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“And so you think that opium-smoking as seen in the foul cellars of Mott Street and elsewhere is the only form of narcotic indulgence of any consequence in this city, and that hashish, if used at all, is only smoked occasionally and experimentally by a few scattered individuals?”

“That certainly is my opinion, and I consider myself fairly well informed.”

“Well, you are far from right, as I can prove to you if you care to inform yourself more fully on the subject. There is a large community of hashish smokers in this city, who are daily forced to indulge their morbid appetites, and I can take you to a house uptown where hemp is used in every conceivable form, and where the lights, sounds, odors, and surroundings are all arranged so as to intensify and enhance the effects of this wonderful narcotic.”

“I must confess that I am still incredulous.”

“Well, if it is agreeable to you, meet me at the Hoffman House reading-room tomorrow night at ten o’clock, and I think I shall be able to convince you.”

The above is the substance of a conversation that took place in the lobby of a down-town hotel between the writer of these lines and a young man about thirty-eight years of age, known to me for some years past as an opium-smoker. It was through his kindness that I had first gained access to and had been able to study up the subject of opium-smoking. Hence I really anticipated seeing some interesting phases of hemp indulgence, and was not disappointed.

The following evening at precisely ten o’clock I met the young man at the Hoffman House, and together we took a Broadway car up-town, left it at Forty-second Street, and walked rapidly toward the North River, talking as we went.

“You will probably be greatly surprised at many things you will see tonight,” he said, “just as I was when I was first introduced into the place by a friend. I have travelled over most of Europe, and have smoked opium in every joint in America, but never saw anything so curious as this, nor experienced any intoxication so fascinating yet so terrible as that of hashish.”

“Are the habitués of this place of the same class as those who frequent the opium-smoking dives?”

“By no means. They are about evenly divided between Americans and foreigners; indeed, the place is kept by a Greek, who has invested a great deal of money in it. All the visitors, both male and female, are of the better classes, and absolute secrecy is the rule. The house has been opened about two years, I believe, and the number of regular habitués is daily on the increase.”

“Are you one of the number?”

“I am, and find the intoxication far pleasanter and less hurtful than that from opium. Ah! here we are.”

We paused before a gloomy-looking house, entered the gate, and passed up the steps. The windows were absolutely dark, and the en-tranceway looked dirty and desolate. Four pulls at the bell, a pause, and one more pull were followed by a few moments’ silence, broken suddenly by the sound of falling chain, rasping bolt, and the grinding of a key in the lock. The outer door was cautiously opened, and at a word from my companion we passed into the vestibule. The outer door was carefully closed by some one whom I could not distinguish in the utter darkness. A moment later the inner door was opened, and never shall I forget the impression produced by the sudden change from total darkness to the strange scene that met my eyes. The dark vestibule was the boundary line separating the cold, dreary streets and the ordinary world from a scene of Oriental magnificence.


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