Joan of Naples HTML version

Chapter 3
Night fell, and from the Molo to the Mergellina, from the Capuano Castle to the hill of St.
Elmo, deep silence had succeeded the myriad sounds that go up from the noisiest city
in the world. Charles of Durazzo, quickly walking away from the square of the Correggi,
first casting one last look of vengeance at the Castel Nuovo, plunged into the labyrinth
of dark streets that twist and turn, cross and recross one another, in this ancient city,
and after a quarter of an hour's walking, that was first slow, then very rapid, arrived at
his ducal palace near the church of San Giovanni al Mare. He gave certain instructions
in a harsh, peremptory tone to a page who took his sword and cloak. Then Charles shut
himself into his room, without going up to see his poor mother, who was weeping, sad
and solitary over her son's ingratitude, and like every other mother taking her revenge
by praying God to bless him.
The Duke of Durazzo walked up and down his room several times like a lion in a cage,
counting the minutes in a fever of impatience, and was on the point of summoning a
servant and renewing his commands, when two dull raps on the door informed him that
the person he was waiting for had arrived. He opened at once, and a man of about. fifty,
dressed in black from head to foot, entered, humbly bowing, and carefully shut the door
behind him. Charles threw himself into an easy-chair, and gazing fixedly at the man who
stood before him, his eyes on the ground and his arms crossed upon his breast in an
attitude of the deepest respect and blind obedience, he said slowly, as though weighing
each word--
"Master Nicholas of Melazzo, have you any remembrance left of the services I once
rendered you?"
The man to whom these words were addressed trembled in every limb, as if he heard
the voice of Satan come to claim his soul; then lifting a look of terror to his questioner's
face, he asked in a voice of gloom--
"What have I done, my lord, to deserve this reproach?"
"It is not a reproach: I ask a simple question."
"Can my lord doubt for a moment of my eternal gratitude? Can I forget the favours your
Excellency showed me? Even if I could so lose my reason and my memory, are not my
wife and son ever here to remind me that to you we owe all our life, our honour, and our
fortune? I was guilty of an infamous act," said the notary, lowering his voice, "a crime
that would not only have brought upon my head the penalty of death, but which meant
the confiscation of my goods, the ruin of my family, poverty and shame for my only son--
that very son, sire, for whom I, miserable wretch, had wished to ensure a brilliant future
by means of my frightful crime: you had in your hands the proofs of this!