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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXII A Night Vigil

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``The stars look large here,'' The Rat said.

``Yes,'' answered Marco. ``We are not as high as the Buddhist was, but it seems like the top of the world.''

``There is a light on the side of the mountain yonder which is not a star,'' The Rat whispered.

``It is a light in a hut where the guides take the climbers to rest and to spend the night,'' answered Marco.

``It is so still,'' The Rat whispered again after a silence, and Marco whispered back:

``It is so still.''

They had eaten their meal of black bread and cheese after the setting of the sun, and now they lay down on their backs and looked up until the first few stars had multiplied themselves into myriads. They began a little low talk, but the soundlessness was stronger than themselves.

``How am I going to hold on to that second law?'' The Rat said restlessly. `` `Let pass through thy mind only the image thou wouldst see become a truth.' The things that are passing through my mind are not the things I want to come true. What if we don't find him --don't find the right one, I mean!''

``Lie still--still--and look up at the stars,'' whispered Marco. ``They give you a SURE feeling.''

There was something in the curious serenity of him which calmed even his aide-de-camp. The Rat lay still and looked--and looked--and thought. And what he thought of was the desire of his heart. The soundlessness enwrapped him and there was no world left. That there was a spark of light in the mountain-climbers' rest-hut was a thing forgotten.

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They were only two boys, and they had begun their journey on the earliest train and had been walking about all day and thinking of great and anxious things.

``It is so still,'' The Rat whispered again at last.

``It is so still,'' whispered Marco.

And the mountains rising behind each other and beside each other and beyond each other in the night, and also the myriads of stars which had so multiplied themselves, looking down knew that they were asleep--as sleep the human things which do not watch forever.

``Some one is smoking,'' Marco found himself saying in a dream. After which he awakened and found that the smoke was not part of a dream at all. It came from the pipe of a young man who had an alpenstock and who looked as if he had climbed to see the sun rise. He wore the clothes of a climber and a green hat with a tuft at the back. He looked down at the two boys, surprised.

``Good day,'' he said. ``Did you sleep here so that you could see the sun get up?''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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