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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

V "Silence Is Still the Order"

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They were even poorer than usual just now, and the supper Marco and his father sat down to was scant enough. Lazarus stood upright behind his master's chair and served him with strictest ceremony. Their poor lodgings were always kept with a soldierly cleanliness and order. When an object could be polished it was forced to shine, no grain of dust was allowed to lie undisturbed, and this perfection was not attained through the ministrations of a lodging house slavey. Lazarus made himself extremely popular by taking the work of caring for his master's rooms entirely out of the hands of the overburdened maids of all work. He had learned to do many things in his young days in barracks. He carried about with him coarse bits of table-cloths and towels, which he laundered as if they had been the finest linen. He mended, he patched, he darned, and in the hardest fight the poor must face--the fight with dirt and dinginess--he always held his own. They had nothing but dry bread and coffee this evening, but Lazarus had made the coffee and the bread was good.

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As Marco ate, he told his father the story of The Rat and his followers. Loristan listened, as the boy had known he would, with the far-off, intently-thinking smile in his dark eyes. It was a look which always fascinated Marco because it meant that he was thinking so many things. Perhaps he would tell some of them and perhaps he would not. His spell over the boy lay in the fact that to him he seemed like a wonderful book of which one had only glimpses. It was full of pictures and adventures which were true, and one could not help continually making guesses about them. Yes, the feeling that Marco had was that his father's attraction for him was a sort of spell, and that others felt the same thing. When he stood and talked to commoner people, he held his tall body with singular quiet grace which was like power. He never stirred or moved himself as if he were nervous or uncertain. He could hold his hands (he had beautiful slender and strong hands) quite still; he could stand on his fine arched feet without shuffling them. He could sit without any ungrace or restlessness. His mind knew what his body should do, and gave it orders without speaking, and his fine limbs and muscles and nerves obeyed. So he could stand still and at ease and look at the people he was talking to, and they always looked at him and listened to what he said, and somehow, courteous and uncondescending as his manner unfailingly was, it used always to seem to Marco as if he were ``giving an audience'' as kings gave them.

He had often seen people bow very low when they went away from him, and more than once it had happened that some humble person had stepped out of his presence backward, as people do when retiring before a sovereign. And yet his bearing was the quietest and least assuming in the world.

``And they were talking about Samavia? And he knew the story of the Lost Prince?'' he said ponderingly. ``Even in that place!''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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