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List Of Contents | Contents of Martin Guerre, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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carrying his head high, coming home from a fatiguing hunt and sitting
by his son's cradle; and then also she remembered bitterly the
jealous suspicions she had conceived, the anger with which she had
allowed them to escape her, the consequent quarrel, followed by the
disappearance of her offended husband, and the eight succeeding years
of solitude and mourning.  She wept over his desertion; over the
desolation of her life, seeing around her only indifferent or selfish
people, and caring only to live for her child's sake, who gave her at
least a shadowy reflection of the husband she had lost.  "Lost--yes,
lost for ever!" she said to herself, sighing, and looking again at
the fields whence she had so often seen him coming at this same
twilight hour, returning to his home for the evening meal.  She cast
a wandering eye on the distant hills, which showed a black outline
against a yet fiery western sky, then let it fall on a little grove
of olive trees planted on the farther side of the brook which skirted
her dwelling.  Everything was calm; approaching night brought silence
along with darkness: it was exactly what she saw every evening, but
to leave which required always an effort.

She rose to re-enter the house, when her attention was caught by a
movement amongst the trees.  For a moment she thought she was
mistaken, but the branches again rustled, then parted asunder, and
the form of a man appeared on the other side of the brook.
Terrified, Bertrande tried to scream, but not a sound escaped her
lips; her voice seemed paralyzed by terror, as in an evil dream.  And
she almost thought it was a dream, for notwithstanding the dark
shadows cast around this indistinct semblance, she seemed to
recognise features once dear to her.  Had her bitter reveries ended
by making her the victim of a hallucination?  She thought her brain
was giving way, and sank on her knees to pray for help.  But the
figure remained; it stood motionless, with folded arms, silently
gazing at her!  Then she thought of witchcraft, of evil demons, and
superstitious as every one was in those days, she kissed a crucifix
which hung from her neck, and fell fainting on the ground.  With one
spring the phantom crossed the brook and stood beside her.

"Bertrande!" it said in a voice of emotion.  She raised her head,
uttered a piercing cry, and was clasped in her husband's arms.

The whole village became aware of this event that same evening.  The
neighbours crowded round Bertrande's door, Martin's friends and
relations naturally wishing to see him after this miraculous
reappearance, while those who had never known him desired no less to
gratify their curiosity; so that the hero of the little drama,
instead of remaining quietly at home with his wife, was obliged to
exhibit himself publicly in a neighbouring barn.  His four sisters
burst through the crowd and fell on his neck weeping; his uncle
examined him doubtfully at first, then extended his arms.  Everybody
recognised him, beginning with the old servant Margherite, who had
been with the young couple ever since their wedding-day.  People
observed only that a riper age had strengthened his features, and
given more character to his countenance and more development to his
powerful figure; also that he had a scar over the right eyebrow, and
that he limped slightly.  These were the marks of wounds he had
received, he said; which now no longer troubled him.  He appeared
anxious to return to his wife and child, but the crowd insisted on
hearing the story of his adventures during his voluntary absence, and
he was obliged to satisfy them.  Eight years ago, he said, the desire
to see more of the world had gained an irresistible mastery over him;
he yielded to it, and departed secretly.  A natural longing took him
to his birthplace in Biscay, where he had seen his surviving
relatives.  There he met the Cardinal of Burgos, who took him into
his service, promising him profit, hard knocks to give and take, and
plenty of adventure.  Some time after, he left the cardinal's
household for that of his brother, who, much against his will,
compelled him to follow him to the war and bear arms against the
French.  Thus he found himself on the Spanish side on the day of St.
Quentin, and received a terrible gun-shot wound in the leg.  Being
carried into a house a an adjoining village, he fell into the hands
of a surgeon, who insisted that the leg must be amputated
immediately, but who left him for a moment, and never returned.  Then
he encountered a good old woman, who dressed his wound and nursed him
night and day.  So that in a few weeks he recovered, and was able to
set out for Artigues, too thankful to return to his house and land,
still more to his wife and child, and fully resolved never to leave
them again.

Having ended his story, he shook hands with his still wondering
neighbours, addressing by name some who had been very young when he
left, and who, hearing their names, came forward now as grown men,
hardly recognisable, but much pleased at being remembered.  He
returned his sisters' carresses, begged his uncle's forgiveness for
the trouble he had given in his boyhood, recalling with mirth the
various corrections received.  He mentioned also an Augustinian monk
who had taught him to read, and another reverend father, a Capuchin,
whose irregular conduct had caused much scandal in the neighbourhood.
In short, notwithstanding his prolonged absence, he seemed to have a
perfect recollection of places, persons, and things.  The good people
overwhelmed him with congratulations, vying with one another in
praising him for having the good sense to come home, and in
describing the grief and the perfect virtue of his Bertrande.
Emotion was excited, many wept, and several bottles from Martin
Guerre's cellar were emptied.  At length the assembly dispersed,
uttering many exclamations about the extraordinary chances of Fate,
and retired to their own homes, excited, astonished, and gratified,
with the one exception of old Pierre Guerre, who had been struck by
an unsatisfactory remark made by his nephew, and who dreamed all
night about the chances of pecuniary loss augured by the latter's
return.

It was midnight before the husband and wife were alone and able to
give vent to their feelings.  Bertrande still felt half stupefied;
she could not believe her own eyes and ears, nor realise that she saw
again in her marriage chamber her husband of eight years ago, him for
whom she had wept; whose death she had deplored only a few hours
previously.  In the sudden shock caused by so much joy succeeding so
much grief, she had not been able to express what she felt; her
confused ideas were difficult to explain, and she seemed deprived of
the powers of speech and reflection.  When she became calmer and more
capable of analysing her feelings, she was astonished not to feel
towards her husband the same affection which had moved her so
strongly a few hours before.  It was certainly himself, those were
the same features, that was the man to whom she had willingly given
her hand, her heart, herself, and yet now that she saw him again a
cold barrier of shyness, of modesty, seemed to have risen between
them.  His first kiss, even, had not made her happy: she blushed and
felt saddened--a curious result of the long absence!  She could not
define the changes wrought by years in his appearance: his
countenance seemed harsher, yet the lines of his face, his outer man,
his whole personality, did not seem altered, but his soul had changed
its nature, a different mind looked forth from those eyes.  Bertrande
knew him for her husband, and yet she hesitated.  Even so Penelope,
on the, return of Ulysses, required a certain proof to confirm the
evidence of her eyes, and her long absent husband had to remind her
of secrets known only to herself.

Martin, however, as if he understood Bertrande's feeling and divined
some secret mistrust, used the most tender and affectionate phrases,
and even the very pet names which close intimacy had formerly
endeared to them.

"My queen," he said, "my beautiful dove, can you not lay aside your
resentment?  Is it still so strong that no submission can soften it?
Cannot my repentance find grace in your eyes?  My Bertrande, my
Bertha, my Bertranilla, as I used to call you."

She tried to smile, but stopped short, puzzled; the names were the
very same, but the inflexion of voice quite different.

Martin took her hands in his.  "What pretty hands!  Do you still wear
my ring?  Yes, here it is, and with it the sapphire ring I gave you
the day Sanxi was born."

Bertrande did not answer, but she took the child and placed him in
his father's arms.

Martin showered caresses on his son, and spoke of the time when he
carried him as a baby in the garden, lifting him up to the fruit
trees, so that he could reach and try to bite the fruit.  He
recollected one day when the poor child got his leg terribly torn by
thorns, and convinced himself, not without emotion, that the scar
could still be seen.

Bertrande was touched by this display of affectionate recollections,
and felt vexed at her own coldness.  She came up to Martin and laid
her hand in his.  He said gently--

"My departure caused you great grief: I now repent what I did.  But I
was young, I was proud, and your reproaches were unjust."

"Ah," said she, "you have not forgotten the cause of our quarrel?"

"It was little Rose, our neighbour, whom you said I was making love
to, because you found us together at the spring in the little wood.
I explained that we met only by chance,--besides, she was only a
child,--but you would not listen, and in your anger--"

"Ah! forgive me, Martin, forgive me!" she interrupted, in confusion.

"In your blind anger you took up, I know not what, something which
lay handy, and flung it at me.  And here is the mark," he continued,
smiling, "this scar, which is still to be seen."

"Oh, Martin!  "Bertrande exclaimed, "can you ever forgive me?"

"As you see," Martin replied, kissing her tenderly.

Much moved, Bertrande swept aside his hair, and looked at the scar

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