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    Chapter 1

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    Chapter 1
    There are houses in certain provincial towns whose aspect inspires
    melancholy, akin to that called forth by sombre cloisters, dreary
    moorlands, or the desolation of ruins. Within these houses there is,
    perhaps, the silence of the cloister, the barrenness of moors, the
    skeleton of ruins; life and movement are so stagnant there that a
    stranger might think them uninhabited, were it not that he encounters
    suddenly the pale, cold glance of a motionless person, whose
    half-monastic face peers beyond the window-casing at the sound of an
    unaccustomed step.

    Such elements of sadness formed the physiognomy, as it were, of a
    dwelling-house in Saumur which stands at the end of the steep street
    leading to the chateau in the upper part of the town. This street--now
    little frequented, hot in summer, cold in winter, dark in certain
    sections--is remarkable for the resonance of its little pebbly
    pavement, always clean and dry, for the narrowness of its tortuous
    road-way, for the peaceful stillness of its houses, which belong to
    the Old town and are over-topped by the ramparts. Houses three
    centuries old are still solid, though built of wood, and their divers
    aspects add to the originality which commends this portion of Saumur
    to the attention of artists and antiquaries.

    It is difficult to pass these houses without admiring the enormous
    oaken beams, their ends carved into fantastic figures, which crown
    with a black bas-relief the lower floor of most of them. In one place
    these transverse timbers are covered with slate and mark a bluish line
    along the frail wall of a dwelling covered by a roof _en colombage_
    which bends beneath the weight of years, and whose rotting shingles
    are twisted by the alternate action of sun and rain. In another place
    blackened, worn-out window-sills, with delicate sculptures now
    scarcely discernible, seem too weak to bear the brown clay pots from
    which springs the heart's-ease or the rose-bush of some poor
    working-woman. Farther on are doors studded with enormous nails, where
    the genius of our forefathers has traced domestic hieroglyphics, of
    which the meaning is now lost forever. Here a Protestant attested his
    belief; there a Leaguer cursed Henry IV.; elsewhere some bourgeois has
    carved the insignia of his _noblesse de cloches_, symbols of his
    long-forgotten magisterial glory. The whole history of France is there.

    Next to a tottering house with roughly plastered walls, where an
    artisan enshrines his tools, rises the mansion of a country gentleman,
    on the stone arch of which above the door vestiges of armorial
    bearings may still be seen, battered by the many revolutions that have
    shaken France since 1789. In this hilly street the ground-floors of
    the merchants are neither shops nor warehouses; lovers of the Middle
    Ages will here find the _ouvrouere_ of our forefathers in all its
    naive simplicity. These low rooms, which have no shop-frontage, no
    show-windows, in fact no glass at all, are deep and dark and without
    interior or exterior decoration. Their doors open in two parts, each
    roughly iron-bound; the upper half is fastened back within the room,
    the lower half, fitted with a spring-bell, swings continually to and
    fro. Air and light reach the damp den within, either through the upper
    half of the door, or through an open space between the ceiling and a
    low front wall, breast-high, which is closed by solid shutters that
    are taken down every morning, put up every evening, and held in place
    by heavy iron bars.

    This wall serves as a counter for the merchandise. No delusive display
    is there; only samples of the business, whatever it may chance to be,
    --such, for instance, as three or four tubs full of codfish and salt,
    a few bundles of sail-cloth, cordage, copper wire hanging from the
    joists above, iron hoops for casks ranged along the wall, or a few
    pieces of cloth upon the shelves. Enter. A neat girl, glowing with
    youth, wearing a white kerchief, her arms red and bare, drops her
    knitting and calls her father or her mother, one of whom comes forward
    and sells you what you want, phlegmatically, civilly, or arrogantly,
    according to his or her individual character, whether it be a matter
    of two sous' or twenty thousand francs' worth of merchandise. You may
    see a cooper, for instance, sitting in his doorway and twirling his
    thumbs as he talks with a neighbor. To all appearance he owns nothing
    more than a few miserable boat-ribs and two or three bundles of laths;
    but below in the port his teeming wood-yard supplies all the cooperage
    trade of Anjou. He knows to a plank how many casks are needed if the
    vintage is good. A hot season makes him rich, a rainy season ruins
    him; in a single morning puncheons worth eleven francs have been known
    to drop to six. In this country, as in Touraine, atmospheric
    vicissitudes control commercial life. Wine-growers, proprietors,
    wood-merchants, coopers, inn-keepers, mariners, all keep watch of the
    sun. They tremble when they go to bed lest they should hear in the
    morning of a frost in the night; they dread rain, wind, drought, and
    want water, heat, and clouds to suit their fancy. A perpetual duel goes
    on between the heavens and their terrestrial interests. The barometer
    smooths, saddens, or makes merry their countenances, turn and turn
    about. From end to end of this street, formerly the Grand'Rue de
    Saumur, the words: "Here's golden weather," are passed from door to
    door; or each man calls to his neighbor: "It rains louis," knowing
    well what a sunbeam or the opportune rainfall is bringing him.

    On Saturdays after midday, in the fine season, not one sou's worth of
    merchandise can be bought from these worthy traders. Each has his
    vineyard, his enclosure of fields, and all spend two days in the
    country. This being foreseen, and purchases, sales, and profits
    provided for, the merchants have ten or twelve hours to spend in
    parties of pleasure, in making observations, in criticisms, and in
    continual spying. A housewife cannot buy a partridge without the
    neighbors asking the husband if it were cooked to a turn. A young girl
    never puts her head near a window that she is not seen by idling
    groups in the street. Consciences are held in the light; and the
    houses, dark, silent, impenetrable as they seem, hide no mysteries.
    Life is almost wholly in the open air; every household sits at its own
    threshold, breakfasts, dines, and quarrels there. No one can pass
    along the street without being examined; in fact formerly, when a
    stranger entered a provincial town he was bantered and made game of
    from door to door. From this came many good stories, and the nickname
    _copieux_, which was applied to the inhabitants of Angers, who
    excelled in such urban sarcasms.

    The ancient mansions of the old town of Saumur are at the top of this
    hilly street, and were formerly occupied by the nobility of the
    neighborhood. The melancholy dwelling where the events of the
    following history took place is one of these mansions,--venerable
    relics of a century in which men and things bore the characteristics
    of simplicity which French manners and customs are losing day by day.
    Follow the windings of the picturesque thoroughfare, whose
    irregularities awaken recollections that plunge the mind mechanically
    into reverie, and you will see a somewhat dark recess, in the centre
    of which is hidden the door of the house of Monsieur Grandet. It is
    impossible to understand the force of this provincial expression--the
    house of Monsieur Grandet--without giving the biography of Monsieur
    Grandet himself.

    Monsieur Grandet enjoyed a reputation in Saumur whose causes and
    effects can never be fully understood by those who have not, at one
    time or another, lived in the provinces. In 1789 Monsieur Grandet
    --still called by certain persons le Pere Grandet, though the number
    of such old persons has perceptibly diminished--was a master-cooper,
    able to read, write, and cipher. At the period when the French Republic
    offered for sale the church property in the arrondissement of Saumur,
    the cooper, then forty years of age, had just married the daughter of
    a rich wood-merchant. Supplied with the ready money of his own fortune
    and his wife's _dot_, in all about two thousand louis-d'or, Grandet
    went to the newly established "district," where, with the help of two
    hundred double louis given by his father-in-law to the surly
    republican who presided over the sales of the national domain, he
    obtained for a song, legally if not legitimately, one of the finest
    vineyards in the arrondissement, an old abbey, and several farms. The
    inhabitants of Saumur were so little revolutionary that they thought
    Pere Grandet a bold man, a republican, and a patriot with a mind open
    to all the new ideas; though in point of fact it was open only to
    vineyards. He was appointed a member of the administration of Saumur,
    and his pacific influence made itself felt politically and
    commercially. Politically, he protected the ci-devant nobles, and
    prevented, to the extent of his power, the sale of the lands and
    property of the _emigres_; commercially, he furnished the Republican
    armies with two or three thousand puncheons of white wine, and took
    his pay in splendid fields belonging to a community of women whose
    lands had been reserved for the last lot.

    Under the Consulate Grandet became mayor, governed wisely, and
    harvested still better pickings. Under the Empire he was called
    Monsieur Grandet. Napoleon, however, did not like republicans, and
    superseded Monsieur Grandet (who was supposed to have worn the
    Phrygian cap) by a man of his own surroundings, a future baron of the
    Empire. Monsieur Grandet quitted office without regret. He had
    constructed in the interests of the town certain fine roads which led
    to his own property; his house and lands, very advantageously
    assessed, paid moderate taxes; and since the registration of his
    various estates, the vineyards, thanks to his constant care, had
    become the "head of the country,"--a local term used to denote those
    that produced the finest quality of wine. He might have asked for the
    cross of the Legion of honor.

    This event occurred in 1806. Monsieur Grandet was then fifty-seven
    years of age, his wife thirty-six, and an only daughter, the fruit of
    their legitimate love, was ten years old. Monsieur Grandet, whom
    Providence no doubt desired to compensate for the loss of his
    municipal honors, inherited three fortunes in the course of this year,
    --that of Madame de la Gaudiniere, born de la Bertelliere, the mother
    of Madame Grandet; that of old Monsieur de la Bertelliere, her
    grandfather; and, lastly, that of Madame Gentillet, her grandmother on
    the mother's side: three inheritances, whose amount was not known to
    any one. The avarice of the deceased persons was so keen that for a
    long time they had hoarded their money for the pleasure of secretly
    looking at it. Old Monsieur de la Bertelliere called an investment an
    extravagance, and thought he got better interest from the sight of his
    gold than from the profits of usury. The inhabitants of Saumur
    consequently estimated his savings according to "the revenues of the
    sun's wealth," as they said.

    Monsieur Grandet thus obtained that modern title of nobility which our
    mania for equality can never rub out. He became the most imposing
    personage in the arrondissement. He worked a hundred acres of
    vineyard, which in fruitful years yielded seven or eight hundred
    hogsheads of wine. He owned thirteen farms, an old abbey, whose
    windows and arches he had walled up for the sake of economy,--a
    measure which preserved them,--also a hundred and twenty-seven acres
    of meadow-land, where three thousand poplars, planted in 1793, grew
    and flourished; and finally, the house in which he lived. Such was his
    visible estate; as to his other property, only two persons could give
    even a vague guess at its value: one was Monsieur Cruchot, a notary
    employed in the usurious investments of Monsieur Grandet; the other
    was Monsieur des Grassins, the richest banker in Saumur, in whose
    profits Grandet had a certain covenanted and secret share.

    Although old Cruchot and Monsieur des Grassins were both gifted with
    the deep discretion which wealth and trust beget in the provinces,
    they publicly testified so much respect to Monsieur Grandet that
    observers estimated the amount of his property by the obsequious
    attention which they bestowed upon him. In all Saumur there was no one
    not persuaded that Monsieur Grandet had a private treasure, some
    hiding-place full of louis, where he nightly took ineffable delight in
    gazing upon great masses of gold. Avaricious people gathered proof of
    this when they looked at the eyes of the good man, to which the yellow
    metal seemed to have conveyed its tints. The glance of a man
    accustomed to draw enormous interest from his capital acquires, like
    that of the libertine, the gambler, or the sycophant, certain
    indefinable habits,--furtive, eager, mysterious movements, which never
    escape the notice of his co-religionists. This secret language is in a
    certain way the freemasonry of the passions. Monsieur Grandet inspired
    the respectful esteem due to one who owed no man anything, who,
    skilful cooper and experienced wine-grower that he was, guessed with
    the precision of an astronomer whether he ought to manufacture a
    thousand puncheons for his vintage, or only five hundred, who never
    failed in any speculation, and always had casks for sale when casks
    were worth more than the commodity that filled them, who could store
    his whole vintage in his cellars and bide his time to put the
    puncheons on the market at two hundred francs, when the little
    proprietors had been forced to sell theirs for five louis. His famous
    vintage of 1811, judiciously stored and slowly disposed of, brought
    him in more than two hundred and forty thousand francs.

    Financially speaking, Monsieur Grandet was something between a tiger
    and a boa-constrictor. He could crouch and lie low, watch his prey a
    long while, spring upon it, open his jaws, swallow a mass of louis,
    and then rest tranquilly like a snake in process of digestion,
    impassible, methodical, and cold. No one saw him pass without a
    feeling of admiration mingled with respect and fear; had not every man
    in Saumur felt the rending of those polished steel claws? For this
    one, Maitre Cruchot had procured the money required for the purchase
    of a domain, but at eleven per cent. For that one, Monsieur des
    Grassins discounted bills of exchange, but at a frightful deduction of
    interest. Few days ever passed that Monsieur Grandet's name was not
    mentioned either in the markets or in social conversations at the
    evening gatherings. To some the fortune of the old wine-grower was an
    object of patriotic pride. More than one merchant, more than one
    innkeeper, said to strangers with a certain complacency: "Monsieur, we
    have two or three millionaire establishments; but as for Monsieur
    Grandet, he does not himself know how much he is worth."

    In 1816 the best reckoners in Saumur estimated the landed property of
    the worthy man at nearly four millions; but as, on an average, he had
    made yearly, from 1793 to 1817, a hundred thousand francs out of that
    property, it was fair to presume that he possessed in actual money a
    sum nearly equal to the value of his estate. So that when, after a
    game of boston or an evening discussion on the matter of vines, the
    talk fell upon Monsieur Grandet, knowing people said: "Le Pere
    Grandet? le Pere Grandet must have at least five or six millions."

    "You are cleverer than I am; I have never been able to find out the
    amount," answered Monsieur Cruchot or Monsieur des Grassins, when
    either chanced to overhear the remark.

    If some Parisian mentioned Rothschild or Monsieur Lafitte, the people
    of Saumur asked if he were as rich as Monsieur Grandet. When the
    Parisian, with a smile, tossed them a disdainful affirmative, they
    looked at each other and shook their heads with an incredulous air. So
    large a fortune covered with a golden mantle all the actions of this
    man. If in early days some peculiarities of his life gave occasion for
    laughter or ridicule, laughter and ridicule had long since died away.
    His least important actions had the authority of results repeatedly
    shown. His speech, his clothing, his gestures, the blinking of his
    eyes, were law to the country-side, where every one, after studying
    him as a naturalist studies the result of instinct in the lower
    animals, had come to understand the deep mute wisdom of his slightest

    "It will be a hard winter," said one; "Pere Grandet has put on his fur

    "Pere Grandet is buying quantities of staves; there will be plenty of
    wine this year."

    Monsieur Grandet never bought either bread or meat. His farmers
    supplied him weekly with a sufficiency of capons, chickens, eggs,
    butter, and his tithe of wheat. He owned a mill; and the tenant was
    bound, over and above his rent, to take a certain quantity of grain
    and return him the flour and bran. La Grande Nanon, his only servant,
    though she was no longer young, baked the bread of the household
    herself every Saturday. Monsieur Grandet arranged with
    kitchen-gardeners who were his tenants to supply him with vegetables.
    As to fruits, he gathered such quantities that he sold the greater part
    in the market. His fire-wood was cut from his own hedgerows or taken
    from the half-rotten old sheds which he built at the corners of his
    fields, and whose planks the farmers carted into town for him, all cut
    up, and obligingly stacked in his wood-house, receiving in return his
    thanks. His only known expenditures were for the consecrated bread, the
    clothing of his wife and daughter, the hire of their chairs in church,
    the wages of la Grand Nanon, the tinning of the saucepans, lights,
    taxes, repairs on his buildings, and the costs of his various
    industries. He had six hundred acres of woodland, lately purchased,
    which he induced a neighbor's keeper to watch, under the promise of an
    indemnity. After the acquisition of this property he ate game for the
    first time.

    Monsieur Grandet's manners were very simple. He spoke little. He
    usually expressed his meaning by short sententious phrases uttered in
    a soft voice. After the Revolution, the epoch at which he first came
    into notice, the good man stuttered in a wearisome way as soon as he
    was required to speak at length or to maintain an argument. This
    stammering, the incoherence of his language, the flux of words in
    which he drowned his thought, his apparent lack of logic, attributed
    to defects of education, were in reality assumed, and will be
    sufficiently explained by certain events in the following history.
    Four sentences, precise as algebraic formulas, sufficed him usually to
    grasp and solve all difficulties of life and commerce: "I don't know;
    I cannot; I will not; I will see about it." He never said yes, or no,
    and never committed himself to writing. If people talked to him he
    listened coldly, holding his chin in his right hand and resting his
    right elbow in the back of his left hand, forming in his own mind
    opinions on all matters, from which he never receded. He reflected
    long before making any business agreement. When his opponent, after
    careful conversation, avowed the secret of his own purposes, confident
    that he had secured his listener's assent, Grandet answered: "I can
    decide nothing without consulting my wife." His wife, whom he had
    reduced to a state of helpless slavery, was a useful screen to him in
    business. He went nowhere among friends; he neither gave nor accepted
    dinners; he made no stir or noise, seeming to economize in everything,
    even movement. He never disturbed or disarranged the things of other
    people, out of respect for the rights of property. Nevertheless, in
    spite of his soft voice, in spite of his circumspect bearing, the
    language and habits of a coarse nature came to the surface, especially
    in his own home, where he controlled himself less than elsewhere.

    Physically, Grandet was a man five feet high, thick-set, square-built,
    with calves twelve inches in circumference, knotted knee-joints, and
    broad shoulders; his face was round, tanned, and pitted by the
    small-pox; his chin was straight, his lips had no curves, his teeth
    were white; his eyes had that calm, devouring expression which people
    attribute to the basilisk; his forehead, full of transverse wrinkles,
    was not without certain significant protuberances; his yellow-grayish
    hair was said to be silver and gold by certain young people who did
    not realize the impropriety of making a jest about Monsieur Grandet.
    His nose, thick at the end, bore a veined wen, which the common people
    said, not without reason, was full of malice. The whole countenance
    showed a dangerous cunning, an integrity without warmth, the egotism
    of a man long used to concentrate every feeling upon the enjoyments of
    avarice and upon the only human being who was anything whatever to
    him,--his daughter and sole heiress, Eugenie. Attitude, manners,
    bearing, everything about him, in short, testified to that belief in
    himself which the habit of succeeding in all enterprises never fails
    to give to a man.

    Thus, though his manners were unctuous and soft outwardly, Monsieur
    Grandet's nature was of iron. His dress never varied; and those who
    saw him to-day saw him such as he had been since 1791. His stout shoes
    were tied with leathern thongs; he wore, in all weathers, thick
    woollen stockings, short breeches of coarse maroon cloth with silver
    buckles, a velvet waistcoat, in alternate stripes of yellow and puce,
    buttoned squarely, a large maroon coat with wide flaps, a black
    cravat, and a quaker's hat. His gloves, thick as those of a gendarme,
    lasted him twenty months; to preserve them, he always laid them
    methodically on the brim of his hat in one particular spot. Saumur
    knew nothing further about this personage.

    Only six individuals had a right of entrance to Monsieur Grandet's
    house. The most important of the first three was a nephew of Monsieur
    Cruchot. Since his appointment as president of the Civil courts of
    Saumur this young man had added the name of Bonfons to that of
    Cruchot. He now signed himself C. de Bonfons. Any litigant so
    ill-advised as to call him Monsieur Cruchot would soon be made to feel
    his folly in court. The magistrate protected those who called him
    Monsieur le president, but he favored with gracious smiles those who
    addressed him as Monsieur de Bonfons. Monsieur le president was
    thirty-three years old, and possessed the estate of Bonfons (Boni
    Fontis), worth seven thousand francs a year; he expected to inherit the
    property of his uncle the notary and that of another uncle, the Abbe
    Cruchot, a dignitary of the chapter of Saint-Martin de Tours, both of
    whom were thought to be very rich. These three Cruchots, backed by a
    goodly number of cousins, and allied to twenty families in the town,
    formed a party, like the Medici in Florence; like the Medici, the
    Cruchots had their Pazzi.

    Madame des Grassins, mother of a son twenty-three years of age, came
    assiduously to play cards with Madame Grandet, hoping to marry her
    dear Adolphe to Mademoiselle Eugenie. Monsieur des Grassins, the
    banker, vigorously promoted the schemes of his wife by means of secret
    services constantly rendered to the old miser, and always arrived in
    time upon the field of battle. The three des Grassins likewise had
    their adherents, their cousins, their faithful allies. On the Cruchot
    side the abbe, the Talleyrand of the family, well backed-up by his
    brother the notary, sharply contested every inch of ground with his
    female adversary, and tried to obtain the rich heiress for his nephew
    the president.

    This secret warfare between the Cruchots and des Grassins, the prize
    thereof being the hand in marriage of Eugenie Grandet, kept the
    various social circles of Saumur in violent agitation. Would
    Mademoiselle Grandet marry Monsieur le president or Monsieur Adolphe
    des Grassins? To this problem some replied that Monsieur Grandet would
    never give his daughter to the one or to the other. The old cooper,
    eaten up with ambition, was looking, they said, for a peer of France,
    to whom an income of three hundred thousand francs would make all the
    past, present, and future casks of the Grandets acceptable. Others
    replied that Monsieur and Madame des Grassins were nobles, and
    exceedingly rich; that Adolphe was a personable young fellow; and that
    unless the old man had a nephew of the pope at his beck and call, such
    a suitable alliance ought to satisfy a man who came from nothing,--a
    man whom Saumur remembered with an adze in his hand, and who had,
    moreover, worn the _bonnet rouge_. Certain wise heads called attention
    to the fact that Monsieur Cruchot de Bonfons had the right of entry to
    the house at all times, whereas his rival was received only on
    Sundays. Others, however, maintained that Madame des Grassins was more
    intimate with the women of the house of Grandet than the Cruchots
    were, and could put into their minds certain ideas which would lead,
    sooner or later, to success. To this the former retorted that the Abbe
    Cruchot was the most insinuating man in the world: pit a woman against
    a monk, and the struggle was even. "It is diamond cut diamond," said a
    Saumur wit.

    The oldest inhabitants, wiser than their fellows, declared that the
    Grandets knew better than to let the property go out of the family,
    and that Mademoiselle Eugenie Grandet of Saumur would be married to
    the son of Monsieur Grandet of Paris, a wealthy wholesale
    wine-merchant. To this the Cruchotines and the Grassinists replied:
    "In the first place, the two brothers have seen each other only twice
    in thirty years; and next, Monsieur Grandet of Paris has ambitious
    designs for his son. He is mayor of an arrondissement, a deputy,
    colonel of the National Guard, judge in the commercial courts; he
    disowns the Grandets of Saumur, and means to ally himself with some
    ducal family,--ducal under favor of Napoleon." In short, was there
    anything not said of an heiress who was talked of through a
    circumference of fifty miles, and even in the public conveyances from
    Angers to Blois, inclusively!

    At the beginning of 1811, the Cruchotines won a signal advantage over
    the Grassinists. The estate of Froidfond, remarkable for its park, its
    mansion, its farms, streams, ponds, forests, and worth about three
    millions, was put up for sale by the young Marquis de Froidfond, who
    was obliged to liquidate his possessions. Maitre Cruchot, the
    president, and the abbe, aided by their adherents, were able to
    prevent the sale of the estate in little lots. The notary concluded a
    bargain with the young man for the whole property, payable in gold,
    persuading him that suits without number would have to be brought
    against the purchasers of small lots before he could get the money for
    them; it was better, therefore, to sell the whole to Monsieur Grandet,
    who was solvent and able to pay for the estate in ready money. The
    fine marquisate of Froidfond was accordingly conveyed down the gullet
    of Monsieur Grandet, who, to the great astonishment of Saumur, paid
    for it, under proper discount, with the usual formalities.

    This affair echoed from Nantes to Orleans. Monsieur Grandet took
    advantage of a cart returning by way of Froidfond to go and see his
    chateau. Having cast a master's eye over the whole property, he
    returned to Saumur, satisfied that he had invested his money at five
    per cent, and seized by the stupendous thought of extending and
    increasing the marquisate of Froidfond by concentrating all his
    property there. Then, to fill up his coffers, now nearly empty, he
    resolved to thin out his woods and his forests, and to sell off the
    poplars in the meadows.
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