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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXXI "The Son of Stefan Loristan"

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``Listen!'' said Marco suddenly, as the carriage rolled on its way. ``They are shouting to us in Samavian, `The Bearers of the Sign!'

That is what they are saying now. `The Bearers of the Sign.' ''

They were being taken to the Palace. That Baron Rastka and Count Vorversk had explained in the train. His Majesty wished to receive them. Stefan Loristan was there also.

The city had once been noble and majestic. It was somewhat Oriental, as its uniforms and national costumes were. There were domed and pillared structures of white stone and marble, there were great arches, and city gates, and churches. But many of them were half in ruins through war, and neglect, and decay. They passed the half-unroofed cathedral, standing in the sunshine in its great square, still in all its disaster one of the most beautiful structures in Europe. In the exultant crowd were still to be seen haggard faces, men with bandaged limbs and heads or hobbling on sticks and crutches. The richly colored native costumes were most of them worn to rags. But their wearers had the faces of creatures plucked from despair to be lifted to heaven.

``Ivor! Ivor!'' they cried; ``Ivor! Ivor!'' and sobbed with rapture.

The Palace was as wonderful in its way as the white cathedral. The immensely wide steps of marble were guarded by soldiers. The huge square in which it stood was filled with people whom the soldiers held in check.

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``I am his son,'' Marco said to himself, as he descended from the state carriage and began to walk up the steps which seemed so enormously wide that they appeared almost like a street. Up he mounted, step by step, The Rat following him. And as he turned from side to side, to salute those who made deep obeisance as he passed, he began to realize that he had seen their faces before.

``These who are guarding the steps,'' he said, quickly under his breath to The Rat, ``are the Forgers of the Sword!''

There were rich uniforms everywhere when he entered the palace, and people who bowed almost to the ground as he passed. He was very young to be confronted with such an adoring adulation and royal ceremony; but he hoped it would not last too long, and that after he had knelt to the King and kissed his hand, he would see his father and hear his voice. Just to hear his voice again, and feel his hand on his shoulder!

Through the vaulted corridors, to the wide-opened doors of a magnificent room he was led at last. The end of it seemed a long way off as he entered. There were many richly dressed people who stood in line as he passed up toward the canopied dais. He felt that he had grown pale with the strain of excitement, and he had begun to feel that he must be walking in a dream, as on each side people bowed low and curtsied to the ground.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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