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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XII Only Two Boys

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``Your father can talk to you almost as if you were twenty years old,'' he said once. ``He knows you can understand what he's saying. If he were to talk to me, he'd always have to remember that I was only a rat that had lived in gutters and seen nothing else.''

They were talking in their room, as they nearly always did after they went to bed and the street lamp shone in and lighted their bare little room. They often sat up clasping their knees, Marco on his poor bed, The Rat on his hard sofa, but neither of them conscious either of the poorness or hardness, because to each one the long unknown sense of companionship was such a satisfying thing. Neither of them had ever talked intimately to another boy, and now they were together day and night. They revealed their thoughts to each other; they told each other things it had never before occurred to either to think of telling any one. In fact, they found out about themselves, as they talked, things they had not quite known before. Marco had gradually discovered that the admiration The Rat had for his father was an impassioned and curious feeling which possessed him entirely. It seemed to Marco that it was beginning to be like a sort of religion. He evidently thought of him every moment. So when he spoke of Loristan's knowing him to be only a rat of the gutter, Marco felt he himself was fortunate in remembering something he could say.

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``My father said yesterday that you had a big brain and a strong will,'' he answered from his bed. ``He said that you had a wonderful memory which only needed exercising. He said it after he looked over the list you made of the things you had seen in the Tower.''

The Rat shuffled on his sofa and clasped his knees tighter.

``Did he? Did he?'' he said.

He rested his chin upon his knees for a few minutes and stared straight before him. Then he turned to the bed.

``Marco,'' he said, in a rather hoarse voice, a queer voice; ``are you jealous?''

``Jealous,'' said Marco; ``why?''

``I mean, have you ever been jealous? Do you know what it is like?''

``I don't think I do,'' answered Marco, staring a little.

``Are you ever jealous of Lazarus because he's always with your father--because he's with him oftener than you are--and knows about his work--and can do things for him you can't? I mean, are you jealous of--your father?''

Marco loosed his arms from his knees and lay down flat on his pillow.

``No, I'm not. The more people love and serve him, the better,'' he said. ``The only thing I care for is--is him. I just care for HIM. Lazarus does too. Don't you?''

The Rat was greatly excited internally. He had been thinking of this thing a great deal. The thought had sometimes terrified him. He might as well have it out now if he could. If he could get at the truth, everything would be easier. But would Marco really tell him?

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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