TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain

< BACK    NEXT >



Chapter VII

Tom's first royal dinner.

Somewhat after one in the afternoon, Tom resignedly underwent the

ordeal of being dressed for dinner. He found himself as finely

clothed as before, but everything different, everything changed,

from his ruff to his stockings. He was presently conducted with

much state to a spacious and ornate apartment, where a table was

already set for one. Its furniture was all of massy gold, and

beautified with designs which well-nigh made it priceless, since

they were the work of Benvenuto. The room was half-filled with

noble servitors. A chaplain said grace, and Tom was about to fall

to, for hunger had long been constitutional with him, but was

interrupted by my lord the Earl of Berkeley, who fastened a napkin

about his neck; for the great post of Diaperers to the Prince of

Wales was hereditary in this nobleman's family. Tom's cupbearer

was present, and forestalled all his attempts to help himself to

wine. The Taster to his highness the Prince of Wales was there

also, prepared to taste any suspicious dish upon requirement, and

run the risk of being poisoned. He was only an ornamental

appendage at this time, and was seldom called upon to exercise his

function; but there had been times, not many generations past,

when the office of taster had its perils, and was not a grandeur

to be desired. Why they did not use a dog or a plumber seems

strange; but all the ways of royalty are strange. My Lord d'Arcy,

First Groom of the Chamber, was there, to do goodness knows what;

but there he was--let that suffice. The Lord Chief Butler was

there, and stood behind Tom's chair, overseeing the solemnities,

under command of the Lord Great Steward and the Lord Head Cook,

who stood near. Tom had three hundred and eighty-four servants

beside these; but they were not all in that room, of course, nor

the quarter of them; neither was Tom aware yet that they existed.

All those that were present had been well drilled within the hour

to remember that the prince was temporarily out of his head, and

to be careful to show no surprise at his vagaries. These

'vagaries' were soon on exhibition before them; but they only

moved their compassion and their sorrow, not their mirth. It was

a heavy affliction to them to see the beloved prince so stricken.

Poor Tom ate with his fingers mainly; but no one smiled at it, or

even seemed to observe it. He inspected his napkin curiously, and

with deep interest, for it was of a very dainty and beautiful

fabric, then said with simplicity--

"Prithee, take it away, lest in mine unheedfulness it be soiled."

The Hereditary Diaperer took it away with reverent manner, and

without word or protest of any sort.

Tom examined the turnips and the lettuce with interest, and asked

what they were, and if they were to be eaten; for it was only

recently that men had begun to raise these things in England in

place of importing them as luxuries from Holland. {1} His

question was answered with grave respect, and no surprise

manifested. When he had finished his dessert, he filled his

pockets with nuts; but nobody appeared to be aware of it, or

disturbed by it. But the next moment he was himself disturbed by

it, and showed discomposure; for this was the only service he had

been permitted to do with his own hands during the meal, and he

did not doubt that he had done a most improper and unprincely

thing. At that moment the muscles of his nose began to twitch,

and the end of that organ to lift and wrinkle. This continued,

and Tom began to evince a growing distress. He looked

appealingly, first at one and then another of the lords about him,

and tears came into his eyes. They sprang forward with dismay in

their faces, and begged to know his trouble. Tom said with

genuine anguish--

"I crave your indulgence: my nose itcheth cruelly. What is the

custom and usage in this emergence? Prithee, speed, for 'tis but

a little time that I can bear it."

None smiled; but all were sore perplexed, and looked one to the

other in deep tribulation for counsel. But behold, here was a

dead wall, and nothing in English history to tell how to get over

it. The Master of Ceremonies was not present: there was no one

who felt safe to venture upon this uncharted sea, or risk the

attempt to solve this solemn problem. Alas! there was no

Hereditary Scratcher. Meantime the tears had overflowed their

banks, and begun to trickle down Tom's cheeks. His twitching nose

was pleading more urgently than ever for relief. At last nature

broke down the barriers of etiquette: Tom lifted up an inward

prayer for pardon if he was doing wrong, and brought relief to the

burdened hearts of his court by scratching his nose himself.

His meal being ended, a lord came and held before him a broad,

shallow, golden dish with fragrant rosewater in it, to cleanse his

mouth and fingers with; and my lord the Hereditary Diaperer stood

by with a napkin for his use. Tom gazed at the dish a puzzled

moment or two, then raised it to his lips, and gravely took a

draught. Then he returned it to the waiting lord, and said--

"Nay, it likes me not, my lord: it hath a pretty flavour, but it

wanteth strength."

This new eccentricity of the prince's ruined mind made all the

hearts about him ache; but the sad sight moved none to merriment.

Tom's next unconscious blunder was to get up and leave the table

just when the chaplain had taken his stand behind his chair, and

with uplifted hands, and closed, uplifted eyes, was in the act of

beginning the blessing. Still nobody seemed to perceive that the

prince had done a thing unusual.

By his own request our small friend was now conducted to his

private cabinet, and left there alone to his own devices. Hanging

upon hooks in the oaken wainscoting were the several pieces of a

suit of shining steel armour, covered all over with beautiful

designs exquisitely inlaid in gold. This martial panoply belonged

to the true prince--a recent present from Madam Parr the Queen.

Tom put on the greaves, the gauntlets, the plumed helmet, and such

other pieces as he could don without assistance, and for a while

was minded to call for help and complete the matter, but bethought

him of the nuts he had brought away from dinner, and the joy it

would be to eat them with no crowd to eye him, and no Grand

Hereditaries to pester him with undesired services; so he restored

the pretty things to their several places, and soon was cracking

nuts, and feeling almost naturally happy for the first time since

God for his sins had made him a prince. When the nuts were all

gone, he stumbled upon some inviting books in a closet, among them

one about the etiquette of the English court. This was a prize.

He lay down upon a sumptuous divan, and proceeded to instruct

himself with honest zeal. Let us leave him there for the present.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room The Prince and the Pauper





Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 






Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA