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being abashed by the awful dignity of the tribunal, or from terror lest the dreadful sentence of the inferior court should be confirmed, betrayed so much confusion and hesitation in their replies, that a strong feeling was created, at the very outset, in favour of the prisoner.
It was not sufficient, however, to have before them the accusers and the accused merely. They directed that evidence should be heard as to the principal facts in dispute, but with this limitation, that none but new witnesses should be examined.
Several weeks were consumed in these inquiries, carried on, as they were, with the most minute attention to every circumstance that could by possibility tend to establish the necessary facts on either side. But instead of doing so, they seemed to involve it in tenfold confusion.
When the judicial investigation terminated, the President went through an elaborate recapitulation of the depositions of the witnesses. The evidence stood thus :
Five and forty witnesses affirmed positively that the accused was not Bertrand de Rols; and among them was a shoemaker of Thoulouse, who deposed, that he had made shoes for the true Bertrand de Rols, whose foot reached to the twelfth mark upon his rule, whereas the prisoner's foot reached no farther than the ninth mark. In addition to the testimony of the Sieur d'Anglade, as to his name being Arnaud du Tilh, an uncle of the accused was brought forward, who recognized and owned him for his nephew. One witness swore that the real Bertrand de Rols was an expert wrestler, while the accused knew nothing of wrestling. Two persons swore that a soldier of the regiment of Rochefort, passing through Thoulouse, was surprised at hearing the prisoner call himself Bertrand de Rols, he not only knowing his true name to be Arnaud du Tilh, but, what was more extraordinary, declaring that the real Bertrand de Rols was actually living in Flanders, with a wooden leg, having lost one of his legs during the wars in that country. Great exertions were made to find out this soldier, whose direct testimony would have been so important, but in vain.
On the other hand, there was nearly an equal number of witnesses who swore that the accused was the true Bertrand de Rols, and among these were his three sisters, and the husbands of two of them! Persons also, who had been present at the marriage of Bertrand and Christine, deposed in favour of the accused; and the greater part of the witnesses were unanimous in affirming, that the true Bertrand de Rols had two flesh marks under his left eyebrow, that his right eye was blood-shot, the nail of his first finger on the left hand crooked, and that he had three warts on his right hand. Every one of these was found to be on the person of the accused ! It was considered a strong circumstance, likewise, in his favour, that though his wife now joined with her father in demanding justice upon him as an impostor, not only had she at first welcomed him as her husband, but had continued to live with him as such for three years, while many of the chief inhabitants of the city had eagerly given honourable testimony as to her moral character, and other amiable qualities. This remarkable circumstance in favour of the accused, could not, therefore, be got rid of by any insinuations of licentious motives operating a feigned deception, if deception there were, upon Christine.
Such being the singular aspect of this extraordinary case, after the Parliament of Thoulouse had spent nearly two months in investigating it, the general opinion was that the judgment of the inferior court would be reversed. The Parliament, however, (determined to give the subject the full benefit of mature and dispassionate deliberation,) deferred for fourteen days pronouncing its sentence.
Before the time expired, there was a rumour that the real Bertrand de Rols had arrived in Thoulouse. This report reached the ears of Christine. She devoutly prayed it might be true. She wished to see her husband once more, to receive his pardon, and then, if it were Heaven's will she should continue to live, to pass the remainder of her days in a convent, expiating by hourly orisons and frequent penance her involuntary crime.
The fact was, emissaries had been secretly despatched by the President of the Parliament into Flanders, with instructions to use every possible means for discovering whether, as the soldier had declared, Bertrand de Rols was serving with the army there. They were successful in finding a person of that name, and with a wooden leg; and he declared himself to be the individual they wanted. He affirmed, moreover, that he was well acquainted with Arnaud de Tilh, and had heard of the process carrying on before the Parliament of Thoulouse ; but believing his wife had played him false, in pretending she was the dupe of an impostor, he had resolved to let the matter end as it might, with a determination never to return to his native place. It was with great reluctance, consequently, he consented to accompany the officers back, (or rather yielded to the coercion they were prepared to use, if he resisted,) a circumstance which tended to create the suspicion that perhaps he would turn out to be the impostor, and not the reputed Arnaud du Tilh.
When he arrived at Thoulouse he underwent many private examinations upon all the matters to which the latter had spoken. His answers were exactly the same ; but he mentioned two or three rather particular circumstances, with respect to which no questions had been put to the accused, who was therefore immediately examined upon those new points, when it appeared he was perfectly acquainted with them. As to personal resemblance, it was so wonderful, that the President himself' could not refrain from exclaiming“ Methinks I must forgive my own wife's bedding with another, if she could show me such a likeness of myself for her apology!"
Hitherto they had not been confronted; but when the reputed Arnaud du Tilh was informed of the arrival of Bertrand, he not only boldly denounced him as the impostor, but declared he would consent to be hanged if he did not prove him such.
It was now ordered by the Parliament that the two men should be attired exactly alike; and, on a day appointed, be placed side by side in open court, when all the witnesses who had been examined should be brought in, one after the other, and point out which was the true Bertrand.
The day came. The court was crowded. Never had any occurrence in T'houlouse excited such an absorbing interest. Elevated on
à platform, hung round with black, sat the true Bertrand and the counterfeit; but which was the true, and which the counterfeit, it seemed hardly possible to determine. All
upon them; while a confused murmur of voices, and the words—" That is he!”—“ No, that is Bertrand.”—“I tell you that is Arnaud du Tilh— the other is Bertrand de Rols,” were heard in half-whispers from a hundred different tongues.
Silence was proclaimed. The witnesses, one by one, were introduced, a long white staff being placed in their hands, with which they were ordered to touch the person whom they recognised as Bertrand de Rols, but without speaking. The clerk took down the number of each ; and when the whole had gone through the ceremony, it appeared that forty-four witnesses declared Arnaud du Tilh to be Bertrand de Rols, while fifty-one pronounced upon the identity of the other. The three sisters of Bertrand were next introduced. The eldest of them, the moment she cast her eyes upon the two men, rushed towards the platform and threw her arms round the neck of him she had not seen for ten years.
- Behold!" said she, turning round to the President, this is my brother! I acknowledge the error into which that wretch (pointing to Arnaud du Tilh) has betrayed me by a multitude of artifices.”
Bertrand returned her embraces, mingling his tears with hers. The other two sisters recognised their brother in the same manner, and bestowed upon him the same marks of affection. A buzz of astonishment, mingled with exclamations of delight and rage, pervaded the court; but silence was commanded, for there was yet another evidence to be produced. It was Christine herself!
She is led trembling to the platform by her venerable father and the tender devoted Henriette. Her head and face are shrouded in the thick folds of a black veil. At first, every look is directed towards him whom every heart has already pronounced to be her husband. He is much moved; but on his countenance there dwells a stern and wrathful expression. Then the general gaze is turned upon Christine, whose long-drawn sighs and heavy sobs are audible. She has reached the platform-she ascends it. Henriette whispers something in her ear. She lifts her veil—she raises slowly her eyes, and fixes them for a moment upon him she thought her husband, who shrinks from their scrutiny. There is a pause. He who is her husband has caught a glimpse of her pallid features, and his agitation is extreme. Her eyes meet his—a convulsive shudder runs through her veins—as if smote by death, she sinks lifeless at his feet, exclaiming, in a tone of piercing anguish, “God! God! I Am guilty!"
< Bertrand de Rols! Bertrand de Rols!" burst forth on all sides, with cries of justice! justice !" The emotions of the spectators were wound up to the highest pitch, and many vented loud execrations upon the impostor, whose countenance was as a mask to the terrible pangs which now fastened on his soul.
When silence was restored, the President ordered Arnaud du Tilh to be removed into the little iron cell in which criminals were placed to receive sentence. With a firm step, and an undaunted air, he descended from the platform, still asserting his innocence. Christine, meanwhile, was carried out of court, followed by her husband and
several friends, who crowded round him to offer congratulations, which he received very coldly.
The President, after a solemn admonition, and dwelling with eloquent emphasis upon the irrefragable testimony of nature, afforded by the joyous feelings of the sisters, and the remorse of the innocent, though self-accused, Christine, pronounced the following sentence upon the prisoner :
“ That he, Arnaud du Tilh, should make amende honorable in the market-place of Thoulouse in his shirt, with his head and feet bare, a halter about his neck, and holding in his hands a lighted torch ; that he should there demand pardon of God, the King, and the Justice of the Nation ; also, of Bertrand de Rols, and Christine his wife ; which being done, the said Arnaud du Tilh should be delivered into the hands of the public executioner, who, after making him pass through the streets and other public places of the city of Thoulouse, with a rope about his neck, should conduct him before the house of the said Bertrand de Rols, where, on a gallows set up for the purpose, he should be hanged and strangled, and afterwards his body to be burned.”
This sentence was executed to the letter on the following day. But before the wretched criminal was led out to undergo it, he made a full confession of his guilt, declaring that his thoughts were first directed to the crime for which he was about to suffer, from having been mistaken for Bertrand de Rols by some of Bertrand's most intimate friends, while he was in camp in Picardy. From them he learned many circumstances concerning the father, wife, sisters, and other relations of Bertrand, together with various things which had happened to him before he left Thoulouse. Having also a sort of brotherly acquaintance with Bertrand himself, the moment he conceived the design of representing him, he had used that acquaintance to obtain from him at various times a multitude of particulars which enabled him, with the aid of a quick invention and profound artifices, to practise so successfully the fraud he had.
Christine did not long survive. Innocent though she knew herself to be of all that could really constitute the guilt of her unhappy condition, she could not purify her thoughts; she could not cleanse her memory; while she shrunk with loathing from the idea that there might be some who, in the grossness of their own conceptions, would refuse to believe she had not wantonly favoured the deception. Bertrand himself, indeed, was one of these ; for when her father, without the knowledge of Christine,—(she only wished to be forgiven by her husband, who had been wronged in a point where reparation, she knew, was impossible,)—touched once upon the extenuating circumstances of the case, the bitter mockery with which he repelled the old man's kindly-meant endeavours, convinced him there was a persuasion rankling in his mind which nothing could assuage. Spare your words,” said he. “ Intimate friends, nearest relations, father and mother even, may be deceived; my sisters, my friends, have been; but a wife—tush! a wife can be deceived only as a man may swear he does not see the blazing sun at noon, when he shuts his eyes because he will not see it !"
Entreaties were equally vain to prevail upon Bertrand to continue
at Thoulouse. Either he was still enamoured of the roaming and adventurous life which first tempted him to leave it, or his mind was incurably diseased by what had occurred; for after making a legal settlement of his little property upon Henriette, he disappeared one morning without taking leave of her, his wife, or his sisters; and in less than six months from that time, Christine, the victim of a selfaccusing spirit, went to her grave unblamed any tongue save her husband's !
[A writer who taxed his invention to imagine such a case as the above, would run no small hazard of having Horace fung in his teeth:
“ Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi.” But we are as innocent as our friend Dogberry in having used any art, except in the characters, situations, sentiments, and catastrophe. The main incidents, of a man being so personated, the trial of the impostor, the conflicting testimony of the witnesses, the sentence of the Criminal Court, the appeal to the Parliament of Thoulouse, and the execution of the criminal, actually occurred in the sixteenth century. They are to be found among Les Causes Célébres.]
BY THOMAS HAYNES BAYLY.
Say, what should be thy first wish, if a Fairy said to Thee
Ah, no!—the days are long gone by, when such had been my choice,