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Mark Twain > The Prince and the Pauper > Chapter XXIX

The Prince and the Pauper

Chapter XXIX


To London.

When Hendon's term of service in the stocks was finished, he was released
and ordered to quit the region and come back no more. His sword was
restored to him, and also his mule and his donkey. He mounted and rode
off, followed by the King, the crowd opening with quiet respectfulness to
let them pass, and then dispersing when they were gone.

Hendon was soon absorbed in thought. There were questions of high import
to be answered. What should he do? Whither should he go? Powerful help
must be found somewhere, or he must relinquish his inheritance and remain
under the imputation of being an impostor besides. Where could he hope
to find this powerful help? Where, indeed! It was a knotty question.
By-and-by a thought occurred to him which pointed to a possibility--the
slenderest of slender possibilities, certainly, but still worth
considering, for lack of any other that promised anything at all. He
remembered what old Andrews had said about the young King's goodness and
his generous championship of the wronged and unfortunate. Why not go and
try to get speech of him and beg for justice? Ah, yes, but could so
fantastic a pauper get admission to the august presence of a monarch?
Never mind--let that matter take care of itself; it was a bridge that
would not need to be crossed till he should come to it. He was an old
campaigner, and used to inventing shifts and expedients: no doubt he
would be able to find a way. Yes, he would strike for the capital.
Maybe his father's old friend Sir Humphrey Marlow would help him--'good
old Sir Humphrey, Head Lieutenant of the late King's kitchen, or stables,
or something'--Miles could not remember just what or which. Now that he
had something to turn his energies to, a distinctly defined object to
accomplish, the fog of humiliation and depression which had settled down
upon his spirits lifted and blew away, and he raised his head and looked
about him. He was surprised to see how far he had come; the village was
away behind him. The King was jogging along in his wake, with his head
bowed; for he, too, was deep in plans and thinkings. A sorrowful
misgiving clouded Hendon's new-born cheerfulness: would the boy be
willing to go again to a city where, during all his brief life, he had
never known anything but ill-usage and pinching want? But the question
must be asked; it could not be avoided; so Hendon reined up, and called
out--

"I had forgotten to inquire whither we are bound. Thy commands, my
liege!"

"To London!"

Hendon moved on again, mightily contented with the answer--but astounded
at it too.

The whole journey was made without an adventure of importance. But it
ended with one. About ten o'clock on the night of the 19th of February
they stepped upon London Bridge, in the midst of a writhing, struggling
jam of howling and hurrahing people, whose beer-jolly faces stood out
strongly in the glare from manifold torches--and at that instant the
decaying head of some former duke or other grandee tumbled down between
them, striking Hendon on the elbow and then bounding off among the
hurrying confusion of feet. So evanescent and unstable are men's works in
this world!--the late good King is but three weeks dead and three days in
his grave, and already the adornments which he took such pains to select
from prominent people for his noble bridge are falling. A citizen
stumbled over that head, and drove his own head into the back of somebody
in front of him, who turned and knocked down the first person that came
handy, and was promptly laid out himself by that person's friend. It was
the right ripe time for a free fight, for the festivities of the morrow--
Coronation Day--were already beginning; everybody was full of strong
drink and patriotism; within five minutes the free fight was occupying a
good deal of ground; within ten or twelve it covered an acre of so, and
was become a riot. By this time Hendon and the King were hopelessly
separated from each other and lost in the rush and turmoil of the roaring
masses of humanity. And so we leave them.

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