Pere Goriot

By Honoré de Balzac; A. J. Krailsheimer | Go to book overview

2
Entry on the Social Scene

TOWARDS the end of that first week in December Rastignac received two letters, one from his mother, the other from his elder sister. The sight of the familiar handwriting set his heart beating with joy and at the same time made him tremble with terror. These two flimsy documents contained a sentence of life or death for his hopes. If he felt apprehension as he recalled his parents' straitened circumstances, he had enjoyed too many marks of their favour not to fear that he might have sucked their veins dry. His mother's letter read as follows:

My dear boy, I am sending you what you asked for. Make good use of this money, for even if it were a question of saving your life, I could not find so considerable a sum again without your father's knowledge, and that could only cause discord between us. To obtain more we should be obliged to pledge our land as security. I cannot possibly pass judgement on plans I know nothing about, but what kind of plans must they be if you are afraid of confiding in me? An explanation would not require volumes; a mere word is all that a mother needs, and a word would have spared me the anguish of uncertainty. I cannot conceal the painful impression caused by your letter. My dear son, what is this emotion that compelled you to strike such dread into my heart? You must have found it very painful to write me such a letter, for it was very painful for me to read it. What course is this on which you are embarking? Your life and happiness dependent on appearing to be what you are not, on seeing a world which you could only frequent by spending money you cannot afford, on wasting precious time from your studies? My good Eugène, believe your mother's heart, crooked paths do not lead to greatness. Patience and resignation are the proper virtues for young men in your position. I am not scolding you, I should

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