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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VI The Drill and the Secret Party

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``I beg your pardon,'' The Rat said.

That was the conundrum. It was what a gentleman and an officer would have said, if he felt he had been mistaken or rude. He had heard that from his drunken father.

``I beg yours--for being late,'' said Marco.

That was the right answer. It was the one another officer and gentleman would have made. It settled the matter at once, and it settled more than was apparent at the moment. It decided that Marco was one of those who knew the things The Rat's father had once known--the things gentlemen do and say and think. Not another word was said. It was all right. Marco slipped into line with the Squad, and The Rat sat erect with his military bearing and began his drill:


`` 'Tention!


``Slope arms!

``Form fours!


``Quick march!


``Left turn!

``Order arms!

``Stand at ease!

``Stand easy!''

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They did it so well that it was quite wonderful when one considered the limited space at their disposal. They had evidently done it often, and The Rat had been not only a smart, but a severe, officer. This morning they repeated the exercise a number of times, and even varied it with Review Drill, with which they seemed just as familiar.

``Where did you learn it?'' The Rat asked, when the arms were stacked again and Marco was sitting by him as he had sat the previous day.

``From an old soldier. And I like to watch it, as you do.''

``If you were a young swell in the Guards, you couldn't be smarter at it,'' The Rat said. ``The way you hold yourself! The way you stand! You've got it! Wish I was you! It comes natural to you.''

``I've always liked to watch it and try to do it myself. I did when I was a little fellow,'' answered Marco.

``I've been trying to kick it into these chaps for more than a year,'' said The Rat. ``A nice job I had of it! It nearly made me sick at first.''

The semicircle in front of him only giggled or laughed outright. The members of it seemed to take very little offense at his cavalier treatment of them. He had evidently something to give them which was entertaining enough to make up for his tyranny and indifference. He thrust his hand into one of the pockets of his ragged coat, and drew out a piece of newspaper.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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