saved him the trouble. And yet there was no common-
292 BALZAC'S WORKS
place so vulgar that the warmth of his heart could not in-
fuse it with fresh meaning.
In the fine words of the late
Saint-Martin, the radiance of his smile might have turned
the mire of the highway to gold. The two Maries, fol-
lowing one of the best traditions of religious education,
used to escort their master respectfully to the door of the
suite when he left. There the poor girls would say a
few kind words to him, happy in making him happy. It
was the one chance they had of exercising their woman's
Thus, up to the time of their marriage, music became
for the girls a life within life, just as, we are told, the
Russian peasant takes his dreams for realities, his waking
life for a restless sleep. In their eagerness to find some
bulwark against the rising tide of pettiness and consuming
ascetic ideas, they threw themselves desperately into the
difficulties of the musical art. Melody, harmony, and com-
position, those three daughters of the skies, rewarded their
labors, making a rampart for them with their aerial dances,
while the old Catholic faun, intoxicated by music, led the
chorus. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Paesiello, Cimarosa,
Hummel, along with musicians of lesser rank, developed
in them sensations which never passed beyond the modest
limit of their veiled bosoms, but which went to the heart
of that new world of fancy whither they eagerly betook
themselves. When the execution of some piece had been
brought to perfection, they would clasp hands and embrace
in the wildest ecstasy. The old master called them his
The two Maries did not go to balls till they were six-
teen, and then only four times a year, to a few selected
houses. They only left their mother's side when well for-
tified with rules of conduct, so strict that they could reply
nothing but yes and no to their partners. The eye of the
Countess never quitted her daughters and seemed to read
the words upon their lips. The ball-dresses of the poor
little things were models of decorum high-necked muslin
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 293
frocks, with an extraordinary number of fluffy frills and
long sleeves. This ungraceful costume, which concealed
instead of setting off their beauty, reminded one of an
Egyptian mummy, in spite of two sweetly pathetic faces
which peeped out from the mass of cotton. With all
their innocence, they were furious to find themselves the
objects of a kindly pity. Where is the woman, however
artless, who would not inspire envy rather than compas-
sion? The white matter of their brains was imsoiled by a
single perilous, morbid, or ever, equivocal thought; their
hearts were pure, their hands were frightfully red; they
were bursting with health. Eve did not leave the hands
of her Creator more guileless than were these two girls
when they left their mother's home to go to the mairie
and to the church, with one simple but awful command
in their ears to obey in all things the man by whose side
they were to spend the night, awake or sleeping. To them
it seemed impossible that they should suffer more in the
strange house whither they were to be banished than in
the maternal convent.
How came it that the father of these girls did nothing to
protect them from so crushing a despotism? The Comte de
Granville had a great reputation as a judge, able and incor-
ruptible, if sometimes a little carried away by party feeling.
Unhappily, by the terms of a remarkable compromise, agreed
upon after ten years of married life, husband and wife lived
apart, each in their own suite of apartments. The father,
who judged the repressive system less dangerous for women
than for men, kept the education of his boys in his own
hands, while leaving that of the girls to their mother. The
two Maries, who could hardly escape the imposition of some
tyranny, whether in love or marriage, would suffer less than
boys, whose intelligence ought to be unfettered and whose
natural spirit would be broken by the harsh constraint of
religious dogma pushed to an extreme. Of four victims
the Count saved two. The Countess looked on her sons,
both destined for the law the one for the magistrature
294 BALZAC'S WORKS
assize, the other for the magistrature amovible 1 as far too
badly brought up to be allowed any intimacy with their sis-
ters. All intercourse between the poor children was strictly
guarded. When the Count took his boys from school for a
day he was careful that it should not be spent in the house.
After luncheon with their mother and sisters he would find
something to amuse them outside. Eestaurants, theatres,
museums, an expedition to the country in summer-time,
were their treats. Only on important family occasions,
such as the birthday of the Countess or of their father,
New Year's Day, and prize-giving days, did the boys
spend day and night under the paternal roof, in extreme
discomfort, and not daring to kiss their sisters under the
eye of the Countess, who never left them alone together
for an instant. Seeing so little of their brothers, how was
it possible the poor girls should feel any bond with them ?
On these days it was a perpetual, "Where is Ang^lique?"
"What is Eugenie about?" "Where can my children be?"
When her sons were mentioned, the Countess would raise
her cold and sodden eyes to Heaven, as though imploring
pardon for having failed to snatch them from ungodliness.
Her exclamations and her silence in regard to them were
alike eloquent as the most lamentable verses of Jeremiah,
and the girls not unnaturally came to look on their brothers
as hopeless reprobates.
The Count gave to each of his sons, at the age of eigh-
teen, a couple of rooms in his own suite, and they then
began to study law under the direction of his secretary, a
barrister, to whom he intrusted the task of initiating them
into the. mysteries of their profession.
The two Maries, therefore, had no practical knowledge
of what it is to have a brother. On the occasion of their
sisters' weddings it happened that both brothers were de-
1 The magistrature assize consists of the judges who sit in Court, and are
appointed for life. The members of the magistrature amovible conduct the ex-
amination and prosecution of accused persona. They address the Court standing,
and are not appointed for life.
tained at a distance by important cases: the one having
then a post as avocat general 1 at a distant Court, while the
other was making his first appearance in the provinces. In
many families the reality of that home-life, which we are apt
to picture as linked together by the closest and most vital
ties, is something very different. The brothers are far
away, engrossed in money-making, in pushing their way
in the world, or they are chained to the public service;
the sisters are absorbed in a vortex of family interests,
outside their own circle. Thus the different members
spend their lives apart and indifferent to each other, held
together only by the feeble bond of memory. If on occa-
sion pride or self-interest reunites them, just as often these
motives act in the opposite sense and divide them in heart,
as they have already been divided in life, so that it becomes
a rare exception to find a family living in one home and ani-
mated by one spirit. Modern legislation, by splitting up the
family into units, has created that most hideous evil the iso-
lation of the individual.
Ange"lic[ue and Eugenie, amid the profound solitude in
which their youth glided by, saw their father but rarely,
and it was a melancholy face which he showed in his wife's
handsome rooms on the ground floor. At home, as on the
bench, he maintained the grave and dignified bearing of
the judge. When the girls had passed the period of toys
and dolls, when they were beginning, at twelve years of
age, to think for themselves, and had given up making
fun of Schmucke, they found out the secret of the cares
which lined the Count's forehead. Under the mask of
severity they could read traces of a kindly, lovable na-
ture. He had yielded to the Church his place as head of
the household, his hopes of wedded happiness had been
blighted, and his father's heart was wounded in its tender-
est spot the love he bore his daughters. Sorrows such
as these rouse strange pity in the breasts of girls who
1 The term is applied to all the substitutes of the procureur- general or At-
296 BALZAC'S WORKS
have never known tenderness. Sometimes he would stroll
in the garden between his daughters, an arm round each
little figure, fitting his pace to their childish steps; then,
stopping in the shrubbery, he would kiss them, one after
the other, on the forehead, while his eyes, his mouth, and
his whole expression breathed the deepest pity.
"You are not very happy, my darlings," he said on one
such occasion; "but I shall marry you early, and it will be
a good day for me when I see you take wing."
"Papa," said Euge'nie, "we have made up our minds to
marry the first man who offers. ' '
"And this," he exclaimed, "is the bitter fruit of such a
system. In trying to make saints of them, they ..."
He stopped. Often the girls were conscious of a pas-
sionate tenderness in their father's farewell, or in the way
he looked at them when by chance he dined with their
mother. This father, whom they so rarely saw, became
the object of their pity, and whom we pity we love.
The marriage of both sisters welded together by mis-
fortune, as Rita-Christina was by nature was the direct
result of this strict conventual training. Many men, when
thinking of marriage, prefer a girl taken straight from the
convent and impregnated with an atmosphere of devotion
to one who has been trained in the school of society;
There is no medium. On the one hand is the girl with
nothing left to learn, who reads and discusses the papers,
who has spun round ball-rooms in the arms of countless
young men, who has seen every play and devoured every
novel, whose knees have been made supple by a dancing-
master, pressing them against his own, who does not
trouble her head about religion and has evolved her own
morality; on the other is the guileless, simple girl of the
type of Marie-Auge'lique and Marie-Eugdnie. Possibly the
husband's risk is no greater in the one case than in the other,
but the immense majority of men, who have not yet reached
the age of Arnolphe, would choose a saintly Agnes rather
than a budding Celimene.
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 297
The two Maries were identical in figure, feet, and
hands. Both were small and slight. Eugenie, the
younger, was fair like her mother; Angelique, dark like
her father. But they had the same complexion a skin of
that mother-of-pearl white which tells of a rich and healthy
blood and against which the carnation stands out in vivid
patches, firm in texture like the jasmine, and like it also,
delicate, smooth, and soft to the touch. The blue eyes of
Eugdnie, the brown eyes of Angelique, had the same nai've
expression of indifference and unaffected astonishment, be-
trayed by the indecisive wavering of the iris in the liquid
white. Their figures were good; the shoulders, a little
angular now, would be rounded by time. The neck and
bosom, which had been so long veiled, appeared quite
startlingly perfect in form, when, at the request of her
husband, each sister for the first time attired herself for a
ball in a low-necked dress. What blushes covered the
poor innocent things, so charming in their shamefaced-
ness, as they first saw themselves in the privacy of their
own rooms; nor did the color fade all evening!
At the moment when this story opens, with the younger
Marie consoling her weeping sister, they are no longer raw
girls. Each had nursed an infant one a boy, the other a
girl and the hands and arms of both were white as milk.
Eugenie had always seemed something of a madcap to her
terrible mother, who redoubled her watchful care and
severity on her behalf. Angelique, stately and proud,
had, she thought, a soul of high temper fitted to guard it-
self, while the skittish Eugenie seemed to demand a firmer
hand. There are charming natures of this kind, misread
by destiny, whose life ought to be unbroken sunshine, but
who live and die in misery, plagued by some evil genius,
the victims of chance. Thus the sprightly, artless Eugenie
had fallen under the malign despotism of a parvenu when
released from the maternal clutches. Angelique, high-
strung and sensitive, had been sent adrift in the highest
circles of Parisian society without any restraining curb.
296" BALZAC'S WORKS
li AT ME. DE VANDENESSE, it was plain, was crushed
/yi by the burden of troubles too heavy for a mind still
unsophisticated after six years of marriage. She
lay at length, her limbs flaccid, her body bent, her head
fallen anyhow on the back of the lounge. Having looked
in at the opera before hurrying to her sister's, she had still
a few flowers in the plaits of her hair, while others lay scat-
tered on the carpet, together with her gloves, her mantle of
fur-lined silk, her muff, and her hood. Bright tears min-
gled with the pearls on her white bosom and brimming eyes
told a tale in grewsome contrast with the luxury around.
The Countess had no heart for further words.
"You poor darling," said Mnie. du Tillet, "what strange
delusion as to my married life made you corne to me for
It seemed as though the torrent of her sister's grief had
forced these words from the heart of the banker's wife, as
melting snow will set free stones that are held the fastest in
the river's bed. The Countess gazed stupidly on her with
fixed eyes, in which terror had dried the tears.
"Can it be that the waters have closed over your head too,
my sweet one?" she said in a low voice.
"Nay, dear, my troubles won't lessen yours."
"But tell me them, dear child. Do you think I am so
sunk in self already as not to listen ? Then we are comrades
again in suffering as of old!"
"But we suffer apart," sadly replied Mme. du Tillet.
"We live in opposing camps. It is my turn to visit the
Tuileries now that you have ceased to go. Our husbands
belong to rival parties. I am the wife of an ambitious
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 299
banker, a bad man. Your husband, sweetest, is kind,
noble, generous "
"Ah! do not reproach me," cried the Countess. "No
woman has the right to do so, who has not suffered the wea-
riness of a tame, colorless life and passed from it straight to
the paradise of love. She must have known the bliss of liv-
ing her whole life in another, of espousing the ever- varying
emotions of a poet's soul. In every flight of his imagina-
tion, in all the efforts of his ambition, in the great part he
plays upon the stage of life, she must have borne her share,
suffering in his pain and mounting on the wings of his meas-
ureless delights; and all this while never losing her cold,
impassive demeanor before a prying world. Yes, dear, a
tumult of emotion may rage within, while one sits by the
fire at home, quietly and comfortably like this. And yet
what joy to have at every instant one overwhelming interest
which expands the heart and makes it live in every fibre.
Nothing is indifferent to you; your very life seems to de-
pend on a drive, which gives you the chance of seeing in the
crowd the one man before the flash of whose eye the sunlight
pales; you tremble if he is late, and could strangle the bore
who steals from you one of those precious moments when
happiness throbs in every vein! To be alive, only to be
alive is rapture! Think of it, dear, to live when so many
women would give the world to feel as I do and cannot.
Eemember, child, that for this poetry of life there is but one
season the season of youth. Soon, very soon, will come
the chills of winter. Oh! if you were rich as I am in these
living treasures of the heart and were threatened with losing
Mme. du Tillet, terrified, had hidden her face in her
hands during this wild rhapsody. At last, seeing the warm
tears on her sister's cheek, she began:
"I never dreamed of reproaching you, my darling. Your
words have, in a single instant, stirred in my heart more
burning thoughts than all my tears have quenched, for in-
deed the life I lead might well plead within me for a passion
'600 BALZAC'S WORKS
such as you describe. Let me cling to the belief that if we
had seen more of each other we should not have drifted to
this point. The knowledge of my sufferings would have en-
abled you to realize your own happiness, and I might per-
haps have learned from you courage to resist the tyranny
which has crushed the sweetness out of my life. Your mis-
ery is an accident which chance may remedy, mine is unceas-
ing. My husband neither has real affection for me nor does
he trust me. 1 am a mere peg for his magnificence, the hall-
mark of his ambition, a tit-bit for his vanity.
"Ferdinand" and she struck her hand upon the mantel-
piece "is hard and smooth like this marble. He is suspi-
cious of me. If I ask anything for myself I know beforehand
that refusal is certain; but for whatever may tickle his self-
importance or advertise his wealth I have not even to express
a desire. He decorates my rooms, and spends lavishly on
my table; my servants, my boxes at the theatre, all the trap-
pings of rny life are of the smartest. He grudges nothing to
his vanity. His children's baby-linen must be trimmed with
lace, but he would never trouble about their real needs, and
would shut his ears to their cries. Can you understand such
a state of things ? I go to court loaded with diamonds, and
my ornaments are of the most costly whenever I am in so-
ciety; yet I have not a sou of my own. Mme. du Tillet,
whom envious onlookers no doubt suppose to be rolling in
wealth, cannot lay her hand on a hundred francs. If the
father cares little for his children, he cares still less for their
mother. Never does he allow me to forget that I have been
paid for as a chattel, and that iny personal fortune, which
has never been in rny possession, has been filched from him.
If he stood alone I might have a chance of fascinating him,
but there is an alien influence at work. He is under the
thumb of a woman, a notaiy's widow, over fifty, but who
still reckons on her charms, and I can see very well that
while she lives I shall never be free.
"My whole life here is planned out like a sovereign's.
A bell is rung for my lunch and dinner as at your castle. I
A DAUGHTER OF EVE
never miss going to the Bois at a certain hour, accompanied
by two footmen in full livery, and returning at a fixed time.
In place of giving orders, I receive them. At balls and the
theatre, a lackey comes up to me saying, 'Your carriage
waits, madame,' and I have to go, whether I am enjoying
myself or not. Ferdinand would be vexed if I did not carry
out the code of rules drawn up for his wife, and I am afraid
of him. Surrounded by all this hateful splendor, I some-
times look back with regret, and begin to think we had a
kind mother. At least she left us our nights, and I had you
to talk to. In my sufferings, then, I had a loving compan-
ion, but this gorgeous house is a desert to me."
It was for the Countess now to play the comforter. As
this tale of misery fell from her sister's lips she took her
hand and kissed it with tears.
"How is it possible for me to help you?" Eugenie went
on in a low voice. "If he were to find us together he would
suspect something. He would want to know what we had
been talking about this hour, and it is not easy to put off
the scent any one so false and full of wiles. He would be
sure to lay a trap for me. But enough of my troubles; let
us think of you. Your forty thousand francs, darling, would
be nothing to Ferdinand. He and the Baron de Nucingen,
another of these rich bankers, are accustomed to handle mil-
lions. Sometimes at dinner I hear them talking of things to
make your flesh creep. Du Tillet knows I am no talker, so
they speak freely before me, confident that it will go no
further, and I can assure you that highway murder would
be an act of mercy compared to some of their financial
schemes. Nucingen and he make as little of ruining a man
as I do of all their display. Among the people who come
to see me, often there are poor dupes whose affairs I have
heard settled overnight, and who are plunging into specula-
tions which will beggar them. How I long to act Leonardo
in the brigands' cave, and cry, 'Beware!' But what would
become of me ? I hold my tongue, but this luxurious man-
sion is nothing but a den of cutthroats. And du Tillet and
302 BALZAC'S WORKS
Nucingen scatter banknotes in handfuls for any whim that
takes their fancy. Ferdinand has bought the site of the old
castle at Tillet, and intends rebuilding it, and then adding
a forest and magnificent grounds. He says his son will be
a count and his grandson a peer. Nucingen is tired of his
house in the Rue Saint-Lazare and is having a palace built.
His wife is a friend of mine. . . . Ah!" she cried, "she
might be of use to us. She is not in awe of her husband,
her property is in her own hands; she is the person to save
"Darling," cried Mme. de Vandenesse, throwing herself
into her sister's arms and bursting into tears, "there are only
a few hours left. Let us go there to-night, this very instant. ' '
"How can I go out at eleven o'clock at night ?"
"My carriage is here."
"Well, what are you two plotting here ?" It was du Tillet
who threw open the door of the boudoir.
A false geniality lighted up the blank countenance which
met the sisters' gaze. They had been too much absorbed in
talking to notice the wheels of du Tillet's carriage, and the
thick carpets had muffled the sound of his steps. The
Countess, who had an indulgent husband and was well used
to society, had acquired a tact and address such as her sis-
ter, passing straight from a mother's to a husband's yoke,
had had no opportunity of cultivating. She was able then
to save the situation, which she saw that Eugenie's terror
was on the pointing of betraying, by a frank reply.
"I thought my sister wealthier than she is," she said,
looking her brother-in-law in the face. "Women sometimes
get into difficulties which they don't care to speak of to their
husbands witness Napoleon and Josephine and I came to
ask a favor of her. ' '
"There will be no difficulty about that. Eugenie is a rich
woman," replied du Tillet, in a tone of honeyed acerbity.
"Only for you," said the Countess, with a bitter smile.
"How much do you want?" said du Tillet, who was not
sorry at the prospect of getting his sister-in-law into his toils.
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 303
"How dense you are! Didn't I tell you that we want to
keep our husbands out of this?" was the prudent reply of
Mme. de Vandenesse, who feared to place herself at the
mercy of the man whose character had by good luck just
been sketched by her sister. "I shall come and see Eugenie
"To-morrow? No," said the banker coldly. "Mme.
du Tillet dines to-morrow with a future peer of the realm,
Baron de Nucingen, who is resigning to me his seat in the
Chamber of Deputies. ' '
"Won't you allow her to accept my box at the opera?"
said the Countess, without exchanging even a look with her
sister, in her terror lest their secret understanding should be
"Thank you, she has her own," said du Tillet, offended.
"Very well, then, I shall see her there," replied the
"It will be the first time you have done us that honor,"
said du Tillet.
The Countess felt the reproach and began to laugh.
"Keep your mind easy, you shan't be asked to pay this
time," she said. "Good-by, darling."
"The jade!" cried du Tillet, picking up the flowers which
had fallen from the Countess's hair. "You would do well,"
he said to his wife, "to take a lesson from Mme. de Vande-
nesse. I should like to see you as saucy in society as she
was here just now. Your want of style and spirit are enough
to drive a man wild."
For all reply, Eugdnie raised her eyes to heaven.
"Well, madame, what have you two been about here?' 1
said the banker after a pause, pointing to the flowers. ' 'What
has happened to bring your sister to your box to-morrow?"
In order to get away to her bedroom, and escape the cross-
questioning she dreaded, the poor thrall made an excuse of
being sleepy. But du Tillet took his wife's arm and, drag-
ging her back, planted her before him beneath the full blaze
of the candles, flaming in their silver-gilt branches between
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