Toward the shore the light that filtered between the supporting piles of Pier 31A became less and less, until completely shut off by walls of solid masonry. Into this darkness Bubbles swam with great caution, accustoming his eyes to the obscurity and holding himself ready to dive in retreat at the first alarm.
The shore end of Pier 31A had originally been a clean wall of solid masonry. The removal of half a dozen great blocks of stone had made a jagged opening in the midst of this, and into this opening, pulling himself a little out of the water, Bubbles strained and strained his eyes and saw nothing but the beginning of a passageway and then pitch darkness.
His heart beat very hard and fast like the heart of a caught bird. Here, leading into the city from the shore of the East River, was a mysterious passageway. Who had made it and why? There were two ways of finding out. One was to wait patiently until some one entered the passage or emerged from it. The other way, and the better, was to forget how very much the idea of so doing frightened you, climb into the opening, and follow the passage to its other end. Bubbles compromised. He waited patiently for half an hour. Nothing happened. Then he pulled himself into the opening and crawled through the darkness for perhaps the length of a city block.
“What,” he then said to himself, “is the use of me going any further? I can’t see in the dark. I’ve got no matches, and if anything happens to me, there’ll be nobody to tell Harry about this place. Better make a get-away now, find Harry, and bring him here to-night. Then if we find anybody there’ll be something doing.”
He had turned and was crawling rather rapidly toward the entrance of the passage.
Bubble’s problem was to locate Harry West. And he wrestled with it, if trying to cover the whole of a scorching hot city on a pair of insufficient legs and a very limited amount of carfare may be called wrestling. His search took him into many odd places where you could not have expected to cross the trail of an honest man. He even made inquiries of a master-plumber, of a Fourth Avenue vender of antiques, of a hairy woman with one eye who ran a news-stand, of a bar-tender, of saloon-keepers and bootblacks. He drifted through a department store, and whispered to a pretty girl who sold “art pictures.” She shook her head. He spoke a word to the negro sentinel of a house in the West Forties, and was admitted to quiet, padded rooms, containing everything which is necessary to separate hopeful persons from their money. In one room a number of book-makers were whiling away the hot afternoon with poker for small stakes. In another room, played upon by an electric fan, sat Mr. Lichtenstein, the proprietor. He was bent over a table on which he had assembled fifteen or twenty of the component parts of a very large picture-puzzle. He was small, plump and earnest. He may have been a Jew, but he had bright red hair and a pug nose. His eyes, bright, quick, small, brown, and kind, were very busy hunting among the brightly colored pieces of the puzzle.