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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XII Only Two Boys

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The words did elate him, and his blood was stirred by them every time they returned to his mind. He remembered them through the days and nights that followed. He sometimes, indeed, awakened from his deep sleep on the hard and narrow sofa in Marco's room, and found that he was saying them half aloud to himself. The hardness of the sofa did not prevent his resting as he had never rested before in his life. By contrast with the past he had known, this poor existence was comfort which verged on luxury. He got into the battered tin bath every morning, he sat at the clean table, and could look at Loristan and speak to him and hear his voice. His chief trouble was that he could hardly keep his eyes off him, and he was a little afraid he might be annoyed. But he could not bear to lose a look or a movement.

At the end of the second day, he found his way, at some trouble, to Lazarus's small back room at the top of the house.

``Will you let me come in and talk a bit?'' he said.

When he went in, he was obliged to sit on the top of Lazarus's wooden box because there was nothing else for him.

``I want to ask you,'' he plunged into his talk at once, ``do you think he minds me looking at him so much? I can't help it--but if he hates it--well--I'll try and keep my eyes on the table.''

``The Master is used to being looked at,'' Lazarus made answer. ``But it would be well to ask himself. He likes open speech.''

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``I want to find out everything he likes and everything he doesn't like,'' The Rat said. ``I want--isn't there anything--anything you'd let me do for him? It wouldn't matter what it was. And he needn't know you are not doing it. I know you wouldn't be willing to give up anything particular. But you wait on him night and day. Couldn't you give up something to me?''

Lazarus pierced him with keen eyes. He did not answer for several seconds.

``Now and then,'' he said gruffly at last, ``I'll let you brush his boots. But not every day--perhaps once a week.''

``When will you let me have my first turn?'' The Rat asked.

Lazarus reflected. His shaggy eyebrows drew themselves down over his eyes as if this were a question of state.

``Next Saturday,'' he conceded. ``Not before. I'll tell him when you brush them.''

``You needn't,'' said The Rat. ``It's not that I want him to know. I want to know myself that I'm doing something for him. I'll find out things that I can do without interfering with you. I'll think them out.''

``Anything any one else did for him would be interfering with me,'' said Lazarus.

It was The Rat's turn to reflect now, and his face twisted itself into new lines and wrinkles.

``I'll tell you before I do anything,'' he said, after he had thought it over. ``You served him first.''

``I have served him ever since he was born,'' said Lazarus.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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