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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXII A Night Vigil

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There were only a few sight-seers in the small carriages, and they were going to look at the view from the summit. They were not in search of a ledge.

The Rat and Marco were. When the little train stopped at the top, they got out with the rest. They wandered about with them over the short grass on the treeless summit and looked out from this viewpoint and the other. The Rat grew more and more silent, and his silence was not merely a matter of speechlessness but of expression. He LOOKED silent and as if he were no longer aware of the earth. They left the sight-seers at last and wandered away by themselves. They found a ledge where they could sit or lie and where even the world of mountains seemed below them. They had brought some simple food with them, and they laid it behind a jutting bit of rock. When the sight-seers boarded the laboring little train again and were dragged back down the mountain, their night of vigil would begin.

That was what it was to be. A night of stillness on the heights, where they could wait and watch and hold themselves ready to hear any thought which spoke to them.

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The Rat was so thrilled that he would not have been surprised if he had heard a voice from the place of the stars. But Marco only believed that in this great stillness and beauty, if he held his boy-soul quiet enough, he should find himself at last thinking of something that would lead him to the place which held what it was best that he should find. The people returned to the train and it set out upon its way down the steepness.

They heard it laboring on its way, as though it was forced to make as much effort to hold itself back as it had made to drag itself upward.

Then they were alone, and it was a loneness such as an eagle might feel when it held itself poised high in the curve of blue. And they sat and watched. They saw the sun go down and, shade by shade, deepen and make radiant and then draw away with it the last touches of color--rose-gold, rose-purple, and rose-gray.

One mountain-top after another held its blush a few moments and lost it. It took long to gather them all but at length they were gone and the marvel of night fell.

The breath of the forests below was sweet about them, and soundlessness enclosed them which was of unearthly peace. The stars began to show themselves, and presently the two who waited found their faces turned upward to the sky and they both were speaking in whispers.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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