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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIV Marco Does Not Answer

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``You are very clever,'' he said slowly. Then, after a second's pause, he added, ``I was too young to know that there was any one so--clever--in the world.''

The Lovely Person laughed, but she did not laugh easily. She spoke to her companion.

``A grand seigneur!'' she said. ``As one looks at him, one half believes it is true.''

The man with the beard was looking very angry. His eyes were savage and his dark skin reddened. Marco thought that he looked at him as if he hated him, and was made fierce by the mere sight of him, for some mysterious reason.

``Two days before you left Moscow,'' he said, ``three men came to see your father. They looked like peasants. They talked to him for more than an hour. They brought with them a roll of parchment. Is that not true?''

``I know nothing,'' said Marco.

``Before you went to Moscow, you were in Budapest. You went there from Vienna. You were there for three months, and your father saw many people. Some of them came in the middle of the night.''

``I know nothing,'' said Marco.

``You have spent your life in traveling from one country to another,'' persisted the man. ``You know the European languages as if you were a courier, or the portier in a Viennese hotel. Do you not?''

Marco did not answer.

The Lovely Person began to speak to the man rapidly in Russian.

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``A spy and an adventurer Stefan Loristan has always been and always will be,'' she said. ``We know what he is. The police in every capital in Europe know him as a sharper and a vagabond, as well as a spy. And yet, with all his cleverness, he does not seem to have money. What did he do with the bribe the Maranovitch gave him for betraying what he knew of the old fortress? The boy doesn't even suspect him. Perhaps it's true that he knows nothing. Or perhaps it is true that he has been so ill-treated and flogged from his babyhood that he dare not speak. There is a cowed look in his eyes in spite of his childish swagger. He's been both starved and beaten.''

The outburst was well done. She did not look at Marco as she poured forth her words. She spoke with the abruptness and impetuosity of a person whose feelings had got the better of her. If Marco was sensitive about his father, she felt sure that his youth would make his face reveal something if his tongue did not--if he understood Russian, which was one of the things it would be useful to find out, because it was a fact which would verify many other things.

Marco's face disappointed her. No change took place in it, and the blood did not rise to the surface of his skin. He listened with an uninterested air, blank and cold and polite. Let them say what they chose.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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