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Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850). Old Goriot.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Paras. 1600–1699

He seemed as if he was about to say something to Eugène, 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 Eugène.” He grasped Rastignac’s hand sadly and affectionately, and turned away from him. Eugène went back to the Hôtel Beauséant, 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 Beauséant loomed large in these imaginations, 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 this 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 theater, 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 Mme. de Beauséant 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. Eugène, 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 Eugène with a more violent emotion than he had felt before. They went back to the ballroom, and Mme. de Beauséant went through the rooms on Eugène’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 old 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.”

Eugène was soon claimed by Delphine. She was delighted with 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 henceforth.

“What do you think of Nasie?” she asked him.

“She has discounted everything, even her own father’s death,” said Rastignac.

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 the last. She had taken leave of M. de Beauséant, 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 us.”

Mme. de Beauséant saw the Duchess, 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 a 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-by, Antoinette!” said Mme. de Beauséant. “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 Beauséant 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. Eugène returned on foot to the Maison Vauquer through the cold and darkness. His education was nearly complete.

“There is no hope for poor old 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 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 money.”

“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. Eugène 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 Eugène, 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 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 was 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 portions 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 postmortem 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 old 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 anyone 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 Beauséant 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 feelings?”

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 offense 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. Eugène 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 old Goriot, recognizing Eugène.

“Do you feel better?” asked the law student, taking his hand.

“Yes. My head felt as if it were being screwed in a vice, 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,” Eugène 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 now.”

Eugène 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 Eugène, 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. Eugène, do you think that if I go to heaven I could come back to earth, and be near them in spirit? I have heard some such things said. Is it 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 will! (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 Mme. 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 antechamber 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 Mme. 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 prayed, but, there! it was no good. Then I asked for M. le Baron, but he was out.”

“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 theater 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 pretense, 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 dollars; 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 M. Eugène, I am suffering so now, that a man might die of the pain; but it is nothing, 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 earth.

“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 M. Eugène, you do not know what 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 me 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 everyone 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 love.

“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 Eugène like a threat; every line that could still speak spoke of menace.

“There, there, dear father,” said Eugène, “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 was in the room? She is more tender-hearted than her sister… Eugène, 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 Eugène, 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 you.”

“Make them come! Compel them to come! Call out the Guard, the military, anything and everything, but make them come!” He looked at Eugène, 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 Eugène, 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 lusterless 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 from?”

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.”