外语教育网
您的位置:外语教育网 > 英语文化视窗 > 文学与艺术 > 小说 正文
  • 站内搜索:

The Valley of Fear (Part 2 Chapter3)

2006-08-22 20:13

  Part 2 - The Scowrers Chapter 3 - Lodge 341, Vermissa

  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 uniforrn 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, Vemmissa, 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. Hesays:

  “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.0.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.

相关热词:小说
栏目相关课程表
科目名称 主讲老师 课时 免费试听 优惠价 购买课程
英语零起点 郭俊霞 30课时 试听 150元/门 购买
综艺乐园 ------ 15课时 试听 100元/门 购买
边玩边学 ------ 10课时 试听 60元/门 购买
情景喜剧 ------ 15课时 试听 100元/门 购买
欢乐课堂 ------ 35课时 试听 150元/门 购买
趣味英语速成 钟 平 18课时 试听 179元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语预备级 (Pre-Starters) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语一级 (Starters) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语二级 (Movers) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语三级 (Flyers) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
初级英语口语 ------ 55课时 ------ 350元/门 购买
中级英语口语 ------ 83课时 ------ 350元/门 购买
高级英语口语 ------ 122课时 ------ 350元/门 购买
基础英语辅导课程
郭俊霞 北京语言大学毕业,国内某知名中学英语教研组长,教学标兵……详情>>
郭俊霞:零基础英语网上辅导名师
钟平 北大才俊,英语辅导专家,累计从事英语教学八年,机械化翻译公式发明人……详情>>
钟平:趣味英语速成网上辅导名师

  1、凡本网注明 “来源:外语教育网”的所有作品,版权均属外语教育网所有,未经本网授权不得转载、链接、转贴或以其他方式使用;已经本网授权的,应在授权范围内使用,且必须注明“来源:外语教育网”。违反上述声明者,本网将追究其法律责任。
  2、本网部分资料为网上搜集转载,均尽力标明作者和出处。对于本网刊载作品涉及版权等问题的,请作者与本网站联系,本网站核实确认后会尽快予以处理。本网转载之作品,并不意味着认同该作品的观点或真实性。如其他媒体、网站或个人转载使用,请与著作权人联系,并自负法律责任。
  3、联系方式
  编辑信箱:for68@chinaacc.com
  电话:010-82319999-2371