“I will offer it to them. I have here ten million francs’ worth of shares in the European Credit belonging to Cayrol. We will give the cashier a joint receipt for them. The speculation will last three days. It is safe, and when the result is achieved we will replace the shares, and take back the receipt.”
“But,” asked Serge, “is this plan of taking the shares which don’t belong to us legal?”
“It is a transfer,” said Herzog, with simplicity. “Besides, don’t forget that we have to do with Cayrol, that is to say with a partner.”
“Suppose we tell him of it,” insisted the Prince.
“No! The deuce! We should have to explain everything to him. He knows what’s what, and would find the idea too good, and want a share of the spoil. No! Sign that, and don’t be alarmed. The sheep will be back in the fold before the shepherd comes to count them.”
A dark presentiment crossed Serge’s mind, and he was afraid. At that moment, when his fate was being decided, he hesitated to go deeper into the rut where he had already been walking too long. He stood silent and undecided. Confused thoughts crowded his brain; his temples throbbed, and a buzzing noise sounded in his ears. But the thought of giving up his liberty, and again subjecting himself to Madame Desvarennes’s protection was like the lash of a whip, and he blushed for having hesitated.
Herzog looked at him, and, smiling in a constrained way, said:
“You, too, may give up the affair if you like. If I share it with you it is because you are so closely allied to me. I don’t so very much care to cut the pear in two. Don’t think that I am begging of you to be my partner! Do as you like.”
Serge caught hold of the paper and, having signed it, handed it to the financier.
“All right,” said Herzog. “I shall leave to-night and be absent three days. Watch the money market. You will see the results of my calculations.”
And shaking hands with the Prince, Herzog went to the cashier to get the scrip and deposit the receipt.
SIN GROWS BOLDER
There was a party at Cayrol’s. In the drawing-rooms of the mansion in the Rue Taitbout everything was resplendent with lights, and there was quite a profusion of flowers. Cayrol had thought of postponing the party, but was afraid of rousing anxieties, and like an actor who, though he has just lost his father, must play the following day, so Cayrol gave his party and showed a smiling face, so as to prevent harm to his business.
Matters had taken a turn for the worse during the last three days. The bold stroke, to carry out which Herzog had gone to London so as to be more secret, had been got wind of. The fall of the shares had not taken place. Working with considerable sums of money, the loss on the difference was as great as the gains would have been. The shares belonging to the European Credit Company had defrayed the cost of the game. It was a disaster. Cayrol, in his anxiety, had applied for the scrip and had only found the receipt given to the cashier. Although the transaction was most irregular, Cayrol had not said anything; but, utterly cast down, had gone to Madame Desvarennes to tell her of the fact.