Joan of Naples HTML version

Chapter 8
While the Neapolitans were holding out against their enemy at the Porta Capuana, a
strange scene was being enacted at the other side of the town, a scene that shows us
in lively colours the violence and treachery of this barbarous age. The widow of Charles
of Durazzo was shut up in, the castle of Ovo, and awaiting in feverish anxiety the arrival
of the ship that was to take her to the queen. The poor Princess Marie, pressing her
weeping children to her heart, pale, with dishevelled locks, fixed eyes, and drawn lips,
was listening for every sound, distracted between hope and fear. Suddenly steps
resounded along the corridor, a friendly voice was heard, Marie fell upon her knees with
a cry of joy: her liberator had come.
Renaud des Baux, admiral of the Provencal squadron, respectfully advanced, followed
by his eldest son Robert and his chaplain.
"God, I thank Thee!" exclaimed Marie, rising to her feet; "we are saved."
"One moment, madam," said Renaud, stopping her: "you are indeed saved, but upon
one condition."
"A condition?" murmured the princess in surprise.
"Listen, madam. The King of Hungary, the avenger of Andre's murderers, the slayer of
your husband, is at the gates of Naples; the people and soldiers will succumb, as soon
as their last gallant effort is spent--the army of the conqueror is about to spread
desolation and death throughout the city by fire and the sword. This time the Hungarian
butcher will spare no victims: he will kill the mother before her children's eyes, the
children in their mother's arms. The drawbridge of this castle is up and there are none
on guard; every man who can wield a sword is now at the other end of the town. Woe to
you, Marie of Durazzo, if the King of Hungary shall remember that you preferred his rival
to him!"
"But have you not come here to save me?" cried Marie in a voice of anguish. "Joan, my
sister, did she not command you to take me to her?"
"Your sister is no longer in the position to give orders," replied Renaud, with a disdainful
smile. "She had nothing for me but thanks because I saved her life, and her husband's
too, when he fled like a coward before the man whom he had dared to challenge to a
Marie looked fixedly at the admiral to assure herself that it was really he who thus
arrogantly talked about his masters. But she was terrified at his imperturbable
expression, and said gently--