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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Philidaspes has succeeded to the crown of Assyria


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of vol. iv. (that is to say, part ii. vol. ii.) we return, though still in retrospect, to the direct fate of Mandane. Nitocris is dead, Philidaspes has succeeded to the crown of Assyria, and has carried Mandane off to his own dominions. The situation with so robustious a person as this prince may seem awkward, and indeed, as is observed in a later part of the book, the heroine's repeated sojourns (there are three if not four of them in all[167]) in the complete power of one of the Rivals, with a large R, are very trying to Cyrus. However, such a shocking thing as violence is hardly hinted at, and the Princess always succeeds, as the Creole lady in _Newton Forster_ said she did with the pirates, in "temporising," while her abductors confine themselves for the most part to the finest "Phebus." Even the fiery Philidaspes, though he breaks out sometimes, conveys his wish that Mandane should accompany him to Babylon by pointing out that "the Euphrates is jealous of the Tigris for having first had the honour of her presence," and that "the First City of the World ought clearly to possess the most illustrious princess of the Earth." Of course, if there is any base person who cannot derive an Aramisian satisfaction (_v. sup._) from such things as this, he had better abstain from the _Cyrus_. But happier souls they please--not exquisitely, perhaps, or tumultuously, but still well--with a mild tickle which is not unvoluptuous. One is even a very little sorry for Philip Dastus when he begs
his cruel idol to write to him the single word ESPEREZ, and meanwhile kindly puts it in capitals and a line to itself. Almost immediately afterwards an oracle juggles with him in fashion delightful to himself, and puzzling to everybody except the intelligent reader, who, it is hoped, will see the double meaning at once.

Il t'est permis d'esperer De la faire soupirer, Malgre sa haine: Car un jour entre ses bras, Tu rencontreras La fin de ta peine.

Alas! without going further (upon honour and according to fact), one sees the _other_ explanation--that Mandane will have to perform the uncomfortable duty--often assigned to heroines--of having Philidaspes die in her lap.

For the present, however, only discomfiture, not death, awaits him. The Medes blockade Babylon to recover their princess; it suffers from hunger, and Philidaspes, with Mandane and the chivalrous Sacian Prince Mazare, whom we have heard of before, escapes to Sinope. Then the events recorded in the very beginning happen, and Mandane, after escaping the flames of Sinope through Mazare's abduction of her by sea, and suffering shipwreck, falls into the power of the King of Pontus. This calls a halt in the main story; and, as before, a "Troisieme Livre" consists of another huge inset--the hugest yet--of seven hundred pages this time, describing an unusually, if not entirely, independent subject--the loves and fates of a certain Philosipe and a certain Polisante. This volume contains a rather forcible boating-scene, which supplies the theme for the old frontispiece.

Refreshed as usual by this excursion,[168] the author returns (in vol. v., bk. i., chap. iii.) to Cyrus, who is once more in peril, and in a worse one than ever. Cyaxares, arriving at Sinope, does not find his daughter, but does discover that Artamene, whom he does not yet know to be Cyrus and heir to Persia, is in love with her. Owing chiefly to the wiles of a villain, Metrobate, he arrests the Prince, and is on the point of having him executed, despite the protests of the allied kings. But the whole army, with the Persian contingent at its head, assaults the castle, and rescues Cyrus, after the traitor Metrobate has tried to double his treachery and get Cyaxares assassinated. Nobody who remembers the _Letter of Advice_ already quoted will doubt what the conduct of Cyrus is. He only accepts the rescue in order that he may post himself at the castle gate, and threaten to kill anybody who attacks Cyaxares.


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