Life,  Reading

Unrequited Love and Quiet Rebellion: The Untold Story of Eugenie Grandet

After the demise of the venerable Grandet, the narrative continued its course.

Eugenie inherited her sire’s vast fortune and metamorphosed into the most sought-after unmarried damsel in the township. A coterie of assiduous suitors surrounded her daily, yet her cherished first love, her cousin Charles, had ventured to India and vanished without a trace for seven years.

At the age of thirty, Eugenie persisted in her unwavering vigil for her cousin’s return. However, instead of his arrival, a missive of dissolution arrived: Charles intended to wed a noble lady. Upon receiving this disheartening intelligence, Eugenie’s final flicker of hope was extinguished.

Yet, another development soon transpired: Charles’s nuptials had been aborted. Owing to his sire’s unpaid debts, Charles remained indebted to his creditors for the staggering sum of 1.2 million francs. Failure to remit this debt would preclude his union with the aristocratic maiden.

At this juncture, Eugenie orchestrated a surprising stratagem. Among her numerous admirers, a gentleman by the name of Peng Feng, a magistrate by profession, harbored affections for her. Eugenie proposed, “Have you not always yearned to take my hand in matrimony? I hereby pledge myself to you. However, you must also vouchsafe me two conditions – firstly, although we shall be wedded in name, I shall remain solely a companion to you in private; secondly, I beseech you to journey to Paris, procure a registry of my uncle’s creditors, and discharge the remaining debts with accrued interest.”

Upon hearing her entreaty, Mr. Peng Feng prostrated himself at Eugenie’s feet, trembling with exhilaration. Clutching the prodigious check penned by Eugenie, he promptly embarked for Paris to absolve Charles of his fiscal encumbrance.

The author chronicled, “Mr. Peng Feng departed. Eugenie collapsed into an armchair, engulfed in lachrymal torrents. All was concluded.” She composed a poignant epistle to her betrayed cousin, evoking profound emotion upon its perusal.

In her letter, Eugenie eloquently conveyed, “Cousin, the debt owed by our uncle has been extinguished, and Mr. Peng Feng has graciously provided a receipt as evidence. Enclosed you shall find said receipt, substantiating the reimbursement of the aforementioned sum advanced on my behalf. Rumors of our uncle’s bankruptcy persist. I surmise that the offspring of an insolvent man may encounter impediments in securing the hand of Mademoiselle de O’Brien. Your critique of my disposition and demeanor was indeed perspicacious – I lack the temperament requisite for elevated societal circles. I am unfamiliar with their customs and mores; I cannot furnish you with the gratification you anticipate. To conform to society’s conventions, you relinquished our primordial affection. I hope you shall find felicity within the confines of these conventions. I can only bestow upon you our father’s unblemished reputation, that it may facilitate your contentment. Farewell, Sister Eugenie shall ever remain your loyal companion.”

Eugenie interred her sole love with an immense sum and a serene letter.

Thus she lived out the remainder of her days – although the wealthiest woman in the city, she persisted in adhering to the regulations imposed by old Grandet during his lifetime. She was permitted to kindle fires for warmth merely five months annually, and her attire was as austere as Grandet’s had been. Mrs. Eugenie diligently amassed her income, allocating a portion to charitable endeavors, yet denying herself any superfluous expenditure.

At this juncture, one can comprehend why Balzac proclaimed, “This is an ordinary tragedy devoid of poison, sharp blades, and bloodshed.”

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