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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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he fell.  Then two monks went upstairs to the queen's room, and
respectfully knocking at the door, asked in sepulchral tones--

"Madam, what would you have us do with your husband's corpse?"

And when the queen made no answer, they went down again slowly to the
garden, and kneeling one at the head, the other at the foot of the
dead man, they began to recite penitential psalms in a low voice.
When they had spent an hour in prayer, two other monks went up in the
same way to Joan's chamber, repeating the same question and getting
no answer, whereupon they relieved the first two, and began
themselves to pray.  Next a third couple went to the door of this
inexorable room, and coming away perturbed by their want of success,
perceived that there was a disturbance of people outside the convent,
while vengeful cries were heard amongst the indignant crowd.  The
groups became more and more thronged, threatening voices were raised,
a torrent of invaders threatened the royal dwelling, when the queen's
guard appeared, lance in readiness, and a litter closely shut,
surrounded by the principal barons of the court, passed through the
crowd, which stood stupidly gazing.  Joan, wrapped in a black veil,
went back to Castel Nuovo, amid her escort; and nobody, say the
historians, had the courage to say a word about this terrible deed.




CHAPTER V

The terrible part that Charles of Durazzo was to play began as soon
as this crime was accomplished.  The duke left the corpse two whole
days exposed to the wind and the rain, unburied and dishonoured, the
corpse of a man whom the pope had made King of Sicily and Jerusalem,
so that the indignation of the mob might be increased by the dreadful
sight.  On the third he ordered it to be conveyed with the utmost
pomp to the cathedral of Naples, and assembling all the Hungarians
around the catafalque, he thus addressed them, in a voice of
thunder:--

"Nobles and commoners, behold our king hanged like a dog by infamous
traitors.  God will soon make known to us the names of all the
guilty: let those who desire that justice may be done hold up their
hands and swear against murderers bloody persecution, implacable
hatred, everlasting vengeance."

It was this one man's cry that brought death and desolation to the
murderers' hearts, and the people dispersed about the town,
shrieking, "Vengeance, vengeance!"

Divine justice, which knows naught of privilege and respects no
crown, struck Joan first of all in her love.  When the two lovers
first met, both were seized alike with terror and disgust; they
recoiled trembling, the queen seeing in Bertrand her husband's
executioner, and he in her the cause of his crime, possibly of his
speedy punishment.  Bertrand's looks were disordered, his cheeks
hollow, his eyes encircled with black rings, his mouth horribly
distorted; his arm and forefinger extended towards his accomplice, he
seemed to behold a frightful vision rising before him.  The same cord
he had used when he strangled Andre, he now saw round the queen's
neck, so tight that it made its way into her flesh: an invisible
force, a Satanic impulse, urged him to strangle with his own hands
the woman he had loved so dearly, had at one time adored on his
knees.  The count rushed out of the room with gestures of
desperation, muttering incoherent words; and as he shewed plain signs
of mental aberration, his father, Charles of Artois, took him away,
and they went that same evening to their palace of St. Agatha, and
there prepared a defence in case they should be attacked.

But Joan's punishment, which was destined to be slow as well as
dreadful, to last thirty-seven years and--end in a ghastly death, was
now only beginning.  All the wretched beings who were stained with
Andre's death came in turn to her to demand the price of blood.  The
Catanese and her son, who held in their hands not only the queen's
honour but her life, now became doubly greedy and exacting.  Dona
Cancha no longer put any bridle on her licentiousness; and the
Empress of Constantinople ordered her niece to marry her eldest son,
Robert, Prince of Tarentum.  Joan, consumed by remorse, full of
indignation and shame at the arrogant conduct of her subjects, dared
scarcely lift her head, and stooped to entreaties, only stipulating
for a few days' delay before giving her answer: the empress
consented, on condition that her son should come to reside at Castel
Nuovo, with permission to see the queen once a day.  Joan bowed her
head in silence, and Robert of Tarentum was installed at the castle.

Charles of Durazzo, who by the death of Andre had practically become
the head of the family, and, would, by the terms of his grandfather's
will, inherit the kingdom by right of his wife Marie in the case of
Joan's dying without lawful issue, sent to the queen two commands:
first, that she should not dream of contracting a new marriage
without first consulting him in the choice of a husband; secondly,
that she should invest him at once with the title of Duke of
Calabria.  To compel his cousin to make these two concessions, he
added that if she should be so ill advised as to refuse either of
them, he should hand over to justice the proofs of the crime and the
names of the murderers.  Joan, bending beneath the weight of this new
difficulty, could think of no way to avoid it; but Catherine, who
alone was stout enough to fight this nephew of hers, insisted that
they must strike at the Duke of Durazzo in his ambition and hopes,
and tell him, to begin with--what was the fact--that the queen was
pregnant.  If, in spite of this news, he persisted in his plans, she
would find some means or other, she said, of causing trouble and
discord in her nephew's family, and wounding him in his most intimate
affections or closest interests, by publicly dishonouring him through
his wife or his mother.

Charles smiled coldly when his aunt came to tell him from the queen
that she was about to bring into the world an infant, Andre's
posthumous child.  What importance could a babe yet unborn possibly
have--as a fact, it lived only a few months--in the eyes of a man who
with such admirable coolness got rid of people who stood in his wary,
and that moreover by the hand of his own enemies?  He told the
empress that the happy news she had condescended to bring him in
person, far from diminishing his kindness towards his cousin,
inspired him rather with more interest and goodwill; that
consequently he reiterated his suggestion, and renewed his promise
not to seek vengeance for his dear Andre, since in a certain sense
the crime was not complete should a child be destined to survive; but
in case of a refusal he declared himself inexorable.  He cleverly
gave Catherine to understand that, as she had some interest herself
in the prince's death, she ought for her own sake to persuade the
queen to stop legal proceedings.

The empress seemed to be deeply impressed by her nephew's threatening
attitude, and promised to do her best to persuade the queen to grant
all he asked, on condition, however, that Charles should allow the
necessary time for carrying through so delicate a business.  But
Catherine profited by this delay to think out her own plan of
revenge, and ensure the means of certain success.  After starting
several projects eagerly and then regretfully abandoning them, she
fixed upon an infernal and unheard-of scheme, which the mind would
refuse to believe but for the unanimous testimony of historians.
Poor Agnes of Duras, Charles's mother, had for some few days been
suffering with an inexplicable weariness, a slow painful malady with
which her son's restlessness and violence may have had not a little
to do.  The empress resolved that the first effect of her hatred was
to fall upon this unhappy mother.  She summoned the Count of Terlizzi
and Dona Cancha, his mistress, who by the queen's orders had been
attending Agnes since her illness began.  Catherine suggested to the
young chamberwoman, who was at that time with child, that she should
deceive the doctor by representing that certain signs of her own
condition really belonged to the sick woman, so that he, deceived by
the false indications, should be compelled to admit to Charles of
Durazzo that his mother was guilty and dishonoured.  The Count of
Terlizzi, who ever since he had taken part in the regicide trembled
in fear of discovery, had nothing to oppose to the empress's desire,
and Dona Cancha, whose head was as light as her heart was corrupt,
seized with a foolish gaiety on any chance of taking her revenge on
the prudery of the only princess of the blood who led a pure life at
a court that was renowned for its depravity.  Once assured that her
accomplices would be prudent and obedient, Catherine began to spread
abroad certain vague and dubious but terribly serious rumours, only
needing proof, and soon after the cruel accusation was started it was
repeated again and again in confidence, until it reached the ears of
Charles.

At this amazing revelation the duke was seized with a fit of
trembling.  He sent instantly for the doctor, and asked imperiously
what was the cause of his mother's malady.  The doctor turned pale
and stammered; but when Charles grew threatening he admitted that he
had certain grounds for suspecting that the duchess was enceinte, but
as he might easily have been deceived the first time, he would make a
second investigation before pronouncing his opinion in so serious a
matter.  The next day, as the doctor came out of the bedroom, the
duke met him, and interrogating him with an agonised gesture, could
only judge by the silence that his fears were too well confirmed.
But the doctor, with excess of caution, declared that he would make a
third trial.  Condemned criminals can suffer no worse than Charles in
the long hours that passed before that fatal moment when he learned
that his mother was indeed guilty.  On the third day the doctor
stated on his soul and conscience that Agnes of Durazzo was pregnant.

"Very good," said Charles, dismissing the doctor with no sign of
emotion.

That evening the duchess took a medicine ordered by the doctor; and

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