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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

III The Legend of the Lost Prince

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Marco had late one evening entered their lodgings to find Loristan walking to and fro like a lion in a cage, a paper crushed and torn in his hands, and his eyes blazing. He had been reading of cruelties wrought upon innocent peasants and women and children. Lazarus was standing staring at him with huge tears running down his cheeks. When Marco opened the door, the old soldier strode over to him, turned him about, and led him out of the room.

``Pardon, sir, pardon!'' he sobbed. ``No one must see him, not even you. He suffers so horribly.''

He stood by a chair in Marco's own small bedroom, where he half pushed, half led him. He bent his grizzled head, and wept like a beaten child.

``Dear God of those who are in pain, assuredly it is now the time to give back to us our Lost Prince!'' he said, and Marco knew the words were a prayer, and wondered at the frenzied intensity of it, because it seemed so wild a thing to pray for the return of a youth who had died five hundred years before.

When he reached the palace, he was still thinking of the man who had spoken to him. He was thinking of him even as he looked at the majestic gray stone building and counted the number of its stories and windows. He walked round it that he might make a note in his memory of its size and form and its entrances, and guess at the size of its gardens. This he did because it was part of his game, and part of his strange training.

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When he came back to the front, he saw that in the great entrance court within the high iron railings an elegant but quiet- looking closed carriage was drawing up before the doorway. Marco stood and watched with interest to see who would come out and enter it. He knew that kings and emperors who were not on parade looked merely like well-dressed private gentlemen, and often chose to go out as simply and quietly as other men. So he thought that, perhaps, if he waited, he might see one of those well-known faces which represent the highest rank and power in a monarchical country, and which in times gone by had also represented the power over human life and death and liberty.

``I should like to be able to tell my father that I have seen the King and know his face, as I know the faces of the czar and the two emperors.''

There was a little movement among the tall men-servants in the royal scarlet liveries, and an elderly man descended the steps attended by another who walked behind him. He entered the carriage, the other man followed him, the door was closed, and the carriage drove through the entrance gates, where the sentries saluted.

Marco was near enough to see distinctly. The two men were talking as if interested. The face of the one farthest from him was the face he had often seen in shop-windows and newspapers. The boy made his quick, formal salute. It was the King; and, as he smiled and acknowledged his greeting, he spoke to his companion.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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