Welcome to the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time, and Part Three of my Halloween serialization of The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood. We're always happy to hear from Mark Steyn Club members who enjoy our thrilling radio serials, and this spooky yarn from Canada's northern wilderness seems to be proving popular. My footnote on the .303 cartridge prompted Keith, a Tennessee member of the Club, to wax rhapsodic:
Whenever I hear the numbers 303 I always think of Edward Woodward in the movie Breaker Morant. 'I'll tell you what rule we applied, sir. We applied rule three oh three. We caught them and we shot them under rule three oh three!'
Always happy to find a great Edward Woodward line in the comments, Keith. Rule 303 still applies for Canadian Rangers, the Bangladeshi police and, alas, a few Taliban jihadists who swing into action in the Hindu Kush with an ancient Lee-Enfield gram'pa found up in the hills. I still have mine, I'm pleased to say, although unlike the allahu-akbar lads it's many years since I've wielded it. Simpson, our young protagonist, is of course sporting something far swankier than a Lee-Enfield. Dave, a First Week Founding Member from Saskatchewan, writes:
Regarding young Simpson's rifle, although chambered for the .303 British cartridge, the rifle itself was not a Lee-Enfield but a double barrel - the text refers to "its pair of faultless, gleaming barrels". In the pre-WWI era British sportsmen considered only double or single-shot rifles as acceptable for a British gentleman. What they disparagingly called "magazine rifles" such as the Mauser and Lee-Enfield bolt-actions were considered weapons only suitable for the military, poachers, or the bloody colonials.
To some extent the attitude persists to this day. A few years ago I got a rare and highly prized invitation to shoot red grouse on opening day (the 'Glorious Twelfth' of August) on an estate southeast of Inverness. Anyone showing up at one of these shoots with a repeating shotgun would be regarded with horror. Double barrels only is the inflexible rule, and side by side doubles at that - some estates may allow over-unders but I never saw one. Nor will you be allowed in the field unless properly dressed, meaning a sports jacket and tie. The laird of the estate kindly loaned me one of his matched set of Purdeys, rather decent of him I thought as a pair of new Purdeys will run around Â£100,000 and a 3-5 year wait, assuming they even deign to take an order from someone of non-royal blood.
Of course as a colonial I share Mark's high regard for the Lee-Enfield!
Purdeys on the Glorious Twelfth. Gun and cartridge makers by appointment to HM The Queen - although I do believe they actually invented those dreadfully vulgar over-unders, Dave. Good to know that Steyn Club members are living the Downton Abbey life even in these straitened times.
Bonus nano-trivia: on a radio show we were both on a zillion years ago, Joanna Lumley mentioned that she named her character Purdey in "The New Avengers" after the famous gunmaker, with whose fine products her family was quite familiar. Like The Wendigo, several episodes of "The New Avengers" were set in Ontario.
In tonight's episode, Simpson, with or without his Purdey to hand, wakes in his tent to realize that something has happened in the night ...but he is not quite sure what:
As, sometimes, in a nightmare events crowd upon each other's heels with a conviction of dreadfulest reality, yet some inconsistent detail accuses the whole display of incompleteness and disguise, so the events that now followed, though they actually happened, persuaded the mind somehow that the detail which could explain them had been overlooked in the confusion, and that therefore they were but partly true, the rest delusion. At the back of the sleeper's mind something remains awake, ready to let slip the judgment. "All this is not quite real; when you wake up you'll understand."
And thus, in a way, it was with Simpson... So far as he can recall, it was a violent movement, running downwards through the tent towards the door, that first woke him and made him aware that his companion was sitting bolt upright beside himâ€”quivering. Hours must have passed, for it was the pale gleam of the dawn that revealed his outline against the canvas. This time the man was not crying; he was quaking like a leaf; the trembling he felt plainly through the blankets down the entire length of his own body. DÃ©fago had huddled down against him for protection, shrinking away from something that apparently concealed itself near the door flaps of the little tent...
And nextâ€”almost simultaneous with his waking, it seemedâ€”the profound stillness of the dawn outside was shattered by a most uncommon sound. It came without warning, or audible approach; and it was unspeakably dreadful.
If you have friends who might appreciate Tales for Our Time, we have a special Steyn Club Gift Membership that lets them in on that and all the other fun in The Mark Steyn Club - including November's special members-only events.
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, Louisa May Alcott, 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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