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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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defying their anger.

Moreover, the women who were about Joan at the court egged her on,
each one urged by a private interest, in the pursuit of her fresh
passion.  Poor Joan,--neglected by her husband and betrayed by Robert
of Cabane; gave way beneath the burden of duties beyond her strength
to bear, and fled for refuge to the arms of Bertrand of Artois, whose
love she did not even attempt to resist; for every feeling for
religion and virtue had been destroyed in her own set purpose, and
her young inclinations had been early bent towards vice, just as the
bodies of wretched children are bent and their bones broken by.
jugglers when they train them.  Bertrand himself felt an adoration
for her surpassing ordinary human passion.  When he reached the
summit of a happiness to which in his wildest dreams he had never
dared to aspire, the young count nearly lost his reason.  In vain had
his father, Charles of Artois (who was Count of Aire, a direct
descendant of Philip the Bold, and one of the regents of the
kingdom), attempted by severe admonitions to stop him while yet on
the brink of the precipice: Bertrand would listen to nothing but his
love for Joan and his implacable hatred for all the queen's enemies.
Many a time, at the close of day, as the breeze from Posilippo or
Sorrento coming from far away was playing in his hair, might Bertrand
be seen leaning from one of the casements of Castel Nuovo, pale and
motionless, gazing fixedly from his side of the square to where the
Duke of Calabria and the Duke of Durazzo came galloping home from
their evening ride side by side in a cloud of dust.  Then the brows
of the young count were violently contracted, a savage, sinister look
shone in his blue eyes once so innocent, like lightning a thought of
death and vengeance flashed into his mind; he would all at once begin
to tremble, as a light hand was laid upon his shoulder; he would turn
softly, fearing lest the divine apparition should vanish to the
skies; but there beside him stood a young girl, with cheeks aflame
and heaving breast, with brilliant liquid eyes: she had come to tell
how her past day had been spent, and to offer her forehead for the
kiss that should reward her labours and unwilling absence.  This
woman, dictator of laws and administrator of justice among grave
magistrates and stern ministers, was but fifteen years old; this man;
who knew her griefs, and to avenge them was meditating regicide, was
not yet twenty: two children of earth, the playthings of an awful
destiny!

Two months and a few days after the old king's death, on the morning
of Friday the 28th of March of the same year, 1343, the widow of the
grand seneschal, Philippa, who, had already contrived to get forgiven
for the shameful trick she had used to secure all her son's wishes,
entered the queen's apartments, excited by a genuine fear, pale and
distracted, the bearer of news that spread terror and lamentation
throughout the court: Marie, the queen's younger sister, had
disappeared.

The gardens and outside courts had been searched for any trace of
her; every corner of the castle had been examined; the guards had
been threatened with torture, so as to drag the truth from them; no
one had seen anything of the princess, and nothing could be found
that suggested either flight or abduction.  Joan, struck down by this
new blow in the midst of other troubles, was for a time utterly
prostrated; then, when she had recovered from her first surprise, she
behaved as all people do if despair takes the place of reason: she
gave orders for what was already done to be done again, she asked the
same questions that could only bring the same answers, and poured
forth vain regrets and unjust reproaches.  The news spread through
the town, causing the greatest astonishment: there arose a great
commotion in the castle, and the members of the regency hastily
assembled, while couriers were sent out in every direction, charged
to promise 12,000 ducats to whomsoever should discover the place
where the princess was concealed.  Proceedings were at once taken
against the soldiers who were on guard at the fortress at the time of
the disappearance.

Bertrand of Artois drew the queen apart, telling her his suspicions,
which fell directly upon Charles of Durazzo; but Joan lost no time in
persuading him of the improbability of his hypothesis: first of all,
Charles had never once set his foot in Castel Nuovo since the day of
his stormy interview with the queen, but had made a point of always
leaving Andre by the bridge when he came to the town with him;
besides, it had never been noticed, even in the past, that the young
duke had spoken to Marie or exchanged looks with her: the result of
all attainable evidence was, that no stranger had entered the castle
the evening before except a notary named Master Nicholas of Melazzo,
an old person, half silly, half fanatical, for whom Tommaso Pace,
valet de chambre to the Duke of Calabria, was ready to answer with
his life.  Bertrand yielded to the queen's reasoning, and day by day
advanced new suggestions, each less probable than the last, to draw
his mistress on to feel a hope that he was far from feeling himself.

But a month later, and precisely on the morning of Monday the 30th of
April, a strange and unexpected scene took place, an exhibition of
boldness transcending all calculations.  The Neapolitan people were
stupefied in astonishment, and the grief of Joan and her friends was
changed to indignation. Just as the clock of San Giovanni struck
twelve, the gate of the magnificent palace of the Durazzo flung open
its folding doors, and there came forth to the sound of trumpets a
double file of cavaliers on richly caparisoned horses, with the
duke's arms on their shields.  They took up their station round the
house to prevent the people outside from disturbing a ceremony which
was to take place before the eyes of an immense crowd, assembled
suddenly, as by a miracle, upon the square.  At the back of the court
stood an altar, and upon the steps lay two crimson velvet cushions
embroidered with the fleur-de-lys of France and the ducal crown.
Charles came forward, clad in a dazzling dress, and holding by the
hand the queen's sister, the Princess Marie, at that time almost
thirteen years of age.  She knelt down timidly on one of the
cushions, and when Charles had done the same, the grand almoner of
the Duras house asked the young duke solemnly what was his intention
in appearing thus humbly before a minister of the Church.  At these
words Master Nicholas of Melazzo took his place on the left of the
altar, and read in a firm, clear voice, first, the contract of
marriage between Charles and Marie, and then the apostolic letters
from His Holiness the sovereign pontiff, Clement VI, who in his own
name removing all obstacles that might impede the union, such as the
age of the young bride and the degrees of affinity between the two
parties, authorised his dearly beloved son Charles, Duke of Durazzo
and Albania, to take in marriage the most illustrious Marie of Anjou,
sister of Joan, Queen of Naples and Jerusalem, and bestowed his
benediction on the pair.

The almoner then took the young girl's hand, and placing it in that
of Charles, pronounced the prayers of the Church.  Charles, turning
half round to the people, said in a loud voice--

"Before God and man, this woman is my wife."

"And this man is my husband," said Marie, trembling.

"Long live the Duke and Duchess of Durazzo!" cried the crowd,
clapping their hands.  And the young pair, at once mounting two
beautiful horses and followed by their cavaliers and pages, solemnly
paraded through the town, and re-entered their palace to the sound of
trumpets and cheering.

When this incredible news was brought to the queen, her first feeling
was joy at the recovery of her sister; and when Bertrand of Artois
was eager to head a band of barons and cavaliers and bent on falling
upon the cortege to punish the traitor, Joan put up her hand to stop
him with a very mournful look.

"Alas!" she said sadly, "it is too late.  They are legally married,
for the head of the Church--who is moreover by my grandfather's will
the head of our family--has granted his permission.  I only pity my
poor sister; I pity her for becoming so young the prey of a wretched
man who sacrifices her to his own ambition, hoping by this marriage
to establish a claim to the throne.  O God! what a strange fate
oppresses the royal house of Anjou!  My father's early death in the
midst of his triumphs; my mother's so quickly after; my sister and I,
the sole offspring of Charles I, both before we are women grown
fallen into the hands of cowardly men, who use us but as the
stepping-stones of their ambition!" Joan fell back exhausted on her
chair, a burning tear trembling on her eyelid.

"This is the second time," said Bertrand reproachfully, "that I have
drawn my sword to avenge an insult offered to you, the second time I
return it by your orders to the scabbard.  But remember, Joan, the
third time will not find me so docile, and then it will not be Robert
of Cabane or Charles of Durazzo that I shall strike, but him who is
the cause of all your misfortunes."

"Have mercy, Bertrand! do not you also speak these words; whenever
this horrible thought takes hold of me, let me come to you: this
threat of bloodshed that is drummed into my ears, this sinister
vision that haunts my sight; let me come to you, beloved, and weep
upon your bosom, beneath your breath cool my burning fancies, from
your eyes draw some little courage to revive my perishing soul.
Come, I am quite unhappy enough without needing to poison the future
by an endless remorse.  Tell me rather to forgive and to forget,
speak not of hatred and revenge; show me one ray of hope amid the
darkness that surrounds me; hold up my wavering feet, and push me not
into the abyss."

Such altercations as this were repeated as often as any fresh wrong
arose from the side of Andre or his party; and in proportion as the
attacks made by Bertrand and his friends gained in vehemence--and we

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