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'Why, certainly, dear master. Anything you like!'

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He did not even raise the question of payment, knowing that such services are priceless; and, as the other added that they would give him a franc per signature to compensate him for his loss of time, he acquiesced with a simple nod of the head. Then, with his familiar smile, he said: 'I hope, too, dear master, that you won't refuse me your advice. As you will be so well placed, I shall come to you for information.'

'Quite so,' concluded Saccard, who understood. 'Till we meet again, be careful of yourself; don't listen too readily to the ladies.'

Then, with a laugh, for Sabatani was reported to be for some mysterious reason a remarkable favourite with the fair sex, he dismissed him by a private exit, which enabled him to send people away without making them pass through the ante-room again.

Having gone to open the other door, he next called Jantrou, who, as he saw at a glance, was in sore straits, at the very end of his tether, clad in a frock-coat, the sleeves of which had been worn threadbare by long leaning on café[Pg 122] tables during his endless 'wait' for a situation. The Bourse continued to be a hard-hearted mother to him, and yet he bore himself jauntily, with his fan-shaped beard, still cynical and lettered, at times dropping a flowery phrase, betokening the former university man.

'I meant to write to you shortly,' said Saccard. 'We are drawing up a list of employees, upon which I have inscribed your name among the first, and I expect I shall place you in the issue office.'

Jantrou stopped him with a gesture. 'You are very kind, and I thank you. But I have a proposal to make to you.'

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He did not explain himself forthwith, but, starting with generalities, inquired what part the Press would play in the launching of the Universal Bank. The other took fire at the first words, declared that he was for advertising on the largest scale, and would devote all available money to it. Not a trumpet was to be disdained; not even the penny trumpets; for he laid it down as an axiom that every noise was good from the simple fact that it was a noise. The ideal would be to have every paper at one's service; only that would cost too much.

'Is it your idea, then, to organise our advertising?' he at last inquired. 'Perhaps that wouldn't be a bad scheme. We will talk it over.'

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'Yes, later, if you like. But what would you say to a paper of your own, completely your own, and which I should manage for you? Every morning there would be a page reserved for you, articles that would sing your praises, or paragraphs reminding people of you, with allusions to you in contributions altogether foreign to financial matters—in short, a regular campaign, in which, à propos of everything and nothing, you would be incessantly exalted on the slaughtered bodies of your rivals. Does that tempt you?'

'Why yes, if it doesn't cost the devil.'

'No, the price will be reasonable.'

And at last he named the paper he had in view—'L'Espérance,' which had been founded two years previously by a little group of Catholic notabilities, the violent members[Pg 123] of the party, who waged ferocious war upon the Empire. The success of their efforts was however absolutely null, and every week there circulated a fresh report of the paper's disappearance.

'Oh, it doesn't print two thousand copies!' cried Saccard.

'But it will be our business to raise its circulation.'

'And besides, it is impossible: it drags my brother in the mud; I cannot afford to offend him at the very outset.'

Jantrou gently shrugged his shoulders. 'There is no need to offend anyone. You know as well as I do that, when a financial house has a paper of its own, it is of little consequence whether this paper supports or attacks the Government; if it is an officious journal, the house is certain to be included in all the syndicates organised by the Minister of Finance to insure the success of the State and Communal loans; while if it is an opposition print, the same minister is very considerate in his treatment of the bank which it represents, prompted by a desire to disarm it and win it over, which often finds expression in still more favours. So don't trouble yourself as to the politics of "L'Espérance." Have a paper, it is a power.'