“You did not tell me, Lady Emily,” said she, with woman’s feigned indifference, “what was the name of this poor woman of the other evening.”
“Why, so I had forgot—and ’tis said that Mr. Law, after all, comported himself something of the gentleman. No one knows how far back the affair runs, nor how serious it was. And indeed I have seen no one who ever heard of the woman before.”
“And the name?”
“’Twas said Mr. Law called her Mary Connynge.”
The big fly, deep down in the crystal cage, buzzed on audibly; and to one who heard it, the drone of the lazy wings seemed like the roars of a thousand tempests.
MASTER AND MAN
John Law, idle, preoccupied, sat gazing out at the busy scenes of the street before him. The room in which he found himself was one of a suite in that magnificent Hotel de Soisson, bought but recently of the Prince de Carignan for the sum of one million four hundred thousand livres, which had of late been chosen as the temple of Fortuna. The great gardens of this distinguished site were now filled with hundreds of tents and kiosks, which offered quarters for the wild mob of speculators which surged and swirled and fought throughout the narrow avenues, contending for the privilege of buying the latest issue of the priceless shares of the Company of the Indies.
The System was at its height. The bubble was blown to its last limit. The popular delirium had grown to its last possible degree.
From the window these mad mobs of infuriated human beings might have seemed so many little ants, running about as though their home had been destroyed above their heads. They hastened as though fleeing from the breath of some devouring flame. Surely the point of flame was there, at that focus of Paris, this focus of all Europe; and thrice refined was the quality of this heat, burning out the hearts of those distracted ones.
Yet it was a scene not altogether without its fascinations. Hither came titled beauties of Paris, peers of the realm, statesmen, high officials, princes of the blood; all these animated but by one purpose—to bid and outbid for these bits of paper, which for the moment meant wealth, luxury, ease, every imaginable desire. It seemed indeed that the world was mad. Tradesmen, artisans, laborers, peasants, jostled the princes and nobility, nor met reproof. Rank was forgotten. Democracy, for the first time on earth, had arrived. All were equal who held equal numbers of these shares. The mind of each was blank to all but one absorbing theme.
Law looked over this familiar scene, indifferent, calm, almost moody, his cheek against his hand, his elbow on his chair. “What was the call, Henri,” asked he, at length, of the old Swiss who had, during these stormy times, been so long his faithful attendant. “What was the last quotation that you heard?”