For another moment he continued striding up and down, dropping scraps of phrases as he walked. 'The child is found for me, and here I lose him. I shall never see him now. The fact is, I have no luck; no! no luck at all. Oh! mon Dieu! it is just the same as in the matter of the Universal.'
He had just sat down again at the table, and Madame Caroline took a chair opposite him. With his hands wandering among his papers, the whole voluminous brief which he had been preparing for months past, he at once went into the history of his case and explained his methods of defence, as if he felt the need of showing her that he was innocent. The prosecution relied, first, on the repeated increases of capital devised both to bring about a feverish rise in the quotations, and to make people believe that all the shares of the Bank had been taken up; secondly, on the simulation of subscriptions and payments, by means of the accounts opened with Sabatani and other men of straw; thirdly, on the distribution of fictitious dividends under the form of a release of the old shares; and, finally, on the purchase by the Bank of its own stock, all that wild speculation which had brought about the extraordinary, fictitious rise, by which the Bank's coffers had been drained, and the Bank itself killed. These charges he answered with copious and passionate explanations: he had done what every bank manager does, only he had done it on a large scale, with the vigour of a strong man. There was not one of the heads of the firmest houses in Paris but ought to share his cell, if logic were to count for anything. They made him the scapegoat, however, answerable for the illegalities of all. What a strange way of apportioning the responsibilities! Why did they not prosecute the directors also—the Daigremonts, the Hurets, the Bohains—who, in addition to their fifty thousand francs of attendance fees, had received ten per cent. of the profits, and had dabbled in all the jobs? Why also was complete impunity granted to the auditors, Lavignière among others, who were allowed to[Pg 410] plead their incapacity and their good faith? This trial was evidently going to be a monstrous piece of iniquity, for they had had to set aside Busch's charge of swindling, as alleging unsubstantiated facts; and the report made by the expert, after a first examination of the Bank's books, had just been found to be full of errors. Then, why the bankruptcy, officially declared on the strength of that report and Busch's charge, when not a sou of the deposits had been embezzled, and all the customers would re-enter into possession of their funds? Had they simply wished to ruin the shareholders? In that case they had succeeded; the disaster was becoming greater and greater, immeasurable. And he did not charge himself with this; he charged the magistracy, the government, all those who had conspired to suppress him and kill the Universal.
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Madame Caroline looked at him, impressed by his lack of conscience, which was becoming really grand. She remembered his theories of former days, the necessity of speculation in great enterprises, in which all just reward is impossible; gambling regarded as human excess, the necessary manure, the dung-heap from which progress grows. Was it not he who, with his unscrupulous hands, had madly heated the enormous machine, until it had burst to atoms and wounded all those whom it carried along with it? Was it not he who had desired that senseless, idiotic, exaggerated quotation of three thousand francs per share?
He had risen from his seat, however, and was walking up and down the little room with the spasmodic step of a caged conqueror.
'Ah! the rascals, they well knew what they were doing when they chained me up here,' he said. 'I was on the point of triumphing and crushing them all.'
She gave a start of surprise and protest. 'What! triumph? Why, you hadn't a sou left; you were conquered.'
'Evidently,' he rejoined, bitterly, 'I was conquered and[Pg 411] so I am a blackguard. Honesty, glory, are simply other names for success. A man must not let himself be beaten, for otherwise he will find himself a fool and a fraud on the morrow. Oh, I can guess very well what they are saying; you need not repeat their words to me! They talk of me as a robber; they accuse me of having put all those millions in my pocket; they would strangle me, if they held me in their clutches; and, what is worse, they shrug their shoulders with pity, look upon me as a mere madman, a man of no intelligence. That is it, eh? But, if I had succeeded! Yes, if I had struck down Gundermann, conquered the market, if I were at this hour the undisputed king of gold, what a triumph would there then have been! I should now be a hero, I should have Paris at my feet.'
She openly opposed him, however. 'You had neither justice nor logic on your side,' said she; 'you could not succeed.'
Tips, opportunities to make money：Work on online and functionsHe had stopped short in front of her, and became angry. 'Not succeed, nonsense! Money was lacking, that was all. If Napoleon, on the day of Waterloo, had had another hundred thousand men to send to the butchery, he would have triumphed, and the face of the world would have been changed. And if I had had the necessary few hundred millions to throw into the gulf, I should now be the master of the world.'
'But it is frightful!' she cried, revolting. 'What! Do you think there have not been ruins enough, not tears enough, not blood enough as it is? You would have more disasters still, more families stripped, more unfortunates reduced to begging in the streets!'
He began tramping to and fro again, and with a gesture of supreme indifference shouted: 'Does life concern itself about that? At every step we take we stamp out thousands of existences.'
Silence fell; she watched him with a freezing heart as he marched up and down. Was he a knave? Was he a hero? She trembled as she asked herself what thoughts he could have revolved, like a great captain, conquered and[Pg 412] reduced to powerlessness, during the six months that he had been confined in that cell; and then only did she glance about her and espy the four bare walls, the little iron bedstead, the deal table, and the two straw-bottomed chairs. To think of it! He who had lived amid lavish, dazzling luxury!
Tips, opportunities to make money：Can bank cards can also make money on the lock online?But suddenly he sat down again, as if his legs were weary; and then he began talking at length in an undertone, as though making a kind of involuntary confession.
'Gundermann was right,' he said; 'fever is worth nothing at the Bourse. Ah, the rascal, how happy he is in having no blood or nerves left him! I believe, however, that he has always been like that, his veins flowing with ice instead of blood. I am too passionate, that is evident. There is no other reason for my defeat; that is why my back has been so often broken. And it must be added that, if my passion kills me, it is also my passion that gives me life. Yes, it bears me on, it lifts me up on high, and then strikes me down and suddenly destroys all its work. Enjoyment is, after all, perhaps only the devouring of self.'