Within an Inch of His LifeWithin an Inch of His Life
Jacques de Boiscoran was evidently anxious to have done with his recital, to come to that
night of the fire at Valpinson, and to learn at last from the eminent advocate of Sauveterre
what he had to fear or to hope. After a moment's silence, for his breath was giving out,
and after a few steps across his cell, he went on in a bitter tone of voice,--
"But why trouble you with all these details, Magloire? Would you believe me any more
than you do now, if I were to enumerate to you all my meetings with the Countess
Claudieuse, or if I were to repeat all her most trifling words?
"We had gradually learnt to calculate all our movements, and made our preparations so
accurately, that we met constantly, and feared no danger. We said to each other at
parting, or she wrote to me, 'On such a day, at such an hour, at such a place;' and however
distant the day, or the hour, or the place, we were sure to meet. I had soon learned to
know the country as well as the cleverest of poachers; and nothing was so useful to us as
this familiarity with all the unknown hiding- places. The countess, on her side, never let
three months pass by without discovering some urgent motive which carried her to
Rochelle, to Angouleme, or to Paris; and I was there to meet her. Nothing kept her from
these excursions; even when indisposed, she braved the fatigues of the journey. It is true,
my life was well-nigh spent in travelling; and at any moment, when least expected, I
disappeared for whole weeks. This will explain to you that restlessness at which my
father sneered, and for which you, yourself, Magloire, used to blame me."
"That is true," replied the latter. "I remember."
Jacques de Boiscoran did not seem to notice the encouragement.
"I should not tell the truth if I were to say that this kind of life was unpleasant to me.
Mystery and danger always add to the charms of love. The difficulties only increased my
passion. I saw something sublime in this success with which two superior beings devoted
all their intelligence and cleverness to the carrying-on of a secret intrigue. The more fully
I became aware of the veneration with which the countess was looked up to by the whole
country, the more I learned to appreciate her ability in dissembling and her profound
perversity; and I was all the more proud of her. I felt the pride setting my cheeks aglow
when I saw her at Brechy; for I came there every Sunday for her sake alone, to see her
pass calm and serene in the imposing security of her lofty reputation. I laughed at the
simplicity of all these honest, good people, who bowed so low to her, thinking they
saluted a saint; and I congratulated myself with idiotic delight at being the only one who
knew the true Countess Claudieuse,--she who took her revenge so bravely in our house in
"But such delights never last long.