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struck at the Bourse when

Eleven o'clock had just struck at the Bourse when, making his way into Champeaux' restaurant, Saccard entered the public room, all white and gold and with two high windows facing the place. At a glance he surveyed the rows of little tables, at which the busy eaters sat closely together, elbow to elbow; and he seemed surprised not to see the face he sought.

As a waiter passed, laden with dishes, amid the scramble of the service, he turned to him and asked: 'I say, hasn't Monsieur Huret come?'

'No, monsieur, not yet.'

Thereupon, making up his mind, Saccard sat down at a table, which a customer was leaving, in the embrasure of one of the windows. He thought that he was late; and whilst a fresh cover was being laid he directed his looks outside, scrutinising the persons passing on the footway. Indeed, even when the table had been freshly laid, he did not at once give his orders, but remained for a moment with his eyes fixed on the place, which looked quite gay on that bright morning of an early day in May. At that hour, when everybody was at lunch, it was almost empty: the benches under the chestnut trees of a fresh and tender green remained unoccupied; a line of cabs stretched from one to the other end of the railing, and the omnibus going to the Bastille stopped at the office at the[pg 2] corner of the garden, without dropping or taking up a single passenger. The sun's rays fell vertically, lighting up the whole monumental pile of the Bourse, with its colonnade, its pair of statues, and its broad steps, at the top of which there was as yet only an army of chairs ranged in good order.

Having turned, however, Saccard recognised Mazaud, a stock-broker, sitting at the table next to his own. He held out his hand. 'Dear me, you are here? Good morning,' said he.

'Good morning,' answered Mazaud, shaking hands in an absent-minded fashion.

Short, dark, a very brisk, good-looking man, Mazaud, at the age of two and thirty, had just inherited the business of one of his uncles. He seemed to be altogether taken up with the person opposite him, a stout gentleman with a red and shaven face, the celebrated Amadieu, whom the Bourse revered since his famous deal in Selsis mining stock. When the Selsis shares had fallen to fifteen francs, and anyone who bought them was looked upon as a madman, he had put his whole fortune, two hundred thousand francs, into the affair at a venture, without calculation or instinct—indeed, through mere obstinate confidence in his own brutish luck. Now that the discovery of real and important veins had sent the price of the shares up above a thousand francs, he had made fifteen millions; and his imbecile operation, which ought to have led to his being shut up in an asylum, had raised him to the level of men of great financial intellect. He was saluted and, above all things, consulted. Moreover, he placed no more orders, but seemed to be satisfied, enthroned as it were upon his unique and legendary stroke of genius.

Mazaud must have been dreaming of securing his patronage.

Saccard, having failed to obtain even a smile from Amadieu, bowed to the table opposite, where three speculators of his acquaintance, pillerault, Moser, and Salmon, were gathered together.

'Good day. Quite well?' he asked.

'Yes, thanks—Good morning.'

Among these men also he divined coldness, in fact almost[pg 3] hostility. pillerault, however, very tall, very thin, with spasmodic gestures, and a nose like a sabre-blade set in the bony face of a knight-errant, habitually displayed the familiarity of a gambler—the gambler who makes recklessness a principle, for he declared that he plunged head over heels into catastrophes whenever he paused to reflect. He had the exuberant nature of a 'bull,' ever turned towards victory; whereas Moser, on the contrary, short of stature, yellow-skinned, and afflicted moreover by a liver complaint, was continually lamenting, in incessant dread of some approaching cataclysm. As for Salmon, a very fine-looking man struggling against old age, and displaying a superb beard of inky blackness, he passed for a fellow of extraordinary acumen. Never did he speak; he answered only by smiles; folks could never tell in what he was speculating, or whether he was speculating at all; and his way of listening so impressed Moser, that the latter, after making him his confidant, was frequently so disconcerted by his silence that he ran off to countermand an order.

Amid the indifference exhibited towards him, Saccard, with feverish and provoking glances, went on finishing his survey of the room, and he exchanged no other nod except with a tall young man sitting three tables away, the handsome Sabatani, a Levantine with a long dark face, illumined by magnificent black eyes, but spoiled by an evil, disquieting mouth. This fellow's amiability put the finishing touch to his irritation. A defaulter on some foreign Stock Exchange, one of those mysterious scamps whom women love, Sabatani had tumbled into the market during the previous autumn. Saccard had already seen him at work as figure-head in a banking disaster, and now he was little by little gaining the confidence of both the corbeille[1] and the coulisse[2] by scrupulous correctness of behaviour and an unremitting graciousness even towards the most disreputable.

[pg 4]

A waiter, however, was standing before Saccard. 'What are Monsieur's orders?'

'Oh, anything you like—a cutlet, some asparagus.' Then calling the waiter back, he added: 'You are sure that Monsieur Huret did not come in before me and go away again?'

'Oh! absolutely sure.'

Publicerat klockan 11:56, den 10 september 2018
Postat i kategorin Okategoriserat
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