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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXIII The Silver Horn

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While she talked, she watched Marco as if she were always asking herself some question about him. The Rat was sure that she liked him and greatly admired his strong body and good looks. It was not necessary for him to carry himself slouchingly in her presence and he looked glowing and noble. There was a sort of reverence in her manner when she spoke to him. She reminded him of Lazarus more than once. When she gave them their evening meal, she insisted on waiting on him with a certain respectful ceremony. She would not sit at table with him, and The Rat began to realize that she felt that he himself should be standing to serve him.

``She thinks I ought to stand behind your chair as Lazarus stands behind your father's,'' he said to Marco. ``Perhaps an aide ought to do it. Shall I? I believe it would please her.''

``A Bearer of the Sign is not a royal person,'' answered Marco. ``My father would not like it--and I should not. We are only two boys.''

It was very wonderful when, after their supper was over, they all three sat together before the fire.

The red glow of the bed of wood-coal and the orange yellow of the flame from the big logs filled the room with warm light, which made a mellow background for the figure of the old woman as she sat in her low chair and told them more and more enthralling stories.

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Her eagle eyes glowed and her long neck held her head splendidly high as she described great feats of courage and endurance or almost superhuman daring in aiding those in awesome peril, and, when she glowed most in the telling, they always knew that the hero of the adventure had been her foster-child who was the baby born a great noble and near the throne. To her, he was the most splendid and adorable of human beings. Almost an emperor, but so warm and tender of heart that he never forgot the long- past days when she had held him on her knee and told him tales of chamois-and bear-hunting, and of the mountain-tops in mid- winter. He was her sun-god.

``Yes! Yes!'' she said. `` `Good Mother,' he calls me. And I bake him a cake on the hearth, as I did when he was ten years old and my man was teaching him to climb. And when he chooses that a thing shall be done--done it is! He is a great lord.''

The flames had died down and only the big bed of red coal made the room glow, and they were thinking of going to bed when the old woman started very suddenly, turning her head as if to listen.

Marco and The Rat heard nothing, but they saw that she did and they sat so still that each held his breath. So there was utter stillness for a few moments. Utter stillness.

Then they did hear something--a clear silver sound, piercing the pure mountain air.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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