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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XVI The Rat to the Rescue

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There was quite a little group when another person turned the corner of the street. He was a shabby boy on crutches, and he had a frantic look on his face.

And Marco actually heard, as he drew near to the group, the tap-tap-tap of crutches.

``It might be,'' he thought. ``It might be!''

And he sang the trumpet-call of the chorus as if it were meant to reach the skies, and he sang it again and again. And at the end of it shouted, ``Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!''

The Rat swung himself into the group and looked as if he had gone crazy. He hurled himself against the people.

``Where is he! Where is he!'' he cried, and he poured out some breathless words; it was almost as if he sobbed them out.

``We've been looking for him all night!'' he shouted. ``Where is he! Marco! Marco! No one else sings it but him. Marco! Marco!'' And out of the area, as it seemed, came a shout of answer.

``Rat! Rat! I'm here in the cellar--locked in. I'm here!'' and a big piece of coal came hurtling through the broken window and fell crashing on the area flags. The Rat got down the steps into the area as if he had not been on crutches but on legs, and banged on the door, shouting back:

``Marco! Marco! Here I am! Who locked you in? How can I get the door open?''

Marco was close against the door inside. It was The Rat! It was

The Rat! And he would be in the street again in a few minutes. ``Call a policeman!'' he shouted through the keyhole. ``The people locked me in on purpose and took away the keys.''

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Then the group of lookers-on began to get excited and press against the area railings and ask questions. They could not understand what had happened to cause the boy with the crutches to look as if he were crazy with terror and relief at the same time.

And the little boy ran delightedly to fetch a policeman, and found one in the next street, and, with some difficulty, persuaded him that it was his business to come and get a door open in an empty house where a boy who was a street singer had got locked up in a cellar.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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