He decided to call upon his superior officer that afternoon to request from him authorization to seek an exchange for Africa. Then he went quietly to breakfast at the pension of the officers of his own rank, who, observing his calm demeanor, in contrast to their own, knew that he must be unaware of the important news just published in the morning journals. General de Lorencez, after an unsuccessful attack upon the walls of Puebla, had been compelled to retreat toward Orizaba, and to intrench there while waiting for reenforcements.
This military event awakened the liveliest discussions, and in the midst of the repast a quartermaster entered to announce the reply to the report, first presenting his open register to the senior lieutenant.
“Ah! By Jove, fellows! what luck!” cried that officer, joyously.
“What is it?” demanded the others in chorus.
“Listen to this!” And he read aloud: “’General Order: An expedition corps, composed of two divisions of infantry, under the command of General Forey, is in process of forming, in order to be sent to Mexico on urgent business. The brigade of the advance guard will be composed of the First Regiment of Zouaves and the Eighteenth Battalion of infantry. As soon as these companies shall be prepared for war, this battalion will proceed by the shortest route to Toulon; thence they will embark aboard the Imperial on the twenty-sixth day of June next.’”
Arousing cheer drowned the end of the reading of this bulletin, the tenor of which gave to Henri’s aspiraitions an immediate and more advantageous prospect immediate, because, as his company was the first to march, he was assured of not remaining longer at the garrison; more advantageous, because the dangers of a foreign expedition opened a much larger field for his chances of promotion.
Consequently, less than a month remained to him in which to settle his indebtedness. After the reading of the bulletin, he asked one of his brother officers to take his place until evening, caught the first train to town, and, alighting at the Bastille, went directly to the Hotel de Montgeron, where he had temporary quarters whenever he chose to use them.
“Is the Duke at home?” he inquired of the Swiss.
Receiving an affirmative reply, he crossed the courtyard, and was soon announced to his brother-in-law, the noble proprietor of La Sarthe, deputy of the Legitimist opposition to the Corps Legislatif of the Empire.
The Duc de Montgeron listened in silence to his relative’s explanation of his situation. When the recital was finished, without uttering a syllable he opened a drawer, drew out a legal paper, and handed it to Henri, saying: