Within an Inch of His LifeWithin an Inch of His Life
The railway which connects Sauveterre with the Orleans line enjoys a certain celebrity on
account of a series of utterly useless curves, which defy all common sense, and which
would undoubtedly be the source of countless accidents, if the trains were not prohibited
from going faster than eight or ten miles an hour.
The depot has been built--no doubt for the greater convenience of travellers--at a distance
of two miles from town, on a place where formerly the first banker of Sauveterre had his
beautiful gardens. The pretty road which leads to it is lined on both sides with inns and
taverns, on market-days full of peasants, who try to rob each other, glass in hand, and lips
overflowing with protestations of honesty. On ordinary days even, the road is quite
lively; for the walk to the railway has become a favorite promenade. People go out to see
the trains start or come in, to examine the new arrivals, or to exchange confidences as to
the reasons why Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so have made up their mind to travel.
It was nine o'clock in the morning when the train which brought the marchioness and
Manuel Folgat at last reached Sauveterre. The former was overcome by fatigue and
anxiety, having spent the whole night in discussing the chances for her son's safety, and
was all the more exhausted as the lawyer had taken care not to encourage her hopes.
For he also shared, in secret at least, M. Chapelain's doubts. He, also, had said to himself,
that a man like M. de Boiscoran is not apt to be arrested, unless there are strong reasons,
and almost overwhelming proofs of his guilt in the hands of the authorities.
The train was slackening speed.
"If only Dionysia and her father," sighed the marchioness, "have thought of sending a
carriage to meet us."
"Why so?" asked Manuel Folgat.
"Because I do not want all the world to see my grief and my tears."
The young lawyer shook his head, and said,--
"You will certainly not do that, madame, if you are disposed to follow my advice."
She looked at him quite amazed; but he insisted.
"I mean you must not look as if you wished not to be seen: that would be a great, almost
irreparable mistake. What would they think if they saw you in tears and great distress?
They would say you were sure of your son's guilt; and the few who may still doubt will
doubt no longer. You must control public opinion from the beginning; for it is absolute in
these small communities, where everybody is under somebody else's immediate