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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXVI Across the Frontier

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``And who is this one?'' the old priest murmured to himself. ``WHO?''

Marco drew up before him and made a respectful reverence. Then he lifted his black head, squared his shoulders and uttered his message for the last time.

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

The old priest stood quite still and gazed into his face. The next moment he bent his head so that he could look at him closely. It

seemed almost as if he were frightened and wanted to make sure of something. At the moment it flashed through The Rat's mind that the old, old woman on the mountain-top had looked frightened in something the same way.

``I am an old man,'' he said. ``My eyes are not good. If I had a light''--and he glanced towards the house.

It was The Rat who, with one whirl, swung through the door and seized the candle. He guessed what he wanted. He held it himself so that the flare fell on Marco's face.

The old priest drew nearer and nearer. He gasped for breath. ``You are the son of Stefan Loristan!'' he cried. ``It is HIS SON who brings the Sign.''

He fell upon his knees and hid his face in his hands. Both the boys heard him sobbing and praying--praying and sobbing at once.

They glanced at each other. The Rat was bursting with excitement, but he felt a little awkward also and wondered what Marco would do. An old fellow on his knees, crying, made a chap feel as if he didn't know what to say. Must you comfort him or must you let him go on?

Marco only stood quite still and looked at him with understanding and gravity.

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``Yes, Father, he said. ``I am the son of Stefan Loristan, and I have given the Sign to all. You are the last one. The Lamp is lighted. I could weep for gladness, too.''

The priest's tears and prayers ended. He rose to his feet--a rugged-faced old man with long and thick white hair which fell on his shoulders--and smiled at Marco while his eyes were still wet.

``You have passed from one country to another with the message?'' he said. ``You were under orders to say those four words?''

``Yes, Father,'' answered Marco.

``That was all? You were to say no more?''

``I know no more. Silence has been the order since I took my oath of allegiance when I was a child. I was not old enough to fight, or serve, or reason about great things. All I could do was to be silent, and to train myself to remember, and be ready when I was called. When my father saw I was ready, he trusted me to go out and give the Sign. He told me the four words. Nothing else.''

The old man watched him with a wondering face.

``If Stefan Loristan does not know best,'' he said, ``who does?''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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