Online selling mutton to make money?

Online selling mutton to make money?

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Never had Saccard in his tumultuous life so actively expended his energy. In the morning at seven o'clock in advance of all the clerks, and before the office porter had even lighted his fire, he was already at his desk, opening his correspondence, and answering the most pressing letters. Then, until eleven o'clock, there was an interminable gallop—the principal friends and customers of the house, brokers, remisiers, the whole host of the financial world, to say nothing of the procession of heads of departments, coming for orders. He himself, as soon as he had a minute's rest, rose and made a rapid inspection of the various offices, where the employees lived in terror of his sudden appearances, which never occurred at the same hours two days running. At eleven o'clock he went up to breakfast with Madame Caroline, ate heartily and drank heartily, with the ease of a thin man whom food does not inconvenience; and the full hour which he spent there was not wasted, for that was the time when, as he put it, he confessed his beautiful friend—that is, asked her for her opinion about men and things, although as a rule he did not[Pg 146] know how to profit by her great good sense. At noon he went off to the Bourse, wishing to be one of the first to arrive there, in order to see and talk. However, he did not gamble openly, but repaired to the spot as to a natural place of appointment, where he was certain to meet the customers of his bank.

Moreover, his influence was already felt at the Bourse; he had re-entered the building as a conqueror, a substantial man, supported henceforth by real millions; and the shrewd ones talked in low tones as they looked at him, whispering extraordinary rumours, and predicting his approaching sovereignty. Towards half-past three he was always back at the bank again, settling down to the irksome task of signing, and so trained in this mechanical movement of the hand that, his head free and speaking at his ease, he summoned employees, gave answers, and decided important matters without once ceasing to sign. Then, until six o'clock, he again received visitors, finished the work of the day, and prepared that of the morrow. And when he went up again to Madame Caroline, it was for a more copious meal than that at eleven o'clock—delicate fish and particularly game, with caprices in the matter of wine that led him to dine on one evening with Burgundy, on another with Bordeaux, and on another with Champagne, according to the fortune that had attended him that day.

'Dare to say that I am not well-behaved!' he cried sometimes, with a smile. 'Instead of frequenting clubs and theatres, I live here, like a good bourgeois, beside you. You must write that to your brother to reassure him.'

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He was not as well-behaved as he pretended, having about that time taken a fancy to a little singer at the Bouffes; but he lived in such a desire, such an anxiety, for success, that all other appetites were bound to remain diminished and paralysed until he should feel himself triumphant, fortune's undisputed master.

'Bah!' Madame Caroline would answer, 'my brother has always been so staid that staidness is to him a natural condition, and not a merit, I wrote to him yesterday that I had[Pg 147] induced you not to re-gild the board-room. That will please him much more.'

It was about this time, one very cold afternoon in the early days of November, at the moment when Madame Caroline was giving the head painter an order to merely clean the paint in the board-room, that a servant brought her a card, saying that the person who had delivered it strongly insisted upon seeing her. The card, a dirty one, bore the name of Busch, coarsely printed. She did not know the name; still she gave orders for the person to be shown up to her brother's room, where she usually received.

If for six long months Busch had remained patient, and had not utilised the extraordinary discovery which he had made of Saccard's natural son, it was in the first place for the reasons that he had originally advanced—the comparatively trifling result that there would be in simply obtaining payment of the six hundred francs, which the notes given to the mother represented, and the extreme difficulty of blackmailing Saccard in order to obtain more, that is, a reasonable sum of a few thousand francs or so. A widower, free from all 'incumbrances,' and but little afraid of scandal—how could one terrorise him, how make him pay a stiff price for that ugly present, a natural child, who had grown up in the mud, and was fated possibly to become a brute and an assassin? La Méchain had certainly made out a long bill of expenses, about six thousand francs: first small sums lent to Rosalie Chavaille, her cousin, the little one's mother; then what the poor woman's sickness had cost her, her burial, the care of her grave, and finally what had been spent for Victor himself, since he had fallen to her charge, in the way of food, clothing, and a multitude of other things. But if Saccard should not prove an affectionate father, was it not likely that he would send them about their business? For there was nothing in the world to prove that he was the father except the resemblance between himself and the child; and at most they might merely get from him the amount represented by the notes, provided always that he did not contend that they were barred by the statute of limitation.

Another reason why Busch had delayed action so long was that he had just spent several weeks of frightful anxiety by the side of his brother Sigismond, who was in bed stretched low by consumption. For a fortnight especially, this terrible 'stirabout' had neglected everything, forgotten the thousand and one complicated skeins which he was unravelling, no more appearing at the Bourse, and no longer pursuing a single debtor—never indeed leaving the bedside of his patient, but watching over him, caring for him, and changing his linen like a mother. Becoming prodigal, he who was so stingy, he summoned the best doctors of Paris, and would have paid an enhanced price for drugs if by this means they could only have been rendered more efficacious; and, as the doctors had forbidden all work, and Sigismond in this respect was obstinate, he carefully hid all the young fellow's papers and books. A war of ruses was then carried on between them. As soon as his nurse, overcome by fatigue, fell asleep, the young man, drenched with perspiration and devoured by fever, would manage to find a bit of pencil, and on the margin of a newspaper would again begin making his calculations, distributing wealth according to his dream of justice, and assuring to one and all a due share of happiness and life. And Busch, on waking, was irritated to find him worse, and felt heartbroken at the thought that he thus bestowed on his chimera the little life that was left him. He allowed him to play with these stupid theories, as he called them, just as one allows a child to play with jumping-jacks, when he was in good health; but to kill himself with such mad, impracticable ideas, really it was imbecile! At last, however, having consented to be prudent through affection for his elder brother, Sigismond had recovered some strength and was beginning to get up.

Then it was that Busch, going back to his work, declared that it was time to settle the Saccard matter, especially as Saccard had re-entered the Bourse as a conqueror, and had again become a personage of indisputable solvency. The report which Busch had received from La Méchain, whom he had sent to the Rue Saint Lazare, was excellent. Nevertheless, he still hesitated to attack his man in front, and was delaying[Pg 149] matters in the hope of discovering some method by which he might conquer him, when a word dropped by La Méchain with regard to Madame Caroline, the lady who kept the house, and of whom all the shopkeepers in the neighbourhood had spoken to her, started him on a new plan of campaign. Was this lady perchance the real mistress, the one who held the keys of the cupboards and of the heart? He frequently obeyed what he called the stroke of inspiration, yielding to sudden divination, starting upon the chase with a mere indication due to his scent, and then collecting facts which would bring him certainty, and enable him to form a resolution. Thus it was that he betook himself to the Rue Saint Lazare to see Madame Caroline.

Upstairs in the work-room, she stopped short in surprise at sight of this stout, ill-shaven man, with a flat dirty face, greasy frock-coat, and white cravat. He, on the other hand, searched her very soul, finding her such as he desired her to be, so tall and healthy-looking, with her wonderful white hair, which, so to say, illumined her young face with gaiety and gentleness; and he was especially struck by the expression of her rather large mouth, such an expression of kindliness that he at once made up his mind.

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'Madame,' said he, 'I wished to see Monsieur Saccard, but they just told me he was not in.'

He lied; he had not even asked for Saccard, for he knew very well that he was not in, having watched his departure for the Bourse.

'And so,' he resumed, 'I ventured to apply to you, really preferring this, for I am not ignorant who it is that I address. It is a question of a communication so serious and so delicate——'

Madame Caroline, who had so far not asked him to sit down, pointed out a chair with anxious alacrity.

'Speak, monsieur, I am listening.'

Carefully lifting the skirts of his coat, which he seemed to be afraid of soiling, Busch settled in his own mind that this woman must be Saccard's mistress.