Programming note: In an hour or so I'll be looking in on "Tucker Carlson Tonight", live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Hope you'll tune in.
Meanwhile, for those who prefer me in non-visual form, here we go with Part Four of our brand new Tale for Our Time - my serialization of Baroness Orczy's thrilling adventure The Scarlet Pimpernel. Thank you for your many kind comments on this latest radio serial. Marc Swerdloff, a Floridian First-Day Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
I have read this novel twice and I can't believe how well Mark Steyn brings this tale to life. It is like listening to the original stage production. Well done sir!
That's too kind, Marc, but much appreciated nonetheless. In tonight's episode, the escapees from French terror learn who their benefactor is:
"The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh. "Why! what a droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young man's face had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with enthusiasm; hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed literally to glow upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle," he said at last "is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do."
"Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard speak of this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flowerâ€”red?â€”yes! They say in Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil, Fouquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that little flower designated in red upon it. . . . Yes?"
"Yes, that is so," assented Lord Antony.
"Then he will have received one such paper today?"
"Oh! I wonder what he will say!" said Suzanne, merrily. "I have heard that the picture of that little red flower is the only thing that frightens him."
"Faith, then," said Sir Andrew, "he will have many more opportunities of studying the shape of that small scarlet flower."
Whether you like Zorro carving a giant "Z" into the wallpaper or the Pink Panther leaving behind a white glove, Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel is the chap we have to thank for the notion of a mystery man's "calling card". As for the chap on the receiving end, the Pimpernel may be a fictional character but Antoine Quentin Fouquier de Tinville was all too real. He was the man whose job it was to give a figleaf of due process to the bloodletting of France's reign of terror. Officially styled public prosecutor, he was unofficially acknowledged as France's "Purveyor to the Guillotine". Fouquier-Tinville prospered under Robespierre, but Robespierre's downfall - although Fouquier-Tinville played a role in his arrest - doomed him also. On May 7th 1795 the Purveyor to the Guillotine was himself purveyed thereto.
If you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we've introduced a special Mark Steyn Club Gift Membership. Aside from audio fiction, the Steyn Club also purveys video poetry, including this weekend's choice for the centenary of the Armistice.