Alexandre Dumas, Pere
This etext was produced by David Widger
CELEBRATED CRIMES VOLUME 7, Part 3
By Alexander Dumas, Pere
On the 18th June, 1815, at the very moment when the destiny of Europe
was being decided at Waterloo, a man dressed like a beggar was
silently following the road from Toulon to Marseilles.
Arrived at the entrance of the Gorge of Ollioulles, he halted on a
little eminence from which he could see all the surrounding country;
then either because he had reached the end of his journey, or
because, before attempting that forbidding, sombre pass which is
called the Thermopylae of Provence, he wished to enjoy the
magnificent view which spread to the southern horizon a little
longer, he went and sat down on the edge of the ditch which bordered
the road, turning his back on the mountains which rise like an
amphitheatre to the north of the town, and having at his feet a rich
plain covered with tropical vegetation, exotics of a conservatory,
trees and flowers quite unknown in any other part of France.
Beyond this plain, glittering in the last rays of the sun, pale and
motionless as a mirror lay the sea, and on the surface of the water
glided one brig-of-war, which, taking advantage of a fresh land
breeze, had all sails spread, and was bowling along rapidly, making
for Italian seas. The beggar followed it eagerly with his eyes until
it disappeared between the Cape of Gien and the first of the islands
of Hyeres, then as the white apparition vanished he sighed deeply,
let his head fall into his hands, and remained motionless and
absorbed in his reflections until the tramplings of a cavalcade made
him start; he looked up, shook back his long black hair, as if he
wished to get rid of the gloomy thoughts which were overwhelming him,
and, looking at the entrance to the gorge from whence the noise came,
he soon saw two riders appear, who were no doubt well known to him,
for, drawing himself up to his full height, he let fall the stick he
was carrying, and folding his arms he turned towards them. On their
side the new-comers had hardly seen him before they halted, and the
foremost dismounted, threw his bridle to his companion, and
uncovering, though fifty paces from the man in rags, advanced
respectfully towards him. The beggar allowed him to approach with an
air of sombre dignity and without a single movement; then, when he
was quite near--
"Well, marshal, have, you news for me?" said the beggar.
"Yes, sire," said the other sadly.
"And what are they?"
"Such that I could wish it were anyone but myself to announce them to
"So the Emperor refuses my services! He forgets the victories of
Aboukir, Eylau, and Moscow?"
"No, sire; but he remembers the treaty of Naples, the taking of
Reggio, and the declaration of war of the viceroy of Italy."
The beggar struck his forehead.
"Yes, yes! I daresay he thinks I deserve his reproaches, and yet it
seems to me that he ought to remember that there are two men in me--
the soldier whom he made his brother, and the brother whom he made a
king.... Yes, as brother I have treated him ill--very ill, but as
king, upon my soul, I could not have acted differently.... I had to
choose between my sword and my crown, and between a regiment and a
people. Listen, Brune: you do not know how it all happened. There
was an English fleet, the guns of which were growling in the port,
there was a Neapolitan population howling in the streets. If I had
been alone, I would have passed through the fleet with one boat,
through the crowd with my sword alone, but I had a wife and children.
Yet I hesitated; the idea of being called traitor and deserter caused
me to shed more tears than the loss of my throne, or perhaps the
death of those I love best, will ever wring from me.... And so he
will have nothing more to do with me? He refuses me as general,
captain, private? Then what is left for me to do?"
"Sire, your Majesty must leave France immediately."
"And if I don't obey?"
"My orders are to arrest you and deliver you up to a court-martial!"
"Old comrade, you will not do that?"
"I shall do it, praying God to strike me dead in the moment I lay
hands on you!"
"That's you all over, Brune. You have been able to remain a good,
loyal fellow. He did not give you a kingdom, he did not encircle
your brow with a band of iron which men call a crown and which drives
one mad; he did not place you between your conscience and your
family. So I must leave France, begin my vagabond life again, and
say farewell to Toulon, which recalls so many memories to me! See,
Brune," continued Murat, leaning on the arm of the marshal, "are not
the pines yonder as fine as any at the Villa Pamfili, the palms as
imposing as any at Cairo, the mountains as grand as any range in the
Tyrol? Look to your left, is not Cape Gien something like
Castellamare and Sorrento--leaving out Vesuvius? And see, Saint-
Mandrier at the farthest point of the gulf, is it not like my rock of
Capri, which Lamarque juggled away so cleverly from that idiot of a
Sir Hudson Lowe? My God! and I must leave all this! Is there no way
of remaining on this little corner of French ground--tell me, Brune!"
"You'll break my heart, sire!" answered the marshal.
"Well, we'll say no more about it. What news?"
"The Emperor has left Paris to join the army. They must be fighting
"Fighting now and I not there! Oh, I feel I could have been of use
to him on this battlefield. How I would have gloried in charging
those miserable Prussians and dastardly English! Brune, give me a
passport, I'll go at full speed, I'll reach the army, I will make
myself known to some colonel, I shall say, 'Give me your regiment.'
I'll charge at its head, and if the Emperor does not clasp my hand
to-night, I'll blow my brains out, I swear I will. Do what I ask,
Brune, and however it may end, my eternal gratitude will be yours!"
"I cannot, sire."
"Well, well, say no more about it."
"And your Majesty is going to leave France?"
"I don't know. Obey your orders, marshal, and if you come across me
again, have me arrested. That's another way of doing something for
me. Life is a heavy burden nowadays. He who will relieve me of it
will be welcome.... Good-bye, Brune."
He held out his hand to the marshal, who tried to kiss it; but Murat
opened his arms, the two old comrades held each other fast for a
moment, with swelling hearts and eyes full of tears; then at last
they parted. Brune remounted his horse, Murat picked up his stick
again, and the two men went away in opposite directions, one to meet
his death by assassination at Avignon, the other to be shot at Pizzo.
Meanwhile, like Richard III, Napoleon was bartering his crown against
a horse at Waterloo.
After the interview that has just been related, Murat took refuge
with his nephew, who was called Bonafoux, and who was captain of a
frigate; but this retreat could only be temporary, for the
relationship would inevitably awake the suspicions of the
authorities. In consequence, Bonafoux set about finding a more
secret place of refuge for his uncle. He hit on one of his friends,
an avocat, a man famed for his integrity, and that very evening
Bonafoux went to see him.
After chatting on general subjects, he asked his friend if he had not
a house at the seaside, and receiving an affirmative answer, he
invited himself to breakfast there the next day; the proposal
naturally enough was agreed to with pleasure. The next day at the
appointed hour Bonafoux arrived at Bonette, which was the name of the
country house where M. Marouin's wife and daughter were staying.
M. Marouin himself was kept by his work at Toulon. After the
ordinary greetings, Bonafoux stepped to the window, beckoning to
Marouin to rejoin him.
"I thought," he said uneasily, "that your house was by the sea."
"We are hardly ten minutes' walk from it."
"But it is not in sight."
"That hill prevents you from seeing it."
"May we go for a stroll on the beach before breakfast is served?"
"By all means. Well, your horse is still saddled. I will order
mine--I will come back for you."
Marouin went out. Bonafoux remained at the window, absorbed in his
thoughts. The ladies of the house, occupied in preparations for the
meal, did not observe, or did not appear to observe, his
preoccupation. In five minutes Marouin came back. He was ready to
start. The avocat and his friend mounted their horses and rode
quickly down to the sea. On the beach the captain slackened his
pace, and riding along the shore for about half an hour, he seemed to
be examining the bearings of the coast with great attention. Marouin
followed without inquiring into his investigations, which seemed
natural enough for a naval officer.
After about an hour the two men went back to the house.
Marouin wished to have the horses unsaddled, but Bonafoux objected,
saying that he must go back to Toulon immediately after lunch.
Indeed, the coffee was hardly finished before he rose and took leave
of his hosts. Marouin, called back to town by his work, mounted his
horse too, and the two friends rode back to Toulon together. After
riding along for ten minutes, Bonafoux went close to his companion
and touched him on the thigh--
"Marouin," he said, "I have an important secret to confide to you."
"Speak, captain. After a father confessor, you know there is no one
so discreet as a notary, and after a notary an avocat."
"You can quite understand that I did not come to your country house
just for the pleasure of the ride. A more important object, a
serious responsibility, preoccupied me; I have chosen you out of all
my friends, believing that you were devoted enough to me to render me
a great service."
"You did well, captain."
"Let us go straight to the point, as men who respect and trust each
other should do. My uncle, King Joachim, is proscribed, he has taken
refuge with me; but he cannot remain there, for I am the first person
they will suspect. Your house is in an isolated position, and
consequently we could not find a better retreat for him. You must
put it at our disposal until events enable the king to come to some
"It is at your service," said Marouin.
"Right. My uncle shall sleep there to-night."
"But at least give me time to make some preparations worthy of my
"My poor Marouin, you are giving yourself unnecessary trouble, and
making a vexatious delay for us: King Joachim is no longer accustomed
to palaces and courtiers; he is only too happy nowadays to find a
cottage with a friend in it; besides, I have let him know about it,
so sure was I of your answer. He is counting on sleeping at your
house to-night, and if I try to change his determination now he will
see a refusal in what is only a postponement, and you will lose all
the credit for your generous and noble action. There--it is agreed:
to-night at ten at the Champs de Mars."
With these words the captain put his horse to a gallop and
disappeared. Marouin turned his horse and went back to his country
house to give the necessary orders for the reception of a stranger
whose name he did not mention.
At ten o'clock at night, as had been agreed, Marouin was on the
Champs de Mars, then covered with Marshal Brune's field-artillery.
No one had arrived yet. He walked up and down between the gun-
carriages until a functionary came to ask what he was doing. He was
hard put to it to find an answer: a man is hardly likely to be
wandering about in an artillery park at ten o'clock at night for the
mere pleasure of the thing. He asked to see the commanding officer.
The officer came up: M. Marouin informed him that he was an avocat,
attached to the law courts of Toulon, and told him that he had
arranged to meet someone on the Champs de Mars, not knowing that it
was prohibited, and that he was still waiting for that person. After
this explanation, the officer authorised him to remain, and went back
to his quarters. The sentinel, a faithful adherent to discipline,
continued to pace up and down with his measured step, without
troubling any more about the stranger's presence.
A few moments later a group of several persons appeared from the
direction of Les Lices. The night was magnificent, and the moon
brilliant. Marouin recognised Bonafoux, and went up to him. The
captain at once took him by the hand and led him to the king, and
speaking in turn to each of them--
"Sire," he said, "here is the friend. I told you of."
Then turning to Marouin--
"Here," he said, "is the King of Naples, exile and fugitive, whom I
confide to your care. I do not speak of the possibility that some
day he may get back his crown, that would deprive you of the credit
of your fine action.... Now, be his guide--we will follow at a
The king and the lawyer set out at once together. Murat was dressed
in a blue coat-semi-military, semi-civil, buttoned to the throat; he
wore white trousers and top boots with spurs; he had long hair,
moustache, and thick whiskers, which would reach round his neck.
As they rode along he questioned his host about the situation of his
country house and the facility for reaching the sea in case of a
surprise. Towards midnight the king and Marouin arrived at Bonette;
the royal suite came up in about ten minutes; it consisted of about
thirty individuals. After partaking of some light refreshment, this
little troop, the last of the court of the deposed king, retired to
disperse in the town and its environs, and Murat remained alone with
the women, only keeping one valet named Leblanc.
Murat stayed nearly a month in this retirement, spending all his time
in answering the newspapers which accused him of treason to the
Emperor. This accusation was his absorbing idea, a phantom, a
spectre to him; day and night he tried to shake it off, seeking in
the difficult position in which he had found himself all the reasons
which it might offer him for acting as he had acted. Meanwhile the
terrible news of the defeat at Waterloo had spread abroad. The
Emperor who had exiled him was an exile himself, and he was waiting
at Rochefort, like Murat at Toulon, to hear what his enemies would
decide against him. No one knows to this day what inward prompting
Napoleon obeyed when, rejecting the counsels of General Lallemande
and the devotion of Captain Bodin, he preferred England to America,
and went like a modern Prometheus to be chained to the rock of St.
We are going to relate the fortuitous circumstance which led Murat to
the moat of Pizzo, then we will leave it to fatalists to draw from
this strange story whatever philosophical deduction may please them.
We, as humble annalists, can only vouch for the truth of the facts we
have already related and of those which will follow.
King Louis XVIII remounted his throne, consequently Murat lost all
hope of remaining in France; he felt he was bound to go. His nephew
Bonafoux fitted out a frigate for the United States under the name of
Prince Rocca Romana. The whole suite went on board, and they began
to carry on to the boat all the valuables which the exile had been
able to save from the shipwreck of his kingdom. First a bag of gold
weighing nearly a hundred pounds, a sword-sheath on which were the
portraits of the king, the queen, and their children, the deed of the
civil estates of his family bound in velvet and adorned with his
arms. Murat carried on his person a belt where some precious papers
were concealed, with about a score of unmounted diamonds, which he
estimated himself to be worth four millions.
When all these preparations for departing were accomplished, it was
agreed that the next day, the 1st of August, at five o'clock, a boat
should fetch the king to the brig from a little bay, ten minutes'
walk from the house where he was staying. The king spent the night
making out a route for M. Marouin by which he could reach the queen,
who was then in Austria, I think.
It was finished just as it was time to leave, and on crossing the
threshold of the hospitable house where he had found refuge he gave
it to his host, slipped into a volume of a pocket edition of
Voltaire. Below the story of 'Micromegas' the king had written:
[The volume is still in the hands of M. Marouin, at Toulon.]
Reassure yourself, dear Caroline; although unhappy, I am free. I am
departing, but I do not know whither I am bound. Wherever I may be
my heart will be with you and my children. "J. M."
Ten minutes later Murat and his host were waiting on the beach at
Bonette for the boat which was to take them out to the ship.
They waited until midday, and nothing appeared; and yet on the
horizon they could see the brig which was to be his refuge, unable to
lie at anchor on account of the depth of water, sailing along the
coast at the risk of giving the alarm to the sentinels.
At midday the king, worn out with fatigue and the heat of the sun,
was lying on the beach, when a servant arrived, bringing various
refreshments, which Madame Marouin, being very uneasy, had sent at
all hazards to her husband. The king took a glass of wine and water
and ate an orange, and got up for a moment to see whether the boat he
was expecting was nowhere visible on the vastness of the sea. There
was not a boat in sight, only the brig tossing gracefully on the
horizon, impatient to be off, like a horse awaiting its master.
The king sighed and lay down again on the sand.
The servant went back to Bonette with a message summoning
M. Marouin's brother to the beach. He arrived in a few minutes, and
almost immediately afterwards galloped off at full speed to Toulon,
in order to find out from M. Bonafoux why the boat had not been sent
to the king. On reaching the captain's house, he found it occupied
by an armed force. They were making a search for Murat.
The messenger at last made his way through the tumult to the person
he was in search of, and he heard that the boat had started at the
appointed time, and that it must have gone astray in the creeks of
Saint Louis and Sainte Marguerite. This was, in fact, exactly what
By five o'clock M. Marouin had reported the news to his brother and
the king. It was bad news. The king had no courage left to defend
his life even by flight, he was in a state of prostration which
sometimes overwhelms the strongest of men, incapable of making any
plan for his own safety, and leaving M. Marouin to do the best he
could. Just then a fisherman was coming into harbour singing.
Marouin beckoned to him, and he came up.
Marouin began by buying all the man's fish; then, when he had paid
him with a few coins, he let some gold glitter before his eyes, and
offered him three louis if he would take a passenger to the brig
which was lying off the Croix-des-Signaux. The fisherman agreed to
do it. This chance of escape gave back Murat all his strength; he
got up, embraced Marouin, and begged him to go to the queen with the
volume of Voltaire. Then he sprang into the boat, which instantly
left the shore.
It was already some distance from the land when the king stopped the
man who was rowing and signed to Marouin that he had forgotten
something. On the beach lay a bag into which Murat had put a
magnificent pair of pistols mounted with silver gilt which the queen
had given him, and which he set great store on. As soon as he was
within hearing he shouted his reason for returning to his host.
Marouin seized the valise, and without waiting for Murat to land he
threw it into the boat; the bag flew open, and one of the pistols
fell out. The fisherman only glanced once at the royal weapon, but
it was enough to make him notice its richness and to arouse his
suspicions. Nevertheless, he went on rowing towards the frigate.
M. Marouin seeing him disappear in the distance, left his brother on
the beach, and bowing once more to the king, returned to the house to
calm his wife's anxieties and to take the repose of which he was in
Two hours later he was awakened. His house was to be searched in its
turn by soldiers. They searched every nook and corner without
finding a trace of the king. Just as they were getting desperate,
the brother came in; Maroum smiled at him; believing the king to be
safe, but by the new-comer's expression he saw that some fresh
misfortune was in the wind. In the first moment's respite given him
by his visitors he went up to his brother.
"Well," he said, "I hope the king is on board?"
"The king is fifty yards away, hidden in the outhouse."
"Why did he come back?"
"The fisherman pretended he was afraid of a sudden squall, and
refused to take him off to the brig."
The soldiers came in again.
They spent the night in fruitless searching about the house and
buildings; several times they passed within a few steps of the king,
and he could hear their threats and imprecations. At last, half an
hour before dawn, they went away. Marouin watched them go, and when
they were out of sight he ran to the king. He found him lying in a
corner, a pistol clutched in each hand. The unhappy man had been
overcome by fatigue and had fallen asleep. Marouin hesitated a
moment to bring him back to his wandering, tormented life, but there
was not a minute to lose. He woke him.
They went down to the beach at once. A morning mist lay over the
sea. They could not see anything two hundred yards ahead. They were
obliged to wait. At last the first sunbeams began to pierce this
nocturnal mist. It slowly dispersed, gliding over the sea as clouds
move in the sky. The king's hungry eye roved over the tossing waters
before him, but he saw nothing, yet he could not banish the hope that
somewhere behind that moving curtain he would find his refuge.
Little by little the horizon came into view; light wreaths of mist,
like smoke, still floated about the surface of the water, and in each
of them the king thought he recognised the white sails of his vessel.
The last gradually vanished, the sea was revealed in all its
immensity, it was deserted. Not daring to delay any longer, the ship
had sailed away in the night.
"So," said the king, "the die is cast. I will go to Corsica."
The same day Marshal Brune was assassinated at Avignon.
Once more on the same beach at Bonette, in the same bay where he had
awaited the boat in vain, still attended by his band of faithful
followers, we find Murat on the 22nd August in the same year. It was
no longer by Napoleon that he was threatened, it was by Louis XVIII
that he was proscribed; it was no longer the military loyalty of
Marshal Brune who came with tears in his eyes to give notice of the
orders he had received, but the ungrateful hatred of M. de Riviere,
who had set a price [48,000 francs.] on the head of the man who had
saved his own.[Conspiracy of Pichegru.] M. de Riviere had indeed
written to the ex-King of Naples advising him to abandon himself to
the good faith and humanity of the King of France, but his vague
invitation had not seemed sufficient guarantee to the outlaw,
especially on the part of one who had allowed the assassination
almost before his eyes of a man who carried a safe-conduct signed by
himself. Murat knew of the massacre of the Mamelukes at Marseilles,
the assassination of Brune at Avignon; he had been warned the day
before by the police of Toulon that a formal order for his arrest was
out; thus it was impossible that he should remain any longer in
France. Corsica, with its hospitable towns, its friendly mountains,
its impenetrable forests, was hardly fifty leagues distant; he must
reach Corsica, and wait in its towns, mountains, and forests until
the crowned heads of Europe should decide the fate of the man they
had called brother for seven years.
At ten o'clock at, night the king went down to the shore. The boat
which was to take him across had not reached the rendezvous, but this
time there was not the slightest fear that it would fail; the bay had
been reconnoitred during the day by three men devoted to the fallen
fortunes of the king--Messieurs Blancard, Langlade, and Donadieu, all
three naval officers, men of ability and warm heart, who had sworn by
their own lives to convey Murat to Corsica, and who were in fact
risking their lives in order to accomplish their promise. Murat saw
the deserted shore without uneasiness, indeed this delay afforded him
a few more moments of patriotic satisfaction.
On this little patch of land, this strip of sand, the unhappy exile
clung to his mother France, for once his foot touched the vessel
which was to carry him away, his separation from France would be
long, if not eternal. He started suddenly amidst these thoughts and
sighed: he had just perceived a sail gliding over the waves like a
phantom through the transparent darkness of the southern night. Then
a sailor's song was heard; Murat recognised the appointed signal, and
answered it by burning the priming of a pistol, and the boat
immediately ran inshore; but as she drew three feet of water, she was
obliged to stop ten or twelve feet from the beach; two men dashed
into the water and reached the beach, while a third remained
crouching in the stern-sheets wrapped in his boat-cloak.
"Well, my good friends," said the king, going towards Blancard and
Langlade until he felt the waves wet his feet "the moment is come, is
it not? The wind is favourable, the sea calm, we must get to sea."
"Yes, answered Langlade, "yes, we must start; and yet perhaps it
would be wiser to wait till to-morrow."
"Why?" asked Murat.
Langlade did not answer, but turning towards the west, he raised his
hand, and according to the habit of sailors, he whistled to call the
"That's no good," said Donadieu, who had remained in the boat. "Here
are the first gusts; you will have more than you know what to do with
in a minute.... Take care, Langlade, take care! Sometimes in
calling the wind you wake up a storm."
Murat started, for he thought that this warning which rose from the
sea had been given him by the spirit of the waters; but the
impression was a passing one, and he recovered himself in a moment.
"All the better," he said; "the more wind we have, the faster we
"Yes," answered Langlade, "but God knows where it will take us if it
goes on shifting like this."
"Don't start to-night, sire," said Blancard, adding his voice to
those of his two companions.
"But why not?"
"You see that bank of black cloud there, don't you? Well, at sunset
it was hardly visible, now it covers a good part of the sky, in an
hour there won't be a star to be seen."
"Are you afraid?" asked Murat.
"Afraid!" answered Langlade. "Of what? Of the storm? I might as
well ask if your Majesty is afraid of a cannon-ball. We have
demurred solely on your account, sire; do you think seadogs like
ourselves would delay on account of the storm?"
"Then let us go!" cried Murat, with a sigh.
"Good-bye, Marouin.... God alone can reward you for what you have
done for me. I am at your orders, gentlemen."
At these words the two sailors seized the king end hoisted him on to
their shoulders, and carried him into the sea; in another moment he
was on board. Langlade and Blancard sprang in behind him. Donadieu
remained at the helm, the two other officers undertook the management
of the boat, and began their work by unfurling the sails. Immediately
the pinnace seemed to rouse herself like a horse at touch of the
spur; the sailors cast a careless glance back, and Murat feeling that
they were sailing away, turned towards his host and called for a last
"You have your route as far as Trieste. Do not forget my wife!...
"God keep you, sire!" murmured Marouin.
And for some time, thanks to the white sail which gleamed through the
darkness, he could follow with his eyes the boat which was rapidly
disappearing; at last it vanished altogether. Marouin lingered on
the shore, though he could see nothing; then he heard a cry, made
faint by the distance; it was Murat's last adieu to France.
When M. Marouin was telling me these details one evening on the very
spot where it all happened, though twenty years had passed, he
remembered clearly the slightest incidents of the embarkation that
night. From that moment he assured me that a presentiment of
misfortune seized him; he could not tear himself away from the shore,
and several times he longed to call the king back, but, like a man in
a dream, he opened his mouth without being able to utter a sound.
He was afraid of being thought foolish, and it was not until one
o'clock that is, two and a half hours after the departure of the
boat-that he went home with a sad and heavy heart.
The adventurous navigators had taken the course from Toulon to
Bastia, and at first it seemed to the king that the sailors'
predictions were belied; the wind, instead of getting up, fell little
by little, and two hours after the departure the boat was rocking
without moving forward or backward on the waves, which were sinking
from moment to moment. Murat sadly watched the phosphorescent furrow
trailing behind the little boat: he had nerved himself to face a
storm, but not a dead calm, and without even interrogating his
companions, of whose uneasiness he took no account, he lay down in
the boat, wrapped in his cloak, closing his eyes as if he were
asleep, and following the flow of his thoughts, which were far more
tumultuous than that of the waters. Soon the two sailors, thinking
him asleep, joined the pilot, and sitting down beside the helm, they
began to consult together.
"You were wrong, Langlade," said Donadieu, "in choosing a craft like
this, which is either too small or else too big; in an open boat we
can never weather a storm, and without oars we can never make any way
in a calm."
"'Fore God! I had no choice. I was obliged to take what I could
get, and if it had not been the season for tunny-fishing I might not
even have got this wretched pinnace, or rather I should have had to
go into the harbour to find it, and they keep such a sharp lookout
that I might well have gone in without coming out again."
"At least it is seaworthy," said Blancard.
"Pardieu, you know what nails and planks are when they have been
soaked in sea-water for ten years. On any ordinary occasion, a man
would rather not go in her from Marseilles to the Chateau d'If, but
on an occasion like this one would willingly go round the world in a
"Hush!" said Donadieu. The sailors listened; a distant growl was
heard, but it was so faint that only the experienced ear of a sailor
could have distinguished it.
"Yes, yes," said Langlade, "it is a warning for those who have legs
or wings to regain the homes and nests that they ought never to have
"Are we far from the islands?" asked Donadieu quickly.
"About a mile off."
"Steer for them."
"What for?" asked Murat, looking up.
"To put in there, sire, if we can."
"No, no," cried Murat; "I will not land except in Corsica. I will
not leave France again. Besides, the sea is calm and the wind is
getting up again--"
"Down with the sails!" shouted Donadieu. Instantly Langlade and
Blancard jumped forward to carry out the order. The sail slid down
the mast and fell in a heap in the bottom of the boat.
"What are you doing?" cried Murat. "Do you forget that I am king and
that I command you?"
"Sire," said Donadieu, "there is a king more powerful than you--God;
there is a voice which drowns yours--the voice of the tempest: let us
save your Majesty if possible, and demand nothing more of us."
Just then a flash of lightning quivered along the horizon, a clap of
thunder nearer than the first one was heard, a light foam appeared on
the surface of the water, and the boat trembled like a living thing.
Murat began to understand that danger was approaching, then he got up
smiling, threw his hat behind him, shook back his long hair, and
breathed in the storm like the smell of powder--the soldier was ready
for the battle.
"Sire," said Donadieu, "you have seen many a battle, but perhaps you
have never watched a storm if you are curious about it, cling to the
mast, for you have a fine opportunity now."
"What ought I to do?" said Murat. "Can I not help you in any way?"
"No, not just now, sire; later you will be useful at the pumps."
During this dialogue the storm had drawn near; it rushed on the
travellers like a war-horse, breathing out fire and wind through its
nostrils, neighing like thunder, and scattering the foam of the waves
beneath its feet.
Donadieu turned the rudder, the boat yielded as if it understood the
necessity for prompt obedience, and presented the poop to the shock
of wind; then the squall passed, leaving the sea quivering, and
everything was calm again. The storm took breath.
"Will that gust be all?" asked Murat.
"No, your Majesty, that was the advance-guard only; the body of the
army will be up directly."
"And are you not going to prepare for it?" asked the king gaily.
"What could we do?" said Donadieu. "We have not an inch of canvas to
catch the wind, and as long as we do not make too much water, we
shall float like a cork. Look out-sire!"
Indeed, a second hurricane was on its way, bringing rain and
lightning; it was swifter than the first. Donadieu endeavoured to
repeat the same manoeuvre, but he could not turn before the wind
struck the boat, the mast bent like a reed; the boat shipped a wave.
"To the pumps!" cried Donadieu. "Sire, now is the moment to help us-
Blancard, Langlade, and Murat seized their hats and began to bale out
the boat. The position of the four men was terrible--it lasted three
At dawn the wind fell, but the sea was still high. They began to
feel the need of food: all the provisions had been spoiled by
sea-water, only the wine had been preserved from its contact.
The king took a bottle and swallowed a little wine first, then he
passed it to his companions, who drank in their turn: necessity had
overcome etiquette. By chance Langlade had on him a few chocolates,
which he offered to the king. Murat divided them into four equal
parts, and forced his companions to take their shares; then, when the
meal was over, they steered for Corsica, but the boat had suffered so
much that it was improbable that it would reach Bastia.
The whole day passed without making ten miles; the boat was kept
under the jib, as they dared not hoist the mainsail, and the wind.
was so variable that much time was lost in humouring its caprices.
By evening the boat had drawn a considerable amount of water, it
penetrated between the boards, the handkerchiefs of the crew served
to plug up the leaks, and night, which was descending in mournful
gloom, wrapped them a second time in darkness. Prostrated with
fatigue, Murat fell asleep, Blancard and Langlade took their places.
beside Donadieu, and the three men, who seemed insensible to the
calls of sleep and fatigue, watched over his slumbers.
The night was calm enough apparently, but low grumblings were heard
now and then.
The three sailors looked at each other strangely and then at the
king, who was sleeping at the bottom of the boat, his cloak soaked
with sea-water, sleeping as soundly as he had slept on the sands of
Egypt or the snows of Russia.
Then one of them got up and went to the other end of the boat,
whistling between his teeth a Provencal air; then, after examining
the sky, the waves; and the boat, he went back to his comrades and
sat down, muttering, "Impossible! Except by a miracle, we shall
never make the land."
The night passed through all its phases. At dawn there was a vessel
"A sail!" cried Donadieu,--"a sail!"
At this cry the king--awoke; and soon a little trading brig hove in
sight, going from Corsica to Toulon.
Donadieu steered for the brig, Blancard hoisted enough sail to work
the boat, and Langlade ran to the prow and held up the king's cloak
on the end of a sort of harpoon. Soon the voyagers perceived that
they had been sighted, the brig went about to approach them, and in
ten minutes they found themselves within fifty yards of it. The
captain appeared in the bows. Then the king hailed him and offered
him a substantial reward if he would receive them on board and take
them to Corsica. The captain listened to the proposal; then
immediately turning to the crew, he gave an order in an undertone
which Donadieu could not hear, but which he understood probably by
the gesture, for he instantly gave Langlade and Blancard the order to
make away from the schooner. They obeyed with the unquestioning
promptitude of sailors; but the king stamped his foot.
"What are you doing, Donadieu? What are you about? Don't you see
that she is coming up to us?"
"Yes--upon my soul--so she is.... Do as I say, Langlade; ready,
Blancard. Yes, she is coming upon us, and perhaps I was too late in
seeing this. That's all right--that's all right: my part now."
Then he forced over the rudder, giving it so violent a jerk that the
boat, forced to change her course suddenly, seemed to rear and plunge
like a horse struggling against the curb; finally she obeyed. A huge
wave, raised by the giant bearing down on the pinnace, carried it on
like a leaf, and the brig passed within a few feet of the stern.
"Ah!.... traitor!" cried the king, who had only just begun to
realise the intention of the captain. At the same time, he pulled a
pistol from his belt, crying "Board her! board her!" and tried to
fire on the brig, but the powder was wet and would not catch. The
king was furious, and went on shouting "Board her! board her!"
"Yes, the wretch, or rather the imbecile," said Donadieu, "he took us
for pirates, and wanted to sink us--as if we needed him to do that!"
Indeed, a single glance at the boat showed that she was beginning to
The effort--to escape which Donadieu had made had strained the boat
terribly, and the water was pouring in by a number of leaks between
the planks; they had to begin again bailing out with their hats, and
went on at it for ten hours. Then for the second time Donadieu heard
the consoling cry, "A sail! a sail!" The king and his companions
immediately left off bailing; they hoisted the sails again, and
steered for the vessel which was coming towards them, and neglected
to fight against the water, which was rising rapidly.
From that time forth it was a question of time, of minutes, of
seconds; it was a question of reaching the ship before the boat
The vessel, however, seemed to understand the desperate position of
the men imploring help; she was coming up at full speed. Langlade
was the first to recognise her; she was a Government felucca plying
between Toulon and Bastia. Langlade was a friend of the captain, and
he called his name with the penetrating voice of desperation, and he
was heard. It was high time: the water kept on rising, and the king
and his companions were already up to their knees; the boat groaned
in its death-struggle; it stood still, and began to go round and
Just then two or three ropes thrown from the felucca fell upon the
boat; the king seized one, sprang forward, and reached the
rope-ladder: he was saved.
Blancard and Langlade immediately followed. Donadieu waited until
the last, as was his duty, and as he put his foot on the ladder he
felt the other boat begin to go under; he turned round with all a
sailor's calm, and saw the gulf open its jaws beneath him, and then
the shattered boat capsized, and immediately disappeared. Five
seconds more, and the four men who were saved would have been lost
beyond recall! [These details are well known to the people of Toulon,
and I have heard them myself a score of times during the two stays
that I made in that town during 1834 and 1835. Some of the people
who related them had them first-hand from Langlade and Donadieu
Murat had hardly gained the deck before a man came and fell at his
feet: it was a Mameluke whom he had taken to Egypt in former years,
and had since married at Castellamare; business affairs had taken him
to Marseilles, where by a miracle he had escaped the massacre of his
comrades, and in spite of his disguise and fatigue he had recognised
his former master.
His exclamations of joy prevented the king from keeping up his
incognito. Then Senator Casabianca, Captain Oletta, a nephew of
Prince Baciocchi, a staff-paymaster called Boerco, who were
themselves fleeing from the massacres of the South, were all on board
the vessel, and improvising a little court, they greeted the king
with the title of "your Majesty." It had been a sudden embarkation,
it brought about a swift change: he was no longer Murat the exile; he
was Joachim, the King of Naples. The exile's refuge disappeared with
the foundered boat; in its place Naples and its magnificent gulf
appeared on the horizon like a marvellous mirage, and no doubt the
primary idea of the fatal expedition of Calabria was originated in
the first days of exultation which followed those hours of anguish.
The king, however, still uncertain of the welcome which awaited him
in Corsica, took the name of the Count of Campo Melle, and it was
under this name that he landed at Bastia on the 25th August. But
this precaution was useless; three days after his arrival, not a soul
but knew of his presence in the town.
Crowds gathered at once, and cries of "Long live Joachim!" were
heard, and the king, fearing to disturb the public peace, left Bastia
the same evening with his three companions and his Mameluke. Two
hours later he arrived at Viscovato, and knocked at the door of
General Franceschetti, who had been in his service during his whole
reign, and who, leaving Naples at the same time as the king, had gone
to Corsica with his wife, to live with his father-in-law, M. Colonna
He was in the middle of supper when a servant told him that a
stranger was asking to speak to him--he went out, and found Murat
wrapped in a military greatcoat, a sailor's cap drawn down on his
head, his beard grown long, and wearing a soldier's trousers, boots,
The general stood still in amazement; Murat fixed his great dark eyes
on him, and then, folding his arms:--
"Franceschetti," said he, "have you room at your table for your
general, who is hungry? Have you a shelter under your roof for your
king, who is an exile?"
Franceschetti looked astonished as he recognised Joachim, and could
only answer him by falling on his knees and kissing his hand. From
that moment the general's house was at Murat's disposal.
The news of the king's arrival had hardly been handed about the
neighbourhood before officers of ail ranks hastened to Viscovato,
veterans who had fought under him, Corsican hunters who were
attracted by his adventurous character; in a few days the general's
house was turned into a palace, the village into a royal capital, the
island into a kingdom.
Strange rumours were heard concerning Murat's intentions. An army of
nine hundred men helped to give them some amount of confirmation.
It was then that Blancard, Donadieu, and Langlade took leave of him;
Murat wished to keep them, but they had been vowed to the rescue of
the exile, not to the fortunes of the king.
We have related how Murat had met one of his former Mamelukes, a man
called Othello, on board the Bastia mailboat. Othello had followed
him to Viscovato, and the ex-King of Naples considered how to make
use of him. Family relations recalled him naturally to Castellamare,
and Murat ordered him to return there, entrusting to him letters for
persons on whose devotion he could depend. Othello started, and
reached his father-in-law's safely, and thought he could confide in
him; but the latter was horror-struck, and alarmed the police, who
made a descent on Othello one night, and seized the letters.
The next day each man to whom a letter was addressed was arrested and
ordered to answer Murat as if all was well, and to point out Salerno
as the best place for disembarking: five out of seven were dastards
enough to obey; the two remaining, who were two Spanish brothers,
absolutely refused; they were thrown into a dungeon.
However, on the 17th September, Murat left Viscovato; General
Franceschetti and several Corsican officers served as escort; he took
the road to Ajaccio by Cotone, the mountains of Serra and Bosco,
Venaco and Vivaro, by the gorges of the forest of Vezzanovo and
Bogognone; he was received and feted like a king everywhere, and at
the gates of the towns he was met by deputations who made him
speeches and saluted him with the title of "Majesty"; at last, on the
23rd September, he arrived at Ajaccio. The whole population awaited
him outside the walls, and his entry into the town was a triumphal
procession; he was taken to the inn which had been fixed upon
beforehand by the quartermasters. It was enough to turn the head of
a man less impressionable than Murat; as for him, he was intoxicated
with it. As he went into the inn he held out his hand to
"You see," he said, "what the Neapolitans will do for me by the way
the Corsicans receive me."
It was the first mention which had escaped him of his plans for the
future, and from that very day he began to give orders for his
They collected ten little feluccas: a Maltese, named Barbara, former
captain of a frigate of the Neapolitan navy, was appointed
commander-in-chief of the expedition; two hundred and fifty men were
recruited and ordered to hold themselves in readiness for the first
Murat was only waiting for the answers to Othello's letters: they
arrived on the afternoon of the 28th. Murat invited all his officers
to a grand dinner, and ordered double pay and double rations to the
The king was at dessert when the arrival of M. Maceroni was announced
to him: he was the envoy of the foreign powers who brought Murat the
answer which he had been awaiting so long at Toulon. Murat left the
table and went into another room. M. Maceroni introduced himself as
charged with an official mission, and handed the king the Emperor of
Austria's ultimatum. It was couched in the following terms:
"Monsieur Maceroni is authorised by these presents to announce to
King Joachim that His Majesty the Emperor of Austria will afford him
shelter in his States on the following terms:--
"1. The king is to take a private name. The queen having adopted that
of Lipano, it is proposed that the king should do likewise.
"2. It will be permitted to the king to choose a town in Bohemia,
Moravia, or the Tyrol, as a place of residence. He could even
inhabit a country house in one of these same provinces without
"3. The king is to give his word of honour to His Imperial and Royal
Majesty that he will never leave the States of Austria without the
express-permission of the Emperor, and that he is to live like a
private gentleman of distinction, but submitting to the laws in force
in the States of Austria.
"In attestation whereof, and to guard against abuse, the undersigned
has received the order of the Emperor to sign the present
"(Signed) PRINCE OF METTERNICH
"PARIS, 1st Sept. 1815."
Murat smiled as he finished reading, then he signed to M. Maceroni
to follow him:
He led him on to the terrace of the house, which looked over the
whole town, and over which a banner floated as it might on a royal
castle. From thence they could see Ajaccio all gay and illuminated,
the port with its little fleet, and the streets crowded with people,
as if it were a fete-day.
Hardly had the crowd set eyes on Murat before a universal cry arose,
"Long live Joachim, brother of Napoleon! Long live the King of
Murat bowed, and the shouts were redoubled, and the garrison band
played the national airs.
M. Maceroni did not know how to believe his own eyes and ears.
When the king had enjoyed his astonishment, he invited him to go down
to the drawing-room. His staff were there, all in full uniform: one
might have been at Caserte or at Capo di Monte. At last, after a
moment's hesitation, Maceroni approached Murat.
"Sir," he said, "what is my answer to be to His Majesty the Emperor
"Sir," answered Murat, with the lofty dignity which sat so well on
his fine face, "tell my brother Francis what you have seen and heard,
and add that I am setting out this very night to reconquer my kingdom
The letters which had made Murat resolve to leave Corsica had been
brought to him by a Calabrian named Luidgi. He had presented himself
to the king as the envoy of the Arab, Othello, who had been thrown
into prison in Naples, as we have related, as well as the seven
recipients of the letters.
The answers, written by the head of the Neapolitan police, indicated
the port of Salerno as the best place for Joachim to land; for King
Ferdinand had assembled three thousand Austrian troops at that point,
not daring to trust the Neapolitan soldiers, who cherished a
brilliant and enthusiastic memory of Murat.
Accordingly the flotilla was directed for the Gulf of Salerno, but
within sight of the island of Capri a violent storm broke over it,
and drove it as far as Paola, a little seaport situated ten miles
from Cosenza. Consequently the vessels were anchored for the night
of the 5th of October in a little indentation of the coast not worthy
of the name of a roadstead. The king, to remove all suspicion from
the coastguards and the Sicilian scorridori, [Small vessels fitted up
as ships-of-war.] ordered that all lights should be extinguished and
that the vessels should tack about during the night; but towards one
o'clock such a violent land-wind sprang up that the expedition was
driven out to sea, so that on the 6th at dawn the king's vessel was
During the morning they overhauled Captain Cicconi's felucca, and the
two ships dropped anchor at four o'clock in sight of Santo-Lucido.
In the evening the king commanded Ottoviani, a staff officer, to go
ashore and reconnoitre. Luidgi offered to accompany him. Murat
accepted his services. So Ottoviani and his guide went ashore,
whilst Cicconi and his felucca put out to sea in search of the rest
of the fleet.
Towards eleven o'clock at night the lieutenant of the watch descried
a man in the waves swimming to the vessel. As soon as he was within
hearing the lieutenant hailed him. The swimmer immediately made
himself known: it was Luidgi. They put out the boat, and he came on
board. Then he told them that Ottoviani had been arrested, and he
had only escaped himself by jumping into the sea. Murat's first idea
was to go to the rescue of Ottoviani; but Luidgi made the king
realise the danger and uselessness of such an attempt; nevertheless,
Joachim remained agitated and irresolute until two o'clock in the
At last he gave the order to put to sea again. During the manoeuvre
which effected this a sailor fell overboard and disappeared before
they had time to help him. Decidedly these were ill omens.
On the morning of the 7th two vessels were in sight. The king gave
the order to prepare for action, but Barbara recognised them as
Cicconi's felucca and Courrand's lugger, which had joined each other
and were keeping each other company. They hoisted the necessary
signals, and the two captains brought up their vessels alongside the
While they were deliberating as to what route to follow, a boat came
up to Murat's vessel. Captain Pernice was on board with a
lieutenant. They came to ask the king's permission to board his
ship, not wishing to remain on Courrand's, for in their opinion he
was a traitor.
Murat sent to fetch him, and in spite of his protestations he was
made to descend into a boat with fifty men, and the boat was moored
to the vessel. The order was carried out at once, and the little
squadron advanced, coasting along the shores of Calabria without
losing sight of them; but at ten o'clock in the evening, just as they
came abreast of the Gulf of Santa-Eufemia, Captain Courrand cut the
rope which moored his boat to the vessel, and rowed away from the
Murat had thrown himself on to his bed without undressing; they
brought him the news.
He rushed up to the deck, and arrived in time to see the boat, which
was fleeing in the direction of Corsica, grow small and vanish in the
distance. He remained motionless, not uttering a cry, giving no
signs of rage; he only sighed and let his head fall on his breast: it
was one more leaf falling from the exhausted tree of his hopes.
General Franceschetti profited by this hour of discouragement to
advise him not to land in Calabria, and to go direct to Trieste, in
order to claim from Austria the refuge which had been offered.
The king was going through one of those periods of extreme
exhaustion, of mortal depression, when courage quite gives way: he
refused flatly at first, and there at last agreed to do it.
Just then the general perceived a sailor lying on some coils of
ropes, within hearing of all they said; he interrupted himself, and
pointed him out to Murat.
The latter got up, went to see the man, and recognised Luidgi;
overcome with exhaustion, he had fallen asleep on deck. The king
satisfied himself that the sleep was genuine, and besides he had full
confidence in the man. The conversation, which had been interrupted
for a moment, was renewed: it was agreed that without saying anything
about the new plans, they would clear Cape Spartivento and enter the
Adriatic; then the king and the general went below again to the lower
The next day, the 8th October, they found themselves abreast of
Pizzo, when Joachim, questioned by Barbara as to what he proposed to
do, gave the order to steer for Messina. Barbara answered that he
was ready to obey, but that they were in need of food and water;
consequently he offered to go on, board Cicconi's vessel and to land
with him to get stores. The king agreed; Barbara asked for the
passports which he had received from the allied powers, in order, he
said, not to be molested by the local authorities.
These documents were too important for Murat to consent to part with
them; perhaps the king was beginning to suspect: he refused. Barbara
insisted; Murat ordered him to land without the papers; Barbara
The king, accustomed to being obeyed, raised his riding-whip to
strike the Maltese, but, changing his resolution, he ordered the
soldiers to prepare their arms, the officers to put on full uniform;
he himself set the example. The disembarkation was decided upon, and
Pizzo was to become the Golfe Juan of the new Napoleon.
Consequently the vessels were steered for land. The king got down
into a boat with twenty-eight soldiers and three servants, amongst
whom was Luidgi. As they drew near the shore General Franceschetti
made a movement as if to land, but Murat stopped him.
"It is for me to land first," he said, and he sprang on shore.
He was dressed in a general's coat, white breeches and riding-boots,
a belt carrying two pistols, a gold-embroidered hat with a cockade
fastened in with a clasp made of fourteen brilliants, and lastly he
carried under his arm the banner round which he hoped to rally his
partisans. The town clock of Pizzo struck ten. Murat went straight
up to the town, from which he was hardly a hundred yards distant. He
followed the wide stone staircase which led up to it.
It was Sunday. Mass was about to be celebrated, and the whole
population had assembled in the Great Square when he arrived. No one
recognised him, and everyone gazed with astonishment at the fine
officer. Presently he saw amongst the peasants a former sergeant of
his who had served in his guard at Naples. He walked straight up to
him and put his hand on the man's shoulder.
"Tavella," he said, "don't you recognise me?"
But as the man made no answer:
"I am Joachim Murat, I am your king," he said. "Yours be the honour
to shout 'Long live Joachim!' first."
Murat's suite instantly made the air ring with acclamations, but the
Calabrians remained silent, and not one of his comrades took up the
cry for which the king himself had given the signal; on the contrary,
a low murmur ran through the crowd. Murat well understood this
forerunner of the storm.
"Well," he said to Tavella, "if you won't cry 'Long live Joachim!'
you can at least fetch me a horse, and from sergeant I will promote
you to be captain."
Tavella walked away without answering, but instead of carrying out
the king's behest, went into his house, and did not appear again.
In the meantime the people were massing together without evincing any
of the sympathy that the king had hoped for. He felt that he was
lost if he did not act instantly.
"To Monteleone!" he cried, springing forward towards the road which
led to that town.
"To Monteleone!" shouted his officers and men, as they followed him.
And the crowd, persistently silent, opened to let them pass.
But they had hardly left the square before a great disturbance broke
out. A man named Giorgio Pellegrino came out of his house with a gun
and crossed the square, shouting, "To your arms!"
He knew that Captain Trenta Capelli commanding the Cosenza garrison
was just then in Pizzo, and he was going to warn him.
The cry "To arms!" had more effect on the crowd than the cry "Long
Every Calabrian possesses a gun, and each one ran to fetch his, and
when Trenta Capelli and Giorgio Pellegrino came back to the square
they found nearly two hundred armed men there.
They placed themselves at the head of the column, and hastened
forward in pursuit of the king; they came up with him about ten
minutes from the square, where the bridge is nowadays. Seeing them,
Murat stopped and waited for them.
Trenta Capelli advanced, sword in hand, towards the king.
"Sir," said the latter, "will you exchange your captain's epaulettes
for a general's? Cry 'Long live Joachim!' and follow me with these
brave fellows to Monteleone."
"Sire," said Trenta Capelli, "we are the faithful subjects of King
Ferdinand, and we come to fight you, and not to bear you company.
Give yourself up, if you would prevent bloodshed."
Murat looked at the captain with an expression which it would be
impossible to describe; then without deigning to answer, he signed to
Cagelli to move away, while his other hand went to his pistol.
Giotgio Pellegrino perceived the movement.
"Down, captain, down!" he cried. The captain obeyed. Immediately a
bullet whistled over his head and brushed Murat's head.
"Fire!" commanded Franceschetti.
"Down with your arms!" cried Murat.
Waving his handkerchief in his right hand, he made a step towards the
peasants, but at the same moment a number of shots were fired, an
officer and two or three men fell. In a case like this, when blood
has begun to flow, there is no stopping it.
Murat knew this fatal truth, and his course of action was rapidly
decided on. Before him he had five hundred armed men, and behind him
a precipice thirty feet high: he sprang from the jagged rock on which
he was standing, and alighting on the sand, jumped up safe and sound.
General Franceschetti and his aide-de-camp Campana were able to
accomplish the jump in the same way, and all three went rapidly down
to the sea through the little wood which lay within a hundred yards
of the shore, and which hid them for a few moments from their
As they came out of the wood a fresh discharge greeted them, bullets
whistled round them, but no one was hit, and the three fugitives went
on down to the beach.
It was only then that the king perceived that the boat which had
brought them to land had gone off again. The three ships which
composed the fleet, far from remaining to guard his landing, were
sailing away at full speed into the open sea.
The Maltese, Barbara, was going off not only with Murat's fortune,
but with his hopes likewise, his salvation, his very life. They
could not believe in such treachery, and the king took it for some
manoeuvre of seamanship, and seeing a fishing-boat drawn up on the
beach on some nets, he called to his two companions, "Launch that
They all began to push it down to the sea with the energy of despair,
the strength of agony.
No one had dared to leap from the rock in pursuit of them; their
enemies, forced to make a detour, left them a few moments of liberty.
But soon shouts were heard: Giorgio Pellegrino, Trenta Capelli,
followed by the whole population of Pizzo, rushed out about a hundred
and fifty paces from where Murat, Franceschetti, and Campana were
straining themselves to make the boat glide down the sand.
These cries were immediately followed by a volley. Campana fell,
with a bullet through his heart.
The boat, however, was launched. Franceschetti sprang into it, Murat
was about to follow, but he had not observed that the spurs of his
riding-boots had caught in the meshes of the net. The boat, yielding
to the push he gave it, glided away, and the king fell head foremost,
with his feet on land and his face in the water. Before he had time
to pick himself up, the populace had fallen on him: in one instant
they had torn away his epaulettes, his banner, and his coat, and
would have torn him to bits himself, had not Giorgio Pellegrino and
Trenta Capelli taken him under their protection, and giving him an
arm on each side, defended him in their turn against the people.
Thus he crossed the square as a prisoner where an hour before he had
walked as a king.
His captors took him to the castle: he was pushed into the common
prison, the door was shut upon him, and the king found himself among
thieves and murderers, who, not knowing him, took him for a companion
in crime, and greeted him with foul language and hoots of derision.
A quarter of an hour later the door of the gaol opened and Commander
Mattei came in: he found Murat standing with head proudly erect and
folded arms. There was an expression of indefinable loftiness in
this half-naked man whose face was stained with blood and bespattered
with mud. Mattei bowed before him.
"Commander," said Murat, recognising his rank by his epaulettes,
"look round you and tell me whether this is a prison for a king."
Then a strange thing happened: the criminals, who, believing Murat
their accomplice, had welcomed him with vociferations and laughter,
now bent before his royal majesty, which had not overawed Pellegrino
and Trenta Capelli, and retired silently to the depths of their
Misfortune had invested Murat with a new power.
Commander Mattei murmured some excuse, and invited Murat to follow
him to a room that he had had prepared for him; but before going out,
Murat put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a handful of gold and
let it fall in a shower in the midst of the gaol.
"See," he said, turning towards the prisoners, "it shall not be said
that you have received a visit from a king, prisoner and crownless as
he is, without having received largesse."
"Long live Joachim!" cried the prisoners.
Murat smiled bitterly. Those same words repeated by the same number
of voices an hour before in the public square, instead of resounding
in the prison, would have made him King of Naples.
The most important events proceed sometimes from such mere trifles,
that it seems as if God and the devil must throw dice for the life or
death of men, for the rise or fall of empires.
Murat followed Commander Mattei: he led him to a little room which
the porter had put at his disposal. Mattei was going to retire when
Murat called him back.
"Commander," he said, "I want a scented bath."
"Sire, it will be difficult to obtain."
"Here are fifty ducats; let someone buy all the eau de Cologne that
can be obtained. Ah--and let some tailors be sent to me."
"It will be impossible to find anyone here capable of making anything
but a peasant's clothes."
"Send someone to Monteleone to fetch them from there."
The commander bowed and went out.
Murat was in his bath when the Lavaliere Alcala was announced, a
General and Governor of the town. He had sent damask coverlets,
curtains, and arm-chairs. Murat was touched by this attention, and
it gave him fresh composure. At two o'clock the same day General
Nunziante arrived from Santa-Tropea with three thousand men. Murat
greeted his old acquaintance with pleasure; but at the first word the
king perceived that he was before his judge, and that he had not come
for the purpose of making a visit, but to make an official inquiry.
Murat contented himself with stating that he had been on his way from
Corsica to Trieste with a passport from the Emperor of Austria when
stormy weather and lack of provisions had forced him to put into
Pizzo. All other questions Murat met with a stubborn silence; then
at least, wearied by his importunity--
"General," he said, "can you lend me some clothes after my bath?"
The general understood that he could expect no more information, and,
bowing to the king, he went out. Ten minutes later, a complete
uniform was brought to Murat; he put it on immediately, asked for a
pen and ink, wrote to the commander-in-chief of the Austrian troops
at Naples, to the English ambassador, and to his wife, to tell them
of his detention at Pizzo. These letters written, he got up and
paced his room for some time in evident agitation; at last, needing
fresh air, he opened the window. There was a view of the very beach
where he had been captured.
Two men were digging a hole in the sand at the foot of the little
redoubt. Murat watched them mechanically. When the two men had
finished, they went into a neighbouring house and soon came out,
bearing a corpse in their arms.
The king searched his memory, and indeed it seemed to him that in the
midst of that terrible scene he had seen someone fall, but who it was
he no longer remembered. The corpse was quite without covering, but
by the long black hair and youthful outlines the king recognised
Campana, the aide-decamp he had always loved best.
This scene, watched from a prison window in the twilight, this
solitary burial on the shore, in the sand, moved Murat more deeply
than his own fate. Great tears filled his eyes and fell silently
down the leonine face. At that moment General Nunziante came in and
surprised him with outstretched arms and face bathed with tears.
Murat heard him enter and turned round, and seeing the old soldier's
"Yes, general," he said, "I weep; I weep for that boy, just
twenty-four, entrusted to me by his parents, whose death I have
brought about. I weep for that vast, brilliant future which is
buried in an unknown grave, in an enemy's country, on a hostile
shore. Oh, Campana! Campana! if ever I am king again, I will raise
you a royal tomb."
The general had had dinner served in an adjacent room. Murat
followed him and sat down to table, but he could not eat. The sight
which he had just witnessed had made him heartbroken, and yet without
a line on his brow that man had been through the battles of Aboukir,
Eylau, and Moscow! After dinner, Murat went into his room again,
gave his various letters to General Nunziante, and begged to be left
alone. The general went away.
Murat paced round his room several times, walking with long steps,
and pausing from time to time before the window, but without opening
At last he overcame a deep reluctance, put his hand on the bolt and
drew the lattice towards him.
It was a calm, clear night: one could see the whole shore. He looked
for Campana's grave. Two dogs scratching the sand showed him the
The king shut the window violently, and without undressing threw
himself onto his bed. At last, fearing that his agitation would be
attributed to personal alarm, he undressed and went to bed, to sleep,
or seem to sleep all night.
On the morning of the 9th the tailors whom Murat had asked for
arrived. He ordered a great many clothes, taking the trouble to
explain all the details suggested by his fastidious taste. He was
thus employed when General Nunziante came in. He listened sadly to
the king's commands. He had just received telegraphic despatches
ordering him to try the King of Naples by court-martial as a public
enemy. But he found the king so confident, so tranquil, almost
cheerful indeed, that he had not the heart to announce his trial to
him, and took upon himself to delay the opening of operation until he
received written instructions. These arrived on the evening of the
12th. They were couched in the following terms:
NAPLES, October 9, 1815
"Ferdinand, by the grace of God, etc . . . . wills and decrees
"Art. 1. General Murat is to be tried by court-martial, the members
whereof are to be nominated by our Minister of War.
"Art. 2. Only half an hour is to be accorded to the condemned for
the exercises of religion.
Another despatch from the minister contained the names of the members
of the commission. They were:--
Giuseppe Fosculo, adjutant, commander-in-chief of the staff,
Laffaello Scalfaro, chief of the legion of Lower Calabria.
Latereo Natali, lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Marines.
Gennaro Lanzetta, lieutenant-colonel of the Engineers.
W. T. captain of Artillery.
Francois de Venge, ditto.
Francesco Martellari, lieutenant of Artillery.
Francesco Froio, lieutenant in the 3rd regiment of the line.
Giovanni delta Camera, Public Prosecutor to the Criminal Courts of
Francesco Papavassi, registrar.
The commission assembled that night.
On the 13th October, at six o'clock in the morning, Captain Stratti
came into the king's prison; he was sound asleep. Stratti was going
away again, when he stumbled against a chair; the noise awoke Murat.
"What do you want with me, captain?" asked the king.
Stratti tried to speak, but his voice failed him.
"Ah ha!" said Murat, "you must have had news from Naples."
"Yes, sire," muttered Stratti.
"What are they?" said Murat.
"Your trial, sire."
"And by whose order will sentence be pronounced, if you please?
Where will they find peers to judge me? If they consider me as a
king, I must have a tribunal of kings; if I am a marshal of France, I
must have a court of marshals; if I am a general, and that is the
least I can be, I must have a jury of generals."
"Sire, you are declared a public enemy, and as such you are liable to
be judged by court-martial: that is the law which you instituted
yourself for rebels."
"That law was made for brigands, and not for crowned heads, sir,"
said Murat scornfully. "I am ready; let them butcher me if they
like. I did not think King Ferdinand capable of such an action."
"Sire, will you not hear the names of your judges?"
"Yes, sir, I will. It must be a curious list. Read it: I am
Captain Stratti read out the names that we have enumerated. Murat
listened with a disdainful smile.
"Ah," he said, as the captain finished, "it seems that every
precaution has been taken."
"Yes. Don't you know that all these men, with the exception of
Francesco Froio, the reporter; owe their promotion to me? They will
be afraid of being accused of sparing me out of gratitude, and save
one voice, perhaps, the sentence will be unanimous."
"Sire, suppose you were to appear before the court, to plead your own
"Silence, sir, silence!" said Murat. "I could, not officially
recognise the judges you have named without tearing too many pages of
history. Such tribunal is quite incompetent; I should be disgraced
if I appeared before it. I know I could not save my life, let me at
least preserve my royal dignity."
At this moment Lieutenant Francesco Froio came in to interrogate the
prisoner, asking his name, his age, and his nationality. Hearing
these questions, Murat rose with an expression of sublime dignity.
"I am Joachim Napoleon, King of the Two Sicilies," he answered, "and
I order you to leave me."
The registrar obeyed.
Then Murat partially dressed himself, and asked Stratti if he could
write a farewell to his wife and children. The Captain no longer
able to speak, answered by an affirmative sign; then Joachim sat down
to the table and wrote this letter:
"DEAR CAROLINE OF MY HEART,--The fatal moment has come: I am to
suffer the death penalty. In an hour you will be a widow, our
children will be fatherless: remember me; never forget my memory. I
die innocent; my life is taken from me unjustly.
"Good-bye, Achilles good-bye, Laetitia; goodbye, Lucien; good-bye,
"Show yourselves worthy of me; I leave you in a world and in a
kingdom full of my enemies. Show yourselves superior to adversity,
and remember never to think yourselves better than you are,
remembering what you have been.
"Farewell. I bless you all. Never curse my memory. Remember that
the worst pang of my agony is in dying far from my children, far from
my wife, without a friend to close my eyes. Farewell, my own
Caroline. Farewell, my children. I send you my blessing, my most
tender tears, my last kisses. Farewell, farewell. Never forget your
"Pizzo, Oct. 13, 1815"
[We can guarantee the authenticity of this letter, having copied it
ourselves at Pizzo, from the Lavaliere Alcala's copy of the original]
Then he cut off a lock of his hair and put it in his letter. Just
then General Nunziante came in; Murat went to him and held out his
"General," he said, "you are a father, you are a husband, one day
you will know what it is to part from your wife and sons. Swear to
me that this letter shall be delivered."
"On my epaulettes," said the general, wiping his eyes. [Madame Murat
never received this letter.]
"Come, come, courage, general," said Murat; "we are soldiers, we know
how to face death. One favour--you will let me give the order to
fire, will you not?"
The general signed acquiescence: just then the registrar came in with
the king's sentence in his hand.
Murat guessed what it was.
"Read, sir," he said coldly; "I am listening."
The registrar obeyed. Murat was right.
The sentence of death had been carried with only one dissentient
When the reading was finished, the king turned again to Nunziante.
"General," he said, "believe that I distinguish in my mind the
instrument which strikes me and the hand that wields that instrument.
I should never have thought that Ferdinand would have had me shot
like a dog; he does not hesitate apparently before such infamy. Very
well. We will say no more about it. I have challenged my judges,
but not my executioners. What time have you fixed for my execution?"
"Will you fix it yourself, sir?" said the general.
Murat pulled out a watch on which there was a portrait of his wife;
by chance he turned up the portrait, and not the face of the watch;
he gazed at it tenderly.
"See, general," he said, showing it to Nunziante; "it is a portrait
of the queen. You know her; is it not like her?"
The general turned away his head. Murat sighed and put away the
"Well, sire," said the registrar, "what time have you fixed?"
"Ah yes," said Murat, smiling, "I forgot why I took out my watch when
I saw Caroline's portrait."
Then he looked at his watch again, but this time at its face.
"Well, it shall be at four o'clock, if you like; it is past three
o'clock. I ask for fifty minutes. Is that too much, sir?"
The registrar bowed and went out. The general was about to follow
"Shall I never see you again, Nunziante?" said Murat.
"My orders are to be present at your death, sire, but I cannot do
"Very well, general. I will dispense with your presence at the last
moment, but I should like to say farewell once more and to embrace
"I will be near, sire."
"Thank you. Now leave me alone."
"Sire, there are two priests here."
Murat made an impatient movement.
"Will you receive them?" continued the general.
"Yes; bring them in."
The general went out. A moment later, two priests appeared in the
doorway. One of them was called Francesco Pellegrino, uncle of the
man who had caused the king's death; the other was Don Antonio
"What do you want here?" asked Murat.
"We come to ask you if you are dying a Christian?"
"I am dying as a soldier. Leave me."
Don Francesco Pellegrino retired. No doubt he felt ill at ease
before Joachim. But Antonio Masdea remained at the door.
"Did you not hear me?" asked the king.
"Yes, indeed," answered the old man; "but permit me, sire, to hope
that it was not your last word to me. It is not, the first time that
I see you or beg something of you. I have already had occasion to
ask a favour of you."
"What was that?"
"When your Majesty came to Pizzo in 1810, I asked you for 25,000
francs to enable us to finish our church. Your Majesty sent me
"I must have foreseen that I should be buried there," said Murat,
"Ah, sire, I should like to think that you did not refuse my second
boon any more than my first. Sire, I entreat you on my knees."
The old man fell at Murat's feet.
"Die as a Christian!"
"That would give you pleasure, then, would it?" said the king.
"Sire, I would give the few short days remaining to me if God would
grant that His Holy Spirit should fall upon you in your last hour."
"Well," said Murat, "hear my confession. I accuse myself of having
been disobedient to my parents as a child. Since I reached manhood I
have done nothing to reproach myself with."
"Sire, will you give me an attestation that you die in the Christian
"Certainly," said Murat.
And he took a pen and wrote: "I, Joachim Murat, die a Christian,
believing in the Holy Catholic Church, Apostolic and Roman."
He signed it.
"Now, father," continued the king, "if you have a third favour to ask
of me, make haste, for in half an hour it will be too late."
Indeed, the castle clock was striking half-past three. The priest
signed that he had finished.
"Then leave me alone," said Murat; and the old man went out.
Murat paced his room for a few moments, then he sat down on his bed
and let his head fall into his hands. Doubtless, during the quarter
of an hour he remained thus absorbed in his thoughts, he saw his
whole life pass before him, from the inn where he had started to the
palace he had reached; no doubt his adventurous career unrolled
itself before him like some golden dream, some brilliant fiction,
some tale from the Arabian Nights.
His life gleamed athwart the storm like a rainbow, and like a
rainbow's, its two extremities were lost in clouds--the clouds of
birth and death. At last he roused himself from this inward
contemplation, and lifted a pale but tranquil face. Then he went to
the glass and arranged his hair. His strange characteristics never
left him. The affianced of Death, he was adorning himself to meet
Four o'clock struck.
Murat went to the door himself and opened it.
General Nunziante was waiting for him.
"Thank you, general," said Murat. "You have kept your word. Kiss
me, and go at once, if you like."
The general threw himself into the king's arms, weeping, and utterly
unable to speak.
"Courage," said Murat. "You see I am calm." It was this very
calmness which broke the general's heart. He dashed out of the
corridor, and left the castle, running like a madman.
Then the king walked out into the courtyard.
Everything was ready for the execution.
Nine men and a corporal were ranged before the door of the council
chamber. Opposite them was a wall twelve feet high. Three feet away
from the wall was a stone block: Murat mounted it, thus raising
himself about a foot above the soldiers who were to execute him.
Then he took out his watch,[Madame Murat recovered this watch at the
price of 200 Louis] kissed his wife's portrait, and fixing his eyes
on it, gave the order to fire. At the word of command five out of
the nine men fired: Murat remained standing. The soldiers had been
ashamed to fire on their king, and had aimed over his head. That
moment perhaps displayed most gloriously the lionlike courage which
was Murat's special attribute. His face never changed, he did not
move a muscle; only gazing at the soldiers with an expression of
mingled bitterness and gratitude, he said:
"Thank you; my friends. Since sooner or later you will be obliged to
aim true, do not prolong my death-agonies. All I ask you is to aim
at the heart and spare the face. Now----"
With the same voice, the same calm, the same expression, he repeated
the fatal words one after another, without lagging, without
hastening, as if he were giving an accustomed command; but this time,
happier than the first, at the word "Fire!" he fell pierced by eight
bullets, without a sigh, without a movement, still holding the watch
in his left hand.
The soldiers took up the body and laid it on the bed where ten
minutes before he had been sitting, and the captain put a guard at
In the evening a man presented himself, asking to go into the
death-chamber: the sentinel refused to let him in, and he demanded an
interview with the governor of the prison. Led before him, he
produced an order. The commander read it with surprise and disgust,
but after reading it he led the man to the door where he had been
"Pass the Signor Luidgi," he said to the sentinel.
Ten minutes had hardly elapsed before he came out again, holding a
bloodstained handkerchief containing something to which the sentinel
could not give a name.
An hour later, the carpenter brought the coffin which was to contain
the king's remains. The workman entered the room, but instantly
called the sentinel in a voice of indescribable terror.
The sentinel half opened the door to see what had caused the man's
The carpenter pointed to a headless corpse!
At the death of King Ferdinand, that, head, preserved in spirits of
wine, was found in a secret cupboard in his bedroom.
A week after the execution of Pizzo everyone had received his reward:
Trenta Capelli was made a colonel, General Nunziante a marquis, and
Luidgi died from the effects of poison.
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