I was curious to see the ravages which time had worked on her, but I had reason to repent of my visit, for she had grown terribly ugly. She knew it herself, and a blush of shame appeared on those features which had once been fair.
The prince had an army of six thousand foot in good condition. This army was to be reviewed on a plain at a little distance from the town, and I went to see the spectacle, and was rewarded by having rain dripping down my back the whole time. Among the numerous spectators were many persons of fashion, ladies in handsome dresses, and a good sprinkling of foreigners. I saw the Honourable Miss Chudleigh, who honoured me by addressing me, and asked me, amongst other questions, how long I had left London. She was dressed in Indian muslin, and beneath it she only wore a chemise of fine cambric, and by the time the rain had made her clothes cling to her body she looked more than naked, but she did not evince any confusion. Most of the ladies sheltered themselves from the rain under elegant tents which had been erected.
The troops, who took no notice of the weather, executed their manoeuvres, and fired their muskets in a manner which seemed to satisfy good judges.
There was nothing further to attract me at Brunswick, and I thought of spending the summer at Berlin, which I concluded would be more amusing than a small provincial town. Wanting an overcoat I bought the material from a Jew, who offered to discount bills of exchange for me if I had any. I had the bill which Madame du Rumain had sent me, and finding that it would be convenient for me to get it discounted, I gave it to the Israelite, who cashed it, deducting commission at the ordinary rate of two per cent. The letter was payable to the order of the Chevalier de Seingalt, and with that name I endorsed it.
I thought no more of the matter, but early the next day the same Jew called on me, and told me that I must either return him his money, or give sureties for the amount till he had ascertained whether the bill was a forgery or not.
I was offended at this piece of impertinence, and feeling certain that the bill was a good one I told the fellow that he might set his mind at rest and let me alone, as I should not give him any sureties.
"I must either have the money or the surety," said he, "and if you refuse I will have you arrested; your character is well known."
This was too much for me, and raising my cane I gave him a blow on the head which he must have felt for many a long day. I then dressed and dined with Nicolini, without thinking or speaking of this disagreeable incident.
The next day as I was taking a walk outside the town walls, I met the prince on horseback, followed by a single groom. I bowed to him as he passed, but he came up to me and said,--
"You are leaving Brunswick, chevalier?"
"In two or three days, your highness."
"I heard this morning that a Jew has brought a complaint against you for beating him because he asked you to give him security for a bill of exchange which he was afraid of."
"My lord, I cannot answer for the effects of my indignation against a rascal who dared to come and insult me in my own house, but I do know that if I had given him security I should have impugned my own honour. The impertinent scoundrel threatened to have me arrested, but I know that a just Government rules here, and not arbitrary power."
"You are right; it would be unjust to have you arrested, but he is afraid for his ducats."
"He need not be afraid, my lord, for the bill is drawn by a person of honour and of high station in society."
"I am delighted to hear it. The Jew said he would never have discounted the bill if you had not mentioned my name."
"That's a lie! Your highness' name never passed, my lips."
"He also says that you endorsed the bill with a false name."
"Then he lies again, for I signed myself Seingalt, and that name is mine."
"In short, it is a case of a Jew who has been beaten, and is afraid of being duped. I pity such an animal, and I must see what I can do to prevent his keeping you here till he learns the fate of the bill at Amsterdam.