This foolish secret pride, this nobility of soul perpetually misunderstood and wounded by Grandet, ruled the whole conduct of the wife. Madame Grandet was attired habitually in a gown of greenish levantine silk, endeavoring to make it last nearly a year; with it she wore a large kerchief of white cotton cloth, a bonnet made of plaited straws sewn together, and almost always a black-silk apron. As she seldom left the house she wore out very few shoes. She never asked anything for herself.
Wasted dignity! Grandet thought himself very generous to his wife. Philosophers who meet the like of Nanon, of Madame Grandet, of Eugenie, have surely a right to say that irony is at the bottom of the ways of Providence. Yesterday Eugenie nearly twisted her ankle. Grandet took the candle, leaving his wife, daughter, and servant without any other light than that from the hearth, where the flames were lively, and went into the bakehouse to fetch planks, nails, and tools. At the moment when Grandet was mending his worm-eaten staircase and whistling with all his might, in remembrance of the days of his youth, the three Cruchots knocked at the door.
Nanon opened the door, and the light from the hearth, reflected on the ceiling, enabled the three Cruchots to find their way into the room. Madame and Mademoiselle Grandet rose. The president, profiting by the darkness, said to Eugenie:. He offered her a huge bouquet of choice flowers which were rare in Saumur; then, taking the heiress by the elbows, he kissed her on each side of her neck with a complacency that made her blush. The president, who looked like a rusty iron nail, felt that his courtship was progressing.
Every year is twelve months. As he replaced the candlestick beside the clock, Grandet, who never forgot his own jokes, and repeated them to satiety when he thought them funny, said,—. He carefully took off the branches of the candelabra, put a socket on each pedestal, took from Nanon a new tallow candle with paper twisted round the end of it, put it into the hollow, made it firm, lit it, and then sat down beside his wife, looking alternately at his friends, his daughter, and the two candles.
They are descended from Adam, and so are you. If the wine is good this year, it will be better two years hence. Suppose they are sent off empty-handed for once, faith!
Eugenie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac
At this moment the knocker announced the des Grassins family, and their arrival interrupted a conversation which had begun between Madame Grandet and the abbe. Madame des Grassins was one of those lively, plump little women, with pink-and-white skins, who, thanks to the claustral calm of the provinces and the habits of a virtuous life, keep their youth until they are past forty. She was like the last rose of autumn,—pleasant to the eye, though the petals have a certain frostiness, and their perfume is slight. She dressed well, got her fashions from Paris, set the tone to Saumur, and gave parties.
Her husband, formerly a quartermaster in the Imperial guard, who had been desperately wounded at Austerlitz, and had since retired, still retained, in spite of his respect for Grandet, the seeming frankness of an old soldier. A tall, blond young man, pale and slight, with tolerable manners and seemingly rather shy, although he had just spent eight or ten thousand francs over his allowance in Paris, where he had been sent to study law, now came forward and kissed Eugenie on both cheeks, offering her a workbox with utensils in silver-gilt,—mere show-case trumpery, in spite of the monogram E.
As she opened it, Eugenie experienced one of those unexpected and perfect delights which make a young girl blush and quiver and tremble with pleasure. The three Cruchots felt crushed as they saw the joyous, animated look cast upon Adolphe des Grassins by the heiress, to whom such riches were unheard-of. At this delicate juncture the Abbe Cruchot left the company seated in a circle round the fire and joined Grandet at the lower end of the hall. The des Grassins, at the most, have not half that; besides, they have a daughter. They may give what presents they like; heiress and presents too will be ours one of these days.
At half-past eight in the evening the two card-tables were set out. Madame des Grassins succeeded in putting her son beside Eugenie. The old cooper, with inward self-conceit, was contemplating the pink feathers and the fresh toilet of Madame des Grassins, the martial head of the banker, the faces of Adolphe, the president, the abbe, and the notary, saying to himself:—. Is it not, moreover, a drama of all times and all places, though here brought down to its simplest expression? The figure of Grandet, playing his own game with the false friendship of the two families and getting enormous profits from it, dominates the scene and throws light upon it.
The modern god,—the only god in whom faith is preserved,—money, is here, in all its power, manifested in a single countenance. The tender sentiments of life hold here but a secondary place; only the three pure, simple hearts of Nanon, of Eugenie, and of her mother were inspired by them. And how much of ignorance there was in the simplicity of these poor women! Their feelings, bruised, though they did not know it, but ever-living, were the secret spring of their existence, and made them curious exceptions in the midst of these other people whose lives were purely material.
Frightful condition of the human race! At the moment when Madame Grandet had won a loto of sixteen sous,—the largest ever pooled in that house,—and while la Grande Nanon was laughing with delight as she watched madame pocketing her riches, the knocker resounded on the house-door with such a noise that the women all jumped in their chairs. Hardly was Monsieur des Grassins allowed to see the figure of a young man, accompanied by a porter from the coach-office carrying two large trunks and dragging a carpet-bag after him, than Monsieur Grandet turned roughly on his wife and said,—.
Then he pulled the door quickly to, and the excited players returned to their seats, but did not continue the game. At this moment Grandet returned, without la Grande Nanon, whose steps, together with those of the porter, echoed up the staircase; and he was followed by the traveller who had excited such curiosity and so filled the lively imaginations of those present that his arrival at this dwelling, and his sudden fall into the midst of this assembly, can only be likened to that of a snail into a beehive, or the introduction of a peacock into some village poultry-yard.
Before seating himself, the young stranger saluted the assembled company very gracefully. The men rose to answer by a courteous inclination, and the women made a ceremonious bow. The stranger was the only person surprised by this scene; all the others were well-used to the despotic ways of the master. However, after the two questions and the two replies had been exchanged, the newcomer rose, turned his back towards the fire, lifted one foot so as to warm the sole of its boot, and said to Eugenie,—.
Monsieur Charles,—such was the name of the son of Monsieur Grandet of Paris,—hearing himself addressed, took a little eye-glass, suspended by a chain from his neck, applied it to his right eye to examine what was on the table, and also the persons sitting round it. He ogled Madame des Grassins with much impertinence, and said to her, after he had observed all he wished,—. Monsieur Charles Grandet, a handsome young man of twenty-two, presented at this moment a singular contrast to the worthy provincials, who, considerably disgusted by his aristocratic manners, were all studying him with sarcastic intent.
This needs an explanation. At twenty-two, young people are still so near childhood that they often conduct themselves childishly. In all probability, out of every hundred of them fully ninety-nine would have behaved precisely as Monsieur Charles Grandet was now behaving. Some days earlier than this his father had told him to go and spend several months with his uncle at Saumur. Perhaps Monsieur Grandet was thinking of Eugenie. Charles, sent for the first time in his life into the provinces, took a fancy to make his appearance with the superiority of a man of fashion, to reduce the whole arrondissement to despair by his luxury, and to make his visit an epoch, importing into those country regions all the refinements of Parisian life.
In short, to explain it in one word, he mean to pass more time at Saumur in brushing his nails than he ever thought of doing in Paris, and to assume the extra nicety and elegance of dress which a young man of fashion often lays aside for a certain negligence which in itself is not devoid of grace. Charles therefore brought with him a complete hunting-costume, the finest gun, the best hunting-knife in the prettiest sheath to be found in all Paris.
He brought his whole collection of waistcoats. They were of all kinds,—gray, black, white, scarabaeus-colored: some were shot with gold, some spangled, some chined ; some were double-breasted and crossed like a shawl, others were straight in the collar; some had turned-over collars, some buttoned up to the top with gilt buttons. He brought every variety of collar and cravat in fashion at that epoch.
He brought all his dandy knick-knacks, not forgetting a ravishing little desk presented to him by the most amiable of women,—amiable for him, at least,—a fine lady whom he called Annette and who at this moment was travelling, matrimonially and wearily, in Scotland, a victim to certain suspicions which required a passing sacrifice of happiness; in the desk was much pretty note-paper on which to write to her once a fortnight. In short, it was as complete a cargo of Parisian frivolities as it was possible for him to get together,—a collection of all the implements of husbandry with which the youth of leisure tills his life, from the little whip which helps to begin a duel, to the handsomely chased pistols which end it.
His father having told him to travel alone and modestly, he had taken the coupe of the diligence all to himself, rather pleased at not having to damage a delightful travelling-carriage ordered for a journey on which he was to meet his Annette, the great lady who, etc. Hearing that he was in town, he supposed that he should find him in a suitable mansion. At Tours a hairdresser had re-curled his beautiful chestnut locks; there he changed his linen and put on a black satin cravat, which, combined with a round shirt-collar, framed his fair and smiling countenance agreeably.
A travelling great-coat, only half buttoned up, nipped in his waist and disclosed a cashmere waistcoat crossed in front, beneath which was another waistcoat of white material. His watch, negligently slipped into a pocket, was fastened by a short gold chain to a buttonhole. His gray trousers, buttoned up at the sides, were set off at the seams with patterns of black silk embroidery. He gracefully twirled a cane, whose chased gold knob did not mar the freshness of his gray gloves.
And to complete all, his cap was in excellent taste. None but a Parisian, and a Parisian of the upper spheres, could thus array himself without appearing ridiculous; none other could give the harmony of self-conceit to all these fopperies, which were carried off, however, with a dashing air,—the air of a young man who has fine pistols, a sure aim, and Annette. All three took snuff, and had long ceased to repress the habit of snivelling or to remove the brown blotches which strewed the frills of their dingy shirts and the yellowing creases of their crumpled collars.
Their flabby cravats were twisted into ropes as soon as they wound them about their throats. The enormous quantity of linen which allowed these people to have their clothing washed only once in six months, and to keep it during that time in the depths of their closets, also enabled time to lay its grimy and decaying stains upon it. There was perfect unison of ill-grace and senility about them; their faces, as faded as their threadbare coats, as creased as their trousers, were worn-out, shrivelled-up, and puckered.
As for the others, the general negligence of their dress, which was incomplete and wanting in freshness,—like the toilet of all country places, where insensibly people cease to dress for others and come to think seriously of the price of a pair of gloves,—was in keeping with the negligence of the Cruchots. A horror of fashion was the only point on which the Grassinists and the Cruchotines agreed.
Monsieur des Grassins and his son, to whom the appearance of a man of fashion was not wholly unknown, were nevertheless as much astonished as their neighbors, whether it was that they fell under the indefinable influence of the general feeling, or that they really shared it as with satirical glances they seemed to say to their compatriots,—. They were able to examine Charles at their leisure without fearing to displease the master of the house.
Grandet was absorbed in the long letter which he held in his hand; and to read it he had taken the only candle upon the card-table, paying no heed to his guests or their pleasure. Eugenie, to whom such a type of perfection, whether of dress or of person, was absolutely unknown, thought she beheld in her cousin a being descended from seraphic spheres. She inhaled with delight the fragrance wafted from the graceful curls of that brilliant head.
She would have liked to touch the soft kid of the delicate gloves. She envied Charles his small hands, his complexion, the freshness and refinement of his features. Charles drew from his pocket a handkerchief embroidered by the great lady now travelling in Scotland. As Eugenie saw this pretty piece of work, done in the vacant hours which were lost to love, she looked at her cousin to see if it were possible that he meant to make use of it.
By HONORÉ de BALZAC; Translated by MARION AYTON CRAWFORD
The manners of the young man, his gestures, the way in which he took up his eye-glass, his affected superciliousness, his contemptuous glance at the coffer which had just given so much pleasure to the rich heiress, and which he evidently regarded as without value, or even as ridiculous,—all these things, which shocked the Cruchots and the des Grassins, pleased Eugenie so deeply that before she slept she dreamed long dreams of her phoenix cousin. The loto-numbers were drawn very slowly, and presently the game came suddenly to an end.
Madame Grandet followed her out. Eugenie, prompted by a thought often born in the heart of a young girl when sentiment enters it for the first time, left the room to go and help her mother and Nanon. She herself covered the old table with a cloth and requested Nanon to change it every morning; she convinced her mother that it was necessary to light a good fire, and persuaded Nanon to bring up a great pile of wood into the corridor without saying anything to her father. More ideas surged through her head in one quarter of an hour than she had ever had since she came into the world.
Are you crazy? Besides, he will not notice it. Nanon gave a loud laugh as she heard the first little jest her young mistress had ever made, and then obeyed her. But if we do not frighten you away, you will find there are some amusements even here. She threw him the ogling glance of the provinces, where women put so much prudence and reserve into their eyes that they impart to them the prudish concupiscence peculiar to certain ecclesiastics to whom all pleasure is either a theft or an error. Charles was so completely out of his element in this abode, and so far from the vast chateau and the sumptuous life with which his fancy had endowed his uncle, that as he looked at Madame des Grassins he perceived a dim likeness to Parisian faces.
He gracefully responded to the species of invitation addressed to him, and began very naturally a conversation, in which Madame des Grassins gradually lowered her voice so as to bring it into harmony with the nature of the confidences she was making. With her, as with Charles, there was the need of conference; so after a few moments spent in coquettish phrases and a little serious jesting, the clever provincial said, thinking herself unheard by the others, who were discussing the sale of wines which at that season filled the heads of every one in Saumur,—.
Our salon is the only one in Saumur where you will find the higher business circles mingling with the nobility. We belong to both societies, who meet at our house simply because they find it amusing.
My husband—I say it with pride—is as much valued by the one class as by the other. We will try to relieve the monotony of your visit here. If you stay all the time with Monsieur Grandet, good heavens! The Abbe Cruchot had guessed the conversation between Charles and Madame des Grassins without seeming to pay attention to it. He maintained the habitual calm of his features with evident difficulty; we may, in fact, picture to ourselves the countenance such a man endeavored to preserve as he read the fatal letter which here follows:—.
He looked at his nephew with a humble, timid air, beneath which he hid his feelings and his calculations. At this moment Eugenie and Madame Grandet returned. Taxes swallow up everything. At these words the assembly rose, and each made a parting bow in keeping with his or her own character. The old notary went to the door to fetch his lantern and came back to light it, offering to accompany the des Grassins on their way. Madame des Grassins had not foreseen the incident which brought the evening prematurely to an end, her servant therefore had not arrived.
The abbe walked off with the pretty lady so quickly that they were soon some distance in advance of the caravan. It is all over with us. We may as well say adieu to Mademoiselle Grandet. Eugenie will belong to the dandy. This young man cannot fail to see that Eugenie is a little fool,—a girl without the least freshness. Did you notice her to-night? She was as yellow as a quince.follow site
Eugenie Grandet, by Honore de Balzac
Do you mean to offer me bad advice? I have not reached the age of thirty-nine, without a stain upon my reputation, thank God! You and I are of an age when we both know the meaning of words. For an ecclesiastic, you certainly have ideas that are very incongruous. If this young man—who I admit is very good-looking—were to make love to me, he would not think of his cousin.
You must go and ask Monsieur and Madame de Larsonniere and the du Hautoys, with the beautiful demoiselle du Hautoy, of course. I hope she will be properly dressed; that jealous mother of hers does make such a fright of her! After bowing to the three des Grassins, the three Cruchots returned home, applying their provincial genius for analysis to studying, under all its aspects, the great event of the evening, which undoubtedly changed the respective positions of Grassinists and Cruchotines.
The admirable common-sense which guided all the actions of these great machinators made each side feel the necessity of a momentary alliance against a common enemy. Must they not mutually hinder Eugenie from loving her cousin, and the cousin from thinking of Eugenie? Could the Parisian resist the influence of treacherous insinuations, soft-spoken calumnies, slanders full of faint praise and artless denials, which should be made to circle incessantly about him and deceive him? When the four relations were left alone, Monsieur Grandet said to his nephew,—. It is too late to talk about the matters which have brought you here; to-morrow we will take a suitable moment.
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. 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.
Nanon, where are the candles? Permit me to bid you good-night, and my young cousin also.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Sleep well. Carry off your brazier, Nanon! 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,—.
Shall I help you to unpack your trunks? Is it salt? Does it go in the water? Nanon was wonder-struck by the sight of a dressing-gown made of green silk, brocaded with gold flowers of an antique design. Oh, how nice you look in it! I must call mademoiselle to see you. If my dressing-gown pleases you so much, you shall save your soul. Nanon stood rooted to the ground, gazing at Charles and unable to put faith into his words. 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. Grandet gazed at the door lined with sheet-iron which he lately put to his sanctum, and said to himself,—. 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 it! 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. Then she opened the door of her chamber which led to the staircase, and stretched out her neck to listen for the household noises. Eugenie at once went down and ran to Nanon, who was milking the cow. Your cousin is a darling, a darling! 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. 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.
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. 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.
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,—. 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,—.
I want eight. I have never seen you like this before. What have you got in your head? Are you the mistress here? 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 galette. Pere Grandet returned from the garden with the fruit and arranged a plateful on the kitchen-table. What leather! What does he clean it with, I wonder?
Am I to put your egg-polish on it? 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. 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. They eat what they can get, like the rest of the world. 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 her:.
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. 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.
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. All Saumur is talking about your nephew. I shall soon have the marriage-contract to draw up, hey!
Pere Grandet? 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? 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.
A few steps from their own door she went on before her father and waited at the threshold. 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.
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. I went in and I called him: no answer. Madame Grandet, who did not dare to put the question, gazed at her husband. 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. Eugenie learned at that moment that the woman who loves must be able to hide her feelings. She did not answer. I shall be back at noon, in time for the second breakfast, and then I will talk with my nephew about his affairs. 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.
Madame Grandet, seeing that she turned pale, opened the window and let her breathe fresh air. 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.
At these words the young girl raised her head, questioned her mother by a look, and seemed to search out her inmost thought. Is he not our nearest relation? 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,—. The words sent a glow of light into the motherly face, worn and blighted as it was by many sorrows.
Madame Grandet only smiled in reply. That is 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. Eugenie called Nanon. Put in a great deal. 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. 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.
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. Nanon came back with two fresh eggs. At sight of them Eugenie almost hugged her round the neck. I asked him for them, and he gave them to me, the darling, for nothing, as an attention!
The midday breakfast was always taken standing. Each took a slice of bread, a little fruit or some butter, and a glass of wine. Charles, who had been tramping about his room for some time, singing to himself, now came down. The true Parisian! He had taken the destruction of his castles in Anjou as a joke, and came up to his aunt gaily.
However, I fared so badly on the journey that I am glad to eat something at once. The young dandy let himself drop into an easy-chair, just as a pretty woman falls gracefully upon a sofa. Eugenie and her mother took ordinary chairs and sat beside him, near the fire. Then we go and help Nanon, and live at the Abbaye des Noyers.
The young girl watched her cousin as he cut his sippets, with as much pleasure as a grisette takes in a melodrama where innocence and virtue triumph. Charles, brought up by a charming mother, improved, and trained by a woman of fashion, had the elegant, dainty, foppish movements of a coxcomb. The compassionate sympathy and tenderness of a young girl possess a power that is actually magnetic; so that Charles, finding himself the object of the attentions of his aunt and cousin, could not escape the influence of feelings which flowed towards him, as it were, and inundated him.
He gave Eugenie a bright, caressing look full of kindness,—a look which seemed itself a smile. He perceived, as his eyes lingered upon her, the exquisite harmony of features in the pure face, the grace of her innocent attitude, the magic clearness of the eyes, where young love sparkled and desire shone unconsciously. Charles held out his hand after loosening the ring, and Eugenie blushed as she touched the pink nails of her cousin with the tips of her fingers.
You are indeed behind the age! I must teach you to make good coffee in a Chaptal coffee-pot. I shall never make coffee that way; I know that! Pray, who is to get the fodder for the cow while I make the coffee? The word recalled to their minds the sorrow that was about to fall upon the unfortunate young man; the three women were silent, and looked at him with an air of commiseration that caught his attention.
Presentiments of evil are almost always justified. She removed the saucer filled with sugar, leaving a few pieces on the table-cloth; Nanon carried off the egg-cup; Madame Grandet sat up like a frightened hare. It was evidently a panic, which amazed Charles, who was wholly unable to understand it. Monsieur Grandet entered the room, threw his keen eye upon the table, upon Charles, and saw the whole thing.
Eugenie brought the glass.
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At this moment Charlie was sweetening his coffee. It is impossible to picture the profound interest the three women took in this mute scene. Nanon had left her kitchen and stood looking into the room to see what would happen. Charles, having tasted his coffee, found it bitter and glanced about for the sugar, which Grandet had already put away. Eugenie took the saucer which Grandet had put away and placed it on the table, looking calmly at her father as she did so.
Most assuredly, the Parisian woman who held a silken ladder with her feeble arms to facilitate the flight of her lover, showed no greater courage than Eugenie displayed when she replaced the sugar upon the table. The lover rewarded his mistress when she proudly showed him her beautiful bruised arm, and bathed every swollen vein with tears and kisses till it was cured with happiness. Charles, on the other hand, never so much as knew the secret of the cruel agitation that shook and bruised the heart of his cousin, crushed as it was by the look of the old miser. The poor helot came forward with a piteous look, cut herself a piece of bread, and took a pear.
Eugenie boldly offered her father some grapes, saying,—. My cousin, you will eat some, will you not? I went to get these pretty grapes expressly for you. Eugenie and her mother cast a look on Charles whose meaning the young man could not mistake. A bad look-out!
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Very bad! The miser closed the blade of his knife with a snap, drank the last of his wine, and opened the door. Eugenie, her mother, and Nanon went into the kitchen, moved by irresistible curiosity to watch the two actors in the scene which was about to take place in the garden, where at first the uncle walked silently ahead of the nephew. Grandet was not at all troubled at having to tell Charles of the death of his father; but he did feel a sort of compassion in knowing him to be without a penny, and he sought for some phrase or formula by which to soften the communication of that cruel truth.
Grandet walked round the garden three times, the gravel crunching under his heavy step. In the crucial moments of life our minds fasten upon the locality where joys or sorrows overwhelm us. Charles noticed with minute attention the box-borders of the little garden, the yellow leaves as they fluttered down, the dilapidated walls, the gnarled fruit-trees,—picturesque details which were destined to remain forever in his memory, blending eternally, by the mnemonics that belong exclusively to the passions, with the recollections of this solemn hour.
I can get a carriage somewhere? Here, read that. The poor young man, still a child, still at an age when feelings wear no mask, burst into tears. His sobs resounded horribly against those dreary walls and reverberated in the echoes. The three women, filled with pity, wept also; for tears are often as contagious as laughter. Charles, without listening further to his uncle, ran through the court and up the staircase to his chamber, where he threw himself across the bed and hid his face in the sheets, to weep in peace for his lost parents.
From that moment she began to judge him. Fatal exclamation! Pere Grandet looked at his wife, at Eugenie, and at the sugar-bowl. He recollected the extraordinary breakfast prepared for the unfortunate youth, and he took a position in the middle of the room. People have given their property to Guillaume Grandet trusting to his reputation for honor and integrity; he has made away with it all, and left them nothing but their eyes to weep with. A highway robber is better than a bankrupt: the one attacks you and you can defend yourself, he risks his own life; but the other—in short, Charles is dishonored.
Is there any one else in France who ever had so many millions? She kissed him with a warmth that almost made Grandet ashamed of himself, for his conscience galled him a little. Well, it takes fifty thousand napoleons to make a million. At this moment a muffled cry, more distressing than all the others, echoed through the garrets and struck a chill to the hearts of Eugenie and her mother. I must leave you; I have got to see about the Dutchmen who are going away to-day. And then I must find Cruchot, and talk with him about all this.
He departed. As soon as he had shut the door Eugenie and her mother breathed more freely. Until this morning the young girl had never felt constrained in the presence of her father; but for the last few hours every moment wrought a change in her feelings and ideas. IMDb More. Keep track of everything you watch; tell your friends. Full Cast and Crew. Release Dates.
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