History of Literature







Mark Twain


"The Prince and the Pauper"


Chapter I-IV, Chapter V-VII, Chapter VIII-XI,
Chapter XII-XIV, Chapter XV-XVII, Chapter XVIII-XXI,
Chapter XXII-XXVI, Chapter XXVII-XXXI, Chapter XXXII-XXXIII








 

 



 




 

Chapter XII. The Prince and his deliverer.

As soon as Miles Hendon and the little prince were clear of the mob, they struck down through back lanes and alleys toward the river.  Their way was unobstructed until they approached London Bridge; then they ploughed into the multitude again, Hendon keeping a fast grip upon the Prince's—no, the King's—wrist.  The tremendous news was already abroad, and the boy learned it from a thousand voices at once—"The King is dead!"  The tidings struck a chill to the heart of the poor little waif, and sent a shudder through his frame.  He realised the greatness of his loss, and was filled with a bitter grief; for the grim tyrant who had been such a terror to others had always been gentle with him.  The tears sprang to his eyes and blurred all objects.  For an instant he felt himself the most forlorn, outcast, and forsaken of God's creatures—then another cry shook the night with its far-reaching thunders:  "Long live King Edward the Sixth!" and this made his eyes kindle, and thrilled him with pride to his fingers' ends. "Ah," he thought, "how grand and strange it seems—I AM KING!"





 




 

Our friends threaded their way slowly through the throngs upon the bridge.  This structure, which had stood for six hundred years, and had been a noisy and populous thoroughfare all that time, was a curious affair, for a closely packed rank of stores and shops, with family quarters overhead, stretched along both sides of it, from one bank of the river to the other.  The Bridge was a sort of town to itself; it had its inn, its beer-houses, its bakeries, its haberdasheries, its food markets, its manufacturing industries, and even its church.  It looked upon the two neighbours which it linked together—London and Southwark—as being well enough as suburbs, but not otherwise particularly important.  It was a close corporation, so to speak; it was a narrow town, of a single street a fifth of a mile long, its population was but a village population and everybody in it knew all his fellow-townsmen intimately, and had known their fathers and mothers before them—and all their little family affairs into the bargain.  It had its aristocracy, of course—its fine old families of butchers, and bakers, and what-not, who had occupied the same old premises for five or six hundred years, and knew the great history of the Bridge from beginning to end, and all its strange legends; and who always talked bridgy talk, and thought bridgy thoughts, and lied in a long, level, direct, substantial bridgy way.  It was just the sort of population to be narrow and ignorant and self-conceited. Children were born on the Bridge, were reared there, grew to old age, and finally died without ever having set a foot upon any part of the world but London Bridge alone.  Such people would naturally imagine that the mighty and interminable procession which moved through its street night and day, with its confused roar of shouts and cries, its neighings and bellowing and bleatings and its muffled thunder-tramp, was the one great thing in this world, and themselves somehow the proprietors of it.  And so they were, in effect—at least they could exhibit it from their windows, and did—for a consideration—whenever a returning king or hero gave it a fleeting splendour, for there was no place like it for affording a long, straight, uninterrupted view of marching columns.

Men born and reared upon the Bridge found life unendurably dull and inane elsewhere.  History tells of one of these who left the Bridge at the age of seventy-one and retired to the country.  But he could only fret and toss in his bed; he could not go to sleep, the deep stillness was so painful, so awful, so oppressive.  When he was worn out with it, at last, he fled back to his old home, a lean and haggard spectre, and fell peacefully to rest and pleasant dreams under the lulling music of the lashing waters and the boom and crash and thunder of London Bridge.

In the times of which we are writing, the Bridge furnished 'object lessons' in English history for its children—namely, the livid and decaying heads of renowned men impaled upon iron spikes atop of its gateways.  But we digress.





 




 

Hendon's lodgings were in the little inn on the Bridge.  As he neared the door with his small friend, a rough voice said—

"So, thou'rt come at last!  Thou'lt not escape again, I warrant thee; and if pounding thy bones to a pudding can teach thee somewhat, thou'lt not keep us waiting another time, mayhap,"—and John Canty put out his hand to seize the boy.

Miles Hendon stepped in the way and said—

"Not too fast, friend.  Thou art needlessly rough, methinks.  What is the lad to thee?"

"If it be any business of thine to make and meddle in others' affairs, he is my son."

"'Tis a lie!" cried the little King, hotly.

"Boldly said, and I believe thee, whether thy small headpiece be sound or cracked, my boy.  But whether this scurvy ruffian be thy father or no, 'tis all one, he shall not have thee to beat thee and abuse, according to his threat, so thou prefer to bide with me."

"I do, I do—I know him not, I loathe him, and will die before I will go with him."

"Then 'tis settled, and there is nought more to say."

"We will see, as to that!" exclaimed John Canty, striding past Hendon to get at the boy; "by force shall he—"

"If thou do but touch him, thou animated offal, I will spit thee like a goose!" said Hendon, barring the way and laying his hand upon his sword hilt.  Canty drew back.  "Now mark ye," continued Hendon, "I took this lad under my protection when a mob of such as thou would have mishandled him, mayhap killed him; dost imagine I will desert him now to a worser fate?—for whether thou art his father or no—and sooth to say, I think it is a lie—a decent swift death were better for such a lad than life in such brute hands as thine.  So go thy ways, and set quick about it, for I like not much bandying of words, being not over-patient in my nature."





 




 

John Canty moved off, muttering threats and curses, and was swallowed from sight in the crowd.  Hendon ascended three flights of stairs to his room, with his charge, after ordering a meal to be sent thither.  It was a poor apartment, with a shabby bed and some odds and ends of old furniture in it, and was vaguely lighted by a couple of sickly candles. The little King dragged himself to the bed and lay down upon it, almost exhausted with hunger and fatigue.  He had been on his feet a good part of a day and a night (for it was now two or three o'clock in the morning), and had eaten nothing meantime.  He murmured drowsily—

"Prithee call me when the table is spread," and sank into a deep sleep immediately.

A smile twinkled in Hendon's eye, and he said to himself—

"By the mass, the little beggar takes to one's quarters and usurps one's bed with as natural and easy a grace as if he owned them—with never a by-your-leave or so-please-it-you, or anything of the sort.  In his diseased ravings he called himself the Prince of Wales, and bravely doth he keep up the character.  Poor little friendless rat, doubtless his mind has been disordered with ill-usage.  Well, I will be his friend; I have saved him, and it draweth me strongly to him; already I love the bold-tongued little rascal.  How soldier-like he faced the smutty rabble and flung back his high defiance!  And what a comely, sweet and gentle face he hath, now that sleep hath conjured away its troubles and its griefs. I will teach him; I will cure his malady; yea, I will be his elder brother, and care for him and watch over him; and whoso would shame him or do him hurt may order his shroud, for though I be burnt for it he shall need it!"





 




 

He bent over the boy and contemplated him with kind and pitying interest, tapping the young cheek tenderly and smoothing back the tangled curls with his great brown hand.  A slight shiver passed over the boy's form. Hendon muttered—

"See, now, how like a man it was to let him lie here uncovered and fill his body with deadly rheums.  Now what shall I do? 'twill wake him to take him up and put him within the bed, and he sorely needeth sleep."

He looked about for extra covering, but finding none, doffed his doublet and wrapped the lad in it, saying, "I am used to nipping air and scant apparel, 'tis little I shall mind the cold!"—then walked up and down the room, to keep his blood in motion, soliloquising as before.

"His injured mind persuades him he is Prince of Wales; 'twill be odd to have a Prince of Wales still with us, now that he that WAS the prince is prince no more, but king—for this poor mind is set upon the one fantasy, and will not reason out that now it should cast by the prince and call itself the king. . . If my father liveth still, after these seven years that I have heard nought from home in my foreign dungeon, he will welcome the poor lad and give him generous shelter for my sake; so will my good elder brother, Arthur; my other brother, Hugh—but I will crack his crown an HE interfere, the fox-hearted, ill-conditioned animal! Yes, thither will we fare—and straightway, too."

A servant entered with a smoking meal, disposed it upon a small deal table, placed the chairs, and took his departure, leaving such cheap lodgers as these to wait upon themselves.  The door slammed after him, and the noise woke the boy, who sprang to a sitting posture, and shot a glad glance about him; then a grieved look came into his face and he murmured to himself, with a deep sigh, "Alack, it was but a dream, woe is me!"  Next he noticed Miles Hendon's doublet—glanced from that to Hendon, comprehended the sacrifice that had been made for him, and said, gently—

"Thou art good to me, yes, thou art very good to me.  Take it and put it on—I shall not need it more."

Then he got up and walked to the washstand in the corner and stood there, waiting.  Hendon said in a cheery voice—

"We'll have a right hearty sup and bite, now, for everything is savoury and smoking hot, and that and thy nap together will make thee a little man again, never fear!"

The boy made no answer, but bent a steady look, that was filled with grave surprise, and also somewhat touched with impatience, upon the tall knight of the sword.  Hendon was puzzled, and said—

"What's amiss?"

"Good sir, I would wash me."

"Oh, is that all?  Ask no permission of Miles Hendon for aught thou cravest.  Make thyself perfectly free here, and welcome, with all that are his belongings."

Still the boy stood, and moved not; more, he tapped the floor once or twice with his small impatient foot.  Hendon was wholly perplexed.  Said he—

"Bless us, what is it?"

"Prithee pour the water, and make not so many words!"





 




 

Hendon, suppressing a horse-laugh, and saying to himself, "By all the saints, but this is admirable!" stepped briskly forward and did the small insolent's bidding; then stood by, in a sort of stupefaction, until the command, "Come—the towel!" woke him sharply up.  He took up a towel, from under the boy's nose, and handed it to him without comment.  He now proceeded to comfort his own face with a wash, and while he was at it his adopted child seated himself at the table and prepared to fall to. Hendon despatched his ablutions with alacrity, then drew back the other chair and was about to place himself at table, when the boy said, indignantly—

"Forbear!  Wouldst sit in the presence of the King?"

This blow staggered Hendon to his foundations.  He muttered to himself, "Lo, the poor thing's madness is up with the time!  It hath changed with the great change that is come to the realm, and now in fancy is he KING! Good lack, I must humour the conceit, too—there is no other way—faith, he would order me to the Tower, else!"

And pleased with this jest, he removed the chair from the table, took his stand behind the King, and proceeded to wait upon him in the courtliest way he was capable of.

While the King ate, the rigour of his royal dignity relaxed a little, and with his growing contentment came a desire to talk. He said—"I think thou callest thyself Miles Hendon, if I heard thee aright?"

"Yes, Sire," Miles replied; then observed to himself, "If I MUST humour the poor lad's madness, I must 'Sire' him, I must 'Majesty' him, I must not go by halves, I must stick at nothing that belongeth to the part I play, else shall I play it ill and work evil to this charitable and kindly cause."

The King warmed his heart with a second glass of wine, and said—"I would know thee—tell me thy story.  Thou hast a gallant way with thee, and a noble—art nobly born?"

"We are of the tail of the nobility, good your Majesty.  My father is a baronet—one of the smaller lords by knight service {2}—Sir Richard Hendon of Hendon Hall, by Monk's Holm in Kent."

"The name has escaped my memory.  Go on—tell me thy story."





 




 

"'Tis not much, your Majesty, yet perchance it may beguile a short half-hour for want of a better.  My father, Sir Richard, is very rich, and of a most generous nature.  My mother died whilst I was yet a boy.  I have two brothers:  Arthur, my elder, with a soul like to his father's; and Hugh, younger than I, a mean spirit, covetous, treacherous, vicious, underhanded—a reptile.  Such was he from the cradle; such was he ten years past, when I last saw him—a ripe rascal at nineteen, I being twenty then, and Arthur twenty-two.  There is none other of us but the Lady Edith, my cousin—she was sixteen then—beautiful, gentle, good, the daughter of an earl, the last of her race, heiress of a great fortune and a lapsed title.  My father was her guardian.  I loved her and she loved me; but she was betrothed to Arthur from the cradle, and Sir Richard would not suffer the contract to be broken.  Arthur loved another maid, and bade us be of good cheer and hold fast to the hope that delay and luck together would some day give success to our several causes.  Hugh loved the Lady Edith's fortune, though in truth he said it was herself he loved—but then 'twas his way, alway, to say the one thing and mean the other.  But he lost his arts upon the girl; he could deceive my father, but none else.  My father loved him best of us all, and trusted and believed him; for he was the youngest child, and others hated him—these qualities being in all ages sufficient to win a parent's dearest love; and he had a smooth persuasive tongue, with an admirable gift of lying—and these be qualities which do mightily assist a blind affection to cozen itself.  I was wild—in troth I might go yet farther and say VERY wild, though 'twas a wildness of an innocent sort, since it hurt none but me, brought shame to none, nor loss, nor had in it any taint of crime or baseness, or what might not beseem mine honourable degree.

"Yet did my brother Hugh turn these faults to good account—he seeing that our brother Arthur's health was but indifferent, and hoping the worst might work him profit were I swept out of the path—so—but 'twere a long tale, good my liege, and little worth the telling.  Briefly, then, this brother did deftly magnify my faults and make them crimes; ending his base work with finding a silken ladder in mine apartments—conveyed thither by his own means—and did convince my father by this, and suborned evidence of servants and other lying knaves, that I was minded to carry off my Edith and marry with her in rank defiance of his will.

"Three years of banishment from home and England might make a soldier and a man of me, my father said, and teach me some degree of wisdom.  I fought out my long probation in the continental wars, tasting sumptuously of hard knocks, privation, and adventure; but in my last battle I was taken captive, and during the seven years that have waxed and waned since then, a foreign dungeon hath harboured me.  Through wit and courage I won to the free air at last, and fled hither straight; and am but just arrived, right poor in purse and raiment, and poorer still in knowledge of what these dull seven years have wrought at Hendon Hall, its people and belongings.  So please you, sir, my meagre tale is told."

"Thou hast been shamefully abused!" said the little King, with a flashing eye.  "But I will right thee—by the cross will I!  The King hath said it."





 




 

Then, fired by the story of Miles's wrongs, he loosed his tongue and poured the history of his own recent misfortunes into the ears of his astonished listener.  When he had finished, Miles said to himself—

"Lo, what an imagination he hath!  Verily, this is no common mind; else, crazed or sane, it could not weave so straight and gaudy a tale as this out of the airy nothings wherewith it hath wrought this curious romaunt. Poor ruined little head, it shall not lack friend or shelter whilst I bide with the living.  He shall never leave my side; he shall be my pet, my little comrade.  And he shall be cured!—ay, made whole and sound—then will he make himself a name—and proud shall I be to say, 'Yes, he is mine—I took him, a homeless little ragamuffin, but I saw what was in him, and I said his name would be heard some day—behold him, observe him—was I right?'"

The King spoke—in a thoughtful, measured voice—

"Thou didst save me injury and shame, perchance my life, and so my crown. Such service demandeth rich reward.  Name thy desire, and so it be within the compass of my royal power, it is thine."

This fantastic suggestion startled Hendon out of his reverie.  He was about to thank the King and put the matter aside with saying he had only done his duty and desired no reward, but a wiser thought came into his head, and he asked leave to be silent a few moments and consider the gracious offer—an idea which the King gravely approved, remarking that it was best to be not too hasty with a thing of such great import.

Miles reflected during some moments, then said to himself, "Yes, that is the thing to do—by any other means it were impossible to get at it—and certes, this hour's experience has taught me 'twould be most wearing and inconvenient to continue it as it is. Yes, I will propose it; 'twas a happy accident that I did not throw the chance away."  Then he dropped upon one knee and said—





 




 

"My poor service went not beyond the limit of a subject's simple duty, and therefore hath no merit; but since your Majesty is pleased to hold it worthy some reward, I take heart of grace to make petition to this effect.  Near four hundred years ago, as your grace knoweth, there being ill blood betwixt John, King of England, and the King of France, it was decreed that two champions should fight together in the lists, and so settle the dispute by what is called the arbitrament of God.  These two kings, and the Spanish king, being assembled to witness and judge the conflict, the French champion appeared; but so redoubtable was he, that our English knights refused to measure weapons with him.  So the matter, which was a weighty one, was like to go against the English monarch by default.  Now in the Tower lay the Lord de Courcy, the mightiest arm in England, stripped of his honours and possessions, and wasting with long captivity.  Appeal was made to him; he gave assent, and came forth arrayed for battle; but no sooner did the Frenchman glimpse his huge frame and hear his famous name but he fled away, and the French king's cause was lost.  King John restored De Courcy's titles and possessions, and said, 'Name thy wish and thou shalt have it, though it cost me half my kingdom;' whereat De Courcy, kneeling, as I do now, made answer, 'This, then, I ask, my liege; that I and my successors may have and hold the privilege of remaining covered in the presence of the kings of England, henceforth while the throne shall last.' The boon was granted, as your Majesty knoweth; and there hath been no time, these four hundred years, that that line has failed of an heir; and so, even unto this day, the head of that ancient house still weareth his hat or helm before the King's Majesty, without let or hindrance, and this none other may do. {3} Invoking this precedent in aid of my prayer, I beseech the King to grant to me but this one grace and privilege—to my more than sufficient reward—and none other, to wit:  that I and my heirs, for ever, may SIT in the presence of the Majesty of England!"

"Rise, Sir Miles Hendon, Knight," said the King, gravely—giving the accolade with Hendon's sword—"rise, and seat thyself.  Thy petition is granted.  Whilst England remains, and the crown continues, the privilege shall not lapse."





 




 

His Majesty walked apart, musing, and Hendon dropped into a chair at table, observing to himself, "'Twas a brave thought, and hath wrought me a mighty deliverance; my legs are grievously wearied. An I had not thought of that, I must have had to stand for weeks, till my poor lad's wits are cured."  After a little, he went on, "And so I am become a knight of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows! A most odd and strange position, truly, for one so matter-of-fact as I.  I will not laugh—no, God forbid, for this thing which is so substanceless to me is REAL to him.  And to me, also, in one way, it is not a falsity, for it reflects with truth the sweet and generous spirit that is in him."  After a pause: "Ah, what if he should call me by my fine title before folk!—there'd be a merry contrast betwixt my glory and my raiment!  But no matter, let him call me what he will, so it please him; I shall be content."



 






 




 




 

Chapter XIII. The disappearance of the Prince.

A heavy drowsiness presently fell upon the two comrades.  The King said—

"Remove these rags."—meaning his clothing.

Hendon disapparelled the boy without dissent or remark, tucked him up in bed, then glanced about the room, saying to himself, ruefully, "He hath taken my bed again, as before—marry, what shall _I_ do?"  The little King observed his perplexity, and dissipated it with a word.  He said, sleepily—

"Thou wilt sleep athwart the door, and guard it."  In a moment more he was out of his troubles, in a deep slumber.

"Dear heart, he should have been born a king!" muttered Hendon, admiringly; "he playeth the part to a marvel."

Then he stretched himself across the door, on the floor, saying contentedly—

"I have lodged worse for seven years; 'twould be but ill gratitude to Him above to find fault with this."

He dropped asleep as the dawn appeared.  Toward noon he rose, uncovered his unconscious ward—a section at a time—and took his measure with a string.  The King awoke, just as he had completed his work, complained of the cold, and asked what he was doing.

"'Tis done, now, my liege," said Hendon; "I have a bit of business outside, but will presently return; sleep thou again—thou needest it. There—let me cover thy head also—thou'lt be warm the sooner."

The King was back in dreamland before this speech was ended. Miles slipped softly out, and slipped as softly in again, in the course of thirty or forty minutes, with a complete second-hand suit of boy's clothing, of cheap material, and showing signs of wear; but tidy, and suited to the season of the year.  He seated himself, and began to overhaul his purchase, mumbling to himself—

"A longer purse would have got a better sort, but when one has not the long purse one must be content with what a short one may do—

"'There was a woman in our town,
In our town did dwell—'




 




 

"He stirred, methinks—I must sing in a less thunderous key; 'tis not good to mar his sleep, with this journey before him, and he so wearied out, poor chap . . . This garment—'tis well enough—a stitch here and another one there will set it aright.  This other is better, albeit a stitch or two will not come amiss in it, likewise . . . THESE be very good and sound, and will keep his small feet warm and dry—an odd new thing to him, belike, since he has doubtless been used to foot it bare, winters and summers the same . . . Would thread were bread, seeing one getteth a year's sufficiency for a farthing, and such a brave big needle without cost, for mere love.  Now shall I have the demon's own time to thread it!"

And so he had.  He did as men have always done, and probably always will do, to the end of time—held the needle still, and tried to thrust the thread through the eye, which is the opposite of a woman's way.  Time and time again the thread missed the mark, going sometimes on one side of the needle, sometimes on the other, sometimes doubling up against the shaft; but he was patient, having been through these experiences before, when he was soldiering.  He succeeded at last, and took up the garment that had lain waiting, meantime, across his lap, and began his work.

"The inn is paid—the breakfast that is to come, included—and there is wherewithal left to buy a couple of donkeys and meet our little costs for the two or three days betwixt this and the plenty that awaits us at Hendon Hall—

"'She loved her hus—'

"Body o' me!  I have driven the needle under my nail! . . . It matters little—'tis not a novelty—yet 'tis not a convenience, neither. . . . We shall be merry there, little one, never doubt it! Thy troubles will vanish there, and likewise thy sad distemper—

"'She loved her husband dearilee,
But another man—'

"These be noble large stitches!"—holding the garment up and viewing it admiringly—"they have a grandeur and a majesty that do cause these small stingy ones of the tailor-man to look mightily paltry and plebeian—

"'She loved her husband dearilee,
But another man he loved she,—'

"Marry, 'tis done—a goodly piece of work, too, and wrought with expedition.  Now will I wake him, apparel him, pour for him, feed him, and then will we hie us to the mart by the Tabard Inn in Southwark and—be pleased to rise, my liege!—he answereth not—what ho, my liege!—of a truth must I profane his sacred person with a touch, sith his slumber is deaf to speech.  What!"

He threw back the covers—the boy was gone!

He stared about him in speechless astonishment for a moment; noticed for the first time that his ward's ragged raiment was also missing; then he began to rage and storm and shout for the innkeeper.  At that moment a servant entered with the breakfast.

"Explain, thou limb of Satan, or thy time is come!" roared the man of war, and made so savage a spring toward the waiter that this latter could not find his tongue, for the instant, for fright and surprise.  "Where is the boy?"





 




 

In disjointed and trembling syllables the man gave the information desired.

"You were hardly gone from the place, your worship, when a youth came running and said it was your worship's will that the boy come to you straight, at the bridge-end on the Southwark side.  I brought him hither; and when he woke the lad and gave his message, the lad did grumble some little for being disturbed 'so early,' as he called it, but straightway trussed on his rags and went with the youth, only saying it had been better manners that your worship came yourself, not sent a stranger—and so—"

"And so thou'rt a fool!—a fool and easily cozened—hang all thy breed! Yet mayhap no hurt is done.  Possibly no harm is meant the boy.  I will go fetch him.  Make the table ready.  Stay! the coverings of the bed were disposed as if one lay beneath them—happened that by accident?"

"I know not, good your worship.  I saw the youth meddle with them—he that came for the boy."

"Thousand deaths!  'Twas done to deceive me—'tis plain 'twas done to gain time.  Hark ye!  Was that youth alone?"

"All alone, your worship."

"Art sure?"

"Sure, your worship."

"Collect thy scattered wits—bethink thee—take time, man."

After a moment's thought, the servant said—

"When he came, none came with him; but now I remember me that as the two stepped into the throng of the Bridge, a ruffian-looking man plunged out from some near place; and just as he was joining them—"

"What THEN?—out with it!" thundered the impatient Hendon, interrupting.

"Just then the crowd lapped them up and closed them in, and I saw no more, being called by my master, who was in a rage because a joint that the scrivener had ordered was forgot, though I take all the saints to witness that to blame ME for that miscarriage were like holding the unborn babe to judgment for sins com—"

"Out of my sight, idiot!  Thy prating drives me mad!  Hold! Whither art flying?  Canst not bide still an instant?  Went they toward Southwark?"

"Even so, your worship—for, as I said before, as to that detestable joint, the babe unborn is no whit more blameless than—"





 




 

"Art here YET!  And prating still!  Vanish, lest I throttle thee!" The servitor vanished.  Hendon followed after him, passed him, and plunged down the stairs two steps at a stride, muttering, "'Tis that scurvy villain that claimed he was his son.  I have lost thee, my poor little mad master—it is a bitter thought—and I had come to love thee so!  No! by book and bell, NOT lost!  Not lost, for I will ransack the land till I find thee again.  Poor child, yonder is his breakfast—and mine, but I have no hunger now; so, let the rats have it—speed, speed! that is the word!"  As he wormed his swift way through the noisy multitudes upon the Bridge he several times said to himself—clinging to the thought as if it were a particularly pleasing one—"He grumbled, but he WENT—he went, yes, because he thought Miles Hendon asked it, sweet lad—he would ne'er have done it for another, I know it well."



 






 




 

Chapter XIV. 'Le Roi est mort—vive le Roi.'

Toward daylight of the same morning, Tom Canty stirred out of a heavy sleep and opened his eyes in the dark.  He lay silent a few moments, trying to analyse his confused thoughts and impressions, and get some sort of meaning out of them; then suddenly he burst out in a rapturous but guarded voice—

"I see it all, I see it all!  Now God be thanked, I am indeed awake at last!  Come, joy! vanish, sorrow!  Ho, Nan! Bet! kick off your straw and hie ye hither to my side, till I do pour into your unbelieving ears the wildest madcap dream that ever the spirits of night did conjure up to astonish the soul of man withal! . . . Ho, Nan, I say!  Bet!"

A dim form appeared at his side, and a voice said—

"Wilt deign to deliver thy commands?"





 




 

"Commands? . . . O, woe is me, I know thy voice!  Speak thou—who am I?"

"Thou?  In sooth, yesternight wert thou the Prince of Wales; to-day art thou my most gracious liege, Edward, King of England."

Tom buried his head among his pillows, murmuring plaintively—

"Alack, it was no dream!  Go to thy rest, sweet sir—leave me to my sorrows."

Tom slept again, and after a time he had this pleasant dream.  He thought it was summer, and he was playing, all alone, in the fair meadow called Goodman's Fields, when a dwarf only a foot high, with long red whiskers and a humped back, appeared to him suddenly and said, "Dig by that stump."  He did so, and found twelve bright new pennies—wonderful riches!  Yet this was not the best of it; for the dwarf said—

"I know thee.  Thou art a good lad, and a deserving; thy distresses shall end, for the day of thy reward is come.  Dig here every seventh day, and thou shalt find always the same treasure, twelve bright new pennies. Tell none—keep the secret."

Then the dwarf vanished, and Tom flew to Offal Court with his prize, saying to himself, "Every night will I give my father a penny; he will think I begged it, it will glad his heart, and I shall no more be beaten. One penny every week the good priest that teacheth me shall have; mother, Nan, and Bet the other four. We be done with hunger and rags, now, done with fears and frets and savage usage."

In his dream he reached his sordid home all out of breath, but with eyes dancing with grateful enthusiasm; cast four of his pennies into his mother's lap and cried out—

"They are for thee!—all of them, every one!—for thee and Nan and Bet—and honestly come by, not begged nor stolen!"

The happy and astonished mother strained him to her breast and exclaimed—

"It waxeth late—may it please your Majesty to rise?"

Ah! that was not the answer he was expecting.  The dream had snapped asunder—he was awake.

He opened his eyes—the richly clad First Lord of the Bedchamber was kneeling by his couch.  The gladness of the lying dream faded away—the poor boy recognised that he was still a captive and a king.  The room was filled with courtiers clothed in purple mantles—the mourning colour—and with noble servants of the monarch.  Tom sat up in bed and gazed out from the heavy silken curtains upon this fine company.

The weighty business of dressing began, and one courtier after another knelt and paid his court and offered to the little King his condolences upon his heavy loss, whilst the dressing proceeded.  In the beginning, a shirt was taken up by the Chief Equerry in Waiting, who passed it to the First Lord of the Buckhounds, who passed it to the Second Gentleman of the Bedchamber, who passed it to the Head Ranger of Windsor Forest, who passed it to the Third Groom of the Stole, who passed it to the Chancellor Royal of the Duchy of Lancaster, who passed it to the Master of the Wardrobe, who passed it to Norroy King-at-Arms, who passed it to the Constable of the Tower, who passed it to the Chief Steward of the Household, who passed it to the Hereditary Grand Diaperer, who passed it to the Lord High Admiral of England, who passed it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who passed it to the First Lord of the Bedchamber, who took what was left of it and put it on Tom.  Poor little wondering chap, it reminded him of passing buckets at a fire.





 




 

Each garment in its turn had to go through this slow and solemn process; consequently Tom grew very weary of the ceremony; so weary that he felt an almost gushing gratefulness when he at last saw his long silken hose begin the journey down the line and knew that the end of the matter was drawing near.  But he exulted too soon.  The First Lord of the Bedchamber received the hose and was about to encase Tom's legs in them, when a sudden flush invaded his face and he hurriedly hustled the things back into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury with an astounded look and a whispered, "See, my lord!" pointing to a something connected with the hose.  The Archbishop paled, then flushed, and passed the hose to the Lord High Admiral, whispering, "See, my lord!"  The Admiral passed the hose to the Hereditary Grand Diaperer, and had hardly breath enough in his body to ejaculate, "See, my lord!"  The hose drifted backward along the line, to the Chief Steward of the Household, the Constable of the Tower, Norroy King-at-Arms, the Master of the Wardrobe, the Chancellor Royal of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Third Groom of the Stole, the Head Ranger of Windsor Forest, the Second Gentleman of the Bedchamber, the First Lord of the Buckhounds,—accompanied always with that amazed and frightened "See! see!"—till they finally reached the hands of the Chief Equerry in Waiting, who gazed a moment, with a pallid face, upon what had caused all this dismay, then hoarsely whispered, "Body of my life, a tag gone from a truss-point!—to the Tower with the Head Keeper of the King's Hose!"—after which he leaned upon the shoulder of the First Lord of the Buckhounds to regather his vanished strength whilst fresh hose, without any damaged strings to them, were brought.

But all things must have an end, and so in time Tom Canty was in a condition to get out of bed.  The proper official poured water, the proper official engineered the washing, the proper official stood by with a towel, and by-and-by Tom got safely through the purifying stage and was ready for the services of the Hairdresser-royal.  When he at length emerged from this master's hands, he was a gracious figure and as pretty as a girl, in his mantle and trunks of purple satin, and purple-plumed cap.  He now moved in state toward his breakfast-room, through the midst of the courtly assemblage; and as he passed, these fell back, leaving his way free, and dropped upon their knees.

After breakfast he was conducted, with regal ceremony, attended by his great officers and his guard of fifty Gentlemen Pensioners bearing gilt battle-axes, to the throne-room, where he proceeded to transact business of state.  His 'uncle,' Lord Hertford, took his stand by the throne, to assist the royal mind with wise counsel.

The body of illustrious men named by the late King as his executors appeared, to ask Tom's approval of certain acts of theirs—rather a form, and yet not wholly a form, since there was no Protector as yet.  The Archbishop of Canterbury made report of the decree of the Council of Executors concerning the obsequies of his late most illustrious Majesty, and finished by reading the signatures of the Executors, to wit:  the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Lord Chancellor of England; William Lord St. John; John Lord Russell; Edward Earl of Hertford; John Viscount Lisle; Cuthbert Bishop of Durham—

Tom was not listening—an earlier clause of the document was puzzling him.  At this point he turned and whispered to Lord Hertford—

"What day did he say the burial hath been appointed for?"

"The sixteenth of the coming month, my liege."

"'Tis a strange folly.  Will he keep?"

Poor chap, he was still new to the customs of royalty; he was used to seeing the forlorn dead of Offal Court hustled out of the way with a very different sort of expedition.  However, the Lord Hertford set his mind at rest with a word or two.

A secretary of state presented an order of the Council appointing the morrow at eleven for the reception of the foreign ambassadors, and desired the King's assent.





 




 

Tom turned an inquiring look toward Hertford, who whispered—

"Your Majesty will signify consent.  They come to testify their royal masters' sense of the heavy calamity which hath visited your Grace and the realm of England."

Tom did as he was bidden.  Another secretary began to read a preamble concerning the expenses of the late King's household, which had amounted to 28,000 pounds during the preceding six months—a sum so vast that it made Tom Canty gasp; he gasped again when the fact appeared that 20,000 pounds of this money was still owing and unpaid; {4} and once more when it appeared that the King's coffers were about empty, and his twelve hundred servants much embarrassed for lack of the wages due them.  Tom spoke out, with lively apprehension—

"We be going to the dogs, 'tis plain.  'Tis meet and necessary that we take a smaller house and set the servants at large, sith they be of no value but to make delay, and trouble one with offices that harass the spirit and shame the soul, they misbecoming any but a doll, that hath nor brains nor hands to help itself withal.  I remember me of a small house that standeth over against the fish-market, by Billingsgate—"

A sharp pressure upon Tom's arm stopped his foolish tongue and sent a blush to his face; but no countenance there betrayed any sign that this strange speech had been remarked or given concern.

A secretary made report that forasmuch as the late King had provided in his will for conferring the ducal degree upon the Earl of Hertford and raising his brother, Sir Thomas Seymour, to the peerage, and likewise Hertford's son to an earldom, together with similar aggrandisements to other great servants of the Crown, the Council had resolved to hold a sitting on the 16th of February for the delivering and confirming of these honours, and that meantime, the late King not having granted, in writing, estates suitable to the support of these dignities, the Council, knowing his private wishes in that regard, had thought proper to grant to Seymour '500 pound lands,' and to Hertford's son '800 pound lands, and 300 pound of the next bishop's lands which should fall vacant,'—his present Majesty being willing. {5}

Tom was about to blurt out something about the propriety of paying the late King's debts first, before squandering all this money, but a timely touch upon his arm, from the thoughtful Hertford, saved him this indiscretion; wherefore he gave the royal assent, without spoken comment, but with much inward discomfort.  While he sat reflecting a moment over the ease with which he was doing strange and glittering miracles, a happy thought shot into his mind:  why not make his mother Duchess of Offal Court, and give her an estate?  But a sorrowful thought swept it instantly away: he was only a king in name, these grave veterans and great nobles were his masters; to them his mother was only the creature of a diseased mind; they would simply listen to his project with unbelieving ears, then send for the doctor.

The dull work went tediously on.  Petitions were read, and proclamations, patents, and all manner of wordy, repetitious, and wearisome papers relating to the public business; and at last Tom sighed pathetically and murmured to himself, "In what have I offended, that the good God should take me away from the fields and the free air and the sunshine, to shut me up here and make me a king and afflict me so?"  Then his poor muddled head nodded a while and presently drooped to his shoulder; and the business of the empire came to a standstill for want of that august factor, the ratifying power.  Silence ensued around the slumbering child, and the sages of the realm ceased from their deliberations.

During the forenoon, Tom had an enjoyable hour, by permission of his keepers, Hertford and St. John, with the Lady Elizabeth and the little Lady Jane Grey; though the spirits of the princesses were rather subdued by the mighty stroke that had fallen upon the royal house; and at the end of the visit his 'elder sister'—afterwards the 'Bloody Mary' of history—chilled him with a solemn interview which had but one merit in his eyes, its brevity.  He had a few moments to himself, and then a slim lad of about twelve years of age was admitted to his presence, whose clothing, except his snowy ruff and the laces about his wrists, was of black,—doublet, hose, and all.  He bore no badge of mourning but a knot of purple ribbon on his shoulder.  He advanced hesitatingly, with head bowed and bare, and dropped upon one knee in front of Tom. Tom sat still and contemplated him soberly a moment.  Then he said—

"Rise, lad.  Who art thou.  What wouldst have?"

The boy rose, and stood at graceful ease, but with an aspect of concern in his face.  He said—





 




 

"Of a surety thou must remember me, my lord.  I am thy whipping-boy."

"My WHIPPING-boy?"

"The same, your Grace.  I am Humphrey—Humphrey Marlow."

Tom perceived that here was someone whom his keepers ought to have posted him about.  The situation was delicate.  What should he do?—pretend he knew this lad, and then betray by his every utterance that he had never heard of him before?  No, that would not do.  An idea came to his relief: accidents like this might be likely to happen with some frequency, now that business urgencies would often call Hertford and St. John from his side, they being members of the Council of Executors; therefore perhaps it would be well to strike out a plan himself to meet the requirements of such emergencies.  Yes, that would be a wise course—he would practise on this boy, and see what sort of success he might achieve.  So he stroked his brow perplexedly a moment or two, and presently said—

"Now I seem to remember thee somewhat—but my wit is clogged and dim with suffering—"

"Alack, my poor master!" ejaculated the whipping-boy, with feeling; adding, to himself, "In truth 'tis as they said—his mind is gone—alas, poor soul!  But misfortune catch me, how am I forgetting!  They said one must not seem to observe that aught is wrong with him."

"'Tis strange how my memory doth wanton with me these days," said Tom. "But mind it not—I mend apace—a little clue doth often serve to bring me back again the things and names which had escaped me.  (And not they, only, forsooth, but e'en such as I ne'er heard before—as this lad shall see.)  Give thy business speech."

"'Tis matter of small weight, my liege, yet will I touch upon it, an' it please your Grace.  Two days gone by, when your Majesty faulted thrice in your Greek—in the morning lessons,—dost remember it?"

"Y-e-s—methinks I do.  (It is not much of a lie—an' I had meddled with the Greek at all, I had not faulted simply thrice, but forty times.) Yes, I do recall it, now—go on."

"The master, being wroth with what he termed such slovenly and doltish work, did promise that he would soundly whip me for it—and—"

"Whip THEE!" said Tom, astonished out of his presence of mind. "Why should he whip THEE for faults of mine?"

"Ah, your Grace forgetteth again.  He always scourgeth me when thou dost fail in thy lessons."

"True, true—I had forgot.  Thou teachest me in private—then if I fail, he argueth that thy office was lamely done, and—"

"Oh, my liege, what words are these?  I, the humblest of thy servants, presume to teach THEE?"

"Then where is thy blame?  What riddle is this?  Am I in truth gone mad, or is it thou?  Explain—speak out."

"But, good your Majesty, there's nought that needeth simplifying.—None may visit the sacred person of the Prince of Wales with blows; wherefore, when he faulteth, 'tis I that take them; and meet it is and right, for that it is mine office and my livelihood." {1}





 




 

Tom stared at the tranquil boy, observing to himself, "Lo, it is a wonderful thing,—a most strange and curious trade; I marvel they have not hired a boy to take my combings and my dressings for me—would heaven they would!—an' they will do this thing, I will take my lashings in mine own person, giving God thanks for the change." Then he said aloud—

"And hast thou been beaten, poor friend, according to the promise?"

"No, good your Majesty, my punishment was appointed for this day, and peradventure it may be annulled, as unbefitting the season of mourning that is come upon us; I know not, and so have made bold to come hither and remind your Grace about your gracious promise to intercede in my behalf—"

"With the master?  To save thee thy whipping?"

"Ah, thou dost remember!"

"My memory mendeth, thou seest.  Set thy mind at ease—thy back shall go unscathed—I will see to it."

"Oh, thanks, my good lord!" cried the boy, dropping upon his knee again. "Mayhap I have ventured far enow; and yet—"

Seeing Master Humphrey hesitate, Tom encouraged him to go on, saying he was "in the granting mood."

"Then will I speak it out, for it lieth near my heart.  Sith thou art no more Prince of Wales but King, thou canst order matters as thou wilt, with none to say thee nay; wherefore it is not in reason that thou wilt longer vex thyself with dreary studies, but wilt burn thy books and turn thy mind to things less irksome. Then am I ruined, and mine orphan sisters with me!"

"Ruined?  Prithee how?"

"My back is my bread, O my gracious liege! if it go idle, I starve.  An' thou cease from study mine office is gone thou'lt need no whipping-boy. Do not turn me away!"

Tom was touched with this pathetic distress.  He said, with a right royal burst of generosity—

"Discomfort thyself no further, lad.  Thine office shall be permanent in thee and thy line for ever."  Then he struck the boy a light blow on the shoulder with the flat of his sword, exclaiming, "Rise, Humphrey Marlow, Hereditary Grand Whipping-Boy to the Royal House of England!  Banish sorrow—I will betake me to my books again, and study so ill that they must in justice treble thy wage, so mightily shall the business of thine office be augmented."

The grateful Humphrey responded fervidly—

"Thanks, O most noble master, this princely lavishness doth far surpass my most distempered dreams of fortune.  Now shall I be happy all my days, and all the house of Marlow after me."

Tom had wit enough to perceive that here was a lad who could be useful to him.  He encouraged Humphrey to talk, and he was nothing loath.  He was delighted to believe that he was helping in Tom's 'cure'; for always, as soon as he had finished calling back to Tom's diseased mind the various particulars of his experiences and adventures in the royal school-room and elsewhere about the palace, he noticed that Tom was then able to 'recall' the circumstances quite clearly.  At the end of an hour Tom found himself well freighted with very valuable information concerning personages and matters pertaining to the Court; so he resolved to draw instruction from this source daily; and to this end he would give order to admit Humphrey to the royal closet whenever he might come, provided the Majesty of England was not engaged with other people.  Humphrey had hardly been dismissed when my Lord Hertford arrived with more trouble for Tom.

He said that the Lords of the Council, fearing that some overwrought report of the King's damaged health might have leaked out and got abroad, they deemed it wise and best that his Majesty should begin to dine in public after a day or two—his wholesome complexion and vigorous step, assisted by a carefully guarded repose of manner and ease and grace of demeanour, would more surely quiet the general pulse—in case any evil rumours HAD gone about—than any other scheme that could be devised.

Then the Earl proceeded, very delicately, to instruct Tom as to the observances proper to the stately occasion, under the rather thin disguise of 'reminding' him concerning things already known to him; but to his vast gratification it turned out that Tom needed very little help in this line—he had been making use of Humphrey in that direction, for Humphrey had mentioned that within a few days he was to begin to dine in public; having gathered it from the swift-winged gossip of the Court. Tom kept these facts to himself, however.

Seeing the royal memory so improved, the Earl ventured to apply a few tests to it, in an apparently casual way, to find out how far its amendment had progressed.  The results were happy, here and there, in spots—spots where Humphrey's tracks remained—and on the whole my lord was greatly pleased and encouraged.  So encouraged was he, indeed, that he spoke up and said in a quite hopeful voice—





 




 

"Now am I persuaded that if your Majesty will but tax your memory yet a little further, it will resolve the puzzle of the Great Seal—a loss which was of moment yesterday, although of none to-day, since its term of service ended with our late lord's life. May it please your Grace to make the trial?"

Tom was at sea—a Great Seal was something which he was totally unacquainted with.  After a moment's hesitation he looked up innocently and asked—

"What was it like, my lord?"

The Earl started, almost imperceptibly, muttering to himself, "Alack, his wits are flown again!—it was ill wisdom to lead him on to strain them"—then he deftly turned the talk to other matters, with the purpose of sweeping the unlucky seal out of Tom's thoughts—a purpose which easily succeeded.

 

 
     
         
 

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