字体设置:

On the day following the evening which had contained so many exciting events, McMurdo moved his lodgings from old Jacob Shafter's and took up his quarters at the Widow MacNamara's on the extreme outskirts of the town. Scanlan, his original acquaintance aboard the train, had occasion shortly afterwards to move into Vermissa, and the two lodged together. There was no other boarder, and the hostess was an easy-going old Irishwoman who left them to themselves; so that they had a freedom for speech and action welcome to men who had secrets in common.

Shafter had relented to the extent of letting McMurdo come to his meals there when he liked; so that his intercourse with Ettie was by no means broken. On the contrary, it drew closer and more intimate as the weeks went by.

In his bedroom at his new abode McMurdo felt it safe to take out the coining moulds, and under many a pledge of secrecy a number of brothers from the lodge were allowed to come in and see them, each carrying away in his pocket some examples of the false money, so cunningly struck that there was never the slightest difficulty or danger in passing it. Why, with such a wonderful art at his command, McMurdo should condescend to work at all was a perpetual mystery to his companions; though he made it clear to anyone who asked him that if he lived without any visible means it would very quickly bring the police upon his track.

One policeman was indeed after him already; but the incident, as luck would have it, did the adventurer a great deal more good than harm. After the first introduction there were few evenings when he did not find his way to McGinty's saloon, there to make closer acquaintance with "the boys," which was the jovial title by which the dangerous gang who infested the place were known to one another. His dashing manner and fearlessness of speech made him a favourite with them all; while the rapid and scientific way in which he polished off his antagonist in an "all in" bar-room scrap earned the respect of that rough community. Another incident, however, raised him even higher in their estimation.

Just at the crowded hour one night, the door opened and a man entered with the quiet blue uniform and peaked cap of the mine police. This was a special body raised by the railways and colliery owners to supplement the efforts of the ordinary civil police, who were perfectly helpless in the face of the organized ruffianism which terrorized the district. There was a hush as he entered, and many a curious glance was cast at him; but the relations between policemen and criminals are peculiar in some parts of the States, and McGinty himself, standing behind his counter, showed no surprise when the policeman enrolled himself among his customers.

"A straight whisky; for the night is bitter," said the police officer. "I don't think we have met before, Councillor?"

"You'll be the new captain?" said McGinty.

"That's so. We're looking to you, Councillor, and to the other leading citizens, to help us in upholding law and order in this township. Captain Marvin is my name."

"We'd do better without you, Captain Marvin," said McGinty coldly; "for we have our own police of the township, and no need for any imported goods. What are you but the paid tool of the capitalists, hired by them to club or shoot your poorer fellow citizen?"

"Well, well, we won't argue about that," said the police officer good-humouredly. "I expect we all do our duty same as we see it; but we can't all see it the same." He had drunk off his glass and had turned to go, when his eyes fell upon the face of Jack McMurdo, who was scowling at his elbow. "Hullo! Hullo!" he cried, looking him up and down. "Here's an old acquaintance!"

McMurdo shrank away from him. "I was never a friend to you nor any other cursed copper in my life," said he.

"An acquaintance isn't always a friend," said the police captain, grinning. "You're Jack McMurdo of Chicago, right enough, and don't you deny it!"

McMurdo shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not denying it," said he. "D'ye think I'm ashamed of my own name?"

"You've got good cause to be, anyhow."

"What the devil d'you mean by that?" he roared with his fists clenched.

"No, no, Jack, bluster won't do with me. I was an officer in Chicago before ever I came to this darned coal bunker, and I know a Chicago crook when I see one."

McMurdo's face fell. "Don't tell me that you're Marvin of the Chicago Central!" he cried.

"Just the same old Teddy Marvin, at your service. We haven't forgotten the shooting of Jonas Pinto up there."

"I never shot him."

"Did you not? That's good impartial evidence, ain't it? Well, his death came in uncommon handy for you, or they would have had you for shoving the queer. Well, we can let that be bygones; for, between you and me--and perhaps I'm going further than my duty in saying it--they could get no clear case against you, and Chicago's open to you to-morrow."

"I'm very well where I am."

"Well, I've given you the pointer, and you're a sulky dog not to thank me for it."

"Well, I suppose you mean well, and I do thank you," said McMurdo in no very gracious manner.

"It's mum with me so long as I see you living on the straight," said the captain. "But, by the Lord! if you get off after this, it's another story! So good-night to you--and good-night, Councillor."

He left the bar-room; but not before he had created a local hero. McMurdo's deeds in far Chicago had been whispered before. He had put off all questions with a smile, as one who did not wish to have greatness thrust upon him. But now the thing was officially confirmed. The bar loafers crowded round him and shook him heartily by the hand. He was free of the community from that time on. He could drink hard and show little trace of it; but that evening, had his mate Scanlan not been at hand to lead him home, the feted hero would surely have spent his night under the bar.

On a Saturday night McMurdo was introduced to the lodge. He had thought to pass in without ceremony as being an initiate of Chicago; but there were particular rites in Vermissa of which they were proud, and these had to be undergone by every postulant. The assembly met in a large room reserved for such purposes at the Union House. Some sixty members assembled at Vermissa; but that by no means represented the full strength of the organization, for there were several other lodges in the valley, and others across the mountains on each side, who exchanged members when any serious business was afoot, so that a crime might be done by men who were strangers to the locality. Altogether there were not less than five hundred scattered over the coal district.

In the bare assembly room the men were gathered round a long table. At the side was a second one laden with bottles and glasses, on which some members of the company were already turning their eyes. McGinty sat at the head with a flat black velvet cap upon his shock of tangled black hair, and a coloured purple stole round his neck, so that he seemed to be a priest presiding over some diabolical ritual. To right and left of him were the higher lodge officials, the cruel, handsome face of Ted Baldwin among them. Each of these wore some scarf or medallion as emblem of his office.

They were, for the most part, men of mature age; but the rest of the company consisted of young fellows from eighteen to twenty-five, the ready and capable agents who carried out the commands of their seniors. Among the older men were many whose features showed the tigerish, lawless souls within; but looking at the rank and file it was difficult to believe that these eager and open-faced young fellows were in very truth a dangerous gang of murderers, whose minds had suffered such complete moral perversion that they took a horrible pride in their proficiency at the business, and looked with deepest respect at the man who had the reputation of making what they called "a clean job."

To their contorted natures it had become a spirited and chivalrous thing to volunteer for service against some man who had never injured them, and whom in many cases they had never seen in their lives. The crime committed, they quarrelled as to who had actually struck the fatal blow, and amused one another and the company by describing the cries and contortions of the murdered man.

At first they had shown some secrecy in their arrangements; but at the time which this narrative describes their proceedings were extraordinarily open, for the repeated failure of the law had proved to them that, on the one hand, no one would dare to witness against them, and on the other they had an unlimited number of stanch witnesses upon whom they could call, and a well-filled treasure chest from which they could draw the funds to engage the best legal talent in the state. In ten long years of outrage there had been no single conviction, and the only danger that ever threatened the Scowrers lay in the victim himself--who, however outnumbered and taken by surprise, might and occasionally did leave his mark upon his assailants.

McMurdo had been warned that some ordeal lay before him; but no one would tell him in what it consisted. He was led now into an outer room by two solemn brothers. Through the plank partition he could hear the murmur of many voices from the assembly within. Once or twice he caught the sound of his own name, and he knew that they were discussing his candidacy. Then there entered an inner guard with a green and gold sash across his chest.

"The Bodymaster orders that he shall be trussed, blinded, and entered," said he.

The three of them removed his coat, turned up the sleeve of his right arm, and finally passed a rope round above the elbows and made it fast. They next placed a thick black cap right over his head and the upper part of his face, so that he could see nothing. He was then led into the assembly hall.

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?"

"I am."

"Are you of stout heart?"

"I am."

"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.

"Test him!"

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?"

"I do."

"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.

"We've all had it," said one; "but not all as brave as you over it."

"Tut! It was nothing," said he; but it burned and ached all the same.

When the drinks which followed the ceremony of initiation had all been disposed of, the business of the lodge proceeded. McMurdo, accustomed only to the prosaic performances of Chicago, listened with open ears and more surprise than he ventured to show to what followed.

"The first business on the agenda paper," said McGinty, "is to read the following letter from Division Master Windle of Merton County Lodge 249. He says:

"Dear Sir:

"There is a job to be done on Andrew Rae of Rae & Sturmash, coal owners near this place. You will remember that your lodge owes us a return, having had the service of two brethren in the matter of the patrolman last fall. You will send two good men, they will be taken charge of by Treasurer Higgins of this lodge, whose address you know. He will show them when to act and where. Yours in freedom, "J.W. WINDLE D.M.A.O.F.

"Windle has never refused us when we have had occasion to ask for the loan of a man or two, and it is not for us to refuse him." McGinty paused and looked round the room with his dull, malevolent eyes. "Who will volunteer for the job?"

Several young fellows held up their hands. The Bodymaster looked at them with an approving smile.

"You'll do, Tiger Cormac. If you handle it as well as you did the last, you won't be wrong. And you, Wilson."

"I've no pistol," said the volunteer, a mere boy in his teens.

"It's your first, is it not? Well, you have to be blooded some time. It will be a great start for you. As to the pistol, you'll find it waiting for you, or I'm mistaken. If you report yourselves on Monday, it will be time enough. You'll get a great welcome when you return."

"Any reward this time?" asked Cormac, a thick-set, dark-faced, brutal-looking young man, whose ferocity had earned him the nickname of "Tiger."

"Never mind the reward. You just do it for the honour of the thing. Maybe when it is done there will be a few odd dollars at the bottom of the box."

"What has the man done?" asked young Wilson.

"Sure, it's not for the likes of you to ask what the man has done. He has been judged over there. That's no business of ours. All we have to do is to carry it out for them, same as they would for us. Speaking of that, two brothers from the Merton lodge are coming over to us next week to do some business in this quarter."

"Who are they?" asked someone.

"Faith, it is wiser not to ask. If you know nothing, you can testify nothing, and no trouble can come of it. But they are men who will make a clean job when they are about it."

"And time, too!" cried Ted Baldwin. "Folk are gettin' out of hand in these parts. It was only last week that three of our men were turned off by Foreman Blaker. It's been owing him a long time, and he'll get it full and proper."

"Get what?" McMurdo whispered to his neighbour.

"The business end of a buckshot cartridge!" cried the man with a loud laugh. "What think you of our ways, Brother?"

McMurdo's criminal soul seemed to have already absorbed the spirit of the vile association of which he was now a member. "I like it well," said he. "'Tis a proper place for a lad of mettle."

Several of those who sat around heard his words and applauded them.

"What's that?" cried the black-maned Bodymaster from the end of the table.

"'Tis our new brother, sir, who finds our ways to his taste."

McMurdo rose to his feet for an instant. "I would say, Eminent Bodymaster, that if a man should be wanted I should take it as an honour to be chosen to help the lodge."

There was great applause at this. It was felt that a new sun was pushing its rim above the horizon. To some of the elders it seemed that the progress was a little too rapid.

"I would move," said the secretary, Harraway, a vulture-faced old graybeard who sat near the chairman, "that Brother McMurdo should wait until it is the good pleasure of the lodge to employ him."

"Sure, that was what I meant; I'm in your hands," said McMurdo.

"Your time will come, Brother," said the chairman. "We have marked you down as a willing man, and we believe that you will do good work in these parts. There is a small matter to-night in which you may take a hand if it so please you."

"I will wait for something that is worth while."

"You can come to-night, anyhow, and it will help you to know what we stand for in this community. I will make the announcement later. Meanwhile," he glanced at his agenda paper, "I have one or two more points to bring before the meeting. First of all, I will ask the treasurer as to our bank balance. There is the pension to Jim Carnaway's widow. He was struck down doing the work of the lodge, and it is for us to see that she is not the loser."

"Jim was shot last month when they tried to kill Chester Wilcox of Marley Creek," McMurdo's neighbour informed him.

"The funds are good at the moment," said the treasurer, with the bankbook in front of him. "The firms have been generous of late. Max Linder & Co. paid five hundred to be left alone. Walker Brothers sent in a hundred; but I took it on myself to return it and ask for five. If I do not hear by Wednesday, their winding gear may get out of order. We had to burn their breaker last year before they became reasonable. Then the West Section Coaling Company has paid its annual contribution. We have enough on hand to meet any obligations."

"What about Archie Swindon?" asked a brother.

"He has sold out and left the district. The old devil left a note for us to say that he had rather be a free crossing sweeper in New York than a large mine owner under the power of a ring of blackmailers. By Gar! it was as well that he made a break for it before the note reached us! I guess he won't show his face in this valley again."

An elderly, clean-shaved man with a kindly face and a good brow rose from the end of the table which faced the chairman. "Mr. Treasurer," he asked, "may I ask who has bought the property of this man that we have driven out of the district?"

"Yes, Brother Morris. It has been bought by the State & Merton County Railroad Company."

"And who bought the mines of Todman and of Lee that came into the market in the same way last year?"

"The same company, Brother Morris."

"And who bought the ironworks of Manson and of Shuman and of Van Deher and of Atwood, which have all been given up of late?"

"They were all bought by the West Gilmerton General Mining Company."

"I don't see, Brother Morris," said the chairman, "that it matters to us who buys them, since they can't carry them out of the district."

"With all respect to you, Eminent Bodymaster, I think it may matter very much to us. This process has been going on now for ten long years. We are gradually driving all the small men out of trade. What is the result? We find in their places great companies like the Railroad or the General Iron, who have their directors in New York or Philadelphia, and care nothing for our threats. We can take it out of their local bosses; but it only means that others will be sent in their stead. And we are making it dangerous for ourselves. The small men could not harm us. They had not the money nor the power. So long as we did not squeeze them too dry, they would stay on under our power. But if these big companies find that we stand between them and their profits, they will spare no pains and no expense to hunt us down and bring us to court."

There was a hush at these ominous words, and every face darkened as gloomy looks were exchanged. So omnipotent and unchallenged had they been that the very thought that there was possible retribution in the background had been banished from their minds. And yet the idea struck a chill to the most reckless of them.

"It is my advice," the speaker continued, "that we go easier upon the small men. On the day that they have all been driven out the power of this society will have been broken."

Unwelcome truths are not popular. There were angry cries as the speaker resumed his seat. McGinty rose with gloom upon his brow.

"Brother Morris," said he, "you were always a croaker. So long as the members of this lodge stand together there is no power in the United States that can touch them. Sure, have we not tried it often enough in the lawcourts? I expect the big companies will find it easier to pay than to fight, same as the little companies do. And now, Brethren," McGinty took off his black velvet cap and his stole as he spoke, "this lodge has finished its business for the evening, save for one small matter which may be mentioned when we are parting. The time has now come for fraternal refreshment and for harmony."

Strange indeed is human nature. Here were these men, to whom murder was familiar, who again and again had struck down the father of the family, some man against whom they had no personal feeling, without one thought of compunction or of compassion for his weeping wife or helpless children, and yet the tender or pathetic in music could move them to tears. McMurdo had a fine tenor voice, and if he had failed to gain the good will of the lodge before, it could no longer have been withheld after he had thrilled them with "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary," and "On the Banks of Allan Water."

In his very first night the new recruit had made himself one of the most popular of the brethren, marked already for advancement and high office. There were other qualities needed, however, besides those of good fellowship, to make a worthy Freeman, and of these he was given an example before the evening was over. The whisky bottle had passed round many times, and the men were flushed and ripe for mischief when their Bodymaster rose once more to address them.

"Boys," said he, "there's one man in this town that wants trimming up, and it's for you to see that he gets it. I'm speaking of James Stanger of the Herald. You've seen how he's been opening his mouth against us again?"

There was a murmur of assent, with many a muttered oath. McGinty took a slip of paper from his waistcoat pocket.

"LAW AND ORDER!

That's how he heads it.

"REIGN OF TERROR IN THE COAL AND IRON DISTRICT

"Twelve years have now elapsed since the first assassinations which proved the existence of a criminal organization in our midst. From that day these outrages have never ceased, until now they have reached a pitch which makes us the opprobrium of the civilized world. Is it for such results as this that our great country welcomes to its bosom the alien who flies from the despotisms of Europe? Is it that they shall themselves become tyrants over the very men who have given them shelter, and that a state of terrorism and lawlessness should be established under the very shadow of the sacred folds of the starry Flag of Freedom which would raise horror in our minds if we read of it as existing under the most effete monarchy of the East? The men are known. The organization is patent and public. How long are we to endure it? Can we forever live--

Sure, I've read enough of the slush!" cried the chairman, tossing the paper down upon the table. "That's what he says of us. The question I'm asking you is what shall we say to him?"

"Kill him!" cried a dozen fierce voices.

"I protest against that," said Brother Morris, the man of the good brow and shaved face. "I tell you, Brethren, that our hand is too heavy in this valley, and that there will come a point where in self-defense every man will unite to crush us out. James Stanger is an old man. He is respected in the township and the district. His paper stands for all that is solid in the valley. If that man is struck down, there will be a stir through this state that will only end with our destruction."

"And how would they bring about our destruction, Mr. Standback?" cried McGinty. "Is it by the police? Sure, half of them are in our pay and half of them afraid of us. Or is it by the law courts and the judge? Haven't we tried that before now, and what ever came of it?"

"There is a Judge Lynch that might try the case," said Brother Morris.

A general shout of anger greeted the suggestion.

"I have but to raise my finger," cried McGinty, "and I could put two hundred men into this town that would clear it out from end to end." Then suddenly raising his voice and bending his huge black brows into a terrible frown, "See here, Brother Morris, I have my eye on you, and have had for some time! You've no heart yourself, and you try to take the heart out of others. It will be an ill day for you, Brother Morris, when your own name comes on our agenda paper, and I'm thinking that it's just there that I ought to place it."

Morris had turned deadly pale, and his knees seemed to give way under him as he fell back into his chair. He raised his glass in his trembling hand and drank before he could answer. "I apologize, Eminent Bodymaster, to you and to every brother in this lodge if I have said more than I should. I am a faithful member--you all know that--and it is my fear lest evil come to the lodge which makes me speak in anxious words. But I have greater trust in your judgment than in my own, Eminent Bodymaster, and I promise you that I will not offend again."

The Bodymaster's scowl relaxed as he listened to the humble words. "Very good, Brother Morris. It's myself that would be sorry if it were needful to give you a lesson. But so long as I am in this chair we shall be a united lodge in word and in deed. And now, boys," he continued, looking round at the company, "I'll say this much, that if Stanger got his full deserts there would be more trouble than we need ask for. These editors hang together, and every journal in the state would be crying out for police and troops. But I guess you can give him a pretty severe warning. Will you fix it, Brother Baldwin?"

"Sure!" said the young man eagerly.

"How many will you take?"

"Half a dozen, and two to guard the door. You'll come, Gower, and you, Mansel, and you, Scanlan, and the two Willabys."

"I promised the new brother he should go," said the chairman.

Ted Baldwin looked at McMurdo with eyes which showed that he had not forgotten nor forgiven. "Well, he can come if he wants," he said in a surly voice. "That's enough. The sooner we get to work the better."

The company broke up with shouts and yells and snatches of drunken song. The bar was still crowded with revellers, and many of the brethren remained there. The little band who had been told off for duty passed out into the street, proceeding in twos and threes along the sidewalk so as not to provoke attention. It was a bitterly cold night, with a half-moon shining brilliantly in a frosty, star-spangled sky. The men stopped and gathered in a yard which faced a high building. The words, "Vermissa Herald" were printed in gold lettering between the brightly lit windows. From within came the clanking of the printing press.

"Here, you," said Baldwin to McMurdo, "you can stand below at the door and see that the road is kept open for us. Arthur Willaby can stay with you. You others come with me. Have no fears, boys; for we have a dozen witnesses that we are in the Union Bar at this very moment."

It was nearly midnight, and the street was deserted save for one or two revellers upon their way home. The party crossed the road, and, pushing open the door of the newspaper office, Baldwin and his men rushed in and up the stair which faced them. McMurdo and another remained below. From the room above came a shout, a cry for help, and then the sound of trampling feet and of falling chairs. An instant later a gray-haired man rushed out on the landing.

He was seized before he could get farther, and his spectacles came tinkling down to McMurdo's feet. There was a thud and a groan. He was on his face, and half a dozen sticks were clattering together as they fell upon him. He writhed, and his long, thin limbs quivered under the blows. The others ceased at last; but Baldwin, his cruel face set in an infernal smile, was hacking at the man's head, which he vainly endeavoured to defend with his arms. His white hair was dabbled with patches of blood. Baldwin was still stooping over his victim, putting in a short, vicious blow whenever he could see a part exposed, when McMurdo dashed up the stair and pushed him back.

"You'll kill the man," said he. "Drop it!"

Baldwin looked at him in amazement. "Curse you!" he cried. "Who are you to interfere--you that are new to the lodge? Stand back!" He raised his stick; but McMurdo had whipped his pistol out of his pocket.

"Stand back yourself!" he cried. "I'll blow your face in if you lay a hand on me. As to the lodge, wasn't it the order of the Bodymaster that the man was not to be killed--and what are you doing but killing him?"

"It's truth he says," remarked one of the men.

"By Gar! you'd best hurry yourselves!" cried the man below. "The windows are all lighting up, and you'll have the whole town here inside of five minutes."

There was indeed the sound of shouting in the street, and a little group of compositors and pressmen was forming in the hall below and nerving itself to action. Leaving the limp and motionless body of the editor at the head of the stair, the criminals rushed down and made their way swiftly along the street. Having reached the Union House, some of them mixed with the crowd in McGinty's saloon, whispering across the bar to the Boss that the job had been well carried through. Others, and among them McMurdo, broke away into side streets, and so by devious paths to their own homes.

三 维尔米萨三百四十一分会

这天晚上发生了那么多激动人心的事件,到了第二天,麦克默多便从雅各布·谢夫特老人家里搬到镇子最尽头处寡妇麦克娜玛拉家中去住。他最早在火车上结交的朋友斯坎伦,不久也不约而同地搬到维尔米萨来了,两个人遂同住在一起。这里没有别的房客,女房东是一个很随和的爱尔兰老妇人,一点也不干涉他们的事。所以他们的言语、行动都很自由,这对于同怀隐私的这两个人可真是再好不过了。

谢夫特对麦克默多挺厚道,他高兴的时候,就请麦克默多到他家吃饭,所以,麦克默多和伊蒂的来往并没有中断。恰恰相反,一星期一星期地过去,他们的来往反而更频繁更亲密。

麦克默多觉得他的新居很安全,便把他铸伪币的模子搬到卧室中开起工来,而在保证绝不泄密的条件下,分会中的一些弟兄们就前来观看。在每个弟兄离开时,口袋里都装上一些伪币,这些伪币铸造得那么精巧,使用出去从来毫不费难,而且绝无危险。麦克默多有了这件绝技,却还要屈身去做工,这在他的会友看来实在是不解之谜。可是麦克默多对每一个问到他的人都说明,如果自己没有任何明摆着的收入,那警察很快就会来盘查他的。

一个警察确实已经盯上了麦克默多,不过这件枝节小事,巧得很,不仅没有给这位冒险家带来丝毫损害,反而使他声誉大振。自从第一天介绍他和弟兄们相见以后 ,麦克默多几乎每晚都设法到麦金蒂的酒馆里去,在那里更亲近地结识"哥儿们",谁都知道,这是对那些出没此地的一伙危险人物的尊称。麦克默多刚毅果敢的性格和无所顾忌的言谈,早就博得全体兄弟们的喜爱。有一次,麦克默多在酒吧间的一场"自由式"拳击赛中迅速而技巧熟练地打败了对手,这又赢得了这些粗野之辈极大的尊敬。然而,另一件小事,使麦克默多在众人中更加提高了声望。

一天晚上,人们正在欢呼畅饮,忽然门开了,走进一个人来,身穿一套朴素的蓝制服,头戴一顶煤铁矿警察的尖顶帽子。因为矿区内,到处是一片恐怖,不断发生有组织的暴行,面对这种情况,普通警察完全束手无策。铁路局和矿主们便招募人员组成煤铁矿警察这一特别机构,用以补充普通警察的不足。这个警察一进门,大家顿时安静下来,许多人好奇地看着他。不过在美国各州,警察和罪犯之间的关系是很特殊的,因此,麦金蒂站在柜台后面,对这个警察混在他的顾客中,毫不感到惊奇。

“今晚天气太冷了,来点纯威士忌酒,"警官说道,“参议员先生,我们以前没见过面吧?”

“你是新来的队长吗?"麦金蒂问道。

“不错,我们是来拜访你的,参议员先生,还有其他的首领,请你们协助我们在本镇维护法律。我的名字叫马文,是煤铁矿警察队长。”

“我们这里很好,用不着你们来维持,马文队长,"麦金蒂冷冷地说道,“我们镇上有自己的警察,用不着什么进口货。你们不过是资本家花钱雇来的爪牙,除了用棍棒或枪支来对付穷苦老百姓之外.还能干什么?”

“好,好,我们不用争论这个,"警官和平地说道,“希望我们大家都各按己见同样尽自己的责任。不过我们的看法还不能完全一致。"他喝完了酒,转身要走,忽然眼光落到杰克·麦克默多的脸上,麦克默多正站在近处怒视着他。

“喂!喂!"马文队长上下打量了麦克默多一番,大声喊道,

“这里有一个老相识了。”

麦克默多从他身旁走开,说道:“我生来就没有和你交过朋友,也没有和什么别的万恶的警察做过朋友。”

“一个相识往往不是一个朋友,"警察队长咧嘴笑道,"你是芝加哥的杰克·麦克默多,一点也不错,你不要抵赖。”

麦克默多耸了耸肩膀。

“我用不着抵赖,"麦克默多说道,“你以为我为自己的名字感到羞愧么?”

“不管怎样,你干了些好事!”

“你说这话究竟是什么意思?"麦克默多握紧拳头,怒吼道。

“不,不,杰克,你不要对我这么怒气冲冲。我到这该死的煤矿以前,是芝加哥的一个警官,芝加哥的恶棍无赖,我一看就认识。”

麦克默多把脸沉下来,喝道:“用不着告诉我你是芝加哥警察总署的马文!”

“正是这同一个老特德·马文听候您的吩咐。我们还没有忘记那里发生过枪杀乔纳斯·平托的事。”

“我没有枪杀他。”

“你没有吗?那不是有确凿的证据吗?好,那人一死对你可有很大好处,不然,他们早就因使用伪币罪把你逮捕入狱了。得了,我们可以让这些事过去吧。因为,这只有你知我知,——也许我说得过头了,说了些份外的事——他们找不到对你不利的有力事实,明天芝加哥的大门就又为你敞开了。”

“我随便住在哪儿都可以。”

“喂,我给你透露了消息,可是你却象一条发怒的狗一样,也不知道谢我一声。”

“好,我想你也许是出于好意,我真应该感谢你。"麦克默多不十分恭敬地说道。

“只要你老老实实做人,我就不声张出去,"警察队长说道,“可是,皇天在上,如果以后你不走正道,那就另当别论了!祝你晚安,也祝你晚安,参议员先生。”

马文离开了酒吧间,这事不久就使麦克默多成了当地的英雄,因为人们早就暗中议论过麦克默多在遥远的芝加哥的事迹了。麦克默多平常对人们的询问总是一笑置之,就好象怕人家硬给自己加上伟大的英名似的。可是现在这件事被正式证实了。酒吧间里那些无业游民都向麦克默多聚拢来,亲切地和他握手。从此以后,麦克默多在这帮人中便无所顾忌了。他酒量很大,而且不显酒意,可是,那晚要不是斯坎伦搀扶他回家,这位颇负盛誉的英雄就只好在酒吧间里过夜了。

星期六晚上,麦克默多被介绍入会。他以为自己是芝加哥的老会员,不需要举行什么仪式就可以通过了。可是维尔米萨却有它引以自豪的特殊仪式,而每一个申请入会的人都要经受这种仪式。集会是在工会楼里一间专供举行此种仪式的宽大房间里进行的,维尔米萨有六十多个人麇集在这里,但这决不是此地的全体会员,因为山谷中还有一些它们的分会,在山谷两边的山上也还有一些分会。在干重大营生时,便互相交换人员,所以,一些犯罪作恶的事就可以由当地不认识的人去做。总共有不下五百名会员散布在整个煤矿区。

在空旷的会议室里,人们围在一张长桌周围。旁边另一张桌子上摆满了酒瓶子和玻璃杯,一些会员已经垂涎欲滴地望着它们。麦金蒂坐在首席,蓬乱的黑发上戴着一顶平顶黑绒帽,脖子上围着一条主教举行仪式用的圣带,因此,他仿佛是一个主持恶魔仪典的祭司。麦金蒂左右两旁是会中居于高位的人,其中就有生性凶残而面貌俊秀的特德·鲍德温。他们每个人都戴着绶带或是徽章,表明他们的职位。他们大都是中年人,其余的都是十八岁到二十五岁的青年,只要长者发出命令,他们就心甘情愿竭尽全力地去干。长者中许多人从面貌上可以看出是些生性凶残、无法无天的人。不过仅从那些普通成员来看,很难使人相信,这些热情、坦荡的年轻人确实是一伙杀人不眨眼的凶手。他们道德败坏到了极点,把干坏事的本领引以为荣,并且异常崇拜那些所谓"干得利落"的出名人物。

由于具有这种变态的性格,他们主动去杀害那些从未得罪过他们的人;在许多情况下,还有那些素不相识的人,并把这当做勇敢而又侠义的事情。而在做案之后,他们还互相争论到底是谁打得最致命,并且争相描述被害人的惨叫声和身体受痛的扭曲形状,引以为乐。

起初,在他们安排做恶事时,还有点保密,可是在他们讲这些事时,就破例把这些罪恶行径公开了。因为法律在他们身上屡次失效,这就使他们觉得,一方面,没有一个人敢于出面作证控告他们,另一方面,他们有无数随叫随到的可靠的假证人,有满仓的金银财宝可以用来聘请州内最有才干的律师作辩护人。十年来,他们为非作歹,无所顾忌,但没有一个人被定罪。而威胁着死酷党人的唯一危险,还是来自他们的受害者,因为尽管受害者寡不敌众或受到突然袭击,但他们可以而且有时确实给匪徒们以深刻的教训。

有人警告过麦克默多,说严峻考验就摆在他面前,可是没有一个人告诉他是什么考验。现在他被两个面容严肃的弟兄引到外室。通过隔板墙,他可以模糊地听到里面与会者的七嘴八舌的声音。有一两次提到他的名字,麦克默多知道大家正在讨论他的入会问题。后来走进一个斜挎着黄绿二色肩带的内部警卫,说道:“身主有令,他应当被缚住双臂,蒙住双眼领进来。”

他们三个人便将麦克默多的外衣脱下,把他右臂的衣袖卷起来,用一条绳子迅速地把他双肘捆住。然后又把一顶厚厚的黑帽子扣到他的头上,把脸的上半部也盖住了,所以麦克默多什么也看不见了。最后他被引入集会厅。

罩上帽子以后,麦克默多只觉一片漆黑,十分难耐。他只听到一片沙沙声和周围人们的低语声,后来透过他双耳上蒙着的东西,他又隐约模糊地听到麦金蒂的声音:“约翰·麦克默多,你是自由人会的老会员吗?”

麦克默多点头表示同意。

“你是属于芝加哥第二十九分会吗?”

麦克默多又点了点头。

“黑夜是不愉快的,"对方说道。

“是的,对旅行的异乡人,黑夜是不愉快的,"麦克默多答道。

“阴云密布。”

“对,暴风雨即将来临。”

“众位弟兄们可满意吗?"身主问道。

传来一阵赞同的低语声。

“兄弟,根据你的暗语和对答,我们知道你确实是一个自己人,"麦金蒂说道,“不过我们要让你知道在本县和外县,我们有一定的仪式,一定的责任。你准备试一试吗?”

“我准备好了。”

“你是一个坚定勇敢的人吗?”

“对。”

“请你向前迈一大步来证明它。”

这句话说完,麦克默多感到有两个尖锐的东西直抵在双目上,因此,这就形成一种局面,如果他向前迈步,那么就有失去双目的危险。但麦克默多依然鼓起勇气坚定地向前大步走去,于是那压在眼上的东西退缩开了,传来了一阵低低的喝彩声。

“他是一个坚定勇敢的人,"那个声音说道,“你能忍受苦痛吗?”

“象其他人一样能够,"麦克默多答道。

“试试他!”

麦克默多感觉前臂一阵难以忍受的刺痛,他竭力不使自己叫出声来。这种突然的冲击几乎使他昏厥过去,但他咬紧嘴唇,握紧双手,掩盖他的极度痛苦。

“比这再厉害些我也能忍受,"麦克默多说道。

这次获得了一起高声的喝彩。一个初来的人获得如此好评,在这个分会中还是从未有过的。大家过来拍拍他的后背,接着罩在头上的帽子也摘掉了。他在弟兄们一片祝贺声中,眨眨眼微笑着站在那里。

“还有最后一句话,麦克默多兄弟,"麦金蒂说道,“你既已宣誓效忠本会并保守秘密,你当然知道,对誓言的任何违背,其惩罚都是格杀勿论啊。”

“我知道,"麦克默多说道。

“那么你在任何情况下,都接受身主的管辖么?”

“我接受。”

“那么我代表维尔米萨三百四十一分会,欢迎你入会,享有本会特权,参与本会辩论。斯坎伦兄弟,你可以把酒摆在桌上,我们要为这位名不虚传的的兄弟痛饮一杯!”

人们已经把外衣拿给麦克默多,但麦克默多在穿上外衣以前,看了看自己的右臂,那时右臂仍然如针扎一样疼痛。前臂上烙有一个圆圈,里面套个三角形,烙印深而发红,象是烙铁留下的痕迹。他身旁的一两个人卷起了袖子,让他看他们自己的分会标记。

“我们大家都有这种标记,"一个人说道,“不过不是都象你这样勇敢地对待它的。”

“唉,没什么,"麦克默多说道,可是臂上依然火烧火燎地疼痛。

当入会仪式结束,而酒也喝光了以后,开始讨论会中事务。麦克默多习惯于芝加哥那种无聊的场合,便注意倾听,愈听愈感到惊奇。

“议事日程的第一件事是,"麦金蒂说道,“读一封从默顿县第二百四十九分会身主温德尔那里来的信。他说:

‘亲爱的先生:

有必要消灭我们邻区雷和斯特玛施煤矿的矿主安德鲁·雷。你们总记得去年秋季你们和警察发生纠葛,我们曾派两个弟兄去帮忙的事。请你们派两个得力的人前来,他们将由分会司库希金斯负责接待,你知道他的地址,希金斯会告诉他们在什么时间什么地点行事。

你的朋友 J.W.温德尔'

“我们有事要求借用一两个人的时候,温德尔从来未拒绝过我们,照理我们也不能拒绝他,"麦金蒂停顿了一下,他那阴沉、恶毒的双眼向室内四下打量了一番,问道,“谁自愿前往?”

几个年轻人举起手来。身主看着他们,赞同地笑了。

“你可以去,老虎科马克。如果你能干得象上次那样好,那你就不会出差错。还有你,威尔逊。”

“我没有手枪,"这个十几岁的孩子说道。

“你这是第一次,是不是?好,你迟早总是要取得经验的,这是一个很好的开端。至于手枪,你会发现,手枪是在等着你的,不然就是我弄错了。如果你们在星期一报到,时间尽够了。你们回来时,一定会受到热烈欢迎。”

“这次可有报酬吗?"科马克问道,他是一个体格结实、面孔黝黑、面貌狰狞的年轻人,由于他的凶狠残暴,使他赢得了“老虎"的绰号。

“不用担心报酬。你们仅是出于荣誉去做这件事。事成后,也许有一点零头给你们。”

“那个人究竟有什么罪呢?"年轻的威尔逊问道。

“当然,那个人究竟有什么罪,这不是象你这样的人应当问的。他们那里已经对他作出了判决,那就不关我们的事了。我们所要做的只是替他们去执行而已。他们也会照样来替我们行事的。说起这个,下星期默顿分会就有两个弟兄到我们这里来行事。”

“他们是谁呢?"一个人问道。

“你最好不要问。如果你什么也不知道,你可以作证说什么也不知道,就不会招来什么麻烦。不过他们是那些干起事来很利落的人。”

“还有!"特德·鲍德温叫道,“有些事该了结一下。就在上星期,我们的三个弟兄被工头布莱克解雇了。早就应该给他教训了,他早就应该领受这个教训了。”

“领受什么?"麦克默多低声向邻座的人问道。

“给他一颗大号子弹完事!"那人大笑起来,高声说道,“你认为我们的办法怎样?兄弟。”

麦克默多现在已经是这个无恶不作的社团中的一分子,他的灵魂似乎已被这种精神所同化。

“我很喜欢它,"麦克默多说道,“这正是英雄少年用武之地啊!”

四周听到麦克默多讲话的人大加称赞。

“怎么回事?"坐在桌子那一端的黑大汉身主问道。

“先生,我们新来的弟兄,认为我们的办法很合他的口味。”

麦克默多马上站起来说道:

“我敢说,尊敬的身主,如果有用人的地方,我当以能为本会出力为荣。”

大家都对此高声喝彩,好象一轮朝日从地平线上升起。可是对一些年长的会员来说,这种成就似乎是太快了点。

“我提议,"一个灰白胡须的老人,长得面如鹫鹰,坐在身主的旁边,这就是书记哈拉威,他说道,“麦克默多兄弟应该等待,分会是很高兴使用他的。”

“当然,我也这样想,我一定遵命。"麦克默多说。

“兄弟,不久就会用到你的,"身主说,“我们已经知道你是一个情愿出力的人,我们也深信你在这地方会干得出色。今夜有一件小事,如果你愿意的话,你可以出一臂之力。”

“我愿等待更有价值的机会。”

“不管怎样,今夜你可以去,这可以帮助你了解我们团体主张什么。以后我还要宣布这主张。同时,"他看了看议事日程,说道,“我还有一两件事要在会上讲。第一点,我要问司库我们银行的结存情况。应该给吉姆·卡纳威的寡启发抚恤金。卡纳威是因公殉身的,把她照顾好是我们的责任。”

“吉姆是在上个月去谋刺马利克里克的切斯特·威尔科克斯时反遭毒手的,"麦克默多邻座的人告诉他说。

“现在存款很多,"司库面前放着银行存款本,报告说,“近来这些商行很大方。马克斯·林德公司付给的五百元还没动用。沃尔克兄弟送来一百元,可是我自己作主退还给他们,要他们出五百元。假如星期三我听不到回信,他们的卷扬机传动装置就会发生故障。去年我们烧毁了他们的轧碎机,他们才变得开通一点。西部煤业公司交来了年度捐献。我们手中有足够的资金去应付一切债务。”

“阿尔奇·斯温登怎么样?"一个弟兄问道。

“他已经卖去产业,离开本区了。这个老该死的给我们留下一张便条,上面说,他宁肯在纽约做一个自由的清道夫,也不愿处在一个敲诈勒索集团的势力下面做一个大矿主,天哪!他逃走了以后,我们才接到这张便条。我想他再也不敢在这个山谷中露面了。”

一个脸刮得干干净净的老年人,面容慈祥,长着一双浓眉,从桌子的另一端站起来。

“司库先生,"他问道,"请问,被我们赶跑的那个人的矿产,让谁买下了?”

“莫里斯兄弟,他的矿产被州里和默顿县铁路公司买下了。”

“去年托德曼和李氏的矿山是被谁买下的?”

“也是这家公司,莫里斯兄弟。”

“曼森铁矿、舒曼铁矿、范德尔铁矿以及阿特任德铁矿,最近都出让了,又是让谁家买去的?”

“这些铁矿都被西吉尔默顿矿业总公司买去了。”

“我不明白,莫里斯兄弟,"麦金蒂说道,“既然他们不能把矿产从这个地方带走,谁买走它们,与我们又有什么关系呢?”

“我十分敬重你,尊敬的身主,但我认为这与我们有很大的关系。这种变化过程到现在已有十年之久了。我们已经逐渐把所有的小资本家赶跑了。结果怎样呢?我们发现代替他们的是象铁路公司或煤铁总公司这样的大公司,这些公司在纽约或费城有他们的董事,对我们的恫吓置之不理。我们虽然能赶走他们在本地的工头,但这只不过意味着另派别人来代替他们而已,而我们自己反而招来危险。那些小资本家对我们不能有任何危害。他们既无钱又无势。只要我们不过于苛刻地压榨他们,他们就可以在我们的势力范围内继续留下来。可是如果这些大公司发觉我们妨碍他们和他们的利益,他们就会不遗余力,不惜工本地设法摧毁我们并向法院控诉我们。”

听到这些不吉祥的话,大家静默下来,神情沮丧,脸色阴沉。他们过去具有无上的权威,从未遭到过挫折,以至他们根本不曾想到自己会得到什么报应。然而,就连他们里面最不顾一切的人,听到莫里斯的想法,也觉得扫兴。

“我劝各位,"莫里斯继续说道,“以后对小资本家不要太苛刻了。如果有朝一日他们全被逼走了,那么我们这个社团的势力也就被破坏啦。”

实话是不受欢迎的。莫里斯说完刚刚落座,就听到一些人在高声怒叱。麦金蒂双眉紧皱,阴郁不快地站起身来。

“莫里斯兄弟,"麦金蒂说道,“你总是到处报丧。只要我们会众齐心协力,在美国就没有一种力量能碰碰我们。不错,我们不是常在法庭上和人较量么?我料想那些大公司会发觉,他们若象那些小公司一样向我们付款,倒比和我们斗争容易得多。现在,弟兄们,"麦金蒂说话时,取下他的平顶绒帽和圣带,

“今晚会务进行完了,只有一件小事要在散会前再提一下。现在是兄弟们举杯痛饮、尽情欢乐的时候了。”

人类的本性确实是很奇怪的。这是一些把杀人当作家常便饭的人,一而再、再而三毫无人性地残杀过一些家庭的家长,眼见其妻室悲啼,儿女失怙,绝无内疚之心、恻隐之意,然而一听到优柔迫切的音乐,也会感动得落泪。麦克默多有一副优美的男高音歌喉。如果说他以前还未获得会中弟兄的友情善意,那么在他唱"玛丽,我坐在篱垣上"和"在亚兰河两岸”时,却使他们深受感动,再也抑制不住对他的善意了。

就在这第一天夜晚,这位新会员使自己成为弟兄中最受欢迎的一员,已经象征着即将晋升和获得高位。然而,要成为一个受尊敬的自由人会会员,除了这些友情以外,还需要具有另外一些气质,而这个晚上还没过去,麦克默多已经被说成是这些气质的典范了。已经酒过数巡,人们早已醉醺醺,蒙眬眬,这时身主又站起来向他们讲话。

“弟兄们,"麦金蒂说道,“在镇上有一个人应当剪除,你们也知道,他是应当受到处罚的。我说的是《先驱报》的詹姆士·斯坦格。你们不是已经看到他又在破口大骂我们了吗?”

这时室内迸发出一阵赞同的低语声,有些人诅咒发誓。麦金蒂从背心口袋里拿出一张报纸来读道:

“法律与秩序!

“这是斯坦格给加上的标题。

'煤铁矿区的恐怖统治

自首次暗杀事件发生,即示明我区存在犯罪组织,现已流逝十二载。唯自斯日始,此类暴行迄未间断。时至今日,彼等已登峰造极,竟使吾人蒙受文明世界之耻。吾国当日欢纳自欧洲专制政体下逃亡之移民,何曾预想此等结果?彼等竟欲欺凌当日赖以栖身之恩主,自作暴戾,而此等恐怖暴虐、目无法纪,竟在自由之星条旗帜圣神掩盖之下确立,顿使吾人心目中引起惊恐,尤如置身于最衰朽之东方君主国中者。彼等之名,人所共知。此组织亦公开。吾人对此容忍何日方休?吾人品能常此生活……'

“够了,这种废话我念够了!"麦金蒂把报纸扔到桌上,高声喊道,“这就是斯坦格关于我们的报道。我现在对你们提出的问题是,我们对他怎样处理?”

“杀死他!"十几个人的声音杀气腾腾地喊道。

“我反对这样做,"那个长着一双浓眉、脸刮得干干净净的莫里斯兄弟说道,“弟兄们,我告诉你们,我们在这个山谷中所施的手段太狠了,他们出于自卫势必要联合起来消灭我们。詹姆士·斯坦格是一个老人。他在镇上和区里都很受敬重。他发行的报纸在这山谷中也有牢固的基础。如果这个人被我们杀害,一定会震动全国,最后结局只能是我们的毁灭。”

“他们怎么样能使我们毁灭呢?懦夫先生,"麦金蒂叫道,“用警察吗?肯定说,一半警察是受我们雇用的,另一半害怕我们。也许用法庭和法官来对付我们?我们以前不是见识过吗?结果又怎么样呢?”

“法官林奇可能来审讯这件案子的,"莫里斯兄弟说道。

大家听了,都怒喊起来。

“只要我伸出手指,"麦金蒂喊道,“我就可以派二百个人到城里把他们彻底清除出去。"然后,双眉紧皱,突然提高了声音,“喂,莫里斯兄弟,我早已注意到你了。你自己不忠心,还要让别人离心离德。莫里斯兄弟,当你自己的名字也列入我们的议事日程时,就是你的黑煞日了。我想我正应当把尊名提出来列到日程上去。”

莫里斯立刻面色苍白,双膝颤抖,瘫倒在椅子上,颤巍巍地举啤酒杯,喝了一口,答道:

“尊敬的身主,假如我说了我不应该说的话,我向你和会中诸位弟兄道歉。你们大家都知道,我是一个忠心的会友,刚才也是我唯恐会里招来不幸,所以说出这样忧虑的话来。可是,尊敬的身主,我绝对相信你的裁决,甚于相信我自己,我保证以后再也不敢冒犯了。”

身主听他说得这样谦卑,脸上的怒气消失了。

“很好,莫里斯兄弟。我也不愿对你加以教训。可是,只要我在领导之位,我们分会在言和行上就要统一。现在,弟兄们,"他看了看周围的弟兄,继续说道,“我还要再说一下,如果斯坦格得到他完全应受的惩罚,那我们就会招来更多的麻烦。一旦这些新闻记者串通起来,国内每一家报刊就都会向警察和部队呼吁了。不过我认为你可以给他一次相当严厉的警告。鲍德温兄弟,你来安排一下好吗?”

“当然了!"这个年轻人热烈地应道。

“你要带多少人去?”

“六个就够了,用两个人守门。高尔,你去;曼塞尔,还有你;斯坎伦,还有你;还有威拉比兄弟二人。”

“我允许这位新来的弟兄一同去,"麦金蒂说道。

特德·鲍德温望着麦克默多,从他的眼色可以看出,他既没有忘却前隙,也不肯宽恕。

“行,如果他愿意,他可以去,"鲍德温粗暴无礼地说道,

“够了。我们动手越快越好。”

这七个人有的吵嚷着,喊叫着,有的醉醺醺地哼着小调离了席。酒吧间里依然挤满欢宴的人,许多弟兄还留在那儿。这一小伙奉命执行任务的人走到街上,两三个一伙沿人行道行进,以免引人注意。这天夜晚,天气异常严寒,星光灿烂,一弦弯月高悬冷空。这些人走到一座高楼前停下来,聚集在院子里。明亮的玻璃窗户中间印着金色大字"维尔米萨先驱报社"。从里面传来印刷机的响声。

“你在这里,"鲍德温对麦克默多说道,“你可站在楼下面,守住大门,使我们退路畅通。阿瑟·威拉比和你在一起。其余的人随我来。弟兄们,不要怕,因为我们有十几个证人,可以证明我们此时是在工会的酒吧间里呢。”

这时将近午夜时分,街上除了一两个返家醉汉外,别无行人。这一伙人穿过大街,推开报社大门,鲍德温一行人冲进去,跑上对面的楼梯。麦克默多和另一个人留在楼下。从楼上的房间里传来呼救声,然后是脚步践踏声、椅子翻倒声。过了一会儿,一个鬓发灰白的人跑到楼梯平台上来。可是没跑几步,就被抓住,他的眼镜叮当一声落在麦克默多脚旁。只听砰的响了一下,接着是一阵呻吟声。这人面朝下倒在那里,几根棍棒一起向他身上噼噼啪啪地打来。他翻滚抽搐着,瘦长的四肢在打击下颤抖不已。别人都停手了,可是鲍德温凶残的脸依然狞笑不止,手中的棍棒向老人头上乱砍,老人徒然努力用双手护住头,但他的白发已经被血浸湿了。鲍德温还在找被害人双手护不着的地方乱打一阵。这时麦克默多跑上楼来,把他推开。

“你要把这个人打死的,"麦克默多说道,“住手!”

鲍德温惊讶地望着他。

“该死的!"鲍德温喊道,“你是谁,敢来干涉我?你这个新入会的人吗?靠后站!"他举起了棍棒,可是麦克默多从裤子后兜中抽出手枪来。

“你自己靠后站!"麦克默多高喊道,“你敢碰我一下,我就立刻开枪。身主不是有命令吩咐不要杀死这个人么,你这不是要杀死他是什么?”

“他说得不错,"其中有一个人说道。

“哎呀,你们最好快点吧!"楼下的那个人喊道,“各家窗户里都亮了灯,过不了五分钟,全镇的人都要来追捕你们了。”

这时街上果然有人喊叫,一些排字印刷工人聚集到楼下大厅里,鼓起勇气准备行动。那些罪犯便丢下这个编辑僵卧的身体,窜下楼来,飞快沿街而逃。跑到工会大厅以后,一些人混到麦金蒂酒馆的人群中,低声向首领报告,事情已经完全得手。另一些人,其中也有麦克默多,奔到街上,从偏僻的小路各回各家去了。

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