Within an Inch of His LifeWithin an Inch of His Life
FIRST PART: Fire At Valpinson
These were the facts:--
In the night from the 22nd to the 23rd of June, 1871, towards one o'clock in the morning,
the Paris suburb of Sauveterre, the principal and most densely populated suburb of that
pretty town, was startled by the furious gallop of a horse on its ill-paved streets.
A number of peaceful citizens rushed to the windows.
The dark night allowed these only to see a peasant in his shirt sleeves, and bareheaded,
who belabored a large gray mare, on which he rode bareback, with his heels and a huge
This man, after having passed the suburbs, turned into National Street, formerly Imperial
Street, crossed New-Market Square, and stopped at last before the fine house which
stands at the corner of Castle Street.
This was the house of the mayor of Sauveterre, M. Seneschal, a former lawyer, and now a
member of the general council.
Having alighted, the peasant seized the bell-knob, and began to ring so furiously, that, in
a few moments, the whole house was in an uproar.
A minute later, a big, stout servant-man, his eyes heavy with sleep, came and opened the
door, and then cried out in an angry voice,--
"Who are you, my man? What do you want? Have you taken too much wine? Don't you
know at whose house you are making such a row?"
"I wish to see the mayor," replied the peasant instantly. "Wake him up!"
M. Seneschal was wide awake.
Dressed in a large dressing-gown of gray flannel, a candlestick in his hand, troubled, and
unable to disguise his trouble, he had just come down into the hall, and heard all that was
"Here is the mayor," he said in an ill-satisfied tone. "What do you want of him at this
hour, when all honest people are in bed?"