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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXXI "The Son of Stefan Loristan"

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``They are doing something with Samavian flags and a lot of flowers and green things!'' cried The Rat, in excitement.

``Sir, they are decorating the outside of the carriage,'' Vorversk said. ``The villagers on the line obtained permission from His Majesty. The son of Stefan Loristan could not be allowed to pass their homes without their doing homage.''

``I understand,'' said Marco, his heart thumping hard against his uniform. ``It is for my father's sake.''

At last, embowered, garlanded, and hung with waving banners, the train drew in at the chief station at Melzarr.

``Sir,'' said Rastka, as they were entering, ``will you stand up that the people may see you? Those on the outskirts of the crowd will have the merest glimpse, but they will never forget.''

Marco stood up. The others grouped themselves behind him. There arose a roar of voices, which ended almost in a shriek of joy which was like the shriek of a tempest. Then there burst forth the blare of brazen instruments playing the National Hymn of Samavia, and mad voices joined in it.

If Marco had not been a strong boy, and long trained in self-control, what he saw and heard might have been almost too much to be borne. When the train had come to a full stop, and the door was thrown open, even Rastka's dignified voice was unsteady as he said, ``Sir, lead the way. It is for us to follow.''

And Marco, erect in the doorway, stood for a moment, looking out upon the roaring, acclaiming, weeping, singing and swaying multitude-- and saluted just as he had saluted The Squad, looking just as much a boy, just as much a man, just as much a thrilling young human being.

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Then, at the sight of him standing so, it seemed as if the crowd went mad--as the Forgers of the Sword had seemed to go mad on the night in the cavern. The tumult rose and rose, the crowd rocked, and leapt, and, in its frenzy of emotion, threatened to crush itself to death. But for the lines of soldiers, there would have seemed no chance for any one to pass through it alive.

``I am the son of Stefan Loristan,'' Marco said to himself, in order to hold himself steady. ``I am on my way to my father.''

Afterward, he was moving through the line of guarding soldiers to the entrance, where two great state-carriages stood; and there, outside, waited even a huger and more frenzied crowd than that left behind. He saluted there again, and again, and again, on all sides. It was what they had seen the Emperor do in Vienna. He was not an Emperor, but he was the son of Stefan Loristan who had brought back the King.

``You must salute, too,'' he said to The Rat, when they got into the state carriage. ``Perhaps my father has told them. It seems as if they knew you.''

The Rat had been placed beside him on the carriage seat. He was inwardly shuddering with a rapture of exultation which was almost anguish. The people were looking at him--shouting at him--surely it seemed like it when he looked at the faces nearest in the crowd. Perhaps Loristan--

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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