"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 listening." 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." "How, sire?" "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 cause?" "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, Louise. "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 unhappy father, "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 hand. "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 voice. 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 watch. "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 him. "Shall I never see you again, Nunziante?" said Murat. "My orders are to be present at your death, sire, but I cannot do it." "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 you." "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 Masdea. "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 40,000 francs." "I must have foreseen that I should be buried there," said Murat, smiling. "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 faith?" "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 his bride. 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 the door. 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 refused entrance. "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 panic. 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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