Part 6 out of 6
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
``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
``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
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
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
``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
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
``Sir,'' said Lazarus, ``will you come with me into his room?
You, too, sir,'' to The Rat. He had never said ``sir'' to him
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
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
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
Both boys fell back.
``Not read the papers!'' they exclaimed together.
Lazarus had never before been quite so reverential and
``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
``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
``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 reverance
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
``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
``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
``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
``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
``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
`` '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
``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
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
``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
``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
``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
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
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
``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
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
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
He broke off because Marco did more than lift his head. He sat
``You bore the Sign as much as I did,'' he said. ``We bore it
``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 celler 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
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
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
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
Marco answered him. ``She is afraid we cannot pay our rent,'' he
said. ``It is of great importance to her that she should be
``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
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
``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
``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
The man looked at the group curiously for a moment and then shook
``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
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
``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
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
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
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
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
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
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
``Ivor! Ivor!'' they cried; ``Ivor! Ivor!'' and sobbed with
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
``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
``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.' ''