Within an Inch of His LifeWithin an Inch of His Life
During the last twenty-four hours, Mechinet had changed so much, that his sisters
recognized him no longer. Immediately after Dionysia's departure, they had come to him,
hoping to hear at last what was meant by that mysterious interview; but at the first word
he had cried out with a tone of voice which frightened his sisters to death,--
"That is none of your business! That is nobody's business!" and he had remained alone,
quite overcome by his adventure, and dreaming of the means to make good his promise
without ruining himself. That was no easy matter.
When the decisive moment arrived, he discovered that he would never be able to get the
note into M. de Boiscoran's hands, without being caught by that lynx-eyed M. Galpin: as
the letter was burning in his pocket, he saw himself compelled, after long hesitation, to
appeal for help to the man who waited on Jacques,--to Trumence, in fine. The latter was,
after all, a good enough fellow; his only besetting sin being unconquerable laziness, and
his only crime in the eyes of the law perpetual vagrancy. He was attached to Mechinet,
who upon former occasions, when he was in jail, had given him some tobacco, or a little
money to buy a glass of wine. He made therefore no objection, when the clerk asked him
to give a letter to M. de Boiscoran, and to bring back an answer. He acquitted himself,
moreover, faithfully and honestly of his commission. But, because every thing had gone
well once, it did not follow that Mechinet felt quite at peace. Besides being tormented by
the thought that he had betrayed his duty, he felt wretched in being at the mercy of an
accomplice. How easily might he not be betrayed! A slight indiscretion, an awkward
blunder, an unlucky accident, might do it. What would become of him then?
He would lose his place and all his other employments, one by one. He would lose
confidence and consideration. Farewell to all ambitious dreams, all hopes of wealth, all
dreams of an advantageous marriage. And still, by an odd contradiction, Mechinet did not
repent what he had done, and felt quite ready to do it over again. He was in this state of
mind when the old nurse brought him Dionysia's letter.
"What, again?" he exclaimed.
And when he had read the few lines, he replied,--
"Tell your mistress I will be there!" But in his heart he thought some untoward event
must have happened.
The little garden-gate was half-open: he had only to push it to enter. There was no moon;
but the night was clear, and at a short distance from him, under the trees, he recognized
Dionysia, and went towards her.
"Pardon me, sir," she said, "for having dared to send for you."