The Lost Prince (11)
March 12, 2014
Frances Hodgson Burnett is best known for her sentimental children’s novels Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885-6), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911). But HiLoBooks prefers a later Burnett novel: The Lost Prince, a 1915 Ruritanian-style thriller in which two adolescent boys, one of whom is a disabled street urchin called “The Rat,” play a proto-Alternate Reality Game about a revolution in far-off Samavia… which turns into the real thing.
HiLobrow is pleased to serialize The Lost Prince, our first departure from Radium Age science fiction — into adventure fiction. A new installment will appear each week for thirty-one weeks.
When they came back from the graveyard, The Rat was silent all the way. He was thinking of what had happened and of what lay before him. He was, in fact, thinking chiefly that nothing lay before him — nothing. The certainty of that gave his sharp, lined face new lines and sharpness which made it look pinched and hard.
He had nothing before but a corner in a bare garret in which he could find little more than a leaking roof over his head — when he was not turned out into the street. But, if policemen asked him where he lived, he could say he lived in Bone Court with his father. Now he couldn’t say it.
He got along very well on his crutches, but he was rather tired when they reached the turn in the street which led in the direction of his old haunts. At any rate, they were haunts he knew, and he belonged to them more than he belonged elsewhere. The Squad stopped at this particular corner because it led to such homes as they possessed. They stopped in a body and looked at The Rat, and The Rat stopped also. He swung himself to Loristan’s side, touching his hand to his forehead.
“Thank you, sir,” he said. “Line and salute, you chaps!” And the Squad stood in line and raised their hands also. “Thank you, sir. Thank you, Marco. Good-by.”
“Where are you going?” Loristan asked.
“I don’t know yet,” The Rat answered, biting his lips.
He and Loristan looked at each other a few moments in silence. Both of them were thinking very hard. In The Rat’s eyes there was a kind of desperate adoration. He did not know what he should do when this man turned and walked away from him. It would be as if the sun itself had dropped out of the heavens — and The Rat had not thought of what the sun meant before.
But Loristan did not turn and walk away. He looked deep into the lad’s eyes as if he were searching to find some certainty. Then he said in a low voice, “You know how poor I am.”
“I — I don’t care!” said The Rat. “You — you’re like a king to me. I’d stand up and be shot to bits if you told me to do it.”
“I am so poor that I am not sure I can give you enough dry bread to eat — always. Marco and Lazarus and I are often hungry. Sometimes you might have nothing to sleep on but the floor. But I can find a place for you if I take you with me,” said Loristan. “Do you know what I mean by a place?”
“Yes, I do,” answered The Rat. “It’s what I’ve never had before — sir.”
What he knew was that it meant some bit of space, out of all the world, where he would have a sort of right to stand, howsoever poor and bare it might be.
“I’m not used to beds or to food enough,” he said. But he did not dare to insist too much on that “place.” It seemed too great a thing to be true.
Loristan took his arm.
“Come with me,” he said. “We won’t part. I believe you are to be trusted.”
The Rat turned quite white in a sort of anguish of joy. He had never cared for any one in his life. He had been a sort of young Cain, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him. And during the last twelve hours he had plunged into a tumultuous ocean of boyish hero-worship. This man seemed like a sort of god to him. What he had said and done the day before, in what had been really The Rat’s hours of extremity, after that appalling night — the way he had looked into his face and understood it all, the talk at the table when he had listened to him seriously, comprehending and actually respecting his plans and rough maps; his silent companionship as they followed the pauper hearse together — these things were enough to make the lad longingly ready to be any sort of servant or slave to him if he might see and be spoken to by him even once or twice a day.
The Squad wore a look of dismay for a moment, and Loristan saw it.
“I am going to take your captain with me,” he said. “But he will come back to Barracks. So will Marco.”
“Will yer go on with the game?” asked Cad, as eager spokesman. “We want to go on being the ‘Secret Party.’”
“Yes, I’ll go on,” The Rat answered. “I won’t give it up. There’s a lot in the papers to-day.”
So they were pacified and went on their way, and Loristan and Lazarus and Marco and The Rat went on theirs also.
“Queer thing is,” The Rat thought as they walked together, “I’m a bit afraid to speak to him unless he speaks to me first. Never felt that way before with any one.”
He had jeered at policemen and had impudently chaffed “swells,” but he felt a sort of secret awe of this man, and actually liked the feeling.
“It’s as if I was a private and he was commander-in-chief,” he thought. “That’s it.”
Loristan talked to him as they went. He was simple enough in his statements of the situation. There was an old sofa in Marco’s bedroom. It was narrow and hard, as Marco’s bed itself was, but The Rat could sleep upon it. They would share what food they had. There were newspapers and magazines to be read. There were papers and pencils to draw new maps and plans of battles. There was even an old map of Samavia of Marco’s which the two boys could study together as an aid to their game. The Rat’s eyes began to have points of fire in them.
“If I could see the papers every morning, I could fight the battles on paper by night,” he said, quite panting at the incredible vision of splendor. Were all the kingdoms of the earth going to be given to him? Was he going to sleep without a drunken father near him?
Was he going to have a chance to wash himself and to sit at a table and hear people say “Thank you,” and “I beg pardon,” as if they were using the most ordinary fashion of speech? His own father, before he had sunk into the depths, had lived and spoken in this way.
“When I have time, we will see who can draw up the best plans,” Loristan said.
“Do you mean that you’ll look at mine then — when you have time?” asked The Rat, hesitatingly. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Yes,” answered Loristan, “I’ll look at them, and we’ll talk them over.”
As they went on, he told him that he and Marco could do many things together. They could go to museums and galleries, and Marco could show him what he himself was familiar with.
“My father said you wouldn’t let him come back to Barracks when you found out about it,” The Rat said, hesitating again and growing hot because he remembered so many ugly past days. “But — but I swear I won’t do him any harm, sir. I won’t!”
“When I said I believed you could be trusted, I meant several things,” Loristan answered him. “That was one of them. You’re a new recruit. You and Marco are both under a commanding officer.” He said the words because he knew they would elate him and stir his blood.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpool’s The Man Who Lost Himself.
ORIGINAL FICTION: HiLobrow has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”