Dejoie, seeing her alone after his daughter's departure, ventured to bring her a newspaper. 'If Madame would like to read this,' said he, 'just to while away the time.'

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But she refused the offer with a wave of the hand; and, as Saccard arrived at that moment, she assumed a brave air, and gaily explained that she had sent her husband on a bothersome errand in the neighbourhood which she had not cared to undertake herself. Saccard, who had a feeling of friendship for the young couple, insisted that she should go into his office, where she could wait more comfortably. But she declined the offer, saying that she was very well where she was. And he ceased to press the matter, in the surprise he experienced at suddenly finding himself face to face with the Baroness Sandorff, who was leaving Jantrou's office. However, they both smiled, with an air of amiable understanding, like people who merely exchange a bow, in order not to parade their intimacy.

Jantrou had just told the Baroness that he no longer dared to give her any advice. His perplexity was increasing, since the Universal still stood firm in spite of the growing efforts of the 'bears.' Undoubtedly Gundermann would eventually win, but Saccard might last a long time, and perhaps there was yet a lot of money to be made by clinging to him. He, Jantrou, had decided to postpone any rupture and to keep on good terms with both sides. The best plan for her to adopt, he said, was to try to retain Saccard's confidence, and either keep the secrets which he might confide to her for herself, or else sell them to Gundermann, should it be to her advantage to do so. And Jantrou offered this advice in a jesting sort of way, without affecting any of the mysteriousness of a conspirator;[Pg 288] whilst she, on her side, laughed and promised to give him a share in the affair.

'So now she is trying her fascinations on you!' exclaimed Saccard in his brutal way as he entered Jantrou's office.

The editor feigned astonishment. 'Whom are you talking about? Oh, the Baroness! But, my dear master, she adores you. She was telling me so just now!'

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.

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'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.'

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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?'

'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!'