The Maestro looked at this bit of gold and scratched his head. Count Scarlet had flown into a violent temper the night before. He was tired of having had him on his back for the past year and a half. The Maestro ate, drank and lived well, besides spending enormous sums for experiments, and he had not been able to make more than this tiny bit of gold. Once last year, the Count had determined to throw the Maestro out, when luckily the Maestro had succeeded in creating the gold.
It is true that he had been able to do so only by inserting the gold—which he had bought—into the lead which he was supposed to have transformed. But Count Scarlet, cunning rascal though he was, had not dis-covered this. With the weirdest and most impressive ceremonies, exactly a t the stroke of midnight, the Maestro put the stick of lead into the fire in the presence of the Count, and when they removed the jar from under the lead, the gold was discovered in the bottom of it.
And then the Maestro’s trouble began. The Count demanded more gold.
“Until now,” he said, “I believed that Superpollingerianus was the stupidest ox in the world. But now I am beginning to discover that he is not a fool, but an old scoundrel, who knows how to make gold but doesn’t want to. If by to-morrow morning there is not a considerable lump of gold in the furnace, I will defy the coming generations, who will certainly brand me as a scoundrel for having done it, and will tear your whiskers out, Maestro, and have you dragged to the top of the liighest tower of my castle and kicked off. Quod dixi, dixi.”
With that he turned on his heel, ate his supper, looked at his calendar to see in which of his villages there then was likely to be a little jus primes noctis, and spreading some scented pomade on his scanty red mustache, he rode out of the castle.
I repeat, this happened at night. At dawn the next day, the Maestro was still scratching his head.
“Alas,” sighed the Maestro, turning away from his strange-smelling concoction with disgust, “I cannot help myself. There can be no question about making gold, because I haven’t even a worn copper. All the money I’ve been able to get out of Count Scarlet, I have sent to my illegitimate child.
To think I have struggled through eighty-eight years of life by sheer deception, and now I cannot extricate myself from this predicament! That scoundrelly Scarlet will keep his promise. Only five years ago, for a similar offense, my honorable friend and colleague, Paphnucius Ratenowienis, was nailed to the gate of the castle by his ears, and made to look like a stray bat. Alas, how can I save myself?”The Silver Hilt