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  The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XX Marco Goes to the Opera

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Their next journey was to Munich, but the night before they left Paris an unexpected thing happened.

To reach the narrow staircase which led to their bedroom it was necessary to pass through the baker's shop itself.

The baker's wife was a friendly woman who liked the two boy lodgers who were so quiet and gave no trouble. More than once she had given them a hot roll or so or a freshly baked little tartlet with fruit in the center. When Marco came in this evening, she greeted him with a nod and handed him a small parcel as he passed through.

``This was left for you this afternoon,'' she said. ``I see you are making purchases for your journey. My man and I are very sorry you are going.''

``Thank you, Madame. We also are sorry,'' Marco answered, taking the parcel. ``They are not large purchases, you see.''

But neither he nor The Rat had bought anything at all, though the ordinary-looking little package was plainly addressed to him and bore the name of one of the big cheap shops. It felt as if it contained something soft.

When he reached their bedroom, The Rat was gazing out of the window watching every living thing which passed in the street below. He who had never seen anything but London was absorbed by the spell of Paris and was learning it by heart.

``Something has been sent to us. Look at this,'' said Marco.

The Rat was at his side at once. ``What is it? Where did it come from?''

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They opened the package and at first sight saw only several pairs of quite common woolen socks. As Marco took up the sock in the middle of the parcel, he felt that there was something inside it-- something laid flat and carefully. He put his hand in and drew out a number of five-franc notes--not new ones, because new ones would have betrayed themselves by crackling. These were old enough to be soft. But there were enough of them to amount to a substantial sum.

``It is in small notes because poor boys would have only small ones. No one will be surprised when we change these,'' The Rat said.

Each of them believed the package had been sent by the great lady, but it had been done so carefully that not the slightest clue was furnished.

To The Rat, part of the deep excitement of ``the Game'' was the working out of the plans and methods of each person concerned. He could not have slept without working out some scheme which might have been used in this case. It thrilled him to contemplate the difficulties the great lady might have found herself obliged to overcome.

``Perhaps,'' he said, after thinking it over for some time, ``she

went to a big common shop dressed as if she were an ordinary woman and bought the socks and pretended she was going to carry them home herself. She would do that so that she could take them into some corner and slip the money in. Then, as she wanted to have them sent from the shop, perhaps she bought some other things and asked the people to deliver the packages to different places. The socks were sent to us and the other things to some one else. She would go to a shop where no one knew her and no one would expect to see her and she would wear clothes which looked neither rich nor too poor.''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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