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List Of Contents | Contents of Martin Guerre, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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had also accepted him as her former lover?  Surely here was a mass of
evidence sufficient to cast light on the case.  Imagine an impostor
arriving for the first time in a place where all the inhabitants are
unknown to him, and attempting to personate a man who had dwelt
there, who would have connections of all kinds, who would have played
his part in a thousand different scenes, who would have confided his
secrets, his opinions, to relations, friends, acquaintances, to all
sorts of people; who had also a wife--that is to say, a person under
whose eyes nearly his whole life would be passed, a person would
study him perpetually, with whom he would be continually conversing
on every sort of subject.  Could such an impostor sustain his
impersonation for a single day, without his memory playing him false?
From the physical and moral impossibility of playing such a part, was
it not reasonable to conclude that the accused, who had maintained it
for more than two years, was the true Martin Guerre?

There seemed, in fact, to be nothing which could account for such an
attempt being successfully made unless recourse was had to an
accusation of sorcery.  The idea of handing him over to the
ecclesiastical authorities was briefly discussed, but proofs were
necessary, and the judges hesitated.  It is a principle of justice,
which has become a precept in law, that in cases of uncertainty the
accused has the benefit of the doubt; but at the period of which we
are writing, these truths were far from being acknowledged; guilt was
presumed rather than innocence; and torture, instituted to force
confession from those who could not otherwise be convicted, is only
explicable by supposing the judges convinced of the actual guilt of
the accused; for no one would have thought of subjecting a possibly
innocent person to this suffering.  However, notwithstanding this
prejudice, which has been handed down to us by some organs of the
public ministry always disposed to assume the guilt of a suspected
person,--notwithstanding this prejudice, the judges in this case
neither ventured to condemn Martin Guerre themselves as an impostor,
nor to demand the intervention of the Church.  In this conflict of
contrary testimony, which seemed to reveal the truth only to
immediately obscure it again, in this chaos of arguments and
conjectures which showed flashes of light only to extinguish them in
greater darkness, consideration for the family prevailed.  The
sincerity of Bertrande, the future of the children, seemed reasons
for proceeding with extreme caution, and this once admitted, could
only yield to conclusive evidence.  Consequently the Parliament
adjourned the case, matters remaining in 'statu quo', pending a more
exhaustive inquiry.  Meanwhile, the accused, for whom several
relations and friends gave surety, was allowed to be at liberty at
Artigues, though remaining under careful surveillance.

Bertrande therefore again saw him an inmate of the house, as if no
doubts had ever been cast on the legitimacy of their union.  What
thoughts passed through her mind during the long 'tete-a-tete'?  She
had accused this man of imposture, and now, notwithstanding her
secret conviction, she was obliged to appear as if she had no
suspicion, as if she had been mistaken, to humiliate herself before
the impostor, and ask forgiveness for the insanity of her conduct;
for, having publicly renounced her accusation by refusing to swear to
it, she had no alternative left.  In order to sustain her part and to
save the honour of her children, she must treat this man as her
husband and appear submissive and repentant; she must show him entire
confidence, as the only means of rehabilitating him and lulling the
vigilance of justice.  What the widow of Martin Guerre must have
suffered in this life of effort was a secret between God and herself,
but she looked at her little daughter, she thought of her fast
approaching confinement, and took courage.

One evening, towards nightfall, she was sitting near him in the most
private corner of the garden, with her little child on her knee,
whilst the adventurer, sunk in gloomy thoughts, absently stroked
Sanxi's fair head. Both were silent, for at the bottom of their
hearts each knew the other's thoughts, and, no longer able to talk
familiarly, nor daring to appear estranged, they spent, when alone
together, long hours of silent dreariness.

All at once a loud uproar broke the silence of their retreat; they
heard the exclamations of many persons, cries of surprise mixed with
angry tones, hasty footsteps, then the garden gate was flung
violently open, and old Marguerite appeared, pale, gasping, almost
breathless.  Bertrande hastened towards her in astonishment, followed
by her husband, but when near enough to speak she could only answer
with inarticulate sounds, pointing with terror to the courtyard of
the house.  They looked in this direction, and saw a man standing at
the threshold; they approached him.  He stepped forward, as if to
place himself between them.  He was tall, dark; his clothes were
torn; he had a wooden leg; his countenance was stern.  He surveyed
Bertrande with a gloomy look: she cried aloud, and fell back
insensible; . . . she recognised her real husband!

Arnauld du Thill stood petrified.  While Marguerite, distracted
herself, endeavoured to revive her mistress, the neighbours,
attracted by the noise, invaded the house, and stopped, gazing with
stupefaction at this astonishing resemblance.  The two men had the
same features, the same height, the same bearing, and suggested one
being in two persons.  They gazed at each other in terror, and in
that superstitious age the idea of sorcery and of infernal
intervention naturally occurred to those present.  All crossed
themselves, expecting every moment to see fire from heaven strike one
or other of the two men, or that the earth would engulf one of them.
Nothing happened, however, except that both were promptly arrested,
in order that the strange mystery might be cleared up.

The wearer of the wooden leg, interrogated by the judges, related
that he came from Spain, where first the healing of his wound, and
then the want of money, had detained him hitherto.  He had travelled
on foot, almost a beggar.  He gave exactly the same reasons for
leaving Artigues as had been given by the other Martin Guerre,
namely, a domestic quarrel caused by jealous suspicion, the desire of
seeing other countries, and an adventurous disposition.  He had gone
back to his birthplace, in Biscay; thence he entered the service of
the Cardinal of Burgos; then the cardinal's brother had taken him to
the war, and he had served with the Spanish troops; at the battle of
St. Quentiny--his leg had been shattered by an arquebus ball.  So far
his recital was the counterpart of the one already heard by the
judges from the other man.  Now, they began to differ.  Martin Guerre
stated that he had been conveyed to a house by a man whose features
he did not distinguish, that he thought he was dying, and that
several hours elapsed of which he could give no account, being
probably delirious; that he suffered later intolerable pain, and on
coming to himself, found that his leg had been amputated.  He
remained long between life and death, but he was cared for by
peasants who probably saved his life; his recovery was very slow.  He
discovered that in the interval between being struck down in the
battle and recovering his senses, his papers had disappeared, but it
was impossible to suspect the people who had nursed him with such
generous kindness of theft.  After his recovery, being absolutely
destitute, he sought to return to France and again see his wife and
child: he had endured all sorts of privations and fatigues, and at
length, exhausted, but rejoicing at being near the end of his
troubles, he arrived, suspecting nothing, at his own door.  Then the
terror of the old servant, a few broken words, made him guess at some
misfortune, and the appearance of his wife and of a man so exactly
like himself stupefied him.  Matters had now been explained, and he
only regretted that his wound had not at once ended his existence.

The whole story bore the impress of truth, but when the other
prisoner was asked what he had to say he adhered to his first
answers, maintaining their correctness, and again asserted that he
was the real Martin Guerre, and that the new claimant could only be
Arnauld du Thill, the clever impostor, who was said to resemble
himself so much that the inhabitants of Sagias had agreed in
mistaking him for the said Arnauld.

The two Martin Guerres were then confronted without changing the
situation in the least; the first showing the same assurance, the
same bold and confident bearing; while the second, calling on God and
men to bear witness to his sincerity, deplored his misfortune in the
most pathetic terms.

The judge's perplexity was great: the affair became more and more
complicated, the question remained as difficult, as uncertain as
ever.  All the appearances and evidences were at variance;
probability seemed to incline towards one, sympathy was more in
favour of the other, but actual proof was still wanting.

At length a member of the Parliament, M. de Coras, proposed as a last
chance before resorting to torture, that final means of examination
in a barbarous age, that Bertrande should be placed between the two
rivals, trusting, he said, that in such a case a woman's instinct
would divine the truth.  Consequently the two Martin Guerres were
brought before the Parliament, and a few moments after Bertrande was
led in, weak, pale, hardly able to stand, being worn out by suffering
and advanced pregnancy.  Her appearance excited compassion, and all
watched anxiously to see what she would do.  She looked at the two
men, who had been placed at different ends of the hall, and turning
from him who was nearest to her, went and knelt silently before the
man with the wooden leg; then, joining her hands as if praying for
mercy, she wept bitterly.  So simple and touching an action roused
the sympathy of all present; Arnauld du Thill grew pale, and everyone

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