Eugenie Grandet

第58章

"Two, three, four thousand francs, perhaps! The property would have to be put up at auction and sold, to get at its actual value. Instead of that, if you are on good terms with--""By the shears of my father!" cried Grandet, turning pale as he suddenly sat down, "we will see about it, Cruchot."After a moment's silence, full of anguish perhaps, the old man looked at the notary and said,--"Life is very hard! It has many griefs! Cruchot," he continued solemnly, "you would not deceive me? Swear to me upon your honor that all you've told me is legally true. Show me the law; I must see the law!""My poor friend," said the notary, "don't I know my own business?""Then it is true! I am robbed, betrayed, killed, destroyed by my own daughter!""It is true that your daughter is her mother's heir.""Why do we have children? Ah! my wife, I love her! Luckily she's sound and healthy; she's a Bertelliere.""She has not a month to live."

Grandet struck his forehead, went a few steps, came back, cast a dreadful look on Cruchot, and said,--"What can be done?"

"Eugenie can relinquish her claim to her mother's property. Should she do this you would not disinherit her, I presume?--but if you want to come to such a settlement, you must not treat her harshly. What I am telling you, old man, is against my own interests. What do I live by, if it isn't liquidations, inventories, conveyances, divisions of property?--""We'll see, we'll see! Don't let's talk any more about it, Cruchot; it wrings my vitals. Have you received any gold?""No; but I have a few old louis, a dozen or so, which you may have. My good friend, make it up with Eugenie. Don't you know all Saumur is pelting you with stones?""The scoundrels!"

"Come, the Funds are at ninety-nine. Do be satisfied for once in your life.""At ninety-nine! Are they, Cruchot?"

"Yes."

"Hey, hey! Ninety-nine!" repeated the old man, accompanying the notary to the street-door. Then, too agitated by what he had just heard to stay in the house, he went up to his wife's room and said,--"Come, mother, you may have your daughter to spend the day with you.

I'm going to Froidfond. Enjoy yourselves, both of you. This is our wedding-day, wife. See! here are sixty francs for your altar at the Fete-Dieu; you've wanted one for a long time. Come, cheer up, enjoy yourself, and get well! Hurrah for happiness!"He threw ten silver pieces of six francs each upon the bed, and took his wife's head between his hands and kissed her forehead.

"My good wife, you are getting well, are not you?""How can you think of receiving the God of mercy in your house when you refuse to forgive your daughter?" she said with emotion.

"Ta, ta, ta, ta!" said Grandet in a coaxing voice. "We'll see about that.""Merciful heaven! Eugenie," cried the mother, flushing with joy, "come and kiss your father; he forgives you!"But the old man had disappeared. He was going as fast as his legs could carry him towards his vineyards, trying to get his confused ideas into order. Grandet had entered his seventy-sixth year. During the last two years his avarice had increased upon him, as all the persistent passions of men increase at a certain age. As if to illustrate an observation which applies equally to misers, ambitious men, and others whose lives are controlled by any dominant idea, his affections had fastened upon one special symbol of his passion. The sight of gold, the possession of gold, had become a monomania. His despotic spirit had grown in proportion to his avarice, and to part with the control of the smallest fraction of his property at the death of his wife seemed to him a thing "against nature." To declare his fortune to his daughter, to give an inventory of his property, landed and personal, for the purposes of division--"Why," he cried aloud in the midst of a field where he was pretending to examine a vine, "it would be cutting my throat!"He came at last to a decision, and returned to Saumur in time for dinner, resolved to unbend to Eugenie, and pet and coax her, that he might die regally, holding the reins of his millions in his own hands so long as the breath was in his body. At the moment when the old man, who chanced to have his pass-key in his pocket, opened the door and climbed with a stealthy step up the stairway to go into his wife's room, Eugenie had brought the beautiful dressing-case from the oak cabinet and placed it on her mother's bed. Mother and daughter, in Grandet's absence, allowed themselves the pleasure of looking for a likeness to Charles in the portrait of his mother.

"It is exactly his forehead and his mouth," Eugenie was saying as the old man opened the door. At the look which her husband cast upon the gold, Madame Grandet cried out,--"O God, have pity upon us!"

The old man sprang upon the box as a famished tiger might spring upon a sleeping child.

"What's this?" he said, snatching the treasure and carrying it to the window. "Gold, good gold!" he cried. "All gold,--it weighs two pounds!

Ha, ha! Charles gave you that for your money, did he? Hein! Why didn't you tell me so? It was a good bargain, little one! Yes, you are my daughter, I see that--" Eugenie trembled in every limb. "This came from Charles, of course, didn't it?" continued the old man.

"Yes, father; it is not mine. It is a sacred trust.""Ta, ta, ta, ta! He took your fortune, and now you can get it back.""Father!"

Grandet took his knife to pry out some of the gold; to do this, he placed the dressing-case on a chair. Eugenie sprang forward to recover it; but her father, who had his eye on her and on the treasure too, pushed her back so violently with a thrust of his arm that she fell upon her mother's bed.

"Monsieur, monsieur!" cried the mother, lifting herself up.

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