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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VI The Drill and the Secret Party

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``My father brought home this, wrapped round a loaf of bread,'' he said. ``See what it says there!''

He handed it to Marco, pointing to some words printed in large letters at the head of a column. Marco looked at it and sat very still.

The words he read were: ``The Lost Prince.''

``Silence is still the order,'' was the first thought which flashed through his mind. ``Silence is still the order.''

``What does it mean?'' he said aloud.

``There isn't much of it. I wish there was more,'' The Rat said fretfully. ``Read and see. Of course they say it mayn't be true--but I believe it is. They say that people think some one knows where he is--at least where one of his descendants is. It'd be the same thing. He'd be the real king. If he'd just show himself, it might stop all the fighting. Just read.''

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Marco read, and his skin prickled as the blood went racing through his body. But his face did not change. There was a sketch of the story of the Lost Prince to begin with. It had been regarded by most people, the article said, as a sort of legend. Now there was a definite rumor that it was not a legend at all, but a part of the long past history of Samavia. It was said that through the centuries there had always been a party secretly loyal to the memory of this worshiped and lost Fedorovitch. It was even said that from father to son, generation after generation after generation, had descended the oath of fealty to him and his descendants. The people had made a god of him, and now, romantic as it seemed, it was beginning to be an open secret that some persons believed that a descendant had been found--a Fedorovitch worthy of his young ancestor--and that a certain Secret Party also held that, if he were called back to the throne of Samavia, the interminable wars and bloodshed would reach an end.

The Rat had begun to bite his nails fast.

``Do you believe he's found?'' he asked feverishly. ``DON'T YOU? I do!''

``I wonder where he is, if it's true? I wonder! Where?'' exclaimed Marco. He could say that, and he might seem as eager as he felt.

The Squad all began to jabber at once. ``Yus, where wos'e? There is no knowin'. It'd be likely to be in some o' these furrin places. England'd be too far from Samavia. 'Ow far off wos Samavia? Wos it in Roosha, or where the Frenchies were, or the Germans? But wherever 'e wos, 'e'd be the right sort, an' 'e'd be the sort a chap'd turn and look at in the street.''

The Rat continued to bite his nails.

``He might be anywhere,'' he said, his small fierce face glowing.

``That's what I like to think about. He might be passing in the street outside there; he might be up in one of those houses,'' jerking his head over his shoulder toward the backs of the inclosing dwellings. ``Perhaps he knows he's a king, and perhaps he doesn't. He'd know if what you said yesterday was true--about the king always being made ready for Samavia.''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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