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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

IX "It Is Not a Game"

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``Rat,'' he began, ``my father--''

``I've come to tell you about MY father,'' The Rat broke in without waiting to hear the rest, and his voice was as strange as his pale face. ``I don't know why I've come, but I--I just wanted to. He's dead!''

``Your father?'' Marco stammered. ``He's--''

``He's dead,'' The Rat answered shakily. ``I told you he'd kill himself. He had another fit and he died in it. I knew he would, one of these days. I told him so. He knew he would himself. I stayed with him till he was dead--and then I got a bursting headache and I felt sick--and I thought about you.''

Marco made a jump at him because he saw he was suddenly shaking as if he were going to fall. He was just in time, and Lazarus, who had been looking on from the back of the passage, came forward. Together they held him up.

``I'm not going to faint,'' he said weakly, ``but I felt as if I was. It was a bad fit, and I had to try and hold him. I was all by myself. The people in the other attic thought he was only drunk, and they wouldn't come in. He's lying on the floor there, dead.''

``Come and see my father,'' Marco said. ``He'll tell us what do do. Lazarus, help him.''

``I can get on by myself,'' said The Rat. ``Do you see my crutches? I did something for a pawnbroker last night, and he gave them to me for pay.''

But though he tried to speak carelessly, he had plainly been horribly shaken and overwrought. His queer face was yellowish white still, and he was trembling a little.

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Marco led the way into the back sitting-room. In the midst of its shabby gloom and under the dim light Loristan was standing in one of his still, attentive attitudes. He was waiting for them.

``Father, this is The Rat,'' the boy began. The Rat stopped short and rested on his crutches, staring at the tall, reposeful figure with widened eyes.

``Is that your father?'' he said to Marco. And then added, with a jerky half-laugh, ``He's not much like mine, is he?''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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