“Have you scales?” said Wayland.
The Jew pointed to those which lay ready for common use in the shop, but he did so with a puzzled expression of doubt and fear, which did not escape the artist.
“They must be other than these,” said Wayland sternly. “Know you not that holy things lose their virtue if weighed in an unjust balance?”
The Jew hung his head, took from a steel-plated casket a pair of scales beautifully mounted, and said, as he adjusted them for the artist’s use, “With these I do mine own experiment—one hair of the high-priest’s beard would turn them.”
“It suffices,” said the artist, and weighed out two drachms for himself of the black powder, which he very carefully folded up, and put into his pouch with the other drugs. He then demanded the price of the Jew, who answered, shaking his head and bowing,—
“No price—no, nothing at all from such as you. But you will see the poor Jew again? you will look into his laboratory, where, God help him, he hath dried himself to the substance of the withered gourd of Jonah, the holy prophet. You will ave pity on him, and show him one little step on the great road?”
“Hush!” said Wayland, laying his finger mysteriously on his mouth; “it may be we shall meet again. Thou hast already the SCHAHMAJM, as thine own Rabbis call it—the general creation; watch, therefore, and pray, for thou must attain the knowledge of Alchahest Elixir Samech ere I may commune further with thee.” Then returning with a slight nod the reverential congees of the Jew, he walked gravely up the lane, followed by his master, whose first observation on the scene he had just witnessed was, that Wayland ought to have paid the man for his drug, whatever it was.
“I pay him?” said the artist. “May the foul fiend pay me if I do! Had it not been that I thought it might displease your worship, I would have had an ounce or two of gold out of him, in exchange of the same just weight of brick dust.”
“I advise you to practise no such knavery while waiting upon me,” said Tressilian.
“Did I not say,” answered the artist, “that for that reason alone I forbore him for the present?—Knavery, call you it? Why, yonder wretched skeleton hath wealth sufficient to pave the whole lane he lives in with dollars, and scarce miss them out of his own iron chest; yet he goes mad after the philosopher’s stone. And besides, he would have cheated a poor serving-man, as he thought me at first, with trash that was not worth a penny. Match for match, quoth the devil to the collier; if his false medicine was worth my good crowns, my true brick dust is as well worth his good gold.”
“It may be so, for aught I know,” said Tressilian, “in dealing amongst Jews and apothecaries; but understand that to have such tricks of legerdemain practised by one attending on me diminishes my honour, and that I will not permit them. I trust thou hast made up thy purchases?”