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0105_001E The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XII Only Two Boys

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``He's--he's yours,'' said The Rat, still thinking deeply.

``I am his,'' was Lazarus's stern answer. ``I am his--and the young Master's.''

``That's it,'' The Rat said. Then a squeak of a half-laugh broke from him. ``I've never been anybody's,'' he added.

His sharp eyes caught a passing look on Lazarus's face. Such a queer, disturbed, sudden look. Could he be rather sorry for him?

Perhaps the look meant something like that.

``If you stay near him long enough--and it needn't be long--you will be his too. Everybody is.''

The Rat sat up as straight as he could. ``When it comes to that,'' he blurted out, ``I'm his now, in my way. I was his two minutes after he looked at me with his queer, handsome eyes. They're queer because they get you, and you want to follow him. I'm going to follow.''

That night Lazarus recounted to his master the story of the scene. He simply repeated word for word what had been said, and Loristan listened gravely.

``We have not had time to learn much of him yet,'' he commented. ``But that is a faithful soul, I think.''

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A few days later, Marco missed The Rat soon after their breakfast hour. He had gone out without saying anything to the household. He did not return for several hours, and when he came back he looked tired. In the afternoon he fell asleep on his sofa in Marco's room and slept heavily. No one asked him any questions as he volunteered no explanation. The next day he went out again in the same mysterious manner, and the next and the next. For an entire week he went out and returned with the tired look; but he did not explain until one morning, as he lay on his sofa before getting up, he said to Marco:

``I'm practicing walking with my crutches. I don't want to go about like a rat any more. I mean to be as near like other people as I can. I walk farther every morning. I began with two miles. If I practice every day, my crutches will be like legs.''

``Shall I walk with you?'' asked Marco.

``Wouldn't you mind walking with a cripple?''

``Don't call yourself that,'' said Marco. ``We can talk together, and try to remember everything we see as we go along.''

``I want to learn to remember things. I'd like to train myself in that way too,'' The Rat answered. ``I'd give anything to know some of the things your father taught you. I've got a good memory. I remember a lot of things I don't want to remember. Will you go this morning?''

That morning they went, and Loristan was told the reason for their walk. But though he knew one reason, he did not know all about it. When The Rat was allowed his ``turn'' of the boot-brushing, he told more to Lazarus.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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