List Of Contents | Contents of Murat, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

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
in sight.

"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
make water.

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.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: