Prince Otto a Romance Page 01
PRINCE OTTO - A ROMANCE
TO NELLY VAN DE GRIFT
(MRS. ADULFO SANCHEZ, OF MONTEREY)
AT last, after so many years, I have the pleasure of re-introducing you to 'Prince Otto,' whom you will remember a very little fellow, no bigger in fact than a few sheets of memoranda written for me by your kind hand. The sight of his name will carry you back to an old wooden house embowered in creepers; a house that was far gone in the respectable stages of antiquity and seemed indissoluble from the green garden in which it stood, and that yet was a sea-traveller in its younger days, and had come round the Horn piecemeal in the belly of a ship, and might have heard the seamen stamping and shouting and the note of the boatswain's whistle. It will recall to you the nondescript inhabitants now so widely scattered:- the two horses, the dog, and the four cats, some of them still looking in your face as you read these lines; - the poor lady, so unfortunately married to an author; - the China boy, by this time, perhaps, baiting his line by the banks of a river in the Flowery Land; - and in particular the Scot who was then sick apparently unto death, and whom you did so much to cheer and keep in good behaviour.
You may remember that he was full of ambitions and designs: so soon as he had his health again completely, you may remember the fortune he was to earn, the journeys he was to go upon, the delights he was to enjoy and confer, and (among other matters) the masterpiece he was to make of 'Prince Otto'!
Well, we will not give in that we are finally beaten. We read together in those days the story of Braddock, and how, as he was carried dying from the scene of his defeat, he promised himself to do better another time: a story that will always touch a brave heart, and a dying speech worthy of a more fortunate commander. I try to be of Braddock's mind. I still mean to get my health again; I still purpose, by hook or crook, this book or the next, to launch a masterpiece; and I still intend - somehow, some time or other - to see your face and to hold your hand.
Meanwhile, this little paper traveller goes forth instead, crosses the great seas and the long plains and the dark mountains, and comes at last to your door in Monterey, charged with tender greetings. Pray you, take him in. He comes from a house where (even as in your own) there are gathered together some of the waifs of our company at Oakland: a house - for all its outlandish Gaelic name and distant station - where you are well-beloved.
R. L. S. Skerryvore, Bournemouth.
BOOK I - PRINCE ERRANT
CHAPTER I - IN WHICH THE PRINCE DEPARTS ON AN ADVENTURE
You shall seek in vain upon the map of Europe for the bygone state of Grunewald. An independent principality, an infinitesimal member of the German Empire, she played, for several centuries, her part in the discord of Europe; and, at last, in the ripeness of time and at the spiriting of several bald diplomatists, vanished like a morning ghost. Less fortunate than Poland, she left not a regret behind her; and the very memory of her boundaries has faded.
It was a patch of hilly country covered with thick wood. Many streams took their beginning in the glens of Grunewald, turning mills for the inhabitants. There was one town, Mittwalden, and many brown, wooden hamlets, climbing roof above roof, along the steep bottom of dells, and communicating by covered bridges over the larger of the torrents. The hum of watermills, the splash of running water, the clean odour of pine sawdust, the sound and smell of the pleasant wind among the innumerable army of the mountain pines, the dropping fire of huntsmen, the dull stroke of the wood- axe, intolerable roads, fresh trout for supper in the clean bare chamber of an inn, and the song of birds and the music of the village-bells - these were the recollections of the Grunewald tourist.
North and east the foothills of Grunewald sank with varying profile into a vast plain. On these sides many small states bordered with the principality, Gerolstein, an extinct grand duchy, among the number.