Part 5 out of 6
That day had gone by like a dream for Eugene, and the sense of
unreality lasted into the evening; so that, in spite of his energetic
character and clear-headedness, his ideas were a chaos as he sat
beside Goriot in the cab. The old man's voice was full of unwonted
happiness, but Eugene had been shaken by so many emotions that the
words sounded in his ears like words spoken in a dream.
"It was finished this morning! All three of us are going to dine there
together, together! Do you understand? I have not dined with my
Delphine, my little Delphine, these four years, and I shall have her
for a whole evening! We have been at your lodging the whole time since
morning. I have been working like a porter in my shirt sleeves,
helping to carry in the furniture. Aha! you don't know what pretty
ways she has; at table she will look after me, 'Here, papa, just try
this, it is nice.' And I shall not be able to eat. Oh, it is a long
while since I have been with her in quiet every-day life as we shall
"It really seems as if the world has been turned upside down."
"Upside down?" repeated Father Goriot. "Why, the world has never been
so right-side up. I see none but smiling faces in the streets, people
who shake hands cordially and embrace each other, people who all look
as happy as if they were going to dine with their daughter, and gobble
down a nice little dinner that she went with me to order of the chef
at the Cafe des Anglais. But, pshaw! with her beside you gall and
wormwood would be as sweet as honey."
"I feel as if I were coming back to life again," said Eugene.
"Why, hurry up there!" cried Father Goriot, letting down the window in
front. "Get on faster; I will give you five francs if you get to the
place I told you of in ten minutes time."
With this prospect before him the cabman crossed Paris with miraculous
"How that fellow crawls!" said Father Goriot.
"But where are you taking me?" Eugene asked him.
"To your own house," said Goriot.
The cab stopped in the Rue d'Artois. Father Goriot stepped out first
and flung ten francs to the man with the recklessness of a widower
returning to bachelor ways.
"Come along upstairs," he said to Rastignac. They crossed a courtyard,
and climbed up to the third floor of a new and handsome house. There
they stopped before a door; but before Goriot could ring, it was
opened by Therese, Mme. de Nucingen's maid. Eugene found himself in a
charming set of chambers; an ante-room, a little drawing-room, a
bedroom, and a study, looking out upon a garden. The furniture and the
decorations of the little drawing-room were of the most daintily
charming description, the room was full of soft light, and Delphine
rose up from a low chair by the fire and stood before him. She set her
fire-screen down on the chimney-piece, and spoke with tenderness in
every tone of her voice.
"So we had to go in search of you, sir, you who are so slow to
Therese left the room. The student took Delphine in his arms and held
her in a tight clasp, his eyes filled with tears of joy. This last
contrast between his present surroundings and the scenes he had just
witnessed was too much for Rastignac's over-wrought nerves, after the
day's strain and excitement that had wearied heart and brain; he was
almost overcome by it.
"I felt sure myself that he loved you," murmured Father Goriot, while
Eugene lay back bewildered on the sofa, utterly unable to speak a word
or to reason out how and why the magic wand had been waved to bring
about this final transformation scene.
"But you must see your rooms," said Mme. de Nucingen. She took his
hand and led him into a room carpeted and furnished like her own;
indeed, down to the smallest details, it was a reproduction in
miniature of Delphine's apartment.
"There is no bed," said Rastignac.
"No, monsieur," she answered, reddening, and pressing his hand.
Eugene, looking at her, understood, young though he yet was, how
deeply modesty is implanted in the heart of a woman who loves.
"You are one of those beings whom we cannot choose but to adore for
ever," he said in her ear. "Yes, the deeper and truer love is, the
more mysterious and closely veiled it should be; I can dare to say so,
since we understand each other so well. No one shall learn our
"Oh! so I am nobody, I suppose," growled the father.
"You know quite well that 'we' means you."
"Ah! that is what I wanted. You will not mind me, will you? I shall go
and come like a good fairy who makes himself felt everywhere without
being seen, shall I not? Eh, Delphinette, Ninette, Dedel--was it not a
good idea of mine to say to you, 'There are some nice rooms to let in
the Rue d'Artois; let us furnish them for him?' And she would not hear
of it! Ah! your happiness has been all my doing. I am the author of
your happiness and of your existence. Fathers must always be giving if
they would be happy themselves; always giving--they would not be
"Was that how it happened?" asked Eugene.
"Yes. She would not listen to me. She was afraid that people would
talk, as if the rubbish that they say about you were to be compared
with happiness! Why, all women dream of doing what she has done----"
Father Goriot found himself without an audience, for Mme. de Nucingen
had led Rastignac into the study; he heard a kiss given and taken, low
though the sound was.
The study was furnished as elegantly as the other rooms, and nothing
was wanting there.
"Have we guessed your wishes rightly?" she asked, as they returned to
the drawing-room for dinner.
"Yes," he said, "only too well, alas! For all this luxury so well
carried out, this realization of pleasant dreams, the elegance that
satisfies all the romantic fancies of youth, appeals to me so strongly
that I cannot but feel that it is my rightful possession, but I cannot
accept it from you, and I am too poor as yet to----"
"Ah! ah! you say me nay already," she said with arch imperiousness,
and a charming little pout of the lips, a woman's way of laughing away
But Eugene had submitted so lately to that solemn self-questioning,
and Vautrin's arrest had so plainly shown him the depths of the pit
that lay ready to his feet, that the instincts of generosity and honor
had been strengthened in him, and he could not allow himself to be
coaxed into abandoning his high-minded determinations. Profound
melancholy filled his mind.
"Do you really mean to refuse?" said Mme. de Nucingen. "And do you
know what such a refusal means? That you are not sure of yourself,
that you do not dare to bind yourself to me. Are you really afraid of
betraying my affection? If you love me, if I--love you, why should
you shrink back from such a slight obligation? If you but knew what a
pleasure it has been to see after all the arrangements of this
bachelor establishment, you would not hesitate any longer, you would
ask me to forgive you for your hesitation. I had some money that
belonged to you, and I have made good use of it, that is all. You mean
this for magnanimity, but it is very little of you. You are asking me
for far more than this. . . . Ah!" she cried, as Eugene's passionate
glance was turned on her, "and you are making difficulties about the
merest trifles. Of, if you feel no love whatever for me, refuse, by
all means. My fate hangs on a word from you. Speak!--Father," she
said after a pause, "make him listen to reason. Can he imagine that I
am less nice than he is on the point of honor?"
Father Goriot was looking on and listening to this pretty quarrel with
a placid smile, as if he had found some balm for all the sorrows of
"Child that you are!" she cried again, catching Eugene's hand. "You
are just beginning life; you find barriers at the outset that many a
man finds insurmountable; a woman's hand opens the way and you shrink
back! Why, you are sure to succeed! You will have a brilliant future.
Success is written on that broad forehead of yours, and will you not
be able to repay me my loan of today? Did not a lady in olden times
arm her knight with sword and helmet and coat of mail, and find him a
charger, so that he might fight for her in the tournament? Well, then,
Eugene, these things that I offer you are the weapons of this age;
every one who means to be something must have such tools as these. A
pretty place your garret must be if it is like papa's room! See,
dinner is waiting all this time. Do you want to make me unhappy?--Why
don't you answer?" she said, shaking his hand. "/Mon Dieu!/ papa, make
up his mind for him, or I will go away and never see him any more."
"I will make up your mind," said Goriot, coming down from the clouds.
"Now, my dear M. Eugene, the next thing is to borrow money of the
Jews, isn't it?"
"There is positively no help for it," said Eugene.
"All right, I will give you credit," said the other, drawing out a
cheap leather pocket-book, much the worse for wear. "I have turned Jew
myself; I paid for everything; here are the invoices. You do not owe a
penny for anything here. It did not come to very much--five thousand
francs at most, and I am going to lend you the money myself. I am not
a woman--you can refuse me. You shall give me a receipt on a scrap of
paper, and you can return it some time or other."
Delphine and Eugene looked at each other in amazement, tears sprang to
their eyes. Rastignac held out his hand and grasped Goriot's warmly.
"Well, what is all this about? Are you not my children?"
"Oh! my poor father," said Mme. de Nucingen, "how did you do it?"
"Ah! now you ask me. When I made up my mind to move him nearer to you,
and saw you buying things as if they were wedding presents, I said to
myself, 'She will never be able to pay for them.' The attorney says
that those law proceedings will last quite six months before your
husband can be made to disgorge your fortune. Well and good. I sold
out my property in the funds that brought in thirteen hundred and
fifty livres a year, and bought a safe annuity of twelve hundred
francs a year for fifteen thousand francs. Then I paid your tradesmen
out of the rest of the capital. As for me, children, I have a room
upstairs for which I pay fifty crowns a year; I can live like a prince
on two francs a day, and still have something left over. I shall not
have to spend anything much on clothes, for I never wear anything out.
This fortnight past I have been laughing in my sleeve, thinking to
myself, 'How happy they are going to be!' and--well, now, are you not
"Oh papa! papa!" cried Mme. de Nucingen, springing to her father, who
took her on his knee. She covered him with kisses, her fair hair
brushed his cheek, her tears fell on the withered face that had grown
so bright and radiant.
"Dear father, what a father you are! No, there is not another father
like you under the sun. If Eugene loved you before, what must he feel
for you now?"
"Why, children, why Delphinette!" cried Goriot, who had not felt his
daughter's heart beat against his breast for ten years, "do you want
me to die of joy? My poor heart will break! Come, Monsieur Eugene, we
are quits already." And the old man strained her to his breast with
such fierce and passionate force that she cried out.
"Oh! you are hurting me!" she said.
"I am hurting you!" He grew pale at the words. The pain expressed in
his face seemed greater than it is given to humanity to know. The
agony of this Christ of paternity can only be compared with the
masterpieces of those princes of the palette who have left for us the
record of their visions of an agony suffered for a whole world by the
Saviour of men. Father Goriot pressed his lips very gently against the
waist than his fingers had grasped too roughly.
"Oh! no, no," he cried. "I have not hurt you, have I?" and his smile
seemed to repeat the question. "YOU have hurt me with that cry just
now.--The things cost rather more than that," he said in her ear, with
another gentle kiss, "but I had to deceive him about it, or he would
have been angry."
Eugene sat dumb with amazement in the presence of this inexhaustible
love; he gazed at Goriot, and his face betrayed the artless admiration
which shapes the beliefs of youth.
"I will be worthy of all this," he cried.
"Oh! my Eugene, that is nobly said," and Mme. de Nucingen kissed the
law student on the forehead.
"He gave up Mlle. Taillefer and her millions for you," said Father
Goriot. "Yes, the little thing was in love with you, and now that her
brother is dead she is as rich as Croesus."
"Oh! why did you tell her?" cried Rastignac.
"Eugene," Delphine said in his ear, "I have one regret now this
evening. Ah! how I will love you! and for ever!"
"This is the happiest day I have had since you two were married!"
cried Goriot. "God may send me any suffering, so long as I do not
suffer through you, and I can still say, 'In this short month of
February I had more happiness than other men have in their whole
lives.'--Look at me, Fifine!" he said to his daughter. "She is very
beautiful, is she not? Tell me, now, have you seen many women with
that pretty soft color--that little dimple of hers? No, I thought not.
Ah, well, and but for me this lovely woman would never have been. And
very soon happiness will make her a thousand times lovelier, happiness
through you. I could give up my place in heaven to you, neighbor, if
needs be, and go down to hell instead. Come, let us have dinner," he
added, scarcely knowing what he said, "everything is ours."
"Poor dear father!"
He rose and went over to her, and took her face in his hands, and set
a kiss on the plaits of hair. "If you only knew, little one, how happy
you can make me--how little it takes to make me happy! Will you come
and see me sometimes? I shall be just above, so it is only a step.
Promise me, say that you will!"
"Yes, dear father."
"Say it again."
"Yes, I will, my kind father."
"Hush! hush! I should make you say it a hundred times over if I
followed my own wishes. Let us have dinner."
The three behaved like children that evening, and Father Goriot's
spirits were certainly not the least wild. He lay at his daughter's
feet, kissed them, gazed into her eyes, rubbed his head against her
dress; in short, no young lover could have been more extravagant or
"You see!" Delphine said with a look at Eugene, "so long as my father
is with us, he monopolizes me. He will be rather in the way
Eugene had himself already felt certain twinges of jealousy, and could
not blame this speech that contained the germ of all ingratitude.
"And when will the rooms be ready?" asked Eugene, looking round. "We
must all leave them this evening, I suppose."
"Yes, but to-morrow you must come and dine with me," she answered,
with an eloquent glance. "It is our night at the Italiens."
"I shall go to the pit," said her father.
It was midnight. Mme. de Nucingen's carriage was waiting for her, and
Father Goriot and the student walked back to the Maison Vauquer,
talking of Delphine, and warming over their talk till there grew up a
curious rivalry between the two violent passions. Eugene could not
help seeing that the father's self-less love was deeper and more
steadfast than his own. For this worshiper Delphine was always pure
and fair, and her father's adoration drew its fervor from a whole past
as well as a future of love.
They found Mme. Vauquer by the stove, with Sylvie and Christophe to
keep her company; the old landlady, sitting like Marius among the
ruins of Carthage, was waiting for the two lodgers that yet remained
to her, and bemoaning her lot with the sympathetic Sylvie. Tasso's
lamentations as recorded in Byron's poem are undoubtedly eloquent, but
for sheer force of truth they fall far short of the widow's cry from
"Only three cups of coffee in the morning, Sylvie! Oh dear! to have
your house emptied in this way is enough to break your heart. What is
life, now my lodgers are gone? Nothing at all. Just think of it! It is
just as if all the furniture had been taken out of the house, and your
furniture is your life. How have I offended heaven to draw down all
this trouble upon me? And haricot beans and potatoes laid in for
twenty people! The police in my house too! We shall have to live on
potatoes now, and Christophe will have to go!"
The Savoyard, who was fast asleep, suddenly woke up at this, and said,
"Poor fellow!" said Sylvie, "he is like a dog."
"In the dead season, too! Nobody is moving now. I would like to know
where the lodgers are to drop down from. It drives me distracted. And
that old witch of a Michonneau goes and takes Poiret with her! What
can she have done to make him so fond of her? He runs about after her
like a little dog."
"Lord!" said Sylvie, flinging up her head, "those old maids are up to
all sorts of tricks."
"There's that poor M. Vautrin that they made out to be a convict," the
widow went on. "Well, you know that is too much for me, Sylvie; I
can't bring myself to believe it. Such a lively man as he was, and
paid fifteen francs a month for his coffee of an evening, paid you
very penny on the nail too."
"And open-handed he was!" said Christophe.
"There is some mistake," said Sylvie.
"Why, no there isn't! he said so himself!" said Mme. Vauquer. "And to
think that all these things have happened in my house, and in a
quarter where you never see a cat go by. On my word as an honest
woman, it's like a dream. For, look here, we saw Louis XVI. meet with
his mishap; we saw the fall of the Emperor; and we saw him come back
and fall again; there was nothing out of the way in all that, but
lodging-houses are not liable to revolutions. You can do without a
king, but you must eat all the same; and so long as a decent woman, a
de Conflans born and bred, will give you all sorts of good things for
dinner, nothing short of the end of the world ought to--but there, it
is the end of the world, that is just what it is!"
"And to think that Mlle. Michonneau who made all this mischief is to
have a thousand crowns a year for it, so I hear," cried Sylvie.
"Don't speak of her, she is a wicked woman!" said Mme. Vauquer. "She
is going to the Buneaud, who charges less than cost. But the Buneaud
is capable of anything; she must have done frightful things, robbed
and murdered people in her time. SHE ought to be put in jail for life
instead of that poor dear----"
Eugene and Goriot rang the door-bell at that moment.
"Ah! here are my two faithful lodgers," said the widow, sighing.
But the two faithful lodgers, who retained but shadowy recollections
of the misfortunes of their lodging-house, announced to their hostess
without more ado that they were about to remove to the Chaussee
"Sylvie!" cried the widow, "this is the last straw.--Gentlemen, this
will be the death of me! It has quite upset me! There's a weight on my
chest! I am ten years older for this day! Upon my word, I shall go out
of my senses! And what is to be done with the haricots!--Oh, well, if
I am to be left here all by myself, you shall go to-morrow,
Christophe.--Good-night, gentlemen," and she went.
"What is the matter now?" Eugene inquired of Sylvie.
"Lord! everybody is going about his business, and that has addled her
wits. There! she is crying upstairs. It will do her good to snivel a
bit. It's the first time she has cried since I've been with her."
By the morning, Mme. Vauquer, to use her own expression, had "made up
her mind to it." True, she still wore a doleful countenance, as might
be expected of a woman who had lost all her lodgers, and whose manner
of life had been suddenly revolutionized, but she had all her wits
about her. Her grief was genuine and profound; it was real pain of
mind, for her purse had suffered, the routine of her existence had
been broken. A lover's farewell glance at his lady-love's window is
not more mournful than Mme. Vauquer's survey of the empty places round
her table. Eugene administered comfort, telling the widow that
Bianchon, whose term of residence at the hospital was about to expire,
would doubtless take his (Rastignac's) place; that the official from
the Museum had often expressed a desire to have Mme. Couture's rooms;
and that in a very few days her household would be on the old footing.
"God send it may, my dear sir! but bad luck has come to lodge here.
There'll be a death in the house before ten days are out, you'll see,"
and she gave a lugubrious look round the dining-room. "Whose turn
will it be, I wonder?"
"It is just as well that we are moving out," said Eugene to Father
Goriot in a low voice.
"Madame," said Sylvie, running in with a scared face, "I have not seen
Mistigris these three days."
"Ah! well, if my cat is dead, if HE has gone and left us, I----"
The poor woman could not finish her sentence; she clasped her hands
and hid her face on the back of her armchair, quite overcome by this
By twelve o'clock, when the postman reaches that quarter, Eugene
received a letter. The dainty envelope bore the Beauseant arms on the
seal, and contained an invitation to the Vicomtesse's great ball,
which had been talked of in Paris for a month. A little note for
Eugene was slipped in with the card.
"I think, monsieur, that you will undertake with pleasure to
interpret my sentiments to Mme. de Nucingen, so I am sending the
card for which you asked me to you. I shall be delighted to make
the acquaintance of Mme. de Restaud's sister. Pray introduce that
charming lady to me, and do not let her monopolize all your
affection, for you owe me not a little in return for mine.
"VICOMTESSE DE BEAUSEANT."
"Well," said Eugene to himself, as he read the note a second time,
"Mme. de Beauseant says pretty plainly that she does not want the
Baron de Nucingen."
He went to Delphine at once in his joy. He had procured this pleasure
for her, and doubtless he would receive the price of it. Mme. de
Nucingen was dressing. Rastignac waited in her boudoir, enduring as
best he might the natural impatience of an eager temperament for the
reward desired and withheld for a year. Such sensations are only known
once in a life. The first woman to whom a man is drawn, if she is
really a woman--that is to say, if she appears to him amid the
splendid accessories that form a necessary background to life in the
world of Paris--will never have a rival.
Love in Paris is a thing distinct and apart; for in Paris neither men
nor women are the dupes of the commonplaces by which people seek to
throw a veil over their motives, or to parade a fine affectation of
disinterestedness in their sentiments. In this country within a
country, it is not merely required of a woman that she should satisfy
the senses and the soul; she knows perfectly well that she has still
greater obligations to discharge, that she must fulfil the countless
demands of a vanity that enters into every fibre of that living
organism called society. Love, for her, is above all things, and by
its very nature, a vainglorious, brazen-fronted, ostentatious,
thriftless charlatan. If at the Court of Louis XIV. there was not a
woman but envied Mlle. de la Valliere the reckless devotion of passion
that led the grand monarch to tear the priceless ruffles at his wrists
in order to assist the entry of a Duc de Vermandois into the world--
what can you expect of the rest of society? You must have youth and
wealth and rank; nay, you must, if possible, have more than these, for
the more incense you bring with you to burn at the shrine of the god,
the more favorably will he regard the worshiper. Love is a religion,
and his cult must in the nature of things be more costly than those of
all other deities; Love the Spoiler stays for a moment, and then
passes on; like the urchin of the streets, his course may be traced by
the ravages that he has made. The wealth of feeling and imagination is
the poetry of the garret; how should love exist there without that
If there are exceptions who do not subscribe to these Draconian laws
of the Parisian code, they are solitary examples. Such souls live so
far out of the main current that they are not borne away by the
doctrines of society; they dwell beside some clear spring of
everflowing water, without seeking to leave the green shade; happy to
listen to the echoes of the infinite in everything around them and in
their own souls, waiting in patience to take their flight for heaven,
while they look with pity upon those of earth.
Rastignac, like most young men who have been early impressed by the
circumstances of power and grandeur, meant to enter the lists fully
armed; the burning ambition of conquest possessed him already; perhaps
he was conscious of his powers, but as yet he knew neither the end to
which his ambition was to be directed, nor the means of attaining it.
In default of the pure and sacred love that fills a life, ambition may
become something very noble, subduing to itself every thought of
personal interest, and setting as the end--the greatness, not of one
man, but of a whole nation.
But the student had not yet reached the time of life when a man
surveys the whole course of existence and judges it soberly. Hitherto
he had scarcely so much as shaken off the spell of the fresh and
gracious influences that envelop a childhood in the country, like
green leaves and grass. He had hesitated on the brink of the Parisian
Rubicon, and in spite of the prickings of ambition, he still clung to
a lingering tradition of an old ideal--the peaceful life of the noble
in his chateau. But yesterday evening, at the sight of his rooms,
those scruples had vanished. He had learned what it was to enjoy the
material advantages of fortune, as he had already enjoyed the social
advantages of birth; he ceased to be a provincial from that moment,
and slipped naturally and easily into a position which opened up a
prospect of a brilliant future.
So, as he waited for Delphine, in the pretty boudoir, where he felt
that he had a certain right to be, he felt himself so far away from
the Rastignac who came back to Paris a year ago, that, turning some
power of inner vision upon this latter, he asked himself whether that
past self bore any resemblance to the Rastignac of that moment.
"Madame is in her room," Therese came to tell him. The woman's voice
made him start.
He found Delphine lying back in her low chair by the fireside, looking
fresh and bright. The sight of her among the flowing draperies of
muslin suggested some beautiful tropical flower, where the fruit is
set amid the blossom.
"Well," she said, with a tremor in her voice, "here you are."
"Guess what I bring for you," said Eugene, sitting down beside her. He
took possession of her arm to kiss her hand
Mme. de Nucingen gave a joyful start as she saw the card. She turned
to Eugene; there were tears in her eyes as she flung her arms about
his neck, and drew him towards her in a frenzy of gratified vanity.
"And I owe this happiness to you--to /thee/" (she whispered the more
intimate word in his ear); "but Therese is in my dressing-room, let us
be prudent.--This happiness--yes, for I may call it so, when it comes
to me through YOU--is surely more than a triumph for self-love? No one
has been willing to introduce me into that set. Perhaps just now I may
seem to you to be frivolous, petty, shallow, like a Parisienne, but
remember, my friend, that I am ready to give up all for you; and that
if I long more than ever for an entrance into the Faubourg Saint-
Germain, it is because I shall meet you there."
"Mme. de Beauseant's note seems to say very plainly that she does not
expect to see the /Baron/ de Nucingen at her ball; don't you think
so?" said Eugene.
"Why, yes," said the Baroness as she returned the letter. "Those women
have a talent for insolence. But it is of no consequence, I shall go.
My sister is sure to be there, and sure to be very beautifully
dressed.--Eugene," she went on, lowering her voice, "she will go to
dispel ugly suspicions. You do not know the things that people are
saying about her. Only this morning Nucingen came to tell me that they
had been discussing her at the club. Great heavens! on what does a
woman's character and the honor of a whole family depend! I feel that
I am nearly touched and wounded in my poor sister. According to some
people, M. de Trailles must have put his name to bills for a hundred
thousand francs, nearly all of them are overdue, and proceedings are
threatened. In this predicament, it seems that my sister sold her
diamonds to a Jew--the beautiful diamonds that belonged to her
husband's mother, Mme. de Restaud the elder,--you have seen her
wearing them. In fact, nothing else has been talked about for the last
two days. So I can see that Anastasie is sure to come to Mme. de
Beauseant's ball in tissue of gold, and ablaze with diamonds, to draw
all eyes upon her; and I will not be outshone. She has tried to
eclipse me all her life, she has never been kind to me, and I have
helped her so often, and always had money for her when she had none.--
But never mind other people now, to-day I mean to be perfectly happy."
At one o'clock that morning Eugene was still with Mme. de Nucingen. In
the midst of their lovers' farewell, a farewell full of hope of bliss
to come, she said in a troubled voice, "I am very fearful,
superstitious. Give what name you like to my presentiments, but I am
afraid that my happiness will be paid for by some horrible
"Child!" said Eugene.
"Ah! have we changed places, and am I the child to-night?" she asked,
Eugene went back to the Maison Vauquer, never doubting but that he
should leave it for good on the morrow; and on the way he fell to
dreaming the bright dreams of youth, when the cup of happiness has
left its sweetness on the lips.
"Well?" cried Goriot, as Rastignac passed by his door.
"Yes," said Eugene; "I will tell you everything to-morrow."
"Everything, will you not?" cried the old man. "Go to bed. To-morrow
our happy life will begin."
Next day, Goriot and Rastignac were ready to leave the lodging-house,
and only awaited the good pleasure of a porter to move out of it; but
towards noon there was a sound of wheels in the Rue Neuve-Sainte-
Genevieve, and a carriage stopped before the door of the Maison
Vauquer. Mme. de Nucingen alighted, and asked if her father was still
in the house, and, receiving an affirmative reply from Sylvie, ran
It so happened that Eugene was at home all unknown to his neighbor. At
breakfast time he had asked Goriot to superintend the removal of his
goods, saying that he would meet him in the Rue d'Artois at four
o'clock; but Rastignac's name had been called early on the list at the
Ecole de Droit, and he had gone back at once to the Rue Nueve-Sainte-
Genevieve. No one had seen him come in, for Goriot had gone to find a
porter, and the mistress of the house was likewise out. Eugene had
thought to pay her himself, for it struck him that if he left this,
Goriot in his zeal would probably pay for him. As it was, Eugene went
up to his room to see that nothing had been forgotten, and blessed his
foresight when he saw the blank bill bearing Vautrin's signature lying
in the drawer where he had carelessly thrown it on the day when he had
repaid the amount. There was no fire in the grate, so he was about to
tear it into little pieces, when he heard a voice speaking in Goriot's
room, and the speaker was Delphine! He made no more noise, and stood
still to listen, thinking that she should have no secrets from him;
but after the first few words, the conversation between the father and
daughter was so strange and interesting that it absorbed all his
"Ah! thank heaven that you thought of asking him to give an account of
the money settled on me before I was utterly ruined, father. Is it
safe to talk?" she added.
"Yes, there is no one in the house," said her father faintly.
"What is the matter with you?" asked Mme. de Nucingen.
"God forgive you! you have just dealt me a staggering blow, child!"
said the old man. "You cannot know how much I love you, or you would
not have burst in upon me like this, with such news, especially if all
is not lost. Has something so important happened that you must come
here about it? In a few minutes we should have been in the Rue
"Eh! does one think what one is doing after a catastrophe? It has
turned my head. Your attorney has found out the state of things now,
but it was bound to come out sooner or later. We shall want your long
business experience; and I come to you like a drowning man who catches
at a branch. When M. Derville found that Nucingen was throwing all
sorts of difficulties in his way, he threatened him with proceedings,
and told him plainly that he would soon obtain an order from the
President of the Tribunal. So Nucingen came to my room this morning,
and asked if I meant to ruin us both. I told him that I knew nothing
whatever about it, that I had a fortune, and ought to be put into
possession of my fortune, and that my attorney was acting for me in
the matter; I said again that I knew absolutely nothing about it, and
could not possibly go into the subject with him. Wasn't that what you
told me to tell him?"
"Yes, quite right," answered Goriot.
"Well, then," Delphine continued, "he told me all about his affairs.
He had just invested all his capital and mine in business
speculations; they have only just been started, and very large sums of
money are locked up. If I were to compel him to refund my dowry now,
he would be forced to file his petition; but if I will wait a year, he
undertakes, on his honor, to double or treble my fortune, by investing
it in building land, and I shall be mistress at last of the whole of
my property. He was speaking the truth, father dear; he frightened me!
He asked my pardon for his conduct; he has given me my liberty; I am
free to act as I please on condition that I leave him to carry on my
business in my name. To prove his sincerity, he promised that M.
Derville might inspect the accounts as often as I pleased, so that I
might be assured that everything was being conducted properly. In
short, he put himself in my power, bound hand and foot. He wishes the
present arrangements as to the expenses of housekeeping to continue
for two more years, and entreated me not to exceed my allowance. He
showed me plainly that it was all that he could do to keep up
appearances; he has broken with his opera dancer; he will be compelled
to practise the most strict economy (in secret) if he is to bide his
time with unshaken credit. I scolded, I did all I could to drive him
to desperation, so as to find out more. He showed me his ledgers--he
broke down and cried at last. I never saw a man in such a state. He
lost his head completely, talked of killing himself, and raved till I
felt quite sorry for him."
"Do you really believe that silly rubbish?" . . . cried her father.
"It was all got up for your benefit! I have had to do with Germans in
the way of business, honest and straightforward they are pretty sure
to be, but when with their simplicity and frankness they are sharpers
and humbugs as well, they are the worst rogues of all. Your husband is
taking advantage of you. As soon as pressure is brought to bear on him
he shams dead; he means to be more the master under your name than in
his own. He will take advantage of the position to secure himself
against the risks of business. He is as sharp as he is treacherous; he
is a bad lot! No, no; I am not going to leave my girls behind me
without a penny when I go to Pere-Lachaise. I know something about
business still. He has sunk his money in speculation, he says; very
well then, there is something to show for it--bills, receipts, papers
of some sort. Let him produce them, and come to an arrangement with
you. We will choose the most promising of his speculations, take them
over at our own risk, and have the securities transferred into your
name; they shall represent the separate estate of Delphine Goriot,
wife of the Baron de Nucingen. Does that fellow really take us for
idiots? Does he imagine that I could stand the idea of your being
without fortune, without bread, for forty-eight hours? I would not
stand it a day--no, not a night, not a couple of hours! If there had
been any foundation for the idea, I should never get over it. What! I
have worked hard for forty years, carried sacks on my back, and
sweated and pinched and saved all my life for you, my darlings, for
you who made the toil and every burden borne for you seem light; and
now, my fortune, my whole life, is to vanish in smoke! I should die
raving mad if I believed a word of it. By all that's holiest in heaven
and earth, we will have this cleared up at once; go through the books,
have the whole business looked thoroughly into! I will not sleep, nor
rest, nor eat until I have satisfied myself that all your fortune is
in existence. Your money is settled upon you, God be thanked! and,
luckily, your attorney, Maitre Derville, is an honest man. Good Lord!
you shall have your snug little million, your fifty thousand francs a
year, as long as you live, or I will raise a racket in Paris, I will
so! If the Tribunals put upon us, I will appeal to the Chambers. If I
knew that you were well and comfortably off as far as money is
concerned, that thought would keep me easy in spite of bad health and
troubles. Money? why, it is life! Money does everything. That great
dolt of an Alsatian shall sing to another tune! Look here, Delphine,
don't give way, don't make a concession of half a quarter of a
farthing to that fathead, who has ground you down and made you
miserable. If he can't do without you, we will give him a good
cudgeling, and keep him in order. Great heavens! my brain is on fire;
it is as if there were something redhot inside my head. My Delphine
lying on straw! You! my Fifine! Good gracious! Where are my gloves?
Come, let us go at once; I mean to see everything with my own eyes--
books, cash, and correspondence, the whole business. I shall have no
peace until I know for certain that your fortune is secure."
"Oh! father dear, be careful how you set about it! If there is the
least hint of vengeance in the business, if you show yourself openly
hostile, it will be all over with me. He knows whom he has to deal
with; he thinks it quite natural that if you put the idea into my
head, I should be uneasy about my money; but I swear to you that he
has it in his own hands, and that he had meant to keep it. He is just
the man to abscond with all the money and leave us in the lurch, the
scoundrel! He knows quite well that I will not dishonor the name I
bear by bringing him into a court of law. His position is strong and
weak at the same time. If we drive him to despair, I am lost."
"Why, then, the man is a rogue?"
"Well, yes, father," she said, flinging herself into a chair, "I
wanted to keep it from you to spare your feelings," and she burst into
tears; "I did not want you to know that you had married me to such a
man as he is. He is just the same in private life--body and soul and
conscience--the same through and through--hideous! I hate him; I
despise him! Yes, after all that that despicable Nucingen has told me,
I cannot respect him any longer. A man capable of mixing himself up in
such affairs, and of talking about them to me as he did, without the
slightest scruple,--it is because I have read him through and through
that I am afraid of him. He, my husband, frankly proposed to give me
my liberty, and do you know what that means? It means that if things
turn out badly for him, I am to play into his hands, and be his
"But there is law to be had! There is a Place de Greve for sons-in-law
of that sort," cried her father; "why, I would guillotine him myself
if there was no headsman to do it."
"No, father, the law cannot touch him. Listen, this is what he says,
stripped of all his circumlocutions--'Take your choice, you and no one
else can be my accomplice; either everything is lost, you are ruined
and have not a farthing, or you will let me carry this business
through myself.' Is that plain speaking? He MUST have my assistance.
He is assured that his wife will deal fairly by him; he knows that I
shall leave his money to him and be content with my own. It is an
unholy and dishonest compact, and he holds out threats of ruin to
compel me to consent to it. He is buying my conscience, and the price
is liberty to be Eugene's wife in all but name. 'I connive at your
errors, and you allow me to commit crimes and ruin poor families!' Is
that sufficiently explicit? Do you know what he means by speculations?
He buys up land in his own name, then he finds men of straw to run up
houses upon it. These men make a bargain with a contractor to build
the houses, paying them by bills at long dates; then in consideration
of a small sum they leave my husband in possession of the houses, and
finally slip through the fingers of the deluded contractors by going
into bankruptcy. The name of the firm of Nucingen has been used to
dazzle the poor contractors. I saw that. I noticed, too, that Nucingen
had sent bills for large amounts to Amsterdam, London, Naples, and
Vienna, in order to prove if necessary that large sums had been paid
away by the firm. How could we get possession of those bills?"
Eugene heard a dull thud on the floor; Father Goriot must have fallen
on his knees.
"Great heavens! what have I done to you? Bound my daughter to this
scoundrel who does as he likes with her!--Oh! my child, my child!
forgive me!" cried the old man.
"Yes, if I am in the depths of despair, perhaps you are to blame,"
said Delphine. "We have so little sense when we marry! What do we know
of the world, of business, or men, or life? Our fathers should think
for us! Father dear, I am not blaming you in the least, forgive me for
what I said. This is all my own fault. Nay, do not cry, papa," she
said, kissing him.
"Do not cry either, my little Delphine. Look up and let me kiss away
the tears. There! I shall find my wits and unravel this skein of your
"No, let me do that; I shall be able to manage him. He is fond of me,
well and good; I shall use my influence to make him invest my money as
soon as possible in landed property in my own name. Very likely I
could get him to buy back Nucingen in Alsace in my name; that has
always been a pet idea of his. Still, come to-morrow and go through
the books, and look into the business. M. Derville knows little of
mercantile matters. No, not to-morrow though. I do not want to be
upset. Mme. de Beauseant's ball will be the day after to-morrow, and I
must keep quiet, so as to look my best and freshest, and do honor to
my dear Eugene! . . . Come, let us see his room."
But as she spoke a carriage stopped in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-
Genevieve, and the sound of Mme. de Restaud's voice came from the
staircase. "Is my father in?" she asked of Sylvie.
This accident was luckily timed for Eugene, whose one idea had been to
throw himself down on the bed and pretend to be asleep.
"Oh, father, have you heard about Anastasie?" said Delphine, when she
heard her sister speak. "It looks as though some strange things had
happened in that family."
"What sort of things?" asked Goriot. "This is like to be the death of
me. My poor head will not stand a double misfortune."
"Good-morning, father," said the Countess from the threshold. "Oh!
Delphine, are you here?"
Mme. de Restaud seemed taken aback by her sister's presence.
"Good-morning, Nasie," said the Baroness. "What is there so
extraordinary in my being here? _I_ see our father every day."
"If you came yourself you would know."
"Don't tease, Delphine," said the Countess fretfully. "I am very
miserable, I am lost. Oh! my poor father, it is hopeless this time!"
"What is it, Nasie?" cried Goriot. "Tell us all about it, child! How
white she is! Quick, do something, Delphine; be kind to her, and I
will love you even better, if that were possible."
"Poor Nasie!" said Mme. de Nucingen, drawing her sister to a chair.
"We are the only two people in the world whose love is always
sufficient to forgive you everything. Family affection is the surest,
The Countess inhaled the salts and revived.
"This will kill me!" said their father. "There," he went on, stirring
the smouldering fire, "come nearer, both of you. It is cold. What is
it, Nasie? Be quick and tell me, this is enough to----"
"Well, then, my husband knows everything," said the Countess. "Just
imagine it; do you remember, father, that bill of Maxime's some time
ago? Well, that was not the first. I had paid ever so many before
that. About the beginning of January M. de Trailles seemed very much
troubled. He said nothing to me; but it is so easy to read the hearts
of those you love, a mere trifle is enough; and then you feel things
instinctively. Indeed, he was more tender and affectionate than ever,
and I was happier than I had ever been before. Poor Maxime! in himself
he was really saying good-bye to me, so he has told me since; he meant
to blow his brains out! At last I worried him so, and begged and
implored so hard; for two hours I knelt at his knees and prayed and
entreated, and at last he told me--that he owed a hundred thousand
francs. Oh! papa! a hundred thousand francs! I was beside myself! You
had not the money, I knew, I had eaten up all that you had----"
"No," said Goriot; "I could not have got it for you unless I had
stolen it. But I would have done that for you, Nasie! I will do it
The words came from him like a sob, a hoarse sound like the death
rattle of a dying man; it seemed indeed like the agony of death when
the father's love was powerless. There was a pause, and neither of the
sisters spoke. It must have been selfishness indeed that could hear
unmoved that cry of anguish that, like a pebble thrown over a
precipice, revealed the depths of his despair.
"I found the money, father, by selling what was not mine to sell," and
the Countess burst into tears.
Delphine was touched; she laid her head on her sister's shoulder, and
"Then it is all true," she said.
Anastasie bowed her head, Mme. de Nucingen flung her arms about her,
kissed her tenderly, and held her sister to her heart.
"I shall always love you and never judge you, Nasie," she said.
"My angels," murmured Goriot faintly. "Oh, why should it be trouble
that draws you together?"
This warm and palpitating affection seemed to give the Countess
"To save Maxime's life," she said, "to save all my own happiness, I
went to the money-lender you know of, a man of iron forged in hell-
fire; nothing can melt him; I took all the family diamonds that M. de
Restaud is so proud of--his and mine too--and sold them to that M.
Gobseck. /Sold them!/ Do you understand? I saved Maxime, but I am
lost. Restaud found it all out."
"How? Who told him? I will kill him," cried Goriot.
"Yesterday he sent to tell me to come to his room. I went. . . .
'Anastasie,' he said in a voice--oh! such a voice; that was enough, it
told me everything--'where are your diamonds?'--'In my room----'--
'No,' he said, looking straight at me, 'there they are on that chest
of drawers----' and he lifted his handkerchief and showed me the
casket. 'Do you know where they came from?' he said. I fell at his
feet. . . . I cried; I besought him to tell me the death he wished to
see me die."
"You said that!" cried Goriot. "By God in heaven, whoever lays a hand
on either of you so long as I am alive may reckon on being roasted by
slow fires! Yes, I will cut him in pieces like . . ."
Goriot stopped; the words died away in his throat.
"And then, dear, he asked something worse than death of me. Oh! heaven
preserve all other women from hearing such words as I heard then!"
"I will murder that man," said Goriot quietly. "But he has only one
life, and he deserves to die twice.--And then, what next?" he added,
looking at Anastasie.
"Then," the Countess resumed, "there was a pause, and he looked at me.
'Anastasie,' he said, 'I will bury this in silence; there shall be no
separation; there are the children. I will not kill M. de Trailles. I
might miss him if we fought, and as for other ways of getting rid of
him, I should come into collision with the law. If I killed him in
your arms, it would bring dishonor on /those/ children. But if you do
not want to see your children perish, nor their father nor me, you
must first of all submit to two conditions. Answer me. Have I a child
of my own?' I answered, 'Yes,'--'Which?'--'Ernest, our eldest boy.'--
'Very well,' he said, 'and now swear to obey me in this particular
from this time forward.' I swore. 'You will make over your property to
me when I require you to do so.' "
"Do nothing of the kind!" cried Goriot. "Aha! M. de Restaud, you could
not make your wife happy; she has looked for happiness and found it
elsewhere, and you make her suffer for your own ineptitude? He will
have to reckon with me. Make yourself easy, Nasie. Aha! he cares about
his heir! Good, very good. I will get hold of the boy; isn't he my
grandson? What the blazes! I can surely go to see the brat! I will
stow him away somewhere; I will take care of him, you may be quite
easy. I will bring Restaud to terms, the monster! I shall say to him,
'A word or two with you! If you want your son back again, give my
daughter her property, and leave her to do as she pleases.' "
"Yes. I am your father, Nasie, a father indeed! That rogue of a great
lord had better not ill-treat my daughter. /Tonnerre!/ What is it in
my veins? There is the blood of a tiger in me; I could tear those two
men to pieces! Oh! children, children! so this is what your lives are!
Why, it is death! . . . What will become of you when I shall be here
no longer? Fathers ought to live as long as their children. Ah! Lord
God in heaven! how ill Thy world is ordered! Thou hast a Son, if what
they tell us is true, and yet Thou leavest us to suffer so through our
children. My darlings, my darlings! to think that trouble only should
bring you to me, that I should only see you with tears on your faces!
Ah! yes, yes, you love me, I see that you love me. Come to me and pour
out your griefs to me; my heart is large enough to hold them all. Oh!
you might rend my heart in pieces, and every fragment would make a
father's heart. If only I could bear all your sorrows for you! . . .
Ah! you were so happy when you were little and still with me. . . ."
"We have never been happy since," said Delphine. "Where are the old
days when we slid down the sacks in the great granary?"
"That is not all, father," said Anastasie in Goriot's ear. The old man
gave a startled shudder. "The diamonds only sold for a hundred
thousand francs. Maxime is hard pressed. There are twelve thousand
francs still to pay. He has given me his word that he will be steady
and give up play in future. His love is all that I have left in the
world. I have paid such a fearful price for it that I should die if I
lose him now. I have sacrificed my fortune, my honor, my peace of
mind, and my children for him. Oh! do something, so that at the least
Maxime may be at large and live undisgraced in the world, where he
will assuredly make a career for himself. Something more than my
happiness is at stake; the children have nothing, and if he is sent to
Sainte-Pelagie all his prospects will be ruined."
"I haven't the money, Nasie. I have /nothing/--nothing left. This is
the end of everything. Yes, the world is crumbling into ruin, I am
sure. Fly! Save yourselves! Ah!--I have still my silver buckles left,
and half-a-dozen silver spoons and forks, the first I ever had in my
life. But I have nothing else except my life annuity, twelve hundred
francs . . ."
"Then what has become of your money in the funds?"
"I sold out, and only kept a trifle for my wants. I wanted twelve
thousand francs to furnish some rooms for Delphine."
"In your own house?" asked Mme. de Restaud, looking at her sister.
"What does it matter where they were?" asked Goriot. "The money is
"I see how it is," said the Countess. "Rooms for M. de Rastignac. Poor
Delphine, take warning by me!"
"M. de Rastignac is incapable of ruining the woman he loves, dear."
"Thanks! Delphine. I thought you would have been kinder to me in my
troubles, but you never did love me."
"Yes, yes, she loves you, Nasie," cried Goriot; "she was saying so
only just now. We were talking about you, and she insisted that you
were beautiful, and that she herself was only pretty!"
"Pretty!" said the Countess. "She is as hard as a marble statue."
"And if I am?" cried Delphine, flushing up, "how have you treated me?
You would not recognize me; you closed the doors of every house
against me; you have never let an opportunity of mortifying me slip
by. And when did I come, as you were always doing, to drain our poor
father, a thousand francs at a time, till he is left as you see him
now? That is all your doing, sister! I myself have seen my father as
often as I could. I have not turned him out of the house, and then
come and fawned upon him when I wanted money. I did not so much as
know that he had spent those twelve thousand francs on me. I am
economical, as you know; and when papa has made me presents, it has
never been because I came and begged for them."
"You were better off than I. M. de Marsay was rich, as you have reason
to know. You always were as slippery as gold. Good-bye; I have neither
"Oh! hush, hush, Nasie!" cried her father.
"Nobody else would repeat what everybody has ceased to believe. You
are an unnatural sister!" cried Delphine.
"Oh, children, children! hush! hush! or I will kill myself before your
"There, Nasie, I forgive you," said Mme. de Nucingen; "you are very
unhappy. But I am kinder than you are. How could you say /that/ just
when I was ready to do anything in the world to help you, even to be
reconciled with my husband, which for my own sake I---- Oh! it is just
like you; you have behaved cruelly to me all through these nine
"Children, children, kiss each other!" cried the father. "You are
angels, both of you."
"No. Let me alone," cried the Countess shaking off the hand that her
father had laid on her arm. "She is more merciless than my husband.
Any one might think she was a model of all the virtues herself!"
"I would rather have people think that I owed money to M. de Marsay
than own that M. de Trailles had cost me more than two hundred
thousand francs," retorted Mme. de Nucingen.
"/Delphine!/" cried the Countess, stepping towards her sister.
"I shall tell you the truth about yourself if you begin to slander
me," said the Baroness coldly.
"Delphine! you are a ----"
Father Goriot sprang between them, grasped the Countess' hand, and
laid his own over her mouth.
"Good heavens, father! What have you been handling this morning?" said
"Ah! well, yes, I ought not to have touched you," said the poor
father, wiping his hands on his trousers, "but I have been packing up
my things; I did not know that you were coming to see me."
He was glad that he had drawn down her wrath upon himself.
"Ah!" he sighed, as he sat down, "you children have broken my heart
between you. This is killing me. My head feels as if it were on fire.
Be good to each other and love each other! This will be the death of
me! Delphine! Nasie! come, be sensible; you are both in the wrong.
Come, Dedel," he added, looking through his tears at the Baroness,
"she must have twelve thousand francs, you see; let us see if we can
find them for her. Oh, my girls, do not look at each other like that!"
and he sank on his knees beside Delphine. "Ask her to forgive you--
just to please me," he said in her ear. "She is more miserable than
you are. Come now, Dedel."
"Poor Nasie!" said Delphine, alarmed at the wild extravagant grief in
her father's face, "I was in the wrong, kiss me----"
"Ah! that is like balm to my heart," cried Father Goriot. "But how are
we to find twelve thousand francs? I might offer myself as a
substitute in the army----"
"Oh! father dear!" they both cried, flinging their arms about him.
"God reward you for the thought. We are not worth it, are we, Nasie?"
"And besides, father dear, it would only be a drop in the bucket,"
observed the Countess.
"But is flesh and blood worth nothing?" cried the old man in his
despair. "I would give body and soul to save you, Nasie. I would do a
murder for the man who would rescue you. I would do, as Vautrin did,
go to the hulks, go----" he stopped as if struck by a thunderbolt, and
put both hands to his head. "Nothing left!" he cried, tearing his
hair. "If I only knew of a way to steal money, but it is so hard to do
it, and then you can't set to work by yourself, and it takes time to
rob a bank. Yes, it is time I was dead; there is nothing left me to do
but to die. I am no good in the world; I am no longer a father! No.
She has come to me in her extremity, and, wretch that I am, I have
nothing to give her. Ah! you put your money into a life annuity, old
scoundrel; and had you not daughters? You did not love them. Die, die
in a ditch, like the dog that you are! Yes, I am worse than a dog; a
beast would not have done as I have done! Oh! my head . . . it throbs
as if it would burst."
"Papa!" cried both the young women at once, "do, pray, be reasonable!"
and they clung to him to prevent him from dashing his head against the
wall. There was a sound of sobbing.
Eugene, greatly alarmed, took the bill that bore Vautrin's signature,
saw that the stamp would suffice for a larger sum, altered the
figures, made it into a regular bill for twelve thousand francs,
payable to Goriot's order, and went to his neighbor's room.
"Here is the money, madame," he said, handing the piece of paper to
her. "I was asleep; your conversation awoke me, and by this means I
learned all that I owed to M. Goriot. This bill can be discounted, and
I shall meet it punctually at the due date."
The Countess stood motionless and speechless, but she held the bill in
"Delphine," she said, with a white face, and her whole frame quivering
with indignation, anger, and rage, "I forgave you everything; God is
my witness that I forgave you, but I cannot forgive this! So this
gentleman was there all the time, and you knew it! Your petty spite
has let you to wreak your vengeance on me by betraying my secrets, my
life, my children's lives, my shame, my honor! There, you are nothing
to me any longer. I hate you. I will do all that I can to injure you.
I will . . ."
Anger paralyzed her; the words died in her dry parched throat.
"Why, he is my son, my child; he is your brother, your preserver!"
cried Goriot. "Kiss his hand, Nasie! Stay, I will embrace him myself,"
he said, straining Eugene to his breast in a frenzied clasp. "Oh my
boy! I will be more than a father to you; if I had God's power, I
would fling worlds at your feet. Why don't you kiss him, Nasie? He is
not a man, but an angel, a angel out of heaven."
"Never mind her, father; she is mad just now."
"Mad! am I? And what are you?" cried Mme. de Restaud.
"Children, children, I shall die if you go on like this," cried the
old man, and he staggered and fell on the bed as if a bullet had
struck him.--"They are killing me between them," he said to himself.
The Countess fixed her eyes on Eugene, who stood stock still; all his
faculties were numbed by this violent scene.
"Sir? . . ." she said, doubt and inquiry in her face, tone, and
bearing; she took no notice now of her father nor of Delphine, who was
hastily unfastening his waistcoat.
"Madame," said Eugene, answering the question before it was asked, "I
will meet the bill, and keep silence about it."
"You have killed our father, Nasie!" said Delphine, pointing to
Goriot, who lay unconscious on the bed. The Countess fled.
"I freely forgive her," said the old man, opening his eyes; "her
position is horrible; it would turn an older head than hers. Comfort
Nasie, and be nice to her, Delphine; promise it to your poor father
before he dies," he asked, holding Delphine's hand in a convulsive
"Oh! what ails you, father?" she cried in real alarm.
"Nothing, nothing," said Goriot; "it will go off. There is something
heavy pressing on my forehead, a little headache. . . . Ah! poor
Nasie, what a life lies before her!"
Just as he spoke, the Countess came back again and flung herself on
her knees before him. "Forgive me!" she cried.
"Come," said her father, "you are hurting me still more."
"Monsieur," the Countess said, turning to Rastignac, "misery made me
unjust to you. You will be a brother to me, will you not?" and she
held out her hand. Her eyes were full of tears as she spoke.
"Nasie," cried Delphine, flinging her arms round her sister, "my
little Nasie, let us forget and forgive."
"No, no," cried Nasie; "I shall never forget!"
"Dear angels," cried Goriot, "it is as if a dark curtain over my eyes
had been raised; your voices have called me back to life. Kiss each
other once more. Well, now, Nasie, that bill will save you, won't it?"
"I hope so. I say, papa, will you write your name on it?"
"There! how stupid of me to forget that! But I am not feeling at all
well, Nasie, so you must not remember it against me. Send and let me
know as soon as you are out of your strait. No, I will go to you. No,
after all, I will not go; I might meet your husband, and I should kill
him on the spot. And as for signing away your property, I shall have a
word to say about that. Quick, my child, and keep Maxime in order in
Eugene was too bewildered to speak.
"Poor Anastasie, she always had a violent temper," said Mme. de
Nucingen, "but she has a good heart."
"She came back for the endorsement," said Eugene in Delphine's ear.
"Do you think so?"
"I only wish I could think otherwise. Do not trust her," he answered,
raising his eyes as if he confided to heaven the thoughts that he did
not venture to express.
"Yes. She is always acting a part to some extent."
"How do you feel now, dear Father Goriot?" asked Rastignac.
"I should like to go to sleep," he replied.
Eugene helped him to bed, and Delphine sat by the bedside, holding his
hand until he fell asleep. Then she went.
"This evening at the Italiens," she said to Eugene, "and you can let
me know how he is. To-morrow you will leave this place, monsieur. Let
us go into your room.--Oh! how frightful!" she cried on the threshold.
"Why, you are even worse lodged than our father. Eugene, you have
behaved well. I would love you more if that were possible; but, dear
boy, if you are to succeed in life, you must not begin by flinging
twelve thousand francs out of the windows like that. The Comte de
Trailles is a confirmed gambler. My sister shuts her eyes to it. He
would have made the twelve thousand francs in the same way that he
wins and loses heaps of gold."
A groan from the next room brought them back to Goriot's bedside; to
all appearances he was asleep, but the two lovers caught the words,
"They are not happy!" Whether he was awake or sleeping, the tone in
which they were spoken went to his daughter's heart. She stole up to
the pallet-bed on which her father lay, and kissed his forehead. He
opened his eyes.
"Ah! Delphine!" he said.
"How are you now?" she asked.
"Quite comfortable. Do not worry about me; I shall get up presently.
Don't stay with me, children; go, go and be happy."
Eugene went back with Delphine as far as her door; but he was not easy
about Goriot, and would not stay to dinner, as she proposed. He wanted
to be back at the Maison Vauquer. Father Goriot had left his room, and
was just sitting down to dinner as he came in. Bianchon had placed
himself where he could watch the old man carefully; and when the old
vermicelli maker took up his square of bread and smelled it to find
out the quality of the flour, the medical student, studying him
closely, saw that the action was purely mechanical, and shook his
"Just come and sit over here, hospitaller of Cochin," said Eugene.
Bianchon went the more willingly because his change of place brought
him next to the old lodger.
"What is wrong with him?" asked Rastignac.
"It is all up with him, or I am much mistaken! Something very
extraordinary must have taken place; he looks to me as if he were in
imminent danger of serous apoplexy. The lower part of his face is
composed enough, but the upper part is drawn and distorted. Then there
is that peculiar look about the eyes that indicates an effusion of
serum in the brain; they look as though they were covered with a film
of fine dust, do you notice? I shall know more about it by to-morrow
"Is there any cure for it?"
"None. It might be possible to stave death off for a time if a way
could be found of setting up a reaction in the lower extremities; but
if the symptoms do not abate by to-morrow evening, it will be all over
with him, poor old fellow! Do you know what has happened to bring this
on? There must have been some violent shock, and his mind has given
"Yes, there was," said Rastignac, remembering how the two daughters
had struck blow on blow at their father's heart.
"But Delphine at any rate loves her father," he said to himself.
That evening at the opera Rastignac chose his words carefully, lest he
should give Mme. de Nucingen needless alarm.
"Do not be anxious about him," she said, however, as soon as Eugene
began, "our father has really a strong constitution, but this morning
we gave him a shock. Our whole fortunes were in peril, so the thing
was serious, you see. I could not live if your affection did not make
me insensible to troubles that I should once have thought too hard to
bear. At this moment I have but one fear left, but one misery to
dread--to lose the love that has made me feel glad to live. Everything
else is as nothing to me compared with our love; I care for nothing
else, for you are all the world to me. If I feel glad to be rich, it
is for your sake. To my shame be it said, I think of my lover before
my father. Do you ask why? I cannot tell you, but all my life is in
you. My father gave me a heart, but you have taught it to beat. The
whole world may condemn me; what does it matter if I stand acquitted
in your eyes, for you have no right to think ill of me for the faults
which a tyrannous love has forced me to commit for you! Do you think
me an unnatural daughter? Oh! no, no one could help loving such a dear
kind father as ours. But how could I hide the inevitable consequences
of our miserable marriages from him? Why did he allow us to marry when
we did? Was it not his duty to think for us and foresee for us? To-day
I know he suffers as much as we do, but how can it be helped? And as
for comforting him, we could not comfort him in the least. Our
resignation would give him more pain and hurt him far more than
complaints and upbraidings. There are times in life when everything
turns to bitterness."
Eugene was silent, the artless and sincere outpouring made an
impression on him.
Parisian women are often false, intoxicated with vanity, selfish and
self-absorbed, frivolous and shallow; yet of all women, when they
love, they sacrifice their personal feelings to their passion; they
rise but so much the higher for all the pettiness overcome in their
nature, and become sublime. Then Eugene was struck by the profound
discernment and insight displayed by this woman in judging of natural
affection, when a privileged affection had separated and set her at a
distance apart. Mme. de Nucingen was piqued by the silence,
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
"I am thinking about what you said just now. Hitherto I have always
felt sure that I cared far more for you than you did for me."
She smiled, and would not give way to the happiness she felt, lest
their talk should exceed the conventional limits of propriety. She had
never heard the vibrating tones of a sincere and youthful love; a few
more words, and she feared for her self-control.
"Eugene," she said, changing the conversation, "I wonder whether you
know what has been happening? All Paris will go to Mme. de Beauseant's
to-morrow. The Rochefides and the Marquis d'Ajuda have agreed to keep
the matter a profound secret, but to-morrow the king will sign the
marriage-contract, and your poor cousin the Vicomtesse knows nothing
of it as yet. She cannot put off her ball, and the Marquis will not be
there. People are wondering what will happen?"
"The world laughs at baseness and connives at it. But this will kill
Mme. de Beauseant."
"Oh, no," said Delphine, smiling, "you do not know that kind of woman.
Why, all Paris will be there, and so shall I; I ought to go there for
"Perhaps, after all, it is one of those absurd reports that people set
in circulation here."
"We shall know the truth to-morrow."
Eugene did not return to the Maison Vauquer. He could not forego the
pleasure of occupying his new rooms in the Rue d'Artois. Yesterday
evening he had been obliged to leave Delphine soon after midnight, but
that night it was Delphine who stayed with him until two o'clock in
the morning. He rose late, and waited for Mme. de Nucingen, who came
about noon to breakfast with him. Youth snatches eagerly at these rosy
moments of happiness, and Eugene had almost forgotten Goriot's
existence. The pretty things that surrounded him were growing
familiar; this domestication in itself was one long festival for him,
and Mme. de Nucingen was there to glorify it all by her presence. It
was four o'clock before they thought of Goriot, and of how he had
looked forward to the new life in that house. Eugene said that the old
man ought to be moved at once, lest he should grow too ill to move. He
left Delphine and hurried back to the lodging-house. Neither Father
Goriot nor young Bianchon was in the dining-room with the others.
"Aha!" said the painter as Eugene came in, "Father Goriot has broken
down at last. Bianchon is upstairs with him. One of his daughters--the
Comtesse de Restaurama--came to see the old gentleman, and he would
get up and go out, and made himself worse. Society is about to lose
one of its brightest ornaments."
Rastignac sprang to the staircase.
"Hey! Monsieur Eugene!"
"Monsieur Eugene, the mistress is calling you," shouted Sylvie.
"It is this, sir," said the widow. "You and M. Goriot should by rights
have moved out on the 15th of February. That was three days ago; to-
day is the 18th, I ought really to be paid a month in advance; but if
you will engage to pay for both, I shall be quite satisfied."
"Why can't you trust him?"
"Trust him, indeed! If the old gentleman went off his head and died,
those daughters of his would not pay me a farthing, and his things
won't fetch ten francs. This morning he went out with all the spoons
and forks he has left, I don't know why. He had got himself up to look
quite young, and--Lord, forgive me--but I thought he had rouge on his
cheeks; he looked quite young again."
"I will be responsible," said Eugene, shuddering with horror, for he
foresaw the end.
He climbed the stairs and reached Father Goriot's room. The old man
was tossing on his bed. Bianchon was with him.
"Good-evening, father," said Eugene.
The old man turned his glassy eyes on him, smiled gently, and said:
"How is /she/?"
"She is quite well. But how are you?"
"There is nothing much the matter."
"Don't tire him," said Bianchon, drawing Eugene into a corner of the
"Well?" asked Rastignac.
"Nothing but a miracle can save him now. Serous congestion has set in;
I have put on mustard plasters, and luckily he can feel them, they are
"Is it possible to move him?"
"Quite out of the question. He must stay where he is, and be kept as
quiet as possible----"
"Dear Bianchon," said Eugene, "we will nurse him between us."
"I have had the head physician round from my hospital to see him."
"And what did he say?"
"He will give no opinion till to-morrow evening. He promised to look
in again at the end of the day. Unluckily, the preposterous creature
must needs go and do something foolish this morning; he will not say
what it was. He is as obstinate as a mule. As soon as I begin to talk
to him he pretends not to hear, and lies as if he were asleep instead
of answering, or if he opens his eyes he begins to groan. Some time
this morning he went out on foot in the streets, nobody knows where he
went, and he took everything that he had of any value with him. He has
been driving some confounded bargain, and it has been too much for his
strength. One of his daughters has been here."
"Was it the Countess?" asked Eugene. "A tall, dark-haired woman, with
large bright eyes, slender figure, and little feet?"
"Leave him to me for a bit," said Rastignac. "I will make him confess;
he will tell me all about it."
"And meanwhile I will get my dinner. But try not to excite him; there
is still some hope left."
"How they will enjoy themselves to-morrow," said Father Goriot when
they were alone. "They are going to a grand ball."
"What were you doing this morning, papa, to make yourself so poorly
this evening that you have to stop in bed?"
"Did not Anastasie come to see you?" demanded Rastignac.
"Yes," said Father Goriot.
"Well, then, don't keep anything from me. What more did she want of
"Oh, she was very miserable," he answered, gathering up all his
strength to speak. "It was this way, my boy. Since that affair of the
diamonds, Nasie has not had a penny of her own. For this ball she had
ordered a golden gown like a setting for a jewel. Her mantuamaker, a
woman without a conscience, would not give her credit, so Nasie's
waiting-woman advanced a thousand francs on account. Poor Nasie!
reduced to such shifts! It cut me to the heart to think of it! But
when Nasie's maid saw how things were between her master and mistress,
she was afraid of losing her money, and came to an understanding with
the dressmaker, and the woman refuses to send the ball-dress until the
money is paid. The gown is ready, and the ball is to-morrow night!
Nasie was in despair. She wanted to borrow my forks and spoons to pawn
them. Her husband is determined that she shall go and wear the
diamonds, so as to contradict the stories that are told all over
Paris. How can she go to that heartless scoundrel and say, 'I owe a
thousand francs to my dressmaker; pay her for me!' She cannot. I saw
that myself. Delphine will be there too in a superb toilette, and
Anastasie ought not to be outshone by her younger sister. And then--
she was drowned in tears, poor girl! I felt so humbled yesterday when
I had not the twelve thousand francs, that I would have given the rest
of my miserable life to wipe out that wrong. You see, I could have
borne anything once, but latterly this want of money has broken my
heart. Oh! I did not do it by halves; I titivated myself up a bit, and
went out and sold my spoons and forks and buckles for six hundred
francs; then I went to old Daddy Gobseck, and sold a year's interest
on my annuity for four hundred francs down. Pshaw! I can live on dry
bread, as I did when I was a young man; if I have done it before, I
can do it again. My Nasie shall have one happy evening, at any rate.
She shall be smart. The banknote for a thousand francs is under my
pillow; it warms me to have it lying there under my head, for it is
going to make my poor Nasie happy. She can turn that bad girl Victoire
out of the house. A servant that cannot trust her mistress, did any
one ever hear the like! I shall be quite well to-morrow. Nasie is
coming at ten o'clock. They must not think that I am ill, or they will
not go to the ball; they will stop and take care of me. To-morrow
Nasie will come and hold me in her arms as if I were one of her
children; her kisses will make me well again. After all, I might have
spent the thousand francs on physic; I would far rather give them to
my little Nasie, who can charm all the pain away. At any rate, I am
some comfort to her in her misery; and that makes up for my unkindness
in buying an annuity. She is in the depths, and I cannot draw her out
of them now. Oh! I will go into business again, I will buy wheat in
Odessa; out there, wheat fetches a quarter of the price it sells for
here. There is a law against the importation of grain, but the good
folk who made the law forgot to prohibit the introduction of wheat
products and food stuffs made from corn. Hey! hey! . . . That struck
me this morning. There is a fine trade to be done in starch."
Eugene, watching the old man's face, thought that his friend was
"Come," he said, "do not talk any more, you must rest----" Just then
Bianchon came up, and Eugene went down to dinner.
The two students sat up with him that night, relieving each other in
turn. Bianchon brought up his medical books and studied; Eugene wrote
letters home to his mother and sisters. Next morning Bianchon thought
the symptoms more hopeful, but the patient's condition demanded
continual attention, which the two students alone were willing to
give--a task impossible to describe in the squeamish phraseology of
the epoch. Leeches must be applied to the wasted body, the poultices
and hot foot-baths, and other details of the treatment required the
physical strength and devotion of the two young men. Mme. de Restaud
did not come; but she sent a messenger for the money.
"I expected she would come herself; but it would have been a pity for
her to come, she would have been anxious about me," said the father,
and to all appearances he was well content.
At seven o'clock that evening Therese came with a letter from
"What are you doing, dear friend? I have been loved for a very
little while, and I am neglected already? In the confidences of
heart and heart, I have learned to know your soul--you are too
noble not to be faithful for ever, for you know that love with all
its infinite subtle changes of feeling is never the same. Once you
said, as we were listening to the Prayer in /Mose in Egitto/, 'For
some it is the monotony of a single note; for others, it is the
infinite of sound.' Remember that I am expecting you this evening
to take me to Mme. de Beauseant's ball. Every one knows now that
the King signed M. d'Ajuda's marriage-contract this morning, and
the poor Vicomtesse knew nothing of it until two o'clock this
afternoon. All Paris will flock to her house, of course, just as a
crowd fills the Place de Greve to see an execution. It is
horrible, is it not, to go out of curiosity to see if she will
hide her anguish, and whether she will die courageously? I
certainly should not go, my friend, if I had been at her house
before; but, of course, she will not receive society any more
after this, and all my efforts would be in vain. My position is a
very unusual one, and besides, I am going there partly on your
account. I am waiting for you. If you are not beside me in less
than two hours, I do not know whether I could forgive such
Rastignac took up a pen and wrote:
"I am waiting till the doctor comes to know if there is any hope of
your father's life. He is lying dangerously ill. I will come and
bring you the news, but I am afraid it may be a sentence of death.
When I come you can decide whether you can go to the ball.--Yours
a thousand times."
At half-past eight the doctor arrived. He did not take a very hopeful
view of the case, but thought that there was no immediate danger.
Improvements and relapses might be expected, and the good man's life
and reason hung in the balance.
"It would be better for him to die at once," the doctor said as he
Eugene left Goriot to Bianchon's care, and went to carry the sad news
to Mme. de Nucingen. Family feeling lingered in her, and this must put
an end for the present to her plans of amusement.
"Tell her to enjoy her evening as if nothing had happened," cried
Goriot. He had been lying in a sort of stupor, but he suddenly sat
upright as Eugene went out.
Eugene, half heartbroken, entered Delphine's. Her hair had been
dressed; she wore her dancing slippers; she had only to put on her
ball-dress; but when the artist is giving the finishing stroke to his
creation, the last touches require more time than the whole groundwork
of the picture.
"Why, you are not dressed!" she cried.
"Madame, your father----"
"My father again!" she exclaimed, breaking in upon him. "You need not
teach me what is due to my father, I have known my father this long
while. Not a word, Eugene. I will hear what you have to say when you
are dressed. My carriage is waiting, take it, go round to your rooms
and dress, Therese has put out everything in readiness for you. Come
back as soon as you can; we will talk about my father on the way to
Mme. de Beauseant's. We must go early; if we have to wait our turn in
a row of carriages, we shall be lucky if we get there by eleven
"Quick! not a word!" she cried, darting into her dressing-room for a
"Do go, Monsieur Eugene, or you will vex madame," said Therese,
hurrying him away; and Eugene was too horror-stricken by this elegant
parricide to resist.
He went to his rooms and dressed, sad, thoughtful, and dispirited. The
world of Paris was like an ocean of mud for him just then; and it
seemed that whoever set foot in that black mire must needs sink into
it up to the chin.
"Their crimes are paltry," said Eugene to himself. "Vautrin was
He had seen society in its three great phases--Obedience, Struggle,
and Revolt; the Family, the World, and Vautrin; and he hesitated in
his choice. Obedience was dull, Revolt impossible, Struggle hazardous.
His thoughts wandered back to the home circle. He thought of the quiet
uneventful life, the pure happiness of the days spent among those who
loved him there. Those loving and beloved beings passed their lives in
obedience to the natural laws of the hearth, and in that obedience
found a deep and constant serenity, unvexed by torments such as these.
Yet, for all his good impulses, he could not bring himself to make
profession of the religion of pure souls to Delphine, nor to prescribe
the duties of piety to her in the name of love. His education had
begun to bear its fruits; he loved selfishly already. Besides, his
tact had discovered to him the real nature of Delphine; he divined
instinctively that she was capable of stepping over her father's
corpse to go to the ball; and within himself he felt that he had
neither the strength of mind to play the part of mentor, nor the
strength of character to vex her, nor the courage to leave her to go
"She would never forgive me for putting her in the wrong over it," he
said to himself. Then he turned the doctor's dictum over in his mind;
he tried to believe that Goriot was not so dangerously ill as he had
imagined, and ended by collecting together a sufficient quantity of
traitorous excuses for Delphine's conduct. She did not know how ill
her father was; the kind old man himself would have made her go to the
ball if she had gone to see him. So often it happens that this one or
that stands condemned by the social laws that govern family relations;
and yet there are peculiar circumstances in the case, differences of
temperament, divergent interests, innumerable complications of family
life that excuse the apparent offence.
Eugene did not wish to see too clearly; he was ready to sacrifice his
conscience to his mistress. Within the last few days his whole life
had undergone a change. Woman had entered into his world and thrown it
into chaos, family claims dwindled away before her; she had
appropriated all his being to her uses. Rastignac and Delphine found
each other at a crisis in their lives when their union gave them the
most poignant bliss. Their passion, so long proved, had only gained in
strength by the gratified desire that often extinguishes passion. This
woman was his, and Eugene recognized that not until then had he loved
her; perhaps love is only gratitude for pleasure. This woman, vile or
sublime, he adored for the pleasure she had brought as her dower; and
Delphine loved Rastignac as Tantalus would have loved some angel who
had satisfied his hunger and quenched the burning thirst in his
"Well," said Mme. de Nucingen when he came back in evening dress, "how
is my father?"
"Very dangerously ill," he answered; "if you will grant me a proof of
your affections, we will just go in to see him on the way."
"Very well," she said. "Yes, but afterwards. Dear Eugene, do be nice,
and don't preach to me. Come."
They set out. Eugene said nothing for a while.
"What is it now?" she asked.
"I can hear the death-rattle in your father's throat," he said almost
angrily. And with the hot indignation of youth, he told the story of
Mme. de Restaud's vanity and cruelty, of her father's final act of
self-sacrifice, that had brought about this struggle between life and
death, of the price that had been paid for Anastasie's golden
embroideries. Delphine cried.
"I shall look frightful," she thought. She dried her tears.
"I will nurse my father; I will not leave his bedside," she said
"Ah! now you are as I would have you," exclaimed Rastignac.
The lamps of five hundred carriages lit up the darkness about the
Hotel de Beauseant. A gendarme in all the glory of his uniform stood
on either side of the brightly lighted gateway. The great world was
flocking thither that night in its eager curiosity to see the great
lady at the moment of her fall, and the rooms on the ground floor were
already full to overflowing, when Mme. de Nucingen and Rastignac
appeared. Never since Louis XIV. tore her lover away from La grand
Mademoiselle, and the whole court hastened to visit that unfortunate
princess, had a disastrous love affair made such a sensation in Paris.
But the youngest daughter of the almost royal house of Burgundy had
risen proudly above her pain, and moved till the last moment like a
queen in this world--its vanities had always been valueless for her,
save in so far as they contributed to the triumph of her passion. The
salons were filled with the most beautiful women in Paris, resplendent
in their toilettes, and radiant with smiles. Ministers and
ambassadors, the most distinguished men at court, men bedizened with
decorations, stars, and ribbons, men who bore the most illustrious
names in France, had gathered about the Vicomtesse.
The music of the orchestra vibrated in wave after wave of sound from
the golden ceiling of the palace, now made desolate for its queen.
Madame de Beauseant stood at the door of the first salon to receive
the guests who were styled her friends. She was dressed in white, and
wore no ornament in the plaits of hair braided about her head; her
face was calm; there was no sign there of pride, nor of pain, nor of
joy that she did not feel. No one could read her soul; she stood there
like some Niobe carved in marble. For a few intimate friends there was
a tinge of satire in her smile; but no scrutiny saw any change in her,
nor had she looked otherwise in the days of the glory of her
happiness. The most callous of her guests admired her as young Rome
applauded some gladiator who could die smiling. It seemed as if
society had adorned itself for a last audience of one of its
"I was afraid that you would not come," she said to Rastignac.
"Madame," he said, in an unsteady voice, taking her speech as a
reproach, "I shall be the last to go, that is why I am here."
"Good," she said, and she took his hand. "You are perhaps the only one
I can trust here among all these. Oh, my friend, when you love, love a
woman whom you are sure that you can love always. Never forsake a
She took Rastignac's arm, and went towards a sofa in the card-room.
"I want you to go to the Marquis," she said. "Jacques, my footman,
will go with you; he has a letter that you will take. I am asking the
Marquis to give my letters back to me. He will give them all up, I
like to think that. When you have my letters, go up to my room with
them. Some one shall bring me word."
She rose to go to meet the Duchesse de Langeais, her most intimate
friend, who had come like the rest of the world.
Rastignac went. He asked for the Marquis d'Ajuda at the Hotel
Rochefide, feeling certain that the latter would be spending his
evening there, and so it proved. The Marquis went to his own house
with Rastignac, and gave a casket to the student, saying as he did so,
"They are all there."
He seemed as if he was about to say something to Eugene, to ask about
the ball, or the Vicomtesse; perhaps he was on the brink of the
confession that, even then, he was in despair, and knew that his
marriage had been a fatal mistake; but a proud gleam shone in his
eyes, and with deplorable courage he kept his noblest feelings a
"Do not even mention my name to her, my dear Eugene." He grasped
Rastignac's hand sadly and affectionately, and turned away from him.
Eugene went back to the Hotel Beauseant, the servant took him to the
Vicomtesse's room. There were signs there of preparations for a
journey. He sat down by the fire, fixed his eyes on the cedar wood
casket, and fell into deep mournful musings. Mme. de Beauseant loomed
large in these imaginings, like a goddess in the Iliad.
"Ah! my friend! . . ." said the Vicomtesse; she crossed the room and
laid her hand on Rastignac's shoulder. He saw the tears in his
cousin's uplifted eyes, saw that one hand was raised to take the
casket, and that the fingers of the other trembled. Suddenly she took
the casket, put it in the fire, and watched it burn.
"They are dancing," she said. "They all came very early; but death
will be long in coming. Hush! my friend," and she laid a finger on
Rastignac's lips, seeing that he was about to speak. "I shall never
see Paris again. I am taking my leave of the world. At five o'clock
this morning I shall set out on my journey; I mean to bury myself in
the remotest part of Normandy. I have had very little time to make my
arrangements; since three o'clock this afternoon I have been busy
signing documents, setting my affairs in order; there was no one whom
I could send to . . ."
She broke off.
"He was sure to be . . ."
Again she broke off; the weight of her sorrow was more than she could
bear. In such moments as these everything is agony, and some words are
impossible to utter.
"And so I counted upon you to do me this last piece of service this
evening," she said. "I should like to give you some pledge of
friendship. I shall often think of you. You have seemed to me to be
kind and noble, fresh-hearted and true, in this world where such
qualities are seldom found. I should like you to think sometimes of
me. Stay," she said, glancing about her, "there is this box that has
held my gloves. Every time I opened it before going to a ball or to
the theatre, I used to feel that I must be beautiful, because I was so
happy; and I never touched it except to lay some gracious memory in
it: there is so much of my old self in it, of a Madame de Beauseant
who now lives no longer. Will you take it? I will leave directions
that it is to be sent to you in the Rue d'Artois.--Mme. de Nucingen
looked very charming this evening. Eugene, you must love her. Perhaps
we may never see each other again, my friend; but be sure of this,
that I shall pray for you who have been kind to me.--Now, let us go
downstairs. People shall not think that I am weeping. I have all time
and eternity before me, and where I am going I shall be alone, and no
one will ask me the reason of my tears. One last look round first."
She stood for a moment. Then she covered her eyes with her hands for
an instant, dashed away the tears, bathed her face with cold water,
and took the student's arm.
"Let us go!" she said.
This suffering, endured with such noble fortitude, shook Eugene with a
more violent emotion than he had felt before. They went back to the
ballroom, and Mme. de Beauseant went through the rooms on Eugene's arm
--the last delicately gracious act of a gracious woman. In another
moment he saw the sisters, Mme. de Restaud and Mme. de Nucingen. The
Countess shone in all the glory of her magnificent diamonds; every
stone must have scorched like fire, she was never to wear them again.
Strong as love and pride might be in her, she found it difficult to
meet her husband's eyes. The sight of her was scarcely calculated to
lighten Rastignac's sad thoughts; through the blaze of those diamonds
he seemed to see the wretched pallet-bed on which Father Goriot was
lying. The Vicomtesse misread his melancholy; she withdrew her hand
from his arm.
"Come," she said, "I must not deprive you of a pleasure."
Eugene was soon claimed by Delphine. She was delighted by the
impression that she had made, and eager to lay at her lover's feet the
homage she had received in this new world in which she hoped to live
and move henceforth.
"What do you think of Nasie?" she asked him.
"She has discounted everything, even her own father's death," said
Towards four o'clock in the morning the rooms began to empty. A little
later the music ceased, and the Duchesse de Langeais and Rastignac
were left in the great ballroom. The Vicomtesse, who thought to find
the student there alone, came back there at last. She had taken leave
of M. de Beauseant, who had gone off to bed, saying again as he went,
"It is a great pity, my dear, to shut yourself up at your age! Pray
stay among us."
Mme. de Beauseant saw the Duchesse, and, in spite of herself, an
exclamation broke from her.
"I saw how it was, Clara," said Mme. de Langeais. "You are going from
among us, and you will never come back. But you must not go until you
have heard me, until we have understood each other."
She took her friend's arm, and they went together into the next room.
There the Duchess looked at her with tears in her eyes; she held her
friend in close embrace and kissed her cheek.
"I could not let you go without a word, dearest; the remorse would
have been too hard to bear. You can count upon me as surely as upon
yourself. You have shown yourself great this evening; I feel that I am
worthy of our friendship, and I mean to prove myself worthy of it. I
have not always been kind; I was in the wrong; forgive me, dearest; I
wish I could unsay anything that may have hurt you; I take back those
words. One common sorrow has brought us together again, for I do not
know which of us is the more miserable. M. de Montriveau was not here
to-night; do you understand what that means?--None of those who saw
you to-night, Clara, will ever forget you. I mean to make one last
effort. If I fail, I shall go into a convent. Clara, where are you
"Into Normandy, to Courcelles. I shall love and pray there until the
day when God shall take me from this world.--M. de Rastignac!" called
the Vicomtesse, in a tremulous voice, remembering that the young man
was waiting there.
The student knelt to kiss his cousin's hand.
"Good-bye, Antoinette!" said Mme. de Beauseant. "May you be happy."--
She turned to the student. "You are young," she said; "you have some
beliefs still left. I have been privileged, like some dying people, to
find sincere and reverent feeling in those about me as I take my leave
of this world."
It was nearly five o'clock that morning when Rastignac came away. He
had put Mme. de Beauseant into her traveling carriage, and received
her last farewells, spoken amid fast-falling tears; for no greatness
is so great that it can rise above the laws of human affection, or
live beyond the jurisdiction of pain, as certain demagogues would have
the people believe. Eugene returned on foot to the Maison Vauquer
through the cold and darkness. His education was nearly complete.
"There is no hope for poor Father Goriot," said Bianchon, as Rastignac
came into the room. Eugene looked for a while at the sleeping man,
then he turned to his friend. "Dear fellow, you are content with the
modest career you have marked out for yourself; keep to it. I am in
hell, and I must stay there. Believe everything that you hear said of
the world, nothing is too impossibly bad. No Juvenal could paint the
horrors hidden away under the covering of gems and gold."
At two o'clock in the afternoon Bianchon came to wake Rastignac, and
begged him to take charge of Goriot, who had grown worse as the day
wore on. The medical student was obliged to go out.
"Poor old man, he has not two days to live, maybe not many hours," he
said; "but we must do our utmost, all the same, to fight the disease.
It will be a very troublesome case, and we shall want money. We can
nurse him between us, of course, but, for my own part, I have not a
penny. I have turned out his pockets, and rummaged through his
drawers--result, nix. I asked him about it while his mind was clear,
and he told me he had not a farthing of his own. What have you?"
"I have twenty francs left," said Rastignac; "but I will take them to
the roulette table, I shall be sure to win."
"And if you lose?"
"Then I shall go to his sons-in-law and his daughters and ask them for
"And suppose they refuse?" Bianchon retorted. "The most pressing thing
just now is not really money; we must put mustard poultices, as hot as
they can be made, on his feet and legs. If he calls out, there is
still some hope for him. You know how to set about doing it, and
besides, Christophe will help you. I am going round to the dispensary
to persuade them to let us have the things we want on credit. It is a
pity that we could not move him to the hospital; poor fellow, he would
be better there. Well, come along, I leave you in charge; you must
stay with him till I come back."
The two young men went back to the room where the old man was lying.
Eugene was startled at the change in Goriot's face, so livid,
distorted, and feeble.
"How are you, papa?" he said, bending over the pallet-bed. Goriot
turned his dull eyes upon Eugene, looked at him attentively, and did
not recognize him. It was more than the student could bear; the tears
came into his eyes.
"Bianchon, ought we to have the curtains put up in the windows?"
"No, the temperature and the light do not affect him now. It would be
a good thing for him if he felt heat or cold; but we must have a fire
in any case to make tisanes and heat the other things. I will send
round a few sticks; they will last till we can have in some firewood.
I burned all the bark fuel you had left, as well as his, poor man,
yesterday and during the night. The place is so damp that the water
stood in drops on the walls; I could hardly get the room dry.
Christophe came in and swept the floor, but the place is like a
stable; I had to burn juniper, the smell was something horrible.
"/Mon Dieu!/" said Rastignac. "To think of those daughters of his."