Having roundly failed to deter the advances of an Archduke by brazenly cheating him out of tens of thousands of pounds, Orlando resorts to even baser means. Her self-justification is a wonder, as if a rapier were a more noble way of dealing with an unwanted suitor than a toad.
The charming, detached language is perfect for describing shockingly bad behaviour in such a way that it simply appears entertaining. The Archduke doesn’t even win our sympathy though he is a victim from A-Z.
‘… when she cut the matter short, as he stooped his proud head, by dropping a small toad between his skin and his shirt. In justice to her, it must be said that she would infinitely have preferred a rapier. Toads are clammy things to conceal about one’s person a whole morning. But if rapiers are forbidden, one must have recourse to toads.’
Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 176
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