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  The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

X The Rat-and Samavia

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What The Rat thought when Loristan began to speak to him, Marco wondered. Suddenly he stood in an unknown world, and it was Loristan who made it so because its poverty and shabbiness had no power to touch him. He looked at the boy with calm and clear eyes, he asked him practical questions gently, and it was plain that he understood many things without asking questions at all. Marco thought that perhaps he had, at some time, seen drunken men die, in his life in strange places. He seemed to know the terribleness of the night through which The Rat had passed. He made him sit down, and he ordered Lazarus to bring him some hot coffee and simple food.

``Haven't had a bite since yesterday,'' The Rat said, still staring at him. ``How did you know I hadn't?''

``You have not had time,'' Loristan answered.

Afterward he made him lie down on the sofa.

``Look at my clothes,'' said The Rat.

``Lie down and sleep,'' Loristan replied, putting his hand on his shoulder and gently forcing him toward the sofa. ``You will sleep a long time. You must tell me how to find the place where your father died, and I will see that the proper authorities are notified.''

``What are you doing it for?'' The Rat asked, and then he added, ``sir.''

``Because I am a man and you are a boy. And this is a terrible thing,'' Loristan answered him.

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He went away without saying more, and The Rat lay on the sofa staring at the wall and thinking about it until he fell asleep. But, before this happened, Marco had quietly left him alone. So, as Loristan had told him he would, he slept deeply and long; in fact, he slept through all the night.

When he awakened it was morning, and Lazarus was standing by the side of the sofa looking down at him.

``You will want to make yourself clean,'' he said. ``It must be done.''

``Clean!'' said The Rat, with his squeaky laugh. ``I couldn't keep clean when I had a room to live in, and now where am I to wash myself?'' He sat up and looked about him.

``Give me my crutches,'' he said. ``I've got to go. They've let me sleep here all night. They didn't turn me into the street. I don't know why they didn't. Marco's father--he's the right sort. He looks like a swell.''

``The Master,'' said Lazarus, with a rigid manner, ``the Master is a great gentleman. He would turn no tired creature into the street. He and his son are poor, but they are of those who give. He desires to see and talk to you again. You are to have bread and coffee with him and the young Master. But it is I who tell you that you cannot sit at table with them until you are clean. Come with me,'' and he handed him his crutches. His manner was authoritative, but it was the manner of a soldier; his somewhat stiff and erect movements were those of a soldier, also, and The Rat liked them because they made him feel as if he were in barracks. He did not know what was going to happen, but he got up and followed him on his crutches.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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