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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 12
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    On the morrow of this death Eugenie felt a new motive for attachment
    to the house in which she was born, where she had suffered so much,
    where her mother had just died. She could not see the window and the
    chair on its castors without weeping. She thought she had mistaken the
    heart of her old father when she found herself the object of his
    tenderest cares. He came in the morning and gave her his arm to take
    her to breakfast; he looked at her for hours together with an eye that
    was almost kind; he brooded over her as though she had been gold. The
    old man was so unlike himself, he trembled so often before his
    daughter, that Nanon and the Cruchotines, who witnessed his weakness,
    attributed it to his great age, and feared that his faculties were
    giving away. But the day on which the family put on their mourning,
    and after dinner, to which meal Maitre Cruchot (the only person who
    knew his secret) had been invited, the conduct of the old miser was
    explained.

    "My dear child," he said to Eugenie when the table had been cleared
    and the doors carefully shut, "you are now your mother's heiress, and
    we have a few little matters to settle between us. Isn't that so,
    Cruchot?"

    "Yes."

    "Is it necessary to talk of them to-day, father?"

    "Yes, yes, little one; I can't bear the uncertainty in which I'm
    placed. I think you don't want to give me pain?"

    "Oh! father--"

    "Well, then! let us settle it all to-night."

    "What is it you wish me to do?"

    "My little girl, it is not for me to say. Tell her, Cruchot."

    "Mademoiselle, your father does not wish to divide the property, nor
    sell the estate, nor pay enormous taxes on the ready money which he
    may possess. Therefore, to avoid all this, he must be released from
    making the inventory of his whole fortune, part of which you inherit
    from your mother, and which is now undivided between you and your
    father--"

    "Cruchot, are you quite sure of what you are saying before you tell it
    to a mere child?"

    "Let me tell it my own way, Grandet."

    "Yes, yes, my friend. Neither you nor my daughter wish to rob me,--do
    you, little one?"

    "But, Monsieur Cruchot, what am I to do?" said Eugenie impatiently.

    "Well," said the notary, "it is necessary to sign this deed, by which
    you renounce your rights to your mother's estate and leave your father
    the use and disposition, during his lifetime, of all the property
    undivided between you, of which he guarantees you the capital."

    "I do not understand a word of what you are saying," returned Eugenie;
    "give me the deed, and show me where I am to sign it."

    Pere Grandet looked alternately at the deed and at his daughter, at
    his daughter and at the deed, undergoing as he did so such violent
    emotion that he wiped the sweat from his brow.

    "My little girl," he said, "if, instead of signing this deed, which
    will cost a great deal to record, you would simply agree to renounce
    your rights as heir to your poor dear, deceased mother's property, and
    would trust to me for the future, I should like it better. In that
    case I will pay you monthly the good round sum of a hundred francs.
    See, now, you could pay for as many masses as you want for anybody
    --Hein! a hundred francs a month--in _livres_?"

    "I will do all you wish, father."

    "Mademoiselle," said the notary, "it is my duty to point out to you
    that you are despoiling yourself without guarantee--"

    "Good heavens! what is all that to me?"

    "Hold your tongue, Cruchot! It's settled, all settled," cried Grandet,
    taking his daughter's hand and striking it with his own. "Eugenie, you
    won't go back on your word?--you are an honest girl, hein?"

    "Oh! father!--"

    He kissed her effusively, and pressed her in his arms till he almost
    choked her.

    "Go, my good child, you restore your father's life; but you only
    return to him that which he gave you: we are quits. This is how
    business should be done. Life is a business. I bless you! you are a
    virtuous girl, and you love your father. Do just what you like in
    future. To-morrow, Cruchot," he added, looking at the horrified
    notary, "you will see about preparing the deed of relinquishment, and
    then enter it on the records of the court."

    The next morning Eugenie signed the papers by which she herself
    completed her spoliation. At the end of the first year, however, in
    spite of his bargain, the old man had not given his daughter one sou
    of the hundred francs he had so solemnly pledged to her. When Eugenie
    pleasantly reminded him of this, he could not help coloring, and went
    hastily to his secret hiding-place, from whence he brought down about
    a third of the jewels he had taken from his nephew, and gave them to
    her.

    "There, little one," he said in a sarcastic tone, "do you want those
    for your twelve hundred francs?"

    "Oh! father, truly? will you really give them to me?"

    "I'll give you as many more next year," he said, throwing them into
    her apron. "So before long you'll get all his gewgaws," he added,
    rubbing his hands, delighted to be able to speculate on his daughter's
    feelings.

    Nevertheless, the old man, though still robust, felt the importance of
    initiating his daughter into the secrets of his thrift and its
    management. For two consecutive years he made her order the household
    meals in his presence and receive the rents, and he taught her slowly
    and successively the names and remunerative capacity of his vineyards
    and his farms. About the third year he had so thoroughly accustomed
    her to his avaricious methods that they had turned into the settled
    habits of her own life, and he was able to leave the household keys in
    her charge without anxiety, and to install her as mistress of the
    house.

    * * * * *

    Five years passed away without a single event to relieve the
    monotonous existence of Eugenie and her father. The same actions were
    performed daily with the automatic regularity of clockwork. The deep
    sadness of Mademoiselle Grandet was known to every one; but if others
    surmised the cause, she herself never uttered a word that justified
    the suspicions which all Saumur entertained about the state of the
    rich heiress's heart. Her only society was made up of the three
    Cruchots and a few of their particular friends whom they had, little
    by little, introduced into the Grandet household. They had taught her
    to play whist, and they came every night for their game. During the
    year 1827 her father, feeling the weight of his infirmities, was
    obliged to initiate her still further into the secrets of his landed
    property, and told her that in case of difficulty she was to have
    recourse to Maitre Cruchot, whose integrity was well known to him.

    Towards the end of this year the old man, then eighty-two, was seized
    by paralysis, which made rapid progress. Dr. Bergerin gave him up.
    Eugenie, feeling that she was about to be left alone in the world,
    came, as it were, nearer to her father, and clasped more tightly this
    last living link of affection. To her mind, as in that of all loving
    women, love was the whole of life. Charles was not there, and she
    devoted all her care and attention to the old father, whose faculties
    had begun to weaken, though his avarice remained instinctively acute.
    The death of this man offered no contrast to his life. In the morning
    he made them roll him to a spot between the chimney of his chamber and
    the door of the secret room, which was filled, no doubt, with gold. He
    asked for an explanation of every noise he heard, even the slightest;
    to the great astonishment of the notary, he even heard the watch-dog
    yawning in the court-yard. He woke up from his apparent stupor at the
    day and hour when the rents were due, or when accounts had to be
    settled with his vine-dressers, and receipts given. At such times he
    worked his chair forward on its castors until he faced the door of the
    inner room. He made his daughter open it, and watched while she placed
    the bags of money one upon another in his secret receptacles and
    relocked the door. Then she returned silently to her seat, after
    giving him the key, which he replaced in his waistcoat pocket and
    fingered from time to time. His old friend the notary, feeling sure
    that the rich heiress would inevitably marry his nephew the president,
    if Charles Grandet did not return, redoubled all his attentions; he
    came every day to take Grandet's orders, went on his errands to
    Froidfond, to the farms and the fields and the vineyards, sold the
    vintages, and turned everything into gold and silver, which found
    their way in sacks to the secret hiding-place.

    At length the last struggle came, in which the strong frame of the old
    man slowly yielded to destruction. He was determined to sit at the
    chimney-corner facing the door of the secret room. He drew off and
    rolled up all the coverings which were laid over him, saying to Nanon,
    "Put them away, lock them up, for fear they should be stolen."

    So long as he could open his eyes, in which his whole being had now
    taken refuge, he turned them to the door behind which lay his
    treasures, saying to his daughter, "Are they there? are they there?"
    in a tone of voice which revealed a sort of panic fear.

    "Yes, my father," she would answer.

    "Take care of the gold--put gold before me."

    Eugenie would then spread coins on a table before him, and he would
    sit for hours together with his eyes fixed upon them, like a child
    who, at the moment it first begins to see, gazes in stupid
    contemplation at the same object, and like the child, a distressful
    smile would flicker upon his face.

    "It warms me!" he would sometimes say, as an expression of beatitude
    stole across his features.

    When the cure of the parish came to administer the last sacraments,
    the old man's eyes, sightless, apparently, for some hours, kindled at
    the sight of the cross, the candlesticks, and the holy-water vessel of
    silver; he gazed at them fixedly, and his wen moved for the last time.
    When the priest put the crucifix of silver-gilt to his lips, that he
    might kiss the Christ, he made a frightful gesture, as if to seize it;
    and that last effort cost him his life. He called Eugenie, whom he did
    not see, though she was kneeling beside him bathing with tears his
    stiffening hand, which was already cold.

    "My father, bless me!" she entreated.

    "Take care of it all. You will render me an account yonder!" he said,
    proving by these last words that Christianity must always be the
    religion of misers.

    * * * * *

    Eugenie Grandet was now alone in the world in that gray house, with
    none but Nanon to whom she could turn with the certainty of being
    heard and understood,--Nanon the sole being who loved her for herself
    and with whom she could speak of her sorrows. La Grande Nanon was a
    providence for Eugenie. She was not a servant, but a humble friend.
    After her father's death Eugenie learned from Maitre Cruchot that she
    possessed an income of three hundred thousand francs from landed and
    personal property in the arrondissement of Saumur; also six millions
    invested at three per cent in the Funds (bought at sixty, and now
    worth seventy-six francs); also two millions in gold coin, and a
    hundred thousand francs in silver crown-pieces, besides all the
    interest which was still to be collected. The sum total of her
    property reached seventeen millions.

    "Where is my cousin?" was her one thought.

    The day on which Maitre Cruchot handed in to his client a clear and
    exact schedule of the whole inheritance, Eugenie remained alone with
    Nanon, sitting beside the fireplace in the vacant hall, where all was
    now a memory, from the chair on castors which her mother had sat in,
    to the glass from which her cousin drank.

    "Nanon, we are alone--"

    "Yes, mademoiselle; and if I knew where he was, the darling, I'd go on
    foot to find him."

    "The ocean is between us," she said.

    While the poor heiress wept in company of an old servant, in that cold
    dark house, which was to her the universe, the whole province rang,
    from Nantes to Orleans, with the seventeen millions of Mademoiselle
    Grandet. Among her first acts she had settled an annuity of twelve
    hundred francs on Nanon, who, already possessed of six hundred more,
    became a rich and enviable match. In less than a month that good soul
    passed from single to wedded life under the protection of Antoine
    Cornoiller, who was appointed keeper of all Mademoiselle Grandet's
    estates. Madame Cornoiller possessed one striking advantage over her
    contemporaries. Although she was fifty-nine years of age, she did not
    look more than forty. Her strong features had resisted the ravages of
    time. Thanks to the healthy customs of her semi-conventual life, she
    laughed at old age from the vantage-ground of a rosy skin and an iron
    constitution. Perhaps she never looked as well in her life as she did
    on her marriage-day. She had all the benefits of her ugliness, and was
    big and fat and strong, with a look of happiness on her indestructible
    features which made a good many people envy Cornoiller.

    "Fast colors!" said the draper.

    "Quite likely to have children," said the salt merchant. "She's
    pickled in brine, saving your presence."

    "She is rich, and that fellow Cornoiller has done a good thing for
    himself," said a third man.

    When she came forth from the old house on her way to the parish
    church, Nanon, who was loved by all the neighborhood, received many
    compliments as she walked down the tortuous street. Eugenie had given
    her three dozen silver forks and spoons as a wedding present.
    Cornoiller, amazed at such magnificence, spoke of his mistress with
    tears in his eyes; he would willingly have been hacked in pieces in
    her behalf. Madame Cornoiller, appointed housekeeper to Mademoiselle
    Grandet, got as much happiness out of her new position as she did from
    the possession of a husband. She took charge of the weekly accounts;
    she locked up the provisions and gave them out daily, after the manner
    of her defunct master; she ruled over two servants,--a cook, and a
    maid whose business it was to mend the house-linen and make
    mademoiselle's dresses. Cornoiller combined the functions of keeper
    and bailiff. It is unnecessary to say that the women-servants selected
    by Nanon were "perfect treasures." Mademoiselle Grandet thus had four
    servants, whose devotion was unbounded. The farmers perceived no
    change after Monsieur Grandet's death; the usages and customs he had
    sternly established were scrupulously carried out by Monsieur and
    Madame Cornoiller.

    At thirty years of age Eugenie knew none of the joys of life. Her
    pale, sad childhood had glided on beside a mother whose heart, always
    misunderstood and wounded, had known only suffering. Leaving this life
    joyfully, the mother pitied the daughter because she still must live;
    and she left in her child's soul some fugitive remorse and many
    lasting regrets. Eugenie's first and only love was a wellspring of
    sadness within her. Meeting her lover for a few brief days, she had
    given him her heart between two kisses furtively exchanged; then he
    had left her, and a whole world lay between them. This love, cursed by
    her father, had cost the life of her mother and brought her only
    sorrow, mingled with a few frail hopes. Thus her upward spring towards
    happiness had wasted her strength and given her nothing in exchange
    for it. In the life of the soul, as in the physical life, there is an
    inspiration and a respiration; the soul needs to absorb the sentiments
    of another soul and assimilate them, that it may render them back
    enriched. Were it not for this glorious human phenomenon, there would
    be no life for the heart; air would be wanting; it would suffer, and
    then perish. Eugenie had begun to suffer. For her, wealth was neither
    a power nor a consolation; she could not live except through love,
    through religion, through faith in the future. Love explained to her
    the mysteries of eternity. Her heart and the Gospel taught her to know
    two worlds; she bathed, night and day, in the depths of two infinite
    thoughts, which for her may have had but one meaning. She drew back
    within herself, loving, and believing herself beloved. For seven years
    her passion had invaded everything. Her treasuries were not the
    millions whose revenues were rolling up; they were Charles's
    dressing-case, the portraits hanging above her bed, the jewels
    recovered from her father and proudly spread upon a bed of wool in a
    drawer of the oaken cabinet, the thimble of her aunt, used for a while
    by her mother, which she wore religiously as she worked at a piece of
    embroidery,--a Penelope's web, begun for the sole purpose of putting
    upon her finger that gold so rich in memories.

    It seemed unlikely that Mademoiselle Grandet would marry during the
    period of her mourning. Her genuine piety was well known. Consequently
    the Cruchots, whose policy was sagely guided by the old abbe,
    contented themselves for the time being with surrounding the great
    heiress and paying her the most affectionate attentions. Every evening
    the hall was filled with a party of devoted Cruchotines, who sang the
    praises of its mistress in every key. She had her doctor in ordinary,
    her grand almoner, her chamberlain, her first lady of honor, her prime
    minister; above all, her chancellor, a chancellor who would fain have
    said much to her. If the heiress had wished for a train-bearer, one
    would instantly have been found. She was a queen, obsequiously
    flattered. Flattery never emanates from noble souls; it is the gift of
    little minds, who thus still further belittle themselves to worm their
    way into the vital being of the persons around whom they crawl.
    Flattery means self-interest. So the people who, night after night,
    assembled in Mademoiselle Grandet's house (they called her
    Mademoiselle de Froidfond) outdid each other in expressions of
    admiration. This concert of praise, never before bestowed upon
    Eugenie, made her blush under its novelty; but insensibly her ear
    became habituated to the sound, and however coarse the compliments
    might be, she soon was so accustomed to hear her beauty lauded that if
    any new-comer had seemed to think her plain, she would have felt the
    reproach far more than she might have done eight years earlier. She
    ended at last by loving the incense, which she secretly laid at the
    feet of her idol. By degrees she grew accustomed to be treated as a
    sovereign and to see her court pressing around her every evening.

    Monsieur de Bonfons was the hero of the little circle, where his wit,
    his person, his education, his amiability, were perpetually praised.
    One or another would remark that in seven years he had largely
    increased his fortune, that Bonfons brought in at least ten thousand
    francs a year, and was surrounded, like the other possessions of the
    Cruchots, by the vast domains of the heiress.

    "Do you know, mademoiselle," said an habitual visitor, "that the
    Cruchots have an income of forty thousand francs among them!"

    "And then, their savings!" exclaimed an elderly female Cruchotine,
    Mademoiselle de Gribeaucourt.

    "A gentleman from Paris has lately offered Monsieur Cruchot two
    hundred thousand francs for his practice," said another. "He will sell
    it if he is appointed _juge de paix_."

    "He wants to succeed Monsieur de Bonfons as president of the Civil
    courts, and is taking measures," replied Madame d'Orsonval. "Monsieur
    le president will certainly be made councillor."

    "Yes, he is a very distinguished man," said another,--"don't you think
    so, mademoiselle?"

    Monsieur de Bonfons endeavored to put himself in keeping with the role
    he sought to play. In spite of his forty years, in spite of his dusky
    and crabbed features, withered like most judicial faces, he dressed in
    youthful fashions, toyed with a bamboo cane, never took snuff in
    Mademoiselle de Froidfond's house, and came in a white cravat and a
    shirt whose pleated frill gave him a family resemblance to the race of
    turkeys. He addressed the beautiful heiress familiarly, and spoke of
    her as "Our dear Eugenie." In short, except for the number of
    visitors, the change from loto to whist, and the disappearance of
    Monsieur and Madame Grandet, the scene was about the same as the one
    with which this history opened. The pack were still pursuing Eugenie
    and her millions; but the hounds, more in number, lay better on the
    scent, and beset the prey more unitedly. If Charles could have dropped
    from the Indian Isles, he would have found the same people and the
    same interests. Madame des Grassins, to whom Eugenie was full of
    kindness and courtesy, still persisted in tormenting the Cruchots.
    Eugenie, as in former days, was the central figure of the picture; and
    Charles, as heretofore, would still have been the sovereign of all.
    Yet there had been some progress. The flowers which the president
    formerly presented to Eugenie on her birthdays and fete-days had now
    become a daily institution. Every evening he brought the rich heiress
    a huge and magnificent bouquet, which Madame Cornoiller placed
    conspicuously in a vase, and secretly threw into a corner of the
    court-yard when the visitors had departed.

    Early in the spring, Madame des Grassins attempted to trouble the
    peace of the Cruchotines by talking to Eugenie of the Marquis de
    Froidfond, whose ancient and ruined family might be restored if the
    heiress would give him back his estates through marriage. Madame des
    Grassins rang the changes on the peerage and the title of marquise,
    until, mistaking Eugenie's disdainful smile for acquiescence, she went
    about proclaiming that the marriage with "Monsieur Cruchot" was not
    nearly as certain as people thought.

    "Though Monsieur de Froidfond is fifty," she said, "he does not look
    older than Monsieur Cruchot. He is a widower, and he has children,
    that's true. But then he is a marquis; he will be peer of France; and
    in times like these where you will find a better match? I know it for
    a fact that Pere Grandet, when he put all his money into Froidfond,
    intended to graft himself upon that stock; he often told me so. He was
    a deep one, that old man!"

    "Ah! Nanon," said Eugenie, one night as she was going to bed, "how is
    it that in seven years he has never once written to me?"
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