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'Never. That is what I meant to say. We all of us have the same interests, and you know very well that you can rely on me.'

His eyelids had drooped, and he gave a side glance while referring to the other directors, Sédille, Kolb and the Marquis de Bohain, answering for them as for himself. Their enterprise was prospering so well, he said, that it was a real pleasure to be all of one mind in furthering the most extraordinary success which the Bourse had witnessed for the last half century. Then he found some flattering remark for each of them, Saccard, Huret, and Jantrou, and went off repeating that he should expect to see them all three at his soirée; Mounier, the tenor at the Opera, would, he said, give[Pg 293] his wife her cue. Oh, the performance would be a very effective one!

'So that's all the answer you have to give me?' asked Huret, in his turn preparing to leave.

'Quite so,' replied Saccard in a curt, dry voice. And to emphasise his decision he made a point of not going down with Huret as he usually did.

Then, finding himself alone again with the editor, he exclaimed: 'This means war, my brave fellow! There is no occasion to spare anybody any further; belabour the whole gang! Ah, at last, then, I shall be able to fight the battle according to my own ideas!'

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'All the same, it is rather stiff!' concluded Jantrou, whose perplexities were beginning again.

Meantime, on the bench in the passage, Marcelle was still waiting. It was hardly four o'clock, and Dejoie had already lighted the lamps, so early had it grown dark amid the grey, obstinate downpour. Every time that the good fellow passed her he found some little remark with which to entertain her. Moreover, the comings and goings of contributors were becoming more frequent; loud voices rang out in an adjoining room; there was all the growing fever which attends the making up of a newspaper.

After a time, suddenly raising her eyes, Marcelle saw Jordan in front of her. He was drenched, and looked overwhelmed, with that trembling of the lips, that slightly crazy expression which one notices in those who have long been pursuing some hope without attaining it. Marcelle realised that he had been unsuccessful.

'You could get nothing, eh?' she asked, turning pale.

'Nothing, my darling, nothing at all—nowhere, it wasn't possible.'

She uttered only a low lament, but it was instinct with all her agony of heart: 'Oh, my God!'

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Just then Saccard came out of Jantrou's office and was astonished to find her still there. 'What, madame, has your truant husband only just come back? Ah! I told you that it would be better for you to wait in my office.'

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She looked at him fixedly, and a sudden inspiration dawned in her large desolate eyes. She did not pause to reflect, but yielded to that reckless bravery which throws women forward in moments of passion. 'Monsieur Saccard,' said she, 'I have something to ask you. If you are willing, we will now go to your room.'

'Why, certainly, madame.'

Jordan, who feared that he could divine her purpose, tried to hold her back, stammering 'No, no,' in the sickly anguish which always came upon him when pecuniary matters were in question. However, she released herself, and he had to follow her.

'Monsieur Saccard,' she resumed as soon as the door was closed, 'for the last two hours my husband has been vainly running about, trying to find five hundred francs, and he doesn't dare to apply to you. So it is I who have come to ask you for them——'