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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXIX 'Twixt Night and Morning

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It was Lazarus who went out of the room first and The Rat and Marco followed him.

One of the upstairs lodgers had run down in haste and opened the door to buy newspapers and ask questions. The newsboys were wild with excitement and danced about as they shouted. The piece of news they were yelling had evidently a popular quality.

The lodger bought two papers and was handing out coppers to a lad who was talking loud and fast.

``Here's a go!'' he was saying. ``A Secret Party's risen up and taken Samavia! 'Twixt night and mornin' they done it! That there Lost Prince descendant 'as turned up, an' they've CROWNED him--'twixt night and mornin' they done it! Clapt 'is crown on 'is 'ead, so's they'd lose no time.'' And off he bolted, shouting, `` 'Cendant of Lost Prince! 'Cendant of Lost Prince made King of Samavia!''

It was then that Lazarus, forgetting even ceremony, bolted also. He bolted back to the sitting-room, rushed in, and the door fell to behind him.

Marco and The Rat found it shut when, having secured a newspaper, they went down the passage. At the closed door, Marco stopped. He did not turn the handle. From the inside of the room there came the sound of big convulsive sobs and passionate Samavian words of prayer and worshipping gratitude.

``Let us wait,'' Marco said, trembling a little. ``He will not want any one to see him. Let us wait.''

His black pits of eyes looked immense, and he stood at his tallest, but he was trembling slightly from head to foot. The Rat had begun to shake, as if from an ague. His face was scarcely human in its fierce unboyish emotion.

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``Marco! Marco!'' his whisper was a cry. ``That was what he went for--BECAUSE HE KNEW!''

``Yes,'' answered Marco, ``that was what he went for.'' And his voice was unsteady, as his body was.

Presently the sobs inside the room choked themselves back suddenly. Lazarus had remembered. They had guessed he had been leaning against the wall during his outburst. Now it was evident that he stood upright, probably shocked at the forgetfulness of his frenzy.

So Marco turned the handle of the door and went into the room. He shut the door behind him, and they all three stood together.

When the Samavian gives way to his emotions, he is emotional indeed. Lazarus looked as if a storm had swept over him. He had choked back his sobs, but tears still swept down his cheeks.

``Sir,'' he said hoarsely, ``your pardon! It was as if a convulsion seized me. I forgot everything--even my duty. Pardon, pardon!'' And there on the worn carpet of the dingy back sitting-room in the Marylebone Road, he actually went on one knee and kissed the boy's hand with adoration.

``You mustn't ask pardon,'' said Marco. ``You have waited so long, good friend. You have given your life as my father has. You have known all the suffering a boy has not lived long enough to understand. Your big heart--your faithful heart--'' his voice broke and he stood and looked at him with an appeal which seemed to ask him to remember his boyhood and understand the rest.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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