspicion - so immune from criticism - so admirable in his management and self-effacement, that for those very words that you have uttered he could hale you to a court and emerge with your year's pension as a solatium for his wounded character. 32 Is he not the celebrated author of The Dynamics of an Asteroid - a book which ascends to such rarefied heights of pure mathematics that it is said that there was no man in the scientific press capable of criticizing it? 33 Is this a man to traduce? 34 Foul-mouthed doctor and slandered professor - such would be your respective roles. 35 That's genius, Watson. 36 But if I am spared by lesser men our day will surely come.'
37 'May I be there to seer I exclaimed, devoutly. 38 'But you were speaking of this man Porlock.'
39 'Ah, yes - the so-called Porlock is a link in the chain some little way from its great attachment. 40 Porlock is not quite a sound link, between ourselves. 41 He is the only flaw in that chain so far as I have been able to test it.'
42 'But no chain is stronger than its weakest link.'
43 'Exactly, my dear Watson. 44 Hence the extreme importance of Porlock. 45 Led on by some rudimentary aspirations towards right, and encouraged by the judicious stimulation of an occasional ten-pound note sent to him by devious methods, he has once or twice given me advance information which has been of value - that highest value which anticipates and prevents rather than avenges crime. 46 I cannot doubt that if we had the cipher we should find that this communication is of the nature that I indicate.'
47 Again Holmes flattened out the paper upon his unused plate. 48 I rose and, leaning over him, stared down at the curious inscription, which ran as follows:

49 534 C2 13 127 36 31 4 17 21 41
50 DOUGLAS 109 293 5 37 BIRLSTONE
51 26 BIRLSTONE 9 127 171

52 'What do you make of it, Holmes?'
53 'It is obviously an attempt to convey secret information.'
54 'But what is the use of a cipher message without the cipher?'
55 'In this instance, none at all.'
56 'Why do you say "in this instance"?'
57 'Because there are many ciphers which I would read as easily as I do the apocrypha of the agony column. 58 Such crude devices amuse the intelligence without fatiguing it. 59 But this is different. 60 It is clearly a reference to the words in a page of some book. 61 Until I am told which page and which book I am powerless.'
62 'But why "Douglas" and "Birlstone"?'
63 'Clearly because those are words which were not contained in the page in question.'
64 'Then why has he not indicated the book?'
65 'Your native shrewdness, my dear Watson, that innate cunning which is the delight of your friends, would surely prevent you from enclosing cipher and message in the same envelope. 66 Should it miscarry you are undone. 67 As it is, both have to go wrong before any harm comes from it. 68 Our second post is now overdue, and I shall be surprised if it does not bring us either a further letter of explanation or, as is more probable, the very volume to which these figures refer.'
69 Holmes's calculation was fulfilled within a very few minutes by the appearance of Billy, the page, with the very letter which we were expecting.
70 'The same writing,' remarked Holmes, as he opened the envelope, 'and actually signed,' he added, in an exultant voice, as he unfolded the epistle. 71 'Come, we are getting on, Watson.'
72 His brow clouded, however, as he glanced over the contents.
73 'Dear me, this is very disappointing! 74 I fear, Watson, that all our expectations come to nothing. 75 I trust that the man Porlock will come to no harm.
76 '"Dear Mr Holmes," he says, "I will go no further in this matter. 77 It is too dangerous. 78 He suspects me. 79 I can see that he suspects me. 80 He came to me quite unexpectedly after I had actually addressed this envelope with the intention of sending you the key to the cipher. 81 I was able to cover it up. 82 If he had seen it, it would have gone hard with me. 83 But I read suspicion in his eyes. 84 Please burn the cipher message, which can now be of no use to you. 85 - Fred Porlock."'
86 Holmes sat for some little time twisting this letter between his fingers, and frowning, as he stared into the fire.
87 'After all,' he said at last, 'there may be nothing in it. 88 It may be only his guilty conscience. 89 Knowing himself to be a traitor, he may have read the accusation in the other's eyes.'
90 'The other being, I presume, Professor Moriarty?'
91 'No less. 92 When any of that party talk about "he", you know whom they mean. 93 There is one predominant "he" for all of them.'
94 'But what can he do?'
95 'Hum! 96 That's a large question. 97 When you have one of the first brains of Europe up against you and all the powers of darkness at his back, there are infinite possibilities. 98 Anyhow, friend Porlock is evidently scared out of his senses. 99 Kindly compare the writing in the note with that upon its envelope, which was done, he tells us, before this ill-omened visit. 100 The one is clear and firm; the other hardly legible.'
101 'Why did he write at all? 102 Why did he not simply drop it?'
103 'Because he feared I would make some inquiry after him in that case, and possibly bring trouble on him.'
104 'No doubt,' said I. 105 'Of course' - I had picked up the original cipher message and was bending my brows over it - 'it's pretty maddening to think that an important secret may lie here on this slip of paper, and that it is beyond human power to penetrate it.'
106 Sherlock Holmes had pushed away his untasted breakfast and lit the unsavoury pipe which was the companion of his deepest meditations.
107 'I wonder!' said he, leaning back and staring at the ceiling. 108 'Perhaps there are points which have escaped your Machiavellian intellect. 109 Let us consider the problem in the light of pure reason. 110 This man's reference is to a book. 111 That is our point of departure.'
112 'A somewhat vague one.'
113 'Let us see, then, if we can narrow it down. 114 As I focus my mind upon it, it seems rather less impenetrable. 115 What indications have we as to this book?'
116 'None.'
117 'Well, well, it is surely not quite so bad as that. 118 The cipher message begins with a large 534, does it not? 119 We may take it as a working hypothesis that 534 is the particular page to which the cipher refers. 120 So our book has already become a large book, which is surely something gained. 121 What other indications have we as to the nature of this large book? 122 The next sign is C2. 123 What do you make of that, Watson?'
124 'Chapter the second, no doubt.'
125 'Hardly that, Watson. 126 You will, I am sure, agree with me that if the page be given, the number of the chapter is immaterial. 127 Also that if page 534 only finds us in the second chapter, the length of the first one must have been really intolerable.'
128 'Column!' I cried.
129 'Brilliant, Watson. 130 You are scintillating this morning. 131 If it is not column, then I am very much deceived. 132 So now, you see, we begin to visualize a large book, printed in double columns, which are each of a considerable length, since one of the words is numbered in the document as the two hundred and ninety-third. 133 Have we reached the limits of what reason can supply?'
134 'I fear that we have.'
135 'Surely you do yourself an injustice. 136 One more coruscation, my dear Watson. 137 Yet another brain-wave. 138 Had the volume been an unusual one he would have sent it to me. 139 Instead of that he had intended, before his plans were nipped, to send me the clue in this envelope. 140 He says so in his note. 141 This would seem to indicate that the book is one which he thought that I would have no difficulty in finding for myself. 142 He had it, and he imagined that I would have it too. 143 In short, Watson, it is a very common book.'
144 'What you say certainly sounds plausible.'
145 'So we have contracted our field of search to a large book, printed in double columns and in common use.'
146 'The Bible!' I cried, triumphantly.
147 'Good, Watson, good! 148 But not, if I may say so, quite good enough. 149 Even if I accepted the compliment for myself, I could hardly name any volume which would be less likely to lie at the elbow of one of Moriarty's associates. 150 Besides, the editions of Holy Writ are so numerous that he could hardly suppose that two copies would have the same pagination. 151 This is clearly a book which is standardized. 152 He knows for certain that his page 534 will exactly agree with my page 534:
153 'But very few books would correspond with that.'
154 'Exactly. 155 Therein lies our salvation. 156 Our search is narrowed down to standardized books which any one may be supposed to possess.'
157 'Bradshaw!
158 'There are difficulties, Watson. 159 The vocabulary of Bradshaw is nervous and terse, but limited. 160 The selection of words would hardly lend itself to the sending of general messages. 161 We will eliminate Bradshaw. 162 The dictionary is, I fear, inadmissible for the same reason. 163 What, then, is left?'
164 'An almanack.'
165 'Excellent, Watson! 166 I am very much mistaken if you have not touched the spot. 167 An almanack! 168 Let us consider the claims of Whitaker's Almanack. 169 It is in common use. 170 It has the requisite number of pages. 171 It is in double columns. 172 Though reserved in its earlier vocabulary, it becomes, if I remember right, quite garrulous towards the end.' 173 He picked up the volume from his desk. 174 'Here is page 534, column two, a substantial block of print dealing, I perceive, with the trade and resources of British India. 175 Jot down the words, Watson. 176 Number thirteen is "Mahratta". 177 Not, I fear, a very auspicious beginning. 178 Number one hundred and twenty-seven is "Government", which at least makes sense, though somewhat irrelevant to ourselves and Professor Moriarty. 179 Now let us try again. 180 What does the Mahratta Government do? 181 Alas! the next word is "pigs'-bristles". 182 We are undone, my good Watson! 183 It is finished.'
184 He had spoken in jesting vein, but the twitching of his bushy eyebrows bespoke his disappointment and irritation. 185 I sat helpless and unhappy, staring into the fire. 186 A long silence was broken by a sudden exclamation from Holmes, who dashed at a cupboard, from which he emerged with a second yellow-covered volume in his hand.
187 'We pay the price, Watson, for being too up-to-date,' he cried. 188 'We are before our time, and suffer the usual penalties. 189 Being the seventh of January, we have very properly laid in the new almanack. 190 It is more than likely that Porlock took his message from the old one. 191 No doubt he would have told us so had his letter of explanation been written. 192 Now let us see what page 534 has in store for us. 193 Number thirteen is "There", which is much more promising. 194 Number one hundred and twenty-seven is "is" - "There is" ' - Holmes's eyes were gleaming with excitement, and his thin, nervous fingers twitched as he counted the words - ' "danger". 195 Ha! ha! 196 Capital! 197 Put that down, Watson. 198 "There is danger may - come - very - soon - one". 199 Then we have the name "Douglas" - "rich - country - now - at - Birlstone - House - Birlstone - confidence - is - pressing". 200 There, Watson! 201 what do you think of pure reason and its fruits? 202 If the greengrocer had such a thing as a laurel-wreath I should send Billy round for it.'
203 I was staring at the strange message which I had scrawled, as he deciphered it, upon a sheet of foolscap on my knee.
204 'What a queer, scrambling way of expressing his meaning!' said I.
205 'On the contrary, he has done quite remarkably well,' said Holmes. 206 'When you search a single column for words with which to express your meaning, you can hardly expect to get everything you want. 207 You are bound to leave something to the intelligence of your correspondent. 208 The purport is perfectly clear. 209 Some devilry is intended against one Douglas, whoever he may be, residing as stated, a rich country gentleman. 210 He is sure - "confidence" was as near as he could get to "confident" - that it is pressing. 211 There is our result, and a very workmanlike little bit of analysis it was.'
212 Holmes had the impersonal joy of the true artist in his better work, even as he mourned darkly when it fell below the high level to which he aspired. 213 He was still chuckling over his success when Billy swung open the door and Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard was ushered into the room.
214 Those were the early days at the end of the 'eighties, when Alec MacDonald was far from having attained the national fame which he has now achieved. 215 He was a young but trusted member of the detective force, who had distinguished himself in several cases which had been entrusted to him. 216 His tall, bony figure gave promise of exceptional physical strength, while his great cranium and deep-set, lustrous eyes spoke no less clearly of the keen intelligence which twinkled out from behind his bushy eyebrows. 217 He was a silent, precise man, with a dour nature and a hard Aberdonian accent. 218 Twice already in his career had Holmes helped him to attain success, his own sole reward being the intellectual joy of the problem. 219 For this reason the affection and respect of the Scotchman for his amateur colleague were profound, and he showed them by the frankness with which he consulted Holmes in every difficulty. 220 Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius, and MacDonald had talent enough for his profession to enable him to perceive that there was no humiliation in seeking the assistance of one who already stood alone in Europe, both in his gifts and in his experience. 221 Holmes was not prone to friendship, but he was tolerant of the big Scotchman, and smiled at the sight of him.
222 'You are an early bird, Mr Mac,' said he. 223 'I wish you luck with your worm. 224 I fear this means that there is some mischief afoot.'
225 'If you said "hope" instead of "fear" it would be nearer the truth, I'm thinking, Mr Holmes,' the inspector answered, with a knowing grin. 226 'Well, maybe a wee nip would keep out the raw morning chill. 227 No, I won't smoke, I thank you. 228 I'll have to be pushing on my way, for the early hours of a case are the precious ones, as no man knows better than your own self. 229 But - but-'
230 The inspector had stopped suddenly, and was staring with a look of absolute amazement at a paper upon the table. 231 It was the sheet upon which I had scrawled the enigmatic message.
232 'Douglas!' he stammered. 233 'Birlstone! 234 What's this, Mr Holmes? 235 Man, it's witchcraft! 236 Where in the name of all that is wonderful did you get those names?'
237 'It is a cipher that Dr Watson and I have had occasion to solve. 238 But why - what's amiss with the names?'
239 The inspector looked from one to the other of us in dazed astonishment.
240 'Just this,' said he, 'that Mr Douglas, of Birlstone Manor House, was horribly murdered this morning.'

241 CHAPTER 2 : Mr Sherlock Holmes Discourses

242 It was one of those dramatic moments for which my friend existed. 243 It would be an over-statement to say that he was shocked or even excited by the amazing announcement. 244 Without having a tinge of cruelty in his singular composition, he was undoubtedly callous from long over-stimulation. 245 Yet, if his emotions were dulled, his intellectual perceptions were exceedingly active. 246 There was no trace then of the horror which I had myself felt at this curt declaration, but his face showed rather the quiet and interested composure of the chemist who sees the crystals falling into position from his over-saturated solution.
247 'Remarkable!' said he; 'remarkable!'
248 'You don't seem surprised.'
249 'Interested, Mr Mac, but hardly surprised. 250 Why should I be surprised? 251 I receive an anonymous communication from a quarter which I know to be important, warning me that danger threatens a certain person. 252 Within an hour I learn that this danger has actually materialized, and that the person is dead. 253 I am interested, but, as you observe, I am not surprised.'
254 In a few short sentences he explained to the inspector the facts about the letter and the cipher. 255 MacDonald sat with his chin on his hands, and his great sandy eyebrows bunched into a yellow tangle.
256 'I was going down to Birlstone this morning,' said he. 257 'I had come to ask you if you cared to come with me - you and your friend here. 258 But from what you say we might perhaps be doing better work in London.'
259 'I rather think not,' said Holmes.
260 'Hang it all, Mr Holmes!' cried the inspector. 261 'The papers will be full of the Birlstone Mystery in a day or two, but where's the mystery if there is a man in London who prophesied the crime before ever it occurred? 262 We have only to lay our hands on that man and the rest will follow.'
263 'No doubt, Mr Mac. 264 But how did you propose to lay your hands on the so-called Porlock?'
265 MacDonald turned over the letter which Holmes had handed him.
266 'Posted in Camberwell - that doesn't help us much. 267 Name, you say, is assumed. 268 Not much to go on, certainly. 269 Didn't you say that you have sent him money?'
270 'Twice.'
271 'And how?'
272 'In notes to Camberwell post-office.'
273 'Did you never trouble to see who called for them?'
274 'No.'
275 The inspector looked surprised and a little shocked. 276 'Why not?'
277 'Because I always keep faith. 278 I had promised when he first wrote that I would not try to trace him.'
279 'You think there is some one behind him?'
280 'I know there is.'
281 'This Professor that I have heard you mention?'
282 'Exactly.'
283 Inspector MacDonald smiled, and his eyelid quivered as he glanced towards me.
284 'I won't conceal from you, Mr Holmes, that we think in the CID that you have a wee bit of a bee in your bonnet over this Professor. 285 I made some inquiries myself about the matter. 286 He seems to be a very respectable, learned, and talented sort of man.'
287 'I'm glad you've got as far as to recognize the talent.'
288 'Man, you can't but recognize it. 289 After I heard your view, I made it my business to see him. 290 I had a chat with him on eclipses - how the talk got that way I canna think - but he had out a reflector lantern and a globe and made it all clear in a minute. 291 He lent me a book, but I don't mind saying that it was a bit above my head, though I had a good Aberdeen upbringing. 292 He'd have made a grand meenister, with his thin face and grey hair and solemn-like way of talking. 293 When he put his hand on my shoulder as we were parting, it was like a father's blessing before you go out into the cold, cruel world.'
294 Holmes chuckled and rubbed his hands.
295 'Great!' he cried; 'great! 296 Tell me, friend MacDonald; this pleasing and touching interview was, I suppose, in the Professor's study?'
297 'That's so.'
298 'A fine room, is it not?'
299 'Very fine - very handsome indeed, Mr Holmes.'
300 'You sat in front of his writing-desk?'
301 'Just so.'
302 'Sun in your eyes and his face in the shadow?'
303 'Well, it was evening, but I mind that the lamp was turned on my face.'
304 'It would be. 305 Did you happen to observe a picture over the Professor's head?'
306 'I don't miss much, Mr Holmes. 307 Maybe I learned that from you. 308 Yes, I saw the picture - a young woman with her head on her hands, keeking at you sideways.'
309 'That painting was by Jean Baptiste Greuze!
310 The inspector endeavoured to look interested.
311 'Jean Baptiste Greuze', Holmes continued, joining his fingertips and leaning well back in his chair, 'was a French artist who flourished between the years 1750 and 1800. 312 I allude, of course, to his working career. 313 Modern criticism has more than endorsed the high opinion formed of him by his contemporaries.'
314 The inspector's eyes grew abstracted.
315 'Hadn't we better-' he said.
316 'We are doing so,' Holmes interrupted. 317 'All that I am saying has a very direct and vital bearing upon what you have called the Birlstone Mystery. 318 In fact, it may in a sense be called the very centre of it.'
319 MacDonald smiled feebly, and looked appealingly to me.
320 'Your thoughts move a bit too quick for me, Mr Holmes.
321 You leave out a link or two, and I can't get over the gap.
322 What in the whole wide world can be the connection between this dead painting man and the affair at Birlstone?'
323 'All knowledge comes useful to the detective,' remarked Holmes. 324 'Even the trivial fact that in the year 1865 a picture by Greuze, entitled "La Jeune Fille a l'agneau", fetched not less than four thousand pounds - at the Portalis sale - may start a train of reflection in your mind.'
It was clear that it did. 326 The inspector looked honestly interested.
327 'I may remind you,' Holmes continued, 'that the Professor's salary can be ascertained in several trustworthy books of reference. 328 It is seven hundred a year:
329 'Then how could he buy-'
330 'Quite so. 331 How could he?'
332 'Aye, that's remarkable,' said the inspector, thoughtfully. 333 'Talk away, Mr Holmes. 334 I'm just loving it. 335 It's fine.'
336 Holmes smiled. 337 He was always warmed by genuine admiration - the characteristic of the real artist.
338 'What about Birlstone?' he asked.
339 'We've time yet,' said the inspector, glancing at his watch. 340 'I've a cab at the door, and it won't take us twenty minutes to Victoria. 341 But about this picture - I thought you told me once, Mr Holmes, that you had never met Professor Moriarty.'
342 'No, I never have.'
343 'Then how do you know about his rooms?'
344 'Ah, that's another matter. 345 I have been three times in his rooms, twice waiting for him under different pretexts and leaving before he came. 346 Once - well, I can hardly tell about the once to an official detective. 347 It was on the last occasion that I took the liberty of running over his papers, with the most unexpected results.'
348 'You found something compromising?'
349 'Absolutely nothing. 350 That was what amazed me. 351 However, you have now seen the point of the picture. 352 It shows him to be a very wealthy man. 353 How did he acquire wealth? 354 He is unmarried. 355 His younger brother is a station-master in the West of England. 356 His chair is worth seven hundred a year. 357 And he owns a Greuze.'
358 'Well?'
359 'Surely the inference is plain.'
360 'You mean that he has a great income, and that he must earn it in an illegal fashion?'
361 'Exactly. 362 Of course, I have other reasons for thinking so - dozens of exiguous threads which lead vaguely up towards the centre of the web where the poisonous motionless creature is lurking. 363 I only mention the Greuze because it brings the matter within the range of your own observation.'
364 'Well, Mr Holmes, I admit that what you say is interesting. 365 It's more than interesting - it's just wonderful. 366 But let us have it a little clearer if you can. 367 Is it forgery, coining, burglary? 368 Where does the money come from?'
369 'Have you ever read of Jonathan Wild?'
370 'Well, the name has a familiar sound. 371 Some one in a novel, was he not? 372 I don't take much stock of detectives in novels chaps that do things and never let you see how they do them. 373 That's just inspiration, not business.'
374 'Jonathan Wild wasn't a detective, and he wasn't in a novel. 375 He was a master criminal, and he lived last century - 1750 or thereabouts.'
376 'Then he's no use to me. 377 I'm a practical man.'
378 'Mr Mac, the most practical thing that ever you did in your life would be to shut yourself up for three months and read twelve hours a day at the annals of crime. 379 Everything comes in circles, even Professor Moriarty. 380 Jonathan Wild was the hidden force of the London criminals, to whom he sold his brains and his organization on a fifteen per cent commission. 381 The old wheel turns and the same spoke comes up. 382 It's all been done before and will be again. 383 I'll tell you one or two things about Moriarty which may interest you.'
384 'You'll interest me right enough.'
385 'I happen to know who is the first link in his chain - a chain with this Napoleon-gone-wrong at one end and a hundred broken fighting men, pickpockets, blackmailers, and card-sharpers at the other, with every sort of crime in between. 386 His chief of the staff is Colonel Sebastian Moran, as aloof and guarded and inaccessible to the law as himself. 387 What do you think he pays him?'
388 'I'd like to hear.'
389 'Six thousand a year. 390 That's paying for brains, you see - the American business principle. 391 I learned that detail quite by chance. 392 It's more than the Prime Minister gets. 393 That gives you an idea of Moriarty's gains and of the scale on which he works. 394 Another point. 395 I made it my business to hunt down some of Moriarty's cheques lately - just common innocent cheques that he pays his household bills with. 396 They were drawn on six different banks. 397 Does that make any impression on your mind?'
398 'Queer, certainly. 399 But what do you gather from it?'
400 'That he wanted no gossip about his wealth. 401 No single man should know what he had. 402 I have no doubt that he has twenty banking accounts - the bulk of his fortune abroad in the Deutsche Bank or the Crédit Lyonnais as likely as not. 403 Some time when you have a year or two to spare I commend to you the study of Professor Moriarty.'
404 Inspector MacDonald had grown steadily more impressed as the conversation proceeded. 405 He had lost himself in his interest. 406 Now his practical Scotch intelligence brought him back with a snap to the matter in hand.
407 'He can keep, anyhow,' said he. 408 'You've got us sidetracked with your interesting anecdotes, Mr Holmes. 409 What really counts is your remark that there is some connection between the Professor and the crime. 410 That you get from the warning received through the man Porlock. 411 Can we for our present practical needs get any farther than that?'
412 'We may form some conception as to the motives of the crime. 413 It is, as I gather from your original remarks, an inexplicable, or at least an unexplained, murder. 414 Now, presuming that the source of the crime is as we suspect it to be, there might be two different motives. 415 In the first place, I may tell you that Moriarty rules with a rod of iron over his people. 416 His discipline is tremendous. 417 There is only one punishment in his code. 418 It is death. 419 Now, we might suppose that this murdered man - this Douglas, whose approaching fate was known by one of the arch-criminal's subordinates had in some way betrayed the chief. 420 His punishment followed and would be known to all, if only to put the fear of death into them.
421 'Well, that is one suggestion, Mr Holmes.'
422 'The other is that it has been engineered by Moriarty in the ordinary course of business. 423 Was there any robbery?'
424 'I have not heard.'
425 'If so it would, of course, be against the first hypothesis and in favour of the second. 426 Moriarty may have been engaged to engineer it on a promise of part spoils, or he may have been paid so much down to manage it. 427 Either is possible. 428 But, whichever it may be, or if it is some third combination, it is down at Birlstone that we must seek the solution. 429 I know our man too well w suppose that he bas left anything up here which may lead us to him.'
430 'Then to Birlstone we must go!' cried MacDonald, jumping from his chair. 431 'My word! it's later than I thought. 432 I can give you gentlemen five minutes for preparation, and that is all.'
433 'And ample for us both,' said Holmes, as he sprang up and hastened to change from his dressing-gown to his coat. 434 'While we are on our way, Mr Mac, I will ask you to be good enough to tell me all about it.'
435 'All about it' proved to be disappointingly little, and yet there was enough to assure us that the case before us might well be worthy of the expert's closest attention. 436 He brightened and rubbed bis thin hands together as he listened to the meagre but remarkable details. 437 A long series of sterile weeks lay behind us, and here, at last, there was a fitting Object for those remarkable powers which, like all special gifts, become irksome to their owner when they are not in use. 438 That razor brain blunted and rusted with inaction. 439 Sherlock Holmes's eyes glistened, his pale checks took a warmer hue, and bis whole eager face shone with an inward light when the call for work reached him. 440 Leaning forward in the cab, he listened intently to MacDonald's short sketch of the problem which awaited us in Sussex. 441 The inspector was himself dependent, as he explained to us, upon a scribbled account forwarded to him by the milk train in the early hours of the morning. 442 White Mason, the local officer, was a personal friend, and hence MacDonald had been notified very much more promptly than is usual at Scotland Yard when provincials need their assistance. 443 It is a very cold scent upon which the Metropolitan expert is generally asked to run.
444 'Dear Inspector MacDonald,' said the letter which he read to us, 'official requisition for your services is in separate envelope. 445 This is for your private eye. 446 Wire me what train in the morning you can get for Birlstone, and I will meet it - or have it met if I am too occupied. 447 This case is a snorter. 448 Don't waste a moment in getting started. 449 If you can bring Mr Holmes, please do so, for he will find something alter his own heart. 450 You would think the whole thing had been fixed up for theatrical effect, if there wasn't a dead man in the middle of it. 451 My word, it is a snorter!'
452 'Your friend seems to be no fool,' remarked Holmes.
453 'No sir; White Mason is a very live man, if I am any judge.'
454 'Well, have you anything more?'
455 'Only that he will give us every detail when we meet.' 456 'Then how did you get at Mr Douglas and the fact that he had been horribly murdered?'
457 'That was in the enclosed official report. 458 It didn't say "horrible". 459 That's not a recognized official term. 460 It gave the name John Douglas. 461 It mentioned that his injuries had been in the head, from the discharge of a shot-gun. 462 It also mentioned the hour of the alarm, which was close on to midnight last night. 463 It added that the case was undoubtedly one of murder, but that no arrest had been made, and that the case was one which presented some very perplexing and extraordinary features. 464 That's absolutely all we have at present, Mr Holmes.'
465 'Then, with your permission, we will leave it at that, Mr Mac. 466 The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession. 467 I can only see two things for certain at present: a great brain in London and a dead man in Sussex. 468 It's the chain between that we are going to trace.'

469 CHAPTER 3 : The Tragedy of Birlstone

470 And now for a moment I will ask leave to remove my own insignificant personality and to describe events which occured before we arrived upon the scene by the light of knowledge which came to us afterwards. 471 Only in this way can I make the reader appreciate the people concerned and the strange setting in which their fate was cast.
472 The village of Birlstone is a small and very ancient cluster of half-timbered cottages on the northern border of the country of Sussex. 473 For centuries it had remained unchanged, but within the last few years its picturesque appearance and situation have attracted a number of well-to-do residents, whose villas peep out from the woods around. 474 These woods are locally supposed to be the extreme fringe of the great Weald forest, which thins away until it reaches the northern chalk downs. 475 A number of small shops have come into being to meet the wants of the increased population, so that there seems some prospect that Birlstone may soon grow from an ancient village into a modern town. 476 It is the centre for a considerable area of country, since Tunbridge Wells, the nearest place of importance, is ten or twelve miles to the eastward, over the borders of Kent.
477 About half a mile from the town, standing in an old park famous for its huge beech trees, is the ancient Manor House of Birlstone. 478 Part of this venerable building dates back to the time of the first Crusade, when Hugo de Capus built a fortalice in the centre of the estate, which had been granted to him by the Red King. 479 This was destroyed by fire in 1543, and some of its smoke-blackened corner-stones were used when, in Jacobean times, a brick country house rose upon the ruins of the feudal castle. 480 The Manor House, with its many gables and its small, diamond-paned windows, was still much as the builder had left it in the early seventeenth century. 481 Of the double moats which had guarded its more warlike predecessor the outer had been allowed to dry up, and served the humble function of a kitchen garden. 482 The inner one was still there, and lay, forty feet in breadth, though now only a few feet in depth, round the whole house. 483 A small stream fed it and continued beyond it, so that the sheet of water, though turbid, was never ditch-like or unhealthy. 484 The ground floor windows were within a foot of the surface of the water. 485 The only approach to the house was over a drawbridge, the chains and windlass of which had long been rusted and broken. 486 The latest tenants of the Manor House had, however, with characteristic energy, set this right, and the drawbridge was not only capable of being raised, but actually was raised every evening and lowered every morning. 487 By thus renewing the custom of the old feudal days the Manor House was converted into an island during the night - a fact which had a very direct bearing upon the mystery which was soon to engage the attention of all England.
488 The house had been untenanted for some years, and was threatening to moulder into a picturesque decay when the Douglases took possession of it. 489 This family consisted of only two individuals, John Douglas and his wife. 490 Douglas was a remarkable man both in character and in person; in age he may have been about fifty, with a strong-jawed, rugged face, a grizzling moustache, peculiarly keen grey eyes, and a wiry, vigorous figure which had lost nothing of the strength and activity of youth. 491 He was cheery and genial to all, but somewhat offhand in his manners, giving the impression that he had seen life in social strata on some far lower horizon than the county society of Sussex. 492 Yet, though looked at with some curiosity and reserve by bis more cultivated neighbours, he soon acquired a great popularity among the villagers, subscribing handsomely to all local objects, and attending their smoking concerts and other functions, where, having a remarkably rich tenor voice, he was always ready to oblige with an excellent song. 493 He appeared to have plenty of money, which was said to have been gained in the Californian gold-fields, and it was clear from his own talk and that of his wife that he had spent a part of lis life in America. 494 The good impression which had been produced by his generosity and by his democratic manners was increased by a reputation gained for utter indifference to danger. 495 Though a wretched rider, he turned out at every meet, and took the most amazing falls in his determination to hold his own with the best. 496 When the vicarage caught fire he distinguished himself also by the fearlessness with which he re-entered the building to save property, after the local fire brigade had given it up as impossible. 497 Thus it came about that John Douglas, of the Manor House, had within five years won himself quite a reputation in Birlstone.
498 His wife, too, was popular with those who had made her acquaintance, though, after the English fashion, the callers upon a stranger who settled in the county without introductions were few and far between. 499 This mattered less to her as she was retiring by disposition and very much absorbed, to all appearance, in her husband and her domestic duties. 500 It was known that she was an English lady who had met Mr Douglas in London, he being at that time a widower. 501 She was a beautiful woman, tall, dark, and slender, some twenty years younger than her husband, a disparity which seemed in no wise to mar the contentment of their family life. 502 It was remarked sometimes, however, by those who knew them best that the confidence between the two did not appear to be complete, since the wife was either very reticent about her husband's past life or else, as seemed more likely, was very imperfectly informed about it. 503 It had also been noted and commented upon by a few observant people that there were signs sometimes of some nerve-strain upon the part of Mrs Douglas, and that she would display acute uneasiness if her absent husband should ever be particularly late in bis return.
504 On a quiet countryside, where all gossip is welcome, this weakness of the lady of the Manor House did not pass without remark, and it bulked larger upon people's memory when the events arose which gave it a very special significance.
505 There was yet another individual whose residence under that roof was, it is true, only an intermittent one, but whose presence at the time of the strange happenings which will now be narrated brought his name prominently before the public. 506 This was Cecil James Barker, of Hales Lodge, Hampstead. 507 Cecil Barker's tall, loose-jointed figure was a familiar one in the main Street of Birlstone village, for he was a frequent and welcome visitor at the Manor House. 508 He was the more noticed as being the only friend of the past unknown life of Mr Douglas who was ever seen in his new English surroundings. 509 Barker was himself an undoubted Englishman, but by his remarks it was clear that he had first known Douglas in America, and had there lived on intimate terms with him. 510 He appeared to be a man of considerable wealth, and was reputed to be a bachelor. 511 In age he was rather younger than Douglas, forty-five at the most, a tall, straight, broad-chested fellow, with a clean-shaven, prizefighter face, thick, strong, black eyebrows, and a pair of masterful black eyes which might, even without the aid of his very capable hands, clear a way for him through a hostile crowd. 512 He neither rode nor shot, but spent his days in wandering round the old village with his pipe in bis mouth, or in driving with his host, or in his absence with his hostess, over the beautiful countryside. 513 'An easy-going, freehanded gentleman,' said Ames, the butler. 514 'But, my word, I had rather not be the man that crossed him.' 515 He was cordial and intimate with Douglas, and he was no less friendly with his wife, a friendship which more than once seemed to cause some irritation to the husband, so that even the servants were able to perceive his annoyance. 516 Such was the third person who was one of the family when the catastrophe occurred. 517 As to the other denizens of the old building, it will suffice out of a large household to mention the prim, respectable, and capable Ames and Mrs Allen, a buxom and cheerful person, who relieved the lady of some of her household cares. 518 The other six servants in the house bear no relation to the events of the night of January 6th.
519 It was at eleven forty-five that the first alarm reached the small local police-station in the charge of Sergeant Wilson, of the Sussex Constabulary. 520 Mr Cecil Barker, much excited, had rushed up to the door and pealed furiously upon the bell. 521 A terrible tragedy had occurred at the Manor House, and Mr John Douglas had been murdered. 522 That was the breathless burden of his message. 523 He had hurried back to the house, followed within a few minutes by the police sergeant, who arrived at the scene of the crime a little past twelve o'clock, after taking prompt steps to warn the county authorities that something serious was afoot.
524 On reaching the Manor House the sergeant had found the drawbridge down, the windows lighted up, and the whole household in a state of wild confusion and alarm. 525 The white-faced servants were huddling together in the hall, with the frightened butler wringing his hands in the doorway. 526 Only Cecil Barker seemed to be master of himself and his emotions. 527 He had opened the door which was nearest to the entrance, and had beckoned to the sergeant to follow him. 528 At that moment there arrived Dr Wood, a brisk and capable general practitioner from the village. 529 The three men entered the fatal room together, while the horror-stricken butler followed at their heels, closing the door behind him to shut out the terrible scene from the maid-servants.
530 The dead man lay upon his back, sprawling with outstretched limbs in the centre of the room. 531 He was clad only in a pink dressing-gown, which covered his night clothes. 532 There were carpet slippers upon his bare feet. 533 The doctor knelt beside him, and held down the hand-lamp which had stood on the table. 534 One glance at the victim was enough to show the healer that his presence could be dispensed with. 535 The man had been horribly injured. 536 Lying across his chest was a curious weapon, a shot-gun with the barrel sawn off a foot in front of the triggers. 537 It was clear that this had been fired at dose range, and that he had received the whole charge in the face, blowing his head almost to pieces. 538 The triggers had been wired together, so as to make the simultaneous discharge more destructive.
539 The country policeman was unnerved and troubled by the tremendous responsibility which had come so suddenly upon him.
540 'We will touch nothing until my superiors arrive,' he said, in a hushed voice, staring in horror at the dreadful head.
541 'Nothing has been touched up to now,' said Cecil Barker. 542 'I'll answer for that. 543 You see it all exactly as I found it.'
544 'When was that?' 545 The sergeant had drawn out his note-book.
546 'It was just half-past eleven. 547 I had not begun to undress, and I was sitting by the fire in my bedroom, when I heard the report. 548 It was not very loud - it seemed to be muffled. 549 I rushed down. 550 I don't suppose it was thirty seconds before I was in the room.'
551 'Was the door open?'
552 'Yes, it was open. 553 Poor Douglas was lying as you see him. 554 His bedroom candle was burning on the table. 555 It was I who lit the lamp some minutes afterwards.'
556 'Did you see no one?'
557 'No. 558 I heard Mrs Douglas coming down the stair behind me, and I rushed out to prevent her from seeing this dreadful sight. 559 Mrs Allen, the housekeeper, came and took her away. 560 Ames had arrived, and we ran back into the room once more.'
561 'But surely I have heard that the drawbridge is kept up all night.'
562 'Yes, it was up until I lowered it.'
563 'Then how could any murderer have got away? 564 It is out of the question. 565 Mr Douglas must have shot himself.'
566 'That was our first idea. 567 But see.' 568 Barker drew aside the curtain, and showed that the long, diamond-paned window was open to its full extent. 569 'And look at this!' 570 He held the lamp down and illuminated a smudge of blood like the mark of a boot-sole upon the wooden sill. 571 'Some one has stood there in getting out.'
572 'You mean that some one waded across the moat?'
573 'Exactly.'
574 'Then, if you were in the room within half a minute of the crime, he must have been in the water at that very moment.'
575 'I have not a doubt of it. 576 I wish to Heaven that I had rushed to the window. 577 But the curtain screened it, as you can see, and so it never occurred to me. 578 Then I heard the step of Mrs Douglas, and I could not let her enter the room. 579 It would have been too horrible.'
580 'Horrible enough!' said the doctor, looking at the shattered head and the terrible marks which surrounded it. 581 'I've never seen such injuries since the Birlstone railway smash.'
582 'But, I say,' remarked the police-sergeant, whose slow, bucolic common sense was still pondering over the open window. 583 'It's all very well your saying that a man escaped by wading this moat, but what I ask you is - how did he ever get into the house at all if the bridge was up?'
584 'Ah, that's the question,' said Barker.
585 'At what o'clock was it raised?'
586 'It was nearly six o'clock,' said Ames, the butler.
587 'I've heard,' said the sergeant, 'that it was usually raised at sunset. 588 That would be nearer half-past four than six at this time of year.'
589 'Mrs Douglas had visitors to tea,' said Ames. 590 'I couldn't raise it until they went. 591 Then I wound it up myself.'
592 'Then it comes to this,' said the sergeant. 593 'If anyone came from outside - if they did - they must have got in across the bridge before six and been in hiding ever since, until Mr Douglas came into the room after eleven.'
594 'That is so. 595 Mr Douglas went round the house every night the last thing before he turned in to see that the lights were right. 596 That brought him in here. 597 The man was waiting, and shot him. 598 Then he got away through the window and left his gun behind him. 599 That's how I read it - for nothing else will fit the facts.'
600 The sergeant picked up a card which lay beside the dead man upon the floor. 601 The initials V.V., and under it the number 341, were rudely scrawled in ink upon it.'What's this?' he asked, holding it up.
602 Barker looked at it with curiosity.
603 'I never noticed it before,' he said. 604 'The murderer must have left it behind him.'
605 "V.V. 341." 606 I can make no sense of that.'
607 The sergeant kept turning it over in his big fingers. 608 'What's V.V.? 609 Somebody's initials, maybe. 610 What have you got there, Dr Wood?'
611 It was a good-sized hammer which had been lying upon the rug in front of the fireplace - a substantial, workmanlike hammer. 612 Cecil Barker pointed to a box of brass-headed nails upon the mantelpiece.
613 'Mr. Douglas was altering the pictures yesterday,' he said. 614 'I saw him myself standing upon that chair and fixing the big picture above it. 615 That accounts for the hammer.'
616 'We'd best put it back on the rug where we found it,' said the sergeant, scratching his puzzled head in his perplexity. 617 'It will want the best brains in the force to get to the bottom of this thing. 618 It will be a London job before it is finished.' 619 He raised the hand-lamp and walked slowly round the room.
620 'Hullo!' he cried, excitedly, drawing the window curtain to one side. 621 'What o'clock were those curtains drawn?'
622 'When the lamps were lit,' said the butler. 623 'It would be shortly after four.'
624 'Some one has been hiding here, sure enough.' 625 He held down the light, and the marks of muddy boots were very visible in the comer. 626 'I'm bound to say this bears out your theory, Mr Barker. 627 It looks as if the man got into the house after four, when the curtains were drawn, and before six, when the bridge was raised. 628 He slipped into this room because it was the first that he saw. 629 There was no other place where he could hide, so he popped in behind this curtain. 630 That all seems clear enough. 631 It is likely that his main idea was to burgle the house, but Mr Douglas chanced to come upon him, so he murdered him and escaped.'
632 'That's how I read it,' said Barker. 633 'But, I say, aren't we wasting precious time? 634 Couldn't we start out and scour the country before the fellow gets away?'
635 The sergeant considered for a moment.
636 'There are no trains before six in the morning, so he can't get away by rail. 637 If he goes by road with his legs all dripping, it's odds that some one will notice him. 638 Anyhow, I can't leave here myself until I am relieved. 639 But I think none of you should go until we see more clearly how we all stand.'
640 The doctor had taken the lamp and was narrowly scrutinizing the body.
641 'What's this mark?' he asked. 642 'Could this have any connection with the crime?'
643 The dead man's right arm was thrust out from his dressing-gown and exposed as high as the elbow. 644 About halfway up the forearm was a curious brown design, a triangle inside a circle, standing out in vivid relief upon the lard-coloured skin.
645 'It's not tattooed,' said the doctor, peering through his glasses. 646 'I never saw anything like it. 647 The man has been branded at some time, as they brand cattle. 648 What is the meaning of this?'
649 'I don't profess to know the meaning of it,' said Cecil Barker; 'but I've seen the mark on Douglas any time this last ten years.'
650 'And so have I,' said the butler. 651 'Many a time when the master has rolled up lis sleeves I have noticed that very mark. 652 I've often wondered what it could be.'
653 'Then it has nothing to do with the crime, anyhow,' said the sergeant. 654 'But it's a rum thing all the same. 655 Everything about this case is rum. 656 Well, what is it now?'
657 The butler had given an exclamation of astonishment, and was pointing at the dead man's outstretched hand. 658 'They've taken his wedding-ring!' he gasped.
659 'What!'
660 'Yes, indeed! 661 Master always wore his plain gold wedding ring on the little finger of his left hand. 662 That ring with the rough nugget on it was above it, and the twisted snake-ring on the third finger. 663 There's the nugget, and there's the snake, but the wedding-ring is gone.'
664 'He's right,' said Barker.
665 'Do you tell me,' said the sergeant, 'that the wedding-ring was below the other?'
666 'Always!'
667 'Then the murderer, or whoever it was, first took off this you call the nugget-ring, then the wedding-ring, and afterwards put the nugget-ring back again.'
668 'That is so.'
669 The worthy country policeman shook his head.
670 Seems to me the sooner we get London on to this case the better,' said he. 671 'White Mason is a smart man. 672 No local job has ever been too much for White Mason. 673 It won't be long now before he is here to help us. 674 But I expect we'll have to look to London before we are through. 675 Anyhow, I'm not ashamed to say that it is a deal too thick for the likes of me.'

676 CHAPTER 4 : Darkness

677 At three in the morning the chief Sussex detective, obeying the urgent cal! 678 from Sergeant Wilson, of Birlstone, arrived from headquarters in a light dog-cart behind a breathless trotter. 679 By the five-forty train in the morning he had sent his message to Scotland Yard, and he was at the Birlstone station at twelve o'clock to welcome us. 680 Mr White Mason was a quiet, comfortable-looking person, in a loose tweed suit, with a clean-shaven, ruddy face, a stoutish body, and powerful bandy legs adorned with gaiters, looking like small farmer, a retired gamekeeper, or anything upon earth except a very favourable specimen of the provincial criminal officer.
681 'A real downright snorter, Mr MacDonald,' he kept repeating. 682 'We'll have the pressmen down like flies when they understand it. 683 I'm hoping we will get our work done before they get poking their noses into it and messing up all the trails. 684 There has been nothing like this that I can remember. 685 There are some bits that will come home to you, Mr Holmes, or I am mistaken. 686 And you also, Dr Watson, for the medicos will have a word to say before we finish. 687 Your room is at the Westville Arms. 688 There's no other place, but I hear that it is clean and good. 689 The man will carry your bags. 690 This way, gentlemen, if you please.'
691 He was a very bustling and genial person, this Sussex detective. 692 In ten minutes we had all found our quarters. 693 In ten more we were seated in the parlour of the inn and being treated to a rapid sketch of those events which have been outlined in the previous chapter. 694 MacDonald made an occasional note, while Holmes sat absorbed with the expression of surprised and reverent admiration with which the botanist surveys the rare and precious bloom.
695 'Remarkable!' he said, when the story was unfolded. 696 'Most remarkable! 697 I can hardly recall any case where the features have been more peculiar.'
698 'I thought you would say so, Mr Holmes,' said White Mason, in great delight. 699 'We're well up with the times in Sussex. 700 I've told you now how matters were, up to the time when I took over from Sergeant Wilson between three and four this morning. 701 My word, I made the old mare go! 702 But I need not have been in such a hurry as it turned out, for there was nothing immediate that I could do. 703 Sergeant Wilson had all the facts. 704 I checked them and considered them, and maybe added a few on my own.'
705 'What were they?' asked Holmes, eagerly.
706 'Well, I first had the hammer examined. 707 There was Dr Wood there to help me. 708 We found no signs of violence upon it. 709 I was hoping that, if Mr Douglas defended himself with the hammer, he might have left his mark upon the murderer before he dropped it on the mat. 710 But there was no stain.'
711 'That, of course, proves nothing at all,' remarked Inspector MacDonald. 712 'There has been many a hammer murder and no trace on the hammer.'
713 'Quite so. 714 It doesn't prove it wasn't used. 715 But there might have been stains, and that would have helped us. 716 As a matter of fact, there were none. 717 Then I examined the gun. 718 They were buck-shot cartridges, and, as Sergeant Wilson pointed out, the triggers were wired together so that if you pulled on the hinder one both barrels were discharged. 719 Whoever fixed that up had made up his mind that he was going to take no chances of missing his man. 720 The sawn gun was not more than two feet long; one could carry it easily under one's coat. 721 There was no complete maker's name, but the printed letters "P E N" were on the fluting between the barrels, and the rest of the name had been cut off by the saw.'
722 'A big "P" with a flourish above it - "E" and "N" smaller?' asked Holmes.
723 'Exactly.'
724 'Pennsylvania Small Arm Company - well-known American firm,' said Holmes.
725 White Mason gazed at my friend as the little village practitioner looks at the Harley Street specialist who by a word can solve the difficulties that perplex him.
726 'That is very helpful, Mr Holmes. 727 No doubt you are right. 728 Wonderful - wonderful! 729 Do you carry the names of all the gunmakers in the world in your memory?'
730 Holmes dismissed the subject with a wave.
731 'No doubt it is an American shot-gun,' White Mason continued. 732 'I seem to have read that a sawed-off shot-gun is a weapon used in some parts of America. 733 Apart from the name upon the barrel, the idea had occurred to me. 734 There is some evidence, then, that this man who entered the house and killed its master was an American.'
735 MacDonald shook his head. 736 'Man, you are surely travelling over-fast,' said he. 737 'I have heard no evidence yet that any stranger was ever in the house at all.'
738 'The open window, the blood on the sill, the queer card, marks of boots in the corner, the gun.'
739 'Nothing there that could not have been arranged. 740 Mr Douglas was an American, or had lived long in America. 741 So had Mr Barker. 742 You don't need to import an American from outside in order to account for American doings.'
743 'Ames, the butler-'
744 'What about him? 745 Is he reliable?'
746 'Ten years with Sir Charles Chandos - as solid as a rock. 747 He has been with Douglas ever since he took the Manor House five years ago. 748 He has never seen a gun of this sort in the house.'
749 'The gun was made to conceal. 750 That's why the barrels were sawn. 751 It would fit into any box. 752 How could he swear there was no such gun in the house?'
753 'Well, anyhow he had never seen one.'
754 MacDonald shook his obstinate Scotch head. 755 'I'm not convinced yet that there was ever anyone in the house,' said he. 756 'I'm asking you to conseedar' - his accent became more Aberdonian as he lost himself in his argument - 'I'm asking you to conseedar what it involves if you suppose that this gun was ever brought into the house and that all these strange things were done by a person from outside. 757 Oh, man, it's just inconceivable! 758 It's clean against common sense. 759 I put it to you, Mr Holmes, judging it by what we have heard.'
760 'Well, state your case, Mr Mac,' said Holmes, in his most judicial style.
761 'The man is not a burglar, supposing that he ever existed. 762 The ring business and the card point to premeditated murder for some private reason. 763 Very good. 764 Here is a man who slips into a house with the deliberate intention of committing murder. 765 He knows, if he knows anything, that he will have a deeficulty in making his escape, as the house is surrounded with water. 766 What weapon would he choose? 767 You would say the most silent in the world. 768 Then he could hope, when the deed was done, to slip quickly from the window, to wade the moat, and to get away at his leisure. 769 That's understandable. 770 But is it understandable that he should go out of his way to bring with him the most noisy weapon he could select, knowing well that it will fetch every human being in the house to the spot as quick as they can run, and that it is all odds that he will be seen before he can get across the moat? 771 Is that credible, Mr Holmes?'
772 'Well, you put your case strongly,' my friend replied, thoughtfully. 773 'It certainly needs a good deal of justification. 774 May I ask, Mr White Mason, whether you examined the farther side of the moat at once, to see if there were any signs of the man having climbed out from the water?'
775 'There were no signs, Mr Holmes. 776 But it is a stone ledge, and one could hardly expect them.'
777 'No tracks or marks?'
778 'None.'
779 'Ha! 780 Would there be any objection, Mr White Mason, to our going down to the house at once? 781 There may possibly be some small point which might be suggestive.'
782 'I was going to propose it, Mr Holmes, but I thought it well to put you in touch with all the facts before we go. 783 I suppose, if anything should strike you - ' White Mason looked doubtfully at the amateur.
784 'I have worked with Mr Holmes before,' said Inspector MacDonald. 785 'He plays the game.'
786 'My own idea of the game, at any rate,' said Holmes, with a smile. 787 'I go into a case to help the ends of justice and the work of the police. 788 If ever I have separated myself from the official force, it is because they have first separated themselves from me. 789 I have no wish ever to score at their expense. 790 At the same time, Mr White Mason, I claim the right to work in my own way and give my results at my own time - complete, rather than in stages.'
791 'I am sure we are honoured by your presence and to show you all we know,' said White Mason, cordially. 792 'Come along, Dr Watson, and when the time comes we'll all hope for a place in your book:
793 We walked down the quaint village street with a row of pollarded elms on either side of it. 794 Just beyond were two ancient stone pillars, weather-stained and lichen-blotched, bearing upon their summits a shapeless something which had once been the ramping lion of Capus of Birlstone. 795 A short walk along the winding drive, with such sward and oaks around it as one only sees in rural England; then a sudden turn, and the long, low, Jacobean house of dingy, liver-coloured brick lay before us, with an old-fashioned garden of cut yews on either side of it. 796 As we approached it there were the wooden drawbridge and the beautiful broad moat, as still and luminous as quicksilver in the cold winter sunshine. 797 Three centuries had flowed past the old Manor House, centuries of births and home-comings, of country dances and of the meetings of fox-hunters. 798 Strange that now in its old age this dark business should have cast its shadow upon the venerable walls. 799 And yet those strange peaked roofs and quaint overhung gables were a fitting covering to grim and terrible intrigue. 800 As I looked at the deep-set windows and the long sweep of the dull-coloured, water-lapped front I felt that no more fitting scene could be set for such a tragedy.
801 'That's the window,' said White Mason: 'that one on the immediate right of the drawbridge. 802 It's open just as it was found last night.'
803 'It looks rather narrow for a man to pass.'
804 'Well, it wasn't a fat man, anyhow. 805 We don't need your deductions, Mr Holmes, to tell us that. 806 But you or I could squeeze through all right.'
807 Holmes walked to the edge of the moat and looked across. 808 Then he examined the stone ledge and the grass border beyond it.
809 'I've had a good look, Mr Holmes,' said White Mason. 810 'There is nothing there; no sign that anyone has landed. 811 But why should he leave any sign?'
812 'Exactly. 813 Why should he? 814 Is the water always turbid?' 815 'Generally about this colour. 816 The stream brings down the clay.'
817 'How deep is it?'
818 'About two feet at each side and three in the middle.'
819 'So we can put aside all idea of the man having been drowned in crossing?'
820 'No; a child could not be drowned in it.'
821 We walked across the drawbridge, and were admitted by a quaint, gnarled, dried-up person who was the butler - Ames. 822 The poor old fellow was white and quivering from the shock. 823 The village sergeant, a tall, formal, melancholy man, still held his vigil in the room of fate. 824 The doctor had departed.
825 'Anything fresh, Sergeant Wilson?' asked White Mason. 826 'No, sir.'
827 'Then you can go home. 828 You've had enough. 829 We can send for you if we want you. 830 The butler had better wait outside. 831 Tell him to warn Mr Cecil Barker, Mrs Douglas, and the housekeeper that we may want a word with them presently. 832 Now, gentlemen, perhaps you will allow me to give you the views I have formed first, and then you will be able to arrive at your own.'
833 He impressed me, this country specialist. 834 He had a solid grip of fact and a cool, clear, common-sense brain, which should take him some way in his profession. 835 Holmes listened to him intently, with no sign of that impatience which the official exponent too often produced.
836 'Is it suicide or is it murder - that's our first question, gentlemen, is it not? 837 If it were suicide, then we have to believe that this man began by taking off his wedding-ring and concealing it; that he then came down here in his dressing-gown, trampled mud into a corner behind the curtain in order to give the idea someone had waited for him, opened the window, put the blood on the-'
838 'We can surely dismiss that,' said MacDonald.
839 'So I think. 840 Suicide is out of the question. 841 Then a murder has been done. 842 What we have to determine is whether it was done by someone outside or inside the house.'
843 'Well, let's hear the argument.'
844 'There are considerable difficulties both ways, and yet one or the other it must be. 845 We will suppose first that some person or persons inside the house did the crime. 846 They got this man down here at a time when everything was still, and yet no one was asleep. 847 They then did the deed with the queerest and noisiest weapon in the world, so as to tell every one what had happened - a weapon that was never seen in the house before. 848 That does not seem a very likely start, does it?'
849 'No, it does not.'
850 'Well, then, everyone is agreed that after the alarm was given only a minute at the most had passed before the whole household - not Mr Cecil Barker alone, though he claims to have been the first, but Ames and all of them - were on the spot. 851 Do you tell me that in that time the guilty person managed to make footmarks in the corner, open the window, mark the sill with blood, take the wedding-ring off the dead man's finger, and all the rest of it? 852 It's impossible!'
853 'You put it very clearly,' said Holmes. 854 'I am inclined to agree with you.'
855 'Well, then, we are driven back to the theory that it was done by someone from outside. 856 We are still faced with some big difficulties, but, anyhow, they have ceased to be impossibilities. 857 The man got into the house between four-thirty and six - that is to say, between dusk and the time when the bridge was raised. 858 There had been some visitors, and the door was open, so there was nothing to prevent him. 859 He may have been a common burglar, or he may have had some private grudge against Mr Douglas. 860 Since Mr Douglas has spent most of his life in America, and this shot-gun seems to be an American weapon, it would seem that the private grudge is the more likely theory. 861 He slipped into this room because it was the first he came to, and he hid behind the curtain. 862 There he remained until past eleven at night. 863 At that time Mr Douglas entered the room. 864 It was a short interview, if there were any interview at all, for Mrs Douglas declares that her husband had not left her more than a few minutes when she heard the shot.'
865 'The candle shows that,' said Holmes.
866 'Exactly. 867 The candle, which was a new one, is not burned more than half an inch. 868 He must have placed it on the table before he was attacked, otherwise, of course, it would have fallen when he fell. 869 This shows that he was not attacked the instant that he entered the room. 870 When Mr Barker arrived the lamp was lit and the candle put out.'
871 'That's all clear enough.'
872 'Well, now, we can reconstruct things on those lines. 873 Mr Douglas enters the room. 874 He puts down the candle. 875 A man appears from behind the curtain. 876 He is armed with this gun. 877 He demands the wedding-ring - Heaven only knows why, hut so it must have been. 878 Mr Douglas gave it up. 879 Then either in cold blood or in the course of a struggle - Douglas may have gripped the hammer that was found upon the mat - he shot Douglas in this horrible way. 880 He dropped his gun and also, it would seem, this queer card, "V.V. 341", whatever that may mean, and he made his escape through the window and across the moat at the very moment when Cecil Barker was discovering the crime. 881 How's that, Mr Holmes?'
882 'Very interesting, but just a little unconvincing.'
883 'Man, it would be absolute nonsense if it wasn't that anything else is even worse,' cried MacDonald. 884 'Somebody killed the man, and whoever it was I could clearly prove to you that he should have done it some other way. 885 What does he mean by allowing his retreat to be cut off like that? 886 What does he mean by using a shot-gun when silence was his one chance of escape? 887 Come, Mr Holmes, it's up to you to give us a lead, since you say Mr White Mason's theory is unconvincing.'
888 Holmes had sat intently observant during this long discussion, missing no word that was said, with his keen eyes darting to right and to left, and his forehead wrinkled with speculation.
889 'I should like a few more facts before I get so far as a theory, Mr Mac,' said he, kneeling down beside the body. 890 'Dear me! these injuries are really appalling. 891 Can we have he butler in for a moment? ... 892 Ames, I understand that you have often seen this very unusual mark, a branded triangle inside a circle, upon Mr Douglas's forearm?'
893 'Frequently, sir.'
894 'You never heard any speculation as to what it meant?' 895 'No, sir.'
896 It must have caused great pain when it was inflicted. 897 It is undoubtedly a burn. 898 Now, I observe, Ames, that there is a small piece of plaster at the angle of Mr Douglas's jaw. 899 Did you observe that in life?'
900 'Yes, sir; he cut himself in shaving yesterday morning.' 901 'Did you ever know him cut himself in shaving before?' 902 'Not for a very long time, sir.'
903 'Suggestive!' said Holmes. 904 'It may, of course, be a mere coincidence, or it may point to some nervousness which would indicate that he had reason to apprehend danger. 905 Had you noticed anything unusual in his conduct yesterday, Ames?'
906 'It struck me that he was a little restless and excited, sir.'
907 'Hal The attack may not have been entirely unexpected. 908 We do seem to make a little progress, do we not? 909 Perhaps you would rather do the questioning, Mr Mac?'
910 'No, Mr Holmes; it's in better hands.'
911 'Well, then, we will pass to this card - "V.V. 341". 912 It is rough cardboard. 913 Have you any of the sort in the house?' 914 'I don't think so.'
915 Holmes walked across to the desk and dabbed a little ink from each bottle on to the blotting-paper. 916 'It has not been printed in this room,' he said; 'this is black ink, and the other purplish. 917 It has been done by a thick pen, and these are fine. 918 No, it has been done elsewhere, I should say. 919 Can you make anything of the inscription, Ames?'
920 'No, sir, nothing.'
921 'What do you think, Mr Mac?'
922 'It gives me the impression of a secret society of some sort. 923 The same with this badge upon the forearm.'
924 'That's my idea, too,' said White Mason.
925 'Well, we can adopt it as a working hypothesis, and then see how far our difficulties disappear. 926 An agent from such a society makes his way into the house, waits for Mr Douglas, blows his head nearly off with this weapon, and escapes by wading the moat, after leaving a card beside the dead man which will, when mentioned in the papers, tell other members of the society that vengeance has been done. 927 That all hangs together. 928 But why this gun, of all weapons?'
929 'Exactly.'
930 'And why the missing ring?'
931 'Quite so.'
932 'And why no arrest? 933 It's past two now. 934 I take it for granted that since dawn every constable within forty miles has been looking out for a wet stranger?'
935 'That is so, Mr Holmes.'
936 'Well, unless he has a burrow close by, or a change of clothes ready, they can hardly miss him. 937 And yet they have missed him up to now.' 938 Holmes had gone to the window and was examining with his lens the blood-mark upon the sill. 939 It is clearly the tread of a shoe. 940 It is remarkably broad - a splay foot, one would say. 941 Curious, because, so far as one can trace any footmark in this mud-stained corner, one would say it was a more shapely sole. 942 However, they are certainly very indistinct. 943 What's this under the side-table?'
944 'Mr Douglas's dumb-bells,' said Ames.
945 'Dumb-bell - there's only one. 946 Where's the other?'
947 'I don't know, Mr Holmes. 948 There may have been only one. 949 I have not noticed them for months.'
950 'One dumb-bell-' Holmes said, seriously, but his remarks were interrupted by a sharp knock at the door. 951 A tall, sunburned, capable-looking, clean-shaven man looked in at us. 952 I had no difficulty in guessing that it was the Cecil Barker of whom I had heard. 953 His masterful eyes travelled quickly with a questioning glance from face to face.
954 'Sorry to interrupt your consultation,' said he, 'but you should hear the latest.'
955 'An arrest?'
956 'No such luck. 957 But they've found his bicycle. 958 The fellow left his bicycle behind him. 959 Come and have a look. 960 It is within a hundred yards of the hall door.'
961 We found three or four grooms and idlers standing in the drive inspecting a bicycle which had been drawn out from a clump of evergreens in which it had been concealed. 962 It was a well-used Rudge-Whitworth, splashed as from a considerable journey. 963 There was a saddle-bag with spanner and oil-can, but no clue as to the owner.
964 'It would be a grand help to the police,' said the inspector, 'if these things were numbered and registered. 965 But we must be thankful for what we've got. 966 If we can't find where he went to, at least we are likely to get where he came from. 967 But what in the name of all that is wonderful made the fellow leave it behind? 968 And how in the world has he got away without it? 969 We don't seem to get a gleam of light in the case, Mr Holmes.'
970 'Don't we?' my friend answered, thoughtfully. 971 'I wonder!'

972 CHAPTER 5 : The People of the Drama

973 'Have you seen all you want of the study?' asked White Mason as we re-entered the house.
974 'For the time,' said the inspector; and Holmes nodded.
975 'Then perhaps you would now like to hear the evidence of some of the people in the house? 976 We could use the dining-room, Ames. 977 Please come yourself first and tell us what you know.'
978 The butler's account was a simple and a clear one, and he gave a convincing impression of sincerity. 979 He had been engaged five years ago when Mr Douglas first came to Birlstone. 980 He understood that Mr Douglas was a rich gentleman who had made his money in America. 981 He had been a kind and considerate employer - not quite what Ames was used to, perhaps, but one can't have everything. 982 He never saw any signs of apprehension in Mr Douglas - on the contrary, he was the most fearless man he had ever known. 983 He ordered the drawbridge to be pulled up every night because it was the ancient custom of the old house, and he liked to keep the old ways up. 984 Mr Douglas seldom went to London or left the village, but on the day before the crime he had been shopping at Tunbridge Wells. 985 He, Ames, had observed some restlessness and excitement on the part of Mr Douglas upon that day, for he had seemed impatient and irritable, which was unusual with him. 986 He had not gone to bed that night, but was in the pantry at the back of the house, putting away the silver, when he heard the bell ring violently. 987 He heard no shot, but it was hardly possible he should, as the pantry and kitchens were at the very back of the house and there were several closed doors and a long passage between. 988 The housekeeper had come out of her room, attracted by the violent ringing of the bell. 989 They had gone to the front of the house together. 990 As they reached the bottom of the stair he had seen Mrs Douglas coming down it. 991 No, she was not hurrying - it did not seem to him that she was particularly agitated. 992 Just as she reached the bottom of the stair Mr Barker had rushed out of the study. 993 He had stopped Mrs Douglas and begged her to go back.
994 'For God's sake, go back to your room!' he cried. 995 'Poor Jack is dead. 996 You can do nothing. 997 For God's sake, go back!'
998 After some persuasion upon the stairs Mrs Douglas had gone back. 999 She did not scream. 1000 She made no outcry whatever. 1001 Mrs Allen, the housekeeper, had taken her upstairs and stayed with her in the bedroom. 1002 Ames and Mr Barker had then returned to the study, where they had found everything exactly as the police had seen it. 1003 The candle was not lit at that time, but the lamp was burning. 1004 They had looked out of the window, but the night was very dark and nothing could be seen or heard. 1005 They had then rushed out into the hall, where Ames had turned the windlass which had lowered the drawbridge. 1006 Mr Barker had then hurried off to get the police.
1007 Such, in its essentials, was the evidence of the butler.
1008 The account of Mrs Allen, the housekeeper, was, so far as it went, a corroboration of that of her fellow-servant. 1009 The housekeeper's room was rather nearer to the front of the house than the pantry in which Ames had been working. 1010 She was preparing to go to bed when the loud ringing of the bell had attracted her attention. 1011 She was a little hard of hearing. 1012 Perhaps that was why she had not heard the sound of the shot, but in any case the study was a long way off.
1013 She remembered hearing some sound which she imagined to be the slamming of a door. 1014 That was a good deal earlier - half an hour at least before the ringing of the bell. 1015 When Mr Ames ran to the front she went with him. 1016 She saw Mr Barker, very pale and excited, come out of the study. 1017 He intercepted Mrs Douglas, who was coming down the stairs. 1018 He entreated her to go back, and she answered him, but what she said could not be heard.
1019 'Take her up. 1020 Stay with her!' he had said to Mrs Allen.
1021 She had therefore taken her to the bedroom and endeavoured to soothe her. 1022 She was greatly excited, trembling all over, but made no other attempt to go downstairs. 1023 She just sat in her dressing-gown by her bedroom fire with her head sunk in her hands. 1024 Mrs Allen stayed with her most of the night. 1025 As to the other servants, they had all gone to bed, and the alarm did not reach them until just before the police arrived. 1026 They slept at the extreme back of the house, and could not possibly have heard anything.
1027 So far the housekeeper - who could add nothing on cross-examination save lamentations and expressions of amazement.
1028 Mr Cecil Barker succeeded Mrs Allen as a witness. 1029 As to the occurrences of the night before, he had very little to add to what he had already told the police. 1030 Personally, he was convinced that the murderer had escaped by the window. 1031 The blood-stain was conclusive, in his opinion, upon that point. 1032 Besides, as the bridge was up there was no other possible way of escaping. 1033 He could not explain what had become of the assassin, or why he had not taken his bicycle, if it were indeed his. 1034 He could not possibly have been drowned in the moat, which was at no place more than three feet deep.
1035 In his own mind he had a very definite theory about the murder. 1036 Douglas was a reticent man, and there were some chapters in his life of which he never spoke. 1037 He had emigrated to America from Ireland when he was a very young man. 1038 He had prospered well, and Barker had first met him in California, where they had become partners in a success-fill mining claim at a place called Benito Canyon. 1039 They had done very well, but Douglas had suddenly sold out and started for England. 1040 He was a widower at that time. 1041 Barker had afterwards realized his money and come to live in London. 1042 Thus they had renewed their friendship. 1043 Douglas had given him the impression that some danger was hanging over his head, and he had always looked upon his sudden departure from California, and also his renting a house in so quiet a place in England, as being connected with this peril. 1044 He imagined that some secret society, some implacable organization, was on Douglas's track which would never rest until it killed him. 1045 Some remarks of his had given him this idea, though he had never told him what the society was, nor how he had come to offend it. 1046 He could only suppose that the legend upon the placard had some reference to this secret society.
1047 'How long were you with Douglas in California?' asked Inspector MacDonald.
1048 'Five years altogether.'
1049 'He was a bachelor, you say?'
1050 'A widower.'
1051 'Have you ever heard where his first wife came from?'
1052 'No; I remember his saying that she was of German extraction, and I have seen her portrait. 1053 She was a very beautiful woman. 1054 She died of typhoid the year before I met him.'
1055 'You don't associate his past with any particular part of America?'
1056 'I have heard him talk of Chicago. 1057 He knew that city well And had worked there. 1058 I have heard him talk of the coal and iron districts. 1059 He had travelled a good deal in his time.'
1060 'Was he a politician? 1061 Had this secret society to do with politics?'
1062 'No; he cared nothing about politics.'
1063 'You have no reason to think it was criminal?'
1064 'On the contrary, I never met a straighter man in my life.'
1065 'Was there anything curious about his life in California?'
1066 'He liked best to stay and to work at our claim in the mountains. 1067 He would never go where other men were if he could help it. 1068 That's why I first thought that someone was after him. 1069 Then when he left so suddenly for Europe I made sure that it was so. 1070 I believe that he had a warning of some sort. 1071 Within a week of his leaving half-a-dozen men were inquiring for him.'
1072 'What sort of men?'
1073 'Well, they were a mighty hard-looking crowd. 1074 They came up to the claim and wanted to know where he was. 1075 I told them that he was gone to Europe and that I did not know where to find him. 1076 They meant him no good - it was easy to see that.'
1077 'Were these men Americans - Californians?'
1078 'Well, I don't know about Californians. 1079 They were Americans all right. 1080 But they were not miners. 1081 I don't know what they were, and was very glad to see their backs.'
1082 'That was six years ago?'
1083 'Nearer seven.'
1084 'And then you were together five years in California, so that this business dates back not less than eleven years at the least?'
1085 'That is so.'
1086 'It must be a very serious feud that would be kept up with such earnestness for as long as that. 1087 It would be no light thing that would give rise to it.'
1088 'I think it shadowed his whole life. 1089 It was never quite out of his mind.'
1090 'But if a man had a danger hanging over him, and knew what it was, don't you think he would turn to the police for protection?'
1091 'Maybe it was some danger that he could not be protected against. 1092 There's one thing you should know. 1093 He always went about armed. 1094 His revolver was never out of his pocket. 1095 But, by bad luck, he was in his dressing-gown and had left it in the bedroom last night. 1096 Once the bridge was up I guess he thought he was safe.'
1097 'I should like these dates a little clearer,' said MacDonald. 1098 'It is quite six years since Douglas left California. 1099 You followed him next year, did you not?'
1100 'That is so.'
1101 'And he has been married for five years. 1102 You must have returned about the time of his marriage.'
1103 'About a month before. 1104 I was his best man.'
1105 'Did you know Mrs Douglas before her marriage?'
1106 'No, I did not. 1107 I had been away from England for ten years.'
1108 'But you have seen a good deal of her since?'
1109 Barker looked sternly at the detective.
1110 'I have seen a good deal of him since,' he answered. 1111 'If I have seen her, it is because you cannot visit a man without knowing his wife. 1112 If you imagine there is any connection-'
1113 'I imagine nothing, Mr Barker. 1114 I am bound to make every inquiry which can bear upon the case. 1115 But I mean no offence.'
1116 'Some inquiries are offensive,' Barker answered, angrily.
1117 'It's only the facts that we want. 1118 It is in your interest and everyone's interests that they should be cleared up. 1119 Did Mr Douglas entirely approve your friendship with his wife?'
1120 Barker grew paler, and his great strong hands were clasped convulsively together.
1121 'You have no right to ask such questions!' he cried. 1122 'What has this to do with the matter you are investigating?'
1123 'I must repeat the question.'
1124 'Well, I refuse to answer.'
1125 'You can refuse to answer, but you must be aware that your refusal is in itself an answer, for you would not refuse if you had not something to conceal.'
1126 Barker stood for a moment, with his face set grimly and his strong black eyebrows drawn low in intense thought. 1127 Then he looked up with a smile.
1128 'Well, I guess you gentlemen are only doing your clear duty, after all, and that I have no right to stand in the way of it. 1129 I'd only ask you not to worry Mrs Douglas over this matter, for she has enough upon her just now. 1130 I may tell you that poor Douglas had just one fault in the world, and that was his jealousy. 1131 He was fond of me - no man could be fonder of a friend. 1132 And he was devoted to his wife. 1133 He loved me to come here and was for ever sending for me. 1134 And yet if his wife and I talked together or there seemed any sympathy between us, a kind of wave of jealousy would pass over him and he would be off the handle and saying the wildest things in a moment. 1135 More than once I've sworn off coming for that reason, and then he would write me such penitent, imploring letters that I just had to. 1136 But you can take it from me, gentlemen, if it was my last word, that no man ever had a more loving, faithful wife - and I can say, also, no friend could be more loyal than I.'
1137 It was spoken with fervour and feeling, and yet Inspector MacDonald could not dismiss the subject.
1138 'You are aware,' said he, 'that the dead man's wedding-ring has been taken from his finger?'
1139 'So it appears,' said Barker.
1140 'What do you mean by "appears"? 1141 You know it as a fact.' 1142 The man seemed confused and undecided.
1143 'When I said "appears", I meant that it was conceivable that he had himself taken off the ring.'
1144 'The mere fact that the ring should be absent, whoever may have removed it, would suggest to anyone's mind, would it not, that the marriage and the tragedy were connected?'
1145 Barker shrugged his broad shoulders.
1146 'I can't profess to say what it suggests,' he answered. 1147 'But if you mean to hint that it could reflect in any way upon this lady's honour' - his eyes blazed for an instant, and then with an evident effort he got a grip upon his own emotions - 'well, you are on the wrong track, that's all.'
1148 'I don't know that I've anything else to ask you at present,' said MacDonald, coldly.
1149 'There was one small point,' remarked Sherlock Holmes. 1150 'When you entered the room there was only a candle lighted upon the table, was there not?'
1151 'Yes, that was so.'
1152 'By its light you saw that some terrible incident had occurred?'
1153 'Exactly.'
1154 'You at once rang for help?'
1155 'Yes.'
1156 'And it arrived very speedily?'
1157 'Within a minute or so.'
1158 'And yet when they arrived they found that the candle was out and that the lamp had been lighted. 1159 That seems very remarkable.'
1160 Again Barker showed some signs of indecision.
1161 'I don't see that it was remarkable, Mr Holmes,' he answered, after a pause. 1162 'The candle threw a very bad light. 1163 My first thought was to get a better one. 1164 The lamp was on the table, so I lit it.'
1165 'And blew out the candle?'
1166 'Exactly.'
1167 Holmes asked no further question, and Barker, with a deliberate look from one to the other of us, which had, as it seemed to me, something of defiance in it, turned and left the room.
1168 Inspector MacDonald had sent up a note to the effect that he would wait upon Mrs Douglas in her room, but she had replied that she would meet us in the dining-room. 1169 She entered now, a tall and beautiful woman of thirty, reserved and self-possessed to a remarkable degree, very different from the tragic and distracted figure that I had pictured. 1170 It is true that her face was pale and drawn, like that of one who has endured a great shock, but her manner was composed, and the finely-moulded hand which she rested upon the edge of the table was as steady as my own. 1171 Her sad, appealing eyes travelled from one to the other of us with a curiously inquisitive expression. 1172 That questioning gaze transformed itself suddenly into abrupt speech.
1173 'Have you found out anything yet?' she asked.
1174 Was it my imagination that there was an undertone of fear rather than of hope in the question?
1175 'We have taken every possible step, Mrs Douglas,' said the inspector. 1176 'You may rest assured that nothing will be neglected.'
1177 'Spare no money,' she said, in a dead, even tone. 1178 'It is my desire that every possible effort should be made.'
1179 'Perhaps you can tell us something which may throw some light upon the matter.'
1180 'I fear not, but all I know is at your service.'
1181 'We have heard from Mr Cecil Barker that you did not actually see - that you were never in the room where the tragedy occurred?'
1182 'No; he turned me back upon the stairs. 1183 He begged me to return to my room.'
1184 'Quite so. 1185 You had heard the shot and you had at once come down.'
1186 'I put on my dressing-gown and then came down.'
1187 'How long was it after hearing the shot that you were stopped on the stair by Mr Barker?'
1188 'It may have been a couple of minutes. 1189 It is so hard to reckon time at such a moment. 1190 He implored me not to go on. 1191 He assured me that I could do nothing. 1192 Then Mrs Allen, the housekeeper, led me upstairs again. 1193 It was all like some dreadful dream.'
1194 'Can you give us any idea how long your husband had been downstairs before you heard the shot?'
1195 'No, I cannot say. 1196 He went from his dressing-room and I did not hear him go. 1197 He did the round of the house every night, for he was nervous of fire. 1198 It is the only thing that I have ever known him nervous of.'
1199 'That is just the point which I want to come to, Mrs Douglas. 1200 You have only known your husband in England, have you not?'
1201 'Yes. 1202 We have been married five years.'
1203 'Have you heard him speak of anything which occurred in America and which might bring some danger upon him?'
1204 Mrs Douglas thought earnestly before she answered.
1205 'Yes,' she said at last. 1206 'I have always felt that there was a danger hanging over him. 1207 He refused to discuss it with me. 1208 It was not from want of confidence in me - there was the most complete love and confidence between us - but it was out of his desire to keep all alarm away from me. 1209 He thought I should brood over it if I knew all, and so he was silent.'
1210 'How did you know it, then?' Mrs Douglas's face lit with a quick smile.
1211 'Can a husband ever carry about a secret all his life and a woman who loves him have no suspicion of it? 1212 I knew it in many ways. 1213 I knew it by his refusal to talk about some episodes in his American life. 1214 I knew it by certain precautions he took. 1215 I knew it by certain words he let fall. 1216 I knew it by the way he looked at unexpected strangers. 1217 I was perfectly certain that he had some powerful enemies, that he believed they were on his track and that he was always on his guard against them. 1218 I was so sure of it that for years I have been terrified if ever he came home later than was expected.'
1219 'Might I ask', said Holmes, 'what the words were which attracted your attention?'
1220 '"The Valley of Fear,"' the lady answered. 1221 'That was an expression he has used when I questioned him. 1222 "I have been in the Valley of Fear. 1223 I am not out of it yet." 1224 "Are we never to get out of the Valley of Fear?" I have asked him, when I have seen him more serious than usual. 1225 "Sometimes I think that we never shall," he has answered.'
1226 'Surely you asked him what he meant by the Valley of Fear?'
1227 'I did; but his face would become very grave and he would shake his head. 1228 "It is bad enough that one of us should have been in its shadow," he said. 1229 "Please God it shall never fall upon you." 1230 It was some real valley in which he had lived and in which something terrible had occurred to him - of that I am certain - but I can tell you no more.'
1231 'And he never mentioned any names?'
1232 'Yes; he was delirious with fever once when he had his hunting accident three years ago. 1233 Then I remember that there was a name that came continually to his lips. 1234 He spoke it with anger and a sort of horror. 1235 McGinty was the name Bodymaster McGinty. 1236 I asked him, when he recovered, who Bodymaster McGinty was, and whose body he was master of. 1237 "Never of mine, thank God!" he answered, with a laugh, and that was all I could get from him. 1238 But there is a connection between Bodymaster McGinty and the Valley of Fear.'
1239 'There is one other point,' said Inspector MacDonald. 1240 'You met Mr Douglas in a boarding-house in London, did you not, and became engaged to him there? 1241 Was there any romance, anything secret or mysterious, about the wedding?'
1242 'There was romance. 1243 There is always romance. 1244 There was nothing mysterious.'
1245 'He had no rival?'
1246 'No; I was quite free.'
1247 'You have heard, no doubt, that his wedding-ring has been taken. 1248 Does that suggest anything to you? 1249 Suppose that some enemy of his old life had tracked him down and committed this crime, what possible reason could he have for taking his wedding-ring?'
1250 For an instant I could have sworn that the faintest shadow of a smile flickered over the woman's lips.
1251 'I really cannot tell,' she answered. 1252 'It is certainly a most extraordinary thing.'
1253 'Well, we will not detain you any longer, and we are sorry to have put you to this trouble at such a time,' said the inspector. 1254 'There are some other points, no doubt, but we can refer to you as they arise.'
1255 She rose, and I was again conscious of that quick, questioning glance with which she had just surveyed us: 1256 'What impression has my evidence made upon you?' 1257 The question might as well have been spoken. 1258 Then, with a bow, she swept from the room.
1259 'She's a beautiful woman - a very beautiful woman,' said MacDonald, thoughtfully, after the door had closed behind her. 1260 'This man Barker has certainly been down here a good deal. 1261 He is a man who might be attractive to a woman. 1262 He admits that the dead man was jealous, and maybe he knew best himself what cause he had for jealousy. 1263 Then there's that wedding-ring. 1264 You can't get past that. 1265 The man who tears a wedding-ring off a dead man's - What do you say to it, Mr Holmes?'
1266 My friend had sat with his head upon his hands, sunk in the deepest thought. 1267 Now he rose and rang the bell.
1268 'Ames,' he said, when the butler entered, 'where is Mr Cecil Barker now?'
1269 'I'll see, sir.'
1270 He came back in a moment to say that Mr Barker was in the garden.
1271 'Can you remember, Ames, what Mr Barker had upon his feet last night when you joined him in the study?'
1272 'Yes, Mr Holmes. 1273 He had a pair of bedroom slippers. 1274 I brought him his boots when he went for the police.'
1275 'Where are the slippers now?'
1276 'They are still under the chair in the hall.'
1277 'Very good, Ames. 1278 It is, of course, important for us to know which tracks may be Mr Barker's and which from outside.'
1279 'Yes, sir. 1280 I may say that I noticed that the slippers were stained with blood - so, indeed, were my own.'
1281 'That is natural enough, considering the condition of the room. 1282 Very good, Ames. 1283 We will ring if we want you.'
1284 A few minutes later we were in the study. 1285 Holmes had brought with him the carpet slippers from the hall. 1286 As Ames had observed, the soles of both were dark with blood.
1287 'Strange!' murmured Holmes, as he stood in the light of the window and examined them minutely. 1288 'Very strange indeed!'
1289 Stooping with one of his quick, feline pounces he placed the slipper upon the blood-mark on the sill. 1290 It exactly corresponded. 1291 He smiled in silence at his colleagues.
1292 The inspector was transfigured with excitement. 1293 His native accent rattled like a stick upon railings.
1294 'Man!' he cried, 'there's not a doubt of it! 1295 Barker has just marked the window himself. 1296 It's a good deal broader than any boot-mark. 1297 I mind that you said it was a splay foot, and here's the explanation. 1298 But what's the game, Mr Holmes - what's the game?'
1299 'Aye, what's the game?' my friend repeated, thoughtfully. 1300 White Mason chuckled and rubbed his fat hands together in his professional satisfaction.
1301 'I said it was a snorter!' he cried. 1302 'And a real snorter it is!'

1303 CHAPTER 6 : A Dawning Light

1304 The three detectives had many matters of detail into which to inquire, so I returned alone to our modest quarters at the village inn; but before doing so I took a stroll in the curious old-world garden which flanked the house. 1305 Rows of very ancient yew trees, cut into strange designs, girded it round. 1306 Inside was a beautiful stretch of lawn with an old sundial in the middle, the whole effect so soothing and restful that it was welcome to my somewhat jangled nerves. 1307 In that deeply peaceful atmosphere one could forget or remember only as some fantastic nightmare that darkened study with the sprawling, blood-stained figure upon the floor. 1308 And yet as I strolled round it and tried to steep my soul in its gentle balm, a strange incident occurred which brought me back to the tragedy and left a sinister impression on my mind.
1309 I have said that a decoration of yew trees circled the garden. 1310 At the end which was farthest from the house they thickened into a continuous hedge. 1311 On the other side of this hedge, concealed from the eyes of any one approaching from the direction of the house, there was a stone seat. 1312 As I approached the spot I was aware of voices, some remark in the deep tones of a man, answered by a little ripple of feminine laughter. 1313 An instant later I had come round the end of the hedge, and my eyes lit upon Mrs Douglas and the man Barker before they were aware of my presence. 1314 Her appearance gave me a shock. 1315 In the dining-room she had been demure and discreet. 1316 Now all pretence of grief had passed away from her. 1317 Her eyes shone with the joy of living, and her face still quivered with amusement at some remark of her companion. 1318 He sat forward, his hands clasped and his forearms on his knees, with an answering smile upon his bold, handsome face. 1319 In an instant - but it was just one instant too late - they resumed their solemn masks as my figure came into view. 1320 A hurried word or two passed between them, and then Barker rose and came towards me.
1321 'Excuse me, sir,' said he, 'but am I addressing Dr Watson?'
1322 I bowed with a coldness which showed, I dare say, very plainly the impression which had been produced upon my mind.
1323 'We thought that it was probably you, as your friendship with Mr Sherlock Holmes is so well known. 1324 Would you mind coming over and speaking to Mrs Douglas for one instant?'
1325 I followed him with a dour face. 1326 Very clearly I could see in my mind's eye that shattered figure upon the floor. 1327 Here within a few hours of the tragedy were his wife and his nearest friend laughing together behind a bush in the garden which had been his. 1328 I greeted the lady with reserve. 1329 I had grieved with her grief in the dining-room. 1330 Now I met her appealing gaze with an unresponsive eye.
1331 'I fear you think me callous and hard-hearted?' said she. 1332 I shrugged my shoulders.
1333 'It is no business of mine,' said I.
1334 'Perhaps some day you will do me justice. 1335 If you only realized-'
1336 'There is no need why Dr Watson should realize,' said Barker, quickly. 1337 'As he has himself said, it is no possible business of his.'
1338 'Exactly,' said I, 'and so I will beg leave to resume my walk.'
1339 'One moment, Dr Watson,' cried the woman, in a pleading voice. 1340 'There is one question which you can answer with more authority than anyone else in the world, and it may make a very great difference to me. 1341 You know Mr Holmes and his relations with the police better than anyone else can do. 1342 Supposing that a matter were brought confidentially to his knowledge, is it absolutely necessary that he should pass it on to the detectives?'
1343 'Yes, that's it,' said Barker, eagerly. 1344 'Is he on his own or is he entirely in with them?'
1345 'I really don't know that I should be justified in discussing such a point.'
1346 'I beg - I implore that you will, Dr Watson, I assure you that you will be helping us - helping me greatly if you will guide us on that point.'
1347 There was such a ring of sincerity in the woman's voice that for the instant I forgot all about her levity and was moved only to do her will.
1348 'Mr Holmes is an independent investigator,' I said. 1349 'He is his own master, and would act as his own judgement directed. 1350 At the same time he would naturally feel loyalty towards the officials who were working on the same case, and he would not conceal from them anything which would help them in bringing a criminal to justice. 1351 Beyond this I can say nothing, and I would refer you to Mr Holmes himself if you want fuller information.'
1352 So saying I raised my hat and went upon my way, leaving them still seated behind that concealing hedge. 1353 I looked back as I rounded the far end of it, and saw that they were still talking very earnestly together, and, as they were gazing after me, it was clear that it was our interview that was the subject of their debate.
1354 'I wish none of their confidences,' said Holmes, when I reported to him what had occurred. 1355 He had spent the whole afternoon at the Manor House in consultation with his two colleagues, and returned about five with a ravenous appetite for a high tea which I had ordered for him. 1356 'No confidences, Watson, for they are mighty awkward if it comes to an arrest for conspiracy and murder.'
1357 'You think it will come to that?'
1358 He was in his most cheerful and debonnaire humour.
1359 'My dear Watson, when I have exterminated that fourth egg I will be ready to put you in touch with the whole situation. 1360 I don't say that we have fathomed it - far from it - but when we have traced the missing dumb-bell--'
1361 'The dumb-bell!'
1362 'Dear me, Watson, is it possible that you have not penetrated the fact that the case hangs upon the missing dumb-bell? 1363 Well, well, you need not be downcast, for, between ourselves, I don't think that either Inspector Mac or the excellent local practitioner has grasped the overwhelming importance of this incident. 1364 One dumb-bell, Watson! 1365 Consider an athlete with one dumb-bell. 1366 Picture to yourself the unilateral development - the imminent danger of a spinal curvature. 1367 Shocking, Watson; shocking!'
1368 He sat with his mouth full of toast and his eyes sparkling with mischief, watching my intellectual entanglement. 1369 The mere sight of his excellent appetite was an assurance of success, for I had very clear recollections of days and nights without a thought of food, when his baffled mind had chafed before some problem whilst his thin, eager features became more attenuated with the asceticism of complete mental concentration. 1370 Finally he lit his pipe and, sitting in the ingle-nook of the old village inn, he talked slowly and at random about his case, rather as one thinks aloud than as one who makes a considered statement.
1371 'A lie, Watson - a great big, thumping, obtrusive, uncompromising lie - that's what meets us on the threshold. 1372 There is our starting point. 1373 The whole story told by Barker is a lie. 1374 But Barker's story is corroborated by Mrs Douglas. 1375 Therefore she is lying also. 1376 They are both lying and in a conspiracy. 1377 So now we have the clear problem--why are they lying, and what is the truth which they are trying so hard to conceal? 1378 Let us try, Watson, you and I, if we can get behind the lie and reconstruct the truth.
1379 'How do I know that they are lying? 1380 Because it is a clumsy fabrication which simply could not be true. 1381 Consider! 1382 According to the story given to us the assassin had less than a minute after the murder had been committed to take that ring, which was under another ring, from the dead man's finger, to replace the other ring - a thing which he would surely never have done - and to put that singular card beside his victim. 1383 I say that this was obviously impossible. 1384 You may argue - but I have too much respect for your judgement, Watson, to think that you will do so - that the ring may have been taken before the man was killed. 1385 The fact that the candle had only been lit a short time shows that there had been no lengthy interview. 1386 Was Douglas, from what we hear of his fearless character, a man who would be likely to give up his wedding-ring at such short notice, or could we conceive of his giving it up at all? 1387 No, no, Watson, the assassin was alone with the dead man for some time with the lamp lit. 1388 Of that I have no doubt at all. 1389 But the gunshot was apparently the cause of death. 1390 Therefore the gunshot must have been fired some time earlier than we are told. 1391 But there could be no mistake about such a matter as that. 1392 We are in the presence, therefore, of a deliberate conspiracy upon the part of the two people who heard the gunshot - of the man Barker and of the woman Douglas. 1393 When on the top of this I am able to show that the bloodmark upon the window-sill was deliberately placed there by Barker in order to give a false clue to the police, you will admit that the case grows dark against him.
1394 'Now we have to ask ourselves at what hour the murder actually did occur. 1395 Up to half-past ten the servants were moving about the house, so it was certainly not before that time. 1396 At a quarter to eleven they had all gone to their rooms with the exception of Ames, who was in the pantry. 1397 I have been trying some experiments after you left us this afternoon, and I find that no noise which MacDonald can make in the study can penetrate to me in the pantry when the doors are all shut. 1398 It is otherwise, however, from the housekeeper's room. 1399 It is not so far down the corridor, and from it I could vaguely hear a voice when it was very loudly raised. 1400 The sound from a shot-gun is to some extent muffled when the discharge is at very close range, as it undoubtedly was in this instance. 1401 It would not be very loud, and yet in the silence of the night it should have easily penetrated to Mrs Allen's room. 1402 She is, as she has told us, somewhat deaf, but none the less she mentioned in her evidence that she did hear something like a door slamming half an hour before the alarm was given. 1403 Half an hour before the alarm was given would be a quarter to eleven. 1404 I have no doubt that what she heard was the report of the gun, and that this was the real instant of the murder. 1405 If this is so, we have now to determine what Mr Barker and Mrs Douglas, presuming that they are not the actual murderers, could have been doing from a quarter to eleven, when the sound of the gun-shot brought them down, until a quarter past eleven, when they rang the bell and summoned the servants. 1406 What were they doing, and why did they not instantly give the alarm? 1407 That is the question which faces us, and when it has been answered we will surely have gone some way to solve our problem.'
1408 'I am convinced myself,' said I, 'that there is an understanding between those two people. 1409 She must be a heartless creature to sit laughing at some jest within a few hours of her husband's murder.'
1410 'Exactly. 1411 She does not shine as a wife even in her own account of what occurred. 1412 I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind, as you are aware, Watson, but my experience of life has taught me that there are few wives having any regard for their husbands who would let any man's spoken word stand between them and that husband's dead body. 1413 Should I ever marry, Watson, I should hope to inspire my wife with some feeling which would prevent her from being walked off by a housekeeper when my corpse was lying within a few yards of her. 1414 It was badly stage-managed, for even the rawest of investigators must be struck by the absence of the usual feminine ululation. 1415 If there had been nothing else, this incident alone would have suggested a pre-arranged conspiracy to my mind.'
1416 'You think, then, definitely, that Barker and Mrs Douglas are guilty of the murder?'
1417 'There is an appalling directness about your questions, Watson,' said Holmes, shaking his pipe at me. 1418 'They come at me like bullets. 1419 If you put it that Mrs Douglas and Barker know the truth about the murder and are conspiring to conceal it, then I can give you a whole-souled answer. 1420 I am tire they do. 1421 But your more deadly proposition is not so clear. 1422 Let us for a moment consider the difficulties which stand in the way.
1423 'We will suppose that this couple are united by the bonds of a guilty love and that they have determined to get rid of the man who stands between them. 1424 It is a large supposition, for discreet inquiry among servants and others has failed to corroborate it in any way. 1425 On the contrary, there is a good deal of evidence that the Douglases were very attached to each other.'
1426 'That I am sure cannot be true,' said I, thinking of the beautiful, smiling face in the garden.
1427 'Well, at least they gave that impression. 1428 However, we will suppose that they are an extraordinarily astute couple, who deceive everyone upon this point and who conspire to murder the husband. 1429 He happens to be a man over whose head some danger hangs-'
1430 'We have only their word for that.'
1431 Holmes looked thoughtful.
1432 'I see, Watson. 1433 You are sketching out a theory by which everything they say from the beginning is false. 1434 According to your idea, there was never any hidden menace or secret society or Valley of Fear or Boss MacSomebody or anything else. 1435 Well, that is a good, sweeping generalization. 1436 Let us see what that brings us to. 1437 They invent this theory to account for the crime. 1438 They then play up to the idea by leaving this bicycle in the park as a proof of the existence of some outsider. 1439 The stain on the window-sill conveys the same idea. 1440 So does the card upon the body, which might have been prepared in the house. 1441 That all fits into your hypothesis, Watson. 1442 But now we come on the nasty angular, uncompromising bits which won't slip into their places. 1443 Why a cut-off shot-gun of all weapons - and an American one at that? 1444 How could they be so sure that the sound of it would not bring someone on to them? 1445 It's a mere chance, as it is, that Mrs Allen did not start out to inquire for the slamming door. 1446 Why did your guilty couple do all this, Watson?'
1447 'I confess that I can't explain it.'
1448 'Then, again, if a woman and her lover conspire to murder a husband, are they going to advertise their guilt by ostentatiously removing his wedding-ring after his death? 1449 Does that strike you as very probable, Watson?'
1450 'No, it does not.'
1451 'And once again, if the thought of leaving a bicycle concealed outside had occurred to you, would it really have seemed worth doing when the dullest detective would naturally say this is an obvious blind, as the bicycle is the first thing which the fugitive needed in order to make his escape?'
1452 'I can conceive of no explanation.'
1453 'And yet there should be no combination of events for which the wit of man cannot conceive an explanation. 1454 Simply as a mental exercise, without any assertion that it is true, let me indicate a possible line of thought. 1455 It is, I admit, mere imagination, but how often is imagination the mother of truth?
1456 'We will suppose that there was a guilty secret, a really shameful secret, in the life of this man Douglas. 1457 This leads to his murder by someone who is, we will suppose, an avenger - someone from outside. 1458 This avenger, for some reason which I confess I am still at a loss to explain, took the dead man's wedding-ring. 1459 The vendetta might conceivably date back to the man's first marriage and the ring be taken for some such reason. 1460 Before this avenger got away Barker and the wife had reached the room. 1461 The assassin convinced them that any attempt to arrest him would lead to the publication of some hideous scandal. 1462 They were converted to this idea and preferred to let him go. 1463 For this purpose they probably lowered the bridge, which can be done quite noiselessly, and then raised it again. 1464 He made his escape, and for some reason thought that he could do so more safely on foot than on the bicycle. 1465 He therefore left his machine where it would not be discovered until he had got safely away. 1466 So far we are within the bounds of possibility, are we not?'
1467 'Well, it is possible, no doubt,' said I, with some reserve. 1468 We have to remember, Watson, that whatever occurred certainly something very extraordinary. 1469 Well now, to continue our suppositious case, the couple - not necessarily a guilty couple - realize after the murderer is gone that they have placed themselves in a position in which it may be difficult for them to prove that they did not themselves either do the deed or connive at it. 1470 They rapidly and rather clumsily met the situation. 1471 The mark was put by Barker's blood-stained slipper upon the window-sill to suggest how the fugitive got away. 1472 They obviously were the two who must have heard the sound of the gun, so they gave the alarm exactly as they would have done, but a good half-hour after the event.'
1473 'And how do you propose to prove all this?'
1474 'Well, if there were an outsider he may be traced and taken. 1475 That would be the most effective of all proofs. 1476 But if not - well, the resources of science are far from being exhausted. 1477 I think that an evening alone in that study would help me much.'
1478 'An evening alone!'
1479 'I propose to go up there presently. 1480 I have arranged it with the estimable Ames, who is by no means whole-hearted about Barker. 1481 I shall sit in that room and see if its atmosphere brings me inspiration. 1482 I'm a believer in the genius loci. 1483 You smile, friend Watson. 1484 Well, we shall see. 1485 By the way, you have that big umbrella of yours, have you not?'
1486 'It is here.'
1487 'Well, I'll borrow that, if I may.'
1488 'Certainly, but what a wretched weapon! 1489 If there is danger-'
1490 'Nothing serious, my dear Watson, or I should certainly ask for your assistance. 1491 But I'll take the umbrella. 1492 At present I am only awaiting the return of our colleagues from Tunbridge Wells, where they are at present engaged in trying for a likely owner to the bicycle.'
1493 It was nightfall before Inspector MacDonald and White Mason came back from their expedition, and they arrived exultant, reporting a great advance in our investigation.
1494 'Man, I'll admeet that I had my doubts if there was ever an outsider,' said MacDonald, 'but that's all past now. 1495 We've had the bicycle identified, and we have a description of our man, so that's a long step on our journey.'
1496 'It sounds to me like the beginning of the end,' said Holmes; 'I'm sure I congratulate you both with all my heart.'
1497 'Well, I started from the fact that Mr Douglas had seemed disturbed since the day before, when he had been at Tunbridge Wells. 1498 It was at Tunbridge Wells, then, that he had become conscious of some danger. 1499 It was clear, therefore, that if a man had come over with a bicycle it was from Tunbridge Wells that he might be expected to have come. 1500 We took the bicycle over with us and showed it at the hotels. 1501 It was identified at once by the manager of the Eagle Commercial as belonging to a man named Hargrave who had taken a room there two days before. 1502 This bicycle and a small valise were his whole belongings. 1503 He had registered his name as coming from London, but had given no address. 1504 The valise was London-made and the contents were British, but the man himself was undoubtedly an American.'
1505 'Well, well,' said Holmes, gleefully, 'you have indeed done some solid work whilst I have been sitting spinning theories with my friend. 1506 It's a lesson in being practical, Mr Mac.'
1507 'Aye, it's just that, Mr Holmes,' said the inspector with satisfaction.
1508 'But this may all fit in with your theories,' I remarked. 1509 'That may or may not be. 1510 But let us hear the end, Mr Mac. 1511 Was there nothing to identify this man?'
1512 'So little that it was evident he had carefully guarded himself against identification. 1513 There were no papers or letters and no marking upon the clothes. 1514 A cycle-map of the county lay upon his bedroom table. 1515 He had left the hotel after breakfast yesterday morning upon his bicycle, and no more was heard of him until our inquiries.'
1516 'That's what puzzles me, Mr Holmes,' said White Mason. 1517 'If the fellow did not want the hue and cry raised over him, one would imagine that he would have returned and remained at the hotel as an inoffensive tourist. 1518 As it is, he must know that he will be reported to the police by the hotel manager, and that his disappearance will be connected with the murder.'
1519 'So one would imagine. 1520 Still he has been justified of his wisdom up to date at any rate, since he has not been taken. 1521 But his description - what of that?'
1522 MacDonald referred to his notebook.
1523 'Here we have it so far as they could give it. 1524 They don't seem to have taken any very particular stock of him, but still the porter, the clerk, and the chambermaid are all agreed that this about covers the points. 1525 He was a man about five foot nine in height, fifty or so years of age, his hair slightly grizzled, a greyish moustache, a curved nose and a face which all of them described as fierce and forbidding.'
1526 'Well, bar the expression, that might almost be a description of Douglas himself,' said Holmes. 1527 'He is just over fifty, with grizzled hair and moustache and about the same height. 1528 Did you get anything else?'
1529 'He was dressed in a heavy grey suit with a reefer jacket, and he wore a short yellow overcoat and a soft cap.'
1530 'What about the shot-gun?'
1531 'It is less than two feet long. 1532 It could very well have fitted into his valise. 1533 He could have carried it inside his overcoat without difficulty.'
1534 'And how do you consider that all this bears upon the general case?'
1535 'Well, Mr Holmes,' said MacDonald, 'when we have got our man - and you may be sure that I had his description on the wires within five minutes of hearing it - we shall be able to judge. 1536 But even as it stands, we have surely gone a long way. 1537 We know that an American calling himself Hargrave came to Tunbridge Wells two days ago with bicycle and valise. 1538 In the latter was a sawn-off shot-gun, so he came with the deliberate purpose of crime. 1539 Yesterday morning he set off for this place upon his bicycle with his gun concealed in his overcoat. 1540 No one saw him arrive, so far as we can learn, but he need not pass through the village to reach the park gates, and there are many cyclists upon the road. 1541 Presumably he at once concealed his cycle among the laurels, where it was found, and possibly lurked there himself, with his eye on the house waiting for Mr Douglas o come out. 1542 The shot-gun is a strange weapon to use inside a house, but he had intended to use it outside, and then it has very obvious advantages, as it would be impossible to miss with it, and the sound of shots is so common in an English sporting neighbourhood that no particular notice would be taken.'
1543 'That is all very clear!' said Holmes.
1544 'Well, Mr Douglas did not appear. 1545 What was he to do next? 1546 He left his bicycle and approached the house in the twilight. 1547 He found the bridge down and no one about. 1548 He took his chance, intending, no doubt, to make some excuse if he met anyone. 1549 He met no one. 1550 He slipped into the first room that he saw and concealed himself behind the curtain. 1551 From thence he could see the drawbridge go up and he knew that his only escape was through the moat. 1552 He waited until a quarter past eleven, when Mr Douglas, upon his usual nightly round, came into the room. 1553 He shot him and escaped, as arranged. 1554 He was aware that the bicycle would be described by the hotel people and be a clue against him, so he left it there and made his way by some other means to London or to some safe hiding-place which he had already arranged. 1555 How is that, Mr Holmes.'
1556 'Well, Mr Mac, it is very good and very clear so far as it goes. 1557 That is your end of the story. 1558 My end is that the crime was committed half an hour earlier than reported; that Mrs Douglas and Mr Barker are both in a conspiracy to conceal something; that they aided the murderer's escape - or at least, that they reached the room before he escaped - and that they fabricated evidence of his escape through the window, whereas in all probability they had themselves let him go by lowering the bridge. 1559 That's my reading of the first half.'
1560 The two detectives shook their heads.
1561 'Well, Mr Holmes, if this is true we only tumble out of one mystery into another,' said the London inspector.
1562 'And in some ways a worse one,' added White Mason. 1563 'The lady has never been in America in her life. 1564 What possible connection could she have with an American assassin which would cause her to shelter him?'
1565 'I freely admit the difficulties,' said Holmes. 1566 'I propose to make a little investigation of my own tonight, and it is just possible that it may contribute something to the common cause.'
1567 'Can we help you, Mr Holmes?'
1568 'No, no! 1569 Darkness and Dr Watson's umbrella. 1570 My wants are simple. 1571 And Ames - the faithful Ames - no doubt he will stretch a point for me. 1572 All my lines of thought lead me back invariably to the one basic question - why should an athletic man develop his frame upon so unnatural an instrument as a single dumb-bell?'

1573 It was late that night when Holmes returned from his solitary excursion. 1574 We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best that the little country inn could do for us. 1575 I was already asleep when I was partly awakened by his entrance.
1576 'Well, Holmes,' I murmured, 'have you found out anything?'
1577 He stood beside me in silence, his candle in his hand. 1578 Then the tall lean figure inclined towards me.
1579 'I say, Watson,' he whispered, 'would you be afraid to sleep in the same room as a lunatic, a man with softening of the brain, an idiot whose mind has lost its grip?'
1580 'Not in the least,' I answered in astonishment.
1581 'Ah, that's lucky,' he said, and not another word would he utter that night.

1582 CHAPTER 7 : The Solution

1583 Next morning, after breakfast, we found Inspector MacDonald and Mr White Mason seated in close consultation in the small parlour of the local police-sergeant. 1584 Upon the table in front of them were piled a number of letters and telegrams, which they were carefully sorting and docketing. 1585 Three had been placed upon one side.
1586 'Still on the track of the elusive bicyclist?' Holmes asked, cheerfully. 1587 'What is the latest news of the ruffian?'
1588 MacDonald pointed ruefully to his heap of correspondence.
1589 'He is at present reported from Leicester, Nottingham, Southampton, Derby, East Ham, Richmond, and fourteen other places. 1590 In three of them - East Ham, Leicester, and Liverpool - there is a clear case against him and he has actually been arrested. 1591 The country seems to be full of fugitives with yellow coats.'
1592 'Dear me!' said Holmes, sympathetically. 1593 'Now, Mr Mac, and you, Mr White Mason, I wish to give you a very earnest piece of advice. 1594 When I went into this case with you I bargained, as you will no doubt remember, that I should not present you with half-proved theories, but that I should retain and work out my own ideas until I had satisfied myself that they were correct. 1595 For this reason I am not at the present moment telling you all that is in my mind. 1596 On the other hand, I said that I would play the game fairly by you, and I do not think it is a fair game to allow you for one unnecessary moment to waste your energies upon a profitless task. 1597 Therefore I am here to advice you this morning, and my advice to you is summed up in three words: 1598 Abandon the case.'
1599 MacDonald and White Mason stared in amazement at their celebrated colleague.
1600 'You consider it hopeless?' cried the inspector.
1601 'I consider your case to be hopeless. 1602 I do not consider that it is hopeless to arrive at the truth.'
1603 'But this cyclist. 1604 He is not an invention. 1605 We have his description, his valise, his bicycle. 1606 The fellow must be somewhere. 1607 Why should we not get him?'
1608 'Yes, yes; no doubt he is somewhere, and no doubt we shall get him, but I would not have you waste your energies in East Ham or Liverpool. 1609 I am sure that we can find some shorter cut to a result.'
1610 'You are holding something back. 1611 It's hardly fair of you, Mr Holmes.' 1612 The inspector was annoyed.
1613 'You know my methods of work, Mr Mac. 1614 But I will hold it back for the shortest time possible. 1615 I only wish to verify my details in one way, which can very readily be done, and then I make my bow and return to London, leaving my results entirely at your service. 1616 I owe you too much to act otherwise, for in all my experience I cannot recall any more singular and interesting study.'
1617 'This is clean beyond me, Mr Holmes. 1618 We saw you when we returned from Tunbridge Wells last night, and you were in general agreement with our results. 1619 What has happened since then to give you a completely new idea of the case?'
1620 'Well, since you ask me, I spent as I told you that I would, some hours last night at the Manor House.'
1621 'Well, what happened?'
1622 'Ah! 1623 I can only give you a very general answer to that for the moment. 1624 By the way, I have been reading a short, but clear and interesting, account of the old building, purchasable at the modest sum of one penny from the local tobacconist.' 1625 Here Holmes drew a small tract, embellished with a rude engraving of the ancient Manor House, from his waistcoat pocket. 1626 'It immensely adds to the zest of an investigation, my dear Mr Mac, when one is in conscious sympathy with the historical atmosphere of one's surroundings. 1627 Don't look so impatient, for I assure you that even so bald an account as this raises some sort of picture of the past in one's mind. 1628 Permit me to give you a sample. 1629 "Erected in the fifth year of the reign of James I, and standing upon the site of a much older building, the Manor House of Birlstone presents one of the finest surviving examples of the moated Jacobean residence-"'
1630 'You are making fools of us, Mr Holmes!'
1631 'Tut, tut, Mr Mac! - the first sign of temper I have detected in you. 1632 Well, I won't read it verbatim, since you feel so strongly upon the subject. 1633 But when I tell you that there is some account of the taking of the place by a Parliamentary colonel in 1644, of the concealment of Charles for several days in the course of the Civil War, and finally of a visit there by the second George, you will admit that there are various associations of interest connected with this ancient house.'
1634 'I don't doubt it, Mr Holmes, but that is no business of ours.'
1635 'Is it not? 1636 Is it not? 1637 Breadth of view, my dear Mr Mac, is one of the essentials of our profession. 1638 The interplay of ideas and the oblique uses of knowledge are often of extraordinary interest. 1639 You will excuse these remarks from one who, though a mere connoisseur of crime, is still rather older and perhaps more experienced than yourself:
1640 'I'm the first to admit that,' said the detective, heartily. 1641 You get to your point, I admit, but you have such a deuced round-the-corner way of doing it.'
1642 'Well, well, I'll drop past history and get down to present-day facts. 1643 I called last night, as I have already said, at the Manor House. 1644 I did not see either Mr Barker or Mrs Douglas. 1645 I saw no necessity to disturb them, but I was pleased to hear that the lady was not visibly pining and that she had partaken of an excellent dinner. 1646 My visit was specially made to the good Mr Ames, with whom I exchanged some amiabilities which culminated in his allowing me, without reference to anyone else, to sit alone for a time in the study.'
1647 'What! 1648 With that!' I ejaculated.
1649 'No, no; everything is now in order. 1650 You gave permission for that, Mr Mac, as I am informed. 1651 The room was in its normal state, and in it I passed an instructive quarter of an hour.'
1652 'What were you doing?'
1653 'Well, not to make a mystery of so simple a matter, I was looking for the missing dumb-bell. 1654 It has always bulked rather large in my estimate of the case. 1655 I ended by finding it.'
1656 'Where?'
1657 'Ah! 1658 There we come to the edge of the unexplored. 1659 Let me go a little farther, a very little farther, and I will promise that you shall share everything that I know.'
1660 'Well, we're bound to take you on your own terms,' said the inspector; 'but when it comes to telling us to abandon the case - Why, in the name of goodness, should we abandon the case?'
1661 'For the simple reason, my dear Mr Mac, that you have not got the first idea what it is that you are investigating.'
1662 'We are investigating the murder of Mr John Douglas, of Birlstone Manor.'
1663 'Yes, yes; so you are. 1664 But don't trouble to trace the mysterious gentleman upon the bicycle. 1665 I assure you that it won't help you.'
1666 'Then what do you suggest that we do?'
1667 'I will tell you exactly what to do, if you will do it.' 1668 'Well, I'm bound to say I've always found you had reason behind all your queer ways. 1669 I'll do what you advise.'
1670 'And you, Mr White Mason?'
1671 The country detective looked helplessly from one to the other. 1672 Mr Holmes and his methods were new to him.
1673 'Well, if it is good enough for the inspector it is good enough for me,' he said, at last.
1674 'Capital!' said Holmes. 1675 'Well, then, I should recommend a nice, cheery, country walk for both of you. 1676 They tell me that the views from Birlstone Ridge over the Weald are very remarkable. 1677 No doubt lunch could be got at some suitable hostelry, though my ignorance of the country prevents me from recommending one. 1678 In the evening, tired but happy-'
1679 'Man, this is getting past a joke!' cried MacDonald, rising angrily from his chair.
1680 'Well, well, spend the day as you like,' said Holmes, patting him cheerfully on the shoulder. 1681 'Do what you like and go where you will, but meet me here before dusk without fail - without fail, Mr Mac.'
1682 'That sounds more like sanity.'
1683 'All of it was excellent advice, but I don't insist, so long as you are here when I need you. 1684 But now, before we part, I want you to write a note to Mr Barker.'
1685 'Well?'
1686 'I'll dictate it, if you like. 1687 Ready?
1688 "Dear Sir, - It has struck me that it is our duty to drain the moat, in the hope that we may find some-"'
1689 'It's impossible,' said the inspector; 'I've made inquiry.'
1690 'Tut, tut, my dear sir! 1691 Do, please, do what I ask you.' 1692 'Well, go on.'
1693 '"-in the hope that we may find something which may bear upon our investigation. 1694 I have made arrangements, and the workmen will be at work early to-morrow morning diverting the stream - "'
1695 'Impossible!'
1696 '"-diverting the stream, so I thought it best to explain matters beforehand." 1697 Now sign that, and send it by hand about four o'clock. 1698 At that hour we shall meet again in this room. 1699 Until then we can each do what we like, for I can assure you that this inquiry has come to a definite pause.'

1700 Evening was drawing in when we reassembled. 1701 Holmes was very serious in his manner, myself curious, and the detectives obviously critical and annoyed.
1702 'Well, gentlemen,' said my friend, gravely, 'I am asking you now to put everything to the test with me, and you will judge for yourselves whether the observations which I have made justify the conclusions to which I have come. 1703 It is a chill evening, and I do not know how long our expedition may last, so I beg that you will wear your warmest coats. 1704 It is of the first importance that we should be in our places before it grows dark, so, with your permission, we will get started at once.'
1705 We passed along the outer bounds of the Manor House park until we came to a place where there was a gap in the rails which fenced it. 1706 Through this we slipped, and then, in the gathering gloom, we followed Holmes until we had reached a shrubbery which lies nearly opposite to the main door and the drawbridge. 1707 The latter had not been raised. 1708 Holmes crouched down behind the screen of laurels, and we all three followed his example.
1709 'Well, what are we to do now?' asked MacDonald, with some gruffness.
1710 'Possess our souls in patience and make as little noise as possible,' Holmes answered.
1711 'What are we here for at all? 1712 I really think that you might treat us with more frankness.'
1713 Holmes laughed.
1714 'Watson insists that I am the dramatist in real life,' said he. 1715 'Some touch of the artist wells up within me and calls insistently for a well-staged performance. 1716 Surely our profession, Mr Mac, would be a drab and sordid one if we did not sometimes set the scene so as to glorify our results. 1717 The blunt accusation, the brutal tap upon the shoulder - what can one make of such a denouement? 1718 But the quick inference, the subtle trap, the clever forecast of coming events, the triumphant vindication of bold theories - are these not the pride and the justification of our life's work? 1719 At the present moment you thrill with the glamour of the situation and the anticipation of the hunter. 1720 Where would be that thrill if I had been as definite as a time-table? 1721 I only ask a little patience, Mr Mac, and all will be clear to you.'
1722 'Well, I hope the pride and justification and the rest of it will come before we all get our death of cold,' said the London detective, with comic resignation.
1723 We all had good reason to join in the aspiration, for our vigil was a long and bitter one. 1724 Slowly the shadows darkened over the long sombre face of the old house. 1725 A cold, damp reek from the moat chilled us to the bones and set our teeth chattering. 1726 There was a single lamp over the gateway and a steady globe of light in the fatal study. 1727 Everything else was dark and still.
1728 'How long is this to last?' asked the inspector, suddenly. 1729 'And what is it we are watching for?'
1730 'I have no more notion than you how long it is to last,' Holmes answered with some asperity. 1731 'If criminals would always schedule their movements like railway trains it would certainly be more convenient for all of us. 1732 As to what it is we - Well, that's what we are watching for.'
1733 As he spoke the bright yellow light in the study was obscured by somebody passing to and fro before it. 1734 The laurels among which we lay were immediately opposite the window and not more than a hundred feet from it. 1735 Presently it was thrown open with a whining of hinges, and we could dimly see the dark outline of a man's head and shoulders looking out into the gloom. 1736 For some minutes he peered forth, in a furtive, stealthy fashion, as one who wishes to be assured that he is unobserved. 1737 Then he leaned forward, and in the intense silence we were aware of the soft lapping of agitated water. 1738 He seemed to be stirring up the moat with something which he held in his hand. 1739 Then suddenly he hauled something in as a fisherman lands a fish - some large, round object which obscured the light as it was dragged through the open casement.
1740 'Now!' cried Holmes. 1741 'Now!'
1742 We were all upon our feet, staggering after him with our stiffened limbs, whilst he, with one of those outflames of nervous energy which could make him on occasion both the most active and the strongest man that I have ever known, ran swiftly across the bridge and rang violently at the bell. 1743 There was the rasping of bolts from the other side, and the amazed Ames stood in the entrance. 1744 Holmes brushed him aside without a word and, followed by all of us, rushed into the room which had been occupied by the man whom we had been watching.
1745 The oil lamp on the table represented the glow which we had seen from outside. 1746 It was now in the hand of Cecil Barker, who held it towards us as we entered. 1747 Its light shone upon his strong, resolute, clean-shaven face and his menacing eyes.
1748 'What the devil is the meaning of all this?' he cried. 1749 'What are you after, anyhow?'
1750 Holmes took a swift glance round and then pounced upon a sodden bundle tied together with cord which lay where it had been thrust under the writing-table.
1751 'This is what we are after, Mr Barker. 1752 This bundle, weighted with a dumb-bell, which you have just raised from the bottom of the moat.'
1753 Barker stared at Holmes with amazement in his face. 1754 'How in thunder came you to know anything about it?' he asked.
1755 'Simply that I put it there.'
1756 'You put it there! 1757 You!'
1758 'Perhaps I should have said "replaced it there",' said Holmes. 1759 'You will remember, Inspector MacDonald, that I was somewhat struck by the absence of a dumb-bell. 1760 I drew your attention to it, but with the pressure of other events you had hardly the time to give it the consideration which would have enabled you to draw deductions from it. 1761 When water is near and a weight is missing it is not a very far-fetched supposition that something has been sunk in the water. 1762 The idea was at least worth testing, so with the help of Ames, who admitted me to the room, and the crook of Dr Watson's umbrella, I was able last night to fish up and inspect this bundle. 1763 It was of the first importance, however, that we should be able to prove who placed it there. 1764 This we accomplished by the very obvious device of announcing that the moat would be dried to-morrow, which had, of course, the effect that whoever had hidden the bundle would most certainly withdraw it the moment that darkness enabled him to do so. 1765 We have no fewer than four witnesses as to who it was who took advantage of the opportunity, and so, Mr Barker, I think the word lies now with you.'
1766 Sherlock Holmes put the sopping bundle upon the table beside the lamp and undid the cord which bound it. 1767 From within he extracted a dumb-bell, which he tossed down to its fellow in the corner. 1768 Next he drew forth a pair of boots. 1769 'American, as you perceive,' he remarked, pointing to the toes. 1770 Then he laid upon the table a long, deadly, sheathed knife. 1771 Finally he unravelled a bundle of clothing, comprising a complete set of underclothes, socks, a grey tweed suit, and a short yellow overcoat.
1772 'The clothes are commonplace,' remarked Holmes, 'save only the overcoat, which is full of suggestive touches.' 1773 He held it tenderly towards the light, whilst his long, thin fingers flickered over it. 1774 'Here, as you perceive, is the inner pocket prolonged into the lining in such a fashion as to give ample space for the truncated fowling-piece. 1775 The tailor's tab is on the neck - Neale, Outfitter, Vermissa, USA. 1776 I have spent an instructive afternoon in the rector's library, and have enlarged my knowledge by adding the fact that Vermissa is a flourishing little town at the head of one of the best-known coal and iron valleys in the United States. 1777 I have some recollection, Mr Barker, that you associated the coal districts with Mr Douglas's first wife, and it would surely not be too far-fetched an inference that the V. V. upon the card by the dead body might stand for Vermissa Valley, or that this very valley, which sends forth emissaries of murder, may be that Valley of Fear of which we have heard. 1778 So much is fairly clear. 1779 And now, Mr Barker, I seem to be standing rather in the way of your explanation.'
1780 It was a sight to see Cecil Barker's expressive face during this exposition of the great detective. 1781 Anger, amazement, consternation, and indecision swept over it in turn. 1782 Finally he took refuge in a somewhat acid irony.
1783 'You know such a lot, Mr Holmes, perhaps you had better tell us some more,' he sneered.
1784 'I have no doubt that I could tell you a great deal more, Mr Barker, but it would come with a better grace from you.'
1785 'Oh, you think so, do you? 1786 Well, all I can say is that if there's any secret here it is not my secret, and I am not the man to give it away.'
1787 'Well, if you take that line, Mr Barker,' said the inspector, quietly, 'we must just keep you in sight until we have the warrant and can hold you.'
1788 'You can do what you damn well please about that,' said Barker, defiantly.
1789 The proceedings seemed to have come to a definite end so far as he was concerned, for one had only to look at that granite face to realize that no peine forte et dure would ever force him to plead against his will. 1790 The deadlock was broken, however, by a woman's voice. 1791 Mrs Douglas had been standing listening at the half-opened door, and now she entered the room.
1792 'You have done enough for us, Cecil,' said she. 1793 'Whatever comes of it in the future, you have done enough.'
1794 'Enough and more than enough,' remarked Sherlock Holmes, gravely. 1795 'I have every sympathy with you, madam, and I should strongly urge you to have some confidence in the common sense of our jurisdiction and to take the police voluntarily into your complete confidence. 1796 It may be that I am myself at fault for not following up the hint which you conveyed to me through my friend, Dr Watson, but at that time I had every reason to believe that you were directly concerned in the crime. 1797 Now I am assured that this is not so. 1798 At the same time, there is much that is unexplained, and I should strongly recommend that you ask Mr Douglas to tell us his own story.'
1799 Mrs Douglas gave a cry of astonishment at Holmes's words. 1800 The detectives and I must have echoed it, when we were aware of a man who seemed to have emerged from the wall, and who advanced now from the gloom of the corner in which he had appeared. 1801 Mrs Douglas turned, and in an instant her arms were round him. 1802 Barker had seized his outstretched hand.
1803 'It's best this way, Jack,' his wife repeated. 1804 'I am sure that it is best.'
1805 'Indeed, yes, Mr Douglas,' said Sherlock Holmes. 1806 'I am sure that you will find it best.'
1807 The man stood blinking at us with the dazed look of one who comes from the dark into the light. 1808 It was a remarkable face - bold grey eyes, a strong, short-clipped, grizzled moustache, a square, projecting chin, and a humorous mouth. 1809 He took a good look at us all, and then, to my amazement, he advanced to me and handed me a bundle of paper.
1810 'I've heard of you,' said he, in a voice which was not quite English and not quite American, but was altogether mellow and pleasing. 1811 'You are the historian of this bunch. 1812 Well, Dr Watson, you've never had such a story as that pass through your hands before, and I'd lay my last dollar on that. 1813 Tell it your own way, but there are the facts, and you can't miss the public so long as you have those. 1814 I've been cooped up two days, and I've spent the daylight hours - as much daylight as I could get in that rat-trap - in putting the thing into words. 1815 You're welcome to them - you and your public. 1816 There's the story of the Valley of Fear.'
1817 'That's the past, Mr Douglas,' said Sherlock Holmes, quietly. 1818 'What we desire now is to hear your story of the present.'
1819 'You'll have it, sir,' said Douglas. 1820 'Can I smoke as I talk? 1821 Well, thank you, Mr Holmes; you're a smoker yourself, if I remember right, and you'll guess what it is to be sitting for two days with tobacco in your pocket and afraid that the smell will give you away.' 1822 He leaned against the mantelpiece and sucked at the cigar which Holmes had handed him. 1823 'I've heard of you, Mr Holmes; I never guessed that I would meet you. 1824 But before you are through with that' - he nodded at my papers - 'you will say I've brought you something fresh.'
1825 Inspector MacDonald had been staring at the newcomer with the greatest amazement.
1826 'Well, this fairly beats me!' he cried at last. 1827 'If you are Mr John Douglas, of Birlstone Manor, then whose death have we been investigating for these two days, and where in the world have you sprung from now? 1828 You seemed to me to come out of the floor like a Jack-in-the-box.'
1829 'Ah, Mr Mac,' said Holmes, shaking a reproving forefinger, 'you would not read that excellent local compilation which described the concealment of King Charles. 1830 People did not hide in those days without reliable hiding-places, and the hiding-place that has once been used may be again. 1831 I had persuaded myself that we should find Mr Douglas under this roof.'
1832 'And how long have you been playing this trick upon us, Mr Holmes?' said the inspector, angrily. 1833 'How long have you allowed us to waste ourselves upon a search that you knew to be an absurd one?'
1834 'Not one instant, my dear Mr Mac. 1835 Only last night did I form my views of the case. 1836 As they could not be put to the proof until this evening, I invited you and your colleague to take a holiday for the day. 1837 Pray, what more could I do? 1838 When I found the suit of clothes in the moat it at once became apparent to me that the body we had found could not have been the body of Mr John Douglas at all, but must be that of the bicyclist from Tunbridge Wells. 1839 No other conclusion was possible. 1840 Therefore I had to determine where Mr John Douglas himself could be, and the balance of probability was that, with the connivance of his wife and his friend, he was concealed in a house which had such conveniences for a fugitive, and awaiting quieter times, when he could make his final escape.'
1841 'Well, you figured it out about right,' said Mr Douglas, approvingly. 1842 'I thought I'd dodge your British law, for I was not sure how I stood under it, and also I saw my chance to throw these hounds once for all off my track. 1843 Mind you, from first to last I have done nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing that I would not do again, but you'll judge that for yourselves when I tell you my story. 1844 Never mind warning me, inspector; I'm ready to stand pat upon the truth.
1845 'I'm not going to begin at the beginning. 1846 That's all there' - he indicated my bundle of papers - 'and a mighty queer yarn you'll find it. 1847 It all comes down to this: That there are some men that have good cause to hate me and would give their last dollar to know that they had got me. 1848 So long as I am alive and they are alive, there is no safety in this world for me. 1849 They hunted me from Chicago to California; then they chased me out of America; but when I married and settled down in this quiet spot I thought my last years were going to be peaceable. 1850 I never explained to my wife how things were. 1851 Why should I pull her into it? 1852 She would never have a quiet moment again, but would be always imagining trouble. 1853 I fancy she knew something, for I may have dropped a word here or a word there - but until yesterday, after you gentlemen had seen her, she never knew the rights of the matter. 1854 She told you all she knew, and so did Barker here, for on the night when this thing happened there was mighty little time for explanations. 1855 She knows everything now, and I would have been a wiser man if I had told her sooner. 1856 But it was a hard question, dear' - he took her hand for an instant in his own - 'and I acted for the best.
1857 'Well, gentlemen, the day before these happenings I was over in Tunbridge Wells and I got a glimpse of a man in the street. 1858 It was only a glimpse, but I have a quick eye for these things, and I never doubted who it was. 1859 It was the worst enemy I had among them all - one who has been after me like a hungry wolf after a caribou all these years. 1860 I knew there was trouble coming, and I came home and made ready for it. 1861 I guessed I'd fight through it all right on my own. 1862 There was a time when my luck was the talk of the whole United States. 1863 I never doubted that it would be with me still.
1864 'I was on my guard all that next day and never went out into the park. 1865 It's as well, or he'd have had the drop on me with that buck-shot gun of his before ever I could draw on him. 1866 After the bridge was up - my mind was always more restful when that bridge was up in the evenings - I put the thing clear out of my head. 1867 I never figured on his getting into the house and waiting for me. 1868 But when I made my round in my dressing-gown, as my habit was, I had no sooner entered the study than I scented danger. 1869 I guess when a man has had dangers in his life - and I've had more than most in my time - there is a kind of sixth sense that waves the red flag. 1870 I saw the signal clear enough, and yet I couldn't tell you why. 1871 Next instant I spotted a boot under the window curtain, and then I saw why plain enough.
1872 'I'd just the one candle that was in my hand, but there was a good light from the hall lamp through the open door. 1873 I put down the candle and jumped for a hammer that I'd left on the mantel. 1874 At the same moment he sprang at me. 1875 I saw the glint of a knife and I lashed at him with the hammer. 1876 I got him somewhere, for the knife tinkled down on the floor. 1877 He dodged round the table as quick as an eel, and a moment later he'd got his gun from under his coat. 1878 I heard him cock it, but I had got hold of it before he could fire. 1879 I had it by the barrel, and we wrestled for it all ends up for a minute or more. 1880 It was death to the man that lost his grip. 1881 He never lost his grip, but he got it butt downwards for a moment too long. 1882 Maybe it was I that pulled the trigger. 1883 Maybe we just jolted it off between us. 1884 Anyhow, he got both barrels in the face, and there I was, staring down at all that was left of Ted Baldwin. 1885 I'd recognized him in the township and again when he sprang for me, but his own mother wouldn't recognize him as I saw him then. 1886 I'm used to rough work, but I fairly turned sick at the sight of him.
1887 'I was hanging on to the side of the table when Barker came hurrying down. 1888 I heard my wife coming, and I ran to the door and stopped her. 1889 It was no sight for a woman. 1890 I promised I'd come to her soon. 1891 I said a word or two to Barker - he took it all in at a glance - and we waited for the rest to come along. 1892 But there was no sign of them. 1893 Then we understood that they could hear nothing, and that all that had happened was only known to ourselves.
1894 'It was at that instant that the idea came to me. 1895 I was fairly dazzled by the brilliancy of it. 1896 The man's sleeve had slipped up and there was the branded mark of the Lodge upon his forearm. 1897 See here.'
1898 The man whom we knew as Douglas turned up his own coat and cuff to show a brown triangle within a circle exactly like that which we had seen upon the dead man.
1899 'It was the sight of that which started me on to it. 1900 I seemed to see it all clear at a glance. 1901 There was his height and hair and figure about the same as my own. 1902 No one could swear to his face, poor devil! 1903 I brought down this suit of clothes, and in a quarter of an hour Barker and I had put my dressing-gown on him and he lay as you found him. 1904 We tied all his things into a bundle, and I weighted them with the only weight I could find and slung them through the window. 1905 The card he had meant to lay upon my body was lying beside his own. 1906 My rings were put on his finger, but when it came to the wedding-ring' - he held out his muscular hand - 'you can see for yourselves that I had struck my limit. 1907 I have not moved it since the day I was married, and it would have taken a file to get it off. 1908 I don't know, anyhow, that I would have cared to part with it, but if I had wanted to I couldn't. 1909 So we just had to leave the detail to take care of itself. 1910 On the other hand, I brought a bit of plaster down and put it where I am wearing one myself at this instant. 1911 You slipped up there, Mr Holmes, clever as you are, for if you had chanced to take off that plaster you would have Found no cut underneath it.
1912 'Well, that was the situation. 1913 If I could lie low for a while and then get away where I would be joined by my wife, we would have a chance at last of living at peace for the rest of our lives. 1914 These devils would give me no rest so long as I was above-ground but if they saw in the papers that Baldwin had got his man there would be an end of all my troubles. 1915 I hadn't much time to make it clear to Barker and to my wife, but they understood enough to be able to help me. 1916 I knew all about this hiding-place, so did Ames, but it never entered his head to connect it with the matter. 1917 I retired into it, and it was up to Barker to do the rest.
1918 'I guess you can fill in for yourselves what he did. 1919 He opened the window and made the mark on the sill to give an idea of how the murderer escaped. 1920 It was a tall order, that, but as the bridge was up there was no other way. 1921 Then, when everything was fixed, he rang the bell for all he was worth. 1922 What happened afterwards you know - and so, gentlemen, you can do what you please, but I've told you the truth and the whole truth, so help me, God! 1923 What I ask you now is, how do I stand by the English law?'
1924 There was a silence, which was broken by Sherlock Holmes.
1925 'The English law is, in the main, a just law. 1926 You will get no worse than your deserts from that, Mr Douglas. 1927 But I would ask you how did this man know that you lived here, how to get into your house, or where to hide to get you?'
1928 'I know nothing of this.'
1929 Holmes's face was very white and grave.
1930 'The story is not over yet, I fear,' said he. 1931 'You may find worse dangers than the English law, or even than your enemies from America. 1932 I see trouble before you, Mr Douglas. 1933 You'll take my advice and still be on your guard.'
1934 And now, my long-suffering readers, I will ask you to come away with me for a time, far from the Sussex Manor House of Birlstone, and far also from the year of grace in which we made our eventful journey which ended with the strange story of the man who had been known as John Douglas. 1935 I wish you to journey back some twenty years in time, and westward some thousands of miles in space, that I may lay before you a singular and a terrible narrative - so singular and so terrible that you may find it hard to believe that, even as I tell it, even so did it occur.
1936 Do not think that I intrude one story before another is finished. 1937 As you read on you will find that this is not so. 1938 And when I have detailed those distant events and you have solved this mystery of the past, we shall meet once more in those rooms in Baker Street where this, like so many other wonderful happenings, will find its end.

1939 PART 2 : The Scowrers

1940 CHAPTER 1 : The Man

1941 It was the fourth of February in the year 1875. 1942 It had I been a severe winter, and the snow lay deep in the gorges of the Gilmerton Mountains. 1943 The steam plough had, however, kept the rail-track open, and the evening train which connects the long line of coal-mining and iron-working settlements was slowly groaning its way up the steep gradients which lead from Stagville on the plain to Vermissa, the central township which lies at the head of the Vermissa Valley. 1944 From this point the track sweeps downwards to Barton's Crossing, Helmdale, and the purely agricultural county of Merton. 1945 It was a single-track railroad, but at every siding - and they were numerous - long lines of trucks piled with coal and with iron ore told of the hidden wealth which had brought a rude population and a bustling life to this most desolate corner of the United States of America.
1946 For desolate it was! 1947 Little could the first pioneer who had traversed it have ever imagined that the fairest prairies and the most lush water-pastures were valueless compared with this gloomy land of black crag and tangled forest. 1948 Above the dark and often scarcely penetrable woods upon their sides, the high, bare crowns of the mountains, white snow and jagged rock, towered upon either flank, leaving a long, winding, tortuous valley in the centre. 1949 Up this the little train was slowly crawling.
1950 The oil lamps had just been lit in the leading passenger-car, a long, bare carriage in which some twenty or thirty people were seated. 1951 The greater number of these were workmen returning from their day's toil in the lower portion of the valley. 1952 At least a dozen, by their grimed faces and the safety lanterns which they carried, proclaimed themselves as miners. 1953 These sat smoking in a group, and conversed in low voices, glancing occasionally at two men on the opposite side of the car, whose uniform and badges showed them to be policemen.
1954 Several women of the labouring class, and one or two travellers who might have been small local storekeepers, made up the rest of the company, with the exception of one young man in a corner by himself. 1955 It is with this man that we are concerned. 1956 Take a good look at him, for he is worth it.
1957 He is a fresh-complexioned, middle-sized young man, not far, one would guess, from his thirtieth year. 1958 He has large, shrewd, humorous grey eyes which twinkle inquiringly from time to time as he looks round through his spectacles at the people about him. 1959 It is easy to see that he is of a sociable and possibly simple disposition, anxious to be friendly to all men. 1960 Anyone could pick him at once as gregarious in his habits and communicative in his nature, with a quick wit and a ready smile. 1961 And yet the man who studied him more closely might discern a certain firmness of jaw and grim tightness about the lips which would warn him that there were depths beyond, and that this pleasant, brown-haired young Irishman might conceivably leave his mark for good or evil upon any society to which he was introduced.
1962 Having made one or two tentative remarks to the nearest miner, and received only short, gruff replies, the traveller resigned himself to uncongenial silence, staring moodily out of the window at the fading landscape.
1963 It was not a cheering prospect. 1964 Through the growing gloom there pulsed the red glow of the furnaces on the sides of the hills. 1965 Great heaps of slag and dumps of cinders loomed up on each side, with the high shafts of the collieries towering above them. 1966 Huddled groups of mean, wooden houses, the windows of which were beginning to outline themselves in light, were scattered here and there along the line, and the frequent halting-places were crowded with their swarthy inhabitants.
1967 The iron and coal valleys of the Vermissa district were no resorts for the leisured or the cultured. 1968 Everywhere there were stern signs of the crudest battle of life, the rude work to be done, and the rude, strong workers who did it.
1969 The young traveller gazed out into this dismal country with a face of mingled repulsion and interest, which showed that the scene was new to him. 1970 At intervals he drew from his pocket a bulky letter to which he referred, and on the margins of which he scribbled some notes. 1971 Once from the back of his waist he produced something which one would hardly have expected to find in the possession of so mild- mannered a man. 1972 It was a navy revolver of the largest size. 1973 As he turned it slantwise to the light, the glint upon the rims of the copper shells within the drum showed that it was fully loaded. 1974 He quickly restored it to his secret pocket, but not before it had been observed by a working man who had seated himself upon the adjoining bench.
1975 'Hullo, Mate!' said he. 1976 'You seem heeled and ready.' 1977 The young man smiled with an air of embarrassment. 1978 'Yes,' said he, 'we need them sometimes in the place I come from.'
1979 'And where may that be?'
1980 'I'm last from Chicago.'
1981 'A stranger in these parts?'
1982 'Yes.'
1983 'You may find you need it here,' said the workman. 1984 'Ah! 1985 Is that so?' 1986 The young man seemed interested. 1987 'Have you heard nothing of doings hereabouts?'
1988 'Nothing out of the way.'
1989 'Why, I thought the country was full of it. 1990 You'll hear quick enough. 1991 What made you come here?'
1992 'I heard there was always work for a willing man.'
1993 'Are you a member of the union?'
1994 'Sure.'
1995 'Then you'll get your job, I guess. 1996 Have you any friends?' 1997 'Not yet, but I have the means of making them.'
1998 'How's that, then?'
1999 'I am one of the Ancient Order of Freemen. 2000 There's no town without a lodge, and where there is a lodge I'll find my friends.'
2001 The remark had a singular effect upon his companion. 2002 He glanced round suspiciously at the others in the car. 2003 The miners were still whispering among themselves. 2004 The two police-officers were dozing. 2005 He came across, seated himself close to the young traveller, and held out his hand.
2006 'Put it there,' he said.
2007 A hand-grip passed between the two.
2008 'I see you speak the truth. 2009 But it's well to make certain.' 2010 He raised his right hand to his right eyebrow. 2011 The traveller at once raised his left hand to his left eyebrow.
2012 'Dark nights arc unpleasant,' said the workman. 2013 'Yes, for strangers to travel,' the other answered.
2014 'That's good enough. 2015 I'm Brother Scanlan, Lodge 341, Vermissa Valley. 2016 Glad to see you in these parts.'
2017 'Thank you. 2018 I'm Brother John McMurdo, Lodge 29, Chicago. 2019 Bodymaster, J. H. Scott. 2020 But I am in luck to meet a brother so early.'
2021 'Well, there are plenty of us about. 2022 You won't find the Order more flourishing anywhere in the States than right here in Vermissa Valley. 2023 But we could do with some lads like you. 2024 I can't understand a spry man of the union finding no work to do in Chicago.'
2025 'I found plenty of work to do,' said McMurdo.
2026 'Then why did you leave?'
2027 McMurdo nodded towards the policemen and smiled. 2028 'I guess those chaps would be glad to know,' he said. 2029 Scanlan groaned sympathetically. 2030 'In trouble?' he asked in a whisper.
2031 'Deep.'
2032 'A penitentiary job?'
2033 'And the rest.'
2034 'Not a killing!'
2035 'It's early days to talk of such things,' said McMurdo, with the air of a man who had been surprised into saying more than he intended. 2036 'I've my own good reasons for leaving Chicago, and let that be enough for you. 2037 Who are you that you should take it on yourself to ask such things?' 2038 His grey eyes gleamed with sudden and dangerous anger from behind his glasses.
2039 'All right, Mate. 2040 No offence meant. 2041 The boys will think none the worse of you whatever you may have done. 2042 Where are you bound for now?'
2043 'Vermissa.'
2044 'That's the third halt down the Line. 2045 Where are you staying?'
2046 McMurdo took out an envelope and held it close to the murky oil lamp. 2047 'Here is the address - Jacob Shafter, Sheridan Street. 2048 It's a boarding-house that was recommended by a man I knew in Chicago.'
2049 'Well, I don't know it, but Vermissa is out of my beat. 2050 I live at Hobson's Patch, and that's here where we are drawing up. 2051 But, say, there's one bit of advice give you before we part: 2052 If you're in trouble in Vermissa, go straight to the Union House and see Boss McGinty. 2053 He is the bodymaster of Vermissa Lodge, and nothing can happen in these parts unless Black Jack McGinty wants it. 2054 So long, Mate. 2055 Maybe we'll meet in Lodge one of these evenings. 2056 But mind my words: 2057 If you are in trouble, go to Boss McGinty.'
2058 Scanlan descended, and McMurdo was left once again to his thoughts. 2059 Night had now fallen, and the flames of the frequent furnaces were roaring and leaping in the darkness. 2060 Against their lurid background dark figures were bending and straining, twisting, and turning, with the motion of winch or of windlass, to the rhythm of an eternal clank and roar.
2061 'I guess hell must look something like that,' said a voice.
2062 McMurdo turned and saw that one of the policemen had shifted in his seat and was staring out into the fiery waste.
2063 Tor that matter,' said the other policeman, 'I allow that hell must be something like that. 2064 If there are worse devils down yonder than some we could name, it's more than I'd expect. 2065 I guess you are new to this part, young man?'
2066 'Well, what if I am?' McMurdo answered, in a surly voice.
2067 'Just this, Mister; that I should advise you to be careful in choosing your friends. 2068 I don't think I'd begin with Mike Scanlan or his gang if I were you.'
2069 'What the hell is it to you who are my friends?' 2070 roared McMurdo, in a voice which brought every head in the carriage round to witness the altercation. 2071 'Did I ask you for your advice, or did you think me such a sucker that couldn't move without it? 2072 You speak when you are spoken to, and by the Lord you'd have to wait a long time if it was me!' 2073 He thrust out his face, and grinned at the patrolmen like a snarling dog.
2074 The two policemen, heavy, good-natured men, were taken aback by the extraordinary vehemence with which their friendly advances had been rejected.
2075 'No offence, Stranger,' said one. 2076 'It was a warning for your own good, seeing that you are, by your own showing, new to the place.'
2077 'I'm new to the place; but I'm not new to you and your kind!' cried McMurdo, in a cold fury. 2078 'I guess you're the same in all places, shoving your advice in when nobody asks for it.'
2079 'Maybe we'll see more of you before very long,' said one of the patrolmen, with a grin. 2080 'You're a real hand-picked one, if I am a judge.'
2081 'I was thinking the same,' remarked the other. 2082 'I guess we may meet again.'
2083 'I'm not afraid of you, and don't you think it!' cried McMurdo. 2084 'My name's Jack McMurdo - see? 2085 If you want me you'll find me at Jacob Shafter's, on Sheridan Street, Vermissa; so I'm not hiding from you, am I? 2086 Day or night dare to look the like of you in the face - don't make any mistake about that.'
2087 There was a murmur of sympathy and admiration from the miners at the dauntless demeanour of the new-corner, while the two policemen shrugged their shoulders and renewed a conversation between themselves.
2088 A few minutes later the train ran into the ill-lit station and there was a general clearing, for Vermissa was by far the largest town on the line. 2089 McMurdo picked up his leather grip-sack, and was about to start off into the darkness, when one of the miners accosted hi.
2090 'By Gar, Mate, you know how to speak to the cops,' he said, in a voice of awe. 2091 'It was grand to hear you. 2092 Let me carry your grip and show you the road. 2093 I'm passing Shafter's on the way to my own shack.'
2094 There was a chorus of friendly 'Good-nights' from the other miners as they passed from the platform. 2095 Before ever he had set foot in it, McMurdo the turbulent had become a character in Vermissa.
2096 The country had been a place of terror, but the town was in its way even more depressing. 2097 Down that long valley there was at least a certain gloomy grandeur in the huge fires and the clouds of drifting smoke, while the strength and industry of man found fitting monuments in the hills which he had spilled by the side of his monstrous excavations. 2098 But the town showed a dead level of mean ugliness and squalor. 2099 The broad street was churned up by the traffic into a horrible rutted paste of muddy snow. 2100 The sidewalks were narrow and uneven. 2101 The numerous gas-lamps served only to show more clearly a long line of wooden houses, each with its veranda facing the street, unkempt and dirty.
2102 As they approached the centre of the town, the scene was brightened by a row of well-lit stores, and even more by a cluster of liquor saloons and gaming-houses, in which the miners spent their hard-earned but generous wages.
2103 'That's the Union House,' said the guide, pointing to one saloon which rose almost to the dignity of being an hotel. 2104 'Jack McGinty is the Boss there.'
2105 'What sort of a man is he?' McMurdo asked.
2106 'What! 2107 Have you never heard of the Boss?'
2108 'How could I have heard of him when you know that am a stranger in these parts?'
2109 'Well, I thought his name was known clear across the country. 2110 It's been in the papers often enough.'
2111 'What for?'
2112 'Well' - the miner lowered his voice - 'over the affairs.' 2113 'What affairs?'
2114 'Good Lord, Mister! you are queer, if I must say it without offence. 2115 There's only one set of affairs that you'll hear of in these parts, and that's the affairs of the Scowrers.'
2116 'Why, I seem to have read of the Scowrers in Chicago. 2117 A gang of murderers, are they not?'
2118 'Hush, on your life!' cried the miner, standing still in his alarm, and gazing in amazement at his companion. 2119 'Man, you won't live long in these parts if you speak in the open street like that. 2120 Many a man has had the life beaten out of him for less.'
2121 'Well, I know nothing about them. 2122 It's only what I have read.'
2123 'And I'm not saying that you have not read the truth.' 2124 The man looked nervously round him as he spoke, peering into the shadows as if he feared to see some lurking danger. 2125 'If killing is murder, then God knows there is murder and to spare. 2126 But don't you dare breathe the name of Jack McGinty in connection with it, Stranger; for every whisper goes back to him, and he is not one that is likely to let it pass. 2127 Now, that's the house you're after, that one standing back from the street. 2128 You'll find old Jacob Shafter that runs it as honest a man as lives in this township.'
2129 'I thank you,' said McMurdo, and shaking hands with his new acquaintance he plodded, his grip-sack in his hand, up the path which led to the dwelling-house, at the door of which he gave a resounding knock. 2130 It was opened at once by someone very different from what he had expected.
2131 It was a woman, young and singularly beautiful. 2132 She was of the German type, blonde and fair-haired, with the piquant contrast of a pair of beautiful dark eyes; with which she surveyed the stranger with surprise and a pleasing embarrassment which brought a wave of colour over her pale face. 2133 Framed in the bright light of the open doorway, it seemed to McMurdo that he had never seen a more beautiful picture, the more attractive for its contrast with the sordid and gloomy surroundings. 2134 A lovely violet growing upon one of those black slag-heaps of the mines would not have seemed more surprising. 2135 So entranced was he that he stood staring without a word, and it was she who broke the silence.
2136 'I thought it was father,' said she, with a pleasing little touch of a German accent. 2137 'Did you come to see him? 2138 He is down town. 2139 I expect him back every minute.'
2140 McMurdo continued to gaze at her in open admiration until her eyes dropped in confusion before this masterful visitor.
2141 'No, miss,' he said at last; 'I'm in no hurry to see him. 2142 But your house was recommended to me for board. 2143 I thought it might suit me - and now I know it will.'
2144 'You are quick to make up your mind,' said she, with a smile.
2145 'Anyone but a blind man could do as much,' the other answered.
2146 She laughed at the compliment.
2147 'Come right in, sir,' she said. 2148 'I'm Miss Ettie Shafter, Mr Shafter's daughter. 2149 My mother's dead, and I run the house. 2150 You can sit down by the stove in the front room until father comes along - Ah, here he is! 2151 So you can fix things with him right away.'
2152 A heavy, elderly man came plodding up the path. 2153 In a few words McMurdo explained his business. 2154 A man of the name of Murphy had given him the address in Chicago. 2155 He in turn had had it from someone else. 2156 Old Shafter was quite ready. 2157 The stranger made no bones about terms, agreed at once to every condition, and was apparently fairly flush of money. 2158 For seven dollars a week, paid in advance, he was to have board and lodging. 2159 So it was that McMurdo, the self-confessed fugitive from justice, took up his abode under the roof of the Shafters, the first step which was to lead to so long and dark a train of events, ending in a far distant land.

2160 CHAPTER 2 : The Bodymaster

2161 McMurdo was a man who made his mark quickly. 2162 Wherever he was the folk around soon knew it. 2163 Within a week he had become infinitely the most important person at Shafter's. 2164 There were ten or a dozen boarders there, but they were honest foremen or commonplace clerks from the stores, of a very different calibre to the young Irishman. 2165 Of an evening when they gathered together his joke was always the readiest, his conversation the brightest, and his song the best. 2166 He was a born boon companion, with a magnetism which drew good humour from all around him.
2167 And yet he showed again and again, as he had shown in the railway-carriage, a capacity for sudden, fierce anger which compelled the respect and even the fear of those who met him. 2168 For the law, too, and all connected with it, he exhibited a bitter contempt which delighted some and alarmed others of his fellow-boarders.
2169 From the first he made it evident, by his open admiration, that the daughter of the house had won his heart from the instant that he had set eyes upon her beauty and her grace. 2170 He was no backward suitor. 2171 On the second day he told her that he loved her, and from then onwards he repeated the same story with an absolute disregard of what she might say to discourage him.
2172 'Someone else?' he would cry. 2173 'Well, the worse luck for someone else! 2174 Let him look out for himself!. 2175 Am I to lose my life's chance and all my heart's desire for someone else? 2176 You can keep on saying no, Ettie! 2177 The day will come when you will say yes, and I'm young enough to wait.'
2178 He was a dangerous suitor, with his glib Irish tongue and his pretty, coaxing ways. 2179 There was about him also that glamour of experience and of mystery which attracts a woman's interest and finally her love. 2180 He could talk of the sweet valleys of County Monaghan from which he came, of the lovely distant island, the low hills and green meadows of which seemed the more beautiful when imagination viewed them from this place of grime and snow.2181 Then he was versed in the life of the cities of the North, of Detroit and the lumber-camps of Michigan, of Buffalo, and finally of Chicago, where he had worked in a planing mill. 2182 And afterwards came the hint of romance, the feeling that strange things had happened to him in that great city, so strange and so intimate that they might not be spoken of. 2183 He spoke wistfully of a sudden leaving, a breaking of old tics, a flight into a strange world ending in this dreary valley, and Ettie listened, her dark eyes gleaming with pity and with sympathy - those two qualities which may turn so rapidly and so naturally to love.

2184 McMurdo had obtained a temporary job as a book-keeper, for he was a well-educated man. 2185 This kept him out most of the day, and he had not found occasion yet to report himself to the head of the Lodge of the Ancient Order of Freemen. 2186 He was reminded of his omission, however, by a visit one evening from Mike Scanlan, the fellow-member whom he had met in the train. 2187 Scanlan, a small, sharp-faced, nervous, black-eyed man, seemed glad to see him once more. 2188 After a glass or two of whiskey, he broached the object of his visit.
2189 Say, McMurdo,' said he, 'I remembered your address, so I made bold to cal I'm surprised that you've not reported to the Bodymaster. 2190 Why haven't you seen Boss McGinty yet?'
2191 'Well, I had to find a job. 2192 I have been busy.'
2193 'You must find time for him if you have none for anything else. 2194 Good Lord, man! you're a fool not to have been down to the Union House and registered your name the first morning after you came here! 2195 If you run against him - well, you mustn't - that's all!'
2196 McMurdo showed mild surprise. 2197 I've been a member of Lodge for over two years, Scanlan, but I never heard that duties were so pressing as all that.'
2198 'Maybe not in Chicago.'
2199 'Well, it's the same society here.'
2200 'Is it?' 2201 Scanlan looked at him long and fixedly. 2202 There was something sinister in his eyes.
2203 'Isn't it?'
2204 'You'll tell me that in a month's time. 2205 I hear you had a talk with the patrolmen after I left the train.'
2206 'How did you know that?'
2207 'Oh, it got about - things do get about for good and for bad in this district.'
2208 'Well, yes. 2209 I told the hounds what I thought of them.'
2210 'By the Lord, you'll be a man after McGinty's heart!'
2211 'What - does he hate the police, too?'
2212 Scanlan burst out laughing.
2213 'You go and see him, my lad,' said he, as he took his leave. 2214 'It's not the police but you that he'll hate if you don't! 2215 Now, take a friend's advice and go at once!'

2216 It chanced that on the same evening McMurdo had another more pressing interview which urged him in the same direction. 2217 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 to the subject without any circumlocution.
2218 'It seems to me, Mister,' said he, 'that you are gettin' set on my Ettie. 2219 Ain't that so, or am I wrong?'
2220 'Yes, that is so,' the young man answered.
2221 'Vell, I want to tell you right now that it ain't no manner of use. 2222 There's someone slipped in afore you.'
2223 'She told me so.'
2224 'Vell, you can lay that she told you truth! 2225 But did she tell you who it vas?'
2226 'No; I asked her, but she wouldn't tell.'
2227 'I dare say not, the leetle baggage! 2228 Perhaps she did not vish to frighten you avay.'
2229 'Frighten!' 2230 McMurdo was on fire in a moment.
2231 'Ah, yes, my friend! 2232 You need not be ashamed to be frightened of him. 2233 It is Teddy Baldwin.'
2234 'And who the devil is he?'
2235 'He is a Boss of Scowrers.'
2236 'Scowrers! 2237 I've heard of them before. 2238 It's Scowrers here and Scowrers there, and always in a whisper! 2239 What are you all afraid of? 2240 Who are the Scowrers?'
2241 The boarding-house keeper instinctively sank his voice, as everyone did who talked about the terrible society.
2242 The Scowrers,' said he, 'are the Ancient Order of Freemen.'
2243 The young man started. 2244 'Why, I am a member of that Order myself.'
2245 'You! 2246 I would never have had you in my house if I had known it - not if you vere to pay me a hundred dollar a veek.'
2247 'What's amiss with the Order? 2248 It's for charity and good fellowship. 2249 The rules say so.'
2250 'Maybe in some places. 2251 Not here!'
2252 'What is it here?'
2253 'It's a murder society, that's vat it is.'
2254 McMurdo laughed incredulously.
2255 'How do you prove that?' he asked.
2256 'Prove it! 2257 Are there not fifty murders to prove it? 2258 Vat about Milman and Van Shorst, and the Nicholson family, and old Mr Hyam, and little Billy James, and the others? 2259 Prove it! 2260 Is there a man or a voman in this valley vhat does not know it?'
2261 'See here!' said McMurdo earnestly. 2262 'I want you to take back what you've said or else make it good. 2263 One or the other you must do before I quit this room. 2264 Put yourself in my place. 2265 Here am I, a stranger in the town. 2266 I belong to a society that I know only as an innocent one. 2267 You'll find it through the length and breadth of the States, but always as an innocent one. 2268 Now, when I am counting upon joining it here, you tell me that it is the same as a murder society called the "Scowrers". 2269 I guess you owe me either an apology or else an explanation, Mr Shafter.'
2270 'I can but tell you vat the whole vorld knows, Mister. 2271 The bosses of the one are the bosses of the other. 2272 If you offend the one, it is the other vhat vill strike you. 2273 We have proved it too often.'
2274 'That's just gossip - I want proof!' said McMurdo.
2275 'If you live here long you vill get your prod. 2276 But I forget that you are yourself one of them. 2277 You vill soon be as bad as the rest. 2278 But you vill find other lodgings, Mister. 2279 I cannot have you here. 2280 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? 2281 Yes, indeed, you shall not sleep here after to-night!'

2282 So McMurdo found himself under sentence of banishment both from his comfortable quarters and from the girl whom he loved. 2283 He found her alone in the sitting-room that same evening, and he poured his troubles into her ear.
2284 Sure, your father is after giving me notice,' he said. 2285 little I would care if it was just my room, but indeed, Ettie, though it's only a week that I've known you, you are the very breath of life to me, and I can't live without you.'
2286 'Oh, hush, Mr McMurdo! 2287 Don't speak so!' said the girl. 2288 'I have told you, have I not, that you are too late? 2289 There is another, and if I have not promised to marry him at once, at least I can promise no one else.'
2290 'Suppose I had been first, Ettie, would I have had a chance?' 2291 The girl sank her face into her hands. 2292 'I wish to Heaven that you had been first,' she sobbed.
2293 McMurdo was down on his knees before her in an instant. 2294 'For God's sake, Ettie, let it stand at that!' he cried. 2295 'Will you ruin your life and my own for the sake of this promise? 2296 Follow your heart, acushla! 2297 'Tis a safer guide than any promise given before you knew what it was that you were saying.'
2298 He had seized Ettie's white hand between his own strong brown ones.
2299 'Say that you will be mine and we will face it out together!'
2300 'Not here?'
2301 'Yes, here.'
2302 'No, no Jack!' 2303 His arms were round her now. 2304 'It could not be here. 2305 Could you take me away?'
2306 A struggle passed for a moment over McMurdo's face, but it ended by setting like granite. 2307 'No, here,' he said. 2308 'I'll hold you against the world, Ettie, right here where we are!'
2309 'Why should we not leave together?'
2310 'No, Ettie, I can't leave here.'2311 'But why?'
2312 'I'd never hold my head up again if I felt that I had been driven out. 2313 Besides, what is there to be afraid of? 2314 Are we not free folks in a free country? 2315 If you love me and I you, who will dare to come between?'
2316 'You don't know, Jack. 2317 You've been here too short a time. 2318 You don't know this Baldwin. 2319 You don't know McGinty and his Scowrers.'
2320 'No, I don't know them, and I don't fear them, and I don't believe in them!' said McMurdo. 2321 'I've lived among rough men, my darling, and instead of fearing them it has always ended that they have feared me - always, Ettie. 2322 It's mad on the face of it! 2323 If these men, as your father says, have done crime after crime in the valley, and if every one knows them by name, how comes it that none are brought to justice? 2324 You answer me that, Ettie!'
2325 'Because no witness dares to appear against them. 2326 He would not live a month if he did. 2327 Also because they have always their own men to swear that the accused one was far from the scene of the crime. 2328 But surely, Jack, you must have read all this. 2329 I had understood that every paper in the United States was writing about it.'
2330 'Well, I have read something, it is true, but I had thought it was a story. 2331 Maybe these men have some reason in what they do. 2332 Maybe they are wronged and have no other way to help themselves.'
2333 'Oh, Jack, don't let me hear you speak so! 2334 That is how he speaks - the other one!'
2335 'Baldwin - he speaks like that, does he?'
2336 'And that is why I loathe him so. 2337 Oh, Jack, now I can tell you the truth, I loathe him with all my heart; but I fear him also. 2338 I fear him for myself, but, above all, I fear him for Father. 2339 I know that some great sorrow would come upon us if I dared to say what I really felt. 2340 That is why I have put him off with half-promises. 2341 It was in real truth our only hope. 2342 But if you would fly with me, Jack, we could take Father with us and live for ever far from the power of these wicked men.'
2343 Again there was a struggle upon McMurdo's face, and again it set like granite. 2344 'No harm shall come to you, Ettie - nor to your father either. 2345 As to wicked men, I expect you may find that I am as bad as the worst of them before we're through.'
2346 'No, no, Jack! 2347 I would trust you anywhere.'
2348 McMurdo laughed bitterly. 2349 'Good Lord! how little you know of me! 2350 Your innocent soul, my darling, could not even guess what is passing in mine. 2351 But, hullo, who's the visitor?'
2352 The door had opened suddenly and a young fellow came swaggering in with the air of one who is the master. 2353 He was a handsome, dashing young man of about the same age and build as McMurdo himself. 2354 Under his broad-brimmed block felt hat, which he had not troubled to remove, a handsome face, with fierce, domineering eyes and curved hawk-bill of a nose, looked savagely at the pair who sat by the stove.
2355 Ettie had jumped to her feet, full of confusion and alarm. 2356 'I'm glad to see you, Mr Baldwin,' said she. 2357 'You're earlier than I had thought. 2358 Come and sit down.'
2359 Baldwin stood with his hands on his hips looking at McMurdo. 2360 'Who is this?' he asked curtly.
2361 'It's a friend of mine, Mr Baldwin, a new boarder here. 2362 Mr McMurdo, may I introduce you to Mr Baldwin?'
2363 The young men nodded in surly fashion to each other.
2364 'Maybe Miss Ettie has told you how it is with us?' said Baldwin.
2365 'I didn't understand that there was any relation between you.'
2366 'Didn't you? 2367 Well, you can understand it now. 2368 You can take it from me that this young lady is mine, and you'll find it a very fine evening for a walk.'
2369 'Thank you, I am in no humour for a walk.'
2370 'Aren't you?' 2371 The man's savage eyes were blazing with anger. 2372 'Maybe you are in a humour for a fight, Mr Boarder!'
2373 'That I am!' cried McMurdo, springing to his feet. 2374 'You never said a more welcome word.'
2375 'For God's sake, Jack! 2376 Oh, for God's sake!' cried poor, distracted Ettie. 2377 'Oh, Jack, Jack, he will hurt you!'
2378 'Oh, it's "Jack", is it!' said Baldwin with an oath. 2379 'You've come to that already, have you?'
2380 'Oh, Ted, be reasonable - be kind! 2381 For my sake, Ted, if ever you loved me, be big-hearted and forgiving!'
2382 'I think, Ettie, that if you were to leave us alone we could get this thing settled,' said McMurdo, quietly. 2383 'Or maybe, Mr Baldwin, you will take a turn down the street with me. 2384 It's a fine evening, and there's some open ground beyond the next block.'
2385 'I'll get even with you without needing to dirty my hands,' said his enemy. 2386 'You'll wish you had never set foot in this house before I am through with you.'
2387 'No time like the present,' cried McMurdo.
2388 'I'll choose my own time, Mister. 2389 You can leave the time to me. 2390 See here!' 2391 He suddenly rolled up his sleeve and showed upon his forearm a peculiar sign which appeared to have been branded there. 2392 It was a circle with a triangle within it. 2393 'D'you know what that means?'
2394 'I neither know nor core!'
2395 'Well, you will know. 2396 I'll promise you that. 2397 You won't be much older, either. 2398 Perhaps Miss Ettie can tell you something about it. 2399 As to you, Ettie, you'll come back to me on your knees - D'ye hear, girl? - On your knees! - And then I'll tell you what your punishment may be. 2400 You've sowed - and by the Lord, I'll see that you reap!' 2401 He glared at them both in fury. 2402 Then he turned upon his heel, and an instant later the outer door had banged behind him.
2403 For a few moments McMurdo and the girl stood in silence. 2404 Then she threw her arms around him.
2405 'Oh, Jack, how brave you were! 2406 But it is no use - you must fly! 2407 To-night - Jack - to-night! 2408 It's your only hope. 2409 He will have your life. 2410 I read it in his horrible eyes. 2411 What chance have you against a dozen of them, with Boss McGinty and all the power of the Lodge behind them?'
2412 McMurdo disengaged her hands, kissed her, and gently pushed her back into a chair. 2413 'There, acushla, there! 2414 Don't be disturbed or fear for me. 2415 I'm a Freeman myself. 2416 I'm after telling your father about it. 2417 Maybe I am no better than the others; so don't make a saint of me. 2418 Perhaps you hate me too, now that I've told you as much.'
2419 'Hate you, Jack? 2420 While life lasts I could never do that! 2421 I've heard that there is no harm in being a Freeman anywhere but here; so why should I think the worse of you for that? 2422 But if you are a Freeman, Jack, why should you not go down and make a friend of Boss McGinty? 2423 Oh, hurry, Jack, hurry! 2424 Get your word in first, or the hounds will be on your trail.'
2425 'I was thinking the same thing,' said McMurdo. 2426 'I'll go right now and fix it. 2427 You can tell your father that I'll sleep here to-night and find some other quarters in the morning.'
2428 The bar of McGinty's saloon was crowded as usual, for it was the favourite loafing place of all the rougher elements of the town. 2429 The man was popular, for he had a rough, jovial disposition which formed a mask, covering a great deal which lay behind it. 2430 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 upon either side of it, was enough in itself to fill his bar, for none could afford to neglect his goodwill.
2431 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 for roads, elected to the office through the votes of the ruffians who in turn expected to receive favours at his hands. 2432 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.
2433 Thus it was that, year by year, Boss McGinty's 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.
2434 McMurdo pushed open the swinging door of the saloon and made his way amid the crowd of men within, through an atmosphere which was blurred with tobacco smoke and heavy with the smell of spirits. 2435 The place was brilliantly lighted, and the huge, heavily gilt min-ors upon every wall reflected and multiplied the garish illumination. 2436 There were several bar-tenders in their shirt-sleeves hard at work, mixing drinks for the loungers who fringed the broad, brass- trimmed counter.
2437 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, there stood a tall, strong, heavily built man, who could be none other than the famous McGinty himself. 2438 He was a black-maned giant, bearded to the cheek-bones, and with a shock of raven hair which fell to his collar. 2439 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.
2440 All else in the man - his noble proportions, his fine features, and his frank bearing fitted in with that jovial man-to-man manner which he affected. 2441 Here, one would say, is a bluff, honest fellow, whose heart would be sound, however rude his outspoken words might seem. 2442 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.
2443 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. 2444 The young stranger's bold grey eyes looked back fearlessly through their glasses at the deadly black ones which turned sharply upon him.
2445 'Well, young man. 2446 I can't call your face to mind.'
2447 'I'm new here, Mr McGinty.'
2448 'You are not so new that you can't give a gentleman his proper title.'
2449 'He's Councillor McGinty, young man,' said a voice from the group.
2450 'I'm sorry, Councillor. 2451 I'm strange to the ways of the place. 2452 But I was advised to see you.'
2453 'Well, you see me. 2454 This is all there is. 2455 What d'you think of me?'
2456 'Well, it's early days. 2457 If your heart is as big as your body, and your soul as fine as your face, then I'd ask for nothing better,' said McMurdo.
2458 'By Gad you've got an Irish tongue in your head, anyhow,' cried the saloon-keeper, not quite certain whether to humour this audacious visitor or to stand upon his dignity. 2459 'So you are good enough to pass my appearance?'
2460 'Sure,' said McMurdo.
2461 'And you were told to see me?'
2462 'I was.'
2463 'And who told you?'
2464 'Brother Scanlan, of Lodge 341, Vermissa. 2465 I drink your health, Councillor, and to our better acquaintance.' 2466 He raised a glass with which he had been served to his lips and elevated his little finger as he drank it.
2467 McGinty, who had been watching him narrowly, raised his thick black eyebrows.
2468 'Oh, it's like that, is it?' said he. 2469 'I'll have to look a bit closer into this, Mister-'
2470 'McMurdo.'
2471 'A bit closer, Mr McMurdo; for we don't take folk on trust in these parts, nor believe all we're told neither. 2472 Come in here for a moment, behind the bar.'
2473 There was a small room there, lined round with barrels. 2474 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. 2475 For a couple of minutes he sat in complete silence. 2476 McMurdo bore the inspection cheerfully, one hand in his coat-pocket, the other twisting his brown moustache. 2477 Suddenly McGinty stooped and produced a wicked-looking revolver.
2478 'See here, my joker,' said he, 'if I thought you were playing any game on us, it would be a short shrift for you.'
2479 'This is a strange welcome,' McMurdo answered, with some dignity, 'for the bodymaster of a Lodge of Freemen to give to a stranger brother.'
2480 'Aye, but it's just that same that you have to prove,' said McGinty, 'and God help you if you fail. 2481 Where were you made?'
2482 'Lodge 29, Chicago.'
2483 'When?'
2484 'June 24th, 1872.'
2485 'What bodymaster?'
2486 'James H. Scott.'
2487 'Who is your district ruler?'
2488 'Bartholomew Wilson.'
2489 'Hum! 2490 You seem glib enough in your tests. 2491 What are you doing here?'
2492 'Working, the same as you - but a poorer job.'
2493 'You have your back answer quick enough.'
2494 'Yes, I was always quick of speech.'
2495 'Are you quick of action?'
2496 'I have had that name among those who knew me best.' 2497 'Well, we may try you sooner than you think. 2498 Have you heard anything of the Lodge in these parts?'
2499 'I've heard that it takes a man to be a brother.'
2500 'True for you, Mr McMurdo. 2501 Why did you leave Chicago?' 2502 'I'm damned if I tell you that.'
2503 McGinty opened his eyes. 2504 He was not used to being answered in such fashion, and it amused him. 2505 'Why won't you tell me?'
2506 'Because no brother may tell another a lie.'
2507 'Then the truth is too bad to tell?'
2508 'You can put it that way if you like.'
2509 'See here, Mister, you can't expect me, as Bodymaster, to pass into the Lodge a man for whose past he can't answer.'
2510 McMurdo looked puzzled. 2511 Then he took a worn newspaper-cutting from an inner pocket.
2512 'You wouldn't squeal on a fellow?' said he.
2513 wipe my hand across your face if you say such words to me!' cried McGinty hotly.
2514 'You are right, Councillor,' said McMurdo meekly. 2515 'I should apologize. 2516 I spoke without thought. 2517 Well, I know that I am safe in your hands. 2518 Look at that clipping.'
2519 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.
2520 'Your work?' he asked, as he handed back the paper. 2521 McMurdo nodded.
2522 'Why did you shoot him?'
2523 'I was helping Uncle Sam to make dollars. 2524 Maybe mine were not as good gold as his, but they looked as well and were cheaper to make. 2525 This man Pinto helped me to shove the queer-'
2526 'To do what?'
2527 'Well, it means to pass the dollars out into circulation. 2528 Then he said he would split. 2529 Maybe he did split. 2530 I didn't wait to see. 2531 I just killed him and lighted out for the coal country.'
2532 'Why the coal country?'
2533 'Cause I'd read in the papers that they weren't too particular in those parts.'
2534 McGinty laughed. 2535 'You were first a coiner and then a murderer, and you came to these parts because you thought you'd be welcome?'
2536 'That's about the size of it,' McMurdo answered.
2537 'Well, I guess you'll go far. 2538 Say, can you make those dollars yet?'
2539 McMurdo took half a dozen from his pocket. 2540 'Those never passed the Philadelphia mint,' said he.
2541 'You don't say!' 2542 McGinty held them to the light in his enormous hand, which was as hairy as a gorilla's. 2543 'I can see no difference! 2544 Gar! you'll be a mighty useful brother, I'm thinking! 2545 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. 2546 We'd soon be against the wall if we didn't shove back at those that were pushing us.'
2547 'Well, I guess I'll do my share of shoving with the rest of the boys.'
2548 'You seem to have a good nerve. 2549 You didn't squirm when I put this pistol on you.'
2550 'It was not me that was in danger.'
2551 'Who, then?'
2552 'It was you, Councillor.' 2553 McMurdo drew a cocked pistol from the side-pocket of his pea-jacket. 2554 'I was covering you all the time. 2555 I guess my shot would have been as quick as yours.'
2556 'By Gar!' 2557 McGinty flushed an angry red and then burst into a roar of laughter.
2558 'Say, we've had no such holy terror come to hand this many a year. 2559 I reckon the Lodge will learn to be proud of you. 2560 Well, what the hell do you want? 2561 And can't I speak alone with a gentleman for five minutes but you must butt in upon us?'
2562 The bar-tender stood abashed.
2563 'I'm sorry, Councillor, but it's Ted Baldwin. 2564 He says he must see you this very minute.'
2565 The message was unnecessary, for the set, cruel face of the man himself was looking over the servant's shoulder. 2566 He pushed the bar-tender out and closed the door on him.
2567 'So,' said he, with a furious glance at McMurdo, 'you got here first, did you? 2568 I've a word to say to you, Councillor, about this man.'
2569 'Then say it here and now before my face,' cried McMurdo. 2570 say it at my own time, in my own way.'
2571 'Tut, tut!' said McGinty getting off his barrel. 2572 'This will never do. 2573 We have a new brother here, Baldwin, and it's not for us to greet him in such a fashion. 2574 Hold out your hand, man, and make it up!'
2575 'Never!' cried Baldwin in a fury.
2576 'I've offered to fight him if he thinks I have wronged him,' said McMurdo. 2577 'I'll fight him with fists, or, if that won't satisfy him, I'll fight him any other way he chooses. 2578 Now I'll leave it to you, Councillor, to judge between us as a Bodymaster should.'
2579 'What is it, then?'
2580 'A young lady. 2581 She's free to choose for herself.'
2582 'Is she?' cried Baldwin.
2583 'As between two brothers of the Lodge, I should say that she was,' said the Boss.
2584 'Oh, that's your ruling, is it?'
2585 'Yes, it is, Ted Baldwin,' said McGinty, with a wicked stare. 2586 'Is it you that would dispute it?'
2587 '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? 2588 You're not Bodymaster for life, Jack McGinty, and, by God! when next it comes to a vote-'
2589 The Councillor sprang at him like a tiger. 2590 His hand closed round the other's neck and he hurled him back across one of the barrels. 2591 In his mad fury he would have squeezed the life out of him if McMurdo had not interfered.
2592 'Easy, Councillor! 2593 For Heaven's sake, go easy!' he cried, as he dragged him back.
2594 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.
2595 'You've been asking for it this many a day, Ted Baldwin - now you've got it!' cried McGinty, his huge chest rising and falling. 2596 'Maybe you think if I were voted down from Bodymaster you would find yourself in my shoes. 2597 It's for the Lodge to say that. 2598 But so long as I am the chief I'll have no man lift his voice against me or my rulings.'
2599 'I have nothing against you,' mumbled Baldwin, feeling his throat.
2600 'Well, then,' cried the other, relapsing in a moment into a bluff joviality, 'we are all good friends again and there's an end of the matter.'
2601 He took a bottle of champagne down from the shelf and twisted out the cork.
2602 'See now,' he continued, as he filled three high glasses 'Let us drink the quarrelling toast of the Lodge. 2603 After that, as you know, there can be no bad blood between us. 2604 Now, then, the left hand on the apple of my throat, I say to you, Ted Baldwin, what is the offence, sir?'
2605 'The clouds are heavy,' answered Baldwin.
2606 'But they will for ever brighten.'
2607 'And this I swear!'
2608 The men drank their wine, and the same ceremony was performed between Baldwin and McMurdo.
2609 'There,' cried McGinty, rubbing his hands, 'that's the end of the black blood. 2610 You come under Lodge discipline if it goes farther, and that's a heavy hand in these parts, as Brother Baldwin knows - and as you will damn soon find out, Brother McMurdo, if you ask for trouble.'
2611 'Faith, I'd be slow to do that,' said McMurdo. 2612 He held out his hand to Baldwin. 2613 'I'm quick to quarrel and quick to forgive. 2614 It's my hot Irish blood, they tell me. 2615 But it's over for me, and I bear no grudge.'
2616 Baldwin had to take the proffered hand; for the baleful eye of the terrible Boss was upon him. 2617 But his sullen face showed how little the words of the other had moved him.
2618 McGinty clapped them both on the shoulders. 2619 'Tut! 2620 These girls, these girls!' he cried. 2621 'To think that the same petticoats should come between two of my boys. 2622 It's the devil's own luck. 2623 Well, it's the colleen inside of them that must settle the question, for it's outside the jurisdiction of a Bodymaster, and the Lord be praised for that. 2624 We have enough on us, without the women as well. 2625 You'll have to be affiliated to Lodge 341, Brother McMurdo. 2626 We have our own ways and methods, different from Chicago. 2627 Saturday night is our meeting, and if you come then we'll make you free for ever of the Vermissa Valley.'

2628 CHAPTER 3 : Lodge 341, Vermissa

2629 On the day following the evening which had contained so many exciting events, McMurdo moved his lodgings from old Jacob Shafter's and took up his quarters at the Widow MacNamara's, on the extreme outskirts of the town. 2630 Scanlan, his original acquaintance aboard the train, had occasion shortly afterwards to move into Vermissa, and the two lodged together. 2631 There was no other boarder, and the hostess was an easy-going old Irish woman who left them to themselves, so that they had a freedom for speech and action welcome to men who had secrets in common.
2632 Shafter had relented to the extent of letting McMurdo come to his meals there when he liked, so that his intercourse with Ettie was by no means broken. 2633 On the contrary, it drew closer and more intimate as the weeks went by.
2634 In his bedroom at his new abode McMurdo felt it to be safe to take out the coining moulds, and under many a pledge of secrecy a number of the brothers from the Lodge were allowed to come in and see them, each of them carrying away in his pocket some examples of the false money, so cunningly struck that there was never the slightest difficulty or danger in passing it. 2635 Why, with such a wonderful art at his command, McMurdo should condescend to work at all was a perpetual mystery to his companions, though he made it clear to any one who asked him that if he lived without any visible means it would very quickly bring the police on his track.
2636 One policeman was, indeed, after him already; but the incident, as luck would have it, did the adventurer a great deal more good than harm. 2637 After the first introduction there were few evenings when he did not find his way to McGinty's saloon, there to make closer acquaintance with 'the boys', which was the jovial title by which the dangerous gang who infested the place were known to each other. 2638 His dashing manner and fearlessness of speech made him a favourite with them all, while the rapid and scientific way in which he polished off his antagonist in an 'all-in' bar-room scrap earned the respect of that rough community. 2639 Another incident, however, raised him even higher in their estimation.
2640 Just at the crowded hour one night, the door opened and a man entered with the quiet blue uniform and peaked cap of the Coal and Iron Police. 2641 This was a special body raised by the railways and colliery owners to supplement the efforts of the ordinary civil police, who were perfectly helpless in the face of the organized ruffianism which terrorized the district. 2642 There was a hush as he entered, and many a curious glance was cast at him; but the relations between policemen and criminals are peculiar in the States, and McGinty himself, standing behind his counter, showed no surprise when the policeman enrolled himself among his customers.
2643 'A straight whiskey; for the night is bitter,' said the police-officer. 2644 'I don't think we have met before, Councillor?'
2645 'You'll be the new captain?' said McGinty.
2646 'That's so. 2647 We're looking to you, Councillor, and to the other leading citizens, to help us in upholding law and order in this township. 2648 Captain Marvin is my name - of the Coal and Iron.'
2649 'We'd do better without you, Captain Marvin,' said McGinty, coldly. 2650 'For we have our own police of the township, and no need for any imported goods. 2651 What are you but the paid tool of the capitalists, hired by them to club or to shoot your poorer fellow-citizen?'
2652 'Well, well, we won't argue about that,' said the police- officer, good-humouredly. 2653 'I expect we all do our duty same as we see it, but we can't all see it the same.' 2654 He had drunk off his glass and had turned to go, when his eyes fell upon the face of Jack McMurdo, who was scowling at his elbow. 2655 'Hullo! 2656 Hullo!' he cried, looking him up and down. 2657 'Here's an old acquaintance!'
2658 McMurdo shrank away from him. 2659 'I was never a friend to you nor any other cursed copper in my life,' said he.
2660 'An acquaintance isn't always a friend,' said the police- captain, grinning. 2661 'You're Jack McMurdo of Chicago, right enough, and don't you deny it!'
2662 McMurdo shrugged his shoulders. 2663 'I'm not denying it,' said he. 2664 'D'ye think I'm ashamed of my own name?'
2665 'You've got good cause to be, anyhow.'
2666 'What the devil d'you mean by that?' he roared with his fists clenched.
2667 'No, no, Jack; bluster won't do with me. 2668 I was an officer in Chicago before ever I came to this darned coal-bunker, and I know a Chicago crook when I see one.'
2669 McMurdo's face fell. 2670 'Don't tell me that you're Marvin of the Chicago Central!' he cried.
2671 'Just the same old Teddy Marvin at your service. 2672 We haven't forgotten the shooting of Jonas Pinto up there.' 2673 'I never shot him.'
2674 'Did you not? 2675 That's good impartial evidence, ain't it? 2676 Well, his death came in uncommon handy for you, or they would have had you for shoving the queer. 2677 Well, we can let that be bygones, for, between you and me - and perhaps I'm going further than my duty in saying it - they could get no clear case against you, and Chicago's open to you tomorrow.'
2678 'I'm very well where I am.'
2679 'Well, I've given you the pointer, and you're a sulky dog not to thank me for it.'
2680 'Well, I suppose you mean well, and I do thank you,' said McMurdo in no very gracious manner.
2681 'It's mum with me so long as I see you living on the straight,' said the captain. 2682 'But, by the Lord! 2683 if you get off on the cross after this it's another story! 2684 So good night to you - and good night, Councillor.'
2685 He left the bar-room; but not before he had created a local hero. 2686 McMurdo's deeds in far Chicago had been whispered before. 2687 He had put off all questions with a smile as one who did not wish to have greatness thrust upon him. 2688 But now the thing was officially confirmed. 2689 The bar-loafers crowded round him and shook him heartily by the hand. 2690 He was free of the community from that time on. 2691 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.
2692 On a Saturday night McMurdo was introduced to the Lodge. 2693 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. 2694 The assembly met in a large room reserved for such purposes at the Union House. 2695 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 either 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. 2696 Altogether, there were not less than five hundred scattered over the coal district.
2697 In the bare assembly room the men were gathered round a long table. 2698 At the side was a second one laden with bottles and glasses, on which some members of the company were already turning their eyes. 2699 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. 2700 To right and left of him were the higher Lodge officials, the cruel, handsome face of Ted Baldwin among them. 2701 Each of these wore some scarf or medallion as emblem of his office.
2702 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. 2703 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 the deepest respect at the man who had the reputation for making what they called a 'clean job'.
2704 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. 2705 The crime committed, they quarrelled as to who had actually struck the fatal blow, and amused each other and the company by describing the cries and contortions of the murdered man.
2706 At 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 staunch 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. 2707 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.
2708 McMurdo had been warned that some ordeal lay before him, but no one would tell him in what it consisted. 2709 He was led now into an outer room by two solemn brothers. 2710 Through the plank partition he could hear the murmur of many voices from the assembly within. 2711 Once or twice he caught the sound of his own name, and he knew that they were discussing his candidature. 2712 Then there entered an inner guard with a green and gold sash across his chest.
2713 'The Bodymaster orders that he shall be trussed, blinded, and entered,' said he. 2714 The three of them then removed his coat, turned up the sleeve of his right arm, and finally passed a rope round above the elbows and made it fast. 2715 They next placed a thick black cap right over his head and the upper part of his face, so that he could see nothing. 2716 He was then led into the assembly hall.
2717 It was pitch-dark and very oppressive under his hood. 2718 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.
2719 'John McMurdo,' said the voice, 'are you already a member of the Ancient Order of Freemen?'
2720 He bowed in assent.
2721 'Is your lodge No. 29, Chicago?'
2722 He bowed again.
2723 'Dark nights are unpleasant,' said the voice.
2724 'Yes, for strangers to travel,' he answered.
2725 'The clouds are heavy.'
2726 'Yes, a storm is approaching.'
2727 'Are the brethren satisfied?' asked the Bodymaster. 2728 There was a general murmur of assent.
2729 'We know, brother, by your sign and by your counter sign, that you are indeed one of us,' said McGinty. 2730 '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. 2731 Are you ready to be tested?'
2732 'I am.'
2733 'Are you of stout heart?'
2734 'I am.'
2735 'Take a stride forward to prove it.'
2736 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. 2737 None the less, he nerved himself to step resolutely out, and as he did so the pressure melted away. 2738 There was a low murmur of applause.
2739 'He is of stout heart,' said the voice. 2740 'Can you bear pain?'
2741 'As well as another,' he answered.
2742 'Test him!'
2743 It was all he could do to keep himself from screaming out, for an agonizing pain shot through his forearm. 2744 He nearly fainted at the sudden shock of it; but he bit his lip and clenched his hands to hide his agony.
2745 'I can take more than that,' said he.
2746 This time there was loud applause. 2747 A finer first appearance had never been made in the Lodge. 2748 Hands clapped him on the back, and the hood was plucked from his head. 2749 He stood blinking and smiling amid the congratulations of the brothers.
2750 'One last word, Brother McMurdo,' said McGinty. 2751 '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?'
2752 'I am,' said McMurdo.
2753 'And you accept the rule of the Bodymaster for the time being under all circumstances?'
2754 'I do.'
2755 'Then, in the name of Lodge 341, Vermissa, I welcome you to its privileges and debates. 2756 You will put the liquor on the table, Brother Scanlan, and we will drink to our worthy brother.'
2757 McMurdo's coat had been brought to him; but before putting it on he examined his right arm, which still smarted heavily. 2758 There, on the flesh of the forearm, was a clear-cut circle with a triangle within it, deep and red, as the branding-iron had left it. 2759 One or two of his neighbours pulled up their sleeves and showed their own Lodge marks.
2760 'We've all had it,' said one, 'but not all as brave as you over it.'
2761 'Tut! 2762 It was nothing,' said he; but it burned and ached all the same.
2763 When the drinks which followed the ceremony of initiation had all been disposed of, the business of the Lodge proceeded. 2764 McMurdo, accustomed only to the prosaic performances of Chicago, listened with open ears, and more surprise than he ventured to show, to what followed.
2765 'The first business on the agenda paper', said McGinty, 'is to read the following letter from Division Master Windle, of Merton County, Lodge 249. 2766 He says:

2767 Dear Sir, 2768 - There is a job to be done on Andrew Rae, of Rae and Sturmash, coal-owners near this place. 2769 You will remember that your Lodge owes us a return, having had the services of two brethren in the matter of the patrolman last fall. 2770 If you will send two good men they will be taken charge of by Treasurer Higgins of this Lodge, whose address you know. 2771 He will show them when to act and where. 2772 - Yours in freedom. 2773 J. W. Windle, DMAOF

2774 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.' 2775 McGinty paused and looked round the room with his dull, malevolent eyes. 2776 'Who will volunteer for the job?'
2777 Several young fellows held up their hands. 2778 The Bodymaster looked at them with an approving smile.
2779 'You'll do, Tiger Cormac. 2780 If you handle it as well as you did the last, you won't be wrong. 2781 And you, Wilson.'
2782 'I've no pistol,' said the volunteer, a mere boy in his teens.
2783 'It's your first, is it not? 2784 Well, you have to be blooded some time. 2785 It will be a great start for you. 2786 As to the pistol, you'll find it waiting for you, or I'm mistaken. 2787 If you report yourselves on Monday it will be time enough. 2788 You'll get a great welcome when you return.'
2789 'Any reward this time?' asked Cormac, a thick-set, dark- faced, brutal-looking young man, whose ferocity had earned him the nickname of 'Tiger'.
2790 'Never mind the reward. 2791 You just do it for the honour of the thing. 2792 Maybe when it is done there will be a few odd dollars at the bottom of the box.'
2793 'What has the man done?' asked young Wilson.
2794 'Sure, it's not for the likes of you to ask what the man has done. 2795 He has been judged over there. 2796 That's no business of ours. 2797 All we have to do is to carry it out for them, same as they would for us. 2798 Speaking of that, two brothers from the Merton lodge are coming over to us next week to do some business in this quarter.'
2799 'Who are they?' asked someone.
2800 'Faith, it is wiser not to ask. 2801 If you know nothing you can testify nothing, and no trouble can come of it. 2802 But they are men who will make a clean job when they are about it.'
2803 'And time, too!' cried Ted Baldwin. 2804 'Folk are gettin' out of hand in these parts. 2805 It was only last week that three of our men were turned off by Foreman Blaker. 2806 It's been owing him a long time, and he'll get it full and proper.'
2807 'Get what?' 2808 McMurdo whispered to his neighbour.
2809 'The business end of a buck-shot cartridge,' cried the man, with a loud laugh. 2810 'What think you of our ways, Brother?'
2811 McMurdo's criminal soul seemed to have already absorbed the spirit of the vile association of which he was now a member. 2812 'I like it well,' said he. 2813 ''Tis a proper place for a lad of mettle.'
2814 Several of those who sat around heard his words and applauded them.
2815 'What's that?' cried the black-maned Bodymaster, from the end of the table.
2816 ' 'Tis our new brother, sir, who finds our ways to his taste.'
2817 McMurdo rose to his feet for an instant. 2818 '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.'
2819 There was great applause at this. 2820 It was felt that a new sun was pushing its rim above the horizon. 2821 To some of the elders it seemed that the progress was a little too rapid.
2822 'I would move,' said the secretary, Harraway, a vulture-faced old greybeard who sat near the chairman, 'that Brother McMurdo should wait until it is the good pleasure of the Lodge to employ him.'
2823 'Sure, that was what I meant; I'm in your hands,' said McMurdo.
2824 'Your time will come, Brother,' said the chairman. 2825 'We have marked you down as a willing man, and we believe that you will do good work in these parts. 2826 There is a small matter to-night in which you may take a hand, if it so please you.'
2827 'I will wait for something that is worth while.'
2828 'You can come to-night, anyhow, and it will help you to know what we stand for in this community. 2829 I will make the announcement later. 2830 Meanwhile' - he glanced at his agenda paper - I have one or two more points to bring before the meeting. 2831 First of all, I will ask the treasurer as to our bank balance. 2832 There is the pension to Jim Carnaway's widow. 2833 He was struck down doing the work of the Lodge, and it is for us to see that she is not the loser.'
2834 Jim was shot last month when they tried to kill Chester Wilcox, of Marley Creek,' McMurdo's neighbour informed him.
2835 'The funds are good at the moment,' said the treasurer, with the bank-book in front of him. 2836 'The firms have been generous of late. 2837 Max Linder and Co. paid five hundred to be left alone. 2838 Walker Brothers sent in a hundred, but I took it on myself to return it and ask for five. 2839 If I do not hear by Wednesday their winding gear may get out of order. 2840 We had to burn their breaker last year before they became reasonable. 2841 Then the West Section Coaling Company has paid its annual contribution. 2842 We have enough in hand to meet any obligations.'
2843 'What about Archie Swindon?' asked a brother.
2844 'He has sold out and left the district. 2845 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. 2846 By Gar! it was as well that he made a break for it before the note reached us! 2847 I guess he won't show his face in this valley again.'
2848 An elderly, clean-shaven man with a kindly face and a good brow rose from the end of the table which faced the chairman. 2849 'Mr Treasurer,' he asked, 'may I ask who has bought the property of this man that we have driven out of the district?'
2850 'Yes, Brother Morris. 2851 It has been bought by the State and Merton County Railroad Company.'
2852 'And who bought the mines of Todman and of Lee that came into the market in the same way last year?'
2853 'The same company, Brother Morris.'
2854 '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?'
2855 'They were all bought by the West Gilmerton General Mining Company.'
2856 'I don't see, Brother Morris,' said the chairman, 'that it matters a nickel to us who buys them, since they can't carry them out of the district.'
2857 'With all respect to you, Eminent Bodymaster, I think that it may matter very much to us. 2858 This process has been going on now for ten long years. 2859 We are gradually driving all the small men out of trade. 2860 What is the result? 2861 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. 2862 We can take it out of their local bosses, but it only means that others will be sent in their stead. 2863 And we are making it dangerous for ourselves. 2864 The small men could not harm us. 2865 They had not the money nor the power. 2866 So long as we did not squeeze them too dry, they would stay on under our power. 2867 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.'
2868 There was a hush at these ominous words, and every face darkened as gloomy looks were exchanged. 2869 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. 2870 And yet the idea struck a chill to the most reckless of them.
2871 'It is my advice', the speaker continued, 'that we go easier upon the small men. 2872 On the day that they have all been driven out the power of this society will have been broken.'
2873 Unwelcome truths are not popular. 2874 There were angry cries as the speaker resumed his seat. 2875 McGinty rose with gloom upon his brow.
2876 'Brother Morris,' said he, 'you were always a croaker. 2877 So long as the members of this Lodge stand together there is no power in the United States that can touch them. 2878 Sure, have we not tried it often enough in the law courts? 2879 I expect the big companies will find it easier to pay than to fight, same as the little companies do. 2880 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. 2881 The time has now come for fraternal refreshment and for harmony.'
2882 Strange indeed is human nature. 2883 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. 2884 McMurdo had a fine tenor voice, and if he had failed to gain the goodwill of the Lodge before, it could no longer have been withheld after he had thrilled them with 'I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary', and 'On the Banks of Allan Water'. 2885 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. 2886 There were other qualities, however, besides those of good fellowship, to make a worthy Freeman, and of these he was given an example before the evening was over. 2887 The whiskey bottle had passed round many times, and the men were flushed and ripe for mischief, when their Bodymaster rose once more to address them.
2888 'Boys,' said he, 'there's one man in this town that wants trimming up, and it's for you to see that he gets it. 2889 I'm speaking of James Stanger, of the Herald. 2890 You've seen how he's been opening his mouth against us again?'
2891 There was a murmur of assent, with many a muttered oath. 2892 McGinty took a slip of paper from his waistcoat pocket.
2893 '"Law and Order!" 2894 That's how he heads it. 2895 "Reign of Terror in the Coal and Iron District. 2896 Twelve years have now elapsed since the first assassinations which proved the existence of a criminal organization in our midst. 2897 From that day these outrages have never ceased, until now they have reached a pitch which makes us the opprobrium of the civilized world. 2898 Is it for such results as this that our great country welcomes to its bosom the alien who flies from the despotisms of Europe? 2899 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? 2900 The men are known. 2901 The organization is patent and public. 2902 How long are we to endure it? 2903 Can we for ever live - "Sure, I've read enough of the slush!' cried the chairman, tossing the paper down upon the table. 2904 'That's what he says of us. 2905 The question I'm asking you is, What shall we say to him?'
2906 'Kill him!' cried a dozen fierce voices.
2907 'I protest against that,' said Brother Morris, the man of the good brow and shaven face. 2908 'I tell you, brethren, that our hand is too heavy in this valley, and that there will come a point where, in self-defence, every man will unite to crush us out. 2909 James Stanger is an old man. 2910 He is respected in the township and the district. 2911 His paper stands for all that is solid in the valley. 2912 If that man is struck down, there will be a stir through this State that will only end with our destruction.'
2913 'And how would they bring about our destruction, Mister Stand-back?' cried McGinty. 2914 'Is it by the police? 2915 Sure, half of them are in our pay and half of them afraid of us. 2916 Or is it by the law courts and the judge? 2917 Haven't we tried that before now, and what ever came of it?'
2918 'There is a Judge Lynch that might try the case,' said Brother Morris.
2919 A general shout of anger greeted the suggestion.
2920 '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.' 2921 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! 2922 You've no heart yourself, and you try to take the heart out of others. 2923 It will be an ill day for you, Brother Morris, when your own name comes on our agenda paper, and I'm thinking that it's just there that I ought to place it.'
2924 Morris had turned deadly pale, and his knees seemed to give way under him as he fell back into his chair. 2925 He raised his glass in his trembling hand and drank before he could answer. 2926 'I apologize, Eminent Bodymaster, to you and to every brother in this Lodge if I have said more than I should. 2927 I am a faithful member - you all know that - and it is my fear lest evil come to the Lodge which makes me speak in anxious words. 2928 But I have greater trust in your judgment than in my own, Eminent Bodymaster, and I promise you that I will not offend again.'
2929 The Bodymaster's scowl relaxed as he listened to the humble words. 2930 'Very good, Brother Morris. 2931 It's myself that would be sorry if it were needful to give you a lesson. 2932 But so long as I am in this chair we shall be a united Lodge in word and in deed. 2933 And now, boys,' he continued, looking round at the company, 'I'll say this much, that if Stanger got his full deserts there would be more trouble than we need ask for. 2934 These editors hang together, and every journal in the state would be crying out for police and troops. 2935 But I guess you can give him a pretty severe warning. 2936 Will you fix it, Brother Baldwin?'
2937 'Sure!' said the young man, eagerly.
2938 'How many will you take?'
2939 'Half-a-dozen, and two to guard to door. 2940 You'll come, Gower, and you, Manse!, and you, Scanlan, and the two Willabys.'
2941 'I promised the new brother he should go,' said the chairman.
2942 Ted Baldwin looked at McMurdo with eyes which showed that he had not forgotten nor forgiven. 2943 'Well, he can come if he wants,' he said, in a surly voice. 2944 'That's enough. 2945 The sooner we get to work the better.'
2946 The company broke up with shouts and yells and snatches of drunken song. 2947 The bar was still crowded with revellers, and many of the brethren remained there. 2948 The little band who had been told off for duty passed out into the street, proceeding in twos and threes along the side-walk so as not to provoke attention. 2949 It was a bitterly cold night, with a half-moon shining brilliantly in a frosty, star-spangled sky. 2950 The men stopped and gathered in a yard which faced a high building. 2951 The words 'Vermissa Herald' were printed in gold lettering between the brightly-lit windows. 2952 From within came the clanking of the printing-press.
2953 'Here, you,' said Baldwin to McMurdo; 'you can stand below at the door and see that the road is kept open for us. 2954 Arthur Willaby can stay with you. 2955 You others come with me. 2956 Have no fear, boys, for we have a dozen witnesses that we are in the Union Bar at this very moment.'
2957 It was nearly midnight, and the street was deserted save for one or two revellers upon their way home. 2958 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. 2959 McMurdo and another remained below. 2960 From the room above came a shout, a cry for help, and then the sound of trampling feet and of falling chairs. 2961 An instant later a grey-haired man rushed out on to the landing.
2962 He was seized before he could get farther, and his spectacles came tinkling down to McMurdo's feet. 2963 There was a thud and a groan. 2964 He was on his face and half-a-dozen sticks were clattering together as they fell upon him. 2965 He writhed, and his long, thin limbs quivered under the blows. 2966 The others ceased at last; but Baldwin, his cruel face set in an infernal smile, was hacking at the man's head, which he vainly endeavoured to defend with his arms. 2967 His white hair was dabbled with patches of blood. 2968 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 back.
2969 'You'll kill the man,' said he. 2970 'Drop it!'
2971 Baldwin looked at him in amazement. 2972 'Curse you!' he cried. 2973 'Who are you to interfere - you that are new to the Lodge? 2974 Stand back!' 2975 He raised his stick; but McMurdo had whipped his pistol out of his hip pocket.
2976 'Stand back yourself!' he cried. 2977 'I'll blow your face in if you lay a hand on me. 2978 As to the Lodge, wasn't it the order of the Bodymaster that the man was not to be killed - and what are you doing but killing him?'
2979 'It's truth he says,' remarked one of the men.
2980 'By Gar! you'd best hurry yourselves!' cried the man below. 2981 'The windows are all lighting up and you'll have the whole town here inside of five minutes.'
2982 There was indeed the sound of shouting in the street, and a little group of compositors and typesetters was forming in the hall below and nerving itself to action. 2983 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. 2984 Having reached the Union House, some of them mixed with the crowd in McGinty's saloon, whispering across the bar to the Boss that the job had been well carried through. 2985 Others, and among them McMurdo, broke away into side-streets, and so by devious paths to their own homes.

2986 CHAPTER 4 : The Valley of Fear

2987 When McMurdo awoke next morning he had good reason to remember his initiation into the Lodge. 2988 His head ached with the effect of the drink, and his arm, where he had been branded, was hot and swollen. 2989 Having his own peculiar source of income, he was irregular in his attendance at his work; so he had a late breakfast and remained at home for the morning, writing a long letter to a friend. 2990 Afterwards he read the Daily Herald. 2991 In a special column, put in at the last moment, he read, 'OUTRAGE AT THE HERALD OFFICE. 2992 EDITOR SERIOUSLY INJURED.' 2993 It was a short account of the facts with which he was himself more familiar than the writer could have been. 2994 It ended with the statement:

2995 The matter is now in the hands of the police, but it can hardly be hoped that their exertions will be attended by any better results than in the past. 2996 Some of the men were recognized, and there is hope that a conviction may be obtained. 2997 The source of the outrage was, it need hardly be said, that infamous society which has held this community in bondage for so long a period, and against which the Herald has taken so uncompromising a stand. 2998 Mr Stanger's many friends will rejoice to hear that, though he has been cruelly and brutally beaten, and has sustained severe injuries about the head, there is no immediate danger to his life.

2999 Below, it stated that a guard of Coal and Iron Police, armed with Winchester rifles, had been requisitioned for the defence of the office.
3000 McMurdo had laid down the paper, and was lighting his pipe with a hand which was shaky from the excesses of the previous evening, when there was a knock outside, and his landlady brought to him a note which had just been handed in by a lad. 3001 It was unsigned, and ran thus:
3002 I should wish to speak to you, but had rather not do so in your house. 3003 You will find me beside the flagstaff upon Miller Hill. 3004 If you will come there now I have something which it is important for you to hear and for me to say.
3005 McMurdo read the note twice with the utmost surprise; for he could not imagine what it meant or who was the author of it. 3006 Had it been in a feminine hand he might have imagined that it was the beginning of one of those adventures which had been familiar enough in his past life. 3007 But it was the writing of a man, and of a well-educated one, too. 3008 Finally, after some hesitation, he determined to see the matter through.
3009 Miller Hill is an ill-kept public park in the very centre of the town. 3010 In summer it is a favourite resort of the people, but in winter it is desolate enough. 3011 From the top of it one has a view not only of the whole grimy, straggling town, but of the winding valley beneath, with its scattered mines and factories blackening the snow on either side of it, and of the wooded and white-capped ranges flanking it.
3012 McMurdo strolled up the winding path hedged in with evergreens until he reached the deserted restaurant which forms the centre of summer gaiety. 3013 Beside it was a bare flagstaff, and underneath it a man, his hat drawn down and the collar of his overcoat raised up. 3014 When he turned his face McMurdo saw that it was Brother Morris, he who had incurred the anger of the Bodymaster the night before. 3015 The Lodge sign was given and exchanged as they met.
3016 'I wanted to have a word with you, Mr McMurdo,' said the older man, speaking with a hesitation which showed that he was on delicate ground. 3017 'It was kind of you to come.'
3018 'Why did you not put your name to the note?'
3019 'One has to be cautious, Mister. 3020 One never knows in times like these how a thing may come back to one. 3021 One never knows either who to trust or who not to trust.'
3022 'Surely one may trust brothers of the Lodge?'
3023 'No, no; not always,' cried Morris with vehemence. 3024 'Whatever we say, even what we think, seems to go back to that man McGinty.'
3025 'Look here,' said McMurdo sternly; 'it was only last night, as you know well, that I swore good faith to our Bodymaster. 3026 Would you be asking me to break my oath?'
3027 'If that is the view you take,' said Morris, sadly, 'I can only say that I am sorry I gave you the trouble to come and meet me. 3028 Things have come to a bad pass when two free citizens cannot speak their thoughts to each other.'
3029 McMurdo, who had been watching his companion very narrowly, relaxed somewhat in his bearing. 3030 'Sure, I spoke for myself only,' said he. 3031 'I am a new-comer, as you know, and I am strange to it all. 3032 It is not for me to open my mouth, Mr Morris, and if you think well to say anything to me I am here to hear it.'
3033 And to take it back to Boss McGinty,' said Morris bitterly.
3034 'Indeed, then, you do me injustice there,' cried McMurdo. 3035 'For myself I am loyal to the Lodge, and so I tell you straight; but I would be a poor creature if I were to repeat to any other what you might say to me in confidence. 3036 It will go no further than me; though I warn you that you may get neither help nor sympathy.'
3037 'I have given up looking for either the one or the other,' said Morris. 3038 'I may be putting my very life in your hands by what I say, but, bad as you are - and it seemed to me last night that you were shaping to be as bad as the worst - still you are new to it, and your conscience cannot yet be as hardened as theirs. 3039 That was why I thought to speak with you.'
3040 'Well, what have you to say?'
3041 'If you give me away, may a curse be on your 'Sure, I said I would not.'
3042 'I would ask you, then, when you joined the Freemen's Society in Chicago, and swore vows of charity and fidelity, did ever it cross your mind that you might find it would lead you to crime?'
3043 'If you call it crime,' McMurdo answered.
3044 'Call it crime!' cried Morris, his voice vibrating with passion. 3045 'You have seen little of it if you can call it anything else. 3046 Was it crime last night when a man old enough to be your father was beaten till the blood dripped from his white hairs? 3047 Was that crime - or what else would you call it?'
3048 'There are some would say it was war,' said McMurdo. 3049 'A war of two classes with all in, so that each struck as best it could.'
3050 'Well, did you think of such a thing when you joined the Freemen's Society in Chicago?'
3051 'No, I'm bound to say I did not.'
3052 'Nor did I when I joined it at Philadelphia. 3053 It was just a benefit club and a meeting-place for one's fellows. 3054 Then I heard of this place - curse the hour that the name first fell upon my ears! - and I came to better myself. 3055 My God! to better myself! 3056 My wife and three children came with me. 3057 I started a dry-goods store in Market Square, and I prospered well. 3058 The word had gone round that I was a Freeman, and I was forced to join the local lodge, same as you did last night. 3059 I've the badge of shame on my forearm, and something worse branded on my heart. 3060 I found that I was under the orders of a black villain, and caught in a meshwork of crime. 3061 What could I do? 3062 Every word I said to make things better was taken as treason, same as it was last night. 3063 I can't get away, for all I have in the world is in my store. 3064 If I leave the society, I know well that it means murder to me, and God knows what to my wife and children. 3065 Oh, man, it is awful - awful!' 3066 He put his hands to his face, and his body shook with convulsive sobs.
3067 McMurdo shrugged his shoulders. 3068 'You were too soft for the job,' said he. 3069 'You are the wrong sort for such work.'
3070 'I had a conscience and a religion, but they made me a criminal among them. 3071 I was chosen for a job. 3072 If I backed down I knew well what would come to me. 3073 Maybe I'm a coward. 3074 Maybe it's the thought of my poor little woman and the children that makes me one. 3075 Anyhow, I went. 3076 I guess it will haunt me for ever.
3077 'It was a lonely house, twenty miles from here, over the range yonder. 3078 I was told off for the door, same as you were last night. 3079 They could not trust me with the job. 3080 The others went in. 3081 When they came out their hands were crimson to the wrists. 3082 As we turned away a child was screaming out of the house behind us. 3083 It was a boy of five who had seen his father murdered. 3084 I nearly fainted with the horror of it, and yet I had to keep a bold and smiling face; for well I knew that if I did not it would be out of my house that they would come next with their bloody hands, and it would be my little Fred that would be screaming for his father.
3085 'But I was a criminal then - part sharer in a murder, lost for ever in this world, and lost also in the next. 3086 I am a good Catholic, but the priest would have no word with me when he heard I was a Scowrer, and I am excommunicated from my faith. 3087 That's how it stands with me. 3088 And I see you going down the same road, and I ask you what the end is to be? 3089 Are you ready to be a cold-blooded murderer also, or can we do anything to stop it?'
3090 'What would you do?' asked McMurdo, abruptly. 3091 'You would not inform?'
3092 'God forbid!' cried Morris. 3093 'Sure, the very thought would cost me my Life.'
3094 That's well,' said McMurdo. 3095 'I'm thinking that you are a weak man, and that you make too much of the matter.'
3096 'Too much! 3097 Wait till you have lived here longer. 3098 Look down the valley! 3099 See the cloud of a hundred chimneys that over-shadows it. 3100 I tell you that the cloud of murder hangs thicker and lower than that over the heads of the people. 3101 It is the Valley of Fear - the Valley of Death. 3102 The terror is in the hearts of the people from the dusk to the dawn. 3103 Wait, young man, and you will learn for yourself.'
3104 'Well, let you know what I think when I have seen more,' said McMurdo carelessly. 3105 'What is very clear is that you are not the man for the place, and that the sooner you sell out - if you only get a dime a dollar for what the business is worth - the better it will be for you. 3106 What you have said is safe with me, but, by Gar! if I thought you were an informer-'
3107 'No, no!' cried Morris piteously.
3108 'Well, let it rest at that. 3109 I'll bear what you have said in mind, and maybe some day I'll come back to it. 3110 I expect you meant kindly by speaking to me like this. 3111 Now I'll be getting home.'
3112 'One word before you go,' said Morris. 3113 'We may have been seen together. 3114 They may want to know what we have spoken about.'
3115 'Ah! that's well thought of.'
3116 'I offer you a clerkship in my store.'
3117 'And I refuse it. 3118 That's our business. 3119 Well, so long, Brother Morris, and may you find things go better with you in the future.'
3120 That same afternoon, as McMurdo sat smoking, lost in thought, beside the stove of his sitting-room, the door swung open, and its framework was filled with the huge figure of Boss McGinty. 3121 He passed the sign, and then, seating himself opposite to the young man, he looked at him steadily for some time, a look which was as steadily returned.
3122 'I'm not much of a visitor, Brother McMurdo,' he said at last. 3123 'I guess I am too busy over the folk that visit me. 3124 But I thought I'd stretch a point and drop down to see you in your own house.'
3125 'I'm proud to see you here, Councillor,' McMurdo answered, heartily, bringing his whiskey-bottle out of the cupboard. 3126 'It's an honour that I had not expected.'
3127 'How's the arm?' asked the Boss.
3128 McMurdo made a wry face. 3129 'Well, I'm not forgetting it,' he aid. 3130 'But it's worth it.'
3131 'Yes, it's worth it,' the other answered, 'to those that are loyal, and go through with it, and are a help to the Lodge. 3132 What were you speaking to Brother Morris about on Miller Hill this morning?'
3133 The question came so suddenly that it was well that he had his answer prepared. 3134 He burst into a hearty laugh. 3135 'Morris didn't know I could earn a living here at home. 3136 He sha'n't know either, for he has got too much conscience for the likes of me. 3137 But he's a good-hearted old chap. 3138 It was his idea that I was at a lose end, and that he would do me a good turn by offering me a clerkship in a dry-goods store.'
3139 'Oh, that was it?'
3140 'Yes, that was it.'
3141 'And you refused it?'
3142 'Sure. 3143 Couldn't I earn ten times as much in my own bedroom with four hours' work?'
3144 'That's so. 3145 But I wouldn't get about too much with Morris.'
3146 'Why not?'
3147 'Well', I guess because I tell you not. 3148 That's enough for most folk in these parts.'
3149 'It may be enough for most folks; but it ain't enough for me, Councillor,' said McMurdo boldly. 3150 'If you are a judge of men you'll know that.'
3151 The swarthy giant glared at him, and bis hairy paw closed for an instant round the glass as though he would hurl it at the head of his companion. 3152 Then he laughed in his loud, boisterous, insincere fashion.
3153 'You're a queer card, for sure,' said he. 3154 'Well, if you want reasons, give them. 3155 Did Morris say nothing to you against the Lodge?'
3156 'Nor against me?'
3157 'No.'
3158 'Well, that's because he daren't trust you. 3159 But in bis heart he is not a loyal brother. 3160 We know that well. 3161 So we watch him, and we wait for the time to admonish him. 3162 I'm thinking that the time is drawing near. 3163 There's no room for scabby sheep in our pen. 3164 But if you keep company with a disloyal man, we might think that you were disloyal, too. 3165 See?'
3166 There's no chance of my keeping company with him; for I dislike the man,' McMurdo answered. 3167 'As to being disloyal, if it was any man but you, he would not use the word to me twice.'
3168 'Well, that's enough,' said McGinty, draining off his glass. 3169 'I came down to give you a word in season, and you've had it.'
3170 'I'd like to know,' said McMurdo, 'how you ever came to learn that I had spoken with Morris at all.'3171 McGinty laughed. 3172 'It's my business to know what goes on in this township,' said he. 3173 'I guess you'd best reckon on my hearing all that passes. 3174 Well, time's up, and I'll just say-'
3175 But his leave-taking was cut short in a very unexpected fashion. 3176 With a sudden crash the door flew open, and three frowning, intent faces glared in at them from under the peaks of police caps. 3177 McMurdo sprang to his feet and half drew his revolver; but his arm stopped midway as he became conscious that two Winchester rifles were levelled at his head. 3178 A man in uniform advanced into the room, a six-shooter in his hand. 3179 It was Captain Marvin, once of Chicago, and now of the Coal and Iron Constabulary. 3180 He shook his head with a half smile at McMurdo.
3181 'I thought you'd be getting into trouble, Mr Crooked McMurdo of Chicago,' said he. 3182 'Can't keep out of it, can you? 3183 Take your hat and come along with us.'
3184 'I guess you'll pay for this, Captain Marvin,' said McGinty. 3185 'Who are you, I'd like to know, to break into a house in this fashion and molest honest, law-abiding men?'
3186 'You're standing out in this deal, Councillor McGinty,' said the police captain. 3187 'We are not out after you, but after this man McMurdo. 3188 It is for you to help, not to hinder us in our duty.'
3189 'He is a friend of mine, and I'll answer for his conduct,' said the Boss.
3190 'By all accounts, Mr McGinty, you may have to answer for your own conduct some of these days,' the police captain answered. 3191 'This man McMurdo was a crook before ever he came here, and he's a crook still. 3192 Cover him, Patrolman, while I disarm him.'
3193 There's my pistol,' said McMurdo, coolly. 3194 'Maybe, Captain Marvin, if you and I were alone and face to face, you would not take me so easily.'
3195 'Where's your warrant?' asked McGinty. 3196 'By Gar! a man might as well live in Russia as in Vermissa while folk like you are running the police. 3197 It's a capitalist outrage, and you'll hear more of it, I reckon.'
3198 'You do what you think is your duty the best way you can, Councillor. 3199 We'll look after ours.'
3200 'What am I accused of?' asked McMurdo.
3201 'Of being concerned in the beating of old Editor Stanger at the Herald office. 3202 It wasn't your fault that it isn't a murder charge.'
3203 'Well, if that's all you have against him,' cried McGinty with a laugh, 'you can save yourself a deal of trouble by dropping it right now. 3204 This man was with me in my saloon playing poker up to midnight, and I can bring a dozen to prove it.'
3205 'That's your affair, and I guess you can settle it in court tomorrow. 3206 Meanwhile, come on, McMurdo, and come quietly if you don't want a gun across your head. 3207 You stand wide, Mr McGinty; for I warn you I will brook no resistance when I am on duty!'
3208 So determined was the appearance of the captain that both McMurdo and his Boss were forced to accept the situation. 3209 The latter managed to have a few whispered words with the prisoner before they parted.
3210 'What about-' 3211 He jerked his thumb upwards to signify the coining plant.
3212 'All right,' whispered McMurdo, who had devised a safe hiding-place under the floor.
3213 'I'll bid you good-bye,' said the Boss, shaking hands. 3214 'I'll see Reilly, the lawyer, and take the defence upon myself. 3215 Take my word for it that they won't be able to hold you.'
3216 'I wouldn't bet on that. 3217 Guard the prisoner, you two, and shoot him if he tries any games. 3218 I'll search the house before I leave.'
3219 Marvin did so, but apparently found no trace of the concealed plant. 3220 When he had descended he and bis men escorted McMurdo Lo headquarters. 3221 Darkness had fallen, and a keen blizzard was blowing, so that the streets were nearly deserted; but a few loiterers followed the group and emboldened by invisibility shouted imprecations at the prisoner.
3222 'Lynch the cursed Scowrer!' they cried. 3223 'Lynch him!' 3224 They laughed and jeered as he was pushed into the police station. 3225 After a short formal examination from the inspector in-charge, he was handed on to the common cell. 3226 Here he found Baldwin and three other criminals of the night before, all arrested that afternoon, and waiting their trial next morning.
3227 But even within this inner fortress of the law the long arm of the Freemen was able to extend. 3228 Late at night there came a jailer with a straw bundle for their bedding, out of which he extracted two bottles of whiskey, some glasses, and a pack of cards. 3229 They spent a hilarious night without an anxious thought as to the ordeal of the morning.
3230 Nor had they cause, as the result was to show. 3231 The magistrate could not possibly, on the evidence, have held them for a higher court. 3232 On the one hand, the compositors and pressmen were forced to admit that the light was uncertain, that they were themselves much perturbed, and that it was difficult for them to swear to the identity of the assailants, although they believed that the accused were among them. 3233 Cross-examined by the clever attorney who had been engaged by McGinty, they were even more nebulous in their evidence.
3234 The injured man had already deposed that he was so taken by surprise by the suddenness of the attack that he could state nothing beyond the fact that the first man who struck him wore a moustache. 3235 He added that he knew them to be Scowrers, since no one else in the community could possibly have any enmity to him, and he had long been threatened on account of his outspoken editorials. 3236 On the other hand, it was clearly shown by the united and unfaltering evidence of six citizens, including that high municipal official Councillor McGinty, that the men had been at a card party at the Union House until an hour very much later than the commission of the outrage.
3237 Needless to say that they were discharged with something very near to an apology from the Bench for the inconvenience to which they had been put, together with an implied censure of Captain Marvin and the police for their officious zeal.
3238 The verdict was greeted with loud applause by a Court in which McMurdo saw many familiar faces. 3239 Brothers of the Lodge smiled and waved. 3240 But there were others who sat with compressed lips and brooding eyes as the men filed out of the dock. 3241 One of them, a little dark-bearded, resolute fellow, put the thoughts of himself and comrades into words as the ex-prisoners passed him.
3242 'You damned murderers!' he said. 3243 'We'll fix you yet.'

3244 CHAPTER 5 : The Darkest Hour

3245 If anything had been needed to give an impetus to Jack McMurdo's popularity among his fellows, it would have been his arrest and acquittal. 3246 That a man on the very night of joining the Lodge should have done something which brought him before the magistrate was a new record in the annals of the society. 3247 Already he had earned the reputation of a good boon companion, a cheery reveller, and withal a man of high temper, who would not take an insult even from the all-powerful Boss himself. 3248 But, in addition to this, he impressed his comrades with the idea that among them all there was not one whose brain was so ready to devise a bloodthirsty scheme, or whose hand would be more capable of carrying it out. 3249 'He'll be the boy for the clean job,' said the oldsters to each other, and waited their time until they could set him to his work.
3250 McGinty had instruments enough already but he recognized that this was a supremely able one. 3251 He felt like a man holding a fierce bloodhound in leash. 3252 There were curs to do the smaller work, but some day he would slip this creature upon its prey. 3253 A few members of the Lodge, Ted Baldwin among them, resented the rapid rise of the stranger, and hated him for it, but they kept clear of him, for he was as ready to fight as to laugh.
3254 But if he gained favour with his fellows, there was another quarter, one which had become even more vital to him, in which he lost it. 3255 Ettie Shafter's father would have nothing more to do with him, nor would he allow him to enter the house. 3256 Ettie herself was too deeply in love to give him up altogether, and yet her own good sense warned her of what would come from a marriage with a man who was regarded as a criminal.
3257 One morning after a sleepless night she determined to see him, possibly for the last time, and make one strong endeavour to draw him from those evil influences which were sucking him down. 3258 She went to his house, as he had often begged her to do, and made her way into the room which he used as his sitting-room. 3259 He was seated at a table with his back turned and a letter in front of him. 3260 A sudden spirit of girlish mischief came over her - she was still only nineteen. 3261 He had not heard her when she pushed open the door. 3262 Now she tip-toed forward, and laid her hand lightly upon his bended shoulders.
3263 If she had expected to startle him, she certainly succeeded; but only in turn to be startled herself. 3264 With a tiger spring he turned on her, and his right hand was feeling for her throat. 3265 At the same instant, with the other hand he crumpled up the paper that lay before him. 3266 For an instant he stood glaring. 3267 Then astonishment and joy took the place of the ferocity which had convulsed his features - a ferocity which had sent her shrinking back in horror as from something which had never before intruded into her gentle life.
3268 'It's you!' said he, mopping his brow. 3269 'And to think that you should come to me, heart of my heart, and I should find nothing better to do than to want to strangle you! 3270 Come then, darling,' and he held out his arms let me make it up to you.'
3271 But she had not recovered from that sudden glimpse of guilty fear which she had read in the man's face. 3272 All her woman's instinct told her that it was not the mere fright of a man who is startled. 3273 Guilt - that was it - guilt and fear.
3274 'What's come over you, Jack?' she cried. 3275 'Why were you so scared of me? 3276 Oh, Jack, if your conscience was at ease, you would not have looked at me like that!'
3277 'Sure, I was thinking of other things, and when you came tripping so lightly on those fairy feet of yours-'
3278 'No, no; it was more than that, Jack.' 3279 Then a sudden suspicion seized her. 3280 'Let me see that letter you were writing.'
3281 'Ah, Ettie, I couldn't do that.'
3282 Her suspicions became certainties.
3283 'It's to another woman!' she cried. 3284 'I know it. 3285 Why else should you hold it from me? 3286 Was it to your wife that you were writing? 3287 How am I to know that you are not a married man - you, a stranger, that nobody knows?'
3288 'I am not married, Ettie. 3289 See now, I swear it. 3290 You're the only one woman on earth to me. 3291 By the Cross of Christ, I swear it!'
3292 He was so white with passionate earnestness that she could not but believe him.
3293 'Well, then,' she cried, 'why will you not show me the letter?'
3294 'I'll tell you, acushla,' said he. 3295 'I'm under oath not to show it, and just as I wouldn't break my word to you, so I would keep it to those who hold my promise. 3296 It's the business of the Lodge, and even to you it's secret. 3297 And if I was scared when a hand fell on me, can't you understand it when it might have been the hand of a detective?'
3298 She felt that he was telling the truth. 3299 He gathered her into his arms, and kissed away her fears and doubts.
3300 'Sit here by me, then. 3301 It's a queer throne for such a queen, but it's the best your poor lover can find. 3302 He'll do better for you some of these days, I'm thinking. 3303 Now your mind is easy once again, is it not?'
3304 'How can it ever be at ease, Jack, when I know that you are a criminal among criminals - when I never know the day that I may hear that you are in the dock for murder? 3305 McMurdo the Scowrer - that was what one of our boarders called you yesterday. 3306 It went through my heart like a knife.'
3307 'Sure, hard words break no bones.'
3308 'But they were true.'
3309 'Well, dear, it's not as bad as you think. 3310 We are but poor men that are trying in our own way to get our rights.'
3311 Ettie threw her arms round her lover's neck. 3312 'Give it up, Jack! 3313 For my sake - for God's sake, give it up! 3314 It was to ask you that I came here today. 3315 Oh, Jack, see - I beg it of you on my bended knees. 3316 Kneeling here before you, I implore you to give it up!'
3317 He raised her, and soothed her with her head against his breast.
3318 'Sure, my darlin', you don't know what it is you are asking. 3319 How could I give it up when it would be to break my oath and to desert my comrades? 3320 If you could see how things stand with me, you could never ask it of me. 3321 Besides, if I wanted to, how could I do it? 3322 You don't suppose that the Lodge would let a man go free with all its secrets?'
3323 'I've thought of that, Jack. 3324 I've planned it all. 3325 Father has saved some money. 3326 He is weary of this place, where the fear of these people darkens our lives. 3327 He is ready to go. 3328 We would fly together to Philadelphia or New York, where we would be safe from them.'
3329 McMurdo laughed. 3330 'The Lodge has a long arm. 3331 Do you think it could not stretch from here to Philadelphia or New York?'
3332 'Well, then, to the West, or to England, or to Germany whence father came. 3333 Anywhere to get away from this Valley of Fear!'
3334 McMurdo thought of old Brother Morris. 3335 'Sure, it is the second time I have heard the valley so named,' said he. 3336 'The shadow does indeed seem to lie heavy on some of you.'
3337 'It darkens every moment of our lives. 3338 Do you suppose that Ted Baldwin has ever forgiven us? 3339 If it were not that he fears you, what do you suppose that our chances would be? 3340 If you saw the look in those dark, hungry eyes of his when they fall on me!'
3341 'By Gar! 3342 I'd teach him better manners if I caught him at it! 3343 But see here, little girl. 3344 I can't leave here. 3345 I can't. 3346 Take that from me once and for all. 3347 But if you will leave me to find my own way, I will try to prepare a way of getting honourably out of it.'
3348 'There is no honour in such a matter.'
3349 'Well, well, it's just how you look at it. 3350 But if you'll give me six months I'll work it so as I can leave without being ashamed to look others in the face.'
3351 The girl laughed with joy. 3352 'Six months!' she cried. 3353 'Is it a promise?'
3354 'Well, it may be seven or eight. 3355 But within a year at the farthest we will leave the valley behind us.'
3356 It was the most that Ettie could obtain, and yet it was something. 3357 There was this distant light to illuminate the gloom of the immediate future. 3358 She returned to her father's house more lighthearted than she had ever been since Jack McMurdo had come into her life.
3359 It might be thought that as a member all the doings of the society would be told to him, but he was soon to discover that the organization was wider and more complex than the simple Lodge. 3360 Even Boss McGinty was ignorant as to many things, for there was an official named the County Delegate, living at Hobson's Patch, farther down the line, who had power over several different lodges, which he wielded in a sudden and arbitrary way. 3361 Only once did McMurdo see him, a sly little grey-haired rat of a man with a slinking gait and a sidelong glance which was charged with malice. 3362 Evans Putt was his name, and even the great Boss of Vermissa felt towards him something of the repulsion and fear which the huge Danton may have felt for the puny but dangerous Robespierre.
3363 One day Scanlan, who was McMurdo's fellow-boarder, received a note from McGinty enclosing one from Evans Pott, which informed him that he was sending over two good men, Lawler and Andrews, who had instructions to act in the neighbourhood; though it was best for the cause that no particulars as to their objects should be given. 3364 Would the Bodymaster see to it that suitable arrangements be made for their lodgings and comfort until the time for action should arrive? 3365 McGinty added that it was impossible for anyone to remain secret at the Union House, and that, therefore, he would be obliged if McMurdo and Scanlan would put the strangers up for a few days in their boarding-house.
3366 The same evening the two men arrived, each carrying his grip-sack. 3367 Lawler was an elderly man, shrewd, silent, and self-contained, clad in an old black frock-coat, which, with his soft felt hat and ragged, grizzled beard, gave him a general resemblance to an itinerant preacher. 3368 His companion, Andrews, was little more than a boy, frank-faced and cheerful, with the breezy manner of one who is out for a holiday, and means to enjoy every minute of it. 3369 Both of the men were total abstainers, and behaved in all ways as exemplary members of society, with the one single exception that they were assassins who had often proved themselves to be most capable instruments for this Association of murder. 3370 Lawler had already carried out fourteen commissions of the kind, and Andrews three.
3371 They were, as McMurdo found, quite ready to converse about their deeds in the past, which they recounted with the half-bashful pride of men who had done good and unselfish service for the community. 3372 They were reticent, however, as to the immediate job in hand.
3373 'They chose us because neither I nor the boy here drink,' Lawler explained. 3374 'They can count on us saying no more than we should. 3375 You must not take it amiss, but it is the orders of the County Delegate that we obey.'
3376 'Sure, we are all in it together,' said Scanlan, McMurdo's mate, as the four sat together at supper.
3377 'That's true enough, and we'll talk till the cows come home of the killing of Charlie Williams, or of Simon Bird, or any other job in the past. 3378 But till the work is done we say nothing.'
3379 'There are half a dozen about here that I have a word to say to,' said McMurdo, with an oath. 3380 'I suppose it isn't Jack Knox, of Ironhill, that you are after? 3381 I'd go some way to see him get his deserts.'
3382 'No; it's not him yet.'
3383 'Or Herman Strauss?'
3384 'No, nor him either.'
3385 'Well, if you won't tell us, we can't make you; but I'd be glad to know.'
3386 Lawler smiled, and shook his head. 3387 He was not to be drawn.
3388 In spite of the reticence of their guests, Scanlan and McMurdo were quite determined to be present at what they called the 'fun'. 3389 When, therefore, at an early hour one morning McMurdo heard them creeping down the stairs, he awakened Scanlan, and the two hurried on their clothes. 3390 When they were dressed they found that the others had stolen out, leaving the door open behind them. 3391 It was not yet dawn, and by the light of the lamps they could see the two men some distance down the street. 3392 They followed them warily, treading noiselessly in the deep snow.
3393 The boarding-house was near the edge of the town, and soon they were at the crossroads which is beyond its boundary. 3394 Here three men were waiting, with whom Lawler and Andrews held a short, eager conversation. 3395 Then they all moved on together. 3396 It was clearly some notable job which needed numbers. 3397 At this point there are several trails which lead to various mines. 3398 The strangers took that which led to the Crow Hill, a huge business which was in strong hands, who had been able, thanks to their energetic and fearless New England manager, Josiah H. Dunn, to keep some order and discipline during the long reign of terror.
3399 Day was breaking now, and a line of workmen were slowly making their way, singly and in groups, along the blackened path.
3400 McMurdo and Scanlan strolled on with the others, keeping in sight of the men whom they followed. 3401 A thick mist lay over them, and from the heart of it there came the sudden scream of a steam whistle. 3402 It was the ten-minute signal before the cages descended and the day's labour began.
3403 When they reached the open space round the mineshaft there were a hundred miners waiting, stamping their feet and blowing on their fingers; for it was bitterly cold. 3404 The strangers stood in a little group under the shadow of the engine-house. 3405 Scanlan and McMurdo climbed a heap of slag from which the whole scene lay before them. 3406 They saw the mine engineer, a great bearded Scotchman named Menzies, come out of the engine-house and blow his whistle for the cages to be lowered.
3407 At the same instant a tall, loose-framed young man with a clean-shaven, earnest face, advanced eagerly towards the pithead. 3408 As he came forward his eyes fell upon the group, silent and motionless, under the engine-house. 3409 The men had drawn down their hats and turned up their collars to screen their faces. 3410 For a moment the presentiment of Death laid its cold hand upon the manager's heart. 3411 At the next he had shaken it off and saw only his duty towards intrusive strangers.
3412 'Who are you?' he asked, as he advanced. 3413 'What are you loitering there for?'
3414 There was no answer, but the lad Andrews stepped forward and shot him in the stomach. 3415 The hundred waiting miners stood as motionless and helpless as if they were paralysed. 3416 The manager clapped his two hands to the wound and doubled himself up. 3417 Then he staggered away, but another of the assassins fired, and he went down sideways, kicking and clawing among a heap of clinkers. 3418 Menzies, the Scotchman, gave a roar of rage at the sight and rushed with an iron spanner at the murderers; but was met by two balls in the face, which dropped him dead at their very feet.
3419 There was a surge forward of some of the miners, and an inarticulate cry of pity and of anger; but a couple of the strangers emptied their six-shooters over the heads of the crowd, and they broke and scattered, some of them rushing wildly back to their homes in Vermissa.
3420 When a few of the bravest had rallied, and there was a return to the mine, the murderous gang had vanished in the mists of the morning, without a single witness being able to swear to the identity of these men who in front of a hundred spectators had wrought this double crime.
3421 Scanlan and McMurdo made their way back, Scanlan somewhat subdued, for it was the first murder job that he had seen with his own eyes, and it appeared less funny than he had been led to believe. 3422 The horrible screams of the dead manager's wife pursued them as they hurried to the town. 3423 McMurdo was absorbed and silent; but he showed no sympathy for the weakening of his companion.
3424 'Sure, it is like a war,' he repeated. 3425 'What is it but a war between us and them, and we hit back where we best can?'
3426 There was high revel in the Lodge room at the Union House that night, not only over the killing of the manager and engineer of the Crow Hill mine, which would bring this organization into line with the other blackmailed and terror-stricken companies of the district, but also over a distant triumph which had been wrought by the hands of the Lodge itself. 3427 It would appear that when the County Delegate had sent over five good men to strike a blow in Vermissa, he had demanded that, in return, three Vermissa men should be secretly selected and sent across to kill William Hales, of Stake Royal, one of the best-known and most popular mine-owners in the Gilmerton district, a man who was believed not to have an enemy in the world, for he was in all ways a pattern employer. 3428 He had insisted, however, upon efficiency in the work, and had therefore paid off certain drunken and idle employés who were members of the all-powerful society.
3429 Coffin notices hung outside his door had not weakened his resolution, and so in a free, civilized country he found himself condemned to death.
3430 The execution had now been duly carried out. 3431 Ted Baldwin, who sprawled in the seat of honour beside the Bodymaster, had been the chief of the party. 3432 His flushed face and glazed, bloodshot eyes told of sleeplessness and drink. 3433 He and his two comrades had spent the night before among the mountains. 3434 They were unkempt and weather-stained. 3435 But no heroes, returning from a forlorn hope, could have had a warmer welcome from their comrades.
3436 The story was told and retold amid cries of delight and shouts of laughter. 3437 They had waited for their man as he drove home at nightfall, taking their station at the top of a steep hill, where his horse must be at a walk. 3438 He was so furred to keep out the cold that he could not lay his hand on his pistol. 3439 They had pulled him out and shot him again and again.
3440 He had screamed for mercy. 3441 The screams were repeated for the amusement of the lodge. 3442 'Let's hear again how he squealed,' they cried.
3443 None of them knew the man, but there is eternal drama in a killing, and they had shown the Scowrers of Gilmerton that the Vermissa men were to be relied upon.
3444 There had been one contretemps, for a man and his wife had driven up while they were still emptying their revolvers into the silent body. 3445 It had been suggested that they should shoot them both; but they were harmless folk who were not connected with the mines, so they were sternly bidden to drive on and keep silent, lest a worse thing befall them. 3446 And so the blood-mottled figure had been left as a warning to all such hard-hearted employers, and the three noble avengers had hurried off into the mountains where unbroken Nature comes down to the very edge of the furnaces and the slag- heaps. 3447 Here they were safe and sound, their work well done, and the plaudits of their companions in their ears.
3448 It had been a great day for the Scowrers. 3449 The shadow had fallen even darker over the valley. 3450 But as the wise general chooses the moment of victory in which to redouble his efforts, so that his foes may have no time to steady themselves after disaster, so Boss McGinty, looking out upon the scene of his operations with his brooding and malicious eyes, had devised a new attack upon those who opposed him. 3451 That very night, as the half-drunken company broke up, he touched McMurdo on the arm and led him aside into the inner room where they had their first interview.
3452 'See here, my lad,' said he, 'I've got a job that's worthy of you at last. 3453 You'll have the doing of it in your own hands.'
3454 'Proud I am to hear it,' McMurdo answered.
3455 'You can take two men with you - Manders and Reilly. 3456 They have been warned for service. 3457 We'll never be right in this district until Chester Wilcox has been settled, and you'll have the thanks of every Lodge in the coalfields if you can down him.'
3458 'I'll do my best, anyhow. 3459 Who is he, and where shall I find him?'
3460 McGinty took his eternal half-chewed, half-smoked cigar from the corner of his mouth, and proceeded to draw a rough diagram on a page torn from his notebook.
3461 'He's the chief foreman of the Iron Dyke Company. 3462 He's a hard citizen, an old colour-sergeant of the war, all scars and grizzle. 3463 We've had two tries at him, but had no luck, and Jim Carnaway lost his life over it. 3464 Now it's for you to take it over. 3465 That's the house, all alone at the Iron Dyke cross-road, same as you see here in the map, without another within earshot. 3466 It's no good by day. 3467 He's armed, and shoots quick and straight, with no questions asked. 3468 But at night - well, there he is, with his wife, three children, and a hired help. 3469 You can't pick or choose. 3470 It's all or none. 3471 If you could get a bag of blasting powder at the front door with a slow match to it-'
3472 'What's the man done?'
3473 'Didn't I tell you he shot Jim Carnaway?'
3474 'Why did he shoot him?
3475 'What in thunder has that to do with you? 3476 Carnaway was about his house at night, and he shot him. 3477 That's enough for me and you. 3478 You've got to set the thing right.'
3479 'There's these two women and the children. 3480 Do they go up, too?'
3481 'They have to - else how can we get him?'
3482 'It seems hard on them, for they've done nothing.'
3483 'What sort of talk is this? 3484 Do you back out?'
3485 'Easy, Councillor, easy. 3486 What have I ever said or done that you should think I would be after standing back from an order of the Bodymaster of my own Lodge? 3487 If it's right or if it's wrong it's for you to decide.'
3488 'You'll do it, then?'
3489 'Of course I will do it.'
3490 'When?'
3491 'Well, you had best give me a night or two that I may see the house and make my plans. 3492 Then-'
3493 'Very good,' said McGinty, shaking him by the hand. 3494 'I leave it with you. 3495 It will be a great day when you bring us the news. 3496 It's just the last stroke that will bring them all to their knees.'
3497 McMurdo thought long and deeply over the commission which had been so suddenly placed in his hands. 3498 The isolated house in which Chester Wilcox lived was about five miles off in an adjacent valley. 3499 That very night he started off all alone to prepare for the attempt. 3500 It was daylight before he returned from his reconnaissance. 3501 Next day he interviewed his two subordinates, Manders and Reilly, reckless youngsters, who were as elated as if it were a deer hunt.
3502 Two nights later they met outside the town, all three armed, and one of them carrying a sack stuffed with the powder which was used in the quarries. 3503 It was two in the morning before they came to the lonely house. 3504 The night was a windy one, with broken clouds drifting swiftly across the face of a three-quarter moon. 3505 They had been warned to be on their guard against bloodhounds; so they moved forward cautiously, with their pistols cocked in their hands. 3506 But there was no sound save the howling of the wind and no movement but the swaying branches above them. 3507 McMurdo listened at the door of the lonely house; but all was still within. 3508 Then he leaned the powder bag against it, ripped a hole in it with his knife, and attached the fuse. 3509 When it was well alight, he and his two companions took to their heels, and were some distance off, safe arid snug in a sheltering ditch, before the shattering roar of the explosion, with the low, deep rumble of the collapsing building, told them that their work was done. 3510 No cleaner job had ever been carried out in the blood-stained annals of the society.
3511 But alas that work so well organized and boldly conceived should all have gone for nothing! 3512 Warned by the fate of the various victims, and knowing that he was marked down for destruction, Chester Wilcox had moved himself and his family only the day before to some safer and less known quarters, where a guard of police should watch over them. 3513 It was an empty house which had been torn down by the gunpowder, and the grim old colour-sergeant of the war was still teaching discipline to the miners of Iron Dyke.
3514 'Leave him to me,' said McMurdo. 3515 'He's my man, and I'll get him sure, if I have to wait a year for him.'
3516 A vote of thanks and confidence was passed in full Lodge, and so for the time the matter ended. 3517 When a few weeks later it was reported in the papers that Wilcox had been shot at from an ambuscade, it was an open secret that McMurdo was still at work upon his unfinished job.
3518 Such were the methods of the Society of Freemen, and such were the deeds of the Scowrers by which they spread their rule of fear over the great and rich district which was for so long a period haunted by their terrible presence. 3519 Why should these pages be stained by further crimes? 3520 Have I not said enough to show the men and their methods?
3521 These deeds are written in history, and there are records wherein one may read the details of them. 3522 There one may learn of the shooting of Policemen Hunt and Evans because they had ventured to arrest two members of the society - a double outrage planned at the Vermissa Lodge, and carried out in cold blood upon two helpless and disarmed men. 3523 There also one may read of the shooting of Mrs Larbey whilst she was nursing her husband, who had been beaten almost to death by orders of Boss McGinty.
3524 The killing of the elder Jenkins, shortly followed by that of his brother, the mutilation of James Murdoch, the blowing-up of the Staphouse family, and the murder of the Stendals all followed hard upon each other in the same terrible winter.
3525 Darkly the shadow lay upon the Valley of Fear. 3526 The spring had come with running brooks and blossoming trees. 3527 There was hope for all Nature, bound so long in an iron grip; but nowhere was there any hope for the men and women who lived under the yoke of the terror. 3528 Never had the cloud above them been so dark and hopeless as in the early summer of the year 1875.

3529 CHAPTER 6 : Danger

3530 It was the height of the reign of terror. 3531 McMurdo, who had already been appointed Inner Deacon, with every prospect of some day succeeding McGinty as Bodymaster, was now so necessary to the councils of his comrades that nothing was done without his help and advice. 3532 The more popular he became, however, with the Freemen, the blacker were the scowls which greeted him as he passed along the streets of Vermissa. 3533 In spite of their terror the citizens were taking heart to bind themselves together against their oppressors. 3534 Rumours had reached the Lodge of secret gatherings in the Herald office and of distribution of firearms among the law-abiding people. 3535 But McGinty and his men were undisturbed by such reports. 3536 They were numerous, resolute, and well armed. 3537 Their opponents were scattered and powerless. 3538 It would all end, as it had done in the past, in aimless talk, and possibly in impotent arrests. 3539 So said McGinty, McMurdo, and all the bolder spirits.
3540 It was a Saturday evening in May. 3541 Saturday was always the Lodge night, and McMurdo was leaving his house to attend it when Morris, the weaker brother of the Order, came to see him. 3542 His brow was creased with care, and his kindly face was drawn and haggard.
3543 'Can I speak with you freely, Mr McMurdo?'
3544 'Sure.'
3545 'I can't forget that I spoke my heart to you once, and that you kept it to yourself, even though the Boss himself came to ask you about it.'
3546 'What else could I do if you trusted me? 3547 It wasn't that I agreed with what you said.'
3548 'I know that well. 3549 But you are the one here I can speak to and be safe. 3550 I've a secret here' - he put his hand to his breast - 'and it is just burning the life out of me. 3551 I wish it had come to any one of you but me. 3552 If I tell it, it will mean murder, for sure. 3553 If I don't, it may bring the end of us all. 3554 God help me, but I am near out of my wits over it!'
3555 McMurdo looked at the man earnestly. 3556 He was trembling in every limb. 3557 He poured some whiskey into a glass and handed it to him. 3558 'That's the physic for the likes of you,' said he. 3559 'Now let me hear of it.'
3560 Morris drank, and his white face took a tinge of colour. 3561 'I can tell it you all in one sentence,' said he. 3562 'There's a detective on our trail.'
3563 McMurdo stared at him in astonishment. 3564 'Why, man, you're crazy!' he said. 3565 'Isn't the place full of police and detectives, and what harm did they ever do us?'
3566 'No, no, it's no man of the district. 3567 As you say, we know them, and it is little that they can do. 3568 But you've heard of Pinkerton's?'
3569 'I've read of some folk of that name.'
3570 'Well, you can take it from me you've no show when they are on your trail. 3571 It's not a take-it-or-miss-it Government concern. 3572 It's a dead earnest business proposition that's out for results and keeps out till, by hook or by crook, it gets them. 3573 If a Pinkerton man is deep in this business we are all destroyed.'
3574 'We must kill him.'
3575 'Ah, it's the first thought that came to you! 3576 So it will be up at the Lodge. 3577 Didn't I say to you that it would end in murder?'
3578 'Sure, what is murder? 3579 Isn't it common enough in these parts?'
3580 'It is indeed, but it's not for me to point out the man that is to be murdered. 3581 I'd never rest easy again. 3582 And yet it's our own necks that may be at stake. 3583 In God's name what shall I do?' 3584 He rocked to and fro in his agony of indecision.
3585 But his words had moved McMurdo deeply. 3586 It was easy to see that he shared the other's opinion as to the danger, and the need for meeting it. 3587 He gripped Morris's shoulder, and shook him in his earnestness.
3588 'See here, man,' he cried, and he almost screeched the words in his excitement, 'you won't gain anything by sitting keening like an old wife at a wake. 3589 Let's have the facts. 3590 Who is the fellow? 3591 Where is he? 3592 How did you hear of him? 3593 Why did you come to me?'
3594 'I came to you, for you are the one man that would advise me. 3595 I told you that I had a store in the East before I came here. 3596 I left good friends behind me, and one of them is in the telegraph service. 3597 Here's a letter that I had from him yesterday. 3598 It's this part from the top of the page. 3599 You can read it for yourself'
3600 This was what McMurdo read:

3601 How are the Scowrers getting on in your parts? 3602 We read plenty of them in the papers. 3603 Between you and me I expect to hear news from you before long. 3604 Five big corporations and the two railroads have taken the thing up in dead earnest. 3605 They mean it, and you can bet they'll get there. 3606 They are right deep down into it. 3607 Pinkerton has taken hold under their orders, and his best man, Birdy Edwards, is operating. 3608 The thing has got to be stopped right now.

3609 'Now read the postscript.'

3610 Of course, what I give you is what I learned in business, so it goes no further. 3611 It's a queer cipher that you handle by the yard every day and can get no meaning from.

3612 McMurdo sat in silence for some time with the letter in his listless hands. 3613 The mist had lifted for a moment, and there was the abyss before him.
3614 'Does anyone else know of this?' he asked.
3615 'I have told no one else.'
3616 'But this man - your friend - has he any other person that he would be likely to write to?'
3617 'Well, I dare say he knows one or two more.'
3618 'Of the Lodge?'
3619 'It's likely enough.'
3620 'I was asking because it is likely that he may have given some description of this fellow Birdy Edwards - then we could get on his trail.'
3621 'Well, it's possible. 3622 But I should not think he knew him. 3623 He is just telling me the news that came to him by way of business. 3624 How would he know this Pinkerton man?'
3625 McMurdo gave a violent start.
3626 'By Gar!' he cried, 'I've got him. 3627 What a fool I was not to know it! 3628 Lord but we're in luck! 3629 We will fix him before he can do any harm. 3630 See here, Morris, will you leave this thing in my hands?'
3631 'Sure, if you will only take it off mine.'
3632 'I'll do that. 3633 You can stand right back and let me run it. 3634 Even your name need not be mentioned. 3635 I'll take it all on myself as if it were to me that this letter has come. 3636 Will that content you?'
3637 'It's just what I would ask.'
3638 'Then leave it at that and keep your head shut. 3639 Now I'll get down to the Lodge, and we'll soon make old man Pinkerton sorry for himself.'
3640 'You wouldn't kill this man?'
3641 'The less you know, Friend Morris, the easier your conscience will be and the better you will sleep. 3642 Ask no questions, and let things settle themselves. 3643 I have hold of it now.'
3644 Morris shook his head sadly as he left. 3645 'I feel that his blood is on my hands,' he groaned.
3646 'Self-protection is no murder, anyhow,' said McMurdo, smiling grimly. 3647 'It's him or us. 3648 I guess this man would destroy us all if we left him long in the valley. 3649 Why, Brother Morris, we'll have to elect you Bodymaster yet; for you've surely saved the Lodge.'
3650 And yet it was clear from his actions that he thought more seriously of this new intrusion than his words would show. 3651 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. 3652 Every paper which could incriminate him was destroyed before he left the house. 3653 After that he gave a long sigh of satisfaction; for it seemed to him that he was safe. 3654 And yet the danger must still have pressed somewhat upon him, for on his way to the Lodge he stopped at old man Shafter's. 3655 The house was forbidden him, but when he tapped at the window Ettie came out to him. 3656 The dancing Irish devilry had gone from her lover's eyes. 3657 She read his danger in his earnest face.
3658 'Something has happened!' she cried. 3659 'Oh Jack, you are in danger!'
3660 'Sure, it is not very bad, my sweetheart. 3661 And yet it may be wise that we make a move before it is worse.'
3662 'Make a move?'
3663 'I promised you once that I would go some day. 3664 I think the time is coming. 3665 I had news to-night, bad news, and I see trouble coming.'
3666 'The police?'
3667 'Well, a Pinkerton. 3668 But, sure, you wouldn't know what that is, acushla, nor what it may mean to the likes of me. 3669 I'm too deep in this thing, and I may have to get out of it quick. 3670 You said you would come with me if I went.'
3671 'Oh, Jack, it would be the saving of you.'
3672 'I'm an honest man in some things, Ettie. 3673 I wouldn't hurt a hair of your bonnie 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. 3674 Would you trust me?'
3675 She put her hand in his without a word.
3676 'Well, then, listen to what I say and do as I order you; for indeed it's the only way for us. 3677 Things are going to happen in this valley. 3678 I feel it in my bones. 3679 There may be many of us that will have to look out for ourselves. 3680 I'm one, anyhow. 3681 If I go, by day or night, it's you that must come with me!'
3682 'I'd come after you, Jack.'
3683 'No, no; you shall come with me. 3684 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? 3685 It's with me you must come. 3686 I know a good woman in the place I come from, and it's there I'd leave you till we can get married. 3687 Will you come?'
3688 'Yes, Jack, I will come.'
3689 'God bless you for your trust in me! 3690 It's a fiend out of hell that I should be if I abused it. 3691 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.'
3692 'Day or night, I'll come at the word, Jack.'
3693 Somewhat eased in mind now that his own preparations for escape had been begun, McMurdo went on to the Lodge. 3694 It had already assembled, and only by complicated signs and counter signs could he pass through the outer guard and inner guard who close-tiled it. 3695 A buzz of pleasure and welcome greeted him as he entered. 3696 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. 3697 He rejoiced that they should all be there to take counsel over his news.
3698 'Indeed, it's glad we are to see you, Brother!' cried the chairman. 3699 'There's business here that wants a Solomon in judgment to set it right.'
3700 'It's Lander and Egan,' explained his neighbour, as he took his seat. 3701 'They both claim the head-money given by the Lodge for the shooting of old man Crabbe over at Styles- town, and who's to say which fired the bullet?'
3702 McMurdo rose in his place and raised his hand. 3703 The expression of his face froze the attention of the audience. 3704 There was a dead hush of expectation.
3705 'Eminent Bodymaster,' he said, in a solemn voice, 'I claim urgency.'
3706 'Brother McMurdo claims urgency,' said McGinty. 3707 'It's a claim that by the rules of this Lodge takes precedence. 3708 Now, Brother, we attend you.'
3709 McMurdo took the letter from his pocket.
3710 '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. 3711 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 neck of many of us, and send every man in this room into a felon's cell. 3712 That is the situation for the discussion of which I have made a claim of urgency.'
3713 There was a dead silence in the room. 3714 It was broken by the chairman.
3715 'What is your evidence for this, Brother McMurdo?' he asked.
3716 'It is in this letter which has come into my hands,' said McMurdo. 3717 He read the passage aloud. 3718 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. 3719 I put the case before you as it has reached me.'
3720 '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:
3721 'Does any one know him by sight?' asked McGinty.
3722 'Yes,' said McMurdo, 'I do.'
3723 There was a murmur of astonishment through the hall.
3724 'I believe we hold him in the hollow of our hands,' he continued with an exulting smile upon his face. 3725 'If we act quickly and wisely, we can cut this thing short. 3726 If I have your confidence and your help, it is little that we have to fear.'
3727 'What have we to fear anyhow? 3728 What can he know of our affairs?'
3729 'You might say so if all were as stanch as you, Councillor. 3730 But this man has all the millions of the capitalists at his back. 3731 Do you think there is no weaker brother among all our Lodges that could not be bought? 3732 He will get at our secrets - maybe has got them already. 3733 There's only one sure cure.'
3734 'That he never leaves the valley,' said Baldwin.
3735 McMurdo nodded. 3736 'Good for you, Brother Baldwin,' he said. 3737 'You and I have had our differences, but you have said the true word tonight.'
3738 'Where is he, then? 3739 Where shall we know him?'
3740 '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. 3741 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. 3742 I would ask the Lodge to choose a trusty committee, Mr Chairman - yourself, if I might suggest it, and Brother Baldwin here, and five more. 3743 Then I can talk freely of what I know and of what I would advise should be done.'
3744 The proposition was at once adopted and the committee chosen. 3745 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, who were fearless and desperate men who would stick at nothing.
3746 The usual revelry of the Lodge was short and subdued, for there was a cloud upon the men's 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 dwelled so long. 3747 The horrors which 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. 3748 They broke up early and left their leaders to their council.
3749 'Now, McMurdo,' said McGinty, when they were alone. 3750 The seven men sat frozen in their seats.
3751 'I said just now that I knew Birdy Edwards,' McMurdo explained. 3752 'I need not tell you that he is not here under that name. 3753 He's a brave man, I dare bet, but not a crazy one. 3754 He passes under the name of Steve Wilson, and he is lodging at Hobson's Patch.'
3755 'How do you know this?'
3756 'Because I fell into talk with him. 3757 I thought little of it at the time, nor would have given it a second thought but for this letter; but now I'm sure it's the man. 3758 I met him on the cars when I went down the line on Wednesday - a hard case if ever there was one. 3759 He said he was a reporter. 3760 I believed it for the moment. 3761 Wanted to know all he could get about the Scowrers and what he called "the outrages" for a New York Paper. 3762 Asked me every kind of question so as to get something. 3763 You bet I was giving nothing away. 3764 "I'd pay for it, and pay well," said he, "if I could get some stuff that would suit my editor." 3765 I said what I thought would please him best, and he handed me a twenty-dollar bill for my information. 3766 "There's ten times that for you," said he, "if you can find me all that I want."'
3767 'What did you tell him, then?'
3768 'Any stuff I could make up.'
3769 'How do you know he wasn't a newspaper man?'
3770 'I'll tell you. 3771 He got out at Hobson's Patch, and so did I. 3772 I chanced into the telegraph bureau, and he was leaving it.
3773 '"See here," said the operator, after he'd gone out, "I guess we should charge double rates for this," "I guess you should," said I. 3774 He had filled the form with stuff that might have been Chinese for all we could make of it. 3775 "He fires a sheet of this off every day," said the clerk. 3776 "Yes," said I; "it's special news for his paper, and he's scared that the others should tap it." 3777 That was what the operator thought and what I thought at the time; but I think different now.'
3778 'By Gar! 3779 I believe you are right,' said McGinty. 3780 'But what do you allow that we should do about it?'
3781 'Why not go right down now and fix him?' someone suggested.
3782 'Aye, the sooner the better.'
3783 'I'd start this next minute if I knew where we could find him,' said McMurdo. 3784 'He's in Hobson's Patch; but I don't know the house. 3785 I've got a plan, though, if you'll only take my advice.'
3786 'Well, what is it?'
3787 'I'll go to the Patch tomorrow morning. 3788 I'll find him through the operator. 3789 He can locate him, I guess. 3790 Well, then, I'll tell him that I'm a Freeman myself. 3791 I'll offer him all the secrets of the Lodge for a price. 3792 You bet he'll tumble to it. 3793 I'll tell him the papers are at my house, and that it's as much as my life would be worth to let him come while folk were about. 3794 He'll see that that's horse sense. 3795 Let him come at ten o'clock at night, and he shall see everything. 3796 That will fetch him, sure.'
3797 'Well?'
3798 'You can plan the rest for yourselves. 3799 Widow MacNamara's is a lonely house. 3800 She's as true as steel and as deaf as a post. 3801 There's only Scanlan and me in the house. 3802 If I get his promise - and I'll let you know if I do I'd have the whole seven of you come to me by nine o'clock. 3803 We'll get him in. 3804 If ever he gets out alive - well, he can talk of Birdy Edward's luck for the rest of his days.'
3805 'There's going to be a vacancy at Pinkerton's or I'm mistaken,' said McGinty. 3806 'Leave it at that, McMurdo. 3807 At nine tomorrow we shall be with you. 3808 You once get the door shut behind him, and you can leave the rest with us.'

3809 CHAPTER 7 : The Trapping of Birdy Edwards

3810 As McMurdo had said, the house in which he lived was a lonely one and very well suited for such a crime as they had planned. 3811 It was on the extreme fringe of the town, and stood well back from the road. 3812 In any other case the conspirators would have simply called out their man, as they had many a time before, and emptied their pistols into his body; but in this instance it was very necessary to find out how much he knew, how he knew it, and what had been passed on to his employers.
3813 It was possible that they were already too late and that the work had been done. 3814 If that were indeed so, they could at least have their revenge upon the man who had done it. 3815 But they were hopeful that nothing of great importance had yet come to the detective's knowledge, as otherwise, they argued, he would not have troubled to write down and forward such trivial information as McMurdo claimed to have given him. 3816 However, all this they would learn from his own lips. 3817 Once in their power they would find a way to make him speak. 3818 It was not the first time they had handled an unwilling witness.
3819 McMurdo went to Hobson's Patch as agreed. 3820 The police seemed to take a particular interest in him that morning, and Captain Marvin - he who had claimed the old acquaintance with him at Chicago - actually addressed him as he waited at the station. 3821 McMurdo turned away and refused to speak with him. 3822 He was back from his mission in the afternoon, and saw McGinty at the Union House.
3823 'He is coming,' he said.
3824 'Good!' said McGinty. 3825 The giant was in his shirtsleeves, with chains and seals gleaming athwart his ample waistcoat and a diamond twinkling through the fringe of his bristling beard. 3826 Drink and politics had made the Boss a very rich as well as powerful man. 3827 The more terrible, therefore, seemed that glimpse of the prison or the gallows which had risen before him the night before.
3828 'Do you reckon he knows much?' he asked anxiously.
3829 McMurdo shook his head gloomily. 3830 'He's been here some time - six weeks at the least. 3831 I guess he didn't come into these parts to look at the prospect. 3832 If he has been working among us all that time with the railroad money at his back, I should expect that he has got results, and that he has passed them on.'
3833 'There's not a weak man in the Lodge,' cried McGinty. 3834 'True as steel, every man of them. 3835 And yet, by the Lord! there is that skunk Morris. 3836 What about him? 3837 If any man gives us away it would be he. 3838 I've a mind to send a couple of the boys round before evening to give him a beating up and see what they can get from him.'
3839 'Well, there would be no harm in that,' McMurdo answered. 3840 'I won't deny that I have a liking for Morris and would be sorry to see him come to harm. 3841 He has spoken to me once or twice over Lodge matters, and though he may not see them the same as you or I, he never seemed the sort that squeals. 3842 But still, it is not for me to stand between him and you.'
3843 'I'll fix the old devil,' said McGinty with an oath. 3844 'I've had my eye on him this year past.'
3845 'Well, you know best about that,' McMurdo answered. 3846 'But whatever you do must be to-morrow, for we must lie low until the Pinkerton affair is settled up. 3847 We can't afford to set the police buzzing to-day of all days.'
3848 'True for you,' said McGinty. 3849 'And we'll learn from Birdy Edwards himself where he got his news, if we have to cut his heart out first. 3850 Did he seem to scent a trap?'
3851 McMurdo laughed. 3852 'I guess I took him on his weak point,' he said. 3853 'If he could get on a good trail of the Scowrers, he's ready to follow it into hell. 3854 I took his money' - McMurdo grinned as he produced a wad of dollar notes - 'and as much more when he has seen all my papers.'
3855 'What papers?'
3856 'Well, there are no papers. 3857 But I filled him up about constitutions and books of rules and forms of membership. 3858 He expects to get right down to the end of everything before he leaves.'
3859 'Faith, he's right there,' said McGinty grimly. 3860 'Didn't he ask you why you didn't bring him the papers?'
3861 'As if I would carry such things, and me a suspected man, and Captain Marvin after speaking to me this very day at the depot!'
3862 'Aye, I heard of that,' said McGinty. 3863 'I guess the heavy end of this business is coming on to you. 3864 We could put him down an old shaft when we've done with him; but however we work it we can't get past the man living at Hobson's Patch and you being there to-day.'
3865 McMurdo shrugged his shoulders. 3866 'If we handle it right, they can never prove the killing,' said he. 3867 'No one can see him come to the house after dark, and I'll lay to it that no one will see him go. 3868 Now, see here, Councillor, I'll show you my plan, and I'll ask you to fit the others into it. 3869 You will all come in good time. 3870 Very well. 3871 He comes at ten. 3872 He is to tap three times, and me to open the door for him. 3873 Then get behind him and shut it. 3874 He's our man then.'
3875 'That's all easy and plain.'
3876 'Yes; but the next step wants considering. 3877 He's a hard proposition. 3878 He's heavily armed. 3879 I've fooled him proper, and yet he is likely to be on his guard. 3880 Suppose I show him right into a room with seven men in it where he expected to find me alone. 3881 There is going to be shooting and somebody is going to be hurt.'
3882 'That's so.'
3883 'And the noise is going to bring every damned copper in the township on top of it.'
3884 'I guess you are right.'
3885 'This is how I should work it. 3886 You will all be in the big room - same as you saw when you had a chat with me. 3887 I'll open the door for him, show him into the parlour beside the door, and leave him there while I get the papers. 3888 That will give me the chance of telling you how things are shaping. 3889 Then I will go back to him with some faked papers. 3890 As he is reading them I will jump for him and get my grip on his pistol arm. 3891 You'll hear me call and in you will rush. 3892 The quicker the better; for he is as strong a man as I, and I may have more than I can manage. 3893 But I allow that I can hold him till you come.'
3894 'It's a good plan,' said McGinty. 3895 'The Lodge will owe you a debt for this. 3896 I guess when I move out of the chair I can put a name to the man that's coming after me.'
3897 'Sure, Councillor, I am little more than a recruit,' said McMurdo, but his face showed what he thought of the great man's compliment.
3898 When he had returned home he made his own preparations for the grim evening in front of him. 3899 First he cleaned, oiled, and loaded his Smith & Wesson revolver. 3900 Then he surveyed the room in which the detective was to be trapped. 3901 It was a large apartment, with a long deal table in the centre, and the big stove at one side. 3902 At each of the other sides were windows. 3903 There were no shutters to these: only light curtains which drew across. 3904 McMurdo examined these attentively. 3905 No doubt it must have struck him that the apartment was very exposed for so secret a meeting. 3906 Yet its distance from the road made it of less consequence. 3907 Finally he discussed the matter with his fellow-lodger. 3908 Scanlan, though a Scowrer, was an inoffensive little man who was too weak to stand against the opinion of his comrades, but was secretly horrified by the deeds of blood at which he had sometimes been forced to assist. 3909 McMurdo told him shortly what was intended.
3910 'And if I were you, Mike Scanlan, I would take a night off and keep clear of it. 3911 There will be bloody work here before morning.'
3912 'Well, indeed, then, Mac,' Scanlan answered, 'it's not the will but the nerve that is wanting in me. 3913 When I saw Manager Dunn go down at the colliery yonder it was just more than I could stand. 3914 I'm not made for it, same as you or McGinty. 3915 If the Lodge will think none the worse of me, I'll just do as you advise, and leave you to yourselves for the evening.'
3916 The men came in good time as arranged. 3917 They were outwardly respectable citizens, well-clad and cleanly; but a judge of faces would have read little hope for Birdy Edwards in those hard mouths and remorseless eyes. 3918 There was not a man in the room whose hands had not been reddened a dozen times before. 3919 They were as hardened to human murder as a butcher to sheep.
3920 Foremost, of course, both in appearance and in guilt, was the formidable Boss. 3921 Harraway, the secretary, was a lean, bitter man, with a long, scraggy neck and nervous, jerky limbs - a man of incorruptible fidelity where the finances of the Order were concerned, and with no notion of justice or honesty to anyone beyond. 3922 The treasurer, Carter, was a middle-aged man with an impassive, rather sulky expression and a yellow parchment skin. 3923 He was a capable organizer, and the actual details of nearly every outrage had sprung from his plotting brain. 3924 The two Willabys were men of action, tall, lithe young fellows with determined faces, while their companion, Tiger Cormac, a heavy, dark youth, was feared even by his own comrades for the ferocity of his disposition. 3925 These were the men who assembled that night under the roof of McMurdo for the killing of the Pinkerton detective.
3926 Their host had placed whiskey upon the table, and they had hastened to prime themselves for the work before them. 3927 Baldwin and Cormac were already half drunk, and the liquor had brought out all their ferocity. 3928 Cormac placed his hands on the stove for an instant - it had been lighted, for the nights were still cold.
3929 'That will do,' said he, with an oath.
3930 'Aye,' said Baldwin, catching his meaning. 3931 'If he is strapped to that we will have the truth out of him.'
3932 'We'll have the truth out of him, never fear,' said McMurdo. 3933 He had nerves of steel, this man, for, though the whole weight of the affair was on him, his manner was as cool and unconcerned as ever. 3934 The others marked it and applauded.
3935 'You are the one to handle him,' said the Boss, approvingly. 3936 'Not a warning will he get till your hand is on his throat. 3937 It's a pity there are no shutters to your windows.'
3938 McMurdo went from one to the other and drew the curtain tighter. 3939 'Sure, no one can spy upon us now. 3940 It's close upon the hour.'
3941 'Maybe he won't come. 3942 Maybe he'll get a sniff of danger,' said the secretary.
3943 'He'll come, never fear,' McMurdo answered. 3944 'He is as eager to come as you can be to see him. 3945 Hark to that!'
3946 They all sat like wax figures, some with their glasses arrested halfway to their lips. 3947 Three loud knocks had sounded at the door.
3948 'Hush!' 3949 McMurdo raised his hand in caution. 3950 An exulting glance went round the circle and hands were laid upon hidden weapons.
3951 'Not a sound, for your lives!' 3952 McMurdo whispered, as he went from the room, closing the door carefully behind him.
3953 With strained ears the murderers waited. 3954 They counted the steps of their comrade down the passage. 3955 Then they heard him open the outer door. 3956 There were a few words as of greeting. 3957 Then they were aware of a strange step inside and of an unfamiliar voice. 3958 An instant later came the slam of the door and the turning of the key in the lock. 3959 Their prey was safe within the trap. 3960 Tiger Cormac laughed horribly, and Boss McGinty clapped his great hand across his mouth.
3961 'Be quiet, you fool!' he whispered. 3962 'You'll be the undoing of us yet!'
3963 There was a mutter of conversation from the next room. 3964 It seemed interminable. 3965 Then the door opened, and McMurdo appeared, his finger upon his lip.
3966 He came to the end of the table and looked round at them, A subtle change had come over him. 3967 His manner was as of one who has great work to do. 3968 His face had set into granite firmness. 3969 His eyes shone with a fierce excitement behind his spectacles. 3970 He had become a visible leader of men. 3971 They stared at him with eager interest; but he said nothing. 3972 Still with the same singular gaze, he looked from man to man.
3973 'Well,' cried Boss McGinty at last, 'is he here? 3974 Is Birdy Edwards here?'
3975 'Yes,' McMurdo answered slowly. 3976 'Birdy Edwards is here. 3977 I am Birdy Edwards!'
3978 There were ten seconds after that brief speech during which the room might have been empty, so profound was the silence. 3979 The hissing of a kettle upon the stove rose sharp and strident to the ear. 3980 Seven white faces, all turned upwards to this man who dominated them, were set motionless with utter terror. 3981 Then, with a sudden shivering of glass, a bristle of glistening rifle-barrels broke through each window, while the curtains were torn from their hangings.
3982 At the sight Boss McGinty gave the roar of a wounded bear and plunged for the half-opened door. 3983 A levelled revolver met him there, with the stern blue eyes of Captain Marvin of the Coal and Iron Police gleaming behind the sights. 3984 The Boss recoiled and fell back into his chair.
3985 'You're safer there, Councillor,' said the man whom they had known as McMurdo. 3986 'And you, Baldwin, if you don't take your hand off your gun you'll cheat the hangman yet. 3987 Pull it out, or, by the Lord that made me - There, that will do. 3988 There are forty armed men round this house, and you can figure it out for yourselves what chance you have. 3989 Take their pistols, Marvin!'
3990 There was no possible resistance under the menace of those rifles. 3991 The men were disarmed. 3992 Sulky, sheepish, and amazed, they still sat round the table.
3993 'I'd like to say a word to you before we separate,' said the man who had trapped them. 3994 'I guess we may not meet again until you see me on the stand in the court-house. 3995 I'll give you something to think over between now and then. 3996 You know me now for what I am. 3997 At last I can put my cards on the table. 3998 I am Birdy Edwards of Pinkerton's. 3999 I was chosen to break up your gang. 4000 I had a hard and a dangerous game to play. 4001 Not a soul, not one soul, not my nearest and dearest, knew that I was playing it. 4002 Only Captain Marvin here and my employers knew that. 4003 But it's over to-night, thank God, and I am the winner!'
4004 The seven pale, rigid faces looked up at him. 4005 There was an unappeasable hatred in their eyes. 4006 He read the relentless threat.
4007 'Maybe you think that the game is not over yet. 4008 Well, I take my chance on that. 4009 Anyhow, some of you will take no further hand, and there are sixty more besides yourselves that will see a jail this night. 4010 I'll tell you this, that when I was put upon this job I never believed there was such a society as yours. 4011 I thought it was paper talk, and that I would prove it so. 4012 They told me it was to do with the Freemen, so I went to Chicago and was made one. 4013 Then I was surer than ever that it was just paper talk; for I found no harm in the society, but a deal of good.
4014 'Still, I had to carry out my job, and I came to the coal valleys. 4015 When I reached this place I learned that I was wrong and that it wasn't a dime novel after all. 4016 So I stayed to look after it. 4017 I never killed a man in Chicago. 4018 I never minted a dollar in my life. 4019 Those I gave you were as good as any others; but I never spent money better. 4020 But I knew the way into your good wishes, and so I pretended to you that the law was after me. 4021 It all worked just as I thought.
4022 'So I joined your infernal Lodge and I took my share in your councils. 4023 Maybe they will say that I was as bad as you. 4024 They can say what they like, so long as I get you. 4025 But what is the truth? 4026 The night I joined, you beat up old man Stanger. 4027 I could not warn him, for there was no time; but I held your hand, Baldwin, when you would have killed him. 4028 If ever I have suggested things, so as to keep my place among you, they were things which I knew I could prevent. 4029 I could not save Dunn and Menzies, for I did not know enough; but I will see that their murderers are hanged. 4030 I gave Chester Wilcox warning, so that when I blew his house in he and his folk were in hiding. 4031 There was many a crime that I could not stop, but if you look back and think how often your man came home the other road, or was down in town when you went for him, or stayed indoors when you thought that he would come out, you'll see my work.'
4032 'You blasted traitor!' hissed McGinty, through his closed teeth.
4033 'Aye, John McGinty, you may call me that if it eases your smart. 4034 You and your like have been the enemy of God and man in these parts. 4035 It took a man to get between you and the poor devils of men and women that you held under your grip. 4036 There was just one way of doing it, and I did it. 4037 You call me a "traitor", but I guess there's many a thousand will call me a "deliverer" that went down into hell to save them. 4038 I've had three months of it. 4039 I wouldn't have three such months again if they let me loose in the Treasury at Washington for it. 4040 I had to stay till I had it all, every man and every secret, right here in this hand. 4041 I'd have waited a little longer if it hadn't come to my knowledge that my secret was coming out. 4042 A letter had come into the town that would have set you wise to it all. 4043 Then I had to act, and act quickly.
4044 'I've nothing more to say to you, except that when my time comes I'll die the easier when I think of the work I have done in this valley. 4045 Now, Marvin, I'll keep you no more. 4046 Take them in and get it over.'
4047 There is little more to tell. 4048 Scanlan had been given a sealed note to be left at the address of Miss Ettie Shafter - a mission which he had accepted with a wink and a knowing smile. 4049 In the early hours of the morning a beautiful woman and a much-muffled man boarded a special train which had been sent by the railroad company, and made a swift, unbroken journey out of the land of danger. 4050 It was the last time that ever either Ettie or her lover set foot in the Valley of Fear. 4051 Ten days later they were married in Chicago, with old Jacob Shafter as witness of the wedding.
4052 The trial of the Scowrers was held far from the place where their adherents might have terrified the guardians of the law. 4053 In vain they struggled. 4054 In vain the money of the lodge - money squeezed by blackmail out of the whole countryside - was spent like water in the attempt to save them. 4055 That cold, clear, unimpassioned statement from one who knew every detail of their lives, their organization, and their crimes was unshaken by all the wiles of their defenders. 4056 At last, after so many years, they were broken and scattered. 4057 The cloud was lifted for ever from the valley. 4058 McGinty met his fate upon the scaffold, cringing and whining when the last hour came. 4059 Eight of his chief followers shared his fate. 4060 Fifty-odd had various degrees of imprisonment. 4061 The work of Birdy Edwards was complete.
4062 And yet, as he had guessed, the game was not over yet. 4063 There was another hand to be played, and yet another and another. 4064 Ted Baldwin, for one, had escaped the scaffold; so had the Willabys; so had several other of the fiercest spirits of the gang. 4065 For ten years they were out of the world, and then came a day when they were free once more a day which Edwards, who knew his men, was very sure would be an end of his life of peace. 4066 They had sworn an oath on all that they thought holy to have his blood as a vengeance for their comrades. 4067 And well they strove to keep their vow!
4068 From Chicago he was chased, after two attempts so near to success that it was sure that the third would get him. 4069 From Chicago he went under a changed name to California, and it was there that the light went for a time out of his life when Ettie Edwards died. 4070 Once again he was nearly killed, and once again under the name of Douglas he worked in a lonely canyon, where, with an English partner named Barker, he amassed a fortune. 4071 At last there came a warning to him that the bloodhounds were on his track once more, and he cleared - only just in time - for England. 4072 And thence came the John Douglas who for a second time married a worthy mate and lived for five years as a Sussex country gentleman - a life which ended with the strange happenings of which we have heard.

4073 Epilogue

4074 The police-court proceedings had passed, in which the case of John Douglas was referred to a higher court. 4075 So had the Assizes, at which he was acquitted as having acted in self-defence.
4076 'Get him out of England at any cost,' wrote Holmes to the wife. 4077 'There are forces here which may be more dangerous than those he has escaped. 4078 There is no safety for your husband in England.'
4079 Two months had gone by, and the case had to some extent passed from our minds. 4080 Then one morning there came an enigmatic note slipped into our letter-box. 4081 'Dear me, Mr Holmes! 4082 Dear me!' said this singular epistle. 4083 There was neither superscription nor signature. 4084 I laughed at the quaint message, but Holmes showed an unwonted seriousness.
4085 'Devilry, Watson!' he remarked, and sat long with a clouded brow.
4086 Late that night Mrs Hudson, our landlady, brought up a message that a gentleman wished to see Holmes, and that the matter was of the utmost importance. 4087 Close at the heels of his messenger came Mr Cecil Barker, our friend of the moated Manor House. 4088 His face was drawn and haggard.
4089 'I've had bad news - terrible news, Mr Holmes,' said he.
4090 'I feared as much,' said Holmes.
4091 'You have not had a cable, have you?'
4092 'I have had a note from someone who has.'
4093 'It's poor Douglas. 4094 They tell me his name is Edwards, but he will always be Jack Douglas of Benito Canyon to me. 4095 I told you that they started together for South Africa in the Palmyra three weeks ago.'
4096 'Exactly.'
4097 'The ship reached Cape Town last night. 4098 I received this cable from Mrs Douglas this morning:
4099 'Jack has been lost overboard in gale off St Helena. 4100 No one knows how accident occurred - Ivy Douglas."'
4101 'Ha! 4102 It came like that, did it?' said Holmes, thoughtfully. 4103 'Well, I've no doubt it was well stage-managed.'
4104 'You mean that you think there was no accident?'
4105 'None in the world.'
4106 'He was murdered?'
4107 'Surely!'
4108 'So I think also. 4109 These infernal Scowrers, this cursed vindictive nest of criminals-'
4110 'No, no, my good sir,' said Holmes. 4111 'There is a master hand here. 4112 It is no case of sawed-off shot-guns and clumsy six-shooters. 4113 You can tell an old master by the sweep of his brush. 4114 I can tell a Moriarty when I see one. 4115 This crime is from London, not from America.'
4116 'But for what motive?'
4117 'Because it is done by a man who cannot afford to fail - one whose whole unique position depends upon the fact that all he does must succeed. 4118 A great brain and a huge organization have been turned to the extinction of one man. 4119 It is crushing the nut with the hammer - an absurd extravagance of energy - but the nut is very effectually crushed all the same.'
4120 'How came this man to have anything to do with it?'
4121 'I can only say that the first word that ever came to us of the business was from one of his lieutenants. 4122 These Americans were well advised. 4123 Having an English job to do, they took into partnership, as any foreign criminal could do, this great consultant in crime. 4124 From that moment their man was doomed. 4125 At first he would content himself by using his machinery in order to find their victim. 4126 Then he would indicate how the matter might be treated. 4127 Finally, when he read in the reports of the failure of this agent, he would step in himself with a master touch. 4128 You heard me warn this man at Birlstone Manor House that the coming danger was greater than the past. 4129 Was I right?'
4130 Barker beat his head with his clenched fist in his impotent anger.
4131 'Do you tell me that we have to sit down under this? 4132 Do you say that no one can ever get level with this king-devil?'
4133 'No, I don't say that,' said Holmes, and his eyes seemed to be looking far into the future. 4134 'I don't say that he can't be beat. 4135 But you must give me time - you must give me time!'
4136 We all sat in silence for some minutes, while those fateful eyes still strained to pierce the veil.

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