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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Looking at her attentively one wonders whether Mandane


After

this burst, which is really exciting in a way, we must expect something more soporific. Martesie takes the place of her absent mistress to some extent, and a good deal of what might be mistaken for "Passerelle"[169] flirtation takes place, or would do so, if it were not that Cyrus would, of course, die rather than pay attention to anybody but Mandane herself, and that Feraulas, already mentioned as one of the Faithful Companions, is detailed as Martesie's lover. She is, however, installed as a sort of Vice-Queen of a wordy tourney between four unhappy lovers, who fill up the rest of the volume with their stories of "Amants _In_fortunes" (cf. the original title of the _Heptameron_), dealing respectively with and told by--

(1) A lover who is loved, but separated from his mistress.

(2) One who is unloved.

(3) A jealous one.

(4) One whose love is dead.[170]

They do it moderately, in rather less than five hundred pages, and Martesie sums up in a manner worthy of any Mistress of the Rolls, contrasting their fates, and deciding very cleverly against the jealous man.

The first twenty pages or so of the sixth volume (nominally iii. 2) afford a good example of the fashion in which, as may be observed more fully below, even an analysis of the _Grand Cyrus_, though a great advance on

mere general description of it, must be still (unless it be itself intolerably voluminous) insufficient. Not very much actually "happens"; but if you simply skip, you miss a fresh illustration of magnanimity not only in Cyrus, but in a formerly mentioned character, Aglatidas, with reference to the heroine Amestris earlier inset in the tale (_v. sup._). And this is an example of the new and sometimes very ingenious fashion in which these apparent excursions are turned into something like real episodes, or at any rate supply connecting threads of the whole, in a manner not entirely unlike that which some critics have so hastily and unjustly overlooked in Spenser. Then we have an imbroglio about forged letters, and a clearing-up of a former charge against the hero, and (still within the twenty pages) a very curious scene--the last for the time--of that flirtation-without-flirtation between Cyrus and Martesie. She wants to have back a picture of Mandane, which she has lent him to worship; and he replies, looking at her "attentively" (one wonders whether Mandane, if present, would have been entirely satisfied with his "attention"), addresses her as "Cruel Person," and asks her (he is just setting out for the Armenian war) how she thinks he can conquer when she takes away what should make him invincible. To which replies Miss Martesie, "You have gained so many victories [_ahem!_] without this help, that it would seem you have no need of it." This is very nice, and Martesie, who is herself, as previously observed, quite nice throughout, lets him have the picture after all. But Cyrus, for once rather ungraciously, will not allow her lover, and his henchman, Feraulas to escort her home; first, because he wants Feraulas's services himself, and secondly, because it is unjust that Feraulas should be happy with Martesie when Cyrus is miserable without Mandane--an argument which, whether slightly selfish or not, is at any rate in complete keeping with the whole atmosphere of the book.


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