Make your own free website on

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

Charles had repaired on the invitation of the queen and her aunt.  To
her cousin of Durazzo Joan accorded the title so much desired of Duke
of Calabria, and Charles, feeling that he was hereby made heir to the
kingdom, marched at once on Aquila, which town already was flying the
Hungarian colours.  The wretched man did not foresee that he was
going straight to his destruction.

When the Empress of Constantinople saw this man, whom she hated above
all others, depart in joy, she looked contemptuously upon him,
divining by a woman's instinct that mischief would befall him; then,
having no further mischief to do, no further treachery on earth, no
further revenge to satisfy, she all at once succumbed to some unknown
malady, and died suddenly, without uttering a cry or exciting a
single regret.

But the King of Hungary, who had crossed Italy with a formidable
army, now entered the kingdom from the side of Aquila: on his way he
had everywhere received marks of interest and sympathy; and Alberto
and Mertino delta Scala, lords of Verona, had given him three hundred
horse to prove that all their goodwill was with him in his
enterprise.  The news of the arrival of the Hungarians threw the
court into a state of confusion impossible to describe.  They had
hoped that the king would be stopped by the pope's legate, who had
come to Foligno to forbid him, in the name of the Holy Father, and on
pain of excommunication to proceed any further without his consent;
but Louis of Hungary replied to the pope's legate that, once master
of Naples, he should consider himself a feudatory of the Church, but
till then he had no obligations except to God and his own conscience.
Thus the avenging army fell like a thunderbolt upon the heart of the
kingdom, before there was any thought of taking serious measures for
defence.  There was only one plan possible: the queen assembled the
barons who were most strongly attached to her, made them swear homage
and fidelity to Louis of Tarentum, whom she presented to them as her
husband, and then leaving with many tears her most faithful subjects,
she embarked secretly, in the middle of the night, on a ship of
Provence, and made for Marseilles.  Louis of Tarentum, following the
prompting of his adventure-loving character, left Naples at the head
of three thousand horse and a considerable number of foot, and took
up his post on the banks of the Voltorno, there to contest the
enemy's passage; but the King of Hungary foresaw the stratagem, and
while his adversary was waiting for him at Capua, he arrived at
Beneventum by the mountains of Alife and Morcone, and on the same day
received Neapolitan envoys: they in a magnificent display of
eloquence congratulated him on his entrance, offered the keys of the
town, and swore obedience to him as being the legitimate successor of
Charles of Anjou.  The news of the surrender of Naples soon reached
the queen's camp, and all the princes of the blood and the generals
left Louis of Tarentum and took refuge in the capital.  Resistance
was impossible.  Louis, accompanied by his counsellor, Nicholas
Acciajuoli, went to Naples on the same evening on which his relatives
quitted the town to get away from the enemy.  Every hope of safety
was vanishing as the hours passed by; his brothers and cousins begged
him to go at once, so as not to draw down upon the town the king's
vengeance, but unluckily there was no ship in the harbour that was
ready to set sail.  The terror of the princes was at its height; but
Louis, trusting in his luck, started with the brave Acciajuoli in an
unseaworthy boat, and ordering four sailors to row with all their
might, in a few minutes disappeared, leading his family in a great
state of anxiety till they learned that he had reached Pisa, whither
he had gone to join the queen in Provence.  Charles of Durazzo and
Robert of Tarentum, who were the eldest respectively of the two
branches of the royal family, after hastily consulting, decided to
soften the Hungarian monarch's wrath by a complete submission.
Leaving their young brothers at Naples, they accordingly set off for
Aversa, where the king was.  Louis received them with every mark of
friendship, and asked with much interest why their brothers were not
with them.  The princes replied that their young brothers had stayed
at Naples to prepare a worthy reception for His Majesty.  Louis
thanked them for their kind intentions, but begged them to invite the
young princes now, saying that it would be infinitely more pleasant
to enter Naples with all his family, and that be was most anxious to
see his cousins.  Charles and Robert, to please the king, sent
equerries to bid their brothers come to Aversa; but Louis of Durazzo,
the eldest of the boys, with many tears begged the others not to
obey, and sent a message that he was prevented by a violent headache
from leaving Naples.  So puerile an excuse could not fail to annoy
Charles, and the same day he compelled the unfortunate boys to appear
before the-king, sending a formal order which admitted of no delay.
Louis of Hungary embraced them warmly one after the other, asked them
several questions in an affectionate way, kept them to supper, and
only let them go quite late at night.

When the Duke of Durazzo reached his room, Lello of Aquila and the
Count of Fondi slipped mysteriously to the side of his bed, and
making sure that no one could hear, told him that the king in a
council held that morning had decided to kill him and to imprison the
other princes.  Charles heard them out, but incredulously: suspecting
treachery, he dryly replied that he had too much confidence in his
cousin's loyalty to believe such a black calumny.  Lello insisted,
begging him in the name of his dearest friends to listen; but the
duke was impatient, and harshly ordered him to depart.

The next day there was the same kindness on the king's part, the same
affection shown to the children; the same invitation to supper.  The
banquet was magnificent; the room was brilliantly lighted, and the
reflections were dazzling: vessels of gold shone on the table, the
intoxicating perfume of flowers filled the air; wine foamed in the
goblets and flowed from the flagons in ruby streams: conversation,
excited and discursive, was heard on every side: all faces beamed
with joy.

Charles of Durazzo sat opposite the king, at a separate table among
his brothers.  Little by little his look grew fixed, his brow
pensive.  He was fancying that Andre might have supped in this very
hall on the eve of his tragic end, and he thought how all concerned
in that death had either died in torment or were now languishing in
prison; the queen, an exile and a fugitive, was begging pity from
strangers: he alone was free.  The thought made him tremble; but
admiring his own cleverness in pursuing his infernal schemes; and
putting away his sad looks, he smiled again with an expression of
indefinable pride.  The madman at this moment was scoffing at the
justice of God.  But Lello of Aquila, who was waiting-at the table,
bent down, whispering gloomily--

"Unhappy duke, why did you refuse to believe me?  Fly, while there is
yet time."

Charles, angered by the man's obstinacy, threatened that if he were
such a fool as to say any more, he would repeat every word aloud.

"I have done my duty," murmured Lello, bowing his head; "now it must
happen as God wills."

As he left off speaking, the king rose, and as the duke went up to
take his leave, his face suddenly changed, and he cried in an awful

"Traitor!  At length you are in my hands, and you shall die as you
deserve; but before you are handed over to the executioner, confess
with your own lips your deeds of treachery towards our royal majesty:
so shall we need no other witness to condemn you to a punishment
proportioned to your crimes.  Between our two selves, Duke of Durazzo
tell me first why, by your infamous manoeuvring, you aided your
uncle, the Cardinal of Perigord, to hinder the coronation of my
brother, and so led him on, since he had no royal prerogative of his
own, to his miserable end?  Oh, make no attempt to deny it.  Here is
the letter sealed with your seal in secret you wrote it, but it
accuses you in public.  Then why, after bringing us hither to avenge
our brother's death, of which you beyond all doubt were the cause,--
why did you suddenly turn to the queen's party and march against our
town of Aquila, daring to raise an army against our faithful
subjects?  You hoped, traitor, to make use of us as a footstool to
mount the throne withal, as soon as you were free from every other
rival.  Then you would but have awaited our departure to kill the
viceroy we should have left in our place, and so seize the kingdom.
But this time your foresight has been at fault.  There is yet another
crime worse than all the rest, a crime of high treason, which I shall
remorselessly punish.  You carried off the bride that our ancestor
King Robert designed for me, as you knew, by his will.  Answer,
wretch what excuse can you make for the rape of the Princess Marie?"

Anger had so changed Louis's voice that the last words sounded like
the roar of a wild beast: his eyes glittered with a feverish light,
his lips were pale and trembling.  Charles and his brothers fell upon
their knees, frozen by mortal terror, and the unhappy duke twice
tried to speak, but his teeth were chattering so violently that he
could not articulate a single word.  At last, casting his eyes about
him and seeing his poor brothers, innocent and ruined by his fault,
he regained some sort of courage, and said--

"My lord, you look upon me with a terrible countenance that makes me
tremble.  But on my knees I entreat you, have mercy on me if I have
done wrong, for God is my witness that I did not call you to this
kingdom with any criminal intention: I have always desired, and still
desire, your supremacy in all the sincerity of my soul.  Some
treacherous counsellors, I am certain, have contrived to draw down
your hatred upon me.  If it is true, as you say, that I went with an
armed force to Aquila I was compelled by Queen Joan, and I could not

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: