A man was coming up the street behind me, and I turned to question him, but as I decreased my pace, he diminished his also, and when I quickened mine, he went faster as well. I began to have an uneasy sense that he might be following me, and accordingly hastened onward until I came to a road which seemed to lead up the hill toward the ramparts.
The chateau now stood some distance upon my left, but once I had reached the summit of the cliff it would only be a short walk away.
The road, however, led me into a blind alley, the farther extremity being the base of the cliff; but another street emerged from it at a right angle, and I plunged into this, believing that any of the byways would eventually take me to the top of the acclivity.
As I entered this street I heard the footsteps behind me quicken and, looking around, perceived that the man was close upon me. He stopped at the moment I did and disappeared in a small court.
There was nothing remarkable in this, only to my straining eyes he seemed to bear a resemblance to the man with the patch whom I had encountered at the corner of Sixth Avenue on that night when I met Jacqueline.
I knew from Leroux’s statement to me that the man had been a member of his gang. I was quite able to take care of myself under normal circumstances.
But now—I was afraid. The mighty cliff before me, the silence of the deserted alleys in which I wandered helplessly, the thought of Jacqueline alone, waiting anxiously for my return, almost unmanned me. I felt like a hunted man, and my safety, upon which her own depended, attained an exaggerated importance in my mind.
So I almost ran forward into the byway which seemed to lead toward the summit, and as I did so I heard the footsteps close behind me again.
I had entered one of the narrowest streets I had ever seen, and the most curious. It was just wide enough to admit the passage of a sleigh perhaps; the crumbling and dilapidated old houses, which seemed deserted, were connected overhead by a succession of wooden bridges, and those on my left were built into the solid rock, which rose sheer overhead.
In front of me the alley seemed to widen. I almost ran; but when I reached it I found that it was merely a bend in the passage, and the alley ran on straight as before.
On my left hand was a tiny unfenced courtyard, not more than six yards in area, and I turned into this quickly and waited. I was confident that the bend in the street had hidden me from my pursuer and, as I anticipated, he came on at a swifter rate.
He was abreast of me when I put out my hand and grasped him by the coat, while with the other I felt in my pocket for my automatic pistol.
It was not there. I had left it in the pocket of the overcoat which I had changed at the furrier’s shop and had sent to the chateau. And I was looking into the villainous face of the ruffian who had knocked me down on Sixth Avenue.