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'My dear fellow, my dear fellow!' he began; but he was almost stifling, and had to stop and carry both hands to his chest. 'I have just left Rougon,' he added at last; 'I had to run, because I hadn't got a cab. But eventually I found one. Rougon has received a despatch from over yonder; I've seen it! Such news! such news!'

With a violent wave of the arm, Saccard cut him short, and hastened to close the door, for he had caught sight of Dejoie, who was already on the prowl, with ears on the alert.

'Well, what?' he then asked.

'Well, the Emperor of Austria hands Venetia over to the Emperor of the French and accepts his mediation, so that Napoleon is now about to address himself to the Kings of Prussia and Italy with the view of bringing about an armistice.'

A moment's silence ensued.

'That means peace, eh?' said Saccard.

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'Evidently.'

Thunderstruck, no idea as yet occurring to him, Saccard gave vent to an oath. 'D—— it! And everybody at the Bourse is speculating for a further fall!' Then, in a mechanical way, he added: 'And does nobody know this news?'

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'No, it's a confidential despatch. There won't even be any announcement in the "Moniteur" to-morrow morning. In all probability, Paris will know nothing for four and twenty hours.'

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Then the flash of lightning, the sudden inspiration, came to Saccard. He again rushed to the door and opened it to see if anyone were listening. He was quite beside himself, and when he came back he planted himself in front of the deputy and seized hold of both lapels of his coat. 'Keep quiet, not[Pg 205] so loud!' said he. 'We are masters of the situation if Gundermann and his gang are not warned. Not a word, do you hear?—not a word to a living soul, to any of your friends, to your wife even! It happens luckily! Jantrou isn't here, the secret will be ours alone, and we shall have time to act. Oh, I don't mean to work merely for my own profit! You are in it, all our colleagues of the Universal too. Only a secret must never be confided to a lot of people. Everything would be lost if there were the slightest indiscretion before the opening of the Bourse to-morrow.'

Huret, who was greatly disturbed, quite upset in fact, by the magnitude of the stroke which they were about to attempt, promised to speak to no one. And then, deciding that they must open the campaign at once, they divided the work between them. Saccard had already taken up his hat when a last question came to his lips.

'So it was Rougon who told you to bring me this news?'