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Near to that part of the Thames on which the church at Rotherhithe abuts, where the buildings on the banks are dirtiest and the vessels on the river blackest with the dust of colliers and the smoke of close-built low-roofed houses, there exists the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London, wholly unknown, even by name, to the great mass of its inhabitants. To reach this place, the visitor has to penetrate through a maze of close, narrow, and muddy streets, thronged by the roughest and poorest of waterside people, and devoted to the traffic they may be supposed to occasion.

The cheapest and least delicate provisions are heaped in the shops; the coarsest and commonest articles of wearing apparel dangle at the salesman's door, and stream from the house-parapet and windows.

Jostling with unemployed labourers of the lowest class, ballast-heavers, coal-whippers, brazen women, ragged children, and the raff and refuse of the river, he makes his way with difficulty along, assailed by offensive sights and smells from the narrow alleys which branch off on the right and left, and deafened by the clash of ponderous waggons that bear great piles of merchandise from the stacks of warehouses that rise from every corner.

Arriving, at length, in streets remoter and less-frequented than those through which he has passed, he walks beneath tottering house-fronts projecting over the pavement, dismantled walls that seem to totter as he passes, chimneys half crushed half hesitating to fall, windows guarded by rusty iron bars that time and dirt have almost eaten away, every imaginable sign of desolation and neglect. In such a neighborhood, beyond Dockhead in the Borough of Southwark, stands Jacob's Island, surrounded by a muddy ditch, six or eight feet deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide is in, once called Mill Pond, but known in the days of this story as Folly Ditch.

It is a creek or inlet from the Thames, and can always be filled at high water by opening the sluices at the Lead Mills from which it took its old name.

At such times, a stranger, looking from one of the wooden bridges thrown across it at Mill Lane, will see the inhabitants of the houses on either side lowering from their back doors and windows, buckets, pails, domestic utensils of all kinds, in which to haul the water up; and when his eye is turned from these operations to the houses themselves, his utmost astonishment will be excited by the scene before him.

Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows, broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud, and threatening to fall into it--as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations; every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage; all these ornament the banks of Folly Ditch. In Jacob's Island, the warehouses are roofless and empty; the walls are crumbling down; the windows are windows no more; the doors are falling into the streets; the chimneys are blackened, but they yield no smoke.

Thirty or forty years ago, before losses and chancery suits came upon it, it was a thriving place; but now it is a desolate island indeed.

The houses have no owners; they are broken open, and entered upon by those who have the courage; and there they live, and there they die.

They must have powerful motives for a secret residence, or be reduced to a destitute condition indeed, who seek a refuge in Jacob's Island. In an upper room of one of these houses--a detached house of fair size, ruinous in other respects, but strongly defended at door and window:

of which house the back commanded the ditch in manner already described--there were assembled three men, who, regarding each other every now and then with looks expressive of perplexity and expectation, sat for some time in profound and gloomy silence.

One of these was Toby Crackit, another Mr. Chitling, and the third a robber of fifty years, whose nose had been almost beaten in, in some old scuffle, and whose face bore a frightful scar which might probably be traced to the same occasion.

This man was a returned transport, and his name was Kags. 'I wish,' said Toby turning to Mr. Chitling, 'that you had picked out some other crib when the two old ones got too warm, and had not come here, my fine feller.' 'Why didn't you, blunder-head!' said Kags. 'Well, I thought you'd have been a little more glad to see me than this,' replied Mr. Chitling, with a melancholy air. 'Why, look'e, young gentleman,' said Toby, 'when a man keeps himself so very ex-clusive as I have done, and by that means has a snug house over his head with nobody a prying and smelling about it, it's rather a startling thing to have the honour of a wisit from a young gentleman (however respectable and pleasant a person he may be to play cards with at conweniency) circumstanced as you are.' 'Especially, when the exclusive young man has got a friend stopping with him, that's arrived sooner than was expected from foreign parts, and is too modest to want to be presented to the Judges on his return,' added Mr. Kags. There was a short silence, after which Toby Crackit, seeming to abandon as hopeless any further effort to maintain his usual devil-may-care swagger, turned to Chitling and said, 'When was Fagin took then?' 'Just at dinner-time--two o'clock this afternoon.

Charley and I made our lucky up the wash-us chimney, and Bolter got into the empty water-butt, head downwards; but his legs were so precious long that they stuck out at the top, and so they took him too.' 'And Bet?' 'Poor Bet!

She went to see the Body, to speak to who it was,' replied Chitling, his countenance falling more and more, 'and went off mad, screaming and raving, and beating her head against the boards; so they put a strait-weskut on her and took her to the hospital--and there she is.' 'Wot's come of young Bates?' demanded Kags. 'He hung about, not to come over here afore dark, but he'll be here soon,' replied Chitling.

'There's nowhere else to go to now, for the people at the Cripples are all in custody, and the bar of the ken--I went up there and see it with my own eyes--is filled with traps.' 'This is a smash,' observed Toby, biting his lips. 'There's more than one will go with this.' 'The sessions are on,' said Kags:

'if they get the inquest over, and Bolter turns King's evidence:

as of course he will, from what he's said already:

they can prove Fagin an accessory before the fact, and get the trial on on Friday, and he'll swing in six days from this, by G--!' 'You should have heard the people groan,' said Chitling; 'the officers fought like devils, or they'd have torn him away.

He was down once, but they made a ring round him, and fought their way along.

You should have seen how he looked about him, all muddy and bleeding, and clung to them as if they were his dearest friends.

I can see 'em now, not able to stand upright with the pressing of the mob, and draggin him along amongst 'em; I can see the people jumping up, one behind another, and snarling with their teeth and making at him; I can see the blood upon his hair and beard, and hear the cries with which the women worked themselves into the centre of the crowd at the street corner, and swore they'd tear his heart out!' The horror-stricken witness of this scene pressed his hands upon his ears, and with his eyes closed got up and paced violently to and fro, like one distracted. While he was thus engaged, and the two men sat by in silence with their eyes fixed upon the floor, a pattering noise was heard upon the stairs, and Sikes's dog bounded into the room.

They ran to the window, downstairs, and into the street.

The dog had jumped in at an open window; he made no attempt to follow them, nor was his master to be seen. 'What's the meaning of this?' said Toby when they had returned. 'He can't be coming here.

I--I--hope not.' 'If he was coming here, he'd have come with the dog,' said Kags, stooping down to examine the animal, who lay panting on the floor.

'Here!

Give us some water for him; he has run himself faint.' 'He's drunk it all up, every drop,' said Chitling after watching the dog some time in silence.

'Covered with mud--lame--half blind--he must have come a long way.' 'Where can he have come from!' exclaimed Toby.

'He's been to the other kens of course, and finding them filled with strangers come on here, where he's been many a time and often.

But where can he have come from first, and how comes he here alone without the other!' 'He'--(none of them called the murderer by his old name)--'He can't have made away with himself.

What do you think?' said Chitling. Toby shook his head. 'If he had,' said Kags, 'the dog 'ud want to lead us away to where he did it.

No.

I think he's got out of the country, and left the dog behind.

He must have given him the slip somehow, or he wouldn't be so easy.' This solution, appearing the most probable one, was adopted as the right; the dog, creeping under a chair, coiled himself up to sleep, without more notice from anybody. It being now dark, the shutter was closed, and a candle lighted and placed upon the table.

The terrible events of the last two days had made a deep impression on all three, increased by the danger and uncertainty of their own position.

They drew their chairs closer together, starting at every sound.

They spoke little, and that in whispers, and were as silent and awe-stricken as if the remains of the murdered woman lay in the next room. They had sat thus, some time, when suddenly was heard a hurried knocking at the door below. 'Young Bates,' said Kags, looking angrily round, to check the fear he felt himself. The knocking came again.

No, it wasn't he.

He never knocked like that. Crackit went to the window, and shaking all over, drew in his head.

There was no need to tell them who it was; his pale face was enough.

The dog too was on the alert in an instant, and ran whining to the door. 'We must let him in,' he said, taking up the candle. 'Isn't there any help for it?' asked the other man in a hoarse voice. 'None.

He _must_ come in.' 'Don't leave us in the dark,' said Kags, taking down a candle from the chimney-piece, and lighting it, with such a trembling hand that the knocking was twice repeated before he had finished. Crackit went down to the door, and returned followed by a man with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and another tied over his head under his hat.

He drew them slowly off.

Blanched face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three days' growth, wasted flesh, short thick breath; it was the very ghost of Sikes. He laid his hand upon a chair which stood in the middle of the room, but shuddering as he was about to drop into it, and seeming to glance over his shoulder, dragged it back close to the wall--as close as it would go--and ground it against it--and sat down. Not a word had been exchanged.

He looked from one to another in silence.

If an eye were furtively raised and met his, it was instantly averted.

When his hollow voice broke silence, they all three started.

They seemed never to have heard its tones before. 'How came that dog here?' he asked. 'Alone.

Three hours ago.' 'To-night's paper says that Fagin's took.

Is it true, or a lie?' 'True.' They were silent again. 'Damn you all!' said Sikes, passing his hand across his forehead. 'Have you nothing to say to me?' There was an uneasy movement among them, but nobody spoke. 'You that keep this house,' said Sikes, turning his face to Crackit, 'do you mean to sell me, or to let me lie here till this hunt is over?' 'You may stop here, if you think it safe,' returned the person addressed, after some hesitation. Sikes carried his eyes slowly up the wall behind him:

rather trying to turn his head than actually doing it:

and said, 'Is--it--the body--is it buried?' They shook their heads. 'Why isn't it!' he retorted with the same glance behind him. 'Wot do they keep such ugly things above the ground for?--Who's that knocking?' Crackit intimated, by a motion of his hand as he left the room, that there was nothing to fear; and directly came back with Charley Bates behind him.

Sikes sat opposite the door, so that the moment the boy entered the room he encountered his figure. 'Toby,' said the boy falling back, as Sikes turned his eyes towards him, 'why didn't you tell me this, downstairs?' There had been something so tremendous in the shrinking off of the three, that the wretched man was willing to propitiate even this lad.

Accordingly he nodded, and made as though he would shake hands with him. 'Let me go into some other room,' said the boy, retreating still farther. 'Charley!' said Sikes, stepping forward.

'Don't you--don't you know me?' 'Don't come nearer me,' answered the boy, still retreating, and looking, with horror in his eyes, upon the murderer's face.

'You monster!' The man stopped half-way, and they looked at each other; but Sikes's eyes sunk gradually to the ground. 'Witness you three,' cried the boy shaking his clenched fist, and becoming more and more excited as he spoke. 'Witness you three--I'm not afraid of him--if they come here after him, I'll give him up; I will.

I tell you out at once.

He may kill me for it if he likes, or if he dares, but if I am here I'll give him up.

I'd give him up if he was to be boiled alive.

Murder! Help!

If there's the pluck of a man among you three, you'll help me.

Murder!

Help!

Down with him!' Pouring out these cries, and accompanying them with violent gesticulation, the boy actually threw himself, single-handed, upon the strong man, and in the intensity of his energy and the suddenness of his surprise, brought him heavily to the ground. The three spectators seemed quite stupefied.

They offered no interference, and the boy and man rolled on the ground together; the former, heedless of the blows that showered upon him, wrenching his hands tighter and tighter in the garments about the murderer's breast, and never ceasing to call for help with all his might. The contest, however, was too unequal to last long.

Sikes had him down, and his knee was on his throat, when Crackit pulled him back with a look of alarm, and pointed to the window.

There were lights gleaming below, voices in loud and earnest conversation, the tramp of hurried footsteps--endless they seemed in number--crossing the nearest wooden bridge.

One man on horseback seemed to be among the crowd; for there was the noise of hoofs rattling on the uneven pavement.

The gleam of lights increased; the footsteps came more thickly and noisily on.

Then, came a loud knocking at the door, and then a hoarse murmur from such a multitude of angry voices as would have made the boldest quail. 'Help!' shrieked the boy in a voice that rent the air. 'He's here!

Break down the door!' 'In the King's name,' cried the voices without; and the hoarse cry arose again, but louder. 'Break down the door!' screamed the boy.

'I tell you they'll never open it.

Run straight to the room where the light is. Break down the door!' Strokes, thick and heavy, rattled upon the door and lower window-shutters as he ceased to speak, and a loud huzzah burst from the crowd; giving the listener, for the first time, some adequate idea of its immense extent. 'Open the door of some place where I can lock this screeching Hell-babe,' cried Sikes fiercely; running to and fro, and dragging the boy, now, as easily as if he were an empty sack. 'That door.

Quick!'

He flung him in, bolted it, and turned the key.

'Is the downstairs door fast?' 'Double-locked and chained,' replied Crackit, who, with the other two men, still remained quite helpless and bewildered. 'The panels--are they strong?' 'Lined with sheet-iron.' 'And the windows too?' 'Yes, and the windows.' 'Damn you!' cried the desperate ruffian, throwing up the sash and menacing the crowd.

'Do your worst!

I'll cheat you yet!' Of all the terrific yells that ever fell on mortal ears, none could exceed the cry of the infuriated throng.

Some shouted to those who were nearest to set the house on fire; others roared to the officers to shoot him dead.

Among them all, none showed such fury as the man on horseback, who, throwing himself out of the saddle, and bursting through the crowd as if he were parting water, cried, beneath the window, in a voice that rose above all others, 'Twenty guineas to the man who brings a ladder!' The nearest voices took up the cry, and hundreds echoed it.

Some called for ladders, some for sledge-hammers; some ran with torches to and fro as if to seek them, and still came back and roared again; some spent their breath in impotent curses and execrations; some pressed forward with the ecstasy of madmen, and thus impeded the progress of those below; some among the boldest attempted to climb up by the water-spout and crevices in the wall; and all waved to and fro, in the darkness beneath, like a field of corn moved by an angry wind:

and joined from time to time in one loud furious roar. 'The tide,' cried the murderer, as he staggered back into the room, and shut the faces out, 'the tide was in as I came up. Give me a rope, a long rope.

They're all in front.

I may drop into the Folly Ditch, and clear off that way.

Give me a rope, or I shall do three more murders and kill myself.' The panic-stricken men pointed to where such articles were kept; the murderer, hastily selecting the longest and strongest cord, hurried up to the house-top. All the window in the rear of the house had been long ago bricked up, except one small trap in the room where the boy was locked, and that was too small even for the passage of his body.

But, from this aperture, he had never ceased to call on those without, to guard the back; and thus, when the murderer emerged at last on the house-top by the door in the roof, a loud shout proclaimed the fact to those in front, who immediately began to pour round, pressing upon each other in an unbroken stream. He planted a board, which he had carried up with him for the purpose, so firmly against the door that it must be matter of great difficulty to open it from the inside; and creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. The water was out, and the ditch a bed of mud. The crowd had been hushed during these few moments, watching his motions and doubtful of his purpose, but the instant they perceived it and knew it was defeated, they raised a cry of triumphant execration to which all their previous shouting had been whispers.

Again and again it rose.

Those who were at too great a distance to know its meaning, took up the sound; it echoed and re-echoed; it seemed as though the whole city had poured its population out to curse him. On pressed the people from the front--on, on, on, in a strong struggling current of angry faces, with here and there a glaring torch to lighten them up, and show them out in all their wrath and passion.

The houses on the opposite side of the ditch had been entered by the mob; sashes were thrown up, or torn bodily out; there were tiers and tiers of faces in every window; cluster upon cluster of people clinging to every house-top.

Each little bridge (and there were three in sight) bent beneath the weight of the crowd upon it.

Still the current poured on to find some nook or hole from which to vent their shouts, and only for an instant see the wretch. 'They have him now,' cried a man on the nearest bridge. 'Hurrah!' The crowd grew light with uncovered heads; and again the shout uprose. 'I will give fifty pounds,' cried an old gentleman from the same quarter, 'to the man who takes him alive.

I will remain here, till he come to ask me for it.' There was another roar.

At this moment the word was passed among the crowd that the door was forced at last, and that he who had first called for the ladder had mounted into the room.

The stream abruptly turned, as this intelligence ran from mouth to mouth; and the people at the windows, seeing those upon the bridges pouring back, quitted their stations, and running into the street, joined the concourse that now thronged pell-mell to the spot they had left:

each man crushing and striving with his neighbor, and all panting with impatience to get near the door, and look upon the criminal as the officers brought him out. The cries and shrieks of those who were pressed almost to suffocation, or trampled down and trodden under foot in the confusion, were dreadful; the narrow ways were completely blocked up; and at this time, between the rush of some to regain the space in front of the house, and the unavailing struggles of others to extricate themselves from the mass, the immediate attention was distracted from the murderer, although the universal eagerness for his capture was, if possible, increased. The man had shrunk down, thoroughly quelled by the ferocity of the crowd, and the impossibility of escape; but seeing this sudden change with no less rapidity than it had occurred, he sprang upon his feet, determined to make one last effort for his life by dropping into the ditch, and, at the risk of being stifled, endeavouring to creep away in the darkness and confusion. Roused into new strength and energy, and stimulated by the noise within the house which announced that an entrance had really been effected, he set his foot against the stack of chimneys, fastened one end of the rope tightly and firmly round it, and with the other made a strong running noose by the aid of his hands and teeth almost in a second.

He could let himself down by the cord to within a less distance of the ground than his own height, and had his knife ready in his hand to cut it then and drop. At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pits, and when the old gentleman before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing of the bridge as to resist the force of the crowd, and retain his position) earnestly warned those about him that the man was about to lower himself down--at that very instant the murderer, looking behind him on the roof, threw his arms above his head, and uttered a yell of terror. 'The eyes again!' he cried in an unearthly screech. Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled over the parapet.

The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it speeds.

He fell for five-and-thirty feet.

There was a sudden jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand. The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely. The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy, thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake. A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man's shoulders. Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his brains.

(追与逃。)

罗瑟息思教堂位于泰晤士河的一侧,由于运煤船腾起的灰尘和密密麻麻的矮房子喷出的烟,两岸的建筑物都非常龌龊,河上的船只也是黑黢黢的。伦敦本来就有许许多多不为人知的地区,在这一带至今仍存在着一个最肮脏、最奇怪、最不同寻常的区域,绝大多数伦敦市民甚至连它的名字也说不上来。

要想前往这个去处,游人必须穿过一大片稠密、狭窄、泥泞的街道,住在这里的都是最下等、最穷的水上人家,他们的谋生之道也不难想见。店铺里堆放着价格最廉、质量最差的食品。最蹩脚、最不值钱的衣装服饰悬挂在商家门前,在住房栏杆、窗口迎风招展。到处都是最低级的失业人员、搬运压舱货的脚夫、煤船装卸工、浪荡女子、衣衫褴楼的儿童,还有河滨的渣滓废物,你在中间挤来挤去,吃力地往前走。无数的小巷左右岔开去,巷子里不断涌出令人恶心的景象和气味。笨重的马车装载着堆积如山的货物,从遍布每一个角落的堆栈、库房里哐啷哐啷地开出来,叫人什么也听不见。好不容易才来到比先前经过的街道更为偏僻,行人也不是那么多的街上,只见突出在便道上方的骑楼摇摇欲坠,一堵堵断壁残垣像是在你经过时就会倒下来似的,烟囱塌了一半,另一半也在犹豫,把守窗户的铁条年深日久,上边锈迹斑斑,糊满污迹,差不多都烂透了——一切颓败破落的迹象这里应有尽有。

雅各岛就坐落在这一带,从南渥克镇码头再往前走就到了。雅各岛四周的臭水沟涨潮时可以达到六至八英尺深、十五至二十英尺宽,这条水沟以前叫磨坊池,可这些年里人们就知道它叫荒唐沟。这是泰晤士河分出来的一条港汉或者说水湾,只要在满潮时打开利德磨坊的水闸,就可以把水放满,水沟的老名字就是这么来的。开闸的时候,外来人只要站在磨坊巷那些横跨水沟的木桥上望去,就会看到两岸的居民打开后门、窗户,把吊桶、提桶,以及各式各样的家用器皿放下去打水。你将目光从这幅汲水图转向房子本身,眼前的景象不免会使你大吃一惊。五六所房子合用屋后的一条摇摇晃晃的木板走廊,透过木板上的窟窿可以看到下边的淤泥。窗户破破烂烂,有的修理过,晾衣杆从窗口伸出来,但上边从来不见晾着衣服。房间又小又脏,室内密不透风,充满恶臭,连用来藏污纳垢似乎都嫌太不卫生。木板房子悬在烂泥臭水之上,像是马上就要掉下去的样子——有一些已经掉下去了。墙壁污秽不堪,地基一天天腐烂,怵目惊心的贫困,令人恶心的污垢、腐物和垃圾——这一切装点着荒唐沟的两岸。

雅各岛上的堆栈空空如也,连房顶也没有,墙壁东倒西歪,窗户已不成其为窗户,门倒在街上,烟囱黑黝黝的,却从不冒烟。三四十年前,不景气和法律诉讼拉锯战还不曾光临,这里市面相当繁荣,可而今,它的确已经成了一座孤岛。房舍没有主人,胆大的人就破门而人,据为己有。他们住在这里,死在这里。这些人必有各自重大的原因才来找一处秘密的住所,要么就是确实已经到了走投无路的地步,否则也不必到雅各岛上来寻求庇护。

这些房子里有一座相当大的孤楼,房子的其他方面都已破败不堪,唯有门窗防范森严。房子的后部濒临水沟,情况就是前边描绘过的那样——在二楼的一个房间里,有三个人聚在一块儿,这三人愁眉苦脸,不时露出惶惑而期待的神色相互看一眼,已经在沉默中坐了好一阵子。三个人当中,一个是托比·格拉基特,另一个是基特宁先生,第三个约莫五十岁上下,也是以偷盗为生的,他的鼻子在以往的一次斗殴中差不多给揍扁了,脸上带着一道可怕的伤痕,兴许也可以追溯到同一个场合。这人是一个从海外逃回来的流放犯,名叫凯格斯。

“我的好伙计,”托比朝基特宁先生转过脸去,说道,“既然那两处老窝都呆不下去了,你还是另外找个地方避避风得了,不该上这儿来。”

“死脑筋,你干吗不呢?”凯格斯也说。

“嗳,我本以为你见到我会比这个样子高兴一些呢。”基特宁先生神情沮丧地回答。

“你呀你呀,年轻的绅士,”托比说道,“一个人像我这样独来独往,凭这一手才弄到一套舒适的房子安顿下来,周围也没人又是打听又是闻味,有幸看见一位处在你这样境况的年轻绅士光临,真是令人担待不起啊(虽说在方便的时候,阁下可能是一位受人尊敬、讨人喜欢的牌友)。”

“尤其是,这位独来独往的年轻人家里还住着一个朋友,这个朋友从国外回来的时间比预期的早了一些,偏偏他又很谦虚,不愿去向法官报到。”凯格斯补充说。

在一阵短暂的沉默之后,托比·格拉基特似乎对于保持平素那副魔鬼见了也会发愁的臭架子终于绝望,他不再下功夫,转向基特宁说道:

“弗金又是啥时候给抓去的?”

“正是吃午饭的当儿——今天下午两点钟。我跟查理打洗衣坊烟囱里溜掉了,波尔特一头栽进那个空的大水桶,可他两条腿太长了,竖在水桶顶上,他们就又把他抓住了。”

“蓓特呢?”

“可怜的蓓特。她跑去看那具尸体,说是去告个别,”基特宁一张脸拉得越来越长,答道,“一下就疯了,又是尖叫又是说胡话,拿脑袋往墙壁上撞,他们只好给她穿上约束衣,带她上医院去了——她眼下在那儿。”

“小贝兹怎么样?”凯格斯问。

“在附近转悠,天黑以前不会上这儿来,不过他很快就会来的,”基特宁回答,“眼下也没别的地方可走,瘸子店那儿的人全部被拘留,那个酒吧本来是窝子——我跑到那儿去,亲眼看见来着——里边全是密探。”

“这是一次大扫荡,”托比咬着嘴唇说道,“搭进去的可不光是一个人。”

“现在正是审判期,”凯格斯说道,“只要预审结束,波尔特供出了费金——从他以前说的话来看,他肯定会招供——他们可以判定费金是事前从犯,星期五开庭审判,从今儿个算起,再过六天他可就要荡秋千了,我他——”

“你们准听说了,百姓吼得才叫厉害,”基特宁说道,“要不是警察豁出命来赶,他已经给撕成碎片了。他倒下去了一次,可警察在他四周围成一个圆圈,硬冲出去了。你们没有看见他四顾张望的样子,浑身是泥,满脸淌血,贴在警察身边,就好像警察是他最亲密的朋友似的。我眼下还看得见,人群拼命往前挤,他们也顶不住,就把他夹在自己人中间拖走了。我看得见,人们一个接一个跳上来,咬牙切齿,嗷嗷直叫,朝他扑过去。我看得见他头发、胡子上的血,我听得见,娘们儿都吵吵着挤进街角的人群中,发誓要把他的心挖出来。”

吓得魂不附体的现场目击者捂住耳朵,闭着眼睛站起来,狂暴地走来走去,像是神智错乱了一般。

当他作出这些举动的时候,另外两个默默地坐在一旁,直瞪瞪地盯着地板,这时,楼梯上响起一阵啪哒啪哒的声音,赛克斯的狗窜进了屋里。他们往窗口奔去,又跑下楼,冲到街上。狗是从一扇开着的窗户里跳进来的,它没有跟着三个人跑,它的主人也没有出现。

“这是什么意思?”三个人又回来了,托比说道。“他不会上这儿来的。我——我——但愿不会。”

“他要是上这儿来的话,会带着狗一块儿来,”凯格斯俯下身来,察看着那只躺在地板上直喘气的畜生。“喂。咱给它点儿水喝,瞧它跑得气都喘不过来了。”

“它把水全喝下去了,一滴也不剩,”基特宁默不作声地盯着狗看了一阵,说道。“满身泥浆——腿也瘸了——眼睛也快睁不开了——一定走了很远的路。”

“它能打哪儿来!”托比嚷道,“它保准到别的窝子去过了,发现里边全是生人才跑到这儿来的,这地方它来过多次,又是经常来。可一开始它是从什么地方来?没有那个人,它怎么会一路跑来?”

“他——”(三个人谁也不提凶手的名字)——“他不会寻短见的,你们认为呢?”基特宁说道。

托比摇了摇头。

“要是他死了,狗一定会把我们领到他自杀的地方去。”凯格斯说,“不。他恐怕已经逃出英国,把狗撇下了。他肯定是耍了什么花招,要不狗也不会这样老实。”

这种解释看来可能性最大,所以大家也就认可了。狗钻到一把椅子下边,蜷成一团睡了,谁也没再去管它。

这时,天已经黑下来,窗板关上了,他们点亮一支蜡烛,放在桌上。近两天来发生的这些可怕的事件深深地印在他们仨心上,加上自己处境危险,前途未定,便越发感到紧张。他们挪动椅子,彼此靠得紧紧的,听到每一声响动都心惊肉跳。他们绝少说话,有话也是低声耳语,看他们那副噤若寒蝉的样子,好像那个惨遭谋杀的女人的尸体就停放在隔壁房间里。

有一阵子,他们就这么坐着,突然,楼下响起一阵急促的敲门声。

“小贝兹。”凯格斯一边说,一边怒不可遏地回头看了看,以抑制内心的恐惧。

敲门声又响了。不,这不是他。他从来不像这样敲门。

格拉基特走到窗前,哆哆嗦嗦地探出头去。用不着告诉他们来者是谁了,他那苍白的面孔已经足够了。眨眼之间,狗也警觉起来,哀叫着往门日奔去。

“我们还是得让他进来。”格拉基特端起蜡烛说道。

“就想不出什么别的法子?”另一个汉子声音沙哑地问。

“没法子,只能让他进来。”

“别把咱丢在黑屋子里。”凯格斯一边说,一边从壁炉架上取下一支蜡烛,等他双手哆嗦地点亮蜡烛,敲门声已经又响了两次。

格拉基特下楼开门去了,回来时身后跟着一个汉子,那人用一张手巾裹住下半个脸,另一张手巾裹住戴着帽子的脑袋。他慢吞吞地解下手巾。苍白的面容,眍进去的双眼,凹陷的脸颊,三天没刮的胡子,瘦削的身形,急促的呼吸:这简直就是赛克斯的幽灵。

他伸手扶住屋子正中放着的一把椅子,正想一屁股坐下去,忽然打了个寒战,又仿佛是想回头看一眼,他把椅子拖到紧靠墙根的地方——近得不能再近了——抵着墙壁,坐了下去。

谁也不说一句话。他一声不吭,挨次打量着他们。即便有谁的目光偷偷抬起来,与他的目光相接,也立即转向一旁。当他瓮声瓮气打破沉默的时候,他们仁吓了一跳,就好像以前从未听到过他的声音一样。

“狗怎么上这儿来的?”他问道。

“自个儿来的,来了三个小时了。”

“今天的晚报说费金被捕了。真有这事还是撒谎?”

“真的。”

他们再度沉默下来。

“都给我见鬼去,”赛克斯抬手抹了抹额头,说道。“你们就没什么要跟我说的?”

三个人忐忑不安地动了一下,谁也没有开口。

“这房子是你的,’赛克斯转过睑,冲着格拉基特说道。“你是打算出卖我呢,还是让我住在这儿,等这次搜捕过去?”

“你留下好了,要是你认为安全的话。”被问到的人略略犹豫了一下,答道。

赛克斯慢慢地抬起双眼,看了看身后的墙壁,主要是想试一下转过头去,并不是真想这么做。他接着说道:“尸体——尸体——尸体埋了没有?”

三个人摇了摇头。

“怎么还没埋呢?”他脱口说道,又像刚才那样朝身后看了一眼。“把这样难看的的东西留在地面上做什么?——谁在敲门?”

格拉基特打了个手势,意思是没什么好怕的,这才离开房间,紧接着又领着查理·贝兹回来了。赛克斯正对门坐着,少年刚一进屋,迎面就看见了他。

赛克斯将目光朝他转过去,少年一边往后退,一边说:“托比,你在楼下干吗不告诉我?”

那三个人吓得魂不附体,看着实在令人害怕,那恶棍不禁想讨好一下这个刚刚进门的少年,他因此点了点头,做出愿意跟他握握手的样子。

“让我到另外哪一间屋子里去。”少年不住地往后退,说道。

“查理。”赛克斯说着,朝前走去。“你难道——你不认识我了?”

“别再挨近我,”少年还在后退,他眼里含着恐惧,盯住凶手的脸,答道。“你这个坏蛋。”

汉子走了两步便停住了,彼此四目对视,结果,赛克斯的眼睛渐渐垂下了。

“你们仨作证,”少年挥动着紧握的拳头,大声说道。说话间变得越来越激奋。“你们仨作证——我不怕他——如果他们上这儿来抓他,我就把他交出去,说到做到,我马上告发你。他可以为这事杀死我,要是他高兴的话,或者是有这份胆子,可只要我在这儿,我就要把他交出去。哪怕会把他活活放进锅里煮,我也要把他交出去。杀人啦!救命啊!你们仨谁要是有种的话,就给我帮帮忙。杀人啦!救命啊!把他抓起来!”

少年大喊大叫,并伴以狂暴的手势,果真一头朝那个大汉扑了上去,力量之猛,加上出其不意,竟将他撞倒在地。

三位旁观者呆若水鸡,谁也没有插手,少年和汉子在地上滚作一团。少年毫不理会拳头雨点般落到自己身上,双手将杀人犯胸前的衣裳拽得越来越紧,使出浑身的劲头,不停地呼救。

然而,双方毕竟力量悬殊,这一番较量很快就见分晓了。赛克斯将少年掀到地上,将膝盖压在他的脖子上,就在这时,格拉基特神色恐慌地扯了他一把,指了指窗户。下边火光闪烁,有人情绪激昂地高声交谈,急促的脚步声响成一片——人数似乎还真不少——从离得最近的那座木桥上过来了。人群中好像有一个人骑在马上,高低不平的石子路面上响起了咔哒咔哒的马蹄声。火光越来越多,脚步声越来越密集,越来越嘈杂。紧接着,门口传来一阵重重的敲门声,无数愤怒的人声汇成一片闹哄哄的鼓噪,即使是胆子最大的人也会为之颤抖。

“救命啊!”少年尖声喊叫起来,声音划破夜空,“他在这儿呢。把门砸开!”

“我们奉王命到此捉拿凶犯!”有人在外边大声喊道。鼓噪声再次掀起,而且更响了。

“把门砸开!”少年尖叫着,“我跟你们说,他们绝不会开门的。照直往有亮的屋子里冲。把门砸开!”

他刚一住口,门上和楼下窗板上便响起密急而沉重的撞击声,人群中爆发出一阵嘹亮的欢呼声,听到声音的人第一次对于呼声之高得到一个相当准确的概念。

“找个什么地方,把门打开,我好把这尖声怪叫的小鬼关起来,”赛克斯杀气腾腾地喝道,一边毫不费力地拖着少年跑来跑去,就好像他是一条空口袋似的。“就是那扇门,快!”他把少年扔进去,插上门闩,转了一下钥匙。“楼下的门牢实不牢实?”

“上了双保险,外带链条。”格拉基特答道,他和另外两个人依然是一副束手无策,不知所措的样子。

“护墙板呢——坚不坚固?

“包着铁皮。”

“窗户也是?”

“是的,窗户也是。”

“见你妈的鬼。”这歹徒豁出去了,他把窗格推上去,恶狠狠地冲着人群嚷道,“随你们怎么着吧。我还要耍你们一把。”

在所有传到人耳朵里来的可怕的大喊大叫声中,没有一种比得上激怒的人群的吼声。有人大声吆喝,要离得最近的人点火烧房子,另一些人咆哮着,叫警察开枪打死他。在所有的人当中,骑在马上的那个人尤其怒不可遏,他飞身下鞍,如同分开水流一般拨开人群,挤到窗子下边,高喊起来,声音压过了所有的鼓噪。“谁去搬一架梯子来,给他二十畿尼。”

离得最近的几个嗓门接过这声呼喊,成百个声音群起响应。有的叫搬梯子,有的叫拿大锤来,有的举着火炬跑来跑去,像是在找这些东西,却又原样回来,重新发出怒吼。有人通过无济于事的咒骂来出气,有人疯子一般拼命往前挤,反而妨碍了楼下那些人的进展。有几个胆子最大的想利用水落管和墙壁的裂缝爬上去。人潮在黑暗中翻涌,像一片麦田在狂风怒号下起伏翻滚,不时齐声发出愤怒的鼓噪。

“潮水,”杀人犯关上窗户,将那些面孔关在外边,跌跌撞撞地退到屋子里,嚷嚷着。“我上来的功夫正在涨潮。给我根绳子,要长一点的。他们都在房子前边,我可以跳进荒唐沟,从那儿逃出去。给我一根绳子,不然的话,我索性再添三条人命,然后杀死我自己。”

三个惊恐万状的汉子指了指存放这类东西的地方。杀人犯慌里慌张地选了一根最长最结实的绳子。匆匆爬上房顶。

房子背后的所有窗户很久以前就用砖给砌上了,只有关着查理·贝兹的房间里有一个小小的活动天窗,但实在太小,他简直没法钻过去。然而,正是从这个出口,贝兹一迭连声地向外面的人吆喝着,要他们把住屋后。正因如此,当杀人犯好歹从顶楼上的门里钻出来,出现在房顶上的时候,一阵高亢的呼喊将这一情况通知了房子前边的人,众人立刻推推搡搡,蜂拥而来,汇成一股奔腾的激流。

杀人犯用特意带上去的一块木板死死地顶住门,让人很难从里边打开,他从瓦上爬过去,隔着低矮的胸墙往下看。

潮水退了,濠沟成了一片泥沼。

在这几个瞬间里,人群静下来,观察着他的动作,猜不透他想干什么,然而,他们刚一明白他的打算落空了,立刻掀起一阵胜利的欢呼和咒骂的巨浪,与此相比,先前的呐喊只能算是耳语。声浪此起彼伏。一些离得太远的人弄不清其中的含意,也跟着吼起来。顿时骂声四起,回响不绝,仿佛伦敦市民已倾城出动,前来诅咒这个杀人凶犯似的。

房子前边的人越来越近——越来越近,愤怒的面孔汇成一股汹涌的激流,到处都有耀眼的火把替人们引路,照亮他们怒火满腔的神情。群众冲进壕沟对岸的房子,把窗框推上去,或者干脆砸烂。每一个窗日都层层叠叠挤着许多面孔。大群大群的人站在每家每户的房顶上。一座座小桥(看得见的就有三座)在人群的重压下弯曲了。人流还在不断涌来,都想找个角落或者空档喊几嗓子,就是瞅一眼那个恶棍也好。

“这下逮住他啦,”一个男子在最近的那座桥上嚷道,“太棒了。”

人们纷纷摘下帽子,拿在手中挥动着,喊声又一次腾空而起。

“谁要是活捉了杀人犯,我一定赏五十镑,”一位老绅士在同一个地方呼喊道,“我一定留在此地恭候领赏的人。”

又是一阵欢呼。在这一刹那间,一个消息在人群中传开了:大门终于撞开了,刚开始叫搬梯子的那个人已经冲上楼去。消息一个传一个,人潮猝转向。站在窗口的人见桥上的人蜂拥而退,也冲到街上,加入了正乱哄哄地返回原处的人群:一个个推来操去,争先恐后,人人心急火燎,都想赶到门口,以便在警察将犯人押出来时看个仔细。有的几乎挤得透不过气来,有的在混乱中挤倒在地受到践踏,一声声长呼短叫实在可怕。狭窄的道路完全堵塞了。有的东冲西突,打算回到房子正面的空地,有的拼命挣扎,徒劳地想挤出人群,就在这当儿,本来集中在杀人犯身上的注意力却分散了,尽管人们一心想要抓住他的急切心情有增无已。

那个汉子缩作一团,蹲下来。人群气势汹汹,加上自己已经无计可施,他完全给镇住了。然而他敏捷的反应并不亚于突如其来的变化,他刚一看出人们的注意力忽然转移了方向,便一跃而起,决定作最后的一搏以保住性命,那就是跳进濠沟,冒着陷于灭顶的危险,尽量利用黑暗与混乱偷偷溜掉。

他顿时抖擞精神,房子里边的吵闹声表明,的确已经有人冲进来了。他必须行动起来。。他一只脚顶住烟囱,把绳子的一端紧紧地绕在上边。几乎只是一眨眼的功夫,他已经凭着双手和牙齿将另一端挽成一个结实的活套,他可以利用绳子垂落到离地不超过他自己身高的地方,然后用手里的小刀割断绳子,落下去。

他刚把活结套在头上,准备勒在胳膊下边,上边提到过的那位老绅士(他紧紧地贴着桥栏杆,以便顶住人群的压力,坚守在原地)急切地告诫周围的人,凶手马上就要往下坠了——就是在这一瞬间,凶手突然回头望着身后的房顶,双臂高举过头,发出一声恐怖的惊叫。

“那双眼睛又来了!”他尖声呼喊着,犹如鬼哭狼嚎。

他打了一个趔趄,仿佛被闪电击中了似的,接着便失去平衡,从胸墙上栽了下去。活套拴在他的脖子上,绳子经他身体重量一拉,绷得像弓弦一样紧,快得像离弦之箭。他掉下去约莫三十五英尺,猛然打住,四肢可怕地抽搐了一下。他吊在那儿,渐渐僵硬的手里握着那把打开的折刀。

年代久远的烟囱被扯得抖了几下,可还是勇敢地经受住了。杀人犯贴着墙壁荡来荡去,已经没有一丝生气。查理把挡住自己视线的这具晃晃悠悠的尸体推到一边,央求人们看在上帝的分上,快来接他出去。

一只到现在才露面的狗哀号着,在胸墙上来回奔跑。它定了定神,纵身朝死者肩上跳去。它没有达到目的,掉进了沟里,它在半空中翻了个跟斗,一头撞在一块石头上,顿时脑浆迸裂。