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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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feeling unwell?  Come and lie down at once."  And hurrying to the
bed, she took hold of the curtain that concealed the Count of Artois.

The queen uttered a piercing cry, and threw herself before Philippa
with the fury of a lioness.  "Stop!" she cried in a choking voice;
"take the privilege you ask, and now, if you value your own life,
leave me."

The Catanese and her son departed instantly, not even waiting to
reply, for they had got all they wanted; while Joan, trembling, ran
desperately up to Bertrand, who had angrily drawn his dagger, and
would have fallen upon the two favourites to take vengeance for the
insults they had offered to the queen; but he was very soon disarmed
by the lovely shining eyes raised to him in supplication, the two
arms cast about him, and the tears shed by Joan: he fell at her feet
and kissed them rapturously, with no thought of seeking excuse for
his presence, with no word of love, for it was as if they had loved
always: he lavished the tenderest caresses on her, dried her tears,
and pressed his trembling lips upon her lovely head.  Joan began to
forget her anger, her vows, and her repentance: soothed by the music
of her lover's speech, she returned uncomprehending monosyllables:
her heart beat till it felt like breaking, and once more she was
falling beneath love's resistless spell, when a new interruption
occurred, shaking her roughly out of her ecstasy; but this time the
young count was able to pass quietly and calmly into a room
adjoining, and Joan prepared to receive her importunate visitor with
severe and frigid dignity.

The individual who arrived at so inopportune a moment was little
calculated to smooth Joan's ruffled brow, being Charles, the eldest
son of the Durazzo family.  After he had introduced his fair cousin
to the people as their only legitimate sovereign, he had sought on
various occasions to obtain an interview with her, which in all
probability would be decisive.  Charles was one of those men who to
gain their end recoil at nothing; devoured by raging ambition and
accustomed from his earliest years to conceal his most ardent desires
beneath a mask of careless indifference, he marched ever onward, plot
succeeding plot, towards the object he was bent upon securing, and
never deviated one hair's-breadth from the path he had marked out,
but only acted with double prudence after each victory, and with
double courage after each defeat.  His cheek grew pale with joy; when
he hated most, he smiled; in all the emotions of his life, however
strong, he was inscrutable.  He had sworn to sit on the throne of
Naples, and long had believed himself the rightful heir, as being
nearest of kin to Robert of all his nephews.  To him the hand of Joan
would have been given, had not the old king in his latter days
conceived the plan of bringing Andre from Hungary and re-establishing
the elder branch in his person, though that had long since been
forgotten.  But his resolution had never for a moment been weakened
by the arrival of Andre in the kingdom, or by the profound
indifference wherewith Joan, preoccupied with other passion, had
always received the advances of her cousin Charles of Durazzo.
Neither the love of a woman nor the life of a man was of any account
to him when a crown was weighed in the other scale of the balance.

During the whole time that the queen had remained invisible, Charles
had hung about her apartments, and now came into her presence with
respectful eagerness to inquire for his cousin's health.  The young
duke had been at pains to set off his noble features and elegant
figure by a magnificent dress covered with, golden fleur-de-lys and
glittering with precious stones.  His doublet of scarlet velvet and
cap of the same showed up--by their own splendour the warm colouring
of his skin, while his face seemed illumined by his black eyes that
shone keen as an eagle's.

Charles spoke long with his cousin of the people's enthusiasm on her
accession and of the brilliant destiny before her; he drew a hasty
but truthful sketch of the state of the kingdom; and while he
lavished praises on the queen's wisdom, he cleverly pointed out what
reforms were most urgently needed by the country; he contrived to put
so much warmth, yet so much reserve, into his speech that he
destroyed the disagreeable impression his arrival had produced.  In
spite of the irregularities of her youth and the depravity brought
about by her wretched education, Joan's nature impelled her to noble
action: when the welfare of her subjects was concerned, she rose
above the limitations of her age and sex, and, forgetting her strange
position, listened to the Duke of Durazzo with the liveliest interest
and the kindliest attention.  He then hazarded allusions to the
dangers that beset a young queen, spoke vaguely of the difficulty in
distinguishing between true devotion and cowardly complaisance or
interested attachment; he spoke of the ingratitude of many who had
been loaded with benefits, and had been most completely trusted.
Joan, who had just learned the truth of his words by sad experience,
replied with a sigh, and after a moment's silence added--

May God, whom I call to witness for the loyalty and uprightness of my
intentions, may God unmask all traitors and show me my true friends!
I know that the burden laid upon me is heavy, and I presume not on my
strength, but I trust that the tried experience, of those counsellors
to whom my uncle entrusted me, the support of my family, and your
warm and sincere friendship above all, my dear cousin, will help me
to accomplish my duty."

"My sincerest prayer is that you may succeed, my fair cousin, and I
will not darken with doubts and fears a time that ought to be given
up to joy; I will not mingle with the shouts of gladness that rise on
all sides to proclaim you queen, any vain regrets over that blind
fortune which has placed beside the woman whom we all alike adore,
whose single glance would make a man more blest than the angels, a
foreigner unworthy of your love and unworthy of your throne."

"You forget, Charles," said the queen, putting out her hand as though
to check his words, "Andre is my husband, and it was my grandfather's
will that he should reign with me."

"Never!" cried the duke indignantly; "he King of Naples! Nay, dream
that the town is shaken to its very foundations, that the people rise
as one man, that our church bells sound a new Sicilian vespers,
before the people of Naples will endure the rule of a handful of wild
Hungarian drunkards, a deformed canting monk, a prince detested by
them even as you are beloved!"

"But why is Andre blamed?  What has he done?"

"What has he done?  Why is he blamed, madam?  The people blame him as
stupid, coarse, a savage; the nobles blame him for ignoring their
privileges and openly supporting men of obscure birth; and I,
madam,"--here he lowered his voice, "I blame him for making you
unhappy."

Joan shuddered as though a wound had been touched by an unkind hand;
but hiding her emotion beneath an appearance of calm, she replied in
a voice of perfect indifference--

"You must be dreaming, Charles; who has given you leave to suppose I
am unhappy?"

"Do not try to excuse him, 'my dear cousin," replied Charles eagerly;
"you will injure yourself without saving him."

The queen looked fixedly at her cousin, as though she would read him
through and through and find out the meaning of his words; but as she
could not give credence to the horrible thought that crossed her
mind, she assumed a complete confidence in her cousin's friendship,
with a view to discovering his plans, and said carelessly--

"Well, Charles, suppose I am not happy, what remedy could you offer
me that I might escape my lot?"

"You ask me that, my dear cousin?  Are not all remedies good when you
suffer, and when you wish for revenge?"

"One must fly to those means that are possible.  Andre will not
readily give up his pretensions: he has a party of his own, and in
case of open rupture his brother the King of Hungary may declare war
upon us, and bring ruin and desolation upon our kingdom."

The Duke of Duras faintly smiled, and his countenance assumed a
sinister, expression.

"You do not understand me," he said.

"Then explain without circumlocution," said the queen, trying to
conceal the convulsive shudder that ran through her limbs.

"Listen, Joan," said Charles, taking his cousin's hand and laying it
upon his heart: "can you feel that dagger?"

"I can," said Joan, and she turned pale.

"One word from you--and--"

"Yes?"

"To-morrow you will be free."

"A murder!" cried Joan, recoiling in horror: "then I was not
deceived; it is a murder that you have proposed."

"It is a necessity," said the duke calmly: "today I advise; later on
you will give your orders."

"Enough, wretch!  I cannot tell if you are more cowardly or more
rash: cowardly, because you reveal a criminal plot feeling sure that
I shall never denounce you; rash, because in revealing it to me you
cannot tell what witnesses are near to hear it all."

"In any case, madam, since I have put myself in your hands, you must
perceive that I cannot leave you till I know if I must look upon
myself as your friend or as your enemy."

"Leave me," cried Joan, with a disdainful gesture; "you insult your
queen."

"You forget, my dear cousin, that some day I may very likely have a
claim to your kingdom."

"Do not force me to have you turned out of this room," said Joan,
advancing towards the door.

"Now do not get excited, my fair cousin; I am going: but at least
remember that I offered you my hand and you refused it.  Remember
what I say at this solemn moment: to-day I am the guilty man; some
day perhaps I may be the judge."

He went away slowly, twice turning his head, repeating in the
language of signs his menacing prophecy.  Joan hid her face in her
hands, and for a long time remained plunged in dismal reflections;
then anger got the better of all her other feelings, and she summoned
Dona Cancha, bidding her not to allow anybody to enter, on any

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