One Night part 4

A
night-watchman loomed up in front of me. “I come,” I said, “to get you to see
about a theft which has just been committed on my premises.”

The
man followed me, and the few words which he spoke dispelled my nightmare. At
that moment I was not aware what a comedy I was playing.

When
we reached the threshold of my lodging I would have dared to go into my room
and hunt in every nook and corner, and go to sleep at last in complete
tranquillity. The watchman searched the sitting- room, the bath-room, lighting
his flashlight, and made the rounds of the whole suite. In order to give weight
to my words—which lay very lightly upon me—I pretended that a jewel-case had
been lying on this taboret between the candlestick and the traveling bag, and
that the case had disappeared.

With
increasing zeal I vented my indignation on the sharpers who lounge around
hotels and prey on travelers, and inveighed against the authorities, who never
seem to be able to bring the guilty to justice. I must have overdone it,
because the watchman smiled, and I saw the faintest trace of incredulity in his
eyes. I grew angry.

“I
am certain,” I explained, “that an hour ago a—a valuable medallion, set in
pearls and inlaid with arabesques, was in that case.”

And
as the man interrupted me to assure me that the reputation of the house had
never been questioned, and that the vicinity was the quietest in the city, I
answered that while I was in bed I had suddenly been awakened by a scratching
sound like that of a diamond on glass, or of an object being drawn across a
marble-topped table, that as I jumped up a man went out, slamming the door
behind him. As to the case, it had four copper nails on the under side, and the
sound of one of these scraping on something was what had wakened me.

The
watchman looked me straight in the eyes.

Complaint to the Captain

“Follow
me,” he said, “and make your complaint to the Captain.”

But
to this I would not consent. I excused myself, saying that my friend would not
be back for quite a while. My friend now meant nothing to me but a
subterfuge—and I dared not for a single second leave our papers and other
valuables unguarded in this suspicious place.

Again
that smile in the watchman’s eye. I wanted to knock him down. Suddenly the door
opened and he who had been the prime cause of my dread, whom I had vainly, yes,
madly, sought all through the city, stepped in. I threw myself on his neck and
asked him where in the world he had been and what had kept him so long. I
quickly drew him aside and gave him a detailed account of the adventure.

The
watchman pretended not to notice. He understood. Quite seriously, for in my
aroused state the least mockery would have ruined everything, he and my friend
agreed that a complaint should be lodged next day and that, to give me justice
and punish the guilty, the questionable neighborhoods in the vicinity of the
barracks and the docks should be systematically searched.

But
in the light of day the city seemed to me so peaceful, so cloister-like, so
restful, that I could think only of enjoying to the full the charms of its
antique works of art and the melancholy splendor of its decaying relics.

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