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Confessions of J. J. Rousseau

BOOK IV
Let any one judge my surprise and grief at not finding her on my arrival. I now felt regret
at having abandoned M. le Maitre, and my uneasiness increased when I learned the
misfortunes that had befallen him. His box of music, containing all his fortune, that
precious box, preserved with so much care and fatigue, had been seized on at Lyons by
means of Count Dortan, who had received information from the Chapter of our having
absconded with it. In vain did Le Maitre reclaim his property, his means of existence, the
labor of his life; his right to the music in question was at least subject to litigation, but
even that liberty was not allowed him, the affair being instantly decided on the principal
of superior strength. Thus poor Le Maitre lost the fruit of his talents, the labor of his
youth, and principal dependence for the support of old age.
Nothing was wanting to render the news I had received truly afflicting, but I was at an
age when even the greatest calamities are to be sustained; accordingly I soon found
consolation. I expected shortly to hear news of Madam de Warrens, though I was
ignorant of the address, and she knew nothing of my return. As to my desertion of Le
Maitre (all things considered) I did not find it so very culpable. I had been serviceable to
him at his retreat; it was not in my power to give him any further assistance. Had I
remained with him in France it would not have cured his complaint. I could not have
saved his music, and should only have doubled his expense: in this point of view I then
saw my conduct; I see it otherwise now. It frequently happens that a villainous action
does not torment us at the instant we commit it, but on recollection, and sometimes even
after a number of years have elapsed, for the remembrance of crimes is not to be
extinguished.
The only means I had to obtain news of Madam de Warrens was to remain at Annecy.
Where should I seek her in Paris? or how bear the expense of such a journey? Sooner or
later there was no place where I could be so certain to hear of her as that I was now at;
this consideration determined me to remain there, though my conduct was very
indifferent. I did not go to the bishop, who had already befriended me, and might
continue to do so; my patroness was not present, and I feared his reprimands on the
subject of our flight; neither did I go to the seminary, M. Graswas no longer there; in
short, I went to none of my acquaintances. I should gladly have visited the intendant's
lady, but did not dare; I did worse, I sought out M. Venture, whom (notwithstanding my
enthusiasm) I had never thought of since my departure. I found him quite gay, in high
spirits, and the universal favorite of the ladies of Annecy.
This success completed my infatuation; I saw nothing but M. Venture; he almost made
me forget even Madam de Warrens. That I might profit more at ease by his instructions
and example, I proposed to share his lodgings, to which he readily consented. It was at a
shoemaker's; a pleasant, jovial fellow, who, in his county dialect, called his wife nothing
but trollop; an appellation which she certainly merited. Venture took care to augment
their differences, though under an appearance of doing the direct contrary, throwing out
in a distant manner, and provincial accents, hints that produced the utmost effect, and
 
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