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It was ten minutes to one o'clock, and Moser, who arrived looking quite pale from the effects of one of his liver attacks, the pain of which had kept him from closing his eyes all the night, remarked to Pillerault that everybody appeared yellow and ill that afternoon. Pillerault, who in the approach of disaster straightened himself up in the swaggering attitude of a knight-errant, burst out laughing. 'Why, it is you, my dear fellow, who have the colic,' said he. 'Everybody else is very gay. We are going to give you one of those thrashings which folks remember as long as they live.'

The truth was, however, that in the general anxiety the hall remained very gloomy under the reddish light, and this was particularly evident from the subdued rumble of the conversation. You no longer heard the feverish outbursts of the days when everything was rising, the agitation, the roar of a tide, streaming from all sides like a conqueror. The Boursiers no longer ran, they no longer shouted; they glided, they talked in low tones, as in a sick room. Although the crowd was very great, and one could not circulate without stifling, only a distressful murmur arose, the whispering of the current fears, of all the deplorable news which folks exchanged in one another's ears. Many remained silent, with livid, contracted faces and dilated eyes, which questioned other faces despairingly.

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'And have you nothing to say, Salmon?' asked Pillerault, full of aggressive irony.

'Of course not,' muttered Moser; 'he's like the rest: he has nothing to say; he is frightened.'

Indeed, that day Salmon's silence disturbed no one, such was the deep, mute expectancy of one and all.

It was around Saccard, however, that a stream of customers[Pg 346] especially crowded, trembling with uncertainty and eager for an encouraging word. It was afterwards remembered that Daigremont did not show himself that day any more than Deputy Huret, who had doubtless been warned, and was once more Rougon's faithful dog. Kolb, amid a group of bankers, pretended to be absorbed in a big arbitrage affair. The Marquis de Bohain, above the vicissitudes of fortune, quietly promenaded his little pale aristocratic head, certain of winning whatever happened, since he had given Jacoby orders to sell as many Universals as he had charged Mazaud to buy. And Saccard, besieged by the multitude of the others, the believers and the simpletons, displayed a particularly amiable and tranquillizing manner towards Sédille and Maugendre, who, with trembling lips and moist, supplicating eyes, came in search of the hope of triumph. He vigorously pressed their hands, putting into his grasp the absolute promise of victory, and then, like a man who is ever happy, beyond the reach of all danger, he began lamenting over a trifle.

'I am very worried,' said he. 'A camellia was forgotten in my yard during the very cold weather, and it has died.'

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The remark ran through the hall, and everybody began deploring the fate of the camellia. What a man that Saccard was, with his impassable assurance, his ever-smiling face! for one could never tell if it were not some mask, concealing frightful anxieties which would have tortured any other.

'The brute! how fine he is!' murmured Jantrou, in the ear of Massias, who was coming back.

Just then Saccard called Jantrou, a sudden recollection coming to him at this supreme moment—a recollection of the afternoon when, in Jantrou's company, he had seen the Baroness Sandorff's brougham drawn up in the Rue Brongniart. Was it again there on this day of crisis? Was the high-perched coachman maintaining his stony immobility in that pelting rain, while the Baroness, behind the closed windows, awaited the quotations?

'Certainly, she is there,' answered Jantrou, in an undertone, 'and heartily with you, thoroughly determined not to retreat a step. We are all here, solid, at our posts.'

Saccard felt happy at this proof of fidelity, although he doubted the disinterestedness of the lady and the others. However, in the blindness of his fever, he believed that he was still marching on to conquest, with his whole nation of shareholders behind him—that infatuated, fanaticised people of the humble and the fashionable worlds, in which pretty women of good position mingled with servant girls in the same impulse of faith.