A Strange Disappearance HTML version

6. A Bit Of Calico
It was about this time that I took up my residence in a sort of lodging-house that
occupied the opposite corner to that of Mr. Blake. My room, as I took pains to
have it, overlooked the avenue, and from its windows I could easily watch the
goings and comings of the gentleman whose movements were daily becoming of
more and more interest to me. For set it down to caprice--and men are often as
capricious as women--or account for it as you will, his restlessness at this period
was truly remarkable. Not a day that he did not spend his time in walking the
streets, and that not in his usual aimless gentlemanly fashion, but eagerly and
with an intent gaze that roamed here and there, like a bird seeking its prey. It
would often be as late as five o'clock before he came in, and if, as now frequently
happened, he did not have company to dinner, he was even known to start out
again after seven o'clock and go over the same ground as in the morning, looking
with strained gaze, that vainly endeavored to appear unconcerned, into the faces
of the women that he passed. I not unfrequently followed him at these times as
much for my own amusement as from any hope I had of coming upon anything
that should aid me in the work before me. But when he suddenly changed his
route of travel from a promenade in the fashionable thoroughfares of Broadway
and Fourteenth Street to a walk through Chatham Square and the dark, narrow
streets of the East side, I began to scent whom the prey might be that he was
seeking, and putting every other consideration aside, regularly set myself to dog
his steps, as only I, with my innumerable disguises, knew how to do. For three
separate days I kept at his heels wherever he went, each day growing more and
more astonished if not to say hopeful, as I found myself treading the narrowest
and most disreputable streets of the city; halting at the shops of pawnbrokers;
peering into the back-rooms of liquor shops; mixing with the crowds that infest
the corner groceries at nightfall, and even slinking with hand on the trigger of the
pistol I carried in my pocket, up dark alleys where every door that swung
noiselessly to and fro as we passed, shut upon haunts of such villainy as only is
known to us of the police, or to those good souls that for the sake of One whose
example they follow, lay aside their fears and sensitiveness to carry light into the
dim pits of this wretched world. At first I thought Mr. Blake might have some such
reason for the peculiar course he took. But his indifference to all crowds where
only men were collected, his silence where a word would have been well
received, convinced me it was a woman he was seeking and that with an
intentness which blinded him to the commonest needs of the hour. I even saw
him once in his hurry and abstraction, step across the body of a child who had
fallen face downward on the stones, and that with an expression showing he was
utterly unconscious of anything but an obstacle in his path. The strangest part of
it all was that he seemed to have no fear. To be sure he took pains to leave his
watch at home; but with such a figure and carriage as he possessed, the
absence of jewelry could never deceive the eye for a moment as to the fact of his
being a man of wealth, and those he went among would do anything for money.
Perhaps, like me, he carried a pistol. At all events he shunned no spot where