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Chapter 12 THE CRYSTAL MAN

  • ### I.
  • Rapidly turning into the Fifth Avenue from one of the cross streets above th_ld reservoir, at quarter past eleven o'clock on the night of November 6,
  • 1879, I ran plump into an individual coming the other way.
  • It was very dark on this corner. I could see nothing of the person with whom _ad the honor to be in collision. Nevertheless, the quick habit of a min_ccustomed to induction had furnished me with several well-defined fact_egarding him before I fairly recovered from the shock of the encounter.
  • These were some of the facts: He was a heavier man than myself, and stiffer i_he legs; but he lacked precisely three inches and a half of my stature. H_ore a silk hat, a cape or cloak of heavy woolen material, and rubbe_vershoes or arctics. He was about thirty-five years old, born in America,
  • educated at a German university, either Heidelberg or Freiburg, naturally o_asty temper, but considerate and courteous, in his demeanor to others. He wa_ot entirely at peace with society: there was something in his life or in hi_resent errand which he desired to conceal.
  • How did I know all this when I had not seen the stranger, and when only _ingle monosyllable had escaped his lips? Well, I knew that he was stoute_han myself, and firmer on his foot, because it was I, not he, who recoiled. _new that I was just three inches and a half taller than he, for the tip of m_ose was still tingling from its contact with the stiff, sharp brim of hi_at. My hand, involuntarily raised, had come under the edge of his cape. H_ore rubber shoes, for I had not heard a footfall. To an observant ear; th_ndications of age are as plain in the tones of the voice as to the eye in th_ines of the countenance. In the first moment of exasperation of m_aladroitness, he had muttered "Ox!" a term that would occur to nobody excep_ German at such a time. The pronunciation of the guttural, however, told m_hat the speaker was an American German, not a German American, and that hi_erman education had been derived south of the river Main. Moreover, the ton_f the gentleman and scholar was manifest even in the utterance of wrath. Tha_he gentleman was in no particular hurry, but for some reason anxious t_emain unknown; was a conclusion drawn from the fact that, after listening i_ilence to my polite apology, he stooped to recover and restore to me m_mbrella, and then passed on as noiselessly as he had approached.
  • I make it a point to verify my conclusions when possible. So I turned bac_nto the cross street and followed the stranger toward a lamp part way dow_he block. Certainly, I was not more than five seconds behind him. There wa_o other road that he could have taken. No house door had opened and close_long the way. And yet, when we came into the light, the form that ought t_ave been directly in front of me did not appear. Neither man nor man's shado_as visible.
  • Hurrying on as fast as I could walk to the next gaslight, I paused under th_amp and listened. The street was apparently deserted. The rays from th_ellow flame reached only a little way into the darkness. The steps an_oorway, however, of the brownstone house facing the street lamp wer_ufficiently illuminated. The gilt figures above the door were distinct. _ecognized the house: the number was a familiar one. While I stood under th_aslight, waiting, I heard a slight noise on these steps, and the click of _ey in a lock. The vestibule door of the house was slowly opened, and the_losed with a slam that echoed across the street. Almost immediately followe_he sound of the opening and shutting of the inner door. Nobody had come out.
  • As far as my eyes could be trusted to report an event hardly ten feet away an_n broad light, nobody had gone in.
  • With a notion that here was scanty material for an exact application of th_nductive process, I stood a long time wildly guessing at the philosophy o_he strange occurrence. I felt that vague sense of the unexplainable whic_mounts almost to dread. It was a relief to hear steps on the sidewal_pposite, and turning, to see a policeman swinging his long black club an_atching me.