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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

III The Legend of the Lost Prince

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``Yes, he would have come,'' Marco said.

``He would have come if he had seen that he could help his people,'' Loristan answered, as if he were not reflecting on a story which was probably only a kind of legend. ``But he was very young, and Samavia was in the hands of the new dynasty, and filled with his enemies. He could not have crossed the frontier without an army. Still, I think he died young.''

It was of this story that Marco was thinking as he walked, and perhaps the thoughts that filled his mind expressed themselves in his face in some way which attracted attention. As he was nearing Buckingham Palace, a distinguished-looking well-dressed man with clever eyes caught sight of him, and, after looking at him keenly, slackened his pace as he approached him from the opposite direction. An observer might have thought he saw something which puzzled and surprised him. Marco didn't see him at all, and still moved forward, thinking of the shepherds and the prince. The well- dressed man began to walk still more slowly. When he was quite close to Marco, he stopped and spoke to him--in the Samavian language.

``What is your name?'' he asked.

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Marco's training from his earliest childhood had been an extraordinary thing. His love for his father had made it simple and natural to him, and he had never questioned the reason for it. As he had been taught to keep silence, he had been taught to control the expression of his face and the sound of his voice, and, above all, never to allow himself to look startled. But for this he might have started at the extraordinary sound of the Samavian words suddenly uttered in a London street by an English gentleman. He might even have answered the question in Samavian himself. But he did not. He courteously lifted his cap and replied in English:

``Excuse me?''

The gentleman's clever eyes scrutinized him keenly. Then he also spoke in English.

``Perhaps you do not understand? I asked your name because you are very like a Samavian I know,'' he said.

``I am Marco Loristan,'' the boy answered him.

The man looked straight into his eyes and smiled.

``That is not the name,'' he said. ``I beg your pardon, my boy.''

He was about to go on, and had indeed taken a couple of steps away, when he paused and turned to him again.

``You may tell your father that you are a very well-trained lad. I wanted to find out for myself.'' And he went on.

Marco felt that his heart beat a little quickly. This was one of several incidents which had happened during the last three years, and made him feel that he was living among things so mysterious that their very mystery hinted at danger. But he himself had never before seemed involved in them. Why should it matter that he was well-behaved? Then he remembered something. The man had not said ``well-behaved,'' he had said ``well-TRAINED.'' Well-trained in what way? He felt his forehead prickle slightly as he thought of the smiling, keen look which set itself so straight upon him. Had he spoken to him in Samavian for an experiment, to see if he would be startled into forgetting that he had been trained to seem to know only the language of the country he was temporarily living in? But he had not forgotten. He had remembered well, and was thankful that he had betrayed nothing. ``Even exiles may be Samavian soldiers. I am one. You must be one,'' his father had said on that day long ago when he had made him take his oath. Perhaps remembering his training was being a soldier. Never had Samavia needed help as she needed it to-day. Two years before, a rival claimant to the throne had assassinated the then reigning king and his sons, and since then, bloody war and tumult had raged. The new king was a powerful man, and had a great following of the worst and most self-seeking of the people. Neighboring countries had interfered for their own welfare's sake, and the newspapers had been full of stories of savage fighting and atrocities, and of starving peasants.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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