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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXI "Help!"

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Marco was feeling rather cold and sick and had lost his healthy color for the moment.

``She said she meant to take me home with her and would pretend I was her son who had come here without permission,'' he answered. ``She believes I know something I do not.'' He made a hesitating but grateful bow. ``The third act, sir--I must not keep you. Thank you! Thank you!''

The Chancellor moved toward the entrance door of the balcony seats, but he did it with his hand on Marco's shoulder.

``See that he gets home safely,'' he said to the younger of the two officers. ``Send a messenger with him. He's young to be attacked by creatures of that kind.''

Polite young officers naturally obey the commands of Chancellors and such dignitaries. This one found without trouble a young private who marched with Marco through the deserted streets to his lodgings. He was a stolid young Bavarian peasant and seemed to have no curiosity or even any interest in the reason for the command given him. He was in fact thinking of his sweetheart who lived near Konigsee and who had skated with him on the frozen lake last winter. He scarcely gave a glance to the schoolboy he was to escort, he neither knew nor wondered why.

The Rat had fallen asleep over his papers and lay with his head on his folded arms on the table. But he was awakened by Marco's coming into the room and sat up blinking his eyes in the effort to get them open.

``Did you see him? Did you get near enough?'' he drowsed.

``Yes,'' Marco answered. ``I got near enough.'

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The Rat sat upright suddenly.

``It's not been easy,'' he exclaimed. ``I'm sure something happened --something went wrong.''

``Something nearly went wrong--VERY nearly,'' answered Marco. But as he spoke he took the sketch of the Chancellor out of the slit in his sleeve and tore it and burned it with a match. ``But I did get near enough. And that's TWO.''

They talked long, before they went to sleep that night. The Rat grew pale as he listened to the story of the woman in violet.

``I ought to have gone with you!'' he said. ``I see now. An aide- de-camp must always be in attendance. It would have been harder for her to manage two than one. I must always be near to watch, even if I am not close by you. If you had not come back--if you had not come back!'' He struck his clenched hands together fiercely. ``What should I have done!''

When Marco turned toward him from the table near which he was standing, he looked like his father.

``You would have gone on with the Game just as far as you could,'' he said. ``You could not leave it. You remember the places, and the faces, and the Sign. There is some money; and when it was all gone, you could have begged, as we used to pretend we should.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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