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0105_001E The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XVIII "Cities and Faces"

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Loristan said to him a thing which was like the sudden lighting of a great light in the very center of his being.

``You are one of us. Now that I know you are doing this I may even sleep. You are one of us.'' And it was because he was following this plan that The Rat had turned into Brandon Terrace and heard the Samavian song ringing out from the locked basement of Number 10.

``Yes, he is one of us,'' Loristan said, when he told this part of the story to Marco as they sat by the fire. ``I had not been sure before. I wanted to be very sure. Last night I saw into the depths of him and KNEW. He may be trusted.''

From that day The Rat held a new place. Lazarus himself, strangely enough, did not resent his holding it. The boy was allowed to be near Loristan as he had never dared to hope to be near. It was not merely that he was allowed to serve him in many ways, but he was taken into the intimacy which had before enclosed only the three. Loristan talked to him as he talked to Marco, drawing him within the circle which held so much that was comprehended without speech. The Rat knew that he was being trained and observed and he realized it with exaltation. His idol had said that he was ``one of them'' and he was watching and putting him to tests so that he might find out how much he was one of them. And he was doing it for some grave reason of his own. This thought possessed The Rat's whole mind. Perhaps he was wondering if he should find out that he was to be trusted, as a rock is to be trusted. That he should even think that perhaps he might find that he was like a rock, was inspiration enough.

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``Sir,'' he said one night when they were alone together, because The Rat had been copying a road-map. His voice was very low-- ``do you think that--sometime--you could trust me as you trust Marco? Could it ever be like that--ever?''

``The time has come,'' and Loristan's voice was almost as low as his own, though strong and deep feeling underlay its quiet-- ``the time has come when I can trust you with Marco--to be his companion--to care for him, to stand by his side at any moment. And Marco is--Marco is my son.'' That was enough to uplift The Rat to the skies. But there was more to follow.

``It may not be long before it may be his part to do work in which he will need a comrade who can be trusted--as a rock can be trusted.''

He had said the very words The Rat's own mind had given to him.

``A Rock! A Rock!'' the boy broke out. ``Let me show you, sir. Send me with him for a servant. The crutches are nothing. You've seen that they're as good as legs, haven't you? I've trained myself.''

``I know, I know, dear lad.'' Marco had told him all of it. He gave him a gracious smile which seemed as if it held a sort of fine secret. ``You shall go as his aide-de-camp. It shall be part of the game.''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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