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It is now easy to understand the full meaning of the term, "the houseof Monsieur Grandet,",that cold, silent, pallid dwelling, standingabove the town and sheltered by the ruins of the ramparts. The twopillars and the arch, which made the porte-cochere on which the dooropened, were built, like the house itself, of tufa,,a white stonepeculiar to the shores of the Loire, and so soft that it lasts hardlymore than two centuries. Numberless irregular holes, capriciouslybored or eaten out by the inclemency of the weather, gave anappearance of the vermiculated stonework of French architecture to thearch and the side walls of this entrance, which bore some resemblanceto the gateway of a jail. Above the arch was a long bas-relief, inhard stone, representing the four seasons, the faces already crumblingaway and blackened. This bas-relief was surmounted by a projectingplinth, upon which a variety of chance growths had sprung up,,yellowpellitory, bindweed, convolvuli, nettles, plantain, and even a littlecherry-tree, already grown to some height.

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The door of the archway was made of solid oak, brown, shrunken, andsplit in many places; though frail in appearance, it was firmly heldin place by a system of iron bolts arranged in symmetrical patterns. Asmall square grating, with close bars red with rust, filled up themiddle panel and made, as it were, a motive for the knocker, fastenedto it by a ring, which struck upon the grinning head of a huge nail.This knocker, of the oblong shape and kind which our ancestors called/jaquemart/, looked like a huge note of exclamation; an antiquary whoexamined it attentively might have found indications of the figure,essentially burlesque, which it once represented, and which long usagehad now effaced. Through this little grating,intended in olden timesfor the recognition of friends in times of civil war,inquisitivepersons could perceive, at the farther end of the dark and slimyvault, a few broken steps which led to a garden, picturesquely shut inby walls that were thick and damp, and through which oozed a moisturethat nourished tufts of sickly herbage. These walls were the ruins ofthe ramparts, under which ranged the gardens of several neighboringhouses.

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The most important room on the ground-floor of the house was a largehall, entered directly from beneath the vault of the porte-cochere.Few people know the importance of a hall in the little towns of Anjou,Touraine, and Berry. The hall is at one and the same time antechamber,salon, office, boudoir, and dining-room; it is the theatre of domesticlife, the common living-room. There the barber of the neighborhoodcame, twice a year, to cut Monsieur Grandet's hair; there the farmers,the cure, the under-prefect, and the miller's boy came on business.This room, with two windows looking on the street, was entirely ofwood. Gray panels with ancient mouldings covered the walls from top tobottom; the ceiling showed all its beams, which were likewise paintedgray, while the space between them had been washed over in white, nowyellow with age. An old brass clock, inlaid with arabesques, adornedthe mantel of the ill-cut white stone chimney-piece, above which was agreenish mirror, whose edges, bevelled to show the thickness of theglass, reflected a thread of light the whole length of a gothic framein damascened steel-work. The two copper-gilt candelabra whichdecorated the corners of the chimney-piece served a double purpose: bytaking off the side-branches, each of which held a socket, the mainstem,which was fastened to a pedestal of bluish marble tipped withcopper,made a candlestick for one candle, which was sufficient forordinary occasions. The chairs, antique in shape, were covered withtapestry representing the fables of La Fontaine; it was necessary,however, to know that writer well to guess at the subjects, for thefaded colors and the figures, blurred by much darning, were difficultto distinguish.

At the four corners of the hall were closets, or rather buffets,surmounted by dirty shelves. An old card-table in marquetry, of whichthe upper part was a chess-board, stood in the space between the twowindows. Above this table was an oval barometer with a black borderenlivened with gilt bands, on which the flies had so licentiouslydisported themselves that the gilding had become problematical. On thepanel opposite to the chimney-piece were two portraits in pastel,supposed to represent the grandfather of Madame Grandet, old Monsieurde la Bertelliere, as a lieutenant in the French guard, and thedeceased Madame Gentillet in the guise of a shepherdess. The windowswere draped with curtains of red /gros de Tours/ held back by silkencords with ecclesiastical tassels. This luxurious decoration, littlein keeping with the habits of Monsieur Grandet, had been, togetherwith the steel pier-glass, the tapestries, and the buffets, which wereof rose-wood, included in the purchase of the house.

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By the window nearest to the door stood a straw chair, whose legs wereraised on castors to lift its occupant, Madame Grandet, to a heightfrom which she could see the passers-by. A work-table of stainedcherry-wood filled up the embrasure, and the little armchair ofEugenie Grandet stood beside it. In this spot the lives had flowedpeacefully onward for fifteen years, in a round of constant work fromthe month of April to the month of November. On the first day of thelatter month they took their winter station by the chimney. Not untilthat day did Grandet permit a fire to be lighted; and on the thirty-first of March it was extinguished, without regard either to thechills of the early spring or to those of a wintry autumn. A foot-warmer, filled with embers from the kitchen fire, which la GrandeNanon contrived to save for them, enabled Madame and MademoiselleGrandet to bear the chilly mornings and evenings of April and October.Mother and daughter took charge of the family linen, and spent theirdays so conscientiously upon a labor properly that of working-women,that if Eugenie wished to embroider a collar for her mother she wasforced to take the time from sleep, and deceive her father to obtainthe necessary light. For a long time the miser had given out thetallow candle to his daughter and la Grande Nanon just as he gave outevery morning the bread and other necessaries for the dailyconsumption.

La Grande Nanon was perhaps the only human being capable of acceptingwillingly the despotism of her master. The whole town envied Monsieurand Madame Grandet the possession of her. La Grande Nanon, so calledon account of her height, which was five feet eight inches, had livedwith Monsieur Grandet for thirty-five years. Though she received onlysixty francs a year in wages, she was supposed to be one of therichest serving-women in Saumur. Those sixty francs, accumulatingthrough thirty-five years, had recently enabled her to invest fourthousand francs in an annuity with Maitre Cruchot. This result of herlong and persistent economy seemed gigantic. Every servant in thetown, seeing that the poor sexagenarian was sure of bread for her oldage, was jealous of her, and never thought of the hard slavery throughwhich it had been won.

At twenty-two years of age the poor girl had been unable to find asituation, so repulsive was her face to almost every one. Yet thefeeling was certainly unjust: the face would have been much admired onthe shoulders of a grenadier of the guard; but all things, so theysay, should be in keeping. Forced to leave a farm where she kept thecows, because the dwelling-house was burned down, she came to Saumurto find a place, full of the robust courage that shrinks from nolabor. Le Pere Grandet was at that time thinking of marriage and aboutto set up his household. He espied the girl, rejected as she was fromdoor to door. A good judge of corporeal strength in his trade as acooper, he guessed the work that might be got out of a female creatureshaped like a Hercules, as firm on her feet as an oak sixty years oldon its roots, strong in the hips, square in the back, with the handsof a cartman and an honesty as sound as her unblemished virtue.Neither the warts which adorned her martial visage, nor the red-bricktints of her skin, nor the sinewy arms, nor the ragged garments of laGrande Nanon, dismayed the cooper, who was at that time still of anage when the heart shudders. He fed, shod, and clothed the poor girl,gave her wages, and put her to work without treating her too roughly.Seeing herself thus welcomed, la Grande Nanon wept secretly tears ofjoy, and attached herself in all sincerity to her master, who fromthat day ruled her and worked her with feudal authority. Nanon dideverything. She cooked, she made the lye, she washed the linen in theLoire and brought it home on her shoulders; she got up early, she wentto bed late; she prepared the food of the vine-dressers during theharvest, kept watch upon the market-people, protected the property ofher master like a faithful dog, and even, full of blind confidence,obeyed without a murmur his most absurd exactions.

In the famous year of 1811, when the grapes were gathered withunheard-of difficulty, Grandet resolved to give Nanon his old watch,,the first present he had made her during twenty years of service.Though he turned over to her his old shoes (which fitted her), it isimpossible to consider that quarterly benefit as a gift, for the shoeswere always thoroughly worn-out. Necessity had made the poor girl soniggardly that Grandet had grown to love her as we love a dog, andNanon had let him fasten a spiked collar round her throat, whosespikes no longer pricked her. If Grandet cut the bread with rather toomuch parsimony, she made no complaint; she gaily shared the hygienicbenefits derived from the severe regime of the household, in which noone was ever ill. Nanon was, in fact, one of the family; she laughedwhen Grandet laughed, felt gloomy or chilly, warmed herself, andtoiled as he did. What pleasant compensations there were in suchequality! Never did the master have occasion to find fault with theservant for pilfering the grapes, nor for the plums and nectarineseaten under the trees. "Come, fall-to, Nanon!" he would say in yearswhen the branches bent under the fruit and the farmers were obliged togive it to the pigs.

To the poor peasant who in her youth had earned nothing but harshtreatment, to the pauper girl picked up by charity, Grandet'sambiguous laugh was like a sunbeam. Moreover, Nanon's simple heart andnarrow head could hold only one feeling and one idea. For thirty-fiveyears she had never ceased to see herself standing before the wood-yard of Monsieur Grandet, ragged and barefooted, and to hear him say:"What do you want, young one?" Her gratitude was ever new. SometimesGrandet, reflecting that the poor creature had never heard aflattering word, that she was ignorant of all the tender sentimentsinspired by women, that she might some day appear before the throne ofGod even more chaste than the Virgin Mary herself,,Grandet, struckwith pity, would say as he looked at her, "Poor Nanon!" Theexclamation was always followed by an undefinable look cast upon himin return by the old servant. The words, uttered from time to time,formed a chain of friendship that nothing ever parted, and to whicheach exclamation added a link. Such compassion arising in the heart ofthe miser, and accepted gratefully by the old spinster, had somethinginconceivably horrible about it. This cruel pity, recalling, as itdid, a thousand pleasures to the heart of the old cooper, was forNanon the sum total of happiness. Who does not likewise say, "PoorNanon!" God will recognize his angels by the inflexions of theirvoices and by their secret sighs.

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