The Prisoner of Zenda

Anthony Hope
The Prisoner of Zenda, by
Anthony Hope

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Title: The Prisoner of Zenda
Author: Anthony Hope
Release Date: January 10, 2006 [EBook #95]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Judith Boss and David Widger

by Anthony Hope

1 The Rassendylls--With a Word on the Elphbergs 2 Concerning the
Colour of Men's Hair 3 A Merry Evening with a Distant Relative 4 The
King Keeps his Appointment 5 The Adventures of an Understudy 6
The Secret of a Cellar 7 His Majesty Sleeps in Strelsau 8 A Fair Cousin
and a Dark Brother 9 A New Use for a Tea-Table 10 A Great Chance
for a Villain 11 Hunting a Very Big Boar 12 I Receive a Visitor and
Bait a Hook 13 An Improvement on Jacob's Ladder 14 A Night Outside
the Castle 15 I Talk with a Tempter 16 A Desperate Plan 17 Young
Rupert's Midnight Diversions 18 The Forcing of the Trap 19 Face to
Face in the Forest 20 The Prisoner and the King 21 If Love Were All!
22 Present, Past--and Future?
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
"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
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