字体设置:

It was the fourth of February in the year 1875. It had been a severe winter, and the snow lay deep in the gorges of the Gilmerton Mountains. The steam ploughs had, however, kept the railroad open, and the evening train which connects the long line of coal-mining and iron-working settlements was slowly groaning its way up the steep gradients which lead from Stagville on the plain to Vermissa, the central township which lies at the head of Vermissa Valley. From this point the track sweeps downward to Bartons Crossing, Helmdale, and the purely agricultural county of Merton. It was a single track railroad; but at every siding--and they were numerous--long lines of trucks piled with coal and iron ore told of the hidden wealth which had brought a rude population and a bustling life to this most desolate corner of the United States of America.

For desolate it was! Little could the first pioneer who had traversed it have ever imagined that the fairest prairies and the most lush water pastures were valueless compared to this gloomy land of black crag and tangled forest. Above the dark and often scarcely penetrable woods upon their flanks, the high, bare crowns of the mountains, white snow, and jagged rock towered upon each flank, leaving a long, winding, tortuous valley in the centre. Up this the little train was slowly crawling.

The oil lamps had just been lit in the leading passenger car, a long, bare carriage in which some twenty or thirty people were seated. The greater number of these were workmen returning from their day's toil in the lower part of the valley. At least a dozen, by their grimed faces and the safety lanterns which they carried, proclaimed themselves miners. These sat smoking in a group and conversed in low voices, glancing occasionally at two men on the opposite side of the car, whose uniforms and badges showed them to be policemen.

Several women of the labouring class and one or two travellers who might have been small local storekeepers made up the rest of the company, with the exception of one young man in a corner by himself. It is with this man that we are concerned. Take a good look at him; for he is worth it.

He is a fresh-complexioned, middle-sized young man, not far, one would guess, from his thirtieth year. He has large, shrewd, humorous gray eyes which twinkle inquiringly from time to time as he looks round through his spectacles at the people about him. It is easy to see that he is of a sociable and possibly simple disposition, anxious to be friendly to all men. Anyone could pick him at once as gregarious in his habits and communicative in his nature, with a quick wit and a ready smile. And yet the man who studied him more closely might discern a certain firmness of jaw and grim tightness about the lips which would warn him that there were depths beyond, and that this pleasant, brown-haired young Irishman might conceivably leave his mark for good or evil upon any society to which he was introduced.

Having made one or two tentative remarks to the nearest miner, and receiving only short, gruff replies, the traveller resigned himself to uncongenial silence, staring moodily out of the window at the fading landscape.

It was not a cheering prospect. Through the growing gloom there pulsed the red glow of the furnaces on the sides of the hills. Great heaps of slag and dumps of cinders loomed up on each side, with the high shafts of the collieries towering above them. Huddled groups of mean, wooden houses, the windows of which were beginning to outline themselves in light, were scattered here and there along the line, and the frequent halting places were crowded with their swarthy inhabitants.

The iron and coal valleys of the Vermissa district were no resorts for the leisured or the cultured. Everywhere there were stern signs of the crudest battle of life, the rude work to be done, and the rude, strong workers who did it.

The young traveller gazed out into this dismal country with a face of mingled repulsion and interest, which showed that the scene was new to him. At intervals he drew from his pocket a bulky letter to which he referred, and on the margins of which he scribbled some notes. Once from the back of his waist he produced something which one would hardly have expected to find in the possession of so mild-mannered a man. It was a navy revolver of the largest size. As he turned it slantwise to the light, the glint upon the rims of the copper shells within the drum showed that it was fully loaded. He quickly restored it to his secret pocket, but not before it had been observed by a working man who had seated himself upon the adjoining bench.

"Hullo, mate!" said he. "You seem heeled and ready."

The young man smiled with an air of embarrassment.

"Yes," said he, "we need them sometimes in the place I come from."

"And where may that be?"

"I'm last from Chicago."

"A stranger in these parts?"

"Yes."

"You may find you need it here," said the workman.

"Ah! is that so?" The young man seemed interested.

"Have you heard nothing of doings hereabouts?"

"Nothing out of the way."

"Why, I thought the country was full of it. You'll hear quick enough. What made you come here?"

"I heard there was always work for a willing man."

"Are you a member of the union?"

"Sure."

"Then you'll get your job, I guess. Have you any friends?"

"Not yet; but I have the means of making them."

"How's that, then?"

"I am one of the Eminent Order of Freemen. There's no town without a lodge, and where there is a lodge I'll find my friends."

The remark had a singular effect upon his companion. He glanced round suspiciously at the others in the car. The miners were still whispering among themselves. The two police officers were dozing. He came across, seated himself close to the young traveller, and held out his hand.

"Put it there," he said.

A hand-grip passed between the two.

"I see you speak the truth," said the workman. "But it's well to make certain." He raised his right hand to his right eyebrow. The traveller at once raised his left hand to his left eyebrow.

"Dark nights are unpleasant," said the workman.

"Yes, for strangers to travel," the other answered.

"That's good enough. I'm Brother Scanlan, Lodge 341, Vermissa Valley. Glad to see you in these parts."

"Thank you. I'm Brother John McMurdo, Lodge 29, Chicago. Bodymaster J.H. Scott. But I am in luck to meet a brother so early."

"Well, there are plenty of us about. You won't find the order more flourishing anywhere in the States than right here in Vermissa Valley. But we could do with some lads like you. I can't understand a spry man of the union finding no work to do in Chicago."

"I found plenty of work to do," said McMurdo.

"Then why did you leave?"

McMurdo nodded towards the policemen and smiled. "I guess those chaps would be glad to know," he said.

Scanlan groaned sympathetically. "In trouble?" he asked in a whisper.

"Deep."

"A penitentiary job?"

"And the rest."

"Not a killing!"

"It's early days to talk of such things," said McMurdo with the air of a man who had been surprised into saying more than he intended. "I've my own good reasons for leaving Chicago, and let that be enough for you. Who are you that you should take it on yourself to ask such things?" His gray eyes gleamed with sudden and dangerous anger from behind his glasses.

"All right, mate, no offense meant. The boys will think none the worse of you, whatever you may have done. Where are you bound for now?"

"Vermissa."

"That's the third halt down the line. Where are you staying?"

McMurdo took out an envelope and held it close to the murky oil lamp. "Here is the address--Jacob Shafter, Sheridan Street. It's a boarding house that was recommended by a man I knew in Chicago."

"Well, I don't know it; but Vermissa is out of my beat. I live at Hobson's Patch, and that's here where we are drawing up. But, say, there's one bit of advice I'll give you before we part: If you're in trouble in Vermissa, go straight to the Union House and see Boss McGinty. He is the Bodymaster of Vermissa Lodge, and nothing can happen in these parts unless Black Jack McGinty wants it. So long, mate! Maybe we'll meet in lodge one of these evenings. But mind my words: If you are in trouble, go to Boss McGinty."

Scanlan descended, and McMurdo was left once again to his thoughts. Night had now fallen, and the flames of the frequent furnaces were roaring and leaping in the darkness. Against their lurid background dark figures were bending and straining, twisting and turning, with the motion of winch or of windlass, to the rhythm of an eternal clank and roar.

"I guess hell must look something like that," said a voice.

McMurdo turned and saw that one of the policemen had shifted in his seat and was staring out into the fiery waste.

"For that matter," said the other policeman, "I allow that hell must BE something like that. If there are worse devils down yonder than some we could name, it's more than I'd expect. I guess you are new to this part, young man?"

"Well, what if I am?" McMurdo answered in a surly voice.

"Just this, mister, that I should advise you to be careful in choosing your friends. I don't think I'd begin with Mike Scanlan or his gang if I were you."

"What the hell is it to you who are my friends?" roared McMurdo in a voice which brought every head in the carriage round to witness the altercation. "Did I ask you for your advice, or did you think me such a sucker that I couldn't move without it? You speak when you are spoken to, and by the Lord you'd have to wait a long time if it was me!" He thrust out his face and grinned at the patrolmen like a snarling dog.

The two policemen, heavy, good-natured men, were taken aback by the extraordinary vehemence with which their friendly advances had been rejected.

"No offense, stranger," said one. "It was a warning for your own good, seeing that you are, by your own showing, new to the place."

"I'm new to the place; but I'm not new to you and your kind!" cried McMurdo in cold fury. "I guess you're the same in all places, shoving your advice in when nobody asks for it."

"Maybe we'll see more of you before very long," said one of the patrolmen with a grin. "You're a real hand-picked one, if I am a judge."

"I was thinking the same," remarked the other. "I guess we may meet again."

"I'm not afraid of you, and don't you think it!" cried McMurdo. "My name's Jack McMurdo--see? If you want me, you'll find me at Jacob Shafter's on Sheridan Street, Vermissa; so I'm not hiding from you, am I? Day or night I dare to look the like of you in the face--don't make any mistake about that!"

There was a murmur of sympathy and admiration from the miners at the dauntless demeanour of the newcomer, while the two policemen shrugged their shoulders and renewed a conversation between themselves.

A few minutes later the train ran into the ill-lit station, and there was a general clearing; for Vermissa was by far the largest town on the line. McMurdo picked up his leather gripsack and was about to start off into the darkness, when one of the miners accosted him.

"By Gar, mate! you know how to speak to the cops," he said in a voice of awe. "It was grand to hear you. Let me carry your grip and show you the road. I'm passing Shafter's on the way to my own shack."

There was a chorus of friendly "Good-nights" from the other miners as they passed from the platform. Before ever he had set foot in it, McMurdo the turbulent had become a character in Vermissa.

The country had been a place of terror; but the town was in its way even more depressing. Down that long valley there was at least a certain gloomy grandeur in the huge fires and the clouds of drifting smoke, while the strength and industry of man found fitting monuments in the hills which he had spilled by the side of his monstrous excavations. But the town showed a dead level of mean ugliness and squalor. The broad street was churned up by the traffic into a horrible rutted paste of muddy snow. The sidewalks were narrow and uneven. The numerous gas-lamps served only to show more clearly a long line of wooden houses, each with its veranda facing the street, unkempt and dirty.

As they approached the centre of the town the scene was brightened by a row of well-lit stores, and even more by a cluster of saloons and gaming houses, in which the miners spent their hard-earned but generous wages.

"That's the Union House," said the guide, pointing to one saloon which rose almost to the dignity of being a hotel. "Jack McGinty is the boss there."

"What sort of a man is he?" McMurdo asked.

"What! have you never heard of the boss?"

"How could I have heard of him when you know that I am a stranger in these parts?"

"Well, I thought his name was known clear across the country. It's been in the papers often enough."

"What for?"

"Well," the miner lowered his voice--"over the affairs."

"What affairs?"

"Good Lord, mister! you are queer, if I must say it without offense. There's only one set of affairs that you'll hear of in these parts, and that's the affairs of the Scowrers."

"Why, I seem to have read of the Scowrers in Chicago. A gang of murderers, are they not?"

"Hush, on your life!" cried the miner, standing still in alarm, and gazing in amazement at his companion. "Man, you won't live long in these parts if you speak in the open street like that. Many a man has had the life beaten out of him for less."

"Well, I know nothing about them. It's only what I have read."

"And I'm not saying that you have not read the truth." The man looked nervously round him as he spoke, peering into the shadows as if he feared to see some lurking danger. "If killing is murder, then God knows there is murder and to spare. But don't you dare to breathe the name of Jack McGinty in connection with it, stranger; for every whisper goes back to him, and he is not one that is likely to let it pass. Now, that's the house you're after, that one standing back from the street. You'll find old Jacob Shafter that runs it as honest a man as lives in this township."

"I thank you," said McMurdo, and shaking hands with his new acquaintance he plodded, gripsack in hand, up the path which led to the dwelling house, at the door of which he gave a resounding knock.

It was opened at once by someone very different from what he had expected. It was a woman, young and singularly beautiful. She was of the German type, blonde and fair-haired, with the piquant contrast of a pair of beautiful dark eyes with which she surveyed the stranger with surprise and a pleasing embarrassment which brought a wave of colour over her pale face. Framed in the bright light of the open doorway, it seemed to McMurdo that he had never seen a more beautiful picture; the more attractive for its contrast with the sordid and gloomy surroundings. A lovely violet growing upon one of those black slag-heaps of the mines would not have seemed more surprising. So entranced was he that he stood staring without a word, and it was she who broke the silence.

"I thought it was father," said she with a pleasing little touch of a German accent. "Did you come to see him? He is down town. I expect him back every minute."

McMurdo continued to gaze at her in open admiration until her eyes dropped in confusion before this masterful visitor.

"No, miss," he said at last, "I'm in no hurry to see him. But your house was recommended to me for board. I thought it might suit me--and now I know it will."

"You are quick to make up your mind," said she with a smile.

"Anyone but a blind man could do as much," the other answered.

She laughed at the compliment. "Come right in, sir," she said. "I'm Miss Ettie Shafter, Mr. Shafter's daughter. My mother's dead, and I run the house. You can sit down by the stove in the front room until father comes along--Ah, here he is! So you can fix things with him right away."

A heavy, elderly man came plodding up the path. In a few words McMurdo explained his business. A man of the name of Murphy had given him the address in Chicago. He in turn had had it from someone else. Old Shafter was quite ready. The stranger made no bones about terms, agreed at once to every condition, and was apparently fairly flush of money. For seven dollars a week paid in advance he was to have board and lodging.

So it was that McMurdo, the self-confessed fugitive from justice, took up his abode under the roof of the Shafters, the first step which was to lead to so long and dark a train of events, ending in a far distant land.

一 此人

一八七五年二月四日,天气严寒,吉尔默敦山峡谷中积满深雪。然而,由于开动了蒸汽扫雷机,铁路依然畅通无阻,联结煤矿和铁工区这条漫长线路的夜车,迟缓地从斯塔格维尔平原,响声隆隆地爬上陡峭的斜坡,向维尔米萨谷口的中心区维尔米萨镇驶去。火车行驶到这里,向下驶去,经巴顿支路、赫尔姆代尔,到农产丰富的梅尔顿县。这是单轨铁路,不过在每条侧线上的无数列满载着煤和铁矿石的货车,说明了矿藏的丰富。这丰富的矿藏使得美国这个最荒凉的角落迁来了许多粗野的人,生活开始沸腾起来。

以前这里是荒芜不毛之地。第一批到这里进行详细考察的开拓者怎么也不会想到这片美景如画的大草原和水草繁茂的牧场,竟是遍布黑岩石和茂密森林的荒凉土地。山坡上是黑压压几乎不见天日的密林,再往上是高耸的光秃山顶,白雪和巉岩屹立两侧,经过蜿蜒曲折的山谷,这列火车正在向上缓缓地蠕动着。

前面的客车刚刚点起了油灯,一节简陋的长车厢里坐着二三十个人,其中大多数是工人,经过在深谷底部的整天的劳累,坐火车回去休息。至少有十几个人,从他们积满尘垢的面孔以及他们携带的安全灯来看,显然是矿工。他们坐在一起吸烟,低声交谈,偶而平视车厢对面坐的两个人一眼,那两个人身穿制服,佩戴徽章,说明他们是警察。

客车厢里其余的旅客,有几个劳动阶层的妇女,有一两个旅客可能是当地的小业主,除此以外,还有一个年轻人独自坐在车厢一角。因为和我们有关的正是这一位 ,所以值得详细交代一下。

这个年轻人品宇轩昂,中等身材,不过三十岁左右。一双富于幽默感的灰色大眼睛,不时好奇地迅速转动,透过眼镜打量着周围的人们。不难看出他是一个善于交际、性情坦率的人,热衷于和一切人交朋友。任何人都可以立即发现他那善于交际的脾气和爱说话的性格,他颇为机智而经常面带微笑。但如有人细细地进行观察,就可以从他双唇和嘴角看出刚毅果断、坚韧不拔的神色来,知道这是一个思想深沉的人,这个快活的褐色头发的年轻的爱尔兰人一定会在他进入的社会中好歹使自己出名。

这个年轻人和坐在离他最近的一个矿工搭了一两句话,但对方话语很少而又粗鲁,便因话不投机而默不作声了,抑郁不快地凝视着窗外逐渐暗淡下去的景色。

这景色不能令人高兴。天色逐渐变暗,山坡上闪着炉火的红光,矿渣和炉渣堆积如山,隐隐呈现在山坡两侧,煤矿的竖井耸立其上。沿线到处是零零落落的低矮木屋 ,窗口灯光闪烁,隐约现出起轮廓来。不时显现的停车站挤满了皮肤黝黑的乘客。

维尔米萨区盛产煤铁的山谷,不是有闲阶层和有文化的人们经常来往的地方。这儿到处是为生存而进行最原始搏斗的严竣痕迹,进行着原始的粗笨劳动,从事劳动的是粗野的健壮的工人。

年轻的旅客眺望着这小城镇的凄凉景象,脸上现出不快和好奇的样子,说明这地方对他还很陌生。他不时从口袋中掏出一封信来,看看它,在信的空白处潦草地写下一些字。有一次他从身后掏出一样东西,很难使人相信这是象他那样温文尔雅的人所有的。那是一支最大号的海军用左轮手枪。在他把手枪侧向灯光时,弹轮上的铜弹闪闪发光,表明枪内装满了子弹。他很快把枪放回口袋里,但已被一个邻座的工人看到了。

“喂,老兄,"这个工人说道,“你好象有所戒备啊。”

年轻人不自然地笑了笑。

“是啊,"他说道,“在我来的那地方,有时我们需要用它。”

“那是什么地方呢?”

“我刚从芝加哥来。”

“你对此地还不熟悉吧?”

“是的。”

“你会发现在这里也用得着它,"这个工人说道。

“啊!果真么?"年轻人似乎很关心地问道。

“你没听说这附近出过事么?”

“没有听到有什么不正常的事。”

“嗨!这里出的事多极了,用不多时你就会听个够。你为啥事到这里来的?”

“我听说这里愿意干活儿的人总是找得到活儿干。”

“你是工会里的人么?”

“当然了。”

“我想,那你也会有活儿干的。你有朋友吗?”

“还没有,不过我是有办法交朋友的。”

“怎么个交法呢?”

“我是自由人会的会员,没有一个城镇没有它的分会,只要有分会我就有朋友可交。”

这一席话对对方产生了异常作用,那工人疑虑地向车上其他人扫视了一眼,看到矿工们仍在低声交谈,两个警察正在打盹。他走过来,紧挨年轻旅客坐下,伸出手来,说道:

“把手伸过来。”

两个人握了握手对暗号。

“我看出你说的是真话。不过还是要弄清楚些好。”

他举起右手,放到他的右眉边。年轻人立刻举起左手,放到左眉边。

“黑夜是不愉快的,"这个工人说道。

“对旅行的异乡人,黑夜是不愉快的,"另一个人回答说。

“太好了。我是维尔米萨山谷三四一分会的斯坎伦兄弟。很高兴在此地见到你。”

“谢谢你。我是芝加哥二十九分会的约翰·麦克默多兄弟。身主J.H.斯科特。不过我很幸运,这么快就遇到了一个弟兄。”

“好,附近我们有很多人。你会看到,在维尔米萨山谷,本会势力雄厚,这是美国任何地方也比不上的。可是我们要有许多象你这样的小伙子才成。我真不明白象你这样生气勃勃的工会会员,为什么在芝加哥找不到工作。”

“我找到过很多工作呢,"麦克默多说道。

“那你为什么离开呢?”

麦克默多向警察那面点头示意并且笑了笑,说道:“我想这些家伙知道了是会很高兴的。”

斯坎伦同情地哼了一声。"有什么麻烦事吗?"他低声问道。

“很麻烦。”

“是犯罪行为吗?”

“还有其他方面的。”

“不是杀人吧?”

“谈这样的事还太早,"麦克默多说道,现出因说过了头而吃惊的样子,“我离开芝加哥有我自己的充分理由,你就不要多管了。你是什么人?怎么可以对这种事问个不休呢?”

麦克默多灰色的双眸透过眼镜突然露出气愤的凶光。

“好了,老兄。请不要见怪。人们不会以为你做过什么坏事的。你现在要到哪儿去?”

“到维尔米萨。”

“第三站就到了。你准备住在哪里?”

麦克默多掏出一个信封来,把它凑近昏暗的油灯旁。

“这就是地址——谢里登街,雅各布·谢夫特。这是我在芝加哥认识的一个人介绍给我的一家公寓。”

“噢,我不知道这个公寓,我对维尔米萨不太熟悉。我住在霍布森领地,现在就要到了。不过,在我们分手以前,我要奉告你一句话。如果你在维尔米萨遇到困难,你就直接到工会去找首领麦金蒂。他是维尔米萨分会的身主,在此地,没有布莱克·杰克·麦金蒂的许可,是不会出什么事的。再见,老弟,或许我们有一天晚上能够在分会里见面。不过请记住我的话:如果你一旦遇到困难,就去找首领麦金蒂。”

斯坎伦下车了,麦克默多又重新陷入沉思。现在天已完全黑了,黑暗中高炉喷出的火焰在嘶列着、跳跃着发出闪光。在红光映照中,一些黑色的身影在随着起重机或卷扬机的动作,和着铿锵声与轰鸣声的旋律,弯腰、用力、扭动、转身。

“我想地狱一定是这个样子,"有人说道。

麦克默多转回身来,看到一个警察动了动身子,望着外面炉火映红的荒原。

“就这一点来说,"另一个警察说道,“我认为地狱一定象这个样子,我不认为,那里的魔鬼会比我们知道的更坏。年轻人,我想你刚到这地方吧?”

“嗯,我刚到这里又怎么样?"麦克默多粗暴无礼地答道。

“是这样,先生,我劝你选择朋友要小心谨慎。我要是你,我不会一开头就和迈克·斯坎伦或他那一帮人交朋友。”

“我和谁交朋友,这干你屁事!"麦克默多厉声说道。他的声音惊动了车厢内所有的人,大家都在看他们争吵,“我请你劝告我了吗?还是你认为我是个笨蛋,不听你的劝告就寸步难行?有人跟你说话你再张口,我要是你呀,嗨!还是靠边呆会儿吧!”

他把脸冲向警察,咬牙切齿,象一只狺狺狂吠的狗。

这两个老练、温厚的警察对这种友好的表示竟遭到这么强烈的拒绝,不免都大吃一惊。

“请不要见怪!先生,"一个警察说道,“看样子,你是初到此地的。我们对你提出警告,也是为了你好嘛。”

“我虽是初到此地,可是我对你们这一类货色却并不生疏,"麦克默多无情地怒喊道,“我看你们这些人是天下乌鸦一般黑,收起你们的规劝吧,没有人需要它。”

“我们不久就要再会的,"一个警察冷笑着说道,“我要是法官的话,我敢说你可真是百里挑一的好东西了。”

“我也这样想,"另一个警察说,“我想我们后会有期的。”

“我不怕你们,你们也休想吓唬我。"麦克默多大声喊道,

“我的名字叫杰克·麦克默多,知道吗?你们要找我的话,可以到维尔米萨谢里登街的雅各布·谢夫特公寓去找,我决不会躲避你们,不管白天晚上,我都敢见你们这一类家伙。你们别把这弄错了。”

新来的人这种大胆的行动引起了矿工们的同情和称赞,他们低声议论,两个警察无可奈何地耸耸肩,又互相窃窃交谈。

几分钟以后,火车开进一个灯光暗淡的车站,这里有一片旷地,因为维尔米萨是这一条铁路线上最大的城镇。麦克默多提起皮革旅行包,正准备向暗处走去,一个矿工走上前和他攀谈起来。

“哎呀,老兄,你懂得怎样对这些警察讲话,"他敬佩地说,

“听你讲话,真叫人痛快。我来给你拿旅行包,给你领路。我回家路上正好经过谢夫特公寓。”

他们从月台走过来时,其他的矿工都友好地齐声向麦克默多道晚安。所以,尽管还没立足此地,麦克默多这个捣乱分子已名满维尔米萨了。

乡村是恐怖的地方,可是从某种程度上来说,城镇更加令人沉闷。但在这狭长的山谷,至少有一种阴沉的壮观之感,烈焰映天,烟云变幻,而有力气和勤劳的人在这些小山上创造了当之无愧的不朽业绩,这些小山都是那些人在巨大的坑道旁堆积而成的。但城镇却显得丑陋和肮脏。来往车辆把宽阔的大街轧出许多泥泞不堪的车辙。人行道狭窄而崎岖难行,许多煤气灯仅仅照亮一排木板房,每座房屋都有临街的阳台,既杂乱又肮脏。

麦克默多和那矿工走近了市中心,一排店铺灯光明亮,那些酒馆、赌场更是灯光辉煌,矿工们则在那里大手大脚地挥霍他们用血汗挣来的钱。

“这就是工会,"这个向导指着一家高大而象旅社的酒馆说道,“杰克·麦金蒂是这里的首领。”

“他是一个怎样的人?"麦克默多问道。

“怎么!你过去没听说过首领的大名吗?”

“你知道我对此地很陌生,我怎么会听说过他呢?”

“噢,我以为工会里的人都知道他的名字呢。他的名字经常登报呢。”

“为什么呢?”

“啊,"这个矿工放低了声音,“出了些事呗。”

“什么事?”

“天哪,先生,我说句不怕你见怪的话,你可真是个怪人,在此地你只会听到一类事,这就是死酷党人的事。”

“为什么,我好象在芝加哥听说过死酷党人。是一伙杀人凶手,是不是?”

“嘘,别说了!千万别说了!"这个矿工惶惑不安地站在那里,惊讶地注视着他的同伴,大声说道,“伙计,要是你在大街上象这样乱讲话,那你在此地就活不了多久了。许多人因为比这还小的事都已经送命了。”

“好,对他们的事,我什么也不知道,这仅仅是我听说的。”

“不过,我不是说你听到的不是真事。"这个人一面说,一面忐忑不安地向四周打量了一番,紧紧盯着暗处,好象怕看到什么暗藏的危险一样,“如果是凶杀的话,那么天知道,凶杀案多着呢。不过你千万不要把这和杰克·麦金蒂的名字联在一起。因为每个小声议论都会传到他耳边,而麦金蒂又是不肯轻易放过的。好,那就是你要找的房子,就是街后的那一座。你会发现房主老雅各布·谢夫特是本镇的一个诚实人。”

“谢谢你,"麦克默多和他的新相识握手告别时说道。他提着旅行包,步履沉重地走在通往那所住宅的小路上,走到门前,用力敲门。

门马上打开了,可是开门的人却出乎他意料之外。她是一个年轻、美貌出众的德国型女子,玉肤冰肌,发色金黄,一双美丽乌黑的大眼睛,惊奇地打量着来客,白嫩的脸儿娇羞得泛出红晕。在门口明亮的街灯下,麦克默多好象觉得从来没有见过这样美丽的丰姿;她与周围污秽阴暗的环境形成鲜明的对照,更加动人。即使在这些黑煤渣堆上生出一支紫罗兰,也不会象这女子那样令人惊奇了。他神魂颠倒、瞠目结舌地站在那里,还是这女子打破了寂静。

“我还以为是父亲呢,"她娇声说道,带点德国口音,“你是来找他的吗?他到镇上去了。我正盼他回来呢。”

麦克默多仍在满心爱慕地痴望着她,在这矜持的来访者面前,那女子心慌意乱地低下了头。

“不是,小姐,"麦克默多终于开口说道,“我不急着找他。可是有人介绍我到你家来住。我想这对我很合适,现在我更知道这是很合适的了。”

“你也决定得太快了,"女子微笑着说。

“除非是瞎子,谁都会这样决定的。"麦克默多答道。

姑娘听到赞美的话语,莞尔一笑。

“先生,请进来,"她说道,“我叫伊蒂·谢夫特小姐,是谢夫特先生的女儿。我母亲早已去世,我管理家务。你可以在前厅炉旁坐下,等我父亲回来。啊,他来了,有什么事你和他商量吧。”

一个老人从小路上慢慢走过来。麦克默多三言两语向他说明了来意。在芝加哥,一个叫墨菲的人介绍他到这里来。这个地址是另一个人告诉墨菲的。老谢夫特完全答应下来。麦克默多对房费毫不犹豫,立刻同意一切条件,显然他很有钱,预付了每周七美元的膳宿费。

于是这个公然自称逃犯的麦克默多,开始住在谢夫特家里。这最初的一步引出漫长而暗淡的无数风波,其收场则是在天涯的异国。

------------------