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List Of Contents | Contents of Martin Guerre, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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prayers had no result.  But Heaven sent her an idea which she
wondered had not occurred to her sooner.  "If the Tempter,"  she said
to herself, "has taken the form of my beloved husband, his power
being supreme for evil, the resemblance would be exact, and no
difference, however slight, would exist.  If, however, it is only
another man who resembles him, God must have made them with some
slight distinguishing marks."

She then remembered, what she had not thought of before, having been
quite unsuspicious before her uncle's accusation, and nearly out of
her mind between mental and bodily suffering since.  She remembered
that on her husband's left shoulder, almost on the neck, there used
to be one of those small, almost imperceptible, but ineffaceable
birthmarks.  Martin wore his hair very long, it was difficult to see
if the mark were there or not.  One night, while he slept, Bertrande
cut away a lock of hair from the place where this sign ought to be--
it was not there!

Convinced at length of the deception, Bertrande suffered
inexpressible anguish.  This man whom she had loved and respected for
two whole years, whom she had taken to her heart as a husband
bitterly mourned for--this man was a cheat, an infamous impostor, and
she, all unknowing, was yet a guilty woman!  Her child was
illegitimate, and the curse of Heaven was due to this sacrilegious
union.  To complete the misfortune, she was already expecting another
infant.  She would have killed herself, but her religion and the love
of her children forbade it.  Kneeling before her child's cradle, she
entreated pardon from the father of the one for the father of the
other.  She would not bring herself to proclaim aloud their infamy.

"Oh!" she said, "thou whom I loved, thou who art no more, thou
knowest no guilty thought ever entered my mind!  When I saw this man,
I thought I beheld thee; when I was happy, I thought I owed it to
thee; it was thee whom I loved in him.  Surely thou dost not desire
that by a public avowal I should bring shame and disgrace on these
children and on myself."

She rose calm and strengthened: it seemed as if a heavenly
inspiration had marked out her duty.  To suffer in silence, such was
the course she adopted,--a life of sacrifice and self-denial which
she offered to God as an expiation for her involuntary sin.  But who
can understand the workings of the human heart?  This man whom she
ought to have loathed, this man who had made her an innocent partner
in his crime, this unmasked impostor whom she should have beheld only
with disgust, she-loved him!  The force of habit, the ascendancy he
had obtained over her, the love he had shown her, a thousand
sympathies felt in her inmost heart, all these had so much influence,
that, instead of accusing and cursing him, she sought to excuse him
on the plea of a passion to which, doubtless, he had yielded when
usurping the name and place of another.  She feared punishment for
him yet more than disgrace for herself, and though resolved to no
longer allow him the rights purchased by crime, she yet trembled at
the idea of losing his love.  It was this above all which decided her
to keep eternal silence about her discovery; one single word which
proved that his imposture was known would raise an insurmountable
barrier between them.

To conceal her trouble entirely was, however, beyond her power; her
eyes frequently showed traces of her secret tears.  Martin several
times asked the cause of her sorrow; she tried to smile and excuse
herself, only immediately sinking back into her gloomy thoughts.
Martin thought it mere caprice; he observed her loss of colour, her
hollow cheeks, and concluded that age was impairing her beauty, and
became less attentive to her.  His absences became longer and more
frequent, and he did not conceal his impatience and annoyance at
being watched; for her looks hung upon his, and she observed his
coldness and change with much grief.  Having sacrificed all in order
to retain his love, she now saw it slowly slipping away from her.

Another person also observed attentively.  Pierre Guerre since his
explanation with Bertrande had apparently discovered no more
evidence, and did not dare to bring an accusation without some
positive proofs.  Consequently he lost no chance of watching the
proceedings of his supposed nephew, silently hoping that chance might
put him on the track of a discovery.  He also concluded from
Bertrande's state of melancholy that she had convinced herself of the
fraud, but had resolved to conceal it.

Martin was then endeavoring to sell a part of his property, and this
necessitated frequent interviews with the lawyers of the neighbouring
town.  Twice in the week he went to Rieux, and to make the journey
easier, used to start horseback about seven in the evening, sleep at
Rieux, and return the following afternoon.  This arrangement did not
escape his enemy's notice, who was not long in convincing himself
that part of the time ostensibly spent on this journey was otherwise
employed.

Towards ten o'clock on the evening of a dark night, the door of a
small house lying about half a gunshot from the village opened gently
for the exit of a man wrapped in a large cloak, followed by a young
woman, who accompanied him some distance.  Arrived at the parting
point, they separated with a tender kiss and a few murmured words of
adieu; the lover took his horse, which was fastened to a tree,
mounted, and rode off towards Rieux.  When the sounds died away, the
woman turned slowly and sadly towards her home, but as she approached
the door a man suddenly turned the corner of the house and barred her
away.  Terrified, she was on the point of crying for help, when he
seized her arm and ordered her to be silent.

"Rose," he whispered, "I know everything: that man is your lover.  In
order to receive him safely, you send your old husband to sleep by
means of a drug stolen from your father's shop.  This intrigue has
been going on for a month; twice a week, at seven o'clock, your door
is opened to this man, who does not proceed on his way to the town
until ten.  I know your lover: he is my nephew."

Petrified with terror, Rose fell on her knees and implored mercy.

"Yes," replied Pierre, "you may well be frightened: I have your
secret.  I have only to publish it and you are ruined for ever:"

You will not do it!  "entreated the guilty woman, clasping her hands.

"I have only to tell your husband," continued Pierre, "that his wife
has dishonoured him, and to explain the reason of his unnaturally
heavy sleep."

"He will kill me!"

"No doubt: he is jealous, he is an Italian, he will know how to
avenge himself--even as I do."

"But I never did you any harm," Rose cried in despair.  "Oh! have
pity, have mercy, and spare me!"

"On one condition."

"What is it?"

"Come with me."

Terrified almost out of her mind, Rose allowed him to lead her away.

Bertrande had just finished her evening prayer, and was preparing for
bed, when she was startled by several knocks at her door.  Thinking
that perhaps some neighbour was in need of help, she opened it
immediately, and to her astonishment beheld a dishevelled woman whom
Pierre grasped by the arm.  He exclaimed vehemently--

"Here is thy judge!  Now, confess all to Bertrande!"

Bertrande did not at once recognise the woman, who fell at her feet,
overcome by Pierre's threats.

"Tell the truth here," he continued, "or I go and tell it to your
husband, at your own home!"--"Ah! madame, kill me," said the unhappy
creature, hiding her face; "let me rather die by your hand than his!"

Bertrande, bewildered, did not understand the position in the least,
but she recognised Rose--

"But what is the matter, madame?  Why are you here at this hour, pale
and weeping?  Why has my uncle dragged you hither?  I am to judge
you, does he say?  Of what crime are you guilty?"

"Martin might answer that, if he were here," remarked Pierre.

A lightning flash of jealousy shot through Bertrande's soul at these
words, all her former suspicions revived.

"What!" she said, "my husband!  What do you mean?"

"That he left this woman's house only a little while ago, that for a
month they have been meeting secretly.  You are betrayed: I have seen
them and she does not dare to deny it."

"Have mercy!" cried Rose, still kneeling.

The cry was a confession.  Bertrande became pate as death.  "O God!"
she murmured, "deceived, betrayed--and by him!"

"For a month past," repeated the old man.

"Oh! the wretch," she continued, with increasing passion; "then his
whole life is a lie!  He has abused my credulity, he now abuses my
love!  He does not know me!  He thinks he can trample on me--me, in
whose power are his fortune, his honour, his very life itself!"

Then, turning to Rose--

"And you, miserable woman! by what unworthy artifice did you gain his
love?  Was it by witchcraft? or some poisonous philtre learned from
your worthy father?"

"Alas! no, madame; my weakness is my only crime, and also my only
excuse.  I loved him, long ago, when I was only a young girl, and
these memories have been my ruin."

"Memories?  What! did you also think you were loving the same man?
Are you also his dupe?  Or are you only pretending, in order to find
a rag of excuse to cover your wickedness?"

It was now Rose who failed to understand; Bertrande continued, with
growing excitement--

"Yes, it was not enough to usurp the rights of a husband and father,
he thought to play his part still better by deceiving the mistress
also .  .  .  .  Ah! it is amusing, is it not?  You also, Rose, you
thought he was your old lover!  Well, I at least am excusable, I the
wife, who only thought she was faithful to her husband!"

"What does it all mean?" asked the terrified Rose.

"It means that this man is an impostor and that I will unmask him.
Revenge! revenge!"

Pierre came forward.  "Bertrande," he said, "so long as I thought you
were happy, when I feared to disturb your peace, I was silent, I
repressed my just indignation, and I spared the usurper of the name

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