This man was the father whom I had sought out, whom I had beheld in my dream!
There was no possibility of making a mistake,—the resemblance was too striking. Even the long-skirted coat, which enveloped his gaunt limbs, reminded me, in colour and form, of the dressing-gown in which my father had presented himself to me.
“Am not I dreaming?” I thought to myself.... “No.... It is daylight now, a crowd is roaring round me, the sun is shining brightly in the blue sky, and I have before me, not a phantom, but a living man.”
I stepped up to an empty table, ordered myself a tankard of beer and a newspaper, and seated myself at a short distance from this mysterious being.
Placing the sheets of the newspaper on a level with my face, I continued to devour the stranger with my eyes.—He hardly stirred, and only raised his drooping head a little from time to time. He was evidently waiting for some one. I gazed and gazed.... Sometimes it seemed to me that I had invented the whole thing, that in reality there was no resemblance whatever, that I had yielded to the semi-involuntary deception of the imagination ... but “he” would suddenly turn a little on his chair, raise his hand slightly, and again I almost cried aloud, again I beheld before me my “nocturnal” father! At last he noticed my importunate attention, and, first with surprise, then with vexation, he glanced in my direction, started to rise, and knocked down a small cane which he had leaned against the table. I instantly sprang to my feet, picked it up and handed it to him. My heart was beating violently.
He smiled in a constrained way, thanked me, and putting his face close to my face, he elevated his eyebrows and parted his lips a little, as though something had struck him.
“You are very polite, young man,” he suddenly began, in a dry, sharp, snuffling voice.—“That is a rarity nowadays. Allow me to congratulate you. You have been well brought up.”
I do not remember precisely what answer I made to him; but the conversation between us was started. I learned that he was a fellow-countryman of mine, that he had recently returned from America, where he had lived many years, and whither he was intending to return shortly. He said his name was Baron.... I did not catch the name well. He, like my “nocturnal” father, wound up each of his remarks with an indistinct, inward growl. He wanted to know my name.... On hearing it he again showed signs of surprise. Then he asked me if I had been living long in that town, and with whom? I answered him that I lived with my mother.
“And your father?”
“My father died long ago.”
He inquired my mother’s Christian name, and immediately burst into an awkward laugh—and then excused himself, saying that he had that American habit, and that altogether he was a good deal of an eccentric. Then he asked where we lived. I told him.