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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIV Marco Does Not Answer

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``It is a jet-black little hole,'' the man said. ``You might crack your throat in it, and no one would hear. Did men come to talk with your father in the middle of the night when you were in Vienna?''

``I know nothing,'' said Marco.

``He won't tell,'' said the Lovely Person. ``I am sorry for this boy.''

``He may tell after he has sat in the good little black wine-cellar for a few hours,'' said the man with the pointed beard. ``Come with me!''

He put his powerful hand on Marco's shoulder and pushed him before him. Marco made no struggle. He remembered what his father had said about the game not being a game. It wasn't a game now, but somehow he had a strong haughty feeling of not being afraid.

He was taken through the hallway, toward the rear, and down the commonplace flagged steps which led to the basement. Then he was marched through a narrow, ill-lighted, flagged passage to a door in the wall. The door was not locked and stood a trifle ajar. His companion pushed it farther open and showed part of a wine-cellar which was so dark that it was only the shelves nearest the door that Marco could faintly see. His captor pushed him in and shut the door. It was as black a hole as he had described. Marco stood still in the midst of darkness like black velvet. His guard turned the key.

``The peasants who came to your father in Moscow spoke Samavian and were big men. Do you remember them?'' he asked from outside.

``I know nothing,'' answered Marco.

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``You are a young fool,'' the voice replied. ``And I believe you know even more than we thought. Your father will be greatly troubled when you do not come home. I will come back to see you in a few hours, if it is possible. I will tell you, however, that I have had disturbing news which might make it necessary for us to leave the house in a hurry. I might not have time to come down here again before leaving.''

Marco stood with his back against a bit of wall and remained silent.

There was stillness for a few minutes, and then there was to be heard the sound of footsteps marching away.

When the last distant echo died all was quite silent, and Marco drew a long breath. Unbelievable as it may appear, it was in one sense almost a breath of relief. In the rush of strange feeling which had swept over him when he found himself facing the astounding situation up-stairs, it had not been easy to realize what his thoughts really were; there were so many of them and they came so fast. How could he quite believe the evidence of his eyes and ears? A few minutes, only a few minutes, had changed his prettily grateful and kindly acquaintance into a subtle and cunning creature whose love for Samavia had been part of a plot to harm it and to harm his father.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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