What went through his mind before this happened:
It was pitch dark and very oppressive under his hood. 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.
“John McMurdo,” said the voice, are you already a member of the Ancient Order of Freemen?”
He bowed in assent.
“Is your lodge No. 29, Chicago?”
He bowed again.
“Dark nights are unpleasant,” said the voice.
“Yes, for strangers to travel,” he answered.
“The clouds are heavy.”
“Yes, a storm is approaching.”
Are the brethren satisfied?” asked the Bodymaster.
There was a general murmur of assent.
“We know, Brother, by your sign and by your countersign that you are indeed one of us,” said McGinty. “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. Are you ready to be tested?”
Are you of stout heart?
Take a stride forward to prove it.”
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. None the less, he nerved himself to step resolutely out, and as he did so the pressure melted away. There was a low murmur of applause.
“He is of stout heart,” said the voice. Can you bear pain?”
“As well as another,” he answered.
It was all he could do to keep himself from screaming out, for an agonizing pain shot through his forearm. He nearly fainted at the sudden shock of it; but he bit his lip and clenched his hands to hide his agony.
“I can take more than that,” said he.
This time there was loud applause. A finer first appearance had never been made in the lodge. Hands clapped him on the back, and the hood was plucked from his head. He stood blinking and smiling amid the congratulations of the brothers.
“One last word, Brother McMurdo,” said McGinty. “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?”
“I am,” said McMurdo.
And you accept the rule of the Bodymaster for the time being under all circumstances?”
Then in the name of Lodge 341, Vermissa, I welcome you to its privileges and debates. You will put the liquor on the table, Brother Scanlan, and we will drink to our worthy brother.”
McMurdo’s coat had been brought to him; but before putting it on he examined his right arm, which still smarted heavily. There on the flesh of the forearm was a circle with a triangle within it, deep and red, as the branding iron had left it. One or two of his neighbours pulled up their sleeves and showed their own lodge marks.
(excerpt from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear)
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