It was a bird's evening song which awakened them both. The bird alighted on the branch of a tree near them and her trill was rippling clear and sweet. The evening air had freshened and was fragrant with hillside scents. When Marco first rolled over and opened his eyes, he thought the most delicious thing on earth was to waken from sleep on a hillside at evening and hear a bird singing. It seemed to make exquisitely real to him the fact that he was in Samavia—that the Lamp was lighted and his work was nearly done. The Rat awakened when he did, and for a few minutes both lay on their backs without speaking. At last Marco said, "The stars are coming out. We can begin to climb, Aide-de-camp."
Then they both got up and looked at each other.
"The last one!" The Rat said. "To-morrow we shall be on our way back to London—Number 7 Philibert Place. After all the places we've been to—what will it look like?"
"It will be like wakening out of a dream," said Marco. "It's not beautiful—Philibert Place. But HE will be there," And it was as if a light lighted itself in his face and shone through the very darkness of it.
And The Rat's face lighted in almost exactly the same way. And he pulled off his cap and stood bare-headed. "We've obeyed orders," he said. "We've not forgotten one. No one has noticed us, no one has thought of us. We've blown through the countries as if we had been grains of dust."
Marco's head was bared, too, and his face was still shining. "God be thanked!" he said. "Let us begin to climb."
They pushed their way through the ferns and wandered in and out through trees until they found the little path. The hill was thickly clothed with forest and the little path was sometimes dark and steep; but they knew that, if they followed it, they would at last come out to a place where there were scarcely any trees at all, and on a crag they would find the tiny church waiting for them. The priest might not be there. They might have to wait for him, but he would be sure to come back for morning Mass and for vespers, wheresoever he wandered between times.
There were many stars in the sky when at last a turn of the path showed them the church above them. It was little and built of rough stone. It looked as if the priest himself and his scattered flock might have broken and carried or rolled bits of the hill to put it together. It had the small, round, mosque-like summit the Turks had brought into Europe in centuries past. It was so tiny that it would hold but a very small congregation—and close to it was a shed-like house, which was of course the priest's.
The two boys stopped on the path to look at it.
"There is a candle burning in one of the little windows," said Marco.
"There is a well near the door—and some one is beginning to draw water," said The Rat, next. "It is too dark to see who it is. Listen!"
They listened and heard the bucket descend on the chains, and splash in the water. Then it was drawn up, and it seemed some one drank long. Then they saw a dim figure move forward and stand still. Then they heard a voice begin to pray aloud, as if the owner, being accustomed to utter solitude, did not think of earthly hearers.
"Come," Marco said. And they went forward.
Because the stars were so many and the air so clear, the priest heard their feet on the path, and saw them almost as soon as he heard them. He ended his prayer and watched them coming. A lad on crutches, who moved as lightly and easily as a bird—and a lad who, even yards away, was noticeable for a bearing of his body which was neither haughty nor proud but set him somehow aloof from every other lad one had ever seen. A magnificent lad—though, as he drew near, the starlight showed his face thin and his eyes hollow as if with fatigue or hunger.
"And who is this one?" the old priest murmured to himself. "WHO?"
Marco drew up before him and made a respectful reverence. Then he lifted his black head, squared his shoulders and uttered his message for the last time.
"The Lamp is lighted, Father," he said. "The Lamp is lighted."
The old priest stood quite still and gazed into his face. The next moment he bent his head so that he could look at him closely. It seemed almost as if he were frightened and wanted to make sure of something. At the moment it flashed through The Rat's mind that the old, old woman on the mountain-top had looked frightened in something the same way.
"I am an old man," he said. "My eyes are not good. If I had a light"—and he glanced towards the house.
It was The Rat who, with one whirl, swung through the door and seized the candle. He guessed what he wanted. He held it himself so that the flare fell on Marco's face.
The old priest drew nearer and nearer. He gasped for breath. "You are the son of Stefan Loristan!" he cried. "It is HIS SON who brings the Sign."
He fell upon his knees and hid his face in his hands. Both the boys heard him sobbing and praying—praying and sobbing at once.
They glanced at each other. The Rat was bursting with excitement, but he felt a little awkward also and wondered what Marco would do. An old fellow on his knees, crying, made a chap feel as if he didn't know what to say. Must you comfort him or must you let him go on?
Marco only stood quite still and looked at him with understanding and gravity.
"Yes, Father," he said. "I am the son of Stefan Loristan, and I have given the Sign to all. You are the last one. The Lamp is lighted. I could weep for gladness, too."
The priest's tears and prayers ended. He rose to his feet—a rugged-faced old man with long and thick white hair which fell on his shoulders—and smiled at Marco while his eyes were still wet.
"You have passed from one country to another with the message?" he said. "You were under orders to say those four words?"
"Yes, Father," answered Marco.
"That was all? You were to say no more?"
"I know no more. Silence has been the order since I took my oath of allegiance when I was a child. I was not old enough to fight, or serve, or reason about great things. All I could do was to be silent, and to train myself to remember, and be ready when I was called. When my father saw I was ready, he trusted me to go out and give the Sign. He told me the four words. Nothing else."
The old man watched him with a wondering face.
"If Stefan Loristan does not know best," he said, "who does?"
"He always knows," answered Marco proudly. "Always." He waved his hand like a young king toward The Rat. He wanted each man they met to understand the value of The Rat. "He chose for me this companion," he added. "I have done nothing alone."
"He let me call myself his aide-de-camp!" burst forth The Rat. "I would be cut into inch-long strips for him."
Then the priest looked at The Rat and slowly nodded his head. "Yes," he said. "He knew best. He always knows best. That I see."
"How did you know I was my father's son?" asked Marco. "You have seen him?"
"No," was the answer; "but I have seen a picture which is said to be his image—and you are the picture's self. It is, indeed, a strange thing that two of God's creatures should be so alike. There is a purpose in it." He led them into his bare small house and made them rest, and drink goat's milk, and eat food. As he moved about the hut-like place, there was a mysterious and exalted look on his face.
"You must be refreshed before we leave here," he said at last. "I am going to take you to a place hidden in the mountains where there are men whose hearts will leap at the sight of you. To see you will give them new power and courage and new resolve. To-night they meet as they or their ancestors have met for centuries, but now they are nearing the end of their waiting. And I shall bring them the son of Stefan Loristan, who is the Bearer of the Sign!"
They ate the bread and cheese and drank the goat's milk he gave them, but Marco explained that they did not need rest as they had slept all day. They were prepared to follow him when he was ready.
The last faint hint of twilight had died into night and the stars were at their thickest when they set out together. The white-haired old man took a thick knotted staff in his hand and led the way. He knew it well, though it was a rugged and steep one with no track to mark it. Sometimes they seemed to be walking around the mountain, sometimes they were climbing, sometimes they dragged themselves over rocks or fallen trees, or struggled through almost impassable thickets; more than once they descended into ravines and, almost at the risk of their lives, clambered and drew themselves with the aid of the undergrowth up the other side. The Rat was called upon to use all his prowess, and sometimes Marco and the priest helped him across obstacles with the aid of his crutch.
"Haven't I shown to-night whether I'm a cripple or not?" he said once to Marco. "You can tell HIM about this, can't you? And that the crutches helped instead of being in the way?"
They had been out nearly two hours when they came to a place where the undergrowth was thick and a huge tree had fallen crashing down among it in some storm. Not far from the tree was an outcropping rock. Only the top of it was to be seen above the heavy tangle.
They had pushed their way through the jungle of bushes and young saplings, led by their companion. They did not know where they would be led next and were supposed to push forward further when the priest stopped by the outcropping rock. He stood silent a few minutes—quite motionless—as if he were listening to the forest and the night. But there was utter stillness. There was not even a breeze to stir a leaf, or a half-wakened bird to sleepily chirp.
He struck the rock with his staff—twice, and then twice again.
Marco and The Rat stood with bated breath.
They did not wait long. Presently each of them found himself leaning forward, staring with almost unbelieving eyes, not at the priest or his staff, but at THE ROCK ITSELF!
It was moving! Yes, it moved. The priest stepped aside and it slowly turned, as if worked by a lever. As it turned, it gradually revealed a chasm of darkness dimly lighted, and the priest spoke to Marco. "There are hiding-places like this all through Samavia," he said. "Patience and misery have waited long in them. They are the caverns of the Forgers of the Sword. Come!"
"IT IS THE LOST PRINCE! IT IS IVOR!"
Many times since their journey had begun the boys had found their hearts beating with the thrill and excitement of things. The story of which their lives had been a part was a pulse-quickening experience. But as they carefully made their way down the steep steps leading seemingly into the bowels of the earth, both Marco and The Rat felt as though the old priest must hear the thudding in their young sides.
"'The Forgers of the Sword.' Remember every word they say," The Rat whispered, "so that you can tell it to me afterwards. Don't forget anything! I wish I knew Samavian."
At the foot of the steps stood the man who was evidently the sentinel who worked the lever that turned the rock. He was a big burly peasant with a good watchful face, and the priest gave him a greeting and a blessing as he took from him the lantern he held out.
They went through a narrow and dark passage, and down some more steps, and turned a corner into another corridor cut out of rock and earth. It was a wider corridor, but still dark, so that Marco and The Rat had walked some yards before their eyes became sufficiently accustomed to the dim light to see that the walls themselves seemed made of arms stacked closely together.
"The Forgers of the Sword!" The Rat was unconsciously mumbling to himself, "The Forgers of the Sword!"
It must have taken years to cut out the rounding passage they threaded their way through, and longer years to forge the solid, bristling walls. But The Rat remembered the story the stranger had told his drunken father, of the few mountain herdsmen who, in their savage grief and wrath over the loss of their prince, had banded themselves together with a solemn oath which had been handed down from generation to generation. The Samavians were a long-memoried people, and the fact that their passion must be smothered had made it burn all the more fiercely. Five hundred years ago they had first sworn their oath; and kings had come and gone, had died or been murdered, and dynasties had changed, but the Forgers of the Sword had not changed or forgotten their oath or wavered in their belief that some time—some time, even after the long dark years—the soul of their Lost Prince would be among them once more, and that they would kneel at the feet and kiss the hands of him for whose body that soul had been reborn. And for the last hundred years their number and power and their hiding places had so increased that Samavia was at last honeycombed with them. And they only waited, breathless,—for the Lighting of the Lamp.
The old priest knew how breathlessly, and he knew what he was bringing them. Marco and The Rat, in spite of their fond boy-imaginings, were not quite old enough to know how fierce and full of flaming eagerness the breathless waiting of savage full-grown men could be. But there was a tense-strung thrill in knowing that they who were being led to them were the Bearers of the Sign. The Rat went hot and cold; he gnawed his fingers as he went. He could almost have shrieked aloud, in the intensity of his excitement, when the old priest stopped before a big black door!
Marco made no sound. Excitement or danger always made him look tall and quite pale. He looked both now.
The priest touched the door, and it opened.
They were looking into an immense cavern. Its walls and roof were lined with arms—guns, swords, bayonets, javelins, daggers, pistols, every weapon a desperate man might use. The place was full of men, who turned towards the door when it opened. They all made obeisance to the priest, but Marco realized almost at the same instant that they started on seeing that he was not alone.
They were a strange and picturesque crowd as they stood under their canopy of weapons in the lurid torchlight. Marco saw at once that they were men of all classes, though all were alike roughly dressed. They were huge mountaineers, and plainsmen young and mature in years. Some of the biggest were men with white hair but with bodies of giants, and with determination in their strong jaws. There were many of these, Marco saw, and in each man's eyes, whether he were young or old, glowed a steady unconquered flame. They had been beaten so often, they had been oppressed and robbed, but in the eyes of each one was this unconquered flame which, throughout all the long tragedy of years had been handed down from father to son. It was this which had gone on through centuries, keeping its oath and forging its swords in the caverns of the earth, and which to-day was—waiting.
The old priest laid his hand on Marco's shoulder, and gently pushed him before him through the crowd which parted to make way for them. He did not stop until the two stood in the very midst of the circle, which fell back gazing wonderingly. Marco looked up at the old man because for several seconds he did not speak. It was plain that he did not speak because he also was excited, and could not. He opened his lips and his voice seemed to fail him. Then he tried again and spoke so that all could hear—even the men at the back of the gazing circle.
"My children," he said, "this is the son of Stefan Loristan, and he comes to bear the Sign. My son," to Marco, "speak!"
Then Marco understood what he wished, and also what he felt. He felt it himself, that magnificent uplifting gladness, as he spoke, holding his black head high and lifting his right hand.
"The Lamp is Lighted, brothers!" he cried. "The Lamp is Lighted!"
Then The Rat, who stood apart, watching, thought that the strange world within the cavern had gone mad! Wild smothered cries broke forth, men caught each other in passionate embrace, they fell upon their knees, they clutched one another sobbing, they wrung each other's hands, they leaped into the air. It was as if they could not bear the joy of hearing that the end of their waiting had come at last. They rushed upon Marco, and fell at his feet. The Rat saw big peasants kissing his shoes, his hands, every scrap of his clothing they could seize. The wild circle swayed and closed upon him until The Rat was afraid. He did not know that, overpowered by this frenzy of emotion, his own excitement was making him shake from head to foot like a leaf, and that tears were streaming down his cheeks. The swaying crowd hid Marco from him, and he began to fight his way towards him because his excitement increased with fear. The ecstasy-frenzied crowd of men seemed for the moment to have almost ceased to be sane. Marco was only a boy. They did not know how fiercely they were pressing upon him and keeping away the very air.
"Don't kill him! Don't kill him!" yelled The Rat, struggling forward. "Stand back, you fools! I'm his aide-de-camp! Let me pass!"
And though no one understood his English, one or two suddenly remembered they had seen him enter with the priest and so gave way. But just then the old priest lifted his hand above the crowd, and spoke in a voice of stern command.
"Stand back, my children!" he cried. "Madness is not the homage you must bring to the son of Stefan Loristan. Obey! Obey!" His voice had a power in it that penetrated even the wildest herdsmen. The frenzied mass swayed back and left space about Marco, whose face The Rat could at last see. It was very white with emotion, and in his eyes there was a look which was like awe.
The Rat pushed forward until he stood beside him. He did not know that he almost sobbed as he spoke.
"I'm your aide-de-camp," he said. "I'm going to stand here! Your father sent me! I'm under orders! I thought they'd crush you to death."
He glared at the circle about them as if, instead of worshippers distraught with adoration, they had been enemies. The old priest seeing him, touched Marco's arm.
"Tell him he need not fear," he said. "It was only for the first few moments. The passion of their souls drove them wild. They are your slaves."
"Those at the back might have pushed the front ones on until they trampled you under foot in spite of themselves!" The Rat persisted.
"No," said Marco. "They would have stopped if I had spoken."
"Why didn't you speak then?" snapped The Rat.
"All they felt was for Samavia, and for my father," Marco said, "and for the Sign. I felt as they did."
The Rat was somewhat softened. It was true, after all. How could he have tried to quell the outbursts of their worship of Loristan—of the country he was saving for them—of the Sign which called them to freedom? He could not.
Then followed a strange and picturesque ceremonial. The priest went about among the encircling crowd and spoke to one man after another—sometimes to a group. A larger circle was formed. As the pale old man moved about, The Rat felt as if some religious ceremony were going to be performed. Watching it from first to last, he was thrilled to the core.
At the end of the cavern a block of stone had been cut out to look like an altar. It was covered with white, and against the wall above it hung a large picture veiled by a curtain. From the roof there swung before it an ancient lamp of metal suspended by chains. In front of the altar was a sort of stone dais. There the priest asked Marco to stand, with his aide-de-camp on the lower level in attendance. A knot of the biggest herdsmen went out and returned. Each carried a huge sword which had perhaps been of the earliest made in the dark days gone by. The bearers formed themselves into a line on either side of Marco. They raised their swords and formed a pointed arch above his head and a passage twelve men long. When the points first clashed together The Rat struck himself hard upon his breast. His exultation was too keen to endure. He gazed at Marco standing still—in that curiously splendid way in which both he and his father COULD stand still—and wondered how he could do it. He looked as if he were prepared for any strange thing which could happen to him—because he was "under orders." The Rat knew that he was doing whatsoever he did merely for his father's sake. It was as if he felt that he was representing his father, though he was a mere boy; and that because of this, boy as he was, he must bear himself nobly and remain outwardly undisturbed.
At the end of the arch of swords, the old priest stood and gave a sign to one man after another. When the sign was given to a man he walked under the arch to the dais, and there knelt and, lifting Marco's hand to his lips, kissed it with passionate fervor. Then he returned to the place he had left. One after another passed up the aisle of swords, one after another knelt, one after the other kissed the brown young hand, rose and went away. Sometimes The Rat heard a few words which sounded almost like a murmured prayer, sometimes he heard a sob as a shaggy head bent, again and again he saw eyes wet with tears. Once or twice Marco spoke a few Samavian words, and the face of the man spoken to flamed with joy. The Rat had time to see, as Marco had seen, that many of the faces were not those of peasants. Some of them were clear cut and subtle and of the type of scholars or nobles. It took a long time for them all to kneel and kiss the lad's hand, but no man omitted the ceremony; and when at last it was at an end, a strange silence filled the cavern. They stood and gazed at each other with burning eyes.
The priest moved to Marco's side, and stood near the altar. He leaned forward and took in his hand a cord which hung from the veiled picture—he drew it and the curtain fell apart. There seemed to stand gazing at them from between its folds a tall kingly youth with deep eyes in which the stars of God were stilly shining, and with a smile wonderful to behold. Around the heavy locks of his black hair the long dead painter of missals had set a faint glow of light like a halo.
"Son of Stefan Loristan," the old priest said, in a shaken voice, "it is the Lost Prince! It is Ivor!"
Then every man in the room fell on his knees. Even the men who had upheld the archway of swords dropped their weapons with a crash and knelt also. He was their saint—this boy! Dead for five hundred years, he was their saint still.
"Ivor! Ivor!" the voices broke into a heavy murmur. "Ivor! Ivor!" as if they chanted a litany.
Marco started forward, staring at the picture, his breath caught in his throat, his lips apart.
"But—but—" he stammered, "but if my father were as young as he is—he would be LIKE him!"
"When you are as old as he is, YOU will be like him—YOU!" said the priest. And he let the curtain fall.
The Rat stood staring with wide eyes from Marco to the picture and from the picture to Marco. And he breathed faster and faster and gnawed his finger ends. But he did not utter a word. He could not have done it, if he tried.
Then Marco stepped down from the dais as if he were in a dream, and the old man followed him. The men with swords sprang to their feet and made their archway again with a new clash of steel. The old man and the boy passed under it together. Now every man's eyes were fixed on Marco. At the heavy door by which he had entered, he stopped and turned to meet their glances. He looked very young and thin and pale, but suddenly his father's smile was lighted in his face. He said a few words in Samavian clearly and gravely, saluted, and passed out.
"What did you say to them?" gasped The Rat, stumbling after him as the door closed behind them and shut in the murmur of impassioned sound.
"There was only one thing to say," was the answer. "They are men—I am only a boy. I thanked them for my father, and told them he would never—never forget."
"EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!"
It was raining in London—pouring. It had been raining for two weeks, more or less, generally more. When the train from Dover drew in at Charing Cross, the weather seemed suddenly to have considered that it had so far been too lenient and must express itself much more vigorously. So it had gathered together its resources and poured them forth in a deluge which surprised even Londoners.
The rain so beat against and streamed down the windows of the third-class carriage in which Marco and The Rat sat that they could not see through them.
They had made their homeward journey much more rapidly than they had made the one on which they had been outward bound. It had of course taken them some time to tramp back to the frontier, but there had been no reason for stopping anywhere after they had once reached the railroads. They had been tired sometimes, but they had slept heavily on the wooden seats of the railway carriages. Their one desire was to get home. No. 7 Philibert Place rose before them in its noisy dinginess as the one desirable spot on earth. To Marco it held his father. And it was Loristan alone that The Rat saw when he thought of it. Loristan as he would look when he saw him come into the room with Marco, and stand up and salute, and say: "I have brought him back, sir. He has carried out every single order you gave him—every single one. So have I." So he had. He had been sent as his companion and attendant, and he had been faithful in every thought. If Marco would have allowed him, he would have waited upon him like a servant, and have been proud of the service. But Marco would never let him forget that they were only two boys and that one was of no more importance than the other. He had secretly even felt this attitude to be a sort of grievance. It would have been more like a game if one of them had been the mere servitor of the other, and if that other had blustered a little, and issued commands, and demanded sacrifices. If the faithful vassal could have been wounded or cast into a dungeon for his young commander's sake, the adventure would have been more complete. But though their journey had been full of wonders and rich with beauties, though the memory of it hung in The Rat's mind like a background of tapestry embroidered in all the hues of the earth with all the splendors of it, there had been no dungeons and no wounds. After the adventure in Munich their unimportant boyishness had not even been observed by such perils as might have threatened them. As The Rat had said, they had "blown like grains of dust" through Europe and had been as nothing. And this was what Loristan had planned, this was what his grave thought had wrought out. If they had been men, they would not have been so safe.
From the time they had left the old priest on the hillside to begin their journey back to the frontier, they both had been given to long silences as they tramped side by side or lay on the moss in the forests. Now that their work was done, a sort of reaction had set in. There were no more plans to be made and no more uncertainties to contemplate. They were on their way back to No. 7 Philibert Place—Marco to his father, The Rat to the man he worshipped. Each of them was thinking of many things. Marco was full of longing to see his father's face and hear his voice again. He wanted to feel the pressure of his hand on his shoulder—to be sure that he was real and not a dream. This last was because during this homeward journey everything that had happened often seemed to be a dream. It had all been so wonderful—the climber standing looking down at them the morning they awakened on the Gaisburg; the mountaineer shoemaker measuring his foot in the small shop; the old, old woman and her noble lord; the Prince with his face turned upward as he stood on the balcony looking at the moon; the old priest kneeling and weeping for joy; the great cavern with the yellow light upon the crowd of passionate faces; the curtain which fell apart and showed the still eyes and the black hair with the halo about it! Now that they were left behind, they all seemed like things he had dreamed. But he had not dreamed them; he was going back to tell his father about them. And how GOOD it would be to feel his hand on his shoulder!
The Rat gnawed his finger ends a great deal. His thoughts were more wild and feverish than Marco's. They leaped forward in spite of him. It was no use to pull himself up and tell himself that he was a fool. Now that all was over, he had time to be as great a fool as he was inclined to be. But how he longed to reach London and stand face to face with Loristan! The sign was given. The Lamp was lighted. What would happen next? His crutches were under his arms before the train drew up.
"We're there! We're there!" he cried restlessly to Marco. They had no luggage to delay them. They took their bags and followed the crowd along the platform. The rain was rattling like bullets against the high glassed roof. People turned to look at Marco, seeing the glow of exultant eagerness in his face. They thought he must be some boy coming home for the holidays and going to make a visit at a place he delighted in. The rain was dancing on the pavements when they reached the entrance.
"A cab won't cost much," Marco said, "and it will take us quickly."
They called one and got into it. Each of them had flushed cheeks, and Marco's eyes looked as if he were gazing at something a long way off—gazing at it, and wondering.
"We've come back!" said The Rat, in an unsteady voice. "We've been—and we've come back!" Then suddenly turning to look at Marco, "Does it ever seem to you as if, perhaps, it—it wasn't true?"
"Yes," Marco answered, "but it was true. And it's done." Then he added after a second or so of silence, just what The Rat had said to himself, "What next?" He said it very low.
The way to Philibert Place was not long. When they turned into the roaring, untidy road, where the busses and drays and carts struggled past each other with their loads, and the tired-faced people hurried in crowds along the pavement, they looked at them all feeling that they had left their dream far behind indeed. But they were at home.
It was a good thing to see Lazarus open the door and stand waiting before they had time to get out of the cab. Cabs stopped so seldom before houses in Philibert Place that the inmates were always prompt to open their doors. When Lazarus had seen this one stop at the broken iron gate, he had known whom it brought. He had kept an eye on the windows faithfully for many a day—even when he knew that it was too soon, even if all was well, for any travelers to return.
He bore himself with an air more than usually military and his salute when Marco crossed the threshold was formal stateliness itself. But his greeting burst from his heart.
"God be thanked!" he said in his deep growl of joy. "God be thanked!"
When Marco put forth his hand, he bent his grizzled head and kissed it devoutly.
"God be thanked!" he said again.
"My father?" Marco began, "my father is out?" If he had been in the house, he knew he would not have stayed in the back sitting-room.
"Sir," said Lazarus, "will you come with me into his room? You, too, sir," to The Rat. He had never said "sir" to him before.
He opened the door of the familiar room, and the boys entered. The room was empty.
Marco did not speak; neither did The Rat. They both stood still in the middle of the shabby carpet and looked up at the old soldier. Both had suddenly the same feeling that the earth had dropped from beneath their feet. Lazarus saw it and spoke fast and with tremor. He was almost as agitated as they were.
"He left me at your service—at your command"—he began.
"Left you?" said Marco.
"He left us, all three, under orders—to WAIT," said Lazarus. "The Master has gone."
The Rat felt something hot rush into his eyes. He brushed it away that he might look at Marco's face. The shock had changed it very much. Its glowing eager joy had died out, it had turned paler and his brows were drawn together. For a few seconds he did not speak at all, and, when he did speak, The Rat knew that his voice was steady only because he willed that it should be so.
"If he has gone," he said, "it is because he had a strong reason. It was because he also was under orders."
"He said that you would know that," Lazarus answered. "He was called in such haste that he had not a moment in which to do more than write a few words. He left them for you on his desk there."
Marco walked over to the desk and opened the envelope which was lying there. There were only a few lines on the sheet of paper inside and they had evidently been written in the greatest haste. They were these:
"The Life of my life—for Samavia."
"He was called—to Samavia," Marco said, and the thought sent his blood rushing through his veins. "He has gone to Samavia!"
Lazarus drew his hand roughly across his eyes and his voice shook and sounded hoarse.
"There has been great disaffection in the camps of the Maranovitch," he said. "The remnant of the army has gone mad. Sir, silence is still the order, but who knows—who knows? God alone."
He had not finished speaking before he turned his head as if listening to sounds in the road. They were the kind of sounds which had broken up The Squad, and sent it rushing down the passage into the street to seize on a newspaper. There was to be heard a commotion of newsboys shouting riotously some startling piece of news which had called out an "Extra."
The Rat heard it first and dashed to the front door. As he opened it a newsboy running by shouted at the topmost power of his lungs the news he had to sell: "Assassination of King Michael Maranovitch by his own soldiers! Assassination of the Maranovitch! Extra! Extra! Extra!"
When The Rat returned with a newspaper, Lazarus interposed between him and Marco with great and respectful ceremony. "Sir," he said to Marco, "I am at your command, but the Master left me with an order which I was to repeat to you. He requested you NOT to read the newspapers until he himself could see you again."
Both boys fell back.
"Not read the papers!" they exclaimed together.
Lazarus had never before been quite so reverential and ceremonious.
"Your pardon, sir," he said. "I may read them at your orders, and report such things as it is well that you should know. There have been dark tales told and there may be darker ones. He asked that you would not read for yourself. If you meet again—when you meet again"—he corrected himself hastily—"when you meet again, he says you will understand. I am your servant. I will read and answer all such questions as I can."
The Rat handed him the paper and they returned to the back room together.
"You shall tell us what he would wish us to hear," Marco said.
The news was soon told. The story was not a long one as exact details had not yet reached London. It was briefly that the head of the Maranovitch party had been put to death by infuriated soldiers of his own army. It was an army drawn chiefly from a peasantry which did not love its leaders, or wish to fight, and suffering and brutal treatment had at last roused it to furious revolt.
"What next?" said Marco.
"If I were a Samavian—" began The Rat and then he stopped.
Lazarus stood biting his lips, but staring stonily at the carpet. Not The Rat alone but Marco also noted a grim change in him. It was grim because it suggested that he was holding himself under an iron control. It was as if while tortured by anxiety he had sworn not to allow himself to look anxious and the resolve set his jaw hard and carved new lines in his rugged face. Each boy thought this in secret, but did not wish to put it into words. If he was anxious, he could only be so for one reason, and each realized what the reason must be. Loristan had gone to Samavia—to the torn and bleeding country filled with riot and danger. If he had gone, it could only have been because its danger called him and he went to face it at its worst. Lazarus had been left behind to watch over them. Silence was still the order, and what he knew he could not tell them, and perhaps he knew little more than that a great life might be lost.
Because his master was absent, the old soldier seemed to feel that he must comfort himself with a greater ceremonial reverence than he had ever shown before. He held himself within call, and at Marco's orders, as it had been his custom to hold himself with regard to Loristan. The ceremonious service even extended itself to The Rat, who appeared to have taken a new place in his mind. He also seemed now to be a person to be waited upon and replied to with dignity and formal respect.
When the evening meal was served, Lazarus drew out Loristan's chair at the head of the table and stood behind it with a majestic air.
"Sir," he said to Marco, "the Master requested that you take his seat at the table until—while he is not with you."
Marco took the seat in silence.
At two o'clock in the morning, when the roaring road was still, the light from the street lamp, shining into the small bedroom, fell on two pale boy faces. The Rat sat up on his sofa bed in the old way with his hands clasped round his knees. Marco lay flat on his hard pillow. Neither of them had been to sleep and yet they had not talked a great deal. Each had secretly guessed a good deal of what the other did not say.
"There is one thing we must remember," Marco had said, early in the night. "We must not be afraid."
"No," answered The Rat, almost fiercely, "we must not be afraid."
"We are tired; we came back expecting to be able to tell it all to him. We have always been looking forward to that. We never thought once that he might be gone. And he WAS gone. Did you feel as if—" he turned towards the sofa, "as if something had struck you on the chest?"
"Yes," The Rat answered heavily. "Yes."
"We weren't ready," said Marco. "He had never gone before; but we ought to have known he might some day be—called. He went because he was called. He told us to wait. We don't know what we are waiting for, but we know that we must not be afraid. To let ourselves be AFRAID would be breaking the Law."
"The Law!" groaned The Rat, dropping his head on his hands, "I'd forgotten about it."
"Let us remember it," said Marco. "This is the time. 'Hate not. FEAR not!'" He repeated the last words again and again. "Fear not! Fear not," he said. "NOTHING can harm him."
The Rat lifted his head, and looked at the bed sideways.
"Did you think—" he said slowly—"did you EVER think that perhaps HE knew where the descendant of the Lost Prince was?"
Marco answered even more slowly.
"If any one knew—surely he might. He has known so much," he said.
"Listen to this!" broke forth The Rat. "I believe he has gone to TELL the people. If he does—if he could show them—all the country would run mad with joy. It wouldn't be only the Secret Party. All Samavia would rise and follow any flag he chose to raise. They've prayed for the Lost Prince for five hundred years, and if they believed they'd got him once more, they'd fight like madmen for him. But there would not be any one to fight. They'd ALL want the same thing! If they could see the man with Ivor's blood in his veins, they'd feel he had come back to them—risen from the dead. They'd believe it!"
He beat his fists together in his frenzy of excitement. "It's the time! It's the time!" he cried. "No man could let such a chance go by! He MUST tell them—he MUST. That MUST be what he's gone for. He knows—he knows—he's always known!" And he threw himself back on his sofa and flung his arms over his face, lying there panting.
"If it is the time," said Marco in a low, strained voice—"if it is, and he knows—he will tell them." And he threw his arms up over his own face and lay quite still.
Neither of them said another word, and the street lamp shone in on them as if it were waiting for something to happen. But nothing happened. In time they were asleep.
'TWIXT NIGHT AND MORNING
After this, they waited. They did not know what they waited for, nor could they guess even vaguely how the waiting would end. All that Lazarus could tell them he told. He would have been willing to stand respectfully for hours relating to Marco the story of how the period of their absence had passed for his Master and himself. He told how Loristan had spoken each day of his son, how he had often been pale with anxiousness, how in the evenings he had walked to and fro in his room, deep in thought, as he looked down unseeingly at the carpet.
"He permitted me to talk of you, sir," Lazarus said. "I saw that he wished to hear your name often. I reminded him of the times when you had been so young that most children of your age would have been in the hands of nurses, and yet you were strong and silent and sturdy and traveled with us as if you were not a child at all—never crying when you were tired and were not properly fed. As if you understood—as if you understood," he added, proudly. "If, through the power of God a creature can be a man at six years old, you were that one. Many a dark day I have looked into your solemn, watching eyes, and have been half afraid; because that a child should answer one's gaze so gravely seemed almost an unearthly thing."
"The chief thing I remember of those days," said Marco, "is that he was with me, and that whenever I was hungry or tired, I knew he must be, too."
The feeling that they were "waiting" was so intense that it filled the days with strangeness. When the postman's knock was heard at the door, each of them endeavored not to start. A letter might some day come which would tell them—they did not know what. But no letters came. When they went out into the streets, they found themselves hurrying on their way back in spite of themselves. Something might have happened. Lazarus read the papers faithfully, and in the evening told Marco and The Rat all the news it was "well that they should hear." But the disorders of Samavia had ceased to occupy much space. They had become an old story, and after the excitement of the assassination of Michael Maranovitch had died out, there seemed to be a lull in events. Michael's son had not dared to try to take his father's place, and there were rumors that he also had been killed. The head of the Iarovitch had declared himself king but had not been crowned because of disorders in his own party. The country seemed existing in a nightmare of suffering, famine and suspense.
"Samavia is 'waiting' too," The Rat broke forth one night as they talked together, "but it won't wait long—it can't. If I were a Samavian and in Samavia—"
"My father is a Samavian and he is in Samavia," Marco's grave young voice interposed. The Rat flushed red as he realized what he had said. "What a fool I am!" he groaned. "I—I beg your pardon—sir." He stood up when he said the last words and added the "sir" as if he suddenly realized that there was a distance between them which was something akin to the distance between youth and maturity—but yet was not the same.
"You are a good Samavian but—you forget," was Marco's answer.
Lazarus' intense grimness increased with each day that passed. The ceremonious respectfulness of his manner toward Marco increased also. It seemed as if the more anxious he felt the more formal and stately his bearing became. It was as though he braced his own courage by doing the smallest things life in the back sitting-room required as if they were of the dignity of services performed in a much larger place and under much more imposing circumstances. The Rat found himself feeling almost as if he were an equerry in a court, and that dignity and ceremony were necessary on his own part. He began to experience a sense of being somehow a person of rank, for whom doors were opened grandly and who had vassals at his command. The watchful obedience of fifty vassals embodied itself in the manner of Lazarus.
"I am glad," The Rat said once, reflectively, "that, after all my father was once—different. It makes it easier to learn things perhaps. If he had not talked to me about people who—well, who had never seen places like Bone Court—this might have been harder for me to understand."
When at last they managed to call The Squad together, and went to spend a morning at the Barracks behind the churchyard, that body of armed men stared at their commander in great and amazed uncertainty. They felt that something had happened to him. They did not know what had happened, but it was some experience which had made him mysteriously different. He did not look like Marco, but in some extraordinary way he seemed more akin to him. They only knew that some necessity in Loristan's affairs had taken the two away from London and the Game. Now they had come back, and they seemed older.
At first, The Squad felt awkward and shuffled its feet uncomfortably. After the first greetings it did not know exactly what to say. It was Marco who saved the situation.
"Drill us first," he said to The Rat, "then we can talk about the Game."
"'Tention!" shouted The Rat, magnificently. And then they forgot everything else and sprang into line. After the drill was ended, and they sat in a circle on the broken flags, the Game became more resplendent than it had ever been.
"I've had time to read and work out new things," The Rat said. "Reading is like traveling."
Marco himself sat and listened, enthralled by the adroitness of the imagination he displayed. Without revealing a single dangerous fact he built up, of their journeyings and experiences, a totally new structure of adventures which would have fired the whole being of any group of lads. It was safe to describe places and people, and he so described them that The Squad squirmed in its delight at feeling itself marching in a procession attending the Emperor in Vienna; standing in line before palaces; climbing, with knapsacks strapped tight, up precipitous mountain roads; defending mountain-fortresses; and storming Samavian castles.
The Squad glowed and exulted. The Rat glowed and exulted himself. Marco watched his sharp-featured, burning-eyed face with wonder and admiration. This strange power of making things alive was, he knew, what his father would call "genius."
"Let's take the oath of 'legiance again," shouted Cad, when the Game was over for the morning.
"The papers never said nothin' more about the Lost Prince, but we are all for him yet! Let's take it!" So they stood in line again, Marco at the head, and renewed their oath.
"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 grow twelve men—for Samavia.
"God be thanked!"
It was more solemn than it had been the first time. The Squad felt it tremendously. Both Cad and Ben were conscious that thrills ran down their spines into their boots. When Marco and The Rat left them, they first stood at salute and then broke out into a ringing cheer.
On their way home, The Rat asked Marco a question.
"Did you see Mrs. Beedle standing at the top of the basement steps and looking after us when we went out this morning?"
Mrs. Beedle was the landlady of the lodgings at No. 7 Philibert Place. She was a mysterious and dusty female, who lived in the "cellar kitchen" part of the house and was seldom seen by her lodgers.
"Yes," answered Marco, "I have seen her two or three times lately, and I do not think I ever saw her before. My father has never seen her, though Lazarus says she used to watch him round corners. Why is she suddenly so curious about us?"
"I'd like to know," said The Rat. "I've been trying to work it out. Ever since we came back, she's been peeping round the door of the kitchen stairs, or over balustrades, or through the cellar-kitchen windows. I believe she wants to speak to you, and knows Lazarus won't let her if he catches her at it. When Lazarus is about, she always darts back."
"What does she want to say?" said Marco.
"I'd like to know," said The Rat again.
When they reached No. 7 Philibert Place, they found out, because when the door opened they saw at the top of cellar-kitchen stairs at the end of the passage, the mysterious Mrs. Beedle, in her dusty black dress and with a dusty black cap on, evidently having that minute mounted from her subterranean hiding-place. She had come up the steps so quickly that Lazarus had not yet seen her.
"Young Master Loristan!" she called out authoritatively. Lazarus wheeled about fiercely.
"Silence!" he commanded. "How dare you address the young Master?"
She snapped her fingers at him, and marched forward folding her arms tightly. "You mind your own business," she said. "It's young Master Loristan I'm speaking to, not his servant. It's time he was talked to about this."
"Silence, woman!" shouted Lazarus.
"Let her speak," said Marco. "I want to hear. What is it you wish to say, Madam? My father is not here."
"That's just what I want to find out about," put in the woman. "When is he coming back?"
"I do not know," answered Marco.
"That's it," said Mrs. Beedle. "You're old enough to understand that two big lads and a big fellow like that can't have food and lodgin's for nothing. You may say you don't live high—and you don't—but lodgin's are lodgin's and rent is rent. If your father's coming back and you can tell me when, I mayn't be obliged to let the rooms over your heads; but I know too much about foreigners to let bills run when they are out of sight. Your father's out of sight. He," jerking her head towards Lazarus, "paid me for last week. How do I know he will pay me for this week!"
"The money is ready," roared Lazarus.
The Rat longed to burst forth. He knew what people in Bone Court said to a woman like that; he knew the exact words and phrases. But they were not words and phrases an aide-de-camp might deliver himself of in the presence of his superior officer; they were not words and phrases an equerry uses at court. He dare not ALLOW himself to burst forth. He stood with flaming eyes and a flaming face, and bit his lips till they bled. He wanted to strike with his crutches. The son of Stefan Loristan! The Bearer of the Sign! There sprang up before his furious eyes the picture of the luridly lighted cavern and the frenzied crowd of men kneeling at this same boy's feet, kissing them, kissing his hands, his garments, the very earth he stood upon, worshipping him, while above the altar the kingly young face looked on with the nimbus of light like a halo above it. If he dared speak his mind now, he felt he could have endured it better. But being an aide-de-camp he could not.
"Do you want the money now?" asked Marco. "It is only the beginning of the week and we do not owe it to you until the week is over. Is it that you want to have it now?"
Lazarus had become deadly pale. He looked huge in his fury, and he looked dangerous.
"Young Master," he said slowly, in a voice as deadly as his pallor, and he actually spoke low, "this woman—"
Mrs. Beedle drew back towards the cellar-kitchen steps.
"There's police outside," she shrilled. "Young Master Loristan, order him to stand back."
"No one will hurt you," said Marco. "If you have the money here, Lazarus, please give it to me."
Lazarus literally ground his teeth. But he drew himself up and saluted with ceremony. He put his hand in his breast pocket and produced an old leather wallet. There were but a few coins in it. He pointed to a gold one.
"I obey you, sir—since I must—" he said, breathing hard. "That one will pay her for the week."
Marco took out the sovereign and held it out to the woman.
"You hear what he says," he said. "At the end of this week if there is not enough to pay for the next, we will go."
Lazarus looked so like a hyena, only held back from springing by chains of steel, that the dusty Mrs. Beedle was afraid to take the money.
"If you say that I shall not lose it, I'll wait until the week's ended," she said. "You're nothing but a lad, but you're like your father. You've got a way that a body can trust. If he was here and said he hadn't the money but he'd have it in time, I'd wait if it was for a month. He'd pay it if he said he would. But he's gone; and two boys and a fellow like that one don't seem much to depend on. But I'll trust YOU."
"Be good enough to take it," said Marco. And he put the coin in her hand and turned into the back sitting-room as if he did not see her.
The Rat and Lazarus followed him.
"Is there so little money left?" said Marco. "We have always had very little. When we had less than usual, we lived in poorer places and were hungry if it was necessary. We know how to go hungry. One does not die of it."
The big eyes under Lazarus' beetling brows filled with tears.
"No, sir," he said, "one does not die of hunger. But the insult—the insult! That is not endurable."
"She would not have spoken if my father had been here," Marco said. "And it is true that boys like us have no money. Is there enough to pay for another week?"
"Yes, sir," answered Lazarus, swallowing hard as if he had a lump in his throat, "perhaps enough for two—if we eat but little. If—if the Master would accept money from those who would give it, he would alway have had enough. But how could such a one as he? How could he? When he went away, he thought—he thought that—" but there he stopped himself suddenly.
"Never mind," said Marco. "Never mind. We will go away the day we can pay no more."
"I can go out and sell newspapers," said The Rat's sharp voice.
"I've done it before. Crutches help you to sell them. The platform would sell 'em faster still. I'll go out on the platform."
"I can sell newspapers, too," said Marco.
Lazarus uttered an exclamation like a groan.
"Sir," he cried, "no, no! Am I not here to go out and look for work? I can carry loads. I can run errands."
"We will all three begin to see what we can do," Marco said.
Then—exactly as had happened on the day of their return from their journey—there arose in the road outside the sound of newsboys shouting. This time the outcry seemed even more excited than before. The boys were running and yelling and there seemed more of them than usual. And above all other words was heard "Samavia! Samavia!" But to-day The Rat did not rush to the door at the first cry. He stood still—for several seconds they all three stood still—listening. Afterwards each one remembered and told the others that he had stood still because some strange, strong feeling held him WAITING as if to hear some great thing.
It was Lazarus who went out of the room first and The Rat and Marco followed him.
One of the upstairs lodgers had run down in haste and opened the door to buy newspapers and ask questions. The newsboys were wild with excitement and danced about as they shouted. The piece of news they were yelling had evidently a popular quality.
The lodger bought two papers and was handing out coppers to a lad who was talking loud and fast.
"Here's a go!" he was saying. "A Secret Party's risen up and taken Samavia! 'Twixt night and mornin' they done it! That there Lost Prince descendant 'as turned up, an' they've CROWNED him—'twixt night and mornin' they done it! Clapt 'is crown on 'is 'ead, so's they'd lose no time." And off he bolted, shouting, "'Cendant of Lost Prince! 'Cendant of Lost Prince made King of Samavia!"
It was then that Lazarus, forgetting even ceremony, bolted also. He bolted back to the sitting-room, rushed in, and the door fell to behind him.
Marco and The Rat found it shut when, having secured a newspaper, they went down the passage. At the closed door, Marco stopped. He did not turn the handle. From the inside of the room there came the sound of big convulsive sobs and passionate Samavian words of prayer and worshipping gratitude.
"Let us wait," Marco said, trembling a little. "He will not want any one to see him. Let us wait."
His black pits of eyes looked immense, and he stood at his tallest, but he was trembling slightly from head to foot. The Rat had begun to shake, as if from an ague. His face was scarcely human in its fierce unboyish emotion.
"Marco! Marco!" his whisper was a cry. "That was what he went for—BECAUSE HE KNEW!"
"Yes," answered Marco, "that was what he went for." And his voice was unsteady, as his body was.
Presently the sobs inside the room choked themselves back suddenly. Lazarus had remembered. They had guessed he had been leaning against the wall during his outburst. Now it was evident that he stood upright, probably shocked at the forgetfulness of his frenzy.
So Marco turned the handle of the door and went into the room. He shut the door behind him, and they all three stood together.
When the Samavian gives way to his emotions, he is emotional indeed. Lazarus looked as if a storm had swept over him. He had choked back his sobs, but tears still swept down his cheeks.
"Sir," he said hoarsely, "your pardon! It was as if a convulsion seized me. I forgot everything—even my duty. Pardon, pardon!" And there on the worn carpet of the dingy back sitting-room in the Marylebone Road, he actually went on one knee and kissed the boy's hand with adoration.
"You mustn't ask pardon," said Marco. "You have waited so long, good friend. You have given your life as my father has. You have known all the suffering a boy has not lived long enough to understand. Your big heart—your faithful heart—" his voice broke and he stood and looked at him with an appeal which seemed to ask him to remember his boyhood and understand the rest.
"Don't kneel," he said next. "You mustn't kneel." And Lazarus, kissing his hand again, rose to his feet.
"Now—we shall HEAR!" said Marco. "Now the waiting will soon be over."
"Yes, sir. Now, we shall receive commands!" Lazarus answered.
The Rat held out the newspapers.
"May we read them yet?" he asked.
"Until further orders, sir," said Lazarus hurriedly and apologetically—"until further orders, it is still better that I should read them first."
THE GAME IS AT AN END
So long as the history of Europe is written and read, the unparalleled story of the Rising of the Secret Party in Samavia will stand out as one of its most startling and romantic records. Every detail connected with the astonishing episode, from beginning to end, was romantic even when it was most productive of realistic results. When it is related, it always begins with the story of the tall and kingly Samavian youth who walked out of the palace in the early morning sunshine singing the herdsmen's song of beauty of old days. Then comes the outbreak of the ruined and revolting populace; then the legend of the morning on the mountain side, and the old shepherd coming out of his cave and finding the apparently dead body of the beautiful young hunter. Then the secret nursing in the cavern; then the jolting cart piled with sheepskins crossing the frontier, and ending its journey at the barred entrance of the monastery and leaving its mysterious burden behind. And then the bitter hate and struggle of dynasties, and the handful of shepherds and herdsmen meeting in their cavern and binding themselves and their unborn sons and sons' sons by an oath never to be broken. Then the passing of generations and the slaughter of peoples and the changing of kings,—and always that oath remembered, and the Forgers of the Sword, at their secret work, hidden in forests and caves. Then the strange story of the uncrowned kings who, wandering in other lands, lived and died in silence and seclusion, often laboring with their hands for their daily bread, but never forgetting that they must be kings, and ready,—even though Samavia never called. Perhaps the whole story would fill too many volumes to admit of it ever being told fully.
But history makes the growing of the Secret Party clear,—though it seems almost to cease to be history, in spite of its efforts to be brief and speak only of dull facts, when it is forced to deal with the Bearing of the Sign by two mere boys, who, being blown as unremarked as any two grains of dust across Europe, lit the Lamp whose flame so flared up to the high heavens that as if from the earth itself there sprang forth Samavians by the thousands ready to feed it—Iarovitch and Maranovitch swept aside forever and only Samavians remaining to cry aloud in ardent praise and worship of the God who had brought back to them their Lost Prince. The battle-cry of his name had ended every battle. Swords fell from hands because swords were not needed. The Iarovitch fled in terror and dismay; the Maranovitch were nowhere to be found. Between night and morning, as the newsboy had said, the standard of Ivor was raised and waved from palace and citadel alike. From mountain, forest and plain, from city, village and town, its followers flocked to swear allegiance; broken and wounded legions staggered along the roads to join and kneel to it; women and children followed, weeping with joy and chanting songs of praise. The Powers held out their scepters to the lately prostrate and ignored country. Train-loads of food and supplies of all things needed began to cross the frontier; the aid of nations was bestowed. Samavia, at peace to till its land, to raise its flocks, to mine its ores, would be able to pay all back. Samavia in past centuries had been rich enough to make great loans, and had stored such harvests as warring countries had been glad to call upon. The story of the crowning of the King had been the wildest of all—the multitude of ecstatic people, famished, in rags, and many of them weak with wounds, kneeling at his feet, praying, as their one salvation and security, that he would go attended by them to their bombarded and broken cathedral, and at its high altar let the crown be placed upon his head, so that even those who perhaps must die of their past sufferings would at least have paid their poor homage to the King Ivor who would rule their children and bring back to Samavia her honor and her peace.
"Ivor! Ivor!" they chanted like a prayer,—"Ivor! Ivor!" in their houses, by the roadside, in the streets.
"The story of the Coronation in the shattered Cathedral, whose roof had been torn to fragments by bombs," said an important London paper, "reads like a legend of the Middle Ages. But, upon the whole, there is in Samavia's national character, something of the mediaeval, still."
Lazarus, having bought and read in his top floor room every newspaper recording the details which had reached London, returned to report almost verbatim, standing erect before Marco, the eyes under his shaggy brows sometimes flaming with exultation, sometimes filled with a rush of tears. He could not be made to sit down. His whole big body seemed to have become rigid with magnificence. Meeting Mrs. Beedle in the passage, he strode by her with an air so thunderous that she turned and scuttled back to her cellar kitchen, almost falling down the stone steps in her nervous terror. In such a mood, he was not a person to face without something like awe.
In the middle of the night, The Rat suddenly spoke to Marco as if he knew that he was awake and would hear him.
"He has given all his life to Samavia!" he said. "When you traveled from country to country, and lived in holes and corners, it was because by doing it he could escape spies, and see the people who must be made to understand. No one else could have made them listen. An emperor would have begun to listen when he had seen his face and heard his voice. And he could be silent, and wait for the right time to speak. He could keep still when other men could not. He could keep his face still—and his hands—and his eyes. Now all Samavia knows what he has done, and that he has been the greatest patriot in the world. We both saw what Samavians were like that night in the cavern. They will go mad with joy when they see his face!"
"They have seen it now," said Marco, in a low voice from his bed.
Then there was a long silence, though it was not quite silence because The Rat's breathing was so quick and hard.
"He—must have been at that coronation!" he said at last. "The King—what will the King do to—repay him?"
Marco did not answer. His breathing could be heard also. His mind was picturing that same coronation—the shattered, roofless cathedral, the ruins of the ancient and magnificent high altar, the multitude of kneeling, famine-scourged people, the battle-worn, wounded and bandaged soldiery! And the King! And his father! Where had his father stood when the King was crowned? Surely, he had stood at the King's right hand, and the people had adored and acclaimed them equally!
"King Ivor!" he murmured as if he were in a dream. "King Ivor!"
The Rat started up on his elbow.
"You will see him," he cried out. "He's not a dream any longer. The Game is not a game now—and it is ended—it is won! It was real—HE was real! Marco, I don't believe you hear."
"Yes, I do," answered Marco, "but it is almost more a dream than when it was one."
"The greatest patriot in the world is like a king himself!" raved The Rat. "If there is no bigger honor to give him, he will be made a prince—and Commander-in-Chief—and Prime Minister! Can't you hear those Samavians shouting, and singing, and praying? You'll see it all! Do you remember the mountain climber who was going to save the shoes he made for the Bearer of the Sign? He said a great day might come when one could show them to the people. It's come! He'll show them! I know how they'll take it!" His voice suddenly dropped—as if it dropped into a pit. "You'll see it all. But I shall not."
Then Marco awoke from his dream and lifted his head. "Why not?" he demanded. It sounded like a demand.
"Because I know better than to expect it!" The Rat groaned. "You've taken me a long way, but you can't take me to the palace of a king. I'm not such a fool as to think that, even of your father—"
He broke off because Marco did more than lift his head. He sat upright.
"You bore the Sign as much as I did," he said. "We bore it together."
"Who would have listened to ME?" cried The Rat. "YOU were the son of Stefan Loristan."
"You were the friend of his son," answered Marco. "You went at the command of Stefan Loristan. You were the ARMY of the son of Stefan Loristan. That I have told you. Where I go, you will go. We will say no more of this—not one word."
And he lay down again in the silence of a prince of the blood. And The Rat knew that he meant what he said, and that Stefan Loristan also would mean it. And because he was a boy, he began to wonder what Mrs. Beedle would do when she heard what had happened—what had been happening all the time a tall, shabby "foreigner" had lived in her dingy back sitting-room, and been closely watched lest he should go away without paying his rent, as shabby foreigners sometimes did. The Rat saw himself managing to poise himself very erect on his crutches while he told her that the shabby foreigner was—well, was at least the friend of a King, and had given him his crown—and would be made a prince and a Commander-in-Chief—and a Prime Minister—because there was no higher rank or honor to give him. And his son—whom she had insulted—was Samavia's idol because he had borne the Sign. And also that if she were in Samavia, and Marco chose to do it he could batter her wretched lodging-house to the ground and put her in a prison—"and serve her jolly well right!"
The next day passed, and the next; and then there came a letter. It was from Loristan, and Marco turned pale when Lazarus handed it to him. Lazarus and The Rat went out of the room at once, and left him to read it alone. It was evidently not a long letter, because it was not many minutes before Marco called them again into the room.
"In a few days, messengers—friends of my father's—will come to take us to Samavia. You and I and Lazarus are to go," he said to The Rat.
"God be thanked!" said Lazarus. "God be thanked!"
Before the messengers came, it was the end of the week. Lazarus had packed their few belongings, and on Saturday Mrs. Beedle was to be seen hovering at the top of the cellar steps, when Marco and The Rat left the back sitting-room to go out.
"You needn't glare at me!" she said to Lazarus, who stood glowering at the door which he had opened for them. "Young Master Loristan, I want to know if you've heard when your father is coming back?"
"He will not come back," said Marco.
"He won't, won't he? Well, how about next week's rent?" said Mrs. Beedle. "Your man's been packing up, I notice. He's not got much to carry away, but it won't pass through that front door until I've got what's owing me. People that can pack easy think they can get away easy, and they'll bear watching. The week's up to-day."
Lazarus wheeled and faced her with a furious gesture. "Get back to your cellar, woman," he commanded. "Get back under ground and stay there. Look at what is stopping before your miserable gate."
A carriage was stopping—a very perfect carriage of dark brown. The coachman and footman wore dark brown and gold liveries, and the footman had leaped down and opened the door with respectful alacrity. "They are friends of the Master's come to pay their respects to his son," said Lazarus. "Are their eyes to be offended by the sight of you?"
"Your money is safe," said Marco. "You had better leave us."
Mrs. Beedle gave a sharp glance at the two gentlemen who had entered the broken gate. They were of an order which did not belong to Philibert Place. They looked as if the carriage and the dark brown and gold liveries were every-day affairs to them.
"At all events, they're two grown men, and not two boys without a penny," she said. "If they're your father's friends, they'll tell me whether my rent's safe or not."
The two visitors were upon the threshold. They were both men of a certain self-contained dignity of type; and when Lazarus opened wide the door, they stepped into the shabby entrance hall as if they did not see it. They looked past its dinginess, and past Lazarus, and The Rat, and Mrs. Beedle—THROUGH them, as it were,—at Marco.
He advanced towards them at once.
"You come from my father!" he said, and gave his hand first to the elder man, then to the younger.
"Yes, we come from your father. I am Baron Rastka—and this is the Count Vorversk," said the elder man, bowing.
"If they're barons and counts, and friends of your father's, they are well-to-do enough to be responsible for you," said Mrs. Beedle, rather fiercely, because she was somewhat over-awed and resented the fact. "It's a matter of next week's rent, gentlemen. I want to know where it's coming from."
The elder man looked at her with a swift cold glance. He did not speak to her, but to Lazarus. "What is she doing here?" he demanded.
Marco answered him. "She is afraid we cannot pay our rent," he said. "It is of great importance to her that she should be sure."
"Take her away," said the gentleman to Lazarus. He did not even glance at her. He drew something from his coat-pocket and handed it to the old soldier. "Take her away," he repeated. And because it seemed as if she were not any longer a person at all, Mrs. Beedle actually shuffled down the passage to the cellar-kitchen steps. Lazarus did not leave her until he, too, had descended into the cellar kitchen, where he stood and towered above her like an infuriated giant.
"To-morrow he will be on his way to Samavia, miserable woman!" he said. "Before he goes, it would be well for you to implore his pardon."
But Mrs. Beedle's point of view was not his. She had recovered some of her breath.
"I don't know where Samavia is," she raged, as she struggled to set her dusty, black cap straight. "I'll warrant it's one of these little foreign countries you can scarcely see on the map—and not a decent English town in it! He can go as soon as he likes, so long as he pays his rent before he does it. Samavia, indeed! You talk as if he was Buckingham Palace!"
"THE SON OF STEFAN LORISTAN"
When a party composed of two boys attended by a big soldierly man-servant and accompanied by two distinguished-looking, elderly men, of a marked foreign type, appeared on the platform of Charing Cross Station they attracted a good deal of attention. In fact, the good looks and strong, well-carried body of the handsome lad with the thick black hair would have caused eyes to turn towards him even if he had not seemed to be regarded as so special a charge by those who were with him. But in a country where people are accustomed to seeing a certain manner and certain forms observed in the case of persons—however young—who are set apart by the fortune of rank and distinction, and where the populace also rather enjoys the sight of such demeanor, it was inevitable that more than one quick-sighted looker-on should comment on the fact that this was not an ordinary group of individuals.
"See that fine, big lad over there!" said a workman, whose head, with a pipe in its mouth, stuck out of a third-class smoking carriage window. "He's some sort of a young swell, I'll lay a shillin'! Take a look at him," to his mate inside.
The mate took a look. The pair were of the decent, polytechnic-educated type, and were shrewd at observation.
"Yes, he's some sort of young swell," he summed him up. "But he's not English by a long chalk. He must be a young Turk, or Russian, sent over to be educated. His suite looks like it. All but the ferret-faced chap on crutches. Wonder what he is!"
A good-natured looking guard was passing, and the first man hailed him.
"Have we got any swells traveling with us this morning?" he asked, jerking his head towards the group. "That looks like it. Any one leaving Windsor or Sandringham to cross from Dover to-day?"
The man looked at the group curiously for a moment and then shook his head.
"They do look like something or other," he answered, "but no one knows anything about them. Everybody's safe in Buckingham Palace and Marlborough House this week. No one either going or coming."
No observer, it is true, could have mistaken Lazarus for an ordinary attendant escorting an ordinary charge. If silence had not still been strictly the order, he could not have restrained himself. As it was, he bore himself like a grenadier, and stood by Marco as if across his dead body alone could any one approach the lad.
"Until we reach Melzarr," he had said with passion to the two gentlemen,—"until I can stand before my Master and behold him embrace his son—BEHOLD him—I implore that I may not lose sight of him night or day. On my knees, I implore that I may travel, armed, at his side. I am but his servant, and have no right to occupy a place in the same carriage. But put me anywhere. I will be deaf, dumb, blind to all but himself. Only permit me to be near enough to give my life if it is needed. Let me say to my Master, 'I never left him.'"
"We will find a place for you," the elder man said, "and if you are so anxious, you may sleep across his threshold when we spend the night at a hotel."
"I will not sleep!" said Lazarus. "I will watch. Suppose there should be demons of Maranovitch loose and infuriated in Europe? Who knows!"
"The Maranovitch and Iarovitch who have not already sworn allegiance to King Ivor are dead on battlefields. The remainder are now Fedorovitch and praising God for their King," was the answer Baron Rastka made him.
But Lazarus kept his guard unbroken. When he occupied the next compartment to the one in which Marco traveled, he stood in the corridor throughout the journey. When they descended at any point to change trains, he followed close at the boy's heels, his fierce eyes on every side at once and his hand on the weapon hidden in his broad leather belt. When they stopped to rest in some city, he planted himself in a chair by the bedroom door of his charge, and if he slept he was not aware that nature had betrayed him into doing so.
If the journey made by the young Bearers of the Sign had been a strange one, this was strange by its very contrast. Throughout that pilgrimage, two uncared-for waifs in worn clothes had traveled from one place to another, sometimes in third- or fourth-class continental railroad carriages, sometimes in jolting diligences, sometimes in peasants' carts, sometimes on foot by side roads and mountain paths, and forest ways. Now, two well-dressed boys in the charge of two men of the class whose orders are obeyed, journeyed in compartments reserved for them, their traveling appurtenances supplying every comfort that luxury could provide.
The Rat had not known that there were people who traveled in such a manner; that wants could be so perfectly foreseen; that railroad officials, porters at stations, the staff of restaurants, could be by magic transformed into active and eager servants. To lean against the upholstered back of a railway carriage and in luxurious ease look through the window at passing beauties, and then to find books at your elbow and excellent meals appearing at regular hours, these unknown perfections made it necessary for him at times to pull himself together and give all his energies to believing that he was quite awake. Awake he was, and with much on his mind "to work out,"—so much, indeed, that on the first day of the journey he had decided to give up the struggle, and wait until fate made clear to him such things as he was to be allowed to understand of the mystery of Stefan Loristan.
What he realized most clearly was that the fact that the son of Stefan Loristan was being escorted in private state to the country his father had given his life's work to, was never for a moment forgotten. The Baron Rastka and Count Vorversk were of the dignity and courteous reserve which marks men of distinction. Marco was not a mere boy to them, he was the son of Stefan Loristan; and they were Samavians. They watched over him, not as Lazarus did, but with a gravity and forethought which somehow seemed to encircle him with a rampart. Without any air of subservience, they constituted themselves his attendants. His comfort, his pleasure, even his entertainment, were their private care. The Rat felt sure they intended that, if possible, he should enjoy his journey, and that he should not be fatigued by it. They conversed with him as The Rat had not known that men ever conversed with boys,—until he had met Loristan. It was plain that they knew what he would be most interested in, and that they were aware he was as familiar with the history of Samavia as they were themselves. When he showed a disposition to hear of events which had occurred, they were as prompt to follow his lead as they would have been to follow the lead of a man. That, The Rat argued with himself, was because Marco had lived so intimately with his father that his life had been more like a man's than a boy's and had trained him in mature thinking. He was very quiet during the journey, and The Rat knew he was thinking all the time.
The night before they reached Melzarr, they slept at a town some hours distant from the capital. They arrived at midnight and went to a quiet hotel.
"To-morrow," said Marco, when The Rat had left him for the night, "to-morrow, we shall see him! God be thanked!"
"God be thanked!" said The Rat, also. And each saluted the other before they parted.
In the morning, Lazarus came into the bedroom with an air so solemn that it seemed as if the garments he carried in his hands were part of some religious ceremony.
"I am at your command, sir," he said. "And I bring you your uniform."
He carried, in fact, a richly decorated Samavian uniform, and the first thing Marco had seen when he entered was that Lazarus himself was in uniform also. His was the uniform of an officer of the King's Body Guard.
"The Master," he said, "asks that you wear this on your entrance to Melzarr. I have a uniform, also, for your aide-de-camp."
When Rastka and Vorversk appeared, they were in uniforms also. It was a uniform which had a touch of the Orient in its picturesque splendor. A short fur-bordered mantle hung by a jeweled chain from the shoulders, and there was much magnificent embroidery of color and gold.
"Sir, we must drive quickly to the station," Baron Rastka said to Marco. "These people are excitable and patriotic, and His Majesty wishes us to remain incognito, and avoid all chance of public demonstration until we reach the capital." They passed rather hurriedly through the hotel to the carriage which awaited them. The Rat saw that something unusual was happening in the place. Servants were scurrying round corners, and guests were coming out of their rooms and even hanging over the balustrades.
As Marco got into his carriage, he caught sight of a boy about his own age who was peeping from behind a bush. Suddenly he darted away, and they all saw him tearing down the street towards the station as fast as his legs would carry him.
But the horses were faster than he was. The party reached the station, and was escorted quickly to its place in a special saloon-carriage which awaited it. As the train made its way out of the station, Marco saw the boy who had run before them rush on to the platform, waving his arms and shouting something with wild delight. The people who were standing about turned to look at him, and the next instant they had all torn off their caps and thrown them up in the air and were shouting also. But it was not possible to hear what they said.
"We were only just in time," said Vorversk, and Baron Rastka nodded.
The train went swiftly, and stopped only once before they reached Melzarr. This was at a small station, on the platform of which stood peasants with big baskets of garlanded flowers and evergreens. They put them on the train, and soon both Marco and The Rat saw that something unusual was taking place. At one time, a man standing on the narrow outside platform of the carriage was plainly seen to be securing garlands and handing up flags to men who worked on the roof.
"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.
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—
"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.
"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.
He realized vaguely that the King himself was standing, awaiting his approach. But as he advanced, each step bearing him nearer to the throne, the light and color about him, the strangeness and magnificence, the wildly joyous acclamation of the populace outside the palace, made him feel rather dazzled, and he did not clearly see any one single face or thing.
"His Majesty awaits you," said a voice behind him which seemed to be Baron Rastka's. "Are you faint, sir? You look pale."
He drew himself together, and lifted his eyes. For one full moment, after he had so lifted them, he stood quite still and straight, looking into the deep beauty of the royal face. Then he knelt and kissed the hands held out to him—kissed them both with a passion of boy love and worship.
The King had the eyes he had longed to see—the King's hands were those he had longed to feel again upon his shoulder—the King was his father! the "Stefan Loristan" who had been the last of those who had waited and labored for Samavia through five hundred years, and who had lived and died kings, though none of them till now had worn a crown!
His father was the King!
It was not that night, nor the next, nor for many nights that the telling of the story was completed. The people knew that their King and his son were rarely separated from each other; that the Prince's suite of apartments were connected by a private passage with his father's. The two were bound together by an affection of singular strength and meaning, and their love for their people added to their feeling for each other. In the history of what their past had been, there was a romance which swelled the emotional Samavian heart near to bursting. By mountain fires, in huts, under the stars, in fields and in forests, all that was known of their story was told and retold a thousand times, with sobs of joy and prayer breaking in upon the tale.
But none knew it as it was told in a certain quiet but stately room in the palace, where the man once known only as "Stefan Loristan," but whom history would call the first King Ivor of Samavia, told his share of it to the boy whom Samavians had a strange and superstitious worship for, because he seemed so surely their Lost Prince restored in body and soul—almost the kingly lad in the ancient portrait—some of them half believed when he stood in the sunshine, with the halo about his head.
It was a wonderful and intense story, that of the long wanderings and the close hiding of the dangerous secret. Among all those who had known that a man who was an impassioned patriot was laboring for Samavia, and using all the power of a great mind and the delicate ingenuity of a great genius to gain friends and favor for his unhappy country, there had been but one who had known that Stefan Loristan had a claim to the Samavian throne. He had made no claim, he had sought—not a crown—but the final freedom of the nation for which his love had been a religion.
"Not the crown!" he said to the two young Bearers of the Sign as they sat at his feet like schoolboys—"not a throne. 'The Life of my life—for Samavia.' That was what I worked for—what we have all worked for. If there had risen a wiser man in Samavia's time of need, it would not have been for me to remind them of their Lost Prince. I could have stood aside. But no man arose. The crucial moment came—and the one man who knew the secret, revealed it. Then—Samavia called, and I answered."
He put his hand on the thick, black hair of his boy's head.
"There was a thing we never spoke of together," he said. "I believed always that your mother died of her bitter fears for me and the unending strain of them. She was very young and loving, and knew that there was no day when we parted that we were sure of seeing each other alive again. When she died, she begged me to promise that your boyhood and youth should not be burdened by the knowledge she had found it so terrible to bear. I should have kept the secret from you, even if she had not so implored me. I had never meant that you should know the truth until you were a man. If I had died, a certain document would have been sent to you which would have left my task in your hands and made my plans clear. You would have known then that you also were a Prince Ivor, who must take up his country's burden and be ready when Samavia called. I tried to help you to train yourself for any task. You never failed me."
"Your Majesty," said The Rat, "I began to work it out, and think it must be true that night when we were with the old woman on the top of the mountain. It was the way she looked at—at His Highness."
"Say 'Marco,'" threw in Prince Ivor. "It's easier. He was my army, Father."
Stefan Loristan's grave eyes melted.
"Say 'Marco,'" he said. "You were his army—and more—when we both needed one. It was you who invented the Game!"
"Thanks, Your Majesty," said The Rat, reddening scarlet. "You do me great honor! But he would never let me wait on him when we were traveling. He said we were nothing but two boys. I suppose that's why it's hard to remember, at first. But my mind went on working until sometimes I was afraid I might let something out at the wrong time. When we went down into the cavern, and I saw the Forgers of the Sword go mad over him—I KNEW it must be true. But I didn't dare to speak. I knew you meant us to wait; so I waited."
"You are a faithful friend," said the King, "and you have always obeyed orders!"
A great moon was sailing in the sky that night—just such a moon as had sailed among the torn rifts of storm clouds when the Prince at Vienna had come out upon the balcony and the boyish voice had startled him from the darkness of the garden below. The clearer light of this night's splendor drew them out on a balcony also—a broad balcony of white marble which looked like snow. The pure radiance fell upon all they saw spread before them—the lovely but half-ruined city, the great palace square with its broken statues and arches, the splendid ghost of the unroofed cathedral whose High Altar was bare to the sky.
They stood and looked at it. There was a stillness in which all the world might have ceased breathing.
"What next?" said Prince Ivor, at last speaking quietly and low. "What next, Father?"
"Great things which will come, one by one," said the King, "if we hold ourselves ready."
Prince Ivor turned his face from the lovely, white, broken city, and put his brown hand on his father's arm.
"Upon the ledge that night—" he said, "Father, you remember—?" The King was looking far away, but he bent his head:
"Yes. That will come, too," he said. "Can you repeat it?"
"Yes," said Ivor, "and so can the aide-de-camp. We've said it a hundred times. We believe it's true. 'If the descendant of the Lost Prince is brought back to rule in Samavia, he will teach his people the Law of the One, from his throne. He will teach his son, and that son will teach his son, and he will teach his. And through such as these, the whole world will learn the Order and the Law.'"