Saccard shrugged his shoulders. Love matters were of no interest to him just then. Walking to and fro, pausing at times in front of the window to watch the fall of that seemingly endless rain, he vented all his nervous delight. Yes, Universals had risen another twenty francs on the previous day. But how the deuce was it that people still persisted in selling? There would have been a rise of thirty francs but for a heap of shares which had fallen on the market soon after business began. He could not explain it, ignorant as he was that Madame Caroline, fighting against that senseless rise, in obedience to the orders left with her by her brother, had again sold a thousand shares. However, with success still increasing, Saccard ought not to have complained; and yet an inward trembling, produced by secret fear and anger, disturbed him. The dirty Jews had sworn to ruin him, he exclaimed; that rogue Gundermann had just put himself at the head of a syndicate of 'bears' in order to crush him. He had been told so at the Bourse, where folks declared that the syndicate disposed of three hundred millions of francs. Ah, the brigands! And there were other reports—reports which he did not venture to repeat aloud, but which were each day growing more precise, allegations with regard to the stability of the Universal, and predictions of approaching difficulties, though as yet the blind confidence of the public had not been shaken.

However, the door opened, and Huret with his air of feigned simplicity came in.

'Ah! so here you are, Judas!' said Saccard.

Having learnt that Rougon had decided to abandon his brother, Huret had become reconciled to the minister; for he was convinced that as soon as Saccard should have Rougon[Pg 289] against him, a catastrophe would be inevitable. To earn his pardon, he had now re-entered the great man's service, again doing his errands and exposing himself to kicks and insults in order to please him. 'Judas!' he repeated, with the shrewd smile that sometimes lighted up his heavy peasant face; 'at any rate, a good-natured Judas, who comes to give some disinterested advice to the master whom he has betrayed.'

But Saccard, as if unwilling to hear him, shouted by way of affirming his triumph: 'Two thousand five hundred and twenty yesterday, two thousand five hundred and twenty-five to-day! Those are the last quotations, eh?'

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'I know; I have just sold.'

At this blow the wrath which Saccard had been concealing under a jesting air burst forth. 'What! you have sold? So it's perfect then! You drop me for Rougon, and you go over to Gundermann!'

The Deputy looked at him in amazement. 'To Gundermann, why so? I simply look after my interests. I'm not a dare-devil, you know. I prefer to realise as soon as there is a decent profit. And that is perhaps the reason why I have never lost.'

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He smiled again like a prudent, cautious Norman farmer, garnering his crop in a cool collected way.

'To think of it! A director of the Bank!' continued Saccard violently. 'Whom can we expect to have confidence? What must folks think on seeing you sell in that fashion when the shares are still rising? I am no longer surprised that people should assert that our prosperity is artificial, and that the day of the downfall is at hand. These gentlemen, the directors, sell, so let us all sell. That spells panic!'

Huret made a vague gesture. In point of fact, he did not care a button what might happen henceforth; he had made sure of his own pile, and all that remained for him to do now was to fulfil the mission entrusted to him by Rougon with as little unpleasantness for himself as possible. 'I told you, my dear fellow,' said he, 'that I had come to give you a piece of disinterested advice. Here it is. Be careful; your[Pg 290] brother is furious, and he will leave you altogether in the lurch if you allow yourself to be beaten.'

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Restraining his anger, Saccard asked impassively: 'Did he send you to tell me that?'

After hesitating for a moment, the Deputy thought it best to confess that it was so. 'Well, yes, he did. Oh! you cannot suppose that the attacks made upon him in "L'Espérance" have anything to do with his irritation. He is above such personal considerations. Still, it is none the less true that the Catholic campaign in your paper is, as you yourself must realise, of a nature to embarrass him in his present policy. Since the beginning of all these unfortunate complications with regard to Rome he has had the entire clergy on his back. He has just been obliged to have another bishop censured by the Council of State for issuing an aggressive pastoral letter. And you choose for your attacks the very moment when he has so much difficulty to prevent himself from being swamped by the Liberal evolution brought about by the reforms of January 19—reforms which, as folks say, he has only decided to carry out in order that he may prudently circumscribe them. Come, you are his brother, and can you imagine that your conduct pleases him?'

'Of course,' answered Saccard sneeringly, 'it is very wrong on my part. Here is this poor brother of mine, who, in his rage to remain a Minister, governs in the name of the principles which he fought against yesterday, and lays all the blame upon me because he can no longer keep his balance between the Right, which is angry at having been betrayed, and the Third Estate, which longs for power. To quiet the Catholics, he only the other day launched his famous "Never!" swearing that never would France allow Italy to take Rome from the Pope. And now, in his terror of the Liberals, he would like very much to give them a guarantee also, and thinks of ruining me to satisfy them. A week ago émile Ollivier gave him a fine shaking in the Chamber.'