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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XVII "It Is a Very Bad Sign"

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Loristan and Lazarus exchanged glances. Both of them were at the moment as pale as The Rat.

``Help him into the house,'' said Loristan to Lazarus. ``He must stay here and rest. We will go.'' The Rat knew it was an order.

He did not like it, but he obeyed.

``This is a bad sign, Master,'' said Lazarus, as they went out together.

``It is a very bad one,'' answered Loristan.

``God of the Right, defend us!'' Lazarus groaned.

``Amen!'' said Loristan. ``Amen!''

The group had become a small crowd by the time they reached Brandon Terrace. Marco had not found it easy to leave the place because he was being questioned. Neither the policeman nor the agent's clerk seemed willing to relinquish the idea that he could give them some information about the absconding pair.

The entrance of Loristan produced its usual effect. The agent's clerk lifted his hat, and the policeman stood straight and made salute. Neither of them realized that the tall man's clothes were worn and threadbare. They felt only that a personage was before them, and that it was not possible to question his air of absolute and serene authority. He laid his hand on Marco's shoulder and held it there as he spoke. When Marco looked up at him and felt the closeness of his touch, it seemed as if it were an embrace-- as if he had caught him to his breast.

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``My boy knew nothing of these people,'' he said. ``That I can guarantee. He had seen neither of them before. His entering the house was the result of no boyish trick. He has been shut up in this place for nearly twenty-four hours and has had no food. I must take him home. This is my address.'' He handed the young man a card.

Then they went home together, and all the way to Philibert Place Loristan's firm hand held closely to his boy's shoulder as if he could not endure to let him go. But on the way they said very little.

``Father,'' Marco said, rather hoarsely, when they first got away from the house in the terrace, ``I can't talk well in the street. For one thing, I am so glad to be with you again. It seemed as if--it might turn out badly.''

``Beloved one,'' Loristan said the words in their own Samavian, ``until you are fed and at rest, you shall not talk at all.''

Afterward, when he was himself again and was allowed to tell his strange story, Marco found that both his father and Lazarus had at once had suspicions when he had not returned. They knew no ordinary event could have kept him. They were sure that he must have been detained against his will, and they were also sure that, if he had been so detained, it could only have been for reasons they could guess at.

``This was the card that she gave me,'' Marco said, and he handed it to Loristan. ``She said you would remember the name.'' Loristan looked at the lettering with an ironic half-smile.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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