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La mort pour triomphe

La mort pour triomphe

         21 octobre 1805. Le jeune gabier français reste étendu sur le pont. L’équipage du Redoutable gît partout, ensanglanté. Tous les hommes se préparaient à partir à l’abordage du Victory, et ont été fauchés par surprise dans le dos par le Temeraire. Le capitaine Lucas semble sérieusement blessé, assis contre le mat principal. Fidèle à son courage, il trouve toutefois le moyen de vider ses pistolets contre les navires anglais. Le ciel est gris, au large de Trafalgar.

 

          Le gabier finit par se relever. Tout étourdi par le choc des bordées du Temeraire, il n’est toutefois pas blessé, par miracle. Le jeune marin rampe sur le pont rouge de sang, en direction du capitaine Lucas. À demi conscient, l’officier lui désigne une silhouette sur le Redoutable, en partie masquée par la fumée. Impossible toutefois d’obtenir une position de tir sur le pont du Temeraire, toujours battu par la mitraille et asphyxié par les incendies. Lucas s’est évanouit – s’il n’est pas mort. Sans plus réfléchir, le gabier se sait d’un fusil et s’élance vers la mort, sur les haubans.

          Leste comme un chat, le jeune marin à tôt fait d’atteindre la mi-hauteur du grand mât. De cette position, on distingue nettement la bataille navale en cours. C’est une tragédie. Plus de la moitié de la flotte franco-espagnole est en feu, ou a amené son pavillon. Sur la mer flottent des milliers d’hommes, agités ou inertes. Le choc est terrible pour le gabier. C’est sa première bataille, et sûrement déjà la dernière. En contre-bas, les navires anglais tournent comme des rapaces autour du Redoutable, qui commence à s’enfoncer dans la mer. La mort approche.

          Vite, il reste une mission à accomplir. Le jeune Français a terminé à la première place lors de son instruction au tir. Il s’allonge et pointe son fusil sur le pont du Victory. Impossible de distinguer quoi que ce soit. De toute façon, le sang bat encore contre les tempes du gabier ; il doit recouvrir son calme. Au bout de quelques minutes, il respire plus tranquillement, son fusil ne bouge plus. En contre-bas, une bourrasque de vent chasse les fumées et dévoile le Victory.

          Voici la cible. Impossible de la manquer. Tout l’état-major du navire ennemi bourdonne autour de l’officier, bien visible dans son uniforme rouge impeccable. Le gabier respire calmement, et obtient une visée. Ne pas oublier de corriger l’angle de dépression, sur un objectif en contre-bas. À l’exercice, il a répété la manœuvre des centaines de fois.

          C’est le moment de retenir sa respiration, pour garder l’arme fixe. L’œil rivé sur l’officier anglais, le jeune marin place enfin l’index sur la queue détente. Seule une pression lente et continue permet d’obtenir un tir net.

          Juste avant le départ du coup, le gabier observe l’Anglais sourire, fier de son triomphe. Le matelot français ne peut s’empêcher d’admirer le grand marin.

          Mais c’est bien l’amiral Nelson qui va mourir aujourd’hui.

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