As he stopped, there was a sudden movement all about. A spirit of energy took hold on all. Zotique, posing at the head of a large table in front of the Chair, almost at once had installed De La Lande assistant-secretary, to do the real work of which punctilious old Maitre Descarries could only make a courageous show; had swept towards him an inkstand, shaken open a drawer and whipped out some foolscap, and darting his cadaverous eyes from one to another around, despotically appointed them to places of various service, now sharply answering, now ignoring a question by the appointee, while De La Lande scribbled his directions; and everyone was so anxious to find some post that there was no grumbling at his heedless good generalship. In a trice they were all being called for at various tables and corners, which he fixed for the operations of the Committees.
The most zealous and loquacious of those who pressed forward to be given positions of trust was Jean Benoit.
“What pig will you shear?” demanded Zotique, (looking for an instant, as he turned to shout towards another quarter, “En’oyez done; en’oyez!”)
“I take the Reveilliere.”
“The Reveillere is parted among three.”—("Be quiet there!”)
“Well then,”—grandiloquently,—“I take from St. Jean de Dieu to the parish Church of Dormilliere.”
“Too much for four?” pronounced Zotique.
Spoon pressed heavily behind Benoit, and whispered something.
“La Misericoide then,” said Benoit, hastily.
Zotique shouted to the Secretary: “Jean Benoit the countryside of La Misericorde!” And to Benoit again:
“There is your committee.”
But Jean would have a hand in shoving forward his admired bar-tender: “Give monsieur something near my own.”
“Cuiller—the village of La Misericorde,” directed Zotique. “Now, both of you, the chief thing you have to do is to report to us if the Bleus commence to work there. Go; go!”
“Salut, Benoit; how goes it; how is the wife? and the father?—the children also? I hope you are well. Comment ca-va-t-il Cuiller?”—asked Chamilly.
Spoon took the proffered hand with his sleepy grin. Benoit responded by an obsequiously graceful shaking and deliberative loquacity:
“Well; well, Monsieur the Seigneur,—We are very well. The wife is well, the father, the children also. And how is Madame the Seigneuresse? and yourself? The crisis approaches, does it not? Eh bien, at that point you will find Jean Benoit strong enough. I have a good heart, Monseigneur. Once Xiste Brin said to me, ’Monsieur the Director, you have a good heart.’ Deign to accept my professions, monseigneur, of a loyalty the most solemn, of a breast for ever faithful.”
“I have always accepted your friendship, Benoit, and trusted you,” smiled generous Haviland. “See here, Zotique, give Benoit a responsible post.—How different must be our feelings at this priceless service of personal affection from those of our opponents, served only for money.”