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This was the coulisse price, just coming in and preventing the deal which Delarocque had doubtless intended to make: a purchase at the corbeille and a prompt sale at the coulisse, so as to secure the five francs' rise.

Accordingly, Mazaud, feeling certain that Saccard would approve of it, made up his mind to carry matters further. 'At three thousand and forty I take! Deliver Universals at three thousand and forty!'

'How many?' asked Jacoby.

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'Three hundred.'

Both wrote a line in their memorandum-books, and the[Pg 324] bargain was concluded; the first official quotation was established, with a rise of ten francs over the quotation of the day before. Mazaud stepped aside, to give the figure to the quoter who had the Universal on his register. Then, for twenty minutes, there was a perfect flood-gate opened: the quotations of other stocks were likewise established; all the business which the brokers had in hand was transacted without any great variations in prices. And meanwhile the quoters, perched aloft, between the uproar of the corbeille and that of the Cash market, which was also feverishly busy, were scarce able to make entries of all the new figures thrown at them by the brokers and the clerks. In the rear, the Rente market was simply raging. Since the opening of the market there was no longer the mere roar of the crowd, similar to the continuous sound of flowing waters, for above all this formidable rumbling there now rose the discordant cries of offer and demand, a characteristic yelping, which rose, and fell, and paused, to begin again in unequal, grating accents, like the cries of birds of pillage in a tempest.

With a smile on his face, Saccard still stood near his pillar. His court had grown yet larger; the rise of ten francs in Universals had just filled the Bourse with excitement, for it had long been predicted that on settling day there would be a crash. Huret had approached with Sédille and Kolb, pretending to regret his prudence, which had led him to sell his shares at the price of twenty-five hundred francs; while Daigremont, wearing an air of unconcern, as he walked about arm-in-arm with the Marquis de Bohain, gaily explained to him why it was that his stable had been defeated at the autumn races. But, above all, Maugendre triumphed, and sought to overwhelm Captain Chave, who persisted nevertheless in his pessimism, saying it was necessary to await the end, which he still believed would be disaster. A similar scene was enacted by the boastful Pillerault and the melancholy Moser, the former radiant over this insane rise, the latter clenching his fists and talking of this stubborn, foolish rise as of some mad animal which, whatever its efforts might be, was certain to be slaughtered eventually.

An hour went by, the quotations remaining much the same; transactions went on at the corbeille in proportion as fresh orders were given or fresh telegrams arrived. Business was less brisk, however, than at the outset. Towards the middle of each day's Bourse there is a similar lull in the transactions, a spell of calmness prior to the decisive struggle over the last quotations. Nevertheless, Jacoby's roar and Mazaud's shrill notes were always to be heard, both brokers being very busy with 'options.'

'I have Universals at three thousand and forty, of which fifteen!' shouted one.

'I take Universals at three thousand and forty, of which ten,' replied the other.

'How many?'

'Twenty-five—deliver!'

Mazaud was doubtless now executing some of the orders received from Fayeux. Many provincial gamblers, with a view to limiting their losses, buy and sell on option before venturing to launch out into obligatory transactions. However, all at once a rumour spread and spasmodic shouts arose. There had just been a fall of five francs in Universals, and then in swift succession came another and another drop, so that the price became three thousand and twenty-five.

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Jantrou, who had just come back after a short absence, was just then whispering to Saccard that the Baroness Sandorff was in her brougham in the Rue Brongniart, and desired to know whether she ought to sell. Coming at the very moment of the fall, this question fairly exasperated Saccard. In his mind's eye he could see the coachman perched motionless upon his box, whilst inside the carriage, the windows of which were closed, sat the Baroness, consulting her memorandum-book as though at home.

'Let her go to Jericho!' he answered; 'and if she sells, I'll strangle her!'

He had scarcely spoken when, at the announcement of the fall of fifteen francs, Massias came running up as if in response to an alarm-bell, feeling that his services would certainly be required. And indeed Saccard, who had prepared a skilful[Pg 326] move for forcing up the last quotations—a telegram which was to be sent from the Lyons Bourse, where a rise was certain—had begun to feel rather anxious at the telegram's non-arrival, for this precipitate drop of fifteen francs might bring about a disaster.

Like a shrewd fellow, Massias did not stop in front of him, but nudged his elbow as he passed, and, eagerly lending ear, at once received his orders: 'Quick, to Nathansohn; four hundred, five hundred, whatever may be necessary!'

This was all managed so swiftly that Pillerault and Moser were the only ones to notice it. They started after Massias, in order to find out his intentions. Now that he was in the pay of the Universal, the remisier had acquired great importance. People tried to 'pump' him, to read over his shoulder the orders which he received. And he himself now made superb profits. This smiling, good-natured, unlucky fellow, whom fortune had previously treated so harshly, was astonished by his present success, and declared that this dog's life at the Bourse was endurable after all. He no longer said that a man must needs be a Jew in order to make his way.

At the coulisse, in the freezing air which swept through the peristyle, and which the pale afternoon sun did little to warm, Universals had fallen less rapidly than at the corbeille. And Nathansohn, warned by his acolytes, had just executed the deal which Delarocque had been unable to effect at the opening: buying in the hall at three thousand and twenty-five, he had sold again under the colonnade at three thousand and thirty-five. This did not take three minutes, and he made sixty thousand francs by the stroke. The purchase at the corbeille had already sent the shares up again to three thousand and thirty, by that balancing effect which the authorized and tolerated markets have one upon another. From the hall to the peristyle there was an incessant gallop of clerks, elbowing their way through the crowd with orders. Nevertheless, prices were about to weaken at the coulisse, when the order which Massias brought Nathansohn sustained them at three thousand and thirty-five, and even raised them to three thousand and forty; the consequence being that at[Pg 327] the corbeille the stock again rose to the opening quotation. However, it was difficult to maintain that figure; for evidently enough the tactics of Jacoby and the other 'bear' brokers were to reserve the large sales until the last half-hour, when, amid the confusion, they hoped to overwhelm the market with them and precipitate a collapse.

Saccard understood the danger so clearly that he made a preconcerted sign to Sabatani, who was standing a few steps away, smoking a cigarette with the unconcerned, languid air of a ladies' man. And on observing his patron's signal he at once slipped through the crowd, with all the suppleness of a snake, and made his way to the 'Guitar,' whence, with his ears on the alert, ever attentive to the quotations, he did not cease sending Mazaud orders inscribed upon green fiches, of which he held a large supply. None the less, however, so determined was the attack of the 'bears' that Universals again fell five francs.