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CELEBRATED CRIMES VOLUME 7, Part 3

By Alexander Dumas, Pere



MURAT

1815


I

TOULON

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
your Majesty----"

"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
now."

"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

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