House of All Nations

House of All Nations by Christina Stead Read Free Book Online

Book: House of All Nations by Christina Stead Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christina Stead
to us by the Comte de Guipatin and by Légaré. The Comte de Guipatin vouched for his moneymaking ability. He has a list of clients. After you threw him out, Raccamond came to William and said, ‘I’m out of a job due to the failure of Claude Brothers: why don’t you give me a chance? I don’t ask any salary. If you’ll take me on for six months without any salary, or any claim from me afterwards, I’ll work for you for nothing for six months and show you I can bring money into the bank.”
    â€˜I said that,’ said Raccamond.
    â€˜You had no right to do that: neither had William,’ said Jules acidly. ‘Michel, send Constant to London about sterling. Come upstairs, will you? And tell William I want to see him.’
    Jules went lingeringly about amongst his clients, smiling and inclining his head to several of them. Their heads turned after him, smooth as gold, sweet as diamonds, supple and secret as a rope of emeralds. He glided between the pillars, passed through his own board room almost without being seen, and went upstairs to his own great room by a hidden staircase, without passing along the upstairs gallery.
    Raccamond detained Alphendéry. ‘I am afraid Mr. Bertillon does not like the arrangement. Will you plead my case? Will you ask him to speak to the Comte de Guipatin? The Comte de Guipatin will explain to Mr. Bertillon that I know a great many society figures, distinguished people—I know the artistic people and the racing folk of Paris. It would be very rash to get rid of me. I like Mr. Bertillon and I want to be with him. I like this type of bank. I could go to a big bank but what would it profit me? My own way would be more difficult to make. Then those distinguished people do their big business with the big banks, but with a small personal bank they do their small personal business. And that is the most profitable. It can be made exceptionally profitable. You see, there is even smaller, entirely intimate business which I can do for them, in my own person, and so they begin to grow on me, I on them, I mean, and thus I can draw them in to your bank. Surely Mr. Bertillon will reconsider the case, if he sees this. I can be of infinite service to him … ’
    Alphendéry patted his arm, smiled into his face, said obligingly, ‘Surely, surely, Aristide, don’t you worry. I’ll put it to Mr. Bertillon as well as you do yourself, and I can do it better, for I am not you: I am a friend. I hope you think of me as a friend, Aristide. I believe in you, Aristide. I believe in you. You seem really to have excellent connections. Don’t worry. I’ll do all that can be humanly done.’
    â€˜The Comte de Guipatin,’ said Aristide with the same rigmarole sobriety, ‘will vouch for me. He saw how I organized Claude Brothers.’
    â€˜I think, if you’ll take a little bit of advice, Aristide, that we’d better leave out Claude Brothers. Philippe and Estèphe Claude were—are—intimate friends of Mr. Bertillon—’ Aristide frowned formidably. Alphendéry rattled on, with the bells of benevolence in his tones, ‘Not your fault they went bankrupt: Oh, we all heard the rumors long before. But businessmen, especially bankers, are superstitious.’
    Aristide raised foggy, absorbed eyes to Alphendéry.
    â€˜Yes, yes. Thank you.’
    Alphendéry ran upstairs and found William already there, tall, blond, lazy, plump, staid, leaning against the bookcase and talking in a low tone to his youngest brother, Jules. Jules raised his voice crankily, ‘Who told you to let that hard-luck into my bank? I don’t want him, do you hear? He must go. I don’t want guys who work for nothing. I don’t like them: it sounds unnatural and I think it’s funny. What is he so anxious to clamp himself onto me for? He’s got to go. I won’t have him. He’s bad luck. He was with Philippe Claude

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