THE King of Calabria slew the ruler of Sicily and seized his throne. He would have imprisoned the popular Prince Philaster except that he feared an uprising. He made plans, however, to secure the succession of his house to the Sicilian throne by marrying his only child, Arethusa, to the powerful Prince Pharamond of Spain.
Knowing that the dethroned Philaster would not avow his love for her, Arethusa confessed her love to him. Overjoyed, Philaster gave her his page boy, Bellario, to act as messenger between them while Arethusa should contrive release from her distasteful engagement. She found opportunity when her lady-in-waiting overheard Pharamond make a rendezvous with the wanton Megra. When the King surprised the couple, Megra, in retaliation, accused Arethusa of improper relations with Bellario. With intent to turn Philaster to more warlike thoughts, Lord Dion supported the charge claiming to have been an eyewitness.
The disillusioned Philaster promptly lost interest in both love and war. He refused to take back the page, Bellario, whom the King had forced Arethusa to dismiss and thought only of self-destruction. In her despair, Arethusa's thoughts were turned toward the same end. Contriving to lose herself from the royal hunt on the following day, she was about to take her life when Philaster discovered her. Because the young prince believed her faithless he was ready to accede to her request that he kill her, intending then to kill himself. The interference of a country yokel, however, put Philaster to flight. He was traced by the blood from his wounds and Bellario, seeing him in danger, undertook to save him by falsely confessing that he had attacked Arethusa out of a desire for revenge.
Through this generous action Philaster was convinced of the innocence of both Arethusa and Bellario. To the complete dismay of Arethusa, he came out of hiding and surrendered. Under pretense of a desire for vengeance, the Princess persuaded the King to remand both prisoners in her charge. So it happened that when the King was about to behead Philaster, he discovered that the Prince had become his son-in-law. His Majesty promptly imprisoned the young couple, but was forced almost at once to release Philaster that he might put down a popular uprising in his behalf, and rescue Pharamond from death at the hands of the mob.
For his success in this undertaking the King rewarded Philaster with the return of his kingdom and blessings on his marriage. At the same time, Bellario was revealed as Lord Dion's daughter, turned page boy for love of Philaster. The generous Arethusa promptly made her a lady-in-waiting that as a reward for her loyalty she might always be near her King.
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