I discovered Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel in movie form, in 10th grade World History CP. We watched it for who knows what reason, and the entire class was just all, “that’s Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman! And she looks 12! This is nuts!” Also there was that silly poem that Percy would quote.
But then I read the book (as most of us would, right? Plus I was all about the classics at the time).
But this part. This part. You can’t not be moved by it. Or you have no soul. There’s no in between. Ready? Brace yourselves. You don’t even need to know the premise of the book. (It’s set during the French Revolution. I’ll give you that.)
“Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the rose-lit garden, she would have sen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear—a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passion and despair. Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.”
Gah. Just...gah. So, if that didn’t get you, imagine a couple once in love, but she now scorns him. He’s playing a part, and acts the foppish dandy, and everyone thinks he’s...well, quite pretty, but stupid. Very stupid. She, on the other hand, is bright and witty and beautiful, and she had thought him amusing but now she only holds disgust for him. Imagine his pain and angst! Imagine! And he loves her so!
OK, now here’s another. I discovered On Fortune’s Wheel in sixth grade, and have re-read this book at least a dozen times. It’s written by Cynthia Voigt, and this book (and author) are reasons I’m so prickly about YA discussions. As if it was a genre that didn’t exist until recently. Well, excuse me, because otherwise what the hell was *I* reading as a kid? Ugh.
Anyway, forget about that, we’re talking happy things here. It’s medieval fantasy, with Earls and Kings, but they’re more like city states. And it’s a time when teenagers (fourteen to sixteen), primarily girls, are betrothed and married off. Birle is an Innkeeper’s daughter. Orien is the man who would be Earl. They meet while leaving the Kingdom, and are captured by slavers. She’s been in love with him from the beginning, while he just views her as a companion who tagged along. At least initially. It shows here, when they’re on the slave ship:
“So you know what they mean to do with us?” Orien asked.
“Yes.” They were to be sold. They were to be parted. “What was her name?” Birle asked. “The bride your father took from you, what was her name?”
“Melisaune,” he said. “Why would you want to know that? Birle, you don’t think that it was because of her —? Only a girl would do that, throw everything over for love. That’s a girl’s reason, not —” He stopped speaking. Birle said nothing.
“You have been a fool, haven’t you?” he asked.
He shouldn’t mock her, she thought. She thought to answer him yes, and let him know she thought as little of him as he thought of her. Aye, and then he’d make her betray herself, along with all the other ill he’d brought her. “No, my Lord. I have not,” she said, and turned her back to him. Let him understand that however he wished.
They’re sold to different masters, and meet one night during a feast. This is what’s finally said after he initially avoids her. When they do speak, he reveals he’s been sold to the mines (which is essentially a death sentence) and leaves:
“I wouldn’t have us part thus,“ he said. His bellflower eyes spoke what his words didn’t. “For two who have journeyed so far together, that was an unworthy parting.”
”Aye, it was,“ she agreed. Birle had no more heart for anger. Pity and sorrow were all that were in her heart, and her heart was his. “You deserve better, my Lord.”
”And you deserve the luck you’ve had,“ he said.
As if some giant’s hand had grabbed her heart and squeezed shut around it, there was pain in Birle’s breast. If she could have gone to the mines in his place — if she could have lived this last terrible year for him — she would have done it. “They call me his maid, in the marketplace. I’ll be safe, I think.”
She didn’t care if she wasn’t....
”I never asked you to give me your heart,“ he reminded her.
”And I have never asked for yours,“ she answered.
”So we make a good parting,“ he said.
He turned, looked back to smile for her, and was gone.
And here, I’m going to spoiler you. Birle risks going into the city after hours (there’s been a curfew because there’s a war) and she goes to the place to find that Orien had been sold to the mines ommediately after the feast.
(Don’t worry, it all ends happily enough.) And the ending is even better. So much better. But I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.
This book is one most of you probably have read, These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Almanzo makes a surprise visit over Christmas, even though Laura thought he’d be going home to see his family. Pa had been playing the fiddle and singing.
Laura had retreated to the other end of the room, beside Carrie and Grace.
When Almanzo looked toward them, Grace said, ”I made an extra bag of candy.“
”And I brought some oranges,“ Almanzo answered, taking a paper bag from his overcoat pocket. ”I have a package with Laura’s name on it too, but isn’t she going to speak to me?“
”I can’t believe it is you,“ Laura murmured. ”You said you would be gone all winter.“
”I decided I didn’t want to stay away so long, and as you will speak to me, here is your Christmas gift.“
Laura opened the small package that Almanzo gave her. The white paper unfolded; there was a white box inside. She lifted its lid. There in a nest of soft white cotton lay a gold bar pin. On its flat surface was etched a little house, and before it along the bar lay a tiny lake and a spray of grasses and leaves.
”Oh, it is beautiful,“ she breathed. ”Thank you!“
”Can’t you thank a fellow better than that?“ he asked, and then he put his arms around her while Laura kissed him and whispered, ”I am glad you came back.“
It’s just so sweet, and one of the scenes that stayed with me. I love it.
And lastly, this. I got shivery just reading over it again. Shivers. Can you guess what it’s from?
“I have a dream,“ he said slowly. ”I have persisted in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it would never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footstep of friends—and you!“
Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her.
”I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask it again today will you give me a different answer?“
Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with the love-rapture of countless generations, and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer.
After the affirmations of love, and bliss, and all that, Gilbert shares how he felt post-black moment:
”Nothing mattered much to me for a time there; after you told me you could never love me, Anne. There was nobody else—there never could be anybody else for me but you. I’ve loved you ever since the first day you broke your slate over my head in school.”
Now it’s your turn. What books have quotes that haunt you? Which ones have stayed with you through the years? Have you read the books I mentioned? Will you? (You really ought to...). And what suggestions would you offer?