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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

VI The Drill and the Secret Party

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``Yes, he'd know,'' put in Marco.

``Well, it'd be finer if he did,'' went on The Rat. ``However poor and shabby he was, he'd know the secret all the time. And if people sneered at him, he'd sneer at them and laugh to himself. I dare say he'd walk tremendously straight and hold his head up. If I was him, I'd like to make people suspect a bit that I wasn't like the common lot o' them.'' He put out his hand and pushed Marco excitedly. ``Let's work out plots for him!'' he said. ``That'd be a splendid game! Let's pretend we're the Secret Party!''

He was tremendously excited. Out of the ragged pocket he fished a piece of chalk. Then he leaned forward and began to draw something quickly on the flagstones closest to his platform. The Squad leaned forward also, quite breathlessly, and Marco leaned forward. The chalk was sketching a roughly outlined map, and he knew what map it was, before The Rat spoke.

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``That's a map of Samavia,'' he said. ``It was in that piece of magazine I told you about--the one where I read about Prince Ivor. I studied it until it fell to pieces. But I could draw it myself by that time, so it didn't matter. I could draw it with my eyes shut. That's the capital city,'' pointing to a spot. ``It's called Melzarr. The palace is there. It's the place where the first of the Maranovitch killed the last of the Fedorovitch--the bad chap that was Ivor's father. It's the palace Ivor wandered out of singing the shepherds' song that early morning. It's where the throne is that his descendant would sit upon to be crowned--that he's GOING to sit upon. I believe he is! Let's swear he shall!'' He flung down his piece of chalk and sat up. ``Give me two sticks. Help me to get up.''

Two of the Squad sprang to their feet and came to him. Each snatched one of the sticks from the stacked rifles, evidently knowing what he wanted. Marco rose too, and watched with sudden, keen curiosity. He had thought that The Rat could not stand up, but it seemed that he could, in a fashion of his own, and he was going to do it. The boys lifted him by his arms, set him against the stone coping of the iron railings of the churchyard, and put a stick in each of his hands. They stood at his side, but he supported himself.

`` 'E could get about if 'e 'ad the money to buy crutches!'' said one whose name was Cad, and he said it quite proudly. The queer thing that Marco had noticed was that the ragamuffins were proud of The Rat, and regarded him as their lord and master. ``--'E could get about an' stand as well as any one,'' added the other, and he said it in the tone of one who boasts. His name was Ben.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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