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She evinced a cheerful bravery, displayed a determined air, very practical in her desire to bring happiness to her dear husband, who worked so hard without yet having obtained anything from either the critics or the public, excepting a good deal of indifference and a few smacks. Ah! money, she would have liked to bring it to him by the bucketful, and he would be very stupid to be over particular about it, since she loved him and owed him everything. It was her fairy story, her 'Cinderella:' the treasures of her royal family, which with her little hands she deposited at the feet of her ruined prince, to keep him on in his march to glory and the conquest of the world.

'Come,' she gaily said, kissing him, 'I really must be of some use to you; all the pain must not be yours.'

He yielded; it was agreed that she should go straightway to the Rue Legendre, at Batignolles, where her parents lived, and that she should bring the money back to the office, in order that he might try to pay it that very evening. And, as he accompanied her to the stairs, as much agitated as though[Pg 190] she were starting on a very dangerous expedition, they had to step aside to make room for Huret, who had at last arrived. When Jordan returned to finish his article in the contributors' room, he heard a violent hubbub of voices in Jantrou's office.

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Saccard, now grown powerful, the master once more, wished to be obeyed, knowing that he held them all by the hope of gain and the terror of loss in that colossal game of fortune which he was playing with them.

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'Ah! so here you are,' he shouted on seeing Huret. 'Did you stop at the Chamber to offer the great man your article in a gilt frame? I've had enough, you know, of this swinging of incense-burners under his nose, and I have been waiting for you to tell you that it must be stopped—that in future you must give us something else.'

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Quite amazed, Huret looked at Jantrou. But the latter, thoroughly determined not to get himself into trouble by coming to the deputy's succour, had begun to pass his fingers through his handsome beard, his eyes wandering away.

'What! something else?' finally asked Huret; 'but I give you what you asked for. When you purchased "L'Espérance," the organ of extreme Catholicism and Royalty, which was carrying on such a bitter campaign against Rougon, you yourself asked me to write a series of laudatory articles in order to show your brother that you did not intend to be hostile to him, and in this wise to indicate the new policy of the paper.'

'The policy of the paper, precisely,' replied Saccard with increased violence; 'it is the policy of the paper that I accuse you of compromising. Do you think that I wish to be my brother's vassal? Certainly I have never been sparing of grateful admiration and affection for the Emperor; I don't forget what we all owe to him, what I in particular owe to him. But to point out the mistakes that are made is not the same thing as to attack the Empire; on the contrary, it is the duty imposed on every faithful subject. That, then, is the paper's policy—devotion to the dynasty, but entire independence with regard to Ministers, to all the ambitious individuals[Pg 191] ever bestirring themselves and fighting together for the favour of the Tuileries!'

And then he launched into an examination of the political situation, in order to prove that the Emperor had bad advisers. He accused Rougon of having lost his authoritative energy, his former faith in absolute power, of compounding with liberal ideas for the sole purpose of retaining his ministerial portfolio. For his part, striking his chest with his fist, he declared himself to be unchangeable, a Bonapartist from the very first, a believer in the coup d'état, with the conviction that the salvation of France lay, to-day as well as formerly, in the genius and strength of a single man. Yes, rather than assist the evolution of his brother, rather than allow the Emperor to commit suicide by new concessions, he would rally the uncompromising believers in dictatorship together, make common cause with the Catholic party, in order to prevent the rapid downfall which he foresaw. And let Rougon take care, for 'L'Espérance' might resume its campaign in favour of Rome!

Huret and Jantrou listened to him, astonished at his wrath, never having suspected that he possessed such ardent political convictions. And it occurred to the former to try to defend the last acts of the Government.

'Well, my dear fellow,' said he, 'if the Empire is moving towards liberty, it is because all France is pushing it firmly in that direction. The Emperor is borne along with the current, and Rougon is obliged to follow him.'

But Saccard was already passing to other grievances, without a thought of making his attacks in any degree logical.

'And see,' said he, 'it is the same with our foreign situation; why, it is deplorable! Since the Treaty of Villafranca which followed upon Solferino, Italy has harboured resentment against us for not having finished the campaign and given her Venice; so that now she is allied with Prussia, in the certainty that the latter will help her to beat Austria. When war breaks out, you'll see what a row there'll be, and what a fix we shall be in; especially as we have made the great mistake of letting Bismarck and King William seize the[Pg 192] Duchies in the Denmark affair, in contempt of a treaty which France herself had signed. It is a slap in the face, there's no denying it, and there is nothing for us to do now but to turn the other cheek. Oh! war is certain; you remember how French and Italian securities fell last month, when there was some talk of a possible intervention on our part in German affairs. Within a fortnight, perhaps, Europe will be on fire.'

More and more surprised, Huret became excited, contrary to his habit. 'You talk like the Opposition papers,' said he; 'but you certainly don't want "L'Espérance" to follow the lead of the "Siècle" and the others. There is nothing left for you but to insinuate, like those rags do, that, if the Emperor allowed himself to be humiliated in the Schleswig-Holstein affair, and let Prussia grow with impunity, it is because he had for many months kept an entire army corps in Mexico. Come, be a little fair; the Mexican affair is over, our troops are coming back. And then I do not understand you, my dear fellow. If you wish to keep Rome for the Pope, why do you seem to blame the hasty peace of Villafranca? Venice given to Italy means the Italians in Rome within two years; you know that as well as I do, and Rougon knows it too, although he swears the contrary in the tribune.'

'Ah! you see what a trickster he is!' shouted Saccard superbly. 'Never will they touch the Pope, do you hear me? without the whole of Catholic France rising up to defend him. We should carry him our money, yes! all the money of the Universal. I have my plan, our affair lies there, and really, if you keep on exasperating me, you will make me say things that I do not want to say as yet.'

Jantrou, very much interested, had suddenly pricked up his ears, beginning to understand, trying to profit by the remarks thus casually dropped.

'Well,' replied Huret, 'I want to know what to depend upon with regard to my articles, and we must come to an understanding. Are you for intervention or against intervention? If we are for the principle of nationalities, by what right are we to meddle with the affairs of Italy and Germany?[Pg 193] Do you wish us to carry on a campaign against Bismarck? Yes! in the name of our menaced frontiers.'

But Saccard, erect, beside himself, burst out: 'What I want is that Rougon shall not make a fool of me any longer. What! after all that I have done! I buy a newspaper, the worst of his enemies; I make it an organ devoted to his policy; I allow you to sing his praises for months, and yet never has the beggar given us a single lift. I have still to receive the first service from him.'