Will you use PS to live online?

Will you use PS to live online?

'I say, my good friend, is it true that you are giving up business? Really, you act wisely; it is the best course.'

This, to Saccard, was like a lash across his face. He straightened his little figure, and in a clear voice, as sharp as a sword, replied: 'I am about to establish a banking house with a capital of twenty-five millions, and I expect to call upon you soon.'

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And thereupon he went out, leaving behind him the fiery hubbub of the room, where all were now jostling one another, eager not to miss the opening of the Bourse. Ah! to succeed at last, to set his heel once more upon these people, who turned their backs upon him, and to struggle for power with that king of wealth, and some day perhaps beat him! He had not really decided to launch his great enterprise, and was surprised at the phrase which the necessity of answering had wrung from him. But could he tempt fortune elsewhere, now that his brother abandoned him, and that men and things were galling him back into the struggle, even as the bleeding bull is galled back into the arena?

For a moment he stood quivering on the edge of the footway. It was that active hour when all the life of Paris seems to flow into that central square between the Rue Montmartre and the Rue Richelieu, those two teeming arteries that carry the crowd along. From the four crossways at the four corners of the Place, streams of vehicles poured in uninterruptedly, whisking across the pavement amid an eddying mob of foot passengers. The two rows of cabs at the stand, beside the railings, were continually breaking and reforming; while along the Rue Vivienne the victorias of the remisiers stretched away in a compact line, above which towered the drivers, reins in hand and ready to whip up at the first signal. The steps and peristyle of the Bourse were quite black with swarming frock-coats; and from among the coulissiers, already installed under the clock and hard at work, there arose the clamour of bull and bear, the flood-tide roar of speculation dominating all the rumbling hubbub of the city. Passers-by turned their heads, curious and fearful as to what might be going on there—all those mysterious financial operations which few French brains can penetrate, all that sudden ruin and fortune brought about—how, none could understand—amid gesticulation and savage cries. And Saccard, standing on the kerb of the footway, deafened by the distant voices, elbowed by the jostling, hurrying crowd, dreamed once more of becoming the Gold King, the sovereign of that fever-infested district, in the centre of which the Bourse, from one till three o'clock, beats as it were like some enormous heart.

Since his fall, however, he had not dared to re-enter the edifice; and on this day also a feeling of suffering vanity, a conviction that he would be received as a beaten man, prevented him from ascending the steps. Yet, like the lovers driven from the presence of a mistress whom they still desire, even while thinking that they hate her, he ever and ever returned to the spot, making the tour of the colonnade under various pretexts, entering the garden and strolling along in the shade of the chestnut-trees. Perambulating this dusty square, grassless and flowerless, where shady speculators and[Pg 16] bareheaded women of the neighbourhood nursing their babies mingled together on the benches near the newspaper stalls, he affected a disinterested saunter, raised his eyes, and watched, absorbed by the exciting thought that he was besieging the monumental pile, drawing his lines more and more closely around it, in order that he might some day re-enter it in triumph.

Having made his way into the garden at the right-hand corner, under the trees facing the Rue de la Banque, he at once fell upon the Little Bourse, where discredited stock is negotiated, a Bourse of hawker-brokers—the 'Wet Feet' as others have nicknamed them with ironical contempt—men who quote in the open air, and in the mud on rainy days, the shares and debentures of defunct companies. There, an unclean Jewry was gathered in a tumultuous group—fat, shining faces, withered profiles like those of voracious birds, an extraordinary assemblage of typical noses, all drawn together as by a prey, all eagerly, angrily disputing, with guttural shouts, and seemingly ready to devour one another. He was passing on, when, a little apart, he noticed a stout man looking in the sunlight at a ruby, which he held up delicately between his huge dirty fingers.

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'What! is it you, Busch? You remind me that I intended to call at your place,' said Saccard.

Busch, who kept an agency in the Rue Feydeau at the corner of the Rue Vivienne, had on several occasions been very useful to him in moments of difficulty. He was standing there in a state of ecstasy, examining the water of the jewel, with his broad flat face upturned and the glow of his heavy grey eyes extinguished, as it were, by the bright light. The white tie which he always wore was twisted round his neck like a bit of rope; while his second-hand frock coat, a superb garment once upon a time, but now wonderfully threadbare and covered with grease spots, reached up to the light hair falling in scanty rebellious locks from his head, which on the top was quite bald. Nobody could tell the age of his hat, browned by the sun and washed by countless showers. At last he decided to descend to earth again. 'Ah![Pg 17] Monsieur Saccard, so you are taking a little walk this way?' said he.

'Yes, I have a letter in the Russian language—a letter from a Russian banker in business at Constantinople. It occurred to me that your brother could translate it for me.'

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Busch, who with a gentle movement was still unconsciously rolling the ruby between the fingers of his right hand, held out the left, saying that the translation would be forwarded that very evening. But Saccard explained that it was only a matter of ten lines. 'I will go up,' said he; 'your brother will read it to me at once.'

He was, however, at that moment interrupted by the arrival of a woman of colossal proportions, a certain Madame Méchain, well known to the frequenters of the Bourse as one of those fierce, wretched female speculators whose fat hands dabble in all sorts of suspicious jobs. Her red, puffy, full-moon face, with little blue eyes, a little hidden nose, and a little mouth whence came a child-like piping voice, protruded from an old mauve bonnet, tied askew with garnet ribbons; and her gigantic bosom and dropsical body strained almost to bursting point her mud-stained poplin gown, once green but now turning yellow. She carried on her arm an immense old black leather bag, as deep as a valise, which never left her. That afternoon the bag, so full that it seemed likely to burst, drew her down on the right side, like a tree that has grown slantwise.

'Here you are, then?' said Busch, who had evidently been waiting for her.

'Yes, and I have received the Vend?me papers; I have brought them,' she replied.

'Good! Let us be off to my place, then. There's nothing to be done here to-day.'