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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

IV The Rat

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``That torn magazine you found had more than one article about Samavia in it,'' he said to The Rat. ``The same man wrote four. I read them all in a free library. He had been to Samavia, and knew a great deal about it. He said it was one of the most beautiful countries he had ever traveled in--and the most fertile. That's what they all say of it.''

The group before him knew nothing of fertility or open country. They only knew London back streets and courts. Most of them had never traveled as far as the public parks, and in fact scarcely believed in their existence. They were a rough lot, and as they had stared at Marco at first sight of him, so they continued to stare at him as he talked. When he told of the tall Samavians who had been like giants centuries ago, and who had hunted the wild horses and captured and trained them to obedience by a sort of strong and gentle magic, their mouths fell open. This was the sort of thing to allure any boy's imagination.

``Blimme, if I wouldn't 'ave liked ketchin' one o' them 'orses,'' broke in one of the audience, and his exclamation was followed by a dozen of like nature from the others. Who wouldn't have liked ``ketchin' one''?

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When he told of the deep endless-seeming forests, and of the herdsmen and shepherds who played on their pipes and made songs about high deeds and bravery, they grinned with pleasure without knowing they were grinning. They did not really know that in this neglected, broken-flagged inclosure, shut in on one side by smoke- blackened, poverty-stricken houses, and on the other by a deserted and forgotten sunken graveyard, they heard the rustle of green forest boughs where birds nested close, the swish of the summer wind in the river reeds, and the tinkle and laughter and rush of brooks running.

They heard more or less of it all through the Lost Prince story, because Prince Ivor had loved lowland woods and mountain forests and all out-of-door life. When Marco pictured him tall and strong- limbed and young, winning all the people when he rode smiling among them, the boys grinned again with unconscious pleasure.

``Wisht 'e 'adn't got lost!'' some one cried out.

When they heard of the unrest and dissatisfaction of the Samavians, they began to get restless themselves. When Marco reached the part of the story in which the mob rushed into the palace and demanded their prince from the king, they ejaculated scraps of bad language. ``The old geezer had got him hidden somewhere in some dungeon, or he'd killed him out an' out--that's what he'd been up to!'' they clamored. ``Wisht the lot of us had been there then--wisht we 'ad. We'd 'ave give' 'im wot for, anyway!''

``An' 'im walkin' out o' the place so early in the mornin' just singin' like that! 'E 'ad 'im follered an' done for!'' they decided with various exclamations of boyish wrath. Somehow, the fact that the handsome royal lad had strolled into the morning sunshine singing made them more savage. Their language was extremely bad at this point.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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