It was raining. A slight summer rain that came so suddenly, though it has been soaking the cobblestone streets of the city for hours now. The bottom of the thick black clouds bathed in a sharp light for a second, but the sounds of the thunder have been suppressed by the deep tolling from the towers of the Notre Dame. The familiar booming of the heavy bells seemed alien and threatening in the thunderstorm and the tolls forced the slight figure hurrying down the narrow street to shiver. Long and creepy sounds echoed through the houses, twelve times in a row, then they fell silent and nothing remained but the constant drumming of the raindrops on the stones of the streets – it was midnight. A ligthning ran through the sky and as there were no other sounds to suppress it, the clash was like as if someone fired a cannon. The man stopped, looked up to the sky then pulled his coat tighter and walked on.
He passed a house that had its windows barred, went by a carriage with a broken spindle that has been left there by its owner then turned left into an alley to shorten the way. Usually he avoided such routes buti t was raining, so he decided to take the risk. Under the brim of his hat his eyes flashed from one side of the street to the other scanning the dark shadows whether there were any hiding thieves ready for killing anyone; more and more such villains appeared on the streets of Paris in recent months. Though he was careful, he missed a step and his foot slumped in a pool of water. He swore silently then suddenly jumped back because a shadow seemed to come to life. He pushed his back to the wall of a house and waited for the worst to come then some moments later he let out a relieved sigh as he recognized the shadow as the silhouette of a cat. He shook his head and started to run to leave the alley and its strange shadows behind.
By the time he got home he was completely wet. The street was gloomy. The vast windows of the old house stared at the street like dark and blind eyes. The small cage for the gas light on the top of the nearby lamp post was empty. The figure put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a ring full of keys. He searched the keys for a while then inserted the selected one into the lock and turned it. There was a faint click. He turned the latch and pushed the door in. He stepped inside to the narrow parvis, pulled the door shut behind him and tossed his coat on the fence of the stairs leading to the upper floor.
„Jacques,” he shouted.
The was no answer. He took the paraffine lamp from the little table by the wall, turned it on and walked towards the nearby door. He opened it and stepped in to look around. The shadows swirling on the shelves of the heavy bookcases skittered away from the light, but there was nobody inside. The man closed the door.
„Jacques,” he called out again, a little louder than before.
A soft pattering could be heared and a thin man appeared on the top of the stairs with a candle in his hand. His longish face was like that of a ghost in the weak light.
„Yes, it’s me,” he replied and began to climb the stairs. „Tell me, why is it so dark in here?”
„I have gone to bed, my lord,” said the servant with a whisper. „I was not expecting the professor to return tonight… It is getting really late.”
The man lifted his lamp and looked at the clock on the wall; it was well past midnight.
„I am sorry, Jacques,” he said. „I didn’t want to wake you up.
„Never mind,” said the old man and pulled himself. „Would you fancy a cup of tea, professor? You must be all wet and cold from the rain.”
„That would be nice, thank you” nodded the man, and went upstairs.
„Shall I bring your tea to your room, my lord?”
„No,” said the man as he passed the servant. „I must have a look at my experiment before I go to sleep.”
„As you wish” came the answer and the servant went down.
The professor walked on the corridor towards a door at the end, but suddenly stopped as he reached a mirror hanging on the wall; he looked at it.
to be continued…
by Norbert Csörgő (RV)