Don't you make money online?

Don't you make money online?

In fact, he was not allowed even to drink his milk in peace, for the reception of the remisiers had begun again; the gallop now went on across the dining-room, while the members of the family, men and women, accustomed to all this stir and[Pg 96] bustle, laughed and ate heartily of the cold meats and pastries, and the children, excited by two thimblefuls of pure wine, raised a deafening din.

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Meantime Saccard, who was still watching him, marvelled at seeing him slowly swallow his milk with such an effort that it seemed as if he would never manage to empty the bowl. He had been put on a milk diet; he was no longer allowed to touch even a bit of meat or pastry. And that being the case, thought Saccard, of what use was his milliard to him? Moreover, women had never tempted him; for forty years he had remained strictly faithful to his wife; and now virtue was compulsory on his part, irrevocably definitive. Why then should he rise at five o'clock, ply this awful trade, weigh himself down with such immense fatigue, lead a galley-slave's life which no beggar would have accepted, with his memory crammed with figures, and his skull fairly bursting with a whole world of cares? Why, too, add so much useless gold to so much gold already possessed, when one may not buy and eat so much as a pound of cherries, or carry a passing girl off to some waterside wineshop, when one may not enjoy any of the things that are sold, nor even idleness and liberty? And Saccard, who despite his terrible appetites made due allowance for the disinterested love of money, simply for the power that it gives, felt seized with a sort of holy terror as he gazed upon that face, not that of the classical miser who hoards, but that of the blameless workman, without a fleshly instinct, who in his ailing old age had become as it were an abstract of himself, and obstinately continued building his tower of millions, with the sole dream of bequeathing it to his descendants, that they might raise it yet higher, until it should overshadow the entire earth.

At last Gundermann leaned over, and let him explain in an undertone the projected launching of the Universal Bank. Saccard, however, was sparing of details, simply alluding to the schemes in Hamelin's portfolio, for from the first words he had felt that the banker was trying to draw him, with the predetermination to refuse him his support.

'Another bank, my good friend, another bank!' he repeated[Pg 97] in his sneering way. But the affair into which I would sooner put my money would be a machine, yes, a guillotine, to cut off the heads of all the banks already established.... A rake, eh? to clean out the Bourse. Your engineer hasn't something of that sort among his papers, has he?' Then, affecting a paternal air, he continued with tranquil cruelty: 'Come, be reasonable; you know what I told you. You are wrong to go into business again; I render you a real service in refusing to launch your syndicate; you will inevitably come to grief, it is mathematically certain, for you are much too enthusiastic, you have too much imagination; and besides, matters always end badly when one deals with other people's money. Why doesn't your brother find you a good post, eh? a prefecture, or else a financial receivership—no, not a receivership, that also is too dangerous. Beware, my good friend, beware.'

Saccard had risen, quivering: 'You have made up your mind, then; you won't take any stock, you won't be with us?'

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'With you? Never in my life. You will be cleared out within three years.'

There was a spell of silence, instinct with conflict; a sharp exchange of defiant glances.

'Then, good afternoon. I have not breakfasted yet, and am very hungry. We shall see who will be cleared out.'

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And thereupon Saccard left the great financier in the midst of his tribe; and whilst they finished noisily stuffing themselves with pastry, the master went on receiving the last belated brokers, wearily closing his eyes every now and then, and draining his bowl with little sips, his lips all white with milk.

Throwing himself into his cab, Saccard gave his own address, Rue Saint-Lazare. One o'clock was striking, the day was lost; he was going home to lunch quite beside himself. Ah! the dirty Jew! There indeed was a fellow whom he would have been pleased to crunch with his teeth as a dog crunches a bone! Certainly he was a terrible morsel, too big to eat. But could one ever tell? The greatest empires had crumbled, a time always comes when the powerful succumb.[Pg 98] And without eating him entirely at the first bite, might he not manage to get his teeth into him, tear from him some shreds of his milliard? That done, yes, he might afterwards eat him—why not?—and in the person of their undisputed king destroy those Jews who thought the feast to be entirely intended for themselves. These reflections, this wrath with which he had come away from Gundermann's, filled Saccard with a furious hankering, an imperative desire for traffic, immediate success. He would have liked to found his banking-house, set it working, triumph and crush all rival houses at a wave of his hand. All at once, the thought of Daigremont came back to him; and without debating the matter, swayed by an irresistible impulse, he leaned forward and called to the driver to go up the Rue Larochefoucauld. If he wanted to see Daigremont, he must make haste and postpone lunch till later, for he knew that it was Daigremont's habit to go out at about one o'clock. No doubt this Christian was worse than any two Jews, and passed for an ogre who devoured the young enterprises entrusted to his care. But at that moment Saccard would have negotiated with Cartouche[15] himself in order to conquer, and even on condition of dividing the spoil. Later on, they would see, he himself would prove the stronger.

Meanwhile the cab, after ascending the steep hill with some difficulty, stopped in front of the lofty monumental entrance of one of the last grand mansions of this neighbourhood, which once had some very fine ones. The detached buildings, at the rear of a vast paved courtyard, wore an air of royal grandeur; and the garden beyond, in which centenarian trees were still growing, remained a veritable park, isolated from the populous streets. All Paris knew that mansion for its splendid entertainments, and especially for the admirable collection of pictures assembled there, which not a grand-duke on his travels failed to visit. Married to a woman who was famous for her beauty, like his pictures were for theirs, and who had achieved a great success in society as a vocalist, the master of the house led a princely life, was as proud of his racing stable as of his gallery, belonged to one of[Pg 99] the principal clubs, paraded the most costly women, and had a box at the Opera, a chair at the H?tel Drouot,[16] and a foot-stool at the questionable resorts most in vogue. And all this profuse life, this luxury coruscating in an apotheosis of caprice and art, was entirely paid for by speculation, by a fortune which was incessantly on the move, and which seemed infinite like the sea, though, like the sea, it had its ebb and flow—balances in one or the other sense of two and three hundred thousand francs at each fortnightly settlement.

When Saccard had climbed the majestic entrance steps, a valet announced him, and escorted him through three reception rooms filled with marvels, to a little smoking room where Daigremont was finishing a cigar before going out. Already forty-five years of age, and struggling against stoutness, he was of high stature and very elegant, with his hair carefully trimmed, and wearing only a moustache and imperial, like a fanatic of the Tuileries. He affected great amiability, having absolute confidence in himself, a firm conviction of conquering.