The door of the chaise was opened by the obsequious Timothy, who pushed away the ostlers and waiters, as if unworthy to approach his master, and the Great Aristodemus made his appearance. As he ascended the steps of the door, his passage was for a moment barred by one whose profession Melchior well knew. “Stand aside, exciseman!” said he, in a commanding voice. “No one crosses my path with impunity.” Astonished at hearing his profession thus mentioned, the exciseman, who was the greatest bully in the town, slipped on one side with consternation, and all those present lifted up their eyes and hands with astonishment. The Great Aristodemus gained his room, and shut his door; and I went out to pay for the chaise and order supper, while Timothy and the porters were busy with our luggage, which was very considerable.
“My master will not see any one,” said I to the landlord; “he quits this town to-morrow, if the letters arrive which he expects by the post; therefore, pray get rid of this crowd, and let him be quiet, for he is very tired, having travelled one hundred and fifty miles since the dawn of day.”
When Tim and I had performed this duty, we joined Melchior in his room, leaving the news to be circulated. “This promises well,” observed Melchior; “up to the present we have expended much time and money; now we must see if we cannot recover it tenfold. Japhet, you must take an opportunity of going out again after supper, and make inquiries of the landlord what poor people they have in the town, as I am very generous, and like to relieve them; you may observe, that all the money offered to me for practising my art, I give away to the poor, having no occasion for it.” This I did, and we then sat down to supper, and having unpacked our baggage, went to bed, after locking the door of the room, and taking out the key.
The next morning we had every thing in readiness, and as the letters, as the reader may suppose, did not arrive by the post, we were obliged to remain, and the landlord ventured to hint to me, that several people were anxious to consult my master. I replied, that I would speak to him, but it was necessary to caution those who came, that they must either offer gold—or nothing at all. I brought his consent to see one or two, but no more. Now, although we had various apparatus to use when required, it was thought that the effect would be greater, if, in the first instance, every thing was simple. Melchior, therefore, remained sitting at the table, which was covered with a black cloth, worked with curious devices, and a book of hieroglyphics before him, and an ivory wand, tipped with gold, lying by the book. Timothy standing at the door, with a short Roman sword buckled round his belt, and I, in a respectful attitude, behind the Great Aristodemus.
The first person who was admitted was the lady of the mayor of the town; nothing could be more fortunate, as we had every information relative to her and her spouse, for people in high places are always talked of. Aristodemus waved his hand, and I brought forward a chair in silence, and motioned that she should be seated. Aristodemus looked her in her face, and then turned over several leaves, until he fixed upon a page, which he considered attentively. “Mayoress of ——, what wouldst thou with me?”