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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIII Loristan Attends a Drill of the Squad

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He was trying to decide which of the two countries she belonged to, as she drew near to him, but quite suddenly the curved mouth ceased smiling as her foot seemed to catch in a break in the pavement, and she so lost her balance that she would have fallen if he had not leaped forward and caught her.

She was light and slender, and he was a strong lad and managed to steady her. An expression of sharp momentary anguish crossed her face.

``I hope you are not hurt,'' Marco said.

She bit her lip and clutched his shoulder very hard with her slim hand.

``I have twisted my ankle,'' she answered. ``I am afraid I have twisted it badly. Thank you for saving me. I should have had a bad fall.''

Her long, dark eyes were very sweet and grateful. She tried to smile, but there was such distress under the effort that Marco was afraid she must have hurt herself very much.

``Can you stand on your foot at all?'' he asked.

``I can stand a little now,'' she said, ``but I might not be able to stand in a few minutes. I must get back to the house while I can bear to touch the ground with it. I am so sorry. I am afraid I shall have to ask you to go with me. Fortunately it is only a few yards away.''

``Yes,'' Marco answered. ``I saw you come out of the house. If you will lean on my shoulder, I can soon help you back. I am glad to do it. Shall we try now?''

She had a gentle and soft manner which would have appealed to any boy. Her voice was musical and her enunciation exquisite.

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Whether she was Spanish or Italian, it was easy to imagine her a person who did not always live in London lodgings, even of the better class.

``If you please,'' she answered him. ``It is very kind of you. You are very strong, I see. But I am glad to have only a few steps to go.''

She rested on his shoulder as well as on her umbrella, but it was plain that every movement gave her intense pain. She caught her lip with her teeth, and Marco thought she turned white. He could not help liking her. She was so lovely and gracious and brave. He could not bear to see the suffering in her face.

``I am so sorry!'' he said, as he helped her, and his boy's voice had something of the wonderful sympathetic tone of Loristan's. The beautiful lady herself remarked it, and thought how unlike it was to the ordinary boy-voice.

``I have a latch-key,'' she said, when they stood on the low step.

She found the latch-key in her purse and opened the door. Marco helped her into the entrance-hall. She sat down at once in a chair near the hat-stand. The place was quite plain and old-fashioned inside.

``Shall I ring the front-door bell to call some one?'' Marco inquired.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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