Welcome to Part Nineteen of our current Tale for Our Time, my sequel to and contemporary inversion of Anthony Hope's Ruritanian bestseller of 1894. By the way, if you've a chum who's a fan of classic fiction in audio form, don't forget our Mark Steyn Club gift membership.
In tonight's episode of The Prisoner of Windsor, our penniless Ruritanian covering for the British prime minister finds himself making an unexpected visit to Frogmore Mausoleum (at right). If you recall my serialization of the original, you may remember the moment when Rudolf Rassendyll, playing the King of Ruritania, extracts a promise from old Marshal Strakencz:
"Marshal, I'm leaving Strelsau for a few days. Every evening I will send a courier to you. If for three days none comes, you will publish an order which I will give you, depriving Duke Michael of the governorship of Strelsau and appointing you in his place. You will declare a state of siege. Then you will send word to Michael that you demand an audience of the King—You follow me?"
"—In twenty-four hours. If he does not produce the King" (I laid my hand on his knee), "then the King is dead, and you will proclaim the next heir. You know who that is?"
"The Princess Flavia."
"And swear to me, on your faith and honour and by the fear of the living God, that you will stand by her to the death, and kill that reptile, and seat her where I sit now."
"On my faith and honour, and by the fear of God, I swear it! And may Almighty God preserve your Majesty, for I think that you go on an errand of danger."
When Rudy Elphberg, posing as Britain's prime minister, attempts to extract a similar pledge, it doesn't go at all well. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Nineteen of The Prisoner of Windsor simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
The other evening I mentioned that a couple of episodes back I'd made a Finnish faux pas that had to be hastily corrected. Tommy Wedderburn, a First Week Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Ontario's beautiful Niagara region, writes:
Never mind the Finnish faux pas. Full marks for knowing that Swedish is an official language of Finland. I mean, who knew? And the point you made was right on. Cheers and keep up the good work.
That's very kind of you, but I felt kinda silly because the bit of Finland I know best and where I've spent the most time is not Helsinki and its environs but up at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia en route to the Swedish border. Last time I was there I was hunting around in bars for members of the "Sons of Odin" mad at the Finnish state's indulgence of "refugees" - to which there is a tangential reference in tonight's episode.
If you've yet to hear any of our more than three dozen Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club - and don't forget our special Gift Membership. Oh, and please join me tomorrow for Part Twenty of The Prisoner of Windsor.