"It is my advice," the speaker continued, "that we go easier upon the small men. On the day that they have all been driven out the power of this society will have been broken."
Unwelcome truths are not popular. There were angry cries as the speaker resumed his seat. McGinty rose with gloom upon his brow.
"Brother Morris," said he, "you were always a croaker. So long as the members of this lodge stand together there is no power in the United States that can touch them. Sure, have we not tried it often enough in the law courts? I expect the big companies will find it easier to pay than to fight, same as the little companies do. And now, Brethren," McGinty took off his black velvet cap and his stole as he spoke, "this lodge has finished its business for the evening, save for one small matter which may be mentioned when we are parting. The time has now come for fraternal refreshment and for harmony."
Strange indeed is human nature. Here were these men, to whom murder was familiar, who again and again had struck down the father of the family, some man against whom they had no personal feeling, without one thought of compunction or of compassion for his weeping wife or helpless children, and yet the tender or pathetic in music could move them to tears. McMurdo had a fine tenor voice, and if he had failed to gain the good will of the lodge before, it could no longer have been withheld after he had thrilled them with "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary," and "On the Banks of Allan Water."
In his very first night the new recruit had made himself one of the most popular of the brethren, marked already for advancement and high office. There were other qualities needed, however, besides those of good fellowship, to make a worthy Freeman, and of these he was given an example before the evening was over. The whisky bottle had passed round many times, and the men were flushed and ripe for mischief when their Bodymaster rose once more to address them.
"Boys," said he, "there's one man in this town that wants trimming up, and it's for you to see that he gets it. I'm speaking of James Stanger of the Herald. You've seen how he's been opening his mouth against us again?"
There was a murmur of assent, with many a muttered oath. McGinty took a slip of paper from his waistcoat pocket.
"LAW AND ORDER!
That's how he heads it.
"REIGN OF TERROR IN THE COAL AND IRON DISTRICT
"Twelve years have now elapsed since the first assassinations
which proved the existence of a criminal organization in our
midst. From that day these outrages have never ceased, until
now they have reached a pitch which makes us the opprobrium
of the civilized world. Is it for such results as this that
our great country welcomes to its bosom the alien who flies
from the despotisms of Europe? Is it that they shall
themselves become tyrants over the very men who have given
them shelter, and that a state of terrorism and lawlessness
should be established under the very shadow of the sacred
folds of the starry Flag of Freedom which would raise horror
in our minds if we read of it as existing under the most
effete monarchy of the East? The men are known. The organization
is patent and public. How long are we to endure it? Can we
forever live --
Sure, I've read enough of the slush!" cried the chairman, tossing the paper down upon the table. "That's what he says of us. The question I'm asking you is what shall we say to him?"
"Kill him!" cried a dozen fierce voices.
"I protest against that," said Brother Morris, the man of the good brow and shaved face. "I tell you, Brethren, that our hand is too heavy in this valley, and that there will come a point where in self-defense every man will unite to crush us out. James Stanger is an old man. He is respected in the township and the district. His paper stands for all that is solid in the valley. If that man is struck down, there will be a stir through this state that will only end with our destruction."
"And how would they bring about our destruction, Mr.