Welcome to Part Fifteen of Greenmantle, and the action is rattling along. As Shauno tweets of last night's episode:
Pretty good this one Mark the whole book is awesome
Indeed. In tonight's installment, Richard Hannay's imposture is received with some skepticism:
'You come from America, the land of pious follies, where men worship gold and words. I ask, what came you forth to seek..?'
'I will tell you, Madam,' I said. 'I am a man who has followed a science, but I have followed it in wild places, and I have gone through it and come out at the other side. The world, as I see it, had become too easy and cushioned. Men had forgotten their manhood in soft speech, and imagined that the rules of their smug civilization were the laws of the universe. But that is not the teaching of science, and it is not the teaching of life. We have forgotten the greater virtues, and we were becoming emasculated humbugs whose gods were our own weaknesses. Then came war, and the air was cleared. Germany, in spite of her blunders and her grossness, stood forth as the scourge of cant. She had the courage to cut through the bonds of humbug and to laugh at the fetishes of the herd. Therefore I am on Germany's side. But I came here for another reason. I know nothing of the East, but as I read history it is from the desert that the purification comes. When mankind is smothered with shams and phrases and painted idols a wind blows out of the wild to cleanse and simplify life. The world needs space and fresh air. The civilization we have boasted of is a toy-shop and a blind alley, and I hanker for the open country.'
This confounded nonsense was well received.
I've written previously about the contemporary historical figures (such as Kaiser Bill) who appear in this story, and about the real-life inspirations for John Buchan's fictional characters, such as Aubrey Herbert for Sandy Arbuthnot. So this seems as good a place as any to note that Buchan based Richard Hannay in part on Edmund Ironside. Scots by birth, "Tiny" Ironside (he was 6' 4") went undercover during the Boer War as an Afrikaaner wagon driver working for the Kaiser's men in German South-West Africa. In 1916 - the year in which Buchan wrote Greenmantle - Lieutenant-Colonel Ironside was commanding the 4th Canadian Division at Vimy Ridge.
Greenmantle's author knew how to pick 'em. In 1939, when Buchan was Governor General of Canada, Ironside was made CIGS - Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He was not long in the role before he found himself prematurely retired by his old friend Winston Churchill and shunned by Britain's military establishment for the rest of his life. Buchan captured him in what was for Ironside a happier war, and the latter enjoyed the part he played in the former's "shockers": He read the sequel to Greenmantle, Mr Standfast, from the passenger seat of an open-cockpit bi-plane while flying from Mesopotamia to Persia.
We can't provide you with the bi-plane, but we do have the stories to grip you en route. If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here - and don't forget our new Gift Membership. Tomorrow evening the inaugural Mark Steyn Club Cruise will be setting sail from Montreal, but on land or sea our nightly audio adventure goes on, so do join me back here for Greenmantle Part Sixteen.