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The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain

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Chapter XXIII

The Prince a prisoner.

Hendon forced back a smile, and bent down and whispered in the

King's ear--

"Softly, softly, my prince, wag thy tongue warily--nay, suffer it

not to wag at all. Trust in me--all shall go well in the end."

Then he added to himself: "SIR Miles! Bless me, I had totally

forgot I was a knight! Lord, how marvellous a thing it is, the

grip his memory doth take upon his quaint and crazy fancies! . . .

An empty and foolish title is mine, and yet it is something to

have deserved it; for I think it is more honour to be held worthy

to be a spectre-knight in his Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows, than

to be held base enough to be an earl in some of the REAL kingdoms

of this world."

The crowd fell apart to admit a constable, who approached and was

about to lay his hand upon the King's shoulder, when Hendon said--

"Gently, good friend, withhold your hand--he shall go peaceably; I

am responsible for that. Lead on, we will follow."

The officer led, with the woman and her bundle; Miles and the King

followed after, with the crowd at their heels. The King was

inclined to rebel; but Hendon said to him in a low voice--

"Reflect, Sire--your laws are the wholesome breath of your own

royalty; shall their source resist them, yet require the branches

to respect them? Apparently one of these laws has been broken;

when the King is on his throne again, can it ever grieve him to

remember that when he was seemingly a private person he loyally

sank the king in the citizen and submitted to its authority?"

"Thou art right; say no more; thou shalt see that whatsoever the

King of England requires a subject to suffer, under the law, he

will himself suffer while he holdeth the station of a subject."

When the woman was called upon to testify before the justice of

the peace, she swore that the small prisoner at the bar was the

person who had committed the theft; there was none able to show

the contrary, so the King stood convicted. The bundle was now

unrolled, and when the contents proved to be a plump little

dressed pig, the judge looked troubled, whilst Hendon turned pale,

and his body was thrilled with an electric shiver of dismay; but

the King remained unmoved, protected by his ignorance. The judge

meditated, during an ominous pause, then turned to the woman, with

the question--

"What dost thou hold this property to be worth?"

The woman courtesied and replied--

"Three shillings and eightpence, your worship--I could not abate a

penny and set forth the value honestly."

The justice glanced around uncomfortably upon the crowd, then

nodded to the constable, and said--

"Clear the court and close the doors."

It was done. None remained but the two officials, the accused,

the accuser, and Miles Hendon. This latter was rigid and

colourless, and on his forehead big drops of cold sweat gathered,

broke and blended together, and trickled down his face. The judge

turned to the woman again, and said, in a compassionate voice--

"'Tis a poor ignorant lad, and mayhap was driven hard by hunger,

for these be grievous times for the unfortunate; mark you, he hath

not an evil face--but when hunger driveth--Good woman! dost know

that when one steals a thing above the value of thirteenpence

ha'penny the law saith he shall HANG for it?"

The little King started, wide-eyed with consternation, but

controlled himself and held his peace; but not so the woman. She

sprang to her feet, shaking with fright, and cried out--

"Oh, good lack, what have I done! God-a-mercy, I would not hang

the poor thing for the whole world! Ah, save me from this, your

worship--what shall I do, what CAN I do?"

The justice maintained his judicial composure, and simply said--

"Doubtless it is allowable to revise the value, since it is not

yet writ upon the record."

"Then in God's name call the pig eightpence, and heaven bless the

day that freed my conscience of this awesome thing!"

Miles Hendon forgot all decorum in his delight; and surprised the

King and wounded his dignity, by throwing his arms around him and

hugging him. The woman made her grateful adieux and started away

with her pig; and when the constable opened the door for her, he

followed her out into the narrow hall. The justice proceeded to

write in his record book. Hendon, always alert, thought he would

like to know why the officer followed the woman out; so he slipped

softly into the dusky hall and listened. He heard a conversation

to this effect--

"It is a fat pig, and promises good eating; I will buy it of thee;

here is the eightpence."

"Eightpence, indeed! Thou'lt do no such thing. It cost me three

shillings and eightpence, good honest coin of the last reign, that

old Harry that's just dead ne'er touched or tampered with. A fig

for thy eightpence!"

"Stands the wind in that quarter? Thou wast under oath, and so

swore falsely when thou saidst the value was but eightpence. Come

straightway back with me before his worship, and answer for the

crime!--and then the lad will hang."

"There, there, dear heart, say no more, I am content. Give me the

eightpence, and hold thy peace about the matter."

The woman went off crying: Hendon slipped back into the court

room, and the constable presently followed, after hiding his prize

in some convenient place. The justice wrote a while longer, then

read the King a wise and kindly lecture, and sentenced him to a

short imprisonment in the common jail, to be followed by a public

flogging. The astounded King opened his mouth, and was probably

going to order the good judge to be beheaded on the spot; but he

caught a warning sign from Hendon, and succeeded in closing his

mouth again before he lost anything out of it. Hendon took him by

the hand, now, made reverence to the justice, and the two departed

in the wake of the constable toward the jail. The moment the

street was reached, the inflamed monarch halted, snatched away his

hand, and exclaimed--

"Idiot, dost imagine I will enter a common jail ALIVE?"

Hendon bent down and said, somewhat sharply--

"WILL you trust in me? Peace! and forbear to worsen our chances

with dangerous speech. What God wills, will happen; thou canst

not hurry it, thou canst not alter it; therefore wait, and be

patient--'twill be time enow to rail or rejoice when what is to

happen has happened." {1}



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