Subject:ENGLISH FICTION Scarica il testo


Francis Hodgson Burnett


I The New Lodgers at No. 7 Philibert Place
II A Young Citizen of the World
III The Legend of the Lost Prince
IV The Rat
V ``Silence Is Still the Order''
VI The Drill and the Secret Party
VII ``The Lamp Is Lighted!VIII An Exciting Game
IX ``It Is Not a Game''
X The Rat-and Samavia
XI Come with Me
XII Only Two Boys
XIII Loristan Attends a Drill of the Squad
XIV Marco Does Not Answer
XV A Sound in a Dream
XVI The Rat to the Rescue
XVII ``It Is a Very Bad Sign''
XVIII ``Cities and Faces''
XIX ``That Is One!XX Marco Goes to the Opera
XXI ``Help!XXII A Night Vigil
XXIII The Silver Horn
XXIV ``How Shall We Find Him?
XXV A Voice in the Night
XXVI Across the Frontier
XXVII ``It is the Lost Prince! It Is Ivor!XXVIII ``Extra! Extra! Extra!XXIX 'Twixt Night and Morning
XXX The Game Is at an End
XXXI ``The Son of Stefan Loristan''




There are many dreary and dingy rows of ugly houses in certain
parts of London, but there certainly could not be any row more
ugly or dingier than Philibert Place. There were stories that it
had once been more attractive, but that had been so long ago that
no one remembered the time. It stood back in its gloomy, narrow
strips of uncared-for, smoky gardens, whose broken iron railings
were supposed to protect it from the surging traffic of a road
which was always roaring with the rattle of busses, cabs, drays,
and vans, and the passing of people who were shabbily dressed and
looked as if they were either going to hard work or coming from
it, or hurrying to see if they could find some of it to do to
keep themselves from going hungry. The brick fronts of the
houses were blackened with smoke, their windows were nearly all
dirty and hung with dingy curtains, or had no curtains at all;
the strips of ground, which had once been intended to grow
flowers in, had been trodden down into bare earth in which even
weeds had forgotten to grow. One of them was used as a
stone-cutter's yard, and cheap monuments, crosses, and slates
were set out for sale, bearing inscriptions beginning with
``Sacred to the Memory of.Another had piles of old lumber in
it, another exhibited second-hand furniture, chairs with unsteady
legs, sofas with horsehair stuffing bulging out of holes in their
covering, mirrors with blotches or cracks in them. The insides
of the houses were as gloomy as the outside. They were all
exactly alike. In each a dark entrance passage led to narrow
stairs going up to bedrooms, and to narrow steps going down to a
basement kitchen. The back bedroom looked out on small, sooty,
flagged yards, where thin cats quarreled, or sat on the coping of
the brick walls hoping that sometime they might feel the sun; the
front rooms looked over the noisy road, and through their windows
came the roar and rattle of it. It was shabby and cheerless on
the brightest days, and on foggy or rainy ones it was the most
forlorn place in London.

At least that was what one boy thought as he stood near the iron
railings watching the passers-by on the morning on which this
story begins, which was also the morning after he had been
brought by his father to live as a lodger in the back
sitting-room of the house No. 7.

He was a boy about twelve years old, his name was Marco Loristan,
and he was the kind of boy people look at a second time when they
have looked at him once. In the first place, he was a very big
boy--tall for his years, and with a particularly strong frame.
His shoulders were broad and his arms and legs were long and
powerful. He was quite used to hearing people say, as they
glanced at him, ``What a fine, big lad!And then they always
looked again at his face. It was not an English face or an
American one, and was very dark in coloring. His features were
strong, his black hair grew on his head like a mat, his eyes were
large and deep set, and looked out between thick, straight, black
lashes. He was as un- English a boy as one could imagine, and an
observing person would have been struck at once by a sort of
SILENT look expressed by his whole face, a look which suggested
that he was not a boy who talked much.

This look was specially noticeable this morning as he stood
before the iron railings. The things he was thinking of were of
a kind likely to bring to the face of a twelve-year-old boy an
unboyish expression.

He was thinking of the long, hurried journey he and his father
and their old soldier servant, Lazarus, had made during the last
few days--the journey from Russia. Cramped in a close
third-class railway carriage, they had dashed across the
Continent as if something important or terrible were driving
them, and here they were, settled in London as if they were going
to live forever at No. 7 Philibert Place. He knew, however, that
though they might stay a year, it was just as probable that, in
the middle of some night, his father or Lazarus might waken him
from his sleep and say, ``Get up-- dress yourself quickly. We
must go at once.A few days later, he might be in St.
Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna, or Budapest, huddled away in some
poor little house as shabby and comfortless as No. 7 Philibert

He passed his hand over his forehead as he thought of it and
watched the busses. His strange life and his close association
with his father had made him much older than his years, but he
was only a boy, after all, and the mystery of things sometimes
weighed heavily upon him, and set him to deep wondering.

In not one of the many countries he knew had he ever met a boy
whose life was in the least like his own. Other boys had homes
in which they spent year after year; they went to school
regularly, and played with other boys, and talked openly of the
things which happened to them, and the journeys they made. When
he remained in a place long enough to make a few boy-friends, he
knew he must never forget that his whole existence was a sort of
secret whose safety depended upon his own silence and discretion.

This was because of the promises he had made to his father, and
they had been the first thing he remembered. Not that he had
ever regretted anything connected with his father. He threw his
black head up as he thought of that. None of the other boys had
such a father, not one of them. His father was his idol and his
chief. He had scarcely ever seen him when his clothes had not
been poor and shabby, but he had also never seen him when,
despite his worn coat and frayed linen, he had not stood out
among all others as more distinguished than the most noticeable
of them. When he walked down a street, people turned to look at
him even oftener than they turned to look at Marco, and the boy
felt as if it was not merely because he was a big man with a
handsome, dark face, but because he looked, somehow, as if he had
been born to command armies, and as if no one would think of
disobeying him. Yet Marco had never seen him command any one,
and they had always been poor, and shabbily dressed, and often
enough ill-fed. But whether they were in one country or another,
and whatsoever dark place they seemed to be hiding in, the few
people they saw treated him with a sort of deference, and nearly
always stood when they were in his presence, unless he bade them
sit down.

``It is because they know he is a patriot, and patriots are
respected,the boy had told himself.

He himself wished to be a patriot, though he had never seen his
own country of Samavia. He knew it well, however. His father
had talked to him about it ever since that day when he had made
the promises. He had taught him to know it by helping him to
study curious detailed maps of it--maps of its cities, maps of
its mountains, maps of its roads. He had told him stories of the
wrongs done its people, of their sufferings and struggles for
liberty, and, above all, of their unconquerable courage. When
they ...