Father Goriot/Section 18
"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."
"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 ruined."
"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 francs . . ."
"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 now."
"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 eyes."
"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 Anastasie.
"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, Dedel."
"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, 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 clasp.
"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 future."
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 room.
"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 acting."
"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."
"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 you?"
"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 light-headed.
"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.