As I have not the slightest doubt as to the goodness of the bill, I will take it up myself, and this very morning: thus you will be able to leave when you like. Farewell, chevalier! I wish you a pleasant journey."
With this compliment the prince left me, without giving me time to answer him. I might have felt inclined to tell him that by taking up the bill he would give the Jew and everyone else to understand that it was a favour done to me, to the great hurt of my honour, and that consequently I should be obliged by his doing nothing of the kind. But though the prince was a man of generosity and magnanimity, he was deficient in that delicate quality which we call tact. This defect, common amongst princes, arises from their education, which places them above the politeness which is considered necessary in ordinary mortals.
He could not have treated me worse than he did, if he had been certain of my dishonesty, and wished me to understand that I was forgiven, and that he would bear all the consequences of my misdemeanour. With this idea in my head, I said to myself; "Perhaps, indeed, this is exactly what the prince does think. Is it the Jew or me that he pities? If the latter, I think I must give him a lesson, though I do not wish to cause him any humiliation."
Feeling deeply humiliated myself, and pondering on my position, I walked away, directing my attention especially to the duke's concluding words. I thought his wish for a pleasant journey supremely out of place, under the circumstances, in the mouth of one who enjoyed almost absolute power. It was equivalent to an order to leave the town, and I felt indignant at the thought.
I therefore resolved to vindicate my honour by neither going away nor remaining.
"If I stay," I said to myself, "the Jew will be adjudged to be in the right; and if I go the duke will think I have profited by his favour, and so to speak, by his present of fifty louis if the bill were protested. I will not let anyone enjoy a satisfaction which is no one due."
After these considerations, which I thought worthy of a wiser head than mine, I packed up my trunk, ordered horses, and after a good dinner and the payment of my bill I went to Wolfenbuttel with the idea of spending week there. I was sure of finding amusement, for Wolfenbuttel contains the third largest library in Europe, and I had long been anxious to see it.
The learned librarian, whose politeness was all the better for being completely devoid of affection, told me that not only could I have whatever books I wished to see, but that I could take them to my lodging, not even excepting the manuscripts, which are the chief feature in that fine library.
I spent a week in the library, only leaving it to take my meals and go to bed, and I count this week as one of the happiest I have ever spent, for then I forgot myself completely; and in the delight of study, the past, the present, and the future were entirely blotted out. Of some such sort, I think, must be the joys of the redeemed; and now I see that only a few trifling little circumstances and incidents were wanting to make me a perfect sage. And here I must note a circumstance which my readers may scarcely believe, but which, for all that, is quite true-namely, that I have always preferred virtue to vice, and that when I sinned I did so out of mere lightness of heart, for which, no doubt, I shall be blamed by many persons. But, no matter--a man has only to give an account of his actions to two beings, to himself here and to God hereafter.
At Wolfenbuttel I gathered a good many hints on the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," which will not be found in any commentator, and of which the great Pope knew nothing. Some of these considerations will be found in my translation of the "Iliad," the rest are still in manuscript, and will probably never see the light. However, I burn nothing, not even these Memoirs, though I often think of doing so, but the time never comes.
At the end of the week I returned to the same inn at Brunswick which I had occupied before, and let my godson Daturi know of my arrival.