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The Prisoner of Zenda
By Anthony Hope
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
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The Rassendylls—with a Word on the Elphbergs
"I WONDER WHEN IN THE WORLD you're going to do anything, Rudolf?" said my brother's wife.
"My dear Rose," I answered, laying down my egg-spoon, "why in the world should I do anything? My position is a comfortable one. I have an income nearly sufficient for my wants (no one's income is ever quite sufficient, you know), I enjoy an enviable social position: I am brother to Lord Burlesdon, and brother-in-law to that charming lady, his countess. Behold, it is enough!"
"You are nine-and-twenty," she observed, "and you've done nothing but—"
"Knock about? It is true. Our family doesn't need to do things."
This remark of mine rather annoyed Rose, for everybody knows (and therefore there can be no harm in referring to the fact) that, pretty and accomplished as she herself is, her family is hardly of the same standing as the Rassendylls. Besides her attractions, she possessed a large fortune, and my brother Robert was wise enough not to mind about her ancestry. Ancestry is, in fact, a matter concerning which the next observation of Rose's has some truth.
"Good families are generally worse than any others," she said.
Upon this I stroked my hair: I knew quite well what she meant.
"I'm so glad Robert's is black!" she cried.
At this moment Robert (who rises at seven and works before breakfast) came in. He glanced at his wife: her cheek was slightly flushed; he patted it caressingly.
"What's the matter, my dear?" he asked.
"She objects to my doing nothing and having red hair," said I, in an injured tone.
"Oh! of course he can't help his hair," admitted Rose.
"It generally crops out once in a generation," said my brother. "So does the nose. Rudolf has got them both."
"I wish they didn't crop out," said Rose, still flushed.
"I rather like them myself," said I, and, rising, I bowed to the portrait of Countess Amelia.
My brother's wife uttered an exclamation of impatience.
"I wish you'd take that picture away, Robert," said she.
"My dear!" he cried.
"Good heavens!" I added.
"Then it might be forgotten," she continued.
"Hardly—with Rudolf about," said Robert, shaking his head.
"Why should it be forgotten?" I asked.
"Rudolf!" exclaimed my brother's wife, blushing very prettily.
I laughed, and went on with my egg. At least I had shelved the question of what (if anything) I ought to do. And, by way of closing the discussion—and also, I must admit, of exasperating my strict little sister-in-law a trifle more—I observed:
"I rather like being an Elphberg myself."
When I read a story, I skip the explanations; yet the moment I begin to write one, I find that I must have an explanation. For it is manifest that I must explain why my sister-in-law was vexed with my nose and hair, and why I ventured to call myself an Elphberg. For eminent as, I must protest, the Rassendylls have been for many generations, yet participation in their blood of course does not, at first sight, justify the boast of a connection with the grander stock of the Elphbergs or a claim to be one of that Royal House. For what relationship is there between Ruritania and Burlesdon, between the Palace at Strelsau or the Castle of Zenda and Number 305 Park Lane, W.?
Well then—and I must premise that I am going, perforce, to rake up the very scandal which my dear Lady Burlesdon wishes forgotten—in the year 1733, George II sitting then on the throne, peace reigning for the moment, and the King and the Prince of Wales being not yet at loggerheads, there came on a visit to the English Court a certain prince, who was afterwards known to history as Rudolf the Third of Ruritania. The prince was a tall, handsome young fellow, marked (maybe marred, it is not for me to say) by a somewhat unusually long, sharp and straight nose, and a mass of dark-red hair—in fact, the nose and the hair which have stamped the Elphbergs time out of mind. He stayed some months in England, where he was most courteously received; yet, in the end, he left rather under a cloud. For he fought a duel (it was considered highly well bred of him to waive all question of his rank) with a nobleman, well known in the society of the day, not only for his own merits, but as the husband of a very beautiful wife. In that duel Prince Rudolf received a severe wound, and, recovering therefrom, was adroitly smuggled off by the Ruritanian ambassador, who had found him a pretty handful. The nobleman was not wounded in the duel; but the morning being raw and damp on the occasion of the meeting, he contracted a severe chill, and, failing to throw it off, he died some six months after the departure of Prince Rudolf, without having found leisure to adjust his relations with his wife—who, after another two months, bore an heir to the title and estates of the family of Burlesdon. This lady was the Countess Amelia, whose picture my sister-in-law wished to remove from the drawing-room in Park Lane; and her husband was James, Fifth Earl of Burlesdon and twenty-second Baron Rassendyll, both in the peerage of England, and a Knight of the Garter. As for Rudolf, he went back to Ruritania, married a wife, and ascended the throne, whereon his progeny in the direct line have sat from then till this very hour—with one short interval. And, finally, if you walk through the picture galleries at Burlesdon, among the fifty portraits or so of the last century and a half, you will find five or six, including that of the sixth earl, distinguished by long, sharp, straight noses and a quantity of dark-red hair; these five or six have also blue eyes, whereas among the Rassendylls dark eyes are the commoner.
That is the explanation, and I am glad to have finished it: the blemishes on honourable lineage are a delicate subject, and certainly this heredity we hear so much about is the finest scandalmonger in the world; it laughs at discretion, and writes strange entries between the lines of the "Peerages".
It will be observed that my sister-in-law, with a want of logic that must have been peculiar to herself (since we are no longer allowed to lay it to the charge of her sex), treated my complexion almost as an offence for which I was responsible, hastening to assume from that external sign inward qualities of which I protest my entire innocence; and this unjust inference she sought to buttress by pointing to the uselessness of the life I had led. Well, be that as it may, I had picked up a good deal of pleasure and a good deal of knowledge. I had been to a German school and a German university, and spoke German as readily and perfectly as English; I was thoroughly at home in French; I had a smattering of Italian and enough Spanish to swear by. I was, I believe, a strong, though hardly fine swordsman and a good shot. I could ride anything that had a back to sit on; and my head was as cool a one as you could find, for all its flaming cover. If you say that I ought to have spent my time in useful labour, I am out of Court and have nothing to say, save that my parents had no business to leave me two thousand pounds a year and a roving disposition.
"The difference between you and Robert," said my sister-in-law, who often (bless her!) speaks on a platform, and oftener still as if she were on one, "is that he recognizes the duties of his position, and you see the opportunities of yours."
"To a man of spirit, my dear Rose," I answered, "opportunities are duties."
"Nonsense!" said she, tossing her head; and after a moment she went on: "Now, here's Sir Jacob Borrodaile offering you exactly what you might be equal to."
"A thousand thanks!" I murmured.
"He's to have an embassy in six months, and Robert says he is sure that he'll take you as an attaché. Do take it, Rudolf—to please me."
Now, when my sister-in-law puts the matter in that way, wrinkling her pretty brows, twisting her little hands, and growing wistful in the eyes, all on account of an idle scamp like myself, for whom she has no natural responsibility, I am visited with compunction. Moreover, I thought it possible that I could pass the time in the position suggested with some tolerable amusement. Therefore I said:
"My dear sister, if in six months' time no unforeseen obstacle has arisen, and Sir Jacob invites me, hang me if I don't go with Sir Jacob!"
"Oh, Rudolf, how good of you! I am glad!"
"Where's he going to?"
"He doesn't know yet; but it's sure to be a good embassy."
"Madame," said I, "for your sake I'll go, if it's no more than a beggarly legation. When I do a thing, I don't do it by halves."
My promise, then, was given; but six months are six months, and seem an eternity, and, inasmuch as they stretched between me and my prospective industry (I suppose attaches are industrious; but I know not, for I never became attaché to Sir Jacob or anybody else), I cast about for some desirable mode of spending them. And it occurred to me suddenly that I would visit Ruritania. It may seem strange that I had never visited that country yet; but my father (in spite of a sneaking fondness for the Elphbergs, which led him to give me, his second son, the famous Elphberg name of Rudolf) had always been averse from my going, and, since his death, my brother, prompted by Rose, had accepted the family tradition which taught that a wide berth was to be given to that country. But the moment Ruritania had come into my head I was eaten up with a curiosity to see it. After all, red hair and long noses are not confined to the House of Elphberg, and the old story seemed a preposterously insufficient reason for debarring myself from acquaintance with a highly interesting and important kingdom, one which had played no small part in European history, and might do the like again under the sway of a young and vigorous ruler, such as the new King was rumoured to be. My determination was clinched by reading in The Times that Rudolf the Fifth was to be crowned at Strelsau in the course of the next three weeks, and that great magnificence was to mark the occasion. At once I made up my mind to be present, and began my preparations. But, inasmuch as it has never been my practice to furnish my relatives with an itinerary of my journeys and in this case I anticipated opposition to my wishes, I gave out that I was going for a ramble in the Tyrol—an old haunt of mine—and propitiated Rose's wrath by declaring that I intended to study the political and social problems of the interesting community which dwells in that neighbourhood.
"Perhaps," I hinted darkly, "there may be an outcome of the expedition."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well," said I carelessly, "there seems a gap that might be filled by an exhaustive work on—"
"Oh! will you write a book?" she cried, clapping her hands. "That would be splendid, wouldn't it, Robert?"
"It's the best of introductions to political life nowadays," observed my brother, who has, by the way, introduced himself in this manner several times over. Burlesdon on Ancient Theories and Modern Facts and The Ultimate Outcome, by a Political Student, are both works of recognized eminence.
"I believe you are right, Bob, my boy," said I.
"Now promise you'll do it," said Rose earnestly.
"No, I won't promise; but if I find enough material, I will."
"That's fair enough," said Robert.
"Oh, material doesn't matter!" she said, pouting.
But this time she could get no more than a qualified promise out of me. To tell the truth, I would have wagered a handsome sum that the story of my expedition that summer would stain no paper and spoil not a single pen. And that shows how little we know what the future holds; for here I am, fulfilling my qualified promise, and writing, as I never thought to write, a book—though it will hardly serve as an introduction to political life, and has not a jot to do with the Tyrol.
Neither would it, I fear, please Lady Burlesdon, if I were to submit it to her critical eye—a step which I have no intention of taking.CHAPTER 2
Concerning the Colour of Men's Hair
IT WAS A MAXIM of my Uncle William's that no man should pass through Paris without spending four-and-twenty hours there. My uncle spoke out of a ripe experience of the world, and I honoured his advice by putting up for a day and a night at "The Continental" on my way to—the Tyrol. I called on George Featherly at the Embassy, and we had a bit of dinner together at Durand's, and afterwards dropped in to the Opera; and after that we had a little supper, and after that we called on Bertram Bertrand, a versifier of some repute and Paris correspondent to The Critic. He had a very comfortable suite of rooms, and we found some pleasant fellows smoking and talking. It struck me, however, that Bertram himself was absent and in low spirits, and when everybody except ourselves had gone, I rallied him on his moping preoccupation. He fenced with me for a while, but at last, flinging himself on a sofa, he exclaimed:
"Very well; have it your own way. I am in love—infernally in love!"
"Oh, you'll write the better poetry," said I, by way of consolation.
He ruffled his hair with his hand and smoked furiously. George Featherly, standing with his back to the mantelpiece, smiled unkindly.
"If it's the old affair," said he, "you may as well throw it up, Bert. She's leaving Paris tomorrow."
"I know that," snapped Bertram.
"Not that it would make any difference if she stayed," pursued the relentless George. "She flies higher than the paper trade, my boy!"
"Hang her!" said Bertram.
"It would make it more interesting for me," I ventured to observe, "if I knew who you were talking about."
"Antoinette Mauban," said George.
"De Mauban," growled Bertram.
"Oho!" said I, passing by the question of the 'de'. "You don't mean to say, Bert—?"
"Can't you let me alone?"
"Where's she going to?" I asked, for the lady was something of a celebrity.
George jingled his money, smiled cruelly at poor Bertram, and answered pleasantly:
"Nobody knows. By the way, Bert, I met a great man at her house the other night—at least, about a month ago. Did you ever meet him—the Duke of Strelsau?"
"Yes, I did," growled Bertram.
"An extremely accomplished man, I thought him."
It was not hard to see that George's references to the duke were intended to aggravate poor Bertram's sufferings, so that I drew the inference that the duke had distinguished Madame de Mauban by his attentions. She was a widow, rich, handsome, and, according to repute, ambitious. It was quite possible that she, as George put it, was flying as high as a personage who was everything he could be, short of enjoying strictly royal rank: for the duke was the son of the late King of Ruritania by a second and morganatic marriage, and half-brother to the new king. He had been his father's favourite, and it had occasioned some unfavourable comment when he had been created a duke, with a title derived from no less a city than the capital itself. His mother had been of good, but not exalted, birth.
"He's not in Paris now, is he?" I asked.
"Oh no! He's gone back to be present at the King's coronation; a ceremony which, I should say, he'll not enjoy much. But, Bert, old man, don't despair! He won't marry the fair Antoinette—at least, not unless another plan comes to nothing. Still perhaps she—" He paused and added, with a laugh: "Royal attentions are hard to resist—you know that, don't you, Rudolf?"
"Confound you!" said I; and rising, I left the hapless Bertram in George's hands and went home to bed.
The next day George Featherly went with me to the station, where I took a ticket for Dresden.
"Going to see the pictures?" asked George, with a grin.
George is an inveterate gossip, and had I told him that I was off to Ruritania, the news would have been in London in three days and in Park Lane in a week. I was, therefore, about to return an evasive answer, when he saved my conscience by leaving me suddenly and darting across the platform. Following him with my eyes, I saw him lift his hat and accost a graceful, fashionably dressed woman who had just appeared from the booking-office. She was, perhaps, a year or two over thirty, tall, dark, and of rather full figure. As George talked, I saw her glance at me, and my vanity was hurt by the thought that, muffled in a fur coat and a neck-wrapper (for it was a chilly April day) and wearing a soft travelling hat pulled down to my ears, I must be looking very far from my best. A moment later, George rejoined me.
Excerpted from The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. Copyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
Note on the Text
A Chronology of Anthony Hope
The Prisoner of Zenda
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Twenty-nine-year-old Rudolf Rassendyll lives in England. His older brother Bob is Lord Burlesdon, and his sister-in-law thinks that Rudolf is a lazy, good-for-nothing ne’er-do-well. It just so happens that Rudolf is also a dead-ringer for his cousin, Rudolf Elphberg, who has just succeeded to the throne of Ruritania. When Rassendyll goes to Ruritania for the coronation, he becomes involved in a matter of deep intrigue. The new king’s brother, the Black Duke Michael, governor of Seslau, kidnaps the king and imprisons him in the castle of Zenda with the hope of becoming king instead. Rassendyl is convinced by two Ruritanian noblemen, Colonel Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim, to pass for the king during the coronation while they formulate plans to rescue their real ruler. Will the scheme succeed or fail? Will Rassendyll be able to deceive the Princess Flavia, who is betrothed to the king? What role do Michael’s friends Madame Antoinette du Mauban and Count Rupert Hentzau play? And what happens when Rudolf falls in love with the Princess? The Prisoner of Zenda certainly deserves being described as a classic tale of swashbuckling adventure. Of course, the whole plot revolves around an illegitimate affair of a previous Ruritanian king with a married English woman, which is referred to as a scandalous blemish. In addition to some common euphemisms, the “d” and “h” words are occasionally found, the terms God and Lord are sometimes used as interjections, and someone is called a “bas*ard.” There are several instances of smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and dancing. And a number of people are killed, though no descriptions are gratuitous. Parents may want to be aware of these things ahead of time if the book is intended for young people. On the other hand, to be fair, this book was obviously not meant for small children. It is most suitable for older teens and adults, most of whom should find it well-written and exciting to read. Our edition came as part of the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum from Clear Water Press, but the most popular version available today is probably from Penguin. The story has everything that readers of swashbucklers usually enjoy—a foreign country, a nefarious villain, a king, a romance with a beautiful princess, dashing military officers with flashing sabers and charging steeds, a castle, a royal kidnapping, a daring rescue attempt, cliffhanging chapters, and lots of heroics. The villainous henchman Rupert of Hentzau gave his name to the sequel published in 1898, which is included in some combined editions of the novel. The books were extremely popular and inspired a new genre of novels known as the “Ruritanian romance,” including the Graustark novels by George Barr McCutcheon. The novel has been adapted many times, mainly for film, but also stage, musical, operetta, radio, and television. Probably the best-known version is the 1937 Hollywood movie.
An enjoyable romp with lots of twists and turns. Light reading.
This book is better than the film, which is usually the case. Fast read for a stormy day.
'The Prisoner of Zenda' is a page-turning adventure story, driven by its colourful characters. I came to it after seeing the 1937 film and found the book every page as exciting as the film. It is a short novel, made shorter by the compelling style of Antony Hope. I also enjoyed the way it discussed the idea of dopplegangers, although was slightly dissapointed that it did not offer more food for thought on this aspect. I was hoping for a great adventure story combined with a look at literary doubles, in the vein of 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'; in the end it is just a great adventure story and an interesting glance into a late 19th century English writer's view of the world.
The original Ruritanian romance - adventure, love, loyalty, drama, what more could you want! Rudolph Rassendyll takes a holiday to Ruritania and discovers his likeness to the soon to be crowned monarch (result of a family scandal several generations previously) leads him into trouble, impersonation and forbidden romance! Great fun, I see the genesis of John Buchan's Dixon McCunn...
The most famous of these "Graustarkian novels". A fun read.
This story is adventure. So I was very excited.Rudolf fighted enemy and saved Prince.He is cool and brave man.I want him to live happy life.
Rudolf Rassendyll visit Ruritania to see the king Rudolf Elphbergh.one day they met accidently at the certain.town and surprisingly, he resembled the king... This is an adventure story.
I¿ve wanted to read this book for 15 years or more. The story is fine, though not novel, and the temptation to remain the king and marry Princess Flavia marks it as modern, but finishing it was more of a duty than a pleasure. It¿s interesting as an artifact of late Victorian English attitudes- the gadabout younger son of a titled family does his duty to king and country (though not his own) and gets to kill a few bad guys and kiss a pretty girl. The first two pages smack of Oscar Wilde. The most finely sketched character is the notorious Rupert of Hentzau. Of course, anyone who can rise above the name Rupert most have something going for him. I still can¿t figure out why this has been in print for over 100 years. Maybe it was gathered to the bosom of a nation on Sherlock Holmes¿ coat tails and it¿s a time/place thing? Thrilling adventure or a penny dreadful for the ruling class? It¿s an enjoyable, quick read? I dunno. Maybe it was the first airplane book, a mind movie. (I also can¿t figure out why anyone would want to read anything more challenging than Christie when they fly. I once sat across the aisle from a very pretty woman who was reading The Analytics; I was reading the Princess Bride. She stopped reading and I didn¿t.)
This is simple story. This story is adventure so I was excited.I like this story.
Rudolf Rassendyll went to the castle of Zenda rescue the king.This was adventure story.I like this story because it was exciting.
Read it twice, over 15 years. It delivered both times. If you read and like any of the following: the Prince and the Pauper, the Three Musketeers, the Man with the Iron Mask, this book is for you.
Exciting story...highly recommend!
This is a very good book! It's very exciting and has a very original story line! I think everyone should read this book!