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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