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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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depression of spirit the king's death had produced in Joan, and ought
not to suffer her favourites to use this time in influencing her by
their seductive counsels.

But Joan's ability to receive consolation was quite as ready as her
grief had at first been impetuous the sobs which seemed to be
breaking her heart ceased all at once; new thoughts, more gentle,
less lugubrious, took possession of the young queen's mind; the trace
of tears vanished, and a smile lit up her liquid eyes like the sun's
ray following on rain.  This change, anxiously awaited, was soon
observed by Joan's chamberwoman: she stole to the queen's room, and
falling on her knees, in accents of flattery and affection, she
offered her first congratulations to her lovely mistress.  Joan
opened her arms and held her in a long embrace; far Dona Cancha was
far more to her than a lady-in-waiting; she was the companion of
infancy, the depositary of all her secrets, the confidante of her
most private thoughts.  One had but to glance at this young girl to
understand the fascination she could scarcely fail to exercise over
the queen's mind.  She had a frank and smiling countenance, such as
inspires confidence and captivates the mind at first sight.  Her face
had an irresistible charm, with clear blue eyes, warm golden hair,
mouth bewitchingly turned up at the corners, and delicate little
chin.  Wild, happy, light of heart, pleasure and love were the breath
of her being; her dainty refinement, her charming inconstancies, all
made her at sixteen as lovely as an angel, though at heart she was
corrupt.  The whole court was at her feet, and Joan felt more
affection for her than for her own sister.

"Well, my dear Cancha," she murmured, with a sigh, "you find me very
sad and very unhappy!"

"And you find me, fair queen," replied the confidante, fixing an
admiring look on Joan,--"you find me just the opposite, very happy
that I can lay at your feet before anyone else the proof of the joy
that the people of Naples are at this moment feeling.  Others perhaps
may envy you the crown that shines upon your brow, the throne which
is one of the noblest in the world, the shouts of this entire town
that sound rather like worship than homage; but I, madam, I envy you
your lovely black hair, your dazzling eyes, your more than mortal
grace, which make every man adore you."

"And yet you know, my Cancha, I am much to be pitied both as a queen
and as a woman: when one is fifteen a crown is heavy to wear, and I
have not the liberty of the meanest of my subjects--I mean in my
affections; for before I reached an age when I could think I was
sacrificed to a man whom I can never love."

"Yet, madam," replied Cancha in a more insinuating voice, "in this
court there is a young cavalier who might by virtue of respect, love,
and devotion have made you forget the claims of this foreigner, alike
unworthy to be our king and to be your husband."

The queen heaved a heavy sigh.

"When did you lose your skill to read my heart?" she cried.  "Must I
actually tell you that this love is making me wretched?  True, at the
very first this unsanctioned love was a keen joy: a new life seemed
to wake within my heart; I was drawn on, fascinated by the prayers,
the tears, and the despair of this man, by the opportunities that his
mother so easily granted, she whom I had always looked upon as my own
mother; I have loved him....  O my God, I am still so young, and my
past is so unhappy.  At times strange thoughts come into my mind: I
fancy he no longer loves me, that he never did love me; I fancy he
has been led on by ambition, by self-interest, by some ignoble
motive, and has only feigned a feeling that he has never really felt.
I feel myself a coldness I cannot account for; in his presence I am
constrained, I am troubled by his look, his voice makes me tremble: I
fear him; I would sacrifice a year of my life could I, never have
listened to him."

These words seemed to touch the young confidante to the very depths
of her soul; a shade of sadness crossed her brow, her eyelids
dropped, and for some time she answered nothing, showing sorrow
rather than surprise.  Then, lifting her head gently, she said, with
visible embarrassment--

"I should never have dared to pass so severe a judgment upon a man
whom my sovereign lady has raised above other men by casting upon him
a look of kindness; but if Robert of Cabane has deserved the reproach
of inconstancy and ingratitude, if he has perjured himself like a
coward, he must indeed be the basest of all miserable beings,
despising a happiness which other men might have entreated of God the
whole time of their life and paid for through eternity.  One man I
know, who weeps both night and day without hope or consolation,
consumed by a slow and painful malady, when one word might yet avail
to save him, did it come from the lips of my noble mistress."

"I will not hear another word," cried Joan, suddenly rising; "there
shall be no new cause for remorse in my life.  Trouble has come upon
me through my loves, both lawful and criminal; alas! no longer will I
try to control my awful fate, I will bow my head without a murmur.
I am the queen, and I must yield myself up for the good of my
subjects."

"Will you forbid me, madam," replied Dona Cancha in a kind,
affectionate tone--"will you forbid me to name Bertrand of Artois in
your presence, that unhappy man, with the beauty of an angel and the
modesty of a girl?  Now that you are queen and have the life and
death of your subjects in your own keeping, will you feel no kindness
towards an unfortunate one whose only fault is to adore you, who
strives with all his mind and strength to bear a chance look of yours
without dying of his joy?"

"I have struggled hard never to look on him," cried the queen, urged
by an impulse she was not strong enough to conquer: then, to efface
the impression that might well have been made on her friend's mind,
she added severely, "I forbid you to pronounce his name before me;
and if he should ever venture to complain, I bid you tell him from me
that the first time I even suspect the cause of his distress he will
be banished for ever from my presence."

"Ah, madam, dismiss me also; for I shall never be strong enough to do
so hard a bidding: the unhappy man who cannot awake in your heart so
much as a feeling of pity may now be struck down by yourself in your
wrath, for here he stands; he has heard your sentence, and come to
die at your feet."

The last words were spoken in a louder voice, so that they might be
heard from outside, and Bertrand of Artois came hurriedly into the
room and fell on his knees before the queen.  For a long time past
the young lady-in-waiting had perceived that Robert of Cabane had,
through his own fault, lost the love of Joan;--for his tyranny had
indeed become more unendurable to her than her husband's.

Dona Cancha had been quick enough to perceive that the eyes of her
young mistress were wont to rest with a kind of melancholy gentleness
on Bertrand, a young man of handsome appearance but with a sad and
dreamy expression; so when she made up her mind to speak in his
interests, she was persuaded that the queen already loved him.
Still, a bright colour overspread Joan's face, and her anger would
have fallen on both culprits alike, when in the next room a sound of
steps was heard, and the voice of the grand seneschal's widow in
conversation with her son fell on the ears of the three young people
like a clap of thunder.  Dona Cancha, pale as death, stood trembling;
Bertrand felt that he was lost--all the more because his presence
compromised the queen; Joan only, with that wonderful presence of
mind she was destined to preserve in the most difficult crises of her
future life, thrust the young man against the carved back of her bed,
and concealed him completely beneath the ample curtain: she then
signed to Cancha to go forward and meet the governess and her son.

But before we conduct into the queen's room these two persons, whom
our readers may remember in Joan's train about the bed of King
Robert, we must relate the circumstances which had caused the family
of the Catanese to rise with incredible rapidity from the lowest
class of the people to the highest rank at court.  When Dona Violante
of Aragon, first wife of Robert of Anjou, became the mother of
Charles, who was later on the Duke of Calabria, a nurse was sought
for the infant among the most handsome women of the people.  After
inspecting many women of equal merit as regards beauty, youth; and,
health, the princess's choice lighted on Philippa, a young Catanese.
woman, the wife of a fisherman of Trapani, and by condition a
laundress.  This young woman, as she washed her linen on the bank of
a stream, had dreamed strange dreams: she had fancied herself
summoned to court, wedded to a great personage, and receiving the
honours of a great lady.  Thus when she was called to Castel Nuovo
her joy was great, for she felt that her dreams now began to be
realised. Philippa was installed at the court, and a few months after
she began to nurse the child the fisherman was dead and she was a
widow.  Meanwhile Raymond of Cabane, the major-domo of King Charles
II's house, had bought a negro from some corsairs, and having had him
baptized by his own name, had given him his liberty; afterwards
observing that he was able and intelligent, he had appointed him head
cook in the king's kitchen; and then he had gone away to the war.
During the absence of his patron the negro managed his own affairs at
the court so cleverly, that in a short time he was able to buy land,
houses, farms, silver plate, and horses, and could vie in riches with
the best in the kingdom; and as he constantly won higher favour in
the royal family, he passed on from the kitchen to the wardrobe.  The
Catanese had also deserved very well of her employers, and as a
reward for the care she had bestowed on the child, the princess
married her to the negro, and he, as a wedding gift, was granted the
title of knight.

From this day forward, Raymond of Cabane and Philippa the laundress

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