Welcome to Part Two of The Power-House by John Buchan, our latest audio adventure in Tales for Our Time. I thank you for all your kind words about this thirty-fourth monthly yarn for our Mark Steyn Club members, and its Buchanite theme of a fragile civilization threatened by globalist elites. Josh Passell, a First Weekend Founding Member of the Steyn Club, writes:
You had me at Buchan.
As for 'civilization', on which you quote Buchan in your introduction, count me as a skeptic. We are lucky, some of us, if our neighborhoods are civilized (for his efforts on their behalf Mayor Bloomberg has since had to apologize). Our cities, what's left of them (Detroit and Baltimore, among other metropoles, are hemorrhaging population; SF and LA are just hemorrhaging), not so much. Our borders, not at all. As for the rest of the world, reprimitivization (a word I learned here) would appear to be a buy and civilization a sell.
But why so serious, as the Joker, a man who appreciated anarchy, once asked. There's a tale to be told, and it's a corker!
Indeed it is, Josh. In tonight's episode of The Power-House our hero, Edward Leithen, under the pretext of viewing some Wedgwood plaques he's minded to add to his collection, finds an important clue:
The housekeeper stood on guard by the door, Jenkinson was absorbed, and after the first inspection of the treasures I had leisure to look about me. It was an untidy little room, full of fine Chinese porcelain in dusty glass cabinets, and in a corner stood piles of old Persian rugs...
With my foot I turned over the lid of one of the packing-cases that had held the Wedgwoods. It was covered with a litter of cotton-wool and shavings, and below it lay a crumpled piece of paper. I looked again, and saw that it was a telegraph form. Clearly somebody, with the telegram in his hand, had opened the cases, and had left it on the top of one, whence it had dropped to the floor and been covered by the lid when it was flung off...
I felt the gimlet eye of the housekeeper on me, so I had recourse to craft. I took out my cigarette case as if to smoke, and clumsily upset its contents amongst the shavings. Then on my knees I began to pick them up, turning over the litter till the telegram was exposed.
It was in French and I read it quite clearly. It had been sent from Vienna, but the address was in some code. 'Suivez a Bokhare Saronov'—these were the words. I finished my collection of the cigarettes, and turned the lid over again on the telegram, so that its owner, if he chose to look for it diligently, might find it.
In 1913 Bokhara was the capital city (because little else remained) of the once extensive Emirate of Bokhara. Much of its other territory, including Samarkand, had been picked off over the years and it was now surrounded by the Russian Governorate of Turkestan. (Today, it's in Uzbekistan.) And so a London barrister finds himself in the midst of a caper stretching to the ends of the earth...
If you're not a Steyn Club member, I hope you'll consider joining us. It's not too grueling a schedule: we have a Clubland Q&A in which I answer your questions live around the planet (the last aired on Friday) and we also have some video poetry and live members-only shows and whatnot.
Tales for Our Time started as an experimental feature we introduced as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members, and, as you know, I said if it was a total stinkeroo, we'd eighty-six the thing and speak no more of it. But I'm thrilled to say it's proved very popular, and and we now have quite an archive. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo side of things, give it your best in the Comments Section below.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club over two-and-a-half years ago, and I'm truly grateful to all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club audio adventures and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to The Power-House but to all our other audio adventures.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, whether you like my reading of this Tale for Our Time or find it about as thrilling as a second-rate Wedgwood collection, feel free to comment away below. And do join us tomorrow for Part Three of The Power-House.