The Corsican Brothers

by Alexandre Dumas

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THE suggestion quite accorded with my inclination to compare the chambers of the brothers, and I did not hesitate to adopt it. I followed my host, who, opening the door, paused in front of me to show me the way.

This time I found myself in a regular arsenal. All the furniture was of the fifteenth or sixteenth century--the carved and canopied bedstead, supported by great posts, was draped with green damask _à fleur d'or;_ the window curtains were of the same material. The walls were covered with Spanish leather, and in the open spaces were sustained trophies of Gothic and modern arms.

There was no mistaking the tastes of the occupant of this room: they were as warlike as those of his brother were peaceable.

"Look here," he said, passing into an inner room, "here you are in three centuries at once--see! I will dress while you amuse yourself, for I must make haste or supper will be announced."

"Which are the historic arms of which you spoke amongst all these swords, arquebuses, and poignards?" I asked.

"There are three. Let us take them in order. If you look by the head of my bed you will find a poignard with a very large hilt--the pommel forms a seal."

"Yes, I have it."

"That is the dagger of Sampietro."

"The famous Sampietro, the assassin of Vanina?"

"The assassin! No, the avenger."

"It is the same thing, I fancy."

"To the rest of the world, perhaps--not in Corsica."

"And is the dagger authentic?"

"Look for yourself. It carries the arms of Sampietro--only the fleur-de-lis of France is missing. You know that Sampietro was not authorized to wear the lily until after the siege of Perpignan."

"No, I was not aware of that fact. And how did you become possessed of this poignard?"

"Oh! it has been in our family for three hundred years. It was given to a Napoleon de Franchi by Sampietro himself."

"Do you remember on what occasion?"

"Yes. Sampietro and my ancestor fell into an ambuscade of Genoese, and defended themselves like lions. Sampietro's helmet was knocked off, and a Genoese on horseback was about to kill Sampietro with his mace when my ancestor plunged his dagger into a joint in his enemy's armour. The rider feeling himself wounded spurred his horse, carrying away in his flight the dagger so firmly embedded in his armour that he was unable to withdraw it, and as my ancestor very much regretted the loss of his favourite weapon Sampietro gave him his own. Napoleon took great care of it, for it is of Spanish workmanship, as you see, and will penetrate two five-franc pieces one on top of another."

"May I make the attempt?"


Placing the coins upon the floor, I struck a sharp blow with the dagger. Lucien had not deceived me.

When I withdrew the poignard I found both pieces pierced through and through, fixed upon the point of the dagger.

"This is indeed the dagger of Sampietro," I said. "But what astonishes me is that being possessed of such a weapon he should have employed the cord to kill his wife."

"He did not possess it at that time," replied Lucien; "he had given it to my ancestor."

"Ah! true!"

"Sampietro was more than sixty years old when he hastened from Constantinople to Aix to teach that lesson to the world, viz., that women should not meddle in state affairs."

I bowed in assent, and replaced the poignard.

"Now," said I to Lucien, who all this time had been dressing, "let us pass on from Sampietro to some one else."

"You see those two portraits close together?"

"Yes, Paoli and Napoleon."

"Well, near the portrait of Paoli is a sword."

"Precisely so."

"That is his sword."

"Paoli's sword? And is it as authentic as the poignard of Sampietro?"

"Yes, at least as authentic; though he did not give it to one of my male ancestors, but to one of the ladies."

"To one of your female ancestors?"

"Yes. Perhaps you have heard people speak of this woman, who in the war of independence presented herself at the Tower of Sullacaro, accompanied by a young man?"

"No, tell me the story."

"Oh, it is a very short one."

"So much the worse."

"Well, you see, we have not much time to talk now."

"I am all attention."

"Well, this woman and this young man presented themselves before the Tower of Sullacaro and requested to speak with Paoli; but as he was engaged writing, he declined to admit them; and then, as the woman insisted, the two sentinels repulsed her, when Paoli, who had heard the noise, opened the door and inquired the cause."

"'It is I,' said the woman; 'I wish to speak to you.'

"'What have you to say to me?'

"'I have come to tell you that I have two sons. I heard yesterday that one had been killed for defending his country, and I have come twenty leagues to bring you the other!!!'"

"You are relating an incident of Sparta," I said.

"Yes, it does appear very like it."

"And who was this woman?"

"She was my ancestress."

"Paoli took off his sword and gave it to her.

"'Take it,' he said, 'I like time to make my excuses to woman.'"

"She was worthy of both--is it not so?"

"And now this sabre?"

"That is the one Buonaparte carried at the battle of the Pyramids."

"No doubt it came into your family in the same manner as the poignard and the sword."

"Entirely. After the battle Buonaparte gave the order to my grandfather, who was an officer in the Guides, to charge with fifty men a number of Mamelukes who were at bay around a wounded chieftain. My grandfather dispersed the Mamelukes and took the chief back a prisoner to the First Consul. But when he wished to sheath his sword he found the blade had been so bent in his encounter with the Mamelukes that it would not go into the scabbard. My grandfather therefore threw sabre and sheath away as useless, and, seeing this, Buonaparte gave him his own."

"But," I said, "in your place I would rather have had my grandfather's sabre, all bent as it was, instead of that of the general's, which was in good condition."

"Look before you and you will find it. The First Consul had it recovered, and caused that large diamond to be inserted in the hilt. He then sent it to my family with the inscription which you can read on the blade."

I advanced between the windows, where, hanging half-drawn from its scabbard, which it could not fully enter, I perceived the sabre bent and hacked, bearing the simple inscription--

"Battle of the Pyramids, 21st of July, 1798."

At that moment the servant came to announce that supper was served.

"Very well, Griffo," replied the young man; "tell my mother that we are coming down."

As he spoke he came forth from the inner room, dressed, as he said, like a mountaineer; that is to say, with a round velvet coat, trowsers, and gaiters; of his other costume he had only retained his pouch.

He found me occupied in examing two carbines hanging opposite each other, and both inscribed--

"21st September, 1819: 11 A.M."

"Are these carbines also historical?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered. "For us, at least, they bear a historical significance. One was my father's--"

He hesitated.

"And the other," I suggested.

"And the other," he said, laughing, "is my mother's. But let us go downstairs; my mother will be awaiting us."

Then passing in front of me to show me the way he courteously signed to me to follow him.

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