Welcome to Part Nine of our latest Tale for Our Time, a tale of honor and duty in extraordinary circumstances far from home - as conjured by Anthony Hope in his 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda. In tonight's episode we meet the dashing but deadly Rupert of Hentzau - whom "the King" cannot help teasing about his wounded accomplice:
'What of my good friends, De Gautet, Bersonin, and Detchard? I heard the last had suffered a hurt.'
Lauengram and Krafstein looked glum and uneasy, but young Rupert's smile grew broader.
'He hopes soon to find a medicine for it, sire,' he answered.
And I burst out laughing, for I knew what medicine Detchard longed for—it is called Revenge.
'You will dine with us, gentlemen?' I asked.
Young Rupert was profuse in apologies. They had urgent duties at the Castle.
'Then,' said I, with a wave of my hand, 'to our next meeting, gentlemen. May it make us better acquainted.'
'We will pray your Majesty for an early opportunity,' quoth Rupert airily; and he strode past Sapt with such jeering scorn on his face that I saw the old fellow clench his fist and scowl black as night.
For my part, if a man must needs be a knave, I would have him a debonair knave, and I liked Rupert Hentzau better than his long-faced, close-eyed companions. It makes your sin no worse, as I conceive, to do it à la mode and stylishly.
Founding Member Charles Rackoff is enjoying the series, and writes:
The Wikipedia article about Ruritania omitted mention of my favorite fictional country, Zembla,, from Nabokov's Pale Fire, probably being some sort of reference to Zenda. I've never been able to convince any friend or relative to read this book; perhaps I'll have better luck with readers of this web site.
However, I do not recommend that you try to do an audio reading of Pale Fire, since the book consists mainly of footnotes.
That's a very interesting Nabokov book, Charles. It is, as you say, a little difficult on the page, but do give it a go before throwing in the towel and cranking up the audio version.
If you've yet to hear any of our first Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Membership is available now - and, if you sign up, you'll be all set for Part Ten of The Prisoner of Zenda this time tomorrow. And don't forget our new Gift Membership.