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Chapter 5

After two hours' thought and care, during which Eugenie jumped up
twenty times from her work to see if the coffee were boiling, or to go
and listen to the noise her cousin made in dressing, she succeeded in
preparing a simple little breakfast, very inexpensive, but which,
nevertheless, departed alarmingly from the inveterate customs of the
house. The midday breakfast was always taken standing. Each took a
slice of bread, a little fruit or some butter, and a glass of wine. As
Eugenie looked at the table drawn up near the fire with an arm-chair
placed before her cousin's plate, at the two dishes of fruit, the
egg-cup, the bottle of white wine, the bread, and the sugar heaped up
in a saucer, she trembled in all her limbs at the mere thought of the
look her father would give her if he should come in at that moment. She
glanced often at the clock to see if her cousin could breakfast before
the master's return.

"Don't be troubled, Eugenie; if your father comes in, I will take it
all upon myself," said Madame Grandet.

Eugenie could not repress a tear.

"Oh, my good mother!" she cried, "I have never loved you enough."

Charles, who had been tramping about his room for some time, singing
to himself, now came down. Happily, it was only eleven o'clock. The
true Parisian! he had put as much dandyism into his dress as if he
were in the chateau of the noble lady then travelling in Scotland. He
came into the room with the smiling, courteous manner so becoming to
youth, which made Eugenie's heart beat with mournful joy. He had taken
the destruction of his castles in Anjou as a joke, and came up to his
aunt gaily.

"Have you slept well, dear aunt? and you, too, my cousin?"

"Very well, monsieur; did you?" said Madame Grandet.

"I? perfectly."

"You must be hungry, cousin," said Eugenie; "will you take your seat?"

"I never breakfast before midday; I never get up till then. However, I
fared so badly on the journey that I am glad to eat something at once.
Besides--" here he pulled out the prettiest watch Breguet ever made.
"Dear me! I am early, it is only eleven o'clock!"

"Early?" said Madame Grandet.

"Yes; but I wanted to put my things in order. Well, I shall be glad to
have anything to eat,--anything, it doesn't matter what, a chicken, a
partridge."

"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed Nanon, overhearing the words.

"A partridge!" whispered Eugenie to herself; she would gladly have
given the whole of her little hoard for a partridge.

"Come and sit down," said his aunt.

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.

"Do you always live here?" said Charles, thinking the room uglier by
daylight than it had seemed the night before.

"Always," answered Eugenie, looking at him, "except during the
vintage. Then we go and help Nanon, and live at the Abbaye des
Noyers."

"Don't you ever take walks?"

"Sometimes on Sunday after vespers, when the weather is fine," said
Madame Grandet, "we walk on the bridge, or we go and watch the
haymakers."

"Have you a theatre?"

"Go to the theatre!" exclaimed Madame Grandet, "see a play! Why,
monsieur, don't you know it is a mortal sin?"

"See here, monsieur," said Nanon, bringing in the eggs, "here are your
chickens,--in the shell."

"Oh! fresh eggs," said Charles, who, like all people accustomed to
luxury, had already forgotten about his partridge, "that is delicious:
now, if you will give me the butter, my good girl."

"Butter! then you can't have the _galette_."

"Nanon, bring the butter," cried Eugenie.

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.

"Ah! my dear cousin, if you were in full dress at the Opera, I assure
you my aunt's words would come true,--you would make the men commit
the mortal sin of envy, and the women the sin of jealousy."

The compliment went to Eugenie's heart and set it beating, though she
did not understand its meaning.

"Oh! cousin," she said, "you are laughing at a poor little country
girl."

"If you knew me, my cousin, you would know that I abhor ridicule; it
withers the heart and jars upon all my feelings." Here he swallowed
his buttered sippet very gracefully. "No, I really have not enough
mind to make fun of others; and doubtless it is a great defect. In
Paris, when they want to disparage a man, they say: 'He has a good
heart.' The phrase means: 'The poor fellow is as stupid as a
rhinoceros.' But as I am rich, and known to hit the bull's-eye at
thirty paces with any kind of pistol, and even in the open fields,
ridicule respects me."

"My dear nephew, that bespeaks a good heart."

"You have a very pretty ring," said Eugenie; "is there any harm in
asking to see it?"

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.

"See, mamma, what beautiful workmanship."

"My! there's a lot of gold!" said Nanon, bringing in the coffee.

"What is that?" exclaimed Charles, laughing, as he pointed to an
oblong pot of brown earthenware, glazed on the inside, and edged with
a fringe of ashes, from the bottom of which the coffee-grounds were
bubbling up and falling in the boiling liquid.

"It is boiled coffee," said Nanon.

"Ah! my dear aunt, I shall at least leave one beneficent trace of my
visit here. You are indeed behind the age! I must teach you to make
good coffee in a Chaptal coffee-pot."

He tried to explain the process of a Chaptal coffee-pot.

"Gracious! if there are so many things as all that to do," said Nanon,
"we may as well give up our lives to it. 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?"

"I will make it," said Eugenie.

"Child!" said Madame Grandet, looking at her daughter.

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.

"Is anything the matter, my cousin?" he said.

"Hush!" said Madame Grandet to Eugenie, who was about to answer; "you
know, my daughter, that your father charged us not to speak to
monsieur--"

"Say Charles," said young Grandet.

"Ah! you are called Charles? What a beautiful name!" cried Eugenie.

Presentiments of evil are almost always justified. At this moment
Nanon, Madame Grandet, and Eugenie, who had all three been thinking
with a shudder of the old man's return, heard the knock whose echoes
they knew but too well.

"There's papa!" said Eugenie.

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.

"Why! what is the matter?" he asked.

"My father has come," answered Eugenie.

"Well, what of that?"

Monsieur Grandet entered the room, threw his keen eye upon the table,
upon Charles, and saw the whole thing.

"Ha! ha! so you have been making a feast for your nephew; very good,
very good, very good indeed!" he said, without stuttering. "When the
cat's away, the mice will play."

"Feast!" thought Charles, incapable of suspecting or imagining the
rules and customs of the household.

"Give me my glass, Nanon," said the master

Eugenie brought the glass. Grandet drew a horn-handled knife with a
big blade from his breeches' pocket, cut a slice of bread, took a
small bit of butter, spread it carefully on the bread, and ate it
standing. At this moment Charlie was sweetening his coffee. Pere
Grandet saw the bits of sugar, looked at his wife, who turned pale,
and made three steps forward; he leaned down to the poor woman's ear
and said,--

"Where did you get all that sugar?"

"Nanon fetched it from Fessard's; there was none."

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.

"What do you want?" said his uncle.

"The sugar."

"Put in more milk," answered the master of the house; "your coffee
will taste sweeter."

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.

"You are not eating your breakfast, wife."

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,--

"Taste my preserves, papa. My cousin, you will eat some, will you not?
I went to get these pretty grapes expressly for you."

"If no one stops them, they will pillage Saumur for you, nephew. When
you have finished, we will go into the garden; I have something to
tell you which can't be sweetened."

Eugenie and her mother cast a look on Charles whose meaning the young
man could not mistake.

"What is it you mean, uncle? Since the death of my poor mother"--at
these words his voice softened--"no other sorrow can touch me."

"My nephew, who knows by what afflictions God is pleased to try us?"
said his aunt.

"Ta, ta, ta, ta," said Grandet, "there's your nonsense beginning. I am
sorry to see those white hands of yours, nephew"; and he showed the
shoulder-of-mutton fists which Nature had put at the end of his own
arms. "There's a pair of hands made to pick up silver pieces. You've
been brought up to put your feet in the kid out of which we make the
purses we keep our money in. A bad look-out! Very bad!"

"What do you mean, uncle? I'll be hanged if I understand a single word
of what you are saying."

"Come!" said Grandet.

The miser closed the blade of his knife with a snap, drank the last of
his wine, and opened the door.

"My cousin, take courage!"

The tone of the young girl struck terror to Charles's heart, and he
followed his terrible uncle, a prey to disquieting thoughts. 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. "You
have lost your father," seemed to him a mere nothing to say; fathers
die before their children. But "you are absolutely without means,"
--all the misfortunes of life were summed up in those words! 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.

"It is very fine weather, very warm," said Grandet, drawing a long
breath.

"Yes, uncle; but why--"

"Well, my lad," answered his uncle, "I have some bad news to give you.
Your father is ill--"

"Then why am I here?" said Charles. "Nanon," he cried, "order
post-horses! I can get a carriage somewhere?" he added, turning to
his uncle, who stood motionless.

"Horses and carriages are useless," answered Grandet, looking at
Charles, who remained silent, his eyes growing fixed. "Yes, my poor
boy, you guess the truth,--he is dead. But that's nothing; there is
something worse: he blew out his brains."

"My father!"

"Yes, but that's not the worst; the newspapers are all talking about
it. Here, read that."

Grandet, who had borrowed the fatal article from Cruchot, thrust the
paper under his nephew's eyes. The poor young man, still a child,
still at an age when feelings wear no mask, burst into tears.

"That's good!" thought Grandet; "his eyes frightened me. He'll be all
right if he weeps,--That is not the worst, my poor nephew," he said
aloud, not noticing whether Charles heard him, "that is nothing; you
will get over it: but--"

"Never, never! My father! Oh, my father!"

"He has ruined you, you haven't a penny."

"What does that matter? My father! Where is my father?"

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.

"The first burst must have its way," said Grandet, entering the
living-room, where Eugenie and her mother had hastily resumed their
seats and were sewing with trembling hands, after wiping their eyes.
"But that young man is good for nothing; his head is more taken up
with the dead than with his money."

Eugenie shuddered as she heard her father's comment on the most sacred
of all griefs. From that moment she began to judge him. Charles's
sobs, though muffled, still sounded through the sepulchral house; and
his deep groans, which seemed to come from the earth beneath, only
ceased towards evening, after growing gradually feebler.

"Poor young man!" said Madame Grandet.

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.

"Listen to me," he said, with his usual composure. "I hope that you
will not continue this extravagance, Madame Grandet. I don't give you
MY money to stuff that young fellow with sugar."

"My mother had nothing to do with it," said Eugenie; "it was I who--"

"Is it because you are of age," said Grandet, interrupting his
daughter, "that you choose to contradict me? Remember, Eugenie--"

"Father, the son of your brother ought to receive from us--"

"Ta, ta, ta, ta!" exclaimed the cooper on four chromatic tones; "the
son of my brother this, my nephew that! Charles is nothing at all to
us; he hasn't a farthing, his father has failed; and when this dandy
has cried his fill, off he goes from here. I won't have him
revolutionize my household."

"What is 'failing,' father?" asked Eugenie.

"To fail," answered her father, "is to commit the most dishonorable
action that can disgrace a man."

"It must be a great sin," said Madame Grandet, "and our brother may be
damned."

"There, there, don't begin with your litanies!" said Grandet,
shrugging his shoulders. "To fail, Eugenie," he resumed, "is to commit
a theft which the law, unfortunately, takes under its protection.
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."

The words rang in the poor girl's heart and weighed it down with their
heavy meaning. Upright and delicate as a flower born in the depths of
a forest, she knew nothing of the world's maxims, of its deceitful
arguments and specious sophisms; she therefore believed the atrocious
explanation which her father gave her designedly, concealing the
distinction which exists between an involuntary failure and an
intentional one.

"Father, could you not have prevented such a misfortune?"

"My brother did not consult me. Besides, he owes four millions."

"What is a 'million,' father?" she asked, with the simplicity of a
child which thinks it can find out at once all that it wants to know.

"A million?" said Grandet, "why, it is a million pieces of twenty sous
each, and it takes five twenty sous pieces to make five francs."

"Dear me!" cried Eugenie, "how could my uncle possibly have had four
millions? Is there any one else in France who ever had so many
millions?" Pere Grandet stroked his chin, smiled, and his wen seemed
to dilate. "But what will become of my cousin Charles?"

"He is going off to the West Indies by his father's request, and he
will try to make his fortune there."

"Has he got the money to go with?"

"I shall pay for his journey as far as--yes, as far as Nantes."

Eugenie sprang into his arms.

"Oh, father, how good you are!"

She kissed him with a warmth that almost made Grandet ashamed of
himself, for his conscience galled him a little.

"Will it take much time to amass a million?" she asked.

"Look here!" said the old miser, "you know what a napoleon is? Well,
it takes fifty thousand napoleons to make a million."

"Mamma, we must say a great many _neuvaines_ for him."

"I was thinking so," said Madame Grandet.

"That's the way, always spending my money!" cried the father. "Do you
think there are francs on every bush?"

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.

"Nanon, go upstairs and see that he does not kill himself," said
Grandet. "Now, then," he added, looking at his wife and daughter, who
had turned pale at his words, "no nonsense, you two! 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.

"Mamma, how many louis are there in a cask of wine?"

"Your father sells his from a hundred to a hundred and fifty francs,
sometimes two hundred,--at least, so I've heard say."

"Then papa must be rich?"

"Perhaps he is. But Monsieur Cruchot told me he bought Froidfond two
years ago; that may have pinched him."

Eugenie, not being able to understand the question of her father's
fortune, stopped short in her calculations.

"He didn't even see me, the darling!" said Nanon, coming back from her
errand. "He's stretched out like a calf on his bed and crying like the
Madeleine, and that's a blessing! What's the matter with the poor dear
young man!"

"Let us go and console him, mamma; if any one knocks, we can come
down."

Madame Grandet was helpless against the sweet persuasive tones of her
daughter's voice. Eugenie was sublime: she had become a woman. The
two, with beating hearts, went up to Charles's room. The door was
open. The young man heard and saw nothing; plunged in grief, he only
uttered inarticulate cries.

"How he loves his father!" said Eugenie in a low voice.

In the utterance of those words it was impossible to mistake the hopes
of a heart that, unknown to itself, had suddenly become passionate.
Madame Grandet cast a mother's look upon her daughter, and then
whispered in her ear,--

"Take care, you will love him!"

"Love him!" answered Eugenie. "Ah! if you did but know what my father
said to Monsieur Cruchot."

Charles turned over, and saw his aunt and cousin.

"I have lost my father, my poor father! If he had told me his secret
troubles we might have worked together to repair them. My God! my poor
father! I was so sure I should see him again that I think I kissed him
quite coldly--"

Sobs cut short the words.

"We will pray for him," said Madame Grandet. "Resign yourself to the
will of God."

"Cousin," said Eugenie, "take courage! Your loss is irreparable;
therefore think only of saving your honor."

With the delicate instinct of a woman who intuitively puts her mind
into all things, even at the moment when she offers consolation,
Eugenie sought to cheat her cousin's grief by turning his thoughts
inward upon himself.

"My honor?" exclaimed the young man, tossing aside his hair with an
impatient gesture as he sat up on his bed and crossed his arms. "Ah!
that is true. My uncle said my father had failed." He uttered a
heart-rending cry, and hid his face in his hands. "Leave me, leave me,
cousin! My God! my God! forgive my father, for he must have suffered
sorely!"

There was something terribly attractive in the sight of this young
sorrow, sincere without reasoning or afterthought. It was a virgin
grief which the simple hearts of Eugenie and her mother were fitted to
comprehend, and they obeyed the sign Charles made them to leave him to
himself. They went downstairs in silence and took their accustomed
places by the window and sewed for nearly an hour without exchanging a
word. Eugenie had seen in the furtive glance that she cast about the
young man's room--that girlish glance which sees all in the twinkling
of an eye--the pretty trifles of his dressing-case, his scissors, his
razors embossed with gold. This gleam of luxury across her cousin's
grief only made him the more interesting to her, possibly by way of
contrast. Never before had so serious an event, so dramatic a sight,
touched the imaginations of these two passive beings, hitherto sunk in
the stillness and calm of solitude.

"Mamma," said Eugenie, "we must wear mourning for my uncle."

"Your father will decide that," answered Madame Grandet.

They relapsed into silence. Eugenie drew her stitches with a uniform
motion which revealed to an observer the teeming thoughts of her
meditation. The first desire of the girl's heart was to share her
cousin's mourning.

Honore de Balzac

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