“So,” said he with a furious glance at McMurdo, “you got here first, did you? I’ve a word to say to you, Councillor, about this man.”
“Then say it here and now before my face,” cried McMurdo.
“I’ll say it at my own time, in my own way.”
“Tut! Tut!” said McGinty, getting off his barrel. “This will never do. We have a new brother here, Baldwin, and it’s not for us to greet him in such fashion. Hold out your hand, man, and make it up!”
“Never!” cried Baldwin in a fury.
“I’ve offered to fight him if he thinks I have wronged him,” said McMurdo. “I’ll fight him with fists, or, if that won’t satisfy him, I’ll fight him any other way he chooses. Now, I’ll leave it to you, Councillor, to judge between us as a Bodymaster should.”
“What is it, then?”
“A young lady. She’s free to choose for herself.”
“Is she?” cried Baldwin.
“As between two brothers of the lodge I should say that she was,” said the Boss.
“Oh, that’s your ruling, is it?”
“Yes, it is, Ted Baldwin,” said McGinty, with a wicked stare. “Is it you that would dispute it?”
“You would throw over one that has stood by you this five years in favour of a man that you never saw before in your life? You’re not Bodymaster for life, Jack McGinty, and by God! when next it comes to a vote—”
The Councillor sprang at him like a tiger. His hand closed round the other’s neck, and he hurled him back across one of the barrels. In his mad fury he would have squeezed the life out of him if McMurdo had not interfered.
“Easy, Councillor! For heaven’s sake, go easy!” he cried, as he dragged him back.
McGinty released his hold, and Baldwin, cowed and shaken gasping for breath, and shivering in every limb, as one who has looked over the very edge of death, sat up on the barrel over which he had been hurled.
“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. “Maybe you think if I was voted down from Bodymaster you would find yourself in my shoes. It’s for the lodge to say that. But so long as I am the chief I’ll have no man lift his voice against me or my rulings.”
“I have nothing against you,” mumbled Baldwin, feeling his throat.
“Well, then,” cried the other, relapsing in a moment into a bluff joviality, “we are all good friends again and there’s an end of the matter.”
He took a bottle of champagne down from the shelf and twisted out the cork.
“See now,” he continued, as he filled three high glasses. “Let us drink the quarrelling toast of the lodge. After that, as you know, there can be no bad blood between us. Now, then the left hand on the apple of my throat. I say to you, Ted Baldwin, what is the offense, sir?”
“The clouds are heavy,” answered Baldwin