Martin Guerre HTML version

Martin Guerre
We are sometimes astonished at the striking resemblance existing between two
persons who are absolute strangers to each other, but in fact it is the opposite
which ought to surprise us. Indeed, why should we not rather admire a Creative
Power so infinite in its variety that it never ceases to produce entirely different
combinations with precisely the same elements? The more one considers this
prodigious versatility of form, the more overwhelming it appears.
To begin with, each nation has its own distinct and characteristic type, separating
it from other races of men. Thus there are the English, Spanish, German, or
Slavonic types; again, in each nation we find families distinguished from each
other by less general but still well-pronounced features; and lastly, the individuals
of each family, differing again in more or less marked gradations. What a
multitude of physiognomies! What variety of impression from the innumerable
stamps of the human countenance! What millions of models and no copies!
Considering this ever changing spectacle, which ought to inspire us with most
astonishment--the perpetual difference of faces or the accidental resemblance of
a few individuals? Is it impossible that in the whole wide world there should be
found by chance two people whose features are cast in one and the same
mould? Certainly not; therefore that which ought to surprise us is not that these
duplicates exist here and there upon the earth, but that they are to be met with in
the same place, and appear together before our eyes, little accustomed to see
such resemblances. From Amphitryon down to our own days, many fables have
owed their origin to this fact, and history also has provided a few examples, such
as the false Demetrius in Russia, the English Perkin Warbeck, and several other
celebrated impostors, whilst the story we now present to our readers is no less
curious and strange.
On the 10th of, August 1557, an inauspicious day in the history of France, the
roar of cannon was still heard at six in the evening in the plains of St. Quentin;
where the French army had just been destroyed by the united troops of England
and Spain, commanded by the famous Captain Emanuel Philibert, Duke of
Savoy. An utterly beaten infantry, the Constable Montmorency and several
generals taken prisoner, the Duke d'Enghien mortally wounded, the flower of the
nobility cut down like grass,--such were the terrible results of a battle which
plunged France into mourning, and which would have been a blot on the reign of
Henry II, had not the Duke of Guise obtained a brilliant revenge the following
In a little village less than a mile from the field of battle were to be heard the
groans of the wounded and dying, who had been carried thither from the field of
battle. The inhabitants had given up their houses to be used as hospitals, and
two or three barber surgeons went hither and thither, hastily ordering operations
which they left to their assistants, and driving out fugitives who had contrived to
accompany the wounded under pretence of assisting friends or near relations.
They had already expelled a good number of these poor fellows, when, opening