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0105_001E The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIV Marco Does Not Answer

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``Your foot!'' he exclaimed. ``It's better?''

``It wasn't hurt,'' she answered, in her softly pretty voice and with her softly pretty smile. ``I only made you think so.''

It was part of her plan to spare him nothing of shock in her sudden transformation. Marco felt his breath leave him for a moment.

``I made you believe I was hurt because I wanted you to come into the house with me,'' she added. ``I wished to find out certain things I am sure you know.''

``They were things about Samavia,'' said the man. ``Your father knows them, and you must know something of them at least. It is necessary that we should hear what you can tell us. We shall not allow you to leave the house until you have answered certain questions I shall ask you.''

Then Marco began to understand. He had heard his father speak of political spies, men and women who were paid to trace the people that certain governments or political parties desired to have followed and observed. He knew it was their work to search out secrets, to disguise themselves and live among innocent people as if they were merely ordinary neighbors.

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They must be spies who were paid to follow his father because he was a Samavian and a patriot. He did not know that they had taken the house two months before, and had accomplished several things during their apparently innocent stay in it. They had discovered Loristan and had learned to know his outgoings and incomings, and also the outgoings and incomings of Lazarus, Marco, and The Rat. But they meant, if possible, to learn other things. If the boy could be startled and terrified into unconscious revelations, it might prove well worth their while to have played this bit of melodrama before they locked the front door behind them and hastily crossed the Channel, leaving their landlord to discover for himself that the house had been vacated.

In Marco's mind strange things were happening. They were spies! But that was not all. The Lovely Person had been right when she said that he would receive a shock. His strong young chest swelled. In all his life, he had never come face to face with black treachery before. He could not grasp it. This gentle and friendly being with the grateful soft voice and grateful soft eyes had betrayed--BETRAYED him! It seemed impossible to believe it, and yet the smile on herm curved mouth told him that it was true. When he had sprung to help her, she had been playing a trick! When he had been sorry for her pain and had winced at the sound of her low exclamation, she had been deliberately laying a trap to harm him. For a few seconds he was stunned--perhaps, if he had not been his father's son, he might have been stunned only. But he was more. When the first seconds had passed, there arose slowly within him a sense of something like high, remote disdain. It grew in his deep boy's eyes as he gazed directly into the pupils of the long soft dark ones. His body felt as if it were growing taller.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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