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I.

THE Secret Society of the Ring had, in regular conclave, ordered that Brother William Felix, No. 20, of “Nine” Circle, should, within one lunar month, stab or shoot to the death Brother Henry Reynell, No. 12, of “Seven” Circle. Reynell's offence was (as already related) the promising “to be true man” to Civil Commandant Maconochie. Convict Bill Felix was a member of the sub-gang of which Convict Henry Reynell was the leader; and, inasmuch as Reynell had chosen Felix to be a member of 5 B farm sub-gang, thus freeing him from the constant wearing of fetters and conferring upon him a desirable degree of freedom, Felix had sworn to be his (Reynell's) man “for ever and a day.” The tie of fraternity which linked Reynell and Felix thus was sadly complicated with the obligation of obedience which bound the latter to the Ring. Let Felix obey the Ring, and he would have to enact the doom upon


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the one soul for whom he cared. Let him refuse to execute the death-warrant issued under the seal of the “One”—the dread head or “Centre” of the Society—and the doom he refused to Reynell would be his own. The Ring having given over some one to the doom, would demand the life of the appointed executioner if he failed within the specified time to complete his task. In rare instances a regulation or law of the Society might be modified or altered in effect. But never in its history had there been known a case where a death-warrant had been left unfulfilled and the stated executioner had continued to live. The idol would demand appeasement for its lust, if not in the person of one victim, in another's.

There is an impressive story as to the working of this Medean law. Before the existing “One” it is believed three men had filled the awful office. The second in the administration had been ordered to murder the then Commandant, Captain Wright. He had acquiesced in the need for the crime—otherwise the order would not have been ratified. And, as the “One,” it was his duty to perform the doom on the Commandant. It was a minor but still immutable law of the Ring that the “old man” should only die by the “One's” hands. The honour was accorded to him as a privilege of his dignity. Yet Captain


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Wright lived to be Major and to give evidence before the Select Committee on Transportation of the House of Commons. How was that?

Wright had been suddenly recalled to Sydney. The vessel which brought the summons of recall could not lie off the harbourless island in the storm-season for longer than a week, and instant preparations for his departure were set on foot by the Commandant. The news spread—and twice within the week was his life attempted in vain. He got on board the vessel safe; thus unknowingly he committed the “One” to the wrath and vengeance of the Ring; and the Ring demanded its vicarious sacrifice.

Three days after Wright's sailing the body of one of the most intelligent of the “free” constables was found suspended from a tall pine. The dead man was supposed to have been in pretty general favour with the transports and his fellow-officers; hence it was not believed that he had been murdered, and his death was attributed to suicide. The military surgeon, who made an examination of the corpse, drew the attention of the subaltern of the guard to a curious symbol burnt or tattooed into the flesh of the chest and freshly cut across with a knife. The scarification was, however, only skin-deep, and had


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been done after death. The officers did not recognize at the moment the significance of the scar.note

It was the symbol of the “One.”

Not even the dreaded Head of the Society was free of its penalties.

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Image on page 101: Star within concentric circles

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