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List Of Contents | Contents of Martin Guerre, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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and rights of my nephew.  Do you now give me leave to speak?"

"Yes," she replied in a hollow voice.

"You will not contradict me?"

By way of answer she sat down by the table and wrote a few hasty
lines with a trembling hand, then gave them to Pierre, whose eyes
sparkled with joy.

"Yes," he said, "vengeance for him, but for her pity.  Let this
humiliation be her only punishment.  I promised silence in return for
confession, will you grant it?"

Bertrande assented with a contemptuous gesture.

"Go, fear not," said the old man, and Rose went out.  Pierre also
left the house.

Left to herself, Bertrande felt utterly worn out by so much emotion;
indignation gave way to depression.  She began to realise what she
had done, and the scandal which would fall on her own head.  Just
then her baby awoke, and held out its arms, smiling, and calling for
its father.  Its father, was he not a criminal?  Yes! but was it for
her to ruin him, to invoke the law, to send him to death, after
having taken him to her heart, to deliver him to infamy which would
recoil on her own head and her child's and on the infant which was
yet unborn?  If he had sinned before God, was it not for God to
punish him?  If against herself, ought she not rather to overwhelm
him with contempt?  But to invoke the help, of strangers to expiate
this offence; to lay bare the troubles of her life, to unveil the
sanctuary of the nuptial couch--in short, to summon the whole world
to behold this fatal scandal, was not that what in her imprudent
anger she had really done?  She repented bitterly of her haste, she
sought to avert the consequences, and notwithstanding the night and
the bad weather, she hurried at once to Pierre's dwelling, hoping at
all costs to withdraw her denunciation.  He was not there: he had at
once taken a horse and started for Rieux.  Her accusation was already
on its way to the magistrates!

At break of day the house where Martin Guerre lodged when at Rieux
was surrounded by soldiers.  He came forward with confidence and
inquired what was wanted.  On hearing the accusation, he changed
colour slightly, then collected himself, and made no resistance.
When he came before the judge, Bertrande's petition was read to him,
declaring him to be "an impostor, who falsely, audaciously, and
treacherously had deceived her by taking the name and assuming the
person of Martin Guerre," and demanding that he should be required to
entreat pardon from God, the king, and herself.

The prisoner listened calmly to the charge, and met it courageously,
only evincing profound surprise at such a step being taken by a wife
who had lived with him for two years since his return, and who only
now thought of disputing the rights he had so long enjoyed.  As he
was ignorant both of Bertrande's suspicions and their confirmation,
and also of the jealousy which had inspired her accusation, his
astonishment was perfectly natural, and did not at all appear to be
assumed.  He attributed the whole charge to the machinations of his
uncle, Pierre Guerre; an old man, he said, who, being governed
entirely by avarice and the desire of revenge, now disputed his name
arid rights, in order the better to deprive him of his property,
which might be worth from sixteen to eighteen hundred livres.  In
order to attain his end, this wicked man had not hesitated to pervert
his wife's mind, and at the risk of her own dishonour had instigated
this calumnious charge--a horrible and unheard-of thing in the mouth
of a lawful wife.  "Ah! I do not blame her," he cried; "she must
suffer more than I do, if she really entertains doubts such as these;
but I deplore her readiness to listen to these extraordinary
calumnies originated by my enemy."

The judge was a good deal impressed by so much assurance.  The
accused was relegated to prison, whence he was brought two days later
to encounter a formal examination.

He began by explaining the cause of his long absence, originating, he
said, in a domestic quarrel, as his wife well remembered.  He there
related his life during these eight years.  At first he wandered over
the country, wherever his curiosity and the love of travel led him.
He then had crossed the frontier, revisited Biscay, where he was
born, and having entered the service of the Cardinal of Burgos, he
passed thence into the army of the King of Spain.  He was wounded at
the battle of St. Quentin, conveyed to a neighbouring village, where
he recovered, although threatened with amputation.  Anxious to again
behold his wife and child, his other relations and the land of his
adoption, he returned to Artigues, where he was immediately
recognised by everyone, including the identical Pierre Guerre, his
uncle, who now had the cruelty to disavow him.  In fact, the latter
had shown him special affection up to the day when Martin required an
account of his stewardship.  Had he only had the cowardice to
sacrifice his money and thereby defraud his children, he would not
to-day be charged as an impostor.  "But," continued Martin, "I
resisted, and a violent quarrel ensued, in which anger perhaps
carried me too far; Pierre Guerre, cunning and revengeful, has waited
in silence.  He has taken his time and his measures to organise this
plot, hoping thereby to obtain his ends, to bring justice to the help
of his avarice, and to acquire the spoils he coveted, and revenge for
his defeat, by means of a sentence obtained from the scruples of the
judges."  Besides these explanations, which did not appear wanting in
probability, Martin vehemently protested his innocence, demanding
that his wife should be confronted with him, and declaring that in
his presence she would not sustain the charge of personation brought
against him, and that her mind not being animated by the blind hatred
which dominated his persecutor, the truth would undoubtedly prevail.

He now, in his turn, demanded that the judge should acknowledge his
innocence, and prove it by condemning his calumniators to the
punishment invoked against himself; that his wife, Bertrande de
Rolls, should be secluded in some house where her mind could no
longer be perverted, and, finally, that his innocence should be
declared, and expenses and compensations awarded him.

After this speech, delivered with warmth, and with every token of
sincerity, he answered without difficulty all the interrogations of
the judge.  The following are some of the questions and answers, just
as they have come down to us:--

"In what part of Biscay were you born?"

"In the village of Aymes, province of Guipuscoa."

"What were the names of your parents?"

"Antonio Guerre and Marie Toreada."

"Are they still living?"

"My father died June 15th, 1530; my mother survived him three years
and twelve days."

"Have you any brothers and sisters?"

"I had one brother, who only lived three months.  My four sisters,
Inez, Dorothea, Marietta, and Pedrina, all came to live at Artigues
when I did; they are there still, and they all recognised me."

"What is the date of your marriage?"

"January 10, 1539."

"Who were present at the ceremony?"

"My father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my uncle, my two sisters, Maitre
Marcel and his daughter Rose; a neighbour called Claude Perrin, who
got drunk at the wedding feast; also Giraud, the poet, who composed
verses in our honour."

"Who was the priest who married you?"

"The old cure, Pascal Guerin, whom I did not find alive when I
returned."

"What special circumstances occurred on the wedding-day?"

"At midnight exactly, our neighbour, Catherine Boere, brought us the
repast which is known as 'medianoche.'  This woman has recognised me,
as also our old Marguerite, who has remained with us ever since the
wedding."

"What is the date of your son's birth?"

"February 10, 1548, nine years after our marriage.  I was only twelve
when the ceremony took place, and did not arrive at manhood till
several years later."

"Give the date of your leaving Artigues."

"It was in August 1549.  As I left the village, I met Claude Perrin
and the cure Pascal, and took leave of them.  I went towards
Beauvais, end I passed through Orleans, Bourges, Limoges, Bordeaux,
and Toulouse.  If you want the names of people whom I saw and to whom
I spoke, you can have them.  What more can I say?"

Never, indeed, was there a more apparently veracious statement!  All
the doings of Martin Guerre seemed to be most faithfully described,
and surely only himself could thus narrate his own actions.  As the
historian remarks, alluding to the story of Amphitryon, Mercury
himself could not better reproduce all Sosia's actions, gestures, and
words, than did the false Martin Guerre those of the real one.

In accordance with the demand of the accused, Bertrande de Rolls was
detained in seclusion, in order to remove her from the influence of
Pierre Guerre.  The latter, however, did not waste time, and during
the month spent in examining the witnesses cited by Martin, his
diligent enemy, guided by some vague traces, departed on a journey,
from which he did not return alone.

All the witnesses bore out the statement of the accused; the latter
heard this in prison, and rejoiced, hoping for a speedy release.
Before long he was again brought before the judge, who told him that
his deposition had been confirmed by all the witnesses examined.

"Do you know of no others?" continued the magistrate.  "Have you no
relatives except those you have mentioned?"

"I have no others," answered the prisoner.

"Then what do you say to this man?" said the judge, opening a door.

An old man issued forth, who fell on the prisoner's neck, exclaiming,
"My nephew!"

Martin trembled in every limb, but only for a moment.  Promptly
recovering himself, and gazing calmly at the newcomer, he asked
coolly--

"And who may you be?"

"What!" said the old man, "do you not know me?  Dare you deny me?--
me, your mother's brother, Carbon Barreau, the old soldier!  Me, who
dandled you on my knee in your infancy; me, who taught you later to
carry a musket; me, who met you during the war at an inn in Picardy,

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