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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VIII An Exciting Game

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The Rat drew a dingy, folded paper out of his pocket and looked it over with an air of reflection.

``I'll make a clean one,'' he said. ``I'd like a grown-up man to look at it and see if it's all right. My father was more than half- drunk when I was drawing this, so I couldn't ask him questions. He'll kill himself before long. He had a sort of fit last night.''

``Tell us, Rat, wot you an' Marco'll 'ave ter do. Let's 'ear wot you've made up,'' suggested Cad. He drew closer, and so did the rest of the circle, hugging their knees with their arms.

``This is what we shall have to do,'' began The Rat, in the hollow whisper of a Secret Party. ``THE HOUR HAS COME. To all the Secret Ones in Samavia, and to the friends of the Secret Party in every country, the sign must be carried. It must be carried by some one who could not be suspected. Who would suspect two boys--and one of them a cripple? The best thing of all for us is that I am a cripple. Who would suspect a cripple? When my father is drunk and beats me, he does it because I won't go out and beg in the streets and bring him the money I get. He says that people will nearly always give money to a cripple. I won't be a beggar for him--the swine-- but I will be one for Samavia and the Lost Prince. Marco shall pretend to be my brother and take care of me. I say,'' speaking to Marco with a sudden change of voice, ``can you sing anything? It doesn't matter how you do it.''

``Yes, I can sing,'' Marco replied.

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``Then Marco will pretend he is singing to make people give him money. I'll get a pair of crutches somewhere, and part of the time I will go on crutches and part of the time on my platform. We'll live like beggars and go wherever we want to. I can whiz past a man and give the sign and no one will know. Some times Marco can give it when people are dropping money into his cap. We can pass from one country to another and rouse everybody who is of the Secret Party. We'll work our way into Samavia, and we'll be only two boys--and one a cripple--and nobody will think we could be doing anything. We'll beg in great cities and on the highroad.''

``Where'll you get the money to travel?'' said Cad.

``The Secret Party will give it to us, and we sha'n't need much. We could beg enough, for that matter. We'll sleep under the stars, or under bridges, or archways, or in dark corners of streets. I've done it myself many a time when my father drove me out of doors. If it's cold weather, it's bad enough but if it's fine weather, it's better than sleeping in the kind of place I'm used to. Comrade,'' to Marco, ``are you ready?''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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