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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

IV The Rat

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Marco's blood was also hot, but it was a different kind of blood, and he had talked too much to a very sane man.

``No,'' he said slowly. ``What would have been the use? It wouldn't have done Samavia any good, and it wouldn't have done him any good to torture and kill people. Better keep them alive and make them do things for the country. If you're a patriot, you think of the country.'' He wanted to add ``That's what my father says,'' but he did not.

``Torture 'em first and then attend to the country,'' snapped The Rat. ``What would you have told your son if you'd been Ivor?''

``I'd have told him to learn everything about Samavia--and all the things kings have to know--and study things about laws and other countries--and about keeping silent--and about governing himself as if he were a general commanding soldiers in battle--so that he would never do anything he did not mean to do or could be ashamed of doing after it was over. And I'd have asked him to tell his son's sons to tell their sons to learn the same things. So, you see, however long the time was, there would always be a king getting ready for Samavia--when Samavia really wanted him. And he would be a real king.''

He stopped himself suddenly and looked at the staring semicircle.

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``I didn't make that up myself,'' he said. ``I have heard a man who reads and knows things say it. I believe the Lost Prince would have had the same thoughts. If he had, and told them to his son, there has been a line of kings in training for Samavia for five hundred years, and perhaps one is walking about the streets of Vienna, or Budapest, or Paris, or London now, and he'd be ready if the people found out about him and called him.''

``Wisht they would!'' some one yelled.

``It would be a queer secret to know all the time when no one else knew it,'' The Rat communed with himself as it were, ``that you were a king and you ought to be on a throne wearing a crown. I wonder if it would make a chap look different?''

He laughed his squeaky laugh, and then turned in his sudden way to Marco:

``But he'd be a fool to give up the vengeance. What is your name?''

``Marco Loristan. What's yours? It isn't The Rat really.''

``It's Jem RATcliffe. That's pretty near. Where do you live?''

``No. 7 Philibert Place.''

``This club is a soldiers' club,'' said The Rat. ``It's called the Squad. I'm the captain. 'Tention, you fellows! Let's show him.''

The semicircle sprang to its feet. There were about twelve lads altogether, and, when they stood upright, Marco saw at once that for some reason they were accustomed to obeying the word of command with military precision.

``Form in line!'' ordered The Rat.

They did it at once, and held their backs and legs straight and their heads up amazingly well. Each had seized one of the sticks which had been stacked together like guns.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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