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.