The journalist replied: "At a box-office keeper's of the Vaudeville.
I will bring it you to-morrow, if you like."
If it is really a good one I will take it; one can never have too many."
Then turning to Duroy he added:
"Come with me. I will take you in to see the governor; otherwise you might be getting mouldy here till seven in the evening."
They re-crossed the waiting-room, in which the same people were waiting in the same order.
As soon as Forestier appeared the young woman and the old actress, rising quickly, came up to him.
He took them aside one after the other into the bay of the window, and although they took care to talk in low tones, Duroy noticed that they were on familiar terms.
Then, having passed through two padded doors, they entered the manager's room.
The conference which had been going on for an hour or so was nothing more than a game at ecarte with some of the gentlemen with the flat brimmed hats whom Duroy had noticed the night before.
Monsieur Walter dealt and played with concentrated attention and crafty movements, while his adversary threw down, picked up, and handled the light bits of colored pasteboard with the swiftness, skill, and grace of a practiced player.
Norbert de Varenne, seated in the managerial armchair, was writing an article. Jacques Rival, stretched at full length on a couch, was smoking a cigar with his eyes closed.
The room smelled close, with that blended odor of leather-covered furniture, stale tobacco, and printing-ink peculiar to editors' rooms and familiar to all journalists.
Upon the black wood table, inlaid with brass, lay an incredible pile of papers, letters, cards, newspapers, magazines, bills, and printed matter of every description.
Forestier shook hands with the punters standing behind the card players, and without saying a word watched the progress of the game; then, as soon as Daddy Walter had won, he said:
"Here is my friend, Duroy."
The manager glanced sharply at the young fellow over the glasses of his spectacles, and said: "Have you brought my article?
It would go very well to-day with the Morel debate."
Duroy took the sheets of paper folded in four from his pocket, saying:
"Here it is sir."
The manager seemed pleased, and remarked, with a smile: "Very good, very good.
You are a man of your word.
You must look through this for me, Forestier."
But Forestier hastened to reply: "It is not worth while, Monsieur Walter.
I did it with him to give him a lesson in the tricks of the trade.
It is very well done."
And the manager, who was gathering up the cards dealt by a tall, thin gentleman, a deputy belonging to the Left Center, remarked with indifference: "All right, then."
Forestier, however, did not let him begin the new game, but stooping, murmured in his ear: "You know you promised me to take on Duroy to replace Marambot.
Shall I engage him on the same terms?"
Taking his friend's arm, the journalist led him away, while Monsieur Walter resumed the game.
Norbert de Varenne had not lifted his head; he did not appear to have seen or recognized Duroy.
Jacques Rival, on the contrary, had taken his hand with the marked and demonstrative energy of a comrade who may be reckoned upon in the case of any little difficulty.
They passed through the waiting-room again, and as everyone looked at them, Forestier said to the youngest of the women, in a tone loud enough to be heard by the rest:
"The manager will see you directly.
He is just now engaged with two members of the Budget Committee."
Then he passed swiftly on, with an air of hurry and importance, as though about to draft at once an article of the utmost weight.
As soon as they were back in the reporters' room Forestier at once took up his cup and ball, and as he began to play with it again, said to Duroy, breaking his sentences in order to count:
"You will come here every day at three o'clock, and I will tell you the places you are to go to, either during the day or in the evening, or the next morning--one--I will give you, first of all, a letter of introduction to the head of the First Department of the Prefecture of Police--two--who will put you in communication with one of his clerks.
You will settle with him about all the important information--three--from the Prefecture, official and quasi-official information, you know.
In all matters of detail you will apply to Saint-Potin, who is up in the work--four--You can see him by-and-by, or to-morrow.
You must, above all, cultivate the knack of dragging information out of men I send you to see--five--and to get in everywhere, in spite of closed doors--six--You will have for this a salary of two hundred francs a month, with two sous a line for the paragraphs you glean--seven--and two sous a line for all articles written by you to order on different subjects--eight."
Then he gave himself up entirely to his occupation, and went on slowly counting:
"Nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen."
He missed the fourteenth, and swore,
"Damn that thirteen, it always brings me bad luck.
I shall die on the thirteenth of some month, I am certain."
One of his colleagues who had finished his work also took a cup and ball from the cupboard. He was a little man, who looked like a boy, although he was really five-and-thirty.
Several other journalists having come in, went one after the other and got out the toy belonging to each of them.