The darkness grew thicker and thicker. Unbroken chains of lights glowed along the thoroughfares. One belfry after another awoke and great bells began to peal.Not far from me a church with yawning doors was engulfing the multitude. The disappearance of the antlike creatures into this gigantic mouth assumed in my eyes a disquieting significance. Had not my poor companion been carried along by the crowd and thrust willy-nilly into this depth of the unknown, out of which arose a ponderous gnashing and crunching of bronze upon bell-metal?I must have uttered a cry, because an old man who some time since had stopped on the other side of the street to look at me, and who seemed to be seeking an excuse to address me, said something unintel-ligible and then went away, looking back reproachfully, enigmatically.
Our old-fashioned suite
I was fairly twitching with anxiety. Our old-fashioned suite was many-cornered, crammed with little nooks in which the darkness piled up, compressed into dread intensity. I dressed hurriedly and began to ransack the city in all directions, rationally at first, then quite feverishly.I thought I saw my friend now among the loiterers who leaned over the parapets of a stone bridge, now in the recesses of a cellar where frightful sots lurched about a bar, now under a gigantic candelabrum, whose fitfully flickering light illumined a bas-relief of a battle between serpents and eagles.Every time I banished one of these ideas my head whirled the more. My eyes smarted and my heart was as if in a vise. I resolved to return. But hardly had I taken a step before the object of my anxiety changed. I ceased to worry about my friend and feared only for myself. Whether he was lost or killed, I must return at once! Oh, that nocturnal flight! Through black streets whose house-fronts leered so horribly! Towers loomed up out of sable squares as if built upon the Unknown to reach the stars.Wine-cellars resounded with oaths and brawlings and the sound of my footsteps, reechoed from the angles and doorways of colossal houses, was like a cannonade. More mysterious than before and more implacably hostile the passers-by appeared. Could I ask them to direct me? They were garroters, assassins ready to stick a knife into my back. I walked in the middle of the street, casting stealthy glances over my shoulder, knowing that I was ghostly pale, and fearing above all that my fear would be noticed.A little hunchback peddling matches approached me. I sprang back. to avoid him. A cocotte whispered silly words in my ear. I quickened my pace, not daring to thrust her from me bodily. In a glazed arcade, one of those hideous cloaked beggars, such as had disquieted me ever since I started out, stood blocking the passage with his sweeping gestures. I wheeled about. And the hour was striking overhead in the cathedral with a sound of swords clashing in combat.
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