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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

X The Rat-and Samavia

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The Rat hesitated again. What a swell he was! With that wave of the hand he made you feel as if you were a fellow like himself, and he was doing you some honor.

``I'm not--'' The Rat broke off and jerked his head toward Marco. ``He knows--'' he ended, ``I've never sat at a table like this before.''

``There is not much on it.'' Loristan made the slight gesture toward the right-hand seat again and smiled. ``Let us sit down.''

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The Rat obeyed him and the meal began. There were only bread and coffee and a little butter before them. But Lazarus presented the cups and plates on a small japanned tray as if it were a golden salver. When he was not serving, he stood upright behind his master's chair, as though he wore royal livery of scarlet and gold. To the boy who had gnawed a bone or munched a crust wheresoever he found them, and with no thought but of the appeasing of his own wolfish hunger, to watch the two with whom he sat eat their simple food was a new thing. He knew nothing of the every-day decencies of civilized people. The Rat liked to look at them, and he found himself trying to hold his cup as Loristan did, and to sit and move as Marco was sitting and moving--taking his bread or butter, when it was held at his side by Lazarus, as if it were a simple thing to be waited upon. Marco had had things handed to him all his life, and it did not make him feel awkward. The Rat knew that his own father had once lived like this. He himself would have been at ease if chance had treated him fairly. It made him scowl to think of it. But in a few minutes Loristan began to talk about the copy of the map of Samavia. Then The Rat forgot everything else and was ill at ease no more. He did not know that Loristan was leading him on to explain his theories about the country and the people and the war. He found himself telling all that he had read, or overheard, or THOUGHT as he lay awake in his garret. He had thought out a great many things in a way not at all like a boy's. His strangely concentrated and over-mature mind had been full of military schemes which Loristan listened to with curiosity and also with amazement. He had become extraordinarily clever in one direction because he had fixed all his mental powers on one thing. It seemed scarcely natural that an untaught vagabond lad should know so much and reason so clearly. It was at least extraordinarily interesting. There had been no skirmish, no attack, no battle which he had not led and fought in his own imagination, and he had made scores of rough queer plans of all that had been or should have been done. Lazarus listened as attentively as his master, and once Marco saw him exchange a startled, rapid glance with Loristan. It was at a moment when The Rat was sketching with his finger on the cloth an attack which OUGHT to have been made but was not. And Marco knew at once that the quickly exchanged look meant ``He is right! If it had been done, there would have been victory instead of disaster!''

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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