正 职 钱 平台 雅 日 日

正 职 钱 平台 雅 日 日

Saccard answered very frankly, and without anger. After the first hours of emotion and annihilation, he had recovered his self-possession, and was again erect and firm, buoyed up by his indomitable hopes. Treachery had rendered the catastrophe a terrible one, but nothing was lost; he was going to retrieve everything. And besides, if the Universal had enjoyed such swift and great prosperity, had it not owed it to the very methods with which they now reproached him—to the creation of the syndicate, the successive increases of the capital, the advance balance-sheet of the last shareholders' meeting, the shares which the Bank retained in hand, and those which had been so wildly purchased en masse later on? All these things were connected. If they accepted the success, the risks must be accepted also. When a machine is overheated it bursts. For the rest, he would acknowledge no culpability; he had simply done, more intelligently and vigorously than another, that which every bank manager does; and he did not even abandon his idea of genius—his giant idea of repurchasing all the shares and dethroning Gundermann. Money had been lacking, that was all. And now they must begin over again. A special shareholders' meeting had just been summoned for the following Monday; he was absolutely certain of his shareholders, he said; he would obtain from them the sacrifices that were indispensable, for he was convinced that, at a word from him, they would all bring their fortunes. In the meantime they could jog on, thanks to the small sums which the other financial houses, the great banks, advanced every morning for the pressing needs of the day, through fear of too sudden a crash, which would have shaken them also. The crisis over, all would be resumed, and the enterprise would again become as resplendent as ever.

'But,' objected Hamelin, whom this smiling tranquillity already calmed, 'do you not detect in this help supplied by our rivals a design of securing themselves first of all, and then rendering our fall more complete by delaying it? What worries me is to see Gundermann's hand in the business.'

In fact, in order to avert an immediate declaration of bankruptcy, Gundermann had been one of the first to offer help, in this wise displaying the practical sense of a man who, after setting fire to his neighbour's house, hastens to bring buckets of water, so that the entire neighbourhood may not be destroyed. He was above resentment; he had no other glory than that of being the first money-merchant of the world, the richest and the most shrewd, through having succeeded in sacrificing all his passions to the continuous increase of his fortune.

Saccard made a gesture of impatience, exasperated as he was by this proof which the conqueror gave of his sagacity and intelligence. 'Oh, Gundermann,' he said, 'is playing the high-minded man; he thinks that he stabs me with his generosity.'

A silence ensued, and it was Madame Caroline, hitherto dumb, who at last broke it. 'My friend,' said she, addressing Saccard, 'I have allowed my brother to speak to you, as he was bound to speak, in the legitimate grief which he felt on learning of all these deplorable things. But our situation, his and mine, seems to me clear; it seems impossible, does it not, that he should be compromised if the affair altogether turns out disastrously? You know at what price I sold our shares. People cannot say that my brother stimulated the rise in order to get a larger profit from his shares. And besides, if the catastrophe comes, we shall know our duty. I confess that I do not share your stubborn hopes. Nevertheless, you are right in contending that it is necessary to struggle on till the last moment, and it is not my brother who will discourage you, you may be sure of it.

She was agitated, again harbouring a tolerant feeling towards this man who displayed such stubborn determination. However, she was unwilling that others should perceive her[Pg 360] weakness, for she could no longer blind herself to the hateful work which he would assuredly do over again should he have the chance, swayed as he was by the thieving passions of an unscrupulous corsair.

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'Certainly,' declared Hamelin, in his turn weary and unable to resist any further. 'I am not going to paralyse you, when you are fighting to save us all. Rely on me, if I can be useful to you.'

And once more, at this last hour, when threatened by the most frightful dangers, Saccard reassured them, reconquered them, taking leave of them with these words, full of promise and mystery: 'Sleep easy. I cannot say more, but I am absolutely certain of setting everything afloat again before another week is over.'

This phrase, which he did not explain, he repeated to all the friends of the concern, to all the customers who, frightened, terrified, came to ask him for advice. For three days past there had been a continuous gallop through his office in the Rue de Londres. The Beauvilliers, the Maugendres, Sédille, Dejoie, all hastened to apply to him. He received them very calmly, with a military air, with ringing words which restored courage to their hearts; and when they talked of selling, of realising at a loss, he became angry, and shouted to them to do nothing so stupid, promising upon his honour that he would again secure the quotation of two thousand and even three thousand francs. In spite of the mistakes that had been made, they all retained a blind faith in him: if he were left to them, free to rob them again, he would clear up everything, and finally enrich them all, as he had sworn to do. If no accident should happen before Monday, if he were given time to hold the special shareholders' meeting, no one doubted that he would bring the Universal safe and sound out of its ruins.

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Saccard had thought of his brother Rougon, and this was the omnipotent aid of which he spoke, unwilling to be more explicit. Having met Daigremont, the traitor, face to face, and bitterly reproached him, he had merely obtained from him this reply: 'But, my dear fellow, it is not I who have[Pg 361] dropped you; it is your brother!' Evidently this man was in his right; he had gone into the affair solely on condition that Rougon should be in it; they had formally promised him Rougon; so it was not astonishing that he should retire, since the Minister, far from being in it, was at open war with the Universal and its manager. This was at least an excuse to which there was no reply. Greatly struck by it, Saccard realised what a colossal mistake he had made in thus falling out with his brother, who alone could defend him, make him so far sacred that no one, knowing the great man to be behind him, would dare to complete his ruin. And never had his pride been so severely tried as when he had to make up his mind to ask Deputy Huret to intervene in his favour. For the rest, he maintained a threatening attitude, absolutely refused to abscond, and claimed as a right the help of Rougon, who had more interest than he in preventing a scandal. The next day, whilst awaiting Huret's promised visit on the matter, he simply received a note, in which he was told in vague terms not to be impatient, but to rely upon a satisfactory issue, if subsequent circumstances should not make it impossible. He contented himself with these few lines, which he regarded as a promise of neutrality.

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The truth was, however, that Rougon had just taken the energetic resolution to get rid of this gangrened member of his family, who for years had been embarrassing him, keeping him in perpetual fear of some unclean misadventure, and whom he now preferred to cut off at a blow. If the catastrophe came, he was determined to let things take their course. Since Saccard would never voluntarily consent to go into exile, was not the simplest plan to force him to expatriate himself by facilitating his flight after some severe sentence? A sudden scandal, a sweep of the broom, and all would be ended. Moreover, the Minister's position was becoming difficult since he had declared to the Corps Législatif, in a memorable outburst of eloquence, that France would never allow Italy to take possession of Rome. Loudly applauded by the Catholics, severely attacked by the Third Estate, which was becoming more and more powerful, Rougon[Pg 362] saw the hour approaching when the latter, aided by the Liberal Bonapartists, would drive him from power if he did not give it a guarantee. And the guarantee, if circumstances required it, should be the abandonment of that Universal Bank which, under the patronage of Rome, had become a disturbing force. Finally, what clinched his decision was a secret communication from his colleague, the Minister of Finances, who, on the point of launching a loan, had found Gundermann and all the other Jew bankers very reserved, and disposed to refuse their capital so long as the market should remain uncertain, at the mercy of adventurers. Gundermann triumphed. Better the Jews, with their accepted sovereignty of gold, than the Ultramontane Catholics masters of the world as they would be should they become the kings of the Bourse.

It was subsequently related that, when the Keeper of the Seals, Delcambre, relentless in his rancour against Saccard, had sounded Rougon as to the course to be pursued with regard to his brother should justice be obliged to intervene, he had by way of answer simply received this heartfelt cry: 'Ah! Rid me of him, and I shall owe you a debt of gratitude!'

From that moment, Rougon having abandoned him, Saccard was lost. Delcambre, who had been watching him ever since attaining power, at last held him on the margin of the Code, on the very edge of the judicial net, and had only to find a pretext to set the gendarmes and judges upon him.

One morning, Busch, furious with himself at not having yet acted, repaired to the Palais de Justice. If he did not make haste, he would never get from Saccard the four thousand francs which were still due to La Méchain on little Victor's famous bill of expenses. Busch's plan was simply to raise an abominable scandal by accusing Saccard of sequestrating the child, which would permit him to spread the whole dirty story before the world. Such a prosecution instituted against the manager of the Universal, amid the excitement created by the crisis through which the Bank was[Pg 363] passing, would certainly stir all Paris; and Busch still hoped that Saccard would pay at the first threat. But the Deputy Public Prosecutor, who received him, a nephew of Delcambre, listened to his story with an impatient, wearied air. No! no! there was nothing to be accomplished with such gossip as that; it did not come under any clause of the Code. Disconcerted, Busch grew angry, and talked of his long patience, saying that he had even carried his good nature towards Saccard so far as to deposit funds en report with the Universal. Thereupon the other at once interrupted him. What! he had funds in that concern, which was certainly insolvent, and he did not act? Nothing was more simple; he had only to prefer a charge of swindling, for justice had been warned of the fraudulent transactions which were about to bring on bankruptcy. The great blow was to be dealt by means of this charge, not of the other story, that melodramatic affair of a girl who had died of alcoholism, and of a child who had grown up in the gutter. Busch listened with an attentive, serious face, turned into this new path, dragged into an act which he had not come to perform, but the decisive consequences of which he could clearly foresee, for Saccard would be arrested, and the Universal would receive its death-blow. The mere fear of losing his money would have at once made him make up his mind. Moreover, a disaster was in his line, for it would give him an opportunity to fish in troubled waters. Nevertheless he hesitated, said that he would reflect and would come back; and the Deputy Public Prosecutor actually had to force the pen into his hand, and then and there make him write down that charge of swindling, which, as soon as he had been dismissed, was carried by the zealous official to his uncle, the Keeper of the Seals. The affair was clinched.

The next day, at the office of the Bank in the Rue de Londres, Saccard had a long interview with the auditors and the judicially appointed manager, in order to draw up the balance-sheet which he desired to present to the shareholders' meeting. In spite of the sums advanced by other financial establishments, they had had to suspend payment,[Pg 364] in view of the increasing demands made upon them. This bank, which, a month previously, had possessed nearly two hundred million francs in its coffers, had not been able to pay its distracted customers more than a few hundred thousand francs. Bankruptcy had been officially declared by a judgment of the Tribunal of Commerce, after a summary report rendered by an expert who had been charged with an examination of the books. In spite of everything, however, Saccard, seemingly unconscious, still promised to save the situation, evincing an extraordinary amount of blind hopefulness and obstinate bravery. And on that very day he was awaiting a reply from the stockbrokers' association, with regard to the fixing of a rate of compensation, when his usher entered to tell him that three gentlemen wished to see him in an adjoining room. Perhaps this was salvation; he rushed out gaily, and found a commissary of police awaiting him, accompanied by two officers, by whom he was immediately arrested. The warrant had just been issued, partly on the strength of the expert's report, which pointed to irregularities in the accounts, but more particularly owing to the charge of abuse of confidence preferred by Busch, who pretended that the funds which he had entrusted to the Universal to be carried forward had been otherwise disposed of.

At the same hour, moreover, Hamelin also was arrested at his residence in the Rue Saint-Lazare. Every hatred and every mischance seemed to have combined, as though implacably bent upon securing the Bank's destruction, and at last the end had come. The specially convened meeting of shareholders could no longer be held; the Universal Bank had lived.