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The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain

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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,


"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."



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