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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXV A Voice in the Night

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``The Lamp is lighted. The Lamp is lighted,'' it said, and the words sounded almost as if some one were uttering a prayer. They seemed to call to him, to arrest him, to draw him.

He stood still a few seconds in dead silence. Then he bent over the balustrade. The moonlight had not broken the darkness below.

``That is a boy's voice,'' he said in a low tone, ``but I cannot see who is speaking.''

``Yes, it is a boy's voice,'' it answered, in a way which somehow moved him, because it was so ardent. ``It is the son of Stefan Loristan. The Lamp is lighted.''

``Wait. I am coming down to you,'' the Prince said.

In a few minutes Marco heard a door open gently not far from where he stood. Then the man he had been following so many days appeared at his side.

``How long have you been here?'' he asked.

``Before the gates closed. I hid myself in the hollow of the big shrub there, Highness,'' Marco answered.

``Then you were out in the storm?''

``Yes, Highness.''

The Prince put his hand on the boy's shoulder. ``I cannot see you --but it is best to stand in the shadow. You are drenched to the skin.''

``I have been able to give your Highness--the Sign,'' Marco whispered. ``A storm is nothing.''

There was a silence. Marco knew that his companion was pausing to turn something over in his mind.

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``So-o?'' he said slowly, at length. ``The Lamp is lighted, And YOU are sent to bear the Sign.'' Something in his voice made Marco feel that he was smiling.

``What a race you are! What a race--you Samavian Loristans!''

He paused as if to think the thing over again.

``I want to see your face,'' he said next. ``Here is a tree with a shaft of moonlight striking through the branches. Let us step aside and stand under it.''

Marco did as he was told. The shaft of moonlight fell upon his uplifted face and showed its young strength and darkness, quite splendid for the moment in a triumphant glow of joy in obstacles overcome. Raindrops hung on his hair, but he did not look draggled, only very wet and picturesque. He had reached his man. He had given the Sign.

The Prince looked him over with interested curiosity.

``Yes,'' he said in his cool, rather dragging voice. ``You are the son of Stefan Loristan. Also you must be taken care of. You must come with me. I have trained my household to remain in its own quarters until I require its service. I have attached to my own apartments a good safe little room where I sometimes keep people.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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