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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXI "Help!"

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We have not had to do it yet; and it was best to save it for country places and villages. But you could have done it if you were obliged to. The Game would have to go on.''

The Rat caught at his thin chest as if he had been struck breathless.

``Without you?'' he gasped. ``Without you?''

``Yes,'' said Marco. ``And we must think of it, and plan in case anything like that should happen.''

He stopped himself quite suddenly, and sat down, looking straight before him, as if at some far away thing he saw.

``Nothing will happen,'' he said. ``Nothing can.''

``What are you thinking of?'' The Rat gulped, because his breath had not quite come back. ``Why will nothing happen?''

``Because--'' the boy spoke in an almost matter-of-fact tone--in quite an unexalted tone at all events, ``you see I can always make a strong call, as I did tonight.''

``Did you shout?'' The Rat asked. ``I didn't know you shouted.''

``I didn't. I said nothing aloud. But I--the myself that is in me,'' Marco touched himself on the breast, ``called out, `Help! Help!' with all its strength. And help came.''

The Rat regarded him dubiously.

``What did it call to?'' he asked.

``To the Power--to the Strength-place--to the Thought that does things. The Buddhist hermit, who told my father about it, called it `The Thought that thought the World.' ''

A reluctant suspicion betrayed itself in The Rat's eyes.

``Do you mean you prayed?'' he inquired, with a slight touch of disfavor.

Marco's eyes remained fixed upon him in vague thoughtfulness for a moment or so of pause.

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``I don't know,'' he said at last. ``Perhaps it's the same thing-- when you need something so much that you cry out loud for it. But it's not words, it's a strong thing without a name. I called like that when I was shut in the wine-cellar. I remembered some of the things the old Buddhist told my father.''

The Rat moved restlessly.

``The help came that time,'' he admitted. ``How did it come tonight?'' ``In that thought which flashed into my mind almost the next second. It came like lightning. All at once I knew if I ran to the Chancellor and said the woman was a spy, it would startle him into listening to me; and that then I could give him the Sign; and that when I gave him the Sign, he would know I was speaking the truth and would protect me.''

``It was a splendid thought!'' The Rat said. ``And it was quick.

But it was you who thought of it.''

``All thinking is part of the Big Thought,'' said Marco slowly. ``It KNOWS--It KNOWS. And the outside part of us somehow broke the chain that linked us to It. And we are always trying to mend the chain, without knowing it. That is what our thinking is--trying to mend the chain. But we shall find out how to do it sometime. The old Buddhist told my father so--just as the sun was rising from behind a high peak of the Himalayas.'' Then he added hastily, ``I am only telling you what my father told me, and he only told me what the old hermit told him.''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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