I'm very proud that this website now offers more free content than at any time in our seventeen-year history. But we also provide some premium content especially for those who've signed up to be Mark Steyn Club members, and I'm delighted to say Tales for Our Time has become one of our most popular features over the last two-and-a-half years - and that this latest audio extravaganza is proving especially pertinent. Steyn Club member CrossBorderGal (a nom de plume that's trickier to pull off than it was a month ago) writes of last night's episode:
A particularly touching segment, and beautifully (authentically) presented... charity and humility so openly revealed in the waterman AND the "stranger." (There were tears among the listeners, too.) THANK YOU!
Thank you, CBG. The tale of the waterman is indeed very touching. In Part Fifteen of A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, said waterman gives his newfound friend the lie of the River Thames - where thousands are escaping the contagion by hiding out on their ships (if rich) or (if poor) their hoys, smacks, lighters and wherries. Even so, safety from the plague on either bank is not always assured:
It was also true that all the people who thus left the land and lived on board the ships were not entirely safe from the infection, for many died and were thrown overboard into the river, some in coffins, and some, as I heard, without coffins, whose bodies were seen sometimes to drive up and down with the tide in the river.
As for landlubbers, city dwellers fleeing the metropolis for less infected parts are not exactly a welcome sight:
There was then no stirring out into the country, nobody would suffer a stranger to come near them, no, nor near the towns where they dwelt; and, as I have been told, several that wandered into the country on Surrey side were found starved to death in the woods and commons.
In my own part of the world right now, my fellow Granite Staters are getting more and more resentful of vehicles with out-of-state plates from diseased flatlander precincts such as New York and Massachusetts, and are openly disdainful of the weekend-home crowd in the parking lots of gas stations and general stores. As an effete foreigner, I'm keeping my head down and working on my North Country accent. The longer this goes on, the more seventeenth-century we're likely to get.
If you've a friend who's a fan of classic fiction and you want to give him or her a birthday present with a difference, we hope you'll consider a one-year gift membership in The Mark Steyn Club. The lucky recipient will enjoy full access to our back catalogue of audio adventures and video poems - Conrad and Conan Doyle, Kipling and Kafka, and all the rest - which should keep you going under this house-arrest racket for a few more months. For more details, see here.
Curfew notwithstanding, our nightly audio adventure goes on, so do join me back here tomorrow for A Journal of the Plague Year Part Sixteen.