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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XII Only Two Boys

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``Don't you mind?'' he said, still hoarse and eager--``don't you mind how much I care for him? Could it ever make you feel savage? Could it ever set you thinking I was nothing but--what I am--and that it was cheek of me to push myself in and fasten on to a gentleman who only took me up for charity? Here's the living truth,'' he ended in an outburst; ``if I were you and you were me, that's what I should be thinking. I know it is. I couldn't help it. I should see every low thing there was in you, in your manners and your voice and your looks. I should see nothing but the contrast between you and me and between you and him. I should be so jealous that I should just rage. I should HATE you--and I should DESPISE you!''

He had wrought himself up to such a passion of feeling that he set Marco thinking that what he was hearing meant strange and strong emotions such as he himself had never experienced. The Rat had been thinking over all this in secret for some time, it was evident. Marco lay still a few minutes and thought it over. Then he found something to say, just as he had found something before.

``You might, if you were with other people who thought in the same way,'' he said, ``and if you hadn't found out that it is such a mistake to think in that way, that it's even stupid. But, you see, if you were I, you would have lived with my father, and he'd have told you what he knows--what he's been finding out all his life.''

``What's he found out?''

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``Oh!'' Marco answered, quite casually, ``just that you can't set savage thoughts loose in the world, any more than you can let loose savage beasts with hydrophobia. They spread a sort of rabies, and they always tear and worry you first of all.''

``What do you mean?'' The Rat gasped out.

``It's like this,'' said Marco, lying flat and cool on his hard pillow and looking at the reflection of the street lamp on the ceiling. ``That day I turned into your Barracks, without knowing that you'd think I was spying, it made you feel savage, and you threw the stone at me. If it had made me feel savage and I'd rushed in and fought, what would have happened to all of us?''

The Rat's spirit of generalship gave the answer.

``I should have called on the Squad to charge with fixed bayonets. They'd have half killed you. You're a strong chap, and you'd have hurt a lot of them.''

A note of terror broke into his voice. ``What a fool I should have been!'' he cried out. ``I should never have come here! I should never have known HIM!'' Even by the light of the street lamp Marco could see him begin to look almost ghastly.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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