As Told By Mr Gryce





"In the spring of 1840, the attention of the New York police was

attracted by the many cases of well-known men found drowned in the

various waters surrounding the lower portion of our great city. Among

these may be mentioned the name of Elwood Henderson, the noted tea

merchant, whose remains were washed ashore at Redhook Point; and of

Christopher Bigelow, who was picked up off Governor's Island after

having been in the water for five days, and of another well-known

millionaire whose name I cannot now recall, but who, I remember, was

seen to walk towards the East River one March evening, and was not met

with again till the 5th of April, when his body floated into one of the

docks near Peck Slip.



"As it seemed highly improbable that there should have been a concerted

action among so many wealthy and distinguished men to end their

lives within a few weeks of each other, and all by the same method of

drowning, we soon became suspicious that a more serious verdict than

that of suicide should have been rendered in the case of Henderson,

Bigelow and the other gentleman I have mentioned. Yet one fact, common

to all these cases, pointed so conclusively to deliberate intention on

the part of the sufferers that we hesitated to take action.



"This was, that upon the body of each of the above-mentioned persons

there were found, not only valuables in the shape of money and jewelry,

but papers and memoranda of a nature calculated to fix the identity

of the drowned man, in case the water should rob him of his personal

characteristics. Consequently, we could not ascribe these deaths to a

desire for plunder on the part of some unknown person.



"I was a young man in those days, and full of ambition. So, though I

said nothing, I did not let this matter drop when the others did, but

kept my mind persistently upon it and waited, with odd results as you

will hear, for another victim to be reported at police headquarters.



"Meantime I sought to discover some bond or connection between the

several men who had been found drowned, which would serve to explain

their similar fate. But all my efforts in this direction were fruitless.

There was no bond between them, and the matter remained for a while an

unsolved mystery.



"Suddenly one morning a clew was placed, not in my hands, but in those

of a superior official who at that time exerted a great influence over

the whole force. He was sitting in his private room, when there

was ushered into his presence a young man of a dissipated but not

unprepossessing appearance, who, after a pause of marked embarrassment,

entered upon the following story:



"I don't know whether or no, I should offer an excuse for the

communication I am about to make; but the matter I have to relate is

simply this: Being hard up last night (for though a rich man's son I

often lack money), I went to a certain pawn-shop in the Bowery where I

had been told I could raise money on my prospects. This place--you

may see it sometime, so I will not enlarge upon it--did not strike me

favorably; but, being very anxious for a certain definite sum of money,

I wrote my name in a book which was brought to me from some unknown

quarter, and proceeded to follow the young woman who attended me into

what she was pleased to call her good master's private office. He may

have been a good master, but he was anything but a good man, In short,

sir, when he found out who I was, and how much I needed money, he

suggested that I should make an appointment with my father at a place he

called Judah's in Grand Street, where, said he, 'your little affair will

be arranged, and you made a rich man within thirty days. That is,' he

slyly added, 'unless your father has already made a will, disinheriting

you.'



"I was shocked, sir, shocked beyond all my powers of concealment, not so

much at his words, which I hardly understood, as at his looks, which had

a world of evil suggestion in them; so I raised my fist and would have

knocked him down, only that I found two young fellows at my elbows, who

held me quiet for five minutes, while the old fellow talked to me. He

asked me if I came to him on a fool's errand or really to get money;

and when I admitted that I had cherished hopes of obtaining a clear two

thousand dollars from him, he coolly replied that he knew of but one

way in which I could hope to get such an amount, and that if I was too

squeamish to adopt it, I had made a mistake in coming to his shop, which

was no missionary institution, etc., etc. Not wishing to irritate him,

for there was menace in his eye, I asked, with a certain weak show of

being sorry for my former heat, whereabouts in Grand Street I should

find this Judah. The retort was quick, 'Judah is not his name,' said he,

'and Grand Street is not where you are to go to find him. I threw out a

bait to see if you would snap at it, but I find you timid, and therefore

advise you to drop the matter entirely.' I was quite willing to do so,

and answered him to this effect; whereupon, with a side glance I did

not understand but which made me more or less uneasy in regard to his

intentions towards me, he motioned to the men who held my arms to let go

their hold, which they at once did.



"'We have your signature,' growled the old man as I went out. 'If you

peach on us or trouble us in any way we will show it to your father and

that will put an end to all your hopes of future fortune.' Then raising

his voice he shouted to the girl in the outer office, 'Let the young man

see what he has signed.' She smiled and again brought forward the book

in which I had so recklessly placed my name, and there at the top of the

page I read these words: 'For moneys received, I agree to notify Levi

Solomon, within the month, of the death of my father, that he may

recover from me, without loss of time, the sum of ten thousand dollars

from the amount I am bound to receive as my father's heir.' The sight

of these lines knocked me hollow. But I am less of a coward morally than

physically, and I determined to acquaint my father at once with what I

had done, and get his advice as to whether or not I should inform the

police of my adventure. He heard me with more consideration than I

expected, but insisted that I should immediately make known to you my

experience in this Bowery pawnbroker's shop.



"The officer, highly interested, took down the young man's statement

in writing, and, after getting a more accurate description of the Jew's

house, allowed his visitor to go.



"Fortunately for me I was in the building at the time, and was able to

respond when a man was called up to investigate this matter. Thinking

that I saw a connection between it and the various mysterious deaths

of which I have previously spoken, I entered into the affair with much

spirit. But, wishing to be sure that my possibly unwarranted conclusions

were correct, I took pains to inquire, before proceeding upon my errand,

into the character of the heirs who had inherited the property of Elwood

Henderson and Christopher Bigelow, and found that in each case there was

one among the rest who was well known for his profligacy and reckless

expenditure. It was a significant discovery, and increased, if possible,

my interest in running down this nefarious trafficker in the lives of

wealthy men.



"Knowing that I could hope for no success in my character of detective,

I made an arrangement with the father of the young gentleman before

alluded to, by which I was to enter the pawn-shop as an emissary of the

latter. I accordingly appeared there, one dull November afternoon, in

the garb of a certain western sporting man, who, for a consideration,

allowed me the temporary use of his name and credentials.



"Entering beneath the three golden balls, with, the swagger and general

air of ownership I thought most likely to impose upon the self-satisfied

female who presided over the desk, I asked to see her boss.



"'On your own business?' she queried, glancing with suspicion at my

short coat, which was rather more showy than elegant.



"'No,' I returned, 'not on my own business, but on that of a young

gent----'



"'Anyone whose name is written here?' she interposed, reaching towards

me the famous book, over the top of which, however, she was careful to

lay her arm.



"I glanced down the page she had opened and instantly detected that

of the young gentleman on whose behalf I was supposed to be there, and

nodded 'Yes,' with all the assurance of which I was capable.



"'Very well, then,' said she, 'come!' and she ushered me without much

ado into a den of discomfort where sat a man, with a great beard and

such heavy overhanging eyebrows that I could hardly detect the twinkle

of his eyes, keen and incisive as they were.



"Smiling upon him, but not in the same way I had upon the girl, I

glanced behind me at the open door, and above me at the partitions,

which failed to reach the ceiling. Then I shook my head and drew a step

nearer.



"'I have come,' I insinuatingly whispered, 'on behalf of a certain party

who left this place in a huff a day or so ago, but who since then has

had time to think the matter over, and has sent me with an apology which

he hopes'--here I put on a diabolical smile, copied, I declare to you,

from the one I saw at that moment on his own lips--'you will accept.'



"The old wretch regarded me for full two minutes in a way to unmask

me had I possessed less confidence in my disguise and in my ability to

support it.



"'And what is this young gentleman's name?' he finally asked.



"For reply, I handed him a slip of paper. He took it and read the few

lines written on it, after which he began to rub his palms together with

a snaky unction eminently in keeping with the stray glints of light that

now and then found their way through his' bushy eyebrows.



"'And so the young gentleman had not the courage to come again himself?'

he softly suggested, with just the suspicion of an ironical laugh.

'Thought, perhaps, I would exact too much commission; or make him pay

too roundly for his impertinent assurance.'



"I shrugged my shoulders, but vouchsafed no immediate reply, and he saw

that he had to open the business himself. He did it warily and with many

an incisive question which would have tripped me up if I had not been

very much on my guard; but it all ended, as such matters usually do,

in mutual understanding, and a promise that if the young gentleman was

willing to sign a certain paper, which, by the way, was not shown me,

he would in exchange give him an address which, if made proper use of,

would lead to my patron finding himself an independent man within a very

few days.



"As this address was the thing above all others which I most desired, I

professed myself satisfied with the arrangement, and proceeded to hunt

up my patron, as he was called. Informing him of the result of my visit,

I asked if his interest in ferreting out these criminals was strong

enough to lead him to sign the vile document which the Jew would

probably have in readiness for him on the morrow; and being told it was,

we separated for that day, with the understanding that we were to meet

the next morning at the spot chosen by the Jew for the completion of his

nefarious bargain.



"Being certain that I was being followed in all my movements by the

agents of this adept in villainy, I took care, upon leaving Mr. L----,

to repair to the hotel of the sporting man I was personifying. Making

myself square with the proprietor, I took up my quarters in the room

of my sporting friend, and, the better to deceive any spy who might be

lurking about, I received his letters and sent out his telegrams, which,

if they did not create confusion in the affairs of 'The Plunger,' must

at least have occasioned him no little work the next day.



"Promptly at ten o'clock on the following morning I met my patron at the

place of rendezvous appointed by the old Jew; and when I tell you that

this was no other than the old cemetery of which a portion is still to

be seen off Chatham Square, you will understand the uncanny nature of

this whole adventure, and the lurking sense there was in it of brooding

death and horror. The scene, which in these days is disturbed by

elevated railroad trains and the flapping of long lines of parti-colored

clothes strung high up across the quiet tombstones, was at that time one

of peaceful rest, in the midst of a quarter devoted to everything for

which that rest is the fitting and desirable end; and as we paused among

the mossy stones, we found it hard to realize that in a few minutes

there would be standing beside us the concentrated essence of all that

was evil and despicable in human nature.



"He arrived with a smile on his countenance that completed his ugliness,

and would have frightened any honest man from his side at once. Merely

glancing my way, he shuffled up to my companion, and leading him aside,

drew out a paper which he laid on a flat tombstone with a gesture

significant of his desire that the other should affix to it the required

signature.



"Meantime I stood guard, and while attempting to whistle a light air,

was carelessly taking in the surroundings, and conjecturing, as best I

might, the reasons which had induced the old ghoul to make use of this

spot for his diabolical business, and had about decided that it was

because he was a ghoul, and thus felt at home among the symbols of

mortality, when I caught sight of two or three young fellows, who were

lounging on the other side of the fence.



"These were so evidently accomplices that I wondered if the two sly boys

I had engaged to stand by me through this affair had spotted them, and

would know enough to follow them back to their haunts.



"A few minutes later, the old rascal came sneaking towards me, with a

gleam of satisfaction in his half-closed eyes.



"'You are not wanted any longer,' he grunted. 'The young gentleman told

me to say that he could look out for himself now.'



"'The young gentleman had better pay me the round fifty he promised

me,' I grumbled in return, with that sudden change from indifference

to menace which I thought best calculated to further my plans; and

shouldering the miserable wretch aside, I stepped up to my companion,

who was still lingering in a state of hesitation among the gravestones.



"'Quick! Tell me the number and street which he has given you!

'I whispered, in a tone strangely in contrast with the angry and

reproachful air I had assumed.



"He was about to answer, when the old fellow came sidling up behind us.

Instantly the young man before me rose to the occasion, and putting on

an air of conciliation said in a soothing tone:



"'There, there, don't bluster. Do one thing more for me, and I will

add another fifty to those I promised you. Conjure up an anonymous

letter--you know how--and send it to my father, saying that if he wants

to know where his son loses his hundreds, he must go to the place on the

dock, opposite 5 South Street, some night shortly after nine. It would

not work with most men, but it will with my father, and when he has been

in and out of that place, and I succeed to the fortune he will leave me,

then I will remember you, and----'



"'Say, too,' a sinister voice here added in my ear, 'that if he wishes

to effect an entrance into the gambling den which his son haunts,

he must take the precaution of tying a bit of blue ribbon in his

button-hole. It is a signal meaning business, and must not be

forgotten,' chuckled the old fellow, evidently deceived at last into

thinking I was really one of his own kind.



"I answered by a wink, and taking care to attempt no further

communication with my patron, I left the two, as soon as possible,

and went back to the hotel, where I dropped 'the sport,' and assumed a

character and dress which enabled me to make my way undetected to the

house of my young patron, where for two days I lay low, waiting for

a suitable time in which to make my final attempt to penetrate this

mystery.



"I knew that for the adventure I was now contemplating considerable

courage was required. But I did not hesitate. The time had come for me

to show my mettle. In the few communications I was enabled to hold with

my superiors I told them of my progress and arranged with them my

plan of work. As we all agreed that I was about to encounter no common

villainy, these plans naturally partook of finesse, as you will see if

you will follow my narrative to the end.



"Early in the evening of a cool November night I sallied forth into the

streets, dressed in the habiliments and wearing the guise of the wealthy

old gentleman whose secret guest I had been for the last few days. As he

was old and portly, and I young and spare, this disguise had cost me no

little thought and labor. But assisted as I was by the darkness, I had

but little fear of betraying myself to any chance spy who might be upon

the watch, especially as Mr. L---- had a peculiar walk, which, in my

short stay with him, I had learned to imitate perfectly. In the lapel of

my overcoat I had tied a tag of blue ribbon, and, though for all I knew

this was a signal devoting me to a secret and mysterious death, I walked

along in a buoyant condition of mind, attributable, no doubt, to the

excitement of the venture and to my desire to test my powers, even at

the risk of my life.



"It was nine o'clock when I reached South Street. It was no new region

to me, nor was I ignorant of the specified drinking den on the dock to

which I had been directed. I remembered it as a bright spot in a mass

of ship-prows and bow-rigging, and was possessed, besides, of a vague

consciousness that there was something odd in connection with it which

had aroused my curiosity sufficiently in the past for me to have once

formed the resolution of seeing it again under circumstances which

would allow me to give, it some attention. But I never thought that

the circumstances would involve my own life, impossible as it is for a

detective to reckon upon the future or to foresee the events into which

he will be hurried by the next crime which may be reported at police

headquarters.



"There were but few persons in the street when I crossed to The Heart's

Delight,--so named from the heart-shaped opening in the framework of the

door, through which shone a light, inviting enough to one chilled by the

keen November air and oppressed by the desolate appearance of the almost

deserted street. But amongst those persons I thought I recognized more

than one familiar form, and felt reassured as to the watch which had

been set upon the house. The night was dark and the river especially so,

but in the gloomy space beyond the dock I detected a shadow blacker than

the rest, which I took for the police-boat they had promised to have

in readiness in case I needed rescue from the water-side. Otherwise the

surroundings were as usual, and saving the gruff singing of some drunken

sailor coming from a narrow side street near by, no sound disturbed the

somewhat lugubrious silence of this weird and forsaken spot.



"Pausing an instant before entering, I glanced up at the building, which

was about three stories high, and endeavored to see what there was about

it which had once arrested my attention, and came to the conclusion that

it was its exceptional situation on the dock, and the ghostly effect of

the hoisting-beam projecting from the upper story like a gibbet. And yet

this beam was common to many a warehouse in the vicinity, though in none

of them were there any such signs of life as proceeded from the curious

mixture of sail loft, boat shop and drinking saloon, now before me.

Could it be that the ban of criminality was upon the house, and that I

had been conscious of this without being able to realize the cause of my

interest?



"Not stopping to solve my sensations further, I tried the door, and,

finding it yield easily to my touch, turned the knob and entered. For

a moment I was blinded by the smoky glare of the heated atmosphere

into which I stepped, but presently I was able to distinguish the vague

outlines of an oyster bar in the distance, and the motionless figures



of some half dozen men, whose movements had been arrested by my sudden

entrance. For an instant this picture remained; then the drinking and

card-playing were resumed, and I stood, as it were, alone on the sanded

floor near the door. Improving the opportunity for a closer inspection

of the place, I was struck by its picturesqueness. It had evidently been

once used as a ship chandlery, and on the walls, which were but partly

plastered, there still hung old bits of marlin, rusty rings and such

other evidences of former traffic as did not interfere with the present

more lucrative business.



"Below were the two bars, one at the right of the door, and the other

at the lower end of the room near a window, through whose small, square

panes I caught a glimpse of the colored lights of a couple of ferry

boats, passing each other in midstream.



"At a table near me sat two men, grumbling at each other over a game of

cards. They were large and powerful figures in the contracted space

of this long and narrow room, and my heart gave a bound of joy as I

recognized on them certain marks by which I was to know friend from foe

in this possible den of thieves and murderers.



"Two sailors at the bar were bona fide habitues of the place, and so

I judged to be the one or two other specimens of water-side character

whose backs I could faintly discern in one of the dim corners. Meantime

a man was approaching me.



"Let me see if I can describe him. He was about thirty, and had the

complexion and figure of a consumptive, but his eye shone with the

yellow glare of a beast of prey, and in the cadaverous hollows of his

ashen cheeks and amid the lines about his thin drawn lips there lay for

all his conciliatory smile, an expression so cold and yet so ferocious

that I spotted him at once as the man to whose genius we were indebted

for the new scheme of murder which I was jeopardizing my life to

understand. But I allowed none of the repugnance with which he inspired

me to appear in my manner, and, greeting him with half a nod, waited

for him to speak. His voice had that smooth quality which betrays the

hypocrite.



"'Has the gentleman an appointment here?' he asked, letting his glance

fall for the merest instant on the lapel of my coat.



"I returned a decided affirmative. Or rather, I went on, with a meaning

look he evidently comprehended, 'my son has, and I have made up my mind

to know just what deviltry he is up to these days. You see I can make it

worth your while to give me the opportunity.'



"'O, I see,' he assented with a glance at the pocketbook I had just

drawn out. 'You want a private room from which you can watch the young

scapegrace. I understand, I understand. But the private rooms are above.

Gentlemen are not comfortable here.'



"'I should say not,' I murmured, and drew from the pocketbook a bill

which I slid quietly into his hand. 'Now take me where I shall be

safe,' I suggested, 'and yet in full sight of the room where the young

gentlemen play. I wish to catch him at his tricks. Afterwards----'



"'All will be well,' he finished smoothly, with another glance at my

blue ribbon. 'You see I do not ask you the young gentleman's name.

I take your money and leave all the rest to you. Only don't make a

scandal, I pray, for my house has the name of being quiet.'



"'Yes,' thought I, 'too quiet!' and for an instant felt my spirits fail

me. But it was only for an instant. I had friends about me and a

pistol at half cock in the pocket of my overcoat. Why should I fear any

surprise, prepared as I was for every emergency?



"'I will show you up in a moment,' said he; and left me to put up a

heavy board-shutter over the window opening on the river. Was this a

signal or a precaution? I glanced towards my two friends playing cards,

took another note of their broad shoulders and brawny arms, and prepared

to follow my host, who now stood bowing at the other end of the room,

before a covered staircase which was manifestly the sole means of

reaching the floor above.



"The staircase was quite a feature in the room. It ran from back to

front, and was boarded all the way up to the ceiling. On these boards

hung a few useless bits of chain, wire and knotted ends of tarred ropes,

which swung to and fro as the sharp November blast struck the building,

giving out a weird and strangely muffled sound. Why did this sound, so

easily to be accounted for, ring in my ears like a note of warning? I

understand now, but I did not then, full of expectation as I was for

developments out of the ordinary.



"Crossing the room, I entered upon the staircase, in the wake of my

companion. Though the two men at cards did not look up as I passed them,

I noticed that they were alert and ready for any signal I might choose

to give them. But I was not ready to give one yet. I must see danger

before I summoned help, and there was no token of danger yet.



"When we were about half-way up the stairs the faint light which had

illuminated us from below suddenly vanished, and we found ourselves in

total darkness. The door at the foot had been closed by a careful hand,

and I felt, rather than heard, the stealthy pushing of a bolt across it.



"My first impulse was to forsake my guide and rush back, but I

subdued the unworthy impulse and stood quite still, while my companion

exclaiming, 'Damn that fellow! What does he mean by shutting the door

before we're half-way up!' struck a match and lit a gas jet in the room

above, which poured a flood of light upon the staircase. Drawing my hand

from the pocket in which I had put my revolver, I hastened after him

into the small landing at the top of the stairs. An open door was before

me, in which he stood bowing, with the half-burnt match in his hand.

'This is the place, sir,' he announced, motioning me in.



"I entered and he remained by the door, while I passed quickly about the

room, which was bare of every article of furniture save a solitary table

and chair. There was not even a window in it, with the exception of one

small light situated so high up in the corner made by the jutting-up

staircase that I wondered at its use, and was only relieved of extreme

apprehension at the prison-like appearance of the place by the gleam

of light which came through this dusty pane, showing that I was not

entirely removed from the presence of my foes if I was from that of my

friends.



"'Ah, you have spied the window,' remarked my host, advancing toward me

with a countenance he vainly endeavored to make reassuring and friendly.

'That is your post of observation, sir,' he whispered, with a great show

of mystery. 'By mounting on the table you can peer into the room where

my young friends sit securely at play.'



"As it was not part of my scheme to show any special mistrust, I merely

smiled a little grimly, and cast a glance at the table on which stood a

bottle of brandy and one glass.



"'Very good brandy,' he whispered, 'Not such stuff as we give those

fellows down-stairs.'



"I shrugged my shoulders and he slowly backed towards the door.



"'The young men you bid me watch are very quiet,' I suggested, with a

careless wave of my hand towards the room he had mentioned.



"'Oh, there is no one there yet. They begin to straggle in about ten

o'clock.'



"'Ah,' was my quiet rejoinder, 'I am likely, then, to have use for your

brandy.'



"He smiled again and made a swift motion towards the door.



"'If you want anything,' said he, 'just step to the foot of the

staircase and let me know. The whole establishment is at your service.'

And with one final grin that remains in my mind as the most threatening

and diabolical I have ever witnessed, he laid his hand on the knob of

the door and slid quickly out.



"It was done with such an air of final farewell, that I felt my

apprehensions take a positive form. Rushing towards the door through

which he had just vanished, I listened and heard, as I thought, his

stealthy feet descend the stair. But when I sought to follow, I found

myself for the second time overwhelmed by darkness. The gas jet, which

had hitherto burned with great brightness in the small room, had been

turned off from below, and beyond the faint glimmer which found its way

through the small window of which I have spoken, not a ray of light now

disturbed the heavy gloom of this gruesome apartment.



"I had thought of every contingency but this, and for a few minutes

my spirits were dashed. But I soon recovered some remnants of

self-possession, and began feeling for the knob I could no longer see.

Finding it after a few futile attempts, I was relieved to discover that

this door at least was not locked; and, opening it with a careful hand,

I listened intently, but could hear nothing save the smothered sound of

men talking in the room below.



"Should I signal for my companions? No, for the secret was not yet mine

as to how men passed from this room into the watery grave which was the

evident goal for all wearers of the blue ribbon.



"Stepping back into the middle of the room, I carefully pondered my

situation, but could get no further than the fact that I was somehow,

and in some way, in mortal peril. Would it come in the form of a bullet,

or a deadly thrust from an unseen knife? I did not think so. For, to say

nothing of the darkness, there was one reassuring fact which recurred

constantly to my mind in connection with the murders I was endeavoring

to trace to this den of iniquity.



"None of the gentlemen who had been found drowned had shown any marks of

violence on their bodies, so it was not attack I was to fear, but some

mysterious, underhanded treachery which would rob me of consciousness

and make the precipitation of my body into the water both safe and easy.

Perhaps it was in the bottle of brandy that the peril lay; perhaps--but

why speculate further! I would watch till midnight and then, if nothing

happened, signal my companions to raid the house.



"Meantime a peep into the next room might help me towards solving the

mystery. Setting the bottle and glass aside, I dragged the table across

the floor, placed it under the lighted window, mounted, and was about to

peer through, when the light in that apartment was put out also. Angry

and overwhelmed, I leapt down, and, stretching out my hands till they

touched the wainscoting, I followed the wall around till I came to the

knob of the door, which I frantically clutched. But I did not turn it

immediately, I was too anxious to catch these villains at work. Would I

be conscious of the harm they meditated against me, or would I

imperceptibly yield to some influence of which I was not yet conscious,

and drop to the floor before I could draw my revolver or put to my mouth

the whistle upon which I de-pended for assistance and safety? It was

hard to tell, but I determined to cling to my first intention a little

longer, and so stood waiting and counting the minutes, while wondering

if the captain of the police boat was not getting impatient, and whether

I had not more to fear from the anxiety of my friends than the cupidity

of my foes.



"You see I had anticipated communicating with the men in this boat by

certain signals and tokens which had been arranged between us. But the

lack of windows in the room had made all such arrangements futile, so I

knew as little of their actions as they of my sufferings; all of which

did not tend to add to the cheerfulness of my position.



"I, however, held out for a half-hour, listening, waiting and watching

in a darkness which, like that of Egypt, could be felt, and when the

suspense grew intolerable I struck a match and let its blue flame

flicker for a moment over the face of my watch. But the matches soon

gave out and with them my patience, if not my courage, and I determined

to end the suspense by knocking at the door beneath.



"This resolution taken, I pulled open the door before me and stepped

out. Though I could see nothing, I remembered the narrow landing at the

top of the stairs, and, stretching out my arms, I felt for the boarding

on either hand, guilding myself by it, and began to descend, when

something rising, as it were, out of the cavernous darkness before me

made me halt and draw back in mingled dread and horror.



"But the impression, strong as it was, was only momentary, and, resolved

to be done with the matter, I precipitated myself downward, when

suddenly, at about the middle of the staircase, my feet slipped and I

slid forward, plunging and reaching out with hands whose frenzied grasp

found nothing to cling to, down a steep inclined plane--or what to my

bewildered senses appeared such,--till I struck a yielding surface and

passed with one sickening plunge into the icy waters of the river which

in another moment had closed dark and benumbing above my head.



"It was all so rapid I did not think of uttering a cry. But happily for

me the splash I made told the story, and I was rescued before I could

sink a second time.



"It was a full half hour before I had sufficiently recovered from the

shock to relate my story. But when once I had made it known, you can

imagine the gusto with which the police prepared to enter the house

and confound the obliging host with a sight of my dripping garments and

accusing face. And indeed in all my professional experience I have never

beheld a more sudden merging of the bully into a coward than was to be

seen in this slick villain's face, when I was suddenly pulled from the

crowd and placed before him, with the old man's wig gone from my head,

and the tag of blue ribbon still clinging to my wet coat.



"His game was up, and he saw it; and Ebenezer Gryce's career had begun.



"Like all destructive things the device by which I had been run into the

river was simple enough when understood. In the first place it had been

constructed to serve the purpose of a stairway and chute. The latter was

in plain sight when it was used by the sailmakers to run the finished

sails into the waiting yawls below. At the time of my adventure, and for

some time before, the possibilities of the place had been discovered by

mine host, who had ingeniously put a partition up the entire stairway,

dividing the steps from the smooth runway. At the upper part of the

runway he had built a few steps, wherewith to lure the unwary far enough

down to insure a fatal descent. To make sure of his game he had likewise

ceiled the upper room all around, including the enclosure of the stairs.

The door to the chute and the door to the stairs were side by side, and

being made of the same boards as the wainscoting, were scarcely visible

when closed, while the single knob that was used, being transferable

from one to the other, naturally gave the impression that there was but

one door. When this adroit villain called my attention to the little

window around the corner, he no doubt removed the knob from the stairs'

door and quickly placed it in the one opening upon the chute. Another

door, connecting the two similar landings without, explains how he got

from the chute staircase into which he passed, on leaving me, to the one

communicating with the room below.



"The mystery was solved, and my footing on the force secured; but to

this day--and I am an old man now--I have not forgotten the horror of

the moment when my feet slipped from under me, and I felt myself sliding

downward, without hope of rescue, into a pit of heaving waters, where so

many men of conspicuous virtue had already ended their valuable lives.



"Myriad thoughts flashed through my brain in that brief interval, and

among them the whole method of operating this death-trap, together with

every detail of evidence that would secure the conviction of the entire

gang."





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