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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIII Loristan Attends a Drill of the Squad

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``Look here,'' he said to Marco, who, with the elated and thrilled Squad, bent over it in a close circle of heads. ``Beltrazo is here and Carnolitz is here--and here is Jiardasia. Beltrazo and Jiardasia are friendly, though they don't take sides. All the fighting is going on in the country about Melzarr. There is no reason why they should prevent single travelers from coming in across the frontiers of friendly neighbors. They're not fighting with the countries outside, they are fighting with themselves.'' He paused a moment and thought.

``The article in that magazine said something about a huge forest on the eastern frontier. That's here. We could wander into a forest and stay there until we'd planned all we wanted to do. Even the people who had seen us would forget about us. What we have to do is to make people feel as if we were nothing--nothing.''

They were in the very midst of it, crowded together, leaning over, stretching necks and breathing quickly with excitement, when Marco lifted his head. Some mysterious impulse made him do it in spite of himself.

``There's my father!'' he said.

The chalk dropped, everything dropped, even Samavia. The Rat was up and on his crutches as if some magic force had swung him there. How he gave the command, or if he gave it at all, not even he himself knew. But the Squad stood at salute.

Loristan was standing at the opening of the archway as Marco had stood that first day. He raised his right hand in return salute and came forward.

``I was passing the end of the street and remembered the Barracks was here,'' he explained. ``I thought I should like to look at your men, Captain.''

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He smiled, but it was not a smile which made his words really a joke. He looked down at the chalk map drawn on the flagstones.

``You know that map well,'' he said. ``Even I can see that it is Samavia. What is the Secret Party doing?''

``The messengers are trying to find a way in,'' answered Marco.

``We can get in there,'' said The Rat, pointing with a crutch. ``There's a forest where we could hide and find out things.''

``Reconnoiter,'' said Loristan, looking down. ``Yes. Two stray boys could be very safe in a forest. It's a good game.''

That he should be there! That he should, in his own wonderful way, have given them such a thing as this. That he should have cared enough even to look up the Barracks, was what The Rat was thinking. A batch of ragamuffins they were and nothing else, and he standing looking at them with his fine smile. There was something about him which made him seem even splendid. The Rat's heart thumped with startled joy.

``Father,'' said Marco, ``will you watch The Rat drill us? I want you to see how well it is done.''

``Captain, will you do me that honor?'' Loristan said to The Rat, and to even these words he gave the right tone, neither jesting nor too serious. Because it was so right a tone, The Rat's pulses beat only with exultation. This god of his had looked at his maps, he had talked of his plans, he had come to see the soldiers who were his work! The Rat began his drill as if he had been reviewing an army.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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