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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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borne had thrown as it were a funereal veil over his youthful days:
more than thirteen years he had spent shut in an iron cage; when by
the aid of a false key he had escaped from his dreadful prison, he
wandered from one court to another seeking aid; it is even said that
he was reduced to the lowest degree of poverty and forced to beg his
bread.  The young stranger's beauty and his adventures combined had
impressed both Joan and Marie at the court of Avignon.  Marie
especially had conceived a violent passion for him, all the more so
for the efforts she made to conceal it in her own bosom.  Ever since
James of Aragon came to Naples, the unhappy princess, married with a
dagger at her throat, had desired to purchase her liberty at the
expense of crime.  Followed by four armed men, she entered the prison
where Robert des Baux was still suffering for a fault more his
father's than his own.  Marie stood before the prisoner, her arms
crossed, her cheeks livid, her lips trembling.  It was a terrible
interview.  This time it was she who threatened, the man who
entreated pardon.  Marie was deaf to his prayers, and the head of the
luckless man fell bleeding at her feet, and her men threw the body
into the sea.  But God never allows a murder to go unpunished: James
preferred the queen to her sister, and the widow of Charles of
Durazzo gained nothing by her crime but the contempt of the man she
loved, and a bitter remorse which brought her while yet young to the
tomb.

Joan was married in turn to James of Aragon, son of the King of
Majorca, and to Otho of Brunswick, of the imperial family of Saxony.
We will pass rapidly over these years, and come to the denouement of
this history of crime and expiation.  James, parted from his wife,
continued his stormy career, after a long contest in Spain with Peter
the Cruel, who had usurped his kingdom: about the end of the year
1375 he died near Navarre.  Otho also could not escape the Divine
vengeance which hung over the court of Naples, but to the end he
valiantly shared the queen's fortunes.  Joan, since she had no lawful
heir, adopted her nephew, Charles de la Paix (so called after the
peace of Trevisa).  He was the son of Louis Duras, who after
rebelling against Louis of Tarentum, had died miserably in the castle
of Ovo.  The child would have shared his father's fate had not Joan
interceded to spare his life, loaded him with kindness, and married
him to Margaret, the daughter of her sister Marie and her cousin
Charles, who was put to, death by the King of Hungary.

Serious differences arose between the queen and one of her former
subjects, Bartolommeo Prigiani, who had become pope under the name of
Urban VI.  Annoyed by the queen's opposition, the pope one day
angrily said he would shut her up in a convent.  Joan, to avenge the
insult, openly favoured Clement VII, the anti-pope, and offered him a
home in her own castle, when, pursued by Pope Urban's army, he had
taken refuge at Fondi.  But the people rebelled against Clement, and
killed the Archbishop of Naples, who had helped to elect him: they
broke the cross that was carried in procession before the anti-pope,
and hardly allowed him time to make his escape on shipboard to
Provence.  Urban declared that Joan was now dethroned, and released
her subjects from their oath of fidelity to her, bestowing the crown
of Sicily and Jerusalem upon Charles de la Paix, who marched on
Naples with 8000 Hungarians.  Joan, who could not believe in such
base ingratitude, sent out his wife Margaret to meet her adopted son,
though she might have kept her as a hostage, and his two children,
Ladislaus and Joan, who became later the second queen of that name.
But the victorious army soon arrived at the gates of Naples, and
Charles blockaded the queen in her castle, forgetting in his
ingratitude that she had saved his life and loved him like a mother.

Joan during the siege endured all the worst fatigues of war that any
soldier has to bear.  She saw her faithful friends fall around her
wasted by hunger or decimated by sickness.  When all food was
exhausted, dead and decomposed bodies were thrown into the castle
that they might pollute the air she breathed.  Otho with his troops
was kept at Aversa; Louis of Anjou, the brother of the King of France
whom she had named as her successor when she disinherited her nephew,
never appeared to help her, and the Provenqal ships from Clement VII
were not due to arrive until all hope must be over.  Joan asked for a
truce of five days, promising that, if Otho had not come to relieve
her in that time, she would surrender the fortress.

On the fifth day Otho's army appeared on the side of Piedigrotta.
The fight was sharp on both sides, and Joan from the top of a tower
could follow with her eyes the cloud of dust raised by her husband's
horse in the thickest of the battle.  The victory was long uncertain:
at length the prince made so bold an onset upon the royal standard,
in his, eagerness to meet his enemy hand to hand, that he plunged
into the very middle of the army, and found himself pressed on every
side.  Covered with blood and sweat, his sword broken in his hand, he
was forced to surrender.  An hour later Charles was writing to his
uncle, the King of Hungary, that Joan had fallen into his power, and
he only awaited His Majesty's orders to decide her fate.

It was a fine May morning: the queen was under guard in the castle of
Aversa: Otho had obtained his liberty on condition of his quitting
Naples, and Louis of Anjou had at last got together an army of 50,000
men and was marching in hot haste to the conquest of the kingdom.
None of this news had reached the ears of Joan, who for some days had
lived in complete isolation.  The spring lavished all her glory on
these enchanted plains, which have earned the name of the blessed and
happy country, campagna felite.  The orange trees were covered with
sweet white blossoms, the cherries laden with ruby fruit, the olives
with young emerald leaves, the pomegranate feathery with red bells;
the wild mulberry, the evergreen laurel, all the strong budding
vegetation, needing no help from man to flourish in this spot
privileged by Nature, made one great garden, here and there
interrupted by little hidden runlets.  It was a forgotten Eden in
this corner of the world.  Joan at her window was breathing in the
perfumes of spring, and her eyes misty with tears rested on a bed of
flowery verdure a light breeze, keen and balmy, blew upon her burning
brow and offered a grateful coolness to her damp and fevered cheeks.
Distant melodious voices, refrains of well-known songs, were all that
disturbed the silence of the poor little room, the solitary nest
where a life was passing away in tears and repentance, a life the
most brilliant and eventful of a century of splendour and unrest.

The queen was slowly reviewing in her mind all her life since she
ceased to be a child--fifty years of disillusionment and suffering.
She thought first of her happy, peaceful childhood, her grandfather's
blind affection, the pure joys of her days of innocence, the exciting
games with her little sister and tall cousins.  Then she shuddered at
the earliest thought of marriage, the constraint, the loss of
liberty, the bitter regrets; she remembered with horror the deceitful
words murmured in her ear, designed to sow the seeds of corruption
and vice that were to poison her whole life.  Then came the burning
memories of her first love, the treachery and desertion of Robert of
Cabane, the moments of madness passed like a dream in the arms of
Bertrand of Artois--the whole drama up to its tragic denouement
showed as in letters of fire on the dark background of her sombre
thoughts.  Then arose cries of anguish in her soul, even as on that
terrible fatal night she heard the voice of Andre asking mercy from
his murderers.  A long deadly silence followed his awful struggle,
and the queen saw before her eyes the carts of infamy and the torture
of her accomplices.  All the rest of this vision was persecution,
flight, exile, remorse, punishments from God and curses from the
world.  Around her was a frightful solitude: husbands, lovers,
kindred, friends, all were dead; all she had loved or hated in the
world were now no more; her joy, pain, desire, and hope had vanished
for ever.  The poor queen, unable to free herself from these visions
of woe, violently tore herself away from the awful reverie, and
kneeling at a prie-dieu, prayed with fervour.  She was still
beautiful, in spite of her extreme pallor; the noble lines of her
face kept their pure oval; the fire of repentance in her great black
eyes lit them up with superhuman brilliance, and the hope of pardon
played in a heavenly smile upon her lips.

Suddenly the door of the room where Joan was so earnestly praying
opened with a dull sound: two Hungarian barons in armour entered and
signed to the queen to follow them.  Joan arose silently and obeyed;
but a cry of pain went up from her heart when she recognised the
place where both Andre and Charles of Durazzo had died a violent
death.  But she collected her forces, and asked calmly why she was
brought hither.  For all answer, one of the men showed her a cord of
silk and gold....

"May the will of a just God be done!" cried Joan, and fell upon her
knees.  Some minutes later she had ceased to suffer.

This was the third corpse that was thrown over the balcony at Aversa.






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