Here's the thirteenth episode of our current Tale for Our Time, G K Chesterton's metaphysical thriller The Man Who Was Thursday.
How serious are the anarchists on the streets of our cities today? In tonight's episode, a solid citizen of the French Third Republic is forced to confront that very question:
Dr. Renard was a beaming, brown-bearded man, a good example of that silent but very busy professional class which France has preserved even more perfectly than England. When the matter was explained to him he pooh-poohed the panic of the ex-Marquis altogether; he said, with the solid French scepticism, that there was no conceivable probability of a general anarchist rising. "Anarchy," he said, shrugging his shoulders, "it is childishness!"
"Et ca," cried out the Colonel suddenly, pointing over the other's shoulder, "and that is childishness, isn't it?"
They all looked round, and saw a curve of black cavalry come sweeping over the top of the hill with all the energy of Attila. Swiftly as they rode, however, the whole rank still kept well together, and they could see the black vizards of the first line as level as a line of uniforms.
"Vizard", if you're not familiar with the work, means "mask" (from the same root as "visor"). So our protagonists are being pursued by a black-masked army. Which is also extremely topical. Vizards started as black velvet ovals for ladies who did not wish to get sunburned faces when out riding. Philip Stubbs, in his splendid polemical work The Anatomie of Abuses (1583) did not care for masked women:
When they use to ride abroad, they have masks or visors made of velvet, wherewith they cover all their faces, having holes made in them against their eyes, whereout they look so that if a man that knew not their guise before, should chance to meet one of them he would think he met a monster or a devil: for face he can shew none, but two broad holes against her eyes, with glasses in them.
As our tale gallops on, John Lewis, an English member of the Steyn Club from the beautiful Sussex coast, is contemplating the finale:
A great listen.
As this is arguably the most unusual and challenging tale to date at its conclusion would it be possible to have a discussion forum for club members to exchange their opinions and understanding of the work?
That's an interesting idea, John. Let me mull on it - we may do a special edition of The Mark Steyn Show or some such. Do let me know your understanding and opinion of the book's close, via either our comments section or email.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership. I'll be hosting Part Fourteen of The Man Who Was Thursday right here tomorrow evening, and just ahead of that I'll be back with the weekend edition of The Mark Steyn Show.