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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 6
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    About four o'clock an abrupt knock at the door struck sharply on the
    heart of Madame Grandet.

    "What can have happened to your father?" she said to her daughter.

    Grandet entered joyously. After taking off his gloves, he rubbed his
    hands hard enough to take off their skin as well, if his epidermis had
    not been tanned and cured like Russia leather,--saving, of course, the
    perfume of larch-trees and incense. Presently his secret escaped him.

    "Wife," he said, without stuttering, "I've trapped them all! Our wine
    is sold! The Dutch and the Belgians have gone. I walked about the
    market-place in front of their inn, pretending to be doing nothing.
    That Belgian fellow--you know who I mean--came up to me. The owners of
    all the good vineyards have kept back their vintages, intending to
    wait; well, I didn't hinder them. The Belgian was in despair; I saw
    that. In a minute the bargain was made. He takes my vintage at two
    hundred francs the puncheon, half down. He paid me in gold; the notes
    are drawn. Here are six louis for you. In three months wines will have

    These words, uttered in a quiet tone of voice, were nevertheless so
    bitterly sarcastic that the inhabitants of Saumur, grouped at this
    moment in the market-place and overwhelmed by the news of the sale
    Grandet had just effected, would have shuddered had they heard them.
    Their panic would have brought the price of wines down fifty per cent
    at once.

    "Did you have a thousand puncheons this year, father?"

    "Yes, little one."

    That term applied to his daughter was the superlative expression of
    the old miser's joy.

    "Then that makes two hundred thousand pieces of twenty sous each?"

    "Yes, Mademoiselle Grandet."

    "Then, father, you can easily help Charles."

    The amazement, the anger, the stupefaction of Belshazzar when he saw
    the _Mene-Tekel-Upharsin_ before his eyes is not to be compared with
    the cold rage of Grandet, who, having forgotten his nephew, now found
    him enshrined in the heart and calculations of his daughter.

    "What's this? Ever since that dandy put foot in _my_ house everything
    goes wrong! You behave as if you had the right to buy sugar-plums and
    make feasts and weddings. I won't have that sort of thing. I hope I
    know my duty at my time of life! I certainly sha'n't take lessons from
    my daughter, or from anybody else. I shall do for my nephew what it is
    proper to do, and you have no need to poke your nose into it. As for
    you, Eugenie," he added, facing her, "don't speak of this again, or
    I'll send you to the Abbaye des Noyers with Nanon, see if I don't; and
    no later than to-morrow either, if you disobey me! Where is that
    fellow, has he come down yet?"

    "No, my friend," answered Madame Grandet.

    "What is he doing then?"

    "He is weeping for his father," said Eugenie.

    Grandet looked at his daughter without finding a word to say; after
    all, he was a father. He made a couple of turns up and down the room,
    and then went hurriedly to his secret den to think over an investment
    he was meditating in the public Funds. The thinning out of his two
    thousand acres of forest land had yielded him six hundred thousand
    francs: putting this sum to that derived from the sale of his poplars
    and to his other gains for the last year and for the current year, he
    had amassed a total of nine hundred thousand francs, without counting
    the two hundred thousand he had got by the sale just concluded. The
    twenty per cent which Cruchot assured him would gain in a short time
    from the Funds, then quoted at seventy, tempted him. He figured out
    his calculation on the margin of the newspaper which gave the account
    of his brother's death, all the while hearing the moans of his nephew,
    but without listening to them. Nanon came and knocked on the wall to
    summon him to dinner. On the last step of the staircase he was saying
    to himself as he came down,--

    "I'll do it; I shall get eight per cent interest. In two years I shall
    have fifteen hundred thousand francs, which I will then draw out in
    good gold,--Well, where's my nephew?"

    "He says he doesn't want anything to eat," answered Nanon; "that's not
    good for him."

    "So much saved," retorted her master.

    "That's so," she said.

    "Bah! he won't cry long. Hunger drives the wolves out of the woods."

    The dinner was eaten in silence.

    "My good friend," said Madame Grandet, when the cloth was removed, "we
    must put on mourning."

    "Upon my word, Madame Grandet! what will you invent next to spend
    money on? Mourning is in the heart, and not in the clothes."

    "But mourning for a brother is indispensable; and the Church commands
    us to--"

    "Buy your mourning out of your six louis. Give me a hat-band; that's
    enough for me."

    Eugenie raised her eyes to heaven without uttering a word. Her
    generous instincts, slumbering and long repressed but now suddenly and
    for the first time awakened, were galled at every turn. The evening
    passed to all appearance like a thousand other evenings of their
    monotonous life, yet it was certainly the most horrible. Eugenie sewed
    without raising her head, and did not use the workbox which Charles
    had despised the night before. Madame Grandet knitted her sleeves.
    Grandet twirled his thumbs for four hours, absorbed in calculations
    whose results were on the morrow to astonish Saumur. No one came to
    visit the family that day. The whole town was ringing with the news of
    the business trick just played by Grandet, the failure of his brother,
    and the arrival of his nephew. Obeying the desire to gossip over their
    mutual interests, all the upper and middle-class wine-growers in
    Saumur met at Monsieur des Grassins, where terrible imprecations were
    being fulminated against the ex-mayor. Nanon was spinning, and the
    whirr of her wheel was the only sound heard beneath the gray rafters
    of that silent hall.

    "We don't waste our tongues," she said, showing her teeth, as large
    and white as peeled almonds.

    "Nothing should be wasted," answered Grandet, rousing himself from his
    reverie. He saw a perspective of eight millions in three years, and he
    was sailing along that sheet of gold. "Let us go to bed. I will bid my
    nephew good-night for the rest of you, and see if he will take

    Madame Grandet remained on the landing of the first storey to hear the
    conversation that was about to take place between the goodman and his
    nephew. Eugenie, bolder than her mother, went up two stairs.

    "Well, nephew, you are in trouble. Yes, weep, that's natural. A father
    is a father; but we must bear our troubles patiently. I am a good
    uncle to you, remember that. Come, take courage! Will you have a
    little glass of wine?" (Wine costs nothing in Saumur, and they offer
    it as tea is offered in China.) "Why!" added Grandet, "you have got no
    light! That's bad, very bad; you ought to see what you are about," and
    he walked to the chimney-piece. "What's this?" he cried. "A wax
    candle! How the devil did they filch a wax candle? The spendthrifts
    would tear down the ceilings of my house to boil the fellow's eggs."

    Hearing these words, mother and daughter slipped back into their rooms
    and burrowed in their beds, with the celerity of frightened mice
    getting back to their holes.

    "Madame Grandet, have you found a mine?" said the man, coming into the
    chamber of his wife.

    "My friend, wait; I am saying my prayers," said the poor mother in a
    trembling voice.

    "The devil take your good God!" growled Grandet in reply.

    Misers have no belief in a future life; the present is their all in
    all. This thought casts a terrible light upon our present epoch, in
    which, far more than at any former period, money sways the laws and
    politics and morals. Institutions, books, men, and dogmas, all
    conspire to undermine belief in a future life,--a belief upon which
    the social edifice has rested for eighteen hundred years. The grave,
    as a means of transition, is little feared in our day. The future,
    which once opened to us beyond the requiems, has now been imported
    into the present. To obtain _per fas et nefas_ a terrestrial paradise
    of luxury and earthly enjoyment, to harden the heart and macerate the
    body for the sake of fleeting possessions, as the martyrs once
    suffered all things to reach eternal joys, this is now the universal
    thought--a thought written everywhere, even in the very laws which ask
    of the legislator, "What do you pay?" instead of asking him, "What do
    you think?" When this doctrine has passed down from the bourgeoisie to
    the populace, where will this country be?

    "Madame Grandet, have you done?" asked the old man.

    "My friend, I am praying for you."

    "Very good! Good-night; to-morrow morning we will have a talk."

    The poor woman went to sleep like a schoolboy who, not having learned
    his lessons, knows he will see his master's angry face on the morrow.
    At the moment when, filled with fear, she was drawing the sheet above
    her head that she might stifle hearing, Eugenie, in her night-gown and
    with naked feet, ran to her side and kissed her brow.

    "Oh! my good mother," she said, "to-morrow I will tell him it was I."

    "No; he would send you to Noyers. Leave me to manage it; he cannot eat

    "Do you hear, mamma?"


    "_He_ is weeping still."

    "Go to bed, my daughter; you will take cold in your feet: the floor is

    * * * * *

    Thus passed the solemn day which was destined to weight upon the whole
    life of the rich and poor heiress, whose sleep was never again to be
    so calm, nor yet so pure, as it had been up to this moment. It often
    happens that certain actions of human life seem, literally speaking,
    improbable, though actual. Is not this because we constantly omit to
    turn the stream of psychological light upon our impulsive
    determinations, and fail to explain the subtile reasons, mysteriously
    conceived in our minds, which impelled them? Perhaps Eugenie's deep
    passion should be analyzed in its most delicate fibres; for it became,
    scoffers might say, a malady which influenced her whole existence.
    Many people prefer to deny results rather than estimate the force of
    ties and links and bonds, which secretly join one fact to another in
    the moral order. Here, therefore, Eugenie's past life will offer to
    observers of human nature an explanation of her naive want of
    reflection and the suddenness of the emotions which overflowed her
    soul. The more tranquil her life had been, the more vivid was her
    womanly pity, the more simple-minded were the sentiments now developed
    in her soul.

    Made restless by the events of the day, she woke at intervals to
    listen to her cousin, thinking she heard the sighs which still echoed
    in her heart. Sometimes she saw him dying of his trouble, sometimes
    she dreamed that he fainted from hunger. Towards morning she was
    certain that she heard a startling cry. She dressed at once and ran,
    in the dawning light, with a swift foot to her cousin's chamber, the
    door of which he had left open. The candle had burned down to the
    socket. Charles, overcome by nature, was sleeping, dressed and sitting
    in an armchair beside the bed, on which his head rested; he dreamed as
    men dream on an empty stomach. Eugenie might weep at her ease; she
    might admire the young and handsome face blotted with grief, the eyes
    swollen with weeping, that seemed, sleeping as they were, to well
    forth tears. Charles felt sympathetically the young girl's presence;
    he opened his eyes and saw her pitying him.

    "Pardon me, my cousin," he said, evidently not knowing the hour nor
    the place in which he found himself.

    "There are hearts who hear you, cousin, and _we_ thought you might
    need something. You should go to bed; you tire yourself by sitting

    "That is true."

    "Well, then, adieu!"

    She escaped, ashamed and happy at having gone there. Innocence alone
    can dare to be so bold. Once enlightened, virtue makes her
    calculations as well as vice. Eugenie, who had not trembled beside her
    cousin, could scarcely stand upon her legs when she regained her
    chamber. Her ignorant life had suddenly come to an end; she reasoned,
    she rebuked herself with many reproaches.

    "What will he think of me? He will think that I love him!"

    That was what she most wished him to think. An honest love has its own
    prescience, and knows that love begets love. What an event for this
    poor solitary girl thus to have entered the chamber of a young man!
    Are there not thoughts and actions in the life of love which to
    certain souls bear the full meaning of the holiest espousals? An hour
    later she went to her mother and dressed her as usual. Then they both
    came down and sat in their places before the window waiting for
    Grandet, with that cruel anxiety which, according to the individual
    character, freezes the heart or warms it, shrivels or dilates it, when
    a scene is feared, a punishment expected,--a feeling so natural that
    even domestic animals possess it, and whine at the slightest pain of
    punishment, though they make no outcry when they inadvertently hurt
    themselves. The goodman came down; but he spoke to his wife with an
    absent manner, kissed Eugenie, and sat down to table without appearing
    to remember his threats of the night before.

    "What has become of my nephew? The lad gives no trouble."

    "Monsieur, he is asleep," answered Nanon.

    "So much the better; he won't want a wax candle," said Grandet in a
    jeering tone.

    This unusual clemency, this bitter gaiety, struck Madame Grandet with
    amazement, and she looked at her husband attentively. The goodman
    --here it may be well to explain that in Touraine, Anjou, Pitou, and
    Bretagne the word "goodman," already used to designate Grandet, is
    bestowed as often upon harsh and cruel men as upon those of kindly
    temperament, when either have reached a certain age; the title means
    nothing on the score of individual gentleness--the goodman took his
    hat and gloves, saying as he went out,--

    "I am going to loiter about the market-place and find Cruchot."

    "Eugenie, your father certainly has something on his mind."

    Grandet, who was a poor sleeper, employed half his nights in the
    preliminary calculations which gave such astonishing accuracy to his
    views and observations and schemes, and secured to them the unfailing
    success at sight of which his townsmen stood amazed. All human power
    is a compound of time and patience. Powerful beings will and wait. The
    life of a miser is the constant exercise of human power put to the
    service of self. It rests on two sentiments only,--self-love and
    self-interest; but self-interest being to a certain extent compact and
    intelligent self-love, the visible sign of real superiority, it
    follows that self-love and self-interest are two parts of the same
    whole,--egotism. From this arises, perhaps, the excessive curiosity
    shown in the habits of a miser's life whenever they are put before the
    world. Every nature holds by a thread to those beings who challenge
    all human sentiments by concentrating all in one passion. Where is the
    man without desire? and what social desire can be satisfied without

    Grandet unquestionably "had something on his mind," to use his wife's
    expression. There was in him, as in all misers, a persistent craving
    to play a commercial game with other men and win their money legally.
    To impose upon other people was to him a sign of power, a perpetual
    proof that he had won the right to despise those feeble beings who
    suffer themselves to be preyed upon in this world. Oh! who has ever
    truly understood the lamb lying peacefully at the feet of God?
    --touching emblem of all terrestrial victims, myth of their future,
    suffering and weakness glorified! This lamb it is which the miser
    fattens, puts in his fold, slaughters, cooks, eats, and then despises.
    The pasture of misers is compounded of money and disdain. During the
    night Grandet's ideas had taken another course, which was the reason
    of his sudden clemency. He had hatched a plot by which to trick the
    Parisians, to decoy and dupe and snare them, to drive them into a
    trap, and make them go and come and sweat and hope and turn pale,--a
    plot by which to amuse himself, the old provincial cooper, sitting
    there beneath his gloomy rafters, or passing up and down the rotten
    staircase of his house in Saumur. His nephew filled his mind. He
    wished to save the honor of his dead brother without the cost of a
    penny to the son or to himself. His own funds he was about to invest
    for three years; he had therefore nothing further to do than to manage
    his property in Saumur. He needed some nutriment for his malicious
    activity, and he found it suddenly in his brother's failure. Feeling
    nothing to squeeze between his own paws, he resolved to crush the
    Parisians in behalf of Charles, and to play the part of a good brother
    on the cheapest terms. The honor of the family counted for so little
    in this scheme that his good intentions might be likened to the
    interest a gambler takes in seeing a game well played in which he has
    no stake. The Cruchots were a necessary part of his plan; but he would
    not seek them,--he resolved to make them come to him, and to lead up
    that very evening to a comedy whose plot he had just conceived, which
    should make him on the morrow an object of admiration to the whole
    town without its costing him a single penny.

    In her father's absence Eugenie had the happiness of busying herself
    openly with her much-loved cousin, of spending upon him fearlessly the
    treasures of her pity,--woman's sublime superiority, the sole she
    desires to have recognized, the sole she pardons man for letting her
    assume. Three or four times the young girl went to listen to her
    cousin's breathing, to know if he were sleeping or awake; then, when
    he had risen, she turned her thoughts to the cream, the eggs, the
    fruits, the plates, the glasses,--all that was a part of his breakfast
    became the object of some special care. At length she ran lightly up
    the old staircase to listen to the noise her cousin made. Was he
    dressing? Did he still weep? She reached the door.

    "My cousin!"

    "Yes, cousin."

    "Will you breakfast downstairs, or in your room?"

    "Where you like."

    "How do you feel?"

    "Dear cousin, I am ashamed of being hungry."

    This conversation, held through the closed door, was like an episode
    in a poem to Eugenie.

    "Well, then, we will bring your breakfast to your own room, so as not
    to annoy my father."

    She ran to the kitchen with the swiftness and lightness of a bird.

    "Nanon, go and do his room!"

    That staircase, so often traversed, which echoed to the slightest
    noise, now lost its decaying aspect in the eyes of Eugenie. It grew
    luminous; it had a voice and spoke to her; it was young like herself,
    --young like the love it was now serving. Her mother, her kind,
    indulgent mother, lent herself to the caprices of the child's love,
    and after the room was put in order, both went to sit with the unhappy
    youth and keep him company. Does not Christian charity make
    consolation a duty? The two women drew a goodly number of little
    sophistries from their religion wherewith to justify their conduct.
    Charles was made the object of the tenderest and most loving care. His
    saddened heart felt the sweetness of the gentle friendship, the
    exquisite sympathy which these two souls, crushed under perpetual
    restraint, knew so well how to display when, for an instant, they were
    left unfettered in the regions of suffering, their natural sphere.

    Claiming the right of relationship, Eugenie began to fold the linen
    and put in order the toilet articles which Charles had brought; thus
    she could marvel at her ease over each luxurious bauble and the
    various knick-knacks of silver or chased gold, which she held long in
    her hand under a pretext of examining them. Charles could not see
    without emotion the generous interest his aunt and cousin felt in him;
    he knew society in Paris well enough to feel assured that, placed as
    he now was, he would find all hearts indifferent or cold. Eugenie thus
    appeared to him in the splendor of a special beauty, and from
    thenceforth he admired the innocence of life and manners which the
    previous evening he had been inclined to ridicule. So when Eugenie
    took from Nanon the bowl of coffee and cream, and began to pour it out
    for her cousin with the simplicity of real feeling, giving him a
    kindly glance, the eyes of the Parisian filled with tears; he took her
    hand and kissed it.

    "What troubles you?" she said.

    "Oh! these are tears of gratitude," he answered.

    Eugenie turned abruptly to the chimney-piece to take the candlesticks.

    "Here, Nanon, carry them away!" she said.

    When she looked again towards her cousin she was still blushing, but
    her looks could at least deceive, and did not betray the excess of joy
    which innundated her heart; yet the eyes of both expressed the same
    sentiment as their souls flowed together in one thought,--the future
    was theirs. This soft emotion was all the more precious to Charles in
    the midst of his heavy grief because it was wholly unexpected. The
    sound of the knocker recalled the women to their usual station.
    Happily they were able to run downstairs with sufficient rapidity to
    be seated at their work when Grandet entered; had he met them under
    the archway it would have been enough to rouse his suspicions. After
    breakfast, which the goodman took standing, the keeper from Froidfond,
    to whom the promised indemnity had never yet been paid, made his
    appearance, bearing a hare and some partridges shot in the park, with
    eels and two pike sent as tribute by the millers.

    "Ha, ha! poor Cornoiller; here he comes, like fish in Lent. Is all
    that fit to eat?"

    "Yes, my dear, generous master; it has been killed two days."

    "Come, Nanon, bestir yourself," said Grandet; "take these things,
    they'll do for dinner. I have invited the two Cruchots."

    Nanon opened her eyes, stupid with amazement, and looked at everybody
    in the room.

    "Well!" she said, "and how am I to get the lard and the spices?"

    "Wife," said Grandet, "give Nanon six francs, and remind me to get
    some of the good wine out of the cellar."

    "Well, then, Monsieur Grandet," said the keeper, who had come prepared
    with an harangue for the purpose of settling the question of the
    indemnity, "Monsieur Grandet--"

    "Ta, ta, ta, ta!" said Grandet; "I know what you want to say. You are
    a good fellow; we will see about it to-morrow, I'm too busy to-day.
    Wife, give him five francs," he added to Madame Grandet as he

    The poor woman was only too happy to buy peace at the cost of eleven
    francs. She knew that Grandet would let her alone for a fortnight
    after he had thus taken back, franc by franc, the money he had given

    "Here, Cornoiller," she said, slipping ten francs into the man's hand,
    "some day we will reward your services."

    Cornoiller could say nothing, so he went away.

    "Madame," said Nanon, who had put on her black coif and taken her
    basket, "I want only three francs. You keep the rest; it'll go fast
    enough somehow."

    "Have a good dinner, Nanon; my cousin will come down," said Eugenie.

    "Something very extraordinary is going on, I am certain of it," said
    Madame Grandet. "This is only the third time since our marriage that
    your father has given a dinner."

    * * * * *

    About four o'clock, just as Eugenie and her mother had finished
    setting the table for six persons, and after the master of the house
    had brought up a few bottles of the exquisite wine which provincials
    cherish with true affection, Charles came down into the hall. The
    young fellow was pale; his gestures, the expression of his face, his
    glance, and the tones of his voice, all had a sadness which was full
    of grace. He was not pretending grief, he truly suffered; and the veil
    of pain cast over his features gave him an interesting air dear to the
    heart of women. Eugenie loved him the more for it. Perhaps she felt
    that sorrow drew him nearer to her. Charles was no longer the rich and
    distinguished young man placed in a sphere far above her, but a
    relation plunged into frightful misery. Misery begets equality. Women
    have this in common with the angels,--suffering humanity belongs to
    them. Charles and Eugenie understood each other and spoke only with
    their eyes; for the poor fallen dandy, orphaned and impoverished, sat
    apart in a corner of the room, and was proudly calm and silent. Yet,
    from time to time, the gentle and caressing glance of the young girl
    shone upon him and constrained him away from his sad thoughts, drawing
    him with her into the fields of hope and of futurity, where she loved
    to hold him at her side.
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