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'Well, is there nothing new?' she asked, when she had reached his office, where she would not even sit down.

'No, indeed; I know nothing.'

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But she continued to look at him with a smile, persuaded that he was unwilling to speak. Then, to force him to be confidential, she began to talk of that stupid war, which was about to set Austria, Italy, and Prussia fighting. The world of speculation was panic-stricken; there had been a terrible fall in Italian funds, as well as in all securities for that matter. And she was very much worried, for she did not know how far she ought to follow the movement, already having heavy engagements for next settling-day.

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'Doesn't your husband give you any information?' asked Jantrou jestingly. 'He is certainly in a good position to do so, at the Embassy.'

'Oh! my husband,' she murmured, with a disdainful gesture: 'my husband, I get nothing out of him.'

He continued to laugh at her expense, going so far as to allude to the Public Prosecutor, Delcambre, who was said to pay her losses when she consented to pay them at all. 'And your friends, don't they know anything, either at Court or at the Palais de Justice?'

She pretended not to understand, but, without taking her eyes off him, rejoined, in a supplicating tone: 'Come, be amiable yourself. You know something.'

'Amiable, why should I be?' said he, laughing, with an embarrassed air. 'You are scarcely amiable with me.'

Straightway she became grave again, and a stern expression came into her eyes. That man, whom her father had received with kicks—ah! never! And she turned her back upon him to go away when, out of spite, seeking to wound her, he added: 'You just met Saccard at the door, didn't you? Why didn't you question him? He wouldn't refuse you.'

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She suddenly stepped back. 'What do you mean?'

'Why, whatever you please. Oh, don't pretend to be mystified!'

A feeling of revolt filled her; all the pride of her race, still[Pg 203] alive, rose out of the troubled depths, the mire in which her gambling passion was slowly, gradually drowning it. However, she did not indulge in an outburst, but in a clear, severe tone of voice simply said: 'Ah! my dear sir, what do you take me for? You are mad. No, I have nothing in common with your Saccard, because I didn't choose.'

Thereupon he saluted her with a profound bow. 'Well, madame, you made a very great mistake. You, who are always seeking "tips," could easily obtain them from that gentleman.'

At this she made up her mind to laugh; however, when she shook hands with him, he felt that hers was quite cold.

The month of June went by; on the 15th Italy had declared war against Austria. On the other hand, Prussia in scarcely a couple of weeks had, by a lightning march, invaded Hanover and conquered the two Hesses, Baden, and Saxony, surprising the unarmed populations in full peace. France had not budged; well-informed people whispered very softly at the Bourse that she had had a secret understanding with Prussia ever since Bismarck had met the Emperor at Biarritz, and folks talked mysteriously of the 'compensations' which she was to receive for her neutrality. But none the less, the fall in public funds, and almost all securities, went on in the most disastrous fashion. When the news of Sadowa, that sudden thunderbolt, reached Paris on the 4th of July, there was a collapse of every kind of stock. Folks believed in an obstinate prolongation of the war; for though Austria was beaten by Prussia, she had defeated Italy at Custozza, and it was already said that she was gathering the remnants of her army together, abandoning Bohemia. Orders to sell rained upon the corbeille; and buyers were not to be found.

On July 4, Saccard, calling at the office of the paper rather late, about six o'clock, did not find Jantrou there, for the editor's passions were now leading him into very disorderly courses. He would suddenly disappear for a time, returning invariably with a worn-out look and dim, bleared eyes. Women and drink were playing havoc with him. At[Pg 204] the hour when Saccard arrived the office was emptying. There was scarcely a soul left there excepting Dejoie, who was dining at a corner of his little table in the ante-room; and Saccard, after writing a couple of letters, was in his turn about to take himself off when Huret, as red as a turkey-cock, rushed in like a whirlwind, not even taking the trouble to close the doors behind him.

'My dear fellow, my dear fellow!' he began; but he was almost stifling, and had to stop and carry both hands to his chest. 'I have just left Rougon,' he added at last; 'I had to run, because I hadn't got a cab. But eventually I found one. Rougon has received a despatch from over yonder; I've seen it! Such news! such news!'

With a violent wave of the arm, Saccard cut him short, and hastened to close the door, for he had caught sight of Dejoie, who was already on the prowl, with ears on the alert.

'Well, what?' he then asked.