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The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain

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Chapter XXXII

Coronation Day.

Let us go backward a few hours, and place ourselves in Westminster

Abbey, at four o'clock in the morning of this memorable Coronation

Day. We are not without company; for although it is still night,

we find the torch-lighted galleries already filling up with people

who are well content to sit still and wait seven or eight hours

till the time shall come for them to see what they may not hope to

see twice in their lives--the coronation of a King. Yes, London

and Westminster have been astir ever since the warning guns boomed

at three o'clock, and already crowds of untitled rich folk who

have bought the privilege of trying to find sitting-room in the

galleries are flocking in at the entrances reserved for their sort.

The hours drag along tediously enough. All stir has ceased for

some time, for every gallery has long ago been packed. We may

sit, now, and look and think at our leisure. We have glimpses,

here and there and yonder, through the dim cathedral twilight, of

portions of many galleries and balconies, wedged full with other

people, the other portions of these galleries and balconies being

cut off from sight by intervening pillars and architectural

projections. We have in view the whole of the great north

transept--empty, and waiting for England's privileged ones. We

see also the ample area or platform, carpeted with rich stuffs,

whereon the throne stands. The throne occupies the centre of the

platform, and is raised above it upon an elevation of four steps.

Within the seat of the throne is enclosed a rough flat rock--the

stone of Scone--which many generations of Scottish kings sat on to

be crowned, and so it in time became holy enough to answer a like

purpose for English monarchs. Both the throne and its footstool

are covered with cloth of gold.

Stillness reigns, the torches blink dully, the time drags heavily.

But at last the lagging daylight asserts itself, the torches are

extinguished, and a mellow radiance suffuses the great spaces.

All features of the noble building are distinct now, but soft and

dreamy, for the sun is lightly veiled with clouds.

At seven o'clock the first break in the drowsy monotony occurs;

for on the stroke of this hour the first peeress enters the

transept, clothed like Solomon for splendour, and is conducted to

her appointed place by an official clad in satins and velvets,

whilst a duplicate of him gathers up the lady's long train,

follows after, and, when the lady is seated, arranges the train

across her lap for her. He then places her footstool according to

her desire, after which he puts her coronet where it will be

convenient to her hand when the time for the simultaneous

coroneting of the nobles shall arrive.

By this time the peeresses are flowing in in a glittering stream,

and the satin-clad officials are flitting and glinting everywhere,

seating them and making them comfortable. The scene is animated

enough now. There is stir and life, and shifting colour

everywhere. After a time, quiet reigns again; for the peeresses

are all come and are all in their places, a solid acre or such a

matter, of human flowers, resplendent in variegated colours, and

frosted like a Milky Way with diamonds. There are all ages here:

brown, wrinkled, white-haired dowagers who are able to go back,

and still back, down the stream of time, and recall the crowning

of Richard III. and the troublous days of that old forgotten age;

and there are handsome middle-aged dames; and lovely and gracious

young matrons; and gentle and beautiful young girls, with beaming

eyes and fresh complexions, who may possibly put on their jewelled

coronets awkwardly when the great time comes; for the matter will

be new to them, and their excitement will be a sore hindrance.

Still, this may not happen, for the hair of all these ladies has

been arranged with a special view to the swift and successful

lodging of the crown in its place when the signal comes.

We have seen that this massed array of peeresses is sown thick

with diamonds, and we also see that it is a marvellous spectacle--

but now we are about to be astonished in earnest. About nine, the

clouds suddenly break away and a shaft of sunshine cleaves the

mellow atmosphere, and drifts slowly along the ranks of ladies;

and every rank it touches flames into a dazzling splendour of

many-coloured fires, and we tingle to our finger-tips with the

electric thrill that is shot through us by the surprise and the

beauty of the spectacle! Presently a special envoy from some

distant corner of the Orient, marching with the general body of

foreign ambassadors, crosses this bar of sunshine, and we catch

our breath, the glory that streams and flashes and palpitates

about him is so overpowering; for he is crusted from head to heel

with gems, and his slightest movement showers a dancing radiance

all around him.

Let us change the tense for convenience. The time drifted along--

one hour--two hours--two hours and a half; then the deep booming

of artillery told that the King and his grand procession had

arrived at last; so the waiting multitude rejoiced. All knew that

a further delay must follow, for the King must be prepared and

robed for the solemn ceremony; but this delay would be pleasantly

occupied by the assembling of the peers of the realm in their

stately robes. These were conducted ceremoniously to their seats,

and their coronets placed conveniently at hand; and meanwhile the

multitude in the galleries were alive with interest, for most of

them were beholding for the first time, dukes, earls, and barons,

whose names had been historical for five hundred years. When all

were finally seated, the spectacle from the galleries and all

coigns of vantage was complete; a gorgeous one to look upon and to


Now the robed and mitred great heads of the church, and their

attendants, filed in upon the platform and took their appointed

places; these were followed by the Lord Protector and other great

officials, and these again by a steel-clad detachment of the Guard.

There was a waiting pause; then, at a signal, a triumphant peal of

music burst forth, and Tom Canty, clothed in a long robe of cloth

of gold, appeared at a door, and stepped upon the platform. The

entire multitude rose, and the ceremony of the Recognition ensued.

Then a noble anthem swept the Abbey with its rich waves of sound;

and thus heralded and welcomed, Tom Canty was conducted to the

throne. The ancient ceremonies went on, with impressive

solemnity, whilst the audience gazed; and as they drew nearer and

nearer to completion, Tom Canty grew pale, and still paler, and a

deep and steadily deepening woe and despondency settled down upon

his spirits and upon his remorseful heart.

At last the final act was at hand. The Archbishop of Canterbury

lifted up the crown of England from its cushion and held it out

over the trembling mock-King's head. In the same instant a

rainbow-radiance flashed along the spacious transept; for with one

impulse every individual in the great concourse of nobles lifted a

coronet and poised it over his or her head--and paused in that attitude.

A deep hush pervaded the Abbey. At this impressive moment, a

startling apparition intruded upon the scene--an apparition

observed by none in the absorbed multitude, until it suddenly

appeared, moving up the great central aisle. It was a boy,

bareheaded, ill shod, and clothed in coarse plebeian garments that

were falling to rags. He raised his hand with a solemnity which

ill comported with his soiled and sorry aspect, and delivered this

note of warning--

"I forbid you to set the crown of England upon that forfeited

head. I am the King!"

In an instant several indignant hands were laid upon the boy; but

in the same instant Tom Canty, in his regal vestments, made a

swift step forward, and cried out in a ringing voice--

"Loose him and forbear! He IS the King!"

A sort of panic of astonishment swept the assemblage, and they

partly rose in their places and stared in a bewildered way at one

another and at the chief figures in this scene, like persons who

wondered whether they were awake and in their senses, or asleep

and dreaming. The Lord Protector was as amazed as the rest, but

quickly recovered himself, and exclaimed in a voice of authority--

"Mind not his Majesty, his malady is upon him again--seize the vagabond!"

He would have been obeyed, but the mock-King stamped his foot and

cried out--

"On your peril! Touch him not, he is the King!"

The hands were withheld; a paralysis fell upon the house; no one

moved, no one spoke; indeed, no one knew how to act or what to

say, in so strange and surprising an emergency. While all minds

were struggling to right themselves, the boy still moved steadily

forward, with high port and confident mien; he had never halted

from the beginning; and while the tangled minds still floundered

helplessly, he stepped upon the platform, and the mock-King ran

with a glad face to meet him; and fell on his knees before him and said--

"Oh, my lord the King, let poor Tom Canty be first to swear fealty

to thee, and say, 'Put on thy crown and enter into thine own again!'"

The Lord Protector's eye fell sternly upon the new-comer's face;

but straightway the sternness vanished away, and gave place to an

expression of wondering surprise. This thing happened also to the

other great officers. They glanced at each other, and retreated a

step by a common and unconscious impulse. The thought in each

mind was the same: "What a strange resemblance!"

The Lord Protector reflected a moment or two in perplexity, then

he said, with grave respectfulness--

"By your favour, sir, I desire to ask certain questions which--"

"I will answer them, my lord."

The Duke asked him many questions about the Court, the late King,

the prince, the princesses--the boy answered them correctly and

without hesitating. He described the rooms of state in the

palace, the late King's apartments, and those of the Prince of Wales.

It was strange; it was wonderful; yes, it was unaccountable--so

all said that heard it. The tide was beginning to turn, and Tom

Canty's hopes to run high, when the Lord Protector shook his head

and said--

"It is true it is most wonderful--but it is no more than our lord

the King likewise can do." This remark, and this reference to

himself as still the King, saddened Tom Canty, and he felt his

hopes crumbling from under him. "These are not PROOFS," added the


The tide was turning very fast now, very fast indeed--but in the

wrong direction; it was leaving poor Tom Canty stranded on the

throne, and sweeping the other out to sea. The Lord Protector

communed with himself--shook his head--the thought forced itself

upon him, "It is perilous to the State and to us all, to entertain

so fateful a riddle as this; it could divide the nation and

undermine the throne." He turned and said--

"Sir Thomas, arrest this--No, hold!" His face lighted, and he

confronted the ragged candidate with this question--

"Where lieth the Great Seal? Answer me this truly, and the riddle

is unriddled; for only he that was Prince of Wales CAN so answer!

On so trivial a thing hang a throne and a dynasty!"

It was a lucky thought, a happy thought. That it was so

considered by the great officials was manifested by the silent

applause that shot from eye to eye around their circle in the form

of bright approving glances. Yes, none but the true prince could

dissolve the stubborn mystery of the vanished Great Seal--this

forlorn little impostor had been taught his lesson well, but here

his teachings must fail, for his teacher himself could not answer

THAT question--ah, very good, very good indeed; now we shall be

rid of this troublesome and perilous business in short order! And

so they nodded invisibly and smiled inwardly with satisfaction,

and looked to see this foolish lad stricken with a palsy of guilty

confusion. How surprised they were, then, to see nothing of the

sort happen--how they marvelled to hear him answer up promptly, in

a confident and untroubled voice, and say--

"There is nought in this riddle that is difficult." Then, without

so much as a by-your-leave to anybody, he turned and gave this

command, with the easy manner of one accustomed to doing such

things: "My Lord St. John, go you to my private cabinet in the

palace--for none knoweth the place better than you--and, close

down to the floor, in the left corner remotest from the door that

opens from the ante-chamber, you shall find in the wall a brazen

nail-head; press upon it and a little jewel-closet will fly open

which not even you do know of--no, nor any sould else in all the

world but me and the trusty artisan that did contrive it for me.

The first thing that falleth under your eye will be the Great Seal--fetch it hither."

All the company wondered at this speech, and wondered still more

to see the little mendicant pick out this peer without hesitancy

or apparent fear of mistake, and call him by name with such a

placidly convincing air of having known him all his life. The

peer was almost surprised into obeying. He even made a movement

as if to go, but quickly recovered his tranquil attitude and

confessed his blunder with a blush. Tom Canty turned upon him and

said, sharply--

"Why dost thou hesitate? Hast not heard the King's command? Go!"

The Lord St. John made a deep obeisance--and it was observed that

it was a significantly cautious and non-committal one, it not

being delivered at either of the kings, but at the neutral ground

about half-way between the two--and took his leave.

Now began a movement of the gorgeous particles of that official

group which was slow, scarcely perceptible, and yet steady and

persistent--a movement such as is observed in a kaleidoscope that

is turned slowly, whereby the components of one splendid cluster

fall away and join themselves to another--a movement which, little

by little, in the present case, dissolved the glittering crowd

that stood about Tom Canty and clustered it together again in the

neighbourhood of the new-comer. Tom Canty stood almost alone.

Now ensued a brief season of deep suspense and waiting--during

which even the few faint hearts still remaining near Tom Canty

gradually scraped together courage enough to glide, one by one,

over to the majority. So at last Tom Canty, in his royal robes

and jewels, stood wholly alone and isolated from the world, a

conspicuous figure, occupying an eloquent vacancy.

Now the Lord St. John was seen returning. As he advanced up the

mid-aisle the interest was so intense that the low murmur of

conversation in the great assemblage died out and was succeeded by

a profound hush, a breathless stillness, through which his

footfalls pulsed with a dull and distant sound. Every eye was

fastened upon him as he moved along. He reached the platform,

paused a moment, then moved toward Tom Canty with a deep

obeisance, and said--

"Sire, the Seal is not there!"

A mob does not melt away from the presence of a plague-patient

with more haste than the band of pallid and terrified courtiers

melted away from the presence of the shabby little claimant of the

Crown. In a moment he stood all alone, without friend or

supporter, a target upon which was concentrated a bitter fire of

scornful and angry looks. The Lord Protector called out fiercely--

"Cast the beggar into the street, and scourge him through the

town--the paltry knave is worth no more consideration!"

Officers of the guard sprang forward to obey, but Tom Canty waved

them off and said--

"Back! Whoso touches him perils his life!"

The Lord Protector was perplexed in the last degree. He said to

the Lord St. John--

"Searched you well?--but it boots not to ask that. It doth seem

passing strange. Little things, trifles, slip out of one's ken,

and one does not think it matter for surprise; but how so bulky a

thing as the Seal of England can vanish away and no man be able to

get track of it again--a massy golden disk--"

Tom Canty, with beaming eyes, sprang forward and shouted--

"Hold, that is enough! Was it round?--and thick?--and had it

letters and devices graved upon it?--yes? Oh, NOW I know what

this Great Seal is that there's been such worry and pother about.

An' ye had described it to me, ye could have had it three weeks

ago. Right well I know where it lies; but it was not I that put it there--first."

"Who, then, my liege?" asked the Lord Protector.

"He that stands there--the rightful King of England. And he shall

tell you himself where it lies--then you will believe he knew it

of his own knowledge. Bethink thee, my King--spur thy memory--it

was the last, the very LAST thing thou didst that day before thou

didst rush forth from the palace, clothed in my rags, to punish

the soldier that insulted me."

A silence ensued, undisturbed by a movement or a whisper, and all

eyes were fixed upon the new-comer, who stood, with bent head and

corrugated brow, groping in his memory among a thronging multitude

of valueless recollections for one single little elusive fact,

which, found, would seat him upon a throne--unfound, would leave

him as he was, for good and all--a pauper and an outcast. Moment

after moment passed--the moments built themselves into minutes--

still the boy struggled silently on, and gave no sign. But at

last he heaved a sigh, shook his head slowly, and said, with a

trembling lip and in a despondent voice--

"I call the scene back--all of it--but the Seal hath no place in

it." He paused, then looked up, and said with gentle dignity, "My

lords and gentlemen, if ye will rob your rightful sovereign of his

own for lack of this evidence which he is not able to furnish, I

may not stay ye, being powerless. But--"

"Oh, folly, oh, madness, my King!" cried Tom Canty, in a panic,

"wait!--think! Do not give up!--the cause is not lost! Nor SHALL

be, neither! List to what I say--follow every word--I am going to

bring that morning back again, every hap just as it happened. We

talked--I told you of my sisters, Nan and Bet--ah, yes, you

remember that; and about mine old grandam--and the rough games of

the lads of Offal Court--yes, you remember these things also; very

well, follow me still, you shall recall everything. You gave me

food and drink, and did with princely courtesy send away the

servants, so that my low breeding might not shame me before them--

ah, yes, this also you remember."

As Tom checked off his details, and the other boy nodded his head

in recognition of them, the great audience and the officials

stared in puzzled wonderment; the tale sounded like true history,

yet how could this impossible conjunction between a prince and a

beggar-boy have come about? Never was a company of people so

perplexed, so interested, and so stupefied, before.

"For a jest, my prince, we did exchange garments. Then we stood

before a mirror; and so alike were we that both said it seemed as

if there had been no change made--yes, you remember that. Then

you noticed that the soldier had hurt my hand--look! here it is, I

cannot yet even write with it, the fingers are so stiff. At this

your Highness sprang up, vowing vengeance upon that soldier, and

ran towards the door--you passed a table--that thing you call the

Seal lay on that table--you snatched it up and looked eagerly

about, as if for a place to hide it--your eye caught sight of--"

"There, 'tis sufficient!--and the good God be thanked!" exclaimed

the ragged claimant, in a mighty excitement. "Go, my good St.

John--in an arm-piece of the Milanese armour that hangs on the

wall, thou'lt find the Seal!"

"Right, my King! right!" cried Tom Canty; "NOW the sceptre of

England is thine own; and it were better for him that would

dispute it that he had been born dumb! Go, my Lord St. John, give

thy feet wings!"

The whole assemblage was on its feet now, and well-nigh out of its

mind with uneasiness, apprehension, and consuming excitement. On

the floor and on the platform a deafening buzz of frantic

conversation burst forth, and for some time nobody knew anything

or heard anything or was interested in anything but what his

neighbour was shouting into his ear, or he was shouting into his

neighbour's ear. Time--nobody knew how much of it--swept by

unheeded and unnoted. At last a sudden hush fell upon the house,

and in the same moment St. John appeared upon the platform, and

held the Great Seal aloft in his hand. Then such a shout went up--

"Long live the true King!"

For five minutes the air quaked with shouts and the crash of

musical instruments, and was white with a storm of waving

handkerchiefs; and through it all a ragged lad, the most

conspicuous figure in England, stood, flushed and happy and proud,

in the centre of the spacious platform, with the great vassals of

the kingdom kneeling around him.

Then all rose, and Tom Canty cried out--

"Now, O my King, take these regal garments back, and give poor

Tom, thy servant, his shreds and remnants again."

The Lord Protector spoke up--

"Let the small varlet be stripped and flung into the Tower."

But the new King, the true King, said--

"I will not have it so. But for him I had not got my crown again-

-none shall lay a hand upon him to harm him. And as for thee, my

good uncle, my Lord Protector, this conduct of thine is not

grateful toward this poor lad, for I hear he hath made thee a

duke"--the Protector blushed--"yet he was not a king; wherefore

what is thy fine title worth now? To-morrow you shall sue to me,

THROUGH HIM, for its confirmation, else no duke, but a simple

earl, shalt thou remain."

Under this rebuke, his Grace the Duke of Somerset retired a little

from the front for the moment. The King turned to Tom, and said

kindly--"My poor boy, how was it that you could remember where I

hid the Seal when I could not remember it myself?"

"Ah, my King, that was easy, since I used it divers days."

"Used it--yet could not explain where it was?"

"I did not know it was THAT they wanted. They did not describe

it, your Majesty."

"Then how used you it?"

The red blood began to steal up into Tom's cheeks, and he dropped

his eyes and was silent.

"Speak up, good lad, and fear nothing," said the King. "How used

you the Great Seal of England?"

Tom stammered a moment, in a pathetic confusion, then got it out--

"To crack nuts with!"

Poor child, the avalanche of laughter that greeted this nearly

swept him off his feet. But if a doubt remained in any mind that

Tom Canty was not the King of England and familiar with the august

appurtenances of royalty, this reply disposed of it utterly.

Meantime the sumptuous robe of state had been removed from Tom's

shoulders to the King's, whose rags were effectually hidden from

sight under it. Then the coronation ceremonies were resumed; the

true King was anointed and the crown set upon his head, whilst

cannon thundered the news to the city, and all London seemed to

rock with applause.



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