It's SteynOnline's sixteenth birthday, and we're celebrating all weekend with sixteen per cent off everything at the Steyn Store, including my books and CDs and our Steynamite Christmas specials and even digital downloads like the all-time greatest Christmas disco single. Fill your shopping basket, and we'll apply the sixteen per cent discount at checkout. We also have fifteen per cent off tickets for the first ever Dennis Miller/Mark Steyn tour, if you enter the promo code HOLIDAYS - but please note that you have to buy before midnight on Monday.
So we're closing in on the last twenty-four hours of this sixteenth-anniversary sale. And, while we're at it, if you've a chum who's a fan of classic fiction, we've added a Christmas bonus to our Mark Steyn Club gift membership. More details on that below.
I thank all of you who've swung by to keep me company in the years since Thanksgiving 2002. We're very proud that this website now offers more free content - in print, audio and video - than at any time in our history. But we also provide some premium extras especially for our Mark Steyn Club members, such as the opportunity to shoot me a question on Tuesday's "Clubland Q&A", and these nightly adaptations of classic fiction. So here we go with the Sunday installment of our current Tale for Our Time, a thrilling romance by Baroness Orczy set against the bloody overthrow of the old order. Jennifer, a First-Day Founding Member from Idaho, points out a subtle difference between the Scarlet Pimpernel and the disguised adventurers who followed:
I don't know about the Shadow, but Percy Blakeney differs from Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne in that he is married to his significant other. It makes me wonder, and maybe I missed it, when he became the Scarlet Pimpernel? I would love to know the origin story.
I love how the revelation to the reader comes through Marguerite's point of view. Imagine discovering a totally different side to someone you thought you knew-that someone you judged as stupid and inane was actually cunning, brave and noble!
This is such an appealing story on many levels, and I'm enjoying your rendition immensely.
Thank you, Jennifer. In tonight's episode of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Marguerite, anxious to be reunited with a husband she now sees in a new light, has landed in Calais and is hot on his trail:
Without exchanging more than a few words, Sir Andrew was leading her right across the town, to the other side from that where they had landed, and the way towards Cap Gris Nez. The streets were narrow, tortuous, and mostly evil-smelling, with a mixture of stale fish and damp cellar odours. There had been heavy rain here during the storm last night, and sometimes Marguerite sank ankle-deep in the mud, for the roads were not lighted save by the occasional glimmer from a lamp inside a house.
But she did not heed any of these petty discomforts: "We may meet Blakeney at the 'Chat Gris,'" Sir Andrew had said, when they landed, and she was walking as if on a carpet of rose-leaves, for she was going to meet him almost at once.
At last they reached their destination. Sir Andrew evidently knew the road, for he had walked unerringly in the dark, and had not asked his way from anyone. It was too dark then for Marguerite to notice the outside aspect of this house. The "Chat Gris," as Sir Andrew had called it, was evidently a small wayside inn on the outskirts of Calais, and on the way to Gris Nez. It lay some little distance from the coast, for the sound of the sea seemed to come from afar.
Sir Andrew knocked at the door with the knob of his cane, and from within Marguerite heard a sort of grunt and the muttering of a number of oaths. Sir Andrew knocked again, this time more peremptorily: more oaths were heard, and then shuffling steps seemed to draw near the door. Presently this was thrown open, and Marguerite found herself on the threshold of the most dilapidated, most squalid room she had ever seen in all her life.
The contrast between Mr Jellyband's convivial hearth in The Fisherman's Rest in Dover and the filth and squalor of Le Chat Gris in Calais is telling: Baroness Orczy is suggesting that radical egalitarianism leads to the sewers, whereas a more hierarchical society is paradoxically better even for those at the lower end, such as the drinking classes. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Seventeen of The Scarlet Pimpernel simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
Le Cap Gris Nez, by the way, is a real place. The "Grey Nose" cape (in English) is that little proboscis-like extrusion you can see sticking out into the Channel on the map just south of Calais, and from which the shores of England are visible. In September 1944 it was liberated from the Germans by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
Membership in The Mark Steyn Club is not for everyone, but, if you've a pal who enjoys classic fiction, we'd love to welcome him or her to our ranks via the Christmas present that lasts all year: A gift membership in the Steyn Club. This holiday season comes with a special personalized Christmas card from yours truly and a handsomely-engraved gift-boxed USB stick with a trio of our most popular Tales for Our Time for your loved one to listen to in the car or perambulating through the wilderness or almost anywhere else. (The three tales are The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps.) For more details on our special Christmas Gift Membership, see here. Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Eighteen of The Scarlet Pimpernel.