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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXVIII "Extra! Extra! Extra!"

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The Rat heard it first and dashed to the front door. As he opened it a newsboy running by shouted at the topmost power of his lungs the news he had to sell: ``Assassination of King Michael Maranovitch by his own soldiers! Assassination of the Maranovitch! Extra! Extra! Extra!''

When The Rat returned with a newspaper, Lazarus interposed between him and Marco with great and respectful ceremony. ``Sir,'' he said to Marco, ``I am at your command, but the Master left me with an order which I was to repeat to you. He requested you NOT to read the newspapers until he himself could see you again.''

Both boys fell back.

``Not read the papers!'' they exclaimed together.

Lazarus had never before been quite so reverential and ceremonious.

``Your pardon, sir,'' he said. ``I may read them at your orders, and report such things as it is well that you should know. There have been dark tales told and there may be darker ones. He asked that you would not read for yourself. If you meet again--when you meet again''--he corrected himself hastily--``when you meet again, he says you will understand. I am your servant. I will read and answer all such questions as I can.''

The Rat handed him the paper and they returned to the back room together.

``You shall tell us what he would wish us to hear,'' Marco said.

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The news was soon told. The story was not a long one as exact details had not yet reached London. It was briefly that the head of the Maranovitch party had been put to death by infuriated soldiers of his own army. It was an army drawn chiefly from a peasantry which did not love its leaders, or wish to fight, and suffering and brutal treatment had at last roused it to furious revolt.

``What next?'' said Marco.

``If I were a Samavian--'' began The Rat and then he stopped.

Lazarus stood biting his lips, but staring stonily at the carpet. Not The Rat alone but Marco also noted a grim change in him. It was grim because it suggested that he was holding himself under an iron control. It was as if while tortured by anxiety he had sworn not to allow himself to look anxious and the resolve set his jaw hard and carved new lines in his rugged face. Each boy thought this in secret, but did not wish to put it into words. If he was anxious, he could only be so for one reason, and each realized what the reason must be. Loristan had gone to Samavia--to the torn and bleeding country filled with riot and danger. If he had gone, it could only have been because its danger called him and he went to face it at its worst. Lazarus had been left behind to watch over them. Silence was still the order, and what he knew he could not tell them, and perhaps he knew little more than that a great life might be lost.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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