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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Like his quasi assonant Meliante


It

does come to an end at last, however, and at last also we do get our "run-in," such as it is. The chief excuse for its existence is that it brings in a certain Mereonte, who, like his quasi-assonant Meliante, is to be useful later, and that the tame conclusion is excused by a Sapphic theory--certainly not to be found in her too fragmentary works--that "possession ruins love," a doctrine remembered and better put by Dryden in a speech of that very agreeable Doralice, whose name, though not originally connected with this part of it, he also, as has been noted, borrowed from the _Grand Cyrus_.

The actual finale begins (so to speak) antithetically with the last misfortune of the unlucky Spithridates. His ill-starred likeness to Cyrus, assisted by a suit of armour which Cyrus has given to him, make the enemy certain that he is Cyrus himself, and he is furiously assaulted in an off-action, surrounded, and killed. His head is taken to Thomyris, who, herself deceived, executes upon it the famous "blood-bath" of history or legend.[187] Unfortunately it is not only in the Scythian army that the error spreads. Cyrus's troops are terrified and give way, so that he is overpowered by numbers and captured. Fortunately he falls into the hands, not of Thomyris's own people or of her savage allies, the Geloni (it is a Gelonian captain who has acted as executioner in Spithridates's case), but of the supposed Assyrian leader Meliante, who is an independent person,

admires Cyrus, and, further persuaded by his friend Mereonte (_v. sup._), resolves to let him escape. The difficulties, however, are great, and the really safest, though apparently the most dangerous way, seems to lie through the "Royal Tents" (the nomad capital of Thomyris) themselves. Meanwhile, Aryante is making interest against his sister; some of Cyrus's special friends, disguised as Massagetae, are trying to discover and rescue him, and the Sauromatae are ready to desert the Scythian Queen. One of her transports of rage brings on the catastrophe. She orders the Gelonian bravo to poniard Mandane, and he actually stabs by mistake her maid-of-honour Hesionide--the least interesting one, luckily. Cyrus himself, after escaping notice for a time, is identified, attacked, and nearly slain, when the whole finishes in a general chaos of rebellion, arrival of friends, flight of Thomyris, and a hairbreadth escape of Cyrus himself, which unluckily partakes more of the possible-improbable than of the impossible-probable. The murders being done, the marriages would appear to have nothing to delay them; but an evil habit, the origin of which is hard to trace, and which is not quite extinct, still puts them off. Meliante has got to be rewarded with the hand of Arpasie, which is accomplished after he has been discovered, in a manner not entirely romantic, to be the son of the King of Hyrcania, and both his marriage and that of Cyrus are interfered with by a supposed Law of the Medes and of certain minor Asiatic peoples, that a Prince or Princess may not marry a foreigner. Fresh discoveries get rid of this in Meliante's case, while in that of Cyrus a convenient Oracle declares that he who has conquered every kingdom in Asia cannot be considered a foreigner in any. So at last the long chart is finished, Doralise retaining her character as lightener of this rather solid entertainment by declaring that she cannot say she loves her suitor, Prince Myrsilus, because every phrase that occurs to her is either too strong or too weak. So we bless her, and stop the water channels--or, as the Limousin student might have more excellently said, "claud the rives."


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