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The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain

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Chapter XXVIII

The sacrifice.

Meantime Miles was growing sufficiently tired of confinement and

inaction. But now his trial came on, to his great gratification,

and he thought he could welcome any sentence provided a further

imprisonment should not be a part of it. But he was mistaken

about that. He was in a fine fury when he found himself described

as a 'sturdy vagabond' and sentenced to sit two hours in the

stocks for bearing that character and for assaulting the master of

Hendon Hall. His pretensions as to brothership with his

prosecutor, and rightful heirship to the Hendon honours and

estates, were left contemptuously unnoticed, as being not even

worth examination.

He raged and threatened on his way to punishment, but it did no

good; he was snatched roughly along by the officers, and got an

occasional cuff, besides, for his irreverent conduct.

The King could not pierce through the rabble that swarmed behind;

so he was obliged to follow in the rear, remote from his good

friend and servant. The King had been nearly condemned to the

stocks himself for being in such bad company, but had been let off

with a lecture and a warning, in consideration of his youth. When

the crowd at last halted, he flitted feverishly from point to

point around its outer rim, hunting a place to get through; and at

last, after a deal of difficulty and delay, succeeded. There sat

his poor henchman in the degrading stocks, the sport and butt of a

dirty mob--he, the body servant of the King of England! Edward

had heard the sentence pronounced, but he had not realised the

half that it meant. His anger began to rise as the sense of this

new indignity which had been put upon him sank home; it jumped to

summer heat, the next moment, when he saw an egg sail through the

air and crush itself against Hendon's cheek, and heard the crowd

roar its enjoyment of the episode. He sprang across the open

circle and confronted the officer in charge, crying--

"For shame! This is my servant--set him free! I am the--"

"Oh, peace!" exclaimed Hendon, in a panic, "thou'lt destroy

thyself. Mind him not, officer, he is mad."

"Give thyself no trouble as to the matter of minding him, good

man, I have small mind to mind him; but as to teaching him

somewhat, to that I am well inclined." He turned to a subordinate

and said, "Give the little fool a taste or two of the lash, to

mend his manners."

"Half a dozen will better serve his turn," suggested Sir Hugh, who

had ridden up, a moment before, to take a passing glance at the


The King was seized. He did not even struggle, so paralysed was

he with the mere thought of the monstrous outrage that was

proposed to be inflicted upon his sacred person. History was

already defiled with the record of the scourging of an English

king with whips--it was an intolerable reflection that he must

furnish a duplicate of that shameful page. He was in the toils,

there was no help for him; he must either take this punishment or

beg for its remission. Hard conditions; he would take the

stripes--a king might do that, but a king could not beg.

But meantime, Miles Hendon was resolving the difficulty. "Let the

child go," said he; "ye heartless dogs, do ye not see how young

and frail he is? Let him go--I will take his lashes."

"Marry, a good thought--and thanks for it," said Sir Hugh, his

face lighting with a sardonic satisfaction. "Let the little

beggar go, and give this fellow a dozen in his place--an honest

dozen, well laid on." The King was in the act of entering a

fierce protest, but Sir Hugh silenced him with the potent remark,

"Yes, speak up, do, and free thy mind--only, mark ye, that for

each word you utter he shall get six strokes the more."

Hendon was removed from the stocks, and his back laid bare; and

whilst the lash was applied the poor little King turned away his

face and allowed unroyal tears to channel his cheeks unchecked.

"Ah, brave good heart," he said to himself, "this loyal deed shall

never perish out of my memory. I will not forget it--and neither

shall THEY!" he added, with passion. Whilst he mused, his

appreciation of Hendon's magnanimous conduct grew to greater and

still greater dimensions in his mind, and so also did his

gratefulness for it. Presently he said to himself, "Who saves his

prince from wounds and possible death--and this he did for me--

performs high service; but it is little--it is nothing--oh, less

than nothing!--when 'tis weighed against the act of him who saves

his prince from SHAME!"

Hendon made no outcry under the scourge, but bore the heavy blows

with soldierly fortitude. This, together with his redeeming the

boy by taking his stripes for him, compelled the respect of even

that forlorn and degraded mob that was gathered there; and its

gibes and hootings died away, and no sound remained but the sound

of the falling blows. The stillness that pervaded the place, when

Hendon found himself once more in the stocks, was in strong

contrast with the insulting clamour which had prevailed there so

little a while before. The King came softly to Hendon's side, and

whispered in his ear--

"Kings cannot ennoble thee, thou good, great soul, for One who is

higher than kings hath done that for thee; but a king can confirm

thy nobility to men." He picked up the scourge from the ground,

touched Hendon's bleeding shoulders lightly with it, and

whispered, "Edward of England dubs thee Earl!"

Hendon was touched. The water welled to his eyes, yet at the same

time the grisly humour of the situation and circumstances so

undermined his gravity that it was all he could do to keep some

sign of his inward mirth from showing outside. To be suddenly

hoisted, naked and gory, from the common stocks to the Alpine

altitude and splendour of an Earldom, seemed to him the last

possibility in the line of the grotesque. He said to himself,

"Now am I finely tinselled, indeed! The spectre-knight of the

Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows is become a spectre-earl--a dizzy

flight for a callow wing! An' this go on, I shall presently be

hung like a very maypole with fantastic gauds and make-believe

honours. But I shall value them, all valueless as they are, for

the love that doth bestow them. Better these poor mock dignities

of mine, that come unasked, from a clean hand and a right spirit,

than real ones bought by servility from grudging and interested power."

The dreaded Sir Hugh wheeled his horse about, and as he spurred

away, the living wall divided silently to let him pass, and as

silently closed together again. And so remained; nobody went so

far as to venture a remark in favour of the prisoner, or in

compliment to him; but no matter--the absence of abuse was a

sufficient homage in itself. A late comer who was not posted as

to the present circumstances, and who delivered a sneer at the

'impostor,' and was in the act of following it with a dead cat,

was promptly knocked down and kicked out, without any words, and

then the deep quiet resumed sway once more.



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