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Learn More - opens in a new window or tab. Report item - opens in a new window or tab. Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing. There is an owner's ink name on the front endpaper with some light foxing. Balzac, Honore de.

La Grenadiere

Paris: Editions Nilsson, [circa early s]. The glassine is heavily darkened with a few tiny stains. Illustrated with 4 pochoir prints on onion skin tipped onto heavy tan stock. New York State residents will be assessed and charged the relevant sales tax. Postage on foreign orders will be assessed and billed at full value. You may request Express Mail or Air Mail service at additional charge.

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You can pass from it into the house without going outside; but, nevertheless, it boasts an entrance door of its own, and a short flight of steps that brings you to a deep well, and a very rustical-looking pump, half hidden by water-plants and savin bushes and tall grasses. The kitchen is a modern addition, proving beyond doubt that La Grenadiere was originally nothing but a simple vendangeoir —a vintage-house belonging to townsfolk in Tours, from which Saint-Cyr is separated by the vast river-bed of the Loire.

The owners only came over for the day for a picnic, or at the vintage-time, sending provisions across in the morning, and scarcely ever spent the night there except during the grape harvest; but the English settled down on Touraine like a cloud of locusts, and La Grenadiere must, of course, be completed if it was to find tenants. Luckily, however, this recent appendage is hidden from sight by the first two trees of a lime-tree avenue planted in a gully below the vineyards.

There are only two acres of vineyard at most, the ground rising at the back of the house so steeply that it is no very easy matter to scramble up among the vines. The slope, covered with green trailing shoots, ends within about five feet of the house wall in a ditch-like passage always damp and cold and full of strong growing green things, fed by the drainage of the highly cultivated ground above, for rainy weather washes down the manure into the garden on the terrace.

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A vinedresser's cottage also leans against the western gable, and is in some sort a continuation of the kitchen. Stone walls or espaliers surround the property, and all sorts of fruit-trees are planted among the vines; in short, not an inch of this precious soil is wasted. If by chance man overlooks some dry cranny in the rocks, Nature puts in a fig-tree, or sows wildflowers or strawberries in sheltered nooks among the stones.

La Grenadière

Nowhere else in all the world will you find a human dwelling so humble and yet so imposing, so rich in fruit, and fragrant scents, and wide views of country. Here is a miniature Touraine in the heart of Touraine—all its flowers and fruits and all the characteristic beauty of the land are fully represented.

Here are grapes of every district, figs and peaches and pears of every kind; melons are grown out of doors as easily as licorice plants, Spanish broom, Italian oleanders, and jessamines from the Azores. The Loire lies at your feet. You look down from the terrace upon the ever-changing river nearly two hundred feet below; and in the evening the breeze brings a fresh scent of the sea, with the fragrance of far-off flowers gathered upon its way. Some cloud wandering in space, changing its color and form at every moment as it crosses the pure blue of the sky, can alter every detail in the widespread wonderful landscape in a thousand ways, from every point of view.

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

The eye embraces first of all the south bank of the Loire, stretching away as far as Amboise, then Tours with its suburbs and buildings, and the Plessis rising out of the fertile plain; further away, between Vouvray and Saint-Symphorien, you see a sort of crescent of gray cliff full of sunny vineyards; the only limits to your view are the low, rich hills along the Cher, a bluish line of horizon broken by many a chateau and the wooded masses of many a park. Out to the west you lose yourself in the immense river, where vessels come and go, spreading their white sails to the winds which seldom fail them in the wide Loire basin.

A prince might build a summer palace at La Grenadiere, but certainly it will always be the home of a poet's desire, and the sweetest of retreats for two young lovers—for this vintage house, which belongs to a substantial burgess of Tours, has charms for every imagination, for the humblest and dullest as well as for the most impassioned and lofty. No one can dwell there without feeling that happiness is in the air, without a glimpse of all that is meant by a peaceful life without care or ambition.

There is that in the air and the sound of the river that sets you dreaming; the sands have a language, and are joyous or dreary, golden or wan; and the owner of the vineyard may sit motionless amid perennial flowers and tempting fruit, and feel all the stir of the world about him. If an Englishman takes the house for the summer, he is asked a thousand francs for six months, the produce of the vineyard not included.

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If the tenant wishes for the orchard fruit, the rent is doubled; for the vintage, it is doubled again. What can La Grenadiere be worth, you wonder; La Grenadiere, with its stone staircase, its beaten path and triple terrace, its two acres of vineyard, its flowering roses about the balustrades, its worn steps, well-head, rampant clematis, and cosmopolitan trees?

It is idle to make a bid! La Grenadiere will never be in the market; it was brought once and sold, but that was in ; and the owner parted with it for forty thousand francs, reluctant as any Arab of the desert to relinquish a favorite horse. Since then it has remained in the same family, its pride, its patrimonial jewel, its Regent diamond. And from La Grenadiere you behold three valleys of Touraine and the cathedral towers aloft in air like a bit of filigree work. How can one pay for such treasures? Could one ever pay for the health recovered there under the linden-trees?

In the spring of one of the brightest years of the Restoration, a lady with her housekeeper and her two children the oldest a boy thirteen years old, the youngest apparently about eight came to Tours to look for a house. She saw La Grenadiere and took it. Perhaps the distance from the town was an inducement to live there.

She made a bedroom of the drawing-room, gave the children the two rooms above, and the housekeeper slept in a closet behind the kitchen. The dining-room was sitting-room and drawing-room all in one for the little family. The house was furnished very simply but tastefully; there was nothing superfluous in it, and no trace of luxury.

The walnut-wood furniture chosen by the stranger lady was perfectly plain, and the whole charm of the house consisted in its neatness and harmony with its surroundings. It was rather difficult, therefore, to say whether the strange lady Mme. Willemsens, as she styled herself belonged to the upper middle or higher classes, or to an equivocal, unclassified feminine species. Her plain dress gave rise to the most contradictory suppositions, but her manners might be held to confirm those favorable to her.

She had not lived at Saint-Cyr, moreover, for very long before her reserve excited the curiosity of idle people, who always, and especially in the country, watch anybody or anything that promises to bring some interest into their narrow lives. Willemsens was rather tall; she was thin and slender, but delicately shaped. She had pretty feet, more remarkable for the grace of her instep and ankle than for the more ordinary merit of slenderness; her gloved hands, too, were shapely.


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  6. There were flitting patches of deep red in a pale face, which must have been fresh and softly colored once. Premature wrinkles had withered the delicately modeled forehead beneath the coronet of soft, well-set chestnut hair, invariably wound about her head in two plaits, a girlish coiffure which suited the melancholy face.

    There was a deceptive look of calm in the dark eyes, with the hollow, shadowy circles about them; sometimes, when she was off her guard, their expression told of secret anguish. The oval of her face was somewhat long; but happiness and health had perhaps filled and perfected the outlines. A forced smile, full of quiet sadness, hovered continually on her pale lips; but when the children, who were always with her, looked up at their mother, or asked one of the incessant idle questions which convey so much to a mother's ears, then the smile brightened, and expressed the joys of a mother's love.

    Her gait was slow and dignified. Her dress never varied; evidently she had made up her mind to think no more of her toilette, and to forget a world by which she meant no doubt to be forgotten. She wore a long, black gown, confined at the waist by a watered-silk ribbon, and by way of scarf a lawn handkerchief with a broad hem, the two ends passed carelessly through her waistband. The instinct of dress showed itself in that she was daintily shod, and gray silk stockings carried out the suggestion of mourning in this unvarying costume.

    Lastly, she always wore a bonnet after the English fashion, always of the same shape and the same gray material, and a black veil. Her health apparently was extremely weak; she looked very ill. On fine evenings she would take her only walk, down to the bridge of Tours, bringing the two children with her to breathe the fresh, cool air along the Loire, and to watch the sunset effects on a landscape as wide as the Bay of Naples or the Lake of Geneva.

    During the whole time of her stay at La Grenadiere she went but twice into Tours; once to call on the headmaster of the school, to ask him to give her the names of the best masters of Latin, drawing, and mathematics; and a second time to make arrangements for the children's lessons. But her appearance on the bridge of an evening, once or twice a week, was quite enough to excite the interest of almost all the inhabitants of Tours, who make a regular promenade of the bridge. Still, in spite of a kind of spy system, by which no harm is meant, a provincial habit bred of want of occupation and the restless inquisitiveness of the principal society, nothing was known for certain of the newcomer's rank, fortune, or real condition.

    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. This, of course, must be her husband's name. 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.