THE CONFESSIONS

第31章 [1712-1728](31)

The table not being large enough to accommodate all the company, a small one was prepared, where I had the satisfaction of dining with our agreeable clerk; but I lost nothing with regard to attention and good cheer, for several plates were sent to the side-table which were certainly not intended for him.Thus far all went well; the ladies were in good spirits, and the gentlemen very gallant, while Madam Basile did the honors of the table with peculiar grace.In the midst of the dinner we heard a chaise stop at the door, and presently some one coming up stairs- it was M.Basile.Methinks Inow see him entering, in his scarlet coat with gold buttons- from that day I have held the color in abhorrence.M.Basile was a tall handsome man, of good address: he entered with a consequential look and an air of taking his family unawares, though none but friends were present.His wife ran to meet him, threw her arms about his neck, and gave him a thousand caresses, which he received with the utmost indifference; and without making any return saluted the company and took his place at table.They were just beginning to speak of his journey, when casting his eye on the small table he asked in a sharp tone, what lad that was? Madam Basile answered ingenuously.He then inquired whether I lodged in the house; and was answered in the negative."Why not?" replied he, rudely, "since he stays here all day, he might as well remain all night too." The monk now interfered, with a serious and true eulogium on Madam Basile: in a few words he made mine also, adding, that so far from blaming, he ought to further the pious charity of his wife, since it was evident she had not passed the bounds of discretion.The husband answered with an air of petulance, which (restrained by the presence of the monk) he endeavored to stifle; it was, however, sufficient to let me understand he had already received information of me, and that our worthy clerk had rendered me an ill office.

We had hardly risen from table, when the latter came in triumph from his employer, to inform me, I must leave the house that instant, and never more during my life dare to set foot there.He took care to aggravate this commission by everything that could render it cruel and insulting.I departed without a word, my heart overwhelmed with sorrow, less for being obliged to quit this amiable woman, than at the thought of leaving her to the brutality of such a husband.He was certainly right to wish her faithful; but though prudent and well-born, she was an Italian, that is to say, tender and vindictive; which made me think, he was extremely imprudent in using means the most likely in the world to draw on himself the very evil he so much dreaded.

Such was the success of my first adventure.I walked several times up and down the street, wishing to get a sight of what my heart incessantly regretted; but I could only discover her husband, or the vigilant clerk, who, perceiving me, made a sign with the ell they used in the shop, which was more expressive than alluring: finding, therefore, that I was so completely watched, my courage failed, and I went no more.I wished, at least, to find out the patron she had provided me, but, unfortunately, I did not know his name.I ranged several times round the convent, endeavoring in vain to meet with him.

At length, other events banished the delightful remembrance of Madam Basile; and in a short time I so far forgot her, that I remained as simple, as much a novice as ever, nor did my penchant for pretty women even receive any sensible augmentation.

Her liberality had, however, increased my little wardrobe, though she had done this with precaution and prudence, regarding neatness more than decoration, and to make me comfortable rather than brilliant.The coat I had brought from Geneva was yet wearable, she only added a hat and some linen.I had no ruffles, nor would she give me any, not but I felt a great inclination for them.She was satisfied with having put it in my power to keep myself clean, though a charge to do this was unnecessary while I was to appear before her.

A few days after this catastrophe, my hostess, who, as I have already observed, was very friendly, with great satisfaction informed me she had heard of a situation, and that a lady of rank desired to see me.I immediately thought myself in the road to great adventures; that being the point to which all my ideas tended: this, however, did not prove so brilliant as I had conceived it.I waited on the lady with the servant who had mentioned me: she asked a number of questions, and my answers not displeasing her, I immediately entered into her service; not indeed in the quality of favorite, but as a footman.I was clothed like the rest of her people, the only difference being, they wore a shoulder-knot, which I had not, and, as there was no lace on her livery, it appeared merely a tradesman's suit.This was the unforeseen conclusion of all my great expectancies!

The Countess of Vercellis, with whom I now lived, was a widow without children; her husband was a Piedmontese, but I always believed her to be a Savoyard, as I could have no conception that a native of Piedmont could speak such good French, and with so pure an accent.She was a middle-aged woman, of a noble appearance and cultivated understanding, being fond of French literature, in which she was well versed.Her letters had the expression, and almost the elegance of Madam de Sevigne's; some of them might have been taken for hers.My principal employ, which was by no means displeasing to me, was to write from her dictating; a cancer in the breast, from which she suffered extremely, not permitting her to write herself.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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