Within an Inch of His LifeWithin an Inch of His Life
There was nothing more to be done for the magistrate, the commonwealth attorney, or the
mayor. The doctor might assuredly have used more polite language; but people were
accustomed to his brutal ways; for it is surprising with what readiness men are tolerated
in France, under the pretext that they are as they are, and that they must be taken as they
are. The three gentlemen, therefore, left the room, after having bid farewell to the
countess, and after having promised to send the count news of all that might be
The fire was going out for want of fuel. A few hours had sufficed to destroy all that the
hard work and incessant cares of many years had accomplished. This charming and much
envied estate presented now nothing but a few half calcined walls, heaps of black and
gray ashes, and still glowing timbers, from which columns of smoke were slowly rising
upward. Thanks to Capt. Parenteau, all that they had been able to save had been carried to
a distance, and safely stored away under the shelter of the ruins of the old castle. There,
furniture and other articles were piled up pell-mell. There, carts and agricultural machines
were standing about, empty casks, and sacks of oats and rye. There, also, the cattle were
gathered, that had been drawn from their stalls with infinite labor, and at great risk of
life,--horses, oxen, some sheep, and a dozen cows, who lowed piteously. Few of the
people had left as yet. With greater zeal than ever the firemen, aided by the peasants,
deluged the remains of the dwelling-house with water. They had nothing to fear from the
fire; but they desired to keep the bodies of their unfortunate companions from being
"What a terrible scourge fire is!" said M. Seneschal.
Neither M. Galpin nor the mayor made any answer. They also felt their hearts oppressed
by the sad sight before them, in spite of all the intense excitement before; for a fire is
nothing as long as the feverish excitement, and the hope of saving something, continue to
keep us up, and as long as the red flames illumine the horizon; but the next day, when all
is over, then we realize the extent of the misfortune.
The firemen recognized the mayor, and greeted him with cheers. He went rapidly towards
them; and, for the first time since the alarm had been raised, the magistrate and the
attorney were alone. They were standing close by each other, and for a moment kept
silent, while each one tried to read in the other's eyes the secret of his thoughts. At last M.
M. Galpin trembled.
"This is a fearful calamity," he said.