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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XVII "It Is a Very Bad Sign"

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The policeman was not so much excited as out of temper. He did not know what Marco knew or what The Rat knew. Some common lad had got himself locked up in a house, and some one would have to go to the landlord and get a key from him. He had no intention of laying himself open to the law by breaking into a private house with his truncheon, as The Rat expected him to do.

``He got himself in through some of his larks, and he'll have to wait till he's got out without smashing locks,'' he growled, shaking the area door. ``How did you get in there?'' he shouted.

It was not easy for Marco to explain through a keyhole that he had come in to help a lady who had met with an accident. The policeman thought this mere boy's talk. As to the rest of the story, Marco knew that it could not be related at all without saying things which could not be explained to any one but his father. He quickly made up his mind that he must let it be believed that he had been locked in by some queer accident. It must be supposed that the people had not remembered, in their haste, that he had not yet left the house.

When the young clerk from the house agency came with the keys, he was much disturbed and bewildered after he got inside.

``They've made a bolt of it,'' he said. ``That happens now and then, but there's something queer about this. What did they lock these doors in the basement for, and the one on the stairs? What did they say to you?'' he asked Marco, staring at him suspiciously.

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``They said they were obliged to go suddenly,'' Marco answered.

``What were you doing in the basement?''

``The man took me down.''

``And left you there and bolted? He must have been in a hurry.''

``The lady said they had not a moment's time.''

``Her ankle must have got well in short order,'' said the young man.

``I knew nothing about them,'' answered Marco. ``I had never seen them before.''

``The police were after them,'' the young man said. ``That's what I should say. They paid three months' rent in advance, and they have only been here two. Some of these foreign spies lurking about London; that's what they were.''

The Rat had not waited until the keys arrived. He had swung himself at his swiftest pace back through the streets to No. 7 Philibert Place. People turned and stared at his wild pale face as he almost shot past them.

He had left himself barely breath enough to speak with when he reached the house and banged on the door with his crutch to save time.

Both Loristan and Lazarus came to answer.

The Rat leaned against the door gasping.

``He's found! He's all right!'' he panted. ``Some one had locked him in a house and left him. They've sent for the keys. I'm going back. Brandon Terrace, No. 10.''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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