فصل 01

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فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

Rassendylls and Elphbergs

‘When are you going to do something, Rudolf?’ my sister-in-law asked me one day.

‘What do you mean, Rose?’

‘When are you going to find some work?’

‘Work!’ I replied.

‘I don’t need to work. I’m a Rassendyll. My family is one of the best in England. I’m rich - I don’t need to do anything.’

‘Your brother works,’ Rose reminded me crossly. ‘He works very hard.’

Just at that moment my brother Robert came into the room. He looked at his wife. He could see that she was angry about something.

‘What’s wrong, dear?’ he asked.

‘Rose is angry because I don’t do anything,’ I explained. ‘I told her I don’t need to work. We Rassendylls don’t need to do anything.’

I looked at my sister-in-law again. She was looking at my red hair.

‘Perhaps she’s also angry because I’ve got red hair,’ I joked.

Rose blushed.

‘Don’t be silly!’ she told me. ‘That’s not your fault. But all the same,’ she went on, ‘your red hair does remind people of that story about the Rassendylls. It’s a pity.’

Robert smiled at me.

‘Of course it’s not his fault,’ he said cheerfully. ‘He’s got the nose as well,’ he added thoughtfully.

‘I like my nose, and J like my hair,’ I told them.

I turned to look at the picture of Countess Amelia on the wall.

Rose saw where I was looking. She became angry again.

‘That picture!’ she complained to Robert. ‘People will never forget the story if you don’t take that picture down.’

‘People will never forget the story while Rudolf’s here,’ Robert said. ‘Look at his red hair - and that nose!’

Then I decided to annoy Rose a little.

‘Actually,’ I said, ‘I like being an Elphberg.’

‘Rudolf!’ Rose cried. ‘How can you say that?’

I’m sure you want to know why Rose was so angry about my red hair and my nose. I’ll tell you the whole story.

We Rassendylls are a very old family. Old families have scandals, and we have a very interesting one. It all happened a long time ago - in 1733.

The young prince of Ruritania came to England that year. Prince Rudolf Elphberg was a tall man, and he had red hair and a long nose. He was a dashing figure, and was popular everywhere he went. He was a good linguist, he could ride well, and he was an excellent marksman and swordsman.

The Prince stayed in England for a long time, and then something strange happened. One day he fought a duel with an Englishman. The Englishman’s name was James Rassendyll. Rassendyll wounded the Prince. The Prince was not badly hurt, but he returned to Ruritania after the duel.

A few months later James Rassendyll died. His wife, the Countess Amelia, had a son who was born after Rassendyll’s death. The baby looked exactly like Prince Elphberg. He had red hair and a long nose. Now everybody understood why Rassendyll and the Prince had fought a duel!

Ever since that time, there have always been some Rassendylls who have red hair and long noses. We call them ‘Elphberg’ Rassendylls. I’m an ‘Elphberg’ Rassendyll myself, you see.

Rose did not like the old story of Countess Amelia and the Prince of Ruritania. It embarrassed her. Almost as much as my Elphberg features embarrassed her. She thought that my features showed the weakness of character and the uselessness of my life. However, I thought that I had learnt quite a lot. I spoke fluent German, my French was very good, and my Italian was acceptable. I was good enough with a pistol, but not excellent. I could also ride any horse you gave me.

I started to think about Ruritania over the next few days. I thought about Countess Amelia and the Prince. It was a romantic story. I knew that the old King was dead. His son, another Prince Rudolf, was going to be the next King. I decided to visit Ruritania. I wanted to see the coronation of the young Prince Rudolf.

I did not tell my brother Robert of my plan to visit Ruritania. I told him I was going to the Tyrol for a short holiday.

I was very excited when I left England. I did not know that I was going on a great adventure - the greatest adventure of my life!

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