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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"One moment, madam," said Renaud, stopping her: "you are indeed
saved, but upon one condition."

"A condition?" murmured the princess in surprise.

"Listen, madam.  The King of Hungary, the avenger of Andre's
murderers, the slayer of your husband, is at the gates of Naples; the
people and soldiers will succumb, as soon as their last gallant
effort is spent--the army of the conqueror is about to spread
desolation and death throughout the city by fire and the sword.  This
time the Hungarian butcher will spare no victims: he will kill the
mother before her children's eyes, the children in their mother's
arms.  The drawbridge of this castle is up and there are none on
guard; every man who can wield a sword is now at the other end of the
town.  Woe to you, Marie of Durazzo, if the King of Hungary shall
remember that you preferred his rival to him!"

"But have you not come here to save me?" cried Marie in a voice of
anguish.  "Joan, my sister, did she not command you to take me to
her?"

"Your sister is no longer in the position to give orders," replied
Renaud, with a disdainful smile.  "She had nothing for me but thanks
because I saved her life, and her husband's too, when he fled like a
coward before the man whom he had dared to challenge to a duel."

Marie looked fixedly at the admiral to assure herself that it was
really he who thus arrogantly talked about his masters.  But she was
terrified at his imperturbable expression, and said gently--

"As I owe my life and my children's lives solely to your generosity,
I am grateful to you beyond all measure.  But we must hurry, my lord:
every moment I fancy I hear cries of vengeance, and you would not
leave, me now a prey to my brutal enemy?"

"God forbid, madam; I will save you at the risk of my life; but I
have said already, I impose a condition."

"What is it?" said Marie, with forced calm.

"That you marry my son on the instant, in the presence of our
reverend chaplain."

"Rash man!" cried Marie, recoiling, her face scarlet with indignation
and shame; "you dare to speak thus to the sister of your legitimate
sovereign?  Give thanks to God that I will pardon an insult offered,
as I know, in a moment of madness; try by your devotion to make me
forget what you have said."

The count, without one word, signed to his son and a priest to
follow, and prepared to depart.  As he crossed the threshold Marie
ran to him, and clasping her hands, prayed him in God's name never to
forsake her.  Renaud stopped.

"I might easily take my revenge," he said, "for your affront when you
refuse my son in your pride; but that business I leave to Louis of
Hungary, who will acquit himself, no doubt, with credit."

"Have mercy on my poor daughters!" cried the princess; "mercy at
least for my poor babes, if my own tears cannot move you."

"If you loved your children," said the admiral, frowning, "you would
have done your duty at once."

"But I do not love your son!" cried Marie, proud but trembling.
"O God, must a wretched woman's heart be thus trampled?  You, father,
a minister of truth and justice, tell this man that God must not be
called on to witness an oath dragged from the weak and helpless!"

She turned to the admiral's son; and added, sobbing--

"You are young, perhaps you have loved: one day no doubt you will
love.  I appeal to your loyalty as a young man, to your courtesy as a
knight, to all your noblest impulses; join me, and turn your father
away from his fatal project.  You have never seen me before: you do
not know but that in my secret heart I love another.  Your pride
should be revolted at the sight of an unhappy woman casting herself
at your feet and imploring your favour and protection.  One word from
you, Robert, and I shall bless you every moment of my life: the
memory of you will be graven in my heart like the memory of a
guardian angel, and my children shall name you nightly in their
prayers, asking God to grant your wishes.  Oh, say, will you not save
me?  Who knows, later on I may love you--with real love."

"I must obey my father," Robert replied, never lifting his eyes to
the lovely suppliant.

The priest was silent.  Two minutes passed, and these four persons,
each absorbed in his own thoughts, stood motionless as statues carved
at the four corners of a tomb.  Marie was thrice tempted to throw
herself into the sea.  But a confused distant sound suddenly struck
upon her ears: little by little it drew nearer, voices were more
distinctly heard; women in the street were uttering cries of
distress--

"Fly, fly!  God has forsaken us; the Hungarians are in the town!"

The tears of Marie's children were the answer to these cries; and
little Margaret, raising her hands to her mother, expressed her fear
in speech that was far beyond her years.  Renaud, without one look at
this touching picture, drew his son towards the door.

"Stay," said the princess, extending her hand with a solemn gesture:
"as God sends no other aid to my children, it is His will that the
sacrifice be accomplished."

She fell on her knees before the priest, bending her head like a
victim who offers her neck to the executioner.  Robert des Baux took
his place beside her, and the priest pronounced the formula that
united them for ever, consecrating the infamous deed by a
sacrilegious blessing.

"All is over!" murmured Marie of Durazzo, looking tearfully on her
little daughters.

"No, all is not yet over," said the admiral harshly, pushing her
towards another room; "before we leave, the marriage must be
consummated."

"O just God!" cried the princess, in a voice torn with anguish, and
she fell swooning to the floor.

Renaud des Baux directed his ships towards Marseilles, where he hoped
to get his son crowned Count of Provence, thanks to his strange
marriage with Marie of Durazzo.  But this cowardly act of treason was
not to go unpunished.  The wind rose with fury, and drove him towards
Gaeta, where the queen and her husband had just arrived.  Renaud bade
his sailors keep in the open, threatening to throw any man into the
sea who dared to disobey him.  The crew at first murmured; soon cries
of mutiny rose on every side.  The admiral, seeing he was lost,
passed from threats to prayers.  But the princess, who had recovered
her senses at the first thunder-clap, dragged herself up to the
bridge and screamed for help,

"Come to me, Louis!  Come, my barons!  Death to the cowardly wretches
who have outraged my honour!"

Louis of Tarentum jumped into a boat, followed by some ten of his
bravest men, and, rowing rapidly, reached the ship.  Then Marie told
him her story in a word, and he turned upon the admiral a lightning
glance, as though defying him to make any defence.

"Wretch!" cried the king, transfixing the traitor with his sword.

Then he had the son loaded with chains, and also the unworthy priest
who had served as accomplice to the admiral, who now expiated his
odious crime by death.  He took the princess and her children in his
boat, and re-entered the harbour.

The Hungarians, however, forcing one of the gates of Naples, marched
triumphant to Castel Nuovo.  But as they were crossing the Piazza
delle Correggie, the Neapolitans perceived that the horses were so
weak and the men so reduced by all they had undergone during the
siege of Aversa that a mere puff of wind would dispense this phantom-
like army.  Changing from a state of panic to real daring, the people
rushed upon their conquerors, and drove them outside the walls by
which they had just entered.  The sudden violent reaction broke the
pride of the King of Hungary, and made him more tractable when
Clement VI decided that he ought at last to interfere.  A truce was
concluded first from the month of February 1350 to the beginning of
April 1351, and the next year this was converted into a real peace,
Joan paying to the King of Hungary the sum of 300,000 florins for the
expenses of the war.

After the Hungarians had gone, the pope sent a legate to crown Joan
and Louis of Tarentum, and the 25th of May, the day of Pentecost, was
chosen for the ceremony.  All contemporary historians speak
enthusiastically of this magnificent fete.  Its details have been
immortalised by Giotto in the frescoes of the church which from this
day bore the name of L'Incoronata.  A general amnesty was declared
for all who had taken part in the late wars on either side, and the
king and queen were greeted with shouts of joy as they solemnly
paraded beneath the canopy, with all the barons of the kingdom in
their train.

But the day's joy was impaired by an accident which to a
superstitious people seemed of evil augury.  Louis of Tarentum,
riding a richly caparisoned horse, had just passed the Porta
Petruccia, when some ladies looking out from a high window threw such
a quantity of flowers at the king that his frightened steed reared
and broke his rein.  Louis could not hold him, so jumped lightly to
the ground; but the crown fell at his feet and was broken into three
pieces.  On that very day the only daughter of Joan and Louis died.

But the king not wishing to sadden the brilliant ceremony with show
of mourning, kept up the jousts and tournaments for three days, and
in memory of his coronation instituted the order of 'Chevaliers du
Noeud'.  But from that day begun with an omen so sad, his life was
nothing but a series of disillusions.  After sustaining wars in
Sicily and Apulia, and quelling the insurrection of Louis of Durazzo,
who ended his days in the castle of Ovo, Louis of Tarentum, worn out
by a life of pleasure, his health undermined by slow disease,
overwhelmed with domestic trouble, succumbed to an acute fever on the
5th of June 1362, at the age of forty-two.  His body had not been
laid in its royal tomb at Saint Domenico before several aspirants
appeared to the hand of the queen.

One was the Prince of Majorca, the handsome youth we have already
spoken of: he bore her off triumphant over all rivals, including the
son of the King of France.  James of Aragon had one of those faces of
melancholy sweetness which no woman can resist.  Great troubles nobly

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