Part 2 out of 4
walls that over-topped it: a dismal, hedged-in prospect, yet not
wholly devoid of those mysterious beauties which belong to solitary or
uncultivated nature. Near the kitchen was a well surrounded by a curb,
with a pulley fastened to a bent iron rod clasped by a vine whose
leaves were withered, reddened, and shrivelled by the season. From
thence the tortuous shoots straggled to the wall, clutched it, and ran
the whole length of the house, ending near the wood-pile, where the
logs were ranged with as much precision as the books in a library. The
pavement of the court-yard showed the black stains produced in time by
lichens, herbage, and the absence of all movement or friction. The
thick walls wore a coating of green moss streaked with waving brown
lines, and the eight stone steps at the bottom of the court-yard which
led up to the gate of the garden were disjointed and hidden beneath
tall plants, like the tomb of a knight buried by his widow in the days
of the Crusades. Above a foundation of moss-grown, crumbling stones
was a trellis of rotten wood, half fallen from decay; over them
clambered and intertwined at will a mass of clustering creepers. On
each side of the latticed gate stretched the crooked arms of two
stunted apple-trees. Three parallel walks, gravelled and separated
from each other by square beds, where the earth was held in by box-
borders, made the garden, which terminated, beneath a terrace of the
old walls, in a group of lindens. At the farther end were raspberry-
bushes; at the other, near the house, an immense walnut-tree drooped
its branches almost into the window of the miser's sanctum.
A clear day and the beautiful autumnal sun common to the banks of the
Loire was beginning to melt the hoar-frost which the night had laid on
these picturesque objects, on the walls, and on the plants which
swathed the court-yard. Eugenie found a novel charm in the aspect of
things lately so insignificant to her. A thousand confused thoughts
came to birth in her mind and grew there, as the sunbeams grew without
along the wall. She felt that impulse of delight, vague, inexplicable,
which wraps the moral being as a cloud wraps the physical body. Her
thoughts were all in keeping with the details of this strange
landscape, and the harmonies of her heart blended with the harmonies
of nature. When the sun reached an angle of the wall where the "Venus-
hair" of southern climes drooped its thick leaves, lit with the
changing colors of a pigeon's breast, celestial rays of hope illumined
the future to her eyes, and thenceforth she loved to gaze upon that
piece of wall, on its pale flowers, its blue harebells, its wilting
herbage, with which she mingled memories as tender as those of
childhood. The noise made by each leaf as it fell from its twig in the
void of that echoing court gave answer to the secret questionings of
the young girl, who could have stayed there the livelong day without
perceiving the flight of time. Then came tumultuous heavings of the
soul. She rose often, went to her glass, and looked at herself, as an
author in good faith looks at his work to criticise it and blame it in
his own mind.
"I am not beautiful enough for him!" Such was Eugenie's thought,--a
humble thought, fertile in suffering. The poor girl did not do herself
justice; but modesty, or rather fear, is among the first of love's
virtues. Eugenie belonged to the type of children with sturdy
constitutions, such as we see among the lesser bourgeoisie, whose
beauties always seem a little vulgar; and yet, though she resembled
the Venus of Milo, the lines of her figure were ennobled by the softer
Christian sentiment which purifies womanhood and gives it a
distinction unknown to the sculptors of antiquity. She had an enormous
head, with the masculine yet delicate forehead of the Jupiter of
Phidias, and gray eyes, to which her chaste life, penetrating fully
into them, carried a flood of light. The features of her round face,
formerly fresh and rosy, were at one time swollen by the small-pox,
which destroyed the velvet texture of the skin, though it kindly left
no other traces, and her cheek was still so soft and delicate that her
mother's kiss made a momentary red mark upon it. Her nose was somewhat
too thick, but it harmonized well with the vermilion mouth, whose
lips, creased in many lines, were full of love and kindness. The
throat was exquisitely round. The bust, well curved and carefully
covered, attracted the eye and inspired reverie. It lacked, no doubt,
the grace which a fitting dress can bestow; but to a connoisseur the
non-flexibility of her figure had its own charm. Eugenie, tall and
strongly made, had none of the prettiness which pleases the masses;
but she was beautiful with a beauty which the spirit recognizes, and
none but artists truly love. A painter seeking here below for a type
of Mary's celestial purity, searching womankind for those proud modest
eyes which Raphael divined, for those virgin lines, often due to
chances of conception, which the modesty of Christian life alone can
bestow or keep unchanged,--such a painter, in love with his ideal,
would have found in the face of Eugenie the innate nobleness that is
ignorant of itself; he would have seen beneath the calmness of that
brow a world of love; he would have felt, in the shape of the eyes, in
the fall of the eyelids, the presence of the nameless something that
we call divine. Her features, the contour of her head, which no
expression of pleasure had ever altered or wearied, were like the
lines of the horizon softly traced in the far distance across the
tranquil lakes. That calm and rosy countenance, margined with light
like a lovely full-blown flower, rested the mind, held the eye, and
imparted the charm of the conscience that was there reflected. Eugenie
was standing on the shore of life where young illusions flower, where
daisies are gathered with delights ere long to be unknown; and thus
she said, looking at her image in the glass, unconscious as yet of
love: "I am too ugly; he will not notice me."
Then she opened the door of her chamber which led to the staircase,
and stretched out her neck to listen for the household noises. "He is
not up," she thought, hearing Nanon's morning cough as the good soul
went and came, sweeping out the halls, lighting her fire, chaining the
dog, and speaking to the beasts in the stable. Eugenie at once went
down and ran to Nanon, who was milking the cow.
"Nanon, my good Nanon, make a little cream for my cousin's breakfast."
"Why, mademoiselle, you should have thought of that yesterday," said
Nanon, bursting into a loud peal of laughter. "I can't make cream.
Your cousin is a darling, a darling! oh, that he is! You should have
seen him in his dressing-gown, all silk and gold! I saw him, I did! He
wears linen as fine as the surplice of monsieur le cure."
"Nanon, please make us a /galette/."
"And who'll give me wood for the oven, and flour and butter for the
cakes?" said Nanon, who in her function of prime-minister to Grandet
assumed at times enormous importance in the eyes of Eugenie and her
mother. "Mustn't rob the master to feast the cousin. You ask him for
butter and flour and wood: he's your father, perhaps he'll give you
some. See! there he is now, coming to give out the provisions."
Eugenie escaped into the garden, quite frightened as she heard the
staircase shaking under her father's step. Already she felt the
effects of that virgin modesty and that special consciousness of
happiness which lead us to fancy, not perhaps without reason, that our
thoughts are graven on our foreheads and are open to the eyes of all.
Perceiving for the first time the cold nakedness of her father's
house, the poor girl felt a sort of rage that she could not put it in
harmony with her cousin's elegance. She felt the need of doing
something for him,--what, she did not know. Ingenuous and truthful,
she followed her angelic nature without mistrusting her impressions or
her feelings. The mere sight of her cousin had wakened within her the
natural yearnings of a woman,--yearnings that were the more likely to
develop ardently because, having reached her twenty-third year, she
was in the plenitude of her intelligence and her desires. For the
first time in her life her heart was full of terror at the sight of
her father; in him she saw the master of the fate, and she fancied
herself guilty of wrong-doing in hiding from his knowledge certain
thoughts. She walked with hasty steps, surprised to breathe a purer
air, to feel the sun's rays quickening her pulses, to absorb from
their heat a moral warmth and a new life. As she turned over in her
mind some stratagem by which to get the cake, a quarrel--an event as
rare as the sight of swallows in winter--broke out between la Grande
Nanon and Grandet. Armed with his keys, the master had come to dole
out provisions for the day's consumption.
"Is there any bread left from yesterday?" he said to Nanon.
"Not a crumb, monsieur."
Grandet took a large round loaf, well floured and moulded in one of
the flat baskets which they use for baking in Anjou, and was about to
cut it, when Nanon said to him,--
"We are five, to-day, monsieur."
"That's true," said Grandet, "but your loaves weigh six pounds;
there'll be some left. Besides, these young fellows from Paris don't
eat bread, you'll see."
"Then they must eat /frippe/?" said Nanon.
/Frippe/ is a word of the local lexicon of Anjou, and means any
accompaniment of bread, from butter which is spread upon it, the
commonest kind of /frippe/, to peach preserve, the most distinguished
of all the /frippes/; those who in their childhood have licked the
/frippe/ and left the bread, will comprehend the meaning of Nanon's
"No," answered Grandet, "they eat neither bread nor /frippe/; they are
something like marriageable girls."
After ordering the meals for the day with his usual parsimony, the
goodman, having locked the closets containing the supplies, was about
to go towards the fruit-garden, when Nanon stopped him to say,--
"Monsieur, give me a little flour and some butter, and I'll make a
/galette/ for the young ones."
"Are you going to pillage the house on account of my nephew?"
"I wasn't thinking any more of your nephew than I was of your dog,--
not more than you think yourself; for, look here, you've only forked
out six bits of sugar. I want eight."
"What's all this, Nanon? I have never seen you like this before. What
have you got in your head? Are you the mistress here? You sha'n't have
more than six pieces of sugar."
"Well, then, how is your nephew to sweeten his coffee?"
"With two pieces; I'll go without myself."
"Go without sugar at your age! I'd rather buy you some out of my own
"Mind your own business."
In spite of the recent fall in prices, sugar was still in Grandet's
eyes the most valuable of all the colonial products; to him it was
always six francs a pound. The necessity of economizing it, acquired
under the Empire, had grown to be the most inveterate of his habits.
All women, even the greatest ninnies, know how to dodge and dodge to
get their ends; Nanon abandoned the sugar for the sake of getting the
"Mademoiselle!" she called through the window, "do you want some
"No, no," answered Eugenie.
"Come, Nanon," said Grandet, hearing his daughter's voice. "See here."
He opened the cupboard where the flour was kept, gave her a cupful,
and added a few ounces of butter to the piece he had already cut off.
"I shall want wood for the oven," said the implacable Nanon.
"Well, take what you want," he answered sadly; "but in that case you
must make us a fruit-tart, and you'll cook the whole dinner in the
oven. In that way you won't need two fires."
"Goodness!" cried Nanon, "you needn't tell me that."
Grandet cast a look that was well-nigh paternal upon his faithful
"Mademoiselle," she cried, when his back was turned, "we shall have
Pere Grandet returned from the garden with the fruit and arranged a
plateful on the kitchen-table.
"Just see, monsieur," said Nanon, "what pretty boots your nephew has.
What leather! why it smells good! What does he clean it with, I
wonder? Am I to put your egg-polish on it?"
"Nanon, I think eggs would injure that kind of leather. Tell him you
don't know how to black morocco; yes, that's morocco. He will get you
something himself in Saumur to polish those boots with. I have heard
that they put sugar into the blacking to make it shine."
"They look good to eat," said the cook, putting the boots to her nose.
"Bless me! if they don't smell like madame's eau-de-cologne. Ah! how
"Funny!" said her master. "Do you call it funny to put more money into
boots than the man who stands in them is worth?"
"Monsieur," she said, when Grandet returned the second time, after
locking the fruit-garden, "won't you have the /pot-au-feu/ put on once
or twice a week on account of your nephew?"
"Am I to go to the butcher's?"
"Certainly not. We will make the broth of fowls; the farmers will
bring them. I shall tell Cornoiller to shoot some crows; they make the
best soup in the world."
"Isn't it true, monsieur, that crows eat the dead?"
"You are a fool, Nanon. They eat what they can get, like the rest of
the world. Don't we all live on the dead? What are legacies?"
Monsieur Grandet, having no further orders to give, drew out his
watch, and seeing that he had half an hour to dispose of before
breakfast, he took his hat, went and kissed his daughter, and said to
"Do you want to come for a walk in the fields, down by the Loire? I
have something to do there."
Eugenie fetched her straw bonnet, lined with pink taffeta; then the
father and daughter went down the winding street to the shore.
"Where are you going at this early hour?" said Cruchot, the notary,
"To see something," answered Grandet, not duped by the matutinal
appearance of his friend.
When Pere Grandet went to "see something," the notary knew by
experience there was something to be got by going with him; so he
"Come, Cruchot," said Grandet, "you are one of my friends. I'll show
you what folly it is to plant poplar-trees on good ground."
"Do you call the sixty thousand francs that you pocketed for those
that were in your fields down by the Loire, folly?" said Maitre
Cruchot, opening his eyes with amazement. "What luck you have had! To
cut down your trees at the very time they ran short of white-wood at
Nantes, and to sell them at thirty francs!"
Eugenie listened, without knowing that she approached the most solemn
moment of her whole life, and that the notary was about to bring down
upon her head a paternal and supreme sentence. Grandet had now reached
the magnificent fields which he owned on the banks of the Loire, where
thirty workmen were employed in clearing away, filling up, and
levelling the spots formerly occupied by the poplars.
"Maitre Cruchot, see how much ground this tree once took up! Jean," he
cried to a laborer, "m-m-measure with your r-r-rule, b-both ways."
"Four times eight feet," said the man.
"Thirty-two feet lost," said Grandet to Cruchot. "I had three hundred
poplars in this one line, isn't that so? Well, then, three h-h-hundred
times thir-thirty-two lost m-m-me five hundred in h-h-hay; add twice
as much for the side rows,--fifteen hundred; the middle rows as much
more. So we may c-c-call it a th-thousand b-b-bales of h-h-hay--"
"Very good," said Cruchot, to help out his friend; "a thousand bales
are worth about six hundred francs."
"Say t-t-twelve hundred, be-c-cause there's three or four hundred
francs on the second crop. Well, then, c-c-calculate that t-twelve
thousand francs a year for f-f-forty years with interest c-c-comes
"Say sixty thousand francs," said the notary.
"I am willing; c-c-comes t-t-to sixty th-th-thousand. Very good,"
continued Grandet, without stuttering: "two thousand poplars forty
years old will only yield me fifty thousand francs. There's a loss. I
have found that myself," said Grandet, getting on his high horse.
"Jean, fill up all the holes except those at the bank of the river;
there you are to plant the poplars I have bought. Plant 'em there, and
they'll get nourishment from the government," he said, turning to
Cruchot, and giving a slight motion to the wen on his nose, which
expressed more than the most ironical of smiles.
"True enough; poplars should only be planted on poor soil," said
Cruchot, amazed at Grandet's calculations.
"Y-y-yes, monsieur," answered the old man satirically.
Eugenie, who was gazing at the sublime scenery of the Loire, and
paying no attention to her father's reckonings, presently turned an
ear to the remarks of Cruchot when she heard him say,--
"So you have brought a son-in-law from Paris. All Saumur is talking
about your nephew. I shall soon have the marriage-contract to draw up,
hey! Pere Grandet?"
"You g-g-got up very early to t-t-tell me that," said Grandet,
accompanying the remark with a motion of his wen. "Well, old
c-c-comrade, I'll be frank, and t-t-tell you what you want t-t-to
know. I would rather, do you see, f-f-fling my daughter into the Loire
than g-g-give her to her c-c-cousin. You may t-t-tell that everywhere,
--no, never mind; let the world t-t-talk."
This answer dazzled and blinded the young girl with sudden light. The
distant hopes upspringing in her heart bloomed suddenly, became real,
tangible, like a cluster of flowers, and she saw them cut down and
wilting on the earth. Since the previous evening she had attached
herself to Charles by those links of happiness which bind soul to
soul; from henceforth suffering was to rivet them. Is it not the noble
destiny of women to be more moved by the dark solemnities of grief
than by the splendors of fortune? How was it that fatherly feeling had
died out of her father's heart? Of what crime had Charles been guilty?
Mysterious questions! Already her dawning love, a mystery so profound,
was wrapping itself in mystery. She walked back trembling in all her
limbs; and when she reached the gloomy street, lately so joyous to
her, she felt its sadness, she breathed the melancholy which time and
events had printed there. None of love's lessons lacked. A few steps
from their own door she went on before her father and waited at the
threshold. But Grandet, who saw a newspaper in the notary's hand,
stopped short and asked,--
"How are the Funds?"
"You never listen to my advice, Grandet," answered Cruchot. "Buy soon;
you will still make twenty per cent in two years, besides getting an
excellent rate of interest,--five thousand a year for eighty thousand
francs fifty centimes."
"We'll see about that," answered Grandet, rubbing his chin.
"Good God!" exclaimed the notary.
"Well, what?" cried Grandet; and at the same moment Cruchot put the
newspaper under his eyes and said:
"Monsieur Grandet, one of the most respected merchants in Paris,
blew his brains out yesterday, after making his usual appearance
at the Bourse. He had sent his resignation to the president of the
Chamber of Deputies, and had also resigned his functions as a
judge of the commercial courts. The failures of Monsieur Roguin
and Monsieur Souchet, his broker and his notary, had ruined him.
The esteem felt for Monsieur Grandet and the credit he enjoyed
were nevertheless such that he might have obtained the necessary
assistance from other business houses. It is much to be regretted
that so honorable a man should have yielded to momentary despair,"
"I knew it," said the old wine-grower to the notary.
The words sent a chill of horror through Maitre Cruchot, who,
notwithstanding his impassibility as a notary, felt the cold running
down his spine as he thought that Grandet of Paris had possibly
implored in vain the millions of Grandet of Saumur.
"And his son, so joyous yesterday--"
"He knows nothing as yet," answered Grandet, with the same composure.
"Adieu! Monsieur Grandet," said Cruchot, who now understood the state
of the case, and went off to reassure Monsieur de Bonfons.
On entering, Grandet found breakfast ready. Madame Grandet, round
whose neck Eugenie had flung her arms, kissing her with the quick
effusion of feeling often caused by secret grief, was already seated
in her chair on castors, knitting sleeves for the coming winter.
"You can begin to eat," said Nanon, coming downstairs four steps at a
time; "the young one is sleeping like a cherub. Isn't he a darling
with his eyes shut? I went in and I called him: no answer."
"Let him sleep," said Grandet; "he'll wake soon enough to hear ill-
"What is it?" asked Eugenie, putting into her coffee the two little
bits of sugar weighing less than half an ounce which the old miser
amused himself by cutting up in his leisure hours. Madame Grandet, who
did not dare to put the question, gazed at her husband.
"His father has blown his brains out."
"My uncle?" said Eugenie.
"Poor young man!" exclaimed Madame Grandet.
"Poor indeed!" said Grandet; "he isn't worth a sou!"
"Eh! poor boy, and he's sleeping like the king of the world!" said
Nanon in a gentle voice.
Eugenie stopped eating. Her heart was wrung, as the young heart is
wrung when pity for the suffering of one she loves overflows, for the
first time, the whole being of a woman. The poor girl wept.
"What are you crying about? You didn't know your uncle," said her
father, giving her one of those hungry tigerish looks he doubtless
threw upon his piles of gold.
"But, monsieur," said Nanon, "who wouldn't feel pity for the poor
young man, sleeping there like a wooden shoe, without knowing what's
"I didn't speak to you, Nanon. Hold your tongue!"
Eugenie learned at that moment that the woman who loves must be able
to hide her feelings. She did not answer.
"You will say nothing to him about it, Ma'ame Grandet, till I return,"
said the old man. "I have to go and straighten the line of my hedge
along the high-road. I shall be back at noon, in time for the second
breakfast, and then I will talk with my nephew about his affairs. As
for you, Mademoiselle Eugenie, if it is for that dandy you are crying,
that's enough, child. He's going off like a shot to the Indies. You
will never see him again."
The father took his gloves from the brim of his hat, put them on with
his usual composure, pushed them in place by shoving the fingers of
both hands together, and went out.
"Mamma, I am suffocating!" cried Eugenie when she was alone with her
mother; "I have never suffered like this."
Madame Grandet, seeing that she turned pale, opened the window and let
her breathe fresh air.
"I feel better!" said Eugenie after a moment.
This nervous excitement in a nature hitherto, to all appearance, calm
and cold, reacted on Madame Grandet; she looked at her daughter with
the sympathetic intuition with which mothers are gifted for the
objects of their tenderness, and guessed all. In truth the life of the
Hungarian sisters, bound together by a freak of nature, could scarcely
have been more intimate than that of Eugenie and her mother,--always
together in the embrasure of that window, and sleeping together in the
"My poor child!" said Madame Grandet, taking Eugenie's head and laying
it upon her bosom.
At these words the young girl raised her head, questioned her mother
by a look, and seemed to search out her inmost thought.
"Why send him to the Indies?" she said. "If he is unhappy, ought he
not to stay with us? Is he not our nearest relation?"
"Yes, my child, it seems natural; but your father has his reasons: we
must respect them."
The mother and daughter sat down in silence, the former upon her
raised seat, the latter in her little armchair, and both took up their
work. Swelling with gratitude for the full heart-understanding her
mother had given her, Eugenie kissed the dear hand, saying,--
"How good you are, my kind mamma!"
The words sent a glow of light into the motherly face, worn and
blighted as it was by many sorrows.
"You like him?" asked Eugenie.
Madame Grandet only smiled in reply. Then, after a moment's silence,
she said in a low voice: "Do you love him already? That is wrong."
"Wrong?" said Eugenie. "Why is it wrong? You are pleased with him,
Nanon is pleased with him; why should he not please me? Come, mamma,
let us set the table for his breakfast."
She threw down her work, and her mother did the same, saying, "Foolish
child!" But she sanctioned the child's folly by sharing it. Eugenie
"What do you want now, mademoiselle?"
"Nanon, can we have cream by midday?"
"Ah! midday, to be sure you can," answered the old servant.
"Well, let him have his coffee very strong; I heard Monsieur des
Grassins say that they make the coffee very strong in Paris. Put in a
"Where am I to get it?"
"Suppose monsieur meets me?"
"He has gone to his fields."
"I'll run, then. But Monsieur Fessard asked me yesterday if the Magi
had come to stay with us when I bought the wax candle. All the town
will know our goings-on."
"If your father finds it out," said Madame Grandet, "he is capable of
"Well, let him beat us; we will take his blows on our knees."
Madame Grandet for all answer raised her eyes to heaven. Nanon put on
her hood and went off. Eugenie got out some clean table-linen, and
went to fetch a few bunches of grapes which she had amused herself by
hanging on a string across the attic; she walked softly along the
corridor, so as not to waken her cousin, and she could not help
listening at the door to his quiet breathing.
"Sorrow is watching while he sleeps," she thought.
She took the freshest vine-leaves and arranged her dish of grapes as
coquettishly as a practised house-keeper might have done, and placed
it triumphantly on the table. She laid hands on the pears counted out
by her father, and piled them in a pyramid mixed with leaves. She went
and came, and skipped and ran. She would have liked to lay under
contribution everything in her father's house; but the keys were in
his pocket. Nanon came back with two fresh eggs. At sight of them
Eugenie almost hugged her round the neck.
"The farmer from Lande had them in his basket. I asked him for them,
and he gave them to me, the darling, for nothing, as an attention!"
After two hours' thought and care, during which Eugenie jumped up
twenty times from her work to see if the coffee were boiling, or to go
and listen to the noise her cousin made in dressing, she succeeded in
preparing a simple little breakfast, very inexpensive, but which,
nevertheless, departed alarmingly from the inveterate customs of the
house. The midday breakfast was always taken standing. Each took a
slice of bread, a little fruit or some butter, and a glass of wine. As
Eugenie looked at the table drawn up near the fire with an arm-chair
placed before her cousin's plate, at the two dishes of fruit, the egg-
cup, the bottle of white wine, the bread, and the sugar heaped up in a
saucer, she trembled in all her limbs at the mere thought of the look
her father would give her if he should come in at that moment. She
glanced often at the clock to see if her cousin could breakfast before
the master's return.
"Don't be troubled, Eugenie; if your father comes in, I will take it
all upon myself," said Madame Grandet.
Eugenie could not repress a tear.
"Oh, my good mother!" she cried, "I have never loved you enough."
Charles, who had been tramping about his room for some time, singing
to himself, now came down. Happily, it was only eleven o'clock. The
true Parisian! he had put as much dandyism into his dress as if he
were in the chateau of the noble lady then travelling in Scotland. He
came into the room with the smiling, courteous manner so becoming to
youth, which made Eugenie's heart beat with mournful joy. He had taken
the destruction of his castles in Anjou as a joke, and came up to his
"Have you slept well, dear aunt? and you, too, my cousin?"
"Very well, monsieur; did you?" said Madame Grandet.
"You must be hungry, cousin," said Eugenie; "will you take your seat?"
"I never breakfast before midday; I never get up till then. However, I
fared so badly on the journey that I am glad to eat something at once.
Besides--" here he pulled out the prettiest watch Breguet ever made.
"Dear me! I am early, it is only eleven o'clock!"
"Early?" said Madame Grandet.
"Yes; but I wanted to put my things in order. Well, I shall be glad to
have anything to eat,--anything, it doesn't matter what, a chicken, a
"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed Nanon, overhearing the words.
"A partridge!" whispered Eugenie to herself; she would gladly have
given the whole of her little hoard for a partridge.
"Come and sit down," said his aunt.
The young dandy let himself drop into an easy-chair, just as a pretty
woman falls gracefully upon a sofa. Eugenie and her mother took
ordinary chairs and sat beside him, near the fire.
"Do you always live here?" said Charles, thinking the room uglier by
daylight than it had seemed the night before.
"Always," answered Eugenie, looking at him, "except during the
vintage. Then we go and help Nanon, and live at the Abbaye des
"Don't you ever take walks?"
"Sometimes on Sunday after vespers, when the weather is fine," said
Madame Grandet, "we walk on the bridge, or we go and watch the
"Have you a theatre?"
"Go to the theatre!" exclaimed Madame Grandet, "see a play! Why,
monsieur, don't you know it is a mortal sin?"
"See here, monsieur," said Nanon, bringing in the eggs, "here are your
chickens,--in the shell."
"Oh! fresh eggs," said Charles, who, like all people accustomed to
luxury, had already forgotten about his partridge, "that is delicious:
now, if you will give me the butter, my good girl."
"Butter! then you can't have the /galette/."
"Nanon, bring the butter," cried Eugenie.
The young girl watched her cousin as he cut his sippets, with as much
pleasure as a grisette takes in a melodrama where innocence and virtue
triumph. Charles, brought up by a charming mother, improved, and
trained by a woman of fashion, had the elegant, dainty, foppish
movements of a coxcomb. The compassionate sympathy and tenderness of a
young girl possess a power that is actually magnetic; so that Charles,
finding himself the object of the attentions of his aunt and cousin,
could not escape the influence of feelings which flowed towards him,
as it were, and inundated him. He gave Eugenie a bright, caressing
look full of kindness,--a look which seemed itself a smile. He
perceived, as his eyes lingered upon her, the exquisite harmony of
features in the pure face, the grace of her innocent attitude, the
magic clearness of the eyes, where young love sparkled and desire
"Ah! my dear cousin, if you were in full dress at the Opera, I assure
you my aunt's words would come true,--you would make the men commit
the mortal sin of envy, and the women the sin of jealousy."
The compliment went to Eugenie's heart and set it beating, though she
did not understand its meaning.
"Oh! cousin," she said, "you are laughing at a poor little country
"If you knew me, my cousin, you would know that I abhor ridicule; it
withers the heart and jars upon all my feelings." Here he swallowed
his buttered sippet very gracefully. "No, I really have not enough
mind to make fun of others; and doubtless it is a great defect. In
Paris, when they want to disparage a man, they say: 'He has a good
heart.' The phrase means: 'The poor fellow is as stupid as a
rhinoceros.' But as I am rich, and known to hit the bull's-eye at
thirty paces with any kind of pistol, and even in the open fields,
ridicule respects me."
"My dear nephew, that bespeaks a good heart."
"You have a very pretty ring," said Eugenie; "is there any harm in
asking to see it?"
Charles held out his hand after loosening the ring, and Eugenie
blushed as she touched the pink nails of her cousin with the tips of
"See, mamma, what beautiful workmanship."
"My! there's a lot of gold!" said Nanon, bringing in the coffee.
"What is that?" exclaimed Charles, laughing, as he pointed to an
oblong pot of brown earthenware, glazed on the inside, and edged with
a fringe of ashes, from the bottom of which the coffee-grounds were
bubbling up and falling in the boiling liquid.
"It is boiled coffee," said Nanon.
"Ah! my dear aunt, I shall at least leave one beneficent trace of my
visit here. You are indeed behind the age! I must teach you to make
good coffee in a Chaptal coffee-pot."
He tried to explain the process of a Chaptal coffee-pot.
"Gracious! if there are so many things as all that to do," said Nanon,
"we may as well give up our lives to it. I shall never make coffee
that way; I know that! Pray, who is to get the fodder for the cow
while I make the coffee?"
"I will make it," said Eugenie.
"Child!" said Madame Grandet, looking at her daughter.
The word recalled to their minds the sorrow that was about to fall
upon the unfortunate young man; the three women were silent, and
looked at him with an air of commiseration that caught his attention.
"Is anything the matter, my cousin?" he said.
"Hush!" said Madame Grandet to Eugenie, who was about to answer; "you
know, my daughter, that your father charged us not to speak to
"Say Charles," said young Grandet.
"Ah! you are called Charles? What a beautiful name!" cried Eugenie.
Presentiments of evil are almost always justified. At this moment
Nanon, Madame Grandet, and Eugenie, who had all three been thinking
with a shudder of the old man's return, heard the knock whose echoes
they knew but too well.
"There's papa!" said Eugenie.
She removed the saucer filled with sugar, leaving a few pieces on the
table-cloth; Nanon carried off the egg-cup; Madame Grandet sat up like
a frightened hare. It was evidently a panic, which amazed Charles, who
was wholly unable to understand it.
"Why! what is the matter?" he asked.
"My father has come," answered Eugenie.
"Well, what of that?"
Monsieur Grandet entered the room, threw his keen eye upon the table,
upon Charles, and saw the whole thing.
"Ha! ha! so you have been making a feast for your nephew; very good,
very good, very good indeed!" he said, without stuttering. "When the
cat's away, the mice will play."
"Feast!" thought Charles, incapable of suspecting or imagining the
rules and customs of the household.
"Give me my glass, Nanon," said the master
Eugenie brought the glass. Grandet drew a horn-handled knife with a
big blade from his breeches' pocket, cut a slice of bread, took a
small bit of butter, spread it carefully on the bread, and ate it
standing. At this moment Charlie was sweetening his coffee. Pere
Grandet saw the bits of sugar, looked at his wife, who turned pale,
and made three steps forward; he leaned down to the poor woman's ear
"Where did you get all that sugar?"
"Nanon fetched it from Fessard's; there was none."
It is impossible to picture the profound interest the three women took
in this mute scene. Nanon had left her kitchen and stood looking into
the room to see what would happen. Charles, having tasted his coffee,
found it bitter and glanced about for the sugar, which Grandet had
already put away.
"What do you want?" said his uncle.
"Put in more milk," answered the master of the house; "your coffee
will taste sweeter."
Eugenie took the saucer which Grandet had put away and placed it on
the table, looking calmly at her father as she did so. Most assuredly,
the Parisian woman who held a silken ladder with her feeble arms to
facilitate the flight of her lover, showed no greater courage than
Eugenie displayed when she replaced the sugar upon the table. The
lover rewarded his mistress when she proudly showed him her beautiful
bruised arm, and bathed every swollen vein with tears and kisses till
it was cured with happiness. Charles, on the other hand, never so much
as knew the secret of the cruel agitation that shook and bruised the
heart of his cousin, crushed as it was by the look of the old miser.
"You are not eating your breakfast, wife."
The poor helot came forward with a piteous look, cut herself a piece
of bread, and took a pear. Eugenie boldly offered her father some
"Taste my preserves, papa. My cousin, you will eat some, will you not?
I went to get these pretty grapes expressly for you."
"If no one stops them, they will pillage Saumur for you, nephew. When
you have finished, we will go into the garden; I have something to
tell you which can't be sweetened."
Eugenie and her mother cast a look on Charles whose meaning the young
man could not mistake.
"What is it you mean, uncle? Since the death of my poor mother"--at
these words his voice softened--"no other sorrow can touch me."
"My nephew, who knows by what afflictions God is pleased to try us?"
said his aunt.
"Ta, ta, ta, ta," said Grandet, "there's your nonsense beginning. I am
sorry to see those white hands of yours, nephew"; and he showed the
shoulder-of-mutton fists which Nature had put at the end of his own
arms. "There's a pair of hands made to pick up silver pieces. You've
been brought up to put your feet in the kid out of which we make the
purses we keep our money in. A bad look-out! Very bad!"
"What do you mean, uncle? I'll be hanged if I understand a single word
of what you are saying."
"Come!" said Grandet.
The miser closed the blade of his knife with a snap, drank the last of
his wine, and opened the door.
"My cousin, take courage!"
The tone of the young girl struck terror to Charles's heart, and he
followed his terrible uncle, a prey to disquieting thoughts. Eugenie,
her mother, and Nanon went into the kitchen, moved by irresistible
curiosity to watch the two actors in the scene which was about to take
place in the garden, where at first the uncle walked silently ahead of
the nephew. Grandet was not at all troubled at having to tell Charles
of the death of his father; but he did feel a sort of compassion in
knowing him to be without a penny, and he sought for some phrase or
formula by which to soften the communication of that cruel truth. "You
have lost your father," seemed to him a mere nothing to say; fathers
die before their children. But "you are absolutely without means,"--
all the misfortunes of life were summed up in those words! Grandet
walked round the garden three times, the gravel crunching under his
In the crucial moments of life our minds fasten upon the locality
where joys or sorrows overwhelm us. Charles noticed with minute
attention the box-borders of the little garden, the yellow leaves as
they fluttered down, the dilapidated walls, the gnarled fruit-trees,--
picturesque details which were destined to remain forever in his
memory, blending eternally, by the mnemonics that belong exclusively
to the passions, with the recollections of this solemn hour.
"It is very fine weather, very warm," said Grandet, drawing a long
"Yes, uncle; but why--"
"Well, my lad," answered his uncle, "I have some bad news to give you.
Your father is ill--"
"Then why am I here?" said Charles. "Nanon," he cried, "order post-
horses! I can get a carriage somewhere?" he added, turning to his
uncle, who stood motionless.
"Horses and carriages are useless," answered Grandet, looking at
Charles, who remained silent, his eyes growing fixed. "Yes, my poor
boy, you guess the truth,--he is dead. But that's nothing; there is
something worse: he blew out his brains."
"Yes, but that's not the worst; the newspapers are all talking about
it. Here, read that."
Grandet, who had borrowed the fatal article from Cruchot, thrust the
paper under his nephew's eyes. The poor young man, still a child,
still at an age when feelings wear no mask, burst into tears.
"That's good!" thought Grandet; "his eyes frightened me. He'll be all
right if he weeps,--That is not the worst, my poor nephew," he said
aloud, not noticing whether Charles heard him, "that is nothing; you
will get over it: but--"
"Never, never! My father! Oh, my father!"
"He has ruined you, you haven't a penny."
"What does that matter? My father! Where is my father?"
His sobs resounded horribly against those dreary walls and
reverberated in the echoes. The three women, filled with pity, wept
also; for tears are often as contagious as laughter. Charles, without
listening further to his uncle, ran through the court and up the
staircase to his chamber, where he threw himself across the bed and
hid his face in the sheets, to weep in peace for his lost parents.
"The first burst must have its way," said Grandet, entering the
living-room, where Eugenie and her mother had hastily resumed their
seats and were sewing with trembling hands, after wiping their eyes.
"But that young man is good for nothing; his head is more taken up
with the dead than with his money."
Eugenie shuddered as she heard her father's comment on the most sacred
of all griefs. From that moment she began to judge him. Charles's
sobs, though muffled, still sounded through the sepulchral house; and
his deep groans, which seemed to come from the earth beneath, only
ceased towards evening, after growing gradually feebler.
"Poor young man!" said Madame Grandet.
Fatal exclamation! Pere Grandet looked at his wife, at Eugenie, and at
the sugar-bowl. He recollected the extraordinary breakfast prepared
for the unfortunate youth, and he took a position in the middle of the
"Listen to me," he said, with his usual composure. "I hope that you
will not continue this extravagance, Madame Grandet. I don't give you
MY money to stuff that young fellow with sugar."
"My mother had nothing to do with it," said Eugenie; "it was I who--"
"Is it because you are of age," said Grandet, interrupting his
daughter, "that you choose to contradict me? Remember, Eugenie--"
"Father, the son of your brother ought to receive from us--"
"Ta, ta, ta, ta!" exclaimed the cooper on four chromatic tones; "the
son of my brother this, my nephew that! Charles is nothing at all to
us; he hasn't a farthing, his father has failed; and when this dandy
has cried his fill, off he goes from here. I won't have him
revolutionize my household."
"What is 'failing,' father?" asked Eugenie.
"To fail," answered her father, "is to commit the most dishonorable
action that can disgrace a man."
"It must be a great sin," said Madame Grandet, "and our brother may be
"There, there, don't begin with your litanies!" said Grandet,
shrugging his shoulders. "To fail, Eugenie," he resumed, "is to commit
a theft which the law, unfortunately, takes under its protection.
People have given their property to Guillaume Grandet trusting to his
reputation for honor and integrity; he has made away with it all, and
left them nothing but their eyes to weep with. A highway robber is
better than a bankrupt: the one attacks you and you can defend
yourself, he risks his own life; but the other--in short, Charles is
The words rang in the poor girl's heart and weighed it down with their
heavy meaning. Upright and delicate as a flower born in the depths of
a forest, she knew nothing of the world's maxims, of its deceitful
arguments and specious sophisms; she therefore believed the atrocious
explanation which her father gave her designedly, concealing the
distinction which exists between an involuntary failure and an
"Father, could you not have prevented such a misfortune?"
"My brother did not consult me. Besides, he owes four millions."
"What is a 'million,' father?" she asked, with the simplicity of a
child which thinks it can find out at once all that it wants to know.
"A million?" said Grandet, "why, it is a million pieces of twenty sous
each, and it takes five twenty sous pieces to make five francs."
"Dear me!" cried Eugenie, "how could my uncle possibly have had four
millions? Is there any one else in France who ever had so many
millions?" Pere Grandet stroked his chin, smiled, and his wen seemed
to dilate. "But what will become of my cousin Charles?"
"He is going off to the West Indies by his father's request, and he
will try to make his fortune there."
"Has he got the money to go with?"
"I shall pay for his journey as far as--yes, as far as Nantes."
Eugenie sprang into his arms.
"Oh, father, how good you are!"
She kissed him with a warmth that almost made Grandet ashamed of
himself, for his conscience galled him a little.
"Will it take much time to amass a million?" she asked.
"Look here!" said the old miser, "you know what a napoleon is? Well,
it takes fifty thousand napoleons to make a million."
"Mamma, we must say a great many /neuvaines/ for him."
"I was thinking so," said Madame Grandet.
"That's the way, always spending my money!" cried the father. "Do you
think there are francs on every bush?"
At this moment a muffled cry, more distressing than all the others,
echoed through the garrets and struck a chill to the hearts of Eugenie
and her mother.
"Nanon, go upstairs and see that he does not kill himself," said
Grandet. "Now, then," he added, looking at his wife and daughter, who
had turned pale at his words, "no nonsense, you two! I must leave you;
I have got to see about the Dutchmen who are going away to-day. And
then I must find Cruchot, and talk with him about all this."
He departed. As soon as he had shut the door Eugenie and her mother
breathed more freely. Until this morning the young girl had never felt
constrained in the presence of her father; but for the last few hours
every moment wrought a change in her feelings and ideas.
"Mamma, how many louis are there in a cask of wine?"
"Your father sells his from a hundred to a hundred and fifty francs,
sometimes two hundred,--at least, so I've heard say."
"Then papa must be rich?"
"Perhaps he is. But Monsieur Cruchot told me he bought Froidfond two
years ago; that may have pinched him."
Eugenie, not being able to understand the question of her father's
fortune, stopped short in her calculations.
"He didn't even see me, the darling!" said Nanon, coming back from her
errand. "He's stretched out like a calf on his bed and crying like the
Madeleine, and that's a blessing! What's the matter with the poor dear
"Let us go and console him, mamma; if any one knocks, we can come
Madame Grandet was helpless against the sweet persuasive tones of her
daughter's voice. Eugenie was sublime: she had become a woman. The
two, with beating hearts, went up to Charles's room. The door was
open. The young man heard and saw nothing; plunged in grief, he only
uttered inarticulate cries.
"How he loves his father!" said Eugenie in a low voice.
In the utterance of those words it was impossible to mistake the hopes
of a heart that, unknown to itself, had suddenly become passionate.
Madame Grandet cast a mother's look upon her daughter, and then
whispered in her ear,--
"Take care, you will love him!"
"Love him!" answered Eugenie. "Ah! if you did but know what my father
said to Monsieur Cruchot."
Charles turned over, and saw his aunt and cousin.
"I have lost my father, my poor father! If he had told me his secret
troubles we might have worked together to repair them. My God! my poor
father! I was so sure I should see him again that I think I kissed him
Sobs cut short the words.
"We will pray for him," said Madame Grandet. "Resign yourself to the
will of God."
"Cousin," said Eugenie, "take courage! Your loss is irreparable;
therefore think only of saving your honor."
With the delicate instinct of a woman who intuitively puts her mind
into all things, even at the moment when she offers consolation,
Eugenie sought to cheat her cousin's grief by turning his thoughts
inward upon himself.
"My honor?" exclaimed the young man, tossing aside his hair with an
impatient gesture as he sat up on his bed and crossed his arms. "Ah!
that is true. My uncle said my father had failed." He uttered a heart-
rending cry, and hid his face in his hands. "Leave me, leave me,
cousin! My God! my God! forgive my father, for he must have suffered
There was something terribly attractive in the sight of this young
sorrow, sincere without reasoning or afterthought. It was a virgin
grief which the simple hearts of Eugenie and her mother were fitted to
comprehend, and they obeyed the sign Charles made them to leave him to
himself. They went downstairs in silence and took their accustomed
places by the window and sewed for nearly an hour without exchanging a
word. Eugenie had seen in the furtive glance that she cast about the
young man's room--that girlish glance which sees all in the twinkling
of an eye--the pretty trifles of his dressing-case, his scissors, his
razors embossed with gold. This gleam of luxury across her cousin's
grief only made him the more interesting to her, possibly by way of
contrast. Never before had so serious an event, so dramatic a sight,
touched the imaginations of these two passive beings, hitherto sunk in
the stillness and calm of solitude.
"Mamma," said Eugenie, "we must wear mourning for my uncle."
"Your father will decide that," answered Madame Grandet.
They relapsed into silence. Eugenie drew her stitches with a uniform
motion which revealed to an observer the teeming thoughts of her
meditation. The first desire of the girl's heart was to share her
About four o'clock an abrupt knock at the door struck sharply on the
heart of Madame Grandet.
"What can have happened to your father?" she said to her daughter.
Grandet entered joyously. After taking off his gloves, he rubbed his
hands hard enough to take off their skin as well, if his epidermis had
not been tanned and cured like Russia leather,--saving, of course, the
perfume of larch-trees and incense. Presently his secret escaped him.
"Wife," he said, without stuttering, "I've trapped them all! Our wine
is sold! The Dutch and the Belgians have gone. I walked about the
market-place in front of their inn, pretending to be doing nothing.
That Belgian fellow--you know who I mean--came up to me. The owners of
all the good vineyards have kept back their vintages, intending to
wait; well, I didn't hinder them. The Belgian was in despair; I saw
that. In a minute the bargain was made. He takes my vintage at two
hundred francs the puncheon, half down. He paid me in gold; the notes
are drawn. Here are six louis for you. In three months wines will have
These words, uttered in a quiet tone of voice, were nevertheless so
bitterly sarcastic that the inhabitants of Saumur, grouped at this
moment in the market-place and overwhelmed by the news of the sale
Grandet had just effected, would have shuddered had they heard them.
Their panic would have brought the price of wines down fifty per cent
"Did you have a thousand puncheons this year, father?"
"Yes, little one."
That term applied to his daughter was the superlative expression of
the old miser's joy.
"Then that makes two hundred thousand pieces of twenty sous each?"
"Yes, Mademoiselle Grandet."
"Then, father, you can easily help Charles."
The amazement, the anger, the stupefaction of Belshazzar when he saw
the /Mene-Tekel-Upharsin/ before his eyes is not to be compared with
the cold rage of Grandet, who, having forgotten his nephew, now found
him enshrined in the heart and calculations of his daughter.
"What's this? Ever since that dandy put foot in MY house everything
goes wrong! You behave as if you had the right to buy sugar-plums and
make feasts and weddings. I won't have that sort of thing. I hope I
know my duty at my time of life! I certainly sha'n't take lessons from
my daughter, or from anybody else. I shall do for my nephew what it is
proper to do, and you have no need to poke your nose into it. As for
you, Eugenie," he added, facing her, "don't speak of this again, or
I'll send you to the Abbaye des Noyers with Nanon, see if I don't; and
no later than to-morrow either, if you disobey me! Where is that
fellow, has he come down yet?"
"No, my friend," answered Madame Grandet.
"What is he doing then?"
"He is weeping for his father," said Eugenie.
Grandet looked at his daughter without finding a word to say; after
all, he was a father. He made a couple of turns up and down the room,
and then went hurriedly to his secret den to think over an investment
he was meditating in the public Funds. The thinning out of his two
thousand acres of forest land had yielded him six hundred thousand
francs: putting this sum to that derived from the sale of his poplars
and to his other gains for the last year and for the current year, he
had amassed a total of nine hundred thousand francs, without counting
the two hundred thousand he had got by the sale just concluded. The
twenty per cent which Cruchot assured him would gain in a short time
from the Funds, then quoted at seventy, tempted him. He figured out
his calculation on the margin of the newspaper which gave the account
of his brother's death, all the while hearing the moans of his nephew,
but without listening to them. Nanon came and knocked on the wall to
summon him to dinner. On the last step of the staircase he was saying
to himself as he came down,--
"I'll do it; I shall get eight per cent interest. In two years I shall
have fifteen hundred thousand francs, which I will then draw out in
good gold,--Well, where's my nephew?"
"He says he doesn't want anything to eat," answered Nanon; "that's not
good for him."
"So much saved," retorted her master.
"That's so," she said.
"Bah! he won't cry long. Hunger drives the wolves out of the woods."
The dinner was eaten in silence.
"My good friend," said Madame Grandet, when the cloth was removed, "we
must put on mourning."
"Upon my word, Madame Grandet! what will you invent next to spend
money on? Mourning is in the heart, and not in the clothes."
"But mourning for a brother is indispensable; and the Church commands
"Buy your mourning out of your six louis. Give me a hat-band; that's
enough for me."
Eugenie raised her eyes to heaven without uttering a word. Her
generous instincts, slumbering and long repressed but now suddenly and
for the first time awakened, were galled at every turn. The evening
passed to all appearance like a thousand other evenings of their
monotonous life, yet it was certainly the most horrible. Eugenie sewed
without raising her head, and did not use the workbox which Charles
had despised the night before. Madame Grandet knitted her sleeves.
Grandet twirled his thumbs for four hours, absorbed in calculations
whose results were on the morrow to astonish Saumur. No one came to
visit the family that day. The whole town was ringing with the news of
the business trick just played by Grandet, the failure of his brother,
and the arrival of his nephew. Obeying the desire to gossip over their
mutual interests, all the upper and middle-class wine-growers in
Saumur met at Monsieur des Grassins, where terrible imprecations were
being fulminated against the ex-mayor. Nanon was spinning, and the
whirr of her wheel was the only sound heard beneath the gray rafters
of that silent hall.
"We don't waste our tongues," she said, showing her teeth, as large
and white as peeled almonds.
"Nothing should be wasted," answered Grandet, rousing himself from his
reverie. He saw a perspective of eight millions in three years, and he
was sailing along that sheet of gold. "Let us go to bed. I will bid my
nephew good-night for the rest of you, and see if he will take
Madame Grandet remained on the landing of the first storey to hear the
conversation that was about to take place between the goodman and his
nephew. Eugenie, bolder than her mother, went up two stairs.
"Well, nephew, you are in trouble. Yes, weep, that's natural. A father
is a father; but we must bear our troubles patiently. I am a good
uncle to you, remember that. Come, take courage! Will you have a
little glass of wine?" (Wine costs nothing in Saumur, and they offer
it as tea is offered in China.) "Why!" added Grandet, "you have got no
light! That's bad, very bad; you ought to see what you are about," and
he walked to the chimney-piece. "What's this?" he cried. "A wax
candle! How the devil did they filch a wax candle? The spendthrifts
would tear down the ceilings of my house to boil the fellow's eggs."
Hearing these words, mother and daughter slipped back into their rooms
and burrowed in their beds, with the celerity of frightened mice
getting back to their holes.
"Madame Grandet, have you found a mine?" said the man, coming into the
chamber of his wife.
"My friend, wait; I am saying my prayers," said the poor mother in a
"The devil take your good God!" growled Grandet in reply.
Misers have no belief in a future life; the present is their all in
all. This thought casts a terrible light upon our present epoch, in
which, far more than at any former period, money sways the laws and
politics and morals. Institutions, books, men, and dogmas, all
conspire to undermine belief in a future life,--a belief upon which
the social edifice has rested for eighteen hundred years. The grave,
as a means of transition, is little feared in our day. The future,
which once opened to us beyond the requiems, has now been imported
into the present. To obtain /per fas et nefas/ a terrestrial paradise
of luxury and earthly enjoyment, to harden the heart and macerate the
body for the sake of fleeting possessions, as the martyrs once
suffered all things to reach eternal joys, this is now the universal
thought--a thought written everywhere, even in the very laws which ask
of the legislator, "What do you pay?" instead of asking him, "What do
you think?" When this doctrine has passed down from the bourgeoisie to
the populace, where will this country be?
"Madame Grandet, have you done?" asked the old man.
"My friend, I am praying for you."
"Very good! Good-night; to-morrow morning we will have a talk."
The poor woman went to sleep like a schoolboy who, not having learned
his lessons, knows he will see his master's angry face on the morrow.
At the moment when, filled with fear, she was drawing the sheet above
her head that she might stifle hearing, Eugenie, in her night-gown and
with naked feet, ran to her side and kissed her brow.
"Oh! my good mother," she said, "to-morrow I will tell him it was I."
"No; he would send you to Noyers. Leave me to manage it; he cannot eat
"Do you hear, mamma?"
"/He/ is weeping still."
"Go to bed, my daughter; you will take cold in your feet: the floor is
Thus passed the solemn day which was destined to weight upon the whole
life of the rich and poor heiress, whose sleep was never again to be
so calm, nor yet so pure, as it had been up to this moment. It often
happens that certain actions of human life seem, literally speaking,
improbable, though actual. Is not this because we constantly omit to
turn the stream of psychological light upon our impulsive
determinations, and fail to explain the subtile reasons, mysteriously
conceived in our minds, which impelled them? Perhaps Eugenie's deep
passion should be analyzed in its most delicate fibres; for it became,
scoffers might say, a malady which influenced her whole existence.
Many people prefer to deny results rather than estimate the force of
ties and links and bonds, which secretly join one fact to another in
the moral order. Here, therefore, Eugenie's past life will offer to
observers of human nature an explanation of her naive want of
reflection and the suddenness of the emotions which overflowed her
soul. The more tranquil her life had been, the more vivid was her
womanly pity, the more simple-minded were the sentiments now developed
in her soul.
Made restless by the events of the day, she woke at intervals to
listen to her cousin, thinking she heard the sighs which still echoed
in her heart. Sometimes she saw him dying of his trouble, sometimes
she dreamed that he fainted from hunger. Towards morning she was
certain that she heard a startling cry. She dressed at once and ran,
in the dawning light, with a swift foot to her cousin's chamber, the
door of which he had left open. The candle had burned down to the
socket. Charles, overcome by nature, was sleeping, dressed and sitting
in an armchair beside the bed, on which his head rested; he dreamed as
men dream on an empty stomach. Eugenie might weep at her ease; she
might admire the young and handsome face blotted with grief, the eyes
swollen with weeping, that seemed, sleeping as they were, to well
forth tears. Charles felt sympathetically the young girl's presence;
he opened his eyes and saw her pitying him.
"Pardon me, my cousin," he said, evidently not knowing the hour nor
the place in which he found himself.
"There are hearts who hear you, cousin, and /we/ thought you might
need something. You should go to bed; you tire yourself by sitting
"That is true."
"Well, then, adieu!"
She escaped, ashamed and happy at having gone there. Innocence alone
can dare to be so bold. Once enlightened, virtue makes her
calculations as well as vice. Eugenie, who had not trembled beside her
cousin, could scarcely stand upon her legs when she regained her
chamber. Her ignorant life had suddenly come to an end; she reasoned,
she rebuked herself with many reproaches.
"What will he think of me? He will think that I love him!"
That was what she most wished him to think. An honest love has its own
prescience, and knows that love begets love. What an event for this
poor solitary girl thus to have entered the chamber of a young man!
Are there not thoughts and actions in the life of love which to
certain souls bear the full meaning of the holiest espousals? An hour
later she went to her mother and dressed her as usual. Then they both
came down and sat in their places before the window waiting for
Grandet, with that cruel anxiety which, according to the individual
character, freezes the heart or warms it, shrivels or dilates it, when
a scene is feared, a punishment expected,--a feeling so natural that
even domestic animals possess it, and whine at the slightest pain of
punishment, though they make no outcry when they inadvertently hurt
themselves. The goodman came down; but he spoke to his wife with an
absent manner, kissed Eugenie, and sat down to table without appearing
to remember his threats of the night before.
"What has become of my nephew? The lad gives no trouble."
"Monsieur, he is asleep," answered Nanon.
"So much the better; he won't want a wax candle," said Grandet in a
This unusual clemency, this bitter gaiety, struck Madame Grandet with
amazement, and she looked at her husband attentively. The goodman--
here it may be well to explain that in Touraine, Anjou, Pitou, and
Bretagne the word "goodman," already used to designate Grandet, is
bestowed as often upon harsh and cruel men as upon those of kindly
temperament, when either have reached a certain age; the title means
nothing on the score of individual gentleness--the goodman took his
hat and gloves, saying as he went out,--
"I am going to loiter about the market-place and find Cruchot."
"Eugenie, your father certainly has something on his mind."
Grandet, who was a poor sleeper, employed half his nights in the
preliminary calculations which gave such astonishing accuracy to his
views and observations and schemes, and secured to them the unfailing
success at sight of which his townsmen stood amazed. All human power
is a compound of time and patience. Powerful beings will and wait. The
life of a miser is the constant exercise of human power put to the
service of self. It rests on two sentiments only,--self-love and self-
interest; but self-interest being to a certain extent compact and
intelligent self-love, the visible sign of real superiority, it
follows that self-love and self-interest are two parts of the same
whole,--egotism. From this arises, perhaps, the excessive curiosity
shown in the habits of a miser's life whenever they are put before the
world. Every nature holds by a thread to those beings who challenge
all human sentiments by concentrating all in one passion. Where is the
man without desire? and what social desire can be satisfied without
Grandet unquestionably "had something on his mind," to use his wife's
expression. There was in him, as in all misers, a persistent craving
to play a commercial game with other men and win their money legally.
To impose upon other people was to him a sign of power, a perpetual
proof that he had won the right to despise those feeble beings who
suffer themselves to be preyed upon in this world. Oh! who has ever
truly understood the lamb lying peacefully at the feet of God?--
touching emblem of all terrestrial victims, myth of their future,
suffering and weakness glorified! This lamb it is which the miser
fattens, puts in his fold, slaughters, cooks, eats, and then despises.
The pasture of misers is compounded of money and disdain. During the
night Grandet's ideas had taken another course, which was the reason
of his sudden clemency. He had hatched a plot by which to trick the
Parisians, to decoy and dupe and snare them, to drive them into a
trap, and make them go and come and sweat and hope and turn pale,--a
plot by which to amuse himself, the old provincial cooper, sitting
there beneath his gloomy rafters, or passing up and down the rotten
staircase of his house in Saumur. His nephew filled his mind. He
wished to save the honor of his dead brother without the cost of a
penny to the son or to himself. His own funds he was about to invest
for three years; he had therefore nothing further to do than to manage
his property in Saumur. He needed some nutriment for his malicious
activity, and he found it suddenly in his brother's failure. Feeling
nothing to squeeze between his own paws, he resolved to crush the
Parisians in behalf of Charles, and to play the part of a good brother
on the cheapest terms. The honor of the family counted for so little
in this scheme that his good intentions might be likened to the
interest a gambler takes in seeing a game well played in which he has
no stake. The Cruchots were a necessary part of his plan; but he would
not seek them,--he resolved to make them come to him, and to lead up
that very evening to a comedy whose plot he had just conceived, which
should make him on the morrow an object of admiration to the whole
town without its costing him a single penny.
In her father's absence Eugenie had the happiness of busying herself
openly with her much-loved cousin, of spending upon him fearlessly the
treasures of her pity,--woman's sublime superiority, the sole she
desires to have recognized, the sole she pardons man for letting her
assume. Three or four times the young girl went to listen to her
cousin's breathing, to know if he were sleeping or awake; then, when
he had risen, she turned her thoughts to the cream, the eggs, the
fruits, the plates, the glasses,--all that was a part of his breakfast
became the object of some special care. At length she ran lightly up
the old staircase to listen to the noise her cousin made. Was he
dressing? Did he still weep? She reached the door.
"Will you breakfast downstairs, or in your room?"
"Where you like."
"How do you feel?"
"Dear cousin, I am ashamed of being hungry."
This conversation, held through the closed door, was like an episode
in a poem to Eugenie.
"Well, then, we will bring your breakfast to your own room, so as not
to annoy my father."
She ran to the kitchen with the swiftness and lightness of a bird.
"Nanon, go and do his room!"
That staircase, so often traversed, which echoed to the slightest
noise, now lost its decaying aspect in the eyes of Eugenie. It grew
luminous; it had a voice and spoke to her; it was young like herself,
--young like the love it was now serving. Her mother, her kind,
indulgent mother, lent herself to the caprices of the child's love,
and after the room was put in order, both went to sit with the unhappy
youth and keep him company. Does not Christian charity make
consolation a duty? The two women drew a goodly number of little
sophistries from their religion wherewith to justify their conduct.
Charles was made the object of the tenderest and most loving care. His
saddened heart felt the sweetness of the gentle friendship, the
exquisite sympathy which these two souls, crushed under perpetual
restraint, knew so well how to display when, for an instant, they were
left unfettered in the regions of suffering, their natural sphere.
Claiming the right of relationship, Eugenie began to fold the linen
and put in order the toilet articles which Charles had brought; thus
she could marvel at her ease over each luxurious bauble and the
various knick-knacks of silver or chased gold, which she held long in
her hand under a pretext of examining them. Charles could not see
without emotion the generous interest his aunt and cousin felt in him;
he knew society in Paris well enough to feel assured that, placed as
he now was, he would find all hearts indifferent or cold. Eugenie thus
appeared to him in the splendor of a special beauty, and from
thenceforth he admired the innocence of life and manners which the
previous evening he had been inclined to ridicule. So when Eugenie
took from Nanon the bowl of coffee and cream, and began to pour it out
for her cousin with the simplicity of real feeling, giving him a
kindly glance, the eyes of the Parisian filled with tears; he took her
hand and kissed it.
"What troubles you?" she said.
"Oh! these are tears of gratitude," he answered.
Eugenie turned abruptly to the chimney-piece to take the candlesticks.
"Here, Nanon, carry them away!" she said.
When she looked again towards her cousin she was still blushing, but
her looks could at least deceive, and did not betray the excess of joy
which innundated her heart; yet the eyes of both expressed the same
sentiment as their souls flowed together in one thought,--the future
was theirs. This soft emotion was all the more precious to Charles in
the midst of his heavy grief because it was wholly unexpected. The
sound of the knocker recalled the women to their usual station.
Happily they were able to run downstairs with sufficient rapidity to
be seated at their work when Grandet entered; had he met them under
the archway it would have been enough to rouse his suspicions. After
breakfast, which the goodman took standing, the keeper from Froidfond,
to whom the promised indemnity had never yet been paid, made his
appearance, bearing a hare and some partridges shot in the park, with
eels and two pike sent as tribute by the millers.
"Ha, ha! poor Cornoiller; here he comes, like fish in Lent. Is all
that fit to eat?"
"Yes, my dear, generous master; it has been killed two days."
"Come, Nanon, bestir yourself," said Grandet; "take these things,
they'll do for dinner. I have invited the two Cruchots."
Nanon opened her eyes, stupid with amazement, and looked at everybody
in the room.
"Well!" she said, "and how am I to get the lard and the spices?"
"Wife," said Grandet, "give Nanon six francs, and remind me to get
some of the good wine out of the cellar."
"Well, then, Monsieur Grandet," said the keeper, who had come prepared
with an harangue for the purpose of settling the question of the
indemnity, "Monsieur Grandet--"
"Ta, ta, ta, ta!" said Grandet; "I know what you want to say. You are
a good fellow; we will see about it to-morrow, I'm too busy to-day.
Wife, give him five francs," he added to Madame Grandet as he
The poor woman was only too happy to buy peace at the cost of eleven
francs. She knew that Grandet would let her alone for a fortnight
after he had thus taken back, franc by franc, the money he had given
"Here, Cornoiller," she said, slipping ten francs into the man's hand,
"some day we will reward your services."
Cornoiller could say nothing, so he went away.
"Madame," said Nanon, who had put on her black coif and taken her
basket, "I want only three francs. You keep the rest; it'll go fast
"Have a good dinner, Nanon; my cousin will come down," said Eugenie.
"Something very extraordinary is going on, I am certain of it," said
Madame Grandet. "This is only the third time since our marriage that
your father has given a dinner."
About four o'clock, just as Eugenie and her mother had finished
setting the table for six persons, and after the master of the house
had brought up a few bottles of the exquisite wine which provincials
cherish with true affection, Charles came down into the hall. The
young fellow was pale; his gestures, the expression of his face, his
glance, and the tones of his voice, all had a sadness which was full
of grace. He was not pretending grief, he truly suffered; and the veil
of pain cast over his features gave him an interesting air dear to the
heart of women. Eugenie loved him the more for it. Perhaps she felt
that sorrow drew him nearer to her. Charles was no longer the rich and
distinguished young man placed in a sphere far above her, but a
relation plunged into frightful misery. Misery begets equality. Women
have this in common with the angels,--suffering humanity belongs to
them. Charles and Eugenie understood each other and spoke only with
their eyes; for the poor fallen dandy, orphaned and impoverished, sat
apart in a corner of the room, and was proudly calm and silent. Yet,
from time to time, the gentle and caressing glance of the young girl
shone upon him and constrained him away from his sad thoughts, drawing
him with her into the fields of hope and of futurity, where she loved
to hold him at her side.
At this moment the town of Saumur was more excited about the dinner
given by Grandet to the Cruchots than it had been the night before at
the sale of his vintage, though that constituted a crime of high-
treason against the whole wine-growing community. If the politic old
miser had given his dinner from the same idea that cost the dog of
Alcibiades his tail, he might perhaps have been called a great man;
but the fact is, considering himself superior to a community which he
could trick on all occasions, he paid very little heed to what Saumur
The des Grassins soon learned the facts of the failure and the violent
death of Guillaume Grandet, and they determined to go to their
client's house that very evening to commiserate his misfortune and
show him some marks of friendship, with a view of ascertaining the
motives which had led him to invite the Cruchots to dinner. At
precisely five o'clock Monsieur C. de Bonfons and his uncle the notary
arrived in their Sunday clothes. The party sat down to table and began
to dine with good appetites. Grandet was grave, Charles silent,
Eugenie dumb, and Madame Grandet did not say more than usual; so that
the dinner was, very properly, a repast of condolence. When they rose
from table Charles said to his aunt and uncle,--
"Will you permit me to retire? I am obliged to undertake a long and
As soon as the goodman was certain that Charles could hear nothing and
was probably deep in his letter-writing, he said, with a dissimulating
glance at his wife,--
"Madame Grandet, what we have to talk about will be Latin to you; it
is half-past seven; you can go and attend to your household accounts.
Good-night, my daughter."
He kissed Eugenie, and the two women departed. A scene now took place
in which Pere Grandet brought to bear, more than at any other moment
of his life, the shrewd dexterity he had acquired in his intercourse
with men, and which had won him from those whose flesh he sometimes
bit too sharply the nickname of "the old dog." If the mayor of Saumur
had carried his ambition higher still, if fortunate circumstances,
drawing him towards the higher social spheres, had sent him into
congresses where the affairs of nations were discussed, and had he
there employed the genius with which his personal interests had
endowed him, he would undoubtedly have proved nobly useful to his
native land. Yet it is perhaps equally certain that outside of Saumur
the goodman would have cut a very sorry figure. Possibly there are
minds like certain animals which cease to breed when transplanted from
the climates in which they are born.
"M-m-mon-sieur le p-p-president, you said t-t-that b-b-bankruptcy--"
The stutter which for years the old miser had assumed when it suited
him, and which, together with the deafness of which he sometimes
complained in rainy weather, was thought in Saumur to be a natural
defect, became at this crisis so wearisome to the two Cruchots that
while they listened they unconsciously made faces and moved their
lips, as if pronouncing the words over which he was hesitating and
stuttering at will. Here it may be well to give the history of this
impediment of the speech and hearing of Monsieur Grandet. No one in
Anjou heard better, or could pronounce more crisply the French
language (with an Angevin accent) than the wily old cooper. Some years
earlier, in spite of his shrewdness, he had been taken in by an
Israelite, who in the course of the discussion held his hand behind
his ear to catch sounds, and mangled his meaning so thoroughly in
trying to utter his words that Grandet fell a victim to his humanity
and was compelled to prompt the wily Jew with the words and ideas he
seemed to seek, to complete himself the arguments of the said Jew, to
say what that cursed Jew ought to have said for himself; in short, to
be the Jew instead of being Grandet. When the cooper came out of this
curious encounter he had concluded the only bargain of which in the
course of a long commercial life he ever had occasion to complain. But
if he lost at the time pecuniarily, he gained morally a valuable
lesson; later, he gathered its fruits. Indeed, the goodman ended by
blessing that Jew for having taught him the art of irritating his
commercial antagonist and leading him to forget his own thoughts in
his impatience to suggest those over which his tormentor was
stuttering. No affair had ever needed the assistance of deafness,
impediments of speech, and all the incomprehensible circumlocutions
with which Grandet enveloped his ideas, as much as the affair now in
hand. In the first place, he did not mean to shoulder the
responsibility of his own scheme; in the next, he was determined to
remain master of the conversation and to leave his real intentions in
"M-m-monsieur de B-B-Bonfons,"--for the second time in three years
Grandet called the Cruchot nephew Monsieur de Bonfons; the president
felt he might consider himself the artful old fellow's son-in-law,--
"you-ou said th-th-that b-b-bankruptcy c-c-could, in some c-c-cases,
b-b-be p-p-prevented b-b-by--"
"By the courts of commerce themselves. It is done constantly," said
Monsieur C. de Bonfons, bestriding Grandet's meaning, or thinking he
guessed it, and kindly wishing to help him out with it. "Listen."
"Y-yes," said Grandet humbly, with the mischievous expression of a boy
who is inwardly laughing at his teacher while he pays him the greatest
"When a man so respected and important as, for example, your late
"M-my b-b-brother, yes."
"--is threatened with insolvency--"
"They c-c-call it in-ins-s-solvency?"
"Yes; when his failure is imminent, the court of commerce, to which he
is amenable (please follow me attentively), has the power, by a
decree, to appoint a receiver. Liquidation, you understand, is not the
same as failure. When a man fails, he is dishonored; but when he
merely liquidates, he remains an honest man."
"T-t-that's very d-d-different, if it d-d-doesn't c-c-cost m-m-more,"
"But a liquidation can be managed without having recourse to the
courts at all. For," said the president, sniffing a pinch of snuff,
"don't you know how failures are declared?"
"N-n-no, I n-n-never t-t-thought," answered Grandet.
"In the first place," resumed the magistrate, "by filing the schedule
in the record office of the court, which the merchant may do himself,
or his representative for him with a power of attorney duly certified.
In the second place, the failure may be declared under compulsion from
the creditors. Now if the merchant does not file his schedule, and if
no creditor appears before the courts to obtain a decree of insolvency
against the merchant, what happens?"
"Why, the family of the deceased, his representatives, his heirs, or
the merchant himself, if he is not dead, or his friends if he is only
hiding, liquidate his business. Perhaps you would like to liquidate
your brother's affairs?"
"Ah! Grandet," said the notary, "that would be the right thing to do.
There is honor down here in the provinces. If you save your name--for
it is your name--you will be a man--"
"A noble man!" cried the president, interrupting his uncle.
"Certainly," answered the old man, "my b-b-brother's name was
G-G-Grandet, like m-m-mine. Th-that's c-c-certain; I d-d-don't
d-d-deny it. And th-th-this l-l-liquidation might be, in m-m-many
ways, v-v-very advan-t-t-tageous t-t-to the interests of m-m-my
n-n-nephew, whom I l-l-love. But I must consider. I don't k-k-know the
t-t-tricks of P-P-Paris. I b-b-belong to Sau-m-mur, d-d-don't you see?
M-m-my vines, my d-d-drains--in short, I've my own b-b-business. I
never g-g-give n-n-notes. What are n-n-notes? I t-t-take a good
m-m-many, but I have never s-s-signed one. I d-d-don't understand such
things. I have h-h-heard say that n-n-notes c-c-can be b-b-bought up."
"Of course," said the president. "Notes can be bought in the market,
less so much per cent. Don't you understand?"
Grandet made an ear-trumpet of his hand, and the president repeated
"Well, then," replied the man, "there's s-s-something to be g-g-got
out of it? I k-know n-nothing at my age about such th-th-things. I
l-l-live here and l-l-look after the v-v-vines. The vines g-g-grow,
and it's the w-w-wine that p-p-pays. L-l-look after the v-v-vintage,
t-t-that's my r-r-rule. My c-c-chief interests are at Froidfond. I
c-c-can't l-l-leave my h-h-house to m-m-muddle myself with a
d-d-devilish b-b-business I kn-know n-n-nothing about. You say I ought
to l-l-liquidate my b-b-brother's af-f-fairs, to p-p-prevent the
f-f-failure. I c-c-can't be in two p-p-places at once, unless I were a
little b-b-bird, and--"
"I understand," cried the notary. "Well, my old friend, you have
friends, old friends, capable of devoting themselves to your
"All right!" thought Grandet, "make haste and come to the point!"
"Suppose one of them went to Paris and saw your brother Guillaume's
chief creditor and said to him--"
"One m-m-moment," interrupted the goodman, "said wh-wh-what? Something
l-l-like this. Monsieur Gr-Grandet of Saumur this, Monsieur Grandet of
Saumur that. He l-loves his b-b-brother, he loves his n-nephew.
Grandet is a g-g-good uncle; he m-m-means well. He has sold his
v-v-vintage. D-d-don't declare a f-f-failure; c-c-call a meeting;
l-l-liquidate; and then Gr-Gr-Grandet will see what he c-c-can do.
B-b-better liquidate than l-let the l-l-law st-st-stick its n-n-nose
in. Hein? isn't it so?"
"Exactly so," said the president.
"B-because, don't you see, Monsieur de B-Bonfons, a man must l-l-look
b-b-before he l-leaps. If you c-c-can't, you c-c-can't. M-m-must know
all about the m-m-matter, all the resources and the debts, if you
d-d-don't want to be r-r-ruined. Hein? isn't it so?"
"Certainly," said the president. "I'm of opinion that in a few months
the debts might be bought up for a certain sum, and then paid in full
by an agreement. Ha! ha! you can coax a dog a long way if you show him
a bit of lard. If there has been no declaration of failure, and you
hold a lien on the debts, you come out of the business as white as the
"Sn-n-now," said Grandet, putting his hand to his ear, "wh-wh-what
"But," cried the president, "do pray attend to what I am saying."
"I am at-t-tending."
"A note is merchandise,--an article of barter which rises and falls in
prices. That is a deduction from Jeremy Bentham's theory about usury.
That writer has proved that the prejudice which condemned usurers to
reprobation was mere folly."
"Whew!" ejaculated the goodman.
"Allowing that money, according to Bentham, is an article of
merchandise, and that whatever represents money is equally
merchandise," resumed the president; "allowing also that it is
notorious that the commercial note, bearing this or that signature, is
liable to the fluctuation of all commercial values, rises or falls in
the market, is dear at one moment, and is worth nothing at another,
the courts decide--ah! how stupid I am, I beg your pardon--I am
inclined to think you could buy up your brother's debts for twenty-
five per cent."
"D-d-did you c-c-call him Je-Je-Jeremy B-Ben?"
"Bentham, an Englishman.'
"That's a Jeremy who might save us a lot of lamentations in business,"
said the notary, laughing.
"Those Englishmen s-sometimes t-t-talk sense," said Grandet. "So,
ac-c-cording to Ben-Bentham, if my b-b-brother's n-notes are worth
n-n-nothing; if Je-Je--I'm c-c-correct, am I not? That seems c-c-clear
to my m-m-mind--the c-c-creditors would be--No, would not be; I
"Let me explain it all," said the president. "Legally, if you acquire
a title to all the debts of the Maison Grandet, your brother or his
heirs will owe nothing to any one. Very good."
"Very g-good," repeated Grandet.
"In equity, if your brother's notes are negotiated--negotiated, do you
clearly understand the term?--negotiated in the market at a reduction
of so much per cent in value, and if one of your friends happening to
be present should buy them in, the creditors having sold them of their
own free-will without constraint, the estate of the late Grandet is
"That's t-true; b-b-business is b-business," said the cooper.
"B-b-but, st-still, you know, it is d-d-difficult. I h-have n-no
m-m-money and n-no t-t-time."
"Yes, but you need not undertake it. I am quite ready to go to Paris
(you may pay my expenses, they will only be a trifle). I will see the
creditors and talk with them and get an extension of time, and
everything can be arranged if you will add something to the assets so
as to buy up all title to the debts."
"We-we'll see about th-that. I c-c-can't and I w-w-won't bind myself
without--He who c-c-can't, can't; don't you see?"
"That's very true."
"I'm all p-p-put ab-b-bout by what you've t-t-told me. This is the
f-first t-t-time in my life I have b-been obliged to th-th-think--"
"Yes, you are not a lawyer."
"I'm only a p-p-poor wine-g-grower, and know n-nothing about wh-what
you have just t-told me; I m-m-must th-think about it."
"Very good," said the president, preparing to resume his argument.
"Nephew!" said the notary, interrupting him in a warning tone.
"Well, what, uncle?" answered the president.
"Let Monsieur Grandet explain his own intentions. The matter in
question is of the first importance. Our good friend ought to define
his meaning clearly, and--"
A loud knock, which announced the arrival of the des Grassins family,
succeeded by their entrance and salutations, hindered Cruchot from
concluding his sentence. The notary was glad of the interruption, for
Grandet was beginning to look suspiciously at him, and the wen gave
signs of a brewing storm. In the first place, the notary did not think
it becoming in a president of the Civil courts to go to Paris and
manipulate creditors and lend himself to an underhand job which
clashed with the laws of strict integrity; moreover, never having
known old Grandet to express the slightest desire to pay anything, no
matter what, he instinctively feared to see his nephew taking part in
the affair. He therefore profited by the entrance of the des Grassins
to take the nephew by the arm and lead him into the embrasure of the
"You have said enough, nephew; you've shown enough devotion. Your
desire to win the girl blinds you. The devil! you mustn't go at it
tooth and nail. Let me sail the ship now; you can haul on the braces.
Do you think it right to compromise your dignity as a magistrate in
He stopped, for he heard Monsieur des Grassins saying to the old
cooper as they shook hands,--
"Grandet, we have heard of the frightful misfortunes which have just
befallen your family,--the failure of the house of Guillaume Grandet
and the death of your brother. We have come to express our grief at
these sad events."
"There is but one sad event," said the notary, interrupting the
banker,--"the death of Monsieur Grandet, junior; and he would never
have killed himself had he thought in time of applying to his brother
for help. Our old friend, who is honorable to his finger-nails,
intends to liquidate the debts of the Maison Grandet of Paris. To save
him the worry of legal proceedings, my nephew, the president, has just
offered to go to Paris and negotiate with the creditors for a
These words, corroborated by Grandet's attitude as he stood silently
nursing his chin, astonished the three des Grassins, who had been
leisurely discussing the old man's avarice as they came along, very
nearly accusing him of fratricide.
"Ah! I was sure of it," cried the banker, looking at his wife. "What
did I tell you just now, Madame des Grassins? Grandet is honorable to
the backbone, and would never allow his name to remain under the
slightest cloud! Money without honor is a disease. There is honor in
the provinces! Right, very right, Grandet. I'm an old soldier, and I
can't disguise my thoughts; I speak roughly. Thunder! it is sublime!"
"Th-then s-s-sublime th-things c-c-cost d-dear," answered the goodman,
as the banker warmly wrung his hand.
"But this, my dear Grandet,--if the president will excuse me,--is a
purely commercial matter, and needs a consummate business man. Your
agent must be some one fully acquainted with the markets,--with
disbursements, rebates, interest calculations, and so forth. I am
going to Paris on business of my own, and I can take charge of--"
"We'll see about t-t-trying to m-m-manage it b-b-between us, under the
p-p-peculiar c-c-circumstances, b-b-but without b-b-binding m-m-myself
to anything th-that I c-c-could not do," said Grandet, stuttering;
"because, you see, monsieur le president naturally expects me to pay
the expenses of his journey."
The goodman did not stammer over the last words.
"Eh!" cried Madame des Grassins, "why it is a pleasure to go to Paris.
I would willingly pay to go myself."
She made a sign to her husband, as if to encourage him in cutting the
enemy out of the commission, /coute que coute/; then she glanced
ironically at the two Cruchots, who looked chap-fallen. Grandet seized
the banker by a button and drew him into a corner of the room.
"I have a great deal more confidence in you than in the president," he
said; "besides, I've other fish to fry," he added, wriggling his wen.
"I want to buy a few thousand francs in the Funds while they are at
eighty. They fall, I'm told, at the end of each month. You know all
about these things, don't you?"