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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XI Come with Me

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When they came back from the graveyard, The Rat was silent all the way. He was thinking of what had happened and of what lay before him. He was, in fact, thinking chiefly that nothing lay before him--nothing. The certainty of that gave his sharp, lined face new lines and sharpness which made it look pinched and hard.

He had nothing before but a corner in a bare garret in which he could find little more than a leaking roof over his head--when he was not turned out into the street. But, if policemen asked him where he lived, he could say he lived in Bone Court with his father. Now he couldn't say it.

He got along very well on his crutches, but he was rather tired when they reached the turn in the street which led in the direction of his old haunts. At any rate, they were haunts he knew, and he belonged to them more than he belonged elsewhere. The Squad stopped at this particular corner because it led to such homes as they possessed. They stopped in a body and looked at The Rat, and The Rat stopped also. He swung himself to Loristan's side, touching his hand to his forehead.

``Thank you, sir,'' he said. ``Line and salute, you chaps!'' And the Squad stood in line and raised their hands also. ``Thank you, sir. Thank you, Marco. Good-by.''

``Where are you going?'' Loristan asked.

``I don't know yet,'' The Rat answered, biting his lips.

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He and Loristan looked at each other a few moments in silence. Both of them were thinking very hard. In The Rat's eyes there was a kind of desperate adoration. He did not know what he should do when this man turned and walked away from him. It would be as if the sun itself had dropped out of the heavens--and The Rat had not thought of what the sun meant before.

But Loristan did not turn and walk away. He looked deep into the lad's eyes as if he were searching to find some certainty. Then he said in a low voice, ``You know how poor I am.''

``I--I don't care!'' said The Rat. ``You--you're like a king to me. I'd stand up and be shot to bits if you told me to do it.''

``I am so poor that I am not sure I can give you enough dry bread to eat--always. Marco and Lazarus and I are often hungry. Sometimes you might have nothing to sleep on but the floor. But I can find a PLACE for you if I take you with me,'' said Loristan. ``Do you know what I mean by a PLACE?''

``Yes, I do,'' answered The Rat. ``It's what I've never had before --sir.''

What he knew was that it meant some bit of space, out of all the world, where he would have a sort of right to stand, howsoever poor and bare it might be.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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