I, too, astonished at my success in making her believe this fable, remained silent.
At last, breaking the silence, she said, sadly,
"The method seems to me an excellent one, but I do not think I ought to make use of it."
Then she asked me if the aroph took much time to make.
"Two hours at most," I answered, "if I succeed in procuring English saffron, which Paracelsus prefers to the Oriental saffron."
At that moment her mother and the Chevalier Farsetti came in, and after some talk of no consequence she asked me to stay to dinner. I was going to decline, when Mdlle. X. C. V. said she would sit at table, on which I accepted; and we all left the room to give her time to dress. She was not long in dressing, and when she appeared her figure seemed to me quite nymph-like. I was astonished, and could scarcely believe my eyes, and I was on the point of thinking that I had been imposed on, for I could not imagine how she could manage to conceal the fulness I had felt with my own hands.
M. Farsetti sat by her, and I by the mother. Mdlle. X. C. V., whose head was full of the aroph, asked her neighbour, who gave himself out for a great chemist, if he knew it.
"I fancy I know it better than anyone," answered Farsetti, in a self- satisfied manner.
"What is it good for?"
"That is too vague a question."
"What does the word mean?"
"It is an Arabic word, of which I do not know the meaning; but no doubt Paracelsus would tell us."
"The word," said I, "is neither Arabic nor Hebrew, nor, indeed, of any language at all. It is a contraction which conceals two other words."
"Can you tell us what they are?" said the chevalier.
"Certainly; aro comes from aroma, and ph is the initial of philosophorum:"
"Did you get that out of Paracelsus?" said Farsetti, evidently annoyed.
"No, sir; I saw it in Boerhaave."
"That's good," said he, sarcastically; "Boerhaave says nothing of the sort, but I like a man who quotes readily."
"Laugh, sir, if you like," said I, proudly, "but here is the test of what I say; accept the wager if you dare. I don't quote falsely, like persons who talk of words being Arabic."
So saying I flung a purse of gold on the table, but Farsetti, who was by no means sure of what he was saying, answered disdainfully that he never betted.
However, Mdlle. X. C. V., enjoying his confusion, told him that was the best way never to lose, and began to joke him on his Arabic derivation. But, for my part, I replaced my purse in my pocket, and on some trifling pretext went out and sent my servant to Madame d'Urfe's to get me Boerhaave.
On my return to the room I sat down again at table, and joined gaily in the conversation till the return of my messenger with the book. I opened it, and as I had been reading it the evening before I soon found the place I wanted, and giving it to him begged him to satisfy himself that I had quoted not readily but exactly. Instead of taking the book, he got up and went out without saying a word.
"He has gone away in a rage," said the mother; "and I would wager anything that he will not come back again."
"I wager he will," said the daughter, "he will honour us with his agreeable company before to-morrow's sun has set."
She was right. From that day Farsetti became my determined enemy, and let no opportunity slip of convincing me of his hatred.
After dinner we all went to Passy to be present at a concert given by M. de la Popeliniere, who made us stay to supper. I found there Silvia and her charming daughter, who pouted at me and not without cause, as I had neglected her. The famous adept, St. Germain, enlivened the table with his wild tirades so finely delivered. I have never seen a more intellectual or amusing charlatan than he.
Next day I shut myself up to answer a host of questions that Esther had sent me. I took care to answer all those bearing on business matters as obscurely as possible, not only for the credit of the oracle, but also for fear of misleading the father and making him lose money.