He returned rather late at night, and no sooner took a step into his room than he felt something crack under his boot. He hastily raised his foot and took a further step with the same result: he thought he must be treading on eggs. He lowered his candlestick — the carpet was covered with snails.
Joseph had obeyed orders literally. He had bought the lettuces and the snails, had placed them all in a basket and Gazelle on the top, and then put the basket in the middle of his master's bedroom. Ten minutes later the warmth of the fire thawed the snails into animation, and the entire caravan set forth on a voyage of discovery round the room, leaving silvery tracks behind them on carpet and furniture.
As for Gazelle, she was quietly reposing at the bottom of the basket, where a few empty shells proved that all the fugitives had not been brisk enough to make their escape.
Dumas, feeling no fancy for a possible procession of snails over his bed, carefully picked up the stragglers one by one, popped them back into the basket, and shut down the lid. But in five minutes' time he realised that sleep would be out of the question with the noise going on, which sounded like a dozen mice in a bag of nuts. He decided to move the basket to the kitchen.
On the way there it occurred to him that if Gazelle went on at this rate she would certainly die of indigestion before morning. He remembered that the owner of the restaurant on the ground floor had a tank in the back 3ard where he often put fish to keep till wanted, and it struck him that the tank would be the very place for his tortoise. He at once put his idea into execution, got back to his room and to bed, and slept soundly till morning.
Joseph woke him early.
' Oh, sir, such a joke! ' he exclaimed, standing at the foot of the bed.