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  4. La Grenadiere by Honore de Balzac | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®

Only, the owner of La Grenadiere told one or two of his friends that the name under which the stranger had signed the lease her real name, therefore, in all probability was Augusta Willemsens, Countess of Brandon. Events, which will be narrated in their place, confirmed this revelation; but it went no further than the little world of men of business known to the landlord.

So Madame Willemsens was a continual mystery to people of condition. Hers was no ordinary nature; her manners were simple and delightfully natural, the tones of her voice were divinely sweet — this was all that she suffered others to discover. In her complete seclusion, her sadness, her beauty so passionately obscured, nay, almost blighted, there was so much to charm, that several young gentlemen fell in love; but the more sincere the lover, the more timid he became; and besides, the lady inspired awe, and it was a difficult matter to find enough courage to speak to her.

Finally, if a few of the bolder sort wrote to her, their letters must have been burned unread. It was Mme. She might have come to the enchanting retreat to give herself up wholly to the joy of living. The three masters whose presence was allowed at La Grenadiere spoke with something like admiring reverence of the touching picture that they saw there of the close, unclouded intimacy of the life led by this woman and the children. The two little boys also aroused no small interest. Mothers could not see them without a feeling of envy.

Both children were like Mme. Willemsens, who was, in fact, their mother. They had the transparent complexion and bright color, the clear, liquid eyes, the long lashes, the fresh outlines, the dazzling characteristics of childish beauty. The elder, Louis—Gaston, had dark hair and fearless eyes. Everything about him spoke as plainly of robust, physical health as his broad, high brow, with its gracious curves, spoke of energy of character.

He was quick and alert in his movements, and strong of limb, without a trace of awkwardness. Nothing took him unawares, and he seemed to think about everything that he saw. Marie—Gaston was slender; he had the delicate features and the subtle grace so charming in Mme. He did not look strong. There was a gentle look in his gray eyes; his face was pale, there was something feminine about the child. He still wore his hair in long, wavy curls, and his mother would not have him give up embroidered collars, and little jackets fastened with frogs and spindle-shaped buttons; evidently she took a thoroughly feminine pleasure in the costume, a source of as much interest to the mother as to the child.

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No one could see them without feeling touched by the way in which Louis took care of Marie. They were like two buds, scarcely separated from the stem that bore them, swayed by the same breeze, lying in the same ray of sunlight; but the one was a brightly colored flower, the other somewhat bleached and pale. Willemsens had so accustomed them to understand her wishes and desires, that the three seemed to have their thoughts in common. When they went for a walk, and the children, absorbed in their play, ran away to gather a flower or to look at some insect, she watched them with such deep tenderness in her eyes, that the most indifferent passer-by would feel moved, and stop and smile at the children, and give the mother a glance of friendly greeting.

Who would not have admired the dainty neatness of their dress, their sweet, childish voices, the grace of their movements, the promise in their faces, the innate something that told of careful training from the cradle? They seemed as if they had never shed tears nor wailed like other children.


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Their mother knew, as it were, by electrically swift intuition, the desires and the pains which she anticipated and relieved. She seemed to dread a complaint from one of them more than the loss of her soul. Their threefold life, seemingly one life, called up vague, fond thoughts; it was like a vision of the dreamed-of bliss of a better world.


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  • Both children rose an hour after daybreak and repeated a short prayer, a habit learned in their babyhood. Then the two brothers went through their morning toilet as scrupulously as any pretty woman; doubtless they had been trained in habits of minute attention to the person, so necessary to health of body and mind, habits in some sort conducive to a sense of wellbeing. Marie sprang upon the bed to put his arms around his idolized mother, and Louis, kneeling by the pillow, took her hand in his. A wonderful instinct, neither selfishness nor reason, perhaps the first innocent beginnings of sentiment teaches children to know whether or not they are the first and sole thought, to find out those who love to think of them and for them.

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    If you really love children, the dear little ones, with open hearts and unerring sense of justice, are marvelously ready to respond to love. Their love knows passion and jealousy and the most gracious delicacy of feeling; they find the tenderest words of expression; they trust you — put an entire belief in you. All these things draw them closer to the mother or drive them apart. And yet — there are mothers cruelly slighted, mothers whose sublime, pathetic tenderness meets only a harsh return, a hideous ingratitude which shows how difficult it is to lay down hard-and-fast rules in matters of feeling.

    Here, not one of all the thousand heart ties that bind child and mother had been broken. The three were alone in the world; they lived one life, a life of close sympathy. If Mme. Willemsens was silent in the morning, Louis and Marie would not speak, respecting everything in her, even those thoughts which they did not share. He scanned her face with uneasy forebodings; the exact danger he did not know, but dimly he felt it threatening in those purple rings about her eyes, in the deepening hollows under them, and the feverish red that deepened in her face.

    She was always dressed in time to hear their lessons, which lasted from ten till three, with an interval at noon for lunch, the three taking the meal together in the summer-house. After lunch the children played for an hour, while she — poor woman and happy mother — lay on a long sofa in the summer-house, so placed that she could look out over the soft, ever-changing country of Touraine, a land that you learn to see afresh in all the thousand chance effects produced by daylight and sky and the time of year.

    The children scampered through the orchard, scrambled about the terraces, chased the lizards, scarcely less nimble than they; investigating flowers and seeds and insects, continually referring all questions to their mother, running to and fro between the garden and the summer-house. Children have no need of toys in the country, everything amuses them. Willemsens sat at her embroidery during their lessons. Of Marie she asked little. Her desire was with her eldest son. She did this with a secret purpose, which Louis was to understand in the future; nay, he understood it already.

    So kindly and so winning was her manner, that his tutors told her the truth, pointing out where Louis was weak, so that she might help him in his lessons. Then came dinner, and play after dinner, then a walk, and lessons were learned till bedtime. So their days went. It was a uniform but full life; work and amusements left them not a dull hour in the day.

    Discouragement and quarreling were impossible. She taught her little sons moderation by refusing them nothing, and submission by making them see underlying Necessity in its many forms; she put heart into them with timely praise; developing and strengthening all that was best in their natures with the care of a good fairy. Tears sometimes rose to her burning eyes as she watched them play, and thought how they had never caused her the slightest vexation.

    Happiness so far-reaching and complete brings such tears, because for us it represents the dim imaginings of Heaven which we all of us form in our minds. They spoke English and French equally well they had had an English nurse since their babyhood , so their mother talked to them in both languages; directing the bent of their childish minds with admirable skill, admitting no fallacious reasoning, no bad principle. She ruled by kindness, concealing nothing, explaining everything. If Louis wished for books, she was careful to give him interesting yet accurate books — books of biography, the lives of great seamen, great captains, and famous men, for little incidents in their history gave her numberless opportunities of explaining the world and life to her children.

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    She would point out the ways in which men, really great in themselves, had risen from obscurity; how they had started from the lowest ranks of society, with no one to look to but themselves, and achieved noble destinies. Before very long, dear child, you will be alone in the world, with no one to help or befriend you. But I shall not live so long. I love you so much that it makes me very unhappy to think of it. Dear children, if only you do not curse me some day! A sort of intuition told Louis that his mother wished to be alone, and he carried off Marie, now half awake.

    An hour later, when his brother was in bed, he stole down and out to the summer-house where his mother was sitting. The words were spoken in tones delicious to his heart. The boy was silent for a while. He stole a glance now and again at his mother; and she, with her eyes raised to the sky, was watching the clouds. It was a sad, sweet moment.

    Louis could not believe that his mother would die soon, but instinctively he felt trouble which he could not guess. He respected her long musings. You will have much to bear one day! Ah me! She choked back her tears, and tried to make the boy understand the mechanism of existence, the value of money, the standing and consideration that it gives, and its bearing on social position; the honorable means of gaining a livelihood, and the necessity of a training. Then she told him that one of the chief causes of her sadness and her tears was the thought that, on the morrow of her death, he and Marie would be left almost resourceless, with but a slender stock of money, and no friend but God.

    You promise me that? You are no longer a child! From that day, when Mme.

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    Willemsens, foreseeing the approach of death, spoke to Louis of his future, he concentrated his attention on his work, grew more industrious, and less inclined to play than heretofore. When he had coaxed Marie to read a book and to give up boisterous games, there was less noise in the hollow pathways and gardens and terraced walks of La Grenadiere. Day by day her face was growing pale and wan, there were hollows now in her temples, the lines in her forehead grew deeper night after night. August came.

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    The little family had been five months at La Grenadiere, and their whole life was changed. The old servant grew anxious and gloomy as she watched the almost imperceptible symptoms of slow decline in the mistress, who seemed to be kept in life by an impassioned soul and intense love of her children.

    Old Annette seemed to see that death was very near. The old woman would forget her work, and stand with wet linen in her hands, scarce able to keep back her tears at the sight of Mme. Willemsens, so little like the enchanting woman she once had been. The pretty house itself, once so gay and bright, looked melancholy; it was a very quiet house now, and the family seldom left it, for the walk to the bridge was too great an effort for Mme.

    Louis had almost identified himself, as it were, with his mother, and with his suddenly developed powers of imagination he saw the weariness and exhaustion under the red color, and constantly found reasons for taking some shorter walk. Fiction Short Stories.

    La Grenadiere by Honore de Balzac | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®

    Format OverDrive Read La Grenadiere Embed. Media La Grenadiere. OverDrive uses cookies and similar technologies to improve your experience, monitor our performance, and understand overall usage trends for OverDrive services including OverDrive websites and apps. Required Cookies These cookies allow you to explore OverDrive services and use our core features. Performance and reliability cookies These cookies allow us to monitor OverDrive's performance and reliability.

    Research and analytics cookies These cookies help us understand user behavior within our services. This family estate was one of the founding fathers, so to speak, of the appellation Pic St-Loup, and as such, had much to do with putting the area on the fine wine map. La Grenadiere is the winery's top red. It is a blend of syrah, mourvedre and Grenache, which is hardly unusual for this part of France. What is more unique, however, is the wine's depth and impressive stick-to-your-ribs-ness. Layers of black fruits and an elegant finish along with ripe aromas of black cherries and currants, make for a very supple and likeable drink.

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