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List Of Contents | Contents of Martin Guerre, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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visible on his forehead.

"But," she said, with surprise not free from alarm, "this scar seems
to me like a fresh one."

"Ah!" Martin explained, with a, little embarrassment; "it reopened
lately.  But I had thought no more about it.  Let us forget it,
Bertrande; I should not like a recollection which might make you
think yourself less dear to me than you once were."

And he drew her upon his knee.  She repelled him gently.

"Send the child to bed," said Martin.  "Tomorrow shall be for him;
to-night you have the first place, Bertrande, you only."

The boy kissed his father and went.

Bertrande came and knelt beside her husband, regarding him
attentively with an uneasy smile, which did not appear to please him
by any means.

"What is the matter?" said he.  "Why do you examine me thus?"

"I do not know--forgive me, oh!  forgive me!  .  .  .  But the
happiness of seeing you was so great and unexpected, it is all like a
dream.  I must try to become accustomed to it; give me some time to
collect myself; let me spend this night in prayer.  I ought to offer
my joy and my thanksgiving to Almighty God--"

"Not so," interrupted her husband, passing his arms round her neck
and stroking her beautiful hair.  "No; 'tis to me that your first
thoughts are due.  After so much weariness, my rest is in again
beholding you, and my happiness after so many trials will be found in
your love.  That hope has supported me throughout, and I long to be
assured that it is no illusion."  So saying, he endeavoured to raise
her.

"Oh," she murmured, "I pray you leave me."

"What!" he exclaimed angrily.  "Bertrande, is this your love?  Is it
thus you keep faith with me? You will make me doubt the evidence of
your friends; you will make me think that indifference, or even
another love----"

"You insult me," said Bertrande, rising to her feet.

He caught her in his arms.  "No, no; I think nothing which could
wound you, my queen, and I believe your fidelity, even as before, you
know, on that first journey, when you wrote me these loving letters
which I have treasured ever since.  Here they are."  And he drew
forth some papers, on which Bertrande recognised her own handwriting.
"Yes," he continued, "I have read and -re-read them....  See, you
spoke then of your love and the sorrows of absence.  But why all this
trouble and terror?  You tremble, just as you did when I first
received you from your father's hands....  It was here, in this very
room....  You begged me then to leave you, to let you spend the night
in prayer; but I insisted, do you remember? and pressed you to my
heart, as I do now."

"Oh," she murmured weakly, "have pity!"

But the words were intercepted by a kiss, and the remembrance of the
past, the happiness of the present, resumed their sway; the imaginary
terrors were forgotten, and the curtains closed around the marriage-
bed.

The next day was a festival in the village of Artigues.  Martin
returned the visits of all who had come to welcome him the previous
night, and there were endless recognitions and embracings.  The young
men remembered that he had played with them when they were little;
the old men, that they had been at his wedding when he was only
twelve.

The women remembered having envied Bertrande, especially the pretty
Rose, daughter of Marcel, the apothecary, she who had roused the
demon of jealousy in, the poor wife's heart.  And Rose knew quite
well that the jealousy was not without some cause; for Martin had
indeed shown her attention, and she was unable to see him again
without emotion.  She was now the wife of a rich peasant, ugly, old,
and jealous, and she compared, sighing, her unhappy lot with that of
her more fortunate neighbour.  Martin's sisters detained him amongst
them, and spoke of their childish games and of their parents, both
dead in Biscay.  Martin dried the tears which flowed at these
recollections of the past, and turned their thoughts to rejoicing.
Banquets were given and received.  Martin invited all his relations
and former friends; an easy gaiety prevailed.  It was remarked that
the hero of the feast refrained from wine; he was thereupon
reproached, but answered that on account of the wounds he had
received he was obliged to avoid excess.  The excuse was admitted,
the result of Martin's precautions being that he kept a clear head on
his shoulders, while all the rest had their tongues loosed by
drunkenness.

"Ah!" exclaimed one of the guests, who had studied a little medicine,
"Martin is quite right to be afraid of drink.  Wounds which have
thoroughly healed may be reopened and inflamed by intemperance, and
wine in the case of recent wounds is deadly poison.  Men have died on
the field of battle in an hour or two merely because they had
swallowed a little brandy."

Martin Guerre grew pale, and began a conversation with the pretty
Rose, his neighbour.  Bertrande observed this, but without
uneasiness; she had suffered too much from her former suspicions,
besides her husband showed her so much affection that she was now
quite happy.

When the first few days were over, Martin began to look into his
affairs.  His property had suffered by his long absence, and he was
obliged to go to Biscay to claim his little estate there, the law
having already laid hands upon it.  It was several months before, by
dint of making judicious sacrifices, he could regain possession of
the house and fields which had belonged to his father.  This at last
accomplished, he returned to Artigues, in order to resume the
management of his wife's property, and with this end in view, about
eleven months after his return, he paid a visit to his uncle Pierre.

Pierre was expecting him; he was extremely polite, desired Martin,
to sit down, overwhelmed him with compliments, knitting his brows as
he discovered that his nephew decidedly meant business.  Martin broke
silence.

"Uncle," he said, "I come to thank you for the care you have taken of
my wife's property; she could never have managed it alone.  You have
received the income in the family interest: as a good guardian, I
expected no less from your affection.  But now that I have returned,
and am free from other cares, we will go over the accounts, if you
please."

His uncle coughed and cleared his voice before replying, then said
slowly, as if counting his words--

"It is all accounted for, my dear nephew; Heaven be praised!  I don't
owe you anything."

"What!" exclaimed the astonished Martin, "but the whole income?"

"Was well and properly employed in the maintenance of your wife and
child."

"What!  a thousand livres for that?  And Bertrande lived alone, so
quietly and simply!  Nonsense! it is impossible."

"Any surplus," resumed the old man, quite unmoved,--" any surplus
went to pay the expenses of seed-time and harvest."

"What! at a time when labour costs next to nothing?"

"Here is the account," said Pierre.

"Then the account is a false one," returned his nephew.

Pierre thought it advisable to appear extremely offended and angry,
and Martin, exasperated at his evident dishonesty, took still higher
ground, and threatened to bring an action against him.  Pierre
ordered him to leave the house, and suiting actions to words, took
hold of his arm to enforce his departure.  Martin, furious, turned
and raised his fist to strike.

"What! strike your uncle, wretched boy!" exclaimed the old man.

Martin's hand dropped, but he left the house uttering reproaches and
insults, among which Pierre distinguished--

"Cheat that you are!"

"That is a word I shall remember," cried the angry old man, slamming
his door violently.

Martin brought an action before the judge at Rieux, and in course of
time obtained a decree, which, reviewing the accounts presented by
Pierre, disallowed them, and condemned the dishonest guardian to pay
his nephew four hundred livres for each year of his administration.
The day on which this sum had to be disbursed from his strong box the
old usurer vowed vengeance, but until he could gratify his hatred he
was forced to conceal it, and to receive attempts at reconciliation
with a friendly smile.  It was not until six months later, on the
occasion of a joyous festivity, that Martin again set foot in his
uncle's house.  The bells were ringing for the birth of a child,
there was great gaiety at Bertrande's house, where all the guests
were waiting on the threshold for the godfather in order to take the
infant to church, and when Martin appeared, escorting his uncle, who
was adorned with a huge bouquet for the occasion, and who now came
forward and took the hand of Rose, the pretty godmother, there were
cries of joy on all sides.  Bertrande was delighted at this
reconciliation, and dreamed only of happiness.  She was so happy now,
her long sorrow was atoned for, her regret was at an end, her prayers
seemed to have been heard, the long interval between the former
delights and the present seemed wiped out as if the bond of union had
never been broken, and if she remembered her grief at all, it was
only to intensify the new joys by comparison.  She loved her husband
more than ever; he was full of affection for her, and she was
grateful for his love.  The past had now no shadow, the future no
cloud, and the birth of a daughter, drawing still closer the links
which united them, seemed a new pledge of felicity.  Alas! the
horizon which appeared so bright and clear to the poor woman was
doomed soon again to be overcast.

The very evening of the christening party, a band of musicians and
jugglers happened to pass through the village, and the inhabitants
showed themselves liberal.  Pierre asked questions, and found that
the leader of the band was a Spaniard.  He invited the man to his own
house, and remained closeted with him for nearly an hour, dismissing
him at length with a refilled purse.  Two days later the old man
announced to the family that he was going to Picardy to see a former
partner on a matter of business, and he departed accordingly, saying
he should return before long.

The day on which Bertrande again saw her uncle was, indeed, a

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