Part 5 out of 6
it set out upon its way down the steepness.
They heard it laboring on its way, as though it was forced to
make as much effort to hold itself back as it had made to drag
Then they were alone, and it was a loneness such as an eagle
might feel when it held itself poised high in the curve of blue.
And they sat and watched. They saw the sun go down and, shade by
shade, deepen and make radiant and then draw away with it the
last touches of color--rose-gold, rose-purple, and rose-gray.
One mountain-top after another held its blush a few moments and
lost it. It took long to gather them all but at length they were
gone and the marvel of night fell.
The breath of the forests below was sweet about them, and
soundlessness enclosed them which was of unearthly peace. The
stars began to show themselves, and presently the two who waited
found their faces turned upward to the sky and they both were
speaking in whispers.
``The stars look large here,'' The Rat said.
``Yes,'' answered Marco. ``We are not as high as the Buddhist
was, but it seems like the top of the world.''
``There is a light on the side of the mountain yonder which is
not a star,'' The Rat whispered.
``It is a light in a hut where the guides take the climbers to
rest and to spend the night,'' answered Marco.
``It is so still,'' The Rat whispered again after a silence, and
Marco whispered back:
``It is so still.''
They had eaten their meal of black bread and cheese after the
setting of the sun, and now they lay down on their backs and
looked up until the first few stars had multiplied themselves
into myriads. They began a little low talk, but the
soundlessness was stronger than themselves.
``How am I going to hold on to that second law?'' The Rat said
restlessly. `` `Let pass through thy mind only the image thou
wouldst see become a truth.' The things that are passing through
my mind are not the things I want to come true. What if we don't
find him --don't find the right one, I mean!''
``Lie still--still--and look up at the stars,'' whispered Marco.
``They give you a SURE feeling.''
There was something in the curious serenity of him which calmed
even his aide-de-camp. The Rat lay still and looked--and
looked--and thought. And what he thought of was the desire of
his heart. The soundlessness enwrapped him and there was no
world left. That there was a spark of light in the
mountain-climbers' rest-hut was a thing forgotten.
They were only two boys, and they had begun their journey on the
earliest train and had been walking about all day and thinking of
great and anxious things.
``It is so still,'' The Rat whispered again at last.
``It is so still,'' whispered Marco.
And the mountains rising behind each other and beside each other
and beyond each other in the night, and also the myriads of stars
which had so multiplied themselves, looking down knew that they
were asleep--as sleep the human things which do not watch
``Some one is smoking,'' Marco found himself saying in a dream.
After which he awakened and found that the smoke was not part of
a dream at all. It came from the pipe of a young man who had an
alpenstock and who looked as if he had climbed to see the sun
rise. He wore the clothes of a climber and a green hat with a
tuft at the back. He looked down at the two boys, surprised.
``Good day,'' he said. ``Did you sleep here so that you could
see the sun get up?''
``Yes,'' answered Marco.
``Were you cold?''
``We slept too soundly to know. And we brought our thick
``I slept half-way down the mountains,'' said the smoker. ``I am
a guide in these days, but I have not been one long enough to
miss a sunrise it is no work to reach. My father and brother
think I am mad about such things. They would rather stay in
their beds. Oh! he is awake, is he?'' turning toward The Rat,
who had risen on one elbow and was staring at him. ``What is the
matter? You look as if you were afraid of me.''
Marco did not wait for The Rat to recover his breath and speak.
``I know why he looks at you so,'' he answered for him. ``He is
startled. Yesterday we went to a hair-dresser's shop down below
there, and we saw a man who was almost exactly like you--only
--'' he added, looking up, ``his eyes were gray and yours are
``He was my twin brother,'' said the guide, puffing at his pipe
cheerfully. ``My father thought he could make hair-dressers of
us both, and I tried it for four years. But I always wanted to
be climbing the mountains and there were not holidays enough. So
I cut my hair, and washed the pomade out of it, and broke away.
I don't look like a hair-dresser now, do I?''
He did not. Not at all. But Marco knew him. He was the man.
There was no one on the mountain-top but themselves, and the sun
was just showing a rim of gold above the farthest and highest
giant's shoulders. One need not be afraid to do anything, since
there was no one to see or hear. Marco slipped the sketch out of
the slit in his sleeve. He looked at it and he looked at the
guide, and then he showed it to him.
``That is not your brother. It is you!'' he said.
The man's face changed a little--more than any other face had
changed when its owner had been spoken to. On a mountain-top as
the sun rises one is not afraid.
``The Lamp is lighted,'' said Marco. ``The Lamp is lighted.''
``God be thanked!'' burst forth the man. And he took off his hat
and bared his head. Then the rim behind the mountain's shoulder
leaped forth into a golden torrent of splendor.
And The Rat stood up, resting his weight on his crutches in utter
silence, and stared and stared.
``That is three!'' said Marco.
THE SILVER HORN
During the next week, which they spent in journeying towards
Vienna, they gave the Sign to three different persons at places
which were on the way. In a village across the frontier in
Bavaria they found a giant of an old man sitting on a bench under
a tree before his mountain ``Gasthaus'' or inn; and when the four
words were uttered, he stood up and bared his head as the guide
had done. When Marco gave the Sign in some quiet place to a man
who was alone, he noticed that they all did this and said their
``God be thanked'' devoutly, as if it were part of some religious
ceremony. In a small town a few miles away he had to search some
hours before he found a stalwart young shoemaker with bright
red hair and a horseshoe-shaped scar on his forehead. He was not
in his workshop when the boys first passed it, because, as they
found out later, he had been climbing a mountain the day before,
and had been detained in the descent because his companion had
When Marco went in and asked him to measure him for a pair of
shoes, he was quite friendly and told them all about it.
``There are some good fellows who should not climb,'' he said.
``When they find themselves standing on a bit of rock jutting out
over emptiness, their heads begin to whirl round--and then, if
they don't turn head over heels a few thousand feet, it is
because some comrade is near enough to drag them back. There can
be no ceremony then and they sometimes get hurt--as my friend did
``Did you never get hurt yourself?'' The Rat asked.
``When I was eight years old I did that,'' said the young
shoemaker, touching the scar on his forehead. ``But it was not
much. My father was a guide and took me with him. He wanted me
to begin early. There is nothing like it--climbing. I shall be
at it again. This won't do for me. I tried shoemaking because I
was in love with a girl who wanted me to stay at home. She
married another man. I am glad of it. Once a guide, always a
guide.'' He knelt down to measure Marco's foot, and Marco bent a
``The Lamp is lighted,'' he said.
There was no one in the shop, but the door was open and people
were passing in the narrow street; so the shoemaker did not lift
his red head. He went on measuring.
``God be thanked!'' he said, in a low voice. ``Do you want these
shoes really, or did you only want me to take your measure?''
``I cannot wait until they are made,'' Marco answered. ``I must
``Yes, you must go on,'' answered the shoemaker. ``But I'll tell
you what I'll do--I'll make them and keep them. Some great day
might come when I shall show them to people and swagger about
them.'' He glanced round cautiously, and then ended, still
bending over his measuring. ``They will be called the shoes of
the Bearer of the Sign. And I shall say, `He was only a lad.
This was the size of his foot.' '' Then he stood up with a great
``There'll be climbing enough to be done now,'' he said, ``and I
look to see you again somewhere.''
When the boys went away, they talked it over.
``The hair-dresser didn't want to be a hair-dresser, and the
shoemaker didn't want to make shoes,'' said The Rat. ``They both
wanted to be mountain-climbers. There are mountains in Samavia
and mountains on the way to it. You showed them to me on the
``Yes; and secret messengers who can climb anywhere, and cross
dangerous places, and reconnoiter from points no one else can
reach, can find out things and give signals other men cannot,''
``That's what I thought out,'' The Rat answered. ``That was what
he meant when he said, `There will be climbing enough to be done
Strange were the places they went to and curiously unlike each
other were the people to whom they carried their message. The
most singular of all was an old woman who lived in so remote a
place that the road which wound round and round the mountain,
wound round it for miles and miles. It was not a bad road and it
was an amazing one to travel, dragged in a small cart by a mule,
when one could be dragged, and clambering slowly with rests
between when one could not: the tree-covered precipices one
looked down, the tossing whiteness of waterfalls, or the green
foaming of rushing streams, and the immensity of farm- and
village- scattered plains spreading themselves to the feet of
other mountains shutting them in were breath-taking beauties to
look down on, as the road mounted and wound round and round and
higher and higher.
``How can any one live higher than this?'' said The Rat as they
sat on the thick moss by the wayside after the mule and cart had
left them. ``Look at the bare crags looming up above there. Let
us look at her again. Her picture looked as if she were a
hundred years old.''
Marco took out his hidden sketch. It seemed surely one of the
strangest things in the world that a creature as old as this one
seemed could reach such a place, or, having reached it, could
ever descend to the world again to give aid to any person or
Her old face was crossed and recrossed with a thousand wrinkles.
Her profile was splendid yet and she had been a beauty in her
day. Her eyes were like an eagle's--and not an old eagle's. And
she had a long neck which held her old head high.
``How could she get here?'' exclaimed The Rat.
``Those who sent us know, though we don't,'' said Marco. ``Will
you sit here and rest while I go on further?''
``No!'' The Rat answered stubbornly. ``I didn't train myself to
stay behind. But we shall come to bare-rock climbing soon and
then I shall be obliged to stop,'' and he said the last bitterly.
He knew that, if Marco had come alone, he would have ridden in no
cart but would have trudged upward and onward sturdily to the end
of his journey.
But they did not reach the crags, as they had thought must be
inevitable. Suddenly half-way to the sky, as it seemed, they
came to a bend in the road and found themselves mounting into a
new green world--an astonishing marvel of a world, with green
velvet slopes and soft meadows and thick woodland, and cows
feeding in velvet pastures, and--as if it had been snowed down
from the huge bare mountain crags which still soared above into
heaven-- a mysterious, ancient, huddled village which, being thus
snowed down, might have caught among the rocks and rested there
through all time.
There it stood. There it huddled itself. And the monsters in
the blue above it themselves looked down upon it as if it were an
incredible thing--this ancient, steep-roofed, hanging-balconied,
crumbling cluster of human nests, which seemed a thousand miles
from the world. Marco and The Rat stood and stared at it. Then
they sat down and stared at it.
``How did it get here?'' The Rat cried.
Marco shook his head. He certainly could see no explanation of
its being there. Perhaps some of the oldest villages could tell
stories of how its first chalets had gathered themselves
An old peasant driving a cow came down a steep path. He looked
with a dull curiosity at The Rat and his crutches; but when Marco
advanced and spoke to him in German, he did not seem to
understand, but shook his head saying something in a sort of
dialect Marco did not know.
``If they all speak like that, we shall have to make signs when
we want to ask anything,'' The Rat said. ``What will she
``She will know the German for the Sign or we should not have
been sent here,'' answered Marco. ``Come on.''
They made their way to the village, which huddled itself together
evidently with the object of keeping itself warm when through the
winter months the snows strove to bury it and the winds roared
down from the huge mountain crags and tried to tear it from among
its rocks. The doors and windows were few and small, and
glimpses of the inside of the houses showed earthen floors and
dark rooms. It was plain that it was counted a more comfortable
thing to live without light than to let in the cold.
It was easy enough to reconnoiter. The few people they saw were
evidently not surprised that strangers who discovered their
unexpected existence should be curious and want to look at them
and their houses.
The boys wandered about as if they were casual explorers, who
having reached the place by chance were interested in all they
saw. They went into the little Gasthaus and got some black bread
and sausage and some milk. The mountaineer owner was a brawny
fellow who understood some German. He told them that few
strangers knew of the village but that bold hunters and climbers
came for sport. In the forests on the mountain sides were bears
and, in the high places, chamois. Now and again, some great
gentlemen came with parties of the daring kind--very great
gentlemen indeed, he said, shaking his head with pride. There
was one who had castles in other mountains, but he liked best to
come here. Marco began to wonder if several strange things might
not be true if great gentlemen sometimes climbed to the
mysterious place. But he had not been sent to give the Sign to a
great gentleman. He had been sent to give it to an old woman
with eyes like an eagle which was young.
He had a sketch in his sleeve, with that of her face, of her
steep-roofed, black-beamed, balconied house. If they walked
about a little, they would be sure to come upon it in this tiny
place. Then he could go in and ask her for a drink of water.
They roamed about for an hour after they left the Gasthaus. They
went into the little church and looked at the graveyard and
wondered if it was not buried out of all sight in the winter.
After they had done this, they sauntered out and walked through
the huddled clusters of houses, examining each one as they drew
near it and passed.
``I see it!'' The Rat exclaimed at last. ``It is that very old-
looking one standing a little way from the rest. It is not as
tumbled down as most of them. And there are some red flowers on
``Yes! That's it!'' said Marco.
They walked up to the low black door and, as he stopped on the
threshold, Marco took off his cap. He did this because, sitting
in the doorway on a low wooden chair, the old, old woman with the
eagle eyes was sitting knitting.
There was no one else in the room and no one anywhere within
sight. When the old, old woman looked up at him with her young
eagle's eyes, holding her head high on her long neck, Marco knew
he need not ask for water or for anything else.
``The Lamp is lighted,'' he said, in his low but strong and clear
She dropped her knitting upon her knees and gazed at him a moment
in silence. She knew German it was clear, for it was in German
she answered him.
``God be thanked!'' she said. ``Come in, young Bearer of the
Sign, and bring your friend in with you. I live alone and not a
soul is within hearing.''
She was a wonderful old woman. Neither Marco nor The Rat would
live long enough to forget the hours they spent in her strange
dark house. She kept them and made them spend the night with
``It is quite safe,'' she said. ``I live alone since my man fell
into the crevasse and was killed because his rope broke when he
was trying to save his comrade. So I have two rooms to spare and
sometimes climbers are glad to sleep in them. Mine is a good
warm house and I am well known in the village. You are very
young,'' she added shaking her head. ``You are very young. You
must have good blood in your veins to be trusted with this.''
``I have my father's blood,'' answered Marco.
``You are like some one I once saw,'' the old woman said, and her
eagle eyes set themselves hard upon him. ``Tell me your name.''
There was no reason why he should not tell it to her.
``It is Marco Loristan,'' he said.
``What! It is that!'' she cried out, not loud but low.
To Marco's amazement she got up from her chair and stood before
him, showing what a tall old woman she really was. There was a
startled, even an agitated, look in her face. And suddenly she
actually made a sort of curtsey to him--bending her knee as
peasants do when they pass a shrine.
``It is that!'' she said again. ``And yet they dare let you go
on a journey like this! That speaks for your courage and for
But Marco did not know what she meant. Her strange obeisance
made him feel awkward. He stood up because his training had told
him that when a woman stands a man also rises.
``The name speaks for the courage,'' he said, ``because it is my
She watched him almost anxiously.
``You do not even know!'' she breathed--and it was an exclamation
and not a question.
``I know what I have been told to do,'' he answered. ``I do not
ask anything else.''
``Who is that?'' she asked, pointing to The Rat.
``He is the friend my father sent with me,'' said Marco smiling.
``He called him my aide-de-camp. It was a sort of joke because
we had played soldiers together.''
It seemed as if she were obliged to collect her thoughts. She
stood with her hand at her mouth, looking down at the earth
``God guard you!'' she said at last. ``You are very--very
``But all his years,'' The Rat broke in, ``he has been in
training for just this thing. He did not know it was training,
but it was. A soldier who had been trained for thirteen years
would know his work.''
He was so eager that he forgot she could not understand English.
Marco translated what he said into German and added: ``What he
says is true.''
She nodded her head, still with questioning and anxious eyes.
``Yes. Yes,'' she muttered. ``But you are very young.'' Then
she asked in a hesitating way:
``Will you not sit down until I do?''
``No,'' answered Marco. ``I would not sit while my mother or
``Then I must sit--and forget,'' she said.
She passed her hand over her face as though she were sweeping
away the sudden puzzled trouble in her expression. Then she sat
down, as if she had obliged herself to become again the old
peasant she had been when they entered.
``All the way up the mountain you wondered why an old woman
should be given the Sign,'' she said. ``You asked each other how
she could be of use.''
Neither Marco nor The Rat said anything.
``When I was young and fresh,'' she went on. ``I went to a
castle over the frontier to be foster-mother to a child who was
born a great noble--one who was near the throne. He loved me and
I loved him. He was a strong child and he grew up a great hunter
and climber. When he was not ten years old, my man taught him to
climb. He always loved these mountains better than his own. He
comes to see me as if he were only a young mountaineer. He
sleeps in the room there,'' with a gesture over her shoulder into
the darkness. ``He has great power and, if he chooses to do a
thing, he will do it--just as he will attack the biggest bear or
climb the most dangerous peak. He is one who can bring things
about. It is very safe to talk in this room.''
Then all was quite clear. Marco and The Rat understood.
No more was said about the Sign. It had been given and that was
enough. The old woman told them that they must sleep in one of
her bedrooms. The next morning one of her neighbors was going
down to the valley with a cart and he would help them on their
way. The Rat knew that she was thinking of his crutches and he
``Tell her,'' he said to Marco, ``how I have trained myself until
I can do what any one else can. And tell her I am growing
stronger every day. Tell her I'll show her what I can do. Your
father wouldn't have let me come as your aide if I hadn't proved
to him that I wasn't a cripple. Tell her. She thinks I'm no
Marco explained and the old woman listened attentively. When The
Rat got up and swung himself about up and down the steep path
near her house she seemed relieved. His extraordinary dexterity
and firm swiftness evidently amazed her and gave her a confidence
she had not felt at first.
``If he has taught himself to be like that just for love of your
father, he will go to the end,'' she said. ``It is more than one
could believe, that a pair of crutches could do such things.''
The Rat was pacified and could afterwards give himself up to
watching her as closely as he wished to. He was soon ``working
out'' certain things in his mind. What he watched was her way of
watching Marco. It was as if she were fascinated and could not
keep her eyes from him. She told them stories about the
mountains and the strangers who came to climb with guides or to
hunt. She told them about the storms, which sometimes seemed
about to put an end to the little world among the crags. She
described the winter when the snow buried them and the strong
ones were forced to dig out the weak and some lived for days
under the masses of soft whiteness, glad to keep their cows or
goats in their rooms that they might share the warmth of their
bodies. The villages were forced to be good neighbors to each
other, for the man who was not ready to dig out a hidden chimney
or buried door to-day might be left to freeze and starve in his
snow tomb next week. Through the worst part of the winter no
creature from the world below could make way to them to find out
whether they were all dead or alive.
While she talked, she watched Marco as if she were always asking
herself some question about him. The Rat was sure that she liked
him and greatly admired his strong body and good looks. It was
not necessary for him to carry himself slouchingly in her
presence and he looked glowing and noble. There was a sort of
reverence in her manner when she spoke to him. She reminded him
of Lazarus more than once. When she gave them their evening
meal, she insisted on waiting on him with a certain respectful
ceremony. She would not sit at table with him, and The Rat began
to realize that she felt that he himself should be standing to
``She thinks I ought to stand behind your chair as Lazarus stands
behind your father's,'' he said to Marco. ``Perhaps an aide
ought to do it. Shall I? I believe it would please her.''
``A Bearer of the Sign is not a royal person,'' answered Marco.
``My father would not like it--and I should not. We are only two
It was very wonderful when, after their supper was over, they all
three sat together before the fire.
The red glow of the bed of wood-coal and the orange yellow of the
flame from the big logs filled the room with warm light, which
made a mellow background for the figure of the old woman as she
sat in her low chair and told them more and more enthralling
Her eagle eyes glowed and her long neck held her head splendidly
high as she described great feats of courage and endurance or
almost superhuman daring in aiding those in awesome peril, and,
when she glowed most in the telling, they always knew that the
hero of the adventure had been her foster-child who was the baby
born a great noble and near the throne. To her, he was the most
splendid and adorable of human beings. Almost an emperor, but so
warm and tender of heart that he never forgot the long- past days
when she had held him on her knee and told him tales of chamois-
and bear-hunting, and of the mountain-tops in mid- winter. He
was her sun-god.
``Yes! Yes!'' she said. `` `Good Mother,' he calls me. And I
bake him a cake on the hearth, as I did when he was ten years old
and my man was teaching him to climb. And when he chooses that a
thing shall be done--done it is! He is a great lord.''
The flames had died down and only the big bed of red coal made
the room glow, and they were thinking of going to bed when the
old woman started very suddenly, turning her head as if to
Marco and The Rat heard nothing, but they saw that she did and
they sat so still that each held his breath. So there was utter
stillness for a few moments. Utter stillness.
Then they did hear something--a clear silver sound, piercing the
pure mountain air.
The old woman sprang upright with the fire of delight in her
``It is his silver horn!'' she cried out striking her hands
together. ``It is his own call to me when he is coming. He has
been hunting somewhere and wants to sleep in his good bed here.
Help me to put on more faggots,'' to The Rat, ``so that he will
see the flame of them through the open door as he comes.''
``Shall we be in the way?'' said Marco. ``We can go at once.''
She was going towards the door to open it and she stopped a
moment and turned.
``No, no!'' she said. ``He must see your face. He will want to
see it. I want him to see--how young you are.''
She threw the door wide open and they heard the silver horn send
out its gay call again. The brushwood and faggots The Rat had
thrown on the coals crackled and sparkled and roared into fine
flames, which cast their light into the road and threw out in
fine relief the old figure which stood on the threshold and
looked so tall.
And in but a few minutes her great lord came to her. And in his
green hunting-suit with its green hat and eagle's feather he was
as splendid as she had said he was. He was big and royal-
looking and laughing and he bent and kissed her as if he had been
her own son.
``Yes, good Mother,'' they heard him say. ``I want my warm bed
and one of your good suppers. I sent the others to the
He came into the redly glowing room and his head almost touched
the blackened rafters. Then he saw the two boys.
``Who are these, good Mother?'' he asked.
She lifted his hand and kissed it.
``They are the Bearers of the Sign,'' she said rather softly. ``
`The Lamp is lighted.' ''
Then his whole look changed. His laughing face became quite
grave and for a moment looked even anxious. Marco knew it was
because he was startled to find them only boys. He made a step
forward to look at them more closely.
``The Lamp is lighted! And you two bear the Sign!'' he
exclaimed. Marco stood out in the fire glow that he might see
him well. He saluted with respect.
``My name is Marco Loristan, Highness,'' he said. ``And my
father sent me.''
The change which came upon his face then was even greater than at
first. For a second, Marco even felt that there was a flash of
alarm in it. But almost at once that passed.
``Loristan is a great man and a great patriot,'' he said. ``If
he sent you, it is because he knows you are the one safe
messenger. He has worked too long for Samavia not to know what
Marco saluted again. He knew what it was right to say next.
``If we have your Highness's permission to retire,'' he said,
``we will leave you and go to bed. We go down the mountain at
``Where next?'' asked the hunter, looking at him with curious
``To Vienna, Highness,'' Marco answered.
His questioner held out his hand, still with the intent interest
in his eyes.
``Good night, fine lad,'' he said. ``Samavia has need to vaunt
itself on its Sign-bearer. God go with you.''
He stood and watched him as he went toward the room in which he
and his aide-de-camp were to sleep. The Rat followed him
closely. At the little back door the old, old woman stood,
having opened it for them. As Marco passed and bade her good
night, he saw that she again made the strange obeisance, bending
the knee as he went by.
``HOW SHALL WE FIND HIM?''
In Vienna they came upon a pageant. In celebration of a
century-past victory the Emperor drove in state and ceremony to
attend at the great cathedral and to do honor to the ancient
banners and laurel-wreathed statue of a long-dead soldier-prince.
The broad pavements of the huge chief thoroughfare were crowded
with a cheering populace watching the martial pomp and splendor
as it passed by with marching feet, prancing horses, and glitter
of scabbard and chain, which all seemed somehow part of music in
The Rat was enormously thrilled by the magnificence of the
imperial place. Its immense spaces, the squares and gardens,
reigned over by statues of emperors, and warriors, and queens
made him feel that all things on earth were possible. The
palaces and stately piles of architecture, whose surmounting
equestrian bronzes ramped high in the air clear cut and beautiful
against the sky, seemed to sweep out of his world all atmosphere
but that of splendid cities down whose broad avenues emperors
rode with waving banners, tramping, jangling soldiery before and
behind, and golden trumpets blaring forth. It seemed as if it
must always be like this--that lances and cavalry and emperors
would never cease to ride by. ``I should like to stay here a
long time,'' he said almost as if he were in a dream. ``I should
like to see it all.''
He leaned on his crutches in the crowd and watched the glitter of
the passing pageant. Now and then he glanced at Marco, who
watched also with a steady eye which, The Rat saw, nothing would
escape: How absorbed he always was in the Game! How impossible
it was for him to forget it or to remember it only as a boy
would! Often it seemed that he was not a boy at all. And the
Game, The Rat knew in these days, was a game no more but a thing
of deep and deadly earnest--a thing which touched kings and
thrones, and concerned the ruling and swaying of great countries.
And they--two lads pushed about by the crowd as they stood and
stared at the soldiers--carried with them that which was even now
lighting the Lamp. The blood in The Rat's veins ran quickly and
made him feel hot as he remembered certain thoughts which had
forced themselves into his mind during the past weeks. As his
brain had the trick of ``working things out,'' it had, during the
last fortnight at least, been following a wonderful even if
rather fantastic and feverish fancy. A mere trifle had set it at
work, but, its labor once begun, things which might have once
seemed to be trifles appeared so no longer. When Marco was
asleep, The Rat lay awake through thrilled and sometimes almost
breathless midnight hours, looking backward and recalling every
detail of their lives since they had known each other. Sometimes
it seemed to him that almost everything he remembered--the Game
from first to last above all--had pointed to but one thing. And
then again he would all at once feel that he was a fool and had
better keep his head steady. Marco, he knew, had no wild
fancies. He had learned too much and his mind was too well
balanced. He did not try to ``work out things.'' He only
thought of what he was under orders to do.
``But,'' said The Rat more than once in these midnight hours,
``if it ever comes to a draw whether he is to be saved or I am,
he is the one that must come to no harm. Killing can't take
long-- and his father sent me with him.''
This thought passed through his mind as the tramping feet went
by. As a sudden splendid burst of approaching music broke upon
his ear, a queer look twisted his face. He realized the contrast
between this day and that first morning behind the churchyard,
when he had sat on his platform among the Squad and looked up and
saw Marco in the arch at the end of the passage. And because he
had been good-looking and had held himself so well, he had thrown
a stone at him. Yes--blind gutter-bred fool that he'd been:--his
first greeting to Marco had been a stone, just because he was
what he was. As they stood here in the crowd in this far-off
foreign city, it did not seem as if it could be true that it was
he who had done it.
He managed to work himself closer to Marco's side. ``Isn't it
splendid?'' he said, ``I wish I was an emperor myself. I'd have
these fellows out like this every day.'' He said it only because
he wanted to say something, to speak, as a reason for getting
closer to him. He wanted to be near enough to touch him and feel
that they were really together and that the whole thing was not a
sort of magnificent dream from which he might awaken to find
himself lying on his heap of rags in his corner of the room in
The crowd swayed forward in its eagerness to see the principal
feature of the pageant--the Emperor in his carriage. The Rat
swayed forward with the rest to look as it passed.
A handsome white-haired and mustached personage in splendid
uniform decorated with jeweled orders and with a cascade of
emerald-green plumes nodding in his military hat gravely saluted
the shouting people on either side. By him sat a man uniformed,
decorated, and emerald-plumed also, but many years younger.
Marco's arm touched The Rat's almost at the same moment that his
own touched Marco. Under the nodding plumes each saw the rather
tired and cynical pale face, a sketch of which was hidden in the
slit in Marco's sleeve.
``Is the one who sits with the Emperor an Archduke?'' Marco asked
the man nearest to him in the crowd. The man answered amiably
enough. No, he was not, but he was a certain Prince, a
descendant of the one who was the hero of the day. He was a
great favorite of the Emperor's and was also a great personage,
whose palace contained pictures celebrated throughout Europe.
``He pretends it is only pictures he cares for,'' he went on,
shrugging his shoulders and speaking to his wife, who had begun
to listen, ``but he is a clever one, who amuses himself with
things he professes not to concern himself about--big things.
It's his way to look bored, and interested in nothing, but it's
said he's a wizard for knowing dangerous secrets.''
``Does he live at the Hofburg with the Emperor?'' asked the
woman, craning her neck to look after the imperial carriage.
``No, but he's often there. The Emperor is lonely and bored too,
no doubt, and this one has ways of making him forget his
troubles. It's been told me that now and then the two dress
themselves roughly, like common men, and go out into the city to
see what it's like to rub shoulders with the rest of the world.
I daresay it's true. I should like to try it myself once in a
while, if I had to sit on a throne and wear a crown.''
The two boys followed the celebration to its end. They managed
to get near enough to see the entrance to the church where the
service was held and to get a view of the ceremonies at the
banner-draped and laurel-wreathed statue. They saw the man with
the pale face several times, but he was always so enclosed that
it was not possible to get within yards of him. It happened
once, however, that he looked through a temporary break in the
people and saw a dark strong-featured and remarkably intent boy's
face, whose vivid scrutiny of him caught his eye. There was
something in the fixedness of its attention which caused him to
look at it curiously for a few seconds, and Marco met his gaze
``Look at me! Look at me!'' the boy was saying to him mentally.
``I have a message for you. A message!''
The tired eyes in the pale face rested on him with a certain
growing light of interest and curiosity, but the crowding people
moved and the temporary break closed up, so that the two could
see each other no more. Marco and The Rat were pushed backward
by those taller and stronger than themselves until they were on
the outskirts of the crowd.
``Let us go to the Hofburg,'' said Marco. ``They will come back
there, and we shall see him again even if we can't get near.''
To the Hofburg they made their way through the less crowded
streets, and there they waited as near to the great palace as
they could get. They were there when, the ceremonies at an end,
the imperial carriages returned, but, though they saw their man
again, they were at some distance from him and he did not see
Then followed four singular days. They were singular days
because they were full of tantalizing incidents. Nothing seemed
easier than to hear talk of, and see the Emperor's favorite, but
nothing was more impossible than to get near to him. He seemed
rather a favorite with the populace, and the common people of the
shopkeeping or laboring classes were given to talking freely of
him--of where he was going and what he was doing. To-night he
would be sure to be at this great house or that, at this ball or
that banquet. There was no difficulty in discovering that he
would be sure to go to the opera, or the theatre, or to drive to
Schonbrunn with his imperial master. Marco and The Rat heard
casual speech of him again and again, and from one part of the
city to the other they followed and waited for him. But it was
like chasing a will-o'-the-wisp. He was evidently too brilliant
and important a person to be allowed to move about alone. There
were always people with him who seemed absorbed in his languid
cynical talk. Marco thought that he never seemed to care much
for his companions, though they on their part always seemed
highly entertained by what he was saying. It was noticeable that
they laughed a great deal, though he himself scarcely even
``He's one of those chaps with the trick of saying witty things
as if he didn't see the fun in them himself,'' The Rat summed him
up. ``Chaps like that are always cleverer than the other kind.''
``He's too high in favor and too rich not to be followed about,''
they heard a man in a shop say one day, ``but he gets tired of
it. Sometimes, when he's too bored to stand it any longer, he
gives it out that he's gone into the mountains somewhere, and all
the time he's shut up alone with his pictures in his own
That very night The Rat came in to their attic looking pale and
disappointed. He had been out to buy some food after a long and
arduous day in which they had covered much ground, had seen their
man three times, and each time under circumstances which made him
more inaccessible than ever. They had come back to their poor
quarters both tired and ravenously hungry.
The Rat threw his purchase on to the table and himself into a
``He's gone to Budapest,'' he said. ``NOW how shall we find
Marco was rather pale also, and for a moment he looked paler.
The day had been a hard one, and in their haste to reach places
at a long distance from each other they had forgotten their need
They sat silent for a few moments because there seemed to be
nothing to say. ``We are too tired and hungry to be able to
think well,'' Marco said at last. ``Let us eat our supper and
then go to sleep. Until we've had a rest, we must `let go.' ''
``Yes. There's no good in talking when you're tired,'' The Rat
answered a trifle gloomily. ``You don't reason straight. We
must `let go.' ''
Their meal was simple but they ate well and without words.
Even when they had finished and undressed for the night, they
said very little.
``Where do our thoughts go when we are asleep,'' The Rat inquired
casually after he was stretched out in the darkness. ``They must
go somewhere. Let's send them to find out what to do next.''
``It's not as still as it was on the Gaisberg. You can hear the
city roaring,'' said Marco drowsily from his dark corner. ``We
must make a ledge--for ourselves.''
Sleep made it for them--deep, restful, healthy sleep. If they
had been more resentful of their ill luck and lost labor, it
would have come less easily and have been less natural. In their
talks of strange things they had learned that one great secret of
strength and unflagging courage is to know how to ``let go''--to
cease thinking over an anxiety until the right moment comes. It
was their habit to ``let go'' for hours sometimes, and wander
about looking at places and things--galleries, museums, palaces,
giving themselves up with boyish pleasure and eagerness to all
they saw. Marco was too intimate with the things worth seeing,
and The Rat too curious and feverishly wide-awake to allow of
their missing much.
The Rat's image of the world had grown until it seemed to know no
boundaries which could hold its wealth of wonders. He wanted to
go on and on and see them all.
When Marco opened his eyes in the morning, he found The Rat lying
looking at him. Then they both sat up in bed at the same time.
``I believe we are both thinking the same thing,'' Marco said.
They frequently discovered that they were thinking the same
``So do I,'' answered The Rat. ``It shows how tired we were that
we didn't think of it last night.''
``Yes, we are thinking the same thing,'' said Marco. ``We have
both remembered what we heard about his shutting himself up alone
with his pictures and making people believe he had gone away.''
``He's in his palace now,'' The Rat announced.
``Do you feel sure of that, too?'' asked Marco. ``Did you wake
up and feel sure of it the first thing?''
``Yes,'' answered The Rat. ``As sure as if I'd heard him say it
``So did I,'' said Marco.
``That's what our thoughts brought back to us,'' said The Rat,
``when we `let go' and sent them off last night.'' He sat up
hugging his knees and looking straight before him for some time
after this, and Marco did not interrupt his meditations.
The day was a brilliant one, and, though their attic had only one
window, the sun shone in through it as they ate their breakfast.
After it, they leaned on the window's ledge and talked about the
Prince's garden. They talked about it because it was a place
open to the public and they had walked round it more than once.
The palace, which was not a large one, stood in the midst of it.
The Prince was good-natured enough to allow quiet and
well-behaved people to saunter through. It was not a fashionable
promenade but a pleasant retreat for people who sometimes took
their work or books and sat on the seats placed here and there
among the shrubs and flowers.
``When we were there the first time, I noticed two things,''
Marco said. ``There is a stone balcony which juts out from the
side of the palace which looks on the Fountain Garden. That day
there were chairs on it as if the Prince and his visitors
sometimes sat there. Near it, there was a very large evergreen
shrub and I saw that there was a hollow place inside it. If some
one wanted to stay in the gardens all night to watch the windows
when they were lighted and see if any one came out alone upon the
balcony, he could hide himself in the hollow place and stay there
until the morning.''
``Is there room for two inside the shrub?'' The Rat asked.
``No. I must go alone,'' said Marco.
A VOICE IN THE NIGHT
Late that afternoon there wandered about the gardens two quiet,
inconspicuous, rather poorly dressed boys. They looked at the
palace, the shrubs, and the flower-beds, as strangers usually
did, and they sat on the seats and talked as people were
accustomed to seeing boys talk together. It was a sunny day and
exceptionally warm, and there were more saunterers and sitters
than usual, which was perhaps the reason why the portier at the
entrance gates gave such slight notice to the pair that he did
not observe that, though two boys came in, only one went out. He
did not, in fact, remember, when he saw The Rat swing by on his
crutches at closing-time, that he had entered in company with a
dark-haired lad who walked without any aid. It happened that,
when The Rat passed out, the portier at the entrance was much
interested in the aspect of the sky, which was curiously
threatening. There had been heavy clouds hanging about all day
and now and then blotting out the sunshine entirely, but the sun
had refused to retire altogether. Just now, however, the clouds
had piled themselves in thunderous, purplish mountains, and the
sun had been forced to set behind them.
``It's been a sort of battle since morning,'' the portier said.
``There will be some crashes and cataracts to-night.'' That was
what The Rat had thought when they had sat in the Fountain Garden
on a seat which gave them a good view of the balcony and the big
evergreen shrub, which they knew had the hollow in the middle,
though its circumference was so imposing. ``If there should be a
big storm, the evergreen will not save you much, though it may
keep off the worst,'' The Rat said. ``I wish there was room for
He would have wished there was room for two if he had seen Marco
marching to the stake. As the gardens emptied, the boys rose and
walked round once more, as if on their way out. By the time they
had sauntered toward the big evergreen, nobody was in the
Fountain Garden, and the last loiterers were moving toward the
arched stone entrance to the streets.
When they drew near one side of the evergreen, the two were
together. When The Rat swung out on the other side of it, he was
alone! No one noticed that anything had happened; no one looked
back. So The Rat swung down the walks and round the flower-beds
and passed into the street. And the portier looked at the sky
and made his remark about the ``crashes'' and ``cataracts.''
As the darkness came on, the hollow in the shrub seemed a very
safe place. It was not in the least likely that any one would
enter the closed gardens; and if by rare chance some servant
passed through, he would not be in search of people who wished to
watch all night in the middle of an evergreen instead of going to
bed and to sleep. The hollow was well inclosed with greenery,
and there was room to sit down when one was tired of standing.
Marco stood for a long time because, by doing so, he could see
plainly the windows opening on the balcony if he gently pushed
aside some flexible young boughs. He had managed to discover in
his first visit to the gardens that the windows overlooking the
Fountain Garden were those which belonged to the Prince's own
suite of rooms. Those which opened on to the balcony lighted his
favorite apartment, which contained his best-loved books and
pictures and in which he spent most of his secluded leisure
Marco watched these windows anxiously. If the Prince had not
gone to Budapest,--if he were really only in retreat, and hiding
from his gay world among his treasures,--he would be living in
his favorite rooms and lights would show themselves. And if
there were lights, he might pass before a window because, since
he was inclosed in his garden, he need not fear being seen. The
twilight deepened into darkness and, because of the heavy clouds,
it was very dense. Faint gleams showed themselves in the lower
part of the palace, but none was lighted in the windows Marco
watched. He waited so long that it became evident that none was
to be lighted at all. At last he loosed his hold on the young
boughs and, after standing a few moments in thought, sat down
upon the earth in the midst of his embowered tent. The Prince
was not in his retreat; he was probably not in Vienna, and the
rumor of his journey to Budapest had no doubt been true. So much
time lost through making a mistake--but it was best to have made
the venture. Not to have made it would have been to lose a
chance. The entrance was closed for the night and there was no
getting out of the gardens until they were opened for the next
day. He must stay in his hiding- place until the time when
people began to come and bring their books and knitting and sit
on the seats. Then he could stroll out without attracting
attention. But he had the night before him to spend as best he
could. That would not matter at all. He could tuck his cap
under his head and go to sleep on the ground. He could command
himself to waken once every half-hour and look for the lights.
He would not go to sleep until it was long past midnight--so long
past that there would not be one chance in a hundred that
anything could happen. But the clouds which made the night so
dark were giving forth low rumbling growls. At intervals a
threatening gleam of light shot across them and a sudden swish of
wind rushed through the trees in the garden. This happened
several times, and then Marco began to hear the patter of
raindrops. They were heavy and big drops, but few at first, and
then there was a new and more powerful rush of wind, a jagged
dart of light in the sky, and a tremendous crash. After that the
clouds tore themselves open and poured forth their contents in
floods. After the protracted struggle of the day it all seemed
to happen at once, as if a horde of huge lions had at one moment
been let loose: flame after flame of lightning, roar and crash
and sharp reports of thunder, shrieks of hurricane wind, torrents
of rain, as if some tidal-wave of the skies had gathered and
rushed and burst upon the earth. It was such a storm as people
remember for a lifetime and which in few lifetimes is seen at
Marco stood still in the midst of the rage and flooding, blinding
roar of it. After the first few minutes he knew he could do
nothing to shield himself. Down the garden paths he heard
cataracts rushing. He held his cap pressed against his eyes
because he seemed to stand in the midst of darting flames. The
crashes, cannon reports and thunderings, and the jagged streams
of light came so close to one another that he seemed deafened as
well as blinded. He wondered if he should ever be able to hear
human voices again when it was over. That he was drenched to the
skin and that the water poured from his clothes as if he were
himself a cataract was so small a detail that he was scarcely
aware of it. He stood still, bracing his body, and waited. If
he had been a Samavian soldier in the trenches and such a storm
had broken upon him and his comrades, they could only have braced
themselves and waited. This was what he found himself thinking
when the tumult and downpour were at their worst. There were men
who had waited in the midst of a rain of bullets.
It was not long after this thought had come to him that there
occurred the first temporary lull in the storm. Its fury perhaps
reached its height and broke at that moment. A yellow flame had
torn its jagged way across the heavens, and an earth-rending
crash had thundered itself into rumblings which actually died
away before breaking forth again. Marco took his cap from his
eyes and drew a long breath. He drew two long breaths. It was
as he began drawing a third and realizing the strange feeling of
the almost stillness about him that he heard a new kind of sound
at the side of the garden nearest his hiding-place. It sounded
like the creak of a door opening somewhere in the wall behind the
laurel hedge. Some one was coming into the garden by a private
entrance. He pushed aside the young boughs again and tried to
see, but the darkness was too dense. Yet he could hear if the
thunder would not break again. There was the sound of feet on
the wet gravel, the footsteps of more than one person coming
toward where he stood, but not as if afraid of being heard;
merely as if they were at liberty to come in by what entrance
they chose. Marco remained very still. A sudden hope gave him a
shock of joy. If the man with the tired face chose to hide
himself from his acquaintances, he might choose to go in and out
by a private entrance. The footsteps drew near, crushing the wet
gravel, passed by, and seemed to pause somewhere near the
balcony; and them flame lit up the sky again and the thunder
burst forth once more.
But this was its last greal peal. The storm was at an end. Only
fainter and fainter rumblings and mutterings and paler and paler
darts followed. Even they were soon over, and the cataracts in
the paths had rushed themselves silent. But the darkness was
It was deep to blackness in the hollow of the evergreen. Marco
stood in it, streaming with rain, but feeling nothing because he
was full of thought. He pushed aside his greenery and kept his
eyes on the place in the blackness where the windows must be,
though he could not see them. It seemed that he waited a long
time, but he knew it only seemed so really. He began to breathe
quickly because he was waiting for something.
Suddenly he saw exactly where the windows were--because they were
His feeling of relief was great, but it did not last very long.
It was true that something had been gained in the certainty that
his man had not left Vienna. But what next? It would not be so
easy to follow him if he chose only to go out secretly at night.
What next? To spend the rest of the night watching a lighted
window was not enough. To-morrow night it might not be lighted.
But he kept his gaze fixed upon it. He tried to fix all his will
and thought-power on the person inside the room. Perhaps he
could reach him and make him listen, even though he would not
know that any one was speaking to him. He knew that thoughts
were strong things. If angry thoughts in one man's mind will
create anger in the mind of another, why should not sane messages
cross the line?
``I must speak to you. I must speak to you!'' he found himself
saying in a low intense voice. ``I am outside here waiting.
Listen! I must speak to you!''
He said it many times and kept his eyes fixed upon the window
which opened on to the balcony. Once he saw a man's figure cross
the room, but he could not be sure who it was. The last distant
rumblings of thunder had died away and the clouds were breaking.
It was not long before the dark mountainous billows broke apart,
and a brilliant full moon showed herself sailing in the rift,
suddenly flooding everything with light. Parts of the garden
were silver white, and the tree shadows were like black velvet.
A silvery lance pierced even into the hollow of Marco's evergreen
and struck across his face.
Perhaps it was this sudden change which attracted the attention
of those inside the balconied room. A man's figure appeared at
the long windows. Marco saw now that it was the Prince. He
opened the windows and stepped out on to the balcony.
``It is all over,'' he said quietly. And he stood with his face
lifted, looking at the great white sailing moon.
He stood very still and seemed for the moment to forget the world
and himself. It was a wonderful, triumphant queen of a moon.
But something brought him back to earth. A low, but strong and
clear, boy-voice came up to him from the garden path below.
``The Lamp is lighted. The Lamp is lighted,'' it said, and the
words sounded almost as if some one were uttering a prayer. They
seemed to call to him, to arrest him, to draw him.
He stood still a few seconds in dead silence. Then he bent over
the balustrade. The moonlight had not broken the darkness below.
``That is a boy's voice,'' he said in a low tone, ``but I cannot
see who is speaking.''
``Yes, it is a boy's voice,'' it answered, in a way which somehow
moved him, because it was so ardent. ``It is the son of Stefan
Loristan. The Lamp is lighted.''
``Wait. I am coming down to you,'' the Prince said.
In a few minutes Marco heard a door open gently not far from
where he stood. Then the man he had been following so many days
appeared at his side.
``How long have you been here?'' he asked.
``Before the gates closed. I hid myself in the hollow of the big
shrub there, Highness,'' Marco answered.
``Then you were out in the storm?''
The Prince put his hand on the boy's shoulder. ``I cannot see
you --but it is best to stand in the shadow. You are drenched to
``I have been able to give your Highness--the Sign,'' Marco
whispered. ``A storm is nothing.''
There was a silence. Marco knew that his companion was pausing
to turn something over in his mind.
``So-o?'' he said slowly, at length. ``The Lamp is lighted, And
YOU are sent to bear the Sign.'' Something in his voice made
Marco feel that he was smiling.
``What a race you are! What a race--you Samavian Loristans!''
He paused as if to think the thing over again.
``I want to see your face,'' he said next. ``Here is a tree with
a shaft of moonlight striking through the branches. Let us step
aside and stand under it.''
Marco did as he was told. The shaft of moonlight fell upon his
uplifted face and showed its young strength and darkness, quite
splendid for the moment in a triumphant glow of joy in obstacles
overcome. Raindrops hung on his hair, but he did not look
draggled, only very wet and picturesque. He had reached his man.
He had given the Sign.
The Prince looked him over with interested curiosity.
``Yes,'' he said in his cool, rather dragging voice. ``You are
the son of Stefan Loristan. Also you must be taken care of. You
must come with me. I have trained my household to remain in its
own quarters until I require its service. I have attached to my
own apartments a good safe little room where I sometimes keep
You can dry your clothes and sleep there. When the gardens are
opened again, the rest will be easy.''
But though he stepped out from under the trees and began to move
towards the palace in the shadow, Marco noticed that he moved
hesitatingly, as if he had not quite decided what he should do.
He stopped rather suddenly and turned again to Marco, who was
``There is some one in the room I just now left,'' he said, ``an
old man--whom it might interest to see you. It might also be a
good thing for him to feel interest in you. I choose that he
shall see you --as you are.''
``I am at your command, Highness,'' Marco answered. He knew his
companion was smiling again.
``You have been in training for more centuries than you know,''
he said; ``and your father has prepared you to encounter the
unexpected without surprise.''
They passed under the balcony and paused at a low stone doorway
hidden behind shrubs. The door was a beautiful one, Marco saw
when it was opened, and the corridor disclosed was beautiful
also, though it had an air of quiet and aloofness which was not
so much secret as private. A perfect though narrow staircase
mounted from it to the next floor. After ascending it, the
Prince led the way through a short corridor and stopped at the
door at the end of it. ``We are going in here,'' he said.
It was a wonderful room--the one which opened on to the balcony.
Each piece of furniture in it, the hangings, the tapestries, and
pictures on the wall were all such as might well have found
themselves adorning a museum. Marco remembered the common report
of his escort's favorite amusement of collecting wonders and
furnishing his house with the things others exhibited only as
marvels of art and handicraft. The place was rich and mellow
with exquisitely chosen beauties.
In a massive chair upon the heart sat a figure with bent head.
It was a tall old man with white hair and moustache. His elbows
rested upon the arm of his chair and he leaned his forehead on
his hand as if he were weary.
Marco's companion crossed the room and stood beside him, speaking
in a lowered voice. Marco could not at first hear what he said.
He himself stood quite still, waiting. The white-haired man
lifted his head and listened. It seemed as though almost at once
he was singularly interested. The lowered voice was slightly
raised at last and Marco heard the last two sentences:
``The only son of Stefan Loristan. Look at him.''
The old man in the chair turned slowly and looked, steadily, and
with questioning curiosity touched with grave surprise. He had
keen and clear blue eyes.
Then Marco, still erect and silent, waited again. The Prince had
merely said to him, ``an old man whom it might interest to see
you.'' He had plainly intended that, whatsoever happened, he
must make no outward sign of seeing more than he had been told he
would see --``an old man.'' It was for him to show no
astonishment or recognition. He had been brought here not to see
but to be seen. The power of remaining still under scrutiny,
which The Rat had often envied him, stood now in good stead
because he had seen the white head and tall form not many days
before, surmounted by brilliant emerald plumes, hung with jeweled
decorations, in the royal carriage, escorted by banners, and
helmets, and following troops whose tramping feet kept time to
bursts of military music while the populace bared their heads and
``He is like his father,'' this personage said to the Prince.
``But if any one but Loristan had sent him--His looks please
me.'' Then suddenly to Marco, ``You were waiting outside while
the storm was going on?''
``Yes, sir,'' Marco answered.
Then the two exchanged some words still in the lowered voice.
``You read the news as you made your journey?'' he was asked.
``You know how Samavia stands?''
``She does not stand,'' said Marco. ``The Iarovitch and the
Maranovitch have fought as hyenas fight, until each has torn the
other into fragments--and neither has blood or strength left.''
The two glanced at each other.
``A good simile,'' said the older person. ``You are right. If a
strong party rose--and a greater power chose not to
interfere--the country might see better days.'' He looked at him
a few moments longer and then waved his hand kindly.
``You are a fine Samavian,'' he said. ``I am glad of that. You
may go. Good night.''
Marco bowed respectfully and the man with the tired face led him
out of the room.
It was just before he left him in the small quiet chamber in
which he was to sleep that the Prince gave him a final curious
glance. ``I remember now,'' he said. ``In the room, when you
answered the question about Samavia, I was sure that I had seen
you before. It was the day of the celebration. There was a
break in the crowd and I saw a boy looking at me. It was you.''
``Yes,'' said Marco, ``I have followed you each time you have
gone out since then, but I could never get near enough to speak.
To- night seemed only one chance in a thousand.''
``You are doing your work more like a man than a boy,'' was the
next speech, and it was made reflectively. ``No man could have
behaved more perfectly than you did just now, when discretion and
composure were necessary.'' Then, after a moment's pause, ``He
was deeply interested and deeply pleased. Good night.''
When the gardens had been thrown open the next morning and people
were passing in and out again, Marco passed out also. He was
obliged to tell himself two or three times that he had not
wakened from an amazing dream. He quickened his pace after he
had crossed the street, because he wanted to get home to the
attic and talk to The Rat. There was a narrow side-street it was
necessary for him to pass through if he wished to make a short
cut. As he turned into it, he saw a curious figure leaning on
crutches against a wall. It looked damp and forlorn, and he
wondered if it could be a beggar. It was not. It was The Rat,
who suddenly saw who was approaching and swung forward. His face
was pale and haggard and he looked worn and frightened. He
dragged off his cap and spoke in a voice which was hoarse as a
``God be thanked!'' he said. ``God be thanked!'' as people
always said it when they received the Sign, alone. But there was
a kind of anguish in his voice as well as relief.
``Aide-de-camp!'' Marco cried out--The Rat had begged him to call
him so. ``What have you been doing? How long have you been
``Ever since I left you last night,'' said The Rat clutching
tremblingly at his arm as if to make sure he was real. ``If
there was not room for two in the hollow, there was room for one
in the street.
Was it my place to go off duty and leave you alone--was it?''
``You were out in the storm?''
``Weren't you?'' said The Rat fiercely. ``I huddled against the
wall as well as I could. What did I care? Crutches don't
prevent a fellow waiting. I wouldn't have left you if you'd
given me orders. And that would have been mutiny. When you did
not come out as soon as the gates opened, I felt as if my head
got on fire. How could I know what had happened? I've not the
nerve and backbone you have. I go half mad.'' For a second or
so Marco did not answer. But when he put his hand on the damp
sleeve, The Rat actually started, because it seemed as though he
were looking into the eyes of Stefan Loristan.
``You look just like your father!'' he exclaimed, in spite of
himself. ``How tall you are!''
``When you are near me,'' Marco said, in Loristan's own voice,
``when you are near me, I feel--I feel as if I were a royal
prince attended by an army. You ARE my army.'' And he pulled
off his cap with quick boyishness and added, ``God be thanked!''
The sun was warm in the attic window when they reached their
lodging, and the two leaned on the rough sill as Marco told his
story. It took some time to relate; and when he ended, he took
an envelope from his pocket and showed it to The Rat. It
contained a flat package of money.
``He gave it to me just before he opened the private door,''
Marco explained. ``And he said to me, `It will not be long now.
After Samavia, go back to London as quickly as you can--AS
QUICKLY AS YOU CAN!' ''
``I wonder--what he meant?'' The Rat said, slowly. A tremendous
thought had shot through his mind. But it was not a thought he
could speak of to Marco.
``I cannot tell. I thought that it was for some reason he did
not expect me to know,'' Marco said. ``We will do as he told us.
As quickly as we can.'' They looked over the newspapers, as they
did every day. All that could be gathered from any of them was
that the opposing armies of Samavia seemed each to have reached
the culmination of disaster and exhaustion. Which party had the
power left to take any final step which could call itself a
victory, it was impossible to say. Never had a country been in a
more desperate case.
``It is the time!'' said The Rat, glowering over his map. ``If
the Secret Party rises suddenly now, it can take Melzarr almost
without a blow. It can sweep through the country and disarm both
They're weakened--they're half starved--they're bleeding to
death; they WANT to be disarmed. Only the Iarovitch and the
Maranovitch keep on with the struggle because each is fighting
for the power to tax the people and make slaves of them. If the
Secret Party does not rise, the people will, and they'll rush on
the palaces and kill every Maranovitch and Iarovitch they find.
And serve them right!''
``Let us spend the rest of the day in studying the road-map
again,'' said Marco. ``To-night we must be on the way to
ACROSS THE FRONTIER
That one day, a week later, two tired and travel- worn
boy-mendicants should drag themselves with slow and weary feet
across the frontier line between Jiardasia and Samavia, was not
an incident to awaken suspicion or even to attract attention.
War and hunger and anguish had left the country stunned and
broken. Since the worst had happened, no one was curious as to
what would befall them next. If Jiardasia herself had become a
foe, instead of a friendly neighbor, and had sent across the
border galloping hordes of soldiery, there would only have been
more shrieks, and home-burnings, and slaughter which no one dare
resist. But, so far, Jiardasia had remained peaceful. The two
boys--one of them on crutches--had evidently traveled far on
foot. Their poor clothes were dusty and travel-stained, and they
stopped and asked for water at the first hut across the line.
The one who walked without crutches had some coarse bread in a
bag slung over his shoulder, and they sat on the roadside and ate
it as if they were hungry. The old grandmother who lived alone
in the hut sat and stared at them without any curiosity. She may
have vaguely wondered why any one crossed into Samavia in these
days. But she did not care to know their reason. Her big son
had lived in a village which belonged to the Maranovitch and he
had been called out to fight for his lords. He had not wanted to
fight and had not known what the quarrel was about, but he was
forced to obey. He had kissed his handsome wife and four sturdy
children, blubbering aloud when he left them. His village and
his good crops and his house must be left behind. Then the
Iarovitch swept through the pretty little cluster of homesteads
which belonged to their enemy. They were mad with rage because
they had met with great losses in a battle not far away, and, as
they swooped through, they burned and killed, and trampled down
fields and vineyards. The old woman's son never saw either the
burned walls of his house or the bodies of his wife and children,
because he had been killed himself in the battle for which the
Iarovitch were revenging themselves. Only the old grandmother
who lived in the hut near the frontier line and stared vacantly
at the passers-by remained alive. She wearily gazed at people
and wondered why she did not hear news from her son and her
grandchildren. But that was all.
When the boys were over the frontier and well on their way along
the roads, it was not difficult to keep out of sight if it seemed
necessary. The country was mountainous and there were deep and
thick forests by the way--forests so far-reaching and with such
thick undergrowth that full-grown men could easily have hidden
themselves. It was because of this, perhaps, that this part of
the country had seen little fighting. There was too great
opportunity for secure ambush for a foe. As the two travelers
went on, they heard of burned villages and towns destroyed, but
they were towns and villages nearer Melzarr and other
fortress-defended cities, or they were in the country surrounding
the castles and estates of powerful nobles and leaders. It was
true, as Marco had said to the white-haired personage, that the
Maranovitch and Iarovitch had fought with the savageness of
hyenas until at last the forces of each side lay torn and
bleeding, their strength, their resources, their supplies
Each day left them weaker and more desperate. Europe looked on
with small interest in either party but with growing desire that
the disorder should end and cease to interfere with commerce.
All this and much more Marco and The Rat knew, but, as they made
their cautious way through byways of the maimed and tortured
little country, they learned other things. They learned that the
stories of its beauty and fertility were not romances. Its
heaven-reaching mountains, its immense plains of rich verdure on
which flocks and herds might have fed by thousands, its splendor
of deep forest and broad clear rushing rivers had a primeval
majesty such as the first human creatures might have found on
earth in the days of the Garden of Eden. The two boys traveled
through forest and woodland when it was possible to leave the
road. It was safe to thread a way among huge trees and tall
ferns and young saplings. It was not always easy but it was
safe. Sometimes they saw a charcoal-burner's hut or a shelter
where a shepherd was hiding with the few sheep left to him. Each
man they met wore the same look of stony suffering in his face;
but, when the boys begged for bread and water, as was their
habit, no one refused to share the little he had. It soon became
plain to them that they were thought to be two young fugitives
whose homes had probably been destroyed and who were wandering
about with no thought but that of finding safety until the worst
was over. That one of them traveled on crutches added to their
apparent helplessness, and that he could not speak the language
of the country made him more an object of pity. The peasants did
not know what language he spoke. Sometimes a foreigner came to
find work in this small town or that. The poor lad might have
come to the country with his father and mother and then have been
caught in the whirlpool of war and tossed out on the world
parent-less. But no one asked questions. Even in their
desolation they were silent and noble people who were too
courteous for curiosity.
``In the old days they were simple and stately and kind. All
doors were open to travelers. The master of the poorest hut
uttered a blessing and a welcome when a stranger crossed his
threshold. It was the custom of the country,'' Marco said. ``I
read about it in a book of my father's. About most of the doors
the welcome was carved in stone. It was this--`The Blessing of
the Son of God, and Rest within these Walls.' ''
``They are big and strong,'' said The Rat. ``And they have good
faces. They carry themselves as if they had been drilled--both
men and women.''
It was not through the blood-drenched part of the unhappy land
their way led them, but they saw hunger and dread in the villages
they passed. Crops which should have fed the people had been
taken from them for the use of the army; flocks and herds had
been driven away, and faces were gaunt and gray. Those who had
as yet only lost crops and herds knew that homes and lives might
be torn from them at any moment. Only old men and women and
children were left to wait for any fate which the chances of war
might deal out to them.
When they were given food from some poor store, Marco would offer
a little money in return. He dare not excite suspicion by
offering much. He was obliged to let it be imagined that in his
flight from his ruined home he had been able to snatch at and
secrete some poor hoard which might save him from starvation.
Often the women would not take what he offered. Their journey
was a hard and hungry one. They must make it all on foot and
there was little food to be found. But each of them knew how to
live on scant fare. They traveled mostly by night and slept
among the ferns and undergrowth through the day. They drank from
running brooks and bathed in them. Moss and ferns made soft and
sweet-smelling beds, and trees roofed them. Sometimes they lay
long and talked while they rested. And at length a day came when
they knew they were nearing their journey's end.
``It is nearly over now,'' Marco said, after they had thrown
themselves down in the forest in the early hours of one dewy
morning. ``He said `After Samavia, go back to London as quickly
as you can --AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN.' He said it twice. As
if--something were going to happen.''
``Perhaps it will happen more suddenly than we think--the thing
he meant,'' answered The Rat.
Suddenly he sat up on his elbow and leaned towards Marco.
``We are in Samavia!'' he said ``We two are in Samavia! And we
are near the end!''
Marco rose on his elbow also. He was very thin as a result of
hard travel and scant feeding. His thinness made his eyes look
immense and black as pits. But they burned and were beautiful
with their own fire.
``Yes,'' he said, breathing quickly. ``And though we do not know
what the end will be, we have obeyed orders. The Prince was next
to the last one. There is only one more. The old priest.''
``I have wanted to see him more than I have wanted to see any of
the others,'' The Rat said.
``So have I,'' Marco answered. ``His church is built on the side
of this mountain. I wonder what he will say to us.''
Both had the same reason for wanting to see him. In his youth he
had served in the monastery over the frontier--the one which,
till it was destroyed in a revolt, had treasured the
five-hundred-year-old story of the beautiful royal lad brought to
be hidden among the brotherhood by the ancient shepherd. In the
monastery the memory of the Lost Prince was as the memory of a
saint. It had been told that one of the early brothers, who was
a decorator and a painter, had made a picture of him with a faint
halo shining about his head. The young acolyte who had served
there must have heard wonderful legends. But the monastery had
been burned, and the young acolyte had in later years crossed the
frontier and become the priest of a few mountaineers whose little
church clung to the mountain side. He had worked hard and
faithfully and was worshipped by his people. Only the secret
Forgers of the Sword knew that his most ardent worshippers were
those with whom he prayed and to whom he gave blessings in dark
caverns under the earth, where arms piled themselves and men with
dark strong faces sat together in the dim light and laid plans
and wrought schemes.
This Marco and The Rat did not know as they talked of their
desire to see him.
``He may not choose to tell us anything,'' said Marco. ``When we
have given him the Sign, he may turn away and say nothing as some
of the others did. He may have nothing to say which we should
hear. Silence may be the order for him, too.''
It would not be a long or dangerous climb to the little church on
the rock. They could sleep or rest all day and begin it at
twilight. So after they had talked of the old priest and had
eaten their black bread, they settled themselves to sleep under
cover of the thick tall ferns.
It was a long and deep sleep which nothing disturbed. So few
human beings ever climbed the hill, except by the narrow rough
path leading to the church, that the little wild creatures had
not learned to be afraid of them. Once, during the afternoon, a
hare hopping along under the ferns to make a visit stopped by
Marco's head, and, after looking at him a few seconds with his
lustrous eyes, began to nibble the ends of his hair. He only did
it from curiosity and because he wondered if it might be a new
kind of grass, but he did not like it and stopped nibbling almost
at once, after which he looked at it again, moving the soft
sensitive end of his nose rapidly for a second or so, and then
hopped away to attend to his own affairs. A very large and
handsome green stag-beetle crawled from one end of The Rat's
crutches to the other, but, having done it, he went away also.
Two or three times a bird, searching for his dinner under the
ferns, was surprised to find the two sleeping figures, but, as
they lay so quietly, there seemed nothing to be frightened about.
A beautiful little field mouse running past discovered that there
were crumbs lying about and ate all she could find on the moss.
After that she crept into Marco's pocket and found some excellent
ones and had quite a feast. But she disturbed nobody and the
boys slept on.
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,
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
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
``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
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
``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.
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
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
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
``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.
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
``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
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
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
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.
``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
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.