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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 235 pages of information about A Reckless Character.

XII

The storm had subsided ... but its last flutterings could still be felt.  It was early; there were no people in the streets; in many places fragments of chimneys, tiles, boards of fences which had been rent asunder, the broken boughs of trees, lay strewn upon the ground....  “What happened at sea last night?” I involuntarily thought at the sight of the traces left behind by the storm.  I started to go to the port, but my feet bore me in another direction, as though in obedience to an irresistible attraction.  Before ten minutes had passed I found myself in a quarter of the town which I had never yet visited.  I was walking, not fast, but without stopping, step by step, with a strange sensation at my heart; I was expecting something remarkable, impossible, and, at the same time, I was convinced that that impossible thing would come to pass.

XIII

And lo, it came to pass, that remarkable, that unexpected thing!  Twenty paces in front of me I suddenly beheld that same negro who had spoken to the baron in my presence at the coffee-house!  Enveloped in the same cloak which I had then noticed on him, he seemed to have popped up out of the earth, and with his back turned toward me was walking with brisk strides along the narrow sidewalk of the crooked alley!  I immediately dashed in pursuit of him, but he redoubled his gait, although he did not glance behind him, and suddenly made an abrupt turn around the corner of a projecting house.  I rushed to that corner and turned it as quickly as the negro had done....  Marvellous to relate!  Before me stretched a long, narrow, and perfectly empty street; the morning mist filled it with its dim, leaden light,—­but my gaze penetrated to its very extremity.  I could count all its buildings ... and not a single living being was anywhere astir!  The tall negro in the cloak had vanished as suddenly as he had appeared!  I was amazed ... but only for a moment.  Another feeling immediately took possession of me; that street which stretched out before my eyes, all dumb and dead, as it were,—­I recognised it!  It was the street of my dream.  I trembled and shivered—­the morning was so chilly—­and instantly, without the slightest wavering, with a certain terror of confidence, I went onward.

I began to seek with my eyes....  Yes, there it is, yonder, on the right, with a corner projecting on the sidewalk—­yonder is the house of my dream, yonder is the ancient gate with the stone scrolls on each side....  The house is not circular, it is true, but square ... but that is a matter of no importance....  I knock at the gate, I knock once, twice, thrice, ever more and more loudly....  The gate opens slowly, with a heavy screech, as though yawning.  In front of me stands a young serving-maid with a dishevelled head and sleepy eyes.  She has evidently just waked up.

“Does the baron live here?” I inquire, as I run a swift glance over the deep, narrow courtyard....  It is there; it is all there ... there are the planks which I had seen in my dream.

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