“That means repudiation!” broke in the regent.
“Certainly, your Grace, and in so far your Grace has my extremest sympathy. I know it was your resolve not to repudiate the debts of France, as those debts stood when I first met you some years ago. That was honorable. Yet now the debts of France are immeasurably greater, rich as France thinks herself to be. Not all France, were the people and the produce of the commerce counted in the coin, could pay the debt of France as it now exists. Hence, honorable or not, there is nothing else—it is repudiation which now confronts you. France is worse than bankrupt. And now it would seem wise if your Grace took immediate steps, not only for the safety of his person, but for the safety of the Government.”
“Sir, do you mean that the people would dare, that they would presume—”
“The people are not what they were. There hath come into Europe the leaven of the New World. I had looked there to see a nobler and a better France. It is too late for that, and surely it is too late for the old ways of this France which we see about us. You can not presume now upon the temper of these folk as you might have done fifty years ago. The Messasebe, that noble stream, it hath swept its purifying flood throughout the world! Look you, at this moment there is tumbling this house which we have built of bubbles, one bubble upon another, blowing each bubble bigger and thinner than the last. Mine is not the only fault, nor yet the greatest fault. I was sincere, where others cared naught for sincerity. Another day, another people, may yet say the world was better for my effort, and that therefore at the last I have not failed.”
THE BREAKING OF THE BUBBLE
It was the evening of the day following that on which John Law and the regent of France had met in their stormy interview. During the morning but little had transpired regarding the significant events of the previous day. In these vast and excited crowds, divided into groups and cliques and factions, aided by no bulletins, counseled by no printed page, there was but little cohesion of purpose, since there was little unity of understanding. The price of shares at one kiosk might be certain thousands of livres, whereas a square away, the price might vary by half as many livres; so impetuous was the advance of these continually rising prices, and so frenzied and careless the temper of those who bargained for them.