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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XI Come with Me

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``I'm not used to beds or to food enough,'' he said. But he did not dare to insist too much on that ``place.'' It seemed too great a thing to be true.

Loristan took his arm.

``Come with me,'' he said. ``We won't part. I believe you are to be trusted.''

The Rat turned quite white in a sort of anguish of joy. He had never cared for any one in his life. He had been a sort of young Cain, his hand against every man and every man's hand against him. And during the last twelve hours he had plunged into a tumultuous ocean of boyish hero-worship. This man seemed like a sort of god to him. What he had said and done the day before, in what had been really The Rat's hours of extremity, after that appalling night--the way he had looked into his face and understood it all, the talk at the table when he had listened to him seriously, comprehending and actually respecting his plans and rough maps; his silent companionship as they followed the pauper hearse together--these things were enough to make the lad longingly ready to be any sort of servant or slave to him if he might see and be spoken to by him even once or twice a day.

The Squad wore a look of dismay for a moment, and Loristan saw it.

``I am going to take your captain with me,'' he said. ``But he will come back to Barracks. So will Marco.''

``Will yer go on with the game?'' asked Cad, as eager spokesman. ``We want to go on being the `Secret Party.' ''

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``Yes, I'll go on,'' The Rat answered. ``I won't give it up. There's a lot in the papers to-day.''

So they were pacified and went on their way, and Loristan and Lazarus and Marco and The Rat went on theirs also.

``Queer thing is,'' The Rat thought as they walked together, ``I'm a bit afraid to speak to him unless he speaks to me first. Never felt that way before with any one.''

He had jeered at policemen and had impudently chaffed ``swells,'' but he felt a sort of secret awe of this man, and actually liked the feeling.

``It's as if I was a private and he was commander-in-chief,'' he thought. ``That's it.''

Loristan talked to him as they went. He was simple enough in his statements of the situation. There was an old sofa in Marco's bedroom. It was narrow and hard, as Marco's bed itself was, but The Rat could sleep upon it. They would share what food they had. There were newspapers and magazines to be read. There were papers and pencils to draw new maps and plans of battles. There was even an old map of Samavia of Marco's which the two boys could study together as an aid to their game. The Rat's eyes began to have points of fire in them.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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