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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XXVIII "Extra! Extra! Extra!"

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Because his master was absent, the old soldier seemed to feel that he must comfort himself with a greater ceremonial reverance than he had ever shown before. He held himself within call, and at Marco's orders, as it had been his custom to hold himself with regard to Loristan. The ceremonious service even extended itself to The Rat, who appeared to have taken a new place in his mind. He also seemed now to be a person to be waited upon and replied to with dignity and formal respect.

When the evening meal was served, Lazarus drew out Loristan's chair at the head of the table and stood behind it with a majestic air.

``Sir,'' he said to Marco, ``the Master requested that you take his seat at the table until--while he is not with you.''

Marco took the seat in silence.

At two o'clock in the morning, when the roaring road was still, the light from the street lamp, shining into the small bedroom, fell on two pale boy faces. The Rat sat up on his sofa bed in the old way with his hands clasped round his knees. Marco lay flat on his hard pillow. Neither of them had been to sleep and yet they had not talked a great deal. Each had secretly guessed a good deal of what the other did not say.

``There is one thing we must remember,'' Marco had said, early in the night. ``We must not be afraid.''

``No,'' answered The Rat, almost fiercely, ``we must not be afraid.''

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``We are tired; we came back expecting to be able to tell it all to him. We have always been looking forward to that. We never thought once that he might be gone. And he WAS gone. Did you feel as if--'' he turned towards the sofa, ``as if something had struck you on the chest?''

``Yes,'' The Rat answered heavily. ``Yes.''

``We weren't ready,'' said Marco. ``He had never gone before; but we ought to have known he might some day be--called. He went because he was called. He told us to wait. We don't know what we are waiting for, but we know that we must not be afraid. To let ourselves be AFRAID would be breaking the Law.''

``The Law!'' groaned The Rat, dropping his head on his hands, ``I'd forgotten about it.''

``Let us remember it,'' said Marco. ``This is the time. `Hate not. FEAR not!' '' He repeated the last words again and again. ``Fear not! Fear not,'' he said. ``NOTHING can harm him.''

The Rat lifted his head, and looked at the bed sideways.

``Did you think--'' he said slowly--``did you EVER think that perhaps HE knew where the descendant of the Lost Prince was?''

Marco answered even more slowly.

``If any one knew--surely he might. He has known so much,'' he said.

``Listen to this!'' broke forth The Rat. ``I believe he has gone to TELL the people. If he does--if he could show them--all the country would run mad with joy. It wouldn't be only the Secret Party. All Samavia would rise and follow any flag he chose to raise. They've prayed for the Lost Prince for five hundred years, and if they believed they'd got him once more, they'd fight like madmen for him. But there would not be any one to fight. They'd ALL want the same thing! If they could see the man with Ivor's blood in his veins, they'd feel he had come back to them--risen from the dead. They'd believe it!''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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