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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

The picture of the more than half innocent Marion


Now Marion de la Briere lay by her lover Sir Ernault and knew nothing of the treason he had done. But she heard a great noise in the castle and rose from her bed, and looked out and heard more clearly the cry of the massacred, and saw knights in white armour. Wherefore she understood that Sir Ernault had deceived and betrayed her, and began to weep bitterly and said, "Ah! that I was ever of mother born: for that by my crime I have lost my lord Sir Joce, who bred me so gently, his castle, and his good folk. Had I not been, nothing had been lost. Alas! that I ever believed this knight! for by his lies he has ruined me, and what is worse, my lord too." Then, all weeping, she drew Sir Ernault's sword and said, "Sir knight! awake, for you have brought strange company into my lord's castle without his leave. I brought in only you and your squire. And since you have deceived me you cannot rightly blame me if I give you your deserts--at least you shall never boast to any other mistress that by deceiving me you conquered the castle and the land of Dinan!" The knight started up, but Marion, with the sword she held drawn, ran him straight through the body, and he died at once. She herself, knowing that if she were taken, ill were the death she should die, and knowing not what to do, let herself fall from a window and broke her neck.

Now

this, I venture to think, is not an ordinary story. Tales of treachery, onslaught, massacre, are not rare in the Middle Ages, nor need we go as far as the Middle Ages for them. But the almost heroic insouciance with which the traitor knight forgets everything except his immediate enjoyment, and, provided he has his mistress at his will, concerns himself not in the slightest degree as to what becomes of his companions, is not an every-day touch. Nor is the strong contrast of the chambers of feast and dalliance--undisturbed, voluptuous, terrestrial-paradisaic--with "the horror and the hell" in the courts below. Nor, last of all, the picture of the more than half innocent Marion, night-garbed or ungarbed, but with sword drawn, first hanging over her slumbering betrayer, then dealing the stroke of vengeance, and then falling--white against the dark towers and the darker ravines at their base--to her self-doomed judgment.

[Sidenote: Something on these,]

Even more, however, than in individual points of interest or excitement, the general survey of these two volumes gives matter for thought on our subject. Here are some half-dozen stories or a little more. It is not much, some one may say, for the produce of two hundred years. But what it lacks in volume (and that will be soon made up in French, while it is to be remembered that we have practically nothing to match it in English)


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