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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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rose in the world so rapidly that they had no equal in influence at
court.  After the death of Dona Violante, the Catanese became the
intimate friend of Dona Sandra, Robert's second wife, whom we
introduced to our readers at the beginning of this narrative.
Charles, her foster son, loved her as a mother, and she was the
confidante of his two wives in turn, especially of the second wife,
Marie of Valois.  And as the quondam laundress had in the end learned
all the manners and customs of the court, she was chosen at the birth
of Joan and her sister to be governess and mistress over the young
girls, and at this juncture Raymond was created major-domo.  Finally,
Marie of Valois on her deathbed commended the two young princesses to
her care, begging her to look on them as her own-daughters.  Thus
Philippa the Catanese, honoured in future as foster mother of the
heiress to the throne of Naples, had power to nominate her husband
grand seneschal, one of the seven most important offices in the
kingdom, and to obtain knighthood for her sons.  Raymond of Cabane
was buried like a king in a marble tomb in the church of the Holy
Sacrament, and there was speedily joined by two of his sons.  The
third, Robert, a youth of extraordinary strength and beauty, gave up
an ecclesiastical career, and was himself made major-domo, his two
sisters being married to the Count of Merlizzi and the Count of
Morcone respectively.  This was now the state of affairs, and the
influence of the grand seneschal's widow seemed for ever established,
when an unexpected event suddenly occurred, causing such injury as
might well suffice to upset the edifice of her fortunes that had been
raised stone by stone patiently and slowly: this edifice was now
undermined and threatened to fall in a single day.  It was the sudden
apparition of Friar Robert, who followed to the court of Rome his
young pupil, who from infancy had been Joan's destined husband, which
thus shattered all the designs of the Catanese and seriously menaced
her future.  The monk had not been slow to understand that so long as
she remained at the court, Andre would be no more than the slave,
possibly even the victim, of his wife.  Thus all Friar Robert's
thoughts were obstinately concentrated on a single end, that of
getting rid of the Catanese or neutralising her influence.  The
prince's tutor and the governess of the heiress had but to exchange
one glance, icy, penetrating, plain to read: their looks met like
lightning flashes of hatred and of vengeance.  The Catanese, who felt
she was detected, lacked courage to fight this man in the open, and
so conceived the hope of strengthening her tottering empire by the
arts of corruption and debauchery.  She instilled by degrees into her
pupil's mind the poison of vice, inflamed her youthful imagination
with precocious desires, sowed in her heart the seeds of an
unconquerable aversion for her husband, surrounded the poor child
with abandoned women, and especially attached to her the beautiful
and attractive Dona Cancha, who is branded by contemporary authors
with the name of a courtesan; then summed up all these lessons in
infamy by prostituting Joan to her own son.  The poor girl, polluted
by sin before she knew what life was, threw her whole self into this
first passion with all the ardour of youth, and loved Robert of
Cabane so violently, so madly, that the Catanese congratulated
herself on the success of her infamy, believing that she held her
prey so fast in her toils that her victim would never attempt to
escape them.

A year passed by before Joan, conquered by her infatuation, conceived
the smallest suspicion of her lover's sincerity.  He, more ambitious
than affectionate, found it easy to conceal his coldness under the
cloak of a brotherly intimacy, of blind submission, and of unswerving
devotion; perhaps he would have deceived his mistress for a longer
time had not Bertrand of Artois fallen madly in love with Joan.
Suddenly the bandage fell from the young girl's eyes; comparing the
two with the natural instinct of a woman beloved which never goes
astray, she perceived that Robert of Cabane loved her for his own
sake, while Bertrand of Artois would give his life to make her happy.
A light fell upon her past: she mentally recalled the circumstances
that preceded and accompanied her earliest love; and a shudder went
through her at the thought that she had been sacrificed to a cowardly
seducer by the very woman she had loved most in the world, whom she
had called by the name of mother.

Joan drew back into herself, and wept-bitterly.  Wounded by a single
blow in all her affections, at first her grief absorbed her; then,
roused to sudden anger, she proudly raised her head, for now her love
was changed to scorn.  Robert, amazed at her cold and haughty
reception of him, following on so great a love, was stung by jealousy
and wounded pride.  He broke out into bitter reproach and violent
recrimination, and, letting fall the mask, once for all lost his
place in Joan's heart.

His mother at last saw that it was time to interfere: she rebuked her
son, accusing him of upsetting all her plans by his clumsiness.

"As you have failed to conquer her by love," she said, "you must now
subdue her by fear.  The secret of her honour is in our hands, and
she will never dare to rebel.  She plainly loves Bertrand of Artois,
whose languishing eyes and humble sighs contrast in a striking manner
with your haughty indifference and your masterful ways.  The mother
of the Princes of Tarentum, the Empress of Constantinople, will
easily seize an occasion of helping on the princess's love so as to
alienate her more and more from her husband: Cancha will be the go
between, and sooner or later we shall find Bertrand at Joan's feet.
Then she will be able to refuse us nothing."

While all this was going on, the old king died, and the Catanese, who
had unceasingly kept on the watch for the moment she had so plainly
foreseen, loudly called to her son, when she saw Bertrand slip into
Joan's apartment, saying as she drew him after her--

"Follow me, the queen is ours."

It was thus that she and her son came to be there.  Joan, standing in
the middle of the chamber, pallid, her eyes fixed on the curtains of
the bed, concealed her agitation with a smile, and took one step
forward towards her governess, stooping to receive the kiss which the
latter bestowed upon her every morning.  The Catanese embraced her
with affected cordiality, and turning, to her son, who had knelt
upon one knee, said, pointing to Robert--

"My fair queen, allow the humblest of your subjects to offer his
sincere congratulations and to ay his homage at your feet."

"Rise, Robert," said Joan, extending her hand kindly, and with no
show of bitterness.  "We were brought up together, and I shall never
forget that in our childhood--I mean those happy days when we were
both innocent--I called you my brother."

"As you allow me, madam," said Robert, with an ironical smile, "I too
shall always remember the names you formerly gave me."

"And I," said the Catanese, "shall forget that I speak to the Queen
of Naples, in embracing once more my beloved daughter.  Come, madam,
away with care: you have wept long enough; we have long respected
your grief.  It is now time to show yourself to these good
Neapolitans who bless Heaven continually for granting them a queen so
beautiful and good; it is time that your favours upon the heads of
your faithful subjects; and my son, who surpasses all in his
fidelity, comes first to ask a favour of you, in order that he may
serve you yet more zealously."

Joan cast on Robert a withering look, and, speaking to the Catanese,
said with a scornful air--

"You know, madam, I can refuse your son nothing."

"All he asks," continued the lady, "is a title which is his due, and
which he inherited from his father--the title of Grand Seneschal of
the Two Sicilies: I trust, my, daughter, you will have no difficulty
in granting this."

"But I must consult the council of regency."

"The council will hasten to ratify the queen's wishes," replied
Robert, handing her the parchment with an imperious gesture: "you
need only speak to the Count of Artois."

And he cast a threatening glance at the curtain, which had slightly
moved.

"You are right," said the queen at once; and going up to a table she
signed the parchment with a trembling hand.

"Now, my daughter, I have come in the name of all the care I bestowed
on your infancy, of all the maternal love I have lavished on you, to
implore a favour that my family will remember for evermore."

The queen recoiled one' step, crimson with astonishment and rage; but
before she could find words to reply, the lady continued in a voice
that betrayed no feeling--

"I request you to make my son Count of Eboli."

"That has nothing to do with me, madam; the barons of this kingdom
would revolt to a man if I were on my own authority to exalt to one
of the first dignities the son of a---"

"A laundress and a negro; you would say, madam?" said Robert, with a
sneer.  "Bertrand of Artois would be annoyed perhaps if I had a title
like his."

He advanced a step towards the bed, his hand upon the hilt of his
sword.

"Have mercy, Robert!" cried the queen, checking him: "I will do all
you ask."

And she signed the parchment naming him Count of Eboli.

"And now," Robert went on impudently, "to show that my new title is
not illusory, while you are busy about signing documents, let me have
the privilege of taking part in the councils of the crown: make a
declaration that, subject to your good pleasure, my mother and I are
to have a deliberative voice in the council whenever an important
matter is under discussion."

"Never!" cried Joan, turning pale.  "Philippa end Robert, you abuse
my weakness and treat your queen shamefully.  In the last few days I
have wept and suffered continually, overcome by a terrible grief; I
have no strength to turn to business now.  Leave me, I beg: I feel my
strength gives, way."

"What, my daughter," cried the Catanese hypocritically, "are you

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