Within an Inch of His LifeWithin an Inch of His Life
The famous night of the fire at Valpinson had been a godsend to the good people of
Sauveterre. They had henceforth an inexhaustible topic of discussion, ever new and ever
rich in unexpected conjectures,--the Boiscoran case. When people met in the streets, they
"What are they doing now?"
Whenever, therefore, M. Galpin went from the court-house to the prison, or came striding
up National Street with his stiff, slow step, twenty good housewives peeped from behind
their curtains to read in his face some of the secrets of the trial. They saw, however,
nothing there but traces of intense anxiety, and a pallor which became daily more
marked. They said to each other,--
"You will see poor M. Galpin will catch the jaundice from it."
The expression was commonplace; but it conveyed exactly the feelings of the ambitious
lawyer. This Boiscoran case had become like a festering wound to him, which irritated
him incessantly and intolerably.
"I have lost my sleep by it," he told the commonwealth attorney. Excellent M.
Daubigeon, who had great trouble in moderating his zeal, did not pity him particularly.
He would say in reply,--
"Whose fault is it? But you want to rise in the world; and increasing fortune is always
followed by increasing care.
"Ah!" said the magistrate. "I have only done my duty, and, if I had to begin again, I
would do just the same."
Still every day he saw more clearly that he was in a false position. Public opinion,
strongly arrayed against M. de Boiscoran, was not, on that account, very favorable to
him. Everybody believed Jacques guilty, and wanted him to be punished with all the rigor
of the law; but, on the other hand, everybody was astonished that M. Galpin should
choose to act as magistrate in such a case. There was a touch of treachery in this
proceeding against a former friend, in looking everywhere for evidence against him, in
driving him into court, that is to say, towards the galleys or the scaffold; and this revolted
The very way in which people returned his greeting, or avoided him altogether, made the
magistrate aware of the feelings they entertained for him. This only increased his wrath
against Jacques, and, with it his trouble. He had been congratulated, it is true, by the
attorney- general; but there is no certainty in a trial, as long as the accused refuses to
confess. The charges against Jacques, to be sure, were so overwhelming, that his being