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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXV A Voice in the Night

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Marco stood still in the midst of the rage and flooding, blinding roar of it. After the first few minutes he knew he could do nothing to shield himself. Down the garden paths he heard cataracts rushing. He held his cap pressed against his eyes because he seemed to stand in the midst of darting flames. The crashes, cannon reports and thunderings, and the jagged streams of light came so close to one another that he seemed deafened as well as blinded. He wondered if he should ever be able to hear human voices again when it was over. That he was drenched to the skin and that the water poured from his clothes as if he were himself a cataract was so small a detail that he was scarcely aware of it. He stood still, bracing his body, and waited. If he had been a Samavian soldier in the trenches and such a storm had broken upon him and his comrades, they could only have braced themselves and waited. This was what he found himself thinking when the tumult and downpour were at their worst. There were men who had waited in the midst of a rain of bullets.

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It was not long after this thought had come to him that there occurred the first temporary lull in the storm. Its fury perhaps reached its height and broke at that moment. A yellow flame had torn its jagged way across the heavens, and an earth-rending crash had thundered itself into rumblings which actually died away before breaking forth again. Marco took his cap from his eyes and drew a long breath. He drew two long breaths. It was as he began drawing a third and realizing the strange feeling of the almost stillness about him that he heard a new kind of sound at the side of the garden nearest his hiding-place. It sounded like the creak of a door opening somewhere in the wall behind the laurel hedge. Some one was coming into the garden by a private entrance. He pushed aside the young boughs again and tried to see, but the darkness was too dense. Yet he could hear if the thunder would not break again. There was the sound of feet on the wet gravel, the footsteps of more than one person coming toward where he stood, but not as if afraid of being heard; merely as if they were at liberty to come in by what entrance they chose. Marco remained very still. A sudden hope gave him a shock of joy. If the man with the tired face chose to hide himself from his acquaintances, he might choose to go in and out by a private entrance. The footsteps drew near, crushing the wet gravel, passed by, and seemed to pause somewhere near the balcony; and them flame lit up the sky again and the thunder burst forth once more.

But this was its last greal peal. The storm was at an end. Only fainter and fainter rumblings and mutterings and paler and paler darts followed. Even they were soon over, and the cataracts in the paths had rushed themselves silent. But the darkness was still deep.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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