Welcome to the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time, and Part Three of my serialization of The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. First a bit of Trivial Pursuit - Xtreme Hardcore Edition. Last night's episode featured the following aside:
A thrust which smarted more, if it bit less deeply, came from my cousin Nesta
- which prompted Robert, an Ottawa member of The Mark Steyn Club, to write:
I have to ask: is 'Cousin Nesta' Nesta Webster?
Now there's a name I haven't heard in a few years. Mrs Webster was a once famous conspiracist who detected the hand of the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Jews and/or the Jesuits behind almost everything. But I don't think Childers had her in mind as Carruthers' cousin, Robert. It's never been a common name, but it extends beyond Nesta Webster, who was born Nesta Bevan, into the family that founded Barclays Bank. The only Nesta I've ever known personally died three months ago, and, because she was Welsh, I've always regarded it as a Welsh name. But there was a Canadian ballerina called Nesta Toumine, so it evidently bust the confines of the principality. I think Childers chose it because it sounds a little provincial and sheltered.
On the other hand, in the British West Indies Nesta is a boy's name - as in the cricketer Nesta Piper and the sprinter Nesta Carter. As far as I can tell, its popularity in the Caribbean derives entirely from the fact that Bob Marley was christened Nesta Robert Marley, the first third of which his dad just made up. But you never know: maybe Carruthers of the Foreign Office is a cousin of Bob Marley, who of course was also a famous seadog (Bob Marley and the whalers).
In tonight's episode, Carruthers wakes up for the first time on the Dulcibella and finds it not quite the yacht he was expecting:
As I dressed into flannels and blazer, I looked round the deck, and with an unskilled and doubtful eye took in all that the darkness had hitherto hidden. She seemed very small (in point of fact she was seven tons), something over thirty feet in length and nine in beam, a size very suitable to week-ends in the Solent, for such as liked that sort of thing; but that she should have come from Dover to the Baltic suggested a world of physical endeavour of which I had never dreamed. I passed to the ├Žsthetic side. Smartness and beauty were essential to yachts, in my mind, but with the best resolves to be pleased I found little encouragement here. The hull seemed too low, and the mainmast too high; the cabin roof looked clumsy, and the skylights saddened the eye with dull iron and plebeian graining. What brass there was, on the tiller-head and elsewhere, was tarnished with sickly green. The decks had none of that creamy purity which Cowes expects, but were rough and grey, and showed tarry exhalations round the seams and rusty stains near the bows.
If you want "creamy purity", Cowes on the Isle of Wight is the place to be. Home of the Royal Yacht Squadron since 1815, Cowes hosts the world's oldest regatta every August. The Dulcibella is a long way from Cowes in every respect. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Three of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Parts One and Two can be found here.
As can be seen at top right, Erskine Childers cruised the Baltic himself, in his own yacht, a wedding gift from his father-in-law. It wasn't exactly a Riddle of the Sands-level plot, but in 1914 he used the yacht to run guns from Germany to Irish republicans, landing at Howth just north of Dublin. You can see the Asgard, beautifully restored, at the Collins Barracks.
If you've only joined the Steyn Club in recent days and missed our earlier serials (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, plus Kipling, Kafka, Dickens, Gogol, Jack London, John Buchan, Scott Fitzgerald and more), you can find them all on our new easy-to-access Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page.
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