The Lost Prince

Chapter 22. A Night Vigil

On a hill in the midst of a great Austrian plain, around which high Alps wait watching through the clouds stands an old fortress, almost more beautiful than anything Marco and The Rat had seen. As you approach the town—and as you leave it—and as you walk through its streets, or step out on your balcony at night to look at the mountains and the moon—always it seems that from some point you can see it gazing down at you—the citadel of Hohen-Salzburg.*

It was to Salzburg they went next, because at Salzburg was to be found the man who looked like a hair-dresser and who worked in a barber's shop. Strange as it might seem, to him also must be carried the Sign.

"There may be people who come to him to be shaved—soldiers, or men who know things," The Rat worked it out, "and he can speak to them when he is standing close to them. It will be easy to get near him. You can go and have your hair cut."

The journey from Munich was not a long one, and during the latter part of it they had the wooden-seated third-class carriage to themselves. Even the drowsy old peasant who nodded and slept in one corner got out with his bundles at last. To Marco the mountains were long-known wonders, which was why he did not want to talk much, but sat and gazed out of the carriage window.

As they arrived early in the day, they had plenty of time to wander about the marvelous little old city. But through the wide streets and through the narrow ones, under the archways into the market gardens, across the bridge and into the square where the "glockenspiel" played its old tinkling tune, everywhere the Citadel looked down.

They found the hair-dresser's shop in one of the narrow streets. There were no grand shops there, and this particular shop was a simple one. They walked past it once, and then went back. It was a shop so humble that there was nothing remarkable in two common boys going into it to have their hair cut. An old man came forward to receive them. He was evidently glad to have them as customers even though he could tell they didn't have much money. He undertook to attend to The Rat himself, but, having arranged him in a chair, he turned about and called to someone in the back room.

"Heinrich," he said.

In the slit in Marco's sleeve was the sketch of the man with smooth curled hair, who looked like a hair-dresser. They had found a corner in which to take their final look at it before they turned back to come in. Heinrich, who came forth from the small back room, had smooth curled hair. He looked extremely like a hair-dresser. He had features like those in the sketch—his nose and mouth and chin and figure were like what Marco had drawn and committed to memory. But—He gave Marco a chair and tied the professional white covering around his neck. Marco leaned back and closed his eyes a moment.

"That is NOT the man!" he was saying to himself. "He is NOT the man."

How he knew he was not, he could not have explained, but he felt sure. It was a strong conviction. But for the sudden feeling, nothing would have been easier than to give the Sign. And if he could not give it now, where was the one to whom it must be spoken, and what would be the result if that one could not be found? And if there were two who were so much alike, how could he be sure?

It was disturbing, also, to find that The Rat was all at once quite restless. He moved in his chair, to the great discomfort of the old hair-dresser. He kept turning his head to talk. He asked Marco to translate several questions he wished him to ask the two men. They were questions about the Citadel—about the Monchsberg—the Residenz—the Glockenspiel—the mountains. He added one question to another and could not sit still.

"The young gentleman will get an ear snipped," said the old man to Marco. "And it will not be my fault."

"What shall I do?" Marco was thinking. "He is not the man."

He did not give the Sign. He must go away and think it out, though where his thoughts would lead him he did not know. This was a more difficult problem than he had ever dreamed of facing. There was no one to ask for advice. Only himself and The Rat, who was nervously wriggling and twisting in his chair. What would his father do?

Each owner of each of the pictured faces was a link in a powerful secret chain; and if a link were missed, the chain would be broken. Each time Heinrich came within the line of his vision, he recorded every feature afresh and compared it with the remembered sketch. Each time the resemblance became more close, but each time he could almost hear Loristan's voice saying, "No; the Sign is not for him!"

"You must sit still," he said to The Rat. "The hair-dresser is afraid you will make him cut you by accident."

"But I want to know who lives at the Residenz?" said The Rat. "These men can tell us things if you ask them."

"It is done now," said the old hair-dresser with a relieved air. "Perhaps the cutting of his hair makes the young gentleman nervous. It is sometimes so."

The Rat stood close to Marco's chair and asked questions until Heinrich also had done his work. Marco could not understand his friend's change of mood. He realized that, if he had wished to give the Sign, he had been allowed no opportunity. He could not have given it. The restless questioning had so directed the older man's attention to his son and Marco that nothing could have been said to Heinrich without his observing it.

"I could not have spoken if he had been the man," Marco said to himself.

Their very exit from the shop seemed a little hurried. When they were fairly in the street, The Rat made a clutch at Marco's arm.

"You didn't give it, did you?" he whispered breathlessly. "I kept talking and talking to prevent you."

Marco tried not to feel breathless, and he tried to speak in a low and level voice with no hint of exclamation in it. "Why did you say that?" he asked.

The Rat drew closer to him. "That was not the man!" he whispered. "It doesn't matter how much he looks like him, he isn't the right one. I've been working it out, and, when I saw him, I knew he was not the man in spite of his looks. And I couldn't be sure you knew, and I thought, if I kept on talking and interrupting you with silly questions, you could be prevented from speaking."

He was pale and swinging along swiftly as if he were in a hurry.

"I knew he was not the right one, too," Marco replied.

"Is there a quiet place where we could go to think?" The Rat asked.

"I like that idea. My father trained me to still myself when things don't make sense and I don't know what to do. There's a place not far away where we can get a look at the mountains. Let's go there and sit down" said Marco.

They got away from the streets and the people and reached the quiet place where they could see the mountains. There they sat down by the wayside.

"It was the expression of his face that was different," Marco said. "And his eyes. They are rather smaller than the right man's are. The light in the shop was poor, and it was not until the last time he bent over me that I found out what I had not seen before. His eyes are gray—the other ones are brown."

"Did you see that!" The Rat exclaimed. "Then we're sure! We're safe!"

"We're not safe till we've found the right man," Marco said. "Where is he?" He glanced up at the far-off peaks.

"There must be a ledge up there somewhere," The Rat said at last. "Let's go up and look for it and sit there and still ourselves... like your father trained you."

This seemed good to Marco. To go into some quiet place and sit and think about the thing he wanted to remember or to find out was an old way of his. To be quiet was always the best thing, his father had taught him. Sometimes it was like listening to Loristan himself.

"There is a little train which goes up the Gaisberg**," he said. "When you are at the top, a world of mountains spreads around you. Lazarus went once and told me. And we can lie out on the grass all night. Let us go, Aide-de-camp."

So they went, each one thinking the same thought. Marco was the calmer of the two, because of the peace he felt in doing whatever he thought would please his father. They went up the Gaisberg in the little train, which pushed and dragged and panted slowly upward with them. It took them with it stubbornly and gradually higher and higher until it had left Salzburg and the Citadel below and had reached the world of mountains.

There were only a few sight-seers in the small carriages, and they were going to look at the view from the summit. They were not in search of a ledge.

The Rat and Marco were. When the little train stopped at the top, they got out with the rest. They wandered about with them over the short grass on the treeless summit and looked out from this viewpoint and the other. They left the sight-seers at last and wandered away by themselves. They found a ledge where they could sit or lie and where even the world of mountains seemed below them. They had brought some simple food with them, and they laid it behind a jutting bit of rock. When the sight-seers boarded the laboring little train again and were dragged back down the mountain, their night of vigil would begin.

That was what it was to be. A night of stillness on the heights, where they could wait and watch and hold themselves ready. The rest of the people returned to the train and it set out upon its way down the steepness. Marco and The Rat 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 itself upward.

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 the sun go down. As night fell, the smell of the forests below was sweet about them, and soundlessness enclosed them. 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. "Look! There is a light on the side of the mountain over there which is not a star."

"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 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. Here they were, only two boys who 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 yawned again at last.

"It IS so still," Marco barely whispered in reply. And they were asleep.

"I hear whistling," Marco found himself saying in a dream. After which he awakened and found that the whistling was not part of a dream at all. It came from a young man who had a wooden staff 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 coats."

"I slept half-way down the mountains," said the young man. "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 crazy 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 brown."

"He was my twin brother," said the guide, smiling 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 wasn't enough time. 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 peak. 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 Festung Hohensalzburg (German for "Fortress of High Salzburg") was constructed beginning in the year 1077. It rests on Mönchsberg Mountain overlooking Salzburg. It is considered the best preserved medieval castle in Europe. The "Residenz" is a nearby palace.

** The Gaisberg is a mountain, one of the Alps, located east of Salzburg. Today, a public bus transports skiers, hikers, and sightseers to the top of the mountain. But from 1887 until 1928, a train running on a special railroad track with "teeth" for traction carried passengers to the peak. It is this train that Marco and The Rat rode.
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