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Title: Father Goriot
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Father Goriot" ***

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By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Ellen Marriage

     To the great and illustrious Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a token
     of admiration for his works and genius.
                                                      DE BALZAC.


Mme. Vauquer (_nee_ de Conflans) is an elderly person, who for the past
forty years has kept a lodging-house in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve,
in the district that lies between the Latin Quarter and the Faubourg
Saint-Marcel. Her house (known in the neighborhood as the _Maison
Vauquer_) receives men and women, old and young, and no word has ever
been breathed against her respectable establishment; but, at the same
time, it must be said that as a matter of fact no young woman has been
under her roof for thirty years, and that if a young man stays there for
any length of time it is a sure sign that his allowance must be of the
slenderest. In 1819, however, the time when this drama opens, there was
an almost penniless young girl among Mme. Vauquer’s boarders.

That word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been
overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous
literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story is
dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some tears may
perhaps be shed _intra et extra muros_ before it is over.

Will any one without the walls of Paris understand it? It is open to
doubt. The only audience who could appreciate the results of close
observation, the careful reproduction of minute detail and local color,
are dwellers between the heights of Montrouge and Montmartre, in a vale
of crumbling stucco watered by streams of black mud, a vale of sorrows
which are real and joys too often hollow; but this audience is so
accustomed to terrible sensations, that only some unimaginable and
well-neigh impossible woe could produce any lasting impression there.
Now and again there are tragedies so awful and so grand by reason of the
complication of virtues and vices that bring them about, that egotism
and selfishness are forced to pause and are moved to pity; but the
impression that they receive is like a luscious fruit, soon consumed.
Civilization, like the car of Juggernaut, is scarcely stayed perceptibly
in its progress by a heart less easy to break than the others that lie
in its course; this also is broken, and Civilization continues on her
course triumphant. And you, too, will do the like; you who with this
book in your white hand will sink back among the cushions of your
armchair, and say to yourself, “Perhaps this may amuse me.” You will
read the story of Father Goriot’s secret woes, and, dining thereafter
with an unspoiled appetite, will lay the blame of your insensibility
upon the writer, and accuse him of exaggeration, of writing romances.
Ah! once for all, this drama is neither a fiction nor a romance! _All is
true_,--so true, that every one can discern the elements of the tragedy
in his own house, perhaps in his own heart.

The lodging-house is Mme. Vauquer’s own property. It is still standing
in the lower end of the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve, just where the road
slopes so sharply down to the Rue de l’Arbalete, that wheeled traffic
seldom passes that way, because it is so stony and steep. This position
is sufficient to account for the silence prevalent in the streets shut
in between the dome of the Pantheon and the dome of the Val-de-Grace,
two conspicuous public buildings which give a yellowish tone to the
landscape and darken the whole district that lies beneath the shadow of
their leaden-hued cupolas.

In that district the pavements are clean and dry, there is neither mud
nor water in the gutters, grass grows in the chinks of the walls. The
most heedless passer-by feels the depressing influences of a place where
the sound of wheels creates a sensation; there is a grim look about the
houses, a suggestion of a jail about those high garden walls. A Parisian
straying into a suburb apparently composed of lodging-houses and public
institutions would see poverty and dullness, old age lying down to die,
and joyous youth condemned to drudgery. It is the ugliest quarter of
Paris, and, it may be added, the least known. But, before all things,
the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve is like a bronze frame for a picture for
hues and sober images. Even so, step by step the daylight decreases,
and the cicerone’s droning voice grows hollower as the traveler descends
into the Catacombs. The comparison holds good! Who shall say which is
more ghastly, the sight of the bleached skulls or of dried-up human

The front of the lodging-house is at right angles to the road, and
looks out upon a little garden, so that you see the side of the house
in section, as it were, from the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve. Beneath the
wall of the house front there lies a channel, a fathom wide, paved with
cobble-stones, and beside it runs a graveled walk bordered by geraniums
and oleanders and pomegranates set in great blue and white glazed
earthenware pots. Access into the graveled walk is afforded by a door,
above which the words MAISON VAUQUER may be read, and beneath, in rather
smaller letters, “_Lodgings for both sexes, etc._”

During the day a glimpse into the garden is easily obtained through a
wicket to which a bell is attached. On the opposite wall, at the further
end of the graveled walk, a green marble arch was painted once upon
a time by a local artist, and in this semblance of a shrine a statue
representing Cupid is installed; a Parisian Cupid, so blistered and
disfigured that he looks like a candidate for one of the adjacent
hospitals, and might suggest an allegory to lovers of symbolism. The
half-obliterated inscription on the pedestal beneath determines the date
of this work of art, for it bears witness to the widespread enthusiasm
felt for Voltaire on his return to Paris in 1777:

              “Whoe’er thou art, thy master see;
               He is, or was, or ought to be.”

At night the wicket gate is replaced by a solid door. The little garden
is no wider than the front of the house; it is shut in between the wall
of the street and the partition wall of the neighboring house. A mantle
of ivy conceals the bricks and attracts the eyes of passers-by to an
effect which is picturesque in Paris, for each of the walls is covered
with trellised vines that yield a scanty dusty crop of fruit, and
furnish besides a subject of conversation for Mme. Vauquer and her
lodgers; every year the widow trembles for her vintage.

A straight path beneath the walls on either side of the garden leads to
a clump of lime-trees at the further end of it; _line_-trees, as Mme.
Vauquer persists in calling them, in spite of the fact that she was a de
Conflans, and regardless of repeated corrections from her lodgers.

The central space between the walls is filled with artichokes and
rows of pyramid fruit-trees, and surrounded by a border of lettuce,
pot-herbs, and parsley. Under the lime-trees there are a few
green-painted garden seats and a wooden table, and hither, during the
dog-days, such of the lodgers as are rich enough to indulge in a cup
of coffee come to take their pleasure, though it is hot enough to roast
eggs even in the shade.

The house itself is three stories high, without counting the attics
under the roof. It is built of rough stone, and covered with the
yellowish stucco that gives a mean appearance to almost every house in
Paris. There are five windows in each story in the front of the house;
all the blinds visible through the small square panes are drawn up awry,
so that the lines are all at cross purposes. At the side of the house
there are but two windows on each floor, and the lowest of all are
adorned with a heavy iron grating.

Behind the house a yard extends for some twenty feet, a space inhabited
by a happy family of pigs, poultry, and rabbits; the wood-shed is
situated on the further side, and on the wall between the wood-shed and
the kitchen window hangs the meat-safe, just above the place where the
sink discharges its greasy streams. The cook sweeps all the refuse
out through a little door into the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve, and
frequently cleanses the yard with copious supplies of water, under pain
of pestilence.

The house might have been built on purpose for its present uses. Access
is given by a French window to the first room on the ground floor, a
sitting-room which looks out upon the street through the two barred
windows already mentioned. Another door opens out of it into the
dining-room, which is separated from the kitchen by the well of the
staircase, the steps being constructed partly of wood, partly of tiles,
which are colored and beeswaxed. Nothing can be more depressing than
the sight of that sitting-room. The furniture is covered with horse hair
woven in alternate dull and glossy stripes. There is a round table in
the middle, with a purplish-red marble top, on which there stands, by
way of ornament, the inevitable white china tea-service, covered with
a half-effaced gilt network. The floor is sufficiently uneven, the
wainscot rises to elbow height, and the rest of the wall space is
decorated with a varnished paper, on which the principal scenes from
_Telemaque_ are depicted, the various classical personages being
colored. The subject between the two windows is the banquet given by
Calypso to the son of Ulysses, displayed thereon for the admiration of
the boarders, and has furnished jokes these forty years to the young
men who show themselves superior to their position by making fun of the
dinners to which poverty condemns them. The hearth is always so clean
and neat that it is evident that a fire is only kindled there on great
occasions; the stone chimney-piece is adorned by a couple of vases
filled with faded artificial flowers imprisoned under glass shades, on
either side of a bluish marble clock in the very worst taste.

The first room exhales an odor for which there is no name in the
language, and which should be called the _odeur de pension_. The damp
atmosphere sends a chill through you as you breathe it; it has a stuffy,
musty, and rancid quality; it permeates your clothing; after-dinner
scents seem to be mingled in it with smells from the kitchen and
scullery and the reek of a hospital. It might be possible to describe
it if some one should discover a process by which to distil from the
atmosphere all the nauseating elements with which it is charged by the
catarrhal exhalations of every individual lodger, young or old. Yet,
in spite of these stale horrors, the sitting-room is as charming and
as delicately perfumed as a boudoir, when compared with the adjoining

The paneled walls of that apartment were once painted some color, now
a matter of conjecture, for the surface is incrusted with accumulated
layers of grimy deposit, which cover it with fantastic outlines. A
collection of dim-ribbed glass decanters, metal discs with a satin sheen
on them, and piles of blue-edged earthenware plates of Touraine ware
cover the sticky surfaces of the sideboards that line the room. In a
corner stands a box containing a set of numbered pigeon-holes, in which
the lodgers’ table napkins, more or less soiled and stained with wine,
are kept. Here you see that indestructible furniture never met with
elsewhere, which finds its way into lodging-houses much as the wrecks of
our civilization drift into hospitals for incurables. You expect in such
places as these to find the weather-house whence a Capuchin issues on
wet days; you look to find the execrable engravings which spoil your
appetite, framed every one in a black varnished frame, with a gilt
beading round it; you know the sort of tortoise-shell clock-case, inlaid
with brass; the green stove, the Argand lamps, covered with oil and
dust, have met your eyes before. The oilcloth which covers the long
table is so greasy that a waggish _externe_ will write his name on the
surface, using his thumb-nail as a style. The chairs are broken-down
invalids; the wretched little hempen mats slip away from under your
feet without slipping away for good; and finally, the foot-warmers are
miserable wrecks, hingeless, charred, broken away about the holes. It
would be impossible to give an idea of the old, rotten, shaky, cranky,
worm-eaten, halt, maimed, one-eyed, rickety, and ramshackle condition of
the furniture without an exhaustive description, which would delay
the progress of the story to an extent that impatient people would not
pardon. The red tiles of the floor are full of depressions brought about
by scouring and periodical renewings of color. In short, there is
no illusory grace left to the poverty that reigns here; it is dire,
parsimonious, concentrated, threadbare poverty; as yet it has not sunk
into the mire, it is only splashed by it, and though not in rags as yet,
its clothing is ready to drop to pieces.

This apartment is in all its glory at seven o’clock in the morning,
when Mme. Vauquer’s cat appears, announcing the near approach of his
mistress, and jumps upon the sideboards to sniff at the milk in the
bowls, each protected by a plate, while he purrs his morning greeting to
the world. A moment later the widow shows her face; she is tricked out
in a net cap attached to a false front set on awry, and shuffles into
the room in her slipshod fashion. She is an oldish woman, with a bloated
countenance, and a nose like a parrot’s beak set in the middle of
it; her fat little hands (she is as sleek as a church rat) and her
shapeless, slouching figure are in keeping with the room that reeks of
misfortune, where hope is reduced to speculate for the meanest
stakes. Mme. Vauquer alone can breathe that tainted air without being
disheartened by it. Her face is as fresh as a frosty morning in autumn;
there are wrinkles about the eyes that vary in their expression from
the set smile of a ballet-dancer to the dark, suspicious scowl of
a discounter of bills; in short, she is at once the embodiment and
interpretation of her lodging-house, as surely as her lodging-house
implies the existence of its mistress. You can no more imagine the one
without the other, than you can think of a jail without a turnkey. The
unwholesome corpulence of the little woman is produced by the life she
leads, just as typhus fever is bred in the tainted air of a hospital.
The very knitted woolen petticoat that she wears beneath a skirt made
of an old gown, with the wadding protruding through the rents in the
material, is a sort of epitome of the sitting-room, the dining-room,
and the little garden; it discovers the cook, it foreshadows the
lodgers--the picture of the house is completed by the portrait of its

Mme. Vauquer at the age of fifty is like all women who “have seen a deal
of trouble.” She has the glassy eyes and innocent air of a trafficker
in flesh and blood, who will wax virtuously indignant to obtain a higher
price for her services, but who is quite ready to betray a Georges or
a Pichegru, if a Georges or a Pichegru were in hiding and still to be
betrayed, or for any other expedient that may alleviate her lot. Still,
“she is a good woman at bottom,” said the lodgers who believed that
the widow was wholly dependent upon the money that they paid her, and
sympathized when they heard her cough and groan like one of themselves.

What had M. Vauquer been? The lady was never very explicit on this head.
How had she lost her money? “Through trouble,” was her answer. He had
treated her badly, had left her nothing but her eyes to cry over his
cruelty, the house she lived in, and the privilege of pitying nobody,
because, so she was wont to say, she herself had been through every
possible misfortune.

Sylvie, the stout cook, hearing her mistress’ shuffling footsteps,
hastened to serve the lodgers’ breakfasts. Beside those who lived in the
house, Mme. Vauquer took boarders who came for their meals; but these
_externes_ usually only came to dinner, for which they paid thirty
francs a month.

At the time when this story begins, the lodging-house contained seven
inmates. The best rooms in the house were on the first story, Mme.
Vauquer herself occupying the least important, while the rest were let
to a Mme. Couture, the widow of a commissary-general in the service of
the Republic. With her lived Victorine Taillefer, a schoolgirl, to whom
she filled the place of mother. These two ladies paid eighteen hundred
francs a year.

The two sets of rooms on the second floor were respectively occupied by
an old man named Poiret and a man of forty or thereabouts, the wearer
of a black wig and dyed whiskers, who gave out that he was a retired
merchant, and was addressed as M. Vautrin. Two of the four rooms on
the third floor were also let--one to an elderly spinster, a Mlle.
Michonneau, and the other to a retired manufacturer of vermicelli,
Italian paste and starch, who allowed the others to address him as
“Father Goriot.” The remaining rooms were allotted to various birds of
passage, to impecunious students, who like “Father Goriot” and Mlle.
Michonneau, could only muster forty-five francs a month to pay for their
board and lodging. Mme. Vauquer had little desire for lodgers of this
sort; they ate too much bread, and she only took them in default of

At that time one of the rooms was tenanted by a law student, a young man
from the neighborhood of Angouleme, one of a large family who pinched
and starved themselves to spare twelve hundred francs a year for him.
Misfortune had accustomed Eugene de Rastignac, for that was his name, to
work. He belonged to the number of young men who know as children that
their parents’ hopes are centered on them, and deliberately prepare
themselves for a great career, subordinating their studies from the
first to this end, carefully watching the indications of the course of
events, calculating the probable turn that affairs will take, that they
may be the first to profit by them. But for his observant curiosity, and
the skill with which he managed to introduce himself into the salons
of Paris, this story would not have been colored by the tones of
truth which it certainly owes to him, for they are entirely due to his
penetrating sagacity and desire to fathom the mysteries of an appalling
condition of things, which was concealed as carefully by the victim as
by those who had brought it to pass.

Above the third story there was a garret where the linen was hung to
dry, and a couple of attics. Christophe, the man-of-all-work, slept in
one, and Sylvie, the stout cook, in the other. Beside the seven inmates
thus enumerated, taking one year with another, some eight law or medical
students dined in the house, as well as two or three regular comers who
lived in the neighborhood. There were usually eighteen people at dinner,
and there was room, if need be, for twenty at Mme. Vauquer’s table; at
breakfast, however, only the seven lodgers appeared. It was almost like
a family party. Every one came down in dressing-gown and slippers,
and the conversation usually turned on anything that had happened
the evening before; comments on the dress or appearance of the dinner
contingent were exchanged in friendly confidence.

These seven lodgers were Mme. Vauquer’s spoiled children. Among them
she distributed, with astronomical precision, the exact proportion of
respect and attention due to the varying amounts they paid for their
board. One single consideration influenced all these human beings thrown
together by chance. The two second-floor lodgers only paid seventy-two
francs a month. Such prices as these are confined to the Faubourg
Saint-Marcel and the district between La Bourbe and the Salpetriere;
and, as might be expected, poverty, more or less apparent, weighed upon
them all, Mme. Couture being the sole exception to the rule.

The dreary surroundings were reflected in the costumes of the inmates of
the house; all were alike threadbare. The color of the men’s coats were
problematical; such shoes, in more fashionable quarters, are only to be
seen lying in the gutter; the cuffs and collars were worn and frayed at
the edges; every limp article of clothing looked like the ghost of its
former self. The women’s dresses were faded, old-fashioned, dyed and
re-dyed; they wore gloves that were glazed with hard wear, much-mended
lace, dingy ruffles, crumpled muslin fichus. So much for their
clothing; but, for the most part, their frames were solid enough; their
constitutions had weathered the storms of life; their cold, hard faces
were worn like coins that have been withdrawn from circulation, but
there were greedy teeth behind the withered lips. Dramas brought to a
close or still in progress are foreshadowed by the sight of such actors
as these, not the dramas that are played before the footlights and
against a background of painted canvas, but dumb dramas of life,
frost-bound dramas that sere hearts like fire, dramas that do not end
with the actors’ lives.

Mlle. Michonneau, that elderly young lady, screened her weak eyes from
the daylight by a soiled green silk shade with a rim of brass, an object
fit to scare away the Angel of Pity himself. Her shawl, with its scanty,
draggled fringe, might have covered a skeleton, so meagre and angular
was the form beneath it. Yet she must have been pretty and shapely once.
What corrosive had destroyed the feminine outlines? Was it trouble,
or vice, or greed? Had she loved too well? Had she been a second-hand
clothes dealer, a frequenter of the backstairs of great houses, or had
she been merely a courtesan? Was she expiating the flaunting triumphs
of a youth overcrowded with pleasures by an old age in which she was
shunned by every passer-by? Her vacant gaze sent a chill through you;
her shriveled face seemed like a menace. Her voice was like the shrill,
thin note of the grasshopper sounding from the thicket when winter is at
hand. She said that she had nursed an old gentleman, ill of catarrh of
the bladder, and left to die by his children, who thought that he had
nothing left. His bequest to her, a life annuity of a thousand francs,
was periodically disputed by his heirs, who mingled slander with their
persecutions. In spite of the ravages of conflicting passions, her face
retained some traces of its former fairness and fineness of tissue, some
vestiges of the physical charms of her youth still survived.

M. Poiret was a sort of automaton. He might be seen any day sailing like
a gray shadow along the walks of the Jardin des Plantes, on his head a
shabby cap, a cane with an old yellow ivory handle in the tips of his
thin fingers; the outspread skirts of his threadbare overcoat failed
to conceal his meagre figure; his breeches hung loosely on his shrunken
limbs; the thin, blue-stockinged legs trembled like those of a drunken
man; there was a notable breach of continuity between the dingy white
waistcoat and crumpled shirt frills and the cravat twisted about a
throat like a turkey gobbler’s; altogether, his appearance set people
wondering whether this outlandish ghost belonged to the audacious race
of the sons of Japhet who flutter about on the Boulevard Italien. What
devouring kind of toil could have so shriveled him? What devouring
passions had darkened that bulbous countenance, which would have seemed
outrageous as a caricature? What had he been? Well, perhaps he had been
part of the machinery of justice, a clerk in the office to which the
executioner sends in his accounts,--so much for providing black veils
for parricides, so much for sawdust, so much for pulleys and cord for
the knife. Or he might have been a receiver at the door of a public
slaughter-house, or a sub-inspector of nuisances. Indeed, the man
appeared to have been one of the beasts of burden in our great social
mill; one of those Parisian Ratons whom their Bertrands do not even know
by sight; a pivot in the obscure machinery that disposes of misery and
things unclean; one of those men, in short, at sight of whom we are
prompted to remark that, “After all, we cannot do without them.”

Stately Paris ignores the existence of these faces bleached by moral or
physical suffering; but, then, Paris is in truth an ocean that no line
can plumb. You may survey its surface and describe it; but no matter how
numerous and painstaking the toilers in this sea, there will always be
lonely and unexplored regions in its depths, caverns unknown, flowers
and pearls and monsters of the deep overlooked or forgotten by the
divers of literature. The Maison Vauquer is one of these curious

Two, however, of Mme. Vauquer’s boarders formed a striking contrast to
the rest. There was a sickly pallor, such as is often seen in anaemic
girls, in Mlle. Victorine Taillefer’s face; and her unvarying expression
of sadness, like her embarrassed manner and pinched look, was in
keeping with the general wretchedness of the establishment in the Rue
Nueve-Saint-Genevieve, which forms a background to this picture; but her
face was young, there was youthfulness in her voice and elasticity
in her movements. This young misfortune was not unlike a shrub, newly
planted in an uncongenial soil, where its leaves have already begun
to wither. The outlines of her figure, revealed by her dress of the
simplest and cheapest materials, were also youthful. There was the same
kind of charm about her too slender form, her faintly colored face and
light-brown hair, that modern poets find in mediaeval statuettes; and a
sweet expression, a look of Christian resignation in the dark gray eyes.
She was pretty by force of contrast; if she had been happy, she would
have been charming. Happiness is the poetry of woman, as the toilette
is her tinsel. If the delightful excitement of a ball had made the pale
face glow with color; if the delights of a luxurious life had brought
the color to the wan cheeks that were slightly hollowed already; if love
had put light into the sad eyes, then Victorine might have ranked among
the fairest; but she lacked the two things which create woman a second
time--pretty dresses and love-letters.

A book might have been made of her story. Her father was persuaded that
he had sufficient reason for declining to acknowledge her, and allowed
her a bare six hundred francs a year; he had further taken measures
to disinherit his daughter, and had converted all his real estate into
personalty, that he might leave it undivided to his son. Victorine’s
mother had died broken-hearted in Mme. Couture’s house; and the
latter, who was a near relation, had taken charge of the little orphan.
Unluckily, the widow of the commissary-general to the armies of the
Republic had nothing in the world but her jointure and her widow’s
pension, and some day she might be obliged to leave the helpless,
inexperienced girl to the mercy of the world. The good soul, therefore,
took Victorine to mass every Sunday, and to confession once a fortnight,
thinking that, in any case, she would bring up her ward to be devout.
She was right; religion offered a solution of the problem of the
young girl’s future. The poor child loved the father who refused to
acknowledge her. Once every year she tried to see him to deliver her
mother’s message of forgiveness, but every year hitherto she had knocked
at that door in vain; her father was inexorable. Her brother, her only
means of communication, had not come to see her for four years, and had
sent her no assistance; yet she prayed to God to unseal her father’s
eyes and to soften her brother’s heart, and no accusations mingled with
her prayers. Mme. Couture and Mme. Vauquer exhausted the vocabulary
of abuse, and failed to find words that did justice to the banker’s
iniquitous conduct; but while they heaped execrations on the
millionaire, Victorine’s words were as gentle as the moan of the wounded
dove, and affection found expression even in the cry drawn from her by

Eugene de Rastignac was a thoroughly southern type; he had a fair
complexion, blue eyes, black hair. In his figure, manner, and his whole
bearing it was easy to see that he had either come of a noble family,
or that, from his earliest childhood, he had been gently bred. If he
was careful of his wardrobe, only taking last year’s clothes into
daily wear, still upon occasion he could issue forth as a young man of
fashion. Ordinarily he wore a shabby coat and waistcoat, the limp black
cravat, untidily knotted, that students affect, trousers that matched
the rest of his costume, and boots that had been resoled.

Vautrin (the man of forty with the dyed whiskers) marked a transition
stage between these two young people and the others. He was the kind of
man that calls forth the remark: “He looks a jovial sort!” He had
broad shoulders, a well-developed chest, muscular arms, and strong
square-fisted hands; the joints of his fingers were covered with tufts
of fiery red hair. His face was furrowed by premature wrinkles; there
was a certain hardness about it in spite of his bland and insinuating
manner. His bass voice was by no means unpleasant, and was in keeping
with his boisterous laughter. He was always obliging, always in good
spirits; if anything went wrong with one of the locks, he would soon
unscrew it, take it to pieces, file it, oil and clean and set it in
order, and put it back in its place again; “I am an old hand at it,”
 he used to say. Not only so, he knew all about ships, the sea, France,
foreign countries, men, business, law, great houses and prisons,--there
was nothing that he did not know. If any one complained rather more than
usual, he would offer his services at once. He had several times lent
money to Mme. Vauquer, or to the boarders; but, somehow, those whom he
obliged felt that they would sooner face death than fail to repay him; a
certain resolute look, sometimes seen on his face, inspired fear of him,
for all his appearance of easy good-nature. In the way he spat there was
an imperturbable coolness which seemed to indicate that this was a
man who would not stick at a crime to extricate himself from a false
position. His eyes, like those of a pitiless judge, seemed to go to
the very bottom of all questions, to read all natures, all feelings and
thoughts. His habit of life was very regular; he usually went out after
breakfast, returning in time for dinner, and disappeared for the rest
of the evening, letting himself in about midnight with a latch key, a
privilege that Mme. Vauquer accorded to no other boarder. But then he
was on very good terms with the widow; he used to call her “mamma,” and
put his arm round her waist, a piece of flattery perhaps not appreciated
to the full! The worthy woman might imagine this to be an easy feat;
but, as a matter of fact, no arm but Vautrin’s was long enough to
encircle her.

It was a characteristic trait of his generously to pay fifteen francs a
month for the cup of coffee with a dash of brandy in it, which he took
after dinner. Less superficial observers than young men engulfed by the
whirlpool of Parisian life, or old men, who took no interest in anything
that did not directly concern them, would not have stopped short at the
vaguely unsatisfactory impression that Vautrin made upon them. He knew
or guessed the concerns of every one about him; but none of them had
been able to penetrate his thoughts, or to discover his occupation. He
had deliberately made his apparent good-nature, his unfailing readiness
to oblige, and his high spirits into a barrier between himself and the
rest of them, but not seldom he gave glimpses of appalling depths
of character. He seemed to delight in scourging the upper classes of
society with the lash of his tongue, to take pleasure in convicting it
of inconsistency, in mocking at law and order with some grim jest worthy
of Juvenal, as if some grudge against the social system rankled in him,
as if there were some mystery carefully hidden away in his life.

Mlle. Taillefer felt attracted, perhaps unconsciously, by the strength
of the one man, and the good looks of the other; her stolen glances and
secret thoughts were divided between them; but neither of them seemed
to take any notice of her, although some day a chance might alter her
position, and she would be a wealthy heiress. For that matter, there was
not a soul in the house who took any trouble to investigate the various
chronicles of misfortunes, real or imaginary, related by the rest. Each
one regarded the others with indifference, tempered by suspicion; it was
a natural result of their relative positions. Practical assistance not
one could give, this they all knew, and they had long since exhausted
their stock of condolence over previous discussions of their grievances.
They were in something the same position as an elderly couple who have
nothing left to say to each other. The routine of existence kept them in
contact, but they were parts of a mechanism which wanted oil. There was
not one of them but would have passed a blind man begging in the street,
not one that felt moved to pity by a tale of misfortune, not one who
did not see in death the solution of the all-absorbing problem of misery
which left them cold to the most terrible anguish in others.

The happiest of these hapless beings was certainly Mme. Vauquer, who
reigned supreme over this hospital supported by voluntary contributions.
For her, the little garden, which silence, and cold, and rain, and
drought combined to make as dreary as an Asian _steppe_, was a pleasant
shaded nook; the gaunt yellow house, the musty odors of a back shop had
charms for her, and for her alone. Those cells belonged to her. She fed
those convicts condemned to penal servitude for life, and her authority
was recognized among them. Where else in Paris would they have found
wholesome food in sufficient quantity at the prices she charged them,
and rooms which they were at liberty to make, if not exactly elegant or
comfortable, at any rate clean and healthy? If she had committed some
flagrant act of injustice, the victim would have borne it in silence.

Such a gathering contained, as might have been expected, the elements
out of which a complete society might be constructed. And, as in a
school, as in the world itself, there was among the eighteen men and
women who met round the dinner table a poor creature, despised by
all the others, condemned to be the butt of all their jokes. At the
beginning of Eugene de Rastignac’s second twelvemonth, this figure
suddenly started out into bold relief against the background of human
forms and faces among which the law student was yet to live for
another two years to come. This laughing-stock was the retired
vermicelli-merchant, Father Goriot, upon whose face a painter, like the
historian, would have concentrated all the light in his picture.

How had it come about that the boarders regarded him with a
half-malignant contempt? Why did they subject the oldest among their
number to a kind of persecution, in which there was mingled some pity,
but no respect for his misfortunes? Had he brought it on himself by some
eccentricity or absurdity, which is less easily forgiven or forgotten
than more serious defects? The question strikes at the root of many a
social injustice. Perhaps it is only human nature to inflict suffering
on anything that will endure suffering, whether by reason of its genuine
humility, or indifference, or sheer helplessness. Do we not, one and
all, like to feel our strength even at the expense of some one or of
something? The poorest sample of humanity, the street arab, will pull
the bell handle at every street door in bitter weather, and scramble up
to write his name on the unsullied marble of a monument.

In the year 1813, at the age of sixty-nine or thereabouts, “Father
Goriot” had sold his business and retired--to Mme. Vauquer’s boarding
house. When he first came there he had taken the rooms now occupied by
Mme. Couture; he had paid twelve hundred francs a year like a man to
whom five louis more or less was a mere trifle. For him Mme. Vauquer had
made various improvements in the three rooms destined for his use, in
consideration of a certain sum paid in advance, so it was said, for the
miserable furniture, that is to say, for some yellow cotton curtains, a
few chairs of stained wood covered with Utrecht velvet, several wretched
colored prints in frames, and wall papers that a little suburban tavern
would have disdained. Possibly it was the careless generosity with which
Father Goriot allowed himself to be overreached at this period of his
life (they called him Monsieur Goriot very respectfully then) that gave
Mme. Vauquer the meanest opinion of his business abilities; she looked
on him as an imbecile where money was concerned.

Goriot had brought with him a considerable wardrobe, the gorgeous
outfit of a retired tradesman who denies himself nothing. Mme. Vauquer’s
astonished eyes beheld no less than eighteen cambric-fronted shirts, the
splendor of their fineness being enhanced by a pair of pins each bearing
a large diamond, and connected by a short chain, an ornament which
adorned the vermicelli-maker’s shirt front. He usually wore a coat of
corn-flower blue; his rotund and portly person was still further set
off by a clean white waistcoat, and a gold chain and seals which dangled
over that broad expanse. When his hostess accused him of being “a bit
of a beau,” he smiled with the vanity of a citizen whose foible is
gratified. His cupboards (_ormoires_, as he called them in the popular
dialect) were filled with a quantity of plate that he brought with him.
The widow’s eyes gleamed as she obligingly helped him to unpack the
soup ladles, table-spoons, forks, cruet-stands, tureens, dishes,
and breakfast services--all of silver, which were duly arranged upon
shelves, besides a few more or less handsome pieces of plate, all
weighing no inconsiderable number of ounces; he could not bring himself
to part with these gifts that reminded him of past domestic festivals.

“This was my wife’s present to me on the first anniversary of our
wedding day,” he said to Mme. Vauquer, as he put away a little silver
posset dish, with two turtle-doves billing on the cover. “Poor dear! she
spent on it all the money she had saved before we were married. Do
you know, I would sooner scratch the earth with my nails for a living,
madame, than part with that. But I shall be able to take my coffee out
of it every morning for the rest of my days, thank the Lord! I am not to
be pitied. There’s not much fear of my starving for some time to come.”

Finally, Mme. Vauquer’s magpie’s eye had discovered and read certain
entries in the list of shareholders in the funds, and, after a rough
calculation, was disposed to credit Goriot (worthy man) with something
like ten thousand francs a year. From that day forward Mme. Vauquer
(_nee_ de Conflans), who, as a matter of fact, had seen forty-eight
summers, though she would only own to thirty-nine of them--Mme. Vauquer
had her own ideas. Though Goriot’s eyes seemed to have shrunk in their
sockets, though they were weak and watery, owing to some glandular
affection which compelled him to wipe them continually, she considered
him to be a very gentlemanly and pleasant-looking man. Moreover, the
widow saw favorable indications of character in the well-developed
calves of his legs and in his square-shaped nose, indications still
further borne out by the worthy man’s full-moon countenance and look
of stupid good-nature. This, in all probability, was a strongly-build
animal, whose brains mostly consisted in a capacity for affection. His
hair, worn in _ailes de pigeon_, and duly powdered every morning by the
barber from the Ecole Polytechnique, described five points on his low
forehead, and made an elegant setting to his face. Though his manners
were somewhat boorish, he was always as neat as a new pin and he took
his snuff in a lordly way, like a man who knows that his snuff-box is
always likely to be filled with maccaboy, so that when Mme. Vauquer lay
down to rest on the day of M. Goriot’s installation, her heart, like a
larded partridge, sweltered before the fire of a burning desire to shake
off the shroud of Vauquer and rise again as Goriot. She would marry
again, sell her boarding-house, give her hand to this fine flower of
citizenship, become a lady of consequence in the quarter, and ask for
subscriptions for charitable purposes; she would make little Sunday
excursions to Choisy, Soissy, Gentilly; she would have a box at the
theatre when she liked, instead of waiting for the author’s tickets that
one of her boarders sometimes gave her, in July; the whole Eldorado of
a little Parisian household rose up before Mme. Vauquer in her
dreams. Nobody knew that she herself possessed forty thousand francs,
accumulated _sou by sou_, that was her secret; surely as far as money
was concerned she was a very tolerable match. “And in other respects,
I am quite his equal,” she said to herself, turning as if to assure
herself of the charms of a form that the portly Sylvie found moulded in
down feathers every morning.

For three months from that day Mme. Veuve Vauquer availed herself of
the services of M. Goriot’s coiffeur, and went to some expense over her
toilette, expense justifiable on the ground that she owed it to herself
and her establishment to pay some attention to appearances when such
highly-respectable persons honored her house with their presence. She
expended no small amount of ingenuity in a sort of weeding process of
her lodgers, announcing her intention of receiving henceforward none but
people who were in every way select. If a stranger presented himself,
she let him know that M. Goriot, one of the best known and most
highly-respected merchants in Paris, had singled out her boarding-house
for a residence. She drew up a prospectus headed MAISON VAUQUER, in
which it was asserted that hers was “_one of the oldest and most highly
recommended boarding-houses in the Latin Quarter_.” “From the windows
of the house,” thus ran the prospectus, “there is a charming view of
the Vallee des Gobelins (so there is--from the third floor), and a
_beautiful_ garden, _extending_ down to _an avenue of lindens_ at the
further end.” Mention was made of the bracing air of the place and its
quiet situation.

It was this prospectus that attracted Mme. la Comtesse de l’Ambermesnil,
a widow of six and thirty, who was awaiting the final settlement of her
husband’s affairs, and of another matter regarding a pension due to her
as the wife of a general who had died “on the field of battle.” On this
Mme. Vauquer saw to her table, lighted a fire daily in the sitting-room
for nearly six months, and kept the promise of her prospectus, even
going to some expense to do so. And the Countess, on her side, addressed
Mme. Vauquer as “my dear,” and promised her two more boarders, the
Baronne de Vaumerland and the widow of a colonel, the late Comte de
Picquoisie, who were about to leave a boarding-house in the Marais,
where the terms were higher than at the Maison Vauquer. Both these
ladies, moreover, would be very well to do when the people at the
War Office had come to an end of their formalities. “But Government
departments are always so dilatory,” the lady added.

After dinner the two widows went together up to Mme. Vauquer’s room, and
had a snug little chat over some cordial and various delicacies reserved
for the mistress of the house. Mme. Vauquer’s ideas as to Goriot were
cordially approved by Mme. de l’Ambermesnil; it was a capital notion,
which for that matter she had guessed from the very first; in her
opinion the vermicelli maker was an excellent man.

“Ah! my dear lady, such a well-preserved man of his age, as sound as my
eyesight--a man who might make a woman happy!” said the widow.

The good-natured Countess turned to the subject of Mme. Vauquer’s dress,
which was not in harmony with her projects. “You must put yourself on a
war footing,” said she.

After much serious consideration the two widows went shopping
together--they purchased a hat adorned with ostrich feathers and a cap
at the Palais Royal, and the Countess took her friend to the Magasin de
la Petite Jeannette, where they chose a dress and a scarf. Thus equipped
for the campaign, the widow looked exactly like the prize animal hung
out for a sign above an a la mode beef shop; but she herself was so much
pleased with the improvement, as she considered it, in her appearance,
that she felt that she lay under some obligation to the Countess; and,
though by no means open-handed, she begged that lady to accept a hat
that cost twenty francs. The fact was that she needed the Countess’
services on the delicate mission of sounding Goriot; the countess must
sing her praises in his ears. Mme. de l’Ambermesnil lent herself very
good-naturedly to this manoeuvre, began her operations, and succeeded in
obtaining a private interview; but the overtures that she made, with a
view to securing him for herself, were received with embarrassment, not
to say a repulse. She left him, revolted by his coarseness.

“My angel,” said she to her dear friend, “you will make nothing of that
man yonder. He is absurdly suspicious, and he is a mean curmudgeon, an
idiot, a fool; you would never be happy with him.”

After what had passed between M. Goriot and Mme. de l’Ambermesnil, the
Countess would no longer live under the same roof. She left the next
day, forgot to pay for six months’ board, and left behind her wardrobe,
cast-off clothing to the value of five francs. Eagerly and persistently
as Mme. Vauquer sought her quondam lodger, the Comtesse de l’Ambermesnil
was never heard of again in Paris. The widow often talked of this
deplorable business, and regretted her own too confiding disposition. As
a matter of fact, she was as suspicious as a cat; but she was like many
other people, who cannot trust their own kin and put themselves at the
mercy of the next chance comer--an odd but common phenomenon, whose
causes may readily be traced to the depths of the human heart.

Perhaps there are people who know that they have nothing more to look
for from those with whom they live; they have shown the emptiness of
their hearts to their housemates, and in their secret selves they are
conscious that they are severely judged, and that they deserve to
be judged severely; but still they feel an unconquerable craving for
praises that they do not hear, or they are consumed by a desire to
appear to possess, in the eyes of a new audience, the qualities which
they have not, hoping to win the admiration or affection of strangers at
the risk of forfeiting it again some day. Or, once more, there are other
mercenary natures who never do a kindness to a friend or a relation
simply because these have a claim upon them, while a service done to a
stranger brings its reward to self-love. Such natures feel but little
affection for those who are nearest to them; they keep their kindness
for remoter circles of acquaintance, and show most to those who dwell on
its utmost limits. Mme. Vauquer belonged to both these essentially mean,
false, and execrable classes.

“If I had been there at the time,” Vautrin would say at the end of the
story, “I would have shown her up, and that misfortune would not have
befallen you. I know that kind of phiz!”

Like all narrow natures, Mme. Vauquer was wont to confine her attention
to events, and did not go very deeply into the causes that brought them
about; she likewise preferred to throw the blame of her own mistakes on
other people, so she chose to consider that the honest vermicelli maker
was responsible for her misfortune. It had opened her eyes, so she said,
with regard to him. As soon as she saw that her blandishments were in
vain, and that her outlay on her toilette was money thrown away, she was
not slow to discover the reason of his indifference. It became plain
to her at once that there was _some other attraction_, to use her own
expression. In short, it was evident that the hope she had so fondly
cherished was a baseless delusion, and that she would “never make
anything out of that man yonder,” in the Countess’ forcible phrase.
The Countess seemed to have been a judge of character. Mme. Vauquer’s
aversion was naturally more energetic than her friendship, for her
hatred was not in proportion to her love, but to her disappointed
expectations. The human heart may find here and there a resting-place
short of the highest height of affection, but we seldom stop in the
steep, downward slope of hatred. Still, M. Goriot was a lodger, and
the widow’s wounded self-love could not vent itself in an explosion of
wrath; like a monk harassed by the prior of his convent, she was forced
to stifle her sighs of disappointment, and to gulp down her craving for
revenge. Little minds find gratification for their feelings, benevolent
or otherwise, by a constant exercise of petty ingenuity. The widow
employed her woman’s malice to devise a system of covert persecution.
She began by a course of retrenchment--various luxuries which had found
their way to the table appeared there no more.

“No more gherkins, no more anchovies; they have made a fool of me!” she
said to Sylvie one morning, and they returned to the old bill of fare.

The thrifty frugality necessary to those who mean to make their way in
the world had become an inveterate habit of life with M. Goriot. Soup,
boiled beef, and a dish of vegetables had been, and always would be, the
dinner he liked best, so Mme. Vauquer found it very difficult to annoy
a boarder whose tastes were so simple. He was proof against her malice,
and in desperation she spoke to him and of him slightingly before the
other lodgers, who began to amuse themselves at his expense, and so
gratified her desire for revenge.

Towards the end of the first year the widow’s suspicions had reached
such a pitch that she began to wonder how it was that a retired merchant
with a secure income of seven or eight thousand livres, the owner of
such magnificent plate and jewelry handsome enough for a kept mistress,
should be living in her house. Why should he devote so small a
proportion of his money to his expenses? Until the first year was nearly
at an end, Goriot had dined out once or twice every week, but these
occasions came less frequently, and at last he was scarcely absent from
the dinner-table twice a month. It was hardly expected that Mme. Vauquer
should regard the increased regularity of her boarder’s habits with
complacency, when those little excursions of his had been so much to her
interest. She attributed the change not so much to a gradual diminution
of fortune as to a spiteful wish to annoy his hostess. It is one of the
most detestable habits of a Liliputian mind to credit other people with
its own malignant pettiness.

Unluckily, towards the end of the second year, M. Goriot’s conduct gave
some color to the idle talk about him. He asked Mme. Vauquer to give him
a room on the second floor, and to make a corresponding reduction in
her charges. Apparently, such strict economy was called for, that he did
without a fire all through the winter. Mme. Vauquer asked to be paid in
advance, an arrangement to which M. Goriot consented, and thenceforward
she spoke of him as “Father Goriot.”

What had brought about this decline and fall? Conjecture was keen, but
investigation was difficult. Father Goriot was not communicative; in
the sham countess’ phrase he was “a curmudgeon.” Empty-headed people who
babble about their own affairs because they have nothing else to occupy
them, naturally conclude that if people say nothing of their doings it
is because their doings will not bear being talked about; so the highly
respectable merchant became a scoundrel, and the late beau was an old
rogue. Opinion fluctuated. Sometimes, according to Vautrin, who came
about this time to live in the Maison Vauquer, Father Goriot was a man
who went on ‘Change and _dabbled_ (to use the sufficiently expressive
language of the Stock Exchange) in stocks and shares after he had ruined
himself by heavy speculation. Sometimes it was held that he was one of
those petty gamblers who nightly play for small stakes until they win a
few francs. A theory that he was a detective in the employ of the Home
Office found favor at one time, but Vautrin urged that “Goriot was not
sharp enough for one of that sort.” There were yet other solutions;
Father Goriot was a skinflint, a shark of a money-lender, a man
who lived by selling lottery tickets. He was by turns all the most
mysterious brood of vice and shame and misery; yet, however vile his
life might be, the feeling of repulsion which he aroused in others was
not so strong that he must be banished from their society--he paid
his way. Besides, Goriot had his uses, every one vented his spleen or
sharpened his wit on him; he was pelted with jokes and belabored with
hard words. The general consensus of opinion was in favor of a theory
which seemed the most likely; this was Mme. Vauquer’s view. According
to her, the man so well preserved at his time of life, as sound as her
eyesight, with whom a woman might be very happy, was a libertine who had
strange tastes. These are the facts upon which Mme. Vauquer’s slanders
were based.

Early one morning, some few months after the departure of the unlucky
Countess who had managed to live for six months at the widow’s expense,
Mme. Vauquer (not yet dressed) heard the rustle of a silk dress and
a young woman’s light footstep on the stair; some one was going to
Goriot’s room. He seemed to expect the visit, for his door stood ajar.
The portly Sylvie presently came up to tell her mistress that a girl too
pretty to be honest, “dressed like a goddess,” and not a speck of mud
on her laced cashmere boots, had glided in from the street like a snake,
had found the kitchen, and asked for M. Goriot’s room. Mme. Vauquer
and the cook, listening, overheard several words affectionately spoken
during the visit, which lasted for some time. When M. Goriot went
downstairs with the lady, the stout Sylvie forthwith took her basket
and followed the lover-like couple, under pretext of going to do her

“M. Goriot must be awfully rich, all the same, madame,” she reported
on her return, “to keep her in such style. Just imagine it! There was a
splendid carriage waiting at the corner of the Place de l’Estrapade, and
_she_ got into it.”

While they were at dinner that evening, Mme. Vauquer went to the window
and drew the curtain, as the sun was shining into Goriot’s eyes.

“You are beloved of fair ladies, M. Goriot--the sun seeks you out,” she
said, alluding to his visitor. “_Peste!_ you have good taste; she was
very pretty.”

“That was my daughter,” he said, with a kind of pride in his voice, and
the rest chose to consider this as the fatuity of an old man who wishes
to save appearances.

A month after this visit M. Goriot received another. The same daughter
who had come to see him that morning came again after dinner, this time
in evening dress. The boarders, in deep discussion in the dining-room,
caught a glimpse of a lovely, fair-haired woman, slender, graceful, and
much too distinguished-looking to be a daughter of Father Goriot’s.

“Two of them!” cried the portly Sylvie, who did not recognize the lady
of the first visit.

A few days later, and another young lady--a tall, well-moulded brunette,
with dark hair and bright eyes--came to ask for M. Goriot.

“Three of them!” said Sylvie.

Then the second daughter, who had first come in the morning to see her
father, came shortly afterwards in the evening. She wore a ball dress,
and came in a carriage.

“Four of them!” commented Mme. Vauquer and her plump handmaid. Sylvie
saw not a trace of resemblance between this great lady and the girl in
her simple morning dress who had entered her kitchen on the occasion of
her first visit.

At that time Goriot was paying twelve hundred francs a year to his
landlady, and Mme. Vauquer saw nothing out of the common in the fact
that a rich man had four or five mistresses; nay, she thought it very
knowing of him to pass them off as his daughters. She was not at all
inclined to draw a hard-and-fast line, or to take umbrage at his sending
for them to the Maison Vauquer; yet, inasmuch as these visits explained
her boarder’s indifference to her, she went so far (at the end of the
second year) as to speak of him as an “ugly old wretch.” When at length
her boarder declined to nine hundred francs a year, she asked him very
insolently what he took her house to be, after meeting one of these
ladies on the stairs. Father Goriot answered that the lady was his
eldest daughter.

“So you have two or three dozen daughters, have you?” said Mme. Vauquer

“I have only two,” her boarder answered meekly, like a ruined man who is
broken in to all the cruel usage of misfortune.

Towards the end of the third year Father Goriot reduced his expenses
still further; he went up to the third story, and now paid forty-five
francs a month. He did without snuff, told his hairdresser that he no
longer required his services, and gave up wearing powder. When Goriot
appeared for the first time in this condition, an exclamation of
astonishment broke from his hostess at the color of his hair--a dingy
olive gray. He had grown sadder day by day under the influence of some
hidden trouble; among all the faces round the table, his was the
most woe-begone. There was no longer any doubt. Goriot was an elderly
libertine, whose eyes had only been preserved by the skill of the
physician from the malign influence of the remedies necessitated by the
state of his health. The disgusting color of his hair was a result of
his excesses and of the drugs which he had taken that he might continue
his career. The poor old man’s mental and physical condition afforded
some grounds for the absurd rubbish talked about him. When his outfit
was worn out, he replaced the fine linen by calico at fourteen _sous_
the ell. His diamonds, his gold snuff-box, watch-chain and trinkets,
disappeared one by one. He had left off wearing the corn-flower blue
coat, and was sumptuously arrayed, summer as well as winter, in a coarse
chestnut-brown coat, a plush waistcoat, and doeskin breeches. He grew
thinner and thinner; his legs were shrunken, his cheeks, once so puffed
out by contented bourgeois prosperity, were covered with wrinkles, and
the outlines of the jawbones were distinctly visible; there were deep
furrows in his forehead. In the fourth year of his residence in the Rue
Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve he was no longer like his former self. The hale
vermicelli manufacturer, sixty-two years of age, who had looked scarce
forty, the stout, comfortable, prosperous tradesman, with an almost
bucolic air, and such a brisk demeanor that it did you good to look at
him; the man with something boyish in his smile, had suddenly sunk into
his dotage, and had become a feeble, vacillating septuagenarian.

The keen, bright blue eyes had grown dull, and faded to a steel-gray
color; the red inflamed rims looked as though they had shed tears of
blood. He excited feelings of repulsion in some, and of pity in others.
The young medical students who came to the house noticed the drooping
of his lower lip and the conformation of the facial angle; and, after
teasing him for some time to no purpose, they declared that cretinism
was setting in.

One evening after dinner Mme. Vauquer said half banteringly to him, “So
those daughters of yours don’t come to see you any more, eh?” meaning to
imply her doubts as to his paternity; but Father Goriot shrank as if his
hostess had touched him with a sword-point.

“They come sometimes,” he said in a tremulous voice.

“Aha! you still see them sometimes?” cried the students. “Bravo, Father

The old man scarcely seemed to hear the witticisms at his expense that
followed on the words; he had relapsed into the dreamy state of mind
that these superficial observers took for senile torpor, due to his lack
of intelligence. If they had only known, they might have been deeply
interested by the problem of his condition; but few problems were more
obscure. It was easy, of course, to find out whether Goriot had really
been a vermicelli manufacturer; the amount of his fortune was readily
discoverable; but the old people, who were most inquisitive as to his
concerns, never went beyond the limits of the Quarter, and lived in
the lodging-house much as oysters cling to a rock. As for the rest, the
current of life in Paris daily awaited them, and swept them away with
it; so soon as they left the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve, they forgot the
existence of the old man, their butt at dinner. For those narrow souls,
or for careless youth, the misery in Father Goriot’s withered face
and its dull apathy were quite incompatible with wealth or any sort of
intelligence. As for the creatures whom he called his daughters, all
Mme. Vauquer’s boarders were of her opinion. With the faculty for severe
logic sedulously cultivated by elderly women during long evenings of
gossip till they can always find an hypothesis to fit all circumstances,
she was wont to reason thus:

“If Father Goriot had daughters of his own as rich as those ladies who
came here seemed to be, he would not be lodging in my house, on the
third floor, at forty-five francs a month; and he would not go about
dressed like a poor man.”

No objection could be raised to these inferences. So by the end of
the month of November 1819, at the time when the curtain rises on this
drama, every one in the house had come to have a very decided opinion as
to the poor old man. He had never had either wife or daughter; excesses
had reduced him to this sluggish condition; he was a sort of human
mollusk who should be classed among the capulidoe, so one of the dinner
contingent, an _employe_ at the Museum, who had a pretty wit of his own.
Poiret was an eagle, a gentleman, compared with Goriot. Poiret would
join the talk, argue, answer when he was spoken to; as a matter of
fact, his talk, arguments, and responses contributed nothing to the
conversation, for Poiret had a habit of repeating what the others said
in different words; still, he did join in the talk; he was alive, and
seemed capable of feeling; while Father Goriot (to quote the Museum
official again) was invariably at zero degrees--Reaumur.

Eugene de Rastignac had just returned to Paris in a state of mind not
unknown to young men who are conscious of unusual powers, and to those
whose faculties are so stimulated by a difficult position, that for the
time being they rise above the ordinary level.

Rastignac’s first year of study for the preliminary examinations in law
had left him free to see the sights of Paris and to enjoy some of its
amusements. A student has not much time on his hands if he sets himself
to learn the repertory of every theatre, and to study the ins and outs
of the labyrinth of Paris. To know its customs; to learn the language,
and become familiar with the amusements of the capital, he must explore
its recesses, good and bad, follow the studies that please him best, and
form some idea of the treasures contained in galleries and museums.

At this stage of his career a student grows eager and excited about all
sorts of follies that seem to him to be of immense importance. He has
his hero, his great man, a professor at the College de France, paid
to talk down to the level of his audience. He adjusts his cravat, and
strikes various attitudes for the benefit of the women in the first
galleries at the Opera-Comique. As he passes through all these
successive initiations, and breaks out of his sheath, the horizons of
life widen around him, and at length he grasps the plan of society with
the different human strata of which it is composed.

If he begins by admiring the procession of carriages on sunny afternoons
in the Champs-Elysees, he soon reaches the further stage of envying
their owners. Unconsciously, Eugene had served his apprenticeship before
he went back to Angouleme for the long vacation after taking his degrees
as bachelor of arts and bachelor of law. The illusions of childhood had
vanished, so also had the ideas he brought with him from the provinces;
he had returned thither with an intelligence developed, with loftier
ambitions, and saw things as they were at home in the old manor house.
His father and mother, his two brothers and two sisters, with an aged
aunt, whose whole fortune consisted in annuities, lived on the little
estate of Rastignac. The whole property brought in about three thousand
francs; and though the amount varied with the season (as must always
be the case in a vine-growing district), they were obliged to spare an
unvarying twelve hundred francs out of their income for him. He saw
how constantly the poverty, which they had generously hidden from him,
weighed upon them; he could not help comparing the sisters, who had
seemed so beautiful to his boyish eyes, with women in Paris, who had
realized the beauty of his dreams. The uncertain future of the whole
family depended upon him. It did not escape his eyes that not a crumb
was wasted in the house, nor that the wine they drank was made from the
second pressing; a multitude of small things, which it is useless to
speak of in detail here, made him burn to distinguish himself, and his
ambition to succeed increased tenfold.

He meant, like all great souls, that his success should be owing
entirely to his merits; but his was pre-eminently a southern
temperament, the execution of his plans was sure to be marred by the
vertigo that seizes on youth when youth sees itself alone in a wide sea,
uncertain how to spend its energies, whither to steer its course, how
to adapt its sails to the winds. At first he determined to fling himself
heart and soul into his work, but he was diverted from this purpose by
the need of society and connections; then he saw how great an influence
women exert in social life, and suddenly made up his mind to go out
into this world to seek a protectress there. Surely a clever and
high-spirited young man, whose wit and courage were set off to advantage
by a graceful figure and the vigorous kind of beauty that readily
strikes a woman’s imagination, need not despair of finding a
protectress. These ideas occurred to him in his country walks with his
sisters, whom he had once joined so gaily. The girls thought him very
much changed.

His aunt, Mme. de Marcillac, had been presented at court, and had moved
among the brightest heights of that lofty region. Suddenly the young
man’s ambition discerned in those recollections of hers, which had been
like nursery fairy tales to her nephews and nieces, the elements of
a social success at least as important as the success which he had
achieved at the Ecole de Droit. He began to ask his aunt about those
relations; some of the old ties might still hold good. After much
shaking of the branches of the family tree, the old lady came to the
conclusion that of all persons who could be useful to her nephew among
the selfish genus of rich relations, the Vicomtesse de Beauseant was
the least likely to refuse. To this lady, therefore, she wrote in the
old-fashioned style, recommending Eugene to her; pointing out to
her nephew that if he succeeded in pleasing Mme. de Beauseant, the
Vicomtesse would introduce him to other relations. A few days after his
return to Paris, therefore, Rastignac sent his aunt’s letter to Mme.
de Beauseant. The Vicomtesse replied by an invitation to a ball for
the following evening. This was the position of affairs at the Maison
Vauquer at the end of November 1819.

A few days later, after Mme. de Beauseant’s ball, Eugene came in at two
o’clock in the morning. The persevering student meant to make up for the
lost time by working until daylight. It was the first time that he had
attempted to spend the night in this way in that silent quarter. The
spell of a factitious energy was upon him; he had beheld the pomp and
splendor of the world. He had not dined at the Maison Vauquer; the
boarders probably would think that he would walk home at daybreak from
the dance, as he had done sometimes on former occasions, after a fete at
the Prado, or a ball at the Odeon, splashing his silk stockings thereby,
and ruining his pumps.

It so happened that Christophe took a look into the street before
drawing the bolts of the door; and Rastignac, coming in at that
moment, could go up to his room without making any noise, followed by
Christophe, who made a great deal. Eugene exchanged his dress suit for a
shabby overcoat and slippers, kindled a fire with some blocks of patent
fuel, and prepared for his night’s work in such a sort that the faint
sounds he made were drowned by Christophe’s heavy tramp on the stairs.

Eugene sat absorbed in thought for a few moments before plunging into
his law books. He had just become aware of the fact that the Vicomtesse
de Beauseant was one of the queens of fashion, that her house was
thought to be the pleasantest in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. And not
only so, she was, by right of her fortune, and the name she bore, one of
the most conspicuous figures in that aristocratic world. Thanks to the
aunt, thanks to Mme. de Marcillac’s letter of introduction, the poor
student had been kindly received in that house before he knew the extent
of the favor thus shown to him. It was almost like a patent of nobility
to be admitted to those gilded salons; he had appeared in the most
exclusive circle in Paris, and now all doors were open for him. Eugene
had been dazzled at first by the brilliant assembly, and had scarcely
exchanged a few words with the Vicomtesse; he had been content to single
out a goddess among this throng of Parisian divinities, one of those
women who are sure to attract a young man’s fancy.

The Comtesse Anastasie de Restaud was tall and gracefully made; she
had one of the prettiest figures in Paris. Imagine a pair of great dark
eyes, a magnificently moulded hand, a shapely foot. There was a fiery
energy in her movements; the Marquis de Ronquerolles had called her “a
thoroughbred,” “a pure pedigree,” these figures of speech have replaced
the “heavenly angel” and Ossianic nomenclature; the old mythology of
love is extinct, doomed to perish by modern dandyism. But for Rastignac,
Mme. Anastasie de Restaud was the woman for whom he had sighed. He had
contrived to write his name twice upon the list of partners upon her
fan, and had snatched a few words with her during the first quadrille.

“Where shall I meet you again, Madame?” he asked abruptly, and the tones
of his voice were full of the vehement energy that women like so well.

“Oh, everywhere!” said she, “in the Bois, at the Bouffons, in my own

With the impetuosity of his adventurous southern temper, he did all he
could to cultivate an acquaintance with this lovely countess, making the
best of his opportunities in the quadrille and during a waltz that she
gave him. When he told her that he was a cousin of Mme. de Beauseant’s,
the Countess, whom he took for a great lady, asked him to call at her
house, and after her parting smile, Rastignac felt convinced that he
must make this visit. He was so lucky as to light upon some one who did
not laugh at his ignorance, a fatal defect among the gilded and insolent
youth of that period; the coterie of Maulincourts, Maximes de Trailles,
de Marsays, Ronquerolles, Ajuda-Pintos, and Vandenesses who shone there
in all the glory of coxcombry among the best-dressed women of fashion
in Paris--Lady Brandon, the Duchesse de Langeais, the Comtesse de
Kergarouet, Mme. de Serizy, the Duchesse de Carigliano, the Comtesse
Ferraud, Mme. de Lanty, the Marquise d’Aiglemont, Mme. Firmiani,
the Marquise de Listomere and the Marquise d’Espard, the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse and the Grandlieus. Luckily, therefore, for him, the novice
happened upon the Marquis de Montriveau, the lover of the Duchesse de
Langeais, a general as simple as a child; from him Rastignac learned
that the Comtesse lived in the Rue du Helder.

Ah, what it is to be young, eager to see the world, greedily on the
watch for any chance that brings you nearer the woman of your dreams,
and behold two houses open their doors to you! To set foot in the
Vicomtesse de Beauseant’s house in the Faubourg Saint-Germain; to fall
on your knees before a Comtesse de Restaud in the Chaussee d’Antin;
to look at one glance across a vista of Paris drawing-rooms, conscious
that, possessing sufficient good looks, you may hope to find aid and
protection there in a feminine heart! To feel ambitious enough to spurn
the tight-rope on which you must walk with the steady head of an acrobat
for whom a fall is impossible, and to find in a charming woman the best
of all balancing poles.

He sat there with his thoughts for a while, Law on the one hand, and
Poverty on the other, beholding a radiant vision of a woman rise above
the dull, smouldering fire. Who would not have paused and questioned
the future as Eugene was doing? who would not have pictured it full of
success? His wondering thoughts took wings; he was transported out
of the present into that blissful future; he was sitting by Mme. de
Restaud’s side, when a sort of sigh, like the grunt of an overburdened
St. Joseph, broke the silence of the night. It vibrated through the
student, who took the sound for a death groan. He opened his door
noiselessly, went out upon the landing, and saw a thin streak of light
under Father Goriot’s door. Eugene feared that his neighbor had been
taken ill; he went over and looked through the keyhole; the old man
was busily engaged in an occupation so singular and so suspicious that
Rastignac thought he was only doing a piece of necessary service
to society to watch the self-styled vermicelli maker’s nocturnal

The table was upturned, and Goriot had doubtless in some way secured a
silver plate and cup to the bar before knotting a thick rope round them;
he was pulling at this rope with such enormous force that they were
being crushed and twisted out of shape; to all appearance he meant to
convert the richly wrought metal into ingots.

“_Peste!_ what a man!” said Rastignac, as he watched Goriot’s muscular
arms; there was not a sound in the room while the old man, with the aid
of the rope, was kneading the silver like dough. “Was he then, indeed,
a thief, or a receiver of stolen goods, who affected imbecility and
decrepitude, and lived like a beggar that he might carry on his pursuits
the more securely?” Eugene stood for a moment revolving these questions,
then he looked again through the keyhole.

Father Goriot had unwound his coil of rope; he had covered the table
with a blanket, and was now employed in rolling the flattened mass
of silver into a bar, an operation which he performed with marvelous

“Why, he must be as strong as Augustus, King of Poland!” said Eugene to
himself when the bar was nearly finished.

Father Goriot looked sadly at his handiwork, tears fell from his
eyes, he blew out the dip which had served him for a light while he
manipulated the silver, and Eugene heard him sigh as he lay down again.

“He is mad,” thought the student.

“_Poor child!_” Father Goriot said aloud. Rastignac, hearing those
words, concluded to keep silence; he would not hastily condemn his
neighbor. He was just in the doorway of his room when a strange sound
from the staircase below reached his ears; it might have been made
by two men coming up in list slippers. Eugene listened; two men there
certainly were, he could hear their breathing. Yet there had been no
sound of opening the street door, no footsteps in the passage. Suddenly,
too, he saw a faint gleam of light on the second story; it came from M.
Vautrin’s room.

“There are a good many mysteries here for a lodging-house!” he said to

He went part of the way downstairs and listened again. The rattle of
gold reached his ears. In another moment the light was put out, and
again he distinctly heard the breathing of two men, but no sound of a
door being opened or shut. The two men went downstairs, the faint sounds
growing fainter as they went.

“Who is there?” cried Mme. Vauquer out of her bedroom window.

“I, Mme. Vauquer,” answered Vautrin’s deep bass voice. “I am coming in.”

“That is odd! Christophe drew the bolts,” said Eugene, going back to his
room. “You have to sit up at night, it seems, if you really mean to know
all that is going on about you in Paris.”

These incidents turned his thought from his ambitious dreams; he betook
himself to his work, but his thought wandered back to Father Goriot’s
suspicious occupation; Mme. de Restaud’s face swam again and again
before his eyes like a vision of a brilliant future; and at last he lay
down and slept with clenched fists. When a young man makes up his mind
that he will work all night, the chances are that seven times out of
ten he will sleep till morning. Such vigils do not begin before we are
turned twenty.

The next morning Paris was wrapped in one of the dense fogs that throw
the most punctual people out in their calculations as to the time; even
the most business-like folk fail to keep their appointments in such
weather, and ordinary mortals wake up at noon and fancy it is eight
o’clock. On this morning it was half-past nine, and Mme. Vauquer
still lay abed. Christophe was late, Sylvie was late, but the two sat
comfortably taking their coffee as usual. It was Sylvie’s custom to take
the cream off the milk destined for the boarders’ breakfast for her
own, and to boil the remainder for some time, so that madame should not
discover this illegal exaction.

“Sylvie,” said Christophe, as he dipped a piece of toast into the
coffee, “M. Vautrin, who is not such a bad sort, all the same, had two
people come to see him again last night. If madame says anything, mind
you say nothing about it.”

“Has he given you something?”

“He gave me a five-franc piece this month, which is as good as saying,
‘Hold your tongue.’”

“Except him and Mme. Couture, who doesn’t look twice at every penny,
there’s no one in the house that doesn’t try to get back with the left
hand all that they give with the right at New Year,” said Sylvie.

“And, after all,” said Christophe, “what do they give you? A miserable
five-franc piece. There is Father Goriot, who has cleaned his shoes
himself these two years past. There is that old beggar Poiret, who goes
without blacking altogether; he would sooner drink it than put it on his
boots. Then there is that whipper-snapper of a student, who gives me a
couple of francs. Two francs will not pay for my brushes, and he sells
his old clothes, and gets more for them than they are worth. Oh! they’re
a shabby lot!”

“Pooh!” said Sylvie, sipping her coffee, “our places are the best in the
Quarter, that I know. But about that great big chap Vautrin, Christophe;
has any one told you anything about him?”

“Yes. I met a gentleman in the street a few days ago; he said to me,
‘There’s a gentleman in your place, isn’t there? a tall man that dyes
his whiskers?’ I told him, ‘No, sir; they aren’t dyed. A gay fellow
like him hasn’t the time to do it.’ And when I told M. Vautrin about
it afterwards, he said, ‘Quite right, my boy. That is the way to
answer them. There is nothing more unpleasant than to have your little
weaknesses known; it might spoil many a match.’”

“Well, and for my part,” said Sylvie, “a man tried to humbug me at the
market wanting to know if I had seen him put on his shirt. Such bosh!
There,” she cried, interrupting herself, “that’s a quarter to ten
striking at the Val-de-Grace, and not a soul stirring!”

“Pooh! they are all gone out. Mme. Couture and the girl went out at
eight o’clock to take the wafer at Saint-Etienne. Father Goriot started
off somewhere with a parcel, and the student won’t be back from his
lecture till ten o’clock. I saw them go while I was sweeping the stairs;
Father Goriot knocked up against me, and his parcel was as hard as iron.
What is the old fellow up to, I wonder? He is as good as a plaything for
the rest of them; they can never let him alone; but he is a good man,
all the same, and worth more than all of them put together. He doesn’t
give you much himself, but he sometimes sends you with a message to
ladies who fork out famous tips; they are dressed grandly, too.”

“His daughters, as he calls them, eh? There are a dozen of them.”

“I have never been to more than two--the two who came here.”

“There is madame moving overhead; I shall have to go, or she will raise
a fine racket. Just keep an eye on the milk, Christophe; don’t let the
cat get at it.”

Sylvie went up to her mistress’ room.

“Sylvie! How is this? It’s nearly ten o’clock, and you let me sleep like
a dormouse! Such a thing has never happened before.”

“It’s the fog; it is that thick, you could cut it with a knife.”

“But how about breakfast?”

“Bah! the boarders are possessed, I’m sure. They all cleared out before
there was a wink of daylight.”

“Do speak properly, Sylvie,” Mme. Vauquer retorted; “say a blink of

“Ah, well, madame, whichever you please. Anyhow, you can have breakfast
at ten o’clock. La Michonnette and Poiret have neither of them stirred.
There are only those two upstairs, and they are sleeping like the logs
they are.”

“But, Sylvie, you put their names together as if----”

“As if what?” said Sylvie, bursting into a guffaw. “The two of them make
a pair.”

“It is a strange thing, isn’t it, Sylvie, how M. Vautrin got in last
night after Christophe had bolted the door?”

“Not at all, madame. Christophe heard M. Vautrin, and went down and
undid the door. And here are you imagining that----?”

“Give me my bodice, and be quick and get breakfast ready. Dish up the
rest of the mutton with the potatoes, and you can put the stewed pears
on the table, those at five a penny.”

A few moments later Mme. Vauquer came down, just in time to see the cat
knock down a plate that covered a bowl of milk, and begin to lap in all

“Mistigris!” she cried.

The cat fled, but promptly returned to rub against her ankles.

“Oh! yes, you can wheedle, you old hypocrite!” she said. “Sylvie!

“Yes, madame; what is it?”

“Just see what the cat has done!”

“It is all that stupid Christophe’s fault. I told him to stop and lay
the table. What has become of him? Don’t you worry, madame; Father
Goriot shall have it. I will fill it up with water, and he won’t know
the difference; he never notices anything, not even what he eats.”

“I wonder where the old heathen can have gone?” said Mme. Vauquer,
setting the plates round the table.

“Who knows? He is up to all sorts of tricks.”

“I have overslept myself,” said Mme. Vauquer.

“But madame looks as fresh as a rose, all the same.”

The door bell rang at that moment, and Vautrin came through the
sitting-room, singing loudly:

  “‘Tis the same old story everywhere,
   A roving heart and a roving glance..

“Oh! Mamma Vauquer! good-morning!” he cried at the sight of his hostess,
and he put his arm gaily round her waist.

“There! have done----”

“‘Impertinence!’ Say it!” he answered. “Come, say it! Now, isn’t that
what you really mean? Stop a bit, I will help you to set the table. Ah!
I am a nice man, am I not?

  “For the locks of brown and the golden hair
     A sighing lover...

“Oh! I have just seen something so funny----

                  .... led by chance.”

“What?” asked the widow.

“Father Goriot in the goldsmith’s shop in the Rue Dauphine at half-past
eight this morning. They buy old spoons and forks and gold lace there,
and Goriot sold a piece of silver plate for a good round sum. It had
been twisted out of shape very neatly for a man that’s not used to the

“Really? You don’t say so?”

“Yes. One of my friends is expatriating himself; I had been to see him
off on board the Royal Mail steamer, and was coming back here. I waited
after that to see what Father Goriot would do; it is a comical affair.
He came back to this quarter of the world, to the Rue des Gres, and went
into a money-lender’s house; everybody knows him, Gobseck, a stuck-up
rascal, that would make dominoes out of his father’s bones, a Turk,
a heathen, an old Jew, a Greek; it would be a difficult matter to rob
_him_, for he puts all his coin into the Bank.”

“Then what was Father Goriot doing there?”

“Doing?” said Vautrin. “Nothing; he was bent on his own undoing. He is a
simpleton, stupid enough to ruin himself by running after----”

“There he is!” cried Sylvie.

“Christophe,” cried Father Goriot’s voice, “come upstairs with me.”

Christophe went up, and shortly afterwards came down again.

“Where are you going?” Mme. Vauquer asked of her servant.

“Out on an errand for M. Goriot.”

“What may that be?” said Vautrin, pouncing on a letter in Christophe’s
hand. “_Mme. la Comtesse Anastasie de Restaud_,” he read. “Where are you
going with it?” he added, as he gave the letter back to Christophe.

“To the Rue du Helder. I have orders to give this into her hands

“What is there inside it?” said Vautrin, holding the letter up to the
light. “A banknote? No.” He peered into the envelope. “A receipted
account!” he cried. “My word! ‘tis a gallant old dotard. Off with you,
old chap,” he said, bringing down a hand on Christophe’s head, and
spinning the man round like a thimble; “you will have a famous tip.”

By this time the table was set. Sylvie was boiling the milk, Mme.
Vauquer was lighting a fire in the stove with some assistance from
Vautrin, who kept humming to himself:

  “The same old story everywhere,
   A roving heart and a roving glance.”

When everything was ready, Mme. Couture and Mlle. Taillefer came in.

“Where have you been this morning, fair lady?” said Mme. Vauquer,
turning to Mme. Couture.

“We have just been to say our prayers at Saint-Etienne du Mont. To-day
is the day when we must go to see M. Taillefer. Poor little thing! She
is trembling like a leaf,” Mme. Couture went on, as she seated herself
before the fire and held the steaming soles of her boots to the blaze.

“Warm yourself, Victorine,” said Mme. Vauquer.

“It is quite right and proper, mademoiselle, to pray to Heaven to soften
your father’s heart,” said Vautrin, as he drew a chair nearer to the
orphan girl; “but that is not enough. What you want is a friend who
will give the monster a piece of his mind; a barbarian that has three
millions (so they say), and will not give you a dowry; and a pretty girl
needs a dowry nowadays.”

“Poor child!” said Mme. Vauquer. “Never mind, my pet, your wretch of a
father is going just the way to bring trouble upon himself.”

Victorine’s eyes filled with tears at the words, and the widow checked
herself at a sign from Mme. Couture.

“If we could only see him!” said the Commissary-General’s widow; “if I
could speak to him myself and give him his wife’s last letter! I
have never dared to run the risk of sending it by post; he knew my

“‘Oh woman, persecuted and injured innocent!’” exclaimed Vautrin,
breaking in upon her. “So that is how you are, is it? In a few days’
time I will look into your affairs, and it will be all right, you shall

“Oh! sir,” said Victorine, with a tearful but eager glance at Vautrin,
who showed no sign of being touched by it, “if you know of any way
of communicating with my father, please be sure and tell him that his
affection and my mother’s honor are more to me than all the money in the
world. If you can induce him to relent a little towards me, I will pray
to God for you. You may be sure of my gratitude----”

“_The same old story everywhere_,” sang Vautrin, with a satirical
intonation. At this juncture, Goriot, Mlle. Michonneau, and Poiret came
downstairs together; possibly the scent of the gravy which Sylvie was
making to serve with the mutton had announced breakfast. The seven
people thus assembled bade each other good-morning, and took their
places at the table; the clock struck ten, and the student’s footstep
was heard outside.

“Ah! here you are, M. Eugene,” said Sylvie; “every one is breakfasting
at home to-day.”

The student exchanged greetings with the lodgers, and sat down beside

“I have just met with a queer adventure,” he said, as he helped himself
abundantly to the mutton, and cut a slice of bread, which Mme. Vauquer’s
eyes gauged as usual.

“An adventure?” queried Poiret.

“Well, and what is there to astonish you in that, old boy?” Vautrin
asked of Poiret. “M. Eugene is cut out for that kind of thing.”

Mlle. Taillefer stole a timid glance at the young student.

“Tell us about your adventure!” demanded M. Vautrin.

“Yesterday evening I went to a ball given by a cousin of mine, the
Vicomtesse de Beauseant. She has a magnificent house; the rooms are hung
with silk--in short, it was a splendid affair, and I was as happy as a

“Fisher,” put in Vautrin, interrupting.

“What do you mean, sir?” said Eugene sharply.

“I said ‘fisher,’ because kingfishers see a good deal more fun than

“Quite true; I would much rather be the little careless bird than a
king,” said Poiret the ditto-ist, “because----”

“In fact”--the law-student cut him short--“I danced with one of the
handsomest women in the room, a charming countess, the most exquisite
creature I have ever seen. There was peach blossom in her hair, and she
had the loveliest bouquet of flowers--real flowers, that scented the
air----but there! it is no use trying to describe a woman glowing with
the dance. You ought to have seen her! Well, and this morning I met this
divine countess about nine o’clock, on foot in the Rue de Gres. Oh! how
my heart beat! I began to think----”

“That she was coming here,” said Vautrin, with a keen look at the
student. “I expect that she was going to call on old Gobseck, a
money-lender. If ever you explore a Parisian woman’s heart, you will
find the money-lender first, and the lover afterwards. Your countess is
called Anastasie de Restaud, and she lives in the Rue du Helder.”

The student stared hard at Vautrin. Father Goriot raised his head at the
words, and gave the two speakers a glance so full of intelligence and
uneasiness that the lodgers beheld him with astonishment.

“Then Christophe was too late, and she must have gone to him!” cried
Goriot, with anguish in his voice.

“It is just as I guessed,” said Vautrin, leaning over to whisper in Mme.
Vauquer’s ear.

Goriot went on with his breakfast, but seemed unconscious of what he was
doing. He had never looked more stupid nor more taken up with his own
thoughts than he did at that moment.

“Who the devil could have told you her name, M. Vautrin?” asked Eugene.

“Aha! there you are!” answered Vautrin. “Old Father Goriot there knew it
quite well! and why should I not know it too?”

“M. Goriot?” the student cried.

“What is it?” asked the old man. “So she was very beautiful, was she,
yesterday night?”


“Mme. de Restaud.”

“Look at the old wretch,” said Mme. Vauquer, speaking to Vautrin; “how
his eyes light up!”

“Then does he really keep her?” said Mlle. Michonneau, in a whisper to
the student.

“Oh! yes, she was tremendously pretty,” Eugene answered. Father Goriot
watched him with eager eyes. “If Mme. de Beauseant had not been there,
my divine countess would have been the queen of the ball; none of the
younger men had eyes for any one else. I was the twelfth on her list,
and she danced every quadrille. The other women were furious. She must
have enjoyed herself, if ever creature did! It is a true saying
that there is no more beautiful sight than a frigate in full sail, a
galloping horse, or a woman dancing.”

“So the wheel turns,” said Vautrin; “yesterday night at a duchess’
ball, this morning in a money-lender’s office, on the lowest rung of the
ladder--just like a Parisienne! If their husbands cannot afford to pay
for their frantic extravagance, they will sell themselves. Or if
they cannot do that, they will tear out their mothers’ hearts to find
something to pay for their splendor. They will turn the world upside
down. Just a Parisienne through and through!”

Father Goriot’s face, which had shone at the student’s words like the
sun on a bright day, clouded over all at once at this cruel speech of

“Well,” said Mme. Vauquer, “but where is your adventure? Did you speak
to her? Did you ask her if she wanted to study law?”

“She did not see me,” said Eugene. “But only think of meeting one of the
prettiest women in Paris in the Rue des Gres at nine o’clock! She could
not have reached home after the ball till two o’clock this morning.
Wasn’t it queer? There is no place like Paris for this sort of

“Pshaw! much funnier things than _that_ happen here!” exclaimed Vautrin.

Mlle. Taillefer had scarcely heeded the talk, she was so absorbed by the
thought of the new attempt that she was about to make. Mme. Couture made
a sign that it was time to go upstairs and dress; the two ladies went
out, and Father Goriot followed their example.

“Well, did you see?” said Mme. Vauquer, addressing Vautrin and the rest
of the circle. “He is ruining himself for those women, that is plain.”

“Nothing will ever make me believe that that beautiful Comtesse de
Restaud is anything to Father Goriot,” cried the student.

“Well, and if you don’t,” broke in Vautrin, “we are not set on
convincing you. You are too young to know Paris thoroughly yet; later on
you will find out that there are what we call men with a passion----”

Mlle. Michonneau gave Vautrin a quick glance at these words. They seemed
to be like the sound of a trumpet to a trooper’s horse. “Aha!” said
Vautrin, stopping in his speech to give her a searching glance, “so we
have had our little experiences, have we?”

The old maid lowered her eyes like a nun who sees a statue.

“Well,” he went on, “when folk of that kind get a notion into their
heads, they cannot drop it. They must drink the water from some
particular spring--it is stagnant as often as not; but they will sell
their wives and families, they will sell their own souls to the devil to
get it. For some this spring is play, or the stock-exchange, or music,
or a collection of pictures or insects; for others it is some woman who
can give them the dainties they like. You might offer these last all the
women on earth--they would turn up their noses; they will have the only
one who can gratify their passion. It often happens that the woman
does not care for them at all, and treats them cruelly; they buy their
morsels of satisfaction very dear; but no matter, the fools are never
tired of it; they will take their last blanket to the pawnbroker’s to
give their last five-franc piece to her. Father Goriot here is one of
that sort. He is discreet, so the Countess exploits him--just the way of
the gay world. The poor old fellow thinks of her and of nothing else.
In all other respects you see he is a stupid animal; but get him on
that subject, and his eyes sparkle like diamonds. That secret is not
difficult to guess. He took some plate himself this morning to the
melting-pot, and I saw him at Daddy Gobseck’s in the Rue des Gres. And
now, mark what follows--he came back here, and gave a letter for the
Comtesse de Restaud to that noodle of a Christophe, who showed us the
address; there was a receipted bill inside it. It is clear that it was
an urgent matter if the Countess also went herself to the old money
lender. Father Goriot has financed her handsomely. There is no need to
tack a tale together; the thing is self-evident. So that shows you, sir
student, that all the time your Countess was smiling, dancing, flirting,
swaying her peach-flower crowned head, with her gown gathered into her
hand, her slippers were pinching her, as they say; she was thinking of
her protested bills, or her lover’s protested bills.”

“You have made me wild to know the truth,” cried Eugene; “I will go to
call on Mme. de Restaud to-morrow.”

“Yes,” echoed Poiret; “you must go and call on Mme. de Restaud.”

“And perhaps you will find Father Goriot there, who will take payment
for the assistance he politely rendered.”

Eugene looked disgusted. “Why, then, this Paris of yours is a slough.”

“And an uncommonly queer slough, too,” replied Vautrin. “The mud
splashes you as you drive through it in your carriage--you are a
respectable person; you go afoot and are splashed--you are a scoundrel.
You are so unlucky as to walk off with something or other belonging
to somebody else, and they exhibit you as a curiosity in the Place du
Palais-de-Justice; you steal a million, and you are pointed out in every
salon as a model of virtue. And you pay thirty millions for the police
and the courts of justice, for the maintenance of law and order! A
pretty slate of things it is!”

“What,” cried Mme. Vauquer, “has Father Goriot really melted down his
silver posset-dish?”

“There were two turtle-doves on the lid, were there not?” asked Eugene.

“Yes, that there were.”

“Then, was he fond of it?” said Eugene. “He cried while he was breaking
up the cup and plate. I happened to see him by accident.”

“It was dear to him as his own life,” answered the widow.

“There! you see how infatuated the old fellow is!” cried Vautrin. “The
woman yonder can coax the soul out of him.”

The student went up to his room. Vautrin went out, and a few moments
later Mme. Couture and Victorine drove away in a cab which Sylvie had
called for them. Poiret gave his arm to Mlle. Michonneau, and they went
together to spend the two sunniest hours of the day in the Jardin des

“Well, those two are as good as married,” was the portly Sylvie’s
comment. “They are going out together to-day for the first time. They
are such a couple of dry sticks that if they happen to strike against
each other they will draw sparks like flint and steel.”

“Keep clear of Mlle. Michonneau’s shawl, then,” said Mme. Vauquer,
laughing; “it would flare up like tinder.”

At four o’clock that evening, when Goriot came in, he saw, by the light
of two smoky lamps, that Victorine’s eyes were red. Mme. Vauquer was
listening to the history of the visit made that morning to M. Taillefer;
it had been made in vain. Taillefer was tired of the annual application
made by his daughter and her elderly friend; he gave them a personal
interview in order to arrive at an understanding with them.

“My dear lady,” said Mme. Couture, addressing Mme. Vauquer, “just
imagine it; he did not even ask Victorine to sit down, she was standing
the whole time. He said to me quite coolly, without putting himself in a
passion, that we might spare ourselves the trouble of going there; that
the young lady (he would not call her his daughter) was injuring her
cause by importuning him (_importuning!_ once a year, the wretch!); that
as Victorine’s mother had nothing when he married her, Victorine ought
not to expect anything from him; in fact, he said the most cruel things,
that made the poor child burst out crying. The little thing threw
herself at her father’s feet and spoke up bravely; she said that she
only persevered in her visits for her mother’s sake; that she would
obey him without a murmur, but that she begged him to read her poor dead
mother’s farewell letter. She took it up and gave it to him, saying the
most beautiful things in the world, most beautifully expressed; I do not
know where she learned them; God must have put them into her head, for
the poor child was inspired to speak so nicely that it made me cry like
a fool to hear her talk. And what do you think the monster was doing all
the time? Cutting his nails! He took the letter that poor Mme. Taillefer
had soaked with tears, and flung it on to the chimney-piece. ‘That is
all right,’ he said. He held out his hands to raise his daughter, but
she covered them with kisses, and he drew them away again. Scandalous,
isn’t it? And his great booby of a son came in and took no notice of his

“What inhuman wretches they must be!” said Father Goriot.

“And then they both went out of the room,” Mme. Couture went on, without
heeding the worthy vermicelli maker’s exclamation; “father and son bowed
to me, and asked me to excuse them on account of urgent business! That
is the history of our call. Well, he has seen his daughter at any rate.
How he can refuse to acknowledge her I cannot think, for they are as
alike as two peas.”

The boarders dropped in one after another, interchanging greetings and
empty jokes that certain classes of Parisians regard as humorous and
witty. Dulness is their prevailing ingredient, and the whole point
consists in mispronouncing a word or a gesture. This kind of argot is
always changing. The essence of the jest consists in some catchword
suggested by a political event, an incident in the police courts, a
street song, or a bit of burlesque at some theatre, and forgotten in a
month. Anything and everything serves to keep up a game of battledore
and shuttlecock with words and ideas. The diorama, a recent invention,
which carried an optical illusion a degree further than panoramas, had
given rise to a mania among art students for ending every word with
_rama_. The Maison Vauquer had caught the infection from a young artist
among the boarders.

“Well, Monsieur-r-r Poiret,” said the _employe_ from the Museum, “how
is your health-orama?” Then, without waiting for an answer, he turned to
Mme. Couture and Victorine with a “Ladies, you seem melancholy.”

“Is dinner ready?” cried Horace Bianchon, a medical student, and a
friend of Rastignac’s; “my stomach is sinking _usque ad talones_.”

“There is an uncommon _frozerama_ outside,” said Vautrin. “Make room
there, Father Goriot! Confound it, your foot covers the whole front of
the stove.”

“Illustrious M. Vautrin,” put in Bianchon, “why do you say _frozerama_?
It is incorrect; it should be _frozenrama_.”

“No, it shouldn’t,” said the official from the Museum; “_frozerama_ is
right by the same rule that you say ‘My feet are _froze_.’”

“Ah! ah!”

“Here is his Excellency the Marquis de Rastignac, Doctor of the Law of
Contraries,” cried Bianchon, seizing Eugene by the throat, and almost
throttling him.

“Hallo there! hallo!”

Mlle. Michonneau came noiselessly in, bowed to the rest of the party,
and took her place beside the three women without saying a word.

“That old bat always makes me shudder,” said Bianchon in a low voice,
indicating Mlle. Michonneau to Vautrin. “I have studied Gall’s system,
and I am sure she has the bump of Judas.”

“Then you have seen a case before?” said Vautrin.

“Who has not?” answered Bianchon. “Upon my word, that ghastly old maid
looks just like one of the long worms that will gnaw a beam through,
give them time enough.”

“That is the way, young man,” returned he of the forty years and the
dyed whiskers:

  “The rose has lived the life of a rose--
   A morning’s space.”

“Aha! here is a magnificent _soupe-au-rama_,” cried Poiret as Christophe
came in bearing the soup with cautious heed.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Mme. Vauquer; “it is _soupe aux choux_.”

All the young men roared with laughter.

“Had you there, Poiret!”

“Poir-r-r-rette! she had you there!”

“Score two points to Mamma Vauquer,” said Vautrin.

“Did any of you notice the fog this morning?” asked the official.

“It was a frantic fog,” said Bianchon, “a fog unparalleled, doleful,
melancholy, sea-green, asthmatical--a Goriot of a fog!”

“A Goriorama,” said the art student, “because you couldn’t see a thing
in it.”

“Hey! Milord Gaoriotte, they air talking about yoo-o-ou!”

Father Goriot, seated at the lower end of the table, close to the door
through which the servant entered, raised his face; he had smelt at a
scrap of bread that lay under his table napkin, an old trick acquired in
his commercial capacity, that still showed itself at times.

“Well,” Madame Vauquer cried in sharp tones, that rang above the rattle
of spoons and plates and the sound of other voices, “and is there
anything the matter with the bread?”

“Nothing whatever, madame,” he answered; “on the contrary, it is made of
the best quality of corn; flour from Etampes.”

“How could you tell?” asked Eugene.

“By the color, by the flavor.”

“You knew the flavor by the smell, I suppose,” said Mme. Vauquer. “You
have grown so economical, you will find out how to live on the smell of
cooking at last.”

“Take out a patent for it, then,” cried the Museum official; “you would
make a handsome fortune.”

“Never mind him,” said the artist; “he does that sort of thing to delude
us into thinking that he was a vermicelli maker.”

“Your nose is a corn-sampler, it appears?” inquired the official.

“Corn _what_?” asked Bianchon.









The eight responses came like a rolling fire from every part of the
room, and the laughter that followed was the more uproarious because
poor Father Goriot stared at the others with a puzzled look, like a
foreigner trying to catch the meaning of words in a language which he
does not understand.

“Corn?...” he said, turning to Vautrin, his next neighbor.

“Corn on your foot, old man!” said Vautrin, and he drove Father Goriot’s
cap down over his eyes by a blow on the crown.

The poor old man thus suddenly attacked was for a moment too bewildered
to do anything. Christophe carried off his plate, thinking that he had
finished his soup, so that when Goriot had pushed back his cap from his
eyes his spoon encountered the table. Every one burst out laughing. “You
are a disagreeable joker, sir,” said the old man, “and if you take any
further liberties with me----”

“Well, what then, old boy?” Vautrin interrupted.

“Well, then, you shall pay dearly for it some day----”

“Down below, eh?” said the artist, “in the little dark corner where they
put naughty boys.”

“Well, mademoiselle,” Vautrin said, turning to Victorine, “you are
eating nothing. So papa was refractory, was he?”

“A monster!” said Mme. Couture.

“Mademoiselle might make application for aliment pending her suit; she
is not eating anything. Eh! eh! just see how Father Goriot is staring at
Mlle. Victorine.”

The old man had forgotten his dinner, he was so absorbed in gazing at
the poor girl; the sorrow in her face was unmistakable,--the slighted
love of a child whose father would not recognize her.

“We are mistaken about Father Goriot, my dear boy,” said Eugene in a low
voice. “He is not an idiot, nor wanting in energy. Try your Gall system
on him, and let me know what you think. I saw him crush a silver dish
last night as if it had been made of wax; there seems to be something
extraordinary going on in his mind just now, to judge by his face. His
life is so mysterious that it must be worth studying. Oh! you may laugh,
Bianchon; I am not joking.”

“The man is a subject, is he?” said Bianchon; “all right! I will dissect
him, if he will give me the chance.”

“No; feel his bumps.”

“Hm!--his stupidity might perhaps be contagious.”

The next day Rastignac dressed himself very elegantly, and about three
o’clock in the afternoon went to call on Mme. de Restaud. On the way
thither he indulged in the wild intoxicating dreams which fill a young
head so full of delicious excitement. Young men at his age take
no account of obstacles nor of dangers; they see success in every
direction; imagination has free play, and turns their lives into a
romance; they are saddened or discouraged by the collapse of one of the
visionary schemes that have no existence save in their heated fancy. If
youth were not ignorant and timid, civilization would be impossible.

Eugene took unheard-of pains to keep himself in a spotless condition,
but on his way through the streets he began to think about Mme. de
Restaud and what he should say to her. He equipped himself with wit,
rehearsed repartees in the course of an imaginary conversation, and
prepared certain neat speeches a la Talleyrand, conjuring up a series of
small events which should prepare the way for the declaration on which
he had based his future; and during these musings the law student was
bespattered with mud, and by the time he reached the Palais Royal he was
obliged to have his boots blacked and his trousers brushed.

“If I were rich,” he said, as he changed the five-franc piece he had
brought with him in case anything might happen, “I would take a cab,
then I could think at my ease.”

At last he reached the Rue du Helder, and asked for the Comtesse de
Restaud. He bore the contemptuous glances of the servants, who had seen
him cross the court on foot, with the cold fury of a man who knows that
he will succeed some day. He understood the meaning of their glances at
once, for he had felt his inferiority as soon as he entered the court,
where a smart cab was waiting. All the delights of life in Paris
seemed to be implied by this visible and manifest sign of luxury and
extravagance. A fine horse, in magnificent harness, was pawing the
ground, and all at once the law student felt out of humor with himself.
Every compartment in his brain which he had thought to find so full of
wit was bolted fast; he grew positively stupid. He sent up his name
to the Countess, and waited in the ante-chamber, standing on one foot
before a window that looked out upon the court; mechanically he leaned
his elbow against the sash, and stared before him. The time seemed long;
he would have left the house but for the southern tenacity of purpose
which works miracles when it is single-minded.

“Madame is in her boudoir, and cannot see any one at present, sir,”
 said the servant. “She gave me no answer; but if you will go into the
dining-room, there is some one already there.”

Rastignac was impressed with a sense of the formidable power of the
lackey who can accuse or condemn his masters by a word; he coolly opened
the door by which the man had just entered the ante-chamber, meaning,
no doubt, to show these insolent flunkeys that he was familiar with the
house; but he found that he had thoughtlessly precipitated himself into
a small room full of dressers, where lamps were standing, and hot-water
pipes, on which towels were being dried; a dark passage and a back
staircase lay beyond it. Stifled laughter from the ante-chamber added to
his confusion.

“This way to the drawing-room, sir,” said the servant, with the
exaggerated respect which seemed to be one more jest at his expense.

Eugene turned so quickly that he stumbled against a bath. By good luck,
he managed to keep his hat on his head, and saved it from immersion in
the water; but just as he turned, a door opened at the further end of
the dark passage, dimly lighted by a small lamp. Rastignac heard voices
and the sound of a kiss; one of the speakers was Mme. de Restaud,
the other was Father Goriot. Eugene followed the servant through the
dining-room into the drawing-room; he went to a window that looked
out into the courtyard, and stood there for a while. He meant to know
whether this Goriot was really the Goriot that he knew. His heart
beat unwontedly fast; he remembered Vautrin’s hideous insinuations. A
well-dressed young man suddenly emerged from the room almost as Eugene
entered it, saying impatiently to the servant who stood at the door: “I
am going, Maurice. Tell Madame la Comtesse that I waited more than half
an hour for her.”

Whereupon this insolent being, who, doubtless, had a right to be
insolent, sang an Italian trill, and went towards the window where
Eugene was standing, moved thereto quite as much by a desire to see the
student’s face as by a wish to look out into the courtyard.

“But M. le Comte had better wait a moment longer; madame is disengaged,”
 said Maurice, as he returned to the ante-chamber.

Just at that moment Father Goriot appeared close to the gate; he had
emerged from a door at the foot of the back staircase. The worthy soul
was preparing to open his umbrella regardless of the fact that the great
gate had opened to admit a tilbury, in which a young man with a ribbon
at his button-hole was seated. Father Goriot had scarcely time to start
back and save himself. The horse took fright at the umbrella, swerved,
and dashed forward towards the flight of steps. The young man looked
round in annoyance, saw Father Goriot, and greeted him as he went out
with constrained courtesy, such as people usually show to a money-lender
so long as they require his services, or the sort of respect they feel
it necessary to show for some one whose reputation has been blown upon,
so that they blush to acknowledge his acquaintance. Father Goriot gave
him a little friendly nod and a good-natured smile. All this happened
with lightning speed. Eugene was so deeply interested that he forgot
that he was not alone till he suddenly heard the Countess’ voice.

“Oh! Maxime, were you going away?” she said reproachfully, with a shade
of pique in her manner. The Countess had not seen the incident nor the
entrance of the tilbury. Rastignac turned abruptly and saw her standing
before him, coquettishly dressed in a loose white cashmere gown with
knots of rose-colored ribbon here and there; her hair was carelessly
coiled about her head, as is the wont of Parisian women in the morning;
there was a soft fragrance about her--doubtless she was fresh from
a bath;--her graceful form seemed more flexible, her beauty more
luxuriant. Her eyes glistened. A young man can see everything at a
glance; he feels the radiant influence of woman as a plant discerns and
absorbs its nutriment from the air; he did not need to touch her hands
to feel their cool freshness. He saw faint rose tints through the
cashmere of the dressing gown; it had fallen slightly open, giving
glimpses of a bare throat, on which the student’s eyes rested. The
Countess had no need of the adventitious aid of corsets; her girdle
defined the outlines of her slender waist; her throat was a challenge
to love; her feet, thrust into slippers, were daintily small. As Maxime
took her hand and kissed it, Eugene became aware of Maxime’s existence,
and the Countess saw Eugene.

“Oh! is that you M. de Rastignac? I am very glad to see you,” she said,
but there was something in her manner that a shrewd observer would have
taken as a hint to depart.

Maxime, as the Countess Anastasie had called the young man with the
haughty insolence of bearing, looked from Eugene to the lady, and from
the lady to Eugene; it was sufficiently evident that he wished to be rid
of the latter. An exact and faithful rendering of the glance might be
given in the words: “Look here, my dear; I hope you intend to send this
little whipper-snapper about his business.”

The Countess consulted the young man’s face with an intent
submissiveness that betrays all the secrets of a woman’s heart, and
Rastignac all at once began to hate him violently. To begin with, the
sight of the fair carefully arranged curls on the other’s comely
head had convinced him that his own crop was hideous; Maxime’s boots,
moreover, were elegant and spotless, while his own, in spite of all
his care, bore some traces of his recent walk; and, finally, Maxime’s
overcoat fitted the outline of his figure gracefully, he looked like a
pretty woman, while Eugene was wearing a black coat at half-past two.
The quick-witted child of the Charente felt the disadvantage at which he
was placed beside this tall, slender dandy, with the clear gaze and
the pale face, one of those men who would ruin orphan children without
scruple. Mme. de Restaud fled into the next room without waiting for
Eugene to speak; shaking out the skirts of her dressing-gown in her
flight, so that she looked like a white butterfly, and Maxime hurried
after her. Eugene, in a fury, followed Maxime and the Countess, and
the three stood once more face to face by the hearth in the large
drawing-room. The law student felt quite sure that the odious Maxime
found him in the way, and even at the risk of displeasing Mme. de
Restaud, he meant to annoy the dandy. It had struck him all at once that
he had seen the young man before at Mme. de Beauseant’s ball; he guessed
the relation between Maxime and Mme. de Restaud; and with the youthful
audacity that commits prodigious blunders or achieves signal success, he
said to himself, “This is my rival; I mean to cut him out.”

Rash resolve! He did not know that M. le Comte Maxime de Trailles would
wait till he was insulted, so as to fire first and kill his man. Eugene
was a sportsman and a good shot, but he had not yet hit the bulls’s eye
twenty times out of twenty-two. The young Count dropped into a low chair
by the hearth, took up the tongs, and made up the fire so violently and
so sulkily, that Anastasie’s fair face suddenly clouded over. She turned
to Eugene, with a cool, questioning glance that asked plainly, “Why do
you not go?” a glance which well-bred people regard as a cue to make
their exit.

Eugene assumed an amiable expression.

“Madame,” he began, “I hastened to call upon you----”

He stopped short. The door opened, and the owner of the tilbury suddenly
appeared. He had left his hat outside, and did not greet the Countess;
he looked meditatively at Rastignac, and held out his hand to Maxime
with a cordial “Good morning,” that astonished Eugene not a little. The
young provincial did not understand the amenities of a triple alliance.

“M. de Restaud,” said the Countess, introducing her husband to the law

Eugene bowed profoundly.

“This gentleman,” she continued, presenting Eugene to her husband,
“is M. de Rastignac; he is related to Mme. la Vicomtesse de Beauseant
through the Marcillacs; I had the pleasure of meeting him at her last

_Related to Mme. la Vicomtesse de Beauseant through the Marcillacs!_
These words, on which the countess threw ever so slight an emphasis, by
reason of the pride that the mistress of a house takes in showing
that she only receives people of distinction as visitors in her house,
produced a magical effect. The Count’s stiff manner relaxed at once as
he returned the student’s bow.

“Delighted to have an opportunity of making your acquaintance,” he said.

Maxime de Trailles himself gave Eugene an uneasy glance, and suddenly
dropped his insolent manner. The mighty name had all the power of a
fairy’s wand; those closed compartments in the southern brain flew open
again; Rastignac’s carefully drilled faculties returned. It was as if a
sudden light had pierced the obscurity of this upper world of Paris, and
he began to see, though everything was indistinct as yet. Mme. Vauquer’s
lodging-house and Father Goriot were very far remote from his thoughts.

“I thought that the Marcillacs were extinct,” the Comte de Restaud said,
addressing Eugene.

“Yes, they are extinct,” answered the law student. “My great-uncle, the
Chevalier de Rastignac, married the heiress of the Marcillac family.
They had only one daughter, who married the Marechal de Clarimbault,
Mme. de Beauseant’s grandfather on the mother’s side. We are the younger
branch of the family, and the younger branch is all the poorer because
my great-uncle, the Vice-Admiral, lost all that he had in the King’s
service. The Government during the Revolution refused to admit our
claims when the Compagnie des Indes was liquidated.”

“Was not your great-uncle in command of the _Vengeur_ before 1789?”


“Then he would be acquainted with my grandfather, who commanded the

Maxime looked at Mme. de Restaud and shrugged his shoulders, as who
should say, “If he is going to discuss nautical matters with that
fellow, it is all over with us.” Anastasie understood the glance that M.
de Trailles gave her. With a woman’s admirable tact, she began to smile
and said:

“Come with me, Maxime; I have something to say to you. We will leave
you two gentlemen to sail in company on board the _Warwick_ and the

She rose to her feet and signed to Maxime to follow her, mirth and
mischief in her whole attitude, and the two went in the direction of the
boudoir. The _morganatic_ couple (to use a convenient German expression
which has no exact equivalent) had reached the door, when the Count
interrupted himself in his talk with Eugene.

“Anastasie!” he cried pettishly, “just stay a moment, dear; you know
very well that----”

“I am coming back in a minute,” she interrupted; “I have a commission
for Maxime to execute, and I want to tell him about it.”

She came back almost immediately. She had noticed the inflection in her
husband’s voice, and knew that it would not be safe to retire to the
boudoir; like all women who are compelled to study their husbands’
characters in order to have their own way, and whose business it is
to know exactly how far they can go without endangering a good
understanding, she was very careful to avoid petty collisions in
domestic life. It was Eugene who had brought about this untoward
incident; so the Countess looked at Maxime and indicated the law student
with an air of exasperation. M. de Trailles addressed the Count, the
Countess, and Eugene with the pointed remark, “You are busy, I do not
want to interrupt you; good-day,” and he went.

“Just wait a moment, Maxime!” the Count called after him.

“Come and dine with us,” said the Countess, leaving Eugene and her
husband together once more. She followed Maxime into the little
drawing-room, where they sat together sufficiently long to feel sure
that Rastignac had taken his leave.

The law student heard their laughter, and their voices, and the pauses
in their talk; he grew malicious, exerted his conversational powers for
M. de Restaud, flattered him, and drew him into discussions, to the
end that he might see the Countess again and discover the nature of her
relations with Father Goriot. This Countess with a husband and a lover,
for Maxime clearly was her lover, was a mystery. What was the secret tie
that bound her to the old tradesman? This mystery he meant to penetrate,
hoping by its means to gain a sovereign ascendency over this fair
typical Parisian.

“Anastasie!” the Count called again to his wife.

“Poor Maxime!” she said, addressing the young man. “Come, we must resign
ourselves. This evening----”

“I hope, Nasie,” he said in her ear, “that you will give orders not to
admit that youngster, whose eyes light up like live coals when he looks
at you. He will make you a declaration, and compromise you, and then you
will compel me to kill him.”

“Are you mad, Maxime?” she said. “A young lad of a student is, on the
contrary, a capital lightning-conductor; is not that so? Of course, I
mean to make Restaud furiously jealous of him.”

Maxime burst out laughing, and went out, followed by the Countess, who
stood at the window to watch him into his carriage; he shook his whip,
and made his horse prance. She only returned when the great gate had
been closed after him.

“What do you think, dear?” cried the Count, her husband, “this
gentleman’s family estate is not far from Verteuil, on the Charente; his
great-uncle and my grandfather were acquainted.”

“Delighted to find that we have acquaintances in common,” said the
Countess, with a preoccupied manner.

“More than you think,” said Eugene, in a low voice.

“What do you mean?” she asked quickly.

“Why, only just now,” said the student, “I saw a gentleman go out at
the gate, Father Goriot, my next door neighbor in the house where I am

At the sound of this name, and the prefix that embellished it, the
Count, who was stirring the fire, let the tongs fall as though they had
burned his fingers, and rose to his feet.

“Sir,” he cried, “you might have called him ‘Monsieur Goriot’!”

The Countess turned pale at first at the sight of her husband’s
vexation, then she reddened; clearly she was embarrassed, her answer
was made in a tone that she tried to make natural, and with an air of
assumed carelessness:

“You could not know any one who is dearer to us both...”

She broke off, glanced at the piano as if some fancy had crossed her
mind, and asked, “Are you fond of music, M. de Rastignac?”

“Exceedingly,” answered Eugene, flushing, and disconcerted by a dim
suspicion that he had somehow been guilty of a clumsy piece of folly.

“Do you sing?” she cried, going to the piano, and, sitting down before
it, she swept her fingers over the keyboard from end to end. R-r-r-rah!

“No, madame.”

The Comte de Restaud walked to and fro.

“That is a pity; you are without one great means of success.--_Ca-ro,
ca-a-ro, ca-a-a-ro, non du-bi-ta-re_,” sang the Countess.

Eugene had a second time waved a magic wand when he uttered Goriot’s
name, but the effect seemed to be entirely opposite to that produced by
the formula “related to Mme. de Beauseant.” His position was not
unlike that of some visitor permitted as a favor to inspect a private
collection of curiosities, when by inadvertence he comes into collision
with a glass case full of sculptured figures, and three or four heads,
imperfectly secured, fall at the shock. He wished the earth would open
and swallow him. Mme. de Restaud’s expression was reserved and chilly,
her eyes had grown indifferent, and sedulously avoided meeting those of
the unlucky student of law.

“Madame,” he said, “you wish to talk with M. de Restaud; permit me to
wish you good-day----”

The Countess interrupted him by a gesture, saying hastily, “Whenever you
come to see us, both M. de Restaud and I shall be delighted to see you.”

Eugene made a profound bow and took his leave, followed by M. de
Restaud, who insisted, in spite of his remonstrances, on accompanying
him into the hall.

“Neither your mistress nor I are at home to that gentleman when he
calls,” the Count said to Maurice.

As Eugene set foot on the steps, he saw that it was raining.

“Come,” said he to himself, “somehow I have just made a mess of it, I
do not know how. And now I am going to spoil my hat and coat into the
bargain. I ought to stop in my corner, grind away at law, and never
look to be anything but a boorish country magistrate. How can I go
into society, when to manage properly you want a lot of cabs, varnished
boots, gold watch chains, and all sorts of things; you have to wear
white doeskin gloves that cost six francs in the morning, and primrose
kid gloves every evening? A fig for that old humbug of a Goriot!”

When he reached the street door, the driver of a hackney coach, who had
probably just deposited a wedding party at their door, and asked nothing
better than a chance of making a little money for himself without his
employer’s knowledge, saw that Eugene had no umbrella, remarked his
black coat, white waistcoat, yellow gloves, and varnished boots, and
stopped and looked at him inquiringly. Eugene, in the blind desperation
that drives a young man to plunge deeper and deeper into an abyss, as if
he might hope to find a fortunate issue in its lowest depths, nodded
in reply to the driver’s signal, and stepped into the cab; a few stray
petals of orange blossom and scraps of wire bore witness to its recent
occupation by a wedding party.

“Where am I to drive, sir?” demanded the man, who, by this time, had
taken off his white gloves.

“Confound it!” Eugene said to himself, “I am in for it now, and at least
I will not spend cab-hire for nothing!--Drive to the Hotel Beauseant,”
 he said aloud.

“Which?” asked the man, a portentous word that reduced Eugene to
confusion. This young man of fashion, species incerta, did not know that
there were two Hotels Beauseant; he was not aware how rich he was in
relations who did not care about him.

“The Vicomte de Beauseant, Rue----”

“De Grenelle,” interrupted the driver, with a jerk of his head. “You
see, there are the hotels of the Marquis and Comte de Beauseant in the
Rue Saint-Dominique,” he added, drawing up the step.

“I know all about that,” said Eugene, severely.--“Everybody is laughing
at me to-day, it seems!” he said to himself, as he deposited his hat on
the opposite seat. “This escapade will cost me a king’s ransom, but,
at any rate, I shall call on my so-called cousin in a thoroughly
aristocratic fashion. Goriot has cost me ten francs already, the old
scoundrel. My word! I will tell Mme. de Beauseant about my adventure;
perhaps it may amuse her. Doubtless she will know the secret of the
criminal relation between that handsome woman and the old rat without a
tail. It would be better to find favor in my cousin’s eyes than to
come in contact with that shameless woman, who seems to me to have very
expensive tastes. Surely the beautiful Vicomtesse’s personal interest
would turn the scale for me, when the mere mention of her name produces
such an effect. Let us look higher. If you set yourself to carry the
heights of heaven, you must face God.”

The innumerable thoughts that surged through his brain might be summed
up in these phrases. He grew calmer, and recovered something of his
assurance as he watched the falling rain. He told himself that though
he was about to squander two of the precious five-franc pieces that
remained to him, the money was well laid out in preserving his coat,
boots, and hat; and his cabman’s cry of “Gate, if you please,” almost
put him in spirits. A Swiss, in scarlet and gold, appeared, the great
door groaned on its hinges, and Rastignac, with sweet satisfaction,
beheld his equipage pass under the archway and stop before the flight
of steps beneath the awning. The driver, in a blue-and-red greatcoat,
dismounted and let down the step. As Eugene stepped out of the cab, he
heard smothered laughter from the peristyle. Three or four lackeys
were making merry over the festal appearance of the vehicle. In
another moment the law student was enlightened as to the cause of their
hilarity; he felt the full force of the contrast between his equipage
and one of the smartest broughams in Paris; a coachman, with powdered
hair, seemed to find it difficult to hold a pair of spirited horses, who
stood chafing the bit. In Mme. de Restaud’s courtyard, in the Chaussee
d’Antin, he had seen the neat turnout of a young man of six-and-twenty;
in the Faubourg Saint-Germain he found the luxurious equipage of a man
of rank; thirty thousand francs would not have purchased it.

“Who can be here?” said Eugene to himself. He began to understand,
though somewhat tardily, that he must not expect to find many women in
Paris who were not already appropriated, and that the capture of one
of these queens would be likely to cost something more than bloodshed.
“Confound it all! I expect my cousin also has her Maxime.”

He went up the steps, feeling that he was a blighted being. The glass
door was opened for him; the servants were as solemn as jackasses under
the curry comb. So far, Eugene had only been in the ballroom on the
ground floor of the Hotel Beauseant; the fete had followed so closely on
the invitation, that he had not had time to call on his cousin, and had
therefore never seen Mme. de Beauseant’s apartments; he was about to
behold for the first time a great lady among the wonderful and elegant
surroundings that reveal her character and reflect her daily life.
He was the more curious, because Mme. de Restaud’s drawing-room had
provided him with a standard of comparison.

At half-past four the Vicomtesse de Beauseant was visible. Five minutes
earlier she would not have received her cousin, but Eugene knew nothing
of the recognized routine of various houses in Paris. He was conducted
up the wide, white-painted, crimson-carpeted staircase, between the
gilded balusters and masses of flowering plants, to Mme. de Beauseant’s
apartments. He did not know the rumor current about Mme. de Beauseant,
one of the biographies told, with variations, in whispers, every evening
in the salons of Paris.

For three years past her name had been spoken of in connection with
that of one of the most wealthy and distinguished Portuguese nobles,
the Marquis d’Ajuda-Pinto. It was one of those innocent _liaisons_ which
possess so much charm for the two thus attached to each other that
they find the presence of a third person intolerable. The Vicomte de
Beauseant, therefore, had himself set an example to the rest of the
world by respecting, with as good a grace as might be, this morganatic
union. Any one who came to call on the Vicomtesse in the early days of
this friendship was sure to find the Marquis d’Ajuda-Pinto there. As,
under the circumstances, Mme. de Beauseant could not very well shut her
door against these visitors, she gave them such a cold reception, and
showed so much interest in the study of the ceiling, that no one could
fail to understand how much he bored her; and when it became known in
Paris that Mme. de Beauseant was bored by callers between two and four
o’clock, she was left in perfect solitude during that interval. She
went to the Bouffons or to the Opera with M. de Beauseant and M.
d’Ajuda-Pinto; and M. de Beauseant, like a well-bred man of the world,
always left his wife and the Portuguese as soon as he had installed
them. But M. d’Ajuda-Pinto must marry, and a Mlle. de Rochefide was the
young lady. In the whole fashionable world there was but one person who
as yet knew nothing of the arrangement, and that was Mme. de Beauseant.
Some of her friends had hinted at the possibility, and she had laughed
at them, believing that envy had prompted those ladies to try to make
mischief. And now, though the bans were about to be published, and
although the handsome Portuguese had come that day to break the news to
the Vicomtesse, he had not found courage as yet to say one word about
his treachery. How was it? Nothing is doubtless more difficult than the
notification of an ultimatum of this kind. There are men who feel more
at their ease when they stand up before another man who threatens their
lives with sword or pistol than in the presence of a woman who, after
two hours of lamentations and reproaches, falls into a dead swoon and
requires salts. At this moment, therefore, M. d’Ajuda-Pinto was on
thorns, and anxious to take his leave. He told himself that in some
way or other the news would reach Mme. de Beauseant; he would write, it
would be much better to do it by letter, and not to utter the words that
should stab her to the heart.

So when the servant announced M. Eugene de Rastignac, the Marquis
d’Ajuda-Pinto trembled with joy. To be sure, a loving woman shows even
more ingenuity in inventing doubts of her lover than in varying the
monotony of his happiness; and when she is about to be forsaken, she
instinctively interprets every gesture as rapidly as Virgil’s courser
detected the presence of his companion by snuffing the breeze. It was
impossible, therefore, that Mme. de Beauseant should not detect that
involuntary thrill of satisfaction; slight though it was, it was
appalling in its artlessness.

Eugene had yet to learn that no one in Paris should present himself in
any house without first making himself acquainted with the whole history
of its owner, and of its owner’s wife and family, so that he may avoid
making any of the terrible blunders which in Poland draw forth the
picturesque exclamation, “Harness five bullocks to your cart!” probably
because you will need them all to pull you out of the quagmire into
which a false step has plunged you. If, down to the present day, our
language has no name for these conversational disasters, it is probably
because they are believed to be impossible, the publicity given in Paris
to every scandal is so prodigious. After the awkward incident at Mme. de
Restaud’s, no one but Eugene could have reappeared in his character
of bullock-driver in Mme. de Beauseant’s drawing-room. But if Mme. de
Restaud and M. de Trailles had found him horribly in the way, M. d’Ajuda
hailed his coming with relief.

“Good-bye,” said the Portuguese, hurrying to the door, as Eugene made
his entrance into a dainty little pink-and-gray drawing-room, where
luxury seemed nothing more than good taste.

“Until this evening,” said Mme. de Beauseant, turning her head to give
the Marquis a glance. “We are going to the Bouffons, are we not?”

“I cannot go,” he said, with his fingers on the door handle.

Mme. de Beauseant rose and beckoned to him to return. She did not
pay the slightest attention to Eugene, who stood there dazzled by the
sparkling marvels around him; he began to think that this was some story
out of the Arabian Nights made real, and did not know where to hide
himself, when the woman before him seemed to be unconscious of his
existence. The Vicomtesse had raised the forefinger of her right hand,
and gracefully signed to the Marquis to seat himself beside her. The
Marquis felt the imperious sway of passion in her gesture; he came back
towards her. Eugene watched him, not without a feeling of envy.

“That is the owner of the brougham!” he said to himself. “But is it
necessary to have a pair of spirited horses, servants in livery, and
torrents of gold to draw a glance from a woman here in Paris?”

The demon of luxury gnawed at his heart, greed burned in his veins, his
throat was parched with the thirst of gold.

He had a hundred and thirty francs every quarter. His father, mother,
brothers, sisters, and aunt did not spend two hundred francs a month
among them. This swift comparison between his present condition and the
aims he had in view helped to benumb his faculties.

“Why not?” the Vicomtesse was saying, as she smiled at the Portuguese.
“Why cannot you come to the Italiens?”

“Affairs! I am to dine with the English Ambassador.”

“Throw him over.”

When a man once enters on a course of deception, he is compelled to
add lie to lie. M. d’Ajuda therefore said, smiling, “Do you lay your
commands on me?”

“Yes, certainly.”

“That was what I wanted to have you say to me,” he answered, dissembling
his feelings in a glance which would have reassured any other woman.

He took the Vicomtesse’s hand, kissed it, and went.

Eugene ran his fingers through his hair, and constrained himself to bow.
He thought that now Mme. de Beauseant would give him her attention;
but suddenly she sprang forward, rushed to a window in the gallery, and
watched M. d’Ajuda step into his carriage; she listened to the order
that he gave, and heard the Swiss repeat it to the coachman:

“To M. de Rochefide’s house.”

Those words, and the way in which M. d’Ajuda flung himself back in the
carriage, were like a lightning flash and a thunderbolt for her; she
walked back again with a deadly fear gnawing at her heart. The most
terrible catastrophes only happen among the heights. The Vicomtesse
went to her own room, sat down at a table, and took up a sheet of dainty

  “When, instead of dining with the English Ambassador,”
    she wrote, “you go to the Rochefides, you owe me an
   explanation, which I am waiting to hear.”

She retraced several of the letters, for her hand was trembling so that
they were indistinct; then she signed the note with an initial C for
“Claire de Bourgogne,” and rang the bell.

“Jacques,” she said to the servant, who appeared immediately, “take
this note to M. de Rochefide’s house at half-past seven and ask for the
Marquis d’Ajuda. If M. d’Ajuda is there, leave the note without waiting
for an answer; if he is not there, bring the note back to me.”

“Madame la Vicomtess, there is a visitor in the drawing-room.”

“Ah! yes, of course,” she said, opening the door.

Eugene was beginning to feel very uncomfortable, but at last the
Vicomtesse appeared; she spoke to him, and the tremulous tones of her
voice vibrated through his heart.

“Pardon me, monsieur,” she said; “I had a letter to write. Now I am
quite at liberty.”

She scarcely knew what she was saying, for even as she spoke she
thought, “Ah! he means to marry Mlle. de Rochefide? But is he still
free? This evening the marriage shall be broken off, or else... But
before to-morrow I shall know.”

“Cousin...” the student replied.

“Eh?” said the Countess, with an insolent glance that sent a cold
shudder through Eugene; he understood what that “Eh?” meant; he had
learned a great deal in three hours, and his wits were on the alert. He

“Madame...” he began; he hesitated a moment, and then went on.
“Pardon me; I am in such need of protection that the nearest scrap of
relationship could do me no harm.”

Mme. de Beauseant smiled but there was sadness in her smile; even now
she felt forebodings of the coming pain, the air she breathed was heavy
with the storm that was about to burst.

“If you knew how my family are situated,” he went on, “you would love to
play the part of a beneficent fairy godmother who graciously clears the
obstacles from the path of her protege.”

“Well, cousin,” she said, laughing, “and how can I be of service to

“But do I know even that? I am distantly related to you, and this
obscure and remote relationship is even now a perfect godsend to me. You
have confused my ideas; I cannot remember the things that I meant to say
to you. I know no one else here in Paris.... Ah! if I could only ask you
to counsel me, ask you to look upon me as a poor child who would fain
cling to the hem of your dress, who would lay down his life for you.”

“Would you kill a man for me?”

“Two,” said Eugene.

“You, child. Yes, you are a child,” she said, keeping back the tears
that came to her eyes; “you would love sincerely.”

“Oh!” he cried, flinging up his head.

The audacity of the student’s answer interested the Vicomtesse in him.
The southern brain was beginning to scheme for the first time. Between
Mme. de Restaud’s blue boudoir and Mme. de Beauseant’s rose-colored
drawing-room he had made a three years’ advance in a kind of law which
is not a recognized study in Paris, although it is a sort of higher
jurisprudence, and, when well understood, is a highroad to success of
every kind.

“Ah! that is what I meant to say!” said Eugene. “I met Mme. de Restaud
at your ball, and this morning I went to see her.

“You must have been very much in the way,” said Mme. de Beauseant,
smiling as she spoke.

“Yes, indeed. I am a novice, and my blunders will set every one against
me, if you do not give me your counsel. I believe that in Paris it is
very difficult to meet with a young, beautiful, and wealthy woman of
fashion who would be willing to teach me, what you women can explain so
well--life. I shall find a M. de Trailles everywhere. So I have come to
you to ask you to give me a key to a puzzle, to entreat you to tell me
what sort of blunder I made this morning. I mentioned an old man----”

“Madame la Duchess de Langeais,” Jacques cut the student short; Eugene
gave expression to his intense annoyance by a gesture.

“If you mean to succeed,” said the Vicomtesse in a low voice, “in the
first place you must not be so demonstrative.”

“Ah! good morning, dear,” she continued, and rising and crossing the
room, she grasped the Duchess’ hands as affectionately as if they had
been sisters; the Duchess responded in the prettiest and most gracious

“Two intimate friends!” said Rastignac to himself. “Henceforward I shall
have two protectresses; those two women are great friends, no doubt, and
this newcomer will doubtless interest herself in her friend’s cousin.”

“To what happy inspiration do I owe this piece of good fortune, dear
Antoinette?” asked Mme. de Beauseant.

“Well, I saw M. d’Ajuda-Pinto at M. de Rochefide’s door, so I thought
that if I came I should find you alone.”

Mme. de Beauseant’s mouth did not tighten, her color did not rise, her
expression did not alter, or rather, her brow seemed to clear as the
Duchess uttered those deadly words.

“If I had known that you were engaged----” the speaker added, glancing
at Eugene.

“This gentleman is M. Eugene de Rastignac, one of my cousins,” said the
Vicomtesse. “Have you any news of General de Montriveau?” she continued.
“Serizy told me yesterday that he never goes anywhere now; has he been
to see you to-day?”

It was believed that the Duchess was desperately in love with M. de
Montriveau, and that he was a faithless lover; she felt the question in
her very heart, and her face flushed as she answered:

“He was at the Elysee yesterday.”

“In attendance?”

“Claire,” returned the Duchess, and hatred overflowed in the glances she
threw at Mme. de Beauseant; “of course you know that M. d’Ajuda-Pinto
is going to marry Mlle. de Rochefide; the bans will be published

This thrust was too cruel; the Vicomtesse’s face grew white, but she
answered, laughing, “One of those rumors that fools amuse themselves
with. What should induce M. d’Ajuda to take one of the noblest names
in Portugal to the Rochefides? The Rochefides were only ennobled

“But Bertha will have two hundred thousand livres a year, they say.”

“M. d’Ajuda is too wealthy to marry for money.”

“But, my dear, Mlle. de Rochefide is a charming girl.”


“And, as a matter of fact, he is dining with them to-day; the thing
is settled. It is very surprising to me that you should know so little
about it.”

Mme. de Beauseant turned to Rastignac. “What was the blunder that you
made, monsieur?” she asked. “The poor boy is only just launched into the
world, Antoinette, so that he understands nothing of all this that
we are speaking of. Be merciful to him, and let us finish our talk
to-morrow. Everything will be announced to-morrow, you know, and
your kind informal communication can be accompanied by official

The Duchess gave Eugene one of those insolent glances that measure a man
from head to foot, and leave him crushed and annihilated.

“Madame, I have unwittingly plunged a dagger into Mme. de Restaud’s
heart; unwittingly--therein lies my offence,” said the student of law,
whose keen brain had served him sufficiently well, for he had detected
the biting epigrams that lurked beneath this friendly talk. “You
continue to receive, possibly you fear, those who know the amount of
pain that they deliberately inflict; but a clumsy blunderer who has no
idea how deeply he wounds is looked upon as a fool who does not know how
to make use of his opportunities, and every one despises him.”

Mme. de Beauseant gave the student a glance, one of those glances in
which a great soul can mingle dignity and gratitude. It was like balm
to the law student, who was still smarting under the Duchess’ insolent
scrutiny; she had looked at him as an auctioneer might look at some
article to appraise its value.

“Imagine, too, that I had just made some progress with the Comte de
Restaud; for I should tell you, madame,” he went on, turning to the
Duchess with a mixture of humility and malice in his manner, “that as
yet I am only a poor devil of a student, very much alone in the world,
and very poor----”

“You should not tell us that, M. de Rastignac. We women never care about
anything that no one else will take.”

“Bah!” said Eugene. “I am only two-and-twenty, and I must make up my
mind to the drawbacks of my time of life. Besides, I am confessing
my sins, and it would be impossible to kneel in a more charming
confessional; you commit your sins in one drawing-room, and receive
absolution for them in another.”

The Duchess’ expression grew colder, she did not like the flippant tone
of these remarks, and showed that she considered them to be in bad
taste by turning to the Vicomtesse with--“This gentleman has only just

Mme. de Beauseant began to laugh outright at her cousin and at the
Duchess both.

“He has only just come to Paris, dear, and is in search of some one who
will give him lessons in good taste.”

“Mme. la Duchesse,” said Eugene, “is it not natural to wish to be
initiated into the mysteries which charm us?” (“Come, now,” he said to
himself, “my language is superfinely elegant, I’m sure.”)

“But Mme. de Restaud is herself, I believe, M. de Trailles’ pupil,” said
the Duchess.

“Of that I had no idea, madame,” answered the law student, “so I rashly
came between them. In fact, I got on very well with the lady’s husband,
and his wife tolerated me for a time until I took it into my head to
tell them that I knew some one of whom I had just caught a glimpse as he
went out by a back staircase, a man who had given the Countess a kiss at
the end of a passage.”

“Who was it?” both women asked together.

“An old man who lives at the rate of two louis a month in the Faubourg
Saint-Marceau, where I, a poor student, lodge likewise. He is a truly
unfortunate creature, everybody laughs at him--we all call him ‘Father

“Why, child that you are,” cried the Vicomtesse, “Mme. de Restaud was a
Mlle. Goriot!”

“The daughter of a vermicelli manufacturer,” the Duchess added; “and
when the little creature went to Court, the daughter of a pastry-cook
was presented on the same day. Do you remember, Claire? The King began
to laugh, and made some joke in Latin about flour. People--what was

“_Ejusdem farinoe_,” said Eugene.

“Yes, that was it,” said the Duchess.

“Oh! is that her father?” the law student continued, aghast.

“Yes, certainly; the old man had two daughters; he dotes on them, so to
speak, though they will scarcely acknowledge him.”

“Didn’t the second daughter marry a banker with a German name?” the
Vicomtesse asked, turning to Mme. de Langeais, “a Baron de Nucingen? And
her name is Delphine, is it not? Isn’t she a fair-haired woman who has
a side-box at the Opera? She comes sometimes to the Bouffons, and laughs
loudly to attract attention.”

The Duchess smiled and said:

“I wonder at you, dear. Why do you take so much interest in people of
that kind? One must have been as madly in love as Restaud was, to be
infatuated with Mlle. Anastasie and her flour sacks. Oh! he will not
find her a good bargain! She is in M. de Trailles’ hands, and he will
ruin her.”

“And they do not acknowledge their father!” Eugene repeated.

“Oh! well, yes, their father, the father, a father,” replied the
Vicomtesse, “a kind father who gave them each five or six hundred
thousand francs, it is said, to secure their happiness by marrying
them well; while he only kept eight or ten thousand livres a year for
himself, thinking that his daughters would always be his daughters,
thinking that in them he would live his life twice over again, that
in their houses he should find two homes, where he would be loved
and looked up to, and made much of. And in two years’ time both his
sons-in-law had turned him out of their houses as if he were one of the
lowest outcasts.”

Tears came into Eugene’s eyes. He was still under the spell of youthful
beliefs, he had just left home, pure and sacred feelings had been
stirred within him, and this was his first day on the battlefield of
civilization in Paris. Genuine feeling is so infectious that for a
moment the three looked at each other in silence.

“_Eh, mon Dieu!_” said Mme. de Langeais; “yes, it seems very horrible,
and yet we see such things every day. Is there not a reason for it?
Tell me, dear, have you ever really thought what a son-in-law is? A
son-in-law is the man for whom we bring up, you and I, a dear little
one, bound to us very closely in innumerable ways; for seventeen years
she will be the joy of her family, its ‘white soul,’ as Lamartine says,
and suddenly she will become its scourge. When HE comes and takes her
from us, his love from the very beginning is like an axe laid to the
root of all the old affection in our darling’s heart, and all the ties
that bound her to her family are severed. But yesterday our little
daughter thought of no one but her mother and father, as we had no
thought that was not for her; by to-morrow she will have become a
hostile stranger. The tragedy is always going on under our eyes. On the
one hand you see a father who has sacrificed himself to his son, and
his daughter-in-law shows him the last degree of insolence. On the other
hand, it is the son-in-law who turns his wife’s mother out of the house.
I sometimes hear it said that there is nothing dramatic about society in
these days; but the Drama of the Son-in-law is appalling, to say nothing
of our marriages, which have come to be very poor farces. I can explain
how it all came about in the old vermicelli maker’s case. I think I
recollect that Foriot----”

“Goriot, madame.”

“Yes, that Moriot was once President of his Section during the
Revolution. He was in the secret of the famous scarcity of grain, and
laid the foundation of his fortune in those days by selling flour for
ten times its cost. He had as much flour as he wanted. My grandmother’s
steward sold him immense quantities. No doubt Noriot shared the plunder
with the Committee of Public Salvation, as that sort of person always
did. I recollect the steward telling my grandmother that she might live
at Grandvilliers in complete security, because her corn was as good as
a certificate of civism. Well, then, this Loriot, who sold corn to
those butchers, has never had but one passion, they say--he idolizes his
daughters. He settled one of them under Restaud’s roof, and grafted the
other into the Nucingen family tree, the Baron de Nucingen being a rich
banker who had turned Royalist. You can quite understand that so long as
Bonaparte was Emperor, the two sons-in-law could manage to put up with
the old Ninety-three; but after the restoration of the Bourbons, M. de
Restaud felt bored by the old man’s society, and the banker was still
more tired of it. His daughters were still fond of him; they wanted
‘to keep the goat and the cabbage,’ so they used to see Joriot whenever
there was no one there, under pretence of affection. ‘Come to-day, papa,
we shall have you all to ourselves, and that will be much nicer!’
and all that sort of thing. As for me, dear, I believe that love has
second-sight: poor Ninety-three; his heart must have bled. He saw that
his daughters were ashamed of him, that if they loved their husbands
his visits must make mischief. So he immolated himself. He made the
sacrifice because he was a father; he went into voluntary exile. His
daughters were satisfied, so he thought that he had done the best thing
he could; but it was a family crime, and father and daughters were
accomplices. You see this sort of thing everywhere. What could this old
Doriot have been but a splash of mud in his daughters’ drawing-rooms? He
would only have been in the way, and bored other people, besides being
bored himself. And this that happened between father and daughters may
happen to the prettiest woman in Paris and the man she loves the best;
if her love grows tiresome, he will go; he will descend to the basest
trickery to leave her. It is the same with all love and friendship. Our
heart is a treasury; if you pour out all its wealth at once, you are
bankrupt. We show no more mercy to the affection that reveals its utmost
extent than we do to another kind of prodigal who has not a penny left.
Their father had given them all he had. For twenty years he had given
his whole heart to them; then, one day, he gave them all his fortune
too. The lemon was squeezed; the girls left the rest in the gutter.”

“The world is very base,” said the Vicomtesse, plucking at the threads
of her shawl. She did not raise her head as she spoke; the words that
Mme. de Langeais had meant for her in the course of her story had cut
her to the quick.

“Base? Oh, no,” answered the Duchess; “the world goes its own way, that
is all. If I speak in this way, it is only to show that I am not duped
by it. I think as you do,” she said, pressing the Vicomtesse’s hand.
“The world is a slough; let us try to live on the heights above it.”

She rose to her feet and kissed Mme. de Beauseant on the forehead as
she said: “You look very charming to-day, dear. I have never seen such a
lovely color in your cheeks before.”

Then she went out with a slight inclination of the head to the cousin.

“Father Goriot is sublime!” said Eugene to himself, as he remembered how
he had watched his neighbor work the silver vessel into a shapeless mass
that night.

Mme. de Beauseant did not hear him; she was absorbed in her own
thoughts. For several minutes the silence remained unbroken till the
law student became almost paralyzed with embarrassment, and was equally
afraid to go or stay or speak a word.

“The world is basely ungrateful and ill-natured,” said the Vicomtesse
at last. “No sooner does a trouble befall you than a friend is ready
to bring the tidings and to probe your heart with the point of a
dagger while calling on you to admire the handle. Epigrams and sarcasms
already! Ah! I will defend myself!”

She raised her head like the great lady that she was, and lightnings
flashed from her proud eyes.

“Ah!” she said, as she saw Eugene, “are you there?”

“Still,” he said piteously.

“Well, then, M. de Rastignac, deal with the world as it deserves. You
are determined to succeed? I will help you. You shall sound the depths
of corruption in woman; you shall measure the extent of man’s pitiful
vanity. Deeply as I am versed in such learning, there were pages in the
book of life that I had not read. Now I know all. The more cold-blooded
your calculations, the further you will go. Strike ruthlessly; you will
be feared. Men and women for you must be nothing more than post-horses;
take a fresh relay, and leave the last to drop by the roadside; in this
way you will reach the goal of your ambition. You will be nothing here,
you see, unless a woman interests herself in you; and she must be young
and wealthy, and a woman of the world. Yet, if you have a heart, lock
it carefully away like a treasure; do not let any one suspect it, or you
will be lost; you would cease to be the executioner, you would take
the victim’s place. And if ever you should love, never let your secret
escape you! Trust no one until you are very sure of the heart to which
you open your heart. Learn to mistrust every one; take every precaution
for the sake of the love which does not exist as yet. Listen,
Miguel”--the name slipped from her so naturally that she did not
notice her mistake--“there is something still more appalling than the
ingratitude of daughters who have cast off their old father and wish
that he were dead, and that is a rivalry between two sisters. Restaud
comes of a good family, his wife has been received into their circle;
she has been presented at court; and her sister, her wealthy sister,
Mme. Delphine de Nucingen, the wife of a great capitalist, is consumed
with envy, and ready to die of spleen. There is gulf set between the
sisters--indeed, they are sisters no longer--the two women who refuse
to acknowledge their father do not acknowledge each other. So Mme. de
Nucingen would lap up all the mud that lies between the Rue Saint-Lazare
and the Rue de Grenelle to gain admittance to my salon. She fancied
that she should gain her end through de Marsay; she has made herself
de Marsay’s slave, and she bores him. De Marsay cares very little about
her. If you will introduce her to me, you will be her darling, her
Benjamin; she will idolize you. If, after that, you can love her, do so;
if not, make her useful. I will ask her to come once or twice to one of
my great crushes, but I will never receive her here in the morning. I
will bow to her when I see her, and that will be quite sufficient.
You have shut the Comtesse de Restaud’s door against you by mentioning
Father Goriot’s name. Yes, my good friend, you may call at her house
twenty times, and every time out of the twenty you will find that she
is not at home. The servants have their orders, and will not admit you.
Very well, then, now let Father Goriot gain the right of entry into her
sister’s house for you. The beautiful Mme. de Nucingen will give the
signal for a battle. As soon as she singles you out, other women will
begin to lose their heads about you, and her enemies and rivals and
intimate friends will all try to take you from her. There are women who
will fall in love with a man because another woman has chosen him; like
the city madams, poor things, who copy our millinery, and hope thereby
to acquire our manners. You will have a success, and in Paris success is
everything; it is the key of power. If the women credit you with wit and
talent, the men will follow suit so long as you do not undeceive them
yourself. There will be nothing you may not aspire to; you will go
everywhere, and you will find out what the world is--an assemblage of
fools and knaves. But you must be neither the one nor the other. I am
giving you my name like Ariadne’s clue of thread to take with you into
the labyrinth; make no unworthy use of it,” she said, with a queenly
glance and curve of her throat; “give it back to me unsullied. And now,
go; leave me. We women also have our battles to fight.”

“And if you should ever need some one who would gladly set a match to a
train for you----”

“Well?” she asked.

He tapped his heart, smiled in answer to his cousin’s smile, and went.

It was five o’clock, and Eugene was hungry; he was afraid lest he should
not be in time for dinner, a misgiving which made him feel that it was
pleasant to be borne so quickly across Paris. This sensation of physical
comfort left his mind free to grapple with the thoughts that assailed
him. A mortification usually sends a young man of his age into a furious
rage; he shakes his fist at society, and vows vengeance when his belief
in himself is shaken. Just then Rastignac was overwhelmed by the words,
“You have shut the Countess’ door against you.”

“I shall call!” he said to himself, “and if Mme. de Beauseant is right,
if I never find her at home--I... well, Mme. de Restaud shall meet me
in every salon in Paris. I will learn to fence and have some pistol
practice, and kill that Maxime of hers!”

“And money?” cried an inward monitor. “How about money, where is that
to come from?” And all at once the wealth displayed in the Countess de
Restaud’s drawing-room rose before his eyes. That was the luxury which
Goriot’s daughter had loved too well, the gilding, the ostentatious
splendor, the unintelligent luxury of the parvenu, the riotous
extravagance of a courtesan. Then the attractive vision suddenly went
under an eclipse as he remembered the stately grandeur of the Hotel de
Beauseant. As his fancy wandered among these lofty regions in the great
world of Paris, innumerable dark thoughts gathered in his heart; his
ideas widened, and his conscience grew more elastic. He saw the world as
it is; saw how the rich lived beyond the jurisdiction of law and public
opinion, and found in success the _ultima ratio mundi_.

“Vautrin is right, success is virtue!” he said to himself.

Arrived in the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve, he rushed up to his room for
ten francs wherewith to satisfy the demands of the cabman, and went
in to dinner. He glanced round the squalid room, saw the eighteen
poverty-stricken creatures about to feed like cattle in their stalls,
and the sight filled him with loathing. The transition was too sudden,
and the contrast was so violent that it could not but act as a powerful
stimulant; his ambition developed and grew beyond all social bounds. On
the one hand, he beheld a vision of social life in its most charming
and refined forms, of quick-pulsed youth, of fair, impassioned faces
invested with all the charm of poetry, framed in a marvelous setting of
luxury or art; and, on the other hand, he saw a sombre picture, the miry
verge beyond these faces, in which passion was extinct and nothing was
left of the drama but the cords and pulleys and bare mechanism. Mme. de
Beauseant’s counsels, the words uttered in anger by the forsaken lady,
her petulant offer, came to his mind, and poverty was a ready expositor.
Rastignac determined to open two parallel trenches so as to insure
success; he would be a learned doctor of law and a man of fashion.
Clearly he was still a child! Those two lines are asymptotes, and will
never meet.

“You are very dull, my lord Marquis,” said Vautrin, with one of the
shrewd glances that seem to read the innermost secrets of another mind.

“I am not in the humor to stand jokes from people who call me ‘my lord
Marquis,’” answered Eugene. “A marquis here in Paris, if he is not the
veriest sham, ought to have a hundred thousand livres a year at least;
and a lodger in the Maison Vauquer is not exactly Fortune’s favorite.”

Vautrin’s glance at Rastignac was half-paternal, half-contemptuous.
“Puppy!” it seemed to say; “I should make one mouthful of him!” Then he

“You are in a bad humor; perhaps your visit to the beautiful Comtesse de
Restaud was not a success.”

“She has shut her door against me because I told her that her father
dined at our table,” cried Rastignac.

Glances were exchanged all round the room; Father Goriot looked down.

“You have sent some snuff into my eye,” he said to his neighbor, turning
a little aside to rub his hand over his face.

“Any one who molests Father Goriot will have henceforward to reckon with
me,” said Eugene, looking at the old man’s neighbor; “he is worth all
the rest of us put together.--I am not speaking of the ladies,” he
added, turning in the direction of Mlle. Taillefer.

Eugene’s remarks produced a sensation, and his tone silenced the
dinner-table. Vautrin alone spoke. “If you are going to champion Father
Goriot, and set up for his responsible editor into the bargain, you
had need be a crack shot and know how to handle the foils,” he said,

“So I intend,” said Eugene.

“Then you are taking the field to-day?”

“Perhaps,” Rastignac answered. “But I owe no account of myself to any
one, especially as I do not try to find out what other people do of a

Vautrin looked askance at Rastignac.

“If you do not mean to be deceived by the puppets, my boy, you must
go behind and see the whole show, and not peep through holes in the
curtain. That is enough,” he added, seeing that Eugene was about to fly
into a passion. “We can have a little talk whenever you like.”

There was a general feeling of gloom and constraint. Father Goriot was
so deeply dejected by the student’s remark that he did not notice the
change in the disposition of his fellow-lodgers, nor know that he had
met with a champion capable of putting an end to the persecution.

“Then, M. Goriot sitting there is the father of a countess,” said Mme.
Vauquer in a low voice.

“And of a baroness,” answered Rastignac.

“That is about all he is capable of,” said Bianchon to Rastignac; “I
have taken a look at his head; there is only one bump--the bump of
Paternity; he must be an _eternal father_.”

Eugene was too intent on his thoughts to laugh at Bianchon’s joke. He
determined to profit by Mme. de Beauseant’s counsels, and was asking
himself how he could obtain the necessary money. He grew grave. The wide
savannas of the world stretched before his eyes; all things lay before
him, nothing was his. Dinner came to an end, the others went, and he was
left in the dining-room.

“So you have seen my daughter?” Goriot spoke tremulously, and the sound
of his voice broke in upon Eugene’s dreams. The young man took the
elder’s hand, and looked at him with something like kindness in his

“You are a good and noble man,” he said. “We will have some talk about
your daughters by and by.”

He rose without waiting for Goriot’s answer, and went to his room. There
he wrote the following letter to his mother:--

 “My Dear Mother,--Can you nourish your child from your breast
  again? I am in a position to make a rapid fortune, but I want
  twelve hundred francs--I must have them at all costs. Say nothing
  about this to my father; perhaps he might make objections, and
  unless I have the money, I may be led to put an end to myself, and
  so escape the clutches of despair. I will tell you everything when
  I see you. I will not begin to try to describe my present
  situation; it would take volumes to put the whole story clearly
  and fully. I have not been gambling, my kind mother, I owe no one
  a penny; but if you would preserve the life that you gave me, you
  must send me the sum I mention. As a matter of fact, I go to see
  the Vicomtesse de Beauseant; she is using her influence for me; I
  am obliged to go into society, and I have not a penny to lay out
  on clean gloves. I can manage to exist on bread and water, or go
  without food, if need be, but I cannot do without the tools with
  which they cultivate the vineyards in this country. I must
  resolutely make up my mind at once to make my way, or stick in the
  mire for the rest of my days. I know that all your hopes are set
  on me, and I want to realize them quickly. Sell some of your old
  jewelry, my kind mother; I will give you other jewels very soon. I
  know enough of our affairs at home to know all that such a
  sacrifice means, and you must not think that I would lightly ask
  you to make it; I should be a monster if I could. You must think
  of my entreaty as a cry forced from me by imperative necessity.
  Our whole future lies in the subsidy with which I must begin my
  first campaign, for life in Paris is one continual battle. If you
  cannot otherwise procure the whole of the money, and are forced to
  sell our aunt’s lace, tell her that I will send her some still
  handsomer,” and so forth.

He wrote to ask each of his sisters for their savings--would they
despoil themselves for him, and keep the sacrifice a secret from the
family? To his request he knew that they would not fail to respond
gladly, and he added to it an appeal to their delicacy by touching the
chord of honor that vibrates so loudly in young and high-strung natures.

Yet when he had written the letters, he could not help feeling
misgivings in spite of his youthful ambition; his heart beat fast, and
he trembled. He knew the spotless nobleness of the lives buried away in
the lonely manor house; he knew what trouble and what joy his request
would cause his sisters, and how happy they would be as they talked
at the bottom of the orchard of that dear brother of theirs in Paris.
Visions rose before his eyes; a sudden strong light revealed his
sisters secretly counting over their little store, devising some girlish
stratagem by which the money could be sent to him _incognito_, essaying,
for the first time in their lives, a piece of deceit that reached the
sublime in its unselfishness.

“A sister’s heart is a diamond for purity, a deep sea of tenderness!” he
said to himself. He felt ashamed of those letters.

What power there must be in the petitions put up by such hearts;
how pure the fervor that bears their souls to Heaven in prayer! What
exquisite joy they would find in self-sacrifice! What a pang for his
mother’s heart if she could not send him all that he asked for! And this
noble affection, these sacrifices made at such terrible cost, were to
serve as the ladder by which he meant to climb to Delphine de Nucingen.
A few tears, like the last grains of incense flung upon the sacred
alter fire of the hearth, fell from his eyes. He walked up and down,
and despair mingled with his emotion. Father Goriot saw him through the
half-open door.

“What is the matter, sir?” he asked from the threshold.

“Ah! my good neighbor, I am as much a son and brother as you are a
father. You do well to fear for the Comtesse Anastasie; there is one M.
Maxime de Trailles, who will be her ruin.”

Father Goriot withdrew, stammering some words, but Eugene failed to
catch their meaning.

The next morning Rastignac went out to post his letters. Up to the last
moment he wavered and doubted, but he ended by flinging them into the
box. “I shall succeed!” he said to himself. So says the gambler; so says
the great captain; but the three words that have been the salvation of
some few, have been the ruin of many more.

A few days after this Eugene called at Mme. de Restaud’s house; she was
not at home. Three times he tried the experiment, and three times he
found her doors closed against him, though he was careful to choose an
hour when M. de Trailles was not there. The Vicomtesse was right.

The student studied no longer. He put in an appearance at lectures
simply to answer to his name, and after thus attesting his presence,
departed forthwith. He had been through a reasoning process familiar to
most students. He had seen the advisability of deferring his studies
to the last moment before going up for his examinations; he made up his
mind to cram his second and third years’ work into the third year, when
he meant to begin to work in earnest, and to complete his studies in law
with one great effort. In the meantime he had fifteen months in which to
navigate the ocean of Paris, to spread the nets and set the lines that
would bring him a protectress and a fortune. Twice during that week he
saw Mme. de Beauseant; he did not go to her house until he had seen the
Marquis d’Ajuda drive away.

Victory for yet a few more days was with the great lady, the most poetic
figure in the Faubourg Saint-Germain; and the marriage of the Marquis
d’Ajuda-Pinto with Mlle. de Rochefide was postponed. The dread of losing
her happiness filled those days with a fever of joy unknown before,
but the end was only so much the nearer. The Marquis d’Ajuda and the
Rochefides agreed that this quarrel and reconciliation was a very
fortunate thing; Mme. de Beauseant (so they hoped) would gradually
become reconciled to the idea of the marriage, and in the end would be
brought to sacrifice d’Ajuda’s morning visits to the exigencies of a
man’s career, exigencies which she must have foreseen. In spite of the
most solemn promises, daily renewed, M. d’Ajuda was playing a part,
and the Vicomtesse was eager to be deceived. “Instead of taking a leap
heroically from the window, she is falling headlong down the staircase,”
 said her most intimate friend, the Duchesse de Langeais. Yet this
after-glow of happiness lasted long enough for the Vicomtesse to be of
service to her young cousin. She had a half-superstitious affection for
him. Eugene had shown her sympathy and devotion at a crisis when a woman
sees no pity, no real comfort in any eyes; when if a man is ready with
soothing flatteries, it is because he has an interested motive.

Rastignac made up his mind that he must learn the whole of Goriot’s
previous history; he would come to his bearings before attempting to
board the Maison de Nucingen. The results of his inquiries may be given
briefly as follows:--

In the days before the Revolution, Jean-Joachim Goriot was simply a
workman in the employ of a vermicelli maker. He was a skilful, thrifty
workman, sufficiently enterprising to buy his master’s business when
the latter fell a chance victim to the disturbances of 1789. Goriot
established himself in the Rue de la Jussienne, close to the Corn
Exchange. His plain good sense led him to accept the position of
President of the Section, so as to secure for his business the
protection of those in power at that dangerous epoch. This prudent step
had led to success; the foundations of his fortune were laid in the time
of the Scarcity (real or artificial), when the price of grain of all
kinds rose enormously in Paris. People used to fight for bread at the
bakers’ doors; while other persons went to the grocers’ shops and bought
Italian paste foods without brawling over it. It was during this year
that Goriot made the money, which, at a later time, was to give him
all the advantage of the great capitalist over the small buyer; he had,
moreover, the usual luck of average ability; his mediocrity was the
salvation of him. He excited no one’s envy, it was not even suspected
that he was rich till the peril of being rich was over, and all his
intelligence was concentrated, not on political, but on commercial
speculations. Goriot was an authority second to none on all questions
relating to corn, flour, and “middlings”; and the production, storage,
and quality of grain. He could estimate the yield of the harvest, and
foresee market prices; he bought his cereals in Sicily, and imported
Russian wheat. Any one who had heard him hold forth on the regulations
that control the importation and exportation of grain, who had seen his
grasp of the subject, his clear insight into the principles involved,
his appreciation of weak points in the way that the system worked,
would have thought that here was the stuff of which a minister is made.
Patient, active, and persevering, energetic and prompt in action, he
surveyed his business horizon with an eagle eye. Nothing there took him
by surprise; he foresaw all things, knew all that was happening, and
kept his own counsel; he was a diplomatist in his quick comprehension
of a situation; and in the routine of business he was as patient and
plodding as a soldier on the march. But beyond this business horizon he
could not see. He used to spend his hours of leisure on the threshold of
his shop, leaning against the framework of the door. Take him from
his dark little counting-house, and he became once more the rough,
slow-witted workman, a man who cannot understand a piece of reasoning,
who is indifferent to all intellectual pleasures, and falls asleep at
the play, a Parisian Dolibom in short, against whose stupidity other
minds are powerless.

Natures of this kind are nearly all alike; in almost all of them you
will find some hidden depth of sublime affection. Two all-absorbing
affections filled the vermicelli maker’s heart to the exclusion of every
other feeling; into them he seemed to put all the forces of his nature,
as he put the whole power of his brain into the corn trade. He had
regarded his wife, the only daughter of a rich farmer of La Brie, with a
devout admiration; his love for her had been boundless. Goriot had
felt the charm of a lovely and sensitive nature, which, in its delicate
strength, was the very opposite of his own. Is there any instinct more
deeply implanted in the heart of man than the pride of protection, a
protection which is constantly exerted for a fragile and defenceless
creature? Join love thereto, the warmth of gratitude that all generous
souls feel for the source of their pleasures, and you have the
explanation of many strange incongruities in human nature.

After seven years of unclouded happiness, Goriot lost his wife. It was
very unfortunate for him. She was beginning to gain an ascendency over
him in other ways; possibly she might have brought that barren soil
under cultivation, she might have widened his ideas and given other
directions to his thoughts. But when she was dead, the instinct of
fatherhood developed in him till it almost became a mania. All the
affection balked by death seemed to turn to his daughters, and he found
full satisfaction for his heart in loving them. More or less brilliant
proposals were made to him from time to time; wealthy merchants or
farmers with daughters vied with each other in offering inducements
to him to marry again; but he determined to remain a widower. His
father-in-law, the only man for whom he felt a decided friendship, gave
out that Goriot had made a vow to be faithful to his wife’s memory. The
frequenters of the Corn Exchange, who could not comprehend this sublime
piece of folly, joked about it among themselves, and found a ridiculous
nickname for him. One of them ventured (after a glass over a bargain)
to call him by it, and a blow from the vermicelli maker’s fist sent him
headlong into a gutter in the Rue Oblin. He could think of nothing else
when his children were concerned; his love for them made him fidgety
and anxious; and this was so well known, that one day a competitor, who
wished to get rid of him to secure the field to himself, told Goriot
that Delphine had just been knocked down by a cab. The vermicelli maker
turned ghastly pale, left the Exchange at once, and did not return for
several days afterwards; he was ill in consequence of the shock and the
subsequent relief on discovering that it was a false alarm. This time,
however, the offender did not escape with a bruised shoulder; at a
critical moment in the man’s affairs, Goriot drove him into bankruptcy,
and forced him to disappear from the Corn Exchange.

As might have been expected, the two girls were spoiled. With an income
of sixty thousand francs, Goriot scarcely spent twelve hundred on
himself, and found all his happiness in satisfying the whims of the two
girls. The best masters were engaged, that Anastasie and Delphine
might be endowed with all the accomplishments which distinguish a good
education. They had a chaperon--luckily for them, she was a woman
who had good sense and good taste;--they learned to ride; they had a
carriage for their use; they lived as the mistress of a rich old lord
might live; they had only to express a wish, their father would hasten
to give them their most extravagant desires, and asked nothing of them
in return but a kiss. Goriot had raised the two girls to the level of
the angels; and, quite naturally, he himself was left beneath them. Poor
man! he loved them even for the pain that they gave him.

When the girls were old enough to be married, they were left free to
choose for themselves. Each had half her father’s fortune as her dowry;
and when the Comte de Restaud came to woo Anastasie for her beauty,
her social aspirations led her to leave her father’s house for a more
exalted sphere. Delphine wished for money; she married Nucingen, a
banker of German extraction, who became a Baron of the Holy Roman
Empire. Goriot remained a vermicelli maker as before. His daughters
and his sons-in-law began to demur; they did not like to see him still
engaged in trade, though his whole life was bound up with his business.
For five years he stood out against their entreaties, then he yielded,
and consented to retire on the amount realized by the sale of his
business and the savings of the last few years. It was this capital
that Mme. Vauquer, in the early days of his residence with her, had
calculated would bring in eight or ten thousand livres in a year. He had
taken refuge in her lodging-house, driven there by despair when he knew
that his daughters were compelled by their husbands not only to refuse
to receive him as an inmate in their houses, but even to see him no more
except in private.

This was all the information which Rastignac gained from a M. Muret
who had purchased Goriot’s business, information which confirmed
the Duchesse de Langeais’ suppositions, and herewith the preliminary
explanation of this obscure but terrible Parisian tragedy comes to an

Towards the end of the first week in December Rastignac received two
letters--one from his mother, and one from his eldest sister. His heart
beat fast, half with happiness, half with fear, at the sight of the
familiar handwriting. Those two little scraps of paper contained life
or death for his hopes. But while he felt a shiver of dread as he
remembered their dire poverty at home, he knew their love for him so
well that he could not help fearing that he was draining their very
life-blood. His mother’s letter ran as follows:--

 “MY DEAR CHILD,--I am sending you the money that you asked for.
  Make a good use of it. Even to save your life I could not raise so
  large a sum a second time without your father’s knowledge, and
  there would be trouble about it. We should be obliged to mortgage
  the land. It is impossible to judge of the merits of schemes of
  which I am ignorant; but what sort of schemes can they be, that
  you should fear to tell me about them? Volumes of explanation
  would not have been needed; we mothers can understand at a word,
  and that word would have spared me the anguish of uncertainty. I
  do not know how to hide the painful impression that your letter
  has made upon me, my dear son. What can you have felt when you
  were moved to send this chill of dread through my heart? It must
  have been very painful to you to write the letter that gave me so
  much pain as I read it. To what courses are you committed? You are
  going to appear to be something that you are not, and your whole
  life and success depends upon this? You are about to see a society
  into which you cannot enter without rushing into expense that you
  cannot afford, without losing precious time that is needed for
  your studies. Ah! my dear Eugene, believe your mother, crooked
  ways cannot lead to great ends. Patience and endurance are the two
  qualities most needed in your position. I am not scolding you; I
  do not want any tinge of bitterness to spoil our offering. I am
  only talking like a mother whose trust in you is as great as her
  foresight for you. You know the steps that you must take, and I,
  for my part, know the purity of heart, and how good your
  intentions are; so I can say to you without a doubt, ‘Go forward,
  beloved!’ If I tremble, it is because I am a mother, but my
  prayers and blessings will be with you at every step. Be very
  careful, dear boy. You must have a man’s prudence, for it lies
  with you to shape the destinies of five others who are dear to
  you, and must look to you. Yes, our fortunes depend upon you, and
  your success is ours. We all pray to God to be with you in all
  that you do. Your aunt Marcillac has been most generous beyond
  words in this matter; she saw at once how it was, even down to
  your gloves. ‘But I have a weakness for the eldest!’ she said
  gaily. You must love your aunt very much, dear Eugene. I shall
  wait till you have succeeded before telling you all that she has
  done for you, or her money would burn your fingers. You, who are
  young, do not know what it is to part with something that is a
  piece of your past! But what would we not sacrifice for your
  sakes? Your aunt says that I am to send you a kiss on the forehead
  from her, and that kiss is to bring you luck again and again, she
  says. She would have written you herself, the dear kind-hearted
  woman, but she is troubled with the gout in her fingers just now.
  Your father is very well. The vintage of 1819 has turned out
  better than we expected. Good-bye, dear boy; I will say nothing
  about your sisters, because Laure is writing to you, and I must
  let her have the pleasure of giving you all the home news. Heaven
  send that you may succeed! Oh! yes, dear Eugene, you must succeed.
  I have come, through you, to a knowledge of a pain so sharp that I
  do not think I could endure it a second time. I have come to know
  what it is to be poor, and to long for money for my children’s
  sake. There, good-bye! Do not leave us for long without news of
  you; and here, at the last, take a kiss from your mother.”

By the time Eugene had finished the letter he was in tears. He thought
of Father Goriot crushing his silver keepsake into a shapeless mass
before he sold it to meet his daughter’s bill of exchange.

“Your mother has broken up her jewels for you,” he said to himself;
“your aunt shed tears over those relics of hers before she sold them
for your sake. What right have you to heap execrations on Anastasie? You
have followed her example; you have selfishly sacrificed others to your
own future, and she sacrifices her father to her lover; and of you two,
which is the worse?”

He was ready to renounce his attempts; he could not bear to take
that money. The fires of remorse burned in his heart, and gave him
intolerable pain, the generous secret remorse which men seldom take into
account when they sit in judgment upon their fellow-men; but perhaps
the angels in heaven, beholding it, pardon the criminal whom our justice
condemns. Rastignac opened his sister’s letter; its simplicity and
kindness revived his heart.

 “Your letter came just at the right time, dear brother. Agathe and
  I had thought of so many different ways of spending our money,
  that we did not know what to buy with it; and now you have come
  in, and, like the servant who upset all the watches that belonged
  to the King of Spain, you have restored harmony; for, really and
  truly, we did not know which of all the things we wanted we wanted
  most, and we were always quarreling about it, never thinking, dear
  Eugene, of a way of spending our money which would satisfy us
  completely. Agathe jumped for you. Indeed, we have been like two
  mad things all day, ‘to such a prodigious degree’ (as aunt would
  say), that mother said, with her severe expression, ‘Whatever can
  be the matter with you, mesdemoiselles?’ I think if we had been
  scolded a little, we should have been still better pleased. A
  woman ought to be very glad to suffer for one she loves! I,
  however, in my inmost soul, was doleful and cross in the midst of
  all my joy. I shall make a bad wife, I am afraid, I am too fond of
  spending. I had bought two sashes and a nice little stiletto for
  piercing eyelet-holes in my stays, trifles that I really did not
  want, so that I have less than that slow-coach Agathe, who is so
  economical, and hoards her money like a magpie. She had two
  hundred francs! And I have only one hundred and fifty! I am nicely
  punished; I could throw my sash down the well; it will be painful
  to me to wear it now. Poor dear, I have robbed you. And Agathe was
  so nice about it. She said, ‘Let us send the three hundred and
  fifty francs in our two names!’ But I could not help telling you
  everything just as it happened.

 “Do you know how we managed to keep your commandments? We took our
  glittering hoard, we went out for a walk, and when once fairly on
  the highway we ran all the way to Ruffec, where we handed over the
  coin, without more ado, to M. Grimbert of the Messageries Royales.
  We came back again like swallows on the wing. ‘Don’t you think
  that happiness has made us lighter?’ Agathe said. We said all
  sorts of things, which I shall not tell you, Monsieur le Parisien,
  because they were all about you. Oh, we love you dearly, dear
  brother; it was all summed up in those few words. As for keeping
  the secret, little masqueraders like us are capable of anything
  (according to our aunt), even of holding our tongues. Our mother
  has been on a mysterious journey to Angouleme, and the aunt went
  with her, not without solemn councils, from which we were shut
  out, and M. le Baron likewise. They are silent as to the weighty
  political considerations that prompted their mission, and
  conjectures are rife in the State of Rastignac. The Infantas are
  embroidering a muslin robe with open-work sprigs for her Majesty
  the Queen; the work progresses in the most profound secrecy. There
  be but two more breadths to finish. A decree has gone forth that
  no wall shall be built on the side of Verteuil, but that a hedge
  shall be planted instead thereof. Our subjects may sustain some
  disappointment of fruit and espaliers, but strangers will enjoy
  a fair prospect. Should the heir-presumptive lack
  pocket-handkerchiefs, be it known unto him that the dowager Lady
  of Marcillac, exploring the recesses of her drawers and boxes
  (known respectively as Pompeii and Herculaneum), having brought to
  light a fair piece of cambric whereof she wotted not, the Princesses
  Agathe and Laure place at their brother’s disposal their thread,
  their needles, and hands somewhat of the reddest. The two young
  Princes, Don Henri and Don Gabriel, retain their fatal habits of
  stuffing themselves with grape-jelly, of teasing their sisters, of
  taking their pleasure by going a-bird-nesting, and of cutting
  switches for themselves from the osier-beds, maugre the laws of
  the realm. Moreover, they list not to learn naught, wherefore the
  Papal Nuncio (called of the commonalty, M. le Cure) threateneth
  them with excommunication, since that they neglect the sacred
  canons of grammatical construction for the construction of other
  canon, deadly engines made of the stems of elder.

 “Farewell, dear brother, never did letter carry so many wishes for
  your success, so much love fully satisfied. You will have a great
  deal to tell us when you come home! You will tell me everything,
  won’t you? I am the oldest. From something the aunt let fall, we
  think you must have had some success.

 “Something was said of a lady, but nothing more was said...

 “Of course not, in our family! Oh, by-the-by, Eugene, would you
  rather that we made that piece of cambric into shirts for you
  instead of pocket-handkerchiefs? If you want some really nice
  shirts at once, we ought to lose no time in beginning upon them;
  and if the fashion is different now in Paris, send us one for a
  pattern; we want more particularly to know about the cuffs. Good-
  bye! Good-bye! Take my kiss on the left side of your forehead, on
  the temple that belongs to me, and to no one else in the world. I
  am leaving the other side of the sheet for Agathe, who has
  solemnly promised not to read a word that I have written; but, all
  the same, I mean to sit by her side while she writes, so as to be
  quite sure that she keeps her word.--Your loving sister,

                                           “LAURE DE RASTIGNAC.”

“Yes!” said Eugene to himself. “Yes! Success at all costs now! Riches
could not repay such devotion as this. I wish I could give them every
sort of happiness! Fifteen hundred and fifty francs,” he went on after a
pause. “Every shot must go to the mark! Laure is right. Trust a woman!
I have only calico shirts. Where some one else’s welfare is concerned, a
young girl becomes as ingenious as a thief. Guileless where she herself
is in question, and full of foresight for me,--she is like a heavenly
angel forgiving the strange incomprehensible sins of earth.”

The world lay before him. His tailor had been summoned and sounded, and
had finally surrendered. When Rastignac met M. de Trailles, he had seen
at once how great a part the tailor plays in a young man’s career; a
tailor is either a deadly enemy or a staunch friend, with an invoice
for a bond of friendship; between these two extremes there is, alack! no
middle term. In this representative of his craft Eugene discovered a man
who understood that his was a sort of paternal function for young men
at their entrance into life, who regarded himself as a stepping-stone
between a young man’s present and future. And Rastignac in gratitude
made the man’s fortune by an epigram of a kind in which he excelled at a
later period of his life.

“I have twice known a pair of trousers turned out by him make a match of
twenty thousand livres a year!”

Fifteen hundred francs, and as many suits of clothes as he chose to
order! At that moment the poor child of the South felt no more doubts of
any kind. The young man went down to breakfast with the indefinable air
which the consciousness of the possession of money gives to youth. No
sooner are the coins slipped into a student’s pocket than his wealth,
in imagination at least, is piled into a fantastic column, which affords
him a moral support. He begins to hold up his head as he walks; he is
conscious that he has a means of bringing his powers to bear on a given
point; he looks you straight in the face; his gestures are quick and
decided; only yesterday he was diffident and shy, any one might have
pushed him aside; to-morrow, he will take the wall of a prime minister.
A miracle has been wrought in him. Nothing is beyond the reach of
his ambition, and his ambition soars at random; he is light-hearted,
generous, and enthusiastic; in short, the fledgling bird has discovered
that he has wings. A poor student snatches at every chance pleasure
much as a dog runs all sorts of risks to steal a bone, cracking it and
sucking the marrow as he flies from pursuit; but a young man who can
rattle a few runaway gold coins in his pocket can take his pleasure
deliberately, can taste the whole of the sweets of secure possession; he
soars far above earth; he has forgotten what the word _poverty_ means;
all Paris is his. Those are days when the whole world shines radiant
with light, when everything glows and sparkles before the eyes of youth,
days that bring joyous energy that is never brought into harness, days
of debts and of painful fears that go hand in hand with every delight.
Those who do not know the left bank of the Seine between the Rue
Saint-Jacques and the Rue des Saints-Peres know nothing of life.

“Ah! if the women of Paris but knew,” said Rastignac, as he devoured
Mme. Vauquer’s stewed pears (at five for a penny), “they would come here
in search of a lover.”

Just then a porter from the Messageries Royales appeared at the door of
the room; they had previously heard the bell ring as the wicket opened
to admit him. The man asked for M. Eugene de Rastignac, holding out two
bags for him to take, and a form of receipt for his signature. Vautrin’s
keen glance cut Eugene like a lash.

“Now you will be able to pay for those fencing lessons and go to the
shooting gallery,” he said.

“Your ship has come in,” said Mme. Vauquer, eyeing the bags.

Mlle. Michonneau did not dare to look at the money, for fear her eyes
should betray her cupidity.

“You have a kind mother,” said Mme. Couture.

“You have a kind mother, sir,” echoed Poiret.

“Yes, mamma has been drained dry,” said Vautrin, “and now you can have
your fling, go into society, and fish for heiresses, and dance with
countesses who have peach blossom in their hair. But take my advice,
young man, and don’t neglect your pistol practice.”

Vautrin struck an attitude, as if he were facing an antagonist.
Rastignac, meaning to give the porter a tip, felt in his pockets and
found nothing. Vautrin flung down a franc piece on the table.

“Your credit is good,” he remarked, eyeing the student, and Rastignac
was forced to thank him, though, since the sharp encounter of wits at
dinner that day, after Eugene came in from calling on Mme. de Beauseant,
he had made up his mind that Vautrin was insufferable. For a week, in
fact, they had both kept silence in each other’s presence, and watched
each other. The student tried in vain to account to himself for this

An idea, of course, gains in force by the energy with which it
is expressed; it strikes where the brain sends it, by a law as
mathematically exact as the law that determines the course of a shell
from a mortar. The amount of impression it makes is not to be determined
so exactly. Sometimes, in an impressible nature, the idea works havoc,
but there are, no less, natures so robustly protected, that this sort
of projectile falls flat and harmless on skulls of triple brass,
as cannon-shot against solid masonry; then there are flaccid and
spongy-fibred natures into which ideas from without sink like spent
bullets into the earthworks of a redoubt. Rastignac’s head was something
of the powder-magazine order; the least shock sufficed to bring about an
explosion. He was too quick, too young, not to be readily accessible
to ideas; and open to that subtle influence of thought and feeling in
others which causes so many strange phenomena that make an impression
upon us of which we are all unconscious at the time. Nothing escaped his
mental vision; he was lynx-eyed; in him the mental powers of perception,
which seem like duplicates of the senses, had the mysterious power
of swift projection that astonishes us in intellects of a high
order--slingers who are quick to detect the weak spot in any armor.

In the past month Eugene’s good qualities and defects had rapidly
developed with his character. Intercourse with the world and the
endeavor to satisfy his growing desires had brought out his defects.
But Rastignac came from the South side of the Loire, and had the good
qualities of his countrymen. He had the impetuous courage of the South,
that rushes to the attack of a difficulty, as well as the southern
impatience of delay or suspense. These traits are held to be defects in
the North; they made the fortune of Murat, but they likewise cut short
his career. The moral would appear to be that when the dash and boldness
of the South side of the Loire meets, in a southern temperament, with
the guile of the North, the character is complete, and such a man will
gain (and keep) the crown of Sweden.

Rastignac, therefore, could not stand the fire from Vautrin’s batteries
for long without discovering whether this was a friend or a foe. He felt
as if this strange being was reading his inmost soul, and dissecting
his feelings, while Vautrin himself was so close and secretive that
he seemed to have something of the profound and unmoved serenity of
a sphinx, seeing and hearing all things and saying nothing. Eugene,
conscious of that money in his pocket, grew rebellious.

“Be so good as to wait a moment,” he said to Vautrin, as the latter
rose, after slowly emptying his coffee-cup, sip by sip.

“What for?” inquired the older man, as he put on his large-brimmed hat
and took up the sword-cane that he was wont to twirl like a man who will
face three or four footpads without flinching.

“I will repay you in a minute,” returned Eugene. He unsealed one of the
bags as he spoke, counted out a hundred and forty francs, and pushed
them towards Mme. Vauquer. “Short reckonings make good friends” he
added, turning to the widow; “that clears our accounts till the end of
the year. Can you give me change for a five-franc piece?”

“Good friends make short reckonings,” echoed Poiret, with a glance at

“Here is your franc,” said Rastignac, holding out the coin to the sphinx
in the black wig.

“Any one might think that you were afraid to owe me a trifle,” exclaimed
this latter, with a searching glance that seemed to read the young man’s
inmost thoughts; there was a satirical and cynical smile on Vautrin’s
face such as Eugene had seen scores of times already; every time he saw
it, it exasperated him almost beyond endurance.

“Well... so I am,” he answered. He held both the bags in his hand, and
had risen to go up to his room.

Vautrin made as if he were going out through the sitting-room, and the
student turned to go through the second door that opened into the square
lobby at the foot of the staircase.

“Do you know, Monsieur le Marquis de Rastignacorama, that what you were
saying just now was not exactly polite?” Vautrin remarked, as he rattled
his sword-cane across the panels of the sitting-room door, and came up
to the student.

Rastignac looked coolly at Vautrin, drew him to the foot of the
staircase, and shut the dining-room door. They were standing in the
little square lobby between the kitchen and the dining-room; the place
was lighted by an iron-barred fanlight above a door that gave access
into the garden. Sylvie came out of her kitchen, and Eugene chose that
moment to say:

“_Monsieur_ Vautrin, I am not a marquis, and my name is not

“They will fight,” said Mlle. Michonneau, in an indifferent tone.

“Fight!” echoed Poiret.

“Not they,” replied Mme. Vauquer, lovingly fingering her pile of coins.

“But there they are under the lime-trees,” cried Mlle. Victorine, who
had risen so that she might see out into the garden. “Poor young man! he
was in the right, after all.”

“We must go upstairs, my pet,” said Mme. Couture; “it is no business of

At the door, however, Mme. Couture and Victorine found their progress
barred by the portly form of Sylvie the cook.

“What ever can have happened?” she said. “M. Vautrin said to M. Eugene,
‘Let us have an explanation!’ then he took him by the arm, and there
they are, out among the artichokes.”

Vautrin came in while she was speaking. “Mamma Vauquer,” he said
smiling, “don’t frighten yourself at all. I am only going to try my
pistols under the lime-trees.”

“Oh! monsieur,” cried Victorine, clasping her hands as she spoke, “why
do you want to kill M. Eugene?”

Vautrin stepped back a pace or two, and gazed at Victorine.

“Oh! this is something fresh!” he exclaimed in a bantering tone, that
brought the color into the poor girl’s face. “That young fellow yonder
is very nice, isn’t he?” he went on. “You have given me a notion, my
pretty child; I will make you both happy.”

Mme. Couture laid her hand on the arm of her ward, and drew the girl
away, as she said in her ear:

“Why, Victorine, I cannot imagine what has come over you this morning.”

“I don’t want any shots fired in my garden,” said Mme. Vauquer. “You
will frighten the neighborhood and bring the police up here all in a

“Come, keep cool, Mamma Vauquer,” answered Vautrin. “There, there; it’s
all right; we will go to the shooting-gallery.”

He went back to Rastignac, laying his hand familiarly on the young man’s

“When I have given you ocular demonstration of the fact that I can put
a bullet through the ace on a card five times running at thirty-five
paces,” he said, “that won’t take away your appetite, I suppose? You
look to me to be inclined to be a trifle quarrelsome this morning, and
as if you would rush on your death like a blockhead.”

“Do you draw back?” asked Eugene.

“Don’t try to raise my temperature,” answered Vautrin, “it is not cold
this morning. Let us go and sit over there,” he added, pointing to the
green-painted garden seats; “no one can overhear us. I want a little
talk with you. You are not a bad sort of youngster, and I have no
quarrel with you. I like you, take Trump--(confound it!)--take Vautrin’s
word for it. What makes me like you? I will tell you by-and-by.
Meantime, I can tell you that I know you as well as if I had made you
myself, as I will prove to you in a minute. Put down your bags,” he
continued, pointing to the round table.

Rastignac deposited his money on the table, and sat down. He was
consumed with curiosity, which the sudden change in the manner of the
man before him had excited to the highest pitch. Here was a strange
being who, a moment ago, had talked of killing him, and now posed as his

“You would like to know who I really am, what I was, and what I do now,”
 Vautrin went on. “You want to know too much, youngster. Come! come! keep
cool! You will hear more astonishing things than that. I have had
my misfortunes. Just hear me out first, and you shall have your turn
afterwards. Here is my past in three words. Who am I? Vautrin. What do
I do? Just what I please. Let us change the subject. You want to know my
character. I am good-natured to those who do me a good turn, or to those
whose hearts speak to mine. These last may do anything they like with
me; they may bruise my shins, and I shall not tell them to ‘mind what
they are about’; but, _nom d’une pipe_, the devil himself is not an
uglier customer than I can be if people annoy me, or if I don’t happen
to take to them; and you may just as well know at once that I think no
more of killing a man than of that,” and he spat before him as he spoke.
“Only when it is absolutely necessary to do so, I do my best to kill him
properly. I am what you call an artist. I have read Benvenuto Cellini’s
_Memoirs_, such as you see me; and, what is more, in Italian: A
fine-spirited fellow he was! From him I learned to follow the example
set us by Providence, who strikes us down at random, and to admire
the beautiful whenever and wherever it is found. And, setting other
questions aside, is it not a glorious part to play, when you pit
yourself against mankind, and the luck is on your side? I have thought
a good deal about the constitution of your present social Dis-order. A
duel is downright childish, my boy! utter nonsense and folly! When one
of two living men must be got out of the way, none but an idiot
would leave chance to decide which it is to be; and in a duel it is a
toss-up--heads or tails--and there you are! Now I, for instance, can
hit the ace in the middle of a card five times running, send one bullet
after another through the same hole, and at thirty-five paces, moreover!
With that little accomplishment you might think yourself certain of
killing your man, mightn’t you. Well, I have fired, at twenty paces, and
missed, and the rogue who had never handled a pistol in his life--look
here!”--(he unbuttoned his waistcoat and exposed his chest, covered,
like a bear’s back, with a shaggy fell; the student gave a startled
shudder)--“he was a raw lad, but he made his mark on me,” the
extraordinary man went on, drawing Rastignac’s fingers over a deep scar
on his breast. “But that happened when I myself was a mere boy; I was
one-and-twenty then (your age), and I had some beliefs left--in a
woman’s love, and in a pack of rubbish that you will be over head and
ears in directly. You and I were to have fought just now, weren’t we?
You might have killed me. Suppose that I were put under the earth, where
would you be? You would have to clear out of this, go to Switzerland,
draw on papa’s purse--and he has none too much in it as it is. I mean to
open your eyes to your real position, that is what I am going to do: but
I shall do it from the point of view of a man who, after studying the
world very closely, sees that there are but two alternatives--stupid
obedience or revolt. I obey nobody; is that clear? Now, do you know how
much you will want at the pace you are going? A million; and promptly,
too, or that little head of ours will be swaying to and fro in the
drag-nets at Saint-Cloud, while we are gone to find out whether or no
there is a Supreme Being. I will put you in the way of that million.”

He stopped for a moment and looked at Eugene.

“Aha! you do not look so sourly at papa Vautrin now! At the mention of
the million you look like a young girl when somebody has said, ‘I will
come for you this evening!’ and she betakes herself to her toilette as a
cat licks its whiskers over a saucer of milk. All right. Come, now, let
us go into the question, young man; all between ourselves, you know.
We have a papa and mamma down yonder, a great-aunt, two sisters (aged
eighteen and seventeen), two young brothers (one fifteen, and the other
ten), that is about the roll-call of the crew. The aunt brings up the
two sisters; the cure comes and teaches the boys Latin. Boiled chestnuts
are oftener on the table than white bread. Papa makes a suit of clothes
last a long while; if mamma has a different dress winter and summer, it
is about as much as she has; the sisters manage as best they can. I know
all about it; I have lived in the south.

“That is how things are at home. They send you twelve hundred francs a
year, and the whole property only brings in three thousand francs all
told. We have a cook and a manservant; papa is a baron, and we must keep
up appearances. Then we have our ambitions; we are connected with the
Beauseants, and we go afoot through the streets; we want to be rich,
and we have not a penny; we eat Mme. Vauquer’s messes, and we like grand
dinners in the Faubourg Saint-Germain; we sleep on a truckle-bed, and
dream of a mansion! I do not blame you for wanting these things. What
sort of men do the women run after? Men of ambition. Men of ambition
have stronger frames, their blood is richer in iron, their hearts are
warmer than those of ordinary men. Women feel that when their power is
greatest, they look their best, and that those are their happiest hours;
they like power in men, and prefer the strongest even if it is a power
that may be their own destruction. I am going to make an inventory of
your desires in order to put the question at issue before you. Here it

“We are as hungry as a wolf, and those newly-cut teeth of ours are
sharp; what are we to do to keep the pot boiling? In the first place,
we have the Code to browse upon; it is not amusing, and we are none the
wiser for it, but that cannot be helped. So far so good. We mean to make
an advocate of ourselves with a prospect of one day being made President
of a Court of Assize, when we shall send poor devils, our betters, to
the galleys with a T.F.[*] on their shoulders, so that the rich may be
convinced that they can sleep in peace. There is no fun in that; and you
are a long while coming to it; for, to begin with, there are two years
of nauseous drudgery in Paris, we see all the lollipops that we long for
out of our reach. It is tiresome to want things and never to have them.
If you were a pallid creature of the mollusk order, you would have
nothing to fear, but it is different when you have the hot blood of
a lion and are ready to get into a score of scrapes every day of your
life. This is the ghastliest form of torture known in this inferno of
God’s making, and you will give in to it. Or suppose that you are a good
boy, drink nothing stronger than milk, and bemoan your hard lot; you,
with your generous nature, will endure hardships that would drive a dog
mad, and make a start, after long waiting, as deputy to some rascal
or other in a hole of a place where the Government will fling you a
thousand francs a year like the scraps that are thrown to the butcher’s
dog. Bark at thieves, plead the cause of the rich, send men of heart
to the guillotine, that is your work! Many thanks! If you have no
influence, you may rot in your provincial tribunal. At thirty you will
be a Justice with twelve hundred francs a year (if you have not flung
off the gown for good before then). By the time you are forty you may
look to marry a miller’s daughter, an heiress with some six thousand
livres a year. Much obliged! If you have influence, you may possibly
be a Public Prosecutor by the time you are thirty; with a salary of
a thousand crowns, you could look to marry the mayor’s daughter. Some
petty piece of political trickery, such as mistaking Villele for Manuel
in a bulletin (the names rhyme, and that quiets your conscience), and
you will probably be a Procureur General by the time you are forty, with
a chance of becoming a deputy. Please to observe, my dear boy, that our
conscience will have been a little damaged in the process, and that we
shall endure twenty years of drudgery and hidden poverty, and that
our sisters are wearing Dian’s livery. I have the honor to call your
attention to another fact: to wit, that there are but twenty Procureurs
Generaux at a time in all France, while there are some twenty thousand
of you young men who aspire to that elevated position; that there are
some mountebanks among you who would sell their family to screw their
fortunes a peg higher. If this sort of thing sickens you, try another
course. The Baron de Rastignac thinks of becoming an advocate, does he?
There’s a nice prospect for you! Ten years of drudgery straight away.
You are obliged to live at the rate of a thousand francs a month; you
must have a library of law books, live in chambers, go into society, go
down on your knees to ask a solicitor for briefs, lick the dust off
the floor of the Palais de Justice. If this kind of business led to
anything, I should not say no; but just give me the names of five
advocates here in Paris who by the time that they are fifty are making
fifty thousand francs a year! Bah! I would sooner turn pirate on the
high seas than have my soul shrivel up inside me like that. How will
you find the capital? There is but one way, marry a woman who has money.
There is no fun in it. Have you a mind to marry? You hang a stone around
your neck; for if you marry for money, what becomes of our exalted
notions of honor and so forth? You might as well fly in the face of
social conventions at once. Is it nothing to crawl like a serpent before
your wife, to lick her mother’s feet, to descend to dirty actions
that would sicken swine--faugh!--never mind if you at least make your
fortune. But you will be as doleful as a dripstone if you marry for
money. It is better to wrestle with men than to wrangle at home with
your wife. You are at the crossway of the roads of life, my boy; choose
your way.

[*] Travaux forces, forced labour.

“But you have chosen already. You have gone to see your cousin of
Beauseant, and you have had an inkling of luxury; you have been to Mme.
de Restaud’s house, and in Father Goriot’s daughter you have seen a
glimpse of the Parisienne for the first time. That day you came
back with a word written on your forehead. I knew it, I could read
it--‘_Success_!’ Yes, success at any price. ‘Bravo,’ said I to myself,
‘here is the sort of fellow for me.’ You wanted money. Where was it all
to come from? You have drained your sisters’ little hoard (all brothers
sponge more or less on their sisters). Those fifteen hundred francs of
yours (got together, God knows how! in a country where there are more
chestnuts than five-franc pieces) will slip away like soldiers after
pillage. And, then, what will you do? Shall you begin to work? Work, or
what you understand by work at this moment, means, for a man of Poiret’s
calibre, an old age in Mamma Vauquer’s lodging-house. There are fifty
thousand young men in your position at this moment, all bent as you are
on solving one and the same problem--how to acquire a fortune rapidly.
You are but a unit in that aggregate. You can guess, therefore, what
efforts you must make, how desperate the struggle is. There are not
fifty thousand good positions for you; you must fight and devour one
another like spiders in a pot. Do you know how a man makes his way here?
By brilliant genius or by skilful corruption. You must either cut your
way through these masses of men like a cannon ball, or steal among them
like a plague. Honesty is nothing to the purpose. Men bow before the
power of genius; they hate it, and try to slander it, because genius
does not divide the spoil; but if genius persists, they bow before it.
To sum it all up in a phrase, if they fail to smother genius in the mud,
they fall on their knees and worship it. Corruption is a great power
in the world, and talent is scarce. So corruption is the weapon of
superfluous mediocrity; you will be made to feel the point of it
everywhere. You will see women who spend more than ten thousand francs
a year on dress, while their husband’s salary (his whole income) is
six thousand francs. You will see officials buying estates on twelve
thousand francs a year. You will see women who sell themselves body and
soul to drive in a carriage belonging to the son of a peer of France,
who has a right to drive in the middle rank at Longchamp. You have
seen that poor simpleton of a Goriot obliged to meet a bill with his
daughter’s name at the back of it, though her husband has fifty thousand
francs a year. I defy you to walk a couple of yards anywhere in Paris
without stumbling on some infernal complication. I’ll bet my head to
a head of that salad that you will stir up a hornet’s nest by taking a
fancy to the first young, rich, and pretty woman you meet. They are all
dodging the law, all at loggerheads with their husbands. If I were to
begin to tell you all that vanity or necessity (virtue is not often
mixed up in it, you may be sure), all that vanity and necessity drive
them to do for lovers, finery, housekeeping, or children, I should never
come to an end. So an honest man is the common enemy.

“But do you know what an honest man is? Here, in Paris, an honest man is
the man who keeps his own counsel, and will not divide the plunder. I am
not speaking now of those poor bond-slaves who do the work of the world
without a reward for their toil--God Almighty’s outcasts, I call them.
Among them, I grant you, is virtue in all the flower of its stupidity,
but poverty is no less their portion. At this moment, I think I see the
long faces those good folk would pull if God played a practical joke on
them and stayed away at the Last Judgment.

“Well, then, if you mean to make a fortune quickly, you must either be
rich to begin with, or make people believe that you are rich. It is no
use playing here except for high stakes; once take to low play, it is
all up with you. If in the scores of professions that are open to you,
there are ten men who rise very rapidly, people are sure to call them
thieves. You can draw your own conclusions. Such is life. It is no
cleaner than a kitchen; it reeks like a kitchen; and if you mean to
cook your dinner, you must expect to soil your hands; the real art is
in getting them clean again, and therein lies the whole morality of our
epoch. If I take this tone in speaking of the world to you, I have the
right to do so; I know it well. Do you think that I am blaming it? Far
from it; the world has always been as it is now. Moralists’ strictures
will never change it. Mankind are not perfect, but one age is more
or less hypocritical than another, and then simpletons say that its
morality is high or low. I do not think that the rich are any worse than
the poor; man is much the same, high or low, or wherever he is. In a
million of these human cattle there may be half a score of bold spirits
who rise above the rest, above the laws; I am one of them. And you, if
you are cleverer than your fellows, make straight to your end, and hold
your head high. But you must lay your account with envy and slander and
mediocrity, and every man’s hand will be against you. Napoleon met with
a Minister of War, Aubry by name, who all but sent him to the colonies.

“Feel your pulse. Think whether you can get up morning after morning,
strengthened in yesterday’s purpose. In that case I will make you an
offer that no one would decline. Listen attentively. You see, I have an
idea of my own. My idea is to live a patriarchal life on a vast estate,
say a hundred thousand acres, somewhere in the Southern States of
America. I mean to be a planter, to have slaves, to make a few snug
millions by selling my cattle, timber, and tobacco; I want to live an
absolute monarch, and to do just as I please; to lead such a life as no
one here in these squalid dens of lath and plaster ever imagines. I am a
great poet; I do not write my poems, I feel them, and act them. At this
moment I have fifty thousand francs, which might possibly buy forty
negroes. I want two hundred thousand francs, because I want to have
two hundred negroes to carry out my notions of the patriarachal life
properly. Negroes, you see, are like a sort of family ready grown, and
there are no inquisitive public prosecutors out there to interfere with
you. That investment in ebony ought to mean three or four million francs
in ten years’ time. If I am successful, no one will ask me who I am. I
shall be Mr. Four Millions, an American citizen. I shall be fifty years
old by then, and sound and hearty still; I shall enjoy life after my own
fashion. In two words, if I find you an heiress with a million, will you
give me two hundred thousand francs? Twenty per cent commission, eh? Is
that too much? Your little wife will be very much in love with you. Once
married, you will show signs of uneasiness and remorse; for a couple of
weeks you will be depressed. Then, some night after sundry grimacings,
comes the confession, between two kisses, ‘Two hundred thousand francs
of debts, my darling!’ This sort of farce is played every day in Paris,
and by young men of the highest fashion. When a young wife has given her
heart, she will not refuse her purse. Perhaps you are thinking that
you will lose the money for good? Not you. You will make two hundred
thousand francs again by some stroke of business. With your capital and
your brains you should be able to accumulate as large a fortune as you
could wish. _Ergo_, in six months you will have made your own fortune,
and our old friend Vautrin’s, and made an amiable woman very happy, to
say nothing of your people at home, who must blow on their fingers
to warm them, in the winter, for lack of firewood. You need not be
surprised at my proposal, nor at the demand I make. Forty-seven out
of every sixty great matches here in Paris are made after just such a
bargain as this. The Chamber of Notaries compels my gentleman to----”

“What must I do?” said Rastignac, eagerly interrupting Vautrin’s speech.

“Next to nothing,” returned the other, with a slight involuntary
movement, the suppressed exultation of the angler when he feels a bite
at the end of his line. “Follow me carefully! The heart of a girl whose
life is wretched and unhappy is a sponge that will thirstily absorb
love; a dry sponge that swells at the first drop of sentiment. If you
pay court to a young girl whose existence is a compound of loneliness,
despair, and poverty, and who has no suspicion that she will come into
a fortune, good Lord! it is quint and quatorze at piquet; it is knowing
the numbers of the lottery before-hand; it is speculating in the funds
when you have news from a sure source; it is building up a marriage on
an indestructible foundation. The girl may come in for millions, and she
will fling them, as if they were so many pebbles, at your feet. ‘Take
it, my beloved! Take it, Alfred, Adolphe, Eugene!’ or whoever it
was that showed his sense by sacrificing himself for her. And as for
sacrificing himself, this is how I understand it. You sell a coat that
is getting shabby, so that you can take her to the _Cadran bleu_, treat
her to mushrooms on toast, and then go to the Ambigu-Comique in the
evening; you pawn your watch to buy her a shawl. I need not remind you
of the fiddle-faddle sentimentality that goes down so well with all
women; you spill a few drops of water on your stationery, for instance;
those are the tears you shed while far away from her. You look to me as
if you were perfectly acquainted with the argot of the heart. Paris, you
see, is like a forest in the New World, where you have to deal with
a score of varieties of savages--Illinois and Hurons, who live on the
proceed of their social hunting. You are a hunter of millions; you set
your snares; you use lures and nets; there are many ways of hunting.
Some hunt heiresses, others a legacy; some fish for souls, yet others
sell their clients, bound hand and foot. Every one who comes back from
the chase with his game-bag well filled meets with a warm welcome in
good society. In justice to this hospitable part of the world, it must
be said that you have to do with the most easy and good-natured of
great cities. If the proud aristocracies of the rest of Europe refuse
admittance among their ranks to a disreputable millionaire, Paris
stretches out a hand to him, goes to his banquets, eats his dinners, and
hobnobs with his infamy.”

“But where is such a girl to be found?” asked Eugene.

“Under your eyes; she is yours already.”

“Mlle. Victorine?”


“And what was that you said?”

“She is in love with you already, your little Baronne de Rastignac!”

“She has not a penny,” Eugene continued, much mystified.

“Ah! now we are coming to it! Just another word or two, and it will all
be clear enough. Her father, Taillefer, 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, my cherub, 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. Oh! I know something of affairs, I can tell you; I have the
secrets of many men! Enough. 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, poor girl, and” (here Vautrin rose to his feet and stood like a
fencing-master about to lunge)--“turn him off into the dark!” he added.

“How frightful!” said Eugene. “You do not really mean it? M. Vautrin,
you are joking!”

“There! there! Keep cool!” said the other. “Don’t behave like a baby.
But if you find any amusement in it, be indignant, flare up! Say that
I am a scoundrel, a rascal, a rogue, a bandit; but do not call me a
blackleg nor a spy! There, out with it, fire away! 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, of
course,” said Vautrin, “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; you descend, in short, 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, hope,
or charity? 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.”

“Silence, sir! 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,” said Vautrin, “I shall say no more about it. One last
word, however,” and he looked hard at the student--“you have my secret,”
 he said.

“A young man who refuses your offer knows that he must forget it.”

“Quite right, quite right; I am glad to hear you say so. Somebody else
might not be so scrupulous, you see. 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,” he said, throwing
down the bags on the table.

He sat down again and fell, unconscious of his surroundings, into deep

“To be faithful to an ideal of virtue! A heroic martyrdom! Pshaw! 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, and fawn, and
cringe, and swagger, and flatter, and dissemble? To consent to be the
servant of others who have likewise fawned, and lied, and flattered?
Must I cringe to them before I can hope to be their accomplice? Well,
then, I decline. 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. The devil! 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. “In short, I
look like a gentleman.”

“You asked me, sir, 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?” said Eugene, 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!” he said, giving artless expression to a pang
of jealousy.

“I do not know,” answered Eugene. “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.
Youth, moreover, 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, Father Goriot, 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, however, 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. I wait,
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, sir, after all? 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

That walk was a turning-point in Eugene’s career. Several women noticed
him; he looked so handsome, so young, 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, “A lover, 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

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...”

An observer, 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. In short, 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

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, as divine, 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.

“Madame,” 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

“Very well, come and dine with me,” she said, 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, where, 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, in fact, he was
a gourmand of the schools of Louis XVIII. and of the Duc d’Escars, and
luxury was supplemented by splendor. Eugene, 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, noiselessly served,
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,” he answered,
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.”

“His mistress,” said she to herself.

“Then, is not Ajuda coming for you this evening?” inquired the Vicomte.

“No,” she answered, petulantly.

“Very well, then, if you really must have an arm, take that of M. de

The Vicomtess turned to Eugene with a smile.

“That would be a very compromising step for you,” she said.

“‘A Frenchman loves danger, because in danger there is glory,’ to quote
M. de Chateaubriand,” said Rastignac, 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, you know,” said Mme. de Beauseant. “Ah! look!
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,” said Eugene, after looking at Mme. de Nucingen.

“She has white eyelashes.”

“Yes, but she has such a pretty slender figure!”

“Her hands are large.”

“Such beautiful eyes!”

“Her face is long.”

“Yes, 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.

Indeed, 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, handsome, 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,” said Eugene, “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?” he asked,
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.”

“Willingly,” she said. “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.”

“Then, 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,” he said, “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, grew mute, and yielded his
place to M. d’Ajuda with a sigh.

“How noble, how sublime a woman is when she loves like that!” he said to
himself. “And _he_ could forsake her for a doll! Oh! 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

“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.

“Madame,” 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

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, monsieur,”
 she said. “Those who are so fortunate as to be in Mme. de Beauseant’s
company do not desire to leave it.”

“Madame,” Eugene said, 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, monsieur?” 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, then, for she has shut her door on me.”


“Madame, 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, M. Goriot. And, indeed, 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, I think, when she
brought me here, telling me, in her gracious way, that I should see

“Then, even now, I owe you a debt of gratitude, monsieur,” 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,” said Rastignac; “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.
Then, woman-like, being at a loss how to reply to the student’s
outspoken admiration, she answered a previous remark.

“Yes, it is very wrong of my sister to treat our poor father as she
does,” she said; “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, and yet, in reality, 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,” said Eugene, “who longs as eagerly as I do to be
yours. What do all women seek? Happiness.” (He answered his own question
in low, vibrating tones.) “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 fancies, 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; believe me, 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. I myself, you see (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, and, like Cherubino, 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; and Rastignac, having once begun, continued to pour
out his story, dropping his voice, that she might lean and listen; and
Mme. de Nucingen, smiling, 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.

“Madame,” Eugene said, “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; so, 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

“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; as yet, indeed, 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, and, 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, neighbor,” said he.


“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. Luckily,
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.

“Well,” he said, “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.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said, gratefully. “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

“Dear child!” he said. “Yes, yes, 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, you see, 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. Oh!
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; why, my
heart bounds at the thought.... Were they nicely dressed?”

“Yes,” said Eugene. “But, M. Goriot, how is it that your daughters have
such fine houses, while you live in such a den as this?”

“Dear me, why should I want anything better?” he replied, 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, you see; 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.
When you, too, 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. In short, I live my life three times
over. Shall I tell you something funny? Well, then, 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, monsieur. Only, 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. Great
Heaven! 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, after all, 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?

“Well,” said Eugene, “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.”

“Stuff!” 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.”

“Oh! 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, you
see! Good heavens! what nonsense I am talking, M. Eugene! 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.”

“Good-night, neighbor! Sleep well, 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

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. Moreover, 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. Vautrin, 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; and now, as
he remembered yesterday’s proposal, the thought of Mlle. Taillefer’s
dowry came, of course, 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, thus exchanged, 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,” he remarked. “I never heard such delicious music. Good
gracious! 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

“How did you get back?” inquired Vautrin.

“I walked,” answered Eugene.

“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, too,” commented Mme. Vauquer.

“Perhaps you will see Mme. de Nucingen to-day,” said Eugene, 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.”

“What kind? There is a cure for temptation.”


“Yielding to it.”

“You laugh, but you don’t know what it is all about. Have you read


“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?”


“Well, then?”

“Pshaw! I am at my thirty-third mandarin.”

“Seriously, though. Look here, 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? Pshaw! after all,
young or old, paralytic, or well and sound, my word for it. ... Well,
then. Hang it, no!”

“You are a good fellow, Bianchon. 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, in fact?”

“Why, here you are taking away my reason, and want me to reason!”

“Well, then, Bianchon, 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 see, 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, dear boy, 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. Happiness,
old man, 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

“Thank you, Bianchon; you have done me good. We will always be friends.”

“I say,” 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, in fact, 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. Good-bye; 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.

“Here,” cried the old man, “here is a letter from her. Pretty
handwriting, eh?”

Eugene broke the seal and read:--

 “Sir,--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.--Yours sincerely, D. DE N.”

“Let me see it,” said Father Goriot, when Eugene had read the letter.
“You are going, aren’t you?” he added, when he had smelled the
writing-paper. “How nice it smells! Her fingers have touched it, that is

“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.”

“Well,” 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.

“Yes, I am going,” he replied.

So it was curiosity that drew him to Mme. de Nucingen; while, 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; which, after all, 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. He thought, 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.

“Clk! clk! clk!” cried Bianchon, 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.

“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” cried the artist.

“My compliments to my lady your wife,” from the _employe_ at the Museum.

“Your wife; have you a wife?” asked Poiret.

“Yes, in compartments, 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, will wash, half-linen, half-cotton,
half-wool; a certain cure for toothache and other complaints under the
patronage of the Royal College of Physicians! children like it! a remedy
for headache, indigestion, and all other diseases affecting the
throat, eyes, and ears!” cried Vautrin, with a comical imitation of the
volubility of a quack at a fair. “And how much shall we say for this
marvel, gentlemen? Twopence? 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. Walk up! walk up! gentlemen! Pay at the desk as you go
in! Strike up the music there! Brooum, la, la, trinn! la, la, boum!
boum! Mister Clarinette, there you are out of tune!” he added gruffly;
“I will rap your knuckles for you!”

“Goodness! 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,” announced Sylvie.

“But where is he going to dine?” asked Bianchon.

“With Madame la Baronne de Nucingen.”

“M. Goriot’s daughter,” said the law student.

At this, 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, madame,” he said, 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.”

“No, stay with me,” she said; “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,” she exclaimed.

“Then I am connected in some way in this secret. I wonder what it is?”

“Perhaps. Yet, no,” 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?” he answered. “You are young,
beautiful, beloved, and rich.”

“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,” said Eugene; “you are charming.”

“You would have a forlorn piece of property,” she said, smiling
bitterly. “There is nothing about me that betrays my wretchedness;
and yet, in spite of appearances, I am in despair. I cannot sleep; my
troubles have broken my night’s rest; I shall grow ugly.”

“Oh! that is impossible,” cried the law student; “but I am curious to
know what these troubles can be that a devoted love cannot efface.”

“Ah! if I were to tell you about them, you would shun me,” she said.
“Your love for me is as yet only the conventional gallantry that men use
to masquerade in; and, if you really loved me, you would be driven to
despair. I must keep silence, you see. Let us talk of something else,
for pity’s sake,” she added. “Let me show you my rooms.”

“No; let us stay here,” answered Eugene; 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.

“Listen,” said Rastignac; “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.”

“Very well,” she cried, putting her hand to her forehead in an agony of
despair, “I will put you to the proof, and this very moment. Yes,” 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.

“Yes, madame.”

“I shall take his carriage myself. He can have mine and my horses. Serve
dinner at seven o’clock.”

“Now, 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

“To the Palais-Royal,” she said to the coachman; “stop near the

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?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered, and in his manner and tone there was no trace of the
uneasiness that he felt.

“You will not think ill of me, will you, 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.


“Ah! now I can breathe. You will have luck. Here is my purse,” she said.
“Take it! 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, I’m sure, if I have a glimmer of a notion of what I am
about, but I will obey you,” he added, with inward exultation, as he
thought, “She has gone too far to draw back--she can refuse me nothing

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, without bashfulness, where he was to deposit his

“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

“Take your money off, sir,” 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, and, 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

“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

“So, that is over; and now where will you take me?” he asked, as soon as
the door was closed, and he showed the seven thousand francs to Mme. de

Delphine flung her arms about him, but there was no passion in that wild

“You have saved me!” she cried, and tears of joy flowed fast.

“I will tell you everything, my friend. For you will be my friend, will
you not? I am rich, you think, very rich; I have everything I want, or
I seem as if I had everything. Very well, 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. After all, 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. And then,” 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. But, after all, he threw me over
disgracefully. If, at a woman’s utmost need, _somebody_ heaps gold upon
her, he ought never to forsake her; that love should last for ever!
But you, at one-and-twenty, you, 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? _Mon Dieu_! 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; how,
then, 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. Ah! monsieur, 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... where, 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, too, 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, but I, at any rate, am free. If I chose, Nucingen would cover me
with gold, but I would rather weep on the breast of a man whom I can
respect. Ah! tonight, 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,” she cried, “to speak in a breath of money
and affection. You cannot love me after this,” she added.

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?” she asked; “promise me that you
will not.”

“Ah! madame, I am incapable of doing so,” he said. She took his hand and
held it to her heart, a movement full of grace that expressed her deep

“I am free and happy once more, thanks to you,” she said. “Oh! 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, my friend? Keep this,” 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

“It shall be a last stake in reserve,” he said, “in case of misfortune.”

“That was what I was dreading to hear,” she cried, turning pale. “Oh,
if you would that I should be anything to you, swear to me that you will
never re-enter a gaming-house. Great Heaven! 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,” she added. “Tell me what
to say.”

“Say nothing,” Eugene answered her. “Put the bills in an envelope,
direct it, and send it by your maid.”

“Why, you are a love of a man,” she said. “Ah! 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,” thought Eugene, 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?” she asked, as she rang for the maid.

“Therese, 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.”

Therese went, 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,” she said.

“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.”

“Oh! 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,” she said, “for devotion that I did not dare to
hope for, but now it would be a promise.”

“And will you give me no promise, ingrate?”

He grew vexed. Then, 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,” she said.

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; but, 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. Eugene, accordingly, told him everything without

“Then they think that I am ruined!” cried Father Goriot, in an agony of
jealousy and desperation. “Why, 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. Oh! if I
had hold of them, I would wring their necks. _Mon Dieu! crying!_ Did you
say she was crying?”

“With her head on my waistcoat,” said Eugene.

“Oh! give it to me,” said Father Goriot. “What! my daughter’s tears have
fallen there--my darling Delphine, who never used to cry when she was
a little girl! Oh! 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.”

“Here, father; 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

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, you see. 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, am I? There, 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, hiding, 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; and Delphine, 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, at breakfast, 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; but,
after all, 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,” Vautrin
continued, 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, bets, and presents; 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. Well, my boy, 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? Suicidal policy! 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, live virtuously,
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. Rastignac,
out of his winnings at cards, would pay his jeweler exorbitant prices
for gold watches and chains, and then, 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; but (also like _Le Distrait_) he himself was
uncontaminated as yet by the mire that stained his garments.

“So we have killed our mandarin, have we?” said Bianchon one day as they
left the dinner table.

“Not yet,” he answered, “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. Rastignac was, in fact, 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. Finally, 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, his
despair, 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. If, at this time, while she denied
herself to love, Eugene gathered the springtide spoils of his life,
the fruit, 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; and Rastignac,
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, M. Eugene?” Victorine said after a pause.

“Who has not his troubles?” answered Rastignac. “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, for instance, mademoiselle; 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.

“Ah! but suppose,” he said, “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

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, you two?” exclaimed Mme. Vauquer.

“Never mind,” answered Eugene; “we understand each other.”

“So there is to be an engagement of marriage between M. le Chevalier
Eugene de Rastignac and Mlle. Victorine Taillefer, is there?” The words
were uttered in Vautrin’s deep voice, and Vautrin appeared at the door
as he spoke.

“Oh! how you startled me!” Mme. Couture and Mme. Vauquer exclaimed

“I might make a worse choice,” said Rastignac, laughing. Vautrin’s voice
had thrown him into the most painful agitation that he had yet known.

“No bad jokes, gentlemen!” said Mme. Couture. “My dear, let us go

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. There, 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,” said Eugene, struggling to hide a convulsive tremor,
“that after what has passed between us, I cannot possibly lay myself
under any obligation to you.”

“Quite right; I should be sorry to hear you speak otherwise,” answered
the tempter. “You are a fine young fellow, honorable, 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. Ah! 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, wealth, or women.
Civilization should flow with milk and honey for you. You should be our
pet and favorite, our Benjamin. 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, do you?
Well, 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, eh? 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,” he added, 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.
In short, I am neither a pawn nor a bishop, but a castle, a tower of
strength, my boy.”

“What manner of man are you?” cried Eugene. “Were you created to torment

“Why no; 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? All right; 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

“Well, well. Come, now, let us talk rationally,” Vautrin continued. “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, too, for devoting myself to some one else. I have done it
before. You see, my boy, 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? Not _that_,” he said, and he snapped his
thumb-nail against his teeth. “A man, in short, 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, I live. A
sentiment--what is that but the whole world in a thought? Look at Father
Goriot. For him, his two girls are the whole universe; they are the clue
by which he finds his way through creation. Well, 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. Well, then, it is all settled. You will marry. Both of us
carry our point. Mine is made of iron, and will never soften, he! he!”

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

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,” said Vautrin.

“But I am not your accomplice,” said Eugene.

“I know, I know,” 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.

“Mademoiselle,” this M. Gondureau was saying, “I do not see any
cause for your scruples. His Excellency, Monseigneur the Minister of

“Yes, his Excellency is taking a personal interest in the matter,” said

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, mechanical, 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, and ends (give it time enough) by fashioning
a man into a vise or a thumbscrew, and he becomes part of the machinery
of Government. Wherefore, M. Gondureau, 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... Ah! that is
quite another thing,” said Poiret.

“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.
“Very well, 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_.”

“Trompe-la-Mort?” said Pioret. “Dear me, he is very lucky if he deserves
that nickname.”

“Well, yes,” 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, you see! He has qualities
that are out of the common; the thing he is wanted for, in fact, was a
matter which gained him no end of credit with his own set----”

“Then is he a man of honor?” asked Poiret.

“Yes, 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

“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.

“Oh yes,” said Poiret, “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. Jacques Collin, nicknamed _Trompe-la-Mort_, 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.”

“Ha! ha! do you see the pun, mademoiselle?” asked Poiret. “This
gentleman calls himself a _man of mark_ because he is a _marked
man_--branded, you know.”

“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.”

“Their mistresses! You mean their wives,” remarked Poiret.

“No, sir. A convict’s wife is usually an illegitimate connection. We
call them concubines.”

“Then they all live in a state of concubinage?”


“Why, these are abominations that his Excellency ought not to allow.
Since you have the honor of seeing his Excellency, you, 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, sir; but still----”

“Just let the gentleman say what he has to say, dearie,” said Mlle.

“You see how it is, mademoiselle,” Gondureau continued. “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. You, sir, for
instance, 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?”

“Oh!” 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. Besides, Collin is not the sort of fellow
to play such a trick; he would be disgraced, according to his notions.”

“You are quite right, sir,” said Poiret, “utterly disgraced he would

“But none of all this explains why you do not come and take him without
more ado,” remarked Mlle. Michonneau.

“Very well, mademoiselle, 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.--Trompe-la-Mort,
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.”

“Naturally,” 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.”

“Yes, but what you want is a pretty woman,” said Mlle. Michonneau

“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.”

“Still, I do not see what I can do, supposing that I did agree to
identify him for two thousand francs.”

“Nothing simpler,” 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.”

“Why, that is just nothing at all,” said Poiret.

“Well, do you agree?” said Gondureau, addressing the old maid.

“But, 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, sir.”

“I assure you,” said Poiret, “that mademoiselle has a great deal of
conscience, and not only so, she is a very amiable person, and very

“Well, now,” 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.”

“Done!” said Gondureau, “but on the condition that the thing is settled

“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, then. 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.

Bianchon, 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?” she asked. “Why, it wants thinking over. Suppose that M.
Vautrin is this Trompe-la-Mort, perhaps we might do better for ourselves
with him. Still, 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.”

“Anyhow,” thought Mlle. Michonneau, “I can’t abide him. He says nothing
but disagreeable things to me.”

“But you can do better than that,” Poiret resumed. “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? The deuce! 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.

“I knew how it would end,” remarked that lady, addressing Poiret. “They
have been making eyes at each other in a heartrending way for a week

“Yes,” he answered. “So she was found guilty.”


“Mme. Morin.”

“I am talking about Mlle. Victorine,” said Mlle, Michonneau, as she
entered Poiret’s room with an absent air, “and you answer, ‘Mme. Morin.’
Who may Mme. Morin be?”

“What can Mlle. Victorine be guilty of?” demanded Poiret.

“Guilty of falling in love with M. Eugene de Rastignac and going further
and further without knowing exactly where she is going, poor innocent!”

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.

Victorine fled. Her heart was more full than it had ever been, but it
was full of joy, and not of sorrow. Poor child! 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 eloquent, 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, who remained. “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, isn’t 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.” Vautrin said. “You know quite well what
you are about. Good, 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.

“Oh! so we still have a few dubious tatters of the swaddling clothes
of virtue about us!” murmured Vautrin. “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, my
boy; 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. “This morning,” he resumed, “you
thought that _she_ did not care about you, did you not? Eh? 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. Oh! 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, untidy room. 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. You see, 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; will you, eh?”

“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, will it? 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! Oh! I would do impossibilities for you.
Only just now she said to me, ‘I am very happy, papa!’ When they say
‘father’ stiffly, it sends a chill through me; but when they call me
‘papa,’ 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, a long, long
time since she took my arm as she did to-day. Yes, indeed, 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! Well, I took Delphine everywhere this morning; I
went shopping with her, and I brought her home again. Oh! 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. Oh! 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. Bah! 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!” he said, raising his head after a pause. “All the time
we were going about together she chatted away about you. ‘He is so
nice-looking, papa; isn’t he? He is kind-hearted! Does he talk to you
about me?’ Pshaw! 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, opened it, and found
a watch of Breguet’s make wrapped in paper, on which these words were

  “I want you to think of me every hour, _because_...


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 chain, the key, 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. Aha!
he looked very foolish when my attorney let him know where he was. He
says he idolizes my daughter, does he? 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?”

“Yes, dear Father Goriot; you know very well how fond I am of you----”

“Yes, I do know very well. You are not ashamed of me, are you? Not you!
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?”

“Oh! yes. I must go out; I have some urgent business on hand.”

“Can I be of any use?”

“My word, yes! 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.”

“Really, young man!” 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... Oh! 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.”

“Oh! what happiness!” cried Goriot.

“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?” said Goriot.

“Why, 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! Richard, oh my king!
      All the world abandons thee!
      Broum! broum! broum! broum! broum!

      The same old story everywhere,
      A roving heart and a... tra la la.”

“Gentlemen!” shouted Christophe, “the soup is ready, and every one is
waiting for you.”

“Here,” Vautrin called down to him, “come and take a bottle of my

“Do you think your watch is pretty?” asked Goriot. “She has good taste,
hasn’t she? Eh?”

Vautrin, Father Goriot, and Rastignac came downstairs in company, and,
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

“Why, 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.”

“Bargain?” said Eugene.

“Well, yes, 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, Poiret, I dare say?” he added,
winking at the superannuated clerk.

“Bless my soul, you ought to stand as model for a burlesque Hercules,”
 said the young painter.

“I will, upon my word! if Mlle. Michonneau will consent to sit as the
Venus of Pere-Lachaise,” replied Vautrin.

“There’s Poiret,” suggested Bianchon.

“Oh! Poiret shall pose as Poiret. He can be a garden god!” cried
Vautrin; “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

“Gentlemen,” said Vautrin, “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.--Come, you Turk!” he added, looking at
Christophe, who did not offer to stir. “Christophe! Here! What, you
don’t answer to your own name? Bring us some liquor, Turk!”

“Here it is, sir,” said Christophe, 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.

“Corked!” he cried. “The devil! You can drink the rest of this,
Christophe, and go and find another bottle; take from the right-hand
side, you know. 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.”

“Oh! oh!”



These exclamations came from all parts of the table like squibs from a
set firework.

“Come, now, Mama Vauquer, a couple of bottles of champagne,” called

“_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, I know! 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.

“Shut up, Bianchon,” exclaimed Rastignac; “the very mention of black
draught makes me feel----. Yes, champagne, by all means; I will pay for
it,” he added.

“Sylvie,” called Mme. Vauquer, “bring in some biscuits, and the little

“Those little cakes are mouldy graybeards,” said Vautrin. “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!”

“Brandy-snaps, ladies!”

“China to mend!”

“Boat ahoy!”

“Sticks to beat your wives or your clothes!”

“Old clo’!”

“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. Aha! 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? ... No, no, 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. At last, when their numbers had so dwindled that the
party consisted of Mme. Vauquer, Mme. Couture, Mlle. Victorine, Vautrin,
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.

“Oh! how uproarious they are! what a thing it is to be young!” said the

These were the last words that Eugene heard and understood.

“There is no one like M. Vautrin for a bit of fun like this,” said
Sylvie. “There, just hark at Christophe, he is snoring like a top.”

“Good-bye, mamma,” said Vautrin; “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

“Thank you; I must decline,” said Mme. Couture.

“What! 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,” answered Victorine.

“Just look, those two yonder have dropped off where they sit,” said
Vautrin, 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:

     “Sleep, little darlings;
      I watch while you slumber.”

“I am afraid he may be ill,” said Victorine.

“Then stop and take care of him,” returned Vautrin. “‘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. In short,” 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.--Now, mamma,” 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:

     “Oh! sun! divine sun!
      Ripening the pumpkins every one.”

“My goodness! Well, I’m sure! Mme. Couture, I could live happily in a
garret with a man like that.--There, now!” she added, 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. My word! 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.”

“Well, I can tell you this, I know,” 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, Mme. Couture. Pshaw!
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!”

“Hush, my good neighbor,” cried Mme. Couture, “you are saying such

“Pooh!” put in Mme. Vauquer, “he does not hear.--Here, Sylvie! come and
help me to dress. I shall put on my best stays.”

“What! your best stays just after dinner, madame?” said Sylvie. “No, 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?”

“Come, Sylvie, don’t argue,” said the widow, as she left the room.

“At her age, too!” 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.

“Poor, dear child!” said Mme. Couture, squeezing her hand.

The old lady looked at the girl. Victorine’s innocent, pathetic face,
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.

“After all, he only took two glasses, mamma,” said Victorine, passing
her fingers through Eugene’s hair.

“Indeed, if he had been a dissipated young man, child, 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, mamma,” 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.”

“Oh, no, you are wrong!” said Mme. Couture. “M. 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.

“Well,” he remarked, folding his arms, “here is a picture! It would have
suggested some pleasing pages to Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (good
soul), who wrote _Paul et Virginie_. Youth is very charming, Mme.
Couture!--Sleep on, poor boy,” he added, looking at Eugene, “luck
sometimes comes while you are sleeping.--There is something touching and
attractive to me about this young man, madame,” he continued; “I know
that his nature is in harmony with his face. Just look, 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,
madame, 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, my children, 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,” he said, “that I have seen the
line of success in your hand. Let me look at it, Mlle. Victorine; I am
well up in palmistry, and I have told fortunes many a time. Come, now,
don’t be frightened. Ah! 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?” he inquired, with his arm round the lady;
“we are screwed up very tightly about the bust, mamma! 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.

“Good-bye, little ones!” said Vautrin, turning to Eugene and Victorine.
“Bless you both!” and he laid a hand on either head. “Take my word for
it, young lady, an honest man’s prayers are worth something; they should
bring you happiness, for God hears them.”

“Good-bye, dear,” said Mme. Vauquer to her lodger. “Do you think that M.
Vautrin means to run away with me?” she added, lowering her voice.

“Lack-a-day!” said the widow.

“Oh! mamma dear, 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.

“Why, 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----”

“Oh! mamma.”

“Good Lord! Well, perhaps it is a sin to wish bad luck to an enemy,” the
widow remarked. “I will do penance for it. Still, I would strew
flowers on his grave with the greatest pleasure, and that is the truth.
Black-hearted, 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

“It would be very hard if my fortune is to cost some one else his life,”
 said Victorine. “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, you see,” 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. Well, 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. Bianchon, 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; for Vautrin, or, to give him his real
name, Jacques Collin, 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.

“A delusion,” he said. “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, its Bonaparte, in short; 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, thieves, 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,” he continued. “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, summoning witnesses, 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,” said Poiret.

“Really, you are talking in a very sensible manner tonight, that you
are,” said the head of the department. “Yes, of course, we are serving
our country, and we are very hardly used too. We do society very great
services that are not recognized. In fact, 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, you see! That is the explanation
of my life.--I have the honor to wish you a good-evening, mademoiselle.
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.--Your servant, sir. If you should ever
have anything stolen from you, come to me, and I will do my best to get
it back for you.”

“Well, now,” 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 ‘Good-day.’”

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. Mme. Vauquer, who came home about midnight from
the Gaite, lay a-bed till half-past ten. Christophe, 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. Nobody protested, therefore, 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, Mlle. Michonneau, 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, my
friend. Till two o’clock this morning I waited for you. Oh, 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. One word, for pity’s sake. You will come to me soon,
will you not? If you are busy, a line will be enough. Say, ‘I will
hasten to you,’ or else, ‘I am ill.’ But if you were ill my father would
have come to tell me so. What can have happened?...”

“Yes, indeed, what has happened?” exclaimed Eugene, and, hurrying down
to the dining-room, he crumpled up the letter without reading any more.
“What time is it?”

“Half-past eleven,” said Vautrin, dropping a lump of sugar into his

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.

“Mademoiselle,” he cried, “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!” exclaimed Vautrin. “How can people brawl when they
have a certain income of thirty thousand livres? Young people have bad
manners, and that is a fact.”

“Sir!” cried Eugene.

“Well, what then, you big baby!” said Vautrin, 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?” added Vautrin.

“I will go with you, Victorine,” said Mme. Couture, and the two women
hurried away at once without either hats or shawls. But before she
went, Victorine, with her eyes full of tears, gave Eugene a glance that
said--“How little I thought that our happiness should cost me tears!”

“Dear me, you are a prophet, M. Vautrin,” said Mme. Vauquer.

“I am all sorts of things,” said Vautrin.

“Queer, isn’t it?” 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!”

“There!” said Vautrin, looking at Eugene, “yesterday she had not a
penny; this morning she has several millions to her fortune.”

“I say, M. Eugene!” 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?” he asked.

“Madame, I shall never marry Mlle. Victorine,” said Eugene, 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.

“Oh, ho!” said Vautrin, “the Italians have a good proverb--_Col tempo_.”

“Is there any answer?” said Mme. de Nucingen’s messenger, addressing

“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, young
man,” and fell stiff and stark, as if he were struck dead.

“So there is a Divine Justice!” said Eugene.

“Well, if ever! What has come to that poor dear M. Vautrin?”

“A stroke!” cried Mlle. Michonneau.

“Here, Sylvie! girl, run for the doctor,” called the widow. “Oh, M.
Rastignac, just go for M. Bianchon, and be as quick as you can; Sylvie
might not be in time to catch our doctor, M. Grimprel.”

Rastignac was glad of an excuse to leave that den of horrors, his hurry
for the doctor was nothing but a flight.

“Here, Christophe, go round to the chemist’s and ask for something
that’s good for the apoplexy.”

Christophe likewise went.

“Father Goriot, 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.

“Selfish old thing!” cried Mme. Vauquer. “Yes, go; I wish you may die
like a dog.”

“Just go and see if you can find some ether,” said Mlle. Michonneau to
Mme. Vauquer; the former, 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.

“Now! just pull down his shirt and turn him over, quick! 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.

“There, you have earned your three thousand francs very easily,”
 exclaimed Poiret, supporting Vautrin while Mlle. Michonneau slipped
on the shirt again.--“Ouf! How heavy he is,” he added, as he laid the
convict down.

“Hush! 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

“Here is the ether,” said that lady. “I must say that this is an
eventful day. Lord! that man can’t have had a stroke; he is as white as

“White as curds?” echoed Poiret.

“And his pulse is steady,” said the widow, laying her hand on his

“Steady?” said the astonished Poiret.

“He is all right.”

“Do you think so?” asked Poiret.

“Lord! Yes, he looks as if he were sleeping. Sylvie has gone for a
doctor. I say, Mlle. Michonneau, he is sniffing the ether. Pooh! it is
only a spasm. His pulse is good. He is as strong as a Turk. Just look,
mademoiselle, 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, however.
Dear me! 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, I wonder?”

“Good to hang,” said Poiret.

“Round a pretty woman’s neck, you mean,” said Mlle Michonneau, hastily.
“Just go away, M. Poiret. It is a woman’s duty to nurse you men when you
are ill. Besides, for all the good you are doing, you may as well take
yourself off,” she added. “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.

“Yet, how if Vautrin should die without saying a word?” Rastignac asked

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.

“Well?” shouted Bianchon, “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

“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, eh? What a game of chance death is! They
say Victorine was sweet on you; was there any truth in it?”

“Shut up, Bianchon; 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?” cried Rastignac.

“What is the matter with you? Are you mad? Give us your hand,” said
Bianchon, “and let me feel your pulse. You are feverish.”

“Just go to Mother Vauquer’s,” said Rastignac; “that scoundrel Vautrin
has dropped down like one dead.”

“Aha!” said Bianchon, 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? Well, then, 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. Dear
Delphine! she is kinder to the old man; she is worthy to be loved. Ah!
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. Besides,
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. Besides, 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.
Vautrin, moreover, 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. He shuddered.

“Well, dear boy,” 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_,” said Bianchon; “and, 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,
it seemed, 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. Two policemen, 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 present, and future, his
pitiless doctrines, his actions, 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

“Gentlemen,” he said, “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

“There’s a sell for you, master crusher,” the convict added, looking at
the famous director of police.

“Come, strip!” said he of the Petite Rue Saint-Anne, contemptuously.

“Why?” asked Collin. “There are ladies present; I deny nothing, and

He paused, and looked round the room like an orator who is about to
overwhelm his audience.

“Take this down, Daddy Lachapelle,” 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.

“Good Lord!” she cried, “this does give one a turn; and me at the Gaite
with him only last night!” she said to Sylvie.

“Summon your philosophy, mamma,” Collin resumed. “Is it a misfortune to
have sat in my box at the Gaite yesterday evening? After all, 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, dear boy; 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, a brutal, supple, clear-headed race of
savages. In one moment Collin became the poet of an inferno, wherein all
thoughts and passions that move human nature (save repentance) 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?” said Collin, and his terrible eyes traveled round the
room. Suddenly they rested on Mlle. Michonneau.

“It was you, old cat!” he said. “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?----Aha! you may rummage upstairs,” he shouted,
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, old catchpoll, eh?” he said, 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. Ah! you had no suspicion of that, old trafficker in flesh and
blood, or I should have had the preference. Yes, I would have given six
thousand francs to save myself an inconvenient journey and some loss of
money,” he said, 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, you slut,” 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. In short, 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.”

“Ye gods!” cried the painter, “what a magnificent sketch one might make
of him!”

“Look here, 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.

“Gentlemen,” said Collin, 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

“Good-bye, Eugene,” he said, 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,” and, in spite of his
shackles, he managed to assume a posture of defence, called, “One, two!”
 like a fencing-master, and lunged. “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

As soon as the police, soldiers, and detectives had left the house,
Sylvie, who was rubbing her mistress’ temples with vinegar, looked round
at the bewildered lodgers.

“Well,” said she, “he was a man, he was, 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, a thin, shriveled, dead-alive, mummy-like figure, 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, save
Poiret, 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,” he
said; “speak to her, make her understand that she must go, and go at

“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,” she said, with a viperous look at the boarders.

“Never mind that! we will club together and pay you the money back,”
 said Rastignac.

“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. That glance, 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, madame, 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

“Why, do you really mean to be the ruin of my establishment, my dear
sir? There is M. Vautrin----Goodness,” she cried, interrupting herself,
“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

“Gentlemen, let us take our hats and go and dine at Flicoteaux’s in the
Place Sorbonne,” cried Bianchon.

Mme. Vauquer glanced round, and saw in a moment on which side her
interest lay. She waddled across to Mlle. Michonneau.

“Come, now,” she said; “you would not be the ruin of my establishment,
would you, eh? There’s a dear, kind soul. 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

“But the poor lady has had no dinner,” said Poiret, with piteous

“She can go and dine where she likes,” shouted several voices.

“Turn her out, the spy!”

“Turn them both out! Spies!”

“Gentlemen,” cried Poiret, 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!”

“Gentlemen, 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,” said Poiret, putting on his
cap, and taking a chair beside Mlle. Michonneau, with whom Mme. Vauquer
was remonstrating.

“Naughty boy!” said the painter, with a comical look; “run away, naughty
little boy!”

“Look here,” said Bianchon; “if you do not go, all the rest of us will,”
 and the boarders, to a man, made for the sitting-room-door.

“Oh! mademoiselle, what is to be done?” cried Mme. Vauquer. “I am a
ruined woman. You can’t stay here; they will go further, do something

Mlle. Michonneau rose to her feet.

“She is going!--She is not going!--She is going!--No, she isn’t.”

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,” she
said, with a threatening look.

“Go where you please, mademoiselle,” 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.”

The boarders stood aside in two rows to let her pass; not a word was
spoken. Poiret looked so wistfully after Mlle. Michonneau, and so
artlessly revealed that he was in two minds whether to go or stay, that
the boarders, in their joy at being quit of Mlle. Michonneau, burst out
laughing at the sight of him.

“Hist!--st!--st! Poiret,” shouted the painter. “Hallo! I say, Poiret,
hallo!” The _employe_ from the Museum began to sing:

     “Partant pour la Syrie,
      Le jeune et beau Dunois...”

“Get along with you; you must be dying to go, _trahit sua quemque
voluptas!_” said Bianchon.

“Every one to his taste--free rendering from Virgil,” said the tutor.

Mlle. Michonneau made a movement as if to take Poiret’s arm, with an
appealing glance that he could not resist. The two went out together,
the old maid leaning upon him, and there was a burst of applause,
followed by peals of laughter.

“Bravo, Poiret!”

“Who would have thought it of old Poiret!”

“Apollo Poiret!”

“Mars Poiret!”

“Intrepid Poiret!”

A messenger came in at that moment with a letter for Mme. Vauquer, who
read it through, and collapsed in her chair.

“The house might as well be burned down at once,” cried she, “if there
are to be any more of these thunderbolts! Young Taillefer died at three
o’clock this afternoon. It serves me right for wishing well to those
ladies at that poor man’s expense. Mme. Couture and Victorine want me
to send their things, because they are going to live with her father.
M. Taillefer allows his daughter to keep old Mme. Couture as her lady
companion. Four rooms to let! and five lodgers gone!...”

She sat up, and seemed about to burst into tears.

“Bad luck has come to lodge here, I think,” she cried.

Once more there came a sound of wheels from the street outside.

“What! another windfall for somebody!” was Sylvie’s comment.

But it was Goriot who came in, looking so radiant, so flushed with
happiness, that he seemed to have grown young again.

“Goriot in a cab!” cried the boarders; “the world is coming to an end.”

The good soul made straight for Eugene, who was standing wrapped in
thought in a corner, and laid a hand on the young man’s arm.

“Come,” he said, with gladness in his eyes.

“Then you haven’t heard the news?” said Eugene. “Vautrin was an escaped
convict; they have just arrested him; and young Taillefer is dead.”

“Very well, but what business is it of ours?” replied Father Goriot. “I
am going to dine with my daughter in _your house_, do you understand?
She is expecting you. Come!”

He carried off Rastignac with him by main force, and they departed in as
great a hurry as a pair of eloping lovers.

“Now, let us have dinner,” cried the painter, and every one drew his
chair to the table.

“Well, I never,” said the portly Sylvie. “Nothing goes right to-day! The
haricot mutton has caught! Bah! you will have to eat it, burned as it
is, more’s the pity!”

Mme. Vauquer was so dispirited that she could not say a word as she
looked round the table and saw only ten people where eighteen should
be; but every one tried to comfort and cheer her. At first the dinner
contingent, as was natural, talked about Vautrin and the day’s events;
but the conversation wound round to such topics of interest as duels,
jails, justice, prison life, and alterations that ought to be made
in the laws. They soon wandered miles away from Jacques Collin and
Victorine and her brother. There might be only ten of them, but they
made noise enough for twenty; indeed, there seemed to be more of them
than usual; that was the only difference between yesterday and to-day.
Indifference to the fate of others is a matter of course in this selfish
world, which, on the morrow of tragedy, seeks among the events of
Paris for a fresh sensation for its daily renewed appetite, and this
indifference soon gained the upper hand. Mme. Vauquer herself grew
calmer under the soothing influence of hope, and the mouthpiece of hope
was the portly Sylvie.

That day had gone by like a dream for Eugene, and the sense of unreality
lasted into the evening; so that, in spite of his energetic character
and clear-headedness, his ideas were a chaos as he sat beside Goriot in
the cab. The old man’s voice was full of unwonted happiness, but Eugene
had been shaken by so many emotions that the words sounded in his ears
like words spoken in a dream.

“It was finished this morning! All three of us are going to dine
there together, together! Do you understand? I have not dined with my
Delphine, my little Delphine, these four years, and I shall have her
for a whole evening! We have been at your lodging the whole time since
morning. I have been working like a porter in my shirt sleeves, helping
to carry in the furniture. Aha! you don’t know what pretty ways she
has; at table she will look after me, ‘Here, papa, just try this, it is
nice.’ And I shall not be able to eat. Oh, it is a long while since I
have been with her in quiet every-day life as we shall have her.”

“It really seems as if the world has been turned upside down.”

“Upside down?” repeated Father Goriot. “Why, the world has never been so
right-side up. I see none but smiling faces in the streets, people who
shake hands cordially and embrace each other, people who all look as
happy as if they were going to dine with their daughter, and gobble down
a nice little dinner that she went with me to order of the chef at the
Cafe des Anglais. But, pshaw! with her beside you gall and wormwood
would be as sweet as honey.”

“I feel as if I were coming back to life again,” said Eugene.

“Why, hurry up there!” cried Father Goriot, letting down the window in
front. “Get on faster; I will give you five francs if you get to the
place I told you of in ten minutes time.”

With this prospect before him the cabman crossed Paris with miraculous

“How that fellow crawls!” said Father Goriot.

“But where are you taking me?” Eugene asked him.

“To your own house,” said Goriot.

The cab stopped in the Rue d’Artois. Father Goriot stepped out first and
flung ten francs to the man with the recklessness of a widower returning
to bachelor ways.

“Come along upstairs,” he said to Rastignac. They crossed a courtyard,
and climbed up to the third floor of a new and handsome house. There
they stopped before a door; but before Goriot could ring, it was opened
by Therese, Mme. de Nucingen’s maid. Eugene found himself in a charming
set of chambers; an ante-room, a little drawing-room, a bedroom, and a
study, looking out upon a garden. The furniture and the decorations of
the little drawing-room were of the most daintily charming description,
the room was full of soft light, and Delphine rose up from a low chair
by the fire and stood before him. She set her fire-screen down on the
chimney-piece, and spoke with tenderness in every tone of her voice.

“So we had to go in search of you, sir, you who are so slow to

Therese left the room. The student took Delphine in his arms and held
her in a tight clasp, his eyes filled with tears of joy. This last
contrast between his present surroundings and the scenes he had just
witnessed was too much for Rastignac’s over-wrought nerves, after the
day’s strain and excitement that had wearied heart and brain; he was
almost overcome by it.

“I felt sure myself that he loved you,” murmured Father Goriot, while
Eugene lay back bewildered on the sofa, utterly unable to speak a word
or to reason out how and why the magic wand had been waved to bring
about this final transformation scene.

“But you must see your rooms,” said Mme. de Nucingen. She took his hand
and led him into a room carpeted and furnished like her own; indeed,
down to the smallest details, it was a reproduction in miniature of
Delphine’s apartment.

“There is no bed,” said Rastignac.

“No, monsieur,” she answered, reddening, and pressing his hand. Eugene,
looking at her, understood, young though he yet was, how deeply modesty
is implanted in the heart of a woman who loves.

“You are one of those beings whom we cannot choose but to adore for
ever,” he said in her ear. “Yes, the deeper and truer love is, the more
mysterious and closely veiled it should be; I can dare to say so, since
we understand each other so well. No one shall learn our secret.”

“Oh! so I am nobody, I suppose,” growled the father.

“You know quite well that ‘we’ means you.”

“Ah! that is what I wanted. You will not mind me, will you? I shall go
and come like a good fairy who makes himself felt everywhere without
being seen, shall I not? Eh, Delphinette, Ninette, Dedel--was it not a
good idea of mine to say to you, ‘There are some nice rooms to let in
the Rue d’Artois; let us furnish them for him?’ And she would not hear
of it! Ah! your happiness has been all my doing. I am the author of your
happiness and of your existence. Fathers must always be giving if they
would be happy themselves; always giving--they would not be fathers

“Was that how it happened?” asked Eugene.

“Yes. She would not listen to me. She was afraid that people would
talk, as if the rubbish that they say about you were to be compared with
happiness! Why, all women dream of doing what she has done----”

Father Goriot found himself without an audience, for Mme. de Nucingen
had led Rastignac into the study; he heard a kiss given and taken, low
though the sound was.

The study was furnished as elegantly as the other rooms, and nothing was
wanting there.

“Have we guessed your wishes rightly?” she asked, as they returned to
the drawing-room for dinner.

“Yes,” he said, “only too well, alas! For all this luxury so well
carried out, this realization of pleasant dreams, the elegance that
satisfies all the romantic fancies of youth, appeals to me so strongly
that I cannot but feel that it is my rightful possession, but I cannot
accept it from you, and I am too poor as yet to----”

“Ah! ah! you say me nay already,” she said with arch imperiousness,
and a charming little pout of the lips, a woman’s way of laughing away

But Eugene had submitted so lately to that solemn self-questioning, and
Vautrin’s arrest had so plainly shown him the depths of the pit that lay
ready to his feet, that the instincts of generosity and honor had been
strengthened in him, and he could not allow himself to be coaxed into
abandoning his high-minded determinations. Profound melancholy filled
his mind.

“Do you really mean to refuse?” said Mme. de Nucingen. “And do you know
what such a refusal means? That you are not sure of yourself, that you
do not dare to bind yourself to me. Are you really afraid of betraying
my affection? If you love me, if I--love you, why should you shrink back
from such a slight obligation? If you but knew what a pleasure it has
been to see after all the arrangements of this bachelor establishment,
you would not hesitate any longer, you would ask me to forgive you for
your hesitation. I had some money that belonged to you, and I have made
good use of it, that is all. You mean this for magnanimity, but it is
very little of you. You are asking me for far more than this.... Ah!”
 she cried, as Eugene’s passionate glance was turned on her, “and you are
making difficulties about the merest trifles. Of, if you feel no love
whatever for me, refuse, by all means. My fate hangs on a word from you.
Speak!--Father,” she said after a pause, “make him listen to reason. Can
he imagine that I am less nice than he is on the point of honor?”

Father Goriot was looking on and listening to this pretty quarrel with a
placid smile, as if he had found some balm for all the sorrows of life.

“Child that you are!” she cried again, catching Eugene’s hand. “You are
just beginning life; you find barriers at the outset that many a man
finds insurmountable; a woman’s hand opens the way and you shrink back!
Why, you are sure to succeed! You will have a brilliant future. Success
is written on that broad forehead of yours, and will you not be able to
repay me my loan of to-day? Did not a lady in olden times arm her knight
with sword and helmet and coat of mail, and find him a charger, so that
he might fight for her in the tournament? Well, then, Eugene, these
things that I offer you are the weapons of this age; every one who
means to be something must have such tools as these. A pretty place your
garret must be if it is like papa’s room! See, dinner is waiting all
this time. Do you want to make me unhappy?--Why don’t you answer?” she
said, shaking his hand. “_Mon Dieu!_ papa, make up his mind for him, or
I will go away and never see him any more.”

“I will make up your mind,” said Goriot, coming down from the clouds.
“Now, my dear M. Eugene, the next thing is to borrow money of the Jews,
isn’t it?”

“There is positively no help for it,” said Eugene.

“All right, I will give you credit,” said the other, drawing out a cheap
leather pocket-book, much the worse for wear. “I have turned Jew myself;
I paid for everything; here are the invoices. You do not owe a penny
for anything here. It did not come to very much--five thousand francs at
most, and I am going to lend you the money myself. I am not a woman--you
can refuse me. You shall give me a receipt on a scrap of paper, and you
can return it some time or other.”

Delphine and Eugene looked at each other in amazement, tears sprang to
their eyes. Rastignac held out his hand and grasped Goriot’s warmly.

“Well, what is all this about? Are you not my children?”

“Oh! my poor father,” said Mme. de Nucingen, “how did you do it?”

“Ah! now you ask me. When I made up my mind to move him nearer to you,
and saw you buying things as if they were wedding presents, I said to
myself, ‘She will never be able to pay for them.’ The attorney says that
those law proceedings will last quite six months before your husband can
be made to disgorge your fortune. Well and good. I sold out my property
in the funds that brought in thirteen hundred and fifty livres a year,
and bought a safe annuity of twelve hundred francs a year for fifteen
thousand francs. Then I paid your tradesmen out of the rest of the
capital. As for me, children, I have a room upstairs for which I pay
fifty crowns a year; I can live like a prince on two francs a day, and
still have something left over. I shall not have to spend anything much
on clothes, for I never wear anything out. This fortnight past I have
been laughing in my sleeve, thinking to myself, ‘How happy they are
going to be!’ and--well, now, are you not happy?”

“Oh papa! papa!” cried Mme. de Nucingen, springing to her father, who
took her on his knee. She covered him with kisses, her fair hair brushed
his cheek, her tears fell on the withered face that had grown so bright
and radiant.

“Dear father, what a father you are! No, there is not another father
like you under the sun. If Eugene loved you before, what must he feel
for you now?”

“Why, children, why Delphinette!” cried Goriot, who had not felt his
daughter’s heart beat against his breast for ten years, “do you want me
to die of joy? My poor heart will break! Come, Monsieur Eugene, we are
quits already.” And the old man strained her to his breast with such
fierce and passionate force that she cried out.

“Oh! you are hurting me!” she said.

“I am hurting you!” He grew pale at the words. The pain expressed in his
face seemed greater than it is given to humanity to know. The agony of
this Christ of paternity can only be compared with the masterpieces of
those princes of the palette who have left for us the record of their
visions of an agony suffered for a whole world by the Saviour of men.
Father Goriot pressed his lips very gently against the waist than his
fingers had grasped too roughly.

“Oh! no, no,” he cried. “I have not hurt you, have I?” and his smile
seemed to repeat the question. “YOU have hurt me with that cry just
now.--The things cost rather more than that,” he said in her ear, with
another gentle kiss, “but I had to deceive him about it, or he would
have been angry.”

Eugene sat dumb with amazement in the presence of this inexhaustible
love; he gazed at Goriot, and his face betrayed the artless admiration
which shapes the beliefs of youth.

“I will be worthy of all this,” he cried.

“Oh! my Eugene, that is nobly said,” and Mme. de Nucingen kissed the law
student on the forehead.

“He gave up Mlle. Taillefer and her millions for you,” said Father
Goriot. “Yes, the little thing was in love with you, and now that her
brother is dead she is as rich as Croesus.”

“Oh! why did you tell her?” cried Rastignac.

“Eugene,” Delphine said in his ear, “I have one regret now this evening.
Ah! how I will love you! and for ever!”

“This is the happiest day I have had since you two were married!” cried
Goriot. “God may send me any suffering, so long as I do not suffer
through you, and I can still say, ‘In this short month of February I had
more happiness than other men have in their whole lives.’--Look at me,
Fifine!” he said to his daughter. “She is very beautiful, is she not?
Tell me, now, have you seen many women with that pretty soft color--that
little dimple of hers? No, I thought not. Ah, well, and but for me this
lovely woman would never have been. And very soon happiness will make
her a thousand times lovelier, happiness through you. I could give up
my place in heaven to you, neighbor, if needs be, and go down to hell
instead. Come, let us have dinner,” he added, scarcely knowing what he
said, “everything is ours.”

“Poor dear father!”

He rose and went over to her, and took her face in his hands, and set a
kiss on the plaits of hair. “If you only knew, little one, how happy you
can make me--how little it takes to make me happy! Will you come and see
me sometimes? I shall be just above, so it is only a step. Promise me,
say that you will!”

“Yes, dear father.”

“Say it again.”

“Yes, I will, my kind father.”

“Hush! hush! I should make you say it a hundred times over if I followed
my own wishes. Let us have dinner.”

The three behaved like children that evening, and Father Goriot’s
spirits were certainly not the least wild. He lay at his daughter’s
feet, kissed them, gazed into her eyes, rubbed his head against her
dress; in short, no young lover could have been more extravagant or more

“You see!” Delphine said with a look at Eugene, “so long as my father is
with us, he monopolizes me. He will be rather in the way sometimes.”

Eugene had himself already felt certain twinges of jealousy, and could
not blame this speech that contained the germ of all ingratitude.

“And when will the rooms be ready?” asked Eugene, looking round. “We
must all leave them this evening, I suppose.”

“Yes, but to-morrow you must come and dine with me,” she answered, with
an eloquent glance. “It is our night at the Italiens.”

“I shall go to the pit,” said her father.

It was midnight. Mme. de Nucingen’s carriage was waiting for her, and
Father Goriot and the student walked back to the Maison Vauquer, talking
of Delphine, and warming over their talk till there grew up a curious
rivalry between the two violent passions. Eugene could not help seeing
that the father’s self-less love was deeper and more steadfast than
his own. For this worshiper Delphine was always pure and fair, and her
father’s adoration drew its fervor from a whole past as well as a future
of love.

They found Mme. Vauquer by the stove, with Sylvie and Christophe to keep
her company; the old landlady, sitting like Marius among the ruins of
Carthage, was waiting for the two lodgers that yet remained to her, and
bemoaning her lot with the sympathetic Sylvie. Tasso’s lamentations as
recorded in Byron’s poem are undoubtedly eloquent, but for sheer force
of truth they fall far short of the widow’s cry from the depths.

“Only three cups of coffee in the morning, Sylvie! Oh dear! to have your
house emptied in this way is enough to break your heart. What is life,
now my lodgers are gone? Nothing at all. Just think of it! It is just as
if all the furniture had been taken out of the house, and your furniture
is your life. How have I offended heaven to draw down all this trouble
upon me? And haricot beans and potatoes laid in for twenty people!
The police in my house too! We shall have to live on potatoes now, and
Christophe will have to go!”

The Savoyard, who was fast asleep, suddenly woke up at this, and said,
“Madame,” questioningly.

“Poor fellow!” said Sylvie, “he is like a dog.”

“In the dead season, too! Nobody is moving now. I would like to know
where the lodgers are to drop down from. It drives me distracted. And
that old witch of a Michonneau goes and takes Poiret with her! What can
she have done to make him so fond of her? He runs about after her like a
little dog.”

“Lord!” said Sylvie, flinging up her head, “those old maids are up to
all sorts of tricks.”

“There’s that poor M. Vautrin that they made out to be a convict,” the
widow went on. “Well, you know that is too much for me, Sylvie; I
can’t bring myself to believe it. Such a lively man as he was, and paid
fifteen francs a month for his coffee of an evening, paid you very penny
on the nail too.”

“And open-handed he was!” said Christophe.

“There is some mistake,” said Sylvie.

“Why, no there isn’t! he said so himself!” said Mme. Vauquer. “And to
think that all these things have happened in my house, and in a quarter
where you never see a cat go by. On my word as an honest woman, it’s
like a dream. For, look here, we saw Louis XVI. meet with his mishap;
we saw the fall of the Emperor; and we saw him come back and fall again;
there was nothing out of the way in all that, but lodging-houses are not
liable to revolutions. You can do without a king, but you must eat all
the same; and so long as a decent woman, a de Conflans born and bred,
will give you all sorts of good things for dinner, nothing short of the
end of the world ought to--but there, it is the end of the world, that
is just what it is!”

“And to think that Mlle. Michonneau who made all this mischief is to
have a thousand crowns a year for it, so I hear,” cried Sylvie.

“Don’t speak of her, she is a wicked woman!” said Mme. Vauquer. “She
is going to the Buneaud, who charges less than cost. But the Buneaud
is capable of anything; she must have done frightful things, robbed
and murdered people in her time. _She_ ought to be put in jail for life
instead of that poor dear----”

Eugene and Goriot rang the door-bell at that moment.

“Ah! here are my two faithful lodgers,” said the widow, sighing.

But the two faithful lodgers, who retained but shadowy recollections
of the misfortunes of their lodging-house, announced to their hostess
without more ado that they were about to remove to the Chaussee d’Antin.

“Sylvie!” cried the widow, “this is the last straw.--Gentlemen, this
will be the death of me! It has quite upset me! There’s a weight on my
chest! I am ten years older for this day! Upon my word, I shall go out
of my senses! And what is to be done with the haricots!--Oh, well, if
I am to be left here all by myself, you shall go to-morrow,
Christophe.--Good-night, gentlemen,” and she went.

“What is the matter now?” Eugene inquired of Sylvie.

“Lord! everybody is going about his business, and that has addled her
wits. There! she is crying upstairs. It will do her good to snivel a
bit. It’s the first time she has cried since I’ve been with her.”

By the morning, Mme. Vauquer, to use her own expression, had “made up
her mind to it.” True, she still wore a doleful countenance, as might
be expected of a woman who had lost all her lodgers, and whose manner
of life had been suddenly revolutionized, but she had all her wits about
her. Her grief was genuine and profound; it was real pain of mind, for
her purse had suffered, the routine of her existence had been broken. A
lover’s farewell glance at his lady-love’s window is not more mournful
than Mme. Vauquer’s survey of the empty places round her table. Eugene
administered comfort, telling the widow that Bianchon, whose term of
residence at the hospital was about to expire, would doubtless take
his (Rastignac’s) place; that the official from the Museum had often
expressed a desire to have Mme. Couture’s rooms; and that in a very few
days her household would be on the old footing.

“God send it may, my dear sir! but bad luck has come to lodge here.
There’ll be a death in the house before ten days are out, you’ll see,”
 and she gave a lugubrious look round the dining-room. “Whose turn will
it be, I wonder?”

“It is just as well that we are moving out,” said Eugene to Father
Goriot in a low voice.

“Madame,” said Sylvie, running in with a scared face, “I have not seen
Mistigris these three days.”

“Ah! well, if my cat is dead, if _he_ has gone and left us, I----”

The poor woman could not finish her sentence; she clasped her hands
and hid her face on the back of her armchair, quite overcome by this
dreadful portent.

By twelve o’clock, when the postman reaches that quarter, Eugene
received a letter. The dainty envelope bore the Beauseant arms on the
seal, and contained an invitation to the Vicomtesse’s great ball, which
had been talked of in Paris for a month. A little note for Eugene was
slipped in with the card.

 “I think, monsieur, that you will undertake with pleasure to
  interpret my sentiments to Mme. de Nucingen, so I am sending the
  card for which you asked me to you. I shall be delighted to make
  the acquaintance of Mme. de Restaud’s sister. Pray introduce that
  charming lady to me, and do not let her monopolize all your
  affection, for you owe me not a little in return for mine.

                                         “VICOMTESSE DE BEAUSEANT.”

“Well,” said Eugene to himself, as he read the note a second time, “Mme.
de Beauseant says pretty plainly that she does not want the Baron de

He went to Delphine at once in his joy. He had procured this pleasure
for her, and doubtless he would receive the price of it. Mme. de
Nucingen was dressing. Rastignac waited in her boudoir, enduring as best
he might the natural impatience of an eager temperament for the reward
desired and withheld for a year. Such sensations are only known once
in a life. The first woman to whom a man is drawn, if she is really
a woman--that is to say, if she appears to him amid the splendid
accessories that form a necessary background to life in the world of
Paris--will never have a rival.

Love in Paris is a thing distinct and apart; for in Paris neither men
nor women are the dupes of the commonplaces by which people seek to
throw a veil over their motives, or to parade a fine affectation of
disinterestedness in their sentiments. In this country within a country,
it is not merely required of a woman that she should satisfy the senses
and the soul; she knows perfectly well that she has still greater
obligations to discharge, that she must fulfil the countless demands
of a vanity that enters into every fibre of that living organism called
society. Love, for her, is above all things, and by its very nature, a
vainglorious, brazen-fronted, ostentatious, thriftless charlatan. If
at the Court of Louis XIV. there was not a woman but envied Mlle. de la
Valliere the reckless devotion of passion that led the grand monarch to
tear the priceless ruffles at his wrists in order to assist the entry of
a Duc de Vermandois into the world--what can you expect of the rest
of society? You must have youth and wealth and rank; nay, you must, if
possible, have more than these, for the more incense you bring with you
to burn at the shrine of the god, the more favorably will he regard the
worshiper. Love is a religion, and his cult must in the nature of things
be more costly than those of all other deities; Love the Spoiler stays
for a moment, and then passes on; like the urchin of the streets, his
course may be traced by the ravages that he has made. The wealth of
feeling and imagination is the poetry of the garret; how should love
exist there without that wealth?

If there are exceptions who do not subscribe to these Draconian laws of
the Parisian code, they are solitary examples. Such souls live so far
out of the main current that they are not borne away by the doctrines
of society; they dwell beside some clear spring of everflowing water,
without seeking to leave the green shade; happy to listen to the echoes
of the infinite in everything around them and in their own souls,
waiting in patience to take their flight for heaven, while they look
with pity upon those of earth.

Rastignac, like most young men who have been early impressed by the
circumstances of power and grandeur, meant to enter the lists fully
armed; the burning ambition of conquest possessed him already; perhaps
he was conscious of his powers, but as yet he knew neither the end to
which his ambition was to be directed, nor the means of attaining it.
In default of the pure and sacred love that fills a life, ambition
may become something very noble, subduing to itself every thought of
personal interest, and setting as the end--the greatness, not of one
man, but of a whole nation.

But the student had not yet reached the time of life when a man surveys
the whole course of existence and judges it soberly. Hitherto he had
scarcely so much as shaken off the spell of the fresh and gracious
influences that envelop a childhood in the country, like green leaves
and grass. He had hesitated on the brink of the Parisian Rubicon, and
in spite of the prickings of ambition, he still clung to a lingering
tradition of an old ideal--the peaceful life of the noble in his
chateau. But yesterday evening, at the sight of his rooms, those
scruples had vanished. He had learned what it was to enjoy the material
advantages of fortune, as he had already enjoyed the social advantages
of birth; he ceased to be a provincial from that moment, and slipped
naturally and easily into a position which opened up a prospect of a
brilliant future.

So, as he waited for Delphine, in the pretty boudoir, where he felt
that he had a certain right to be, he felt himself so far away from the
Rastignac who came back to Paris a year ago, that, turning some power of
inner vision upon this latter, he asked himself whether that past self
bore any resemblance to the Rastignac of that moment.

“Madame is in her room,” Therese came to tell him. The woman’s voice
made him start.

He found Delphine lying back in her low chair by the fireside, looking
fresh and bright. The sight of her among the flowing draperies of muslin
suggested some beautiful tropical flower, where the fruit is set amid
the blossom.

“Well,” she said, with a tremor in her voice, “here you are.”

“Guess what I bring for you,” said Eugene, sitting down beside her. He
took possession of her arm to kiss her hand.

Mme. de Nucingen gave a joyful start as she saw the card. She turned
to Eugene; there were tears in her eyes as she flung her arms about his
neck, and drew him towards her in a frenzy of gratified vanity.

“And I owe this happiness to you--to _thee_” (she whispered the more
intimate word in his ear); “but Therese is in my dressing-room, let us
be prudent.--This happiness--yes, for I may call it so, when it comes
to me through _you_--is surely more than a triumph for self-love? No one
has been willing to introduce me into that set. Perhaps just now I may
seem to you to be frivolous, petty, shallow, like a Parisienne, but
remember, my friend, that I am ready to give up all for you; and that if
I long more than ever for an entrance into the Faubourg Saint-Germain,
it is because I shall meet you there.”

“Mme. de Beauseant’s note seems to say very plainly that she does not
expect to see the _Baron_ de Nucingen at her ball; don’t you think so?”
 said Eugene.

“Why, yes,” said the Baroness as she returned the letter. “Those women
have a talent for insolence. But it is of no consequence, I shall go.
My sister is sure to be there, and sure to be very beautifully
dressed.--Eugene,” she went on, lowering her voice, “she will go to
dispel ugly suspicions. You do not know the things that people are
saying about her. Only this morning Nucingen came to tell me that they
had been discussing her at the club. Great heavens! on what does a
woman’s character and the honor of a whole family depend! I feel that
I am nearly touched and wounded in my poor sister. According to some
people, M. de Trailles must have put his name to bills for a hundred
thousand francs, nearly all of them are overdue, and proceedings are
threatened. In this predicament, it seems that my sister sold her
diamonds to a Jew--the beautiful diamonds that belonged to her husband’s
mother, Mme. de Restaud the elder,--you have seen her wearing them. In
fact, nothing else has been talked about for the last two days. So I can
see that Anastasie is sure to come to Mme. de Beauseant’s ball in tissue
of gold, and ablaze with diamonds, to draw all eyes upon her; and I will
not be outshone. She has tried to eclipse me all her life, she has never
been kind to me, and I have helped her so often, and always had money
for her when she had none.--But never mind other people now, to-day I
mean to be perfectly happy.”

At one o’clock that morning Eugene was still with Mme. de Nucingen. In
the midst of their lovers’ farewell, a farewell full of hope of bliss to
come, she said in a troubled voice, “I am very fearful, superstitious.
Give what name you like to my presentiments, but I am afraid that my
happiness will be paid for by some horrible catastrophe.”

“Child!” said Eugene.

“Ah! have we changed places, and am I the child to-night?” she asked,

Eugene went back to the Maison Vauquer, never doubting but that he
should leave it for good on the morrow; and on the way he fell to
dreaming the bright dreams of youth, when the cup of happiness has left
its sweetness on the lips.

“Well?” cried Goriot, as Rastignac passed by his door.

“Yes,” said Eugene; “I will tell you everything to-morrow.”

“Everything, will you not?” cried the old man. “Go to bed. To-morrow our
happy life will begin.”

Next day, Goriot and Rastignac were ready to leave the lodging-house,
and only awaited the good pleasure of a porter to move out of it;
but towards noon there was a sound of wheels in the Rue
Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve, and a carriage stopped before the door of the
Maison Vauquer. Mme. de Nucingen alighted, and asked if her father was
still in the house, and, receiving an affirmative reply from Sylvie, ran
lightly upstairs.

It so happened that Eugene was at home all unknown to his neighbor. At
breakfast time he had asked Goriot to superintend the removal of
his goods, saying that he would meet him in the Rue d’Artois at four
o’clock; but Rastignac’s name had been called early on the list at
the Ecole de Droit, and he had gone back at once to the Rue
Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve. No one had seen him come in, for Goriot had gone
to find a porter, and the mistress of the house was likewise out. Eugene
had thought to pay her himself, for it struck him that if he left this,
Goriot in his zeal would probably pay for him. As it was, Eugene went
up to his room to see that nothing had been forgotten, and blessed his
foresight when he saw the blank bill bearing Vautrin’s signature lying
in the drawer where he had carelessly thrown it on the day when he had
repaid the amount. There was no fire in the grate, so he was about to
tear it into little pieces, when he heard a voice speaking in Goriot’s
room, and the speaker was Delphine! He made no more noise, and stood
still to listen, thinking that she should have no secrets from him;
but after the first few words, the conversation between the father
and daughter was so strange and interesting that it absorbed all his

“Ah! thank heaven that you thought of asking him to give an account of
the money settled on me before I was utterly ruined, father. Is it safe
to talk?” she added.

“Yes, there is no one in the house,” said her father faintly.

“What is the matter with you?” asked Mme. de Nucingen.

“God forgive you! you have just dealt me a staggering blow, child!” said
the old man. “You cannot know how much I love you, or you would not have
burst in upon me like this, with such news, especially if all is not
lost. Has something so important happened that you must come here about
it? In a few minutes we should have been in the Rue d’Artois.”

“Eh! does one think what one is doing after a catastrophe? It has turned
my head. Your attorney has found out the state of things now, but it
was bound to come out sooner or later. We shall want your long business
experience; and I come to you like a drowning man who catches at a
branch. When M. Derville found that Nucingen was throwing all sorts of
difficulties in his way, he threatened him with proceedings, and told
him plainly that he would soon obtain an order from the President of the
Tribunal. So Nucingen came to my room this morning, and asked if I meant
to ruin us both. I told him that I knew nothing whatever about it, that
I had a fortune, and ought to be put into possession of my fortune, and
that my attorney was acting for me in the matter; I said again that I
knew absolutely nothing about it, and could not possibly go into the
subject with him. Wasn’t that what you told me to tell him?”

“Yes, quite right,” answered Goriot.

“Well, then,” Delphine continued, “he told me all about his affairs.
He had just invested all his capital and mine in business speculations;
they have only just been started, and very large sums of money are
locked up. If I were to compel him to refund my dowry now, he would be
forced to file his petition; but if I will wait a year, he undertakes,
on his honor, to double or treble my fortune, by investing it in
building land, and I shall be mistress at last of the whole of my
property. He was speaking the truth, father dear; he frightened me! He
asked my pardon for his conduct; he has given me my liberty; I am free
to act as I please on condition that I leave him to carry on my business
in my name. To prove his sincerity, he promised that M. Derville might
inspect the accounts as often as I pleased, so that I might be assured
that everything was being conducted properly. In short, he put himself
in my power, bound hand and foot. He wishes the present arrangements
as to the expenses of housekeeping to continue for two more years, and
entreated me not to exceed my allowance. He showed me plainly that it
was all that he could do to keep up appearances; he has broken with his
opera dancer; he will be compelled to practise the most strict economy
(in secret) if he is to bide his time with unshaken credit. I scolded, I
did all I could to drive him to desperation, so as to find out more. He
showed me his ledgers--he broke down and cried at last. I never saw
a man in such a state. He lost his head completely, talked of killing
himself, and raved till I felt quite sorry for him.”

“Do you really believe that silly rubbish?”... cried her father. “It was
all got up for your benefit! I have had to do with Germans in the way
of business, honest and straightforward they are pretty sure to be, but
when with their simplicity and frankness they are sharpers and humbugs
as well, they are the worst rogues of all. Your husband is taking
advantage of you. As soon as pressure is brought to bear on him he shams
dead; he means to be more the master under your name than in his own. He
will take advantage of the position to secure himself against the risks
of business. He is as sharp as he is treacherous; he is a bad lot! No,
no; I am not going to leave my girls behind me without a penny when I go
to Pere-Lachaise. I know something about business still. He has sunk
his money in speculation, he says; very well then, there is something to
show for it--bills, receipts, papers of some sort. Let him produce them,
and come to an arrangement with you. We will choose the most promising
of his speculations, take them over at our own risk, and have the
securities transferred into your name; they shall represent the separate
estate of Delphine Goriot, wife of the Baron de Nucingen. Does that
fellow really take us for idiots? Does he imagine that I could stand
the idea of your being without fortune, without bread, for forty-eight
hours? I would not stand it a day--no, not a night, not a couple of
hours! If there had been any foundation for the idea, I should never get
over it. What! I have worked hard for forty years, carried sacks on
my back, and sweated and pinched and saved all my life for you, my
darlings, for you who made the toil and every burden borne for you seem
light; and now, my fortune, my whole life, is to vanish in smoke! I
should die raving mad if I believed a word of it. By all that’s holiest
in heaven and earth, we will have this cleared up at once; go through
the books, have the whole business looked thoroughly into! I will not
sleep, nor rest, nor eat until I have satisfied myself that all your
fortune is in existence. Your money is settled upon you, God be thanked!
and, luckily, your attorney, Maitre Derville, is an honest man. Good
Lord! you shall have your snug little million, your fifty thousand
francs a year, as long as you live, or I will raise a racket in Paris, I
will so! If the Tribunals put upon us, I will appeal to the Chambers.
If I knew that you were well and comfortably off as far as money is
concerned, that thought would keep me easy in spite of bad health and
troubles. Money? why, it is life! Money does everything. That great dolt
of an Alsatian shall sing to another tune! Look here, Delphine, don’t
give way, don’t make a concession of half a quarter of a farthing to
that fathead, who has ground you down and made you miserable. If he
can’t do without you, we will give him a good cudgeling, and keep him
in order. Great heavens! my brain is on fire; it is as if there were
something redhot inside my head. My Delphine lying on straw! You! my
Fifine! Good gracious! Where are my gloves? Come, let us go at once;
I mean to see everything with my own eyes--books, cash, and
correspondence, the whole business. I shall have no peace until I know
for certain that your fortune is secure.”

“Oh! father dear, be careful how you set about it! If there is the least
hint of vengeance in the business, if you show yourself openly hostile,
it will be all over with me. He knows whom he has to deal with; he
thinks it quite natural that if you put the idea into my head, I should
be uneasy about my money; but I swear to you that he has it in his own
hands, and that he had meant to keep it. He is just the man to abscond
with all the money and leave us in the lurch, the scoundrel! He knows
quite well that I will not dishonor the name I bear by bringing him into
a court of law. His position is strong and weak at the same time. If we
drive him to despair, I am lost.”

“Why, then, the man is a rogue?”

“Well, yes, father,” she said, flinging herself into a chair, “I wanted
to keep it from you to spare your feelings,” and she burst into tears;
“I did not want you to know that you had married me to such a man as
he is. He is just the same in private life--body and soul and
conscience--the same through and through--hideous! I hate him; I despise
him! Yes, after all that that despicable Nucingen has told me, I cannot
respect him any longer. A man capable of mixing himself up in such
affairs, and of talking about them to me as he did, without the
slightest scruple,--it is because I have read him through and through
that I am afraid of him. He, my husband, frankly proposed to give me my
liberty, and do you know what that means? It means that if things
turn out badly for him, I am to play into his hands, and be his

“But there is law to be had! There is a Place de Greve for sons-in-law
of that sort,” cried her father; “why, I would guillotine him myself if
there was no headsman to do it.”

“No, father, the law cannot touch him. Listen, this is what he says,
stripped of all his circumlocutions--‘Take your choice, you and no one
else can be my accomplice; either everything is lost, you are ruined
and have not a farthing, or you will let me carry this business through
myself.’ Is that plain speaking? He _must_ have my assistance. He is
assured that his wife will deal fairly by him; he knows that I shall
leave his money to him and be content with my own. It is an unholy and
dishonest compact, and he holds out threats of ruin to compel me to
consent to it. He is buying my conscience, and the price is liberty to
be Eugene’s wife in all but name. ‘I connive at your errors, and you
allow me to commit crimes and ruin poor families!’ Is that sufficiently
explicit? Do you know what he means by speculations? He buys up land in
his own name, then he finds men of straw to run up houses upon it. These
men make a bargain with a contractor to build the houses, paying them by
bills at long dates; then in consideration of a small sum they leave
my husband in possession of the houses, and finally slip through the
fingers of the deluded contractors by going into bankruptcy. The name of
the firm of Nucingen has been used to dazzle the poor contractors. I saw
that. I noticed, too, that Nucingen had sent bills for large amounts to
Amsterdam, London, Naples, and Vienna, in order to prove if necessary
that large sums had been paid away by the firm. How could we get
possession of those bills?”

Eugene heard a dull thud on the floor; Father Goriot must have fallen on
his knees.

“Great heavens! what have I done to you? Bound my daughter to this
scoundrel who does as he likes with her!--Oh! my child, my child!
forgive me!” cried the old man.

“Yes, if I am in the depths of despair, perhaps you are to blame,” said
Delphine. “We have so little sense when we marry! What do we know of the
world, of business, or men, or life? Our fathers should think for us!
Father dear, I am not blaming you in the least, forgive me for what
I said. This is all my own fault. Nay, do not cry, papa,” she said,
kissing him.

“Do not cry either, my little Delphine. Look up and let me kiss away
the tears. There! I shall find my wits and unravel this skein of your
husband’s winding.”

“No, let me do that; I shall be able to manage him. He is fond of me,
well and good; I shall use my influence to make him invest my money as
soon as possible in landed property in my own name. Very likely I could
get him to buy back Nucingen in Alsace in my name; that has always been
a pet idea of his. Still, come to-morrow and go through the books, and
look into the business. M. Derville knows little of mercantile matters.
No, not to-morrow though. I do not want to be upset. Mme. de Beauseant’s
ball will be the day after to-morrow, and I must keep quiet, so as to
look my best and freshest, and do honor to my dear Eugene!... Come, let
us see his room.”

But as she spoke a carriage stopped in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve,
and the sound of Mme. de Restaud’s voice came from the staircase. “Is my
father in?” she asked of Sylvie.

This accident was luckily timed for Eugene, whose one idea had been to
throw himself down on the bed and pretend to be asleep.

“Oh, father, have you heard about Anastasie?” said Delphine, when she
heard her sister speak. “It looks as though some strange things had
happened in that family.”

“What sort of things?” asked Goriot. “This is like to be the death of
me. My poor head will not stand a double misfortune.”

“Good-morning, father,” said the Countess from the threshold. “Oh!
Delphine, are you here?”

Mme. de Restaud seemed taken aback by her sister’s presence.

“Good-morning, Nasie,” said the Baroness. “What is there so
extraordinary in my being here? _I_ see our father every day.”

“Since when?”

“If you came yourself you would know.”

“Don’t tease, Delphine,” said the Countess fretfully. “I am very
miserable, I am lost. Oh! my poor father, it is hopeless this time!”

“What is it, Nasie?” cried Goriot. “Tell us all about it, child! How
white she is! Quick, do something, Delphine; be kind to her, and I will
love you even better, if that were possible.”

“Poor Nasie!” said Mme. de Nucingen, drawing her sister to a chair. “We
are the only two people in the world whose love is always sufficient to
forgive you everything. Family affection is the surest, you see.”

The Countess inhaled the salts and revived.

“This will kill me!” said their father. “There,” he went on, stirring
the smouldering fire, “come nearer, both of you. It is cold. What is it,
Nasie? Be quick and tell me, this is enough to----”

“Well, then, my husband knows everything,” said the Countess. “Just
imagine it; do you remember, father, that bill of Maxime’s some time
ago? Well, that was not the first. I had paid ever so many before that.
About the beginning of January M. de Trailles seemed very much troubled.
He said nothing to me; but it is so easy to read the hearts of those you
love, a mere trifle is enough; and then you feel things instinctively.
Indeed, he was more tender and affectionate than ever, and I was happier
than I had ever been before. Poor Maxime! in himself he was really
saying good-bye to me, so he has told me since; he meant to blow his
brains out! At last I worried him so, and begged and implored so hard;
for two hours I knelt at his knees and prayed and entreated, and at last
he told me--that he owed a hundred thousand francs. Oh! papa! a hundred
thousand francs! I was beside myself! You had not the money, I knew, I
had eaten up all that you had----”

“No,” said Goriot; “I could not have got it for you unless I had stolen
it. But I would have done that for you, Nasie! I will do it yet.”

The words came from him like a sob, a hoarse sound like the death
rattle of a dying man; it seemed indeed like the agony of death when
the father’s love was powerless. There was a pause, and neither of the
sisters spoke. It must have been selfishness indeed that could hear
unmoved that cry of anguish that, like a pebble thrown over a precipice,
revealed the depths of his despair.

“I found the money, father, by selling what was not mine to sell,” and
the Countess burst into tears.

Delphine was touched; she laid her head on her sister’s shoulder, and
cried too.

“Then it is all true,” she said.

Anastasie bowed her head, Mme. de Nucingen flung her arms about her,
kissed her tenderly, and held her sister to her heart.

“I shall always love you and never judge you, Nasie,” she said.

“My angels,” murmured Goriot faintly. “Oh, why should it be trouble that
draws you together?”

This warm and palpitating affection seemed to give the Countess courage.

“To save Maxime’s life,” she said, “to save all my own happiness, I
went to the money-lender you know of, a man of iron forged in hell-fire;
nothing can melt him; I took all the family diamonds that M. de Restaud
is so proud of--his and mine too--and sold them to that M. Gobseck.
_Sold them!_ Do you understand? I saved Maxime, but I am lost. Restaud
found it all out.”

“How? Who told him? I will kill him,” cried Goriot.

“Yesterday he sent to tell me to come to his room. I went. ...
‘Anastasie,’ he said in a voice--oh! such a voice; that was enough, it
told me everything--‘where are your diamonds?’--‘In my room----’--‘No,’
he said, looking straight at me, ‘there they are on that chest of
drawers----’ and he lifted his handkerchief and showed me the casket.
‘Do you know where they came from?’ he said. I fell at his feet.... I
cried; I besought him to tell me the death he wished to see me die.”

“You said that!” cried Goriot. “By God in heaven, whoever lays a hand on
either of you so long as I am alive may reckon on being roasted by slow
fires! Yes, I will cut him in pieces like...”

Goriot stopped; the words died away in his throat.

“And then, dear, he asked something worse than death of me. Oh! heaven
preserve all other women from hearing such words as I heard then!”

“I will murder that man,” said Goriot quietly. “But he has only one
life, and he deserves to die twice.--And then, what next?” he added,
looking at Anastasie.

“Then,” the Countess resumed, “there was a pause, and he looked at me.
‘Anastasie,’ he said, ‘I will bury this in silence; there shall be no
separation; there are the children. I will not kill M. de Trailles. I
might miss him if we fought, and as for other ways of getting rid of
him, I should come into collision with the law. If I killed him in your
arms, it would bring dishonor on _those_ children. But if you do not
want to see your children perish, nor their father nor me, you must
first of all submit to two conditions. Answer me. Have I a child of my
own?’ I answered, ‘Yes,’--‘Which?’--‘Ernest, our eldest boy.’--‘Very
well,’ he said, ‘and now swear to obey me in this particular from this
time forward.’ I swore. ‘You will make over your property to me when I
require you to do so.’”

“Do nothing of the kind!” cried Goriot. “Aha! M. de Restaud, you could
not make your wife happy; she has looked for happiness and found it
elsewhere, and you make her suffer for your own ineptitude? He will have
to reckon with me. Make yourself easy, Nasie. Aha! he cares about his
heir! Good, very good. I will get hold of the boy; isn’t he my grandson?
What the blazes! I can surely go to see the brat! I will stow him away
somewhere; I will take care of him, you may be quite easy. I will bring
Restaud to terms, the monster! I shall say to him, ‘A word or two with
you! If you want your son back again, give my daughter her property, and
leave her to do as she pleases.’”


“Yes. I am your father, Nasie, a father indeed! That rogue of a great
lord had better not ill-treat my daughter. _Tonnerre!_ What is it in my
veins? There is the blood of a tiger in me; I could tear those two men
to pieces! Oh! children, children! so this is what your lives are! Why,
it is death!... What will become of you when I shall be here no longer?
Fathers ought to live as long as their children. Ah! Lord God in heaven!
how ill Thy world is ordered! Thou hast a Son, if what they tell us
is true, and yet Thou leavest us to suffer so through our children. My
darlings, my darlings! to think that trouble only should bring you to
me, that I should only see you with tears on your faces! Ah! yes, yes,
you love me, I see that you love me. Come to me and pour out your griefs
to me; my heart is large enough to hold them all. Oh! you might rend my
heart in pieces, and every fragment would make a father’s heart. If only
I could bear all your sorrows for you! ... Ah! you were so happy when
you were little and still with me....”

“We have never been happy since,” said Delphine. “Where are the old days
when we slid down the sacks in the great granary?”

“That is not all, father,” said Anastasie in Goriot’s ear. The old man
gave a startled shudder. “The diamonds only sold for a hundred thousand
francs. Maxime is hard pressed. There are twelve thousand francs still
to pay. He has given me his word that he will be steady and give up play
in future. His love is all that I have left in the world. I have paid
such a fearful price for it that I should die if I lose him now. I have
sacrificed my fortune, my honor, my peace of mind, and my children for
him. Oh! do something, so that at the least Maxime may be at large and
live undisgraced in the world, where he will assuredly make a career for
himself. Something more than my happiness is at stake; the children have
nothing, and if he is sent to Sainte-Pelagie all his prospects will be

“I haven’t the money, Nasie. I have _nothing_--nothing left. This is
the end of everything. Yes, the world is crumbling into ruin, I am sure.
Fly! Save yourselves! Ah!--I have still my silver buckles left, and
half-a-dozen silver spoons and forks, the first I ever had in my
life. But I have nothing else except my life annuity, twelve hundred

“Then what has become of your money in the funds?”

“I sold out, and only kept a trifle for my wants. I wanted twelve
thousand francs to furnish some rooms for Delphine.”

“In your own house?” asked Mme. de Restaud, looking at her sister.

“What does it matter where they were?” asked Goriot. “The money is spent

“I see how it is,” said the Countess. “Rooms for M. de Rastignac. Poor
Delphine, take warning by me!”

“M. de Rastignac is incapable of ruining the woman he loves, dear.”

“Thanks! Delphine. I thought you would have been kinder to me in my
troubles, but you never did love me.”

“Yes, yes, she loves you, Nasie,” cried Goriot; “she was saying so only
just now. We were talking about you, and she insisted that you were
beautiful, and that she herself was only pretty!”

“Pretty!” said the Countess. “She is as hard as a marble statue.”

“And if I am?” cried Delphine, flushing up, “how have you treated me?
You would not recognize me; you closed the doors of every house against
me; you have never let an opportunity of mortifying me slip by. And
when did I come, as you were always doing, to drain our poor father, a
thousand francs at a time, till he is left as you see him now? That
is all your doing, sister! I myself have seen my father as often as I
could. I have not turned him out of the house, and then come and fawned
upon him when I wanted money. I did not so much as know that he had
spent those twelve thousand francs on me. I am economical, as you know;
and when papa has made me presents, it has never been because I came and
begged for them.”

“You were better off than I. M. de Marsay was rich, as you have reason
to know. You always were as slippery as gold. Good-bye; I have neither
sister nor----”

“Oh! hush, hush, Nasie!” cried her father.

“Nobody else would repeat what everybody has ceased to believe. You are
an unnatural sister!” cried Delphine.

“Oh, children, children! hush! hush! or I will kill myself before your

“There, Nasie, I forgive you,” said Mme. de Nucingen; “you are very
unhappy. But I am kinder than you are. How could you say _that_ just
when I was ready to do anything in the world to help you, even to be
reconciled with my husband, which for my own sake I----Oh! it is just
like you; you have behaved cruelly to me all through these nine years.”

“Children, children, kiss each other!” cried the father. “You are
angels, both of you.”

“No. Let me alone,” cried the Countess shaking off the hand that her
father had laid on her arm. “She is more merciless than my husband. Any
one might think she was a model of all the virtues herself!”

“I would rather have people think that I owed money to M. de Marsay
than own that M. de Trailles had cost me more than two hundred thousand
francs,” retorted Mme. de Nucingen.

“_Delphine!_” cried the Countess, stepping towards her sister.

“I shall tell you the truth about yourself if you begin to slander me,”
 said the Baroness coldly.

“Delphine! you are a ----”

Father Goriot sprang between them, grasped the Countess’ hand, and laid
his own over her mouth.

“Good heavens, father! What have you been handling this morning?” said

“Ah! well, yes, I ought not to have touched you,” said the poor father,
wiping his hands on his trousers, “but I have been packing up my things;
I did not know that you were coming to see me.”

He was glad that he had drawn down her wrath upon himself.

“Ah!” he sighed, as he sat down, “you children have broken my heart
between you. This is killing me. My head feels as if it were on fire.
Be good to each other and love each other! This will be the death of
me! Delphine! Nasie! come, be sensible; you are both in the wrong. Come,
Dedel,” he added, looking through his tears at the Baroness, “she must
have twelve thousand francs, you see; let us see if we can find them for
her. Oh, my girls, do not look at each other like that!” and he sank on
his knees beside Delphine. “Ask her to forgive you--just to please
me,” he said in her ear. “She is more miserable than you are. Come now,

“Poor Nasie!” said Delphine, alarmed at the wild extravagant grief in
her father’s face, “I was in the wrong, kiss me----”

“Ah! that is like balm to my heart,” cried Father Goriot. “But how are
we to find twelve thousand francs? I might offer myself as a substitute
in the army----”

“Oh! father dear!” they both cried, flinging their arms about him. “No,

“God reward you for the thought. We are not worth it, are we, Nasie?”
 asked Delphine.

“And besides, father dear, it would only be a drop in the bucket,”
 observed the Countess.

“But is flesh and blood worth nothing?” cried the old man in his
despair. “I would give body and soul to save you, Nasie. I would do a
murder for the man who would rescue you. I would do, as Vautrin did, go
to the hulks, go----” he stopped as if struck by a thunderbolt, and put
both hands to his head. “Nothing left!” he cried, tearing his hair. “If
I only knew of a way to steal money, but it is so hard to do it, and
then you can’t set to work by yourself, and it takes time to rob a bank.
Yes, it is time I was dead; there is nothing left me to do but to die. I
am no good in the world; I am no longer a father! No. She has come to me
in her extremity, and, wretch that I am, I have nothing to give her. Ah!
you put your money into a life annuity, old scoundrel; and had you not
daughters? You did not love them. Die, die in a ditch, like the dog that
you are! Yes, I am worse than a dog; a beast would not have done as I
have done! Oh! my head... it throbs as if it would burst.”

“Papa!” cried both the young women at once, “do, pray, be reasonable!”
 and they clung to him to prevent him from dashing his head against the
wall. There was a sound of sobbing.

Eugene, greatly alarmed, took the bill that bore Vautrin’s signature,
saw that the stamp would suffice for a larger sum, altered the figures,
made it into a regular bill for twelve thousand francs, payable to
Goriot’s order, and went to his neighbor’s room.

“Here is the money, madame,” he said, handing the piece of paper to her.
“I was asleep; your conversation awoke me, and by this means I learned
all that I owed to M. Goriot. This bill can be discounted, and I shall
meet it punctually at the due date.”

The Countess stood motionless and speechless, but she held the bill in
her fingers.

“Delphine,” she said, with a white face, and her whole frame quivering
with indignation, anger, and rage, “I forgave you everything; God is my
witness that I forgave you, but I cannot forgive this! So this gentleman
was there all the time, and you knew it! Your petty spite has let you
to wreak your vengeance on me by betraying my secrets, my life, my
children’s lives, my shame, my honor! There, you are nothing to me any
longer. I hate you. I will do all that I can to injure you. I will...”

Anger paralyzed her; the words died in her dry parched throat.

“Why, he is my son, my child; he is your brother, your preserver!” cried
Goriot. “Kiss his hand, Nasie! Stay, I will embrace him myself,” he
said, straining Eugene to his breast in a frenzied clasp. “Oh my boy! I
will be more than a father to you; if I had God’s power, I would fling
worlds at your feet. Why don’t you kiss him, Nasie? He is not a man, but
an angel, a angel out of heaven.”

“Never mind her, father; she is mad just now.”

“Mad! am I? And what are you?” cried Mme. de Restaud.

“Children, children, I shall die if you go on like this,” cried the
old man, and he staggered and fell on the bed as if a bullet had struck
him.--“They are killing me between them,” he said to himself.

The Countess fixed her eyes on Eugene, who stood stock still; all his
faculties were numbed by this violent scene.

“Sir?...” she said, doubt and inquiry in her face, tone, and bearing;
she took no notice now of her father nor of Delphine, who was hastily
unfastening his waistcoat.

“Madame,” said Eugene, answering the question before it was asked, “I
will meet the bill, and keep silence about it.”

“You have killed our father, Nasie!” said Delphine, pointing to Goriot,
who lay unconscious on the bed. The Countess fled.

“I freely forgive her,” said the old man, opening his eyes; “her
position is horrible; it would turn an older head than hers. Comfort
Nasie, and be nice to her, Delphine; promise it to your poor father
before he dies,” he asked, holding Delphine’s hand in a convulsive

“Oh! what ails you, father?” she cried in real alarm.

“Nothing, nothing,” said Goriot; “it will go off. There is something
heavy pressing on my forehead, a little headache.... Ah! poor Nasie,
what a life lies before her!”

Just as he spoke, the Countess came back again and flung herself on her
knees before him. “Forgive me!” she cried.

“Come,” said her father, “you are hurting me still more.”

“Monsieur,” the Countess said, turning to Rastignac, “misery made me
unjust to you. You will be a brother to me, will you not?” and she held
out her hand. Her eyes were full of tears as she spoke.

“Nasie,” cried Delphine, flinging her arms round her sister, “my little
Nasie, let us forget and forgive.”

“No, no,” cried Nasie; “I shall never forget!”

“Dear angels,” cried Goriot, “it is as if a dark curtain over my eyes
had been raised; your voices have called me back to life. Kiss each
other once more. Well, now, Nasie, that bill will save you, won’t it?”

“I hope so. I say, papa, will you write your name on it?”

“There! how stupid of me to forget that! But I am not feeling at all
well, Nasie, so you must not remember it against me. Send and let me
know as soon as you are out of your strait. No, I will go to you. No,
after all, I will not go; I might meet your husband, and I should kill
him on the spot. And as for signing away your property, I shall have
a word to say about that. Quick, my child, and keep Maxime in order in

Eugene was too bewildered to speak.

“Poor Anastasie, she always had a violent temper,” said Mme. de
Nucingen, “but she has a good heart.”

“She came back for the endorsement,” said Eugene in Delphine’s ear.

“Do you think so?”

“I only wish I could think otherwise. Do not trust her,” he answered,
raising his eyes as if he confided to heaven the thoughts that he did
not venture to express.

“Yes. She is always acting a part to some extent.”

“How do you feel now, dear Father Goriot?” asked Rastignac.

“I should like to go to sleep,” he replied.

Eugene helped him to bed, and Delphine sat by the bedside, holding his
hand until he fell asleep. Then she went.

“This evening at the Italiens,” she said to Eugene, “and you can let me
know how he is. To-morrow you will leave this place, monsieur. Let us go
into your room.--Oh! how frightful!” she cried on the threshold. “Why,
you are even worse lodged than our father. Eugene, you have behaved
well. I would love you more if that were possible; but, dear boy, if you
are to succeed in life, you must not begin by flinging twelve thousand
francs out of the windows like that. The Comte de Trailles is a
confirmed gambler. My sister shuts her eyes to it. He would have made
the twelve thousand francs in the same way that he wins and loses heaps
of gold.”

A groan from the next room brought them back to Goriot’s bedside; to all
appearances he was asleep, but the two lovers caught the words, “They
are not happy!” Whether he was awake or sleeping, the tone in which they
were spoken went to his daughter’s heart. She stole up to the pallet-bed
on which her father lay, and kissed his forehead. He opened his eyes.

“Ah! Delphine!” he said.

“How are you now?” she asked.

“Quite comfortable. Do not worry about me; I shall get up presently.
Don’t stay with me, children; go, go and be happy.”

Eugene went back with Delphine as far as her door; but he was not easy
about Goriot, and would not stay to dinner, as she proposed. He wanted
to be back at the Maison Vauquer. Father Goriot had left his room,
and was just sitting down to dinner as he came in. Bianchon had placed
himself where he could watch the old man carefully; and when the old
vermicelli maker took up his square of bread and smelled it to find out
the quality of the flour, the medical student, studying him closely, saw
that the action was purely mechanical, and shook his head.

“Just come and sit over here, hospitaller of Cochin,” said Eugene.

Bianchon went the more willingly because his change of place brought him
next to the old lodger.

“What is wrong with him?” asked Rastignac.

“It is all up with him, or I am much mistaken! Something very
extraordinary must have taken place; he looks to me as if he were
in imminent danger of serous apoplexy. The lower part of his face is
composed enough, but the upper part is drawn and distorted. Then there
is that peculiar look about the eyes that indicates an effusion of serum
in the brain; they look as though they were covered with a film of fine
dust, do you notice? I shall know more about it by to-morrow morning.”

“Is there any cure for it?”

“None. It might be possible to stave death off for a time if a way could
be found of setting up a reaction in the lower extremities; but if the
symptoms do not abate by to-morrow evening, it will be all over with
him, poor old fellow! Do you know what has happened to bring this on?
There must have been some violent shock, and his mind has given way.”

“Yes, there was,” said Rastignac, remembering how the two daughters had
struck blow on blow at their father’s heart.

“But Delphine at any rate loves her father,” he said to himself.

That evening at the opera Rastignac chose his words carefully, lest he
should give Mme. de Nucingen needless alarm.

“Do not be anxious about him,” she said, however, as soon as Eugene
began, “our father has really a strong constitution, but this morning
we gave him a shock. Our whole fortunes were in peril, so the thing was
serious, you see. I could not live if your affection did not make me
insensible to troubles that I should once have thought too hard to bear.
At this moment I have but one fear left, but one misery to dread--to
lose the love that has made me feel glad to live. Everything else is as
nothing to me compared with our love; I care for nothing else, for you
are all the world to me. If I feel glad to be rich, it is for your sake.
To my shame be it said, I think of my lover before my father. Do you ask
why? I cannot tell you, but all my life is in you. My father gave me a
heart, but you have taught it to beat. The whole world may condemn me;
what does it matter if I stand acquitted in your eyes, for you have
no right to think ill of me for the faults which a tyrannous love has
forced me to commit for you! Do you think me an unnatural daughter? Oh!
no, no one could help loving such a dear kind father as ours. But how
could I hide the inevitable consequences of our miserable marriages from
him? Why did he allow us to marry when we did? Was it not his duty to
think for us and foresee for us? To-day I know he suffers as much as we
do, but how can it be helped? And as for comforting him, we could not
comfort him in the least. Our resignation would give him more pain and
hurt him far more than complaints and upbraidings. There are times in
life when everything turns to bitterness.”

Eugene was silent, the artless and sincere outpouring made an impression
on him.

Parisian women are often false, intoxicated with vanity, selfish and
self-absorbed, frivolous and shallow; yet of all women, when they love,
they sacrifice their personal feelings to their passion; they rise but
so much the higher for all the pettiness overcome in their nature, and
become sublime. Then Eugene was struck by the profound discernment and
insight displayed by this woman in judging of natural affection, when a
privileged affection had separated and set her at a distance apart. Mme.
de Nucingen was piqued by the silence,

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

“I am thinking about what you said just now. Hitherto I have always felt
sure that I cared far more for you than you did for me.”

She smiled, and would not give way to the happiness she felt, lest their
talk should exceed the conventional limits of propriety. She had never
heard the vibrating tones of a sincere and youthful love; a few more
words, and she feared for her self-control.

“Eugene,” she said, changing the conversation, “I wonder whether you
know what has been happening? All Paris will go to Mme. de Beauseant’s
to-morrow. The Rochefides and the Marquis d’Ajuda have agreed to keep
the matter a profound secret, but to-morrow the king will sign the
marriage-contract, and your poor cousin the Vicomtesse knows nothing
of it as yet. She cannot put off her ball, and the Marquis will not be
there. People are wondering what will happen?”

“The world laughs at baseness and connives at it. But this will kill
Mme. de Beauseant.”

“Oh, no,” said Delphine, smiling, “you do not know that kind of woman.
Why, all Paris will be there, and so shall I; I ought to go there for
your sake.”

“Perhaps, after all, it is one of those absurd reports that people set
in circulation here.”

“We shall know the truth to-morrow.”

Eugene did not return to the Maison Vauquer. He could not forego the
pleasure of occupying his new rooms in the Rue d’Artois. Yesterday
evening he had been obliged to leave Delphine soon after midnight, but
that night it was Delphine who stayed with him until two o’clock in the
morning. He rose late, and waited for Mme. de Nucingen, who came about
noon to breakfast with him. Youth snatches eagerly at these rosy moments
of happiness, and Eugene had almost forgotten Goriot’s existence.
The pretty things that surrounded him were growing familiar; this
domestication in itself was one long festival for him, and Mme. de
Nucingen was there to glorify it all by her presence. It was four
o’clock before they thought of Goriot, and of how he had looked forward
to the new life in that house. Eugene said that the old man ought to be
moved at once, lest he should grow too ill to move. He left Delphine
and hurried back to the lodging-house. Neither Father Goriot nor young
Bianchon was in the dining-room with the others.

“Aha!” said the painter as Eugene came in, “Father Goriot has broken
down at last. Bianchon is upstairs with him. One of his daughters--the
Comtesse de Restaurama--came to see the old gentleman, and he would get
up and go out, and made himself worse. Society is about to lose one of
its brightest ornaments.”

Rastignac sprang to the staircase.

“Hey! Monsieur Eugene!”

“Monsieur Eugene, the mistress is calling you,” shouted Sylvie.

“It is this, sir,” said the widow. “You and M. Goriot should by rights
have moved out on the 15th of February. That was three days ago; to-day
is the 18th, I ought really to be paid a month in advance; but if you
will engage to pay for both, I shall be quite satisfied.”

“Why can’t you trust him?”

“Trust him, indeed! If the old gentleman went off his head and died,
those daughters of his would not pay me a farthing, and his things won’t
fetch ten francs. This morning he went out with all the spoons and
forks he has left, I don’t know why. He had got himself up to look quite
young, and--Lord, forgive me--but I thought he had rouge on his cheeks;
he looked quite young again.”

“I will be responsible,” said Eugene, shuddering with horror, for he
foresaw the end.

He climbed the stairs and reached Father Goriot’s room. The old man was
tossing on his bed. Bianchon was with him.

“Good-evening, father,” said Eugene.

The old man turned his glassy eyes on him, smiled gently, and said:

“How is _she_?”

“She is quite well. But how are you?”

“There is nothing much the matter.”

“Don’t tire him,” said Bianchon, drawing Eugene into a corner of the

“Well?” asked Rastignac.

“Nothing but a miracle can save him now. Serous congestion has set in;
I have put on mustard plasters, and luckily he can feel them, they are

“Is it possible to move him?”

“Quite out of the question. He must stay where he is, and be kept as
quiet as possible----”

“Dear Bianchon,” said Eugene, “we will nurse him between us.”

“I have had the head physician round from my hospital to see him.”

“And what did he say?”

“He will give no opinion till to-morrow evening. He promised to look in
again at the end of the day. Unluckily, the preposterous creature must
needs go and do something foolish this morning; he will not say what it
was. He is as obstinate as a mule. As soon as I begin to talk to him
he pretends not to hear, and lies as if he were asleep instead of
answering, or if he opens his eyes he begins to groan. Some time this
morning he went out on foot in the streets, nobody knows where he went,
and he took everything that he had of any value with him. He has been
driving some confounded bargain, and it has been too much for his
strength. One of his daughters has been here.”

“Was it the Countess?” asked Eugene. “A tall, dark-haired woman, with
large bright eyes, slender figure, and little feet?”


“Leave him to me for a bit,” said Rastignac. “I will make him confess;
he will tell me all about it.”

“And meanwhile I will get my dinner. But try not to excite him; there is
still some hope left.”

“All right.”

“How they will enjoy themselves to-morrow,” said Father Goriot when they
were alone. “They are going to a grand ball.”

“What were you doing this morning, papa, to make yourself so poorly this
evening that you have to stop in bed?”


“Did not Anastasie come to see you?” demanded Rastignac.

“Yes,” said Father Goriot.

“Well, then, don’t keep anything from me. What more did she want of

“Oh, she was very miserable,” he answered, gathering up all his strength
to speak. “It was this way, my boy. Since that affair of the diamonds,
Nasie has not had a penny of her own. For this ball she had ordered a
golden gown like a setting for a jewel. Her mantuamaker, a woman without
a conscience, would not give her credit, so Nasie’s waiting-woman
advanced a thousand francs on account. Poor Nasie! reduced to such
shifts! It cut me to the heart to think of it! But when Nasie’s maid
saw how things were between her master and mistress, she was afraid of
losing her money, and came to an understanding with the dressmaker, and
the woman refuses to send the ball-dress until the money is paid. The
gown is ready, and the ball is to-morrow night! Nasie was in despair.
She wanted to borrow my forks and spoons to pawn them. Her husband is
determined that she shall go and wear the diamonds, so as to contradict
the stories that are told all over Paris. How can she go to that
heartless scoundrel and say, ‘I owe a thousand francs to my dressmaker;
pay her for me!’ She cannot. I saw that myself. Delphine will be there
too in a superb toilette, and Anastasie ought not to be outshone by her
younger sister. And then--she was drowned in tears, poor girl! I felt
so humbled yesterday when I had not the twelve thousand francs, that I
would have given the rest of my miserable life to wipe out that wrong.
You see, I could have borne anything once, but latterly this want of
money has broken my heart. Oh! I did not do it by halves; I titivated
myself up a bit, and went out and sold my spoons and forks and buckles
for six hundred francs; then I went to old Daddy Gobseck, and sold a
year’s interest on my annuity for four hundred francs down. Pshaw! I can
live on dry bread, as I did when I was a young man; if I have done it
before, I can do it again. My Nasie shall have one happy evening, at any
rate. She shall be smart. The banknote for a thousand francs is under
my pillow; it warms me to have it lying there under my head, for it is
going to make my poor Nasie happy. She can turn that bad girl Victoire
out of the house. A servant that cannot trust her mistress, did any one
ever hear the like! I shall be quite well to-morrow. Nasie is coming at
ten o’clock. They must not think that I am ill, or they will not go to
the ball; they will stop and take care of me. To-morrow Nasie will come
and hold me in her arms as if I were one of her children; her kisses
will make me well again. After all, I might have spent the thousand
francs on physic; I would far rather give them to my little Nasie, who
can charm all the pain away. At any rate, I am some comfort to her in
her misery; and that makes up for my unkindness in buying an annuity.
She is in the depths, and I cannot draw her out of them now. Oh! I will
go into business again, I will buy wheat in Odessa; out there, wheat
fetches a quarter of the price it sells for here. There is a law against
the importation of grain, but the good folk who made the law forgot to
prohibit the introduction of wheat products and food stuffs made from
corn. Hey! hey!... That struck me this morning. There is a fine trade to
be done in starch.”

Eugene, watching the old man’s face, thought that his friend was

“Come,” he said, “do not talk any more, you must rest----” Just then
Bianchon came up, and Eugene went down to dinner.

The two students sat up with him that night, relieving each other in
turn. Bianchon brought up his medical books and studied; Eugene wrote
letters home to his mother and sisters. Next morning Bianchon thought
the symptoms more hopeful, but the patient’s condition demanded
continual attention, which the two students alone were willing to
give--a task impossible to describe in the squeamish phraseology of the
epoch. Leeches must be applied to the wasted body, the poultices and
hot foot-baths, and other details of the treatment required the physical
strength and devotion of the two young men. Mme. de Restaud did not
come; but she sent a messenger for the money.

“I expected she would come herself; but it would have been a pity for
her to come, she would have been anxious about me,” said the father, and
to all appearances he was well content.

At seven o’clock that evening Therese came with a letter from Delphine.

 “What are you doing, dear friend? I have been loved for a very
  little while, and I am neglected already? In the confidences of
  heart and heart, I have learned to know your soul--you are too
  noble not to be faithful for ever, for you know that love with all
  its infinite subtle changes of feeling is never the same. Once you
  said, as we were listening to the Prayer in _Mose in Egitto_, ‘For
  some it is the monotony of a single note; for others, it is the
  infinite of sound.’ Remember that I am expecting you this evening
  to take me to Mme. de Beauseant’s ball. Every one knows now that
  the King signed M. d’Ajuda’s marriage-contract this morning, and
  the poor Vicomtesse knew nothing of it until two o’clock this
  afternoon. All Paris will flock to her house, of course, just as a
  crowd fills the Place de Greve to see an execution. It is
  horrible, is it not, to go out of curiosity to see if she will
  hide her anguish, and whether she will die courageously? I
  certainly should not go, my friend, if I had been at her house
  before; but, of course, she will not receive society any more
  after this, and all my efforts would be in vain. My position is a
  very unusual one, and besides, I am going there partly on your
  account. I am waiting for you. If you are not beside me in less
  than two hours, I do not know whether I could forgive such

Rastignac took up a pen and wrote:

 “I am waiting till the doctor comes to know if there is any hope of
  your father’s life. He is lying dangerously ill. I will come and
  bring you the news, but I am afraid it may be a sentence of death.
  When I come you can decide whether you can go to the ball.--Yours
  a thousand times.”

At half-past eight the doctor arrived. He did not take a very hopeful
view of the case, but thought that there was no immediate danger.
Improvements and relapses might be expected, and the good man’s life and
reason hung in the balance.

“It would be better for him to die at once,” the doctor said as he took

Eugene left Goriot to Bianchon’s care, and went to carry the sad news to
Mme. de Nucingen. Family feeling lingered in her, and this must put an
end for the present to her plans of amusement.

“Tell her to enjoy her evening as if nothing had happened,” cried
Goriot. He had been lying in a sort of stupor, but he suddenly sat
upright as Eugene went out.

Eugene, half heartbroken, entered Delphine’s. Her hair had been dressed;
she wore her dancing slippers; she had only to put on her ball-dress;
but when the artist is giving the finishing stroke to his creation, the
last touches require more time than the whole groundwork of the picture.

“Why, you are not dressed!” she cried.

“Madame, your father----”

“My father again!” she exclaimed, breaking in upon him. “You need not
teach me what is due to my father, I have known my father this long
while. Not a word, Eugene. I will hear what you have to say when you
are dressed. My carriage is waiting, take it, go round to your rooms and
dress, Therese has put out everything in readiness for you. Come back
as soon as you can; we will talk about my father on the way to Mme. de
Beauseant’s. We must go early; if we have to wait our turn in a row of
carriages, we shall be lucky if we get there by eleven o’clock.”


“Quick! not a word!” she cried, darting into her dressing-room for a

“Do go, Monsieur Eugene, or you will vex madame,” said Therese, hurrying
him away; and Eugene was too horror-stricken by this elegant parricide
to resist.

He went to his rooms and dressed, sad, thoughtful, and dispirited. The
world of Paris was like an ocean of mud for him just then; and it seemed
that whoever set foot in that black mire must needs sink into it up to
the chin.

“Their crimes are paltry,” said Eugene to himself. “Vautrin was

He had seen society in its three great phases--Obedience, Struggle,
and Revolt; the Family, the World, and Vautrin; and he hesitated in his
choice. Obedience was dull, Revolt impossible, Struggle hazardous.
His thoughts wandered back to the home circle. He thought of the quiet
uneventful life, the pure happiness of the days spent among those who
loved him there. Those loving and beloved beings passed their lives in
obedience to the natural laws of the hearth, and in that obedience found
a deep and constant serenity, unvexed by torments such as these. Yet,
for all his good impulses, he could not bring himself to make profession
of the religion of pure souls to Delphine, nor to prescribe the duties
of piety to her in the name of love. His education had begun to bear its
fruits; he loved selfishly already. Besides, his tact had discovered to
him the real nature of Delphine; he divined instinctively that she was
capable of stepping over her father’s corpse to go to the ball; and
within himself he felt that he had neither the strength of mind to play
the part of mentor, nor the strength of character to vex her, nor the
courage to leave her to go alone.

“She would never forgive me for putting her in the wrong over it,” he
said to himself. Then he turned the doctor’s dictum over in his mind;
he tried to believe that Goriot was not so dangerously ill as he had
imagined, and ended by collecting together a sufficient quantity of
traitorous excuses for Delphine’s conduct. She did not know how ill her
father was; the kind old man himself would have made her go to the ball
if she had gone to see him. So often it happens that this one or that
stands condemned by the social laws that govern family relations;
and yet there are peculiar circumstances in the case, differences of
temperament, divergent interests, innumerable complications of family
life that excuse the apparent offence.

Eugene did not wish to see too clearly; he was ready to sacrifice his
conscience to his mistress. Within the last few days his whole life had
undergone a change. Woman had entered into his world and thrown it into
chaos, family claims dwindled away before her; she had appropriated
all his being to her uses. Rastignac and Delphine found each other at
a crisis in their lives when their union gave them the most poignant
bliss. Their passion, so long proved, had only gained in strength by the
gratified desire that often extinguishes passion. This woman was his,
and Eugene recognized that not until then had he loved her; perhaps love
is only gratitude for pleasure. This woman, vile or sublime, he adored
for the pleasure she had brought as her dower; and Delphine loved
Rastignac as Tantalus would have loved some angel who had satisfied his
hunger and quenched the burning thirst in his parched throat.

“Well,” said Mme. de Nucingen when he came back in evening dress, “how
is my father?”

“Very dangerously ill,” he answered; “if you will grant me a proof of
your affections, we will just go in to see him on the way.”

“Very well,” she said. “Yes, but afterwards. Dear Eugene, do be nice,
and don’t preach to me. Come.”

They set out. Eugene said nothing for a while.

“What is it now?” she asked.

“I can hear the death-rattle in your father’s throat,” he said almost
angrily. And with the hot indignation of youth, he told the story of
Mme. de Restaud’s vanity and cruelty, of her father’s final act of
self-sacrifice, that had brought about this struggle between life
and death, of the price that had been paid for Anastasie’s golden
embroideries. Delphine cried.

“I shall look frightful,” she thought. She dried her tears.

“I will nurse my father; I will not leave his bedside,” she said aloud.

“Ah! now you are as I would have you,” exclaimed Rastignac.

The lamps of five hundred carriages lit up the darkness about the Hotel
de Beauseant. A gendarme in all the glory of his uniform stood on either
side of the brightly lighted gateway. The great world was flocking
thither that night in its eager curiosity to see the great lady at the
moment of her fall, and the rooms on the ground floor were already full
to overflowing, when Mme. de Nucingen and Rastignac appeared. Never
since Louis XIV. tore her lover away from La grand Mademoiselle, and
the whole court hastened to visit that unfortunate princess, had a
disastrous love affair made such a sensation in Paris. But the youngest
daughter of the almost royal house of Burgundy had risen proudly above
her pain, and moved till the last moment like a queen in this world--its
vanities had always been valueless for her, save in so far as they
contributed to the triumph of her passion. The salons were filled with
the most beautiful women in Paris, resplendent in their toilettes, and
radiant with smiles. Ministers and ambassadors, the most distinguished
men at court, men bedizened with decorations, stars, and ribbons, men
who bore the most illustrious names in France, had gathered about the

The music of the orchestra vibrated in wave after wave of sound from the
golden ceiling of the palace, now made desolate for its queen.

Madame de Beauseant stood at the door of the first salon to receive the
guests who were styled her friends. She was dressed in white, and wore
no ornament in the plaits of hair braided about her head; her face was
calm; there was no sign there of pride, nor of pain, nor of joy that
she did not feel. No one could read her soul; she stood there like some
Niobe carved in marble. For a few intimate friends there was a tinge of
satire in her smile; but no scrutiny saw any change in her, nor had she
looked otherwise in the days of the glory of her happiness. The most
callous of her guests admired her as young Rome applauded some gladiator
who could die smiling. It seemed as if society had adorned itself for a
last audience of one of its sovereigns.

“I was afraid that you would not come,” she said to Rastignac.

“Madame,” he said, in an unsteady voice, taking her speech as a
reproach, “I shall be the last to go, that is why I am here.”

“Good,” she said, and she took his hand. “You are perhaps the only one
I can trust here among all these. Oh, my friend, when you love, love
a woman whom you are sure that you can love always. Never forsake a

She took Rastignac’s arm, and went towards a sofa in the card-room.

“I want you to go to the Marquis,” she said. “Jacques, my footman, will
go with you; he has a letter that you will take. I am asking the Marquis
to give my letters back to me. He will give them all up, I like to think
that. When you have my letters, go up to my room with them. Some one
shall bring me word.”

She rose to go to meet the Duchesse de Langeais, her most intimate
friend, who had come like the rest of the world.

Rastignac went. He asked for the Marquis d’Ajuda at the Hotel Rochefide,
feeling certain that the latter would be spending his evening there, and
so it proved. The Marquis went to his own house with Rastignac, and gave
a casket to the student, saying as he did so, “They are all there.”

He seemed as if he was about to say something to Eugene, to ask
about the ball, or the Vicomtesse; perhaps he was on the brink of
the confession that, even then, he was in despair, and knew that his
marriage had been a fatal mistake; but a proud gleam shone in his eyes,
and with deplorable courage he kept his noblest feelings a secret.

“Do not even mention my name to her, my dear Eugene.” He grasped
Rastignac’s hand sadly and affectionately, and turned away from him.
Eugene went back to the Hotel Beauseant, the servant took him to the
Vicomtesse’s room. There were signs there of preparations for a journey.
He sat down by the fire, fixed his eyes on the cedar wood casket, and
fell into deep mournful musings. Mme. de Beauseant loomed large in these
imaginings, like a goddess in the Iliad.

“Ah! my friend!...” said the Vicomtesse; she crossed the room and laid
her hand on Rastignac’s shoulder. He saw the tears in his cousin’s
uplifted eyes, saw that one hand was raised to take the casket, and that
the fingers of the other trembled. Suddenly she took the casket, put it
in the fire, and watched it burn.

“They are dancing,” she said. “They all came very early; but death
will be long in coming. Hush! my friend,” and she laid a finger on
Rastignac’s lips, seeing that he was about to speak. “I shall never see
Paris again. I am taking my leave of the world. At five o’clock this
morning I shall set out on my journey; I mean to bury myself in the
remotest part of Normandy. I have had very little time to make my
arrangements; since three o’clock this afternoon I have been busy
signing documents, setting my affairs in order; there was no one whom I
could send to...”

She broke off.

“He was sure to be...”

Again she broke off; the weight of her sorrow was more than she could
bear. In such moments as these everything is agony, and some words are
impossible to utter.

“And so I counted upon you to do me this last piece of service
this evening,” she said. “I should like to give you some pledge of
friendship. I shall often think of you. You have seemed to me to be kind
and noble, fresh-hearted and true, in this world where such qualities
are seldom found. I should like you to think sometimes of me. Stay,” she
said, glancing about her, “there is this box that has held my gloves.
Every time I opened it before going to a ball or to the theatre, I used
to feel that I must be beautiful, because I was so happy; and I never
touched it except to lay some gracious memory in it: there is so much
of my old self in it, of a Madame de Beauseant who now lives no longer.
Will you take it? I will leave directions that it is to be sent to
you in the Rue d’Artois.--Mme. de Nucingen looked very charming this
evening. Eugene, you must love her. Perhaps we may never see each other
again, my friend; but be sure of this, that I shall pray for you who
have been kind to me.--Now, let us go downstairs. People shall not think
that I am weeping. I have all time and eternity before me, and where
I am going I shall be alone, and no one will ask me the reason of my
tears. One last look round first.”

She stood for a moment. Then she covered her eyes with her hands for
an instant, dashed away the tears, bathed her face with cold water, and
took the student’s arm.

“Let us go!” she said.

This suffering, endured with such noble fortitude, shook Eugene with
a more violent emotion than he had felt before. They went back to the
ballroom, and Mme. de Beauseant went through the rooms on Eugene’s
arm--the last delicately gracious act of a gracious woman. In another
moment he saw the sisters, Mme. de Restaud and Mme. de Nucingen. The
Countess shone in all the glory of her magnificent diamonds; every stone
must have scorched like fire, she was never to wear them again. Strong
as love and pride might be in her, she found it difficult to meet her
husband’s eyes. The sight of her was scarcely calculated to lighten
Rastignac’s sad thoughts; through the blaze of those diamonds he seemed
to see the wretched pallet-bed on which Father Goriot was lying. The
Vicomtesse misread his melancholy; she withdrew her hand from his arm.

“Come,” she said, “I must not deprive you of a pleasure.”

Eugene was soon claimed by Delphine. She was delighted by the impression
that she had made, and eager to lay at her lover’s feet the homage
she had received in this new world in which she hoped to live and move

“What do you think of Nasie?” she asked him.

“She has discounted everything, even her own father’s death,” said

Towards four o’clock in the morning the rooms began to empty. A little
later the music ceased, and the Duchesse de Langeais and Rastignac were
left in the great ballroom. The Vicomtesse, who thought to find the
student there alone, came back there at last. She had taken leave of M.
de Beauseant, who had gone off to bed, saying again as he went, “It is
a great pity, my dear, to shut yourself up at your age! Pray stay among

Mme. de Beauseant saw the Duchesse, and, in spite of herself, an
exclamation broke from her.

“I saw how it was, Clara,” said Mme. de Langeais. “You are going from
among us, and you will never come back. But you must not go until you
have heard me, until we have understood each other.”

She took her friend’s arm, and they went together into the next room.
There the Duchess looked at her with tears in her eyes; she held her
friend in close embrace and kissed her cheek.

“I could not let you go without a word, dearest; the remorse would have
been too hard to bear. You can count upon me as surely as upon yourself.
You have shown yourself great this evening; I feel that I am worthy
of our friendship, and I mean to prove myself worthy of it. I have not
always been kind; I was in the wrong; forgive me, dearest; I wish I
could unsay anything that may have hurt you; I take back those words.
One common sorrow has brought us together again, for I do not know which
of us is the more miserable. M. de Montriveau was not here to-night;
do you understand what that means?--None of those who saw you to-night,
Clara, will ever forget you. I mean to make one last effort. If I fail,
I shall go into a convent. Clara, where are you going?”

“Into Normandy, to Courcelles. I shall love and pray there until the day
when God shall take me from this world.--M. de Rastignac!” called the
Vicomtesse, in a tremulous voice, remembering that the young man was
waiting there.

The student knelt to kiss his cousin’s hand.

“Good-bye, Antoinette!” said Mme. de Beauseant. “May you be happy.”--She
turned to the student. “You are young,” she said; “you have some beliefs
still left. I have been privileged, like some dying people, to find
sincere and reverent feeling in those about me as I take my leave of
this world.”

It was nearly five o’clock that morning when Rastignac came away. He had
put Mme. de Beauseant into her traveling carriage, and received her last
farewells, spoken amid fast-falling tears; for no greatness is so great
that it can rise above the laws of human affection, or live beyond
the jurisdiction of pain, as certain demagogues would have the people
believe. Eugene returned on foot to the Maison Vauquer through the cold
and darkness. His education was nearly complete.

“There is no hope for poor Father Goriot,” said Bianchon, as Rastignac
came into the room. Eugene looked for a while at the sleeping man, then
he turned to his friend. “Dear fellow, you are content with the modest
career you have marked out for yourself; keep to it. I am in hell, and
I must stay there. Believe everything that you hear said of the world,
nothing is too impossibly bad. No Juvenal could paint the horrors hidden
away under the covering of gems and gold.”

At two o’clock in the afternoon Bianchon came to wake Rastignac, and
begged him to take charge of Goriot, who had grown worse as the day wore
on. The medical student was obliged to go out.

“Poor old man, he has not two days to live, maybe not many hours,” he
said; “but we must do our utmost, all the same, to fight the disease. It
will be a very troublesome case, and we shall want money. We can nurse
him between us, of course, but, for my own part, I have not a penny. I
have turned out his pockets, and rummaged through his drawers--result,
nix. I asked him about it while his mind was clear, and he told me he
had not a farthing of his own. What have you?”

“I have twenty francs left,” said Rastignac; “but I will take them to
the roulette table, I shall be sure to win.”

“And if you lose?”

“Then I shall go to his sons-in-law and his daughters and ask them for

“And suppose they refuse?” Bianchon retorted. “The most pressing thing
just now is not really money; we must put mustard poultices, as hot as
they can be made, on his feet and legs. If he calls out, there is still
some hope for him. You know how to set about doing it, and besides,
Christophe will help you. I am going round to the dispensary to persuade
them to let us have the things we want on credit. It is a pity that
we could not move him to the hospital; poor fellow, he would be better
there. Well, come along, I leave you in charge; you must stay with him
till I come back.”

The two young men went back to the room where the old man was lying.
Eugene was startled at the change in Goriot’s face, so livid, distorted,
and feeble.

“How are you, papa?” he said, bending over the pallet-bed. Goriot
turned his dull eyes upon Eugene, looked at him attentively, and did not
recognize him. It was more than the student could bear; the tears came
into his eyes.

“Bianchon, ought we to have the curtains put up in the windows?”

“No, the temperature and the light do not affect him now. It would be a
good thing for him if he felt heat or cold; but we must have a fire in
any case to make tisanes and heat the other things. I will send round a
few sticks; they will last till we can have in some firewood. I burned
all the bark fuel you had left, as well as his, poor man, yesterday and
during the night. The place is so damp that the water stood in drops on
the walls; I could hardly get the room dry. Christophe came in and swept
the floor, but the place is like a stable; I had to burn juniper, the
smell was something horrible.

“_Mon Dieu!_” said Rastignac. “To think of those daughters of his.”

“One moment, if he asks for something to drink, give him this,” said the
house student, pointing to a large white jar. “If he begins to groan,
and the belly feels hot and hard to the touch, you know what to do; get
Christophe to help you. If he should happen to grow much excited, and
begin to talk a good deal and even to ramble in his talk, do not be
alarmed. It would not be a bad symptom. But send Christophe to the
Hospice Cochin. Our doctor, my chum, or I will come and apply moxas. We
had a great consultation this morning while you were asleep. A surgeon,
a pupil of Gall’s came, and our house surgeon, and the head physician
from the Hotel-Dieu. Those gentlemen considered that the symptoms were
very unusual and interesting; the case must be carefully watched, for
it throws a light on several obscure and rather important scientific
problems. One of the authorities says that if there is more pressure of
serum on one or other portion of the brain, it should affect his mental
capacities in such and such directions. So if he should talk, notice
very carefully what kind of ideas his mind seems to run on; whether
memory, or penetration, or the reasoning faculties are exercised;
whether sentiments or practical questions fill his thoughts; whether he
makes forecasts or dwells on the past; in fact; you must be prepared
to give an accurate report of him. It is quite likely that the
extravasation fills the whole brain, in which case he will die in the
imbecile state in which he is lying now. You cannot tell anything about
these mysterious nervous diseases. Suppose the crash came here,” said
Bianchon, touching the back of the head, “very strange things have been
known to happen; the brain sometimes partially recovers, and death is
delayed. Or the congested matter may pass out of the brain altogether
through channels which can only be determined by a post-mortem
examination. There is an old man at the Hospital for Incurables, an
imbecile patient, in his case the effusion has followed the direction of
the spinal cord; he suffers horrid agonies, but he lives.”

“Did they enjoy themselves?” It was Father Goriot who spoke. He had
recognized Eugene.

“Oh! he thinks of nothing but his daughters,” said Bianchon. “Scores
of times last night he said to me, ‘They are dancing now! She has her
dress.’ He called them by their names. He made me cry, the devil take
it, calling with that tone in his voice, for ‘Delphine! my little
Delphine! and Nasie!’ Upon my word,” said the medical student, “it was
enough to make any one burst out crying.”

“Delphine,” said the old man, “she is there, isn’t she? I knew she was
there,” and his eyes sought the door.

“I am going down now to tell Sylvie to get the poultices ready,” said
Bianchon. “They ought to go on at once.”

Rastignac was left alone with the old man. He sat at the foot of the
bed, and gazed at the face before him, so horribly changed that it was
shocking to see.

“Noble natures cannot dwell in this world,” he said; “Mme de Beauseant
has fled from it, and there he lies dying. What place indeed is there in
the shallow petty frivolous thing called society for noble thoughts and

Pictures of yesterday’s ball rose up in his memory, in strange contrast
to the deathbed before him. Bianchon suddenly appeared.

“I say, Eugene, I have just seen our head surgeon at the hospital, and I
ran all the way back here. If the old man shows any signs of reason, if
he begins to talk, cover him with a mustard poultice from the neck to
the base of the spine, and send round for us.”

“Dear Bianchon,” exclaimed Eugene.

“Oh! it is an interesting case from a scientific point of view,” said
the medical student, with all the enthusiasm of a neophyte.

“So!” said Eugene. “Am I really the only one who cares for the poor old
man for his own sake?”

“You would not have said so if you had seen me this morning,” returned
Bianchon, who did not take offence at this speech. “Doctors who have
seen a good deal of practice never see anything but the disease, but, my
dear fellow, I can see the patient still.”

He went. Eugene was left alone with the old man, and with an
apprehension of a crisis that set in, in fact, before very long.

“Ah! dear boy, is that you?” said Father Goriot, recognizing Eugene.

“Do you feel better?” asked the law student, taking his hand.

“Yes. My head felt as if it were being screwed up in a vise, but now it
is set free again. Did you see my girls? They will be here directly; as
soon as they know that I am ill they will hurry here at once; they used
to take such care of me in the Rue de la Jussienne! Great Heavens! if
only my room was fit for them to come into! There has been a young man
here, who has burned up all my bark fuel.”

“I can hear Christophe coming upstairs,” Eugene answered. “He is
bringing up some firewood that that young man has sent you.”

“Good, but how am I to pay for the wood. I have not a penny left, dear
boy. I have given everything, everything. I am a pauper now. Well, at
least the golden gown was grand, was it not? (Ah! what pain this is!)
Thanks, Christophe! God will reward you, my boy; I have nothing left

Eugene went over to Christophe and whispered in the man’s ear, “I will
pay you well, and Sylvie too, for your trouble.”

“My daughters told you that they were coming, didn’t they, Christophe?
Go again to them, and I will give you five francs. Tell them that I am
not feeling well, that I should like to kiss them both and see them once
again before I die. Tell them that, but don’t alarm them more than you
can help.”

Rastignac signed to Christophe to go, and the man went.

“They will come before long,” the old man went on. “I know them so well.
My tender-hearted Delphine! If I am going to die, she will feel it so
much! And so will Nasie. I do not want to die; they will cry if I die;
and if I die, dear Eugene, I shall not see them any more. It will
be very dreary there where I am going. For a father it is hell to be
without your children; I have served my apprenticeship already since
they married. My heaven was in the Rue de la Jussienne. Eugene, do you
think that if I go to heaven I can come back to earth, and be near them
in spirit? I have heard some such things said. It is true? It is as if
I could see them at this moment as they used to be when we all lived
in the Rue de la Jussienne. They used to come downstairs of a morning.
‘Good-morning, papa!’ they used to say, and I would take them on my
knees; we had all sorts of little games of play together, and they had
such pretty coaxing ways. We always had breakfast together, too, every
morning, and they had dinner with me--in fact, I was a father then. I
enjoyed my children. They did not think for themselves so long as they
lived in the Rue de la Jussienne; they knew nothing of the world; they
loved me with all their hearts. _Mon Dieu!_ why could they not always
be little girls? (Oh! my head! this racking pain in my head!) Ah! ah!
forgive me, children, this pain is fearful; it must be agony indeed, for
you have used me to endure pain. _Mon Dieu!_ if only I held their hands
in mine, I should not feel it at all.--Do you think that they are on the
way? Christophe is so stupid; I ought to have gone myself. _He_ will see
them. But you went to the ball yesterday; just tell me how they looked.
They did not know that I was ill, did they, or they would not have been
dancing, poor little things? Oh! I must not be ill any longer. They
stand too much in need of me; their fortunes are in danger. And such
husbands as they are bound to! I must get well! (Oh! what pain this
is! what pain this is! ... ah! ah!)--I must get well, you see; for they
_must_ have money, and I know how to set about making some. I will go
to Odessa and manufacture starch there. I am an old hand, I will make
millions. (Oh! this is agony!)”

Goriot was silent for a moment; it seemed to require his whole strength
to endure the pain.

“If they were here, I should not complain,” he said. “So why should I
complain now?”

He seemed to grow drowsy with exhaustion, and lay quietly for a long
time. Christophe came back; and Rastignac, thinking that Goriot was
asleep, allowed the man to give his story aloud.

“First of all, sir, I went to Madame la Comtesse,” he said; “but she
and her husband were so busy that I couldn’t get to speak to her. When I
insisted that I must see her, M. de Restaud came out to me himself, and
went on like this: ‘M. Goriot is dying, is he? Very well, it is the
best thing he can do. I want Mme. de Restaud to transact some important
business, when it is all finished she can go.’ The gentleman looked
angry, I thought. I was just going away when Mme. de Restaud came out
into an ante-chamber through a door that I did not notice, and said,
‘Christophe, tell my father that my husband wants me to discuss some
matters with him, and I cannot leave the house, the life or death of my
children is at stake; but as soon as it is over, I will come.’ As for
Madame la Baronne, that is another story! I could not speak to her
either, and I did not even see her. Her waiting-woman said, ‘Ah yes, but
madame only came back from a ball at a quarter to five this morning; she
is asleep now, and if I wake her before mid-day she will be cross. As
soon as she rings, I will go and tell her that her father is worse. It
will be time enough then to tell her bad news!’ I begged and I prayed,
but, there! it was no good. Then I asked for M. le Baron, but he was

“To think that neither of his daughters should come!” exclaimed
Rastignac. “I will write to them both.”

“Neither of them!” cried the old man, sitting upright in bed. “They are
busy, they are asleep, they will not come! I knew that they would not.
Not until you are dying do you know your children.... Oh! my friend, do
not marry; do not have children! You give them life; they give you your
deathblow. You bring them into the world, and they send you out of it.
No, they will not come. I have known that these ten years. Sometimes I
have told myself so, but I did not dare to believe it.”

The tears gathered and stood without overflowing the red sockets.

“Ah! if I were rich still, if I had kept my money, if I had not given
all to them, they would be with me now; they would fawn on me and cover
my cheeks with their kisses! I should be living in a great mansion; I
should have grand apartments and servants and a fire in my room; and
_they_ would be about me all in tears, and their husbands and their
children. I should have had all that; now--I have nothing. Money brings
everything to you; even your daughters. My money. Oh! where is my money?
If I had plenty of money to leave behind me, they would nurse me and
tend me; I should hear their voices, I should see their faces. Ah, God!
who knows? They both of them have hearts of stone. I loved them too
much; it was not likely that they should love me. A father ought always
to be rich; he ought to keep his children well in hand, like unruly
horses. I have gone down on my knees to them. Wretches! this is the
crowning act that brings the last ten years to a proper close. If you
but knew how much they made of me just after they were married. (Oh!
this is cruel torture!) I had just given them each eight hundred
thousand francs; they were bound to be civil to me after that, and their
husbands too were civil. I used to go to their houses: it was ‘My kind
father’ here, ‘My dear father’ there. There was always a place for me at
their tables. I used to dine with their husbands now and then, and they
were very respectful to me. I was still worth something, they thought.
How should they know? I had not said anything about my affairs. It
is worth while to be civil to a man who has given his daughters eight
hundred thousand francs apiece; and they showed me every attention
then--but it was all for my money. Grand people are not great. I
found that out by experience! I went to the theatre with them in their
carriage; I might stay as long as I cared to stay at their evening
parties. In fact, they acknowledged me their father; publicly they owned
that they were my daughters. But I was always a shrewd one, you see,
and nothing was lost upon me. Everything went straight to the mark and
pierced my heart. I saw quite well that it was all sham and pretence,
but there is no help for such things as these. I felt less at my ease at
their dinner-table than I did downstairs here. I had nothing to say for
myself. So these grand folks would ask in my son-in-law’s ear, ‘Who may
that gentleman be?’--‘The father-in-law with the money bags; he is very
rich.’--‘The devil, he is!’ they would say, and look again at me with
the respect due to my money. Well, if I was in the way sometimes, I paid
dearly for my mistakes. And besides, who is perfect? (My head is one
sore!) Dear Monsieur Eugene, I am suffering so now, that a man might die
of the pain; but it is nothing to be compared with the pain I endured
when Anastasie made me feel, for the first time, that I had said
something stupid. She looked at me, and that glance of hers opened all
my veins. I used to want to know everything, to be learned; and one
thing I did learn thoroughly--I knew that I was not wanted here on

“The next day I went to Delphine for comfort, and what should I do there
but make some stupid blunder that made her angry with me. I was like one
driven out of his senses. For a week I did not know what to do; I did
not dare to go to see them for fear they should reproach me. And that
was how they both turned me out of the house.

“Oh God! Thou knowest all the misery and anguish that I have endured;
Thou hast counted all the wounds that have been dealt to me in these
years that have aged and changed me and whitened my hair and drained my
life; why dost Thou make me to suffer so to-day? Have I not more than
expiated the sin of loving them too much? They themselves have been the
instruments of vengeance; they have tortured me for my sin of affection.

“Ah, well! fathers know no better; I loved them so; I went back to them
as a gambler goes to the gaming table. This love was my vice, you see,
my mistress--they were everything in the world to me. They were always
wanting something or other, dresses and ornaments, and what not; their
maids used to tell me what they wanted, and I used to give them the
things for the sake of the welcome that they bought for me. But, at
the same time, they used to give me little lectures on my behavior in
society; they began about it at once. Then they began to feel ashamed of
me. That is what comes of having your children well brought up. I could
not go to school again at my time of life. (This pain is fearful! _Mon
Dieu!_ These doctors! these doctors! If they would open my head, it
would give me some relief!) Oh, my daughters, my daughters! Anastasie!
Delphine! If I could only see them! Send for the police, and make them
come to me! Justice is on my side, the whole world is on my side, I have
natural rights, and the law with me. I protest! The country will go to
ruin if a father’s rights are trampled under foot. That is easy to see.
The whole world turns on fatherly love; fatherly love is the foundation
of society; it will crumble into ruin when children do not love their
fathers. Oh! if I could only see them, and hear them, no matter what
they said; if I could simply hear their voices, it would soothe the
pain. Delphine! Delphine most of all. But tell them when they come not
to look so coldly at me as they do. Oh! my friend, my good Monsieur
Eugene, you do not know that it is when all the golden light in a glance
suddenly turns to a leaden gray. It has been one long winter here since
the light in their eyes shone no more for me. I have had nothing but
disappointments to devour. Disappointment has been my daily bread; I
have lived on humiliation and insults. I have swallowed down all the
affronts for which they sold me my poor stealthy little moments of
joy; for I love them so! Think of it! a father hiding himself to get a
glimpse of his children! I have given all my life to them, and to-day
they will not give me one hour! I am hungering and thirsting for them,
my heart is burning in me, but they will not come to bring relief in the
agony, for I am dying now, I feel that this is death. Do they not know
what it means to trample on a father’s corpse? There is a God in heaven
who avenges us fathers whether we will or no.

“Oh! they will come! Come to me, darlings, and give me one more kiss;
one last kiss, the Viaticum for your father, who will pray God for you
in heaven. I will tell Him that you have been good children to your
father, and plead your cause with God! After all, it is not their fault.
I tell you they are innocent, my friend. Tell every one that it is not
their fault, and no one need be distressed on my account. It is all my
own fault, I taught them to trample upon me. I loved to have it so.
It is no one’s affair but mine; man’s justice and God’s justice have
nothing to do in it. God would be unjust if He condemned them for
anything they may have done to me. I did not behave to them properly;
I was stupid enough to resign my rights. I would have humbled myself in
the dust for them. What could you expect? The most beautiful nature, the
noblest soul, would have been spoiled by such indulgence. I am a wretch,
I am justly punished. I, and I only, am to blame for all their sins; I
spoiled them. To-day they are as eager for pleasure as they used to be
for sugar-plums. When they were little girls I indulged them in every
whim. They had a carriage of their own when they were fifteen. They
have never been crossed. I am guilty, and not they--but I sinned through

“My heart would open at the sound of their voices. I can hear them; they
are coming. Yes! yes! they are coming. The law demands that they should
be present at their father’s deathbed; the law is on my side. It would
only cost them the hire of a cab. I would pay that. Write to them, tell
them that I have millions to leave to them! On my word of honor, yes. I
am going to manufacture Italian paste foods at Odessa. I understand the
trade. There are millions to be made in it. Nobody has thought of the
scheme as yet. You see, there will be no waste, no damage in transit,
as there always is with wheat and flour. Hey! hey! and starch too; there
are millions to be made in the starch trade! You will not be telling
a lie. Millions, tell them; and even if they really come because they
covet the money, I would rather let them deceive me; and I shall see
them in any case. I want my children! I gave them life; they are mine,
mine!” and he sat upright. The head thus raised, with its scanty white
hair, seemed to Eugene like a threat; every line that could still speak
spoke of menace.

“There, there, dear father,” said Eugene, “lie down again; I will write
to them at once. As soon as Bianchon comes back I will go for them
myself, if they do not come before.”

“If they do not come?” repeated the old man, sobbing. “Why, I shall
be dead before then; I shall die in a fit of rage, of rage! Anger is
getting the better of me. I can see my whole life at this minute. I have
been cheated! They do not love me--they have never loved me all their
lives! It is all clear to me. They have not come, and they will not
come. The longer they put off their coming, the less they are likely
to give me this joy. I know them. They have never cared to guess my
disappointments, my sorrows, my wants; they never cared to know my life;
they will have no presentiment of my death; they do not even know the
secret of my tenderness for them. Yes, I see it all now. I have laid my
heart open so often, that they take everything I do for them as a matter
of course. They might have asked me for the very eyes out of my head and
I would have bidden them to pluck them out. They think that all fathers
are like theirs. You should always make your value felt. Their own
children will avenge me. Why, for their own sakes they should come to
me! Make them understand that they are laying up retribution for their
own deathbeds. All crimes are summed up in this one.... Go to them; just
tell them that if they stay away it will be parricide! There is enough
laid to their charge already without adding that to the list. Cry aloud
as I do now, ‘Nasie! Delphine! here! Come to your father; the father who
has been so kind to you is lying ill!’--Not a sound; no one comes! Then
am I to die like a dog? This is to be my reward--I am forsaken at the
last. They are wicked, heartless women; curses on them, I loathe them.
I shall rise at night from my grave to curse them again; for, after all,
my friends, have I done wrong? They are behaving very badly to me, eh?
... What am I saying? Did you not tell me just now that Delphine is in
the room? She is more tender-hearted than her sister.... Eugene, you are
my son, you know. You will love her; be a father to her! Her sister is
very unhappy. And there are their fortunes! Ah, God! I am dying, this
anguish is almost more than I can bear! Cut off my head; leave me
nothing but my heart.”

“Christophe!” shouted Eugene, alarmed by the way in which the old man
moaned, and by his cries, “go for M. Bianchon, and send a cab here for
me.--I am going to fetch them, dear father; I will bring them back to

“Make them come! Compel them to come! Call out the Guard, the military,
anything and everything, but make them come!” He looked at Eugene, and a
last gleam of intelligence shone in his eyes. “Go to the authorities, to
the Public Prosecutor, let them bring them here; come they shall!”

“But you have cursed them.”

“Who said that!” said the old man in dull amazement. “You know quite
well that I love them, I adore them! I shall be quite well again if I
can see them.... Go for them, my good neighbor, my dear boy, you are
kind-hearted; I wish I could repay you for your kindness, but I have
nothing to give you now, save the blessing of a dying man. Ah! if I
could only see Delphine, to tell her to pay my debt to you. If the other
cannot come, bring Delphine to me at any rate. Tell her that unless she
comes, you will not love her any more. She is so fond of you that she
will come to me then. Give me something to drink! There is a fire in my
bowels. Press something against my forehead! If my daughters would lay
their hands there, I think I should get better. ... _Mon Dieu!_ who
will recover their money for them when I am gone?... I will manufacture
vermicelli out in Odessa; I will go to Odessa for their sakes.”

“Here is something to drink,” said Eugene, supporting the dying man on
his left arm, while he held a cup of tisane to Goriot’s lips.

“How you must love your own father and mother!” said the old man, and
grasped the student’s hand in both of his. It was a feeble, trembling
grasp. “I am going to die; I shall die without seeing my daughters; do
you understand? To be always thirsting, and never to drink; that
has been my life for the last ten years.... I have no daughters, my
sons-in-law killed them. No, since their marriages they have been
dead to me. Fathers should petition the Chambers to pass a law
against marriage. If you love your daughters, do not let them marry. A
son-in-law is a rascal who poisons a girl’s mind and contaminates
her whole nature. Let us have no more marriages! It robs us of our
daughters; we are left alone upon our deathbeds, and they are not with
us then. They ought to pass a law for dying fathers. This is awful! It
cries for vengeance! They cannot come, because my sons-in-law forbid
them!... Kill them!... Restaud and the Alsatian, kill them both! They
have murdered me between them!... Death or my daughters!... Ah! it is
too late, I am dying, and they are not here!... Dying without them!...
Nasie! Fifine! Why do you not come to me? Your papa is going----”

“Dear Father Goriot, calm yourself. There, there, lie quietly and rest;
don’t worry yourself, don’t think.”

“I shall not see them. Oh! the agony of it!”

“You _shall_ see them.”

“Really?” cried the old man, still wandering. “Oh! shall I see them; I
shall see them and hear their voices. I shall die happy. Ah! well, after
all, I do not wish to live; I cannot stand this much longer; this
pain that grows worse and worse. But, oh! to see them, to touch their
dresses--ah! nothing but their dresses, that is very little; still, to
feel something that belongs to them. Let me touch their hair with my
fingers... their hair...”

His head fell back on the pillow, as if a sudden heavy blow had struck
him down, but his hands groped feebly over the quilt, as if to find his
daughters’ hair.

“My blessing on them...” he said, making an effort, “my blessing...”

His voice died away. Just at that moment Bianchon came into the room.

“I met Christophe,” he said; “he is gone for your cab.”

Then he looked at the patient, and raised the closed eyelids with his
fingers. The two students saw how dead and lustreless the eyes beneath
had grown.

“He will not get over this, I am sure,” said Bianchon. He felt the old
man’s pulse, and laid a hand over his heart.

“The machinery works still; more is the pity, in his state it would be
better for him to die.”

“Ah! my word, it would!”

“What is the matter with you? You are as pale as death.”

“Dear fellow, the moans and cries that I have just heard.... There is
a God! Ah! yes, yes, there is a God, and He has made a better world for
us, or this world of ours would be a nightmare. I could have cried like
a child; but this is too tragical, and I am sick at heart.

“We want a lot of things, you know; and where is the money to come

Rastignac took out his watch.

“There, be quick and pawn it. I do not want to stop on the way to the
Rue du Helder; there is not a moment to lose, I am afraid, and I must
wait here till Christophe comes back. I have not a farthing; I shall
have to pay the cabman when I get home again.”

Rastignac rushed down the stairs, and drove off to the Rue du Helder.
The awful scene through which he had just passed quickened his
imagination, and he grew fiercely indignant. He reached Mme. de
Restaud’s house only to be told by the servant that his mistress could
see no one.

“But I have brought a message from her father, who is dying,” Rastignac
told the man.

“The Count has given us the strictest orders, sir----”

“If it is M. de Restaud who has given the orders, tell him that his
father-in-law is dying, and that I am here, and must speak with him at

The man went out.

Eugene waited for a long while. “Perhaps her father is dying at this
moment,” he thought.

Then the man came back, and Eugene followed him to the little
drawing-room. M. de Restaud was standing before the fireless grate, and
did not ask his visitor to seat himself.

“Monsieur le Comte,” said Rastignac, “M. Goriot, your father-in-law, is
lying at the point of death in a squalid den in the Latin Quarter.
He has not a penny to pay for firewood; he is expected to die at any
moment, and keeps calling for his daughter----”

“I feel very little affection for M. Goriot, sir, as you probably are
aware,” the Count answered coolly. “His character has been compromised
in connection with Mme. de Restaud; he is the author of the misfortunes
that have embittered my life and troubled my peace of mind. It is a
matter of perfect indifference to me if he lives or dies. Now you know
my feelings with regard to him. Public opinion may blame me, but I
care nothing for public opinion. Just now I have other and much
more important matters to think about than the things that fools and
chatterers may say about me. As for Mme. de Restaud, she cannot leave
the house; she is in no condition to do so. And, besides, I shall not
allow her to leave it. Tell her father that as soon as she has done her
duty by her husband and child she shall go to see him. If she has any
love for her father, she can be free to go to him, if she chooses, in a
few seconds; it lies entirely with her----”

“Monsieur le Comte, it is no business of mine to criticise your conduct;
you can do as you please with your wife, but may I count upon your
keeping your word with me? Well, then, promise me to tell her that her
father has not twenty-four hours to live; that he looks in vain for her,
and has cursed her already as he lies on his deathbed,--that is all I

“You can tell her yourself,” the Count answered, impressed by the thrill
of indignation in Eugene’s voice.

The Count led the way to the room where his wife usually sat. She was
drowned in tears, and lay crouching in the depths of an armchair, as
if she were tired of life and longed to die. It was piteous to see her.
Before venturing to look at Rastignac, she glanced at her husband in
evident and abject terror that spoke of complete prostration of body
and mind; she seemed crushed by a tyranny both mental and physical. The
Count jerked his head towards her; she construed this as a permission to

“I heard all that you said, monsieur. Tell my father that if he knew all
he would forgive me.... I did not think there was such torture in the
world as this; it is more than I can endure, monsieur!--But I will not
give way as long as I live,” she said, turning to her husband. “I am a
mother.--Tell my father that I have never sinned against him in spite of
appearances!” she cried aloud in her despair.

Eugene bowed to the husband and wife; he guessed the meaning of the
scene, and that this was a terrible crisis in the Countess’ life. M. de
Restaud’s manner had told him that his errand was a fruitless one; he
saw that Anastasie had no longer any liberty of action. He came away
mazed and bewildered, and hurried to Mme. de Nucingen. Delphine was in

“Poor dear Eugene, I am ill,” she said. “I caught cold after the ball,
and I am afraid of pneumonia. I am waiting for the doctor to come.”

“If you were at death’s door,” Eugene broke in, “you must be carried
somehow to your father. He is calling for you. If you could hear the
faintest of those cries, you would not feel ill any longer.”

“Eugene, I dare say my father is not quite so ill as you say; but I
cannot bear to do anything that you do not approve, so I will do just
as you wish. As for _him_, he would die of grief I know if I went out to
see him and brought on a dangerous illness. Well, I will go as soon as
I have seen the doctor.--Ah!” she cried out, “you are not wearing your
watch, how is that?”

Eugene reddened.

“Eugene, Eugene! if you have sold it already or lost it.... Oh! it would
be very wrong of you!”

The student bent over Delphine and said in her ear, “Do you want to
know? Very well, then, you shall know. Your father has nothing left to
pay for the shroud that they will lay him in this evening. Your watch
has been pawned, for I had nothing either.”

Delphine sprang out of bed, ran to her desk, and took out her purse. She
gave it to Eugene, and rang the bell, crying:

“I will go, I will go at once, Eugene. Leave me, I will dress. Why,
I should be an unnatural daughter! Go back; I will be there before
you.--Therese,” she called to the waiting-woman, “ask M. de Nucingen to
come upstairs at once and speak to me.”

Eugene was almost happy when he reached the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve;
he was so glad to bring the news to the dying man that one of his
daughters was coming. He fumbled in Delphine’s purse for money, so as to
dismiss the cab at once; and discovered that the young, beautiful, and
wealthy woman of fashion had only seventy francs in her private purse.
He climbed the stairs and found Bianchon supporting Goriot, while the
house surgeon from the hospital was applying moxas to the patient’s
back--under the direction of the physician, it was the last expedient of
science, and it was tried in vain.

“Can you feel them?” asked the physician. But Goriot had caught sight of
Rastignac, and answered, “They are coming, are they not?”

“There is hope yet,” said the surgeon; “he can speak.”

“Yes,” said Eugene, “Delphine is coming.”

“Oh! that is nothing!” said Bianchon; “he has been talking about his
daughters all the time. He calls for them as a man impaled calls for
water, they say----”

“We may as well give up,” said the physician, addressing the surgeon.
“Nothing more can be done now; the case is hopeless.”

Bianchon and the house surgeon stretched the dying man out again on his
loathsome bed.

“But the sheets ought to be changed,” added the physician. “Even if
there is no hope left, something is due to human nature. I shall come
back again, Bianchon,” he said, turning to the medical student. “If he
complains again, rub some laudanum over the diaphragm.”

He went, and the house surgeon went with him.

“Come, Eugene, pluck up heart, my boy,” said Bianchon, as soon as they
were alone; “we must set about changing his sheets, and put him into a
clean shirt. Go and tell Sylvie to bring some sheets and come and help
us to make the bed.”

Eugene went downstairs, and found Mme. Vauquer engaged in setting the
table; Sylvie was helping her. Eugene had scarcely opened his mouth
before the widow walked up to him with the acidulous sweet smile of a
cautious shopkeeper who is anxious neither to lose money nor to offend a

“My dear Monsieur Eugene,” she said, when he had spoken, “you know quite
as well as I do that Father Goriot has not a brass farthing left. If you
give out clean linen for a man who is just going to turn up his eyes,
you are not likely to see your sheets again, for one is sure to be
wanted to wrap him in. Now, you owe me a hundred and forty-four francs
as it is, add forty francs for the pair of sheets, and then there are
several little things, besides the candle that Sylvie will give you;
altogether it will all mount up to at least two hundred francs, which is
more than a poor widow like me can afford to lose. Lord! now, Monsieur
Eugene, look at it fairly. I have lost quite enough in these five days
since this run of ill-luck set in for me. I would rather than ten crowns
that the old gentlemen had moved out as you said. It sets the other
lodgers against the house. It would not take much to make me send him to
the workhouse. In short, just put yourself in my place. I have to think
of my establishment first, for I have my own living to make.”

Eugene hurried up to Goriot’s room.

“Bianchon,” he cried, “the money for the watch?”

“There it is on the table, or the three hundred and sixty odd francs
that are left of it. I paid up all the old scores out of it before they
let me have the things. The pawn ticket lies there under the money.”

Rastignac hurried downstairs.

“Here, madame” he said in disgust, “let us square accounts. M. Goriot
will not stay much longer in your house, nor shall I----”

“Yes, he will go out feet foremost, poor old gentleman,” she said,
counting the francs with a half-facetious, half-lugubrious expression.

“Let us get this over,” said Rastignac.

“Sylvie, look out some sheets, and go upstairs to help the gentlemen.”

“You won’t forget Sylvie,” said Mme. Vauquer in Eugene’s ear; “she has
been sitting up these two nights.”

As soon as Eugene’s back was turned, the old woman hurried after her

“Take the sheets that have had the sides turned into the middle, number
7. Lord! they are plenty good enough for a corpse,” she said in Sylvie’s

Eugene, by this time, was part of the way upstairs, and did not overhear
the elderly economist.

“Quick,” said Bianchon, “let us change his shirt. Hold him upright.”

Eugene went to the head of the bed and supported the dying man, while
Bianchon drew off his shirt; and then Goriot made a movement as if he
tried to clutch something to his breast, uttering a low inarticulate
moaning the while, like some dumb animal in mortal pain.

“Ah! yes!” cried Bianchon. “It is the little locket and the chain
made of hair that he wants; we took it off a while ago when we put the
blisters on him. Poor fellow! he must have it again. There it lies on
the chimney-piece.”

Eugene went to the chimney-piece and found the little plait of faded
golden hair--Mme. Goriot’s hair, no doubt. He read the name on the
little round locket, ANASTASIE on the one side, DELPHINE on the other.
It was the symbol of his own heart that the father always wore on his
breast. The curls of hair inside the locket were so fine and soft that
is was plain they had been taken from two childish heads. When the old
man felt the locket once more, his chest heaved with a long deep sigh
of satisfaction, like a groan. It was something terrible to see, for it
seemed as if the last quiver of the nerves were laid bare to their eyes,
the last communication of sense to the mysterious point within whence
our sympathies come and whither they go. A delirious joy lighted up the
distorted face. The terrific and vivid force of the feeling that had
survived the power of thought made such an impression on the students,
that the dying man felt their hot tears falling on him, and gave a
shrill cry of delight.

“Nasie! Fifine!”

“There is life in him yet,” said Bianchon.

“What does he go on living for?” said Sylvie.

“To suffer,” answered Rastignac.

Bianchon made a sign to his friend to follow his example, knelt down and
pressed his arms under the sick man, and Rastignac on the other side did
the same, so that Sylvie, standing in readiness, might draw the sheet
from beneath and replace it with the one that she had brought. Those
tears, no doubt, had misled Goriot; for he gathered up all his remaining
strength in a last effort, stretched out his hands, groped for the
students’ heads, and as his fingers caught convulsively at their hair,
they heard a faint whisper:

“Ah! my angels!”

Two words, two inarticulate murmurs, shaped into words by the soul which
fled forth with them as they left his lips.

“Poor dear!” cried Sylvie, melted by that exclamation; the expression of
the great love raised for the last time to a sublime height by that most
ghastly and involuntary of lies.

The father’s last breath must have been a sigh of joy, and in that sigh
his whole life was summed up; he was cheated even at the last. They laid
Father Goriot upon his wretched bed with reverent hands. Thenceforward
there was no expression on his face, only the painful traces of the
struggle between life and death that was going on in the machine; for
that kind of cerebral consciousness that distinguishes between pleasure
and pain in a human being was extinguished; it was only a question of
time--and the mechanism itself would be destroyed.

“He will lie like this for several hours, and die so quietly at last,
that we shall not know when he goes; there will be no rattle in the
throat. The brain must be completely suffused.”

As he spoke there was a footstep on the staircase, and a young woman
hastened up, panting for breath.

“She has come too late,” said Rastignac.

But it was not Delphine; it was Therese, her waiting-woman, who stood in
the doorway.

“Monsieur Eugene,” she said, “monsieur and madame have had a terrible
scene about some money that Madame (poor thing!) wanted for her father.
She fainted, and the doctor came, and she had to be bled, calling
out all the while, ‘My father is dying; I want to see papa!’ It was
heartbreaking to hear her----”

“That will do, Therese. If she came now, it would be trouble thrown
away. M. Goriot cannot recognize any one now.”

“Poor, dear gentleman, is he as bad at that?” said Therese.

“You don’t want me now, I must go and look after my dinner; it is
half-past four,” remarked Sylvie. The next instant she all but collided
with Mme. de Restaud on the landing outside.

There was something awful and appalling in the sudden apparition of
the Countess. She saw the bed of death by the dim light of the single
candle, and her tears flowed at the sight of her father’s passive
features, from which the life had almost ebbed. Bianchon with thoughtful
tact left the room.

“I could not escape soon enough,” she said to Rastignac.

The student bowed sadly in reply. Mme. de Restaud took her father’s hand
and kissed it.

“Forgive me, father! You used to say that my voice would call you back
from the grave; ah! come back for one moment to bless your penitent
daughter. Do you hear me? Oh! this is fearful! No one on earth will ever
bless me henceforth; every one hates me; no one loves me but you in all
the world. My own children will hate me. Take me with you, father; I
will love you, I will take care of you. He does not hear me ... I am

She fell on her knees, and gazed wildly at the human wreck before her.

“My cup of misery is full,” she said, turning her eyes upon Eugene.
“M. de Trailles has fled, leaving enormous debts behind him, and I have
found out that he was deceiving me. My husband will never forgive me,
and I have left my fortune in his hands. I have lost all my illusions.
Alas! I have forsaken the one heart that loved me (she pointed to her
father as she spoke), and for whom? I have held his kindness cheap,
and slighted his affection; many and many a time I have given him pain,
ungrateful wretch that I am!”

“He knew it,” said Rastignac.

Just then Goriot’s eyelids unclosed; it was only a muscular contraction,
but the Countess’ sudden start of reviving hope was no less dreadful
than the dying eyes.

“Is it possible that he can hear me?” cried the Countess. “No,” she
answered herself, and sat down beside the bed. As Mme. de Restaud seemed
to wish to sit by her father, Eugene went down to take a little food.
The boarders were already assembled.

“Well,” remarked the painter, as he joined them, “it seems that there is
to be a death-orama upstairs.”

“Charles, I think you might find something less painful to joke about,”
 said Eugene.

“So we may not laugh here?” returned the painter. “What harm does it do?
Bianchon said that the old man was quite insensible.”

“Well, then,” said the _employe_ from the Museum, “he will die as he has

“My father is dead!” shrieked the Countess.

The terrible cry brought Sylvie, Rastignac, and Bianchon; Mme.
de Restaud had fainted away. When she recovered they carried her
downstairs, and put her into the cab that stood waiting at the door.
Eugene sent Therese with her, and bade the maid take the Countess to
Mme. de Nucingen.

Bianchon came down to them.

“Yes, he is dead,” he said.

“Come, sit down to dinner, gentlemen,” said Mme. Vauquer, “or the soup
will be cold.”

The two students sat down together.

“What is the next thing to be done?” Eugene asked of Bianchon.

“I have closed his eyes and composed his limbs,” said Bianchon. “When
the certificate has been officially registered at the Mayor’s office,
we will sew him in his winding sheet and bury him somewhere. What do you
think we ought to do?”

“He will not smell at his bread like this any more,” said the painter,
mimicking the old man’s little trick.

“Oh, hang it all!” cried the tutor, “let Father Goriot drop, and let us
have something else for a change. He is a standing dish, and we have had
him with every sauce this hour or more. It is one of the privileges of
the good city of Paris that anybody may be born, or live, or die there
without attracting any attention whatsoever. Let us profit by the
advantages of civilization. There are fifty or sixty deaths every day;
if you have a mind to do it, you can sit down at any time and wail over
whole hecatombs of dead in Paris. Father Goriot has gone off the hooks,
has he? So much the better for him. If you venerate his memory, keep it
to yourselves, and let the rest of us feed in peace.”

“Oh, to be sure,” said the widow, “it is all the better for him that he
is dead. It looks as though he had had trouble enough, poor soul, while
he was alive.”

And this was all the funeral oration delivered over him who had been for
Eugene the type and embodiment of Fatherhood.

The fifteen lodgers began to talk as usual. When Bianchon and Eugene had
satisfied their hunger, the rattle of spoons and forks, the boisterous
conversation, the expressions on the faces that bespoke various degrees
of want of feeling, gluttony, or indifference, everything about them
made them shiver with loathing. They went out to find a priest to watch
that night with the dead. It was necessary to measure their last pious
cares by the scanty sum of money that remained. Before nine o’clock that
evening the body was laid out on the bare sacking of the bedstead in
the desolate room; a lighted candle stood on either side, and the priest
watched at the foot. Rastignac made inquiries of this latter as to the
expenses of the funeral, and wrote to the Baron de Nucingen and the
Comte de Restaud, entreating both gentlemen to authorize their man of
business to defray the charges of laying their father-in-law in the
grave. He sent Christophe with the letters; then he went to bed, tired
out, and slept.

Next day Bianchon and Rastignac were obliged to take the certificate
to the registrar themselves, and by twelve o’clock the formalities were
completed. Two hours went by, no word came from the Count nor from the
Baron; nobody appeared to act for them, and Rastignac had already been
obliged to pay the priest. Sylvie asked ten francs for sewing the old
man in his winding-sheet and making him ready for the grave, and Eugene
and Bianchon calculated that they had scarcely sufficient to pay for the
funeral, if nothing was forthcoming from the dead man’s family. So it
was the medical student who laid him in a pauper’s coffin, despatched
from Bianchon’s hospital, whence he obtained it at a cheaper rate.

“Let us play those wretches a trick,” said he. “Go to the cemetery, buy
a grave for five years at Pere-Lachaise, and arrange with the Church and
the undertaker to have a third-class funeral. If the daughters and
their husbands decline to repay you, you can carve this on the
headstone--‘_Here lies M. Goriot, father of the Comtesse de Restaud and
the Baronne de Nucingen, interred at the expense of two students_.’”

Eugene took part of his friend’s advice, but only after he had gone
in person first to M. and Mme. de Nucingen, and then to M. and Mme. de
Restaud--a fruitless errand. He went no further than the doorstep in
either house. The servants had received strict orders to admit no one.

“Monsieur and Madame can see no visitors. They have just lost their
father, and are in deep grief over their loss.”

Eugene’s Parisian experience told him that it was idle to press the
point. Something clutched strangely at his heart when he saw that it was
impossible to reach Delphine.

“Sell some of your ornaments,” he wrote hastily in the porter’s room,
“so that your father may be decently laid in his last resting-place.”

He sealed the note, and begged the porter to give it to Therese for her
mistress; but the man took it to the Baron de Nucingen, who flung the
note into the fire. Eugene, having finished his errands, returned to the
lodging-house about three o’clock. In spite of himself, the tears came
into his eyes. The coffin, in its scanty covering of black cloth,
was standing there on the pavement before the gate, on two chairs.
A withered sprig of hyssop was soaking in the holy water bowl of
silver-plated copper; there was not a soul in the street, not a
passer-by had stopped to sprinkle the coffin; there was not even an
attempt at a black drapery over the wicket. It was a pauper who lay
there; no one made a pretence of mourning for him; he had neither
friends nor kindred--there was no one to follow him to the grave.

Bianchon’s duties compelled him to be at the hospital, but he had left
a few lines for Eugene, telling his friend about the arrangements he
had made for the burial service. The house student’s note told Rastignac
that a mass was beyond their means, that the ordinary office for the
dead was cheaper, and must suffice, and that he had sent word to
the undertaker by Christophe. Eugene had scarcely finished reading
Bianchon’s scrawl, when he looked up and saw the little circular
gold locket that contained the hair of Goriot’s two daughters in Mme.
Vauquer’s hands.

“How dared you take it?” he asked.

“Good Lord! is that to be buried along with him?” retorted Sylvie. “It
is gold.”

“Of course it shall!” Eugene answered indignantly; “he shall at any
rate take one thing that may represent his daughters into the grave with

When the hearse came, Eugene had the coffin carried into the house
again, unscrewed the lid, and reverently laid on the old man’s breast
the token that recalled the days when Delphine and Anastasie were
innocent little maidens, before they began “to think for themselves,” as
he had moaned out in his agony.

Rastignac and Christophe and the two undertaker’s men were the only
followers of the funeral. The Church of Saint-Etienne du Mont was only a
little distance from the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve. When the coffin
had been deposited in a low, dark, little chapel, the law student looked
round in vain for Goriot’s two daughters or their husbands. Christophe
was his only fellow-mourner; Christophe, who appeared to think it was
his duty to attend the funeral of the man who had put him in the way
of such handsome tips. As they waited there in the chapel for the two
priests, the chorister, and the beadle, Rastignac grasped Christophe’s
hand. He could not utter a word just then.

“Yes, Monsieur Eugene,” said Christophe, “he was a good and worthy man,
who never said one word louder than another; he never did any one any
harm, and gave nobody any trouble.”

The two priests, the chorister, and the beadle came, and said and did
as much as could be expected for seventy francs in an age when religion
cannot afford to say prayers for nothing.

The ecclesiatics chanted a psalm, the _Libera nos_ and the _De
profundis_. The whole service lasted about twenty minutes. There was but
one mourning coach, which the priest and chorister agreed to share with
Eugene and Christophe.

“There is no one else to follow us,” remarked the priest, “so we may as
well go quickly, and so save time; it is half-past five.”

But just as the coffin was put in the hearse, two empty carriages, with
the armorial bearings of the Comte de Restaud and the Baron de Nucingen,
arrived and followed in the procession to Pere-Lachaise. At six o’clock
Goriot’s coffin was lowered into the grave, his daughters’ servants
standing round the while. The ecclesiastic recited the short prayer that
the students could afford to pay for, and then both priest and lackeys
disappeared at once. The two grave diggers flung in several spadefuls of
earth, and then stopped and asked Rastignac for their fee. Eugene
felt in vain in his pocket, and was obliged to borrow five francs of
Christophe. This thing, so trifling in itself, gave Rastignac a terrible
pang of distress. It was growing dusk, the damp twilight fretted his
nerves; he gazed down into the grave and the tears he shed were drawn
from him by the sacred emotion, a single-hearted sorrow. When such tears
fall on earth, their radiance reaches heaven. And with that tear that
fell on Father Goriot’s grave, Eugene Rastignac’s youth ended. He folded
his arms and gazed at the clouded sky; and Christophe, after a glance at
him, turned and went--Rastignac was left alone.

He went a few paces further, to the highest point of the cemetery, and
looked out over Paris and the windings of the Seine; the lamps were
beginning to shine on either side of the river. His eyes turned almost
eagerly to the space between the column of the Place Vendome and the
cupola of the Invalides; there lay the shining world that he had wished
to reach. He glanced over that humming hive, seeming to draw a foretaste
of its honey, and said magniloquently:

“Henceforth there is war between us.”

And by way of throwing down the glove to Society, Rastignac went to dine
with Mme. de Nucingen.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

     Ajuda-Pinto, Marquis Miguel d’
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Secrets of a Princess

     Beauseant, Marquis
       An Episode under the Terror

     Beauseant, Vicomte de
       The Deserted Woman

     Beauseant, Vicomtesse de
       The Deserted Woman
       Albert Savarus

     Bianchon, Horace
       The Atheist’s Mass
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Commission in Lunacy
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Government Clerks
       A Study of Woman
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Seamy Side of History
       The Magic Skin
       A Second Home
       A Prince of Bohemia
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Muse of the Department
       The Imaginary Mistress
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Betty
       The Country Parson
     In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
       Another Study of Woman
       La Grande Breteche

     Bibi-Lupin (chief of secret police, called himself Gondureau)
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life

     Carigliano, Marechal, Duc de

     Collin, Jacques
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Member for Arcis

       A Start in Life
       The Gondreville Mystery
       Colonel Chabert
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life

     Franchessini, Colonel
       The Member for Arcis

     Galathionne, Princess
       A Daughter of Eve

     Gobseck, Jean-Esther Van
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Government Clerks
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Jacques (M. de Beauseant’s butler)
       The Deserted Woman

     Langeais, Duchesse Antoinette de
       The Thirteen

     Marsay, Henri de
       The Thirteen
       The Unconscious Humorists
       Another Study of Woman
       The Lily of the Valley
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Marriage Settlement
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Ball at Sceaux
       Modest Mignon
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Gondreville Mystery
       A Daughter of Eve

     Maurice (de Restaud’s valet)

     Montriveau, General Marquis Armand de
       The Thirteen
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Another Study of Woman
       The Member for Arcis

     Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
       The Firm of Nucingen
       Cesar Birotteau
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Another Study of Woman
       The Secrets of a Princess
       A Man of Business
       Cousin Betty
       The Muse of the Department
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Nucingen, Baronne Delphine de
       The Thirteen
       Eugenie Grandet
       Cesar Birotteau
       Melmoth Reconciled
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Commission in Lunacy
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Modeste Mignon
       The Firm of Nucingen
       Another Study of Woman
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Member for Arcis

       The Government Clerks
       A Start in Life
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Poiret, Madame (nee Christine-Michelle Michonneau)
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Rastignac, Baron and Baronne de (Eugene’s parents)
       Lost Illusions

     Rastignac, Eugene de
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Ball at Sceaux
       The Interdiction
       A Study of Woman
       Another Study of Woman
       The Magic Skin
       The Secrets of a Princess
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Gondreville Mystery
       The Firm of Nucingen
       Cousin Betty
       The Member for Arcis
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Rastignac, Laure-Rose and Agathe de
       Lost Illusions
       The Member for Arcis

     Rastignac, Monseigneur Gabriel de
       The Country Parson
       A Daughter of Eve

     Restaud, Comte de

     Restaud, Comtesse Anastasie de

       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life

     Taillefer, Jean-Frederic
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Magic Skin
       The Red Inn

     Taillefer, Victorine
       The Red Inn

       A Daughter of Eve

     Tissot, Pierre-Francois
       A Prince of Bohemia

     Trailles, Comte Maxime de
       Cesar Birotteau
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Man of Business
       The Member for Arcis
       The Secrets of a Princess
       Cousin Betty
       The Member for Arcis
       The Unconscious Humorists

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