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Room | The
Prince and the Pauper
and the Pauper
The royal barge, attended by its gorgeous fleet, took its stately
way down the Thames through the wilderness of illuminated boats.
The air was laden with music; the river banks were beruffled with
joy-flames; the distant city lay in a soft luminous glow from its
countless invisible bonfires; above it rose many a slender spire
into the sky, incrusted with sparkling lights, wherefore in their
remoteness they seemed like jewelled lances thrust aloft; as the
fleet swept along, it was greeted from the banks with a continuous
hoarse roar of cheers and the ceaseless flash and boom of artillery.
To Tom Canty, half buried in his silken cushions, these sounds and
this spectacle were a wonder unspeakably sublime and astonishing.
To his little friends at his side, the Princess Elizabeth and the
Lady Jane Grey, they were nothing.
Arrived at the Dowgate, the fleet was towed up the limpid Walbrook
(whose channel has now been for two centuries buried out of sight
under acres of buildings) to Bucklersbury, past houses and under
bridges populous with merry-makers and brilliantly lighted, and at
last came to a halt in a basin where now is Barge Yard, in the
centre of the ancient city of London. Tom disembarked, and he and
his gallant procession crossed Cheapside and made a short march
through the Old Jewry and Basinghall Street to the Guildhall.
Tom and his little ladies were received with due ceremony by the
Lord Mayor and the Fathers of the City, in their gold chains and
scarlet robes of state, and conducted to a rich canopy of state at
the head of the great hall, preceded by heralds making
proclamation, and by the Mace and the City Sword. The lords and
ladies who were to attend upon Tom and his two small friends took
their places behind their chairs.
At a lower table the Court grandees and other guests of noble
degree were seated, with the magnates of the city; the commoners
took places at a multitude of tables on the main floor of the
hall. From their lofty vantage-ground the giants Gog and Magog,
the ancient guardians of the city, contemplated the spectacle
below them with eyes grown familiar to it in forgotten
generations. There was a bugle-blast and a proclamation, and a
fat butler appeared in a high perch in the leftward wall, followed
by his servitors bearing with impressive solemnity a royal baron
of beef, smoking hot and ready for the knife.
After grace, Tom (being instructed) rose--and the whole house with
him--and drank from a portly golden loving-cup with the Princess
Elizabeth; from her it passed to the Lady Jane, and then traversed
the general assemblage. So the banquet began.
By midnight the revelry was at its height. Now came one of those
picturesque spectacles so admired in that old day. A description
of it is still extant in the quaint wording of a chronicler who witnessed
'Space being made, presently entered a baron and an earl appareled
after the Turkish fashion in long robes of bawdkin powdered with
gold; hats on their heads of crimson velvet, with great rolls of
gold, girded with two swords, called scimitars, hanging by great
bawdricks of gold. Next came yet another baron and another earl,
in two long gowns of yellow satin, traversed with white satin, and
in every bend of white was a bend of crimson satin, after the
fashion of Russia, with furred hats of gray on their heads; either
of them having an hatchet in their hands, and boots with pykes'
(points a foot long), 'turned up. And after them came a knight,
then the Lord High Admiral, and with him five nobles, in doublets
of crimson velvet, voyded low on the back and before to the
cannell-bone, laced on the breasts with chains of silver; and over
that, short cloaks of crimson satin, and on their heads hats after
the dancers' fashion, with pheasants' feathers in them. These
were appareled after the fashion of Prussia. The torchbearers,
which were about an hundred, were appareled in crimson satin and
green, like Moors, their faces black. Next came in a mommarye.
Then the minstrels, which were disguised, danced; and the lords
and ladies did wildly dance also, that it was a pleasure to behold.'
And while Tom, in his high seat, was gazing upon this 'wild'
dancing, lost in admiration of the dazzling commingling of
kaleidoscopic colours which the whirling turmoil of gaudy figures
below him presented, the ragged but real little Prince of Wales
was proclaiming his rights and his wrongs, denouncing the
impostor, and clamouring for admission at the gates of Guildhall!
The crowd enjoyed this episode prodigiously, and pressed forward
and craned their necks to see the small rioter. Presently they
began to taunt him and mock at him, purposely to goad him into a
higher and still more entertaining fury. Tears of mortification
sprang to his eyes, but he stood his ground and defied the mob
right royally. Other taunts followed, added mockings stung him,
and he exclaimed--
"I tell ye again, you pack of unmannerly curs, I am the Prince of
Wales! And all forlorn and friendless as I be, with none to give
me word of grace or help me in my need, yet will not I be driven
from my ground, but will maintain it!"
"Though thou be prince or no prince, 'tis all one, thou be'st a
gallant lad, and not friendless neither! Here stand I by thy side
to prove it; and mind I tell thee thou might'st have a worser
friend than Miles Hendon and yet not tire thy legs with seeking.
Rest thy small jaw, my child; I talk the language of these base
kennel-rats like to a very native."
The speaker was a sort of Don Caesar de Bazan in dress, aspect,
and bearing. He was tall, trim-built, muscular. His doublet and
trunks were of rich material, but faded and threadbare, and their
gold-lace adornments were sadly tarnished; his ruff was rumpled
and damaged; the plume in his slouched hat was broken and had a
bedraggled and disreputable look; at his side he wore a long
rapier in a rusty iron sheath; his swaggering carriage marked him
at once as a ruffler of the camp. The speech of this fantastic
figure was received with an explosion of jeers and laughter. Some
cried, "'Tis another prince in disguise!" "'Ware thy tongue,
friend: belike he is dangerous!" "Marry, he looketh it--mark his
eye!" "Pluck the lad from him--to the horse-pond wi' the cub!"
Instantly a hand was laid upon the Prince, under the impulse of
this happy thought; as instantly the stranger's long sword was out
and the meddler went to the earth under a sounding thump with the
flat of it. The next moment a score of voices shouted, "Kill the
dog! Kill him! Kill him!" and the mob closed in on the warrior,
who backed himself against a wall and began to lay about him with
his long weapon like a madman. His victims sprawled this way and
that, but the mob-tide poured over their prostrate forms and
dashed itself against the champion with undiminished fury. His
moments seemed numbered, his destruction certain, when suddenly a
trumpet-blast sounded, a voice shouted, "Way for the King's
messenger!" and a troop of horsemen came charging down upon the
mob, who fled out of harm's reach as fast as their legs could
carry them. The bold stranger caught up the Prince in his arms,
and was soon far away from danger and the multitude.
Return we within the Guildhall. Suddenly, high above the jubilant
roar and thunder of the revel, broke the clear peal of a bugle-
note. There was instant silence--a deep hush; then a single voice
rose--that of the messenger from the palace--and began to pipe
forth a proclamation, the whole multitude standing listening.
The closing words, solemnly pronounced, were--
"The King is dead!"
The great assemblage bent their heads upon their breasts with one
accord; remained so, in profound silence, a few moments; then all
sank upon their knees in a body, stretched out their hands toward
Tom, and a mighty shout burst forth that seemed to shake the building--
"Long live the King!"
Poor Tom's dazed eyes wandered abroad over this stupefying
spectacle, and finally rested dreamily upon the kneeling
princesses beside him, a moment, then upon the Earl of Hertford.
A sudden purpose dawned in his face. He said, in a low tone, at
Lord Hertford's ear--
"Answer me truly, on thy faith and honour! Uttered I here a
command, the which none but a king might hold privilege and
prerogative to utter, would such commandment be obeyed, and none
rise up to say me nay?"
"None, my liege, in all these realms. In thy person bides the
majesty of England. Thou art the king--thy word is law."
Tom responded, in a strong, earnest voice, and with great animation--
"Then shall the king's law be law of mercy, from this day, and
never more be law of blood! Up from thy knees and away! To the
Tower, and say the King decrees the Duke of Norfolk shall not die!"
The words were caught up and carried eagerly from lip to lip far
and wide over the hall, and as Hertford hurried from the presence,
another prodigious shout burst forth--
"The reign of blood is ended! Long live Edward, King of England!"
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Room | The
Prince and the Pauper