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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 456 pages of information about Zanoni.
had lavished a fortune in the purchase of unsalable treasures.  But old D—­ did not desire to sell.  It absolutely went to his heart when a customer entered his shop:  he watched the movements of the presumptuous intruder with a vindictive glare; he fluttered around him with uneasy vigilance,—­he frowned, he groaned, when profane hands dislodged his idols from their niches.  If it were one of the favourite sultanas of his wizard harem that attracted you, and the price named were not sufficiently enormous, he would not unfrequently double the sum.  Demur, and in brisk delight he snatched the venerable charmer from your hands; accede, and he became the picture of despair,—­nor unfrequently, at the dead of night, would he knock at your door, and entreat you to sell him back, at your own terms, what you had so egregiously bought at his.  A believer himself in his Averroes and Paracelsus, he was as loth as the philosophers he studied to communicate to the profane the learning he had collected.

It so chanced that some years ago, in my younger days, whether of authorship or life, I felt a desire to make myself acquainted with the true origin and tenets of the singular sect known by the name of Rosicrucians.  Dissatisfied with the scanty and superficial accounts to be found in the works usually referred to on the subject, it struck me as possible that Mr. D—­’s collection, which was rich, not only in black-letter, but in manuscripts, might contain some more accurate and authentic records of that famous brotherhood,—­written, who knows? by one of their own order, and confirming by authority and detail the pretensions to wisdom and to virtue which Bringaret had arrogated to the successors of the Chaldean and Gymnosophist.  Accordingly I repaired to what, doubtless, I ought to be ashamed to confess, was once one of my favourite haunts.  But are there no errors and no fallacies, in the chronicles of our own day, as absurd as those of the alchemists of old?  Our very newspapers may seem to our posterity as full of delusions as the books of the alchemists do to us; not but what the press is the air we breathe,—­and uncommonly foggy the air is too!

On entering the shop, I was struck by the venerable appearance of a customer whom I had never seen there before.  I was struck yet more by the respect with which he was treated by the disdainful collector.  “Sir,” cried the last, emphatically, as I was turning over the leaves of the catalogue,—­“sir, you are the only man I have met, in five-and-forty years that I have spent in these researches, who is worthy to be my customer.  How—­where, in this frivolous age, could you have acquired a knowledge so profound?  And this august fraternity, whose doctrines, hinted at by the earliest philosophers, are still a mystery to the latest; tell me if there really exists upon the earth any book, any manuscript, in which their discoveries, their tenets, are to be learned?”

At the words, “august fraternity,” I need scarcely say that my attention had been at once aroused, and I listened eagerly for the stranger’s reply.

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