now we are coming to it!
Just another word or two,
and it will all be clear enough.
is an old scoundrel;
it is said that he murdered one of his friends at the time of the Revolution.
He is one of your comedians that sets up to have opinions of his own.
He is a banker --senior partner in the house of Frederic Taillefer and Company.
He has one son,
and means to leave all he has to the boy,
to the prejudice of Victorine.
For my part,
I don't like to see injustice of this sort.
I am like Don Quixote,
I have a fancy for defending the weak against the strong.
If it should please God to take that youth away from him,
Taillefer would have only his daughter left;
he would want to leave his money to some one or other;
an absurd notion,
but it is only human nature,
and he is not likely to have any more children,
as I know.
Victorine is gentle and amiable;
she will soon twist her father round her fingers,
and set his head spinning like a German top by plying him with sentiment!
She will be too much touched by your devotion to forget you;
you will marry her.
I mean to play Providence for you,
and Providence is to do my will.
I have a friend whom I have attached closely to myself,
a colonel in the Army of the Loire,
who has just been transferred into the _garde royale_.
He has taken my advice and turned ultra-royalist;
he is not one of those fools who never change their opinions.
Of all pieces of advice,
I would give you this --don't stick to your opinions any more than to your words.
If any one asks you for them,
let him have them --at a price.
A man who prides himself on going in a straight line through life is an idiot who believes in infallibility.
There are no such things as principles;
there are only events,
and there are no laws but those of expediency: a man of talent accepts events and the circumstances in which he finds himself,
and turns everything to his own ends.
If laws and principles were fixed and invariable,
nations would not change them as readily as we change our shirts.
The individual is not obliged to be more particular than the nation.
A man whose services to France have been of the very slightest is a fetich looked on with superstitious awe because he has always seen everything in red;
but he is good,
at the most,
to be put into the Museum of Arts and Crafts,
among the automatic machines,
and labeled La Fayette;
while the prince at whom everybody flings a stone,
the man who despises humanity so much that he spits as many oaths as he is asked for in the face of humanity,
saved France from being torn in pieces at the Congress of Vienna;
and they who should have given him laurels fling mud at him.
I know something of affairs,
I can tell you;
I have the secrets of many men!
When I find three minds in agreement as to the application of a principle,
I shall have a fixed and immovable opinion --I shall have to wait a long while first.
In the Tribunals you will not find three judges of the same opinion on a single point of law.
To return to the man I was telling you of.
He would crucify Jesus Christ again,
if I bade him.
At a word from his old chum Vautrin he will pick a quarrel with a scamp that will not send so much as five francs to his sister,
(here Vautrin rose to his feet and stood like a fencing-master about to lunge)
--"turn him off into the dark!"
"You do not really mean it?
you are joking!"
said the other.
"Don't behave like a baby.
But if you find any amusement in it,
Say that I am a scoundrel,
but do not call me a blackleg nor a spy!
out with it,
I forgive you;
it is quite natural at your age.
I was like that myself once.
Only remember this,
you will do worse things yourself some day.
You will flirt with some pretty woman and take her money.
You have thought of that,
"for how are you to succeed unless love is laid under contribution?
There are no two ways about virtue,
my dear student;
it either is,
or it is not.
Talk of doing penance for your sins!
It is a nice system of business,
when you pay for your crime by an act of contrition!
You seduce a woman that you may set your foot on such and such a rung of the social ladder;
you sow dissension among the children of a family;
to every base action that can be committed at home or abroad,
to gain your own ends for your own pleasure or your profit;
and can you imagine that these are acts of faith,
How is it that a dandy,
who in a night has robbed a boy of half his fortune,
gets only a couple of months in prison;
while a poor devil who steals a banknote for a thousand francs,
with aggravating circumstances,
is condemned to penal servitude?
Those are your laws.
Not a single provision but lands you in some absurdity.
That man with yellow gloves and a golden tongue commits many a murder;
he sheds no blood,
but he drains his victim's veins as surely;
a desperado forces open a door with a crowbar,
dark deeds both of them!
You yourself will do every one of those things that I suggest to you to-day,
bar the bloodshed.
Do you believe that there is any absolute standard in this world?
Despise mankind and find out the meshes that you can slip through in the net of the Code.
The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out,
because it was properly executed."
I will not hear any more;
you make me doubt myself.
At this moment my sentiments are all my science."
"Just as you please,
my fine fellow;
I did think you were so weak-minded,"
"I shall say no more about it.
One last word,
and he looked hard at the student --"you have my secret,"
"A young man who refuses your offer knows that he must forget it."
I am glad to hear you say so.
Somebody else might not be so scrupulous,
Keep in mind what I want to do for you.
I will give you a fortnight.
The offer is still open."
"What a head of iron the man has!"
said Eugene to himself,
as he watched Vautrin walk unconcernedly away with his cane under his arm.
"Yet Mme. de Beauseant said as much more gracefully;
he has only stated the case in cruder language.
He would tear my heart with claws of steel.
What made me think of going to Mme. de Nucingen?
He guessed my motives before I knew them myself.
To sum it up,
that outlaw has told me more about virtue than all I have learned from men and books.
If virtue admits of no compromises,
I have certainly robbed my sisters,"
throwing down the bags on the table.
He sat down again and fell,
unconscious of his surroundings,
into deep thought.
"To be faithful to an ideal of virtue!
A heroic martyrdom!
every one believes in virtue,
but who is virtuous?
Nations have made an idol of Liberty,
but what nation on the face of the earth is free?
My youth is still like a blue and cloudless sky.
If I set myself to obtain wealth or power,
does it mean that I must make up my mind to lie,
To consent to be the servant of others who have likewise fawned,
Must I cringe to them before I can hope to be their accomplice?
I mean to work nobly and with a single heart.
I will work day and night;
I will owe my fortune to nothing but my own exertions.
It may be the slowest of all roads to success,
but I shall lay my head on the pillow at night untroubled by evil thoughts.
Is there a greater thing than this --to look back over your life and know that it is stainless as a lily?
I and my life are like a young man and his betrothed.
Vautrin has put before me all that comes after ten years of marriage.
my head is swimming.
I do not want to think at all;
the heart is a sure guide."
Eugene was roused from his musings by the voice of the stout Sylvie,
who announced that the tailor had come,
and Eugene therefore made his appearance before the man with the two money bags,
and was not ill pleased that it should be so.
When he had tried on his dress suit,
he put on his new morning costume,
which completely metamorphosed him.
"I am quite equal to M. de Trailles,"
he said to himself.
I look like a gentleman."
"You asked me,
if I knew the houses where Mme. de Nucingen goes,"
Father Goriot's voice spoke from the doorway of Eugene's room.
"Very well then,
she is going to the Marechale Carigliano's ball on Monday.
If you can manage to be there,
I shall hear from you whether my two girls enjoyed themselves,
and how they were dressed,
and all about it in fact."
"How did you find that out,
my good Goriot?"
putting a chair by the fire for his visitor.
"Her maid told me.
I hear all about their doings from Therese and Constance,"
he added gleefully.
The old man looked like a lover who is still young enough to be made happy by the discovery of some little stratagem which brings him information of his lady-love without her knowledge.
"_You_ will see them both!"
giving artless expression to a pang of jealousy.
"I do not know,"
"I will go to Mme. de Beauseant and ask her for an introduction to the Marechale."
Eugene felt a thrill of pleasure at the thought of appearing before the Vicomtesse,
dressed as henceforward he always meant to be.
The "abysses of the human heart,"
in the moralists' phrase,
are only insidious thoughts,
involuntary promptings of personal interest.
The instinct of enjoyment turns the scale;
those rapid changes of purpose which have furnished the text for so much rhetoric are calculations prompted by the hope of pleasure.
Rastignac beholding himself well dressed and impeccable as to gloves and boots,
forgot his virtuous resolutions.
when bent upon wrongdoing does not dare to behold himself in the mirror of consciousness;
mature age has seen itself;
and therein lies the whole difference between these two phases of life.
A friendship between Eugene and his neighbor,
had been growing up for several days past.
This secret friendship and the antipathy that the student had begun to entertain for Vautrin arose from the same psychological causes.
The bold philosopher who shall investigate the effects of mental action upon the physical world will doubtless find more than one proof of the material nature of our sentiments in other animals.
What physiognomist is as quick to discern character as a dog is to discover from a stranger's face whether this is a friend or no?
Those by-words --"atoms,"
"affinities" --are facts surviving in modern languages for the confusion of philosophic wiseacres who amuse themselves by winnowing the chaff of language to find its grammatical roots.
We _feel_ that we are loved.
Our sentiments make themselves felt in everything,
even at a great distance.
A letter is a living soul,
and so faithful an echo of the voice that speaks in it,
that finer natures look upon a letter as one of love's most precious treasures.
Father Goriot's affection was of the instinctive order,
a canine affection raised to a sublime pitch;
he had scented compassion in the air,
and the kindly respect and youthful sympathy in the student's heart.
This friendship had,
scarcely reached the stage at which confidences are made.
Though Eugene had spoken of his wish to meet Mme. de Nucingen,
it was not because he counted on the old man to introduce him to her house,
for he hoped that his own audacity might stand him in good stead.
All that Father Goriot had said as yet about his daughters had referred to the remarks that the student had made so freely in public on that day of the two visits.
"How could you think that Mme. de Restaud bore you a grudge for mentioning my name?"
he had said on the day following that scene at dinner.
"My daughters are very fond of me;
I am a happy father;
but my sons-in-law have behaved badly to me,
and rather than make trouble between my darlings and their husbands,
I choose to see my daughters secretly.
Fathers who can see their daughters at any time have no idea of all the pleasure that all this mystery gives me;
I cannot always see mine when I wish,
do you understand?
So when it is fine I walk out in the Champs-Elysees,
after finding out from their waiting-maids whether my daughters mean to go out.
I wait near the entrance;
my heart beats fast when the carriages begin to come;
I admire them in their dresses,
and as they pass they give me a little smile,
and it seems as if everything was lighted up for me by a ray of bright sunlight.
for they always go back the same way,
and then I see them again;
the fresh air has done them good and brought color into their cheeks;
all about me people say,
'What a beautiful woman that is!'
and it does my heart good to hear them.
"Are they not my own flesh and blood?
I love the very horses that draw them;
I envy the little lap-dog on their knees.
Their happiness is my life.
Every one loves after his own fashion,
and mine does no one any harm;
why should people trouble their heads about me?
I am happy in my own way.
Is there any law against going to see my girls in the evening when they are going out to a ball?
And what a disappointment it is when I get there too late,
and am told that
'Madame has gone out!'
Once I waited till three o'clock in the morning for Nasie;
I had not seen her for two whole days.
I was so pleased,
that it was almost too much for me!
Please do not speak of me unless it is to say how good my daughters are to me.
They are always wanting to heap presents upon me,
but I will not have it.
'Just keep your money,'
I tell them.
'What should I do with it?
I want nothing.'
And what am I,
An old carcase,
whose soul is always where my daughters are.
When you have seen Mme. de Nucingen,
tell me which you like the most,"
said the old man after a moment's pause,
while Eugene put the last touches to his toilette.
The student was about to go out to walk in the Garden of the Tuileries until the hour when he could venture to appear in Mme. de Beauseant's drawing-room.
That walk was a turning-point in Eugene's career.
Several women noticed him;
he looked so handsome,
and so well dressed.
This almost admiring attention gave a new turn to his thoughts.
He forgot his sisters and the aunt who had robbed herself for him;
he no longer remembered his own virtuous scruples.
He had seen hovering above his head the fiend so easy to mistake for an angel,
the Devil with rainbow wings,
who scatters rubies,
and aims his golden shafts at palace fronts,
who invests women with purple,
and thrones with a glory that dazzles the eyes of fools till they forget the simple origins of royal dominion;
he had heard the rustle of that Vanity whose tinsel seems to us to be the symbol of power.
However cynical Vautrin's words had been,
they had made an impression on his mind,
as the sordid features of the old crone who whispers,
and gold in torrents,"
remain engraven on a young girl's memory.
Eugene lounged about the walks till it was nearly five o'clock,
then he went to Mme. de Beauseant,
and received one of the terrible blows against which young hearts are defenceless.
Hitherto the Vicomtesse had received him with the kindly urbanity,
the bland grace of manner that is the result of fine breeding,
but is only complete when it comes from the heart.
To-day Mme. de Beauseant bowed constrainedly,
and spoke curtly:
"M. de Rastignac,
I cannot possibly see you,
at least not at this moment.
I am engaged ..."
and Rastignac instantly became an observer,
could read the whole history,
the character and customs of caste,
in the phrase,
in the tones of her voice,
in her glance and bearing.
He caught a glimpse of the iron hand beneath the velvet glove --the personality,
the egoism beneath the manner,
the wood beneath the varnish.
he heard that unmistakable I THE KING that issues from the plumed canopy of the throne,
and finds its last echo under the crest of the simplest gentleman.
Eugene had trusted too implicitly to the generosity of a woman;
he could not believe in her haughtiness.
Like all the unfortunate,
he had subscribed,
in all good faith,
the generous compact which should bind the benefactor to the recipient,
and the first article in that bond,
between two large-hearted natures,
is a perfect equality.
The kindness which knits two souls together is as rare,
and as little understood as the passion of love,
for both love and kindness are the lavish generosity of noble natures.
Rastignac was set upon going to the Duchesse de Carigliano's ball,
so he swallowed down this rebuff.
he faltered out,
"I would not have come to trouble you about a trifling matter;
be so kind as to permit me to see you later,
I can wait."
come and dine with me,"
a little confused by the harsh way in which she had spoken,
for this lady was as genuinely kind-hearted as she was high-born.
Eugene was touched by this sudden relenting,
but none the less he said to himself as he went away,
"Crawl in the dust,
put up with every kind of treatment.
What must the rest of the world be like when one of the kindest of women forgets all her promises of befriending me in a moment,
and tosses me aside like an old shoe?
So it is every one for himself?
It is true that her house is not a shop,
and I have put myself in the wrong by needing her help.
You should cut your way through the world like a cannon ball,
as Vautrin said."
But the student's bitter thoughts were soon dissipated by the pleasure which he promised himself in this dinner with the Vicomtesse.
Fate seemed to determine that the smallest accidents in his life should combine to urge him into a career,
which the terrible sphinx of the Maison Vauquer had described as a field of battle where you must either slay or be slain,
and cheat to avoid being cheated.
You leave your conscience and your heart at the barriers,
and wear a mask on entering into this game of grim earnest,
as in ancient Sparta,
you must snatch your prize without being detected if you would deserve the crown.
On his return he found the Vicomtesse gracious and kindly,
as she had always been to him.
They went together to the dining-room,
where the Vicomte was waiting for his wife.
In the time of the Restoration the luxury of the table was carried,
as is well known,
to the highest degree,
and M. de Beauseant,
like many jaded men of the world,
had few pleasures left but those of good cheer;
in this matter,
he was a gourmand of the schools of Louis XVIII.
and of the Duc d'Escars,
and luxury was supplemented by splendor.
dining for the first time in a house where the traditions of grandeur had descended through many generations,
had never seen any spectacle like this that now met his eyes.
In the time of the Empire,
balls had always ended with a supper,
because the officers who took part in them must be fortified for immediate service,
and even in Paris might be called upon to leave the ballroom for the battlefield.
This arrangement had gone out of fashion under the Monarchy,
and Eugene had so far only been asked to dances.
The self-possession which pre-eminently distinguished him in later life already stood him in good stead,
and he did not betray his amazement.
Yet as he saw for the first time the finely wrought silver plate,
the completeness of every detail,
the sumptuous dinner,
it was difficult for such an ardent imagination not to prefer this life of studied and refined luxury to the hardships of the life which he had chosen only that morning.
His thoughts went back for a moment to the lodging-house,
and with a feeling of profound loathing,
he vowed to himself that at New Year he would go;
prompted at least as much by a desire to live among cleaner surroundings as by a wish to shake off Vautrin,
whose huge hand he seemed to feel on his shoulder at that moment.
When you consider the numberless forms,
clamorous or mute,
that corruption takes in Paris,
common-sense begins to wonder what mental aberration prompted the State to establish great colleges and schools there,
and assemble young men in the capital;
how it is that pretty women are respected,
or that the gold coin displayed in the money-changer's wooden saucers does not take to itself wings in the twinkling of an eye;
and when you come to think further,
how comparatively few cases of crime there are,
and to count up the misdemeanors committed by youth,
is there not a certain amount of respect due to these patient Tantaluses who wrestle with themselves and nearly always come off victorious?
The struggles of the poor student in Paris,
if skilfully drawn,
would furnish a most dramatic picture of modern civilization.
In vain Mme. de Beauseant looked at Eugene as if asking him to speak;
the student was tongue-tied in the Vicomte's presence.
"Are you going to take me to the Italiens this evening?"
the Vicomtesse asked her husband.
"You cannot doubt that I should obey you with pleasure,"
and there was a sarcastic tinge in his politeness which Eugene did not detect,
"but I ought to go to meet some one at the Varietes."
said she to herself.
is not Ajuda coming for you this evening?"
inquired the Vicomte.
if you really must have an arm,
take that of M. de Rastignac."
The Vicomtess turned to Eugene with a smile.
"That would be a very compromising step for you,"
"'A Frenchman loves danger,
because in danger there is glory,'
to quote M. de Chateaubriand,"
with a bow.
A few moments later he was sitting beside Mme. de Beauseant in a brougham,
that whirled them through the streets of Paris to a fashionable theatre.
It seemed to him that some fairy magic had suddenly transported him into a box facing the stage.
All the lorgnettes of the house were pointed at him as he entered,
and at the Vicomtesse in her charming toilette.
He went from enchantment to enchantment.
"You must talk to me,
said Mme. de Beauseant.
There is Mme. de Nucingen in the third box from ours.
Her sister and M. de Trailles are on the other side."
The Vicomtesse glanced as she spoke at the box where Mlle. de Rochefide should have been;
M. d'Ajuda was not there,
and Mme. de Beauseant's face lighted up in a marvelous way.
"She is charming,"
after looking at Mme. de Nucingen.
"She has white eyelashes."
but she has such a pretty slender figure!"
"Her hands are large."
"Such beautiful eyes!"
"Her face is long."
but length gives distinction."
"It is lucky for her that she has some distinction in her face.
Just see how she fidgets with her opera-glass!
The Goriot blood shows itself in every movement,"
said the Vicomtesse,
much to Eugene's astonishment.
Mme. de Beauseant seemed to be engaged in making a survey of the house,
and to be unconscious of Mme. Nucingen's existence;
but no movement made by the latter was lost upon the Vicomtesse.
The house was full of the loveliest women in Paris,
so that Delphine de Nucingen was not a little flattered to receive the undivided attention of Mme. de Beauseant's young,
and well-dressed cousin,
who seemed to have no eyes for any one else.
"If you look at her so persistently,
you will make people talk,
M. de Rastignac.
You will never succeed if you fling yourself at any one's head like that."
"My dear cousin,"
"you have protected me indeed so far,
and now if you would complete your work,
I only ask of you a favor which will cost you but little,
and be of very great service to me.
I have lost my heart."
"And to that woman!"
"How could I aspire to find any one else to listen to me?"
with a keen glance at his cousin.
"Her Grace the Duchesse de Carigliano is a friend of the Duchesse de Berri,"
he went on,
after a pause;
"you are sure to see her,
will you be so kind as to present me to her,
and to take me to her ball on Monday?
I shall meet Mme. de Nucingen there,
and enter into my first skirmish."
"If you have a liking for her already,
your affairs of the heart are like to prosper.
That is de Marsay over there in the Princesse Galathionne's box.
Mme. de Nucingen is racked with jealousy.
There is no better time for approaching a woman,
especially if she happens to be a banker's wife.
All those ladies of the Chaussee-d'Antin love revenge."
what would you do yourself in such a case?"
"I should suffer in silence."
At this point the Marquis d'Ajuda appeared in Mme. de Beauseant's box.
"I have made a muddle of my affairs to come to you,"
"and I am telling you about it,
so that it may not be a sacrifice."
Eugene saw the glow of joy on the Vicomtesse's face,
and knew that this was love,
and learned the difference between love and the affectations of Parisian coquetry.
He admired his cousin,
and yielded his place to M. d'Ajuda with a sigh.
how sublime a woman is when she loves like that!"
he said to himself.
"And _he_ could forsake her for a doll!
how could any one forsake her?"
There was a boy's passionate indignation in his heart.
He could have flung himself at Mme. de Beauseant's feet;
he longed for the power of the devil if he could snatch her away and hide her in his heart,
as an eagle snatches up some white yearling from the plains and bears it to its eyrie.
It was humiliating to him to think that in all this gallery of fair pictures he had not one picture of his own.
"To have a mistress and an almost royal position is a sign of power,"
he said to himself.
And he looked at Mme. de Nucingen as a man measures another who has insulted him.
The Vicomtesse turned to him,
and the expression of her eyes thanked him a thousand times for his discretion.
The first act came to an end just then.
"Do you know Mme. de Nucingen well enough to present M. de Rastignac to her?"
she asked of the Marquis d'Ajuda.
"She will be delighted,"
said the Marquis.
The handsome Portuguese rose as he spoke and took the student's arm,
and in another moment Eugene found himself in Mme. de Nucingen's box.
said the Marquis,
"I have the honor of presenting to you the Chevalier Eugene de Rastignac;
he is a cousin of Mme. de Beauseant's.
You have made so deep an impression upon him,
that I thought I would fill up the measure of his happiness by bringing him nearer to his divinity."
Words spoken half jestingly to cover their somewhat disrespectful import;
but such an implication,
if carefully disguised,
never gives offence to a woman.
Mme. de Nucingen smiled,
and offered Eugene the place which her husband had just left.
"I do not venture to suggest that you should stay with me,
"Those who are so fortunate as to be in Mme. de Beauseant's company do not desire to leave it."
lowering his voice,
"I think that to please my cousin I should remain with you.
Before my lord Marquis came we were speaking of you and of your exceedingly distinguished appearance,"
he added aloud.
M. d'Ajuda turned and left them.
"Are you really going to stay with me,
asked the Baroness.
"Then we shall make each other's acquaintance.
Mme. de Restaud told me about you,
and has made me anxious to meet you."
"She must be very insincere,
for she has shut her door on me."
I will tell you honestly the reason why;
but I must crave your indulgence before confiding such a secret to you.
I am your father's neighbor;
I had no idea that Mme. de Restaud was his daughter.
I was rash enough to mention his name;
I meant no harm,
but I annoyed your sister and her husband very much.
You cannot think how severely the Duchesse de Langeais and my cousin blamed this apostasy on a daughter's part,
as a piece of bad taste.
I told them all about it,
and they both burst out laughing.
Then Mme. de Beauseant made some comparison between you and your sister,
speaking in high terms of you,
and saying how very fond you were of my neighbor,
how could you help loving him?
He adores you so passionately that I am jealous already.
We talked about you this morning for two hours.
So this evening I was quite full of all that your father had told me,
and while I was dining with my cousin I said that you could not be as beautiful as affectionate.
Mme. de Beauseant meant to gratify such warm admiration,
when she brought me here,
in her gracious way,
that I should see you."
I owe you a debt of gratitude,
said the banker's wife.
"We shall be quite old friends in a little while."
"Although a friendship with you could not be like an ordinary friendship,"
"I should never wish to be your friend."
Such stereotyped phrases as these,
in the mouths of beginners,
possess an unfailing charm for women,
and are insipid only when read coldly;
for a young man's tone,
glance and attitude give a surpassing eloquence to the banal phrases.
Mme. de Nucingen thought that Rastignac was adorable.
being at a loss how to reply to the student's outspoken admiration,
she answered a previous remark.
it is very wrong of my sister to treat our poor father as she does,"
"he has been a Providence to us.
It was not until M. de Nucingen positively ordered me only to receive him in the mornings that I yielded the point.
But I have been unhappy about it for a long while;
I have shed many tears over it.
This violence to my feelings,
with my husband's brutal treatment,
have been two causes of my unhappy married life.
There is certainly no woman in Paris whose lot seems more enviable than mine,
there is not one so much to be pitied.
You will think I must be out of my senses to talk to you like this;
but you know my father,
and I cannot regard you as a stranger."
"You will find no one,"
"who longs as eagerly as I do to be yours.
What do all women seek?
(He answered his own question in low,
"And if happiness for a woman means that she is to be loved and adored,
to have a friend to whom she can pour out her wishes,
her sorrows and joys;
to whom she can lay bare her heart and soul,
and all her fair defects and her gracious virtues,
without fear of a betrayal;
the devotion and the warmth that never fails can only be found in the heart of a young man who,
at a bare sign from you,
would go to his death,
who neither knows nor cares to know anything as yet of the world,
because you will be all the world to him.
(you will laugh at my simplicity),
have just come from a remote country district;
I am quite new to this world of Paris;
I have only known true and loving hearts;
and I made up my mind that here I should find no love.
Then I chanced to meet my cousin,
and to see my cousin's heart from very near;
I have divined the inexhaustible treasures of passion,
I am the lover of all women,
until the day comes when I find _the_ woman to whom I may devote myself.
As soon as I saw you,
as soon as I came into the theatre this evening,
I felt myself borne towards you as if by the current of a stream.
I had so often thought of you already,
but I had never dreamed that you would be so beautiful!
Mme. de Beauseant told me that I must not look so much at you.
She does not know the charm of your red lips,
your fair face,
nor see how soft your eyes are ....
I also am beginning to talk nonsense;
but let me talk."
Nothing pleases a woman better than to listen to such whispered words as these;
the most puritanical among them listens even when she ought not to reply to them;
having once begun,
continued to pour out his story,
dropping his voice,
that she might lean and listen;
and Mme. de Nucingen,
glanced from time to time at de Marsay,
who still sat in the Princesse Galathionne's box.
Rastignac did not leave Mme. de Nucingen till her husband came to take her home.
"I shall have the pleasure of calling upon you before the Duchesse de Carigliano's ball."
"If Matame infites you to come,"
said the Baron,
a thickset Alsatian,
with indications of a sinister cunning in his full-moon countenance,
"you are quide sure of being well receifed."
"My affairs seem to be in a promising way,"
said Eugene to himself.
-- "'Can you love me?'
I asked her,
and she did not resent it.
"The bit is in the horse's mouth,
and I have only to mount and ride;"
and with that he went to pay his respects to Mme. de Beauseant,
who was leaving the theatre on d'Ajuda's arm.
The student did not know that the Baroness' thoughts had been wandering;
that she was even then expecting a letter from de Marsay,
one of those letters that bring about a rupture that rends the soul;
happy in his delusion,
Eugene went with the Vicomtesse to the peristyle,
where people were waiting till their carriages were announced.
"That cousin of yours is hardly recognizable for the same man,"
said the Portuguese laughingly to the Vicomtesse,
when Eugene had taken leave of them.
"He will break the bank.
He is as supple as an eel;
he will go a long way,
of that I am sure.
Who else could have picked out a woman for him,
as you did,
just when she needed consolation?"
"But it is not certain that she does not still love the faithless lover,"
said Mme. de Beauseant.
The student meanwhile walked back from the Theatre-Italien to the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve,
making the most delightful plans as he went.
He had noticed how closely Mme. de Restaud had scrutinized him when he sat beside Mme. de Nucingen,
and inferred that the Countess' doors would not be closed in the future.
Four important houses were now open to him --for he meant to stand well with the Marechale;
he had four supporters in the inmost circle of society in Paris.
Even now it was clear to him that,
once involved in this intricate social machinery,
he must attach himself to a spoke of the wheel that was to turn and raise his fortunes;
he would not examine himself too curiously as to the methods,
but he was certain of the end,
and conscious of the power to gain and keep his hold.
"If Mme. de Nucingen takes an interest in me,
I will teach her how to manage her husband.
That husband of hers is a great speculator;
he might put me in the way of making a fortune by a single stroke."
He did not say this bluntly in so many words;
he was not sufficient of a diplomatist to sum up a situation,
to see its possibilities at a glance,
and calculate the chances in his favor.
These were nothing but hazy ideas that floated over his mental horizon;
they were less cynical than Vautrin's notions;
but if they had been tried in the crucible of conscience,
no very pure result would have issued from the test.
It is by a succession of such like transactions that men sink at last to the level of the relaxed morality of this epoch,
when there have never been so few of those who square their courses with their theories,
so few of those noble characters who do not yield to temptation,
for whom the slightest deviation from the line of rectitude is a crime.
To these magnificent types of uncompromising Right we owe two masterpieces --the Alceste of Moliere,
in our own day,
the characters of Jeanie Deans and her father in Sir Walter Scott's novel.
Perhaps a work which should chronicle the opposite course,
which should trace out all the devious courses through which a man of the world,
a man of ambitions,
drags his conscience,
just steering clear of crime that he may gain his end and yet save appearances,
such a chronicle would be no less edifying and no less dramatic.
Rastignac went home.
He was fascinated by Mme. de Nucingen;
he seemed to see her before him,
slender and graceful as a swallow.
He recalled the intoxicating sweetness of her eyes,
her fair hair,
the delicate silken tissue of the skin,
beneath which it almost seemed to him that he could see the blood coursing;
the tones of her voice still exerted a spell over him;
he had forgotten nothing;
his walk perhaps heated his imagination by sending a glow of warmth through his veins.
He knocked unceremoniously at Goriot's door.
"I have seen Mme. Delphine,
"At the Italiens."
"Did she enjoy it? ....
Just come inside,"
and the old man left his bed,
unlocked the door,
and promptly returned again.
It was the first time that Eugene had been in Father Goriot's room,
and he could not control his feeling of amazement at the contrast between the den in which the father lived and the costume of the daughter whom he had just beheld.
The window was curtainless,
the walls were damp,
in places the varnished wall-paper had come away and gave glimpses of the grimy yellow plaster beneath.
The wretched bed on which the old man lay boasted but one thin blanket,
and a wadded quilt made out of large pieces of Mme. Vauquer's old dresses.
The floor was damp and gritty.
Opposite the window stood a chest of drawers made of rosewood,
one of the old-fashioned kind with a curving front and brass handles,
shaped like rings of twisted vine stems covered with flowers and leaves.
On a venerable piece of furniture with a wooden shelf stood a ewer and basin and shaving apparatus.
A pair of shoes stood in one corner;
a night-table by the bed had neither a door nor marble slab.
There was not a trace of a fire in the empty grate;
the square walnut table with the crossbar against which Father Goriot had crushed and twisted his posset-dish stood near the hearth.
The old man's hat was lying on a broken-down bureau.
An armchair stuffed with straw and a couple of chairs completed the list of ramshackle furniture.
From the tester of the bed,
tied to the ceiling by a piece of rag,
hung a strip of some cheap material in large red and black checks.
No poor drudge in a garret could be worse lodged than Father Goriot in Mme. Vauquer's lodging-house.
The mere sight of the room sent a chill through you and a sense of oppression;
it was like the worst cell in a prison.
Goriot could not see the effect that his surroundings produced on Eugene as the latter deposited his candle on the night-table.
The old man turned round,
keeping the bedclothes huddled up to his chin.
"and which do you like the best,
Mme. de Restaud or Mme. de Nucingen?"
"I like Mme. Delphine the best,"
said the law student,
"because she loves you the best."
At the words so heartily spoken the old man's hand slipped out from under the bedclothes and grasped Eugene's.
"Then what did she say about me?"
The student repeated the Baroness' remarks with some embellishments of his own,
the old man listening the while as though he heard a voice from Heaven.
she is very fond of me.
But you must not believe all that she tells you about Anastasie.
The two sisters are jealous of each other,
another proof of their affection.
Mme. de Restaud is very fond of me too.
I know she is.
A father sees his children as God sees all of us;
he looks into the very depths of their hearts;
he knows their intentions;
and both of them are so loving.
if I only had good sons-in-law,
I should be too happy,
and I dare say there is no perfect happiness here below.
If I might live with them --simply hear their voices,
know that they are there,
see them go and come as I used to do at home when they were still with me;
my heart bounds at the thought ....
Were they nicely dressed?"
how is it that your daughters have such fine houses,
while you live in such a den as this?"
why should I want anything better?"
with seeming carelessness.
"I can't quite explain to you how it is;
I am not used to stringing words together properly,
but it all lies there -- --" he said,
tapping his heart.
"My real life is in my two girls,
and so long as they are happy,
and smartly dressed,
and have soft carpets under their feet,
what does it matter what clothes I wear or where I lie down of a night?
I shall never feel cold so long as they are warm;
I shall never feel dull if they are laughing.
I have no troubles but theirs.
are a father,
and you hear your children's little voices,
you will say to yourself,
'That has all come from me.'
You will feel that those little ones are akin to every drop in your veins,
that they are the very flower of your life
(and what else are they?);
you will cleave so closely to them that you seem to feel every movement that they make.
Everywhere I hear their voices sounding in my ears.
If they are sad,
the look in their eyes freezes my blood.
Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another's happiness than in your own.
It is something that I cannot explain,
something within that sends a glow of warmth all through you.
I live my life three times over.
Shall I tell you something funny?
since I have been a father,
I have come to understand God.
He is everywhere in the world,
because the whole world comes from Him.
And it is just the same with my children,
I love my daughters better than God loves the world,
for the world is not so beautiful as God Himself is,
but my children are more beautiful than I am.
Their lives are so bound up with mine that I felt somehow that you would see them this evening.
If any man would make my little Delphine as happy as a wife is when she is loved,
I would black his boots and run on his errands.
That miserable M. de Marsay is a cur;
I know all about him from her maid.
A longing to wring his neck comes over me now and then.
He does not love her!
does not love a pearl of a woman,
with a voice like a nightingale and shaped like a model.
Where can her eyes have been when she married that great lump of an Alsatian?
They ought both of them to have married young men,
good-looking and good-tempered --but,
they had their own way."
Father Goriot was sublime.
Eugene had never yet seen his face light up as it did now with the passionate fervor of a father's love.
It is worthy of remark that strong feeling has a very subtle and pervasive power;
the roughest nature,
in the endeavor to express a deep and sincere affection,
communicates to others the influence that has put resonance into the voice,
and eloquence into every gesture,
wrought a change in the very features of the speaker;
for under the inspiration of passion the stupidest human being attains to the highest eloquence of ideas,
if not of language,
and seems to move in some sphere of light.
In the old man's tones and gesture there was something just then of the same spell that a great actor exerts over his audience.
But does not the poet in us find expression in our affections?
"perhaps you will not be sorry to hear that she is pretty sure to break with de Marsay before long.
That sprig of fashion has left her for the Princesse Galathionne.
For my part,
I fell in love with Mme. Delphine this evening."
said Father Goriot.
"I did indeed,
and she did not regard me with aversion.
For a whole hour we talked of love,
and I am to go to call on her on Saturday,
the day after to-morrow."
how I should love you,
if she should like you.
You are kind-hearted;
you would never make her miserable.
If you were to forsake her,
I would cut your throat at once.
A woman does not love twice,
what nonsense I am talking,
It is cold;
you ought not to stay here.
_Mon Dieu!_ so you have heard her speak?
What message did she give you for me?"
"None at all,"
said Eugene to himself;
aloud he answered,
"She told me to tell you that your daughter sends you a good kiss."
and pleasant dreams to you!
I have mine already made for me by that message from her.
May God grant you all your desires!
You have come in like a good angel on me to-night,
and brought with you the air that my daughter breathes."
"Poor old fellow!"
said Eugene as he lay down.
"It is enough to melt a heart of stone.
His daughter no more thought of him than of the Grand Turk."
Ever after this conference Goriot looked upon his neighbor as a friend,
a confidant such as he had never hoped to find;
and there was established between the two the only relationship that could attach this old man to another man.
The passions never miscalculate.
Father Goriot felt that this friendship brought him closer to his daughter Delphine;
he thought that he should find a warmer welcome for himself if the Baroness should care for Eugene.
he had confided one of his troubles to the younger man.
Mme. de Nucingen,
for whose happiness he prayed a thousand times daily,
had never known the joys of love.
Eugene was certainly
(to make use of his own expression)
one of the nicest young men that he had ever seen,
and some prophetic instinct seemed to tell him that Eugene was to give her the happiness which had not been hers.
These were the beginnings of a friendship that grew up between the old man and his neighbor;
but for this friendship the catastrophe of the drama must have remained a mystery.
The affection with which Father Goriot regarded Eugene,
by whom he seated himself at breakfast,
the change in Goriot's face,
which as a rule,
looked as expressionless as a plaster cast,
and a few words that passed between the two,
surprised the other lodgers.
who saw Eugene for the first time since their interview,
seemed as if he would fain read the student's very soul.
During the night Eugene had had some time in which to scan the vast field which lay before him;
as he remembered yesterday's proposal,
the thought of Mlle. Taillefer's dowry came,
to his mind,
and he could not help thinking of Victorine as the most exemplary youth may think of an heiress.
It chanced that their eyes met.
The poor girl did not fail to see that Eugene looked very handsome in his new clothes.
So much was said in the glance,
that Eugene could not doubt but that he was associated in her mind with the vague hopes that lie dormant in a girl's heart and gather round the first attractive newcomer.
"Eight hundred thousand francs!"
a voice cried in his ears,
but suddenly he took refuge in the memories of yesterday evening,
thinking that his extemporized passion for Mme. de Nucingen was a talisman that would preserve him from this temptation.
"They gave Rossini's _Barber of Seville_ at the Italiens yesterday evening,"
"I never heard such delicious music.
how lucky people are to have a box at the Italiens!"
Father Goriot drank in every word that Eugene let fall,
and watched him as a dog watches his master's slightest movement.
"You men are like fighting cocks,"
said Mme. Vauquer;
"you do what you like."
"How did you get back?"
"For my own part,"
remarked the tempter,
"I do not care about doing things by halves.
If I want to enjoy myself that way,
I should prefer to go in my carriage,
sit in my own box,
and do the thing comfortably.
Everything or nothing;
that is my motto."
"And a good one,
commented Mme. Vauquer.
"Perhaps you will see Mme. de Nucingen to-day,"
addressing Goriot in an undertone.
"She will welcome you with open arms,
I am sure;
she would want to ask you for all sorts of little details about me.
I have found out that she will do anything in the world to be known by my cousin Mme. de Beauseant;
don't forget to tell her that I love her too well not to think of trying to arrange this."
Rastignac went at once to the Ecole de Droit.
He had no mind to stay a moment longer than was necessary in that odious house.
He wasted his time that day;
he had fallen a victim to that fever of the brain that accompanies the too vivid hopes of youth.
Vautrin's arguments had set him meditating on social life,
and he was deep in these reflections when he happened on his friend Bianchon in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
"What makes you look so solemn?"
said the medical student,
putting an arm through Eugene's as they went towards the Palais.
"I am tormented by temptations."
There is a cure for temptation."
"Yielding to it."
but you don't know what it is all about.
Have you read Rousseau?"
"Do you remember that he asks the reader somewhere what he would do if he could make a fortune by killing an old mandarin somewhere in China by mere force of wishing it,
and without stirring from Paris?"
I am at my thirty-third mandarin."
suppose you were sure that you could do it,
and had only to give a nod.
Would you do it?"
"Is he well stricken in years,
this mandarin of yours?
young or old,
or well and sound,
my word for it. ...
"You are a good fellow,
But suppose you loved a woman well enough to lose your soul in hell for her,
and that she wanted money for dresses and a carriage,
and all her whims,
here you are taking away my reason,
and want me to reason!"
I am mad;
bring me to my senses.
I have two sisters as beautiful and innocent as angels,
and I want them to be happy.
How am I to find two hundred thousand francs apiece for them in the next five years?
Now and then in life,
you must play for heavy stakes,
and it is no use wasting your luck on low play."
"But you are only stating the problem that lies before every one at the outset of his life,
and you want to cut the Gordian knot with a sword.
If that is the way of it,
you must be an Alexander,
or to the hulks you go.
For my own part,
I am quite contented with the little lot I mean to make for myself somewhere in the country,
when I mean to step into my father's shoes and plod along.
A man's affections are just as fully satisfied by the smallest circle as they can be by a vast circumference.
Napoleon himself could only dine once,
and he could not have more mistresses than a house student at the Capuchins.
depends on what lies between the sole of your foot and the crown of your head;
and whether it costs a million or a hundred louis,
the actual amount of pleasure that you receive rests entirely with you,
and is just exactly the same in any case.
I am for letting that Chinaman live."
you have done me good.
We will always be friends."
remarked the medical student,
as they came to the end of a broad walk in the Jardin des Plantes,
"I saw the Michonneau and Poiret a few minutes ago on a bench chatting with a gentleman whom I used to see in last year's troubles hanging about the Chamber of Deputies;
he seems to me,
to be a detective dressed up like a decent retired tradesman.
Let us keep an eye on that couple;
I will tell you why some time.
it is nearly four o'clock,
and I must be in to answer to my name."
When Eugene reached the lodging-house,
he found Father Goriot waiting for him.
cried the old man,
"here is a letter from her.
Eugene broke the seal and read: --
--I have heard from my father that you are fond of Italian music.
I shall be delighted if you will do me the pleasure of accepting a seat in my box.
La Fodor and Pellegrini will sing on Saturday,
so I am sure that you will not refuse me.
M. de Nucingen and I shall be pleased if you will dine with us;
we shall be quite by ourselves.
If you will come and be my escort,
my husband will be glad to be relieved from his conjugal duties.
Do not answer,
but simply come.
D. DE N."
"Let me see it,"
said Father Goriot,
when Eugene had read the letter.
"You are going,
when he had smelled the writing-paper.
"How nice it smells!
Her fingers have touched it,
that is certain."
"A woman does not fling herself at a man's head in this way,"
the student was thinking.
"She wants to use me to bring back de Marsay;
nothing but pique makes a woman do a thing like this."
said Father Goriot,
"what are you thinking about?"
Eugene did not know the fever or vanity that possessed some women in those days;
how should he imagine that to open a door in the Faubourg Saint-Germain a banker's wife would go to almost any length.
For the coterie of the Faubourg Saint-Germain was a charmed circle,
and the women who moved in it were at that time the queens of society;
and among the greatest of these _Dames du Petit-Chateau_,
as they were called,
were Mme. de Beauseant and her friends the Duchesse de Langeais and the Duchesse de Maufrigneause.
Rastignac was alone in his ignorance of the frantic efforts made by women who lived in the Chausee-d'Antin to enter this seventh heaven and shine among the brightest constellations of their sex.
But his cautious disposition stood him in good stead,
and kept his judgment cool,
and the not altogether enviable power of imposing instead of accepting conditions.
I am going,"
So it was curiosity that drew him to Mme. de Nucingen;
if she had treated him disdainfully,
passion perhaps might have brought him to her feet.
Still he waited almost impatiently for to-morrow,
and the hour when he could go to her.
There is almost as much charm for a young man in a first flirtation as there is in first love.
The certainty of success is a source of happiness to which men do not confess,
and all the charm of certain women lies in this.
The desire of conquest springs no less from the easiness than from the difficulty of triumph,
and every passion is excited or sustained by one or the other of these two motives which divide the empire of love.
Perhaps this division is one result of the great question of temperaments;
dominates social life.
The melancholic temperament may stand in need of the tonic of coquetry,
while those of nervous or sanguine complexion withdraw if they meet with a too stubborn resistance.
In other words,
the lymphatic temperament is essentially despondent,
and the rhapsodic is bilious.
Eugene lingered over his toilette with an enjoyment of all its little details that is grateful to a young man's self-love,
though he will not own to it for fear of being laughed at.
as he arranged his hair,
that a pretty woman's glances would wander through the dark curls.
He indulged in childish tricks like any young girl dressing for a dance,
and gazed complacently at his graceful figure while he smoothed out the creases of his coat.
"There are worse figures,
that is certain,"
he said to himself.
Then he went downstairs,
just as the rest of the household were sitting down to dinner,
and took with good humor the boisterous applause excited by his elegant appearance.
The amazement with which any attention to dress is regarded in a lodging-house is a very characteristic trait.
No one can put on a new coat but every one else must say his say about it.
making the sound with his tongue against the roof of his mouth,
like a driver urging on a horse.
"He holds himself like a duke and a peer of France,"
said Mme. Vauquer.
"Are you going a-courting?"
inquired Mlle. Michonneau.
cried the artist.
"My compliments to my lady your wife,"
from the _employe_ at the Museum.
have you a wife?"
water-tight and floats,
guaranteed fast color,
all prices from twenty-five to forty sous,
neat check patterns in the latest fashion and best taste,
a certain cure for toothache and other complaints under the patronage of the Royal College of Physicians!
children like it!
a remedy for headache,
and all other diseases affecting the throat,
with a comical imitation of the volubility of a quack at a fair.
"And how much shall we say for this marvel,
No. Nothing of the sort.
All that is left in stock after supplying the Great Mogul.
All the crowned heads of Europe,
including the Gr-r-rand Duke of Baden,
have been anxious to get a sight of it.
Pay at the desk as you go in!
Strike up the music there!
there you are out of tune!"
he added gruffly;
"I will rap your knuckles for you!"
what an amusing man!"
said Mme. Vauquer to Mme. Couture;
"I should never feel dull with him in the house."
This burlesque of Vautrin's was the signal for an outburst of merriment,
and under cover of jokes and laughter Eugene caught a glance from Mlle. Taillefer;
she had leaned over to say a few words in Mme. Couture's ear.
"The cab is at the door,"
"But where is he going to dine?"
"With Madame la Baronne de Nucingen."
"M. Goriot's daughter,"
said the law student.
all eyes turned to the old vermicelli maker;
he was gazing at Eugene with something like envy in his eyes.
Rastignac reached the house in the Rue Saint-Lazare,
one of those many-windowed houses with a mean-looking portico and slender columns,
which are considered the thing in Paris,
a typical banker's house,
decorated in the most ostentatious fashion;
the walls lined with stucco,
the landings of marble mosaic.
Mme. de Nucingen was sitting in a little drawing-room;
the room was painted in the Italian fashion,
and decorated like a restaurant.
The Baroness seemed depressed.
The effort that she made to hide her feelings aroused Eugene's interest;
it was plain that she was not playing a part.
He had expected a little flutter of excitement at his coming,
and he found her dispirited and sad.
The disappointment piqued his vanity.
"My claim to your confidence is very small,
after rallying her on her abstracted mood;
"but if I am in the way,
please tell me so frankly;
I count on your good faith."
stay with me,"
"I shall be all alone if you go.
Nucingen is dining in town,
and I do not want to be alone;
I want to be taken out of myself."
"But what is the matter?"
"You are the very last person whom I should tell,"
"Then I am connected in some way in this secret.
I wonder what it is?"
she went on;
"it is a domestic quarrel,
which ought to be buried in the depths of the heart.
I am very unhappy;
did I not tell you so the day before yesterday?
Golden chains are the heaviest of all fetters."
When a woman tells a young man that she is very unhappy,
and when the young man is clever,
and well dressed,
and has fifteen hundred francs lying idle in his pocket,
he is sure to think as Eugene said,
and he becomes a coxcomb.
"What can you have left to wish for?"
"You are young,
"Do not let us talk of my affairs,"
she said shaking her head mournfully.
"We will dine together _tete-a-tete_,
and afterwards we will go to hear the most exquisite music.
Am I to your taste?"
she went on,
rising and displaying her gown of white cashmere,
covered with Persian designs in the most superb taste.
"I wish that you were altogether mine,"
"you are charming."
"You would have a forlorn piece of property,"
"There is nothing about me that betrays my wretchedness;
in spite of appearances,
I am in despair.
I cannot sleep;
my troubles have broken my night's rest;
I shall grow ugly."
that is impossible,"
cried the law student;
"but I am curious to know what these troubles can be that a devoted love cannot efface."
if I were to tell you about them,
you would shun me,"
"Your love for me is as yet only the conventional gallantry that men use to masquerade in;
if you really loved me,
you would be driven to despair.
I must keep silence,
Let us talk of something else,
for pity's sake,"
"Let me show you my rooms."
let us stay here,"
he sat down on the sofa before the fire,
and boldly took Mme. de Nucingen's hand in his.
She surrendered it to him;
he even felt the pressure of her fingers in one of the spasmodic clutches that betray terrible agitation.
"if you are in trouble,
you ought to tell me about it.
I want to prove to you that I love you for yourself alone.
You must speak to me frankly about your troubles,
so that I can put an end to them,
even if I have to kill half-a-dozen men;
or I shall go,
never to return."
putting her hand to her forehead in an agony of despair,
"I will put you to the proof,
and this very moment.
she said to herself,
"I have no other resource left."
She rang the bell.
"Are the horses put in for the master?"
she asked of the servant.
"I shall take his carriage myself.
He can have mine and my horses.
Serve dinner at seven o'clock."
come with me,"
she said to Eugene,
who thought as he sat in the banker's carriage beside Mme. de Nucingen that he must surely be dreaming.
"To the Palais-Royal,"
she said to the coachman;
"stop near the Theatre-Francais."
She seemed to be too troubled and excited to answer the innumerable questions that Eugene put to her.
He was at a loss what to think of her mute resistance,
her obstinate silence.
"Another moment and she will escape me,"
he said to himself.
When the carriage stopped at last,
the Baroness gave the law student a glance that silenced his wild words,
for he was almost beside himself.
"Is it true that you love me?"
and in his manner and tone there was no trace of the uneasiness that he felt.
"You will not think ill of me,
whatever I may ask of you?"
"Are you ready to do my bidding?"
"Have you ever been to a gaming-house?"
she asked in a tremulous voice.
now I can breathe.
You will have luck.
Here is my purse,"
there are a hundred francs in it,
all that such a fortunate woman as I can call her own.
Go up into one of the gaming-houses --I do not know where they are,
but there are some near the Palais-Royal.
Try your luck with the hundred francs at a game they call roulette;
lose it all or bring me back six thousand francs.
I will tell you about my troubles when you come back."
"Devil take me,
if I have a glimmer of a notion of what I am about,
but I will obey you,"
with inward exultation,
as he thought,
"She has gone too far to draw back --she can refuse me nothing now!"
Eugene took the dainty little purse,
inquired the way of a second-hand clothes-dealer,
and hurried to number 9,
which happened to be the nearest gaming-house.
He mounted the staircase,
surrendered his hat,
and asked the way to the roulette-table,
whither the attendant took him,
not a little to the astonishment of the regular comers.
All eyes were fixed on Eugene as he asked,
where he was to deposit his stakes.
"If you put a louis on one only of those thirty-six numbers,
and it turns up,
you will win thirty-six louis,"
said a respectable-looking,
white-haired old man in answer to his inquiry.
Eugene staked the whole of his money on the number 21
(his own age).
There was a cry of surprise;
before he knew what he had done,
he had won.
"Take your money off,
said the old gentleman;
"you don't often win twice running by that system."
Eugene took the rake that the old man handed to him,
and drew in his three thousand six hundred francs,
still perfectly ignorant of what he was about,
staked again on the red.
The bystanders watched him enviously as they saw him continue to play.
The disc turned,
and again he won;
the banker threw him three thousand six hundred francs once more.
"You have seven thousand,
two hundred francs of your own,"
the old gentleman said in his ear.
"Take my advice and go away with your winnings;
red has turned up eight times already.
If you are charitable,
you will show your gratitude for sound counsel by giving a trifle to an old prefect of Napoleon who is down on his luck."
Rastignac's head was swimming;
he saw ten of his louis pass into the white-haired man's possession,
and went down-stairs with his seven thousand francs;
he was still ignorant of the game,
and stupefied by his luck.
that is over;
and now where will you take me?"
as soon as the door was closed,
and he showed the seven thousand francs to Mme. de Nucingen.
Delphine flung her arms about him,
but there was no passion in that wild embrace.
"You have saved me!"
and tears of joy flowed fast.
"I will tell you everything,
For you will be my friend,
will you not?
I am rich,
I have everything I want,
or I seem as if I had everything.
you must know that M. de Nucingen does not allow me the control of a single penny;
he pays all the bills for the house expenses;
he pays for my carriages and opera box;
he does not give me enough to pay for my dress,
and he reduces me to poverty in secret on purpose.
I am too proud to beg from him.
I should be the vilest of women if I could take his money at the price at which he offers it.
Do you ask how I,
with seven hundred thousand francs of my own,
could let myself be robbed?
It is because I was proud,
and scorned to speak.
We are so young,
so artless when our married life begins!
I never could bring myself to ask my husband for money;
the words would have made my lips bleed,
I did not dare to ask;
I spent my savings first,
and then the money that my poor father gave me,
then I ran into debt.
Marriage for me is a hideous farce;
I cannot talk about it,
let it suffice to say that Nucingen and I have separate rooms,
and that I would fling myself out of the window sooner than consent to any other manner of life.
I suffered agonies when I had to confess to my girlish extravagance,
my debts for jewelry and trifles
(for our poor father had never refused us anything,
and spoiled us),
but at last I found courage to tell him about them.
I had a fortune of my own.
Nucingen flew into a rage;
he said that I should be the ruin of him,
and used frightful language!
I wished myself a hundred feet down in the earth.
He had my dowry,
so he paid my debts,
but he stipulated at the same time that my expenses in future must not exceed a certain fixed sum,
and I gave way for the sake of peace.
she went on,
"I wanted to gratify the self-love of some one whom you know.
He may have deceived me,
but I should do him the justice to say that there was nothing petty in his character.
he threw me over disgracefully.
at a woman's utmost need,
_somebody_ heaps gold upon her,
he ought never to forsake her;
that love should last for ever!
the soul of honor,
with the unsullied conscience of youth,
will ask me how a woman can bring herself to accept money in such a way?
is it not natural to share everything with the one to whom we owe our happiness?
When all has been given,
why should we pause and hesitate over a part?
Money is as nothing between us until the moment when the sentiment that bound us together ceases to exist.
Were we not bound to each other for life?
Who that believes in love foresees such an end to love?
You swear to love us eternally;
can our interests be separate?
"You do not know how I suffered to-day when Nucingen refused to give me six thousand francs;
he spends as much as that every month on his mistress,
an opera dancer!
I thought of killing myself.
The wildest thoughts came into my head.
There have been moments in my life when I have envied my servants,
and would have changed places with my maid.
It was madness to think of going to our father,
Anastasie and I have bled him dry;
our poor father would have sold himself if he could have raised six thousand francs that way.
I should have driven him frantic to no purpose.
You have saved me from shame and death;
I was beside myself with anguish.
I owed you this explanation after my mad ravings.
When you left me just now,
as soon as you were out of sight,
I longed to escape,
to run away ...
I did not know.
Half the women in Paris lead such lives as mine;
they live in apparent luxury,
and in their souls are tormented by anxiety.
I know of poor creatures even more miserable than I;
there are women who are driven to ask their tradespeople to make out false bills,
women who rob their husbands.
Some men believe that an Indian shawl worth a thousand louis only cost five hundred francs,
others that a shawl costing five hundred francs is worth a hundred louis.
There are women,
with narrow incomes,
who scrape and save and starve their children to pay for a dress.
I am innocent of these base meannesses.
But this is the last extremity of my torture.
Some women will sell themselves to their husbands,
and so obtain their way,
at any rate,
If I chose,
Nucingen would cover me with gold,
but I would rather weep on the breast of a man whom I can respect.
M. de Marsay will no longer have a right to think of me as a woman whom he has paid."
She tried to conceal her tears from him,
hiding her face in her hands;
Eugene drew them away and looked at her;
she seemed to him sublime at that moment.
"It is hideous,
is it not,"
"to speak in a breath of money and affection.
You cannot love me after this,"
The incongruity between the ideas of honor which make women so great,
and the errors in conduct which are forced upon them by the constitution of society,
had thrown Eugene's thoughts into confusion;
he uttered soothing and consoling words,
and wondered at the beautiful woman before him,
and at the artless imprudence of her cry of pain.
"You will not remember this against me?"
"promise me that you will not."
I am incapable of doing so,"
She took his hand and held it to her heart,
a movement full of grace that expressed her deep gratitude.
"I am free and happy once more,
thanks to you,"
I have felt lately as if I were in the grasp of an iron hand.
But after this I mean to live simply and to spend nothing.
You will think me just as pretty,
will you not,
she went on,
as she took only six of the banknotes.
"In conscience I owe you a thousand crowns,
for I really ought to go halves with you."
Eugene's maiden conscience resisted;
but when the Baroness said,
"I am bound to look on you as an accomplice or as an enemy,"
he took the money.
"It shall be a last stake in reserve,"
"in case of misfortune."
"That was what I was dreading to hear,"
if you would that I should be anything to you,
swear to me that you will never re-enter a gaming-house.
that I should corrupt you!
I should die of sorrow!"
They had reached the Rue Saint-Lazare by this time.
The contrast between the ostentation of wealth in the house,
and the wretched condition of its mistress,
dazed the student;
and Vautrin's cynical words began to ring in his ears.
"Seat yourself there,"
said the Baroness,
pointing to a low chair beside the fire.
"I have a difficult letter to write,"
"Tell me what to say."
Eugene answered her.
"Put the bills in an envelope,
and send it by your maid."
you are a love of a man,"
see what it is to have been well brought up.
That is the Beauseant through and through,"
she went on,
smiling at him.
"She is charming,"
more and more in love.
He looked round him at the room;
there was an ostentatious character about the luxury,
a meretricious taste in the splendor.
"Do you like it?"
as she rang for the maid.
take this to M. de Marsay,
and give it into his hands yourself.
If he is not at home,
bring the letter back to me."
but not before she had given Eugene a spiteful glance.
Dinner was announced.
Rastignac gave his arm to Mme. de Nucingen,
she led the way into a pretty dining-room,
and again he saw the luxury of the table which he had admired in his cousin's house.
"Come and dine with me on opera evenings,
and we will go to the Italiens afterwards,"
"I should soon grow used to the pleasant life if it could last,
but I am a poor student,
and I have my way to make."
you will succeed,"
she said laughing.
"You will see.
All that you wish will come to pass.
_I_ did not expect to be so happy."
It is the wont of women to prove the impossible by the possible,
and to annihilate facts by presentiments.
When Mme. de Nucingen and Rastignac took their places in her box at the Bouffons,
her face wore a look of happiness that made her so lovely that every one indulged in those small slanders against which women are defenceless;
for the scandal that is uttered lightly is often seriously believed.
Those who know Paris,
believe nothing that is said,
and say nothing of what is done there.
Eugene took the Baroness' hand in his,
and by some light pressure of the fingers,
or a closer grasp of the hand,
they found a language in which to express the sensations which the music gave them.
It was an evening of intoxicating delight for both;
and when it ended,
and they went out together,
Mme. de Nucingen insisted on taking Eugene with her as far as the Pont Neuf,
he disputing with her the whole of the way for a single kiss after all those that she had showered upon him so passionately at the Palais-Royal;
Eugene reproached her with inconsistency.
"That was gratitude,"
"for devotion that I did not dare to hope for,
but now it would be a promise."
"And will you give me no promise,
He grew vexed.
with one of those impatient gestures that fill a lover with ecstasy,
she gave him her hand to kiss,
and he took it with a discontented air that delighted her.
"I shall see you at the ball on Monday,"
As Eugene went home in the moonlight,
he fell to serious reflections.
He was satisfied,
and yet dissatisfied.
He was pleased with an adventure which would probably give him his desire,
for in the end one of the prettiest and best-dressed women in Paris would be his;
as a set-off,
he saw his hopes of fortune brought to nothing;
and as soon as he realized this fact,
the vague thoughts of yesterday evening began to take a more decided shape in his mind.
A check is sure to reveal to us the strength of our hopes.
The more Eugene learned of the pleasures of life in Paris,
the more impatient he felt of poverty and obscurity.
He crumpled the banknote in his pocket,
and found any quantity of plausible excuses for appropriating it.
He reached the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve at last,
and from the stairhead he saw a light in Goriot's room;
the old man had lighted a candle,
and set the door ajar,
lest the student should pass him by,
and go to his room without "telling him all about his daughter,"
to use his own expression.
told him everything without reserve.
"Then they think that I am ruined!"
cried Father Goriot,
in an agony of jealousy and desperation.
I have still thirteen hundred livres a year!
_Mon Dieu!_ Poor little girl!
why did she not come to me?
I would have sold my rentes;
she should have had some of the principal,
and I would have bought a life-annuity with the rest.
My good neighbor,
why did not _you_ come to tell me of her difficulty?
How had you the heart to go and risk her poor little hundred francs at play?
This is heart-breaking work.
You see what it is to have sons-in-law.
if I had hold of them,
I would wring their necks.
crying!_ Did you say she was crying?"
"With her head on my waistcoat,"
give it to me,"
said Father Goriot.
my daughter's tears have fallen there --my darling Delphine,
who never used to cry when she was a little girl!
I will buy you another;
do not wear it again;
let me have it.
By the terms of her marriage-contract,
she ought to have the use of her property.
To-morrow morning I will go and see Derville;
he is an attorney.
I will demand that her money should be invested in her own name.
I know the law.
I am an old wolf,
I will show my teeth."
this is a banknote for a thousand francs that she wanted me to keep out of our winnings.
Keep them for her,
in the pocket of the waistcoat."
Goriot looked hard at Eugene,
reached out and took the law student's hand,
and Eugene felt a tear fall on it.
"You will succeed,"
the old man said.
"God is just,
I know an honest man when I see him,
and I can tell you,
there are not many men like you.
I am to have another dear child in you,
go to sleep;
you can sleep;
you are not yet a father.
She was crying!
and I have to be told about it!
--and I was quietly eating my dinner,
like an idiot,
all the time --I,
who would sell the Father,
Son and Holy Ghost to save one tear to either of them."
"An honest man!"
said Eugene to himself as he lay down.
"Upon my word,
I think I will be an honest man all my life;
it is so pleasant to obey the voice of conscience."
Perhaps none but believers in God do good in secret;
and Eugene believed in a God.
The next day Rastignac went at the appointed time to Mme. de Beauseant,
who took him with her to the Duchesse de Carigliano's ball.
The Marechale received Eugene most graciously.
Mme. de Nucingen was there.
Delphine's dress seemed to suggest that she wished for the admiration of others,
so that she might shine the more in Eugene's eyes;
she was eagerly expecting a glance from him,
as she thought,
this eagerness from all beholders.
This moment is full of charm for one who can guess all that passes in a woman's mind.
Who has not refrained from giving his opinion,
to prolong her suspense,
concealing his pleasure from a desire to tantalize,
seeking a confession of love in her uneasiness,
enjoying the fears that he can dissipate by a smile?
In the course of the evening the law student suddenly comprehended his position;
he saw that,
as the cousin of Mme. de Beauseant,
he was a personage in this world.
He was already credited with the conquest of Mme. de Nucingen,
and for this reason was a conspicuous figure;
he caught the envious glances of other young men,
and experienced the earliest pleasures of coxcombry.
People wondered at his luck,
and scraps of these conversations came to his ears as he went from room to room;
all the women prophesied his success;
in her dread of losing him,
promised that this evening she would not refuse the kiss that all his entreaties could scarcely win yesterday.
Rastignac received several invitations.
His cousin presented him to other women who were present;
women who could claim to be of the highest fashion;
whose houses were looked upon as pleasant;
and this was the loftiest and most fashionable society in Paris into which he was launched.
So this evening had all the charm of a brilliant debut;
it was an evening that he was to remember even in old age,
as a woman looks back upon her first ball and the memories of her girlish triumphs.
The next morning,
he related the story of his success for the benefit of Father Goriot and the lodgers.
Vautrin began to smile in a diabolical fashion.
"And do you suppose,"
cried that cold-blooded logician,
"that a young man of fashion can live here in the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve,
in the Maison Vauquer --an exceedingly respectable boarding-house in every way,
I grant you,
but an establishment that,
none the less,
falls short of being fashionable?
The house is comfortable,
it is lordly in its abundance;
it is proud to be the temporary abode of a Rastignac;
it is in the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve,
and luxury would be out of place here,
where we only aim at the purely _patriarchalorama_.
If you mean to cut a figure in Paris,
my young friend,"
with half-paternal jocularity,
"you must have three horses,
a tilbury for the mornings,
and a closed carriage for the evening;
you should spend altogether about nine thousand francs on your stables.
You would show yourself unworthy of your destiny if you spent no more than three thousand francs with your tailor,
six hundred in perfumery,
a hundred crowns to your shoemaker,
and a hundred more to your hatter.
As for your laundress,
there goes another thousand francs;
a young man of fashion must of necessity make a great point of his linen;
if your linen comes up to the required standard,
people often do not look any further.
Love and the Church demand a fair altar-cloth.
That is fourteen thousand francs.
I am saying nothing of losses at play,
it is impossible to allow less than two thousand francs for pocket money.
I have led that sort of life,
and I know all about these expenses.
Add the cost of necessaries next;
three hundred louis for provender,
a thousand francs for a place to roost in.
for all these little wants of ours we had need to have twenty-five thousand francs every year in our purse,
or we shall find ourselves in the kennel,
and people laughing at us,
and our career is cut short,
good-bye to success,
and good-bye to your mistress!
I am forgetting your valet and your groom!
Is Christophe going to carry your _billets-doux_ for you?
Do you mean to employ the stationery you use at present?
Hearken to the wisdom of your elders!"
he went on,
his bass voice growing louder at each syllable.
"Either take up your quarters in a garret,
and wed your work,
or set about the thing in a different way."
Vautrin winked and leered in the direction of Mlle. Taillefer to enforce his remarks by a look which recalled the late tempting proposals by which he had sought to corrupt the student's mind.
Several days went by,
and Rastignac lived in a whirl of gaiety.
He dined almost every day with Mme. de Nucingen,
and went wherever she went,
only returning to the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve in the small hours.
He rose at mid-day,
and dressed to go into the Bois with Delphine if the day was fine,
squandering in this way time that was worth far more than he knew.
He turned as eagerly to learn the lessons of luxury,
and was as quick to feel its fascination,
as the flowers of the date palm to receive the fertilizing pollen.
He played high,
lost and won large sums of money,
and at last became accustomed to the extravagant life that young men lead in Paris.
He sent fifteen hundred francs out of his first winnings to his mother and sisters,
sending handsome presents as well as the money.
He had given out that he meant to leave the Maison Vauquer;
but January came and went,
and he was still there,
still unprepared to go.
One rule holds good of most young men --whether rich or poor.
They never have money for the necessaries of life,
but they have always money to spare for their caprices --an anomaly which finds its explanation in their youth and in the almost frantic eagerness with which youth grasps at pleasure.
They are reckless with anything obtained on credit,
while everything for which they must pay in ready money is made to last as long as possible;
if they cannot have all that they want,
they make up for it,
it would seem,
by squandering what they have.
To state the matter simply --a student is far more careful of his hat than of his coat,
because the latter being a comparatively costly article of dress,
it is in the nature of things that a tailor should be a creditor;
but it is otherwise with the hatter;
the sums of money spent with him are so modest,
that he is the most independent and unmanageable of his tribe,
and it is almost impossible to bring him to terms.
The young man in the balcony of a theatre who displays a gorgeous waistcoat for the benefit of the fair owners of opera glasses,
has very probably no socks in his wardrobe,
for the hosier is another of the genus of weevils that nibble at the purse.
This was Rastignac's condition.
His purse was always empty for Mme. Vauquer,
always full at the demand of vanity;
there was a periodical ebb and flow in his fortunes,
which was seldom favorable to the payment of just debts.
If he was to leave that unsavory and mean abode,
where from time to time his pretensions met with humiliation,
the first step was to pay his hostess for a month's board and lodging,
and the second to purchase furniture worthy of the new lodgings he must take in his quality of dandy,
a course that remained impossible.
out of his winnings at cards,
would pay his jeweler exorbitant prices for gold watches and chains,
to meet the exigencies of play,
would carry them to the pawnbroker,
that discreet and forbidding-looking friend of youth;
but when it was a question of paying for board or lodging,
or for the necessary implements for the cultivation of his Elysian fields,
his imagination and pluck alike deserted him.
There was no inspiration to be found in vulgar necessity,
in debts contracted for past requirements.
Like most of those who trust to their luck,
he put off till the last moment the payment of debts that among the bourgeoisie are regarded as sacred engagements,
acting on the plan of Mirabeau,
who never settled his baker's bill until it underwent a formidable transformation into a bill of exchange.
It was about this time when Rastignac was down on his luck and fell into debt,
that it became clear to the law student's mind that he must have some more certain source of income if he meant to live as he had been doing.
But while he groaned over the thorny problems of his precarious situation,
he felt that he could not bring himself to renounce the pleasures of this extravagant life,
and decided that he must continue it at all costs.
His dreams of obtaining a fortune appeared more and more chimerical,
and the real obstacles grew more formidable.
His initiation into the secrets of the Nucingen household had revealed to him that if he were to attempt to use this love affair as a means of mending his fortunes,
he must swallow down all sense of decency,
and renounce all the generous ideas which redeem the sins of youth.
He had chosen this life of apparent splendor,
but secretly gnawed by the canker worm of remorse,
a life of fleeting pleasure dearly paid for by persistent pain;
like _Le Distrait_ of La Bruyere,
he had descended so far as to make his bed in a ditch;
(also like _Le Distrait_)
he himself was uncontaminated as yet by the mire that stained his garments.
"So we have killed our mandarin,
said Bianchon one day as they left the dinner table.
"but he is at his last gasp."
The medical student took this for a joke,
but it was not a jest.
Eugene had dined in the house that night for the first time for a long while,
and had looked thoughtful during the meal.
He had taken his place beside Mlle. Taillefer,
and stayed through the dessert,
giving his neighbor an expressive glance from time to time.
A few of the boarders discussed the walnuts at the table,
and others walked about the room,
still taking part in the conversation which had begun among them.
People usually went when they chose;
the amount of time that they lingered being determined by the amount of interest that the conversation possessed for them,
or by the difficulty of the process of digestion.
In winter-time the room was seldom empty before eight o'clock,
when the four women had it all to themselves,
and made up for the silence previously imposed upon them by the preponderating masculine element.
This evening Vautrin had noticed Eugene's abstractedness,
and stayed in the room,
though he had seemed to be in a hurry to finish his dinner and go.
All through the talk afterwards he had kept out of the sight of the law student,
who quite believed that Vautrin had left the room.
He now took up his position cunningly in the sitting-room instead of going when the last boarders went.
He had fathomed the young man's thoughts,
and felt that a crisis was at hand.
in a dilemma,
which many another young man must have known.
Mme. de Nucingen might love him,
or might merely be playing with him,
but in either case Rastignac had been made to experience all the alternations of hope and despair of genuine passion,
and all the diplomatic arts of a Parisienne had been employed on him.
After compromising herself by continually appearing in public with Mme. de Beauseant's cousin she still hesitated,
and would not give him the lover's privileges which he appeared to enjoy.
For a whole month she had so wrought on his senses,
that at last she had made an impression on his heart.
If in the earliest days the student had fancied himself to be master,
Mme. de Nucingen had since become the stronger of the two,
for she had skilfully roused and played upon every instinct,
good or bad,
in the two or three men comprised in a young student in Paris.
This was not the result of deep design on her part,
nor was she playing a part,
for women are in a manner true to themselves even through their grossest deceit,
because their actions are prompted by a natural impulse.
It may have been that Delphine,
who had allowed this young man to gain such an ascendency over her,
conscious that she had been too demonstrative,
was obeying a sentiment of dignity,
and either repented of her concessions,
or it pleased her to suspend them.
It is so natural to a Parisienne,
even when passion has almost mastered her,
to hesitate and pause before taking the plunge;
to probe the heart of him to whom she intrusts her future.
And once already Mme. de Nucingen's hopes had been betrayed,
and her loyalty to a selfish young lover had been despised.
She had good reason to be suspicious.
Or it may have been that something in Eugene's manner
(for his rapid success was making a coxcomb of him)
had warned her that the grotesque nature of their position had lowered her somewhat in his eyes.
She doubtless wished to assert her dignity;
he was young,
and she would be great in his eyes;
for the lover who had forsaken her had held her so cheap that she was determined that Eugene should not think her an easy conquest,
and for this very reason --he knew that de Marsay had been his predecessor.
after the degradation of submission to the pleasure of a heartless young rake,
it was so sweet to her to wander in the flower-strewn realms of love,
that it was not wonderful that she should wish to dwell a while on the prospect,
to tremble with the vibrations of love,
to feel the freshness of the breath of its dawn.
The true lover was suffering for the sins of the false.
This inconsistency is unfortunately only to be expected so long as men do not know how many flowers are mown down in a young woman's soul by the first stroke of treachery.
Whatever her reasons may have been,
Delphine was playing with Rastignac,
and took pleasure in playing with him,
doubtless because she felt sure of his love,
and confident that she could put an end to the torture as soon as it was her royal pleasure to do so.
Eugene's self-love was engaged;
he could not suffer his first passage of love to end in a defeat,
and persisted in his suit like a sportsman determined to bring down at least one partridge to celebrate his first Feast of Saint-Hubert.
The pressure of anxiety,
his wounded self-love,
real or feigned,
drew him nearer and nearer to this woman.
All Paris credited him with this conquest,
and yet he was conscious that he had made no progress since the day when he saw Mme. de Nucingen for the first time.
He did not know as yet that a woman's coquetry is sometimes more delightful than the pleasure of secure possession of her love,
and was possessed with helpless rage.
at this time,
while she denied herself to love,
Eugene gathered the springtide spoils of his life,
somewhat sharp and green,
and dearly bought,
was no less delicious to the taste.
There were moments when he had not a sou in his pockets,
and at such times he thought in spite of his conscience of Vautrin's offer and the possibility of fortune by a marriage with Mlle. Taillefer.
Poverty would clamor so loudly that more than once he was on the point of yielding to the cunning temptations of the terrible sphinx,
whose glance had so often exerted a strange spell over him.
Poiret and Mlle. Michonneau went up to their rooms;
thinking that he was alone with the women in the dining-room,
sat between Mme. Vauquer and Mme. Couture,
who was nodding over the woolen cuffs that she was knitting by the stove,
and looked at Mlle. Taillefer so tenderly that she lowered her eyes.
"Can you be in trouble,
Victorine said after a pause.
"Who has not his troubles?"
"If we men were sure of being loved,
sure of a devotion which would be our reward for the sacrifices which we are always ready to make,
then perhaps we should have no troubles."
For answer Mlle. Taillefer only gave him a glance but it was impossible to mistake its meaning.
you feel sure of your heart to-day,
but are you sure that it will never change?"
A smile flitted over the poor girl's lips;
it seemed as if a ray of light from her soul had lighted up her face.
Eugene was dismayed at the sudden explosion of feeling caused by his words.
"that you should be rich and happy to-morrow,
suppose that a vast fortune dropped down from the clouds for you,
would you still love the man whom you loved in your days of poverty?"
A charming movement of the head was her only answer.
"Even if he were very poor?"
Again the same mute answer.
"What nonsense are you talking,
exclaimed Mme. Vauquer.
"we understand each other."
"So there is to be an engagement of marriage between M. le Chevalier Eugene de Rastignac and Mlle. Victorine Taillefer,
The words were uttered in Vautrin's deep voice,
and Vautrin appeared at the door as he spoke.
how you startled me!"
Mme. Couture and Mme. Vauquer exclaimed together.
"I might make a worse choice,"
Vautrin's voice had thrown him into the most painful agitation that he had yet known.
"No bad jokes,
said Mme. Couture.
let us go upstairs."
Mme. Vauquer followed the two ladies,
meaning to pass the evening in their room,
an arrangement that economized fire and candlelight.
Eugene and Vautrin were left alone.
"I felt sure you would come round to it,"
said the elder man with the coolness that nothing seemed to shake.
"But stay a moment!
I have as much delicacy as anybody else.
Don't make up your mind on the spur of the moment;
you are a little thrown off your balance just now.
You are in debt,
and I want you to come over to my way of thinking after sober reflection,
and not in a fit of passion or desperation.
Perhaps you want a thousand crowns.
you can have them if you like."
The tempter took out a pocketbook,
and drew thence three banknotes,
which he fluttered before the student's eyes.
Eugene was in a most painful dilemma.
He had debts,
debts of honor.
He owed a hundred louis to the Marquis d'Ajuda and to the Count de Trailles;
he had not the money,
and for this reason had not dared to go to Mme. de Restaud's house,
where he was expected that evening.
It was one of those informal gatherings where tea and little cakes are handed round,
but where it is possible to lose six thousand francs at whist in the course of a night.
"You must see,"
struggling to hide a convulsive tremor,
"that after what has passed between us,
I cannot possibly lay myself under any obligation to you."
I should be sorry to hear you speak otherwise,"
answered the tempter.
"You are a fine young fellow,
brave as a lion,
and as gentle as a young girl.
You would be a fine haul for the devil!
I like youngsters of your sort.
Get rid of one or two more prejudices,
and you will see the world as it is.
Make a little scene now and then,
and act a virtuous part in it,
and a man with a head on his shoulders can do exactly as he likes amid deafening applause from the fools in the gallery.
a few days yet,
and you will be with us;
and if you would only be tutored by me,
I would put you in the way of achieving all your ambitions.
You should no sooner form a wish than it should be realized to the full;
you should have all your desires --honors,
Civilization should flow with milk and honey for you.
You should be our pet and favorite,
We would all work ourselves to death for you with pleasure;
every obstacle should be removed from your path.
You have a few prejudices left;
so you think that I am a scoundrel,
M. de Turenne,
quite as honorable a man as you take yourself to be,
had some little private transactions with bandits,
and did not feel that his honor was tarnished.
You would rather not lie under any obligation to me,
You need not draw back on that account,"
Vautrin went on,
and a smile stole over his lips.
"Take these bits of paper and write across this,"
producing a piece of stamped paper,
"_Accepted the sum of three thousand five hundred francs due this day twelvemonth_,
and fill in the date.
The rate of interest is stiff enough to silence any scruples on your part;
it gives you the right to call me a Jew.
You can call quits with me on the score of gratitude.
I am quite willing that you should despise me to-day,
because I am sure that you will have a kindlier feeling towards me later on.
You will find out fathomless depths in my nature,
enormous and concentrated forces that weaklings call vices,
but you will never find me base or ungrateful.
I am neither a pawn nor a bishop,
but a castle,
a tower of strength,
"What manner of man are you?"
"Were you created to torment me?"
I am a good-natured fellow,
who is willing to do a dirty piece of work to put you high and dry above the mire for the rest of your days.
Do you ask the reason of this devotion?
I will tell you that some of these days.
A word or two in your ear will explain it.
I have begun by shocking you,
by showing you the way to ring the changes,
and giving you a sight of the mechanism of the social machine;
but your first fright will go off like a conscript's terror on the battlefield.
You will grow used to regarding men as common soldiers who have made up their minds to lose their lives for some self-constituted king.
Times have altered strangely.
Once you could say to a bravo,
'Here are a hundred crowns;
go and kill Monsieur So-and-so for me,'
and you could sup quietly after turning some one off into the dark for the least thing in the world.
But nowadays I propose to put you in the way of a handsome fortune;
you have only to nod your head,
it won't compromise you in any way,
and you hesitate.
'Tis an effeminate age."
Eugene accepted the draft,
and received the banknotes in exchange for it.
let us talk rationally,"
"I mean to leave this country in a few months' time for America,
and set about planting tobacco.
I will send you the cigars of friendship.
If I make money at it,
I will help you in your career.
If I have no children --which will probably be the case,
for I have no anxiety to raise slips of myself here --you shall inherit my fortune.
That is what you may call standing by a man;
but I myself have a liking for you.
I have a mania,
for devoting myself to some one else.
I have done it before.
I live in a loftier sphere than other men do;
I look on all actions as means to an end,
and the end is all that I look at.
What is a man's life to me?
and he snapped his thumb-nail against his teeth.
is everything to me,
or just nothing at all.
Less than nothing if his name happens to be Poiret;
you can crush him like a bug,
he is flat and he is offensive.
But a man is a god when he is like you;
he is not a machine covered with a skin,
but a theatre in which the greatest sentiments are displayed --great thoughts and feelings --and for these,
and these only,
A sentiment --what is that but the whole world in a thought?
Look at Father Goriot.
his two girls are the whole universe;
they are the clue by which he finds his way through creation.
for my own part,
I have fathomed the depths of life,
there is only one real sentiment --comradeship between man and man.
Pierre and Jaffier,
that is my passion.
I knew _Venice Preserved_ by heart.
Have you met many men plucky enough when a comrade says,
'Let us bury a dead body!'
to go and do it without a word or plaguing him by taking a high moral tone?
I have done it myself.
I should not talk like this to just everybody,
but you are not like an ordinary man;
one can talk to you,
you can understand things.
You will not dabble about much longer among the tadpoles in these swamps.
it is all settled.
You will marry.
Both of us carry our point.
Mine is made of iron,
and will never soften,
Vautrin went out.
He would not wait to hear the student's repudiation,
he wished to put Eugene at his ease.
He seemed to understand the secret springs of the faint resistance still made by the younger man;
the struggles in which men seek to preserve their self-respect by justifying their blameworthy actions to themselves.
"He may do as he likes;
I shall not marry Mlle. Taillefer,
that is certain,"
said Eugene to himself.
He regarded this man with abhorrence,
and yet the very cynicism of Vautrin's ideas,
and the audacious way in which he used other men for his own ends,
raised him in the student's eyes;
but the thought of a compact threw Eugene into a fever of apprehension,
and not until he had recovered somewhat did he dress,
call for a cab,
and go to Mme. de Restaud's.
For some days the Countess had paid more and more attention to a young man whose every step seemed a triumphal progress in the great world;
it seemed to her that he might be a formidable power before long.
He paid Messieurs de Trailles and d'Ajuda,
played at whist for part of the evening,
and made good his losses.
Most men who have their way to make are more or less of fatalists,
and Eugene was superstitious;
he chose to consider that his luck was heaven's reward for his perseverance in the right way.
As soon as possible on the following morning he asked Vautrin whether the bill he had given was still in the other's possession;
and on receiving a reply in the affirmative,
he repaid the three thousand francs with a not unnatural relief.
"Everything is going on well,"
"But I am not your accomplice,"
Vautrin broke in.
"You are still acting like a child.
You are making mountains out of molehills at the outset."
Two days later,
Poiret and Mlle. Michonneau were sitting together on a bench in the sun.
They had chosen a little frequented alley in the Jardin des Plantes,
and a gentleman was chatting with them,
the same person,
as a matter of fact,
about whom the medical student had,
not without good reason,
his own suspicions.
this M. Gondureau was saying,
"I do not see any cause for your scruples.
Monseigneur the Minister of Police -- --"
his Excellency is taking a personal interest in the matter,"
Who would think it probable that Poiret,
a retired clerk,
doubtless possessed of some notions of civic virtue,
though there might be nothing else in his head --who would think it likely that such a man would continue to lend an ear to this supposed independent gentleman of the Rue de Buffon,
when the latter dropped the mask of a decent citizen by that word "police,"
and gave a glimpse of the features of a detective from the Rue de Jerusalem?
And yet nothing was more natural.
Perhaps the following remarks from the hitherto unpublished records made by certain observers will throw a light on the particular species to which Poiret belonged in the great family of fools.
There is a race of quill-drivers,
confined in the columns of the budget between the first degree of latitude
(a kind of administrative Greenland where the salaries begin at twelve hundred francs)
to the third degree,
a more temperate zone,
where incomes grow from three to six thousand francs,
a climate where the _bonus_ flourishes like a half-hardy annual in spite of some difficulties of culture.
A characteristic trait that best reveals the feeble narrow-mindedness of these inhabitants of petty officialdom is a kind of involuntary,
and instinctive reverence for the Grand Lama of every Ministry,
known to the rank and file only by his signature
(an illegible scrawl)
and by his title --"His Excellency Monseigneur le Ministre,"
five words which produce as much effect as the _il Bondo Cani_ of the _Calife de Bagdad_,
five words which in the eyes of this low order of intelligence represent a sacred power from which there is no appeal.
The Minister is administratively infallible for the clerks in the employ of the Government,
as the Pope is infallible for good Catholics.
Something of this peculiar radiance invests everything he does or says,
or that is said or done in his name;
the robe of office covers everything and legalizes everything done by his orders;
does not his very title --His Excellency --vouch for the purity of his intentions and the righteousness of his will,
and serve as a sort of passport and introduction to ideas that otherwise would not be entertained for a moment?
Pronounce the words "His Excellency,"
and these poor folk will forthwith proceed to do what they would not do for their own interests.
Passive obedience is as well known in a Government department as in the army itself;
and the administrative system silences consciences,
annihilates the individual,
(give it time enough)
by fashioning a man into a vise or a thumbscrew,
and he becomes part of the machinery of Government.
who seemed to know something of human nature,
recognized Poiret at once as one of those dupes of officialdom,
and brought out for his benefit,
at the proper moment,
the _deus ex machina_,
the magical words "His Excellency,"
so as to dazzle Poiret just as he himself unmasked his batteries,
for he took Poiret and the Michonneau for the male and female of the same species.
"If his Excellency himself,
his Excellency the Minister ...
that is quite another thing,"
"You seem to be guided by this gentleman's opinion,
and you hear what he says,"
said the man of independent means,
addressing Mlle. Michonneau.
his Excellency is at this moment absolutely certain that the so-called Vautrin,
who lodges at the Maison Vauquer,
is a convict who escaped from penal servitude at Toulon,
where he is known by the nickname _Trompe-la-Mort_."
he is very lucky if he deserves that nickname."
said the detective.
"They call him so because he has been so lucky as not to lose his life in the very risky businesses that he has carried through.
He is a dangerous man,
He has qualities that are out of the common;
the thing he is wanted for,
was a matter which gained him no end of credit with his own set -- --"
"Then is he a man of honor?"
according to his notions.
He agreed to take another man's crime upon himself --a forgery committed by a very handsome young fellow that he had taken a great fancy to,
a young Italian,
a bit of a gambler,
who has since gone into the army,
where his conduct has been unexceptionable."
"But if his Excellency the Minister of Police is certain that M. Vautrin is this _Trompe-la-Mort_,
why should he want me?"
asked Mlle. Michonneau.
"if the Minister,
as you have been so obliging as to tell us,
really knows for a certainty -- --"
"Certainty is not the word;
he only suspects.
You will soon understand how things are.
is in the confidence of every convict in the three prisons;
he is their man of business and their banker.
He makes a very good thing out of managing their affairs,
which want a _man of mark_ to see about them."
do you see the pun,
"This gentleman calls himself a _man of mark_ because he is a _marked man_ --branded,
"This so-called Vautrin,"
said the detective,
"receives the money belonging to my lords the convicts,
invests it for them,
and holds it at the disposal of those who escape,
or hands it over to their families if they leave a will,
or to their mistresses when they draw upon him for their benefit."
You mean their wives,"
A convict's wife is usually an illegitimate connection.
We call them concubines."
"Then they all live in a state of concubinage?"
these are abominations that his Excellency ought not to allow.
Since you have the honor of seeing his Excellency,
who seem to have philanthropic ideas,
ought really to enlighten him as to their immoral conduct --they are setting a shocking example to the rest of society."
"But the Government does not hold them up as models of all the virtues,
my dear sir -- --"
"Of course not,
but still -- --"
"Just let the gentleman say what he has to say,
said Mlle. Michonneau.
"You see how it is,
"The Government may have the strongest reasons for getting this illicit hoard into its hands;
it mounts up to something considerable,
by all that we can make out.
Trompe-la-Mort not only holds large sums for his friends the convicts,
but he has other amounts which are paid over to him by the Society of the Ten Thousand -- --"
"Ten Thousand Thieves!"
cried Pioret in alarm.
"No. The Society of the Ten Thousand is not an association of petty offenders,
but of people who set about their work on a large scale --they won't touch a matter unless there are ten thousand francs in it.
It is composed of the most distinguished of the men who are sent straight to the Assize Courts when they come up for trial.
They know the Code too well to risk their necks when they are nabbed.
Collin is their confidential agent and legal adviser.
By means of the large sums of money at his disposal he has established a sort of detective system of his own;
it is widespread and mysterious in its workings.
We have had spies all about him for a twelvemonth,
and yet we could not manage to fathom his games.
His capital and his cleverness are at the service of vice and crime;
this money furnishes the necessary funds for a regular army of blackguards in his pay who wage incessant war against society.
If we can catch Trompe-la-Mort,
and take possession of his funds,
we should strike at the root of this evil.
So this job is a kind of Government affair --a State secret --and likely to redound to the honor of those who bring the thing to a successful conclusion.
might very well be taken into a Government department again;
they might make you secretary to a Commissary of Police;
you could accept that post without prejudice to your retiring pension."
Mlle. Michonneau interposed at this point with,
"What is there to hinder Trompe-la-Mort from making off with the money?"
said the detective,
"a man is told off to follow him everywhere he goes,
with orders to kill him if he were to rob the convicts.
Then it is not quite as easy to make off with a lot of money as it is to run away with a young lady of family.
Collin is not the sort of fellow to play such a trick;
he would be disgraced,
according to his notions."
"You are quite right,
"utterly disgraced he would be."
"But none of all this explains why you do not come and take him without more ado,"
remarked Mlle. Michonneau.
I will explain --but,"
he added in her ear,
"keep your companion quiet,
or I shall never have done.
The old boy ought to pay people handsomely for listening to him.
when he came back here,"
he went on aloud "slipped into the skin of an honest man;
he turned up disguised as a decent Parisian citizen,
and took up his quarters in an unpretending lodging-house.
He is cunning,
that he is!
You don't catch him napping.
Then M. Vautrin is a man of consequence,
who transacts a good deal of business."
said Poiret to himself.
"And suppose that the Minister were to make a mistake and get hold of the real Vautrin,
he would put every one's back up among the business men in Paris,
and public opinion would be against him.
M. le Prefet de Police is on slippery ground;
he has enemies.
They would take advantage of any mistake.
There would be a fine outcry and fuss made by the Opposition,
and he would be sent packing.
We must set about this just as we did about the Coignard affair,
the sham Comte de Sainte-Helene;
if he had been the real Comte de Sainte-Helene,
we should have been in the wrong box.
We want to be quite sure what we are about."
but what you want is a pretty woman,"
said Mlle. Michonneau briskly.
"Trompe-la-Mort would not let a woman come near him,"
said the detective.
"I will tell you a secret --he does not like them."
I do not see what I can do,
supposing that I did agree to identify him for two thousand francs."
said the stranger.
"I will send you a little bottle containing a dose that will send a rush of blood to the head;
it will do him no harm whatever,
but he will fall down as if he were in a fit.
The drug can be put into wine or coffee;
either will do equally well.
You carry your man to bed at once,
and undress him to see that he is not dying.
As soon as you are alone,
you give him a slap on the shoulder,
and _presto!_ the letters will appear."
that is just nothing at all,"
do you agree?"
addressing the old maid.
my dear sir,
suppose there are no letters at all,"
said Mlle. Michonneau;
"am I to have the two thousand francs all the same?"
"What will you give me then?"
"Five hundred francs."
"It is such a thing to do for so little!
It lies on your conscience just the same,
and I must quiet my conscience,
"I assure you,"
"that mademoiselle has a great deal of conscience,
and not only so,
she is a very amiable person,
and very intelligent."
Mlle. Michonneau went on,
"make it three thousand francs if he is Trompe-la-Mort,
and nothing at all if he is an ordinary man."
"but on the condition that the thing is settled to-morrow."
"Not quite so soon,
my dear sir;
I must consult my confessor first."
"You are a sly one,"
said the detective as he rose to his feet.
"Good-bye till to-morrow,
And if you should want to see me in a hurry,
go to the Petite Rue Saint-Anne at the bottom of the Cour de la Sainte-Chapelle.
There is one door under the archway.
Ask there for M. Gondureau."
on his way back from Cuvier's lecture,
overheard the sufficiently striking nickname of _Trompe-la-Mort_,
and caught the celebrated chief detective's "_Done!_"
"Why didn't you close with him?
It would be three hundred francs a year,"
said Poiret to Mlle. Michonneau.
"Why didn't I?"
it wants thinking over.
Suppose that M. Vautrin is this Trompe-la-Mort,
perhaps we might do better for ourselves with him.
on the other hand,
if you ask him for money,
it would put him on his guard,
and he is just the man to clear out without paying,
and that would be an abominable sell."
"And suppose you did warn him,"
Poiret went on,
"didn't that gentleman say that he was closely watched?
You would spoil everything."
thought Mlle. Michonneau,
"I can't abide him.
He says nothing but disagreeable things to me."
"But you can do better than that,"
"As that gentleman said
(and he seemed to me to be a very good sort of man,
besides being very well got up),
it is an act of obedience to the laws to rid society of a criminal,
however virtuous he may be.
Once a thief,
always a thief.
Suppose he were to take it into his head to murder us all?
We should be guilty of manslaughter,
and be the first to fall victims into the bargain!"
Mlle. Michonneau's musings did not permit her to listen very closely to the remarks that fell one by one from Poiret's lips like water dripping from a leaky tap.
When once this elderly babbler began to talk,
he would go on like clockwork unless Mlle. Michonneau stopped him.
He started on some subject or other,
and wandered on through parenthesis after parenthesis,
till he came to regions as remote as possible from his premises without coming to any conclusions by the way.
By the time they reached the Maison Vauquer he had tacked together a whole string of examples and quotations more or less irrelevant to the subject in hand,
which led him to give a full account of his own deposition in the case of the Sieur Ragoulleau _versus_ Dame Morin,
when he had been summoned as a witness for the defence.
As they entered the dining-room,
Eugene de Rastignac was talking apart with Mlle. Taillefer;
the conversation appeared to be of such thrilling interest that the pair never noticed the two older lodgers as they passed through the room.
None of this was thrown away on Mlle. Michonneau.
"I knew how it would end,"
remarked that lady,
"They have been making eyes at each other in a heartrending way for a week past."
"So she was found guilty."
"I am talking about Mlle. Victorine,"
as she entered Poiret's room with an absent air,
"and you answer,
Who may Mme. Morin be?"
"What can Mlle. Victorine be guilty of?"
"Guilty of falling in love with M. Eugene de Rastignac and going further and further without knowing exactly where she is going,
That morning Mme. de Nucingen had driven Eugene to despair.
In his own mind he had completely surrendered himself to Vautrin,
and deliberately shut his eyes to the motive for the friendship which that extraordinary man professed for him,
nor would he look to the consequences of such an alliance.
Nothing short of a miracle could extricate him now out of the gulf into which he had walked an hour ago,
when he exchanged vows in the softest whispers with Mlle. Taillefer.
To Victorine it seemed as if she heard an angel's voice,
that heaven was opening above her;
the Maison Vauquer took strange and wonderful hues,
like a stage fairy-palace.
She loved and she was loved;
at any rate,
she believed that she was loved;
and what woman would not likewise have believed after seeing Rastignac's face and listening to the tones of his voice during that hour snatched under the Argus eyes of the Maison Vauquer?
He had trampled on his conscience;
he knew that he was doing wrong,
and did it deliberately;
he had said to himself that a woman's happiness should atone for this venial sin.
The energy of desperation had lent new beauty to his face;
the lurid fire that burned in his heart shone from his eyes.
Luckily for him,
the miracle took place.
Vautrin came in in high spirits,
and at once read the hearts of these two young creatures whom he had brought together by the combinations of his infernal genius,
but his deep voice broke in upon their bliss.
"A charming girl is my Fanchette In her simplicity,"
he sang mockingly.
Her heart was more full than it had ever been,
but it was full of joy,
and not of sorrow.
A pressure of the hand,
the light touch of Rastignac's hair against her cheek,
a word whispered in her ear so closely that she felt the student's warm breath on her,
the pressure of a trembling arm about her waist,
a kiss upon her throat --such had been her betrothal.
The near neighborhood of the stout Sylvie,
who might invade that glorified room at any moment,
only made these first tokens of love more ardent,
more entrancing than the noblest deeds done for love's sake in the most famous romances.
This _plain-song_ of love,
to use the pretty expression of our forefathers,
seemed almost criminal to the devout young girl who went to confession every fortnight.
In that one hour she had poured out more of the treasures of her soul than she could give in later days of wealth and happiness,
when her whole self followed the gift.
"The thing is arranged,"
Vautrin said to Eugene,
"Our two dandies have fallen out.
Everything was done in proper form.
It is a matter of opinion.
Our pigeon has insulted my hawk.
They will meet to-morrow in the redoubt at Clignancourt.
By half-past eight in the morning Mlle. Taillefer,
calmly dipping her bread and butter in her coffee cup,
will be sole heiress of her father's fortune and affections.
A funny way of putting it,
Taillefer's youngster is an expert swordsman,
and quite cocksure about it,
but he will be bled;
I have just invented a thrust for his benefit,
a way of raising your sword point and driving it at the forehead.
I must show you that thrust;
it is an uncommonly handy thing to know."
Rastignac heard him in dazed bewilderment;
he could not find a word in reply.
Just then Goriot came in,
and Bianchon and a few of the boarders likewise appeared.
"That is just as I intended."
"You know quite well what you are about.
my little eaglet!
You are born to command,
you are strong,
you stand firm on your feet,
you are game!
I respect you."
He made as though he would take Eugene's hand,
but Rastignac hastily withdrew it,
sank into a chair,
and turned ghastly pale;
it seemed to him that there was a sea of blood before his eyes.
so we still have a few dubious tatters of the swaddling clothes of virtue about us!"
"But Papa Doliban has three millions;
I know the amount of his fortune.
Once have her dowry in your hands,
and your character will be as white as the bride's white dress,
even in your own eyes."
Rastignac hesitated no longer.
He made up his mind that he would go that evening to warn the Taillefers,
father and son.
But just as Vautrin left him,
Father Goriot came up and said in his ear,
"You look melancholy,
I will cheer you up.
Come with me."
The old vermicelli dealer lighted his dip at one of the lamps as he spoke.
Eugene went with him,
his curiosity had been aroused.
"Let us go up to your room,"
the worthy soul remarked,
when he had asked Sylvie for the law student's key.
"you thought that _she_ did not care about you,
did you not?
She would have nothing to say to you,
and you went away out of humor and out of heart.
Stuff and rubbish!
She wanted you to go because she was expecting _me_!
Now do you understand?
We were to complete the arrangements for taking some chambers for you,
a jewel of a place,
you are to move into it in three days' time.
Don't split upon me.
She wants it to be a surprise;
but I couldn't bear to keep the secret from you.
You will be in the Rue d'Artois,
only a step or two from the Rue Saint-Lazare,
and you are to be housed like a prince!
Any one might have thought we were furnishing the house for a bride.
we have done a lot of things in the last month,
and you knew nothing about it.
My attorney has appeared on the scene,
and my daughter is to have thirty-six thousand francs a year,
the interest on her money,
and I shall insist on having her eight hundred thousand invested in sound securities,
landed property that won't run away."
Eugene was dumb.
He folded his arms and paced up and down in his cheerless,
Father Goriot waited till the student's back was turned,
and seized the opportunity to go to the chimney-piece and set upon it a little red morocco case with Rastignac's arms stamped in gold on the leather.
"My dear boy,"
said the kind soul,
"I have been up to the eyes in this business.
there was plenty of selfishness on my part;
I have an interested motive in helping you to change lodgings.
You will not refuse me if I ask you something;
"What is it?"
"There is a room on the fifth floor,
up above your rooms,
that is to let along with them;
that is where I am going to live,
isn't that so?
I am getting old: I am too far from my girls.
I shall not be in the way,
but I shall be there,
that is all.
You will come and talk to me about her every evening.
It will not put you about,
I shall have gone to bed before you come in,
but I shall hear you come up,
and I shall say to myself,
'He has just seen my little Delphine.
He has been to a dance with her,
and she is happy,
thanks to him.'
If I were ill,
it would do my heart good to hear you moving about below,
to know when you leave the house and when you come in.
It is only a step to the Champs-Elysees,
where they go every day,
so I shall be sure of seeing them,
whereas now I am sometimes too late.
And then --perhaps she may come to see you!
I shall hear her,
I shall see her in her soft quilted pelisse tripping about as daintily as a kitten.
In this one month she has become my little girl again,
so light-hearted and gay.
Her soul is recovering,
and her happiness is owing to you!
I would do impossibilities for you.
Only just now she said to me,
'I am very happy,
When they say
it sends a chill through me;
but when they call me
it brings all the old memories back.
I feel most their father then;
I even believe that they belong to me,
and to no one else."
The good man wiped his eyes,
he was crying.
"It is a long while since I have heard them talk like that,
long time since she took my arm as she did to-day.
it must be quite ten years since I walked side by side with one of my girls.
How pleasant it was to keep step with her,
to feel the touch of her gown,
the warmth of her arm!
I took Delphine everywhere this morning;
I went shopping with her,
and I brought her home again.
you must let me live near you.
You may want some one to do you a service some of these days,
and I shall be on the spot to do it.
if only that great dolt of an Alsatian would die,
if his gout would have the sense to attack his stomach,
how happy my poor child would be!
You would be my son-in-law;
you would be her husband in the eyes of the world.
she has known no happiness,
that excuses everything.
Our Father in heaven is surely on the side of fathers on earth who love their children.
How fond of you she is!"
raising his head after a pause.
"All the time we were going about together she chatted away about you.
'He is so nice-looking,
He is kind-hearted!
Does he talk to you about me?'
she said enough about you to fill whole volumes;
between the Rue d'Artois and the Passage des Panoramas she poured her heart out into mine.
I did not feel old once during that delightful morning;
I felt as light as a feather.
I told her how you had given the banknote to me;
it moved my darling to tears.
But what can this be on your chimney-piece?"
said Father Goriot at last.
Rastignac had showed no sign,
and he was dying of impatience.
Eugene stared at his neighbor in dumb and dazed bewilderment.
He thought of Vautrin,
of that duel to be fought to-morrow morning,
and of this realization of his dearest hopes,
and the violent contrast between the two sets of ideas gave him all the sensations of nightmare.
He went to the chimney-piece,
saw the little square case,
and found a watch of Breguet's make wrapped in paper,
on which these words were written:
"I want you to think of me every hour,
That last word doubtless contained an allusion to some scene that had taken place between them.
Eugene felt touched.
Inside the gold watch-case his arms had been wrought in enamel.
the workmanship and design of the trinket were all such as he had imagined,
for he had long coveted such a possession.
Father Goriot was radiant.
Of course he had promised to tell his daughter every little detail of the scene and of the effect produced upon Eugene by her present;
he shared in the pleasure and excitement of the young people,
and seemed to be not the least happy of the three.
He loved Rastignac already for his own as well as for his daughter's sake.
"You must go and see her;
she is expecting you this evening.
That great lout of an Alsatian is going to have supper with his opera-dancer.
he looked very foolish when my attorney let him know where he was.
He says he idolizes my daughter,
He had better let her alone,
or I will kill him.
To think that my Delphine is his" --he heaved a sigh --"it is enough to make me murder him,
but it would not be manslaughter to kill that animal;
he is a pig with a calf's brains.
--You will take me with you,
will you not?"
dear Father Goriot;
you know very well how fond I am of you -- --"
I do know very well.
You are not ashamed of me,
Let me embrace you,"
and he flung his arms around the student's neck.
"You will make her very happy;
promise me that you will!
You will go to her this evening,
will you not?"
I must go out;
I have some urgent business on hand."
"Can I be of any use?"
Will you go to old Taillefer's while I go to Mme. de Nucingen?
Ask him to make an appointment with me some time this evening;
it is a matter of life and death."
cried Father Goriot,
with a change of countenance;
"are you really paying court to his daughter,
as those simpletons were saying down below? ...
_Tonnerre de dieu!_ you have no notion what a tap _a la Goriot_ is like,
and if you are playing a double game,
I shall put a stop to it by one blow of the fist ...
the thing is impossible!"
"I swear to you that I love but one woman in the world,"
said the student.
"I only knew it a moment ago."
"But young Taillefer has been called out;
the duel comes off to-morrow morning,
and I have heard it said that he may lose his life in it."
"But what business is it of yours?"
I ought to tell him so,
that he may prevent his son from putting in an appearance -- --"
Just at that moment Vautrin's voice broke in upon them;
he was standing at the threshold of his door and singing:
oh my king!
All the world abandons thee!
The same old story everywhere,
A roving heart and a ...
tra la la."
"the soup is ready,
and every one is waiting for you."
Vautrin called down to him,
"come and take a bottle of my Bordeaux."
"Do you think your watch is pretty?"
"She has good taste,
and Rastignac came downstairs in company,
all three of them being late,
were obliged to sit together.
Eugene was as distant as possible in his manner to Vautrin during dinner;
but the other,
so charming in Mme. Vauquer's opinion,
had never been so witty.
His lively sallies and sparkling talk put the whole table in good humor.
His assurance and coolness filled Eugene with consternation.
what has come to you to-day?"
inquired Mme. Vauquer.
"You are as merry as a skylark."
"I am always in spirits after I have made a good bargain."
I have just delivered a lot of goods,
and I shall be paid a handsome commission on them --Mlle. Michonneau,"
he went on,
seeing that the elderly spinster was scrutinizing him intently,
"have you any objection to some feature in my face,
that you are making those lynx eyes at me?
Just let me know,
and I will have it changed to oblige you ...
We shall not fall out about it,
I dare say?"
winking at the superannuated clerk.
"Bless my soul,
you ought to stand as model for a burlesque Hercules,"
said the young painter.
upon my word!
if Mlle. Michonneau will consent to sit as the Venus of Pere-Lachaise,"
Poiret shall pose as Poiret.
He can be a garden god!"
"his name means a pear -- --"
"A sleepy pear!"
Bianchon put in.
"You will come in between the pear and the cheese."
"What stuff are you all talking!"
said Mme. Vauquer;
"you would do better to treat us to your Bordeaux;
I see a glimpse of a bottle there.
It would keep us all in a good humor,
and it is good for the stomach besides."
"the Lady President calls us to order.
Mme. Couture and Mlle. Victorine will take your jokes in good part,
but respect the innocence of the aged Goriot.
I propose a glass or two of Bordeauxrama,
rendered twice illustrious by the name of Laffite,
no political allusions intended.
looking at Christophe,
who did not offer to stir.
you don't answer to your own name?
Bring us some liquor,
"Here it is,
holding out the bottle.
Vautrin filled Eugene's glass and Goriot's likewise,
then he deliberately poured out a few drops into his own glass,
and sipped it while his two neighbors drank their wine.
All at once he made a grimace.
You can drink the rest of this,
and go and find another bottle;
take from the right-hand side,
There are sixteen of us;
take down eight bottles."
"If you are going to stand treat,"
said the painter,
"I will pay for a hundred chestnuts."
These exclamations came from all parts of the table like squibs from a set firework.
a couple of bottles of champagne,"
"_Quien!_ just like you!
Why not ask for the whole house at once.
A couple of bottles of champagne;
that means twelve francs!
I shall never see the money back again,
But if M. Eugene has a mind to pay for it,
I have some currant cordial."
"That currant cordial of hers is as bad as a black draught,"
muttered the medical student.
"the very mention of black draught makes me feel -- --.
by all means;
I will pay for it,"
called Mme. Vauquer,
"bring in some biscuits,
and the little cakes."
"Those little cakes are mouldy graybeards,"
"But trot out the biscuits."
The Bordeaux wine circulated;
the dinner table became a livelier scene than ever,
and the fun grew fast and furious.
Imitations of the cries of various animals mingled with the loud laughter;
the Museum official having taken it into his head to mimic a cat-call rather like the caterwauling of the animal in question,
eight voices simultaneously struck up with the following variations:
"Scissors to grind!"
"Chick-weeds for singing bir-ds!"
"China to mend!"
"Sticks to beat your wives or your clothes!"
"Cherries all ripe!"
But the palm was awarded to Bianchon for the nasal accent with which he rendered the cry of "Umbrellas to me-end!"
A few seconds later,
and there was a head-splitting racket in the room,
a storm of tomfoolery,
a sort of cats' concert,
with Vautrin as conductor of the orchestra,
the latter keeping an eye the while on Eugene and Father Goriot.
The wine seemed to have gone to their heads already.
They leaned back in their chairs,
looking at the general confusion with an air of gravity,
and drank but little;
both of them were absorbed in the thought of what lay before them to do that evening,
and yet neither of them felt able to rise and go.
Vautrin gave a side glance at them from time to time,
and watched the change that came over their faces,
choosing the moment when their eyes drooped and seemed about to close,
to bend over Rastignac and to say in his ear: --
"My little lad,
you are not quite shrewd enough to outwit Papa Vautrin yet,
and he is too fond of you to let you make a mess of your affairs.
When I have made up my mind to do a thing,
no one short of Providence can put me off.
we were for going round to warn old Taillefer,
telling tales out of school!
The oven is hot,
the dough is kneaded,
the bread is ready for the oven;
to-morrow we will eat it up and whisk away the crumbs;
and we are not going to spoil the baking?
it is all as good as done!
We may suffer from a few conscientious scruples,
but they will be digested along with the bread.
While we are having our forty winks,
Colonel Count Franchessini will clear the way to Michel Taillefer's inheritance with the point of his sword.
Victorine will come in for her brother's money,
a snug fifteen thousand francs a year.
I have made inquiries already,
and I know that her late mother's property amounts to more than three hundred thousand -- --"
Eugene heard all this,
and could not answer a word;
his tongue seemed to be glued to the roof of his mouth,
an irresistible drowsiness was creeping over him.
He still saw the table and the faces round it,
but it was through a bright mist.
Soon the noise began to subside,
one by one the boarders went.
when their numbers had so dwindled that the party consisted of Mme. Vauquer,
and Father Goriot,
Rastignac watched as though in a dream how Mme. Vauquer busied herself by collecting the bottles,
and drained the remainder of the wine out of each to fill others.
how uproarious they are!
what a thing it is to be young!"
said the widow.
These were the last words that Eugene heard and understood.
"There is no one like M. Vautrin for a bit of fun like this,"
just hark at Christophe,
he is snoring like a top."
"I am going to a theatre on the boulevard to see M. Marty in _Le Mont Sauvage_,
a fine play taken from _Le Solitaire_ ....
If you like,
I will take you and these two ladies -- --"
I must decline,"
said Mme. Couture.
my good lady!"
cried Mme. Vauquer,
"decline to see a play founded on the _Le Solitaire_,
a work by Atala de Chateaubriand?
We were so fond of that book that we cried over it like Magdalens under the _line-trees_ last summer,
and then it is an improving work that might edify your young lady."
"We are forbidden to go to the play,"
those two yonder have dropped off where they sit,"
shaking the heads of the two sleepers in a comical way.
He altered the sleeping student's position,
settled his head more comfortably on the back of his chair,
kissed him warmly on the forehead,
and began to sing:
I watch while you slumber."
"I am afraid he may be ill,"
"Then stop and take care of him,"
"'Tis your duty as a meek and obedient wife,"
he whispered in her ear.
"The young fellow worships you,
and you will be his little wife --there's your fortune for you.
he added aloud,
"they lived happily ever afterwards,
were much looked up to in all the countryside,
and had a numerous family.
That is how all the romances end.
he went on,
as he turned to Madame Vauquer and put his arm round her waist,
"put on your bonnet,
your best flowered silk,
and the countess' scarf,
while I go out and call a cab --all my own self."
And he started out,
singing as he went:
Ripening the pumpkins every one."
I could live happily in a garret with a man like that.
looking round for the old vermicelli maker,
"there is that Father Goriot half seas over.
_He_ never thought of taking me anywhere,
the old skinflint.
But he will measure his length somewhere.
it is disgraceful to lose his senses like that,
at his age!
You will be telling me that he couldn't lose what he hadn't got --Sylvie,
just take him up to his room!"
Sylvie took him by the arm,
supported him upstairs,
and flung him just as he was,
like a package,
across the bed.
"Poor young fellow!"
said Mme. Couture,
putting back Eugene's hair that had fallen over his eyes;
"he is like a young girl,
he does not know what dissipation is."
I can tell you this,
said Mme. Vauquer,
"I have taken lodgers these thirty years,
and a good many have passed through my hands,
as the saying is,
but I have never seen a nicer nor a more aristocratic looking young man than M. Eugene.
How handsome he looks sleeping!
Just let his head rest on your shoulder,
he falls over towards Mlle. Victorine.
There's a special providence for young things.
A little more,
and he would have broken his head against the knob of the chair.
They'd make a pretty pair those two would!"
my good neighbor,"
cried Mme. Couture,
"you are saying such things -- --"
put in Mme. Vauquer,
"he does not hear.
come and help me to dress.
I shall put on my best stays."
your best stays just after dinner,
you can get some one else to lace you.
I am not going to be your murderer.
It's a rash thing to do,
and might cost you your life."
"I don't care,
I must do honor to M. Vautrin."
"Are you so fond of your heirs as all that?"
said the widow,
as she left the room.
"At her age,
said the cook to Victorine,
pointing to her mistress as she spoke.
Mme. Couture and her ward were left in the dining-room,
and Eugene slept on Victorine's shoulder.
The sound of Christophe's snoring echoed through the silent house;
Eugene's quiet breathing seemed all the quieter by force of contrast,
he was sleeping as peacefully as a child.
Victorine was very happy;
she was free to perform one of those acts of charity which form an innocent outlet for all the overflowing sentiments of a woman's nature;
he was so close to her that she could feel the throbbing of his heart;
there was a look of almost maternal protection and conscious pride in Victorine's face.
Among the countless thoughts that crowded up in her young innocent heart,
there was a wild flutter of joy at this close contact.
said Mme. Couture,
squeezing her hand.
The old lady looked at the girl.
so radiant with the new happiness that had befallen her,
called to mind some naive work of mediaeval art,
when the painter neglected the accessories,
reserving all the magic of his brush for the quiet,
austere outlines and ivory tints of the face,
which seems to have caught something of the golden glory of heaven.
he only took two glasses,
passing her fingers through Eugene's hair.
if he had been a dissipated young man,
he would have carried his wine like the rest of them.
His drowsiness does him credit."
There was a sound of wheels outside in the street.
"There is M. Vautrin,
said the girl.
"Just take M. Eugene.
I would rather not have that man see me like this;
there are some ways of looking at you that seem to sully your soul and make you feel as though you had nothing on."
you are wrong!"
said Mme. Couture.
Vautrin is a worthy man;
he reminds me a little of my late husband,
poor dear M. Couture,
rough but kind-hearted;
his bark is worse than his bite."
Vautrin came in while she was speaking;
he did not make a sound,
but looked for a while at the picture of the two young faces --the lamplight falling full upon them seemed to caress them.
folding his arms,
"here is a picture!
It would have suggested some pleasing pages to Bernardin de Saint-Pierre
who wrote _Paul et Virginie_.
Youth is very charming,
looking at Eugene,
"luck sometimes comes while you are sleeping.
--There is something touching and attractive to me about this young man,
"I know that his nature is in harmony with his face.
the head of a cherub on an angel's shoulder!
He deserves to be loved.
If I were a woman,
I would die
(no --not such a fool),
I would live for him."
He bent lower and spoke in the widow's ear.
"When I see those two together,
I cannot help thinking that Providence meant them for each other;
He works by secret ways,
and tries the reins and the heart,"
he said in a loud voice.
"And when I see you,
thus united by a like purity and by all human affections,
I say to myself that it is quite impossible that the future should separate you.
God is just."
--He turned to Victorine.
"It seems to me,"
"that I have seen the line of success in your hand.
Let me look at it,
I am well up in palmistry,
and I have told fortunes many a time.
don't be frightened.
what do I see?
Upon my word,
you will be one of the richest heiresses in Paris before very long.
You will heap riches on the man who loves you.
Your father will want you to go and live with him.
You will marry a young and handsome man with a title,
and he will idolize you."
The heavy footsteps of the coquettish widow,
who was coming down the stairs,
interrupted Vautrin's fortune-telling.
"Here is Mamma Vauquerre,
fair as a starr-r-r,
dressed within an inch of her life.
--Aren't we a trifle pinched for room?"
with his arm round the lady;
"we are screwed up very tightly about the bust,
If we are much agitated,
there may be an explosion;
but I will pick up the fragments with all the care of an antiquary."
"There is a man who can talk the language of French gallantry!"
said the widow,
bending to speak in Mme. Couture's ear.
turning to Eugene and Victorine.
"Bless you both!"
and he laid a hand on either head.
"Take my word for it,
an honest man's prayers are worth something;
they should bring you happiness,
for God hears them."
said Mme. Vauquer to her lodger.
"Do you think that M. Vautrin means to run away with me?"
lowering her voice.
said the widow.
suppose it should really happen as that kind M. Vautrin said!"
said Victorine with a sigh as she looked at her hands.
The two women were alone together.
it wouldn't take much to bring it to pass,"
said the elderly lady;
"just a fall from his horse,
and your monster of a brother -- --"
perhaps it is a sin to wish bad luck to an enemy,"
the widow remarked.
"I will do penance for it.
I would strew flowers on his grave with the greatest pleasure,
and that is the truth.
that he is!
The coward couldn't speak up for his own mother,
and cheats you out of your share by deceit and trickery.
My cousin had a pretty fortune of her own,
but unluckily for you,
nothing was said in the marriage-contract about anything that she might come in for."
"It would be very hard if my fortune is to cost some one else his life,"
"If I cannot be happy unless my brother is to be taken out of the world,
I would rather stay here all my life."
"_Mon Dieu!_ it is just as that good M. Vautrin says,
and he is full of piety,
Mme. Couture remarked.
"I am very glad to find that he is not an unbeliever like the rest of them that talk of the Almighty with less respect than they do of the Devil.
as he was saying,
who can know the ways by which it may please Providence to lead us?"
With Sylvie's help the two women at last succeeded in getting Eugene up to his room;
they laid him on the bed,
and the cook unfastened his clothes to make him more comfortable.
Before they left the room,
Victorine snatched an opportunity when her guardian's back was turned,
and pressed a kiss on Eugene's forehead,
feeling all the joy that this stolen pleasure could give her.
Then she looked round the room,
and gathering up,
as it were,
into one single thought all the untold bliss of that day,
she made a picture of her memories,
and dwelt upon it until she slept,
the happiest creature in Paris.
That evening's merry-making,
in the course of which Vautrin had given the drugged wine to Eugene and Father Goriot,
was his own ruin.
flustered with wine,
forgot to open the subject of Trompe-la-Mort with Mlle. Michonneau.
The mere mention of the name would have set Vautrin on his guard;
to give him his real name,
was in fact the notorious escaped convict.
But it was the joke about the Venus of Pere-Lachaise that finally decided his fate.
Mlle. Michonneau had very nearly made up her mind to warn the convict and to throw herself on his generosity,
with the idea of making a better bargain for herself by helping him to escape that night;
but as it was,
she went out escorted by Poiret in search of the famous chief of detectives in the Petite Rue Saint-Anne,
still thinking that it was the district superintendent --one Gondureau --with whom she had to do.
The head of the department received his visitors courteously.
There was a little talk,
and the details were definitely arranged.
Mlle. Michonneau asked for the draught that she was to administer in order to set about her investigation.
But the great man's evident satisfaction set Mlle. Michonneau thinking;
and she began to see that this business involved something more than the mere capture of a runaway convict.
She racked her brains while he looked in a drawer in his desk for the little phial,
and it dawned upon her that in consequence of treacherous revelations made by the prisoners the police were hoping to lay their hands on a considerable sum of money.
But on hinting her suspicions to the old fox of the Petite Rue Saint-Anne,
that officer began to smile,
and tried to put her off the scent.
"Collin's _sorbonne_ is the most dangerous that has yet been found among the dangerous classes.
That is all,
and the rascals are quite aware of it.
They rally round him;
he is the backbone of the federation,
he is very popular with them all.
The rogue will never leave his _chump_ in the Place de Greve."
As Mlle. Michonneau seemed mystified,
Gondureau explained the two slang words for her benefit.
_Sorbonne_ and _chump_ are two forcible expressions borrowed from thieves' Latin,
of all people,
being compelled to consider the human head in its two aspects.
A sorbonne is the head of a living man,
his faculty of thinking --his council;
a chump is a contemptuous epithet that implies how little a human head is worth after the axe has done its work.
"Collin is playing us off,"
"When we come across a man like a bar of steel tempered in the English fashion,
there is always one resource left --we can kill him if he takes it into his head to make the least resistance.
We are reckoning on several methods of killing Collin to-morrow morning.
It saves a trial,
and society is rid of him without all the expense of guarding and feeding him.
What with getting up the case,
paying their expenses,
and carrying out the sentence,
it costs a lot to go through all the proper formalities before you can get quit of one of these good-for-nothings,
over and above the three thousand francs that you are going to have.
There is a saving in time as well.
One good thrust of the bayonet into Trompe-la-Mort's paunch will prevent scores of crimes,
and save fifty scoundrels from following his example;
they will be very careful to keep themselves out of the police courts.
That is doing the work of the police thoroughly,
and true philanthropists will tell you that it is better to prevent crime than to punish it."
"And you do a service to our country,"
you are talking in a very sensible manner tonight,
that you are,"
said the head of the department.
we are serving our country,
and we are very hardly used too.
We do society very great services that are not recognized.
a superior man must rise above vulgar prejudices,
and a Christian must resign himself to the mishaps that doing right entails,
when right is done in an out-of-the-way style.
Paris is Paris,
That is the explanation of my life.
--I have the honor to wish you a good-evening,
I shall bring my men to the Jardin du Roi in the morning.
Send Christophe to the Rue du Buffon,
tell him to ask for M. Gondureau in the house where you saw me before.
If you should ever have anything stolen from you,
come to me,
and I will do my best to get it back for you."
Poiret remarked to Mlle. Michonneau,
"there are idiots who are scared out of their wits by the word police.
That was a very pleasant-spoken gentleman,
and what he wants you to do is as easy as saying
The next day was destined to be one of the most extraordinary in the annals of the Maison Vauquer.
Hitherto the most startling occurrence in its tranquil existence had been the portentous,
meteor-like apparition of the sham Comtesse de l'Ambermesnil.
But the catastrophes of this great day were to cast all previous events into the shade,
and supply an inexhaustible topic of conversation for Mme. Vauquer and her boarders so long as she lived.
In the first place,
Goriot and Eugene de Rastignac both slept till close upon eleven o'clock.
who came home about midnight from the Gaite,
lay a-bed till half-past ten.
after a prolonged slumber
(he had finished Vautrin's first bottle of wine),
was behindhand with his work,
but Poiret and Mlle. Michonneau uttered no complaint,
though breakfast was delayed.
As for Victorine and Mme. Couture,
they also lay late.
Vautrin went out before eight o'clock,
and only came back just as breakfast was ready.
when Sylvie and Christophe went up at a quarter past eleven,
knocked at all the doors,
and announced that breakfast was waiting.
While Sylvie and the man were upstairs,
who came down first,
poured the contents of the phial into the silver cup belonging to Vautrin --it was standing with the others in the bain-marie that kept the cream hot for the morning coffee.
The spinster had reckoned on this custom of the house to do her stroke of business.
The seven lodgers were at last collected together,
not without some difficulty.
Just as Eugene came downstairs,
stretching himself and yawning,
a commissionaire handed him a letter from Mme. de Nucingen.
It ran thus: --
"I feel neither false vanity nor anger where you are concerned,
Till two o'clock this morning I waited for you.
that waiting for one whom you love!
No one that had passed through that torture could inflict it on another.
I know now that you have never loved before.
What can have happened?
Anxiety has taken hold of me.
I would have come myself to find out what had happened,
if I had not feared to betray the secrets of my heart.
How can I walk out or drive out at this time of day?
Would it not be ruin?
I have felt to the full how wretched it is to be a woman.
Send a word to reassure me,
and explain how it is that you have not come after what my father told you.
I shall be angry,
but I will forgive you.
for pity's sake.
You will come to me soon,
will you not?
If you are busy,
a line will be enough.
'I will hasten to you,'
'I am ill.'
But if you were ill my father would have come to tell me so.
What can have happened? ..."
what has happened?"
hurrying down to the dining-room,
he crumpled up the letter without reading any more.
"What time is it?"
dropping a lump of sugar into his coffee.
The escaped convict cast a glance at Eugene,
a cold and fascinating glance;
men gifted with this magnetic power can quell furious lunatics in a madhouse by such a glance,
it is said.
Eugene shook in every limb.
There was the sound of wheels in the street,
and in another moment a man with a scared face rushed into the room.
It was one of M. Taillefer's servants;
Mme. Couture recognized the livery at once.
"your father is asking for you --something terrible has happened!
M. Frederic has had a sword thrust in the forehead in a duel,
and the doctors have given him up.
You will scarcely be in time to say good-bye to him!
he is unconscious."
"Poor young fellow!"
"How can people brawl when they have a certain income of thirty thousand livres?
Young people have bad manners,
and that is a fact."
you big baby!"
swallowing down his coffee imperturbably,
an operation which Mlle. Michonneau watched with such close attention that she had no emotion to spare for the amazing news that had struck the others dumb with amazement.
"Are there not duels every morning in Paris?"
"I will go with you,
said Mme. Couture,
and the two women hurried away at once without either hats or shawls.
But before she went,
with her eyes full of tears,
gave Eugene a glance that said --"How little I thought that our happiness should cost me tears!"
you are a prophet,
said Mme. Vauquer.
"I am all sorts of things,"
said Mme. Vauquer,
stringing together a succession of commonplaces suited to the occasion.
"Death takes us off without asking us about it.
The young often go before the old.
It is a lucky thing for us women that we are not liable to fight duels,
but we have other complaints that men don't suffer from.
We bear children,
and it takes a long time to get over it.
What a windfall for Victorine!
Her father will have to acknowledge her now!"
looking at Eugene,
"yesterday she had not a penny;
this morning she has several millions to her fortune."
cried Mme. Vauquer,
"you have landed on your feet!"
At this exclamation,
Father Goriot looked at the student,
and saw the crumpled letter still in his hand.
"You have not read it through!
What does this mean?
Are you going to be like the rest of them?"
I shall never marry Mlle. Victorine,"
turning to Mme. Vauquer with an expression of terror and loathing that surprised the onlookers at this scene.
Father Goriot caught the student's hand and grasped it warmly.
He could have kissed it.
"the Italians have a good proverb --_Col tempo_."
"Is there any answer?"
said Mme. de Nucingen's messenger,
"Say that I will come directly."
The man went.
Eugene was in a state of such violent excitement that he could not be prudent.
"What is to be done?"
he exclaimed aloud.
"There are no proofs!"
Vautrin began to smile.
Though the drug he had taken was doing its work,
the convict was so vigorous that he rose to his feet,
gave Rastignac a look,
and said in hollow tones,
"Luck comes to us while we sleep,
and fell stiff and stark,
as if he were struck dead.
"So there is a Divine Justice!"
What has come to that poor dear M. Vautrin?"
cried Mlle. Michonneau.
run for the doctor,"
called the widow.
just go for M. Bianchon,
and be as quick as you can;
Sylvie might not be in time to catch our doctor,
Rastignac was glad of an excuse to leave that den of horrors,
his hurry for the doctor was nothing but a flight.
go round to the chemist's and ask for something that's good for the apoplexy."
Christophe likewise went.
just help us to get him upstairs."
Vautrin was taken up among them,
carried carefully up the narrow staircase,
and laid upon his bed.
"I can do no good here,
so I shall go to see my daughter,"
said M. Goriot.
"Selfish old thing!"
cried Mme. Vauquer.
I wish you may die like a dog."
"Just go and see if you can find some ether,"
said Mlle. Michonneau to Mme. Vauquer;
with some help from Poiret,
had unfastened the sick man's clothes.
Mme. Vauquer went down to her room,
and left Mlle. Michonneau mistress of the situation.
just pull down his shirt and turn him over,
You might be of some use in sparing my modesty,"
she said to Poiret,
"instead of standing there like a stock."
Vautrin was turned over;
Mlle. Michonneau gave his shoulder a sharp slap,
and the two portentous letters appeared,
white against the red.
you have earned your three thousand francs very easily,"
supporting Vautrin while Mlle. Michonneau slipped on the shirt again.
How heavy he is,"
as he laid the convict down.
Suppose there is a strong-box here!"
said the old maid briskly;
her glances seemed to pierce the walls,
she scrutinized every article of the furniture with greedy eyes.
"Could we find some excuse for opening that desk?"
"It mightn't be quite right,"
responded Poiret to this.
"Where is the harm?
It is money stolen from all sorts of people,
so it doesn't belong to any one now.
But we haven't time,
there is the Vauquer."
"Here is the ether,"
said that lady.
"I must say that this is an eventful day.
that man can't have had a stroke;
he is as white as curds."
"White as curds?"
"And his pulse is steady,"
said the widow,
laying her hand on his breast.
said the astonished Poiret.
"He is all right."
"Do you think so?"
he looks as if he were sleeping.
Sylvie has gone for a doctor.
he is sniffing the ether.
it is only a spasm.
His pulse is good.
He is as strong as a Turk.
what a fur tippet he has on his chest;
that is the sort of man to live till he is a hundred.
His wig holds on tightly,
it is glued on,
and his own hair is red;
that is why he wears a wig.
They say that red-haired people are either the worst or the best.
Is he one of the good ones,
"Good to hang,"
"Round a pretty woman's neck,
said Mlle Michonneau,
"Just go away,
It is a woman's duty to nurse you men when you are ill.
for all the good you are doing,
you may as well take yourself off,"
"Mme. Vauquer and I will take great care of dear M. Vautrin."
Poiret went out on tiptoe without a murmur,
like a dog kicked out of the room by his master.
Rastignac had gone out for the sake of physical exertion;
he wanted to breathe the air,
he felt stifled.
Yesterday evening he had meant to prevent the murder arranged for half-past eight that morning.
What had happened?
What ought he to do now?
He trembled to think that he himself might be implicated.
Vautrin's coolness still further dismayed him.
how if Vautrin should die without saying a word?"
Rastignac asked himself.
He hurried along the alleys of the Luxembourg Gardens as if the hounds of justice were after him,
and he already heard the baying of the pack.
"you have seen the _Pilote_?"
The _Pilote_ was a Radical sheet,
edited by M. Tissot.
It came out several hours later than the morning papers,
and was meant for the benefit of country subscribers;
for it brought the morning news into provincial districts twenty-four hours sooner than the ordinary local journals.
"There is a wonderful history in it,"
said the house student of the Hopital Cochin.
"Young Taillefer called out Count Franchessini,
of the Old Guard,
and the Count put a couple of inches of steel into his forehead.
And here is little Victorine one of the richest heiresses in Paris!
If we had known that,
What a game of chance death is!
They say Victorine was sweet on you;
was there any truth in it?"
I shall never marry her.
I am in love with a charming woman,
and she is in love with me,
so -- --"
"You said that as if you were screwing yourself up to be faithful to her.
I should like to see the woman worth the sacrifice of Master Taillefer's money!"
"Are all the devils of hell at my heels?"
"What is the matter with you?
Are you mad?
Give us your hand,"
"and let me feel your pulse.
You are feverish."
"Just go to Mother Vauquer's,"
"that scoundrel Vautrin has dropped down like one dead."
leaving Rastignac to his reflections,
"you confirm my suspicions,
and now I mean to make sure for myself."
The law student's long walk was a memorable one for him.
He made in some sort a survey of his conscience.
After a close scrutiny,
after hesitation and self-examination,
his honor at any rate came out scatheless from this sharp and terrible ordeal,
like a bar of iron tested in the English fashion.
He remembered Father Goriot's confidences of the evening before;
he recollected the rooms taken for him in the Rue d'Artois,
so that he might be near Delphine;
and then he thought of his letter,
and read it again and kissed it.
"Such a love is my anchor of safety,"
he said to himself.
"How the old man's heart must have been wrung!
He says nothing about all that he has been through;
but who could not guess?
I will be like a son to him;
his life shall be made happy.
If she cares for me,
she will often come to spend the day with him.
That grand Comtesse de Restaud is a heartless thing;
she would make her father into her hall porter.
she is kinder to the old man;
she is worthy to be loved.
this evening I shall be very happy!"
He took out his watch and admired it.
"I have had nothing but success!
If two people mean to love each other for ever,
they may help each other,
and I can take this.
I shall succeed,
and I will pay her a hundredfold.
There is nothing criminal in this _liaison_;
nothing that could cause the most austere moralist to frown.
How many respectable people contract similar unions!
We deceive nobody;
it is deception that makes a position humiliating.
If you lie,
you lower yourself at once.
She and her husband have lived apart for a long while.
how if I called upon that Alsatian to resign a wife whom he cannot make happy?"
Rastignac's battle with himself went on for a long while;
and though the scruples of youth inevitably gained the day,
an irresistible curiosity led him,
about half-past four,
to return to the Maison Vauquer through the gathering dusk.
Bianchon had given Vautrin an emetic,
reserving the contents of the stomach for chemical analysis at the hospital.
Mlle. Michonneau's officious alacrity had still further strengthened his suspicions of her.
had recovered so quickly that it was impossible not to suspect some plot against the leader of all frolics at the lodging-house.
Vautrin was standing in front of the stove in the dining-room when Rastignac came in.
All the lodgers were assembled sooner than usual by the news of young Taillefer's duel.
They were anxious to hear any detail about the affair,
and to talk over the probable change in Victorine's prospects.
Father Goriot alone was absent,
but the rest were chatting.
No sooner did Eugene come into the room,
than his eyes met the inscrutable gaze of Vautrin.
It was the same look that had read his thoughts before --the look that had such power to waken evil thoughts in his heart.
said the escaped convict,
"I am likely to cheat death for a good while yet.
According to these ladies,
I have had a stroke that would have felled an ox,
and come off with flying colors."
"A bull you might say,"
cried the widow.
"You really might be sorry to see me still alive,"
said Vautrin in Rastignac's ear,
thinking that he guessed the student's thoughts.
"You must be mighty sure of yourself."
"Mlle. Michonneau was talking the day before yesterday about a gentleman named _Trompe-la-Mort_,"
upon my word,
that name would do very well for you."
Vautrin seemed thunderstruck.
He turned pale,
and staggered back.
He turned his magnetic glance,
like a ray of vivid light,
on Mlle. Michonneau;
the old maid shrank and trembled under the influence of that strong will,
and collapsed into a chair.
The mask of good-nature had dropped from the convict's face;
from the unmistakable ferocity of that sinister look,
Poiret felt that the old maid was in danger,
and hastily stepped between them.
None of the lodgers understood this scene in the least,
they looked on in mute amazement.
There was a pause.
Just then there was a sound of tramping feet outside;
there were soldiers there,
for there was a ring of several rifles on the pavement of the street.
Collin was mechanically looking round the walls for a way of escape,
when four men entered by way of the sitting-room.
"In the name of the King and the Law!"
said an officer,
but the words were almost lost in a murmur of astonishment.
Silence fell on the room.
The lodgers made way for three of the men,
who had each a hand on a cocked pistol in a side pocket.
who followed the detectives,
kept the entrance to the sitting-room,
and two more men appeared in the doorway that gave access to the staircase.
A sound of footsteps came from the garden,
and again the rifles of several soldiers rang on the cobblestones under the window.
All chance of salvation by flight was cut off for Trompe-la-Mort,
to whom all eyes instinctively turned.
The chief walked straight up to him,
and commenced operations by giving him a sharp blow on the head,
so that the wig fell off,
and Collin's face was revealed in all its ugliness.
There was a terrible suggestion of strength mingled with cunning in the short,
brick-red crop of hair,
the whole head was in harmony with his powerful frame,
and at that moment the fires of hell seemed to gleam from his eyes.
In that flash the real Vautrin shone forth,
revealed at once before them all;
they understood his past,
his pitiless doctrines,
the religion of his own good pleasure,
the majesty with which his cynicism and contempt for mankind invested him,
the physical strength of an organization proof against all trials.
The blood flew to his face,
and his eyes glared like the eyes of a wild cat.
He started back with savage energy and a fierce growl that drew exclamations of alarm from the lodgers.
At that leonine start the police caught at their pistols under cover of the general clamor.
Collin saw the gleaming muzzles of the weapons,
saw his danger,
and instantly gave proof of a power of the highest order.
There was something horrible and majestic in the spectacle of the sudden transformation in his face;
he could only be compared to a cauldron full of the steam that can send mountains flying,
a terrific force dispelled in a moment by a drop of cold water.
The drop of water that cooled his wrathful fury was a reflection that flashed across his brain like lightning.
He began to smile,
and looked down at his wig.
"You are not in the politest of humors to-day,"
he remarked to the chief,
and he held out his hands to the policemen with a jerk of his head.
"put on the bracelets or the handcuffs.
I call on those present to witness that I make no resistance."
A murmur of admiration ran through the room at the sudden outpouring like fire and lava flood from this human volcano,
and its equally sudden cessation.
"There's a sell for you,
the convict added,
looking at the famous director of police.
said he of the Petite Rue Saint-Anne,
"There are ladies present;
I deny nothing,
and looked round the room like an orator who is about to overwhelm his audience.
"Take this down,
he went on,
addressing a little,
white-haired old man who had seated himself at the end of the table;
and after drawing a printed form from the portfolio,
was proceeding to draw up a document.
"I acknowledge myself to be Jacques Collin,
otherwise known as Trompe-la-Mort,
condemned to twenty years' penal servitude,
and I have just proved that I have come fairly by my nickname.
--If I had as much as raised my hand,"
he went on,
addressing the other lodgers,
"those three sneaking wretches yonder would have drawn claret on Mamma Vauquer's domestic hearth.
The rogues have laid their heads together to set a trap for me."
Mme. Vauquer felt sick and faint at these words.
"this does give one a turn;
and me at the Gaite with him only last night!"
she said to Sylvie.
"Summon your philosophy,
"Is it a misfortune to have sat in my box at the Gaite yesterday evening?
are you better than we are?
The brand upon our shoulders is less shameful than the brand set on your hearts,
you flabby members of a society rotten to the core.
Not the best man among you could stand up to me."
His eyes rested upon Rastignac,
to whom he spoke with a pleasant smile that seemed strangely at variance with the savage expression in his eyes.
--"Our little bargain still holds good,
you can accept any time you like!
Do you understand?"
And he sang:
"A charming girl is my Fanchette In her simplicity."
"Don't you trouble yourself,"
he went on;
"I can get in my money.
They are too much afraid of me to swindle me."
The convicts' prison,
its language and customs,
its sudden sharp transitions from the humorous to the horrible,
its appalling grandeur,
its triviality and its dark depths,
were all revealed in turn by the speaker's discourse;
he seemed to be no longer a man,
but the type and mouthpiece of a degenerate race,
clear-headed race of savages.
In one moment Collin became the poet of an inferno,
wherein all thoughts and passions that move human nature
find a place.
He looked about him like a fallen archangel who is for war to the end.
Rastignac lowered his eyes,
and acknowledged this kinship claimed by crime as an expiation of his own evil thoughts.
"Who betrayed me?"
and his terrible eyes traveled round the room.
Suddenly they rested on Mlle. Michonneau.
"It was you,
"That sham stroke of apoplexy was your doing,
lynx eyes! ...
Two words from me,
and your throat would be cut in less than a week,
but I forgive you,
I am a Christian.
You did not sell me either.
But who did?
you may rummage upstairs,"
hearing the police officers opening his cupboards and taking possession of his effects.
"The nest is empty,
the birds flew away yesterday,
and you will be none the wiser.
My ledgers are here,"
he said tapping his forehead.
"Now I know who sold me!
It could only be that blackguard Fil-de-Soie.
That is who it was,
turning to the chief.
"It was timed so neatly to get the banknotes up above there.
There is nothing left for you --spies!
As for Fil-de-Soie,
he will be under the daisies in less than a fortnight,
even if you were to tell off the whole force to protect him.
How much did you give the Michonnette?"
he asked of the police officers.
"A thousand crowns?
Oh you Ninon in decay,
Pompadour in tatters,
Venus of the graveyard,
I was worth more than that!
If you had given me warning,
you should have had six thousand francs.
you had no suspicion of that,
old trafficker in flesh and blood,
or I should have had the preference.
I would have given six thousand francs to save myself an inconvenient journey and some loss of money,"
as they fastened the handcuffs on his wrists.
"These folks will amuse themselves by dragging out this business till the end of time to keep me idle.
If they were to send me straight to jail,
I should soon be back at my old tricks in spite of the duffers at the Quai des Orfevres.
Down yonder they will all turn themselves inside out to help their general --their good Trompe-la-Mort --to get clear away.
Is there a single one among you that can say,
as I can,
that he has ten thousand brothers ready to do anything for him?"
he asked proudly.
"There is some good there,"
he said tapping his heart;
"I have never betrayed any one!
--Look you here,
he said to the old maid,
"they are all afraid of me,
do you see?
but the sight of you turns them sick.
Rake in your gains."
He was silent for a moment,
and looked round at the lodgers' faces.
"What dolts you are,
all of you!
Have you never seen a convict before?
A convict of Collin's stamp,
whom you see before you,
is a man less weak-kneed than others;
he lifts up his voice against the colossal fraud of the Social Contract,
as Jean Jacques did,
whose pupil he is proud to declare himself.
I stand here single-handed against a Government and a whole subsidized machinery of tribunals and police,
and I am a match for them all."
cried the painter,
"what a magnificent sketch one might make of him!"
you gentlemen-in-waiting to his highness the gibbet,
master of ceremonies to the widow"
(a nickname full of sombre poetry,
given by prisoners to the guillotine),
"be a good fellow,
and tell me if it really was Fil-de-Soie who sold me.
I don't want him to suffer for some one else,
that would not be fair."
But before the chief had time to answer,
the rest of the party returned from making their investigations upstairs.
Everything had been opened and inventoried.
A few words passed between them and the chief,
and the official preliminaries were complete.
addressing the lodgers,
"they will take me away directly.
You have all made my stay among you very agreeable,
and I shall look back upon it with gratitude.
Receive my adieux,
and permit me to send you figs from Provence."
He advanced a step or two,
and then turned to look once more at Rastignac.
in a sad and gentle tone,
a strange transition from his previous rough and stern manner.
"If you should be hard up,
I have left you a devoted friend,"
in spite of his shackles,
he managed to assume a posture of defence,
like a fencing-master,
"If anything goes wrong,
apply in that quarter.
Man and money,
all at your service."
The strange speaker's manner was sufficiently burlesque,
so that no one but Rastignac knew that there was a serious meaning underlying the pantomime.
As soon as the police,
and detectives had left the house,
who was rubbing her mistress' temples with vinegar,
looked round at the bewildered lodgers.
"he was a man,
for all that."
Her words broke the spell.
Every one had been too much excited,
too much moved by very various feelings to speak.
But now the lodgers began to look at each other,
and then all eyes were turned at once on Mlle. Michonneau,
crouching by the stove;
her eyes were downcast,
as if she feared that the green eye-shade could not shut out the expression of those faces from her.
This figure and the feeling of repulsion she had so long excited were explained all at once.
A smothered murmur filled the room;
it was so unanimous,
that it seemed as if the same feeling of loathing had pitched all the voices in one key.
Mlle. Michonneau heard it,
and did not stir.
It was Bianchon who was the first to move;
he bent over his neighbor,
and said in a low voice,
"If that creature is going to stop here,
and have dinner with us,
I shall clear out."
In the twinkling of an eye it was clear that every one in the room,
was of the medical student's opinion,
so that the latter,
strong in the support of the majority,
went up to that elderly person.
"You are more intimate with Mlle. Michonneau than the rest of us,"
"speak to her,
make her understand that she must go,
and go at once."
echoed Poiret in amazement.
Then he went across to the crouching figure,
and spoke a few words in her ear.
"I have paid beforehand for the quarter;
I have as much right to be here as any one else,"
with a viperous look at the boarders.
"Never mind that!
we will club together and pay you the money back,"
"Monsieur is taking Collin's part" she said,
with a questioning,
malignant glance at the law student;
"it is not difficult to guess why."
Eugene started forward at the words,
as if he meant to spring upon her and wring her neck.
and the depths of treachery that it revealed,
had been a hideous enlightenment.
"Let her alone!"
cried the boarders.
Rastignac folded his arms and was silent.
"Let us have no more of Mlle. Judas,"
said the painter,
turning to Mme. Vauquer.
"If you don't show the Michonneau the door,
we shall all leave your shop,
and wherever we go we shall say that there are only convicts and spies left there.
If you do the other thing,
we will hold our tongues about the business;
for when all is said and done,
it might happen in the best society until they brand them on the forehead,
when they send them to the hulks.
They ought not to let convicts go about Paris disguised like decent citizens,
so as to carry on their antics like a set of rascally humbugs,
which they are."
At this Mme. Vauquer recovered miraculously.
She sat up and folded her arms;
her eyes were wide open now,
and there was no sign of tears in them.
do you really mean to be the ruin of my establishment,
my dear sir?
There is M. Vautrin -- --Goodness,"
"I can't help calling him by the name he passed himself off by for an honest man!
There is one room to let already,
and you want me to turn out two more lodgers in the middle of the season,
when no one is moving -- --"
let us take our hats and go and dine at Flicoteaux's in the Place Sorbonne,"
Mme. Vauquer glanced round,
and saw in a moment on which side her interest lay.
She waddled across to Mlle. Michonneau.
"you would not be the ruin of my establishment,
There's a dear,
You see what a pass these gentlemen have brought me to;
just go up to your room for this evening."
"Never a bit of it!"
cried the boarders.
"She must go,
and go this minute!"
"But the poor lady has had no dinner,"
with piteous entreaty.
"She can go and dine where she likes,"
shouted several voices.
"Turn her out,
"Turn them both out!
his heart swelling with the courage that love gives to the ovine male,
"respect the weaker sex."
"Spies are of no sex!"
said the painter.
"A precious sexorama!"
"Turn her into the streetorama!"
this is not manners!
If you turn people out of the house,
it ought not to be done so unceremoniously and with no notice at all.
We have paid our money,
and we are not going,"
putting on his cap,
and taking a chair beside Mlle. Michonneau,
with whom Mme. Vauquer was remonstrating.
said the painter,
with a comical look;
naughty little boy!"
"if you do not go,
all the rest of us will,"
and the boarders,
to a man,
made for the sitting-room-door.
what is to be done?"
cried Mme. Vauquer.
"I am a ruined woman.
You can't stay here;
they will go further,
do something violent."
Mlle. Michonneau rose to her feet.
"She is going!
--She is not going!
--She is going!
These alternate exclamations,
and a suggestion of hostile intentions,
borne out by the behavior of the insurgents,
compelled Mlle. Michonneau to take her departure.
She made some stipulations,
speaking in a low voice in her hostess' ear,
and then --"I shall go to Mme. Buneaud's,"
with a threatening look.
"Go where you please,
said Mme. Vauquer,
who regarded this choice of an opposition establishment as an atrocious insult.
"Go and lodge with the Buneaud;
the wine would give a cat the colic,
and the food is cheap and nasty."