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0100_005E The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VIII An Exciting Game

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``They had a big battle outside Melzarr yesterday,'' the sight-seer standing next to Marco said to the young woman who was his companion. ``Thousands of 'em killed. I saw it in big letters on the boards as I rode on the top of the bus. They're just slaughtering each other, that's what they're doing.''

The talkative Beef-eater heard him.

``They can't even bury their dead fast enough,'' he said. ``There'll be some sort of plague breaking out and sweeping into the countries nearest them. It'll end by spreading all over Europe as it did in the Middle Ages. What the civilized countries have got to do is to make them choose a decent king and begin to behave themselves.''

``I'll tell my father that too,'' Marco thought. ``It shows that everybody is thinking and talking of Samavia, and that even the common people know it must have a real king. This must be THE TIME!'' And what he meant was that this must be the time for which the Secret Party had waited and worked so long--the time for the Rising. But his father was out when he went back to Philibert Place, and Lazarus looked more silent than ever as he stood behind his chair and waited on him through his insignificant meal. However plain and scant the food they had to eat, it was always served with as much care and ceremony as if it had been a banquet.

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``A man can eat dry bread and drink cold water as if he were a gentleman,'' his father had said long ago. ``And it is easy to form careless habits. Even if one is hungry enough to feel ravenous, a man who has been well bred will not allow himself to look so. A dog may, a man may not. Just as a dog may howl when he is angry or in pain and a man may not.''

It was only one of the small parts of the training which had quietly made the boy, even as a child, self-controlled and courteous, had taught him ease and grace of boyish carriage, the habit of holding his body well and his head erect, and had given him a certain look of young distinction which, though it assumed nothing, set him apart from boys of carelessly awkward bearing.

``Is there a newspaper here which tells of the battle, Lazarus?'' he asked, after he had left the table.

``Yes, sir,'' was the answer. ``Your father said that you might read it. It is a black tale!'' he added, as he handed him the paper.

It was a black tale. As he read, Marco felt as if he could scarcely bear it. It was as if Samavia swam in blood, and as if the other countries must stand aghast before such furious cruelties.

``Lazarus,'' he said, springing to his feet at last, his eyes burning, ``something must stop it! There must be something strong enough.

The time has come. The time has come.'' And he walked up and down the room because he was too excited to stand still.

How Lazarus watched him! What a strong and glowing feeling there was in his own restrained face!

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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