She began to write down another question, putting her hand in front so as to screen the paper. I rose as if to get out of her way, but while she was arranging the pyramid I cast my eyes on the paper whilst walking up and down the room, and read her question. After she had gone as far as I had taught her, she asked me to extract the answer, saying that I could do so without reading the question. I agreed to do so on the condition that she would not ask a second time.
As I had seen her question, it was easy for me to answer it. She had asked the oracle if she might shew the questions she had propounded to her father, and the answer was that she would be happy as long as she had no secrets from her father.
When she read these words she gave a cry of surprise, and could find no words wherewith to express her gratitude to me. I left her for the Exchange, where I had a long business conversation with M. Pels.
Next morning a handsome and gentlemanly man came with a letter of introduction from Therese, who told me that he would be useful in case I wanted any assistance in business. His name was Rigerboos. She informed me that the burgomaster's son was only slightly wounded, and that I had nothing to fear as the matter was not generally known, and that if I had business at the Hague I might return there in perfect safety. She said that my little Sophie talked of me all day, and that I should find my son much improved on my return. I asked M. Rigerboos to give me his address, assuring him that at the proper time I should rely on his services.
A moment after Rigerboos had gone, I got a short note from Esther, who begged me, in her father's name, to spend the day with her--at least, if I had no important engagement. I answered that, excepting a certain matter of which her father knew, I had no chiefer aim than to convince her that I desired a place in her heart, and that she might be quite sure that I would not refuse her invitation.
I went to M. d'O---- at dinner time. I found Esther and her father puzzling over the method which drew reasonable answers out of a pyramid of numbers. As soon as her father saw me, he embraced me, saying how happy he was to possess a daughter capable of attracting me.
"She will attract any man who has sufficient sense to appreciate her."
"You appreciate her, then?"
"I worship her."
"Then embrace her."
Esther opened her arms, and with a cry of delight threw them round my neck, and gave the back all my caresses, kiss for kiss.
"I have got through all my business," said M. d'O----, "and the rest of my day is at your disposal. I have known from my childhood that there is such a science as the one you profess, and I was acquainted with a Jew who by its aid made an immense fortune. He, like you, said that, under pain of losing the secret, it could only be communicated to one person, but he put off doing so so long that at last it was too late, for a high fever carried him off in a few days. I hope you will not do as the Jew did; but in the meanwhile allow me to say that if You do not draw a profit from this treasure, you do not know what it really is."
"You call this knowledge of mine a treasure, and yet you possess one far more excellent," looking at Esther as I spoke.
"We will discuss that again. Yes, sir, I call your science a treasure."
"But the answers of the oracle are often very obscure."
"Obscure! The answers my daughter received are as clear as day."
"Apparently, she is fortunate in the way she frames her questions; for on this the reply depends."
"After dinner we will try if I am so fortunate--at least, if you will be so kind as to help me."
"I can refuse you nothing, as I consider father and daughter as one being."
At table we discussed other subjects, as the chief clerks were present--notably the manager, a vulgar-looking fellow, who had very evident aspirations in the direction of my fair Esther. After dinner we went into M. d'O 's private closet, and thereupon he drew two long questions out of his pocket.