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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIX "That Is One!"

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``All you have told me to do and to learn is part of myself, Father,'' Marco said in the end. ``It is part of me, as if it were my hand or my eyes--or my heart.''

``I believe that is true,'' answered Loristan.

He was pale that night and there was a shadow on his face. His eyes held a great longing as they rested on Marco. It was a yearning which had a sort of dread in it.

Lazarus also did not seem quite himself. He was red instead of pale, and his movements were uncertain and restless. He cleared his throat nervously at intervals and more than once left his chair as if to look for something.

It was almost midnight when Loristan, standing near Marco, put his arm round his shoulders.

``The Game''--he began, and then was silent a few moments while Marco felt his arm tighten its hold. Both Marco and The Rat felt a hard quick beat in their breasts, and, because of this and because the pause seemed long, Marco spoke.

``The Game--yes, Father?'' he said.

``The Game is about to give you work to do--both of you,'' Loristan answered.

Lazarus cleared his throat and walked to the easel in the corner of the room. But he only changed the position of a piece of drawing- paper on it and then came back.

``In two days you are to go to Paris--as you,'' to The Rat, ``planned in the game.''

``As I planned?'' The Rat barely breathed the words.

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``Yes,'' answered Loristan. ``The instructions you have learned you will carry out. There is no more to be done than to manage to approach certain persons closely enough to be able to utter certain words to them.''

``Only two young strollers whom no man could suspect,'' put in Lazarus in an astonishingly rough and shaky voice. ``They could pass near the Emperor himself without danger. The young Master--'' his voice became so hoarse that he was obligated to clear it loudly--``the young Master must carry himself less finely. It would be well to shuffle a little and slouch as if he were of the common people.''

``Yes,'' said The Rat hastily. ``He must do that. I can teach him. He holds his head and his shoulders like a gentleman. He must look like a street lad.''

``I will look like one,'' said Marco, with determination.

``I will trust you to remind him,'' Loristan said to The Rat, and he said it with gravity. ``That will be your charge.''

As he lay upon his pillow that night, it seemed to Marco as if a load had lifted itself from his heart. It was the load of uncertainty and longing. He had so long borne the pain of feeling that he was too young to be allowed to serve in any way. His dreams had never been wild ones--they had in fact always been boyish and modest, howsoever romantic. But now no dream which could have passed through his brain would have seemed so wonderful as this--that the hour had come--the hour had come--and that he, Marco, was to be its messenger. He was to do no dramatic deed and be announced by no flourish of heralds. No one would know what he did. What he achieved could only be attained if he remained obscure and unknown and seemed to every one only a common ordinary boy who knew nothing whatever of important things. But his father had given to him a gift so splendid that he trembled with awe and joy as he thought of it. The Game had become real. He and The Rat were to carry with them The Sign, and it would be like carrying a tiny lamp to set aflame lights which would blaze from one mountain-top to another until half the world seemed on fire.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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