Exactly so. The manager of the Mutual Credit was a prudent man. Pleasantly situated in Switzerland, he was in nowise anxious to return to Paris before being quite certain that he had no risks to run.
Upon receiving M. Favoral’s assurances to that effect, he started; and, almost at the same time the elder Jottras and M. Costeclar made their appearance.
It was a curious spectacle, the return of those braves for whom Parisian slang had invented the new and significant expression of franc-fileur.
They were not so proud then as they have been since. Feeling rather embarrassed in the midst of a population still quivering with the emotions of the siege, they had at least the good taste to try and find pretexts for their absence.
“I was cut off,” affirmed the Baron de Thaller. “I had gone to Switzerland to place my wife and daughter in safety. When I came back, good-by! the Prussians had closed the doors. For more than a week, I wandered around Paris, trying to find an opening. I became suspected of being a spy. I was arrested. A little more, and I was shot dead!”
“As to myself,” declared M. Costeclar, “I foresaw exactly what has happened. I knew that it was outside, to organize armies of relief, that men would be wanted. I went to offer my services to the government of defence; and everybody in Bordeaux saw me booted and spurred, and ready to leave.”
He was consequently soliciting the Cross of the Legion of Honor, and was not without hopes of obtaining it through the all-powerful influence of his financial connections.
“Didn’t So-and-so get it?” he replied to objections. And he named this or that individual whose feats of arms consisted principally in having exhibited themselves in uniforms covered with gold lace to the very shoulders.
“But I am the man who deserves it most, that cross,” insisted the younger M. Jottras; “for I, at least, have rendered valuable services.”
And he went on telling how, after searching for arms all over England, he had sailed for New York, where he had purchased any number of guns and cartridges, and even some batteries of artillery.
This last journey had been very wearisome to him, he added and yet he did not regret it; for it had furnished him an opportunity to study on the spot the financial morals of America; and he had returned with ideas enough to make the fortune of three or four stock companies with twenty millions of capital.
“Ah, those Americans!” he exclaimed. “They are the men who understand business! We are but children by the side of them.”
It was through M. Chapelain, the Desclavettes, and old Desormeaux, that these news reached the Rue St. Gilles.
It was also through Maxence, whose battalion had been dissolved, and who, whilst waiting for something better, had accepted a clerkship in the office of the Orleans Railway, where he earned two hundred francs a month. For M. Favoral saw and heard nothing that was going on around him. He was wholly absorbed in his business: he left earlier, came home later, and hardly allowed himself time to eat and drink.