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Chapter 33


Chapter XXXIII. Edward as King.

Miles Hendon was picturesque enough before he got into the riot on
London Bridge--he was more so when he got out of it.  He had but
little money when he got in, none at all when he got out.  The
pickpockets had stripped him of his last farthing.

But no matter, so he found his boy.  Being a soldier, he did not
go at his task in a random way, but set to work, first of all, to
arrange his campaign.

What would the boy naturally do?  Where would he naturally go?
Well--argued Miles--he would naturally go to his former haunts,
for that is the instinct of unsound minds, when homeless and
forsaken, as well as of sound ones.  Whereabouts were his former
haunts?  His rags, taken together with the low villain who seemed
to know him and who even claimed to be his father, indicated that
his home was in one or another of the poorest and meanest
districts of London.  Would the search for him be difficult, or
long?  No, it was likely to be easy and brief.  He would not hunt
for the boy, he would hunt for a crowd; in the centre of a big
crowd or a little one, sooner or later, he should find his poor
little friend, sure; and the mangy mob would be entertaining
itself with pestering and aggravating the boy, who would be
proclaiming himself King, as usual.  Then Miles Hendon would
cripple some of those people, and carry off his little ward, and
comfort and cheer him with loving words, and the two would never
be separated any more.

So Miles started on his quest.  Hour after hour he tramped through
back alleys and squalid streets, seeking groups and crowds, and
finding no end of them, but never any sign of the boy.  This
greatly surprised him, but did not discourage him.  To his notion,
there was nothing the matter with his plan of campaign; the only
miscalculation about it was that the campaign was becoming a
lengthy one, whereas he had expected it to be short.

When daylight arrived, at last, he had made many a mile, and
canvassed many a crowd, but the only result was that he was
tolerably tired, rather hungry and very sleepy.  He wanted some
breakfast, but there was no way to get it.  To beg for it did not
occur to him; as to pawning his sword, he would as soon have
thought of parting with his honour; he could spare some of his
clothes--yes, but one could as easily find a customer for a
disease as for such clothes.

At noon he was still tramping--among the rabble which followed
after the royal procession, now; for he argued that this regal
display would attract his little lunatic powerfully.  He followed
the pageant through all its devious windings about London, and all
the way to Westminster and the Abbey.  He drifted here and there
amongst the multitudes that were massed in the vicinity for a
weary long time, baffled and perplexed, and finally wandered off,
thinking, and trying to contrive some way to better his plan of
campaign.  By-and-by, when he came to himself out of his musings,
he discovered that the town was far behind him and that the day
was growing old.  He was near the river, and in the country; it
was a region of fine rural seats--not the sort of district to
welcome clothes like his.

It was not at all cold; so he stretched himself on the ground in
the lee of a hedge to rest and think.  Drowsiness presently began
to settle upon his senses; the faint and far-off boom of cannon
was wafted to his ear, and he said to himself, "The new King is
crowned," and straightway fell asleep.  He had not slept or
rested, before, for more than thirty hours.  He did not wake again
until near the middle of the next morning.

He got up, lame, stiff, and half famished, washed himself in the
river, stayed his stomach with a pint or two of water, and trudged
off toward Westminster, grumbling at himself for having wasted so
much time.  Hunger helped him to a new plan, now; he would try to
get speech with old Sir Humphrey Marlow and borrow a few marks,
and--but that was enough of a plan for the present; it would be
time enough to enlarge it when this first stage should be
accomplished.

Toward eleven o'clock he approached the palace; and although a
host of showy people were about him, moving in the same direction,
he was not inconspicuous--his costume took care of that.  He
watched these people's faces narrowly, hoping to find a charitable
one whose possessor might be willing to carry his name to the old
lieutenant--as to trying to get into the palace himself, that was
simply out of the question.

Presently our whipping-boy passed him, then wheeled about and
scanned his figure well, saying to himself, "An' that is not the
very vagabond his Majesty is in such a worry about, then am I an
ass--though belike I was that before.  He answereth the
description to a rag--that God should make two such would be to
cheapen miracles by wasteful repetition.  I would I could contrive
an excuse to speak with him."

Miles Hendon saved him the trouble; for he turned about, then, as
a man generally will when somebody mesmerises him by gazing hard
at him from behind; and observing a strong interest in the boy's
eyes, he stepped toward him and said--

"You have just come out from the palace; do you belong there?"

"Yes, your worship."

"Know you Sir Humphrey Marlow?"

The boy started, and said to himself, "Lord! mine old departed
father!"  Then he answered aloud, "Right well, your worship."

"Good--is he within?"

"Yes," said the boy; and added, to himself, "within his grave."

"Might I crave your favour to carry my name to him, and say I beg
to say a word in his ear?"

"I will despatch the business right willingly, fair sir."

"Then say Miles Hendon, son of Sir Richard, is here without--I
shall be greatly bounden to you, my good lad."

The boy looked disappointed.  "The King did not name him so," he
said to himself; "but it mattereth not, this is his twin brother,
and can give his Majesty news of t'other Sir-Odds-and-Ends, I
warrant."  So he said to Miles, "Step in there a moment, good sir,
and wait till I bring you word."

Hendon retired to the place indicated--it was a recess sunk in the
palace wall, with a stone bench in it--a shelter for sentinels in
bad weather.  He had hardly seated himself when some halberdiers,
in charge of an officer, passed by.  The officer saw him, halted
his men, and commanded Hendon to come forth.  He obeyed, and was
promptly arrested as a suspicious character prowling within the
precincts of the palace.  Things began to look ugly.  Poor Miles
was going to explain, but the officer roughly silenced him, and
ordered his men to disarm him and search him.

"God of his mercy grant that they find somewhat," said poor Miles;
"I have searched enow, and failed, yet is my need greater than
theirs."

Nothing was found but a document.  The officer tore it open, and
Hendon smiled when he recognised the 'pot-hooks' made by his lost
little friend that black day at Hendon Hall.  The officer's face
grew dark as he read the English paragraph, and Miles blenched to
the opposite colour as he listened.

"Another new claimant of the Crown!" cried the officer.  "Verily
they breed like rabbits, to-day.  Seize the rascal, men, and see
ye keep him fast whilst I convey this precious paper within and
send it to the King."

He hurried away, leaving the prisoner in the grip of the
halberdiers.

"Now is my evil luck ended at last," muttered Hendon, "for I shall
dangle at a rope's end for a certainty, by reason of that bit of
writing.  And what will become of my poor lad!--ah, only the good
God knoweth."

By-and-by he saw the officer coming again, in a great hurry; so he
plucked his courage together, purposing to meet his trouble as
became a man.  The officer ordered the men to loose the prisoner
and return his sword to him; then bowed respectfully, and said--

"Please you, sir, to follow me."

Hendon followed, saying to himself, "An' I were not travelling to
death and judgment, and so must needs economise in sin, I would
throttle this knave for his mock courtesy."

The two traversed a populous court, and arrived at the grand
entrance of the palace, where the officer, with another bow,
delivered Hendon into the hands of a gorgeous official, who
received him with profound respect and led him forward through a
great hall, lined on both sides with rows of splendid flunkeys
(who made reverential obeisance as the two passed along, but fell
into death-throes of silent laughter at our stately scarecrow the
moment his back was turned), and up a broad staircase, among
flocks of fine folk, and finally conducted him into a vast room,
clove a passage for him through the assembled nobility of England,
then made a bow, reminded him to take his hat off, and left him
standing in the middle of the room, a mark for all eyes, for
plenty of indignant frowns, and for a sufficiency of amused and
derisive smiles.

Miles Hendon was entirely bewildered.  There sat the young King,
under a canopy of state, five steps away, with his head bent down
and aside, speaking with a sort of human bird of paradise--a duke,
maybe.  Hendon observed to himself that it was hard enough to be
sentenced to death in the full vigour of life, without having this
peculiarly public humiliation added.  He wished the King would
hurry about it--some of the gaudy people near by were becoming
pretty offensive.  At this moment the King raised his head
slightly, and Hendon caught a good view of his face.  The sight
nearly took his breath away!--He stood gazing at the fair young
face like one transfixed; then presently ejaculated--

"Lo, the Lord of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows on his throne!"

He muttered some broken sentences, still gazing and marvelling;
then turned his eyes around and about, scanning the gorgeous
throng and the splendid saloon, murmuring, "But these are REAL--
verily these are REAL--surely it is not a dream."

He stared at the King again--and thought, "IS it a dream . . . or
IS he the veritable Sovereign of England, and not the friendless
poor Tom o' Bedlam I took him for--who shall solve me this
riddle?"

A sudden idea flashed in his eye, and he strode to the wall,
gathered up a chair, brought it back, planted it on the floor, and
sat down in it!

A buzz of indignation broke out, a rough hand was laid upon him
and a voice exclaimed--

"Up, thou mannerless clown! would'st sit in the presence of the
King?"

The disturbance attracted his Majesty's attention, who stretched
forth his hand and cried out--

"Touch him not, it is his right!"

The throng fell back, stupefied.  The King went on--

"Learn ye all, ladies, lords, and gentlemen, that this is my
trusty and well-beloved servant, Miles Hendon, who interposed his
good sword and saved his prince from bodily harm and possible
death--and for this he is a knight, by the King's voice.  Also
learn, that for a higher service, in that he saved his sovereign
stripes and shame, taking these upon himself, he is a peer of
England, Earl of Kent, and shall have gold and lands meet for the
dignity.  More--the privilege which he hath just exercised is his
by royal grant; for we have ordained that the chiefs of his line
shall have and hold the right to sit in the presence of the
Majesty of England henceforth, age after age, so long as the crown
shall endure.  Molest him not."

Two persons, who, through delay, had only arrived from the country
during this morning, and had now been in this room only five
minutes, stood listening to these words and looking at the King,
then at the scarecrow, then at the King again, in a sort of torpid
bewilderment.  These were Sir Hugh and the Lady Edith.  But the
new Earl did not see them.  He was still staring at the monarch,
in a dazed way, and muttering--

"Oh, body o' me!  THIS my pauper!  This my lunatic!  This is he
whom _I_ would show what grandeur was, in my house of seventy
rooms and seven-and-twenty servants!  This is he who had never
known aught but rags for raiment, kicks for comfort, and offal for
diet!  This is he whom _I_ adopted and would make respectable!
Would God I had a bag to hide my head in!"

Then his manners suddenly came back to him, and he dropped upon
his knees, with his hands between the King's, and swore allegiance
and did homage for his lands and titles.  Then he rose and stood
respectfully aside, a mark still for all eyes--and much envy, too.

Now the King discovered Sir Hugh, and spoke out with wrathful
voice and kindling eye--

"Strip this robber of his false show and stolen estates, and put
him under lock and key till I have need of him."

The late Sir Hugh was led away.

There was a stir at the other end of the room, now; the assemblage
fell apart, and Tom Canty, quaintly but richly clothed, marched
down, between these living walls, preceded by an usher.  He knelt
before the King, who said--

"I have learned the story of these past few weeks, and am well
pleased with thee.  Thou hast governed the realm with right royal
gentleness and mercy.  Thou hast found thy mother and thy sisters
again?  Good; they shall be cared for--and thy father shall hang,
if thou desire it and the law consent.  Know, all ye that hear my
voice, that from this day, they that abide in the shelter of
Christ's Hospital and share the King's bounty shall have their
minds and hearts fed, as well as their baser parts; and this boy
shall dwell there, and hold the chief place in its honourable body
of governors, during life.  And for that he hath been a king, it
is meet that other than common observance shall be his due;
wherefore note this his dress of state, for by it he shall be
known, and none shall copy it; and wheresoever he shall come, it
shall remind the people that he hath been royal, in his time, and
none shall deny him his due of reverence or fail to give him
salutation.  He hath the throne's protection, he hath the crown's
support, he shall be known and called by the honourable title of
the King's Ward."

The proud and happy Tom Canty rose and kissed the King's hand, and
was conducted from the presence.  He did not waste any time, but
flew to his mother, to tell her and Nan and Bet all about it and
get them to help him enjoy the great news. {1}


Mark Twain