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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Indeed the phrase fits Partenopeus precisely


But to return to the story itself. Although the invariable cut-and-driedness of romance incidents has been grossly exaggerated, there is one situation which is almost always treated in the same way. The knight who has, with or without his own fault, incurred the displeasure of his mistress, "doth [_always_] to the green wood go," and there, whether in complete sanity or not, lives for a time a half or wholly savage life, discarding knightly and sometimes any other dress, eating very little, and in considerable danger of being eaten himself. Everybody, from Lancelot to Amadis, does it; and Partenopeus does it too, but in his own way. Reaching Blois and utterly rejecting his mother's attempts to excuse herself and console him, he drags out a miserable time in continual penance and self-neglect, till at last, availing himself of (and rather shabbily if piously tricking) a Saracen page,[71] he succeeds in getting off incognito to the vague "Ardennes," where his sadly ended adventure had begun. These particular Ardennes appear to be reachable by sea (on which they have a coast), and to contain not only ordinary beasts of chase, not only wolves and bears, but lions, tigers, wyverns, dragons, etc. A single unarmed man has practically no chance there, and the Count determines to condemn himself to the fate of the Roman arena. As a preliminary, he dismounts and turns loose his horse, who is presently attacked by a lion and wounded, but luckily gets a fair blow with his hoof between his enemy's eyes, and kills him. Then comes another of the flashes (and something more) of the piece. Stung by the pain of his wound and dripping with blood, the animal dashes at full speed, and whinnying at the top of his powers, to the seashore and along it. The passage is worth translating:

He [_the horse after he has killed the lion_] lifts his tail, and takes to flight down a valley towards nightfall. Much he looks about him and much he whinnies. By night-time he has got out of the wood and has fled to the sea: but he will not stop there. He makes the pebbles fly as he gallops and never stops whinnying. Now the moon has mounted high in the heavens, all clear and bright and shining: there is not a dark cloud in all the sky, nor any movement on the sea: sweet and serene is the weather, and fair and clear and lightened up. And the palfrey whinnies so loudly that he can be heard far off at sea.

He _is_ heard at sea, for a ship is waiting there in the calm, and on board that ship is Urraca, with a wise captain named Maruc and a stout crew. The singularity of the event induces them to land (Maruc knows the dangers of the region, but Urraca has no fears; the captain also knows how to enchant the beasts), and the horse's bloodmarks guide them up the valley. At last they come upon a miserable creature, in rags, dishevelled, half-starved, and altogether unrecognisable. After a little time, however, Urraca does recognise him, and, despite his forlorn and repulsive condition, takes him in her arms.

Si le descouvre un poi le vis.

Yet another of the uncommon "flashlight" sketches, where in two short lines one sees the damsel as she has been described not so long before, "tall and graceful, her fair hair (which, untressed, reached her feet [now, no doubt, more suitably arranged]), with forehead broad and high, and smooth; grey eyes, large and _seignorous_" (an admirable word for eyes), "all her face one kiss"; one sees her with one arm round the tottering wretch, and with the "long fingers" of her other white hand clearing the matted hair from his visage till she can recognise him.

They take him on board, of course, though to induce him to go this delightful creature has to give an account of her sister's feelings (which, to put it mildly, anticipates the truth very considerably), and also to cry over him a little.[72] She takes him to Saleuces,[73] an island principality of her own, and there she and her maid-of-honour, Persewis (see above), proceed to cocker and cosset him up exactly as one imagines two such girls would do to "a dear, silly, nice, handsome thing," as a favourite modern actress used to bring down the house by saying, with a sort of shake, half of tears and half of laughter, in her voice. Indeed the phrase fits Partenopeus precisely. We are told that Urraca would have been formally in love with him if it had not been unsportsgirl-like towards her sister; and as for Persewis, there is once more a windfall in the description of the "butter-cup's" delight when Urraca, going to see Melior, has to leave her alone with the Count. The Princess is of course very sorry to go. "But Persewis would not have minded if she had stayed forty days, or till August," and she "glories greatly" when her rival departs. No mischief, however, comes of it; for the child is "too young," as we are earnestly assured, and Partenopeus, to do him justice, is both too much of a gentleman, and too dolefully in earnest about recovering Melior, to dream of any.


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