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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

But Partenopeus will have no stain on his honour


Meanwhile,

Urraca is most unselfishly doing her very best to reconcile the lovers, not neglecting the employment of white fibs as before, and occasionally indulging, not merely in satiric observation on poor Melior's irresolution and conflict of feeling, but in decidedly sisterly plainness of speech, reminding the Empress that after all she had entrapped Partenopeus into loving her, and that he had, for two whole years, devoted himself entirely to her love and its conditions. At last a rather complicated and not always quite consistently told provisional settlement is arrived at, carrying out, in a manner, the undertakings referred to by Melior in her first interview with her lover. An immense tourney for the hand of Melior is to be held, with a jury of kings to judge it: and everybody, Christian or pagan, from emperor to vavasour is invited to compete. But in case of no single victor, a kind of "election" by what may be called the States of Byzantium--kings, dukes, counts, and simple fief-holders--is to decide, and it seems sometimes as if Melior retained something of a personal veto at last. Of the incidents and episodes before this actually comes off, the most noteworthy are a curious instance of the punctilio of chivalry (the Count having once promised Melior that no one but herself shall gird on his sword, makes a difficulty when Urraca and Persewis arm him), and a misfortune by which he, rowing carelessly by himself, falls into the power of a felon knight, Armans of Thenodon. This
last incident, however, though it alarms his two benefactresses, is not really unlucky. For, in the first place, Armans is not at home, and his wife, falling a victim, like every woman, to Partenopeus' extraordinary beauty, allows him his parole; while the accident enables him to appear at the tournament incognito--a practice always affected, if possible, by the knights of romance, and in this case possessing some obvious and special advantages.

On his way he meets another knight, Gaudin le Blond, with whom he gladly strikes up brotherhood-in-arms. The three days of the mellay are not _very_ different from the innumerable similar scenes elsewhere, nor can the author be said to be specially happy at this kind of business. But any possible tedium is fairly relieved by the shrewd and sometimes jovial remarks made by one of the judging kings, the before-quoted Corsols--met by grumbles from another, Clarin, and by the fears and interest of the three ladies, of whom the ever-faithful and shrewd Urraca is the first to discover Partenopeus. He and Gaudin perform the usual exploits and suffer the usual inconveniences, but at the end it is still undecided whether the Count of Blois or the Soldan of Persia--a good knight, though a pagan, and something of a braggart--deserves the priceless prize of Melior's hand with the empire of Byzantium to boot. The "election" follows, and after some doubt goes right, while Melior now offers no objection. But the Soldan, in his _outrecuidance_, demands single combat. He has, of course, no right to do this, and the Council and the Empress object strongly. But Partenopeus will have no stain on his honour; consents to the fight; deliberately refuses to take advantage of the Soldan when he is unhorsed and pinned down by the animal; assists him to get free; and only after an outrageous menace from the Persian justifies his own claim to belong to the class of champions

Who _always_ cleave their foe To the waist

--indeed excels them, by entirely bisecting the Soldan.

An episodic restoration of parole to the widow of Armans (who has actually taken part in the tourney and been killed) should be noticed, and the piece ends, or rather comes close to an end, with the marriages which appropriately follow these well-deserved murders. Marriages--not a marriage only--for King "Lohier" of France most sensibly insists on espousing the delightful Urraca: and Persewis is consoled for the loss of Partenopeus by the suit--refused at first and then granted, with the obviously intense enjoyment of both processes likely in a novice--of his brother-in-arms, to whom the "Emperor of Byzantium" abandons his own two counties in France, adding a third in his new empire, and winning by this generosity almost more popularity than by his prowess.


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