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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XVIII "Cities and Faces"

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But still night after night the game was played.

Then came a night when, out of a deep sleep, he was awakened by Lazarus touching him. He had so long been secretly ready to answer any call that he sat up straight in bed at the first touch.

``Dress quickly and come down stairs,'' Lazarus said. ``The Prince is here and wishes to speak with you.''

Marco made no answer but got out of bed and began to slip on his clothes.

Lazarus touched The Rat.

The Rat was as ready as Marco and sat upright as he had done.

``Come down with the young Master,'' he commanded. ``It is necessary that you should be seen and spoken to.'' And having given the order he went away.

No one heard the shoeless feet of the two boys as they stole down the stairs.

An elderly man in ordinary clothes, but with an unmistakable face, was sitting quietly talking to Loristan who with a gesture called both forward.

``The Prince has been much interested in what I have told him of your game,'' he said in his lowest voice. ``He wishes to see you make your sketches, Marco.''

Marco looked very straight into the Prince's eyes which were fixed intently on him as he made his bow.

``His Highness does me honor,'' he said, as his father might have said it. He went to the table at once and took from a drawer his pencils and pieces of cardboard.

``I should know he was your son and a Samavian,'' the Prince remarked.

Then his keen and deep-set eyes turned themselves on the boy with the crutches.

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``This,'' said Loristan, ``is the one who calls himself The Rat. He is one of us.''

The Rat saluted.

``Please tell him, sir,'' he whispered, ``that the crutches don't matter.''

``He has trained himself to an extraordinary activity,'' Loristan said. ``He can do anything.''

The keen eyes were still taking The Rat in.

``They are an advantage,'' said the Prince at last.

Lazarus had nailed together a light, rough easel which Marco used in making his sketches when the game was played. Lazarus was standing in state at the door, and he came forward, brought the easel from its corner, and arranged the necessary drawing materials upon it.

Marco stood near it and waited the pleasure of his father and his visitor. They were speaking together in low tones and he waited several minutes. What The Rat noticed was what he had noticed before--that the big boy could stand still in perfect ease and silence. It was not necessary for him to say things or to ask questions-- to look at people as if he felt restless if they did not speak to or notice him. He did not seem to require notice, and The Rat felt vaguely that, young as he was, this very freedom from any anxiety to be looked at or addressed made him somehow look like a great gentleman.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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