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'Ah, I was forgetting,' resumed Huret; 'it seems that Delcambre, the Public Prosecutor, hates you. Well, you probably do not yet know it, but the Emperor this morning appointed him Minister of Justice.'

Saccard, who had been pacing up and down the room, stopped short. With darkened face he at last exclaimed:

'Another nice piece of goods! So they have made a Minister of that thing! But why should I care about it?'

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'Well,' rejoined Huret, exaggerating his expression of feigned simplicity, 'if any misfortune should happen to you, as may happen to anybody in business, your brother does not wish you to rely upon him to defend you against Delcambre.'

'But, d—— it all!' shrieked Saccard, 'I tell you that I don't care a button for the whole gang, either for Rougon, or for Delcambre, or for you either!'

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At that moment, fortunately, Daigremont entered the room. He had never before called at the newspaper office, so that his appearance was a surprise to them all and averted further violence. Studiously polite, he shook hands all round, smiling upon one and the other with the wheedling affability of a man of the world. His wife was going to give a soirée at which she intended to sing, and, in order to secure a good article, he had come to invite Jantrou in person. However, Saccard's presence seemed to delight him.

'How goes it, my great man?' he asked.

Instead of answering, Saccard inquired: 'You haven't sold, have you?'

'Sold! Oh no, not yet.' And there was a ring of sincerity in his laughter. He was made of firmer stuff than that.

'One ought never to sell in our position!' cried Saccard.

'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!'