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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXIX 'Twixt Night and Morning

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``Silence, woman!'' shouted Lazarus.

``Let her speak,'' said Marco. ``I want to hear. What is it you wish to say, Madam? My father is not here.''

``That's just what I want to find out about,'' put in the woman. ``When is he coming back?''

``I do not know,'' answered Marco.

``That's it,'' said Mrs. Beedle. ``You're old enough to understand that two big lads and a big fellow like that can't have food and lodgin's for nothing. You may say you don't live high--and you don't--but lodgin's are lodgin's and rent is rent. If your father's coming back and you can tell me when, I mayn't be obliged to let the rooms over your heads; but I know too much about foreigners to let bills run when they are out of sight. Your father's out of sight. He,'' jerking her head towards Lazarus, ``paid me for last week. How do I know he will pay me for this week!''

``The money is ready,'' roared Lazarus.

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The Rat longed to burst forth. He knew what people in Bone Court said to a woman like that; he knew the exact words and phrases. But they were not words and phrases an aide-de-camp might deliver himself of in the presence of his superior officer; they were not words and phrases an equerry uses at court. He dare not ALLOW himself to burst forth. He stood with flaming eyes and a flaming face, and bit his lips till they bled. He wanted to strike with his crutches. The son of Stefan Loristan! The Bearer of the Sign! There sprang up before his furious eyes the picture of the luridly lighted cavern and the frenzied crowd of men kneeling at this same boy's feet, kissing them, kissing his hands, his garments, the very earth he stood upon, worshipping him, while above the altar the kingly young face looked on with the nimbus of light like a halo above it. If he dared speak his mind now, he felt he could have endured it better. But being an aide-de-camp he could not.

``Do you want the money now?'' asked Marco. ``It is only the beginning of the week and we do not owe it to you until the week is over. Is it that you want to have it now?''

Lazarus had become deadly pale. He looked huge in his fury, and he looked dangerous.

``Young Master,'' he said slowly, in a voice as deadly as his pallor, and he actually spoke low, ``this woman--''

Mrs. Beedle drew back towards the cellar-kitchen steps.

``There's police outside,'' she shrilled. ``Young Master Loristan, order him to stand back.''

``No one will hurt you,'' said Marco. ``If you have the money here, Lazarus, please give it to me.''

Lazarus literally ground his teeth. But he drew himself up and saluted with ceremony. He put his hand in his breast pocket and produced an old leather wallet. There were but a few coins in it. He pointed to a gold one.

``I obey you, sir--since I must--'' he said, breathing hard. ``That one will pay her for the week.''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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