The Prince and the Pauper - Mark twain - ebook

Tom Canty, a hopeful young pauper with an alcoholic and abusive father, has a chance encounter with the young Prince of Wales, Edward VI, outside of the palace. Discovering an uncanny resemblance to each other, the two boys switch clothes and lives—the prince heading for the streets of London while Tom remains at court. As each boy experiences life on the other end of the social scale, both learn valuable lessons about the roles they play in society and their corresponding responsibilities.Mark twain's first attempt at historical fiction, The Prince and the Pauper has been adapted many times in multiple mediums since it was first published in 1881. The story has also become an archetypal inspiration for many similar "trading places" stories in which characters from different walks of life are moved by circumstances to experience others’ lives first hand.

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Mark Twain

The Prince and the Pauper

First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri

Chapter I. The birth of the Prince and the Pauper.

In the ancient city of London, on a certain autumn day in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a boy was born to a poor family of the name of Canty, who did not want him. On the same day another English child was born to a rich family of the name of Tudor, who did want him. All England wanted him too. England had so longed for him, and hoped for him, and prayed God for him, that, now that he was really come, the people went nearly mad for joy. Mere acquaintances hugged and kissed each other and cried. Everybody took a holiday, and high and low, rich and poor, feasted and danced and sang, and got very mellow; and they kept this up for days and nights together. By day, London was a sight to see, with gay banners waving from every balcony and housetop, and splendid pageants marching along. By night, it was again a sight to see, with its great bonfires at every corner, and its troops of revellers making merry around them. There was no talk in all England but of the new baby, Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales, who lay lapped in silks and satins, unconscious of all this fuss, and not knowing that great lords and ladies were tending him and watching over him—and not caring, either. But there was no talk about the other baby, Tom Canty, lapped in his poor rags, except among the family of paupers whom he had just come to trouble with his presence.

Chapter II. Tom’s early life.

Let us skip a number of years.

London was fifteen hundred years old, and was a greattown—for that day. It had a hundred thousandinhabitants—some think double as many. The streets werevery narrow, and crooked, and dirty, especially in the part whereTom Canty lived, which was not far from London Bridge. Thehouses were of wood, with the second story projecting over thefirst, and the third sticking its elbows out beyond the second. The higher the houses grew, the broader they grew. Theywere skeletons of strong criss-cross beams, with solid materialbetween, coated with plaster. The beams were painted red orblue or black, according to the owner’s taste, and this gavethe houses a very picturesque look. The windows were small,glazed with little diamond-shaped panes, and they opened outward,on hinges, like doors.

The house which Tom’s father lived in was up a foul littlepocket called Offal Court, out of Pudding Lane. It was small,decayed, and rickety, but it was packed full of wretchedly poorfamilies. Canty’s tribe occupied a room on the third floor. The mother and father had a sort of bedstead in the corner;but Tom, his grandmother, and his two sisters, Bet and Nan, werenot restricted—they had all the floor to themselves, andmight sleep where they chose. There were the remains of ablanket or two, and some bundles of ancient and dirty straw, butthese could not rightly be called beds, for they were notorganised; they were kicked into a general pile, mornings, andselections made from the mass at night, for service.

Bet and Nan were fifteen years old—twins. They weregood-hearted girls, unclean, clothed in rags, and profoundlyignorant. Their mother was like them. But the fatherand the grandmother were a couple of fiends. They got drunkwhenever they could; then they fought each other or anybody elsewho came in the way; they cursed and swore always, drunk or sober;John Canty was a thief, and his mother a beggar. They madebeggars of the children, but failed to make thieves of them. Among, but not of, the dreadful rabble that inhabited thehouse, was a good old priest whom the King had turned out of houseand home with a pension of a few farthings, and he used to get thechildren aside and teach them right ways secretly. Father Andrewalso taught Tom a little Latin, and how to read and write; andwould have done the same with the girls, but they were afraid ofthe jeers of their friends, who could not have endured such a queeraccomplishment in them.

All Offal Court was just such another hive as Canty’shouse. Drunkenness, riot and brawling were the order, there, everynight and nearly all night long. Broken heads were as commonas hunger in that place. Yet little Tom was not unhappy. He had a hard time of it, but did not know it. It wasthe sort of time that all the Offal Court boys had, therefore hesupposed it was the correct and comfortable thing. When hecame home empty-handed at night, he knew his father would curse himand thrash him first, and that when he was done the awfulgrandmother would do it all over again and improve on it; and thataway in the night his starving mother would slip to him stealthilywith any miserable scrap or crust she had been able to save for himby going hungry herself, notwithstanding she was often caught inthat sort of treason and soundly beaten for it by her husband.

No, Tom’s life went along well enough, especially insummer. He only begged just enough to save himself, for thelaws against mendicancy were stringent, and the penalties heavy; sohe put in a good deal of his time listening to good FatherAndrew’s charming old tales and legends about giants andfairies, dwarfs and genii, and enchanted castles, and gorgeouskings and princes. His head grew to be full of thesewonderful things, and many a night as he lay in the dark on hisscant and offensive straw, tired, hungry, and smarting from athrashing, he unleashed his imagination and soon forgot his achesand pains in delicious picturings to himself of the charmed life ofa petted prince in a regal palace. One desire came in time tohaunt him day and night: it was to see a real prince, withhis own eyes. Hespoke of it once to some of his Offal Courtcomrades; but they jeered him and scoffed him so unmercifully thathe was glad to keep his dream to himself after that.

He often read the priest’s old books and got him toexplain and enlarge upon them. His dreamings and readingsworked certain changes in him, by- and-by. His dream-peoplewere so fine that he grew to lament his shabby clothing and hisdirt, and to wish to be clean and better clad. He went onplaying in the mud just the same, and enjoying it, too; but,instead of splashing around in the Thames solely for the fun of it,he began to find an added value in it because of the washings andcleansings it afforded.

Tom could always find something going on around the Maypole inCheapside, and at the fairs; and now and then he and the rest ofLondon had a chance to see a military parade when some famousunfortunate was carried prisoner to the Tower, by land or boat. Onesummer’s day he saw poor Anne Askew and three men burned atthe stake in Smithfield, and heard an ex-Bishop preach a sermon tothem which did not interest him. Yes, Tom’s life wasvaried and pleasant enough, on the whole.

By-and-by Tom’s reading and dreaming about princely lifewrought such a strong effect upon him that he began toacttheprince, unconsciously. His speech and manners became curiouslyceremonious and courtly, to the vast admiration and amusement ofhis intimates. But Tom’s influence among these youngpeople began to grow now, day by day; and in time he came to belooked up to, by them, with a sort of wondering awe, as a superiorbeing. He seemed to know so much! and he could do and saysuch marvellous things! and withal, he was so deep and wise! Tom’s remarks, and Tom’s performances, werereported by the boys to their elders; and these, also, presentlybegan to discuss Tom Canty, and to regard him as a most gifted andextraordinary creature. Full-grown people brought theirperplexities to Tom for solution, and were often astonished at thewit and wisdom of his decisions. In fact he was become a heroto all who knew him except his own family—these, only, sawnothing in him.

Privately, after a while, Tom organised a royal court! Hewas the prince; his special comrades were guards, chamberlains,equerries, lords and ladies in waiting, and the royal family. Daily the mock prince was received with elaborate ceremonialsborrowed by Tom from his romantic readings; daily the great affairsof the mimic kingdom were discussed in the royal council, and dailyhis mimic highness issued decrees to his imaginary armies, navies,and viceroyalties.

After which, he would go forth in his rags and beg a fewfarthings, eat his poor crust, take his customary cuffs and abuse,and then stretch himself upon his handful of foul straw, and resumehis empty grandeurs in his dreams.

And still his desire to look just once upon a real prince, inthe flesh, grew upon him, day by day, and week by week, until atlast it absorbed all other desires, and became the one passion ofhis life.

One January day, on his usual begging tour, he trampeddespondently up and down the region round about Mincing Lane andLittle East Cheap, hour after hour, bare-footed and cold, lookingin at cook-shop windows and longing for the dreadful pork-pies andother deadly inventions displayed there—for to him these weredainties fit for the angels; that is, judging by the smell, theywere—for it had never been his good luck to own and eat one.There was a cold drizzle of rain; the atmosphere was murky; it wasa melancholy day. At night Tom reached home so wet and tiredand hungry that it was not possible for his father and grandmotherto observe his forlorn condition and not be moved—after theirfashion; wherefore they gave him a brisk cuffing at once and senthim to bed. For a long time his pain and hunger, and theswearing and fighting going on in the building, kept him awake; butat last his thoughts drifted away to far, romantic lands, and hefell asleep in the company of jewelled and gilded princelings wholive in vast palaces, and had servants salaaming before them orflying to execute their orders. And then, as usual, hedreamed thathewas a princeling himself.

All night long the glories of his royal estate shone upon him;he moved among great lords and ladies, in a blaze of light,breathing perfumes, drinking in delicious music, and answering thereverent obeisances of the glittering throng as it parted to makeway for him, with here a smile, and there a nod of his princelyhead.

And when he awoke in the morning and looked upon thewretchedness about him, his dream had had its usual effect—ithad intensified the sordidness of his surroundings a thousandfold. Then came bitterness, and heart-break, and tears.

Chapter III. Tom’s meeting with the Prince.

Tom got up hungry, and sauntered hungry away, but with histhoughts busy with the shadowy splendours of his night’sdreams. He wandered here and there in the city, hardly noticingwhere he was going, or what was happening around him. Peoplejostled him, and some gave him rough speech; but it was all lost onthe musing boy. By-and-by he found himself at Temple Bar, thefarthest from home he had ever travelled in that direction. He stopped and considered a moment, then fell into hisimaginings again, and passed onoutside the walls of London. The Strand had ceased to be a country-road then, and regardeditself as a street, but by a strained construction; for, thoughthere was a tolerably compact row of houses on one side of it,there were only some scattered great buildings on the other, thesebeing palaces of rich nobles, with ample and beautiful groundsstretching to the river—grounds that are now closely packedwith grim acres of brick and stone.

Tom discovered Charing Village presently, and rested himself atthe beautiful cross built there by a bereaved king of earlier days;then idled down a quiet, lovely road, past the greatcardinal’s stately palace, toward a far more mighty andmajestic palace beyond—Westminster. Tom stared in glad wonderat the vast pile of masonry, the wide-spreading wings, the frowningbastions and turrets, the huge stone gateway, with its gilded barsand its magnificent array of colossal granite lions, and other thesigns and symbols of English royalty. Was the desire of hissoul to be satisfied at last? Here, indeed, was aking’s palace. Might he not hope to see a princenow—a prince of flesh and blood, if Heaven were willing?

At each side of the gilded gate stood a living statue—thatis to say, an erect and stately and motionless man-at-arms, cladfrom head to heel in shining steel armour. At a respectfuldistance were many country folk, and people from the city, waitingfor any chance glimpse of royalty that might offer. Splendidcarriages, with splendid people in them and splendid servantsoutside, were arriving and departing by several other noblegateways that pierced the royal enclosure.

Poor little Tom, in his rags, approached, and was moving slowlyand timidly past the sentinels, with a beating heart and a risinghope, when all at once he caught sight through the golden bars of aspectacle that almost made him shout for joy. Within was acomely boy, tanned and brown with sturdy outdoor sports andexercises, whose clothing was all of lovely silks and satins,shining with jewels; at his hip a little jewelled sword and dagger;dainty buskins on his feet, with red heels; and on his head ajaunty crimson cap, with drooping plumes fastened with a greatsparkling gem. Several gorgeous gentlemen stoodnear—his servants, without a doubt. Oh! he was aprince—a prince, a living prince, a real prince—withoutthe shadow of a question; and the prayer of the pauper-boy’sheart was answered at last.

Tom’s breath came quick and short with excitement, and hiseyes grew big with wonder and delight. Everything gave way inhis mind instantly to one desire: that was to get close tothe prince, and have a good, devouring look at him. Before heknew what he was about, he had his face against the gate-bars. The next instant one of the soldiers snatched him rudelyaway, and sent him spinning among the gaping crowd of country gawksand London idlers. The soldier said,—

“Mind thy manners, thou young beggar!”

The crowd jeered and laughed; but the young prince sprang to thegate with his face flushed, and his eyes flashing with indignation,and cried out,—

“How dar’st thou use a poor lad like that? Howdar’st thou use the King my father’s meanest subjectso? Open the gates, and let him in!”

You should have seen that fickle crowd snatch off their hatsthen. You should have heard them cheer, and shout, “Long livethe Prince of Wales!”

The soldiers presented arms with their halberds, opened thegates, and presented again as the little Prince of Poverty passedin, in his fluttering rags, to join hands with the Prince ofLimitless Plenty.

Edward Tudor said—

“Thou lookest tired and hungry: thou’st beentreated ill. Come with me.”

Half a dozen attendants sprang forward to—I don’tknow what; interfere, no doubt. But they were waved asidewith a right royal gesture, and they stopped stock still where theywere, like so many statues. Edward took Tom to a richapartment in the palace, which he called his cabinet. By hiscommand a repast was brought such as Tom had never encounteredbefore except in books. The prince, with princely delicacyand breeding, sent away the servants, so that his humble guestmight not be embarrassed by their critical presence; then he satnear by, and asked questions while Tom ate.

“What is thy name, lad?”

“Tom Canty, an’ it please thee, sir.”

“‘Tis an odd one. Where dost live?”

“In the city, please thee, sir. Offal Court, out ofPudding Lane.”

“Offal Court! Truly ‘tis another odd one. Hast parents?”

“Parents have I, sir, and a grand-dam likewise that is butindifferently precious to me, God forgive me if it be offence tosay it—also twin sisters, Nan and Bet.”

“Then is thy grand-dam not over kind to thee, I takeit?”

“Neither to any other is she, so please your worship. She hath a wicked heart, and worketh evil all herdays.”

“Doth she mistreat thee?”

“There be times that she stayeth her hand, being asleep orovercome with drink; but when she hath her judgment clear again,she maketh it up to me with goodly beatings.”

A fierce look came into the little prince’s eyes, and hecried out—

“What! Beatings?”

“Oh, indeed, yes, please you, sir.”

“Beatings!—and thou so frail and little. Harkye: before the night come, she shall hie her to the Tower. The King my father”—

“In sooth, you forget, sir, her low degree. TheTower is for the great alone.”

“True, indeed. I had not thought of that. Iwill consider of her punishment. Is thy father kind tothee?”

“Not more than Gammer Canty, sir.”

“Fathers be alike, mayhap. Mine hath not adoll’s temper. He smiteth with a heavy hand, yetspareth me: he spareth me not always with his tongue, though,sooth to say. How doth thy mother use thee?”

“She is good, sir, and giveth me neither sorrow nor painof any sort. And Nan and Bet are like to her in this.”

“How old be these?”

“Fifteen, an’ it please you, sir.”

“The Lady Elizabeth, my sister, is fourteen, and the LadyJane Grey, my cousin, is of mine own age, and comely and graciouswithal; but my sister the Lady Mary, with her gloomy mienand—Look you: do thy sisters forbid their servants tosmile, lest the sin destroy their souls?”

“They? Oh, dost think, sir, thattheyhaveservants?”

The little prince contemplated the little pauper gravely amoment, then said—

“And prithee, why not? Who helpeth them undress atnight? Who attireth them when they rise?”

“None, sir. Would’st have them take off theirgarment, and sleep without—like the beasts?”

“Their garment! Have they but one?”

“Ah, good your worship, what would they do with more? Truly they have not two bodies each.”

“It is a quaint and marvellous thought! Thy pardon,I had not meant to laugh. But thy good Nan and thy Bet shallhave raiment and lackeys enow, and that soon, too: mycofferer shall look to it. No, thank me not; ‘tisnothing. Thou speakest well; thou hast an easy grace in it. Art learned?”

“I know not if I am or not, sir. The good priestthat is called Father Andrew taught me, of his kindness, from hisbooks.”

“Know’st thou the Latin?”

“But scantly, sir, I doubt.”

“Learn it, lad: ’tis hard only at first. The Greek is harder; but neither these nor any tongues else,I think, are hard to the Lady Elizabeth and my cousin. Thoushould’st hear those damsels at it! But tell me of thyOffal Court. Hast thou a pleasant life there?”

“In truth, yes, so please you, sir, save when one ishungry. There be Punch-and-Judy shows, and monkeys—oh suchantic creatures! and so bravely dressed!—and there be playswherein they that play do shout and fight till all are slain, and‘tis so fine to see, and costeth but a farthing—albeit‘tis main hard to get the farthing, please yourworship.”

“Tell me more.”

“We lads of Offal Court do strive against each other withthe cudgel, like to the fashion of the ‘prentices,sometimes.”

The prince’s eyes flashed. Said he—

“Marry, that would not I mislike. Tell memore.”

“We strive in races, sir, to see who of us shall befleetest.”

“That would I like also. Speak on.”

“In summer, sir, we wade and swim in the canals and in theriver, and each doth duck his neighbour, and splatter him withwater, and dive and shout and tumble and—”

“‘Twould be worth my father’s kingdom but toenjoy it once! Prithee go on.”

“We dance and sing about the Maypole in Cheapside; we playin the sand, each covering his neighbour up; and times we make mudpastry—oh the lovely mud, it hath not its like fordelightfulness in all the world!—we do fairly wallow in themud, sir, saving your worship’s presence.”

“Oh, prithee, say no more, ‘tis glorious! Ifthat I could but clothe me in raiment like to thine, and strip myfeet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke meor forbid, meseemeth I could forego the crown!”

“And if that I could clothe me once, sweet sir, as thouart clad—just once—”

“Oho, would’st like it? Then so shall it be. Doff thy rags, and don these splendours, lad! It is abrief happiness, but will be not less keen for that. We willhave it while we may, and change again before any come tomolest.”

A few minutes later the little Prince of Wales was garlandedwith Tom’s fluttering odds and ends, and the little Prince ofPauperdom was tricked out in the gaudy plumage of royalty. The two went and stood side by side before a great mirror,and lo, a miracle: there did not seem to have been any change made! They stared at each other, then at the glass, then at eachother again. At last the puzzled princeling said—

“What dost thou make of this?”

“Ah, good your worship, require me not to answer. Itis not meet that one of my degree should utter thething.”

“Then willIutter it. Thou hast the same hair, thesame eyes, the same voice and manner, the same form and stature,the same face and countenance that I bear. Fared we forthnaked, there is none could say which was you, and which the Princeof Wales. And, now that I am clothed as thou wert clothed, itseemeth I should be able the more nearly to feel as thou didst whenthe brute soldier—Hark ye, is not this a bruise upon yourhand?”

“Yes; but it is a slight thing, and your worship knoweththat the poor man-at-arms—”

“Peace! It was a shameful thing and a cruel!”cried the little prince, stamping his bare foot. "If theKing—Stir not a step till I come again! It is acommand!”

In a moment he had snatched up and put away an article ofnational importance that lay upon a table, and was out at the doorand flying through the palace grounds in his bannered rags, with ahot face and glowing eyes. As soon as he reached the greatgate, he seized the bars, and tried to shake them,shouting—

“Open! Unbar the gates!”

The soldier that had maltreated Tom obeyed promptly; and as theprince burst through the portal, half-smothered with royal wrath,the soldier fetched him a sounding box on the ear that sent himwhirling to the roadway, and said—

“Take that, thou beggar’s spawn, for what thougot’st me from his Highness!”

The crowd roared with laughter. The prince picked himselfout of the mud, and made fiercely at the sentry,shouting—

“I am the Prince of Wales, my person is sacred; and thoushalt hang for laying thy hand upon me!”

The soldier brought his halberd to a present-arms and saidmockingly—

“I salute your gracious Highness.” Thenangrily—“Be off, thou crazy rubbish!”

Here the jeering crowd closed round the poor little prince, andhustled him far down the road, hooting him, and shouting—

“Way for his Royal Highness! Way for the Prince ofWales!”

Chapter IV. The Prince’s troubles begin.

After hours of persistent pursuit and persecution, the littleprince was at last deserted by the rabble and left to himself. As long as he had been able to rage against the mob, andthreaten it royally, and royally utter commands that were goodstuff to laugh at, he was very entertaining; but when wearinessfinally forced him to be silent, he was no longer of use to histormentors, and they sought amusement elsewhere. He looked abouthim, now, but could not recognise the locality. He was withinthe city of London—that was all he knew. He moved on,aimlessly, and in a little while the houses thinned, and thepassers-by were infrequent. He bathed his bleeding feet inthe brook which flowed then where Farringdon Street now is; resteda few moments, then passed on, and presently came upon a greatspace with only a few scattered houses in it, and a prodigiouschurch. He recognised this church. Scaffoldings wereabout, everywhere, and swarms of workmen; for it was undergoingelaborate repairs. The prince took heart at once—hefelt that his troubles were at an end, now. He said tohimself, “It is the ancient Grey Friars’ Church, whichthe king my father hath taken from the monks and given for a homefor ever for poor and forsaken children, and new-named itChrist’s Church. Right gladly will they serve the sonof him who hath done so generously by them—and the more thatthat son is himself as poor and as forlorn as any that be shelteredhere this day, or ever shall be.”

He was soon in the midst of a crowd of boys who were running,jumping, playing at ball and leap-frog, and otherwise disportingthemselves, and right noisily, too. They were all dressedalike, and in the fashion which in that day prevailed amongserving-men and ‘prentices{1}—that is to say, each hadon the crown of his head a flat black cap about thesize of asaucer, which was not useful as a covering, it being of such scantydimensions, neither was it ornamental; from beneath it the hairfell, unparted, to the middle of the forehead, and was croppedstraight around; a clerical band at the neck; a blue gown thatfitted closely and hung as low as the knees or lower; full sleeves;a broad red belt; bright yellow stockings, gartered above theknees; low shoes with large metal buckles. It was a sufficientlyugly costume.

The boys stopped their play and flocked about the prince, whosaid with native dignity—

“Good lads, say to your master that Edward Prince of Walesdesireth speech with him.”

A great shout went up at this, and one rude fellowsaid—

“Marry, art thou his grace’s messenger,beggar?”

The prince’s face flushed with anger, and his ready handflew to his hip, but there was nothing there. There was astorm of laughter, and one boy said—

“Didst mark that? He fancied he had asword—belike he is the prince himself.”

This sally brought more laughter. Poor Edward drew himselfup proudly and said—

“I am the prince; and it ill beseemeth you that feed uponthe king my father’s bounty to use me so.”

This was vastly enjoyed, as the laughter testified. Theyouth who had first spoken, shouted to his comrades—

“Ho, swine, slaves, pensioners of his grace’sprincely father, where be your manners? Down on your marrowbones, all of ye, and do reverence to his kingly port and royalrags!”

With boisterous mirth they dropped upon their knees in a bodyand did mock homage to their prey. The prince spurned thenearest boy with his foot, and said fiercely—

“Take thou that, till the morrow come and I build thee agibbet!”

Ah, but this was not a joke—this was going beyond fun. The laughter ceased on the instant, and fury took its place. A dozen shouted—

“Hale him forth! To the horse-pond, to thehorse-pond! Where be the dogs? Ho, there, Lion! ho,Fangs!”

Then followed such a thing as England had never seenbefore—the sacred person of the heir to the throne rudelybuffeted by plebeian hands, and set upon and torn by dogs.

As night drew to a close that day, the prince found himself fardown in the close-built portion of the city. His body wasbruised, his hands were bleeding, and his rags were all besmirchedwith mud. He wandered on and on, and grew more and morebewildered, and so tired and faint he could hardly drag one footafter the other. He had ceased to ask questions of anyone,since they brought him only insult instead of information. Hekept muttering to himself, “Offal Court—that is thename; if I can but find it before my strength is wholly spent and Idrop, then am I saved—for his people will take me to thepalace and prove that I am none of theirs, but the true prince, andI shall have mine own again.” Andnow and then his mindreverted to his treatment by those rude Christ’s Hospitalboys, and he said, “When I am king, they shall not have breadand shelter only, but also teachings out of books; for a full bellyis little worth where the mind is starved, and the heart. Iwill keep this diligently in my remembrance, that this day’slesson be not lost upon me, and my people suffer thereby; forlearning softeneth the heart and breedeth gentleness andcharity.” {1}

The lights began to twinkle, it came on to rain, the wind rose,and a raw and gusty night set in. The houseless prince, thehomeless heir to the throne of England, still moved on, driftingdeeper into the maze of squalid alleys where the swarming hives ofpoverty and misery were massed together.

Suddenly a great drunken ruffian collared him andsaid—

“Out to this time of night again, and hast not brought afarthing home, I warrant me! If it be so, an’ I do notbreak all the bones in thy lean body, then am I not John Canty, butsome other.”

The prince twisted himself loose, unconsciously brushed hisprofaned shoulder, and eagerly said—

“Oh, arthisfather, truly? Sweet heaven grant it beso—then wilt thou fetch him away and restore me!”

“Hisfather? I know not what thou mean’st; Ibut know I amthyfather, as thou shalt soon have causeto—”

“Oh, jest not, palter not, delay not!—I am worn, Iam wounded, I can bear no more. Take me to the king myfather, and he will make thee rich beyond thy wildest dreams. Believe me, man, believe me!—I speak no lie, but onlythe truth!—put forth thy hand and save me! I am indeedthe Prince of Wales!”

The man stared down, stupefied, upon the lad, then shook hishead and muttered—

“Gone stark mad as any Tom o’Bedlam!”—then collared him once more, and said with acoarse laugh and an oath, “But mad or no mad, I and thyGammer Canty will soon find where the soft places in thy bones lie,or I’m no true man!”

With this he dragged the frantic and struggling prince away, anddisappeared up a front court followed by a delighted and noisyswarm of human vermin.

Chapter V. Tom as a Patrician.

Tom Canty, left alone in the prince’s cabinet, made gooduse of his opportunity. He turned himself this way and thatbefore the great mirror, admiring his finery; then walked away,imitating the prince’s high-bred carriage, and stillobserving results in the glass. Next he drew the beautifulsword, and bowed, kissing the blade, and laying it across hisbreast, as he had seen a noble knight do, by way of salute to thelieutenant of the Tower, five or six weeks before, when deliveringthe great lords of Norfolk and Surrey into his hands for captivity. Tom played with the jewelled dagger that hung upon his thigh;he examined the costly and exquisite ornaments of the room; hetried each of the sumptuous chairs, and thought how proud he wouldbe if the Offal Court herd could only peep in and see him in hisgrandeur. He wondered if they would believe the marvelloustale he should tell when he got home, or if they would shake theirheads, and say his overtaxed imagination had at last upset hisreason.

At the end of half an hour it suddenly occurred to him that theprince was gone a long time; then right away he began to feellonely; very soon he fell to listening and longing, and ceased totoy with the pretty things about him; he grew uneasy, thenrestless, then distressed. Suppose some one should come, and catchhim in the prince’s clothes, and the prince not there toexplain. Might they not hang him at once, and inquire intohis case afterward? He had heard that the great were promptabout small matters. His fear rose higher and higher; andtrembling he softly opened the door to the antechamber, resolved tofly and seek the prince, and, through him, protection and release. Six gorgeous gentlemen-servants and two young pages of highdegree, clothed like butterflies, sprang to their feet and bowedlow before him. He stepped quickly back and shut the door. He said—

“Oh, they mock at me! They will go and tell. Oh! why came I here to cast away my life?”

He walked up and down the floor, filled with nameless fears,listening, starting at every trifling sound. Presently thedoor swung open, and a silken page said—

“The Lady Jane Grey.”

The door closed and a sweet young girl, richly clad, boundedtoward him. But she stopped suddenly, and said in a distressedvoice—

“Oh, what aileth thee, my lord?”

Tom’s breath was nearly failing him; but he made shift tostammer out—

“Ah, be merciful, thou! In sooth I am no lord, butonly poor Tom Canty of Offal Court in the city. Prithee letme see the prince, and he will of his grace restore to me my rags,and let me hence unhurt. Oh, be thou merciful, and saveme!”

By this time the boy was on his knees, and supplicating with hiseyes and uplifted hands as well as with his tongue. The younggirl seemed horror-stricken. She cried out—

“O my lord, on thy knees?—and tome!”

Then she fled away in fright; and Tom, smitten with despair,sank down, murmuring—

“There is no help, there is no hope. Now will theycome and take me.”

Whilst he lay there benumbed with terror, dreadful tidings werespeeding through the palace. The whisper—for it waswhispered always—flew from menial to menial, from lord tolady, down all the long corridors, from story to story, from saloonto saloon, “The prince hath gone mad, the prince hath gonemad!” Soon every saloon, every marble hall, had itsgroups of glittering lords and ladies, and other groups of dazzlinglesser folk, talking earnestly together in whispers, and every facehad in it dismay. Presently a splendid official came marching bythese groups, making solemn proclamation—


Let none list to this false and foolish matter, upon pain ofdeath, nor discuss the same, nor carry it abroad. In the nameof the King!”

The whisperings ceased as suddenly as if the whisperers had beenstricken dumb.

Soon there was a general buzz along the corridors, of “Theprince! See, the prince comes!”

Poor Tom came slowly walking past the low-bowing groups, tryingto bow in return, and meekly gazing upon his strange surroundingswith bewildered and pathetic eyes. Great nobles walked uponeach side of him, making him lean upon them, and so steady hissteps. Behind him followed the court-physicians and someservants.

Presently Tom found himself in a noble apartment of the palaceand heard the door close behind him. Around him stood thosewho had come with him. Before him, at a little distance, reclined avery large and very fat man, with a wide, pulpy face, and a sternexpression. His large head was very grey; and his whiskers,which he wore only around his face, like a frame, were grey also. His clothing was of rich stuff, but old, and slightly frayedin places. One of his swollen legs had a pillow under it, andwas wrapped in bandages. There was silence now; and there wasno head there but was bent in reverence, except this man’s. This stern-countenanced invalid was the dread Henry VIII. He said—and his face grew gentle as he began tospeak—

“How now, my lord Edward, my prince? Hast beenminded to cozen me, the good King thy father, who loveth thee, andkindly useth thee, with a sorry jest?”

Poor Tom was listening, as well as his dazed faculties would lethim, to the beginning of this speech; but when the words ‘me,the good King’ fell upon his ear, his face blanched, and hedropped as instantly upon his knees as if a shot had brought himthere. Lifting up his hands, he exclaimed—

“Thou theKing? Then am I undone indeed!”

This speech seemed to stun the King. His eyes wanderedfrom face to face aimlessly, then rested, bewildered, upon the boybefore him. Then he said in a tone of deepdisappointment—

“Alack, I had believed the rumour disproportioned to thetruth; but I fear me ‘tis not so.” He breathed aheavy sigh, and said in a gentle voice, “Come to thy father,child: thou art not well.”

Tom was assisted to his feet, and approached the Majesty ofEngland, humble and trembling. The King took the frightenedface between his hands, and gazed earnestly and lovingly into itawhile, as if seeking some grateful sign of returning reason there,then pressed the curly head against his breast, and patted ittenderly. Presently he said—

“Dost not know thy father, child? Break not mine oldheart; say thou know’st me. Thoudostknow me, dost thounot?”

“Yea: thou art my dread lord the King, whom Godpreserve!”

“True, true—that is well—be comforted, tremblenot so; there is none here would hurt thee; there is none here butloves thee. Thou art better now; thy ill dreampasseth—is’t not so? Thou wilt not miscallthyself again, as they say thou didst a little whileagone?”

“I pray thee of thy grace believe me, I did but speak thetruth, most dread lord; for I am the meanest among thy subjects,being a pauper born, and ‘tis by a sore mischance andaccident I am here, albeit I was therein nothing blameful. Iam but young to die, and thou canst save me with one little word. Oh speak it, sir!”