If you were to bring up the subject of The Scarlet Pimpernel to someone (especially the 1982 film), they'd most likely come back with Sir Percy's laconic catchphrase, "Sink Me!" Once you see the film, you'll never read the phrase again without hearing it in Anthony Andrews' voice. ;)
But it's been a matter of some debate whether our hero ever actually said it in any of the books. Gasp and horror, could it be he never said it?! Not 'sink me'!
Sooooo I was going through the books on Blakeney Manor (they have all the Pimpernel books online to read there, fyi) to get my head wrapped around Baroness O's writing style in prep for writing the sequel (which, let's just say, is going to be interesting as her writing style is polar opposite from mine!) and I stumbled across Mam'zelle Guillotine, which, let me add, is an absolutely delightful read. Anyway. And what should my wondering eyes behold, but this bit here...
"The Cosy Corner"? It was anything but cosy on this bleak February evening when a hooded cart drawn by a couple of horses came to a halt beneath its creaking signpost. The man who had been driving it threw down the reins and jumped down from the cart. At the back, under the hood, there were two bundles wrapped in thick blankets. Live bundles, through the thick folds of which came the sound of whimpering and little human cries: "Maman?" The man went round to the back of the cart. With infinite precaution he took up the bundles and carried them into the derelict house. Through one room, which had obviously been the public bar once, he carried the two bundles one by one, and thence into an inner room, wherein, as there was no furniture whatever, he deposited them with tender care on the wooden floor. He saw to it that the blankets covered the small human forms efficiently against the cold, and listened for a moment or two to the pathetic cries of "Maman." He then took a bottle out of the pocket of his big coat. It contained milk. Perhaps there was even a tiny, very tiny drop of brandy in the milk.
"That will comfort you, you poor kids," he murmured to himself, and insinuated the bottle into the small human mouths. There was some spluttering, but swallowing also. The man gave a quaint little chuckle. "I ought to have been a nursemaid!" he went on murmuring to himself. He waited for a few moments longer, until gradually the cries of "Maman" became more rare, and the two bundles of blankets no longer betrayed any movement through their folds. He went out of the room and gave himself a good stretch. "Sink me!" he muttered, "but I'm stiff. I never thought a woman could hit so hard."
This was none other than Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., the prince of dandies, the enfant gâté of London and Bath society, the brilliant sportsman, and always the smartest and gayest man in town.
He said sink me!!! Hurrah!
This may not seem that big of a deal to some, but for me it was wonderful. :)
ALSO. I am in a giddy Percy-loving mood right now...I can go a while without reading and still think he's awesome and everything but then I read a Pimpernel novel and am just reminded for the umpteenth time how much I adore this hero and how he's just the bestest!!!
Review of Mam'zelle Guillotine hopefully coming fairly soon...it's really a great read and she actually explains away her infamous "for the love of the sport" that we all despise. Plus there's this really sweet bit in a letter to Marguerite that just about rivals The Letter from El Dorado.
"On my knees do I beg your forgiveness, my beloved, for the discomfort and suffering you are enduring now. Would I had had the heart not to listen when you said to me: 'If you go, I go with you.' Your eyes, your lips, your lovely arms held me in bonds that no man living should have dared to sever. 'If you love me, do not go,' you entreated, and your exquisite voice broke in an agony of tears. Yet I, like a madman, thought only of two little children who would need a woman's care, and thought more of them and their helpless mother, thought more of an ideal, of my duty and mine honour and of my solemn pledge to Saint-Lucque, more of all that than I did of you. 'If you love me,' you begged, 'do not go.' If I loved you! I love you with my whole soul, with every fibre of my being, more than life and eternity, but I could not love you, dear, so much, loved I not honour more. With the help of my faithful lieutenants I will bring those defenceless women safely to England according to my pledged word, then my arms will close again around you and you will feel my whole soul in a kiss."