List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

The morning of the 20th of August was fine and calm--the irony of
nature contrasting cruelly with the fate of mankind.  From break of
day masters and valets, pages and knights, princes and courtiers, all
were on foot; cries of joy were heard on every side when the queen
arrived, on a snow-white horse, at the head of the young and
brilliant throng.  Joan was perhaps paler than usual, but that might
be because she had been obliged to rise very early.  Andre, mounted
on one of the most fiery of all the steeds he had tamed, galloped
beside his wife, noble and proud, happy in his own powers, his youth,
and the thousand gilded hopes that a brilliant future seemed to
offer.  Never had the court of Naples shown so brave an aspect: every
feeling of distrust and hatred seemed entirely forgotten; Friar
Robert himself, suspicious as he was by nature, when he saw the
joyous cavalcade go by under his window, looked out with pride, and
stroking his beard, laughed at his own seriousness.

Andre's intention was to spend several days hunting between Capua and
Aversa, and only to return to Naples when all was in readiness for
his coronation.  Thus the first day they hunted round about Melito,
and went through two or three villages in the land of Labore.
Towards evening the court stopped at Aversa, with a view to passing
the night there, and since at that period there was no castle in the
place worthy of entertaining the queen with her husband and numerous
court, the convent of St. Peter's at Majella was converted into a
royal residence: this convent had been built by Charles II in the
year of our Lord 1309.

While the grand seneschal was giving orders for supper and the
preparation of a room for Andre and his wife, the prince, who during
the whole day had abandoned himself entirely to his favourite
amusement, went up on the terrace to enjoy the evening air,
accompanied by the good Isolda, his beloved nurse, who loved him more
even than his mother, and would not leave his side for a moment.
Never had the prince appeared so animated and happy: he was in
ecstasies over the beauty of the country, the clear air, the scent of
the trees around; he besieged his nurse with a thousand queries,
never waiting for an answer; and they were indeed long in coming, for
poor Isolda was gazing upon him with that appearance of fascination
which makes a mother absent-minded when her child is talking: Andre
was eagerly telling her about a terrible boar he had chased that
morning across the woods, how it had lain foaming at his feet, and
Isolda interrupted him to say he had a grain of dust in his eye.
Then Andre was full of his plans for the future, and Isolda stroked
his fair hair, remarking that he must be feeling very tired.  Then,
heeding nothing but his own joy and excitement, the young prince
hurled defiance at destiny, calling by all his gods on dangers to
come forward, so that he might have the chance of quelling them, and
the poor nurse exclaimed, in a flood of tears, "My child, you love me
no longer."

Out of all patience with these constant interruptions, Andre scolded
her kindly enough, and mocked at her childish fears.  Then, paying no
attention to a sort of melancholy that was coming over him, he bade
her tell him old tales of his childhood, and had a long talk about
his brother Louis, his absent mother, and tears were in his eyes when
he recalled her last farewell.  Isolda listened joyfully, and
answered all he asked; but no fell presentiment shook her heart: the
poor woman loved Andre with all the strength of her soul; for him she
would have given up her life in this world and in the world to come;
yet she was not his mother.

When all was ready, Robert of Cabane came to tell the prince that the
queen awaited him; Andre cast one last look at the smiling fields
beneath the starry heavens, pressed his nurse's hand to his lips and
to his heart, and followed the grand seneschal slowly and, it seemed,
with some regret.  But soon the brilliant lights of the room, the
wine that circulated freely, the gay talk, the eager recitals of that
day's exploits, served to disperse the cloud of gloom that had for a
moment overspread the countenance of the prince.  The queen alone,
leaning on the table, with fixed eyes and lips that never moved, sat
at this strange feast pale and cold as a baleful ghost summoned from
the tomb to disturb the joy of the party.  Andre, whose brain began
to be affected by the draughts of wine from Capri and Syracuse, was
annoyed at his wife's look, and attributing it to contempt, filled a
goblet to the brim and presented it to the queen.  Joan visibly
trembled, her lips moved convulsively; but the conspirators drowned
in their noisy talk the involuntary groan that escaped her.  In the
midst of a general uproar, Robert of Cabane proposed that they should
serve generous supplies of the same wine drunk at the royal table to
the Hungarian guards who were keeping watch at the approaches to the
convent, and this liberality evoked frenzied applause.  The shouting
of the soldiers soon gave witness to their gratitude for the
unexpected gift, and mingled with the hilarious toasts of the
banqueters.  To put the finishing touch to Andre's excitement, there
were cries on every side of "Long live the Queen!  Long live His
Majesty the King of Naples!"

The orgy lasted far into the night: the pleasures of the next day
were discussed with enthusiasm, and Bertrand of Artois protested in a
loud voice that if they were so late now some would not rise early on
the morrow.  Andre declared that, for his part, an hour or two's rest
would be enough to get over his fatigue, and he eagerly protested
that it would be well for others to follow his example.  The Count of
Terlizzi seemed to express some doubt as to the prince's punctuality.
Andre insisted, and challenging all the barons present to see who
would be up first, he retired with the queen to the room that had
been reserved for them, where he very soon fell into a deep and heavy
sleep.  About two o'clock in the morning, Tommaso Pace, the prince's
valet and first usher of the royal apartments, knocked at his 2876
master's door to rouse him for the chase.  At the first knock, all
was silence; at the second, Joan, who had not closed her eyes all
night, moved as if to rouse her husband and warn him of the
threatened danger; but at the third knock the unfortunate young man
suddenly awoke, and hearing in the next room sounds of laughter and
whispering, fancied that they were making a joke of his laziness, and
jumped out of bed bareheaded, in nothing but his shirt, his shoes
half on and half off.  He opened the door; and at this point we
translate literally the account of Domenico Gravina, a historian of
much esteem.  As soon as the prince appeared, the conspirators all at
once fell upon him, to strangle him with their hands; believing he
could not die by poison or sword, because of the charmed ring given
him by his poor mother.  But Andre was so strong and active, that
when he perceived the infamous treason he defended himself with more
than human strength, and with dreadful cries got free from his
murderers, his face all bloody, his fair hair pulled out in handfuls.
The unhappy young man tried to gain his own bedroom, so as to get
some weapon and valiantly resist the assassins; but as he reached the
door, Nicholas of Melazzo, putting his dagger like a bolt into the
lock, stopped his entrance.  The prince, calling aloud the whole time
and imploring the protection of his friends, returned to the hall;
but all the doors were shut, and no one held out a helping hand; for
the queen was silent, showing no uneasiness about her husband's

But the nurse Isolda, terrified by the shouting of her beloved son
and lord, leapt from her bed and went to the window, filling the
house with dreadful cries.  The traitors, alarmed by the mighty
uproar, although the place was lonely and so far from the centre of
the town that nobody could have come to see what the noise was, were
on the point of letting their victim go, when Bertrand of Artois, who
felt he was more guilty than the others, seized the prince with
hellish fury round the waist, and after a desperate struggle got him
down; then dragging him by the hair of his head to a balcony which
gave upon the garden, and pressing one knee upon his chest, cried out
to the others--

"Come here, barons: I have what we want to strangle him with."

And round his neck he passed a long cord of silk and gold, while the
wretched man struggled all he could.  Bertrand quickly drew up the
knot, and the others threw the body over the parapet of the balcony,
leaving it hanging between earth and sky until death ensued.  When
the Count of Terlizzi averted his eyes from the horrid spectacle,
Robert of Cabane cried out imperiously--

"What are you doing there?  The cord is long enough for us all to
hold: we want not witnesses, we want accomplices!"

As soon as the last convulsive movements of the dying man had ceased,
they let the corpse drop the whole height of the three storeys, and
opening the doors of the hall, departed as though nothing had

Isolda, when at last she contrived to get a light, rapidly ran to the
queen's chamber, and finding the door shut on the inside, began to
call loudly on her Andre.  There was no answer, though the queen was
in the room.  The poor nurse, distracted, trembling, desperate, ran
down all the corridors, knocked at all the cells and woke the monks
one by one, begging them to help her look for the prince.  The monks
said that they had indeed heard a noise, but thinking it was a
quarrel between soldiers drunken perhaps or mutinous, they had not
thought it their business to interfere.  Isolda eagerly, entreated:
the alarm spread through the convent; the monks followed the nurse,
who went on before with a torch.  She entered the garden, saw
something white upon the grass, advanced trembling, gave one piercing
cry, and fell backward.

The wretched Andre was lying in his blood, a cord round his neck as
though he were a thief, his head crushed in by the height from which

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: