List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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when, half an hour later, she was assailed with violent pains, the
duke was warned that perhaps other physicians ought to be consulted,
as the prescription of the ordinary doctor, instead of bringing about
an improvement in her state, had only made her worse.

Charles slowly went up to the duchess's room, and sending away all
the people who were standing round her bed, on the pretext that they
were clumsy and made his mother worse, he shut the door, and they
were alone.  The poor Agnes, forgetting her internal agony when she
saw her son, pressed his hand tenderly and smiled through her tears.

Charles, pale beneath his bronzed complexion, his forehead moist with
a cold sweat, and his eyes horribly dilated, bent over the sick woman
and asked her gloomily--

"Are you a little better, mother?"

"Ah, I am in pain, in frightful pain, my poor Charles.  I feel as
though I have molten lead in my veins.  O my son, call your brothers,
so that I may give you all my blessing for the last time, for I
cannot hold out long against this pain.  I am burning.  Mercy!  Call
a doctor: I know I have been poisoned."

Charles did not stir from the bedside.

"Water!" cried the dying woman in a broken voice,--" water!  A
doctor, a confessor!  My children--I want my children!"

And as the duke paid no heed, but stood moodily silent, the poor
mother, prostrated by pain, fancied that grief had robbed her son of
all power of speech or movement, and so, by a desperate effort, sat
up, and seizing him by the arm, cried with all the strength she could

"Charles, my son, what is it?  My poor boy, courage; it is nothing, I
hope.  But quick, call for help, call a doctor.  Ah, you have no idea
of what I suffer."

"Your doctor," said Charles slowly and coldly, each word piercing his
mother's heart like a dagger,--"your doctor cannot come."

"Oh why?" asked Agnes, stupefied.

"Because no one ought to live who knows the secret of our shame."

"Unhappy man!" she cried, overwhelmed with, pain and terror, "you
have murdered him!  Perhaps you have poisoned your mother too!
Charles, Charles, have mercy on your own soul!"

"It is your doing," said Charles, without show of emotion: "you have
driven me into crime and despair; you have caused my dishonour in
this world and my damnation in the next."

"What are you saying?  My own Charles, have mercy!  Do not let me die
in this horrible uncertainty; what fatal delusion is blinding you?
Speak, my son, speak: I am not feeling the poison now.  What have I
done?  Of what have I been accused?"

She looked with haggard eyes at her son: her maternal love still
struggled against the awful thought of matricide; at last, seeing
that Charles remained speechless in spite of her entreaties, she
repeated, with a piercing cry--

"Speak, in God's name, speak before I die!"

"Mother, you are with child."

"What!" cried Agnes, with a loud cry, which broke her very heart.
"O God, forgive him!  Charles, your mother forgives and blesses you
in death."

Charles fell upon her neck, desperately crying for help: he would now
have gladly saved her at the cost of his life, but it was too late.
He uttered one cry that came from his heart, and was found stretched
out upon his mother's corpse.

Strange comments were made at the court on the death of the Duchess
of Durazzo and her doctor's disappearance; but there was no doubt at
all that grief and gloom were furrowing wrinkles on Charles's brow,
which was already sad enough.  Catherine alone knew the terrible
cause of her nephew's depression, for to her it was very plain that
the duke at one blow had killed his mother and her physician.  But
she had never expected a reaction so sudden and violent in a man who
shrank before no crime.  She had thought Charles capable of
everything except remorse.  His gloomy, self absorbed silence seemed
a bad augury for her plans.  She had desired to cause trouble for him
in his own family, so that he might have no time to oppose the
marriage of her son with the queen; but she had shot beyond her mark,
and Charles, started thus on the terrible path of crime, had now
broken through the bonds of his holiest affections, and gave himself
up to his bad passions with feverish ardour and a savage desire for
revenge.  Then Catherine had recourse to gentleness and submission.
She gave her son to understand that there was only one way of
obtaining the queen's hand, and that was by flattering the ambition
of Charles and in some sort submitting himself to his patronage.
Robert of Tarentum understood this, and ceased making court to Joan,
who received his devotion with cool kindness, and attached himself
closely to Charles, paying him much the same sort of respect and
deference that he himself had affected for Andre, when the thought
was first in his mind of causing his ruin.  But the Duke of Durazzo
was by no means deceived as to the devoted friendship shown towards
him by the heir of the house of Tarentum, and pretending to be deeply
touched by the unexpected change of feeling, he all the time kept a
strict guard on Robert's actions.

An event outside all human foresight occurred to upset the
calculations of the two cousins.  One day while they were out
together on horseback, as they often were since their pretended
reconciliation, Louis of Tarentum, Robert's youngest brother, who had
always felt for Joan a chivalrous, innocent love,--a love which a
young man of twenty is apt to lock up in his heart as a secret
treasure,--Louis, we say, who had held aloof from the infamous family
conspiracy and had not soiled his hands with Andre's blood, drawn on
by an irrepressible passion, all at once appeared at the gates of
Castel Nuovo; and while his brother was wasting precious hours in
asking for a promise of marriage, had the bridge raised and gave the
soldiers strict orders to admit no one.  Then, never troubling
himself about Charles's anger or Robert's jealousy, he hurried to the
queen's room, and there, says Domenico Gravina, without any preamble,
the union was consummated.

On returning from his ride, Robert, astonished that the bridge was
not at once lowered for him, at first loudly called upon the soldiers
on guard at the fortress, threatening severe punishment for their
unpardonable negligence; but as the gates did not open and the
soldiers made no sign of fear or regret, he fell into a violent fit
of rage, and swore he would hang the wretches like dogs for hindering
his return home.  But the Empress of Constantinople, terrified at the
bloody quarrel beginning between the two brothers, went alone and on
foot to her son, and making use of her maternal authority to beg him
to master his feelings, there in the presence of the crowd that had
come up hastily to witness the strange scene, she related in a low
voice all that had passed in his absence.

A roar as of a wounded tiger escaped from Robert's breast: all but
blind with rage, he nearly trampled his mother under the feet of his
horse, which seemed to feel his master's anger, and plunging
violently, breathed blood from his nostrils.  When the prince had
poured every possible execration on his brother's head, he turned and
galloped away from the accursed castle, flying to the Duke of
Durazzo, whom he had only just left, to tell him of this outrage and
stir him to revenge.  Charles was talking carelessly with his young
wife, who was but little used to such tranquil conversation and
expansiveness, when the Prince of Tarentum, exhausted, out of breath,
bathed in perspiration, came up with his incredible tale.  Charles
made him say it twice over, so impossible did Louis's audacious
enterprise appear to him.  Then quickly changing from doubt to fury,
he struck his brow with his iron glove, saying that as the queen
defied him he would make her tremble even in her castle and in her
lover's arms.  He threw one withering look on Marie, who interceded
tearfully for her sister, and pressing Robert's hand with warmth,
vowed that so long as he lived Louis should never be Joan's husband.

That same evening he shut himself up in his study, and wrote letters
whose effect soon appeared.  A bull, dated June 2, 1346, was
addressed to Bertram de Baux, chief-justice of the kingdom of Sicily
and Count of Monte Scaglioso, with orders to make the most strict
inquiries concerning Andre's murderers, whom the pope likewise laid
under his anathema, and to punish them with the utmost rigour of the
law.  But a secret note was appended to the bull which was quite at
variance with the designs of Charles: the sovereign pontiff expressly
bade the chief-justice not to implicate the queen in the proceedings
or the princes of the blood, so as to avoid worse disturbances,
reserving, as supreme head of the Church and lord of the kingdom, the
right of judging them later on, as his wisdom might dictate.

For this imposing trial Bertram de Baux made great preparations.
A platform was erected in the great hall of tribunal, and all the
officers of the crown and great state dignitaries, and all the chief
barons, had a place behind the enclosure where the magistrates sat.
Three days after Clement VI's bull had been published in the capital,
the chief-justice was ready for a public examination of two accused
persons.  The two culprits who had first fallen into the hands of
justice were, as one may easily suppose, those whose condition was
least exalted, whose lives were least valuable, Tommaso Pace and
Nicholas of Melazzo.  They were led before the tribunal to be first
of all tortured, as the custom was.  As they approached the judges,
the notary passing by Charles in the street had time to say in a low

"My lord, the time has come to give my life for you: I will do my
duty; I commend my wife and children to you."

Encouraged by a nod from his patron, he walked on firmly and
deliberately.  The chief-justice, after establishing the identity of
the accused, gave them over to the executioner and his men to be
tortured in the public square, so that their sufferings might serve
as a show and an example to the crowd.  But no sooner was Tommaso

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