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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VI The Drill and the Secret Party

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But after this outburst, he deigned to go on.

``Here's the oath,'' he said. ``We swear to stand any torture and submit in silence to any death rather than betray our secret and our king. We will obey in silence and in secret. We will swim through seas of blood and fight our way through lakes of fire, if we are ordered. Nothing shall bar our way. All we do and say and think is for our country and our king. If any of you have anything to say, speak out before you take the oath.''

He saw Marco move a little, and he made a sign to him.

``You,'' he said. ``Have you something to say?''

Marco turned to him and saluted.

``Here stand ten men for Samavia. God be thanked!'' he said. He dared say that much, and he felt as if his father himself would have told him that they were the right words.

The Rat thought they were. Somehow he felt that they struck home. He reddened with a sudden emotion.

``Squad!'' he said. ``I'll let you give three cheers on that. It's for the last time. We'll begin to be quiet afterward.''

And to the Squad's exultant relief he led the cheer, and they were allowed to make as much uproar as they liked. They liked to make a great deal, and when it was at an end, it had done them good and made them ready for business.

The Rat opened the drama at once. Never surely had there ever before been heard a conspirator's whisper as hollow as his.

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``Secret Ones,'' he said, ``it is midnight. We meet in the depths of darkness. We dare not meet by day. When we meet in the daytime, we pretend not to know each other. We are meeting now in a Samavian city where there is a fortress. We shall have to take it when the secret sign is given and we make our rising. We are getting everything ready, so that, when we find the king, the secret sign can be given.''

``What is the name of the city we are in?'' whispered Cad.

``It is called Larrina. It is an important seaport. We must take it as soon as we rise. The next time we meet I will bring a dark lantern and draw a map and show it to you.''

It would have been a great advantage to the game if Marco could have drawn for them the map he could have made, a map which would have shown every fortress--every stronghold and every weak place. Being a boy, he knew what excitement would have thrilled each breast, how they would lean forward and pile question on question, pointing to this place and to that. He had learned to draw the map before he was ten, and he had drawn it again and again because there had been times when his father had told him that changes had taken place. Oh, yes! he could have drawn a map which would have moved them to a frenzy of joy. But he sat silent and listened, only speaking when he asked a question, as if he knew nothing more about Samavia than The Rat did. What a Secret Party they were! They drew themselves together in the closest of circles; they spoke in unearthly whispers.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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