Here we go with Part Four of our brand new Tale for Our Time - my serialization of Anthony Hope's classic The Prisoner of Zenda. It's a great tale of honor and duty, and how such considerations must sometimes take precedence over passion. I pitched it to the Weinstein Company but I haven't heard back.
In tonight's episode an English tourist steps in for an absent King at his Coronation. As he rides to the Cathedral, the procession passes through the Ruritanian capital's Old Town, whose wretched, impoverished denizens favor not King Rudolf but his half-brother Black Michael:
The Marshal, turning round in his saddle, waved his hand, and the Cuirassiers closed round us, so that the crowd could not come near me. We were leaving my quarter and entering Duke Michael's, and this action of the Marshal's showed me more clearly than words what the state of feeling in the town must be. But if Fate made me a King, the least I could do was to play the part handsomely...
I drew rein.
'Let those in front ride on,' said I, 'till they are fifty yards ahead. But do you, Marshal, and Colonel Sapt and my friends, wait here till I have ridden fifty yards. And see that no one is nearer to me. I will have my people see that their King trusts them...'I saw old Sapt smiling into his beard, but he shook his head at me. If I had been killed in open day in the streets of Strelsau, Sapt's position would have been a difficult one... When I, riding alone, entered the dingy, sparsely decorated, sombre streets of the Old Town, there was first a murmur, then a cheer, and a woman, from a window above a cookshop, cried the old local saying:
'If he's red, he's right!' whereat I laughed and took off my helmet that she might see that I was of the right colour and they cheered me again at that...But, in spite of these signs of approval and interest, the mass of the people received me in silence and with sullen looks, and my dear brother's portrait ornamented most of the windowsâ€”which was an ironical sort of greeting to the King.
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See you for Part Five of The Prisoner of Zenda tomorrow.