Welcome to the latest of The Mark Steyn Club's Tales for Our Time, in which we serialize some classic fiction I've mentioned in my books and columns over the years. This new audio adventure is The Prisoner of Zenda, written by Anthony Hope and first published in 1894. If you missed the first episode, you can find it here. Founding Member (from our very first weekend) Sol Cranfill enjoyed it - and was impressed that Hope rattled it off in a few weeks:
Reminds me of Bertie Wooster meets Prince and the Pauper. It's a good first chapter. Rudolf has a cheery and much more favorable disposition toward his sister-in-law than Bertie has toward the dreaded aunts. He may not be a Dumas, but not bad for six weeks. In just one chapter he gives you a sense of the humor, or rather humour, of Rudolf the red-haired, long-nosed Ruritarian stand-in. Remarkable how effective a convincing back story is to make a fictional place, or at least, so far, family seem to have real depth, which he's done. An entertaining and interesting beginning. On to Ruritania!
Indeed. For this second episode, we're off to Ruritania, by train:
The next day George Featherly went with me to the station, where I took a ticket for Dresden... I saw him lift his hat and accost a graceful, fashionably dressed woman who had just appeared from the booking-office. She was, perhaps, a year or two over thirty, tall, dark, and of rather full figure. As George talked, I saw her glance at me, and my vanity was hurt by the thought that, muffled in a fur coat and a neck-wrapper (for it was a chilly April day) and wearing a soft travelling hat pulled down to my ears, I must be looking very far from my best. A moment later, George rejoined me.
'You've got a charming travelling companion,' he said. 'That's poor Bert Bertrand's goddess, Antoinette de Mauban, and, like you, she's going to Dresdenâ€”also, no doubt, to see the pictures. It's very queer, though, that she doesn't at present desire the honour of your acquaintance.'
'I didn't ask to be introduced,' I observed, a little annoyed.
'Well, I offered to bring you to her; but she said, "Another time." Never mind, old fellow, perhaps there'll be a smash, and you'll have a chance of rescuing her and cutting out the Duke of Strelsau!'
There will be no train smash - but rather something far more incredible that awaits down the track. To listen to the second episode of The Prisoner of Zenda, please click here.
Tales for Our Time is 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 proving very popular, and looks like it'll be around a while. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo view of it, give it your best in the Comments Section below.
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and join us for Part Three of The Prisoner of Zenda tomorrow.