Now, when all these troubles have been long over and I can think over them calmly, reflecting on the annoyances I experienced at Amsterdam, where I might have been so happy, I am forced to admit that we ourselves are the authors of almost all our woes and griefs, of which we so unreasonably complain. If I could live my life over again, should I be wiser? Perhaps; but then I should not be myself.
M. d'O---- asked me to sup with him at the Burgomasters' Lodge, and this was a great distinction, for, contrary to the rules of Freemasonry, no one but the twenty-four members who compose the lodge is admitted, and these twenty-four masons were the richest men on the Exchange.
"I have told them that you are coming," said M. d'O----, "and to welcome you more honourably the lodge will be opened in French." In short, these gentlemen gave me the most distinguished reception, and I had the fortune to make myself so agreeable to them that I was unanimously chosen an honorary member during the time I should stay at Amsterdam. As we were going away, M. d'O---- told me that I had supped with a company which represented a capital of three hundred millions.
Next day the worthy Dutchman begged me to oblige him by answering a question to which his daughter's oracle had replied in a very obscure manner. Esther encouraged me, and I asked what the question was. It ran as follows:
"I wish to know whether the individual who desires me and my company to transact a matter of the greatest importance is really a friend of the King of France?"
It was not difficult for me to divine that the Comte de St. Germain was meant. M. d'O was not aware that I knew him, and I had not forgotten what M. d'Afri had told me.
"Here's a fine opportunity," thought I, "for covering my oracle with glory, and giving my fair Esther something to think about."
I set to work, and after erecting my pyramid and placing above the four keys the letters O, S, A, D, the better to impose on Esther, I extracted the reply, beginning with the fourth key, D. The oracle ran as follows:
"The friend disavows. The order is signed. They grant. They refuse. All vanishes. Delay."
I pretended to think the reply a very obscure one, but Esther gave a cry of astonishment and declared that it gave a lot of information in an extraordinary style. M. d'O----, in an ecstasy of delight, exclaimed,
"The reply is clear enough for me. The oracle is divine; the word 'delay' is addressed to me. You and my daughter are clever enough in making the oracle speak, but I am more skilled than you in the interpretation thereof. I shall prevent the thing going any further. The project is no less a one than to lend a hundred millions, taking in pledge the diamonds of the French crown. The king wishes the loan to be concluded without the interference of his ministers and without their even knowing anything about it. I entreat you not to mention the matter to anyone."
He then went out.
"Now," said Esther, when we were by ourselves, "I am quite sure that that reply came from another intelligence than yours. In the name of all you hold sacred, tell me the meaning of those four letters, and why you usually omit them."
"I omit them, dearest Esther, because experience has taught me that in ordinary cases they are unnecessary; but while I was making the pyramid the command came to me to set them down, and I thought it well to obey."
"What do they mean?"
"They are the initial letters of the holy names of the cardinal intelligences of the four quarters of the world."
"I may not tell you, but whoever deals with the oracle should know them."
"Ah! do not deceive me; I trust in you, and it would be worse than murder to abuse so simple a faith as mine."
"I am not deceiving you, dearest Esther."
"But if you were to teach me the cabala, you would impart to me these holy names?"
"Certainly, but I cannot reveal them except to my successor. If I violate this command I should lose my knowledge; and this condition is well calculated to insure secrecy, is it not?"
"It is, indeed.