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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXIII The Silver Horn

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During the next week, which they spent in journeying towards Vienna, they gave the Sign to three different persons at places which were on the way. In a village across the frontier in Bavaria they found a giant of an old man sitting on a bench under a tree before his mountain ``Gasthaus'' or inn; and when the four words were uttered, he stood up and bared his head as the guide had done. When Marco gave the Sign in some quiet place to a man who was alone, he noticed that they all did this and said their ``God be thanked'' devoutly, as if it were part of some religious ceremony. In a small town a few miles away he had to search some hours before he found a stalwart young shoemaker with bright

red hair and a horseshoe-shaped scar on his forehead. He was not in his workshop when the boys first passed it, because, as they found out later, he had been climbing a mountain the day before, and had been detained in the descent because his companion had hurt himself.

When Marco went in and asked him to measure him for a pair of shoes, he was quite friendly and told them all about it.

``There are some good fellows who should not climb,'' he said. ``When they find themselves standing on a bit of rock jutting out over emptiness, their heads begin to whirl round--and then, if they don't turn head over heels a few thousand feet, it is because some comrade is near enough to drag them back. There can be no ceremony then and they sometimes get hurt--as my friend did yesterday.''

``Did you never get hurt yourself?'' The Rat asked.

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``When I was eight years old I did that,'' said the young shoemaker, touching the scar on his forehead. ``But it was not much. My father was a guide and took me with him. He wanted me to begin early. There is nothing like it--climbing. I shall be at it again. This won't do for me. I tried shoemaking because I was in love with a girl who wanted me to stay at home. She married another man. I am glad of it. Once a guide, always a guide.'' He knelt down to measure Marco's foot, and Marco bent a little forward.

``The Lamp is lighted,'' he said.

There was no one in the shop, but the door was open and people were passing in the narrow street; so the shoemaker did not lift his red head. He went on measuring.

``God be thanked!'' he said, in a low voice. ``Do you want these shoes really, or did you only want me to take your measure?''

``I cannot wait until they are made,'' Marco answered. ``I must go on.''

``Yes, you must go on,'' answered the shoemaker. ``But I'll tell you what I'll do--I'll make them and keep them. Some great day might come when I shall show them to people and swagger about them.'' He glanced round cautiously, and then ended, still bending over his measuring. ``They will be called the shoes of the Bearer of the Sign. And I shall say, `He was only a lad. This was the size of his foot.' '' Then he stood up with a great smile.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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