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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

And his widow Panthea stabs herself upon it


The

first volume of the Sixth Part (the eleventh of the whole and the first of what, as so many words of the kind are required, we may call the Second Division) has plenty of business--showing that the author or her adviser was also a business-like person--to commence the new venture. Cyrus, after being victorious in the field and just about to besiege Sardis in form, receives a "bolt from the blue" in the shape of a letter "From the unhappy Mandane to the faithless"--himself! She has learnt, she tells him, that his feelings towards her are changed, requests that she may no longer serve as a pretext for his ambition, and--rather straining the prerogatives assumed even by her nearest ancestresses in literature, the Polisardas and Miraguardas of the _Amadis_ group, but scarcely dreamt of by the heroines of ancient Greek Romance--desires that he will send back to her father Cyaxares all the troops that he is, as she implies, commanding on false pretences.

Now one half expects that Cyrus, in a transport of Amadisian-Euphuist-heroism, will comply with this very modest request. In fact it is open to any one to contend that, according to the strictest rules of the game, he ought to have done so and gone mad, or at least marooned himself in some desert island, in consequence. The sophistication, however, of the stage appears here. After a very natural sort of "Well, I never!" translated into proper heroic language, he sets to work to identify the person

whom Mandane suspects to be her rival--for she has carefully abstained from naming anybody. And he asks--with an ingenious touch of self-confession which does the author great credit, if it was consciously laid on--whether it can be Panthea or Araminta, with both of whom he has, in fact, been, if not exactly flirting, carrying on (as the time itself would have said) a "commerce of respectful and obliging admiration." He has a long talk with his confidant Feraulas (whose beloved and really lovable Martesie is, unluckily, not at hand to illuminate the mystery), and then he writes as "The Unfortunate Cyrus to the Unjust Mandane," tells her pretty roundly, though, of course, still respectfully, that if she knew how things really were "she would think herself the cruellest and most unjust person in the world." [I should have added, "just as she is, in fact, the most beautiful."] She is, he says, his first and last passion, and he has never been more than polite to any one else. But she will kindly excuse his not complying with her request to send back his army until he has vanquished all his Rivals--where, no doubt, in the original, the capital was bigger and more menacing than ever, and was written with an appropriate gnashing of teeth.

The traditional balance of luck and love, however, holds; and the armies of Croesus and the King of Pontus begin to melt away; so that, after a short but curious pastoral episode, they have to shut themselves up in the capital. The dead body of Abradates is now found, and his widow Panthea stabs herself upon it. This removes one of Mandane's possible causes of jealousy, but Araminta remains; and, as a matter of fact, it _is_ this Princess on whom her suspicion has been cast, arising partly, though helped by makebates, from the often utilised personal resemblance between her actual lover, Prince Spithridates, and Cyrus. The treacherous King of Pontus has, in fact, shown her a letter from Araminta (his sister, be it remembered) which seems to encourage the idea.

All this, however, and more fills but a hundred pages or so, and then we are as usual whelmed in a _Histoire de Timarete et de Parthenie_, which takes up four times the space,


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