Read The Prince and the Pauper, Part 9. Page 2

  "For a jest, my prince, we did exchange garments. Then we stood before amirror; and so alike were we that both said it seemed as if there hadbeen no change made--yes, you remember that. Then you noticed that thesoldier had hurt my hand--look! here it is, I cannot yet even write withit, the fingers are so stiff. At this your Highness sprang up, vowingvengeance upon that soldier, and ran towards the door--you passed atable--that thing you call the Seal lay on that table--you snatched it upand looked eagerly about, as if for a place to hide it--your eye caughtsight of--"

  "There, 'tis sufficient!--and the good God be thanked!" exclaimed theragged claimant, in a mighty excitement. "Go, my good St. John--in anarm-piece of the Milanese armour that hangs on the wall, thou'lt find theSeal!"

  "Right, my King! right!" cried Tom Canty; "NOW the sceptre of England isthine own; and it were better for him that would dispute it that he hadbeen born dumb! Go, my Lord St. John, give thy feet wings!"

  The whole assemblage was on its feet now, and well-nigh out of its mindwith uneasiness, apprehension, and consuming excitement. On the floorand on the platform a deafening buzz of frantic conversation burst forth,and for some time nobody knew anything or heard anything or wasinterested in anything but what his neighbour was shouting into his ear,or he was shouting into his neighbour's ear. Time--nobody knew how muchof it--swept by unheeded and unnoted. At last a sudden hush fell uponthe house, and in the same moment St. John appeared upon the platform,and held the Great Seal aloft in his hand. Then such a shout went up--

  "Long live the true King!"

  For five minutes the air quaked with shouts and the crash of musicalinstruments, and was white with a storm of waving handkerchiefs; andthrough it all a ragged lad, the most conspicuous figure in England,stood, flushed and happy and proud, in the centre of the spaciousplatform, with the great vassals of the kingdom kneeling around him.

  Then all rose, and Tom Canty cried out--

  "Now, O my King, take these regal garments back, and give poor Tom, thyservant, his shreds and remnants again."

  The Lord Protector spoke up--

  "Let the small varlet be stripped and flung into the Tower."

  But the new King, the true King, said--

  "I will not have it so. But for him I had not got my crown again--noneshall lay a hand upon him to harm him. And as for thee, my good uncle,my Lord Protector, this conduct of thine is not grateful toward this poorlad, for I hear he hath made thee a duke"--the Protector blushed--"yet hewas not a king; wherefore what is thy fine title worth now? To-morrowyou shall sue to me, THROUGH HIM, for its confirmation, else no duke, buta simple earl, shalt thou remain."

  Under this rebuke, his Grace the Duke of Somerset retired a little fromthe front for the moment. The King turned to Tom, and said kindly--"Mypoor boy, how was it that you could remember where I hid the Seal when Icould not remember it myself?"

  "Ah, my King, that was easy, since I used it divers days."

  "Used it--yet could not explain where it was?"

  "I did not know it was THAT they wanted. They did not describe it, yourMajesty."

  "Then how used you it?"

  The red blood began to steal up into Tom's cheeks, and he dropped hiseyes and was silent.

  "Speak up, good lad, and fear nothing," said the King. "How used you theGreat Seal of England?"

  Tom stammered a moment, in a pathetic confusion, then got it out--

  "To crack nuts with!"

  Poor child, the avalanche of laughter that greeted this nearly swept himoff his feet. But if a doubt remained in any mind that Tom Canty was notthe King of England and familiar with the august appurtenances ofroyalty, this reply disposed of it utterly.

  Meantime the sumptuous robe of state had been removed from Tom'sshoulders to the King's, whose rags were effectually hidden from sightunder it. Then the coronation ceremonies were resumed; the true King wasanointed and the crown set upon his head, whilst cannon thundered thenews to the city, and all London seemed to rock with applause.

  Chapter XXXIII. Edward as King.

  Miles Hendon was picturesque enough before he got into the riot on LondonBridge--he was more so when he got out of it. He had but little moneywhen he got in, none at all when he got out. The pickpockets hadstripped him of his last farthing.

  But no matter, so he found his boy. Being a soldier, he did not go athis task in a random way, but set to work, first of all, to arrange hiscampaign.

  What would the boy naturally do? Where would he naturally go? Well--argued Miles--he would naturally go to his former haunts, for that is theinstinct of unsound minds, when homeless and forsaken, as well as ofsound ones. Whereabouts were his former haunts? His rags, takentogether with the low villain who seemed to know him and who even claimedto be his father, indicated that his home was in one or another of thepoorest and meanest districts of London. Would the search for him bedifficult, or long? No, it was likely to be easy and brief. He wouldnot hunt for the boy, he would hunt for a crowd; in the centre of a bigcrowd or a little one, sooner or later, he should find his poor littlefriend, sure; and the mangy mob would be entertaining itself withpestering and aggravating the boy, who would be proclaiming himself King,as usual. Then Miles Hendon would cripple some of those people, andcarry off his little ward, and comfort and cheer him with loving words,and the two would never be separated any more.

  So Miles started on his quest. Hour after hour he tramped through backalleys and squalid streets, seeking groups and crowds, and finding no endof them, but never any sign of the boy. This greatly surprised him, butdid not discourage him. To his notion, there was nothing the matter withhis plan of campaign; the only miscalculation about it was that thecampaign was becoming a lengthy one, whereas he had expected it to beshort.

  When daylight arrived, at last, he had made many a mile, and canvassedmany a crowd, but the only result was that he was tolerably tired, ratherhungry and very sleepy. He wanted some breakfast, but there was no wayto get it. To beg for it did not occur to him; as to pawning his sword,he would as soon have thought of parting with his honour; he could sparesome of his clothes--yes, but one could as easily find a customer for adisease as for such clothes.

  At noon he was still tramping--among the rabble which followed after theroyal procession, now; for he argued that this regal display wouldattract his little lunatic powerfully. He followed the pageant throughall its devious windings about London, and all the way to Westminster andthe Abbey. He drifted here and there amongst the multitudes that weremassed in the vicinity for a weary long time, baffled and perplexed, andfinally wandered off, thinking, and trying to contrive some way to betterhis plan of campaign. By-and-by, when he came to himself out of hismusings, he discovered that the town was far behind him and that the daywas growing old. He was near the river, and in the country; it was aregion of fine rural seats--not the sort of district to welcome clotheslike his.

  It was not at all cold; so he stretched himself on the ground in the leeof a hedge to rest and think. Drowsiness presently began to settle uponhis senses; the faint and far-off boom of cannon was wafted to his ear,and he said to himself, "The new King is crowned," and straightway fellasleep. He had not slept or rested, before, for more than thirty hours.He did not wake again until near the middle of the next morning.

  He got up, lame, stiff, and half famished, washed himself in the river,stayed his stomach with a pint or two of water, and trudged off towardWestminster, grumbling at himself for having wasted so much time. Hungerhelped him to a new plan, now; he would try to get speech with old SirHumphrey Marlow and borrow a few marks, and--but that was enough of aplan for the present; it would be time enough to enlarge it when thisfirst stage should be accomplished.

  Toward eleven o'clock he approached the palace; and although a host ofshowy people were about him, moving in the same direction, he was notinconspicuous--his costume took care of that. He watched these people'sfaces narrowly, hoping to find a charitable one whose possessor might bewilling
to carry his name to the old lieutenant--as to trying to get intothe palace himself, that was simply out of the question.

  Presently our whipping-boy passed him, then wheeled about and scanned hisfigure well, saying to himself, "An' that is not the very vagabond hisMajesty is in such a worry about, then am I an ass--though belike I wasthat before. He answereth the description to a rag--that God should maketwo such would be to cheapen miracles by wasteful repetition. I would Icould contrive an excuse to speak with him."

  Miles Hendon saved him the trouble; for he turned about, then, as a mangenerally will when somebody mesmerises him by gazing hard at him frombehind; and observing a strong interest in the boy's eyes, he steppedtoward him and said--

  "You have just come out from the palace; do you belong there?"

  "Yes, your worship."

  "Know you Sir Humphrey Marlow?"

  The boy started, and said to himself, "Lord! mine old departed father!"Then he answered aloud, "Right well, your worship."

  "Good--is he within?"

  "Yes," said the boy; and added, to himself, "within his grave."

  "Might I crave your favour to carry my name to him, and say I beg to saya word in his ear?"

  "I will despatch the business right willingly, fair sir."

  "Then say Miles Hendon, son of Sir Richard, is here without--I shall begreatly bounden to you, my good lad."

  The boy looked disappointed. "The King did not name him so," he said tohimself; "but it mattereth not, this is his twin brother, and can givehis Majesty news of t'other Sir-Odds-and-Ends, I warrant." So he said toMiles, "Step in there a moment, good sir, and wait till I bring youword."

  Hendon retired to the place indicated--it was a recess sunk in the palacewall, with a stone bench in it--a shelter for sentinels in bad weather.He had hardly seated himself when some halberdiers, in charge of anofficer, passed by. The officer saw him, halted his men, and commandedHendon to come forth. He obeyed, and was promptly arrested as asuspicious character prowling within the precincts of the palace. Thingsbegan to look ugly. Poor Miles was going to explain, but the officerroughly silenced him, and ordered his men to disarm him and search him.

  "God of his mercy grant that they find somewhat," said poor Miles; "Ihave searched enow, and failed, yet is my need greater than theirs."

  Nothing was found but a document. The officer tore it open, and Hendonsmiled when he recognised the 'pot-hooks' made by his lost little friendthat black day at Hendon Hall. The officer's face grew dark as he readthe English paragraph, and Miles blenched to the opposite colour as helistened.

  "Another new claimant of the Crown!" cried the officer. "Verily theybreed like rabbits, to-day. Seize the rascal, men, and see ye keep himfast whilst I convey this precious paper within and send it to the King."

  He hurried away, leaving the prisoner in the grip of the halberdiers.

  "Now is my evil luck ended at last," muttered Hendon, "for I shall dangleat a rope's end for a certainty, by reason of that bit of writing. Andwhat will become of my poor lad!--ah, only the good God knoweth."

  By-and-by he saw the officer coming again, in a great hurry; so heplucked his courage together, purposing to meet his trouble as became aman. The officer ordered the men to loose the prisoner and return hissword to him; then bowed respectfully, and said--

  "Please you, sir, to follow me."

  Hendon followed, saying to himself, "An' I were not travelling to deathand judgment, and so must needs economise in sin, I would throttle thisknave for his mock courtesy."

  The two traversed a populous court, and arrived at the grand entrance ofthe palace, where the officer, with another bow, delivered Hendon intothe hands of a gorgeous official, who received him with profound respectand led him forward through a great hall, lined on both sides with rowsof splendid flunkeys (who made reverential obeisance as the two passedalong, but fell into death-throes of silent laughter at our statelyscarecrow the moment his back was turned), and up a broad staircase,among flocks of fine folk, and finally conducted him into a vast room,clove a passage for him through the assembled nobility of England, thenmade a bow, reminded him to take his hat off, and left him standing inthe middle of the room, a mark for all eyes, for plenty of indignantfrowns, and for a sufficiency of amused and derisive smiles.

  Miles Hendon was entirely bewildered. There sat the young King, under acanopy of state, five steps away, with his head bent down and aside,speaking with a sort of human bird of paradise--a duke, maybe. Hendonobserved to himself that it was hard enough to be sentenced to death inthe full vigour of life, without having this peculiarly publichumiliation added. He wished the King would hurry about it--some of thegaudy people near by were becoming pretty offensive. At this moment theKing raised his head slightly, and Hendon caught a good view of his face.The sight nearly took his breath away!--He stood gazing at the fair youngface like one transfixed; then presently ejaculated--

  "Lo, the Lord of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows on his throne!"

  He muttered some broken sentences, still gazing and marvelling; thenturned his eyes around and about, scanning the gorgeous throng and thesplendid saloon, murmuring, "But these are REAL--verily these are REAL--surely it is not a dream."

  He stared at the King again--and thought, "IS it a dream . . . or IS hethe veritable Sovereign of England, and not the friendless poor Tom o'Bedlam I took him for--who shall solve me this riddle?"

  A sudden idea flashed in his eye, and he strode to the wall, gathered upa chair, brought it back, planted it on the floor, and sat down in it!

  A buzz of indignation broke out, a rough hand was laid upon him and avoice exclaimed--

  "Up, thou mannerless clown! would'st sit in the presence of the King?"

  The disturbance attracted his Majesty's attention, who stretched forthhis hand and cried out--

  "Touch him not, it is his right!"

  The throng fell back, stupefied. The King went on--

  "Learn ye all, ladies, lords, and gentlemen, that this is my trusty andwell-beloved servant, Miles Hendon, who interposed his good sword andsaved his prince from bodily harm and possible death--and for this he isa knight, by the King's voice. Also learn, that for a higher service, inthat he saved his sovereign stripes and shame, taking these upon himself,he is a peer of England, Earl of Kent, and shall have gold and lands meetfor the dignity. More--the privilege which he hath just exercised is hisby royal grant; for we have ordained that the chiefs of his line shallhave and hold the right to sit in the presence of the Majesty of Englandhenceforth, age after age, so long as the crown shall endure. Molest himnot."

  Two persons, who, through delay, had only arrived from the country duringthis morning, and had now been in this room only five minutes, stoodlistening to these words and looking at the King, then at the scarecrow,then at the King again, in a sort of torpid bewilderment. These were SirHugh and the Lady Edith. But the new Earl did not see them. He wasstill staring at the monarch, in a dazed way, and muttering--

  "Oh, body o' me! THIS my pauper! This my lunatic! This is he whom _I_would show what grandeur was, in my house of seventy rooms andseven-and-twenty servants! This is he who had never known aught but ragsfor raiment, kicks for comfort, and offal for diet! This is he whom _I_adopted and would make respectable! Would God I had a bag to hide my headin!"

  Then his manners suddenly came back to him, and he dropped upon hisknees, with his hands between the King's, and swore allegiance and didhomage for his lands and titles. Then he rose and stood respectfullyaside, a mark still for all eyes--and much envy, too.

  Now the King discovered Sir Hugh, and spoke out with wrathful voice andkindling eye--

  "Strip this robber of his false show and stolen estates, and put himunder lock and key till I have need of him."

  The late Sir Hugh was led away.

  There was a stir at the other end of the room, now; the assemblage fellapart, and Tom Canty, quaintly but richly clothed, marched down, betweenthese living walls, preceded
by an usher. He knelt before the King, whosaid--

  "I have learned the story of these past few weeks, and am well pleasedwith thee. Thou hast governed the realm with right royal gentleness andmercy. Thou hast found thy mother and thy sisters again? Good; theyshall be cared for--and thy father shall hang, if thou desire it and thelaw consent. Know, all ye that hear my voice, that from this day, theythat abide in the shelter of Christ's Hospital and share the King'sbounty shall have their minds and hearts fed, as well as their baserparts; and this boy shall dwell there, and hold the chief place in itshonourable body of governors, during life. And for that he hath been aking, it is meet that other than common observance shall be his due;wherefore note this his dress of state, for by it he shall be known, andnone shall copy it; and wheresoever he shall come, it shall remind thepeople that he hath been royal, in his time, and none shall deny him hisdue of reverence or fail to give him salutation. He hath the throne'sprotection, he hath the crown's support, he shall be known and called bythe honourable title of the King's Ward."

  The proud and happy Tom Canty rose and kissed the King's hand, and wasconducted from the presence. He did not waste any time, but flew to hismother, to tell her and Nan and Bet all about it and get them to help himenjoy the great news. {1}

  Conclusion. Justice and retribution.

  When the mysteries were all cleared up, it came out, by confession ofHugh Hendon, that his wife had repudiated Miles by his command, that dayat Hendon Hall--a command assisted and supported by the perfectlytrustworthy promise that if she did not deny that he was Miles Hendon,and stand firmly to it, he would have her life; whereupon she said, "Takeit!"--she did not value it--and she would not repudiate Miles; then thehusband said he would spare her life but have Miles assassinated! Thiswas a different matter; so she gave her word and kept it.