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"I believe," said Gualtieri, shrugging his shoulders, "that you are a highly-gifted visionary, and that the king is a tolerably intelligent and tolerably sober young gentleman, who, whenever he wants to skate, does not allow himself to be dazzled and enticed by the smooth and glittering surface, but first repeatedly examines the ice in order to find out whether it is firm enough to bear him. And now good-by, my poor friend. I came here to congratulate you for having regained your liberty, and for belonging again to the noble and only happy order of bachelors; but instead of hearing you rejoice, I find in you a philanthropic fanatic, and an enthusiastic advocate of a free press."
"But that does not prevent you from wishing me joy at my return to a bachelor's life," exclaimed Gentz, laughing. "Yes, my friend, I am free; life is mine again, and now let the flames of pleasure close again over my head--let enjoyment surround me again in fiery torrents, I shall exultingly plunge into the whirlpool and feel as happy as a god! We must celebrate the day of my regeneration in a becoming manner; we must celebrate it with foaming champagne, pates de foie gras, and oysters; and if we want to devote a last tear to the memory of my wife, why, we shall drink a glass of Lacrymce Christi in her honor. You must come and see me to-night, Gualtieri. I shall invite a few other friends, and if you will afford us a rare pleasure, you will read to us some of La Fontaine's Fables, which no one understands to recite so well as you."
"I shall do so," said Gualtieri, extending his hand to Gentz. "I shall read to you one of La Fontaine's Fables, the first two lines of which eloquently express the whole history of your past."
"Let me hear those two lines."
Gualtieri covered his head, and standing in the door he had opened, he said with a deep pathos and in a profoundly melancholy voice:
"Deux coqs vivaient en paix; une poule survint,
and nodding a last adieu, he disappeared. Gentz laughed. "Indeed, he is right," he exclaimed; "that is the end of wedded life. But, thank God, mine is over, and, I swear by all my hopes, never will I be such a fool as to marry again! I shall remain a bachelor as long as I live; for he who belongs to no woman owns all women. It is time, however, to think of to-night's banquet. But in order to give a banquet, I must first procure new furniture for my rooms, and this time I won't have any but beautiful and costly furniture. And how shall I get it? Ah, parbleu, I forgot the six hundred dollars I received from the minister. I shall buy furniture for that sum. No, that would be very foolish, inasmuch as I greatly need it for other purposes. The furniture dealers, I have no doubt, will willingly trust me, for I never yet purchased any thing of them. Unfortunately, I cannot say so much in regard to him who is to furnish me the wines and delicacies for the supper, and I have only one hundred dollars in my pocket. The other five hundred dollars I must send to that bloodsucker, that heartless creditor Werner. But must I do so? Ah! really, I believe it would be rank folly. The fellow would think he had frightened me, and as soon as I should owe him another bill, he would again besiege my door, and raise a fresh disturbance here. No; I will show him that I am not afraid of him, and that his impudent conduct deserves punishment. Oh, John! John!"
The door was opened immediately, and the footman entered.
"John," said Gentz, gravely, "go at once to Mr. Werner. Tell him some friends are coming to see me to-night. I therefore want him to send me this evening twenty-four bottles of champagne, three large pates de foie gras, two hundred oysters, and whatever is necessary for a supper. If he should fill my order promptly and carefully, he can send me to-morrow a receipt for two hundred dollars, and I will pay him the money. But if a single oyster should be bad, if a single bottle of champagne should prove of poor quality, or if he should dare to decline furnishing me with the supper, he will not get a single groschen. Go and tell him that, and be back as soon as possible."
"Meantime, I will write a few invitations," said Gentz, as soon as he was alone. "But I shall invite none but unmarried men. In the first place, the Austrian minister, Prince von Reuss. This gentleman contents himself with one mistress, and as he fortunately does not suspect that the beautiful Marianne Meier is at the same time my mistress, he is a great friend of mine. Yes, if he knew that--ah!" he interrupted himself, laughing, "that would be another illustration of La Fontaine's fable of the two cocks and the hen. Well, I will now write the invitations."
He had just finished the last note when the door opened, and John entered, perfectly out of breath.
"Well, did you see Mr. Werner?" asked Gentz, folding the last note.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Werner sends word that he will furnish the supper promptly and satisfactorily, and will deliver here to-night twenty- four bottles of his best champagne, three large pates de foie gras, two hundred oysters, etc., but only on one condition."
"What! the fellow actually dares to impose conditions?" exclaimed Gentz, indignantly. "What is it he asks?"
"He asks you, sir, when he has delivered every thing you have ordered, and before going to supper, to be kind enough to step out for a moment into the anteroom, where Mr. Werner will wait for you in order to receive there his two hundred dollars. I am to notify him if you accept this condition, and if so, he will furnish the supper."
"Ah, that is driving me to the wall," exclaimed Gentz, laughing. "Well, go back, to the shrewd fellow and tell him that I accept his conditions. He is to await me in the anteroom, and as he would, of course, make a tremendous noise in case I should disappoint him, he may be sure that I shall come. So go to him, John."
"As for myself," said Gentz, putting on his cloak, "I shall go and purchase several thousand dollars' worth of furniture; my rooms shall hereafter be as gorgeous as those of a prince. By the by, I believe I have been too generous. If I had offered Werner one hundred dollars, he would have contented himself with that sum."
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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa Muhlbach