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Mark Twain > The Prince and the Pauper > Chapter XXV

The Prince and the Pauper

Chapter XXV



Hendon Hall.

As soon as Hendon and the King were out of sight of the constable, his
Majesty was instructed to hurry to a certain place outside the town, and
wait there, whilst Hendon should go to the inn and settle his account.
Half an hour later the two friends were blithely jogging eastward on
Hendon's sorry steeds. The King was warm and comfortable, now, for he
had cast his rags and clothed himself in the second-hand suit which
Hendon had bought on London Bridge.

Hendon wished to guard against over-fatiguing the boy; he judged that
hard journeys, irregular meals, and illiberal measures of sleep would be
bad for his crazed mind; whilst rest, regularity, and moderate exercise
would be pretty sure to hasten its cure; he longed to see the stricken
intellect made well again and its diseased visions driven out of the
tormented little head; therefore he resolved to move by easy stages
toward the home whence he had so long been banished, instead of obeying
the impulse of his impatience and hurrying along night and day.

When he and the King had journeyed about ten miles, they reached a
considerable village, and halted there for the night, at a good inn. The
former relations were resumed; Hendon stood behind the King's chair,
while he dined, and waited upon him; undressed him when he was ready for
bed; then took the floor for his own quarters, and slept athwart the
door, rolled up in a blanket.

The next day, and the day after, they jogged lazily along talking over
the adventures they had met since their separation, and mightily enjoying
each other's narratives. Hendon detailed all his wide wanderings in
search of the King, and described how the archangel had led him a fool's
journey all over the forest, and taken him back to the hut, finally, when
he found he could not get rid of him. Then--he said--the old man went
into the bedchamber and came staggering back looking broken-hearted, and
saying he had expected to find that the boy had returned and laid down in
there to rest, but it was not so. Hendon had waited at the hut all day;
hope of the King's return died out, then, and he departed upon the quest
again.

"And old Sanctum Sanctorum WAS truly sorry your highness came not back,"
said Hendon; "I saw it in his face."

"Marry I will never doubt THAT!" said the King--and then told his own
story; after which, Hendon was sorry he had not destroyed the archangel.

During the last day of the trip, Hendon's spirits were soaring. His
tongue ran constantly. He talked about his old father, and his brother
Arthur, and told of many things which illustrated their high and generous
characters; he went into loving frenzies over his Edith, and was so glad-
hearted that he was even able to say some gentle and brotherly things
about Hugh. He dwelt a deal on the coming meeting at Hendon Hall; what a
surprise it would be to everybody, and what an outburst of thanksgiving
and delight there would be.

It was a fair region, dotted with cottages and orchards, and the road led
through broad pasture lands whose receding expanses, marked with gentle
elevations and depressions, suggested the swelling and subsiding
undulations of the sea. In the afternoon the returning prodigal made
constant deflections from his course to see if by ascending some hillock
he might not pierce the distance and catch a glimpse of his home. At
last he was successful, and cried out excitedly--

"There is the village, my Prince, and there is the Hall close by! You may
see the towers from here; and that wood there--that is my father's park.
Ah, NOW thou'lt know what state and grandeur be! A house with seventy
rooms--think of that!--and seven and twenty servants! A brave lodging
for such as we, is it not so? Come, let us speed--my impatience will not
brook further delay."

All possible hurry was made; still, it was after three o'clock before the
village was reached. The travellers scampered through it, Hendon's
tongue going all the time. "Here is the church--covered with the same
ivy--none gone, none added." "Yonder is the inn, the old Red Lion,--and
yonder is the market-place." "Here is the Maypole, and here the pump--
nothing is altered; nothing but the people, at any rate; ten years make a
change in people; some of these I seem to know, but none know me." So
his chat ran on. The end of the village was soon reached; then the
travellers struck into a crooked, narrow road, walled in with tall
hedges, and hurried briskly along it for half a mile, then passed into a
vast flower garden through an imposing gateway, whose huge stone pillars
bore sculptured armorial devices. A noble mansion was before them.

"Welcome to Hendon Hall, my King!" exclaimed Miles. "Ah, 'tis a great
day! My father and my brother, and the Lady Edith will be so mad with
joy that they will have eyes and tongue for none but me in the first
transports of the meeting, and so thou'lt seem but coldly welcomed--but
mind it not; 'twill soon seem otherwise; for when I say thou art my ward,
and tell them how costly is my love for thee, thou'lt see them take thee
to their breasts for Miles Hendon's sake, and make their house and hearts
thy home for ever after!"

The next moment Hendon sprang to the ground before the great door, helped
the King down, then took him by the hand and rushed within. A few steps
brought him to a spacious apartment; he entered, seated the King with
more hurry than ceremony, then ran toward a young man who sat at a
writing-table in front of a generous fire of logs.

"Embrace me, Hugh," he cried, "and say thou'rt glad I am come again! and
call our father, for home is not home till I shall touch his hand, and
see his face, and hear his voice once more!"

But Hugh only drew back, after betraying a momentary surprise, and bent a
grave stare upon the intruder--a stare which indicated somewhat of
offended dignity, at first, then changed, in response to some inward
thought or purpose, to an expression of marvelling curiosity, mixed with
a real or assumed compassion. Presently he said, in a mild voice--

"Thy wits seem touched, poor stranger; doubtless thou hast suffered
privations and rude buffetings at the world's hands; thy looks and dress
betoken it. Whom dost thou take me to be?"

"Take thee? Prithee for whom else than whom thou art? I take thee to be
Hugh Hendon," said Miles, sharply.

The other continued, in the same soft tone--

"And whom dost thou imagine thyself to be?"

"Imagination hath nought to do with it! Dost thou pretend thou knowest
me not for thy brother Miles Hendon?"

An expression of pleased surprise flitted across Hugh's face, and he
exclaimed--

"What! thou art not jesting? can the dead come to life? God be praised
if it be so! Our poor lost boy restored to our arms after all these
cruel years! Ah, it seems too good to be true, it IS too good to be
true--I charge thee, have pity, do not trifle with me! Quick--come to
the light--let me scan thee well!"

He seized Miles by the arm, dragged him to the window, and began to
devour him from head to foot with his eyes, turning him this way and
that, and stepping briskly around him and about him to prove him from all
points of view; whilst the returned prodigal, all aglow with gladness,
smiled, laughed, and kept nodding his head and saying--

"Go on, brother, go on, and fear not; thou'lt find nor limb nor feature
that cannot bide the test. Scour and scan me to thy content, my good old
Hugh--I am indeed thy old Miles, thy same old Miles, thy lost brother,
is't not so? Ah, 'tis a great day--I SAID 'twas a great day! Give me
thy hand, give me thy cheek--lord, I am like to die of very joy!"

He was about to throw himself upon his brother; but Hugh put up his hand
in dissent, then dropped his chin mournfully upon his breast, saying with
emotion--

"Ah, God of his mercy give me strength to bear this grievous
disappointment!"

Miles, amazed, could not speak for a moment; then he found his tongue,
and cried out--

"WHAT disappointment? Am I not thy brother?"

Hugh shook his head sadly, and said--

"I pray heaven it may prove so, and that other eyes may find the
resemblances that are hid from mine. Alack, I fear me the letter spoke
but too truly."

"What letter?"

"One that came from over sea, some six or seven years ago. It said my
brother died in battle."

"It was a lie! Call thy father--he will know me."

"One may not call the dead."

"Dead?" Miles's voice was subdued, and his lips trembled. "My father
dead!--oh, this is heavy news. Half my new joy is withered now. Prithee
let me see my brother Arthur--he will know me; he will know me and
console me."

"He, also, is dead."

"God be merciful to me, a stricken man! Gone,--both gone--the worthy
taken and the worthless spared, in me! Ah! I crave your mercy!--do not
say the Lady Edith--"

"Is dead? No, she lives."

"Then, God be praised, my joy is whole again! Speed thee, brother--let
her come to me! An' SHE say I am not myself--but she will not; no, no,
SHE will know me, I were a fool to doubt it. Bring her--bring the old
servants; they, too, will know me."

"All are gone but five--Peter, Halsey, David, Bernard, and Margaret."

So saying, Hugh left the room. Miles stood musing a while, then began to
walk the floor, muttering--

"The five arch-villains have survived the two-and-twenty leal and honest
--'tis an odd thing."

He continued walking back and forth, muttering to himself; he had
forgotten the King entirely. By-and-by his Majesty said gravely, and
with a touch of genuine compassion, though the words themselves were
capable of being interpreted ironically--

"Mind not thy mischance, good man; there be others in the world whose
identity is denied, and whose claims are derided. Thou hast company."

"Ah, my King," cried Hendon, colouring slightly, "do not thou condemn me
--wait, and thou shalt see. I am no impostor--she will say it; you shall
hear it from the sweetest lips in England. I an impostor? Why, I know
this old hall, these pictures of my ancestors, and all these things that
are about us, as a child knoweth its own nursery. Here was I born and
bred, my lord; I speak the truth; I would not deceive thee; and should
none else believe, I pray thee do not THOU doubt me--I could not bear
it."

"I do not doubt thee," said the King, with a childlike simplicity and
faith.

"I thank thee out of my heart!" exclaimed Hendon with a fervency which
showed that he was touched. The King added, with the same gentle
simplicity--

"Dost thou doubt ME?"

A guilty confusion seized upon Hendon, and he was grateful that the door
opened to admit Hugh, at that moment, and saved him the necessity of
replying.

A beautiful lady, richly clothed, followed Hugh, and after her came
several liveried servants. The lady walked slowly, with her head bowed
and her eyes fixed upon the floor. The face was unspeakably sad. Miles
Hendon sprang forward, crying out--

"Oh, my Edith, my darling--"

But Hugh waved him back, gravely, and said to the lady--

"Look upon him. Do you know him?"

At the sound of Miles's voice the woman had started slightly, and her
cheeks had flushed; she was trembling now. She stood still, during an
impressive pause of several moments; then slowly lifted up her head and
looked into Hendon's eyes with a stony and frightened gaze; the blood
sank out of her face, drop by drop, till nothing remained but the grey
pallor of death; then she said, in a voice as dead as the face, "I know
him not!" and turned, with a moan and a stifled sob, and tottered out of
the room.

Miles Hendon sank into a chair and covered his face with his hands.
After a pause, his brother said to the servants--

"You have observed him. Do you know him?"

They shook their heads; then the master said--

"The servants know you not, sir. I fear there is some mistake. You have
seen that my wife knew you not."

"Thy WIFE!" In an instant Hugh was pinned to the wall, with an iron grip
about his throat. "Oh, thou fox-hearted slave, I see it all! Thou'st
writ the lying letter thyself, and my stolen bride and goods are its
fruit. There--now get thee gone, lest I shame mine honourable
soldiership with the slaying of so pitiful a mannikin!"

Hugh, red-faced, and almost suffocated, reeled to the nearest chair, and
commanded the servants to seize and bind the murderous stranger. They
hesitated, and one of them said--

"He is armed, Sir Hugh, and we are weaponless."

"Armed! What of it, and ye so many? Upon him, I say!"

But Miles warned them to be careful what they did, and added--

"Ye know me of old--I have not changed; come on, an' it like you."

This reminder did not hearten the servants much; they still held back.

"Then go, ye paltry cowards, and arm yourselves and guard the doors,
whilst I send one to fetch the watch!" said Hugh. He turned at the
threshold, and said to Miles, "You'll find it to your advantage to offend
not with useless endeavours at escape."

"Escape? Spare thyself discomfort, an' that is all that troubles thee.
For Miles Hendon is master of Hendon Hall and all its belongings. He
will remain--doubt it not."

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