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0100_005E The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

XX Marco Goes to the Opera

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He created the whole episode with all its details and explained them to Marco. It fascinated him for the entire evening and he felt relieved after it and slept well.

Even before they had left London, certain newspapers had swept out of existence the story of the descendant of the Lost Prince. This had been done by derision and light handling--by treating it as a romantic legend.

At first, The Rat had resented this bitterly, but one day at a meal, when he had been producing arguments to prove that the story must be a true one, Loristan somehow checked him by his own silence.

``If there is such a man,'' he said after a pause, ``it is well for him that his existence should not be believed in--for some time at least.''

The Rat came to a dead stop. He felt hot for a moment and then felt cold. He saw a new idea all at once. He had been making a mistake in tactics.

No more was said but, when they were alone afterwards, he poured himself forth to Marco.

``I was a fool!'' he cried out. ``Why couldn't I see it for myself! Shall I tell you what I believe has been done? There is some one who has influence in England and who is a friend to Samavia. They've got the newspapers to make fun of the story so that it won't be believed. If it was believed, both the Iarovitch and the Maranovitch would be on the lookout, and the Secret Party would lose their chances. What a fool I was not to think of it! There's some one watching and working here who is a friend to Samavia.''

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``But there is some one in Samavia who has begun to suspect that it might be true,'' Marco answered. ``If there were not, I should not have been shut in the cellar. Some one thought my father knew something. The spies had orders to find out what it was.''

``Yes. Yes. That's true, too!'' The Rat answered anxiously. ``We shall have to be very careful.''

In the lining of the sleeve of Marco's coat there was a slit into which he could slip any small thing he wished to conceal and also wished to be able to reach without trouble. In this he had carried the sketch of the lady which he had torn up in Paris. When they walked in the streets of Munich, the morning after their arrival, he carried still another sketch. It was the one picturing the genial- looking old aristocrat with the sly smile.

One of the things they had learned about this one was that his chief characteristic was his passion for music. He was a patron of musicians and he spent much time in Munich because he loved its musical atmosphere and the earnestness of its opera-goers.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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