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The third quarter of the hour struck. Another fifteen minutes and the closing bell would ring out. The throng was now whirling and shrieking as if scourged by some hellish torment. Grating, discordant sounds, as though a quantity of copper-ware was being broken up, rang out from the snarling, howling corbeille. And at that moment occurred the incident so anxiously awaited by Saccard.

Little Flory, who ever since the opening of the Bourse had been coming down from the telegraph-office every ten minutes with his hands full of telegrams, once more reappeared, forcing his way through the mob, and this time reading a telegram which seemed to delight him.

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'Mazaud! Mazaud!' called a voice; and Flory naturally turned his head, as if answering to his own name. It was Jantrou, who wanted to know the news. The clerk was in too great a hurry, however, and at once pushed him aside, full of delight at the thought that Universals would end with a rise; for the telegram announced that the shares were going up at the Lyons Bourse, where the purchases were so large that the effect would necessarily be felt on the Bourse of Paris. And, indeed, other telegrams were now arriving; a large number of[Pg 328] brokers were receiving orders. This produced an immediate and important result.

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'At three thousand and forty I take Universals!' repeated Mazaud, in his shrill, angry voice.

Thereupon Delarocque, overwhelmed with orders, made a higher bid. 'At three thousand and forty-five I take!'

'I hold at three thousand and forty-five!' bellowed Jacoby. 'Two hundred at three thousand and forty-five!'

Then Mazaud himself made a higher offer: 'I take at three thousand and fifty!'

'How many?'

'Five hundred. Deliver!'

However, the frightful hubbub had reached such a pitch, amidst so much epileptical gesticulation, that the brokers themselves could no longer hear each other. And, since the cavernous bass voices of some of them miscarried, while the fluty notes of others thinned out into nothingness, they continued in their professional fury to do business by gestures. Huge mouths were seen to open, from which no distinct sound apparently came, and hands alone spoke—a gesture from the person implying an offer, another gesture towards the person signifying acceptance; whilst raised fingers indicated the quantities, and yes and no were expressed by a nod or shake of the head. Intelligible only to the initiated, this sign-making seemed like one of those attacks of madness which fall upon crowds. In the gallery of the telegraph-office up above women were leaning over, in astonishment and fear at the extraordinary spectacle. One might have thought that a brawl was in progress at the Rente market, where a central group seemed to be furiously resorting to fisticuffs; while the other groups, ever being displaced by the public traversing this part of the hall in either direction, kept on breaking up and forming again in continual eddies. Between the Cash market and the corbeille, above the wild tempestuous sea of heads, one now only saw the three quoters, perched on their high chairs, floating on the billows like waifs, with their great white registers before them, and thrown now to left, now to[Pg 329] right, by the rapid fluctuations of the quotations hurled at them. Inside the Cash market, where the scramble was at its height, you beheld a compact mass of hairy heads; no faces were to be seen; there was nothing but a dark swarming, relieved only by the small white leaves of the memorandum-books waved in the air. And at the corbeille, around the basin which the crumpled fiches now filled with a blossoming of divers colours, men's hair was turning gray, bald pates were glistening, you could distinguish the pallor of shaken faces and of hands feverishly outstretched—all the jerky pantomime of speculators, seemingly ready to devour each other if the balustrade had not restrained them. This rage of the last minutes had, moreover, gained the public; men crushed against each other in the hall; there was an incessant sonorous tramping, all the helter-skelter of a huge mob let loose in too narrow a passage; and above the undefined mass of frock-coats, silk hats were shining in the diffused light that fell from the high windows.

But all at once the peal of a bell pierced through the tumult. Everything became quiet; gestures were arrested, voices hushed at the Cash market, the Rente market, the corbeille. There remained only the muffled rumbling of the mob, sounding like the continuous voice of a torrent returning to its bed and again following its course. And amidst this persistent if subdued agitation, the last quotations circulated. Universals had reached three thousand and sixty, a rise of thirty francs above the quotation of the day before. The rout of the 'bears' was complete; once more the settlement would prove a disastrous one for them, for large sums would be required to pay the fortnight's differences.

For a moment, Saccard, before leaving the hall, straightened himself to his full height, as if the better to survey the crowd around him. He had really grown so magnified by his triumph that all his little person expanded, lengthened, became enormous. And the man whom he seemed to be thus seeking over the heads of the crowd was the absent Gundermann—Gundermann, whom he would have liked to have seen struck down, grimacing, asking pardon; and he[Pg 330] was determined at least that all the Jew's unknown creatures, all the vile Israelites who were there, morose and spiteful, should see him transfigured in the glory of his success. It was his grand day, the day which people still speak of, as they speak of Austerlitz and Marengo. His customers, his friends, had darted towards him. The Marquis de Bohain, Sédille, Kolb, Huret, shook both his hands; while Daigremont, with the false smile of his worldly amiability, proceeded to compliment him, albeit well aware that one is ofttimes killed by such victories at the Bourse. Maugendre could have kissed him on both cheeks, such was his exultation, an exultation tinged with anger, however, when he saw Captain Chave continue to shrug his shoulders. But the perfect, religious adoration was that of Dejoie, who, coming from the newspaper office on the run, in order to ascertain the last quotation at the earliest moment, was standing a few steps away, motionless, rooted to the spot by affection and admiration, his eyes glittering with tears. Jantrou had disappeared, undoubtedly to carry the news to the Baroness Sandorff. Massias and Sabatani were panting, radiant, as on the triumphal evening of a great battle.