It's time for Part Twenty-Two of my serialization of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. In tonight's episode, as the action races toward its climax on the Cap Gris-Nez, Marguerite espies what may yet prove a glimmer of hope:
The moon, which had proved a friend to her by remaining hidden behind a bank of clouds, now emerged in all the glory of an early autumn night, and in a moment flooded the weird and lonely landscape with a rush of brilliant light.
There, not two hundred metres ahead, was the edge of the cliff, and below, stretching far away to free and happy England, the sea rolled on smoothly and peaceably. Marguerite's gaze rested for an instant on the brilliant, silvery waters; and as she gazed, her heart, which had been numb with pain for all these hours, seemed to soften and distend, and her eyes filled with hot tears: not three miles away, with white sails set, a graceful schooner lay in wait.
Marguerite had guessed rather than recognized her. It was the Day Dream, Percy's favourite yacht, and all her crew of British sailors: her white sails, glistening in the moonlight, seemed to convey a message to Marguerite of joy and hope, which yet she feared could never be. She waited there, out at sea, waited for her master, like a beautiful white bird all ready to take flight, and he would never reach her, never see her smooth deck again, never gaze any more on the white cliffs of England, the land of liberty and of hope.
Indeed. As Matthew Arnold wrote in Dover Beach:
- On the French coast, the light
- Gleams, and is gone: the cliffs of England stand,
- Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Episode Twenty-Two by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier installments of The Scarlet Pimpernel can be found here - and thank you for all your comments and kind words on this latest serialization. Very much appreciated.
Further to our digression on minced oaths, Andrew, a Mark Steyn Club Founding Member from Alberta, writes:
'Swear like a man or don't swear at all,' as my mom would say. It's difficult to believe that a man who uses girly swear words (minced oaths according to Mark) is capable of facing danger. Perhaps this use of language is the most effective part of Lord Blakeney's disguise, something a female author like Baroness Orczy would more likely perceive.
I'm not entirely sure I agree with your mother, Andrew. It seems to me the men were manlier back when the swear words were girlier, as opposed to these days when every Twitter warrior leaps for his STFU at the slightest provocation. I'm rather partial to "Gadzooks!", which is a mincing of "God's hooks" - ie, the nails by which Christ was hanged on the cross. But who says "Gadzooks!" these days? The last instance I can recall was from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh upon his first glimpse of a portrait of himself by the painter Stuart Pearson Wright:
'Gadzooks!' he exclaimed on seeing the work in progress. 'Why have you given me a great schonk?'
"Schonk" (nose) with "gadzooks" makes the princely ejaculation sound a weird sub-dialect all its own - Regency Yiddish. But perhaps it derives from His Highness' Graeco-Danish background. At any rate, in Andrew's eyes, saying "Odd's fish!" is the mark of an obvious schlemiel.
If you'd like to know more about The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget, for fellow fans of classic fiction and/or poetry, our Steyn Club Christmas Gift Membership. This festive season it comes with a special personalized Christmas card from yours truly and a handsomely-engraved gift-boxed USB stick with a trio of our most popular Tales for Our Time for your loved one to listen to in the car or perambulating through the wilderness or almost anywhere else. (The three tales are The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps.) For more details on our special Christmas Gift Membership, see here.
~By way of a different kind of Yuletide present, how about two on the aisle for the very first Dennis Miller/Mark Steyn tour? We'll be swinging through Pennsylvania and New York - and the Rochester and Syracuse shows aren't that inconvenient for Toronto/QEW and Ottawa/Thousand Island fans respectively. There's also an opportunity to meet me and Dennis after the show. Alternatively, if one night isn't enough, there's always a whole week on the second annual Mark Steyn Club Cruise.
I'll see you back here tomorrow for the penultimate episode of The Scarlet Pimpernel.