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Mark Twain > The Prince and the Pauper > Chapter XXXIII

The Prince and the Pauper

Chapter XXXIII


Edward as King.

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

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

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 the
instinct of unsound minds, when homeless and forsaken, as well as of
sound ones. Whereabouts were his former haunts? His rags, taken
together with the low villain who seemed to know him and who even claimed
to be his father, indicated that his home was in one or another of the
poorest and meanest districts of London. Would the search for him be
difficult, or long? No, it was likely to be easy and brief. He would
not hunt for the boy, he would hunt for a crowd; in the centre of a big
crowd or a little one, sooner or later, he should find his poor little
friend, sure; and the mangy mob would be entertaining itself with
pestering and aggravating the boy, who would be proclaiming himself King,
as usual. Then Miles Hendon would cripple some of those people, and
carry 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 back
alleys and squalid streets, seeking groups and crowds, and finding no end
of them, but never any sign of the boy. This greatly surprised him, but
did not discourage him. To his notion, there was nothing the matter with
his plan of campaign; the only miscalculation about it was that the
campaign was becoming a lengthy one, whereas he had expected it to be
short.

When daylight arrived, at last, he had made many a mile, and canvassed
many a crowd, but the only result was that he was tolerably tired, rather
hungry and very sleepy. He wanted some breakfast, but there was no way
to 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 spare
some of his clothes--yes, but one could as easily find a customer for a
disease as for such clothes.

At noon he was still tramping--among the rabble which followed after the
royal procession, now; for he argued that this regal display would
attract his little lunatic powerfully. He followed the pageant through
all its devious windings about London, and all the way to Westminster and
the Abbey. He drifted here and there amongst the multitudes that were
massed in the vicinity for a weary long time, baffled and perplexed, and
finally wandered off, thinking, and trying to contrive some way to better
his plan of campaign. By-and-by, when he came to himself out of his
musings, he discovered that the town was far behind him and that the day
was growing old. He was near the river, and in the country; it was a
region of fine rural seats--not the sort of district to welcome clothes
like his.

It was not at all cold; so he stretched himself on the ground in the lee
of a hedge to rest and think. Drowsiness presently began to settle upon
his 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 fell
asleep. 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 toward
Westminster, grumbling at himself for having wasted so much time. Hunger
helped him to a new plan, now; he would try to get speech with old Sir
Humphrey Marlow and borrow a few marks, and--but that was enough of a
plan for the present; it would be time enough to enlarge it when this
first stage should be accomplished.

Toward eleven o'clock he approached the palace; and although a host of
showy people were about him, moving in the same direction, he was not
inconspicuous--his costume took care of that. He watched these people's
faces narrowly, hoping to find a charitable one whose possessor might be
willing to carry his name to the old lieutenant--as to trying to get into
the palace himself, that was simply out of the question.

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

Miles Hendon saved him the trouble; for he turned about, then, as a man
generally will when somebody mesmerises him by gazing hard at him from
behind; and observing a strong interest in the boy's eyes, he stepped
toward 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 say
a 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 be
greatly bounden to you, my good lad."

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

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

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

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

"Another new claimant of the Crown!" cried the officer. "Verily they
breed like rabbits, to-day. Seize the rascal, men, and see ye keep him
fast 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 dangle
at a rope's end for a certainty, by reason of that bit of writing. And
what 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 he
plucked his courage together, purposing to meet his trouble as became a
man. The officer ordered the men to loose the prisoner and return his
sword to him; then bowed respectfully, and said--

"Please you, sir, to follow me."

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

The two traversed a populous court, and arrived at the grand entrance of
the palace, where the officer, with another bow, delivered Hendon into
the hands of a gorgeous official, who received him with profound respect
and led him forward through a great hall, lined on both sides with rows
of splendid flunkeys (who made reverential obeisance as the two passed
along, but fell into death-throes of silent laughter at our stately
scarecrow 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, then
made a bow, reminded him to take his hat off, and left him standing in
the middle of the room, a mark for all eyes, for plenty of indignant
frowns, and for a sufficiency of amused and derisive smiles.

Miles Hendon was entirely bewildered. There sat the young King, under a
canopy of state, five steps away, with his head bent down and aside,
speaking with a sort of human bird of paradise--a duke, maybe. Hendon
observed to himself that it was hard enough to be sentenced to death in
the full vigour of life, without having this peculiarly public
humiliation added. He wished the King would hurry about it--some of the
gaudy people near by were becoming pretty offensive. At this moment the
King 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 young
face 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; then
turned his eyes around and about, scanning the gorgeous throng and the
splendid 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 he
the 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 up
a 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 a
voice exclaimed--

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

The disturbance attracted his Majesty's attention, who stretched forth
his 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 and
well-beloved servant, Miles Hendon, who interposed his good sword and
saved his prince from bodily harm and possible death--and for this he is
a knight, by the King's voice. Also learn, that for a higher service, in
that 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 meet
for the dignity. More--the privilege which he hath just exercised is his
by royal grant; for we have ordained that the chiefs of his line shall
have and hold the right to sit in the presence of the Majesty of England
henceforth, age after age, so long as the crown shall endure. Molest him
not."

Two persons, who, through delay, had only arrived from the country during
this morning, and had now been in this room only five minutes, stood
listening 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 Sir
Hugh and the Lady Edith. But the new Earl did not see them. He was
still 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 and seven-and-
twenty servants! This is he who had never known aught but rags for
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 head
in!"

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

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

"Strip this robber of his false show and stolen estates, and put him
under 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 fell
apart, and Tom Canty, quaintly but richly clothed, marched down, between
these living walls, preceded by an usher. He knelt before the King, who
said--

"I have learned the story of these past few weeks, and am well pleased
with thee. Thou hast governed the realm with right royal gentleness and
mercy. Thou hast found thy mother and thy sisters again? Good; they
shall be cared for--and thy father shall hang, if thou desire it and the
law consent. Know, all ye that hear my voice, that from this day, they
that abide in the shelter of Christ's Hospital and share the King's
bounty shall have their minds and hearts fed, as well as their baser
parts; and this boy shall dwell there, and hold the chief place in its
honourable body of governors, during life. And for that he hath been a
king, 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, and
none shall copy it; and wheresoever he shall come, it shall remind the
people that he hath been royal, in his time, and none shall deny him his
due of reverence or fail to give him salutation. He hath the throne's
protection, he hath the crown's support, he shall be known and called by
the honourable title of the King's Ward."

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

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