Part 3 out of 4
"Bless me! then, am I to invest enough to give you a few thousand
francs a year?"
"That's not much to begin with. Hush! I don't want any one to know I
am going to play that game. You can make the investment by the end of
the month. Say nothing to the Cruchots; that'll annoy them. If you are
really going to Paris, we will see if there is anything to be done for
my poor nephew."
"Well, it's all settled. I'll start to-morrow by the mail-post," said
des Grassins aloud, "and I will come and take your last directions at
--what hour will suit you?"
"Five o'clock, just before dinner," said Grandet, rubbing his hands.
The two parties stayed on for a short time. Des Grassins said, after a
pause, striking Grandet on the shoulder,--
"It is a good thing to have a relation like him."
"Yes, yes; without making a show," said Grandet, "I am a g-good
relation. I loved my brother, and I will prove it, unless it
"We must leave you, Grandet," said the banker, interrupting him
fortunately before he got to the end of his sentence. "If I hurry my
departure, I must attend to some matters at once."
"Very good, very good! I myself--in c-consequence of what I t-told you
--I must retire to my own room and 'd-d-deliberate,' as President
"Plague take him! I am no longer Monsieur de Bonfons," thought the
magistrate ruefully, his face assuming the expression of a judge bored
by an argument.
The heads of the two factions walked off together. Neither gave any
further thought to the treachery Grandet had been guilty of in the
morning against the whole wine-growing community; each tried to fathom
what the other was thinking about the real intentions of the wily old
man in this new affair, but in vain.
"Will you go with us to Madame Dorsonval's?" said des Grassins to the
"We will go there later," answered the president. "I have promised to
say good-evening to Mademoiselle de Gribeaucourt, and we will go there
first, if my uncle is willing."
"Farewell for the present!" said Madame des Grassins.
When the Cruchots were a few steps off, Adolphe remarked to his
"Are not they fuming, hein?"
"Hold your tongue, my son!" said his mother; "they might hear you.
Besides, what you say is not in good taste,--law-school language."
"Well, uncle," cried the president when he saw the des Grassins
disappearing, "I began by being de Bonfons, and I have ended as
nothing but Cruchot."
"I saw that that annoyed you; but the wind has set fair for the des
Grassins. What a fool you are, with all your cleverness! Let them sail
off on Grandet's 'We'll see about it,' and keep yourself quiet, young
man. Eugenie will none the less be your wife."
In a few moments the news of Grandet's magnanimous resolve was
disseminated in three houses at the same moment, and the whole town
began to talk of his fraternal devotion. Every one forgave Grandet for
the sale made in defiance of the good faith pledged to the community;
they admired his sense of honor, and began to laud a generosity of
which they had never thought him capable. It is part of the French
nature to grow enthusiastic, or angry, or fervent about some meteor of
the moment. Can it be that collective beings, nationalities, peoples,
are devoid of memory?
When Pere Grandet had shut the door he called Nanon.
"Don't let the dog loose, and don't go to bed; we have work to do
together. At eleven o'clock Cornoiller will be at the door with the
chariot from Froidfond. Listen for him and prevent his knocking; tell
him to come in softly. Police regulations don't allow nocturnal
racket. Besides, the whole neighborhood need not know that I am
starting on a journey."
So saying, Grandet returned to his private room, where Nanon heard him
moving about, rummaging, and walking to and fro, though with much
precaution, for he evidently did not wish to wake his wife and
daughter, and above all not to rouse the attention of his nephew, whom
he had begun to anathematize when he saw a thread of light under his
door. About the middle of the night Eugenie, intent on her cousin,
fancied she heard a cry like that of a dying person. It must be
Charles, she thought; he was so pale, so full of despair when she had
seen him last,--could he have killed himself? She wrapped herself
quickly in a loose garment,--a sort of pelisse with a hood,--and was
about to leave the room when a bright light coming through the chinks
of her door made her think of fire. But she recovered herself as she
heard Nanon's heavy steps and gruff voice mingling with the snorting
of several horses.
"Can my father be carrying off my cousin?" she said to herself,
opening her door with great precaution lest it should creak, and yet
enough to let her see into the corridor.
Suddenly her eye encountered that of her father; and his glance, vague
and unnoticing as it was, terrified her. The goodman and Nanon were
yoked together by a stout stick, each end of which rested on their
shoulders; a stout rope was passed over it, on which was slung a small
barrel or keg like those Pere Grandet still made in his bakehouse as
an amusement for his leisure hours.
"Holy Virgin, how heavy it is!" said the voice of Nanon.
"What a pity that it is only copper sous!" answered Grandet. "Take
care you don't knock over the candlestick."
The scene was lighted by a single candle placed between two rails of
"Cornoiller," said Grandet to his keeper /in partibus/, "have you
brought your pistols?"
"No, monsieur. Mercy! what's there to fear for your copper sous?"
"Oh! nothing," said Pere Grandet.
"Besides, we shall go fast," added the man; "your farmers have picked
out their best horses."
"Very good. You did not tell them where I was going?"
"I didn't know where."
"Very good. Is the carriage strong?"
"Strong? hear to that, now! Why, it can carry three thousand weight.
How much does that old keg weigh?"
"Goodness!" exclaimed Nanon. "I ought to know! There's pretty nigh
"Will you hold your tongue, Nanon! You are to tell my wife I have gone
into the country. I shall be back to dinner. Drive fast, Cornoiller; I
must get to Angers before nine o'clock."
The carriage drove off. Nanon bolted the great door, let loose the
dog, and went off to bed with a bruised shoulder, no one in the
neighborhood suspecting either the departure of Grandet or the object
of his journey. The precautions of the old miser and his reticence
were never relaxed. No one had ever seen a penny in that house, filled
as it was with gold. Hearing in the morning, through the gossip of the
port, that exchange on gold had doubled in price in consequence of
certain military preparations undertaken at Nantes, and that
speculators had arrived at Angers to buy coin, the old wine-grower, by
the simple process of borrowing horses from his farmers, seized the
chance of selling his gold and of bringing back in the form of
treasury notes the sum he intended to put into the Funds, having
swelled it considerably by the exchange.
"My father has gone," thought Eugenie, who heard all that took place
from the head of the stairs. Silence was restored in the house, and
the distant rumbling of the carriage, ceasing by degrees, no longer
echoed through the sleeping town. At this moment Eugenie heard in her
heart, before the sound caught her ears, a cry which pierced the
partitions and came from her cousin's chamber. A line of light, thin
as the blade of a sabre, shone through a chink in the door and fell
horizontally on the balusters of the rotten staircase.
"He suffers!" she said, springing up the stairs. A second moan brought
her to the landing near his room. The door was ajar, she pushed it
open. Charles was sleeping; his head hung over the side of the old
armchair, and his hand, from which the pen had fallen, nearly touched
the floor. The oppressed breathing caused by the strained posture
suddenly frightened Eugenie, who entered the room hastily.
"He must be very tired," she said to herself, glancing at a dozen
letters lying sealed upon the table. She read their addresses: "To
Messrs. Farry, Breilmann, & Co., carriage-makers"; "To Monsieur
Buisson, tailor," etc.
"He has been settling all his affairs, so as to leave France at once,"
she thought. Her eyes fell upon two open letters. The words, "My dear
Annette," at the head of one of them, blinded her for a moment. Her
heart beat fast, her feet were nailed to the floor.
"His dear Annette! He loves! he is loved! No hope! What does he say to
These thoughts rushed through her head and heart. She saw the words
everywhere, even on the bricks of the floor, in letters of fire.
"Resign him already? No, no! I will not read the letter. I ought to go
away--What if I do read it?"
She looked at Charles, then she gently took his head and placed it
against the back of the chair; he let her do so, like a child which,
though asleep, knows its mother's touch and receives, without awaking,
her kisses and watchful care. Like a mother Eugenie raised the
drooping hand, and like a mother she gently kissed the chestnut hair--
"Dear Annette!" a demon shrieked the words in her ear.
"I am doing wrong; but I must read it, that letter," she said. She
turned away her head, for her noble sense of honor reproached her. For
the first time in her life good and evil struggled together in her
heart. Up to that moment she had never had to blush for any action.
Passion and curiosity triumphed. As she read each sentence her heart
swelled more and more, and the keen glow which filled her being as she
did so, only made the joys of first love still more precious.
My dear Annette,--Nothing could ever have separated us but the
great misfortune which has now overwhelmed me, and which no human
foresight could have prevented. My father has killed himself; his
fortune and mine are irretrievably lost. I am orphaned at an age
when, through the nature of my education, I am still a child; and
yet I must lift myself as a man out of the abyss into which I am
plunged. I have just spent half the night in facing my position.
If I wish to leave France an honest man,--and there is no doubt of
that,--I have not a hundred francs of my own with which to try my
fate in the Indies or in America. Yes, my poor Anna, I must seek
my fortune in those deadly climates. Under those skies, they tell
me, I am sure to make it. As for remaining in Paris, I cannot do
so. Neither my nature nor my face are made to bear the affronts,
the neglect, the disdain shown to a ruined man, the son of a
bankrupt! Good God! think of owing two millions! I should be
killed in a duel the first week; therefore I shall not return
there. Your love--the most tender and devoted love which ever
ennobled the heart of man--cannot draw me back. Alas! my beloved,
I have no money with which to go to you, to give and receive a
last kiss from which I might derive some strength for my forlorn
"Poor Charles! I did well to read the letter. I have gold; I will give
it to him," thought Eugenie.
She wiped her eyes, and went on reading.
I have never thought of the miseries of poverty. If I have the
hundred louis required for the mere costs of the journey, I have
not a sou for an outfit. But no, I have not the hundred louis, not
even one louis. I don't know that anything will be left after I
have paid my debts in Paris. If I have nothing, I shall go quietly
to Nantes and ship as a common sailor; and I will begin in the new
world like other men who have started young without a sou and
brought back the wealth of the Indies. During this long day I have
faced my future coolly. It seems more horrible for me than for
another, because I have been so petted by a mother who adored me,
so indulged by the kindest of fathers, so blessed by meeting, on
my entrance into life, with the love of an Anna! The flowers of
life are all I have ever known. Such happiness could not last.
Nevertheless, my dear Annette, I feel more courage than a careless
young man is supposed to feel,--above all a young man used to the
caressing ways of the dearest woman in all Paris, cradled in
family joys, on whom all things smiled in his home, whose wishes
were a law to his father--oh, my father! Annette, he is dead!
Well, I have thought over my position, and yours as well. I have
grown old in twenty-four hours. Dear Anna, if in order to keep me
with you in Paris you were to sacrifice your luxury, your dress,
your opera-box, we should even then not have enough for the
expenses of my extravagant ways of living. Besides, I would never
accept such sacrifices. No, we must part now and forever--
"He gives her up! Blessed Virgin! What happiness!"
Eugenie quivered with joy. Charles made a movement, and a chill of
terror ran through her. Fortunately, he did not wake, and she resumed
When shall I return? I do not know. The climate of the West Indies
ages a European, so they say; especially a European who works
hard. Let us think what may happen ten years hence. In ten years
your daughter will be eighteen; she will be your companion, your
spy. To you society will be cruel, and your daughter perhaps more
cruel still. We have seen cases of the harsh social judgment and
ingratitude of daughters; let us take warning by them. Keep in the
depths of your soul, as I shall in mine, the memory of four years
of happiness, and be faithful, if you can, to the memory of your
poor friend. I cannot exact such faithfulness, because, do you
see, dear Annette, I must conform to the exigencies of my new
life; I must take a commonplace view of them and do the best I
can. Therefore I must think of marriage, which becomes one of the
necessities of my future existence; and I will admit to you that I
have found, here in Saumur, in my uncle's house, a cousin whose
face, manners, mind, and heart would please you, and who, besides,
seems to me--
"He must have been very weary to have ceased writing to her," thought
Eugenie, as she gazed at the letter which stopped abruptly in the
middle of the last sentence.
Already she defended him. How was it possible that an innocent girl
should perceive the cold-heartedness evinced by this letter? To young
girls religiously brought up, whose minds are ignorant and pure, all
is love from the moment they set their feet within the enchanted
regions of that passion. They walk there bathed in a celestial light
shed from their own souls, which reflects its rays upon their lover;
they color all with the flame of their own emotion and attribute to
him their highest thoughts. A woman's errors come almost always from
her belief in good or her confidence in truth. In Eugenie's simple
heart the words, "My dear Annette, my loved one," echoed like the
sweetest language of love; they caressed her soul as, in childhood,
the divine notes of the /Venite adoremus/, repeated by the organ,
caressed her ear. Moreover, the tears which still lingered on the
young man's lashes gave signs of that nobility of heart by which young
girls are rightly won. How could she know that Charles, though he
loved his father and mourned him truly, was moved far more by paternal
goodness than by the goodness of his own heart? Monsieur and Madame
Guillaume Grandet, by gratifying every fancy of their son, and
lavishing upon him the pleasures of a large fortune, had kept him from
making the horrible calculations of which so many sons in Paris become
more or less guilty when, face to face with the enjoyments of the
world, they form desires and conceive schemes which they see with
bitterness must be put off or laid aside during the lifetime of their
parents. The liberality of the father in this instance had shed into
the heart of the son a real love, in which there was no afterthought
Nevertheless, Charles was a true child of Paris, taught by the customs
of society and by Annette herself to calculate everything; already an
old man under the mask of youth. He had gone through the frightful
education of social life, of that world where in one evening more
crimes are committed in thought and speech than justice ever punishes
at the assizes; where jests and clever sayings assassinate the noblest
ideas; where no one is counted strong unless his mind sees clear: and
to see clear in that world is to believe in nothing, neither in
feelings, nor in men, nor even in events,--for events are falsified.
There, to "see clear" we must weigh a friend's purse daily, learn how
to keep ourselves adroitly on the top of the wave, cautiously admire
nothing, neither works of art nor glorious actions, and remember that
self-interest is the mainspring of all things here below. After
committing many follies, the great lady--the beautiful Annette--
compelled Charles to think seriously; with her perfumed hand among his
curls, she talked to him of his future position; as she rearranged his
locks, she taught him lessons of worldly prudence; she made him
effeminate and materialized him,--a double corruption, but a delicate
and elegant corruption, in the best taste.
"You are very foolish, Charles," she would say to him. "I shall have a
great deal of trouble in teaching you to understand the world. You
behaved extremely ill to Monsieur des Lupeaulx. I know very well he is
not an honorable man; but wait till he is no longer in power, then you
may despise him as much as you like. Do you know what Madame Campan
used to tell us?--'My dears, as long as a man is a minister, adore
him; when he falls, help to drag him in the gutter. Powerful, he is a
sort of god; fallen, he is lower than Marat in the sewer, because he
is living, and Marat is dead. Life is a series of combinations, and
you must study them and understand them if you want to keep yourselves
always in good position.'"
Charles was too much a man of the world, his parents had made him too
happy, he had received too much adulation in society, to be possessed
of noble sentiments. The grain of gold dropped by his mother into his
heart was beaten thin in the smithy of Parisian society; he had spread
it superficially, and it was worn away by the friction of life.
Charles was only twenty-one years old. At that age the freshness of
youth seems inseparable from candor and sincerity of soul. The voice,
the glance, the face itself, seem in harmony with the feelings; and
thus it happens that the sternest judge, the most sceptical lawyer,
the least complying of usurers, always hesitate to admit decrepitude
of heart or the corruption of worldly calculation while the eyes are
still bathed in purity and no wrinkles seam the brow. Charles, so far,
had had no occasion to apply the maxims of Parisian morality; up to
this time he was still endowed with the beauty of inexperience. And
yet, unknown to himself, he had been inoculated with selfishness. The
germs of Parisian political economy, latent in his heart, would
assuredly burst forth, sooner or later, whenever the careless
spectator became an actor in the drama of real life.
Nearly all young girls succumb to the tender promises such an outward
appearance seems to offer: even if Eugenie had been as prudent and
observing as provincial girls are often found to be, she was not
likely to distrust her cousin when his manners, words, and actions
were still in unison with the aspirations of a youthful heart. A mere
chance--a fatal chance--threw in her way the last effusions of real
feeling which stirred the young man's soul; she heard as it were the
last breathings of his conscience. She laid down the letter--to her so
full of love--and began smilingly to watch her sleeping cousin; the
fresh illusions of life were still, for her at least, upon his face;
she vowed to herself to love him always. Then she cast her eyes on the
other letter, without attaching much importance to this second
indiscretion; and though she read it, it was only to obtain new proofs
of the noble qualities which, like all women, she attributed to the
man her heart had chosen.
My dear Alphonse,--When you receive this letter I shall be without
friends; but let me assure you that while I doubt the friendship
of the world, I have never doubted yours. I beg you therefore to
settle all my affairs, and I trust to you to get as much as you
can out of my possessions. By this time you know my situation. I
have nothing left, and I intend to go at once to the Indies. I
have just written to all the people to whom I think I owe money,
and you will find enclosed a list of their names, as correct as I
can make it from memory. My books, my furniture, my pictures, my
horses, etc., ought, I think, to pay my debts. I do not wish to
keep anything, except, perhaps, a few baubles which might serve as
the beginning of an outfit for my enterprise. My dear Alphonse, I
will send you a proper power of attorney under which you can make
these sales. Send me all my weapons. Keep Briton for yourself;
nobody would pay the value of that noble beast, and I would rather
give him to you--like a mourning-ring bequeathed by a dying man to
his executor. Farry, Breilmann, & Co. built me a very comfortable
travelling-carriage, which they have not yet delivered; persuade
them to keep it and not ask for any payment on it. If they refuse,
do what you can in the matter, and avoid everything that might
seem dishonorable in me under my present circumstances. I owe the
British Islander six louis, which I lost at cards; don't fail to
"Dear cousin!" whispered Eugenie, throwing down the letter and running
softly back to her room, carrying one of the lighted candles. A thrill
of pleasure passed over her as she opened the drawer of an old oak
cabinet, a fine specimen of the period called the Renaissance, on
which could still be seen, partly effaced, the famous royal
salamander. She took from the drawer a large purse of red velvet with
gold tassels, edged with a tarnished fringe of gold wire,--a relic
inherited from her grandmother. She weighed it proudly in her hand,
and began with delight to count over the forgotten items of her little
hoard. First she took out twenty /portugaises/, still new, struck in
the reign of John V., 1725, worth by exchange, as her father told her,
five /lisbonnines/, or a hundred and sixty-eight francs, sixty-four
centimes each; their conventional value, however, was a hundred and
eighty francs apiece, on account of the rarity and beauty of the
coins, which shone like little suns. Item, five /genovines/, or five
hundred-franc pieces of Genoa; another very rare coin worth eighty-
seven francs on exchange, but a hundred francs to collectors. These
had formerly belonged to old Monsieur de la Bertelliere. Item, three
gold /quadruples/, Spanish, of Philip V., struck in 1729, given to her
one by one by Madame Gentillet, who never failed to say, using the
same words, when she made the gift, "This dear little canary, this
little yellow-boy, is worth ninety-eight francs! Keep it, my pretty
one, it will be the flower of your treasure." Item (that which her
father valued most of all, the gold of these coins being twenty-three
carats and a fraction), a hundred Dutch ducats, made in the year 1756,
and worth thirteen francs apiece. Item, a great curiosity, a species
of medal precious to the soul of misers,--three rupees with the sign
of the Scales, and five rupees with the sign of the Virgin, all in
pure gold of twenty-four carats; the magnificent money of the Great
Mogul, each of which was worth by mere weight thirty-seven francs,
forty centimes, but at least fifty francs to those connoisseurs who
love to handle gold. Item, the napoleon of forty francs received the
day before, which she had forgotten to put away in the velvet purse.
This treasure was all in virgin coins, true works of art, which
Grandet from time to time inquired after and asked to see, pointing
out to his daughter their intrinsic merits,--such as the beauty of the
milled edge, the clearness of the flat surface, the richness of the
lettering, whose angles were not yet rubbed off.
Eugenie gave no thought to these rarities, nor to her father's mania
for them, nor to the danger she incurred in depriving herself of a
treasure so dear to him; no, she thought only of her cousin, and soon
made out, after a few mistakes of calculation, that she possessed
about five thousand eight hundred francs in actual value, which might
be sold for their additional value to collectors for nearly six
thousand. She looked at her wealth and clapped her hands like a happy
child forced to spend its overflowing joy in artless movements of the
body. Father and daughter had each counted up their fortune this
night,--he, to sell his gold; Eugenie to fling hers into the ocean of
affection. She put the pieces back into the old purse, took it in her
hand, and ran upstairs without hesitation. The secret misery of her
cousin made her forget the hour and conventional propriety; she was
strong in her conscience, in her devotion, in her happiness.
As she stood upon the threshold of the door, holding the candle in one
hand and the purse in the other, Charles woke, caught sight of her,
and remained speechless with surprise. Eugenie came forward, put the
candle on the table, and said in a quivering voice:
"My cousin, I must beg pardon for a wrong I have done you; but God
will pardon me--if you--will help me to wipe it out."
"What is it?" asked Charles, rubbing his eyes.
"I have read those letters."
"How did it happen?" she continued; "how came I here? Truly, I do not
know. I am tempted not to regret too much that I have read them; they
have made me know your heart, your soul, and--"
"And what?" asked Charles.
"Your plans, your need of a sum--"
"My dear cousin--"
"Hush, hush! my cousin, not so loud; we must not wake others. See,"
she said, opening her purse, "here are the savings of a poor girl who
wants nothing. Charles, accept them! This morning I was ignorant of
the value of money; you have taught it to me. It is but a means, after
all. A cousin is almost a brother; you can surely borrow the purse of
Eugenie, as much a woman as a young girl, never dreamed of refusal;
but her cousin remained silent.
"Oh! you will not refuse?" cried Eugenie, the beatings of whose heart
could be heard in the deep silence.
Her cousin's hesitation mortified her; but the sore need of his
position came clearer still to her mind, and she knelt down.
"I will never rise till you have taken that gold!" she said. "My
cousin, I implore you, answer me! let me know if you respect me, if
you are generous, if--"
As he heard this cry of noble distress the young man's tears fell upon
his cousin's hands, which he had caught in his own to keep her from
kneeling. As the warm tears touched her, Eugenie sprang to the purse
and poured its contents upon the table.
"Ah! yes, yes, you consent?" she said, weeping with joy. "Fear
nothing, my cousin, you will be rich. This gold will bring you
happiness; some day you shall bring it back to me,--are we not
partners? I will obey all conditions. But you should not attach such
value to the gift."
Charles was at last able to express his feelings.
"Yes, Eugenie; my soul would be small indeed if I did not accept. And
yet,--gift for gift, confidence for confidence."
"What do you mean?" she said, frightened.
"Listen, dear cousin; I have here--" He interrupted himself to point
out a square box covered with an outer case of leather which was on
the drawers. "There," he continued, "is something as precious to me as
life itself. This box was a present from my mother. All day I have
been thinking that if she could rise from her grave, she would herself
sell the gold which her love for me lavished on this dressing-case;
but were I to do so, the act would seem to me a sacrilege." Eugenie
pressed his hand as she heard these last words. "No," he added, after
a slight pause, during which a liquid glance of tenderness passed
between them, "no, I will neither sell it nor risk its safety on my
journey. Dear Eugenie, you shall be its guardian. Never did friend
commit anything more sacred to another. Let me show it to you."
He went to the box, took it from its outer coverings, opened it, and
showed his delighted cousin a dressing-case where the rich workmanship
gave to the gold ornaments a value far above their weight.
"What you admire there is nothing," he said, pushing a secret spring
which opened a hidden drawer. "Here is something which to me is worth
the whole world." He drew out two portraits, masterpieces of Madame
Mirbel, richly set with pearls.
"Oh, how beautiful! Is it the lady to whom you wrote that--"
"No," he said, smiling; "this is my mother, and here is my father,
your aunt and uncle. Eugenie, I beg you on my knees, keep my treasure
safely. If I die and your little fortune is lost, this gold and these
pearls will repay you. To you alone could I leave these portraits; you
are worthy to keep them. But destroy them at last, so that they may
pass into no other hands." Eugenie was silent. "Ah, yes, say yes! You
consent?" he added with winning grace.
Hearing the very words she had just used to her cousin now addressed
to herself, she turned upon him a look of love, her first look of
loving womanhood,--a glance in which there is nearly as much of
coquetry as of inmost depth. He took her hand and kissed it.
"Angel of purity! between us two money is nothing, never can be
anything. Feeling, sentiment, must be all henceforth."
"You are like your mother,--was her voice as soft as yours?"
"Oh! much softer--"
"Yes, for you," she said, dropping her eyelids. "Come, Charles, go to
bed; I wish it; you must be tired. Good-night." She gently disengaged
her hand from those of her cousin, who followed her to her room,
lighting the way. When they were both upon the threshold,--
"Ah!" he said, "why am I ruined?"
"What matter?--my father is rich; I think so," she answered.
"Poor child!" said Charles, making a step into her room and leaning
his back against the wall, "if that were so, he would never have let
my father die; he would not let you live in this poor way; he would
live otherwise himself."
"But he owns Froidfond."
"What is Froidfond worth?"
"I don't know; but he has Noyers."
"Nothing but a poor farm!"
"He has vineyards and fields."
"Mere nothing," said Charles disdainfully. "If your father had only
twenty-four thousand francs a year do you suppose you would live in
this cold, barren room?" he added, making a step in advance. "Ah!
there you will keep my treasures," he said, glancing at the old
cabinet, as if to hide his thoughts.
"Go and sleep," she said, hindering his entrance into the disordered
Charles stepped back, and they bid each other good-night with a mutual
Both fell asleep in the same dream; and from that moment the youth
began to wear roses with his mourning. The next day, before breakfast,
Madame Grandet found her daughter in the garden in company with
Charles. The young man was still sad, as became a poor fellow who,
plunged in misfortune, measures the depths of the abyss into which he
has fallen, and sees the terrible burden of his whole future life.
"My father will not be home till dinner-time," said Eugenie,
perceiving the anxious look on her mother's face.
It was easy to trace in the face and manners of the young girl and in
the singular sweetness of her voice a unison of thought between her
and her cousin. Their souls had espoused each other, perhaps before
they even felt the force of the feelings which bound them together.
Charles spent the morning in the hall, and his sadness was respected.
Each of the three women had occupations of her own. Grandet had left
all his affairs unattended to, and a number of persons came on
business,--the plumber, the mason, the slater, the carpenter, the
diggers, the dressers, the farmers; some to drive a bargain about
repairs, others to pay their rent or to be paid themselves for
services. Madame Grandet and Eugenie were obliged to go and come and
listen to the interminable talk of all these workmen and country folk.
Nanon put away in her kitchen the produce which they brought as
tribute. She always waited for her master's orders before she knew
what portion was to be used in the house and what was to be sold in
the market. It was the goodman's custom, like that of a great many
country gentlemen, to drink his bad wine and eat his spoiled fruit.
Towards five in the afternoon Grandet returned from Angers, having
made fourteen thousand francs by the exchange on his gold, bringing
home in his wallet good treasury-notes which bore interest until the
day he should invest them in the Funds. He had left Cornoiller at
Angers to look after the horses, which were well-nigh foundered, with
orders to bring them home slowly after they were rested.
"I have got back from Angers, wife," he said; "I am hungry."
Nanon called out to him from the kitchen: "Haven't you eaten anything
"Nothing," answered the old man.
Nanon brought in the soup. Des Grassins came to take his client's
orders just as the family sat down to dinner. Grandet had not even
observed his nephew.
"Go on eating, Grandet," said the banker; "we can talk. Do you know
what gold is worth in Angers? They have come from Nantes after it? I
shall send some of ours."
"Don't send any," said Grandet; "they have got enough. We are such old
friends, I ought to save you from such a loss of time."
"But gold is worth thirteen francs fifty centimes."
"Say /was/ worth--"
"Where the devil have they got any?"
"I went to Angers last night," answered Grandet in a low voice.
The banker shook with surprise. Then a whispered conversation began
between the two, during which Grandet and des Grassins frequently
looked at Charles. Presently des Grassins gave a start of
astonishment; probably Grandet was then instructing him to invest the
sum which was to give him a hundred thousand francs a year in the
"Monsieur Grandet," said the banker to Charles, "I am starting for
Paris; if you have any commissions--"
"None, monsieur, I thank you," answered Charles.
"Thank him better than that, nephew. Monsieur is going to settle the
affairs of the house of Guillaume Grandet."
"Is there any hope?" said Charles eagerly.
"What!" exclaimed his uncle, with well-acted pride, "are you not my
nephew? Your honor is ours. Is not your name Grandet?"
Charles rose, seized Pere Grandet, kissed him, turned pale, and left
the room. Eugenie looked at her father with admiration.
"Well, good-by, des Grassins; it is all in your hands. Decoy those
people as best you can; lead 'em by the nose."
The two diplomatists shook hands. The old cooper accompanied the
banker to the front door. Then, after closing it, he came back and
plunged into his armchair, saying to Nanon,--
"Get me some black-currant ratafia."
Too excited, however, to remain long in one place, he got up, looked
at the portrait of Monsieur de la Bertelliere, and began to sing,
doing what Nanon called his dancing steps,--
"Dans les gardes francaises
J'avais un bon papa."
Nanon, Madame Grandet, and Eugenie looked at each other in silence.
The hilarity of the master always frightened them when it reached its
climax. The evening was soon over. Pere Grandet chose to go to bed
early, and when he went to bed, everybody else was expected to go too;
like as when Augustus drank, Poland was drunk. On this occasion Nanon,
Charles, and Eugenie were not less tired than the master. As for
Madame Grandet, she slept, ate, drank, and walked according to the
will of her husband. However, during the two hours consecrated to
digestion, the cooper, more facetious than he had ever been in his
life, uttered a number of his own particular apothegms,--a single one
of which will give the measure of his mind. When he had drunk his
ratafia, he looked at his glass and said,--
"You have no sooner put your lips to a glass than it is empty! Such is
life. You can't have and hold. Gold won't circulate and stay in your
purse. If it were not for that, life would be too fine."
He was jovial and benevolent. When Nanon came with her spinning-wheel,
"You must be tired," he said; "put away your hemp."
"Ah, bah! then I shall get sleepy," she answered.
"Poor Nanon! Will you have some ratafia?"
"I won't refuse a good offer; madame makes it a deal better than the
apothecaries. What they sell is all drugs."
"They put too much sugar," said the master; "you can't taste anything
The following day the family, meeting at eight o'clock for the early
breakfast, made a picture of genuine domestic intimacy. Grief had
drawn Madame Grandet, Eugenie, and Charles /en rapport/; even Nanon
sympathized, without knowing why. The four now made one family. As to
the old man, his satisfied avarice and the certainty of soon getting
rid of the dandy without having to pay more than his journey to
Nantes, made him nearly indifferent to his presence in the house. He
left the two children, as he called Charles and Eugenie, free to
conduct themselves as they pleased, under the eye of Madame Grandet,
in whom he had implicit confidence as to all that concerned public and
religious morality. He busied himself in straightening the boundaries
of his fields and ditches along the high-road, in his poplar-
plantations beside the Loire, in the winter work of his vineyards, and
at Froidfond. All these things occupied his whole time.
For Eugenie the springtime of love had come. Since the scene at night
when she gave her little treasure to her cousin, her heart had
followed the treasure. Confederates in the same secret, they looked at
each other with a mutual intelligence which sank to the depth of their
consciousness, giving a closer communion, a more intimate relation to
their feelings, and putting them, so to speak, beyond the pale of
ordinary life. Did not their near relationship warrant the gentleness
in their tones, the tenderness in their glances? Eugenie took delight
in lulling her cousin's pain with the pretty childish joys of a new-
born love. Are there no sweet similitudes between the birth of love
and the birth of life? Do we not rock the babe with gentle songs and
softest glances? Do we not tell it marvellous tales of the golden
future? Hope herself, does she not spread her radiant wings above its
head? Does it not shed, with infant fickleness, its tears of sorrow
and its tears of joy? Does it not fret for trifles, cry for the pretty
pebbles with which to build its shifting palaces, for the flowers
forgotten as soon as plucked? Is it not eager to grasp the coming
time, to spring forward into life? Love is our second transformation.
Childhood and love were one and the same thing to Eugenie and to
Charles; it was a first passion, with all its child-like play,--the
more caressing to their hearts because they now were wrapped in
sadness. Struggling at birth against the gloom of mourning, their love
was only the more in harmony with the provincial plainness of that
gray and ruined house. As they exchanged a few words beside the well
in the silent court, or lingered in the garden for the sunset hour,
sitting on a mossy seat saying to each other the infinite nothings of
love, or mused in the silent calm which reigned between the house and
the ramparts like that beneath the arches of a church, Charles
comprehended the sanctity of love; for his great lady, his dear
Annette, had taught him only its stormy troubles. At this moment he
left the worldly passion, coquettish, vain, and showy as it was, and
turned to the true, pure love. He loved even the house, whose customs
no longer seemed to him ridiculous. He got up early in the mornings
that he might talk with Eugenie for a moment before her father came to
dole out the provisions; when the steps of the old man sounded on the
staircase he escaped into the garden. The small criminality of this
morning /tete-a-tete/ which Nanon pretended not to see, gave to their
innocent love the lively charm of a forbidden joy.
After breakfast, when Grandet had gone to his fields and his other
occupations, Charles remained with the mother and daughter, finding an
unknown pleasure in holding their skeins, in watching them at work, in
listening to their quiet prattle. The simplicity of this half-monastic
life, which revealed to him the beauty of these souls, unknown and
unknowing of the world, touched him keenly. He had believed such
morals impossible in France, and admitted their existence nowhere but
in Germany; even so, they seemed to him fabulous, only real in the
novels of Auguste Lafontaine. Soon Eugenie became to him the Margaret
of Goethe--before her fall. Day by day his words, his looks enraptured
the poor girl, who yielded herself up with delicious non-resistance to
the current of love; she caught her happiness as a swimmer seizes the
overhanging branch of a willow to draw himself from the river and lie
at rest upon its shore. Did no dread of a coming absence sadden the
happy hours of those fleeting days? Daily some little circumstance
reminded them of the parting that was at hand.
Three days after the departure of des Grassins, Grandet took his
nephew to the Civil courts, with the solemnity which country people
attach to all legal acts, that he might sign a deed surrendering his
rights in his father's estate. Terrible renunciation! species of
domestic apostasy! Charles also went before Maitre Cruchot to make two
powers of attorney,--one for des Grassins, the other for the friend
whom he had charged with the sale of his belongings. After that he
attended to all the formalities necessary to obtain a passport for
foreign countries; and finally, when he received his simple mourning
clothes from Paris, he sent for the tailor of Saumur and sold to him
his useless wardrobe. This last act pleased Grandet exceedingly.
"Ah! now you look like a man prepared to embark and make your
fortune," he said, when Charles appeared in a surtout of plain black
cloth. "Good! very good!"
"I hope you will believe, monsieur," answered his nephew, "that I
shall always try to conform to my situation."
"What's that?" said his uncle, his eyes lighting up at a handful of
gold which Charles was carrying.
"Monsieur, I have collected all my buttons and rings and other
superfluities which may have some value; but not knowing any one in
Saumur, I wanted to ask you to--"
"To buy them?" said Grandet, interrupting him.
"No, uncle; only to tell me of an honest man who--"
"Give me those things, I will go upstairs and estimate their value; I
will come back and tell you what it is to a fraction. Jeweller's
gold," examining a long chain, "eighteen or nineteen carats."
The goodman held out his huge hand and received the mass of gold,
which he carried away.
"Cousin," said Grandet, "may I offer you these two buttons? They can
fasten ribbons round your wrists; that sort of bracelet is much the
fashion just now."
"I accept without hesitation," she answered, giving him an
"Aunt, here is my mother's thimble; I have always kept it carefully in
my dressing-case," said Charles, presenting a pretty gold thimble to
Madame Grandet, who for many years had longed for one.
"I cannot thank you; no words are possible, my nephew," said the poor
mother, whose eyes filled with tears. "Night and morning in my prayers
I shall add one for you, the most earnest of all--for those who
travel. If I die, Eugenie will keep this treasure for you."
"They are worth nine hundred and eighty-nine francs, seventy-five
centimes," said Grandet, opening the door. "To save you the pain of
selling them, I will advance the money--in /livres/."
The word /livres/ on the littoral of the Loire signifies that crown
prices of six /livres/ are to be accepted as six francs without
"I dared not propose it to you," answered Charles; "but it was most
repugnant to me to sell my jewels to some second-hand dealer in your
own town. People should wash their dirty linen at home, as Napoleon
said. I thank you for your kindness."
Grandet scratched his ear, and there was a moment's silence.
"My dear uncle," resumed Charles, looking at him with an uneasy air,
as if he feared to wound his feelings, "my aunt and cousin have been
kind enough to accept a trifling remembrance of me. Will you allow me
to give you these sleeve-buttons, which are useless to me now? They
will remind you of a poor fellow who, far away, will always think of
those who are henceforth all his family."
"My lad, my lad, you mustn't rob yourself this way! Let me see, wife,
what have you got?" he added, turning eagerly to her. "Ah! a gold
thimble. And you, little girl? What! diamond buttons? Yes, I'll accept
your present, nephew," he answered, shaking Charles by the hand. "But
--you must let me--pay--your--yes, your passage to the Indies. Yes, I
wish to pay your passage because--d'ye see, my boy?--in valuing your
jewels I estimated only the weight of the gold; very likely the
workmanship is worth something. So let us settle it that I am to give
you fifteen hundred francs--in /livres/; Cruchot will lend them to me.
I haven't got a copper farthing here,--unless Perrotet, who is
behindhand with his rent, should pay up. By the bye, I'll go and see
He took his hat, put on his gloves, and went out.
"Then you are really going?" said Eugenie to her cousin, with a sad
look, mingled with admiration.
"I must," he said, bowing his head.
For some days past, Charles's whole bearing, manners, and speech had
become those of a man who, in spite of his profound affliction, feels
the weight of immense obligations and has the strength to gather
courage from misfortune. He no longer repined, he became a man.
Eugenie never augured better of her cousin's character than when she
saw him come down in the plain black clothes which suited well with
his pale face and sombre countenance. On that day the two women put on
their own mourning, and all three assisted at a Requiem celebrated in
the parish church for the soul of the late Guillaume Grandet.
At the second breakfast Charles received letters from Paris and began
to read them.
"Well, cousin, are you satisfied with the management of your affairs?"
said Eugenie in a low voice.
"Never ask such questions, my daughter," said Grandet. "What the
devil! do I tell you my affairs? Why do you poke your nose into your
cousin's? Let the lad alone!"
"Oh! I haven't any secrets," said Charles.
"Ta, ta, ta, ta, nephew; you'll soon find out that you must hold your
tongue in business."
When the two lovers were alone in the garden, Charles said to Eugenie,
drawing her down on the old bench beneath the walnut-tree,--
"I did right to trust Alphonse; he has done famously. He has managed
my affairs with prudence and good faith. I now owe nothing in Paris.
All my things have been sold; and he tells me that he has taken the
advice of an old sea-captain and spent three thousand francs on a
commercial outfit of European curiosities which will be sure to be in
demand in the Indies. He has sent my trunks to Nantes, where a ship is
loading for San Domingo. In five days, Eugenie, we must bid each other
farewell--perhaps forever, at least for years. My outfit and ten
thousand francs, which two of my friends send me, are a very small
beginning. I cannot look to return for many years. My dear cousin, do
not weight your life in the scales with mine; I may perish; some good
marriage may be offered to you--"
"Do you love me?" she said.
"Oh, yes! indeed, yes!" he answered, with a depth of tone that
revealed an equal depth of feeling.
"I shall wait, Charles--Good heavens! there is my father at his
window," she said, repulsing her cousin, who leaned forward to kiss
She ran quickly under the archway. Charles followed her. When she saw
him, she retreated to the foot of the staircase and opened the swing-
door; then, scarcely knowing where she was going, Eugenie reached the
corner near Nanon's den, in the darkest end of the passage. There
Charles caught her hand and drew her to his heart. Passing his arm
about her waist, he made her lean gently upon him. Eugenie no longer
resisted; she received and gave the purest, the sweetest, and yet,
withal, the most unreserved of kisses.
"Dear Eugenie, a cousin is better than a brother, for he can marry
you," said Charles.
"So be it!" cried Nanon, opening the door of her lair.
The two lovers, alarmed, fled into the hall, where Eugenie took up her
work and Charles began to read the litanies of the Virgin in Madame
"Mercy!" cried Nanon, "now they're saying their prayers."
As soon as Charles announced his immediate departure, Grandet
bestirred himself to testify much interest in his nephew. He became
very liberal of all that cost him nothing; took pains to find a
packer; declared the man asked too much for his cases; insisted on
making them himself out of old planks; got up early in the morning to
fit and plane and nail together the strips, out of which he made, to
his own satisfaction, some strong cases, in which he packed all
Charles's effects; he also took upon himself to send them by boat down
the Loire, to insure them, and get them to Nantes in proper time.
After the kiss taken in the passage, the hours fled for Eugenie with
frightful rapidity. Sometimes she thought of following her cousin.
Those who have known that most endearing of all passions,--the one
whose duration is each day shortened by time, by age, by mortal
illness, by human chances and fatalities,--they will understand the
poor girl's tortures. She wept as she walked in the garden, now so
narrow to her, as indeed the court, the house, the town all seemed.
She launched in thought upon the wide expanse of the ocean he was
about to traverse. At last the eve of his departure came. That
morning, in the absence of Grandet and of Nanon, the precious case
which contained the two portraits was solemnly installed in the only
drawer of the old cabinet which could be locked, where the now empty
velvet purse was lying. This deposit was not made without a goodly
number of tears and kisses. When Eugenie placed the key within her
bosom she had no courage to forbid the kiss with which Charles sealed
"It shall never leave that place, my friend," she said.
"Then my heart will be always there."
"Ah! Charles, it is not right," she said, as though she blamed him.
"Are we not married?" he said. "I have thy promise,--then take mine."
"Thine; I am thine forever!" they each said, repeating the words twice
No promise made upon this earth was ever purer. The innocent sincerity
of Eugenie had sanctified for a moment the young man's love.
On the morrow the breakfast was sad. Nanon herself, in spite of the
gold-embroidered robe and the Jeannette cross bestowed by Charles, had
tears in her eyes.
"The poor dear monsieur who is going on the seas--oh, may God guide
At half-past ten the whole family started to escort Charles to the
diligence for Nantes. Nanon let loose the dog, locked the door, and
insisted on carrying the young man's carpet-bag. All the tradesmen in
the tortuous old street were on the sill of their shop-doors to watch
the procession, which was joined in the market-place by Maitre
"Eugenie, be sure you don't cry," said her mother.
"Nephew," said Grandet, in the doorway of the inn from which the coach
started, kissing Charles on both cheeks, "depart poor, return rich;
you will find the honor of your father safe. I answer for that myself,
I--Grandet; for it will only depend on you to--"
"Ah! my uncle, you soften the bitterness of my departure. Is it not
the best gift that you could make me?"
Not understanding his uncle's words which he had thus interrupted,
Charles shed tears of gratitude upon the tanned cheeks of the old
miser, while Eugenie pressed the hand of her cousin and that of her
father with all her strength. The notary smiled, admiring the sly
speech of the old man, which he alone had understood. The family stood
about the coach until it started; then as it disappeared upon the
bridge, and its rumble grew fainter in the distance, Grandet said:
"Good-by to you!"
Happily no one but Maitre Cruchot heard the exclamation. Eugenie and
her mother had gone to a corner of the quay from which they could
still see the diligence and wave their white handkerchiefs, to which
Charles made answer by displaying his.
"Ah! mother, would that I had the power of God for a single moment,"
said Eugenie, when she could no longer see her lover's handkerchief.
Not to interrupt the current of events which are about to take place
in the bosom of the Grandet family, it is necessary to cast a
forestalling eye upon the various operations which the goodman carried
on in Paris by means of Monsieur des Grassins. A month after the
latter's departure from Saumur, Grandet, became possessed of a
certificate of a hundred thousand francs a year from his investment in
the Funds, bought at eighty francs net. The particulars revealed at
his death by the inventory of his property threw no light upon the
means which his suspicious nature took to remit the price of the
investment and receive the certificate thereof. Maitre Cruchot was of
opinion that Nanon, unknown to herself, was the trusty instrument by
which the money was transported; for about this time she was absent
five days, under a pretext of putting things to rights at Froidfond,--
as if the goodman were capable of leaving anything lying about or out
In all that concerned the business of the house of Guillaume Grandet
the old cooper's intentions were fulfilled to the letter. The Bank of
France, as everybody knows, affords exact information about all the
large fortunes in Paris and the provinces. The names of des Grassins
and Felix Grandet of Saumur were well known there, and they enjoyed
the esteem bestowed on financial celebrities whose wealth comes from
immense and unencumbered territorial possessions. The arrival of the
Saumur banker for the purpose, it was said, of honorably liquidating
the affairs of Grandet of Paris, was enough to avert the shame of
protested notes from the memory of the defunct merchant. The seals on
the property were taken off in presence of the creditors, and the
notary employed by Grandet went to work at once on the inventory of
the assets. Soon after this, des Grassins called a meeting of the
creditors, who unanimously elected him, conjointly with Francois
Keller, the head of a rich banking-house and one of those principally
interested in the affair, as liquidators, with full power to protect
both the honor of the family and the interests of the claimants. The
credit of Grandet of Saumur, the hopes he diffused by means of des
Grassins in the minds of all concerned, facilitated the transactions.
Not a single creditor proved recalcitrant; no one thought of passing
his claim to his profit-and-loss account; each and all said
confidently, "Grandet of Saumur will pay."
Six months went by. The Parisians had redeemed the notes in
circulation as they fell due, and held them under lock and key in
their desks. First result aimed at by the old cooper! Nine months
after this preliminary meeting, the two liquidators distributed forty-
seven per cent to each creditor on his claim. This amount was obtained
by the sale of the securities, property, and possessions of all kinds
belonging to the late Guillaume Grandet, and was paid over with
scrupulous fidelity. Unimpeachable integrity was shown in the
transaction. The creditors gratefully acknowledged the remarkable and
incontestable honor displayed by the Grandets. When these praises had
circulated for a certain length of time, the creditors asked for the
rest of their money. It became necessary to write a collective letter
to Grandet of Saumur.
"Here it comes!" said the old man as he threw the letter into the
fire. "Patience, my good friends!"
In answer to the proposals contained in the letter, Grandet of Saumur
demanded that all vouchers for claims against the estate of his
brother should be deposited with a notary, together with aquittances
for the forty-seven per cent already paid; he made this demand under
pretence of sifting the accounts and finding out the exact condition
of the estate. It roused at once a variety of difficulties. Generally
speaking, the creditor is a species of maniac, ready to agree to
anything one day, on the next breathing fire and slaughter; later on,
he grows amicable and easy-going. To-day his wife is good-humored, his
last baby has cut its first tooth, all is well at home, and he is
determined not to lose a sou; on the morrow it rains, he can't go out,
he is gloomy, he says yes to any proposal that is made to him, so long
as it will put an end to the affair; on the third day he declares he
must have guarantees; by the end of the month he wants his debtor's
head, and becomes at heart an executioner. The creditor is a good deal
like the sparrow on whose tail confiding children are invited to put
salt,--with this difference, that he applies the image to his claim,
the proceeds of which he is never able to lay hold of. Grandet had
studied the atmospheric variations of creditors, and the creditors of
his brother justified all his calculations. Some were angry, and
flatly refused to give in their vouchers.
"Very good; so much the better," said Grandet, rubbing his hands over
the letter in which des Grassins announced the fact.
Others agreed to the demand, but only on condition that their rights
should be fully guaranteed; they renounced none, and even reserved the
power of ultimately compelling a failure. On this began a long
correspondence, which ended in Grandet of Saumur agreeing to all
conditions. By means of this concession the placable creditors were
able to bring the dissatisfied creditors to reason. The deposit was
then made, but not without sundry complaints.
"Your goodman," they said to des Grassins, "is tricking us."
Twenty-three months after the death of Guillaume Grandet many of the
creditors, carried away by more pressing business in the markets of
Paris, had forgotten their Grandet claims, or only thought of them to
"I begin to believe that forty-seven per cent is all I shall ever get
out of that affair."
The old cooper had calculated on the power of time, which, as he used
to say, is a pretty good devil after all. By the end of the third year
des Grassins wrote to Grandet that he had brought the creditors to
agree to give up their claims for ten per cent on the two million four
hundred thousand francs still due by the house of Grandet. Grandet
answered that the notary and the broker whose shameful failures had
caused the death of his brother were still living, that they might now
have recovered their credit, and that they ought to be sued, so as to
get something out of them towards lessening the total of the deficit.
By the end of the fourth year the liabilities were definitely
estimated at a sum of twelve hundred thousand francs. Many
negotiations, lasting over six months, took place between the
creditors and the liquidators, and between the liquidators and
Grandet. To make a long story short, Grandet of Saumur, anxious by
this time to get out of the affair, told the liquidators, about the
ninth month of the fourth year, that his nephew had made a fortune in
the Indies and was disposed to pay his father's debts in full; he
therefore could not take upon himself to make any settlement without
previously consulting him; he had written to him, and was expecting an
answer. The creditors were held in check until the middle of the fifth
year by the words, "payment in full," which the wily old miser threw
out from time to time as he laughed in his beard, saying with a smile
and an oath, "Those Parisians!"
But the creditors were reserved for a fate unexampled in the annals of
commerce. When the events of this history bring them once more into
notice, they will be found still in the position Grandet had resolved
to force them into from the first.
As soon as the Funds reached a hundred and fifteen, Pere Grandet sold
out his interests and withdrew two million four hundred thousand
francs in gold, to which he added, in his coffers, the six hundred
thousand francs compound interest which he had derived from the
capital. Des Grassins now lived in Paris. In the first place he had
been made a deputy; then he became infatuated (father of a family as
he was, though horribly bored by the provincial life of Saumur) with a
pretty actress at the Theatre de Madame, known as Florine, and he
presently relapsed into the old habits of his army life. It is useless
to speak of his conduct; Saumur considered it profoundly immoral. His
wife was fortunate in the fact of her property being settled upon
herself, and in having sufficient ability to keep up the banking-house
in Saumur, which was managed in her name and repaired the breach in
her fortune caused by the extravagance of her husband. The Cruchotines
made so much talk about the false position of the quasi-widow that she
married her daughter very badly, and was forced to give up all hope of
an alliance between Eugenie Grandet and her son. Adolphe joined his
father in Paris and became, it was said, a worthless fellow. The
"Your husband hasn't common sense," said Grandet as he lent Madame des
Grassins some money on a note securely endorsed. "I am very sorry for
you, for you are a good little woman."
"Ah, monsieur," said the poor lady, "who could have believed that when
he left Saumur to go to Paris on your business he was going to his
"Heaven is my witness, madame, that up to the last moment I did all I
could to prevent him from going. Monsieur le president was most
anxious to take his place; but he was determined to go, and now we all
In this way Grandet made it quite plain that he was under no
obligation to des Grassins.
In all situations women have more cause for suffering than men, and
they suffer more. Man has strength and the power of exercising it; he
acts, moves, thinks, occupies himself; he looks ahead, and sees
consolation in the future. It was thus with Charles. But the woman
stays at home; she is always face to face with the grief from which
nothing distracts her; she goes down to the depths of the abyss which
yawns before her, measures it, and often fills it with her tears and
prayers. Thus did Eugenie. She initiated herself into her destiny. To
feel, to love, to suffer, to devote herself,--is not this the sum of
woman's life? Eugenie was to be in all things a woman, except in the
one thing that consoles for all. Her happiness, picked up like nails
scattered on a wall--to use the fine simile of Bossuet--would never so
much as fill even the hollow of her hand. Sorrows are never long in
coming; for her they came soon. The day after Charles's departure the
house of Monsieur Grandet resumed its ordinary aspect in the eyes of
all, except in those of Eugenie, to whom it grew suddenly empty. She
wished, if it could be done unknown to her father, that Charles's room
might be kept as he had left it. Madame Grandet and Nanon were willing
accomplices in this /statu quo/.
"Who knows but he may come back sooner than we think for?" she said.
"Ah, don't I wish I could see him back!" answered Nanon. "I took to
him! He was such a dear, sweet young man,--pretty too, with his curly
hair." Eugenie looked at Nanon. "Holy Virgin! don't look at me that
way, mademoiselle; your eyes are like those of a lost soul."
From that day the beauty of Mademoiselle Grandet took a new character.
The solemn thoughts of love which slowly filled her soul, and the
dignity of the woman beloved, gave to her features an illumination
such as painters render by a halo. Before the coming of her cousin,
Eugenie might be compared to the Virgin before the conception; after
he had gone, she was like the Virgin Mother,--she had given birth to
love. These two Marys so different, so well represented by Spanish
art, embody one of those shining symbols with which Christianity
Returning from Mass on the morning after Charles's departure,--having
made a vow to hear it daily,--Eugenie bought a map of the world, which
she nailed up beside her looking-glass, that she might follow her
cousin on his westward way, that she might put herself, were it ever
so little, day by day into the ship that bore him, and see him and ask
him a thousand questions,--"Art thou well? Dost thou suffer? Dost thou
think of me when the star, whose beauty and usefulness thou hast
taught me to know, shines upon thee?" In the mornings she sat pensive
beneath the walnut-tree, on the worm-eaten bench covered with gray
lichens, where they had said to each other so many precious things, so
many trifles, where they had built the pretty castles of their future
home. She thought of the future now as she looked upward to the bit of
sky which was all the high walls suffered her to see; then she turned
her eyes to the angle where the sun crept on, and to the roof above
the room in which he had slept. Hers was the solitary love, the
persistent love, which glides into every thought and becomes the
substance, or, as our fathers might have said, the tissue of life.
When the would-be friends of Pere Grandet came in the evening for
their game at cards, she was gay and dissimulating; but all the
morning she talked of Charles with her mother and Nanon. Nanon had
brought herself to see that she could pity the sufferings of her young
mistress without failing in her duty to the old master, and she would
say to Eugenie,--
"If I had a man for myself I'd--I'd follow him to hell, yes, I'd
exterminate myself for him; but I've none. I shall die and never know
what life is. Would you believe, mamz'elle, that old Cornoiller (a
good fellow all the same) is always round my petticoats for the sake
of my money,--just for all the world like the rats who come smelling
after the master's cheese and paying court to you? I see it all; I've
got a shrewd eye, though I am as big as a steeple. Well, mamz'elle, it
pleases me, but it isn't love."
Two months went by. This domestic life, once so monotonous, was now
quickened with the intense interest of a secret that bound these women
intimately together. For them Charles lived and moved beneath the grim
gray rafters of the hall. Night and morning Eugenie opened the
dressing-case and gazed at the portrait of her aunt. One Sunday
morning her mother surprised her as she stood absorbed in finding her
cousin's features in his mother's face. Madame Grandet was then for
the first time admitted into the terrible secret of the exchange made
by Charles against her daughter's treasure.
"You gave him all!" cried the poor mother, terrified. "What will you
say to your father on New Year's Day when he asks to see your gold?"
Eugenie's eyes grew fixed, and the two women lived through mortal
terror for more than half the morning. They were so troubled in mind
that they missed high Mass, and only went to the military service. In
three days the year 1819 would come to an end. In three days a
terrible drama would begin, a bourgeois tragedy, without poison, or
dagger, or the spilling of blood; but--as regards the actors in it--
more cruel than all the fabled horrors in the family of the Atrides.
"What will become of us?" said Madame Grandet to her daughter, letting
her knitting fall upon her knees.
The poor mother had gone through such anxiety for the past two months
that the woollen sleeves which she needed for the coming winter were
not yet finished. This domestic fact, insignificant as it seems, bore
sad results. For want of those sleeves, a chill seized her in the
midst of a sweat caused by a terrible explosion of anger on the part
of her husband.
"I have been thinking, my poor child, that if you had confided your
secret to me we should have had time to write to Monsieur des Grassins
in Paris. He might have sent us gold pieces like yours; though Grandet
knows them all, perhaps--"
"Where could we have got the money?"
"I would have pledged my own property. Besides, Monsieur des Grassins
"It is too late," said Eugenie in a broken, hollow voice. "To-morrow
morning we must go and wish him a happy New Year in his chamber."
"But, my daughter, why should I not consult the Cruchots?"
"No, no; it would be delivering me up to them, and putting ourselves
in their power. Besides, I have chosen my course. I have done right, I
repent of nothing. God will protect me. His will be done! Ah! mother,
if you had read his letter, you, too, would have thought only of him."
The next morning, January 1, 1820, the horrible fear to which mother
and daughter were a prey suggested to their minds a natural excuse by
which to escape the solemn entrance into Grandet's chamber. The winter
of 1819-1820 was one of the coldest of that epoch. The snow encumbered
Madame Grandet called to her husband as soon as she heard him stirring
in his chamber, and said,--
"Grandet, will you let Nanon light a fire here for me? The cold is so
sharp that I am freezing under the bedclothes. At my age I need some
comforts. Besides," she added, after a slight pause, "Eugenie shall
come and dress here; the poor child might get an illness from dressing
in her cold room in such weather. Then we will go and wish you a happy
New Year beside the fire in the hall."
"Ta, ta, ta, ta, what a tongue! a pretty way to begin the new year,
Madame Grandet! You never talked so much before; but you haven't been
sopping your bread in wine, I know that."
There was a moment's silence.
"Well," resumed the goodman, who no doubt had some reason of his own
for agreeing to his wife's request, "I'll do what you ask, Madame
Grandet. You are a good woman, and I don't want any harm to happen to
you at your time of life,--though as a general thing the Bertellieres
are as sound as a roach. Hein! isn't that so?" he added after a pause.
"Well, I forgive them; we got their property in the end." And he
"You are very gay this morning, monsieur," said the poor woman
"I'm always gay,--
"'Gai, gai, gai, le tonnelier,
Raccommodez votre cuvier!'"
he answered, entering his wife's room fully dressed. "Yes, on my word,
it is cold enough to freeze you solid. We shall have a fine breakfast,
wife. Des Grassins has sent me a pate-de-foie-gras truffled! I am
going now to get it at the coach-office. There'll be a double napoleon
for Eugenie in the package," he whispered in Madame Grandet's ear. "I
have no gold left, wife. I had a few stray pieces--I don't mind
telling you that--but I had to let them go in business."
Then, by way of celebrating the new year, he kissed her on the
"Eugenie," cried the mother, when Grandet was fairly gone, "I don't
know which side of the bed your father got out of, but he is good-
tempered this morning. Perhaps we shall come out safe after all?"
"What's happened to the master?" said Nanon, entering her mistress's
room to light the fire. "First place, he said, 'Good-morning; happy
New Year, you big fool! Go and light my wife's fire, she's cold'; and
then, didn't I feel silly when he held out his hand and gave me a six-
franc piece, which isn't worn one bit? Just look at it, madame! Oh,
the kind man! He is a good man, that's a fact. There are some people
who the older they get the harder they grow; but he,--why he's getting
soft and improving with time, like your ratafia! He is a good, good
The secret of Grandet's joy lay in the complete success of his
speculation. Monsieur des Grassins, after deducting the amount which
the old cooper owed him for the discount on a hundred and fifty
thousand francs in Dutch notes, and for the surplus which he had
advanced to make up the sum required for the investment in the Funds
which was to produce a hundred thousand francs a year, had now sent
him, by the diligence, thirty thousand francs in silver coin, the
remainder of his first half-year's interest, informing him at the same
time that the Funds had already gone up in value. They were then
quoted at eighty-nine; the shrewdest capitalists bought in, towards
the last of January, at ninety-three. Grandet had thus gained in two
months twelve per cent on his capital; he had simplified his accounts,
and would in future receive fifty thousand francs interest every six
months, without incurring any taxes or costs for repairs. He
understood at last what it was to invest money in the public
securities,--a system for which provincials have always shown a marked
repugnance,--and at the end of five years he found himself master of a
capital of six millions, which increased without much effort of his
own, and which, joined to the value and proceeds of his territorial
possessions, gave him a fortune that was absolutely colossal. The six
francs bestowed on Nanon were perhaps the reward of some great service
which the poor servant had rendered to her master unawares.
"Oh! oh! where's Pere Grandet going? He has been scurrying about since
sunrise as if to a fire," said the tradespeople to each other as they
opened their shops for the day.
When they saw him coming back from the wharf, followed by a porter
from the coach-office wheeling a barrow which was laden with sacks,
they all had their comments to make:--
"Water flows to the river; the old fellow was running after his gold,"
"He gets it from Paris and Froidfond and Holland," said another.
"He'll end by buying up Saumur," cried a third.
"He doesn't mind the cold, he's so wrapped up in his gains," said a
wife to her husband.
"Hey! hey! Monsieur Grandet, if that's too heavy for you," said a
cloth-dealer, his nearest neighbor, "I'll take it off your hands."
"Heavy?" said the cooper, "I should think so; it's all sous!"
"Silver sous," said the porter in a low voice.
"If you want me to take care of you, keep your tongue between your
teeth," said the goodman to the porter as they reached the door.
"The old fox! I thought he was deaf; seems he can hear fast enough in
"Here's twenty sous for your New Year, and /mum/!" said Grandet. "Be
off with you! Nanon shall take back your barrow. Nanon, are the
linnets at church?"
"Then lend a hand! go to work!" he cried, piling the sacks upon her.
In a few moments all were carried up to his inner room, where he shut
himself in with them. "When breakfast is ready, knock on the wall," he
said as he disappeared. "Take the barrow back to the coach-office."
The family did not breakfast that day until ten o'clock.
"Your father will not ask to see your gold downstairs," said Madame
Grandet as they got back from Mass. "You must pretend to be very
chilly. We may have time to replace the treasure before your fete-
Grandet came down the staircase thinking of his splendid speculation
in government securities, and wondering how he could metamorphose his
Parisian silver into solid gold; he was making up his mind to invest
in this way everything he could lay hands on until the Funds should
reach a par value. Fatal reverie for Eugenie! As soon as he came in,
the two women wished him a happy New Year,--his daughter by putting
her arms round his neck and caressing him; Madame Grandet gravely and
"Ha! ha! my child," he said, kissing his daughter on both cheeks. "I
work for you, don't you see? I think of your happiness. Must have
money to be happy. Without money there's not a particle of happiness.
Here! there's a new napoleon for you. I sent to Paris for it. On my
word of honor, it's all the gold I have; you are the only one that has
got any gold. I want to see your gold, little one."
"Oh! it is too cold; let us have breakfast," answered Eugenie.
"Well, after breakfast, then; it will help the digestion. That fat
des Grassins sent me the pate. Eat as much as you like, my children,
it costs nothing. Des Grassins is getting along very well. I am
satisfied with him. The old fish is doing Charles a good service, and
gratis too. He is making a very good settlement of that poor deceased
Grandet's business. Hoo! hoo!" he muttered, with his mouth full, after
a pause, "how good it is! Eat some, wife; that will feed you for at
least two days."
"I am not hungry. I am very poorly; you know that."
"Ah, bah! you can stuff yourself as full as you please without danger,
you're a Bertelliere; they are all hearty. You are a bit yellow,
that's true; but I like yellow, myself."
The expectation of ignominious and public death is perhaps less
horrible to a condemned criminal than the anticipation of what was
coming after breakfast to Madame Grandet and Eugenie. The more
gleefully the old man talked and ate, the more their hearts shrank
within them. The daughter, however, had an inward prop at this crisis,
--she gathered strength through love.
"For him! for him!" she cried within her, "I would die a thousand
At this thought, she shot a glance at her mother which flamed with
"Clear away," said Grandet to Nanon when, about eleven o'clock,
breakfast was over, "but leave the table. We can spread your little
treasure upon it," he said, looking at Eugenie. "Little? Faith! no; it
isn't little. You possess, in actual value, five thousand nine hundred
and fifty-nine francs and the forty I gave you just now. That makes
six thousand francs, less one. Well, now see here, little one! I'll
give you that one franc to make up the round number. Hey! what are you
listening for, Nanon? Mind your own business; go and do your work."
"Now listen, Eugenie; you must give me back your gold. You won't
refuse your father, my little girl, hein?"
The two women were dumb.
"I have no gold myself. I had some, but it is all gone. I'll give you
in return six thousand francs in /livres/, and you are to put them
just where I tell you. You mustn't think anything more about your
'dozen.' When I marry you (which will be soon) I shall get you a
husband who can give you the finest 'dozen' ever seen in the
provinces. Now attend to me, little girl. There's a fine chance for
you; you can put your six thousand francs into government funds, and
you will receive every six months nearly two hundred francs interest,
without taxes, or repairs, or frost, or hail, or floods, or anything
else to swallow up the money. Perhaps you don't like to part with your
gold, hey, my girl? Never mind, bring it to me all the same. I'll get
you some more like it,--like those Dutch coins and the /portugaises/,
the rupees of Mogul, and the /genovines/,--I'll give you some more on
your fete-days, and in three years you'll have got back half your
little treasure. What's that you say? Look up, now. Come, go and get
it, the precious metal. You ought to kiss me on the eyelids for
telling you the secrets and the mysteries of the life and death of
money. Yes, silver and gold live and swarm like men; they come, and
go, and sweat, and multiply--"
Eugenie rose; but after making a few steps towards the door she turned
abruptly, looked her father in the face, and said,--
"I have not got /my/ gold."
"You have not got your gold!" cried Grandet, starting up erect, like a
horse that hears a cannon fired beside him.
"No, I have not got it."
"You are mistaken, Eugenie."
"By the shears of my father!"
Whenever the old man swore that oath the rafters trembled.
"Holy Virgin! Madame is turning pale," cried Nanon.
"Grandet, your anger will kill me," said the poor mother.
"Ta, ta, ta, ta! nonsense; you never die in your family! Eugenie, what
have you done with your gold?" he cried, rushing upon her.
"Monsieur," said the daughter, falling at Madame Grandet's knees, "my
mother is ill. Look at her; do not kill her."
Grandet was frightened by the pallor which overspread his wife's face,
usually so yellow.
"Nanon, help me to bed," said the poor woman in a feeble voice; "I am
Nanon gave her mistress an arm, Eugenie gave her another; but it was
only with infinite difficulty that they could get her upstairs, she
fell with exhaustion at every step. Grandet remained alone. However,
in a few moments he went up six or eight stairs and called out,--
"Eugenie, when your mother is in bed, come down."
She soon came, after reassuring her mother.
"My daughter," said Grandet, "you will now tell me what you have done
with your gold."
"My father, if you make me presents of which I am not the sole
mistress, take them back," she answered coldly, picking up the
napoleon from the chimney-piece and offering it to him.
Grandet seized the coin and slipped it into his breeches' pocket.
"I shall certainly never give you anything again. Not so much as
that!" he said, clicking his thumb-nail against a front tooth. "Do you
dare to despise your father? have you no confidence in him? Don't you
know what a father is? If he is nothing for you, he is nothing at all.
Where is your gold?"
"Father, I love and respect you, in spite of your anger; but I humbly
ask you to remember that I am twenty-three years old. You have told me
often that I have attained my majority, and I do not forget it. I have
used my money as I chose to use it, and you may be sure that it was
put to a good use--"
"That is an inviolable secret," she answered. "Have you no secrets?"
"I am the head of the family; I have my own affairs."
"And this is mine."
"It must be something bad if you can't tell it to your father,
"It is good, and I cannot tell it to my father."
"At least you can tell me when you parted with your gold?"
Eugenie made a negative motion with her head.
"You had it on your birthday, hein?"
She grew as crafty through love as her father was through avarice, and
reiterated the negative sign.
"Was there ever such obstinacy! It's a theft," cried Grandet, his
voice going up in a crescendo which gradually echoed through the
house. "What! here, in my own home, under my very eyes, somebody has
taken your gold!--the only gold we have!--and I'm not to know who has
got it! Gold is a precious thing. Virtuous girls go wrong sometimes,
and give--I don't know what; they do it among the great people, and
even among the bourgeoisie. But give their gold!--for you have given
it to some one, hein?--"
Eugenie was silent and impassive.
"Was there ever such a daughter? Is it possible that I am your father?
If you have invested it anywhere, you must have a receipt--"
"Was I free--yes or no--to do what I would with my own? Was it not
"You are a child."
Dumbfounded by his daughter's logic, Grandet turned pale and stamped
and swore. When at last he found words, he cried: "Serpent! Cursed
girl! Ah, deceitful creature! You know I love you, and you take
advantage of it. She'd cut her father's throat! Good God! you've given
our fortune to that ne'er-do-well,--that dandy with morocco boots! By
the shears of my father! I can't disinherit you, but I curse you,--you
and your cousin and your children! Nothing good will come of it! Do
you hear? If it was to Charles--but, no; it's impossible. What! has
that wretched fellow robbed me?--"
He looked at his daughter, who continued cold and silent.
"She won't stir; she won't flinch! She's more Grandet than I'm
Grandet! Ha! you have not given your gold for nothing? Come, speak the
Eugenie looked at her father with a sarcastic expression that stung
"Eugenie, you are here, in my house,--in your father's house. If you
wish to stay here, you must submit yourself to me. The priests tell
you to obey me." Eugenie bowed her head. "You affront me in all I hold
most dear. I will not see you again until you submit. Go to your
chamber. You will stay there till I give you permission to leave it.
Nanon will bring you bread and water. You hear me--go!"
Eugenie burst into tears and fled up to her mother. Grandet, after
marching two or three times round the garden in the snow without
heeding the cold, suddenly suspected that his daughter had gone to her
mother; only too happy to find her disobedient to his orders, he
climbed the stairs with the agility of a cat and appeared in Madame
Grandet's room just as she was stroking Eugenie's hair, while the
girl's face was hidden in her motherly bosom.
"Be comforted, my poor child," she was saying; "your father will get
"She has no father!" said the old man. "Can it be you and I, Madame
Grandet, who have given birth to such a disobedient child? A fine
education,--religious, too! Well! why are you not in your chamber?
Come, to prison, to prison, mademoiselle!"
"Would you deprive me of my daughter, monsieur?" said Madame Grandet,
turning towards him a face that was now red with fever.
"If you want to keep her, carry her off! Clear out--out of my house,
both of you! Thunder! where is the gold? what's become of the gold?"
Eugenie rose, looked proudly at her father, and withdrew to her room.
Grandet turned the key of the door.
"Nanon," he cried, "put out the fire in the hall."
Then he sat down in an armchair beside his wife's fire and said to
"Undoubtedly she has given the gold to that miserable seducer,
Charles, who only wanted our money."
"I knew nothing about it," she answered, turning to the other side of
the bed, that she might escape the savage glances of her husband. "I
suffer so much from your violence that I shall never leave this room,
if I trust my own presentiments, till I am carried out of it in my
coffin. You ought to have spared me this suffering, monsieur,--you, to
whom I have caused no pain; that is, I think so. Your daughter loves
you. I believe her to be as innocent as the babe unborn. Do not make
her wretched. Revoke your sentence. The cold is very severe; you may
give her some serious illness."
"I will not see her, neither will I speak to her. She shall stay in
her room, on bread and water, until she submits to her father. What
the devil! shouldn't a father know where the gold in his house has
gone to? She owned the only rupees in France, perhaps, and the Dutch
ducats and the /genovines/--"
"Monsieur, Eugenie is our only child; and even if she had thrown them
into the water--"
"Into the water!" cried her husband; "into the water! You are crazy,
Madame Grandet! What I have said is said; you know that well enough.
If you want peace in this household, make your daughter confess, pump
it out of her. Women understand how to do that better than we do.
Whatever she has done, I sha'n't eat her. Is she afraid of me? Even if
she has plastered Charles with gold from head to foot, he is on the
high seas, and nobody can get at him, hein!"
"But, monsieur--" Excited by the nervous crisis through which she had
passed, and by the fate of her daughter, which brought forth all her
tenderness and all her powers of mind, Madame Grandet suddenly
observed a frightful movement of her husband's wen, and, in the very
act of replying, she changed her speech without changing the tones of
her voice,--"But, monsieur, I have not more influence over her than
you have. She has said nothing to me; she takes after you."
"Tut, tut! Your tongue is hung in the middle this morning. Ta, ta, ta,
ta! You are setting me at defiance, I do believe. I daresay you are in
league with her."
He looked fixedly at his wife.
"Monsieur Grandet, if you wish to kill me, you have only to go on like
this. I tell you, monsieur,--and if it were to cost me my life, I
would say it,--you do wrong by your daughter; she is more in the right
than you are. That money belonged to her; she is incapable of making
any but a good use of it, and God alone has the right to know our good
deeds. Monsieur, I implore you, take Eugenie back into favor; forgive
her. If you will do this you will lessen the injury your anger has
done me; perhaps you will save my life. My daughter! oh, monsieur,
give me back my daughter!"
"I shall decamp," he said; "the house is not habitable. A mother and
daughter talking and arguing like that! Broooouh! Pouah! A fine New
Year's present you've made me, Eugenie," he called out. "Yes, yes, cry
away! What you've done will bring you remorse, do you hear? What's the
good of taking the sacrament six times every three months, if you give
away your father's gold secretly to an idle fellow who'll eat your
heart out when you've nothing else to give him? You'll find out some
day what your Charles is worth, with his morocco boots and
supercilious airs. He has got neither heart nor soul if he dared to
carry off a young girl's treasure without the consent of her parents."
When the street-door was shut, Eugenie came out of her room and went
to her mother.
"What courage you have had for your daughter's sake!" she said.
"Ah! my child, see where forbidden things may lead us. You forced me
to tell a lie."
"I will ask God to punish only me."
"Is it true," cried Nanon, rushing in alarmed, "that mademoiselle is
to be kept on bread and water for the rest of her life?"
"What does that signify, Nanon?" said Eugenie tranquilly.
"Goodness! do you suppose I'll eat /frippe/ when the daughter of the
house is eating dry bread? No, no!"
"Don't say a word about all this, Nanon," said Eugenie.
"I'll be as mute as a fish; but you'll see!"
Grandet dined alone for the first time in twenty-four years.
"So you're a widower, monsieur," said Nanon; "it must be disagreeable
to be a widower with two women in the house."
"I did not speak to you. Hold your jaw, or I'll turn you off! What is
that I hear boiling in your saucepan on the stove?"
"It is grease I'm trying out."
"There will be some company to-night. Light the fire."
The Cruchots, Madame des Grassins, and her son arrived at the usual
hour of eight, and were surprised to see neither Madame Grandet nor
"My wife is not very well, and Eugenie is with her," said the old
wine-grower, whose face betrayed no emotion.
At the end of an hour spent in idle conversation, Madame des Grassins,
who had gone up to see Madame Grandet, came down, and every one
"How is Madame Grandet?"
"Not at all well," she answered; "her condition seems to me really
alarming. At her age you ought to take every precaution, Papa
"We'll see about it," said the old man in an absent way.
They all wished him good-night. When the Cruchots got into the street
Madame des Grassins said to them,--
"There is something going on at the Grandets. The mother is very ill
without her knowing it. The girl's eyes are red, as if she had been
crying all day. Can they be trying to marry her against her will?"
When Grandet had gone to bed Nanon came softly to Eugenie's room in
her stockinged feet and showed her a pate baked in a saucepan.
"See, mademoiselle," said the good soul, "Cornoiller gave me a hare.
You eat so little that this pate will last you full a week; in such
frosty weather it won't spoil. You sha'n't live on dry bread, I'm
determined; it isn't wholesome."
"Poor Nanon!" said Eugenie, pressing her hand.
"I've made it downright good and dainty, and /he/ never found it out.
I bought the lard and the spices out of my six francs: I'm the
mistress of my own money"; and she disappeared rapidly, fancying she
For several months the old wine-grower came constantly to his wife's
room at all hours of the day, without ever uttering his daughter's
name, or seeing her, or making the smallest allusion to her. Madame
Grandet did not leave her chamber, and daily grew worse. Nothing
softened the old man; he remained unmoved, harsh, and cold as a
granite rock. He continued to go and come about his business as usual;
but ceased to stutter, talked less, and was more obdurate in business
transactions than ever before. Often he made mistakes in adding up his
"Something is going on at the Grandets," said the Grassinists and the
"What has happened in the Grandet family?" became a fixed question
which everybody asked everybody else at the little evening-parties of
Saumur. Eugenie went to Mass escorted by Nanon. If Madame des Grassins
said a few words to her on coming out of church, she answered in an
evasive manner, without satisfying any curiosity. However, at the end
of two months, it became impossible to hide, either from the three
Cruchots or from Madame des Grassins, the fact that Eugenie was in
confinement. There came a moment when all pretexts failed to explain
her perpetual absence. Then, though it was impossible to discover by
whom the secret had been betrayed, all the town became aware that ever
since New Year's day Mademoiselle Grandet had been kept in her room
without fire, on bread and water, by her father's orders, and that
Nanon cooked little dainties and took them to her secretly at night.
It was even known that the young woman was not able to see or take
care of her mother, except at certain times when her father was out of
Grandet's conduct was severely condemned. The whole town outlawed him,
so to speak; they remembered his treachery, his hard-heartedness, and
they excommunicated him. When he passed along the streets, people
pointed him out and muttered at him. When his daughter came down the
winding street, accompanied by Nanon, on her way to Mass or Vespers,
the inhabitants ran to the windows and examined with intense curiosity
the bearing of the rich heiress and her countenance, which bore the
impress of angelic gentleness and melancholy. Her imprisonment and the
condemnation of her father were as nothing to her. Had she not a map
of the world, the little bench, the garden, the angle of the wall? Did
she not taste upon her lips the honey that love's kisses left there?
She was ignorant for a time that the town talked about her, just as
Grandet himself was ignorant of it. Pious and pure in heart before
God, her conscience and her love helped her to suffer patiently the
wrath and vengeance of her father.
One deep grief silenced all others. Her mother, that gentle, tender
creature, made beautiful by the light which shone from the inner to
the outer as she approached the tomb,--her mother was perishing from
day to day. Eugenie often reproached herself as the innocent cause of
the slow, cruel malady that was wasting her away. This remorse, though
her mother soothed it, bound her still closer to her love. Every
morning, as soon as her father left the house, she went to the bedside
of her mother, and there Nanon brought her breakfast. The poor girl,
sad, and suffering through the sufferings of her mother, would turn
her face to the old servant with a mute gesture, weeping, and yet not
daring to speak of her cousin. It was Madame Grandet who first found
courage to say,--
"Where is /he/? Why does /he/ not write?"
"Let us think about him, mother, but not speak of him. You are ill--
you, before all."
"All" meant "him."
"My child," said Madame Grandet, "I do not wish to live. God protects
me and enables me to look with joy to the end of my misery."
Every utterance of this woman was unfalteringly pious and Christian.
Sometimes, during the first months of the year, when her husband came
to breakfast with her and tramped up and down the room, she would say
to him a few religious words, always spoken with angelic sweetness,
yet with the firmness of a woman to whom approaching death lends a
courage she had lacked in life.
"Monsieur, I thank you for the interest you take in my health," she
would answer when he made some commonplace inquiry; "but if you really
desire to render my last moments less bitter and to ease my grief,
take back your daughter: be a Christian, a husband, and a father."
When he heard these words, Grandet would sit down by the bed with the
air of a man who sees the rain coming and quietly gets under the
shelter of a gateway till it is over. When these touching, tender, and
religious supplications had all been made, he would say,--
"You are rather pale to-day, my poor wife."
Absolute forgetfulness of his daughter seemed graven on his stony
brow, on his closed lips. He was unmoved by the tears which flowed
down the white cheeks of his unhappy wife as she listened to his
"May God pardon you," she said, "even as I pardon you! You will some
day stand in need of mercy."
Since Madame Grandet's illness he had not dared to make use of his
terrible "Ta, ta, ta, ta!" Yet, for all that, his despotic nature was
not disarmed by this angel of gentleness, whose ugliness day by day
decreased, driven out by the ineffable expression of moral qualities
which shone upon her face. She was all soul. The spirit of prayer
seemed to purify her and refine those homely features and make them
luminous. Who has not seen the phenomenon of a like transfiguration on
sacred faces where the habits of the soul have triumphed over the
plainest features, giving them that spiritual illumination whose light
comes from the purity and nobility of the inward thought? The
spectacle of this transformation wrought by the struggle which
consumed the last shreds of the human life of this woman, did somewhat
affect the old cooper, though feebly, for his nature was of iron; if
his language ceased to be contemptuous, an imperturbable silence,
which saved his dignity as master of the household, took its place and
ruled his conduct.