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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XIX "That Is One!"

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As he had awakened out of his sleep when Lazarus touched him, so he awakened in the middle of the night again. But he was not aroused by a touch. When he opened his eyes he knew it was a look which had penetrated his sleep--a look in the eyes of his father who was standing by his side. In the road outside there was the utter silence he had noticed the night of the Prince's first visit--the only light was that of the lamp in the street, but he could see Loristan's face clearly enough to know that the mere intensity of his gaze had awakened him. The Rat was sleeping profoundly. Loristan spoke in Samavian and under his breath.

``Beloved one,'' he said. ``You are very young. Because I am your father--just at this hour I can feel nothing else. I have trained you for this through all the years of your life. I am proud of your young maturity and strength but--Beloved--you are a child! Can I do this thing!''

For the moment, his face and his voice were scarcely like his own.

He kneeled by the bedside, and, as he did it, Marco half sitting up caught his hand and held it hard against his breast.

``Father, I know!'' he cried under his breath also. ``It is true. I am a child but am I not a man also? You yourself said it. I always knew that you were teaching me to be one--for some reason. It was my secret that I knew it. I learned well because I never forgot it. And I learned. Did I not?''

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He was so eager that he looked more like a boy than ever. But his young strength and courage were splendid to see. Loristan knew him through and through and read every boyish thought of his.

``Yes,'' he answered slowly. ``You did your part--and now if I --drew back--you would feel that I HAD FAILED YOU-FAILED YOU.''

``You!'' Marco breathed it proudly. ``You COULD not fail even the weakest thing in the world.''

There was a moment's silence in which the two pairs of eyes dwelt on each other with the deepest meaning, and then Loristan rose to his feet.

``The end will be all that our hearts most wish,'' he said. ``To- morrow you may begin the new part of `the Game.' You may go to Paris.''

When the train which was to meet the boat that crossed from Dover to Calais steamed out of the noisy Charing Cross Station, it carried in a third-class carriage two shabby boys. One of them would have been a handsome lad if he had not carried himself slouchingly and walked with a street lad's careless shuffling gait. The other was a cripple who moved slowly, and apparently with difficulty, on crutches. There was nothing remarkable or picturesque enough about them to attract attention. They sat in the corner of the carriage and neither talked much nor seemed to be particularly interested in the journey or each other. When they went on board the steamer, they were soon lost among the commoner passengers and in fact found for themselves a secluded place which was not advantageous enough to be wanted by any one else.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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