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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXI "Help!"

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Marco turned so that he could face his captor squarely as if he were going to say something in answer to her. But he was not.

Even as he made the movement of turning, the help he had called for came and he knew what he should do. And he could do two things at once--save himself and give his Sign--because, the Sign once given, the Chancellor would understand.

``He will be here in a moment. He has recognized you,'' the woman said.

As he glanced up the stairs, the delicate grip of her hand unconsciously slackened.

Marco whirled away from her. The bell rang which was to warn the audience that they must return to their seats and he saw the Chancellor hasten his pace.

A moment later, the old aristocrat found himself amazedly looking down at the pale face of a breathless lad who spoke to him in German and in such a manner that he could not but pause and listen .

``Sir,'' he was saying, ``the woman in violet at the foot of the stairs is a spy. She trapped me once and she threatens to do it again. Sir, may I beg you to protect me?''

He said it low and fast. No one else could hear his words.

``What! What!'' the Chancellor exclaimed.

And then, drawing a step nearer and quite as low and rapidly but with perfect distinctness, Marco uttered four words:

``The Lamp is lighted.''

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The Help cry had been answered instantly. Marco saw it at once in the old man's eyes, notwithstanding that he turned to look at the woman at the foot of the staircase as if she only concerned him.

``What! What!'' he said again, and made a movement toward her, pulling his large moustache with a fierce hand.

Then Marco recognized that a curious thing happened. The Lovely Person saw the movement and the gray moustache, and that instant her smile died away and she turned quite white--so white, that under the brilliant electric light she was almost green and scarcely looked lovely at all. She made a sign to the man on the staircase and slipped through the crowd like an eel. She was a slim flexible creature and never was a disappearance more wonderful in its rapidity. Between stout matrons and their thin or stout escorts and families she made her way and lost herself--but always making toward the exit. In two minutes there was no sight of her violet draperies to be seen. She was gone and so, evidently, was her male companion.

It was plain to Marco that to follow the profession of a spy was not by any means a safe thing. The Chancellor had recognized her-- she had recognized the Chancellor who turned looking ferociously angry and spoke to one of the young officers.

``She and the man with her are two of the most dangerous spies in Europe, She is a Rumanian and he is a Russian. What they wanted of this innocent lad I don't pretend to know. What did she threaten?'' to Marco.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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