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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

X The Rat-and Samavia

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It was a wonderful meal, though it was only of bread and coffee. The Rat knew he should never be able to forget it.

Afterward, Loristan told him of what he had done the night before. He had seen the parish authorities and all had been done which a city government provides in the case of a pauper's death.

His father would be buried in the usual manner. ``We will follow him,'' Loristan said in the end. ``You and I and Marco and Lazarus.''

The Rat's mouth fell open.

``You--and Marco--and Lazarus!'' he exclaimed, staring. ``And me! Why should any of us go? I don't want to. He wouldn't have followed me if I'd been the one.''

Loristan remained silent for a few moments.

``When a life has counted for nothing, the end of it is a lonely thing,'' he said at last. ``If it has forgotten all respect for itself, pity is all that one has left to give. One would like to give SOMETHING to anything so lonely.'' He said the last brief sentence after a pause.

``Let us go,'' Marco said suddenly; and he caught The Rat's hand.

The Rat's own movement was sudden. He slipped from his crutches to a chair, and sat and gazed at the worn carpet as if he were not looking at it at all, but at something a long way off. After a while he looked up at Loristan.

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``Do you know what I thought of, all at once?'' he said in a shaky voice. ``I thought of that `Lost Prince' one. He only lived once. Perhaps he didn't live a long time. Nobody knows. But it's five hundred years ago, and, just because he was the kind he was, every one that remembers him thinks of something fine. It's queer, but it does you good just to hear his name. And if he has been training kings for Samavia all these centuries--they may have been poor and nobody may have known about them, but they've been KINGS. That's what HE did--just by being alive a few years. When I think of him and then think of--the other--there's such an awful difference that --yes--I'm sorry. For the first time. I'm his son and I can't care about him; but he's too lonely--I want to go.''

So it was that when the forlorn derelict was carried to the graveyard where nameless burdens on the city were given to the earth, a curious funeral procession followed him. There were two tall and soldierly looking men and two boys, one of whom walked on crutches, and behind them were ten other boys who walked two by two. These ten were a queer, ragged lot; but they had respectfully sober faces, held their heads and their shoulders well, and walked with a remarkably regular marching step.

It was the Squad; but they had left their ``rifles'' at home.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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