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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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the law they shall be condemned, and shall suffer on the scaffold."

"O my beloved son," cried the queen in tears, "I never doubted your
noble feelings or the justice of your claims; but when your life is
in danger, to what voice can I listen but the voice of fear? what can
move my counsels but the promptings of love?"

"Mother, believe me, if the hands and hearts alike of these cowards
had not trembled, you would have lost your son long ago."

"It is not violence that I fear, my son, it is treachery."

"My life, like every man's, belongs to God, and the lowest of sbirri
may take it as I turn the corner of the street; but a king owes
something to his people."

The poor mother long tried to bend the resolution of Andre by reason
and entreaties; but when she had spoken her last word and shed her
last tear, she summoned Bertram de Baux, chief-justice of the
kingdom, and Marie, Duchess of Durazzo.  Trusting in the old man's
wisdom and the girl's innocence, she commended her son to them in the
tenderest and most affecting words; then drawing from her own hand a
ring richly wrought, and taking the prince aside, she slipped it upon
his finger, saying in a voice that trembled with emotion as she
pressed him to her heart--

"My son, as you refuse to come with me, here is a wonderful talisman,
which I would not use before the last extremity.  So long as you wear
this ring on your finger, neither sword nor poison will have power
against you."

"You see then, mother," said the prince, smiling, "with this
protection there is no reason at all to fear for my life."

There are other dangers than sword or poison," sighed the queen.

"Be calm, mother: the best of all talismans is your prayer to God for
me: it is the tender thought of you that will keep me for ever in the
path of duty and justice; your maternal love will watch over me from
afar, and cover me like the wings of a guardian angel."

Elizabeth sobbed as she embraced her son, and when she left him she
felt her heart was breaking.  At last she made up her mind to go, and
was escorted by the whole court, who had never changed towards her
for a moment in their chivalrous and respectful devotion.  The poor
mother, pale, trembling, and faint, leaned heavily upon Andre's arm,
lest she should fall.  On the ship that was to take her for ever from
her son, she cast her arms for the last time about his neck, and
there hung a long time, speechless, tearless, and motionless; when
the signal for departure was given, her women took her in their arms
half swooning.  Andre stood on the shore with the feeling of death at
his heart: his eyes were fixed upon the sail that carried ever
farther from him the only being he loved in the world.  Suddenly he
fancied he beheld something white moving a long way off: his mother
had recovered her senses by a great effort, and had dragged herself
up to the bridge to give a last signal of farewell: the unhappy lady
knew too well that she would never see her son again.

At almost the same moment that Andre's mother left the kingdom, the
former queen of Naples, Robert's widow, Dona Sancha, breathed her
last sigh.  She was buried in the convent of Santa Maria delta Croce,
under the name of Clara, which she had assumed on taking her vows as
a nun, as her epitaph tells us, as follows:

"Here lies, an example of great humility, the body of the sainted
sister Clara, of illustrious memory, otherwise Sancha, Queen of
Sicily and Jerusalem, widow of the most serene Robert, King of
Jerusalem and Sicily, who, after the death of the king her husband,
when she had completed a year of widowhood, exchanged goods temporary
for goods eternal.  Adopting for the love of God a voluntary poverty,
and distributing her goods to the poor, she took upon her the rule of
obedience in this celebrated convent of Santa Croce, the work of her
own hands, in the year 1344, on the gist of January of the twelfth
indiction, where, living a life of holiness under the rule of the
blessed Francis, father of the poor, she ended her days religiously
in the year of our Lord 1345, on the 28th of July of the thirteenth
indiction.  On the day following she was buried in this tomb."

The death of Dona Sancha served to hasten on the catastrophe which
was to stain the throne of Naples with blood: one might almost fancy
that God wished to spare this angel of love and resignation the sight
of so terrible a spectacle; that she offered-herself as a
propitiatory sacrifice to redeem the crimes of her family.




CHAPTER IV

Eight days after the funeral of the old queen, Bertrand of Artois
came to Joan, distraught, dishevelled, in a state of agitation and
confusion impossible to describe.

Joan went quickly up to her lover, asking him with a look of fear to
explain the cause of his distress.

"I told you, madam," cried the young baron excitedly, "you will end
by ruining us all, as you will never take any advice from me."

"For God's sake, Bertrand, speak plainly: what has happened?  What
advice have I neglected?"

"Madam, your noble husband, Andre of Hungary, has just been made King
of Jerusalem and Sicily, and acknowledged by the court of Avignon, so
henceforth you will be no better than his slave."

"Count of Artois, you are dreaming."

"No, madam, I am not dreaming: I have this fact to prove the truth of
my words, that the pope's ambassadors are arrived at Capua with the
bull for his coronation, and if they do not enter Castel Nuovo this
very evening, the delay is only to give the new king time to make his
preparations."

The queen bent her head as if a thunderbolt had fallen at her feet.

"When I told you before," said the count, with growing fury, "that we
ought to use force to make a stand against him, that we ought to
break the yoke of this infamous tyranny and get rid of the man before
he had the means of hurting you, you always drew back in childish
fear, with a woman's cowardly hesitation."

Joan turned a tearful look upon her lover.

"God, my God!" she cried, clasping her hands in desperation, "am I to
hear for ever this awful cry of death!  You too, Bertrand, you too
say the word, like Robert of Cabane, like Charles of Duras?  Wretched
man, why would you raise this bloody spectre between us, to check
with icy hand our adulterous kisses?  Enough of such crimes; if his
wretched ambition makes him long to reign, let him be king: what
matters his power to me, if he leaves me with your love?"

"It is not so sure that our love will last much longer."

"What is this, Bertrand?  You rejoice in this merciless torture."

"I tell you, madam, that the King of Naples has a black flag ready,
and on the day of his coronation it will be carried before him."

"And you believe," said Joan, pale as a corpse in its shroud,--"you
believe that this flag is a threat?"

"Ay, and the threat begins to be put in execution."

The queen staggered, and leaned against a table to save herself from
falling.

"Tell me all," she cried in a choking voice; "fear not to shock me;
see, I am not trembling.  O Bertrand, I entreat you!"

"The traitors have begun with the man you most esteemed, the wisest
counsellor of the crown, the best of magistrates, the noblest-
hearted, most rigidly virtuous-----"

"Andrea of Isernia!"

"Madam, he is no more."

Joan uttered a cry, as though the noble old man had been slain before
her eyes: she respected him as a father; then, sinking back, she
remained profoundly silent.

"How did they kill him?" she asked at last, fixing her great eyes in
terror on the count.

"Yesterday evening, as he left this castle, on the way to his own
home, a man suddenly sprang out upon him before the Porta Petruccia:
it was one of Andre's favourites, Conrad of Gottis chosen no doubt
because he had a grievance against the incorruptible magistrate on
account of some sentence passed against him, and the murder would
therefore be put down to motives of private revenge.  The cowardly
wretch gave a sign to two or three companions, who surrounded the
victim and robbed him of all means of escape.  The poor old man
looked fixedly,--at his assassin, and asked him what he wanted.
'I want you to lose your life at my hands, as I lost my case at
yours!' cried the murderer; and leaving him no time to answer, he ran
him through with his sword.  Then the rest fell upon the poor man,
who did not even try to call for help, and his body was riddled with
wounds and horribly mutilated, and then left bathed in its blood."

"Terrible!" murmured the queen, covering her face.

"It was only their first effort: the proscription lists are already
full: Andre must needs have blood to celebrate his accession to the
throne of Naples.  And do you know, Joan, whose name stands first in
the doomed list?"

"Whose?" cried the queen, shuddering from head to foot.

"Mine," said the count calmly.

"Yours!" cried Joan, drawing herself up to her full height; "are you
to be killed next!  Oh, be careful, Andre; you have pronounced your
own death-sentence.  Long have I turned aside the dagger pointing to
your breast, but you put an end to all my patience.  Woe to you,
Prince of Hungary! the blood which you have spilt shall fall on your
own head."

As she spoke she had lost her pallor: her lovely face was fired with
revenge, her eyes flashed lightning.  This child of sixteen was
terrible to behold: she pressed her lover's hand with convulsive
tenderness, and clung to him as if she would screen him with her own
body.

"Your anger is awakened too late," said he gently and sadly; for at
this moment Joan seemed so lovely that he could reproach her with
nothing.  "You 'do not know that his mother has left him a talisman
preserving him from sword and poison?"

"He will die," said Joan firmly: the smile that lighted up her face
was so unnatural that the count was dismayed, and dropped his eyes.

The next day the young Queen of Naples, lovelier, more smiling than
ever, sitting carelessly in a graceful attitude beside a window which
looked out on the magnificent view of the bay, was busy weaving a

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