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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo had one of his patented bizarro dreams last evening, doubtless from a combination of giving up the grape for Lent, thinking about obscure Augustine history references (see below) and being in the midst of reading Chesterton’s Manalive when he dozed off.
Anyhoo, I found myself at a lavish costume party held in some great ball room. There was no particular theme that I remember, but rather a large assortment of historickal figures. I, myself, was made up as Julius Caesar and wore an enormously elaborate tunic and toga. I especially remember how vivid the red and gold were.
As I say, there was no particular theme to the party. Nonetheless, I found myself trying to chat up a young lady dressed as a Roman matron. (I’m inclined to think she was a very young Jessie Royce Landis (which see) because I happened to watch “To Catch A Thief” not long ago and have always liked her style of lazy humor.) Every time I got going, however, some other fellah in Roman attire would try to horn in on us. These weren’t just random people, either, but celebs of the old school. I distinctly recall both Peter O’Toole and Charles Laughton among my rivals.
Somehow or other, it got to the point where we decided that the question of who was going to get the girl would be put to the vote of the Roman Senate. (By this point, the theme obviously had declared itself.) I found myself on the edge of a stage, listening to one of the other suitors arguing his claim and making a hash of it. Remembering Who I Was and determining that I could do a much better job than that, when my turn was called I strode out to center stage and, in a surprisingly clear and deep voice, made the following speech (as near as I can remember):
“Senators of Rome! I am a plain man and therefore will speak plainly to you! I deserve the girl above all these others here! Who among them has brought to Rome so much wealth and honor as have I? Who has been so successful in foreign wars? Who has ensured such domestic peace? None of them, I say! Therefore, as reward to me and as encouragement to others to emulate my efforts, give her to me!”
And then, as they say, I woke up. Dunno who won the vote.
After pausing here to let the feminist heads finish up exploding (All done? Good.), I will simply say I have no idea what any of this means. ’Twas a good dream, though.
UPDATE: Google reminds me that yesterday was the “International Day of the Woman”, whatever that may be. Derp!
Ol’ Robbo had not seen this video before, I think. It made me laugh and laugh:
Way, waaaaaay back in the fierce young days of the Llamas, when every blog pronouncement seemed worth fighting about, I recall getting into a kerfluffle with some camelidophiles over my opinion that German is an ugly language, full of gutturals, rocky with consonants and ridiculous in some of its excessive compounding. I stated something to the effect that it reminded me of nothing but dark fir woods; cold, dismal swamps; and howling hordes of barbarians swarming out to fall on Varus and his Legions in the Teutoburg Forest and cut them to ribbons.
I still feel that way, but here’s a defense by a native-speaker, which I include out of fairness since it was from this article that I lifted the video. Enjoy!
A glass of wine with Arts & Letters Daily.
UPDATE: After pondering whilst shoveling off the patio, it occurs to me that maybe I have seen this video before. Still funny. Also, I’m willing to bet all of those so-called Europeans are actually ‘Muricans. If that Johnny is a genuine Brit, then so am I.
Recently ol’ Robbo got his hands on Peej O’Rourke’s latest book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way, and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again. As the title suggests, this is O’Rourke’s take on his own generation, its origins, rise and impact on history, which he achieves through a mixture of personal recollection and larger picture analysis.
I’ve been kinda down on Peej’s writing ever since he hit his peak in the 90′s with All The Trouble In The World and Eat the Rich. To me, his style has gradually gotten somewhat, well, staler and a bit crusty. With that said, this is a very well-written book. Even though Peej is an essayist by trade and I believe this is his first attempt at a genuine book-length narrative, nonetheless it holds up very well throughout. (One tool he uses that particularly impressed me is a series of descriptive snippets of his own personal history – starting from boyhood – that he gradually weaves together into metaphoric themes as he progresses.) Also, his observations are as sharp and funny as any others he has made.
Here’s the thing. Peej spends the majority of the book laying down the character traits of the Boomers – spoiled, selfish, perpetually adolescent, hedonistic. He also describes what a wild ride it’s been unleashing such traits on the society built up by its stick-in-the-mud predecessors. All this I expected. After all, so long as somebody is working hard to keep the pantry and cellar stocked, sure, you can have one hell of a party. But, going by the book’s title, I also expected a climactic denunciation and something akin to an apology. After all, Peej has been a Professional Conservative for 40-odd years, specializing in sniping at the foibles of his generation, and I thought the rest of the book was going to be a set up for pulling Peter Pan over his knee and whaling on him with a belt-buckle.
But in the last chapter, entitled “Big Damn Messy Bundle of Joy”? Where he should have looked around and noticed just how badly his generation has trashed the place and how hard – if not impossible – it’s going to be for those of us following to clean it up? He celebrates! While he rightly lauds the creative energies unleashed by the Boomer revolution, he conveniently forgets that for every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that it might have made there are legions of my hippy Uncle Dave, who last I heard of him 20-odd years ago was tending bar part-time and crashing on a buddy’s sofa. He actually praises the “liberation” of the sexual revolution, which, so far as I can see, has only brought about the destruction of the family unit, plummeting birth-rates, the commodification and dehumanization of sexuality and wide-spread misery. He completely ignores the fact that the Boomers’ looting of the coffers will leave those succeeding them no other use for all those worthless I.O.U.’s than to wipe their bottoms (which won’t even matter because they’ll have nothing to eat). And while he is correct that envy of Western prosperity was a major cause of the Soviet Union’s cracking and faltering, his prediction that the spread of Boomer “values” throughout the Third World will lead to the collapse of all those myriad tin-pot dictators and medieval theocracies strikes me as, well, naive.
Maybe I’m reading his conclusion wrong. Maybe he’s trying to be snarky and sarcastic and it’s simply sailing past me. Maybe he’s only aping his generation’s zeitgeist while not actually sharing it himself. Feel free to share your own takes here. But his conclusion seems to me to come awful close to, “Screw you, Jack! I got mine!” And that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
No, ol’ Robbo has not given up blogging for Lent this year, as it’s simply a much more limited part of my time these days and I don’t feel the need to curtail it. Instead, my silence this week has been due to my having other matters to attend to. My apologies.
♦ I hope those of you practicing had a happy Ash Wednesday. Of course, “happy” is not really the appropriate term, is it? Everyone says it automatically anyway. For myself, I toddled round to the church near my office at lunchtime. The place was packed to the rafters. The Mass was conducted by the priest that I privately think of as Father Shecky, who couldn’t resist making a crack about how happy he was to see the usual weekday crowd. Buh-DUMP-dah! Perhaps I’m a bit of an old fuddy-dud (oh, shut up!) but it didn’t strike me that such a rimshot was particularly appropriate to the day, so I confined myself to a thin smile.
♦ Anyhoo, I wore the ashes all afternoon, much to the obvious discomfort of a number of my progressivista colleagues, and made a point of being especially cheerful and courteous. This year, more than any other I can recall, I was really filled with the spirit of silent witness. I’m sure it bumped me up a couple places on the list of those to be sent to the camps, but I like to believe that perhaps I might have got at least somebody to think about things a little.
♦ Speaking of thinking about things a little, the Dalai Llama is speaking down the Cathedral today, which made dropping off the Middle Gel for choir practice a royal pain, what with police cordons and crowds of New Age types wandering about. Personally, I’ve nothing against the Dalai Llama, nor against Buddhism for that matter, which from what I gather is not really a religion but more of a system of ethics. What irks me is the sort of people who buy “Free Tibet” vanity license plates and fawn all over the Llama because he’s cute, nonthreatening and mystical, perfect for the type who likes to say, “I’m spiritual, just not religious.”
♦ And speaking of school runs, getting around the local streets these days makes me feel like Han Solo in the asteroid field, what with all the potholes. Show of hands for all of those wishing Algore’s Globull Warminz would come back? Yeah, me too. I’ve also noticed a great many new cracks between moldings and walls in Port Swiller Manor, no doubt put there by the excessive cold we’ve experienced. (The other possible explanation is that the house is getting ready to collapse on itself due to the collective pounding of the gels’ feet. I don’t care to dwell on that possibility.)
♦ Speaking of the cold, despite the fact that the grounds of PSM are still covered in snow, I nonetheless feel that I must start spring gardening this weekend with the annual cutting back of the butterfly bushes known to regular friends of the decanter as Kong and the Konglings. Perhaps I’ll have a go at the wisteria, too. March is a schizophrenic month in these here parts and despite the fact that it’s only in the 30′s now, there’s no knowing when we might suddenly find ourselves up in the mid-70′s. (Typing this entry reminds me that if I want to but any spring plantings online, I damn well better do it today if it’s not already too late. UPDATE: Found some Confederate Jasmine vines at a nursery down in Georgia that I’m going to try on a trellis fronting the new porch. The innertoobs swear it’s hearty to Zone 7, which is us. We shall see.)
♦ And finally, speaking of local things, I was flipping through the local fish-wrapper this morning when my eye fell on this editorial paragraph:
Ukraine is not the only place where civil war threatened to erupt last week. In Fairfax County, Loudoun County and the City of Falls Church, there are battles raging between School Boards and the elected bodies (Boards of Supervisors and City Council) that hold ultimate responsibility for allocating taxpayer money.
Okay, ol’ Robbo is throwing a flag on that statement. Unsportsmanlike conduct: Unnecessarily hyperbolic metaphor. Fifteen yard penalty and loss of down.
Well, that’s it for now. Ol’ Robbo is off to scan the headlines before getting about his biznay. What fresh hell awaits us today?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers, from the heart of the latest SOTCOTW to strike the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor! If you like, you may imagine me, Jim Cantore-like, grimacing and sticking my chin and chest out in defiance of teh elements. I’ve not yet gone outside, so I can’t tell you anything for sure about totals, but it’s been coming down pretty steadily all day and I’d say we’re well over 6 inches.
As a matter of fact, the Family Robbo is just done with a late brunch of scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns and I’ve toddled down to the study to check the radar and see how long it is before I have to go out and start shoveling. At the moment (about ten till one), it looks as if we’re into an especially heavy band that ought to go on for another hour or two, but that it will all clear out afterwards. Needless to say, a topic of intense speculation at brunch was whether tomorrow is going to be another snow day.
Anyhoo, in the meantime I guess I will go back to my reading, which is what I’ve been about most of the morning. I’m revisiting Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe’s Rifles – the first of the Richard Sharpe series – and shuddering at it again. Cornwall, like Tom Clancy, is capable of excellent descriptions of combat, and indeed, some of his tactical portrayals are truly worthy of praise. But like Clancy, when it comes to character, dialogue and descriptive narrative, he’s bloody awful. Still, it’s dumb fun, which is exactly the sort of no-brainer stuff I want today.
POST-SHOVEL UPDATE: Seven or eight inches, I guess, with a lovely crust of ice underneath. Took me about three hours to clear, but it was light enough so that I got a decent workout without killing myself. We’re nowhere near passing the freezing mark, so for all the scraping and salting, the roads are still kind of meh. One gel’s school system has already bailed for tomorrow. We’ll see about the other two.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Prompted by catching AMC’s umpteenth re-showing of Braveheart t’other evening, ol’ Robbo started to write a post on the predictability of Mel Gibson movie characters, but after re-reading the draft, I decided that my insights were so bloody obvious that they would insult the collective intelligence of my fellow port swillers. So consider yourselves spared.
In keeping with the theme of big-budget 90′s historickal beefcake films, however, I will note instead that, following up on my recent re-enjoyment of Francis Parkman’s history of French and British colonial history in North America, I’ve chucked Last of the Mohicans into the ol’ Netflix queue again.
Friends of the decanter might be puzzled by this. After all, said movie makes a complete hash of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel – the wrong couples get together, the wrong characters live and die and the movie’s Major Hayward is teleported in from the Bearded-Spock Universe – and we all know what Robbo thinks of movie bowderlizations of cherished books. (Peter Jackson, for example, is going straight to hell.)
So how can I watch this one? The key word here is “cherished”. I’ve never understood why Cooper enjoys the literary status that he does, or anyway did back in the day when more young people still knew how to read. His books, at least to me, are long-winded, pompous, condescending and heavy-handed. And, as Mark Twain famously noted, as a limousine liberal of his day, Cooper not only was a poor writer, he also didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it came to stories of the wild. Frankly, I struggled through LOTM and I positively gave up on his Wing and Wing after a couple chapters despite the fact that it was a sea-story. So it simply doesn’t bother me much that his tale of Natty Bumppo is so thoroughly mangled by the film.
Well, there is one part that bothers me: Col. Munro, the real one, was not killed in the massacre at Fort William-Henry by Magwa or anyone else. He actually died some months later, apparently from exhaustion. And I recall that the movie downplays the fact that many of those murdered and carried away by Montcalm’s Indian allies were women and children.
Nonetheless, the movie is gorgeously filmed (although I believe at least some of the scenes were shot in the Blue Ridge near Roanoke instead of the Adirondacks ), there’s plenty of action and a lot of the period (circa 1757) detail is pretty good. And for some reason, Robbo’s beloved Nationals have adopted its score as the “theme” musick at the beginning of their home games. Kinda gets to you after a while.
Oh, may I also note here in reference to the pic above that I absolutely love N.C. Wyeth’s work? Sure, the man was but an illustrator, but he carried illustration to a sublime level. I’d take ol’ N.C. over a legion of “abstract” artistes any day.
**Spot the reference.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Driving along this evening, ol’ Robbo found himself behind a truck belonging to some kind of office furniture store. The ad copy on its backside read, “ABC (or whatever it was) Furniture – Where the Customer Becomes Family”.
Similarly, I have noticed from time to time the use of the word “family” in various notes, announcements and invitations down the office: ”Come join the Department of Silly Walks’ Happy Feet Section Family for a Holiday Celebration” and the like.
Frankly, this irks me.
As far as being a customer goes, XYZ Company provides me goods or services and I supply it monies. It’s a business relationship. I might very well get to be quite chummy with the owners or their staff, but unless this goes so far that I or one of my kin actually marries one of them….we’re not family.
Again, as far as office relations go, I always endeavor to be professional and courteous, and am on various levels of friendship with colleagues there, but….we’re still not family.
Now , I doubt very seriously whether the people who use the word “family” in these contexts actually mean any harm. I don’t see this as deliberately Orwellian double-speak. Nonetheless, I find it to be an unwarranted assumption of familiarity, an intrusion into what the kids call my “personal space”, a co-opting of a term that properly describes the fundamental unit of human life established by God the Father Himself, a get off my lawn moment.
Perhaps I’m being hypersensitive, but these things matter. We already live in a day and age in which the traditional definition of family – people united by blood and marriage – has been completely tossed aside in favor of whatevs, dude. This is a Very Bad Thing, and I can’t help feeling that the sloppy transposition of the term to the market and the workplace does nothing to help.
Oh, and bonus points for spotting the quote in the title.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
It is said that English is a Living Language, always ready to bend, fold, mutilate, mutate or transmogrify in order to meet the needs of the occasion. Back in school, I recall being taught that this is a Very Good Thing.
So I suppose that I am pleased, in once sense at least, with the addition to the vocabulary by members of the Port Swiller family of what I believe to be a brand new word or family of words.
Allow me to explain.
In my capacity as paper paterfamilias, I often find myself issuing instructions to the gels of the following variety:
“It’s almost time for dinner. Come downstairs and set the table, please.”
“You were supposed to clean out the kitty litter. Get TO it, please.”
“That laundry of yours is still sitting on our bed, waiting to be folded and put away. Get it done.”
“You’ve played enough Mine-Craft for one day. Turn off the computer and come upstairs.”
“Dammit, we’re going to be late, AGAIN. Get. In. To. The. Car.”
Well, you get the general theme.
At any rate, almost invariably in response to these and similar directions, the younger gels answer with the delaying-tactic imperative, “Hold on.”
This is where the liquidity of the Mother Tongue kicks in because they don’t, in fact, answer me with these two words but rayther have taken to serving up what I believe to be a unique hybrid.
So far, there seem to be several different permutations, all of which they utter in a kind of dismissive mumble. A phonetic sampling:
I’m not sure yet if there is any connection between choice of variant and context, whether for example one might be formal while another is more familiar, or whether this is just a bit of linguistic chaos common to the birth of a new form of expression. No doubt inevitable further exposure will give me some more refined insight.
At any rate, as I say, I try to derive whatever etymological pleasure I can from these utterances, because otherwise they drive me absolutely crazy.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
You may call ol’ Robbo “old school” – I’m sure you already call me much worse – but I for one prefer the celebration of Washington’s birthday to this generic chief executive tribute stuff. Old George surely merits his country’s eternal memory and thanks. Fellahs like Buchanan, Johnson, Wilson, Carter and, ah, others we need not name? Not so much. So for me, today really isn’t much other than a day off work.
♦ Robbo spent most of yesterday afternoon in his favorite chair overlooking the bird feeders, reading his Parkman and staring out the window from time to time. In the course of a couple hours, two different hawks blitzed the feeders. The youngest gel and I identified one of them as a Cooper’s Hawk. The other was immature. As I discovered from my Peterson’s Field Guide (always at hand), almost all immature hawks look exactly like each other. The only way to even guess at the subspecies is by the bird’s size. This one was pretty durn big.
Neither one was successful, by the way. The immature bird in particular spent several minutes perched on the roof of the porch looking extremely indignant.
♦ Speaking of which, I may have mentioned before the youngest’s interest in ornithology? She loves to show off her knowledge about comparative features – crests and caps, rounded vs. squared tails and the like. She recently asked me what schools had good ornithology programs.
“Well, there’s Cornell,” I said.
“Where’s that?” she asked.
“Upstate New York. It gets very, very cold.”
“Ummmm, I don’t think I’d like that. Anywhere else?”
Beats me. I suppose I ought to look into it.
♦ Another dose of snow/sleet is on the way tonight and tomorrow morning, although it looks like it’s just going to be a nuisance this time around. Then the temperatures are supposed to get up into the 60′s by the end of the week. I may say that I’ve had plenty of wintah, thank you very much. Moar warm, please!
I say this now so that, when I am being slowly parboiled over the summah and complaining bitterly about it, I can dig up this post and remind myself of what I will be missing.
Regular friends of teh decanter will know that ol’ Robbo is in the midst of his biennial rereading of the great Francis Parkman’s magnum opus , his History of France and England in North America, Volumes I and II. (I always finish up with his Conspiracy of Pontiac, even thought it was an earlier, stand-alone book, because it rounds out the timeline nicely.) I may say that I seem to derive ever more satisfaction from these books with each re-reading.
At any rate, within the past couple days, I again came across one of my very favorite little vignettes in the saga, the story of the heroic 14 year old girl, La Madeleine de Verchéres on the Canadian frontier in the early 1690′s. (The pic to the right is of a statue erected to her somewhere around 1919, in the modern town of Verchéres, Quebec. You can see it pretty well on Google’s street-view if you are so inclined.)
I posted Parkman’s telling of the tale here a couple years ago, but my fellow port swillers will forgive me for serving it up again since I wanted to bring it to the attention of a certain other fourteen year old gel who I know is a regular reader. (I recently got her to try True Grit, which I think she liked. She may find this story even more inspiring and exciting, since it’s actual history, not fiction. And in my opinion, at least, when it comes to real frontier gals, Madeleine knocks Laura Ingalls Wilder into a cocked hat.)
Anyway, here’s Parkman:
Many incidents of this troubled time are preserved, but none of them are so well worth the record as the defense of the fort at Verchéres by the young daughter of the seignor. Many years later, the Marquis de Beauharnais, governor of Canada, caused the story to be written down from the recital of the heroine herself. Verchéres was on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, about twenty miles below Montreal. A strong blockhouse stood outside the fort, and was connected with it by a covered way. On the morning of the twenty-second of October , the inhabitants were at work in the fields, and nobody was left in the place but two soldiers, two boys, an old man of eighty, and a number of women and children. The seignor, formerly an officer of the regiment of Carignan, was on duty at Quebec; his wife was at Montreal; and their daughter Madeleine, fourteen years of age, was at the landing-place not far from the gate of the fort, with a hired man named Laviolette. Suddenly she heard firing from the direction where the settlers were at work, and an instant after Laviolette cried out, “Run, Mademoiselle, run! Here come the Iroquois!” She turned and saw forty or fifty of them at the distance of a pistol-shot. “I ran for the fort, commending myself to the Holy Virgin. The Iroquois who chased after me, seeing that they could not catch me alive before I reached the gate, stopped and fired at me. The bullets whistled about my ears, and made the time seem very long. As soon as I was near enough to be heard, I cried out, To arms! To arms! hoping that somebody would come out and help me; but it was of no use. The two soldiers in the fort were so scared that they had hidden in the blockhouse. At the gate, I found two women crying for their husbands, who had just been killed. I made them go in, and then shut the gate. I next thought what I could do to save myself and the few people with me. I went to inspect the fort, and found that several palisades had fallen down, and left openings by which the enemy could easily get in. I ordered them set up again, and helped to carry them myself. When the breaches were stopped, I went to the blockhouse where the ammunition is kept, and here I found the two soldiers, one hiding in a corner, and the other with a lighted match in his hand. “What are you going to do with the match?” I asked. He answered, “Light the powder, and blow us all up.” “You are a miserable coward,” said I, “go out of this place.” I spoke so resolutely that he obeyed. I then threw off my bonnet; and after putting on a hat and taking a gun, I said to my two brothers: “Let us fight to the death. We are fighting for our country and our religion. Remember that our father has taught you that gentlemen are born to shed their blood for the service of God and the king.”
The boys, who were twelve and ten years old, aided by the soldiers, whom her words had inspired with some little courage, began to fire from the loopholes upon the Iroquois, who, ignorant of the weakness of the garrison, showed their usual reluctance to attack a fortified place, and occupied themselves with chasing and butchering the people in the neighboring fields. Madeleine ordered a cannon to be fired, partly to deter the enemy from an assault, and partly to warn some of the soldiers, who were hunting at a distance. The women and children in the fort cried and screamed without ceasing. She ordered them to stop, lest their terror should encourage the Indians. A canoe was presently seen approaching the landing-place. It was a settler named Fontaine, trying to reach the fort with his family. The Iroquois were still near; and Madeleine feared that the newcomers would be killed, if something were not done to aid them. She appealed to the soldiers, but their courage was not equal to the attempt; on which, as she declares, after leaving Laviolette to keep watch at the gate, she herself went alone to the landing-place. “I thought that the savages would suppose it to be a ruse to draw them toward the fort, in order to make a sortie upon them. They did suppose so, and thus I was able to save the Fontaine family. When they were all landed, I made them march before me in full sight of the enemy. We put so bold a face on it, that they thought they had more to fear than we. Strengthened by this reinforcement, I ordered that the enemy should be fired on whenever they showed themselves. After sunset, a violent north-east wind began to blow, accompanied with snow and hail, which told us that we should have a terrible night. The Iroquois were all this time lurking about us; and I judged by their movements that, instead of being deterred by the storm, they would climb into the fort under cover of the darkness. I assembled all my troops, that is to say, six persons, and spoke to them thus: “God has saved us today from the hands of our enemies, but we must take care not to fall into their snares tonight. As for me, I want you to see that I am not afraid. I will take charge of the fort with an old man of eighty and another who never fired a gun; and you, Pierre Fontaine, with La Bonte and Gachet (our two soldiers), will go to the blockhouse with the women and children, because that is the stronger place; and if I am taken, don’t surrender, even if I am cut to pieces and burnt before your eyes. The enemy cannot hurt you in the blockhouse, if you make the least show of fight.” I placed my young brothers on two of the bastions, the old man on the third, and I took the fourth; and all night, in spite of wind, snow and hail, the cries of “All’s well” were kept up from the blockhouse to the fort, and from the fort to the blockhouse. One would have thought that the place was full of soldiers. The Iroquois thought so, and were completely deceived, as they confessed afterwards to Monsieur de Caliéres, whom they told that they had held a council to make a plan for capturing the fort in the night but had done nothing because a constant watch was kept.
“About one in the morning, the sentinel on the bastion by the gate called out, “Mademoiselle, I hear something.” I went to him to find what it was; and by the help of the snow, which covered the ground, I could see through the darkness a number of cattle, the miserable remnant that the Iroquois had left us. The others wanted to open the gate and let them in, but I answered, “God forbid. You don’t know all the tricks of the savages. They are no doubt following the cattle, covered with skins of beasts, so as to get into the fort, if we are simple enough to open the gate for them.” Nevertheless, after taking every precaution, I thought that we might open it without risk. I made my two brothers stand ready with their guns cocked in case of surprise, and so we let in the cattle.
“At last, the daylight came again; and, as the darkness disappeared, our anxieties seemed to disappear with it. Everybody took courage except Mademoiselle Marguérite, wife of the Sieur Fontaine, who being extremely timid, as all Parisian women are, asked her husband to carry her to another fort. He said, “I will never abandon this fort while Mademoiselle Madelon [sic] is here.” I answered him that I would never abandon it; that I would rather die than give it up to the enemy; and that it was of the greatest importance that they should never get possession of any French fort, because, if they got one, they would think they could get others, and would grow more bold and presumptuous than ever. I may say with truth that I did not eat or sleep for twice twenty-four hours. I did not go once into my father’s house, but kept always on the bastion, or went to the blockhouse to see how the people there were behaving. I always kept a cheerful and smiling face, and encouraged my little company with the hope of speedy succor.
“We were a week in constant alarm, with the enemy always about us. At last Monsieur de la Monnerie, a lieutenant sent by Monsieur de Calliéres, arrived in the night with forty men. As he did not know whether the fort was taken or not, he approached as silently as possible. One of our sentinels, hearing a slight sound, cried, “Qui vive?” I was at the time dozing, with my head on a table and my gun lying across my arms. The sentinel told me he heard a voice from the river. I went up at once to the bastion to see whether it was Indians or Frenchmen. I asked, “Who are you?” One of them answered, “We are Frenchmen: it is La Monnerie, who comes to bring you help.” I caused the gate to be opened, placed a sentinel there, and went down to the river to meet them. As soon as I saw Monsieur de la Monnerie, I saluted him, and said, “Monsieur, I surrender my arms to you.” He answered gallantly, “Mademoiselle, they are in good hands.” “Better than you think,” I returned. He inspected the fort, and found everything in order, and a sentinel on each bastion. “It is time to relieve them, Monsieur, said I: “we have not been off our bastions for a week.””
- Francis Parkman, Count Frontenac and New France, Chapter XIV “The Scourge of Canada”.
I love this story. I really do. All the courage, coolness and nobility displayed by young Madeleine are downright inspirational. Indeed, I’d back her against a hundred modern, feminist “Grrrrl-power” types any day. Especially, not to get apocalyptic about it or anything, if the excrement hits the ol’ fan, as it seems increasingly likely to do in the not so distant future.
I mentioned taking a firearms course a few months back, to which teh gel responded enthusiastically. At the time, the idea was more theoretical noodling than anything else, but I am that much more persuaded that we ought to put it into concrete practice.