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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VII "The Lamp Is Lighted!"

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``Come here, Comrade,'' he said.

Marco went to him.

``To-night some one may come to talk with me about grave things,'' he said. ``I think he will come, but I cannot be quite sure. It is important that he should know that, when he comes, he will find me quite alone. He will come at a late hour, and Lazarus will open the door quietly that no one may hear. It is important that no one should see him. Some one must go and walk on the opposite side of the street until he appears. Then the one who goes to give warning must cross the pavement before him and say in a low voice, `The Lamp is lighted!' and at once turn quietly away.''

What boy's heart would not have leaped with joy at the mystery of it! Even a common and dull boy who knew nothing of Samavia would have felt jerky. Marco's voice almost shook with the thrill of his feeling.

``How shall I know him?'' he said at once. Without asking at all, he knew he was the ``some one'' who was to go.

``You have seen him before,'' Loristan answered. ``He is the man who drove in the carriage with the King.''

``I shall know him,'' said Marco. ``When shall I go?''

``Not until it is half-past one o'clock. Go to bed and sleep until Lazarus calls you.'' Then he added, ``Look well at his face before you speak. He will probably not be dressed as well as he was when you saw him first.''

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Marco went up-stairs to his room and went to bed as he was told, but it was hard to go to sleep. The rattle and roaring of the road did not usually keep him awake, because he had lived in the poorer quarter of too many big capital cities not to be accustomed to noise. But to-night it seemed to him that, as he lay and looked out at the lamplight, he heard every bus and cab which went past. He could not help thinking of the people who were in them, and on top of them, and of the people who were hurrying along on the pavement outside the broken iron railings. He was wondering what they would think if they knew that things connected with the battles they read of in the daily papers were going on in one of the shabby houses they scarcely gave a glance to as they went by them. It must be something connected with the war, if a man who was a great diplomat and the companion of kings came in secret to talk alone with a patriot who was a Samavian. Whatever his father was doing was for the good of Samavia, and perhaps the Secret Party knew he was doing it. His heart almost beat aloud under his shirt as he lay on the lumpy mattress thinking it over. He must indeed look well at the stranger before he even moved toward him. He must be sure he was the right man. The game he had amused himself with so long--the game of trying to remember pictures and people and places clearly and in detail--had been a wonderful training. If he could draw, he knew he could have made a sketch of the keen-eyed, clever, aquiline face with the well-cut and delicately close mouth, which looked as if it had been shut upon secrets always--always. If he could draw, he found himself saying again. He COULD draw, though perhaps only roughly. He had often amused himself by making sketches of things he wanted to ask questions about. He had even drawn people's faces in his untrained way, and his father had said that he had a crude gift for catching a likeness. Perhaps he could make a sketch of this face which would show his father that he knew and would recognize it.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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