Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 4

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    When the four relations were left alone, Monsieur Grandet said to his

    "We must go to bed. It is too late to talk about the matters which
    have brought you here; to-morrow we will take a suitable moment. We
    breakfast at eight o'clock; at midday we eat a little fruit or a bit
    of bread, and drink a glass of white wine; and we dine, like the
    Parisians, at five o'clock. That's the order of the day. If you like
    to go and see the town and the environs you are free to do so. You
    will excuse me if my occupations do not permit me to accompany you.
    You may perhaps hear people say that I am rich,--Monsieur Grandet
    this, Monsieur Grandet that. I let them talk; their gossip does not
    hurt my credit. But I have not a penny; I work in my old age like an
    apprentice whose worldly goods are a bad plane and two good arms.
    Perhaps you'll soon know yourself what a franc costs when you have got
    to sweat for it. Nanon, where are the candles?"

    "I trust, my nephew, that you will find all you want," said Madame
    Grandet; "but if you should need anything else, you can call Nanon."

    "My dear aunt, I shall need nothing; I have, I believe, brought
    everything with me. Permit me to bid you good-night, and my young
    cousin also."

    Charles took a lighted wax candle from Nanon's hand,--an Anjou candle,
    very yellow in color, and so shopworn that it looked like tallow and
    deceived Monsieur Grandet, who, incapable of suspecting its presence
    under his roof, did not perceive this magnificence.

    "I will show you the way," he said.

    Instead of leaving the hall by the door which opened under the
    archway, Grandet ceremoniously went through the passage which divided
    the hall from the kitchen. A swing-door, furnished with a large oval
    pane of glass, shut this passage from the staircase, so as to fend off
    the cold air which rushed through it. But the north wind whistled none
    the less keenly in winter, and, in spite of the sand-bags at the
    bottom of the doors of the living-room, the temperature within could
    scarcely be kept at a proper height. Nanon went to bolt the outer
    door; then she closed the hall and let loose a wolf-dog, whose bark
    was so strangled that he seemed to have laryngitis. This animal, noted
    for his ferocity, recognized no one but Nanon; the two untutored
    children of the fields understood each other.

    When Charles saw the yellow, smoke-stained walls of the well of the
    staircase, where each worm-eaten step shook under the heavy foot-fall
    of his uncle, his expectations began to sober more and more. He
    fancied himself in a hen-roost. His aunt and cousin, to whom he turned
    an inquiring look, were so used to the staircase that they did not
    guess the cause of his amazement, and took the glance for an
    expression of friendliness, which they answered by a smile that made
    him desperate.

    "Why the devil did my father send me to such a place?" he said to

    When they reached the first landing he saw three doors painted in
    Etruscan red and without casings,--doors sunk in the dusty walls and
    provided with iron bars, which in fact were bolts, each ending with
    the pattern of a flame, as did both ends of the long sheath of the
    lock. The first door at the top of the staircase, which opened into a
    room directly above the kitchen, was evidently walled up. In fact, the
    only entrance to that room was through Grandet's bedchamber; the room
    itself was his office. The single window which lighted it, on the side
    of the court, was protected by a lattice of strong iron bars. No one,
    not even Madame Grandet, had permission to enter it. The old man chose
    to be alone, like an alchemist in his laboratory. There, no doubt,
    some hiding-place had been ingeniously constructed; there the
    title-deeds of property were stored; there hung the scales on which to
    weigh the louis; there were devised, by night and secretly, the
    estimates, the profits, the receipts, so that business men, finding
    Grandet prepared at all points, imagined that he got his cue from
    fairies or demons; there, no doubt, while Nanon's loud snoring shook
    the rafters, while the wolf-dog watched and yawned in the courtyard,
    while Madame and Mademoiselle Grandet were quietly sleeping, came the
    old cooper to cuddle, to con over, to caress and clutch and clasp his
    gold. The walls were thick, the screens sure. He alone had the key of
    this laboratory, where--so people declared--he studied the maps on
    which his fruit-trees were marked, and calculated his profits to a
    vine, and almost to a twig.

    The door of Eugenie's chamber was opposite to the walled-up entrance
    to this room. At the other end of the landing were the appartements of
    the married pair, which occupied the whole front of the house. Madame
    Grandet had a room next to that of Eugenie, which was entered through
    a glass door. The master's chamber was separated from that of his wife
    by a partition, and from the mysterious strong-room by a thick wall.
    Pere Grandet lodged his nephew on the second floor, in the high
    mansarde attic which was above his own bedroom, so that he might hear
    him if the young man took it into his head to go and come. When
    Eugenie and her mother reached the middle of the landing they kissed
    each other for good-night; then with a few words of adieu to Charles,
    cold upon the lips, but certainly very warm in the heart of the young
    girl, they withdrew into their own chambers.

    "Here you are in your room, my nephew," said Pere Grandet as he opened
    the door. "If you need to go out, call Nanon; without her, beware! the
    dog would eat you up without a word. Sleep well. Good-night. Ha! why,
    they have made you a fire!" he cried.

    At this moment Nanon appeared with the warming pan.

    "Here's something more!" said Monsieur Grandet. "Do you take my nephew
    for a lying-in woman? Carry off your brazier, Nanon!"

    "But, monsieur, the sheets are damp, and this gentleman is as delicate
    as a woman."

    "Well, go on, as you've taken it into your head," said Grandet,
    pushing her by the shoulders; "but don't set things on fire." So
    saying, the miser went down-stairs, grumbling indistinct sentences.

    Charles stood aghast in the midst of his trunks. After casting his
    eyes on the attic-walls covered with that yellow paper sprinkled with
    bouquets so well known in dance-houses, on the fireplace of ribbed
    stone whose very look was chilling, on the chairs of yellow wood with
    varnished cane seats that seemed to have more than the usual four
    angles, on the open night-table capacious enough to hold a small
    sergeant-at-arms, on the meagre bit of rag-carpet beside the bed, on
    the tester whose cloth valance shook as if, devoured by moths, it was
    about to fall, he turned gravely to la Grande Nanon and said,--

    "Look here! my dear woman, just tell me, am I in the house of Monsieur
    Grandet, formerly mayor of Saumur, and brother to Monsieur Grandet of

    "Yes, monsieur; and a very good, a very kind, a very perfect
    gentleman. Shall I help you to unpack your trunks?"

    "Faith! yes, if you will, my old trooper. Didn't you serve in the
    marines of the Imperial Guard?"

    "Ho, ho, ho!" laughed Nanon. "What's that,--the marines of the guard?
    Is it salt? Does it go in the water?"

    "Here, get me my dressing-gown out of that valise; there's the key."

    Nanon was wonder-struck by the sight of a dressing-gown made of green
    silk, brocaded with gold flowers of an antique design.

    "Are you going to put that on to go to bed with?" she asked.


    "Holy Virgin! what a beautiful altar-cloth it would make for the
    parish church! My dear darling monsieur, give it to the church, and
    you'll save your soul; if you don't, you'll lose it. Oh, how nice you
    look in it! I must call mademoiselle to see you."

    "Come, Nanon, if Nanon you are, hold your tongue; let me go to bed.
    I'll arrange my things to-morrow. If my dressing-gown pleases you so
    much, you shall save your soul. I'm too good a Christian not to give
    it to you when I go away, and you can do what you like with it."

    Nanon stood rooted to the ground, gazing at Charles and unable to put
    faith into his words.

    "Good night, Nanon."

    "What in the world have I come here for?" thought Charles as he went
    to sleep. "My father is not a fool; my journey must have some object.
    Pshaw! put off serious thought till the morrow, as some Greek idiot

    "Blessed Virgin! how charming he is, my cousin!" Eugenie was saying,
    interrupting her prayers, which that night at least were never

    Madame Grandet had no thoughts at all as she went to bed. She heard
    the miser walking up and down his room through the door of
    communication which was in the middle of the partition. Like all timid
    women, she had studied the character of her lord. Just as the petrel
    foresees the storm, she knew by imperceptible signs when an inward
    tempest shook her husband; and at such times, to use an expression of
    her own, she "feigned dead."

    Grandet gazed at the door lined with sheet-iron which he lately put to
    his sanctum, and said to himself,--

    "What a crazy idea of my brother to bequeath his son to me! A fine
    legacy! I have not fifty francs to give him. What are fifty francs to
    a dandy who looked at my barometer as if he meant to make firewood of

    In thinking over the consequences of that legacy of anguish Grandet
    was perhaps more agitated than his brother had been at the moment of
    writing it.

    "I shall have that golden robe," thought Nanon, who went to sleep
    tricked out in her altar-cloth, dreaming for the first time in her
    life of flowers, embroidery, and damask, just as Eugenie was dreaming
    of love.

    * * * * *

    In the pure and monotonous life of young girls there comes a delicious
    hour when the sun sheds its rays into their soul, when the flowers
    express their thoughts, when the throbbings of the heart send upward
    to the brain their fertilizing warmth and melt all thoughts into a
    vague desire,--day of innocent melancholy and of dulcet joys! When
    babes begin to see, they smile; when a young girl first perceives the
    sentiment of nature, she smiles as she smiled when an infant. If light
    is the first love of life, is not love a light to the heart? The
    moment to see within the veil of earthly things had come for Eugenie.

    An early riser, like all provincial girls, she was up betimes and said
    her prayers, and then began the business of dressing,--a business
    which henceforth was to have a meaning. First she brushed and smoothed
    her chestnut hair and twisted its heavy masses to the top of her head
    with the utmost care, preventing the loose tresses from straying, and
    giving to her head a symmetry which heightened the timid candor of her
    face; for the simplicity of these accessories accorded well with the
    innocent sincerity of its lines. As she washed her hands again and
    again in the cold water which hardened and reddened the skin, she
    looked at her handsome round arms and asked herself what her cousin
    did to make his hands so softly white, his nails so delicately curved.
    She put on new stockings and her prettiest shoes. She laced her corset
    straight, without skipping a single eyelet. And then, wishing for the
    first time in her life to appear to advantage, she felt the joy of
    having a new gown, well made, which rendered her attractive.

    As she finished her toilet the clock of the parish church struck the
    hour; to her astonishment, it was only seven. The desire of having
    plenty of time for dressing carefully had led her to get up too early.
    Ignorant of the art of retouching every curl and studying every
    effect, Eugenie simply crossed her arms, sat down by the window, and
    looked at the court-yard, the narrow garden, and the high terraced
    walls that over-topped it: a dismal, hedged-in prospect, yet not
    wholly devoid of those mysterious beauties which belong to solitary or
    uncultivated nature. Near the kitchen was a well surrounded by a curb,
    with a pulley fastened to a bent iron rod clasped by a vine whose
    leaves were withered, reddened, and shrivelled by the season. From
    thence the tortuous shoots straggled to the wall, clutched it, and ran
    the whole length of the house, ending near the wood-pile, where the
    logs were ranged with as much precision as the books in a library. The
    pavement of the court-yard showed the black stains produced in time by
    lichens, herbage, and the absence of all movement or friction. The
    thick walls wore a coating of green moss streaked with waving brown
    lines, and the eight stone steps at the bottom of the court-yard which
    led up to the gate of the garden were disjointed and hidden beneath
    tall plants, like the tomb of a knight buried by his widow in the days
    of the Crusades. Above a foundation of moss-grown, crumbling stones
    was a trellis of rotten wood, half fallen from decay; over them
    clambered and intertwined at will a mass of clustering creepers. On
    each side of the latticed gate stretched the crooked arms of two
    stunted apple-trees. Three parallel walks, gravelled and separated
    from each other by square beds, where the earth was held in by
    box-borders, made the garden, which terminated, beneath a terrace of
    the old walls, in a group of lindens. At the farther end were
    raspberry-bushes; at the other, near the house, an immense walnut-tree
    drooped its branches almost into the window of the miser's sanctum.

    A clear day and the beautiful autumnal sun common to the banks of the
    Loire was beginning to melt the hoar-frost which the night had laid on
    these picturesque objects, on the walls, and on the plants which
    swathed the court-yard. Eugenie found a novel charm in the aspect of
    things lately so insignificant to her. A thousand confused thoughts
    came to birth in her mind and grew there, as the sunbeams grew without
    along the wall. She felt that impulse of delight, vague, inexplicable,
    which wraps the moral being as a cloud wraps the physical body. Her
    thoughts were all in keeping with the details of this strange
    landscape, and the harmonies of her heart blended with the harmonies
    of nature. When the sun reached an angle of the wall where the
    "Venus-hair" of southern climes drooped its thick leaves, lit with the
    changing colors of a pigeon's breast, celestial rays of hope illumined
    the future to her eyes, and thenceforth she loved to gaze upon that
    piece of wall, on its pale flowers, its blue harebells, its wilting
    herbage, with which she mingled memories as tender as those of
    childhood. The noise made by each leaf as it fell from its twig in the
    void of that echoing court gave answer to the secret questionings of
    the young girl, who could have stayed there the livelong day without
    perceiving the flight of time. Then came tumultuous heavings of the
    soul. She rose often, went to her glass, and looked at herself, as an
    author in good faith looks at his work to criticise it and blame it in
    his own mind.

    "I am not beautiful enough for him!" Such was Eugenie's thought,--a
    humble thought, fertile in suffering. The poor girl did not do herself
    justice; but modesty, or rather fear, is among the first of love's
    virtues. Eugenie belonged to the type of children with sturdy
    constitutions, such as we see among the lesser bourgeoisie, whose
    beauties always seem a little vulgar; and yet, though she resembled
    the Venus of Milo, the lines of her figure were ennobled by the softer
    Christian sentiment which purifies womanhood and gives it a
    distinction unknown to the sculptors of antiquity. She had an enormous
    head, with the masculine yet delicate forehead of the Jupiter of
    Phidias, and gray eyes, to which her chaste life, penetrating fully
    into them, carried a flood of light. The features of her round face,
    formerly fresh and rosy, were at one time swollen by the small-pox,
    which destroyed the velvet texture of the skin, though it kindly left
    no other traces, and her cheek was still so soft and delicate that her
    mother's kiss made a momentary red mark upon it. Her nose was somewhat
    too thick, but it harmonized well with the vermilion mouth, whose
    lips, creased in many lines, were full of love and kindness. The
    throat was exquisitely round. The bust, well curved and carefully
    covered, attracted the eye and inspired reverie. It lacked, no doubt,
    the grace which a fitting dress can bestow; but to a connoisseur the
    non-flexibility of her figure had its own charm. Eugenie, tall and
    strongly made, had none of the prettiness which pleases the masses;
    but she was beautiful with a beauty which the spirit recognizes, and
    none but artists truly love. A painter seeking here below for a type
    of Mary's celestial purity, searching womankind for those proud modest
    eyes which Raphael divined, for those virgin lines, often due to
    chances of conception, which the modesty of Christian life alone can
    bestow or keep unchanged,--such a painter, in love with his ideal,
    would have found in the face of Eugenie the innate nobleness that is
    ignorant of itself; he would have seen beneath the calmness of that
    brow a world of love; he would have felt, in the shape of the eyes, in
    the fall of the eyelids, the presence of the nameless something that
    we call divine. Her features, the contour of her head, which no
    expression of pleasure had ever altered or wearied, were like the
    lines of the horizon softly traced in the far distance across the
    tranquil lakes. That calm and rosy countenance, margined with light
    like a lovely full-blown flower, rested the mind, held the eye, and
    imparted the charm of the conscience that was there reflected. Eugenie
    was standing on the shore of life where young illusions flower, where
    daisies are gathered with delights ere long to be unknown; and thus
    she said, looking at her image in the glass, unconscious as yet of
    love: "I am too ugly; he will not notice me."

    Then she opened the door of her chamber which led to the staircase,
    and stretched out her neck to listen for the household noises. "He is
    not up," she thought, hearing Nanon's morning cough as the good soul
    went and came, sweeping out the halls, lighting her fire, chaining the
    dog, and speaking to the beasts in the stable. Eugenie at once went
    down and ran to Nanon, who was milking the cow.

    "Nanon, my good Nanon, make a little cream for my cousin's breakfast."

    "Why, mademoiselle, you should have thought of that yesterday," said
    Nanon, bursting into a loud peal of laughter. "I can't make cream.
    Your cousin is a darling, a darling! oh, that he is! You should have
    seen him in his dressing-gown, all silk and gold! I saw him, I did! He
    wears linen as fine as the surplice of monsieur le cure."

    "Nanon, please make us a _galette_."

    "And who'll give me wood for the oven, and flour and butter for the
    cakes?" said Nanon, who in her function of prime-minister to Grandet
    assumed at times enormous importance in the eyes of Eugenie and her
    mother. "Mustn't rob the master to feast the cousin. You ask him for
    butter and flour and wood: he's your father, perhaps he'll give you
    some. See! there he is now, coming to give out the provisions."

    Eugenie escaped into the garden, quite frightened as she heard the
    staircase shaking under her father's step. Already she felt the
    effects of that virgin modesty and that special consciousness of
    happiness which lead us to fancy, not perhaps without reason, that our
    thoughts are graven on our foreheads and are open to the eyes of all.
    Perceiving for the first time the cold nakedness of her father's
    house, the poor girl felt a sort of rage that she could not put it in
    harmony with her cousin's elegance. She felt the need of doing
    something for him,--what, she did not know. Ingenuous and truthful,
    she followed her angelic nature without mistrusting her impressions or
    her feelings. The mere sight of her cousin had wakened within her the
    natural yearnings of a woman,--yearnings that were the more likely to
    develop ardently because, having reached her twenty-third year, she
    was in the plenitude of her intelligence and her desires. For the
    first time in her life her heart was full of terror at the sight of
    her father; in him she saw the master of the fate, and she fancied
    herself guilty of wrong-doing in hiding from his knowledge certain
    thoughts. She walked with hasty steps, surprised to breathe a purer
    air, to feel the sun's rays quickening her pulses, to absorb from
    their heat a moral warmth and a new life. As she turned over in her
    mind some stratagem by which to get the cake, a quarrel--an event as
    rare as the sight of swallows in winter--broke out between la Grande
    Nanon and Grandet. Armed with his keys, the master had come to dole
    out provisions for the day's consumption.

    "Is there any bread left from yesterday?" he said to Nanon.

    "Not a crumb, monsieur."

    Grandet took a large round loaf, well floured and moulded in one of
    the flat baskets which they use for baking in Anjou, and was about to
    cut it, when Nanon said to him,--

    "We are five, to-day, monsieur."

    "That's true," said Grandet, "but your loaves weigh six pounds;
    there'll be some left. Besides, these young fellows from Paris don't
    eat bread, you'll see."

    "Then they must eat _frippe_?" said Nanon.

    _Frippe_ is a word of the local lexicon of Anjou, and means any
    accompaniment of bread, from butter which is spread upon it, the
    commonest kind of _frippe_, to peach preserve, the most distinguished
    of all the _frippes_; those who in their childhood have licked the
    _frippe_ and left the bread, will comprehend the meaning of Nanon's

    "No," answered Grandet, "they eat neither bread nor _frippe_; they are
    something like marriageable girls."

    After ordering the meals for the day with his usual parsimony, the
    goodman, having locked the closets containing the supplies, was about
    to go towards the fruit-garden, when Nanon stopped him to say,--

    "Monsieur, give me a little flour and some butter, and I'll make a
    _galette_ for the young ones."

    "Are you going to pillage the house on account of my nephew?"

    "I wasn't thinking any more of your nephew than I was of your dog,
    --not more than you think yourself; for, look here, you've only
    forked out six bits of sugar. I want eight."

    "What's all this, Nanon? I have never seen you like this before. What
    have you got in your head? Are you the mistress here? You sha'n't have
    more than six pieces of sugar."

    "Well, then, how is your nephew to sweeten his coffee?"

    "With two pieces; I'll go without myself."

    "Go without sugar at your age! I'd rather buy you some out of my own

    "Mind your own business."

    In spite of the recent fall in prices, sugar was still in Grandet's
    eyes the most valuable of all the colonial products; to him it was
    always six francs a pound. The necessity of economizing it, acquired
    under the Empire, had grown to be the most inveterate of his habits.
    All women, even the greatest ninnies, know how to dodge and dodge to
    get their ends; Nanon abandoned the sugar for the sake of getting the

    "Mademoiselle!" she called through the window, "do you want some

    "No, no," answered Eugenie.

    "Come, Nanon," said Grandet, hearing his daughter's voice. "See here."
    He opened the cupboard where the flour was kept, gave her a cupful,
    and added a few ounces of butter to the piece he had already cut off.

    "I shall want wood for the oven," said the implacable Nanon.

    "Well, take what you want," he answered sadly; "but in that case you
    must make us a fruit-tart, and you'll cook the whole dinner in the
    oven. In that way you won't need two fires."

    "Goodness!" cried Nanon, "you needn't tell me that."

    Grandet cast a look that was well-nigh paternal upon his faithful

    "Mademoiselle," she cried, when his back was turned, "we shall have
    the _galette_."

    Pere Grandet returned from the garden with the fruit and arranged a
    plateful on the kitchen-table.

    "Just see, monsieur," said Nanon, "what pretty boots your nephew has.
    What leather! why it smells good! What does he clean it with, I
    wonder? Am I to put your egg-polish on it?"

    "Nanon, I think eggs would injure that kind of leather. Tell him you
    don't know how to black morocco; yes, that's morocco. He will get you
    something himself in Saumur to polish those boots with. I have heard
    that they put sugar into the blacking to make it shine."

    "They look good to eat," said the cook, putting the boots to her nose.
    "Bless me! if they don't smell like madame's eau-de-cologne. Ah! how

    "Funny!" said her master. "Do you call it funny to put more money into
    boots than the man who stands in them is worth?"

    "Monsieur," she said, when Grandet returned the second time, after
    locking the fruit-garden, "won't you have the _pot-au-feu_ put on once
    or twice a week on account of your nephew?"


    "Am I to go to the butcher's?"

    "Certainly not. We will make the broth of fowls; the farmers will
    bring them. I shall tell Cornoiller to shoot some crows; they make the
    best soup in the world."

    "Isn't it true, monsieur, that crows eat the dead?"

    "You are a fool, Nanon. They eat what they can get, like the rest of
    the world. Don't we all live on the dead? What are legacies?"

    Monsieur Grandet, having no further orders to give, drew out his
    watch, and seeing that he had half an hour to dispose of before
    breakfast, he took his hat, went and kissed his daughter, and said to

    "Do you want to come for a walk in the fields, down by the Loire? I
    have something to do there."

    Eugenie fetched her straw bonnet, lined with pink taffeta; then the
    father and daughter went down the winding street to the shore.

    "Where are you going at this early hour?" said Cruchot, the notary,
    meeting them.

    "To see something," answered Grandet, not duped by the matutinal
    appearance of his friend.

    When Pere Grandet went to "see something," the notary knew by
    experience there was something to be got by going with him; so he

    "Come, Cruchot," said Grandet, "you are one of my friends. I'll show
    you what folly it is to plant poplar-trees on good ground."

    "Do you call the sixty thousand francs that you pocketed for those
    that were in your fields down by the Loire, folly?" said Maitre
    Cruchot, opening his eyes with amazement. "What luck you have had! To
    cut down your trees at the very time they ran short of white-wood at
    Nantes, and to sell them at thirty francs!"

    Eugenie listened, without knowing that she approached the most solemn
    moment of her whole life, and that the notary was about to bring down
    upon her head a paternal and supreme sentence. Grandet had now reached
    the magnificent fields which he owned on the banks of the Loire, where
    thirty workmen were employed in clearing away, filling up, and
    levelling the spots formerly occupied by the poplars.

    "Maitre Cruchot, see how much ground this tree once took up! Jean," he
    cried to a laborer, "m-m-measure with your r-r-rule, b-both ways."

    "Four times eight feet," said the man.

    "Thirty-two feet lost," said Grandet to Cruchot. "I had three hundred
    poplars in this one line, isn't that so? Well, then, three h-h-hundred
    times thir-thirty-two lost m-m-me five hundred in h-h-hay; add twice
    as much for the side rows,--fifteen hundred; the middle rows as much
    more. So we may c-c-call it a th-thousand b-b-bales of h-h-hay--"

    "Very good," said Cruchot, to help out his friend; "a thousand bales
    are worth about six hundred francs."

    "Say t-t-twelve hundred, be-c-cause there's three or four hundred
    francs on the second crop. Well, then, c-c-calculate that t-twelve
    thousand francs a year for f-f-forty years with interest c-c-comes

    "Say sixty thousand francs," said the notary.

    "I am willing; c-c-comes t-t-to sixty th-th-thousand. Very good,"
    continued Grandet, without stuttering: "two thousand poplars forty
    years old will only yield me fifty thousand francs. There's a loss. I
    have found that myself," said Grandet, getting on his high horse.
    "Jean, fill up all the holes except those at the bank of the river;
    there you are to plant the poplars I have bought. Plant 'em there, and
    they'll get nourishment from the government," he said, turning to
    Cruchot, and giving a slight motion to the wen on his nose, which
    expressed more than the most ironical of smiles.

    "True enough; poplars should only be planted on poor soil," said
    Cruchot, amazed at Grandet's calculations.

    "Y-y-yes, monsieur," answered the old man satirically.

    Eugenie, who was gazing at the sublime scenery of the Loire, and
    paying no attention to her father's reckonings, presently turned an
    ear to the remarks of Cruchot when she heard him say,--

    "So you have brought a son-in-law from Paris. All Saumur is talking
    about your nephew. I shall soon have the marriage-contract to draw up,
    hey! Pere Grandet?"

    "You g-g-got up very early to t-t-tell me that," said Grandet,
    accompanying the remark with a motion of his wen. "Well, old
    c-c-comrade, I'll be frank, and t-t-tell you what you want t-t-to
    know. I would rather, do you see, f-f-fling my daughter into the Loire
    than g-g-give her to her c-c-cousin. You may t-t-tell that everywhere,
    --no, never mind; let the world t-t-talk."

    This answer dazzled and blinded the young girl with sudden light. The
    distant hopes upspringing in her heart bloomed suddenly, became real,
    tangible, like a cluster of flowers, and she saw them cut down and
    wilting on the earth. Since the previous evening she had attached
    herself to Charles by those links of happiness which bind soul to
    soul; from henceforth suffering was to rivet them. Is it not the noble
    destiny of women to be more moved by the dark solemnities of grief
    than by the splendors of fortune? How was it that fatherly feeling had
    died out of her father's heart? Of what crime had Charles been guilty?
    Mysterious questions! Already her dawning love, a mystery so profound,
    was wrapping itself in mystery. She walked back trembling in all her
    limbs; and when she reached the gloomy street, lately so joyous to
    her, she felt its sadness, she breathed the melancholy which time and
    events had printed there. None of love's lessons lacked. A few steps
    from their own door she went on before her father and waited at the
    threshold. But Grandet, who saw a newspaper in the notary's hand,
    stopped short and asked,--

    "How are the Funds?"

    "You never listen to my advice, Grandet," answered Cruchot. "Buy soon;
    you will still make twenty per cent in two years, besides getting an
    excellent rate of interest,--five thousand a year for eighty thousand
    francs fifty centimes."

    "We'll see about that," answered Grandet, rubbing his chin.

    "Good God!" exclaimed the notary.

    "Well, what?" cried Grandet; and at the same moment Cruchot put the
    newspaper under his eyes and said:

    "Read that!"

    "Monsieur Grandet, one of the most respected merchants in Paris,
    blew his brains out yesterday, after making his usual appearance
    at the Bourse. He had sent his resignation to the president of the
    Chamber of Deputies, and had also resigned his functions as a
    judge of the commercial courts. The failures of Monsieur Roguin
    and Monsieur Souchet, his broker and his notary, had ruined him.
    The esteem felt for Monsieur Grandet and the credit he enjoyed
    were nevertheless such that he might have obtained the necessary
    assistance from other business houses. It is much to be regretted
    that so honorable a man should have yielded to momentary despair,"

    "I knew it," said the old wine-grower to the notary.

    The words sent a chill of horror through Maitre Cruchot, who,
    notwithstanding his impassibility as a notary, felt the cold running
    down his spine as he thought that Grandet of Paris had possibly
    implored in vain the millions of Grandet of Saumur.

    "And his son, so joyous yesterday--"

    "He knows nothing as yet," answered Grandet, with the same composure.

    "Adieu! Monsieur Grandet," said Cruchot, who now understood the state
    of the case, and went off to reassure Monsieur de Bonfons.

    On entering, Grandet found breakfast ready. Madame Grandet, round
    whose neck Eugenie had flung her arms, kissing her with the quick
    effusion of feeling often caused by secret grief, was already seated
    in her chair on castors, knitting sleeves for the coming winter.

    "You can begin to eat," said Nanon, coming downstairs four steps at a
    time; "the young one is sleeping like a cherub. Isn't he a darling
    with his eyes shut? I went in and I called him: no answer."

    "Let him sleep," said Grandet; "he'll wake soon enough to hear

    "What is it?" asked Eugenie, putting into her coffee the two little
    bits of sugar weighing less than half an ounce which the old miser
    amused himself by cutting up in his leisure hours. Madame Grandet, who
    did not dare to put the question, gazed at her husband.

    "His father has blown his brains out."

    "My uncle?" said Eugenie.

    "Poor young man!" exclaimed Madame Grandet.

    "Poor indeed!" said Grandet; "he isn't worth a sou!"

    "Eh! poor boy, and he's sleeping like the king of the world!" said
    Nanon in a gentle voice.

    Eugenie stopped eating. Her heart was wrung, as the young heart is
    wrung when pity for the suffering of one she loves overflows, for the
    first time, the whole being of a woman. The poor girl wept.

    "What are you crying about? You didn't know your uncle," said her
    father, giving her one of those hungry tigerish looks he doubtless
    threw upon his piles of gold.

    "But, monsieur," said Nanon, "who wouldn't feel pity for the poor
    young man, sleeping there like a wooden shoe, without knowing what's

    "I didn't speak to you, Nanon. Hold your tongue!"

    Eugenie learned at that moment that the woman who loves must be able
    to hide her feelings. She did not answer.

    "You will say nothing to him about it, Ma'ame Grandet, till I return,"
    said the old man. "I have to go and straighten the line of my hedge
    along the high-road. I shall be back at noon, in time for the second
    breakfast, and then I will talk with my nephew about his affairs. As
    for you, Mademoiselle Eugenie, if it is for that dandy you are crying,
    that's enough, child. He's going off like a shot to the Indies. You
    will never see him again."

    The father took his gloves from the brim of his hat, put them on with
    his usual composure, pushed them in place by shoving the fingers of
    both hands together, and went out.

    "Mamma, I am suffocating!" cried Eugenie when she was alone with her
    mother; "I have never suffered like this."

    Madame Grandet, seeing that she turned pale, opened the window and let
    her breathe fresh air.

    "I feel better!" said Eugenie after a moment.

    This nervous excitement in a nature hitherto, to all appearance, calm
    and cold, reacted on Madame Grandet; she looked at her daughter with
    the sympathetic intuition with which mothers are gifted for the
    objects of their tenderness, and guessed all. In truth the life of the
    Hungarian sisters, bound together by a freak of nature, could scarcely
    have been more intimate than that of Eugenie and her mother,--always
    together in the embrasure of that window, and sleeping together in the
    same atmosphere.

    "My poor child!" said Madame Grandet, taking Eugenie's head and laying
    it upon her bosom.

    At these words the young girl raised her head, questioned her mother
    by a look, and seemed to search out her inmost thought.

    "Why send him to the Indies?" she said. "If he is unhappy, ought he
    not to stay with us? Is he not our nearest relation?"

    "Yes, my child, it seems natural; but your father has his reasons: we
    must respect them."

    The mother and daughter sat down in silence, the former upon her
    raised seat, the latter in her little armchair, and both took up their
    work. Swelling with gratitude for the full heart-understanding her
    mother had given her, Eugenie kissed the dear hand, saying,--

    "How good you are, my kind mamma!"

    The words sent a glow of light into the motherly face, worn and
    blighted as it was by many sorrows.

    "You like him?" asked Eugenie.

    Madame Grandet only smiled in reply. Then, after a moment's silence,
    she said in a low voice: "Do you love him already? That is wrong."

    "Wrong?" said Eugenie. "Why is it wrong? You are pleased with him,
    Nanon is pleased with him; why should he not please me? Come, mamma,
    let us set the table for his breakfast."

    She threw down her work, and her mother did the same, saying, "Foolish
    child!" But she sanctioned the child's folly by sharing it. Eugenie
    called Nanon.

    "What do you want now, mademoiselle?"

    "Nanon, can we have cream by midday?"

    "Ah! midday, to be sure you can," answered the old servant.

    "Well, let him have his coffee very strong; I heard Monsieur des
    Grassins say that they make the coffee very strong in Paris. Put in a
    great deal."

    "Where am I to get it?"

    "Buy some."

    "Suppose monsieur meets me?"

    "He has gone to his fields."

    "I'll run, then. But Monsieur Fessard asked me yesterday if the Magi
    had come to stay with us when I bought the wax candle. All the town
    will know our goings-on."

    "If your father finds it out," said Madame Grandet, "he is capable of
    beating us."

    "Well, let him beat us; we will take his blows on our knees."

    Madame Grandet for all answer raised her eyes to heaven. Nanon put on
    her hood and went off. Eugenie got out some clean table-linen, and
    went to fetch a few bunches of grapes which she had amused herself by
    hanging on a string across the attic; she walked softly along the
    corridor, so as not to waken her cousin, and she could not help
    listening at the door to his quiet breathing.

    "Sorrow is watching while he sleeps," she thought.

    She took the freshest vine-leaves and arranged her dish of grapes as
    coquettishly as a practised house-keeper might have done, and placed
    it triumphantly on the table. She laid hands on the pears counted out
    by her father, and piled them in a pyramid mixed with leaves. She went
    and came, and skipped and ran. She would have liked to lay under
    contribution everything in her father's house; but the keys were in
    his pocket. Nanon came back with two fresh eggs. At sight of them
    Eugenie almost hugged her round the neck.

    "The farmer from Lande had them in his basket. I asked him for them,
    and he gave them to me, the darling, for nothing, as an attention!"
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Honore de Balzac essay and need some advice, post your Honore de Balzac essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?