Unhappy that I am, your successor will be, of course, Manon."
"No, Manon is not fitted intellectually for such knowledge as this."
"But you should fix on someone, for you are mortal after all. If you like, my father would give you the half of his immense fortune without your marrying me."
"Esther! what is it that you have said? Do you think that to possess you would be a disagreeable condition in my eyes?"
After a happy day--I think I may call it the happiest of my life--I left the too charming Esther, and went home towards the evening.
Three or four days after, M. d'O---- came into Esther's room, where he found us both calculating pyramids. I was teaching her to double, to triple, and to quadruple the cabalistic combinations. M. d'O---- strode into the room in a great hurry, striking his breast in a sort of ecstasy. We were surprised and almost frightened to see him so strangely excited, and rose to meet him, but he running up to us almost forced us to embrace him, which we did willingly.
"But what is the matter, papa dear?" said Esther, "you surprise me more than I can say."
"Sit down beside me, my dear children, and listen to your father and your best friend. I have just received a letter from one of the secretaries of their high mightinesses informing me that the French ambassador has demanded, in the name of the king his master, that the Comte St. Germain should be delivered over, and that the Dutch authorities have answered that His Most Christian Majesty's requests shall be carried out as soon as the person of the count can be secured. In consequence of this the police, knowing that the Comte St. Germain was staying at the Etoile d'Orient, sent to arrest him at midnight, but the bird had flown. The landlord declared that the count had posted off at nightfall, taking the way to Nimeguen. He has been followed, but there are small hopes of catching him up.
"It is not known how he can have discovered that a warrant existed against him, or how he continued to evade arrest."
"It is not known;" went an M. d'O----, laughing, "but everyone guesses that M. Calcoen, the same that wrote to me, let this friend of the French king's know that he would be wanted at midnight, and that if he did not get the key of the fields he would be arrested. He is not so foolish as to despise a piece of advice like that. The Dutch Government has expressed its sorrow to M. d'Afri that his excellence did not demand the arrest of St. Germain sooner, and the ambassador will not be astonished at this reply, as it is like many others given on similar occasions.
"The wisdom of the oracle has been verified, and I congratulate myself on having seized its meaning, for we were on the point of giving him a hundred thousand florins on account, which he said he must have immediately. He gave us in pledge the finest of the crown diamonds, and this we still retain. But we will return it to him an demand, unless it is claimed by the ambassador. I have never seen a finer stone.
"And now, my children, you see what I owe to the oracle. On the Exchange the whole company can do nothing but express their gratitude to me. I am regarded as the most prudent and most farseeing man in Holland. To you, my dear children, I owe this honour, but I wear my peacock's feathers without scruple.
"My dear Casanova, you will dine with us, I hope. After dinner I shall beg you to enquire of your inscrutable intelligence whether we ought to declare ourselves in possession of the splendid diamond, or to observe secrecy till it is reclaimed."
After this discourse papa embraced us once more and left us.
"Sweetheart," said Esther, throwing her arms round my neck, "you have an opportunity for giving me a strong proof of your friendship. It will cost you nothing, but it will cover me with honour and happiness."
"Command me, and it shall be done. You cannot think that I would refuse you a favour which is to cost me nothing, when I should deem myself happy to shed my blood for your sake."
"My father wishes you to tell him after dinner whether it will be better to declare that they have the diamond or to keep silence till it is claimed.