There had not been one check; good fortune, ever on the increase, changed everything that the Universal touched into gold. There was already a large ensemble of prosperous creations, providing an immovable basis for future operations and justifying the rapid increase of the capital. Then there was the future which opened before overheated imaginations—the future so big with great enterprises that it necessitated that call for another fifty millions, the mere announcement of which was sufficient to upset men's brains. In this respect there was an unlimited field for Bourse and drawing-room rumours; however, the approaching grand affair of the Oriental Railway Company stood out amid all other projects, found its way into all conversations, decried by some and exalted by others.
The women especially became excited, and carried on enthusiastic propaganda in favour of the scheme. In boudoirs and at gala dinners, behind flowery jardinières at[Pg 243] the late hour of tea, even in the depths of alcoves, there were charming, persuasive, caressing creatures who thus catechised men: 'What! you have no Universals? But they are the only shares worth having! Make haste and buy some Universals if you wish me to love you!' It was the new Crusade, they said, the conquest of Asia, which the Crusaders of Peter the Hermit and Saint Louis had been unable to effect, and which they, these ladies, undertook to accomplish with their little purses of chain gold. They all pretended to be well-informed, and talked in technical terms of the main line which would be opened first from Broussa to Beyrout by way of Angora and Aleppo. Later on would come the branch line from Smyrna to Angora; later, that from Trebizond to Angora by way of Erzeroum and Sivas; later still, that from Damascus to Beyrout. And then they smiled, and winked, and whispered that perhaps there would be another one, oh! a long time hence, from Beyrout to Jerusalem, by way of the old cities of the coast—Saida, Saint Jean d'Acre, and Jaffa. And afterwards, mon Dieu! who could tell? there might be one from Jerusalem to Port Said and Alexandria. To say nothing of the fact that Bagdad was not far from Damascus, and that, if a line should be carried to that point, why, Persia, India, and China would some day be united to the West.
At a word from their pretty lips it seemed as though the treasures of the Caliphs were found again and were shining resplendently, as in some tale of the 'Arabian Nights.' The jewels and gems of dreamland rained into the coffers of the palace in the Rue de Londres; whilst Carmel supplied smoking incense and a vague, delicate background of Biblical legends, hallowing the mighty appetite for gain. Did it not mean Eden reconquered, the Holy Land delivered, religion triumphing in the very cradle of humanity? And then the ladies paused, refusing to say any more, but their eyes beaming at thought of that which it was necessary to hide. That[Pg 244] could not even be whispered in a lover's ear. Many of these ladies were ignorant of the secret, but none the less pretended to know it. That was the mystery, the thing which perchance might never happen, and which perchance might some day burst upon the world like a thunderbolt: Jerusalem purchased from the Sultan, given to the Pope with Syria for a kingdom; the Papacy provided with a revenue supplied by a Catholic bank—the Treasury of the Holy Sepulchre—which would place it beyond the pale of political disturbances; briefly, Catholicism would be rejuvenated, would be no longer forced to any compromises, but would acquire renewed authority, and dominate the world from the summit of the height where Christ the man expired.
And of a morning now, in his luxurious Louis Quatorze office, Saccard was forced to forbid his door when he wished to work; for there were endless assaulting parties, or rather a court procession, coming, as it were, to a king's levée—courtiers, business people, applicants of all kinds soliciting and adoring his omnipotence. One morning, during the early days of July, he was particularly inflexible, giving the most stringent orders to admit no one. Whilst the ante-room was filling with people, who, despite the usher, persisted in waiting and hoping that they would be received, he shut himself up with two heads of departments to finish planning the new issue of shares. After examining various projects, he pronounced in favour of a combination which, thanks to this new issue of a hundred thousand shares, would permit the complete release of the two hundred thousand old ones, upon each of which only one hundred and twenty-five francs had been paid. This result was arrived at by issuing the new shares—which were reserved for existing shareholders—at the price of eight hundred and fifty francs; that is to say, five hundred francs for the share itself and three hundred and fifty francs premium, this premium effecting the proposed release. However, certain complications arose, due to the large amount of its own stock which the Bank held, and it was necessary to find a means of filling up certain gaps, the worry of which acted upon Saccard's nerves. The sound of the[Pg 245] voices in the ante-room, moreover, irritated him. That cringing Paris, whose homage he usually received with the good-nature of a despot prone to familiarity, filled him on this occasion with contempt. And Dejoie, who served him as usher in the morning, having ventured to take a roundabout way and enter by a little door opening from a passage, he turned on him in a fury: 'What! I told you nobody, nobody; do you understand? Here! take my walking stick, place it at my door, and let them kiss it.'
Dejoie impassively ventured to insist. 'Excuse me, monsieur, it is the Countess de Beauvilliers. She begged so hard, and, as I know Monsieur wishes to be agreeable to her——'
Tips, opportunities to make money：How to make money online come quickly and reliably'What!' cried Saccard in a fit of anger; 'let her go to the devil with the others.'
Then with a gesture of repressed wrath he immediately reconsidered the matter: 'Show her in,' said he, 'since it seems certain that I cannot be left in peace. And by the little door, mind, so that the whole flock may not enter with her.'
The welcome which he extended to the Countess de Beauvilliers was fraught with the abruptness of a man just recovering from excitement. Even the sight of Alice, who accompanied her mother, silently meditating, did not calm him. He had sent the two heads of departments away, and was only thinking of how soon he would be able to call them back so as to continue his work.
Tips, opportunities to make money：How can I put the photo online to make money?'Pray speak quickly, madame, for I am terribly busy.'
The Countess, always slow with her words and movements, always preserving the sadness of a fallen queen, stopped short in evident surprise. 'But if I disturb you, monsieur'—she began.
He had to offer them seats, and the girl, the braver of the two, sat down the first in a resolute way whilst her mother continued: 'I have come for some advice, monsieur. I am in a state of very painful uncertainty, and am afraid that I shall never be able to come to a decision by myself.'
Then she reminded him that at the time of the establishment[Pg 246] of the Bank she had taken a hundred shares, which she had doubled at the time of the first increase of capital and again at the time of the second increase, so that she now held four hundred shares, upon which, inclusive of premiums, she had paid the sum of eighty-seven thousand francs. Twenty thousand francs of this amount had been supplied by her savings, and the rest—some seventy thousand—she had been forced to borrow on her farm, Les Aublets.
'And it now happens,' she continued, 'that I have just found a purchaser for the farm. And I understand that there is to be a new issue of shares. If that is so, I may perhaps place our entire fortune in your house.'
Saccard was now calming down, flattered at finding these two poor women, the last members of a great and ancient race, so trustful and anxious in his presence. He went into figures and rapidly supplied them with information.
'A new issue—yes, there is to be one, I am just attending to it,' he said. 'The shares will be priced at eight hundred and fifty francs, inclusive of premium. You say that you now have four hundred shares; well, two hundred of these new ones will be allotted to you; so that you will be required to pay one hundred and seventy thousand francs. But all your shares will be released, and you will have six hundred belonging to you entirely without any further liability with regard to them.'
They did not understand, and he had to explain to them how the premium would release the shares; and they turned a little pale at the big figures that were mentioned, oppressed by the thought of what an audacious stroke they would have to risk.
'As for the money,' murmured the mother at last, 'that will be all right. I am offered two hundred and forty thousand francs for Les Aublets, which were formerly worth four hundred thousand; so that, after repaying the sum I have already borrowed, there would be just enough left to pay for the shares. But what a terrible thing, mon Dieu! this fortune displaced, our whole existence ventured in this fashion!'
Her hands trembled, and there was a spell of silence,[Pg 247] during which she reflected how this financial machinery had already drawn in both her savings and the seventy thousand francs that she had borrowed, and now threatened to take the entire farm. Her old respect for landed property, ploughed fields, meadows and forests, her repugnance for traffic in money—that base calling of the Jews, unworthy of her race—came back to her and filled her with anguish at this decisive moment, when everything was on the point of being consummated. Her daughter meantime looked at her in silence, with her pure yet ardent eyes.