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List Of Contents | Contents of Martin Guerre, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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when you fled secretly.  Since then I have sought you everywhere; I
have spoken of you, and described your face and person, until a
worthy inhabitant of this country offered to bring me hither, where
indeed I did not expect to find my sister's son imprisoned and
fettered as a malefactor.  What is his crime, may it please your
honour?"

"You shall hear," replied the magistrate.  "Then you identify the
prisoner as your nephew?  You affirm his name to be---?"

"Arnauld du Thill, also called 'Pansette,' after his father, Jacques
Pansa.  His mother was Therese Barreau, my sister, and he was born in
the village of Sagias."

"What have you to say?" demanded the judge, turning to the accused.

"Three things," replied the latter, unabashed, "this man is either
mad, or he has been suborned to tell lies, or he is simply mistaken."

The old man was struck dumb with astonishment. But his supposed
nephew's start of terror had not been lost upon the judge, also much
impressed by the straightforward frankness of Carbon Barreau.  He
caused fresh investigations to be made, and other inhabitants of
Sagias were summoned to Rieux, who one and all agreed in identifying
the accused as the same Arnauld du Thill who had been born and had
grown up under their very eyes.  Several deposed that as he grew up
he had taken to evil courses, and become an adept in theft and lying,
not fearing even to take the sacred name of God in vain, in order to
cover the untruth of his daring assertions.  From such testimony the
judge naturally concluded that Arnauld du Thill was quite capable of
carrying on, an imposture, and that the impudence which he displayed
was natural to his character.  Moreover, he noted that the prisoner,
who averred that he was born in Biscay, knew only a few words of the
Basque language, and used these quite wrongly.  He heard later
another witness who deposed that the original Martin Guerre was a
good wrestler and skilled in the art of fence, whereas the prisoner,
having wished to try what he could do, showed no skill whatever.
Finally, a shoemaker was interrogated, and his evidence was not the
least damning.  Martin Guerre, he declared, required twelve holes to
lace his boots, and his surprise had been great when he found those
of the prisoner had only nine.  Considering all these points, and the
cumulative evidence, the judge of Rieux set aside the favourable
testimony, which he concluded had been the outcome of general
credulity, imposed on by an extraordinary resemblance. He gave due
weight also to Bertrande's accusation, although she had never
confirmed it, and now maintained an obstinate silence; and he
pronounced a judgment by which Arnauld du Thill was declared
"attainted and convicted of imposture, and was therefore condemned to
be beheaded; after which his body should be divided into four
quarters, and exposed at the four corners of the town."

This sentence, as soon as it was known, caused much diversity of
opinion in the town.  The prisoner's enemies praised the wisdom of
the judge, and those less prejudiced condemned his decision; as such
conflicting testimony left room for doubt.  Besides, it was thought
that the possession of property and the future of the children
required much consideration, also that the most absolute certainty
was demanded before annulling a past of two whole years, untroubled
by any counter claim whatever.

The condemned man appealed from this sentence to the Parliament of
Toulouse.  This court decided that the case required more careful
consideration than had yet been given to it, and began by ordering
Arnauld du Thill to be confronted with Pierre Guerre and Bertrande de
Rolls.

Who can say what feelings animate a man who, already once condemned,
finds himself subjected to a second trial?  The torture scarcely
ended begins again, and Hope, though reduced to a shadow, regains her
sway over his imagination, which clings to her skirts, as it were,
with desperation.  The exhausting efforts must be recommenced; it is
the last struggle--a struggle which is more desperate in proportion
as there is less strength to maintain it.  In this case the defendant
was not one of those who are easily cast down; he collected all his
energy, all his courage, hoping to come victoriously out of the new
combat which lay before him.

The magistrates assembled in the great hall of the Parliament, and
the prisoner appeared before them.  He had first to deal with Pierre,
and confronted him calmly, letting him speak, without showing any
emotion.  He then replied with indignant reproaches, dwelling on
Pierre's greed and avarice, his vows of vengeance, the means employed
to work upon Bertrande, his secret manoeuvres in order to gain his
ends, and the unheard-of animosity displayed in hunting up accusers,
witnesses, and calumniators.  He defied Pierre to prove that he was
not Martin Guerre, his nephew, inasmuch as Pierre had publicly
acknowledged and embraced him, and his tardy suspicions only dated
from the time of their violent quarrel.  His language was so strong
and vehement, that Pierre became confused and was unable to answer,
and the encounter turned entirely in Arnauld's favour, who seemed to
overawe his adversary from a height of injured innocence, while the
latter appeared as a disconcerted slanderer.

The scene of his confrontation with Bertrande took a wholly different
character.  The poor woman, pale, cast down, worn by sorrow, came
staggering before the tribunal, in an almost fainting condition.  She
endeavoured to collect herself, but as soon as she saw the prisoner
she hung her head and covered her face with her hands.  He approached
her and besought her in the gentlest accents not to persist in an
accusation which might send him to the scaffold, not thus to avenge
any sins he might have committed against her, although he could not
reproach himself with any really serious fault.

Bertrande started, and murmured in a whisper, "And Rose?"

"Ah!" Arnauld exclaimed, astonished at this revelation.

His part was instantly taken.  Turning to the judges--

"Gentlemen," he said, "my wife is a jealous woman!  Ten years ago,
when I left her, she had formed these suspicions; they were the cause
of my voluntary exile.  To-day she again accuses me of, guilty
relations with the same person; I neither deny nor acknowledge them,
but I affirm that it is the blind passion of jealousy which, aided by
my uncle's suggestions, guided my wife's hand when she signed this
denunciation."

Bertrande remained silent.

"Do you dare," he continued, turning towards her,--" do you dare to
swear before God that jealousy did not inspire you with the wish to
ruin me?"

"And you," she replied, "dare you swear that I was deceived in my
suspicions?"

"You see, gentlemen," exclaimed the prisoner triumphantly, "her
jealousy breaks forth before your eyes.  Whether I am, or am not,
guilty of the sin she attributes to me, is not the question for you
to decide.  Can you conscientiously admit the testimony of a woman
who, after publicly acknowledging me, after receiving me in her
house, after living two years in perfect amity with me, has, in a fit
of angry vengeance, thought she could give the lie to all her wards
and actions?  Ah!  Bertrande," he continued, "if it only concerned my
life I think I could forgive a madness of which your love is both the
cause and the excuse, but you are a mother, think of that!  My
punishment will recoil on the head of my daughter, who is unhappy
enough to have been born since our reunion, and also on our unborn
child, which you condemn beforehand to curse the union which gave it
being.  Think of this, Bertrande, you will have to answer before God
for what you are now doing!"

The unhappy woman fell on her knees, weeping.

"I adjure you," he continued solemnly, "you, my wife, Bertrande de
Rolls, to swear now, here, on the crucifix, that I am an impostor and
a cheat."

A crucifix was placed before Bertrande; she made a sign as if to push
it away, endeavoured to speak, and feebly exclaimed, "No," then fell
to the ground, and was carried out insensible.

This scene considerably shook the opinion of the magistrates.  They
could not believe that an impostor, whatever he might be, would have
sufficient daring and presence of mind thus to turn into mockery all
that was most sacred.  They set a new inquiry on foot, which, instead
of producing enlightenment, only plunged them into still greater
obscurity.  Out of thirty witnesses heard, more than three-quarters
agreed in identifying as Martin Guerre the man who claimed his name.
Never was greater perplexity caused by more extraordinary
appearances.  The remarkable resemblance upset all reasoning: some
recognised him as Arnauld du Thill, and others asserted the exact
contrary.  He could hardly understand Basque, some said, though born
in Biscay, was that astonishing, seeing he was only three when he
left the country?  He could neither wrestle nor fence well, but
having no occasion to practise these exercises he might well have
forgotten them.  The shoemaker--who made his shoes afore-time,
thought he took another measure, but he might have made a mistake
before or be mistaken now.  The prisoner further defended himself by
recapitulating the circumstances of his first meeting with Bertrande,
on his return, the thousand and one little details he had mentioned
which he only could have known, also the letters in his possession,
all of which could only be explained by the assumption that he was
the veritable Martin Guerre.  Was it likely that he would be wounded
over the left eye and leg as the missing man was supposed to be?  Was
it likely that the old servant, that the four sisters, his uncle
Pierre, many persons to whom he had related facts known only to
himself, that all the community in short, would have recognised him?
And even the very intrigue suspected by Bertrande, which had aroused
her jealous anger, this very intrigue, if it really existed, was it
not another proof of the verity of his claim, since the person
concerned, as interested and as penetrating as the legitimate wife;

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