Tomorrow, we shall have another Sunday Poem for you - because, as I always say, video poetry is where the big bucks are. Ahead of that, it's time for Part Seven of my latest Tale for Our Time: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first novel Agatha Christie ever published. In tonight's episode, the only member of the household truly to love Mrs Inglethorp returns:
I followed John's example, and went out into the hall, where Miss Howard was endeavouring to extricate herself from the voluminous mass of veils that enveloped her head. As her eyes fell on me, a sudden pang of guilt shot through me. This was the woman who had warned me so earnestly, and to whose warning I had, alas, paid no heed! How soon, and how contemptuously, I had dismissed it from my mind. Now that she had been proved justified in so tragic a manner, I felt ashamed. She had known Alfred Inglethorp only too well. I wondered whether, if she had remained at Styles, the tragedy would have taken place, or would the man have feared her watchful eyes?
I was relieved when she shook me by the hand, with her well remembered painful grip. The eyes that met mine were sad, but not reproachful; that she had been crying bitterly, I could tell by the redness of her eyelids, but her manner was unchanged from its old gruffness.
"Started the moment I got the wire. Just come off night duty. Hired car. Quickest way to get here."
Gruff or not, hers are the only tears for the murder victim.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can listen to me read Part Seven of our tale simply by clicking here and logging-in. And, if you're playing catch-up on The Mysterious Affair at Styles, you can start fresh with Part One and have a good old binge-listen here.
Veronica, a Kiwi Steyn Clubber, writes from Auckland re the housemaid Dorcas:
Poor old Dorcas, not only have faithful servants such as herself gone by the wayside, but her Christian name has too - it doesn't even feature in the top 1000 girls names in the UK which means that it has, sadly, fallen into the 'historic names' category. By contrast, the Christian name of Mrs Inglethorp, Emily, is firmly ensconced in the top 20 and Arthur, the forename of 'mon ami' Hastings, is in the top 5, just slightly ahead of the most popular spelling of Muhammed!
Out of all the changes that have swept Britain since Dame Agatha's day, the complete obliteration of Dorcas, a biblical name that means 'gazelle', and the rise of Muhammed is probably the one she never saw coming. Her own name is only just hanging in there, in the 700s somewhere, more popular than 'Princess' but less sought after than 'Zelda'.
What a world, as Dorcas might say...
Very true, and a sad fate for a Christian saint. I have known personally only one Dorcas in my life - a neighbor in New Hampshire. She has been dead many years, and I doubt I will ever know another. The year-on-year degeneration of back names is quite something, and the increasing lack of universal nomenclature in western nations is a small loss of societal glue, unless you are like the mum in The Prisoner of Windsor who called her kid Ahmed because "I just like the name".
Please join me tomorrow, Sunday, for the latest audio edition of my Song of the Week on Serenade Radio live around the world at 5.30pm UK time - that's 12.30pm North American Eastern. And, if you like that, stick with SteynOnline for non-musicalized verse later in the afternoon on Steyn's Sunday Poem.
If you'd like to join Veronica in The Mark Steyn Club, we'd love to have you along for our fifth season. So please click here for more info - and don't forget, for fellow fans of classic fiction and/or poetry, our Steyn Club Gift Membership.