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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXV A Voice in the Night

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``He is like his father,'' this personage said to the Prince. ``But if any one but Loristan had sent him--His looks please me.'' Then suddenly to Marco, ``You were waiting outside while the storm was going on?''

``Yes, sir,'' Marco answered.

Then the two exchanged some words still in the lowered voice.

``You read the news as you made your journey?'' he was asked. ``You know how Samavia stands?''

``She does not stand,'' said Marco. ``The Iarovitch and the Maranovitch have fought as hyenas fight, until each has torn the other into fragments--and neither has blood or strength left.''

The two glanced at each other.

``A good simile,'' said the older person. ``You are right. If a strong party rose--and a greater power chose not to interfere--the country might see better days.'' He looked at him a few moments longer and then waved his hand kindly.

``You are a fine Samavian,'' he said. ``I am glad of that. You may go. Good night.''

Marco bowed respectfully and the man with the tired face led him out of the room.

It was just before he left him in the small quiet chamber in which he was to sleep that the Prince gave him a final curious glance. ``I remember now,'' he said. ``In the room, when you answered the question about Samavia, I was sure that I had seen you before. It was the day of the celebration. There was a break in the crowd and I saw a boy looking at me. It was you.''

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``Yes,'' said Marco, ``I have followed you each time you have gone out since then, but I could never get near enough to speak. To- night seemed only one chance in a thousand.''

``You are doing your work more like a man than a boy,'' was the next speech, and it was made reflectively. ``No man could have behaved more perfectly than you did just now, when discretion and composure were necessary.'' Then, after a moment's pause, ``He was deeply interested and deeply pleased. Good night.''

When the gardens had been thrown open the next morning and people were passing in and out again, Marco passed out also. He was obliged to tell himself two or three times that he had not wakened from an amazing dream. He quickened his pace after he had crossed the street, because he wanted to get home to the attic and talk to The Rat. There was a narrow side-street it was necessary for him to pass through if he wished to make a short cut. As he turned into it, he saw a curious figure leaning on crutches against a wall. It looked damp and forlorn, and he wondered if it could be a beggar. It was not. It was The Rat, who suddenly saw who was approaching and swung forward. His face was pale and haggard and he looked worn and frightened. He dragged off his cap and spoke in a voice which was hoarse as a crow's.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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