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This book is about Marco Loristan, his father Stefan, and his friend, a street urchin nicknamed The Rat. Marco's father, Stefan, is a Samavian patriot working to overthrow the cruel dictatorship in the kingdom of Samavia. Marco and his father come to London where Marco strikes up a friendship with a crippled street urchin known as The Rat who is transformed through friendship. Stefan, realizing that two boys are less likely to be noticed, entrusts them with a mission to travel across Europe giving a secret sign. Who is The Lost Prince? Will he regain the throne? This story ends with an interesting twist. Marco’s relationship with his father and his unswerving loyalty and faith in him are very touching. The story of a revolution and the adventures two boys have bringing it about. An enjoyable read for people of all ages.
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Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Lost Prince
First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
I -THE NEW LODGERS AT NO. 7 PHILIBERT PLACE
II -A YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
III -THE LEGEND OF THE LOST PRINCE
IV -THE RAT
V -SILENCE IS STILL THE ORDER
VI -THE DRILL AND THE SECRET PARTY
VII - THE LAMP IS LIGHTED!
VIII -AN EXCITING GAME
IX - IT IS NOT A GAME
X -THE RAT-- AND SAMAVIA
XI - COME WITH ME
XII - ONLY TWO BOYS
XIII -LORISTAN ATTENDS A DRILL OF THE SQUAD, AND MARCO MEETS A SAMAVIAN
XIV -MARCO DOES NOT ANSWER
XV -A SOUND IN A DREAM
XVI -THE RAT TO THE RESCUE
XVII - IT IS A VERY BAD SIGN
XVIII - CITIES AND FACES
XIX - THAT IS ONE!
XX -MARCO GOES TO THE OPERA
XXI - HELP!
XXII -A NIGHT VIGIL
XXIII -THE SILVER HORN
XXIV -HOW SHALL WE FIND HIM?
XXV -A VOICE IN THE NIGHT
XXVI -ACROSS THE FRONTIER
XXVII -IT IS THE LOST PRINCE! IT IS IVOR!
XXVIII - EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!
XXIX -TWIXT NIGHT AND MORNING
XXX -THE GAME IS AT AN END
XXXI - THE SON OF STEFAN LORISTAN
There are many dreary and dingy rows of ugly houses in certain parts of London, but there certainly could not be any row more ugly or dingier than Philibert Place. There were stories that it had once been more attractive, butthat had been so long ago that no one remembered the time. It stood back in its gloomy, narrow strips of uncared-for, smoky gardens, whose broken iron railings were supposed to protect it from the surging traffic of a road which was always roaring with the rattle of busses, cabs, drays, and vans, and the passing of people who were shabbily dressed and looked as if they were either going to hard work or coming from it, or hurrying to see if they could find some of it to do to keep themselves from going hungry. The brick fronts of the houses were blackened with smoke, their windows were nearly all dirty and hung with dingy curtains, or had no curtains at all; the strips of ground, which had once been intended to grow flowers in, had been trodden down into bare earth in which even weeds had forgotten to grow. One of them was used as a stone-cutter's yard, and cheap monuments, crosses, and slates were set out for sale, bearing inscriptions beginning with ``Sacred to the Memory of.'' Another had piles of old lumber in it, another exhibited second-hand furniture, chairs with unsteady legs, sofas with horsehair stuffing bulging out of holes in their covering, mirrors with blotches or cracks in them. The insides of the houses were as gloomy as the outside. They wereall exactly alike. In each a dark entrance passage led to narrow stairs going up to bedrooms, and to narrow steps going down to a basement kitchen. The back bedroom looked out on small, sooty, flagged yards, where thin cats quarreled, or sat on the copingof the brick walls hoping that sometime they might feel the sun; the front rooms looked over the noisy road, and through their windows came the roar and rattle of it. It was shabby and cheerless on the brightest days, and on foggy or rainy ones it was themost forlorn place in London.
At least that was what one boy thought as he stood near the iron railings watching the passers-by on the morning on which this story begins, which was also the morning after he had been brought by his father to live as a lodger in the back sitting-room of the house No. 7.
He was a boy about twelve years old, his name was Marco Loristan, and he was the kind of boy people look at a second time when they have looked at him once. In the first place, he was a very big boy--tall forhis years, and with a particularly strong frame. His shoulders were broad and his arms and legs were long and powerful. He was quite used to hearing people say, as they glanced at him, ``What a fine, big lad!'' And then they always looked again at his face. It was not an English face or an American one, and was very dark in coloring. His features were strong, his black hair grew on his head like a mat, his eyes were large and deep set, and looked out between thick, straight, black lashes. He was as un- English a boy as one could imagine, and an observing person would have been struck atonce by a sort of SILENT look expressed by his whole face, a look which suggested that he was not a boy who talked much.
This look was specially noticeable this morning as hestood before the iron railings. The things he was thinking of were of a kind likely to bring to the face of a twelve-year-old boy an unboyish expression.
He was thinking of the long, hurried journey he and his father and their old soldier servant, Lazarus, had made during the last few days--the journey from Russia. Cramped in a close third-class railway carriage, they had dashed across the Continent as if something important or terrible were driving them, and here they were, settled in London as if they were going to live forever at No. 7 Philibert Place. He knew, however, that though they might stay a year, it was just as probable that, in the middle of some night, his father or Lazarus might waken him from his sleep and say, ``Get up-- dress yourself quickly. We must go at once.'' A few days later, he might be in St. Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna, or Budapest, huddled away in some poor little house as shabby and comfortless as No. 7 Philibert Place.
He passed his hand over his forehead as he thought of it andwatched the busses. His strange life and his close association with his father had made him much older than his years, but he was only a boy, after all, and the mystery of things sometimes weighed heavily upon him, and set him to deep wondering.
In not one of the many countries he knew had he ever met a boy whose life was in the least like his own. Other boys had homes in which they spent year after year; they went to school regularly, and played with other boys, and talked openly of the things which happened to them, and the journeys they made. When he remained in a place long enough to make a few boy-friends, he knew he must never forget that his whole existence was a sort of secret whose safety depended upon his own silence and discretion.
This was because of the promises he had made to his father, and they had been the first thing he remembered. Not that he had ever regretted anything connected with his father. He threw his black head up as he thought of that. None of the other boys had such a father, not one of them. His father was his idol and his chief. He had scarcely ever seen him when his clothes had not been poor and shabby, but he had also never seen him when, despite his worn coat and frayed linen, he had not stood out among all others as more distinguished than the most noticeable of them. When he walked down a street, people turned to look at him even oftener than they turned to look at Marco, and the boy felt as if it was not merely because he was a big man with a handsome, dark face, but because he looked, somehow, as if he had been born to command armies, and as if no one would think of disobeying him. Yet Marco had never seen him command any one, and they had always been poor, and shabbily dressed, and often enough ill-fed. But whether they were in one country or another, and whatsoever dark place they seemed to be hiding in, the few people they saw treated him with a sort of deference, and nearly always stood when they were in his presence, unless he bade them sit down.
``It is because they know he is a patriot, and patriots are respected,'' the boy had told himself.
He himself wished to be a patriot, though he had never seen his own country of Samavia. He knew it well, however. His father had talked to him about it ever since that day when hehad made the promises. He had taught him to know it by helping him to study curious detailed maps of it--maps of its cities, maps of its mountains, maps of its roads. He had told him stories of the wrongs done its people, of their sufferings and strugglesfor liberty, and, above all, of their unconquerable courage. When they talked together of its history, Marco's boy-blood burned and leaped in his veins, and he always knew, by the look in his father's eyes, that his blood burned also. His countrymen had been killed, they had been robbed, they had died by thousands of cruelties and starvation, but their souls had never been conquered, and, through all the years during which more powerful nations crushed and enslaved them, they never ceased to struggle to free themselves and stand unfettered as Samavians had stood centuries before.
``Why do we not live there,'' Marco had cried on the day the promises were made. ``Why do we not go back and fight? When I am a man, I will be a soldier and die for Samavia.''
``Weare of those who must LIVE for Samavia--working day and night,'' his father had answered; ``denying ourselves, training our bodies and souls, using our brains, learning the things which are best to be done for our people and our country. Even exiles may be Samavian soldiers--I am one, you must be one.''
``Are we exiles?'' asked Marco.
``Yes,'' was the answer. ``But even if we never set foot on Samavian soil, we must give our lives to it. I have given mine since I was sixteen. I shall give it until I die.''
``Have you never lived there?'' said Marco.
A strange look shot across his father's face.
``No,'' he answered, and said no more. Marco watching him, knew he must not ask the question again.
The next words his father said were about the promises. Marco wasquite a little fellow at the time, but he understood the solemnity of them, and felt that he was being honored as if he were a man.
``When you are a man, you shall know all you wish to know,'' Loristan said. ``Now you are a child, and your mind must not be burdened. But you must do your part. A child sometimes forgets that words may be dangerous. You must promise never to forget this. Wheresoever you are; if you have playmates, you must remember to be silent about many things. You must not speak of what Ido, or of the people who come to see me. You must not mention the things in your life which make it different from the lives of other boys. You must keep inyour mind that a secret exists which a chance foolish word might betray. You are a Samavian, and there have been Samavians who have died a thousand deaths rather than betray a secret. You must learn to obey without question, as if you were a soldier. Now you must take your oath of allegiance.''
He rose from his seat and went to a corner of the room. Heknelt down, turned back the carpet, lifted a plank, and took something from beneath it. It was a sword, and, as he came back to Marco, he drew it out from its sheath. The child's strong, little body stiffened and drew itself up, his large, deep eyes flashed. He was to take his oath of allegiance upon a sword as if he were a man. He did not know that his small hand opened and shut with a fierce understanding grip because those of his blood had for long centuries past carried swords and fought with them.
Loristan gave him the big bared weapon, and stood erect before him.
``Repeat these words after me sentence by sentence!'' he commanded.
And as he spoke them Marco echoed each one loudly and clearly.
``The sword in my hand--for Samavia!
``The heart in my breast--for Samavia!
``The swiftness of my sight, the thought of my brain, the life of my life--for Samavia.
``Here grows a man for Samavia.
``God be thanked!''
Then Loristan put his hand on the child's shoulder, and his dark face looked almost fiercely proud.
``From this hour,'' he said, ``you and I are comrades at arms.''
And from that day to the one on which he stood beside the broken iron railings of No. 7 Philibert Place, Marco had not forgotten for one hour.
He had been inLondon more than once before, but not to thelodgings in Philibert Place. When he was brought a second or thirdtime to a town or city, he always knew that the house he was takento would be in a quarter new to him, and he should not see againthe people he had seen before. Such slight links of acquaintance assometimes formed themselves between him and other children asshabby and poor as himself were easilybroken. His father, however,had never forbidden him to make chance acquaintances. He had, infact,told him that he had reasons for not wishing him to holdhimself aloof from other boys. The only barrier which must existbetween them must be the barrier of silence concerning hiswanderings from country to country. Other boys as poor as he wasdid not make constant journeys, therefore they would miss nothingfrom his boyish talk when he omitted all mention of his. When hewas in Russia, he must speak only of Russian places and Russianpeople and customs. When he was in France, Germany, Austria, orEngland, he must do the same thing. When he had learned English,French, German, Italian, and Russian he did not know. He had seemedto grow up in the midst of changing tongues which all seemedfamiliar to him, as languages are familiar to children who havelived with them until one scarcely seems less familiar thananother. He did remember, however, that his father had always beenunswerving in his attention to his pronunciation and method ofspeaking the language of any country they chanced to be livingin.
``You must not seem a foreigner in any country,'' he had said tohim. ``It is necessary that you should not. But when you are inEngland, you must not know French, or German, or anything butEnglish.''
Once, when he was seven or eight years old, a boy had asked himwhat his father's work was.
``His own father is a carpenter, and he asked me if my fatherwas one,'' Marco brought the story to Loristan. ``I said you werenot. Then he asked if you were a shoemaker, and another one saidyou might be a bricklayer ora tailor--and I didn't know what totell them.'' He had been out playing in a London street, and he puta grubby little hand on his father's arm, and clutched and almostfiercely shook it. ``I wanted to say that you were not like theirfathers, not at all. I knew you were not, though you were quite aspoor. You are not a bricklayer or a shoemaker, but a patriot--youcould not be only a bricklayer--you!'' He said it grandly and witha queer indignation, his black head held up and his eyes angry.
Loristan laid his hand against his mouth.
``Hush! hush!'' he said. ``Is it an insult to a man to think hemay be a carpenter or make a good suit of clothes? If I could makeour clothes, we should go better dressed. If I were a shoemaker,your toes would not be makingtheir way into the world as they arenow.'' He was smiling, but Marco saw his head held itself high,too, and his eyes were glowing as he touched his shoulder. ``I knowyou did not tell them I was a patriot,'' he ended. ``What was ityou said to them?''
``I remembered that you were nearly always writing and drawingmaps, and I said you were a writer, but I did not know what youwrote--and that you said it was a poor trade. I heard you say thatonce to Lazarus. Was that a right thing to tell them?''
``Yes.You may always say it if you are asked. There are poorfellows enough who write a thousand different things which bringthem little money. There is nothing strange in my being awriter.''
So Loristan answered him, and from that time if, by any chance,hisfather's means of livelihood were inquired into, it was simpleenough and true enough to say that he wrote to earn his bread.
In the first days of strangeness to a new place, Marco oftenwalked a great deal. He was strong and untiring, and it amused himtowander through unknown streets, and look at shops, and houses,and people. He did not confine himself to the great thoroughfares,but liked to branch off into the side streets and odd,deserted-looking squares, and even courts and alleyways. He oftenstopped to watch workmen and talk to them if they were friendly. Inthis way he made stray acquaintances in his strollings, and learneda good many things. He had a fondness for wandering musicians, and,from an old Italian who had in his youth been a singer in opera, hehad learned to sing a number of songs in his strong, musicalboy-voice. He knew well many of the songs of the people in severalcountries.
It was very dull this first morning, and he wished that he hadsomething to do or some one to speak to. To do nothing whatever isa depressing thing at all times, but perhaps it is more especiallyso when one is a big, healthy boy twelve years old. London as hesaw it in the Marylebone Road seemed to him a hideous place. It wasmurky and shabby-looking, and full of dreary-faced people. It wasnot the first time he had seen the same things, and they alwaysmade him feel that he wished he had something to do.
Suddenly he turned away from the gate and went into the house tospeak to Lazarus. He found him in his dingy closet of a room on thefourth floor at the back of the house.
``I am going for a walk,'' he announced to him. ``Please tell myfather if he asks for me. He is busy, and I must not disturbhim.''
Lazarus was patching an old coat as he often patched things--even shoes sometimes. When Marco spoke, he stood up at once toanswer him. He was very obstinate and particular about certainforms of manner. Nothing would have obliged him to remain seatedwhen Loristan or Marco was near him. Marco thought it wasbecause hehad been so strictly trained as a soldier. He knew that his fatherhad had great trouble to make him lay aside his habit of salutingwhen they spoke to him.
``Perhaps,'' Marco had heard Loristan say to him almostseverely, once when he had forgotten himself and had stood atsalute while his master passed through a broken-down iron gatebefore an equally broken-down-looking lodging-house--``perhaps youcan force yourself to remember when I tell you that it is notsafe--IT IS NOT SAFE! You put us in danger!''
It was evident that this helped the good fellow to controlhimself. Marco remembered that at the time he had actually turnedpale, and had struck his forehead and poured forth a torrent ofSamavian dialect in penitence and terror. But, though he no longersaluted them in public, he omitted no other form of reverence andceremony, and the boy had become accustomed to being treated as ifhe were anything but the shabby lad whose very coat was patched bythe old soldier who stood ``at attention'' before him.
``Yes, sir,'' Lazarus answered. ``Where was it your wish togo?''
Marco knitted his black brows a little in trying to recalldistinct memories of the last time he had been in London.
``I have been to so many places, and have seen so manythingssince I was here before, that I must begin to learn againabout the streets and buildings I do not quite remember.''
``Yes, sir,'' said Lazarus. ``There HAVE been so many. I alsoforget. You were but eight years old when you were last here.''
``I think I will go and find the royal palace, and then I willwalk about and learn the names of the streets,'' Marco said.
``Yes, sir,'' answered Lazarus, and this time he made hismilitary salute.
Marco lifted his right hand in recognition, as if he had been ayoungofficer. Most boys might have looked awkward or theatrical inmaking the gesture, but he made it with naturalness and ease,because he had been familiar with the form since his babyhood. Hehad seen officers returning the salutes of their men when theyencountered each other by chance in the streets, he had seenprinces passing sentries on their way to their carriages, moreaugust personages raising the quiet, recognizing hand to theirhelmets as they rode through applauding crowds. He had seen manyroyal persons and many royal pageants, but always only as anill-clad boy standing on the edge of the crowd of common people. Anenergetic lad, however poor, cannot spend his days in going fromone country to another without, by mere every-day chance, becomingfamiliar with the outer life of royalties and courts. Marco hadstood in continental thoroughfares when visiting emperors rode bywith glittering soldiery before and behind them, and a populaceshouting courteous welcomes. He knew where in various greatcapitals the sentries stood before kingly or princely palaces. Hehad seen certain royal faces often enough to know them well, and tobe ready to make his salute when particular quiet and unattendedcarriages passed him by.
``It is well to know them. It is well to observe everything andto train one's self to remember faces and circumstances,'' hisfather had said. ``If you were a young prince or a young mantraining for a diplomatic career, you would be taught to notice andremember people and things as you would be taught to speak your ownlanguage with elegance. Such observation would be your mostpractical accomplishment and greatest power. It is as practical forone man as another--for a poor lad in a patched coat as for onewhose place is to be in courts.As you cannot be educated in theordinary way, you must learn from travel and the world. You mustlose nothing--forget nothing.''
It was his father who had taught him everything, and he hadlearned a great deal. Loristan had the power of making allthingsinteresting to fascination. To Marco it seemed that he kneweverything in the world. They were not rich enough to buy manybooks, but Loristan knew the treasures of all great cities, theresources of the smallest towns. Together he and his boy walkedthrough the endless galleries filled with the wonders of the world,thepictures before which through centuries an unbroken processionof almost worshiping eyes had passed uplifted. Because his fathermade the pictures seem the glowing, burning work of still-livingmen whom the centuries could not turn to dust, because he couldtell the stories of their living and laboring to triumph, storiesof what they felt and suffered and were, the boy became as familiarwith the old masters--Italian, German, French, Dutch,English,Spanish--as he was with most of the countries they had lived in.They were not merely old masters to him, but men who were great,men who seemed to him to have wielded beautiful swords and heldhigh, splendid lights. His father could not go oftenwith him, buthe always took him for the first time to the galleries, museums,libraries, and historical places which were richest in treasures ofart, beauty, or story. Then, having seen them once through hiseyes, Marco went again and again alone, and so grew intimate withthe wonders of the world. He knew that he was gratifying a wish ofhis father's when he tried to train himself to observe all thingsand forget nothing. These palaces of marvels were his school-rooms,and his strange but rich educationwas the most interesting part ofhis life. In time, he knew exactly the places where the greatRembrandts, Vandykes, Rubens, Raphaels, Tintorettos, or Frans Halshung; he knew whether this masterpiece or that was in Vienna, inParis, in Venice, or Munich,or Rome. He knew stories of splendidcrown jewels, of old armor, of ancient crafts, and of Roman relicsdug up from beneath the foundations of old German cities. Any boywandering to amuse himself through museums and palaces on ``freedays'' could see what he saw, but boys living fuller and lesslonely lives would have been less likely to concentrate theirentire minds on what they looked at, and also less likely to storeaway facts with the determination to be able to recall at anymoment the mental shelfon which they were laid. Having no playmatesand nothing to play with, he began when he was a very little fellowto make a sort of game out of his rambles throughpicture-galleries, and the places which, whether they calledthemselves museums or not, werestorehouses or relics of antiquity.There were always the blessed ``free days,'' when he could climbany marble steps, and enter any great portal without paying anentrance fee. Once inside, there were plenty of plainly and poorlydressed people to be seen, but there were not often boys as youngas himself who were not attended by older companions. Quiet andorderly as he was, he often found himself stared at. The game hehad created for himself was as simple as it was absorbing. It wasto try how much hecould remember and clearly describe to his fatherwhen they sat together at night and talked of what he had seen.These night talks filled his happiest hours. He never felt lonelythen, and when his father sat and watched him with a certaincurious and deep attention in his dark, reflective eyes, the boywas utterly comforted and content. Sometimes he brought back roughand crude sketches of objects he wished to ask questions about, andLoristan could always relate to him the full, rich story of thething he wanted to know. They were stories made so splendid andfull of color in the telling that Marco could not forget them.
As he walked through the streets, he was thinking of one ofthese stories. It was one he had heard first when he was veryyoung, and it had so seized upon his imagination that he had askedoften for it. It was, indeed, a part of the long-past history ofSamavia, and he had loved it for that reason. Lazarus had oftentold it to him, sometimes adding much detail, but he had alwaysliked best his father's version, which seemed a thrilling andliving thing. On their journey from Russia, during an hour whenthey had been forced to wait in a cold wayside station and hadfound the time long, Loristan had discussed it with him. He alwaysfound some such way of making hard and comfortless hours easier tolive through.
``Fine, big lad--for a foreigner,'' Marco heard a man say to hiscompanion as he passed them this morning. ``Looks like a Pole or aRussian.''
It wasthis which had led his thoughts back to the story of theLost Prince. He knew that most of the people who looked at him andcalled him a ``foreigner'' had not even heard of Samavia. Those whochanced to recall its existence knew of it only as a small fiercecountry, so placed upon the map that the larger countries whichwere its neighbors felt they must control and keep it in order, andtherefore made incursions into it, and fought its people and eachother for possession. But it had not been always so. Itwas an old,old country, and hundreds of years ago it had been as celebratedfor its peaceful happiness and wealth as for its beauty. It wasoften said that it was one of the most beautiful places in theworld. A favorite Samavian legend was that it had been the site ofthe Garden of Eden. In those past centuries, its people had been ofsuch great stature, physical beauty, and strength, that they hadbeen like a race of noble giants. They were in those days apastoral people, whose rich crops and splendid flocks and herdswere the envy of less fertile countries. Among the shepherds andherdsmen there were poets who sang their own songs when they pipedamong their sheep upon the mountain sides and in the flower-thickvalleys. Their songs had been about patriotism and bravery, andfaithfulness to their chieftains and their country. The simplecourtesy of the poorest peasant was as stately as the manner of anoble. But that, as Loristan had said with a tired smile, had beenbefore they had had time to outlive and forget the Garden of Eden.Five hundred years ago, there had succeeded to the throne a kingwho was bad and weak. His father had lived to be ninety years old,and his son had grown tired of waiting in Samavia for his crown. Hehad gone out into the world, and visited other countries and theircourts. When he returned and became king, he lived as no Samavianking had lived before. He was an extravagant, vicious man offurious temper and bitter jealousies. He was jealous of the largercourts and countries he had seen, and tried
to introduce their customs and their ambitions. He ended byintroducing their worst faults and vices. There arose politicalquarrels and savage new factions. Money was squandered untilpoverty began for the first time to stare the country in the face.The big Samavians, after their first stupefaction, broke forth intofurious rage. There were mobs and riots, then bloody battles. Sinceit was the king who had worked this wrong, they would have none ofhim. They would depose him and makehis son king in his place. Itwas at this part of the story that Marco was always most deeplyinterested. The young prince was totally unlike his father. He wasa true royal Samavian. He was bigger and stronger for his age thananyman in the country, andhe was as handsome as a young Viking god.More than this, he had a lion's heart, and before he was sixteen,the shepherds and herdsmen had already begun to make songs abouthis young valor, and his kingly courtesy, and generous kindness.Not only the shepherds and herdsmen sang them, but the people inthe streets. The king, his father, had always been jealous of him,even when he was only a beautiful, stately child whom the peopleroared with joy to see as he rode through the streets. When hereturned fromhis journeyings and found him a splendid youth, hedetested him. When the people began to clamor and demand that hehimself should abdicate, he became insane with rage, and committedsuch cruelties that the people ran mad themselves. One day theystormedthe palace, killed and overpowered the guards, and, rushinginto the royal apartments, burst in upon the king as he shudderedgreen with terror and fury in his private room. He was king nomore, and must leave the country, they vowed, as they closedroundhim with bared weapons and shook them in his face. Where wasthe prince? They must see him and tell him their ultimatum. It washe whom they wanted for a king. They trusted him and would obeyhim. They began to shout aloud his name, calling him in a sort ofchant in unison, ``Prince Ivor--Prince Ivor--Prince Ivor!'' But noanswer came. The people of the palace had hidden themselves, andthe place was utterly silent.
The king, despite his terror, could not help but sneer.
``Call him again,'' he said. ``He isafraid to come out of hishole!''
A savage fellow from the mountain fastnesses struck him on themouth.
``He afraid!'' he shouted. ``If he does not come, it is becausethou hast killed him--and thou art a dead man!''
This set them aflame with hotter burning. They broke away,leaving three on guard, and ran about the empty palace roomsshouting the prince's name. But there was no answer. They soughthim in a frenzy, bursting open doors and flinging down everyobstacle in their way. A page, found hidden in acloset, owned thathe had seen His Royal Highness pass through a corridor early in themorning. He had been softly singing to himself one of theshepherd's songs.
And in this strange way out of the history of Samavia, fivehundred years before Marco'sday, the young prince had walked--singing softly to himself the old song of Samavia's beauty andhappiness. For he was never seen again.
In every nook and cranny, high and low, they sought for him,believing that the king himself had made him prisoner insome secretplace, or had privately had him killed. The fury of the people grewto frenzy. There were new risings, and every few days the palacewas attacked and searched again. But no trace of the prince wasfound. He had vanished as a star vanishes whenit drops from itsplace in the sky. During a riot in the palace, when a lastfruitless search was made, the king himself was killed. A powerfulnoble who headed one of the uprisings made himself king in hisplace. From that time, the once splendid little kingdom was like abone fought for by dogs. Its pastoral peace was forgotten. It wastornand worried and shaken by stronger countries. It tore andworried itself with internal fights. It assassinated kings andcreated new ones. No man was sure in his youthwhat ruler hismaturity would live under, or whether his children would die inuseless fights, or through stress of poverty and cruel, uselesslaws. There were no more shepherds and herdsmen who were poets, buton the mountain sides and in the valleys sometimes some of the oldsongs were sung. Those most beloved were songs about a Lost Princewhose name had been Ivor. If he had been king, he would have savedSamavia, the verses said, and all brave hearts believed that hewould still return. In the modern cities, one of the jocularcynical sayings was, ``Yes, that will happen when Prince Ivor comesagain.''
In his more childish days, Marco had been bitterly troubled bythe unsolved mystery. Where had he gone--the Lost Prince? Had hebeen killed, or had he been hidden away in a dungeon? But he was sobig and brave, he would have broken out of any dungeon. The boy hadinvented for himself a dozen endings to the story.
``Did no one ever find his sword or his cap--or hear anything orguess anything about him ever--ever--ever?'' he would sayrestlessly again and again.
One winter's night, as they sat together before a small fire ina cold room in a cold city in Austria, he had been so eager andasked so many searching questions, that his father gave him ananswer he had never given him before, and which was a sort ofending to the story, though not a satisfying one:
``Everybody guessed as you are guessing. A few very oldshepherds in the mountains who like to believe ancient historiesrelate a story which most people consider a kind of legend. It isthat almost a hundred years after the prince was lost, an oldshepherd told a story his long-dead father had confided to him insecret just before he died. The father had said that, going out inthe early morning on the mountain side, he had found in the forestwhat he at first thought to be the dead body of a beautiful,boyish, young huntsman. Some enemy had plainly attacked him frombehind and believed he had killed him. He was, however, not quitedead, and the shepherddragged him into a cave where he himselfoften took refuge from storms with his flocks. Since there was suchriot and disorder in the city, he was afraid to speak of what hehad found; and, by the time he discovered that he was harboring theprince, the king had already been killed, and an even worse man hadtaken possession of his throne, and ruled Samavia with ablood-stained, iron hand. To the terrified and simple peasant thesafest thing seemed to get the wounded youth out of the countrybefore there was any chance of his being discovered and murderedoutright, as he would surely be. The cave in which he was hiddenwas not far from the frontier, and while he was still so weak thathe was hardly conscious of what befell him, he was smuggled acrossit in acart loaded with sheepskins, and left with some kind monkswho did not know his rank or name. The shepherd went back to hisflocks and his mountains, and lived and died among them, always interror of the changing rulers and their savage battles witheachother. The mountaineers said among themselves, as thegenerations succeeded each other, that the Lost Prince must havedied young, because otherwise he would have come back to hiscountry and tried to restore its good, bygone days.''
``Yes, he would havecome,'' Marco said.
``He would have come if he had seen that he could help hispeople,'' Loristan answered, as if he were not reflecting on astory which was probably only a kind of legend. ``But he was veryyoung, and Samavia was in the hands of the new dynasty, and filledwith his enemies. He could not have crossed the frontier without anarmy. Still, I think he died young.''
It was of this story that Marco was thinking as he walked, andperhaps the thoughts that filled his mind expressed themselves inhis face in some way which attracted attention. As he was nearingBuckingham Palace, a distinguished-looking well-dressed man withclever eyes caught sight of him, and, after looking at him keenly,slackened his pace as he approached him from the oppositedirection. An observer might have thought he saw something whichpuzzled and surprised him. Marco didn't see him at all, and stillmoved forward, thinking of the shepherds and the prince. The well-dressed man began to walk still more slowly. When he was quiteclose to Marco, he stopped and spoke to him--in the Samavianlanguage.
``What is your name?'' he asked.
Marco's training from his earliest childhood had been an extra-ordinary thing. His love for his father had made it simple andnatural to him, and hehad never questioned the reason for it. As hehad been taught to keep silence, he had been taught to control theexpression of his face and the sound of his voice, and, above all,never to allow himself to look startled. But for this he might havestartedat the extraordinary sound of the Samavian words suddenlyuttered in a London street by an English gentleman. He might evenhave answered the question in Samavian himself. But he did not. Hecourteously lifted his cap and replied in English:
The gentleman's clever eyes scrutinized him keenly. Then he alsospoke in English.
``Perhaps you do not understand? I asked your name because youare very like a Samavian I know,'' he said.
``I am Marco Loristan,'' the boy answered him.
The man lookedstraight into his eyes and smiled.
``That is not the name,'' he said. ``I beg your pardon, myboy.''
He was about to go on, and had indeed taken a couple of stepsaway, when he paused and turned to him again.
``You may tell your father that you are a verywell-trained lad.I wanted to find out for myself.'' And he went on.
Marco felt that his heart beat a little quickly. This was one ofseveral incidents which had happened during the last three years,and made him feel that he was living among things so mysteriousthat their very mystery hinted at danger. But he himself had neverbefore seemed involved in them. Why should it matter that he waswell-behaved? Then he remembered something. The man had not said``well-behaved,'' he had said ``well-TRAINED.'' Well-trained inwhat way? He felt his forehead prickle slightly as he thought ofthe smiling, keen look which set itself so straight upon him. Hadhe spoken to him in Samavian for an experiment, to see if he wouldbe startled into forgetting that he had beentrained to seem to knowonly the language of the country he was temporarily living in? Buthe had not forgotten. He had remembered well, and was thankful thathe had betrayed nothing. ``Even exiles may be Samavian soldiers. Iam one. You must be one,'' hisfather had said on that day long agowhen he had made him take his oath. Perhaps remembering histraining was being a soldier. Never had Samavia needed help as sheneeded it to-day. Two years before, a rival claimant to the thronehad assassinated the then reigning king and his sons, and sincethen, bloody war and tumult had raged. The new king was a powerfulman, and had a great following of the worst and most self-seekingof the people. Neighboring countries had interfered for their ownwelfare's sake, and the newspapers had been full of stories ofsavage fighting and atrocities, and of starving peasants.
Marco had late one evening entered their lodgings to findLoristan walking to and fro like a lion in a cage, a paper crushedand torn in his hands, andhis eyes blazing. He had been reading ofcruelties wrought upon innocent peasants and women and children.Lazarus was standing staring at him with huge tears running downhis cheeks. When Marco opened the door, the old soldier strode overto him, turned him about, and led him out of the room.
``Pardon, sir, pardon!'' he sobbed. ``No one must see him, noteven you. He suffers so horribly.''
He stood by a chair in Marco's own small bedroom, where he halfpushed, half led him. He bent his grizzled head, and wept like abeaten child.
``Dear God of those who are in pain, assuredly it is now thetime to give back to us our Lost Prince!'' he said, and Marco knewthe words were a prayer, and wondered at the frenzied intensity ofit, because it seemed so wild a thingto pray for the return of ayouth who had died five hundred years before.
When he reached the palace, he was still thinking of the man whohad spoken to him. He was thinking of him even as he looked at themajestic gray stone building and counted the number of its storiesand windows. He walked round it that he might make a note in hismemory of its size and form and its entrances, and guess at thesize of its gardens. This he did because it was part of his game,and part of his strange training.
When he came back to the front, he saw that in the greatentrance court within the high iron railings an elegant but quiet-looking closed carriage was drawing up before the doorway. Marcostood and watched with interest to see who would come out and enterit. He knew that kings and emperors who were not on parade lookedmerely like well-dressedprivate gentlemen, and often chose to goout as simply and quietly as other men. So he thought that,perhaps, if he waited, he might see one of those well-known faceswhichrepresent the highest rank and power in a monarchical country,and which in times gone by had also represented the power overhuman life and death and liberty.
``I should like to be able to tell my father that I have seenthe King and know his face, as I know the faces of the czar and thetwo emperors.''
There was a little movement among the tall men-servants in theroyal scarlet liveries, and an elderly man descended the stepsattended by another who walked behind him. He entered the carriage,the other man followed him, the door was closed, and the carriagedrove through the entrance gates, where the sentries saluted.
Marco was near enough to see distinctly. The two men weretalking as if interested. The face of the one farthest from him wasthe face he had often seen in shop-windows and newspapers. The boymade his quick, formal salute. It was the King; and, as he smiledand acknowledged his greeting, he spoke to his companion.
``That fine lad salutes as if he belonged to the army,'' waswhat he said,though Marco could not hear him.
His companion leaned forward to look through the window. When hecaught sight of Marco, a singular expression crossed his face.
``He does belong to an army, sir,'' he answered, ``though hedoes not know it. His name is Marco Loristan.''
Then Marco saw him plainly for the first time. He was the manwith the keen eyes who had spoken to him in Samavian.
Marco would have wondered very much if he had heard the words,but, as he did not hear them, he turned toward homewondering atsomething else. A man who was in intimate attendance on a king mustbe a person of importance. He no doubt knew many things not only ofhis own ruler's country, but of the countries of other kings. Butso few had really known anything of poorlittle Samavia until thenewspapers had begun to tell them of the horrors of its war--andwho but a Samavian could speak its language? It would be aninteresting thing to tell his father--that a man who knew the Kinghad spoken to him in Samavian, and hadsent that curiousmessage.
Later he found himself passing a side street and looked up it.It was so narrow, and on either side of it were such old, tall, andsloping-walled houses that it attracted his attention. It looked asif a bit of old London had been left to stand while newer placesgrew up and hidit from view. This was the kind of street he likedto pass through for curiosity's sake. He knew many of them in theold quarters of many cities. He had lived in some of them. He couldfind his way home from the other end of it. Another thing than itsqueerness attracted him. He heard a clamor of boys' voices, and hewanted to see what they were doing. Sometimes, when he had reacheda new place and had had that lonely feeling, he had followed someboyish clamor of play or wrangling, and had found a temporaryfriend or so.
Half-way to the street's end there was an arched brick passage.The sound of the voices came from there--one of them high, andthinner and shriller than the rest. Marco tramped up to the archand looked down through the passage. It opened on to a gray flaggedspace, shut in by the railings of a black, deserted, and ancientgraveyard behind a venerable church which turned its face towardsome other street. The boys were not playing, but listening to oneof their number who was reading to them from a newspaper.
Marco walked down the passage and listened also, standing in thedark arched outlet at its end and watching the boy who read. He wasa strange little creature with a big forehead, and deep eyes whichwere curiously sharp. But this was not all. He had a hunch back,his legs seemed small and crooked. He sat with them crossed beforehim on a rough wooden platform set on low wheels, on which heevidently pushed himself about. Near him were anumber of sticksstacked together as if they were rifles. One of the first thingsthat Marco noticed was that he had a savage little face marked withlines as if he had been angry all his life.
``Hold your tongues, you fools!'' he shrilled out to some boyswho interrupted him. ``Don't you want to know anything, youignorant swine?''
He was as ill-dressed as the rest of them, but he did not speakin the Cockney dialect. If he was of the riffraff of the streets,as his companions were, he was somehow different.
Then he, by chance, saw Marco, who was standing in the archedend of the passage.
``What are you doing there listening?'' he shouted, and at oncestooped to pick up a stone and threw it at him. The stone hitMarco's shoulder, but it did not hurt him much. What he did notlike was that another lad should want to throw something at himbefore they had even exchanged boy-signs. He also did not like thefact that two other boys promptly took the matter up by bendingdown to pick up stones also.
He walked forward straight into the group and stopped close tothe hunchback.
``What did you do that for?'' he asked, in his rather deep youngvoice.
He was big and strong-looking enough to suggest that he was nota boy it would be easy to dispose of, but it was not that whichmade the group stand still a moment to stare at him. It wassomething in himself--half of it a kind of impartial lack ofanything like irritation at the stone-throwing. It was as if it hadnot mattered to him in the least. It had not made him feel angry orinsulted. He was only rather curious about it. Because he wasclean, and his hairand his shabby clothes were brushed, the firstimpression given by his appearance as he stood in the archway wasthat he was a young ``toff'' poking his nose whereit was notwanted; but, as he drew near, they saw that the well-brushedclothes were worn, and there were patches on his shoes.
``What did you do that for?'' he asked, and he asked it merelyas if he wanted to find out the reason.
``I'm not going to haveyou swells dropping in to my club as ifit was your own,'' said the hunchback.
``I'm not a swell, and I didn't know it was a club,'' Marcoanswered. ``I heard boys, and I thought I'd come and look. When Iheard you reading about Samavia, I wanted to hear.''
He looked at the reader with his silent-expressioned eyes.
``You needn't have thrown a stone,'' he added. ``They don't doit at men's clubs. I'll go away.''
He turned about as if he were going, but, before he had takenthree steps, the hunchback hailed him unceremoniously.
``Hi!'' he called out. ``Hi, you!''
``What do you want?'' said Marco.
``I bet you don't know where Samavia is, or what they'refighting about.'' The hunchback threw the words at him.
``Yes, I do. It's north of Beltrazo and east of Jiardasia, andthey are fighting because one party has assassinated King Maran,and the other will not let them crown Nicola Iarovitch. And whyshould they? He's a brigand, and hasn't a drop of royal blood inhim.''
``Oh!'' reluctantly admitted the hunchback. ``You do know thatmuch, do you? Come back here.''
Marco turned back, while the boys still stared. It was as if twoleaders or generals were meeting for the first time, and therabble, looking on, wondered what would come of theirencounter.
``The Samaviansof the Iarovitch party are a bad lot and wantonly bad things,'' said Marco, speaking first. ``They care nothingfor Samavia. They only care for money and the power to make lawswhich will serve them and crush everybody else. They know Nicola isa weak man, and that, if they can crown him king, they can make himdo what they like.''
The fact that he spoke first, and that, though he spoke in asteady boyish voice without swagger, he somehow seemed to take itfor granted that they would listen, made his placefor him at once.Boys are impressionable creatures, and they know a leader when theysee him. The hunchback fixed glittering eyes on him. The rabblebegan to murmur.
``Rat! Rat!'' several voices cried at once in good strongCockney. ``Arst 'im some more,Rat!''
``Is that what they call you?'' Marco asked the hunchback.
``It's what I called myself,'' he answered resentfully. `` `TheRat.' Look at me! Crawling round on the ground like this! Look atme!''
He made a gesture ordering his followers to moveaside, and beganto push himself rapidly, with queer darts this side and that roundthe inclosure. He bent his head and body, and twisted his face, andmade strange animal-like movements. He even uttered sharp squeaksas he rushed here and there--as a ratmight have done when it wasbeing hunted. He did it as if he were displaying an accomplishment,and his followers' laughter was applause.
``Wasn't I like a rat?'' he demanded, when he suddenlystopped.
``You made yourself like one on purpose,'' Marco answered. ``Youdo it for fun.''
``Not so much fun,'' said The Rat. ``I feel like one. Everyone's my enemy. I'm vermin. I can't fight or defend myself unless Ibite. I can bite, though.'' And he showed two rows of fierce,strong, white teeth, sharper at the points than human teeth usuallyare. ``I bite my father when he gets drunk and beats me. I'vebitten him till he's learned to remember.'' He laughed a shrill,squeaking laugh. ``He hasn't tried it for three months--even whenhe was drunk-- and he's always drunk.'' Then he laughed again stillmore shrilly. ``He's a gentleman,'' he said. ``I'm a gentleman'sson. He was a Master at a big school until he was kicked out--thatwas when I was four and my mother died. I'm thirteen now. How oldare you?''
``I'm twelve,'' answered Marco.
The Rat twisted his face enviously.
``I wish I was your size! Are you a gentleman's son? You look asif you were.''
``I'm a very poor man's son,'' was Marco's answer. ``My fatheris a writer.''
``Then, ten to one, he's a sort of gentleman,'' said The Rat.Then quite suddenly he threw another question at him. ``What's thename of the other Samavian party?''
``The Maranovitch. The Maranovitch and the Iarovitch have beenfighting with each other for five hundred years. First one dynastyrules, and then the other gets in when it has killed somebody as itkilled King Maran,'' Marco answered without hesitation.
``What was the name of the dynasty that ruled before they beganfighting? The first Maranovitch assassinated the last of them,''The Rat asked him.
``The Fedorovitch,'' said Marco. ``The last one was a badking.''
``His son was the one they never found again,'' said The Rat.``The one they call the Lost Prince.''
Marco would have started but for his long training in exteriorself-control.It was so strange to hear his dream-hero spoken of inthis back alley in a slum, and just after he had been thinking ofhim.
``What do you know about him?'' he asked, and, as he did so, hesaw the group of vagabond lads draw nearer.
``Not much. I only read something about him in a torn magazine Ifound in the street,'' The Rat answered. ``The man that wrote abouthim said he was only part of a legend, and he laughed at people forbelieving in him. He said it was about time that he should turn upagain if he intended to. I've invented things about him becausethese chaps like to hear me tell them. They're only stories.''
``We likes 'im,'' a voice called out, ``becos 'e wos the rightsort; 'e'd fight, 'e would, if 'e was in Samavia now.''
Marco rapidly askedhimself how much he might say. He decided andspoke to them all.
``He is not part of a legend. He's part of Samavian history,''he said. ``I know something about him too.''
``How did you find it out?'' asked The Rat.
``Because my father's a writer, he's obliged to have books andpapers, and he knows things. I like to read, and I go into the freelibraries. You can always get books and papers there. Then I ask myfather questions. All the newspapers are full of things aboutSamavia just now.'' Marco felt that this was an explanation whichbetrayed nothing. It was true that no one could open a newspaper atthis period without seeing news and stories of Samavia.
The Rat saw possible vistas of information opening up beforehim.
``Sit down here,'' he said, ``andtell us what you know abouthim. Sit down, you fellows.''
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