In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.
CHAPTER XII: MY LORD DICTATES A LETTER AND RECEIVES A VISITOR
Well, as chapter titles go, this one is slightly less thrilling than the turning rescuer and coming nigh to losing his life promise of the last one. However, life cannot be all danger and excitement and have-at-you dueling on country laneways. Sometimes, letters must be dictated, visitors must be received, and so it is that Jack awakens groggily after a convalescence lasting a whole week to be confronted by Diana’s redoubtable Aunt Betty, abjuring him to be still and to stay in bed and not to do such foolish things as to attempt to pen his own correspondence. (They have quite a verbal tussle about it. It’s really quite entertaining.) Hence the dictation, of course: he must at once assure not only the faithful, doubtless apoplectic Jim of his continuing survival, but also his recently rediscovered friend, Sir Miles.
It is in the course of composing his note to the latter that Jack almost makes a colossal blunder and reveals his real name. “Car–” is as far as he gets before catching himself and suddenly becoming the simple Mr. Carr. Another chapter, yet another alias for our ever-incognito John “Jack” Carstares, the Earl of Wyncham.
Before long, the faux Carr receives the promised visitor and it is, of course, the hopelessly devoted Miles. He brings news of not only Jim, but of Jenny the Wonder Horse (in case you’re wondering, she pulled a fetlock or something after Jack was arrested for highway robbery a few chapters back, and had to stay at the O’Haras to recuperate. No mention, though, of the hapless steed tasked to replace her, but who seems to have performed creditably throughout Jack’s rescue of Diana.). Both are hurrying thither, Jim awash with remorse for forgetting to load his master’s pistols, and Jenny… well, whatever it is that horses are.
Our hero then recounts the tale of his roadside altercation with Tracy, Duke of Andover, after which Jack unaccountably defends Tracy from Miles’s insistence that he is a “dirty scoundrel!” Jack’s all convinced that his cunning disguise of mask and French accent must have worked on Devil, because surely “He could not try to kill in cold blood a man he had hunted with, and fenced with—.” Oh, no, surely! Jack’s also weirdly understanding about Tracy’s attempt to (remember, now) kidnap and rape the gently reared Miss Diana Beauleigh. Miles protests against Tracy’s “foul mind” and Jack says mildly: “Where women are concerned, yes. Otherwise–’tis not such a bad fellow, Miles.” Which is kind of like saying that, except for that one little thing where he likes to eat people with a side of fava beans, Hannibal Lecter’s actually a pretty decent guy.
At least Jack doesn’t try to give us any of that “Well, he’s a Belmanoir, he doesn’t have any choice” crap.
After much solicitous inquiry after freaking Jenny again (ugh, what is this, Tijuana?), Miles finally takes his leave, and soon enough servant Jim arrives, full of apologies. He is quickly forgiven the oversight that led to his master being essentially unarmed (“Rubbish! I’d a sword, hadn’t I?” Jack demands, amusingly) and is thence allowed the very great privilege of changing his lord’s bandages. The chapter then ends on this slightly HoYay note that would have the teenagers shipping these two if this were a CW superhero show:
“That is much better,” [Jack] said. “You have such a light touch, Jim.”
The man’s face reddened with pleasure, but he said nothing, and walked away to the window to draw the curtains.
Thunder and turf! Zounds! These are just a few of the exclamations Sir Miles is heard to utter in this book; most particularly, here, it is in response to the revelation that Devil Belmanoir had been attempting to make off with Miss Beauleigh in a daring carriage hold up. Why can’t we still talk like that today?
“Darling, I think I’m pregnant.” “Thunder and turf!”
“Did you hear about the boss? He’s been skimming from the till.” “Zounds!”
When you think about it, we are so… limited, in our exclamatory vocabularies nowadays, aren’t we? We’re all “Wow!” and “Cool!” and “Awesome!,” and sure, the kids like to come up with new ways to express their appreciation of the latest zombie-killing video game every week, it seems (all of which are spelt incorrectly, of course), but where’s the poetry gone? Where’s the verve? The denizens of Georgette Heyer’s world make use of “Lud!” and “’pon rep” and “By Jupiter!” and, seriously, “Zounds!”. How great is zounds? It’s “yikes,” but on steroids.
That’s it. I’m bringing “zounds” back. Just you wait and see.
New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.