Of great family and of a wealthy stock, but ruined by gambling and speculation, the friendship of the Duc de Mora had secured him an appointment as receiver-general in the first class. Unfortunately his health had not permitted him to retain this handsome position—well-informed people said his health had nothing to do with it—and for the last year he had been living in Paris, awaiting his restoration to health, according to his own account of the matter, before resuming his post. The same people were confident that he would never regain it, and that even were it not for certain exalted influences—However, he was the important personage of the luncheon; that was clear from the manner in which the servants waited upon him, and the Nabob consulted him, calling him “Monsieur le Marquis,” as at the Comedie-Francaise, less almost out of deference than from pride, by reason of the honour which it reflected upon himself. Full of disdain for the people around him, M. le Marquis spoke little, in a very high voice, and as though he were stooping towards those whom he was honouring with his conversation. From time to time he would throw to the Nabob across the table a few words enigmatical for all.
“I saw the duke yesterday. He was talking a great deal about you in connection with that matter. You know, that thing—that business. What was the name of it?”
“You really mean it? He spoke of me to you?” And the good Nabob, quite proud, would look around him with movements of the head that were supremely laughable, or perhaps assume the contemplative air of a devotee who should hear the name of Our Lord pronounced.
“His excellency would have pleasure in seeing you take up the—ps, ps, ps—the thing.”
“He told you so?”
“Ask the governor if he did not—heard it like myself.”
The person who was called the governor—Paganetti, to give him his real name—was a little, expressive man, constantly gesticulating and fatiguing to behold, so many were the different expressions which his face would assume in the course of a single minute. He was managing director of the Territorial Bank of Corsica, a vast financial enterprise, and had now come to the house for the first time, introduced by Monpavon; he occupied accordingly a place of honour. On the other side of the Nabob was an old gentleman, buttoned up to the chin in a frock-coat having a straight collar without lapels, like an Oriental tunic, his face slashed by a thousand little bloodshot veins and wearing a white moustache of military cut. It was Brahim Bey, the most valiant colonel of the Regency of Tunis, aide-de-camp of the former Bey who had made the fortune of Jansoulet. The glorious exploits of this warrior showed themselves written in wrinkles, in blemishes wrought by debauchery upon the nerveless under-lip that hung as it were relaxed, and upon his eyes without lashes, inflamed and red. It was a head such as one may see in the dock at certain criminal trials that are held with closed doors. The other guests were seated pell-mell, just as they had happened to arrive or to find themselves, for the house was open to everybody, and the table was laid every morning for thirty persons.