The Rhetorical Musketeers

by Julian Worker


The four horsemen were riding through the dark forest on a particular day in the recent past. They could all hear a woman’s voice in the distance and, luckily for her, the horsemen’s path took them right by where she was.

As they approached, the horsemen could more clearly hear what she was saying, or rather screaming:

“HELP ME, HELP ME, SAVE ME FROM THIS TALL TOWER IN THE DARK FOREST!”

As the horsemen approached the tall tower, the woman, who was in fact a damsel by the name of Sharon and in lots of distress, saw them.

“HELP ME, HELP ME, PLEASE.”

The four horsemen ignored her pleas and carried on riding, riding.

“PLEASE HELP ME, I AM A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS IN A TALL TOWER IN A DARK FOREST. I HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED BY THE EVIL DWARF SHRUBEGEOG. HELP ME.”

With this, one of the four horsemen put up his hand indicating that they should all stop. The horsemen came to a halt, turned their horses around and trotted over to the base of the tower.

“Can we help you, o damsel in distress?” asked one of the men.

“YES, YOU CAN, YOU CAN,” began the damsel, but she was interrupted by the same man, who said “There is no need to shout, we can hear you well enough from here.”

“Sorry,” said the damsel, “my name is Sharon. I would like to be rescued. Will you help me?”

“We may rescue you fair damsel, but it depends on what you say,” replied the man.

“WHAT?” said Sharon, “WHAT MORE CAN I SAY? WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW? A FAIR DAMSEL, TALL TOWER, DARK FOREST, EVIL DWARF, WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED? I NEED HELP!”

The four horsemen said nothing.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? RESCUE ME FROM THIS TOWER, BEFORE SHRUBEGEOG RETURNS.”

The four horsemen said nothing.

“Are you going to help me?” sobbed Sharon, “What are you doing? It is just my luck for my screams to attract four rescuers who won’t rescue me at all.”

“We are assessing the rhetorical situation,” said the man, “and we need to know what the exigence is before we can modify it.”

“Who are you? Are you the servants of the evil dwarf come to torment me?” wailed Sharon.

“We are the four Musketeers, three of whom are Rhetorical Musketeers, o damsel in distress. We want to help you, but you have to appeal to the other three in the correct way.”

“WHAT!” screamed Sharon, “Sorry, what do you mean, what is an exigence?”

“An exigence is when something is other than it should be,” said the man.

“I see,” said Sharon, and had to think for a moment or two. “So the exigence in this case is the fact that I don’t normally live in a tall tower in a dark forest, that I am not normally the prisoner of an evil dwarf and that I DON’T NORMALLY SCREAM ‘HELP ME HELP ME!!’ AT THE TOP OF MY VOICE HOPING TO BE RESCUED.”

The four horsemen nodded in agreement.

“That sounds reasonable to me,” said the man, who was the only one to have spoken so far, “but now you have to appeal to these three gentleman individually, before we will all rescue you and thus modify the exigence. I will introduce them to you one at a time, but first I will tell you who I am.”

“Right, well that sounds like progress to me,” said Sharon, “but can you please hurry? I fear that Shrubegeog will be back in a minute or two and will thwart your rescue.”

“My name is D Arthur Agnan,” said the man, “and I am a Musketeer of the King. My three friends are Rhetorical Musketeers of the King, please let me introduce them to you!”

“The first Rhetorical Musketeer is the charming man on your left,” said Arthur Agnan. “His name is Pathos. In order to be rescued by him, you must appeal to his emotions and feelings.”

Pathos waved cheerily to Sharon and bowed deeply. He indicated a handkerchief he was carrying and mimed the motion of wiping tears from his eyes.

“The second Rhetorical Musketeer is the authoritative figure in the middle. His name is Ethos and to appeal to him you have to indicate your credibility to be rescued.”

Ethos tipped his hat to the damsel and from his tunic drew out a parchment signed by the King, which indicated that Ethos was a Rhetorical Musketeer of the King, First Class. He showed the parchment to Sharon, indicating the official seal on it.

“The third Rhetorical Musketeer is the intellectual-looking gentleman on your right. His name is Logos and to appeal to him you must relate some statistics and figures which show that you are the right person to be rescued at this stage.”

Logos smiled at the damsel, showing eight teeth, and gave the V for Victory sign with two fingers on his right hand. His horse was precisely 17 hands high and had exactly 28,943 hairs in its tail. Logos had counted them all. Twice. Just to be sure.

Sharon was in tears and felt very confused by all the appeals she had to make. But, she reasoned, at least she had a chance to use her skills to an audience, a primary audience at that. Her motivation was to be rescued. She wouldn’t have to use the passive voice either!

“I think I understand what you are telling me,” said Sharon. “I am a bit confused by which of you needs what appeal, but I will try my best. However, I do get the distinct impression that shouting and screaming SAVE ME at the top of my voice just won’t work with you musketeers.”

The Rhetorical Musketeers said nothing. Pathos had his handkerchief poised, Ethos stroked his official Musketeer’s beard, and Logos flicked two flies from his horse’s mane.

“Dear Rhetorical Musketeers, I want you to rescue me. Pathos, I appeal to you first. How would you like your daughter to be locked away in a tall tower in a dark forest, waiting for an evil dwarf to breathe horrid fumes over her all night as she writhed, screamed, and begged to be free, to return home to her family, her loving mother, her caring, handsome father, her...”

“Enough!” blubbered Pathos, crying into his handkerchief. “I will rescue thee fair damsel, just say no more.”

“One down, two to go,” said Sharon, gaining some encouragement from Pathos’ sobbing. “Ethos, it is to you I appeal next. My father is an adviser to the Archbishop, and is a confidant of the King of our country. My mother is a magistrate, my brother is in the Army, and my sister is married to a judge, who...”

“Enough,” said Ethos, impressed with the family connections of the damsel. “I, too, will rescue thee.”

“One more to go,” smiled Sharon. “Logos, I appeal to thee. Of the 36 damsels in the village, the dwarf chose to kidnap me because I was 18 years old, because I weighed 121 pounds and because I am 5 feet 7 inches tall. My IQ is 134, I have three sisters, and I have recently passed exam 234.5B to enter the Civil Service as...”

“What we waiting for?” said Logos, overwhelmed by the facts and figures of the damsel. “Let’s free this fair damsel before it is too late.”

With that the musketeers broke down the door of the tower and rescued the damsel in distress. Sharon was so thankful, but the Rhetorical Musketeers had to leave. As they departed, Pathos waved his still slightly-damp handkerchief at her, Ethos gave her an official Musketeer’s salute and Logos smiled a broad smile, with 14 teeth showing this time. “Take care, fair damsel,” said D Arthur Agnan. “Look after yourself and your family.”

Sharon waved as the four horsemen trotted off into the dark forest, towards a house where three bears lived, whose porridge had recently been eaten by another young damsel. But that, as they say, is another story waiting to be told.


Copyright © 2007 by Julian Worker

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