Welcome to the final episode of our current Tale for Our Time - Anthony Hope's Ruritanian romance of honor and duty and the most audacious impersonation in literature. As The Prisoner of Zenda concludes, Flavia gives up her love, and Rudolf gives up "his" throne and prepares to return to London:
We three rode through the night and on to the breaking day, and found ourselves at a little roadside station just over the border of Ruritania. The train was not quite due... We walked up and down in silence, till Fritz touched me on the arm, and I saw, a mile or more away, the blue smoke of the train. Then I held out a hand to each of them.
'We are all but half-men this morning,' said I, smiling. 'But we have been men, eh, Sapt and Fritz, old friends? We have run a good course between us.'
'We have defeated traitors and set the King firm on his throne,' said Sapt.
Then Fritz von Tarlenheim suddenly, before I could discern his purpose or stay him, uncovered his head and bent as he used to do, and kissed my hand; and as I snatched it away, he said, trying to laugh:
'Heaven doesn't always make the right men kings!'
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read the conclusion of The Prisoner of Zenda simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here. As Founding Member Andrew A wrote a couple of nights ago:
I like the realistic depiction of violence in this chapter (and the preceding ones). Nothing happens as planned, the agendas of lowly secondary characters change the main course of events, the hero is forced to improvise, and the villain escapes despite his best efforts. It is here that I began to fully appreciate Mark's comments lamenting the modern ascendance of cartoon superheroes over ordinary heroes. Something has been lost in our fearless new world of superheroes and supervillains where all non-supers are mere spectators.
Sol Cranfill adds of last night's episode:
This brings out the word 'conservative' in the best sense. To so many ears with little in between them, 'progressive' elicits an exciting-sounding progress, while 'conservative' sounds stodgy and boring. In an age where self-gratification has gone so far that even a nonagenarian ex-president trades his dignity for opportunistic grope photos, a renaissance of duty and honor would be refreshing. It's the virtuous character of individuals that make up the character of the nation. That's what conservatives want to preserve. Character gets you great countries while selfishness gives you Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Thank you to Sol and Andrew for those observations. We'll be back with a bonus audio adventure on Tuesday, and on Monday I'll be hosting a Clubland Q&A live around the planet. Meanwhile, if you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and don't forget our new gift membership.