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The Prince and the Pauper

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VI. Tom Receives Instructions

Tom was conducted to the principal apartment of a noble suite, and made to sit down⁠—a thing which he was loth to do, since there were elderly men and men of high degree about him. He begged them to be seated also, but they only bowed their thanks or murmured them, and remained standing. He would have insisted, but his “uncle” the Earl of Hertford whispered in his ear⁠—

“Prithee, insist not, my lord; it is not meet that they sit in thy presence.”

The Lord St. John was announced, and after making obeisance to Tom, he said⁠—

“I come upon the king’s errand, concerning a matter which requireth privacy. Will it please your royal highness to dismiss all that attend you here, save my lord the Earl of Hertford?”

Observing that Tom did not seem to know how to proceed, Hertford whispered him to make a sign with his hand, and not trouble himself to speak unless he chose. When the waiting gentlemen had retired, Lord St. John said⁠—

“His majesty commandeth, that for due and weighty reasons of state, the prince’s grace shall hide his infirmity in all ways that be within his power, till it be passed and he be as he was before. To wit, that he shall deny to none that he is the true prince, and heir to England’s greatness; that he shall uphold his princely dignity, and shall receive, without word or sign of protest, that reverence and observance which unto it do appertain of right and ancient usage; that he shall cease to speak to any of that lowly birth and life his malady hath conjured out of the unwholesome imaginings of o’er-wrought fancy; that he shall strive with diligence to bring unto his memory again those faces which he was wont to know⁠—and where he faileth he shall hold his peace, neither betraying by semblance of surprise or other sign that he hath forgot; that upon occasions of state, whensoever any matter shall perplex him as to the thing he should do or the utterance he should make, he shall show nought of unrest to the curious that look on, but take advice in that matter of the Lord Hertford, or my humble self, which are commanded of the king to be upon this service and close at call, till this commandment be dissolved. Thus saith the king’s majesty, who sendeth greeting to your royal highness, and prayeth that God will of His mercy quickly heal you and have you now and ever in His holy keeping.”

The Lord St. John made reverence and stood aside. Tom replied resignedly⁠—

“The king hath said it. None may palter with the king’s command, or fit it to his ease, where it doth chafe, with deft evasions. The king shall be obeyed.”

Lord Hertford said⁠—

“Touching the king’s majesty’s ordainment concerning books and suchlike serious matters, it may peradventure please your highness to ease your time with lightsome entertainment, lest you go wearied to the banquet and suffer harm thereby.”

Tom’s face showed inquiring surprise; and a blush followed when he saw Lord St. John’s eyes bent sorrowfully upon him. His lordship said⁠—

“Thy memory still wrongeth thee, and thou hast shown surprise⁠—but suffer it not to trouble thee, for ’tis a matter that will not bide, but depart with thy mending malady. My Lord of Hertford speaketh of the city’s banquet which the king’s majesty did promise, some two months flown, your highness should attend. Thou recallest it now?”

“It grieves me to confess it had indeed escaped me,” said Tom, in a hesitating voice; and blushed again.

At this moment the Lady Elizabeth and the Lady Jane Grey were announced. The two lords exchanged significant glances, and Hertford stepped quickly toward the door. As the young girls passed him, he said in a low voice⁠—

“I pray ye, ladies, seem not to observe his humors, nor show surprise when his memory doth lapse⁠—it will grieve you to note how it doth stick at every trifle.”

Meantime Lord St. John was saying in Tom’s ear⁠—

“Please you, sir, keep diligently in mind his majesty’s desire. Remember all thou canst⁠—seem to remember all else. Let them not perceive that thou art much changed from thy wont, for thou knowest how tenderly thy old playfellows bear thee in their hearts and how ’twould grieve them. Art willing, sir, that I remain?⁠—and thine uncle?”

Tom signified assent with a gesture and a murmured word, for he was already learning, and in his simple heart was resolved to acquit himself as best he might, according to the king’s command.

In spite of every precaution, the conversation among the young people became a little embarrassing at times. More than once, in truth, Tom was near to breaking down and confessing himself unequal to his tremendous part; but the tact of the Princess Elizabeth saved him, or a word from one or the other of the vigilant lords, thrown in apparently by chance, had the same happy effect. Once the little Lady Jane turned to Tom and dismayed him with this question⁠—

“Hast paid thy duty to the Queen’s majesty today, my lord?”

Tom hesitated, looked distressed, and was about to stammer out something at hazard, when Lord St. John took the word and answered for him with the easy grace of a courtier accustomed to encounter delicate difficulties and to be ready for them⁠—

“He hath indeed, madam, and she did greatly hearten him, as touching his majesty’s condition; is it not so, your highness?”

Tom mumbled something that stood for assent, but felt that he was getting upon dangerous ground. Somewhat later it was mentioned that Tom was to study no more at present, whereupon her little ladyship exclaimed⁠—

“ ’Tis a pity, ’tis a pity! Thou wert proceeding bravely. But bide thy time in patience: it will not be for long. Thou’lt yet be graced with learning like thy father, and make thy tongue master of as many languages as his, good my prince.”

“My father!” cried Tom, off his guard for the moment. “I trow he cannot speak his own so that any but the swine that kennel in the styes may tell his meaning; and as for learning of any sort soever⁠—”

He looked up and encountered a solemn warning in my Lord St. John’s eyes.

He stopped, blushed, then continued low and sadly: “Ah, my malady persecuteth me again, and my mind wandereth. I meant the king’s grace no irreverence.”

“We know it, sir,” said the Princess Elizabeth, taking her “brother’s” hand between her two palms, respectfully but caressingly; “trouble not thyself as to that. The fault is none of thine, but thy distemper’s.”

“Thou’rt a gentle comforter, sweet lady,” said Tom, gratefully, “and my heart moveth me to thank thee for’t, an’ I may be so bold.”

Once the giddy little Lady Jane fired a simple Greek phrase at Tom. The Princess Elizabeth’s quick eye saw by the serene blankness of the target’s front that the shaft was overshot; so she tranquilly delivered a return volley of sounding Greek on Tom’s behalf, and then straightway changed the talk to other matters.

Time wore on pleasantly, and likewise smoothly, on the whole. Snags and sandbars grew less and less frequent, and Tom grew more and more at his ease, seeing that all were so lovingly bent upon helping him and overlooking his mistakes. When it came out that the little ladies were to accompany him to the Lord Mayor’s banquet in the evening, his heart gave a bound of relief and delight, for he felt that he should not be friendless, now, among that multitude of strangers; whereas, an hour earlier, the idea of their going with him would have been an insupportable terror to him.

Tom’s guardian angels, the two lords, had had less comfort in the interview than the other parties to it. They felt much as if they were piloting a great ship through a dangerous channel; they were on the alert constantly, and found their office no child’s play. Wherefore, at last, when the ladies’ visit was drawing to a close and the Lord Guilford Dudley was announced, they not only felt that their charge had been sufficiently taxed for the present, but also that they themselves were not in the best condition to take their ship back and make their anxious voyage all over again. So they respectfully advised Tom to excuse himself, which he was very glad to do, although a slight shade of disappointment might have been observed upon my Lady Jane’s face when she heard the splendid stripling denied admittance.

There was a pause now, a sort of waiting silence which Tom could not understand. He glanced at Lord Hertford, who gave him a sign⁠—but he failed to understand that also. The ready Elizabeth came to the rescue with her usual easy grace. She made reverence and said⁠—

“Have we leave of the prince’s grace my brother to go?”

Tom said⁠—

“Indeed your ladyships can have whatsoever of me they will, for the asking; yet would I rather give them any other thing that in my poor power lieth, than leave to take the light and blessing of their presence hence. Give ye good den, and God be with ye!” Then he smiled inwardly at the thought, “ ’Tis not for nought I have dwelt but among princes in my reading, and taught my tongue some slight trick of their broidered and gracious speech withal!”

When the illustrious maidens were gone, Tom turned wearily to his keepers and said⁠—

“May it please your lordships to grant me leave to go into some corner and rest me?”

Lord Hertford said⁠—

“So please your highness, it is for you to command, it is for us to obey. That thou should’st rest is indeed a needful thing, since thou must journey to the city presently.”

He touched a bell, and a page appeared, who was ordered to desire the presence of Sir William Herbert. This gentleman came straightway, and conducted Tom to an inner apartment. Tom’s first movement there was to reach for a cup of water; but a silk-and-velvet servitor seized it, dropped upon one knee, and offered it to him on a golden salver.

Next the tired captive sat down and was going to take off his buskins, timidly asking leave with his eye, but another silk-and-velvet discomforter went down upon his knees and took the office from him. He made two or three further efforts to help himself, but being promptly forestalled each time, he finally gave up, with a sigh of resignation and a murmured “Beshrew me, but I marvel they do not require to breathe for me also!” Slippered, and wrapped in a sumptuous robe, he laid himself down at last to rest, but not to sleep, for his head was too full of thoughts and the room too full of people. He could not dismiss the former, so they stayed; he did not know enough to dismiss the latter, so they stayed also, to his vast regret⁠—and theirs.

Tom’s departure had left his two noble guardians alone. They mused a while, with much head-shaking and walking the floor, then Lord St. John said⁠—

“Plainly, what dost thou think?”

“Plainly, then, this. The king is near his end; my nephew is mad⁠—mad will mount the throne, and mad remain. God protect England, since she will need it!”

“Verily it promiseth so, indeed. But⁠ ⁠… have you no misgivings as to⁠ ⁠… as to⁠ ⁠…”

The speaker hesitated, and finally stopped. He evidently felt that he was upon delicate ground. Lord Hertford stopped before him, looked into his face with a clear, frank eye, and said⁠—

“Speak on⁠—there is none to hear but me. Misgivings as to what?”

“I am full loth to word the thing that is in my mind, and thou so near to him in blood, my lord. But craving pardon if I do offend, seemeth it not strange that madness could so change his port and manner?⁠—not but that his port and speech are princely still, but that they differ, in one unweighty trifle or another, from what his custom was aforetime. Seemeth it not strange that madness should filch from his memory his father’s very lineaments; the customs and observances that are his due from such as be about him; and, leaving him his Latin, strip him of his Greek and French? My lord, be not offended, but ease my mind of its disquiet and receive my grateful thanks. It haunteth me, his saying he was not the prince, and so⁠—”

“Peace, my lord, thou utterest treason! Hast forgot the king’s command? Remember I am party to thy crime if I but listen.”

St. John paled, and hastened to say⁠—

“I was in fault, I do confess it. Betray me not, grant me this grace out of thy courtesy, and I will neither think nor speak of this thing more. Deal not hardly with me, sir, else am I ruined.”

“I am content, my lord. So thou offend not again, here or in the ears of others, it shall be as though thou hadst not spoken. But thou need’st not have misgivings. He is my sister’s son; are not his voice, his face, his form, familiar to me from his cradle? Madness can do all the odd conflicting things thou seest in him, and more. Dost not recall how that the old Baron Marley, being mad, forgot the favor of his own countenance that he had known for sixty years, and held it was another’s; nay, even claimed he was the son of Mary Magdalene, and that his head was made of Spanish glass; and, sooth to say, he suffered none to touch it, lest by mischance some heedless hand might shiver it? Give thy misgivings easement, good my lord. This is the very prince⁠—I know him well⁠—and soon will be thy king; it may advantage thee to bear this in mind, and more dwell upon it than the other.”

After some further talk, in which the Lord St. John covered up his mistake as well as he could by repeated protests that his faith was thoroughly grounded now, and could not be assailed by doubts again, the Lord Hertford relieved his fellow-keeper, and sat down to keep watch and ward alone. He was soon deep in meditation, and evidently the longer he thought, the more he was bothered. By and by he began to pace the floor and mutter.

“Tush, he must be the prince! Will any be in all the land maintain there can be two, not of one blood and birth, so marvellously twinned? And even were it so, ’twere yet a stranger miracle that chance should cast the one into the other’s place. Nay, ’tis folly, folly, folly!”

Presently he said⁠—

“Now were he impostor and called himself prince, look you that would be natural; that would be reasonable. But lived ever an impostor yet, who, being called prince by the king, prince by the court, prince by all, denied his dignity and pleaded against his exaltation? No! By the soul of St. Swithin, no! This is the true prince, gone mad!”

VII. Tom’s First Royal Dinner

Somewhat after one in the afternoon, Tom resignedly underwent the ordeal of being dressed for dinner. He found himself as finely clothed as before, but everything different, everything changed, from his ruff to his stockings. He was presently conducted with much state to a spacious and ornate apartment, where a table was already set for one. Its furniture was all of massy gold, and beautified with designs which well-nigh made it priceless, since they were the work of Benvenuto. The room was half-filled with noble servitors. A chaplain said grace, and Tom was about to fall to, for hunger had long been constitutional with him, but was interrupted by my lord the Earl of Berkeley, who fastened a napkin about his neck; for the great post of Diaperers to the Prince of Wales was hereditary in this nobleman’s family. Tom’s cupbearer was present, and forestalled all his attempts to help himself to wine. The Taster to his highness the Prince of Wales was there also, prepared to taste any suspicious dish upon requirement, and run the risk of being poisoned. He was only an ornamental appendage at this time, and was seldom called upon to exercise his function; but there had been times, not many generations past, when the office of taster had its perils, and was not a grandeur to be desired. Why they did not use a dog or a plumber seems strange; but all the ways of royalty are strange. My Lord d’Arcy, First Groom of the Chamber, was there, to do goodness knows what; but there he was⁠—let that suffice. The Lord Chief Butler was there, and stood behind Tom’s chair, overseeing the solemnities, under command of the Lord Great Steward and the Lord Head Cook, who stood near. Tom had three hundred and eighty-four servants beside these; but they were not all in that room, of course, nor the quarter of them; neither was Tom aware yet that they existed.

All those that were present had been well drilled within the hour to remember that the prince was temporarily out of his head, and to be careful to show no surprise at his vagaries. These “vagaries” were soon on exhibition before them; but they only moved their compassion and their sorrow, not their mirth. It was a heavy affliction to them to see the beloved prince so stricken.

Poor Tom ate with his fingers mainly; but no one smiled at it, or even seemed to observe it. He inspected his napkin curiously, and with deep interest, for it was of a very dainty and beautiful fabric, then said with simplicity⁠—

“Prithee, take it away, lest in mine unheedfulness it be soiled.”

The Hereditary Diaperer took it away with reverent manner, and without word or protest of any sort.

Tom examined the turnips and the lettuce with interest, and asked what they were, and if they were to be eaten; for it was only recently that men had begun to raise these things in England in place of importing them as luxuries from Holland. His question was answered with grave respect, and no surprise manifested. When he had finished his dessert, he filled his pockets with nuts; but nobody appeared to be aware of it, or disturbed by it. But the next moment he was himself disturbed by it, and showed discomposure; for this was the only service he had been permitted to do with his own hands during the meal, and he did not doubt that he had done a most improper and unprincely thing. At that moment the muscles of his nose began to twitch, and the end of that organ to lift and wrinkle. This continued, and Tom began to evince a growing distress. He looked appealingly, first at one and then another of the lords about him, and tears came into his eyes. They sprang forward with dismay in their faces, and begged to know his trouble. Tom said with genuine anguish⁠—

“I crave your indulgence: my nose itcheth cruelly. What is the custom and usage in this emergence? Prithee, speed, for ’tis but a little time that I can bear it.”

None smiled; but all were sore perplexed, and looked one to the other in deep tribulation for counsel. But behold, here was a dead wall, and nothing in English history to tell how to get over it. The Master of Ceremonies was not present: there was no one who felt safe to venture upon this uncharted sea, or risk the attempt to solve this solemn problem. Alas! there was no Hereditary Scratcher. Meantime the tears had overflowed their banks, and begun to trickle down Tom’s cheeks. His twitching nose was pleading more urgently than ever for relief. At last nature broke down the barriers of etiquette: Tom lifted up an inward prayer for pardon if he was doing wrong, and brought relief to the burdened hearts of his court by scratching his nose himself.

His meal being ended, a lord came and held before him a broad, shallow, golden dish with fragrant rosewater in it, to cleanse his mouth and fingers with; and my lord the Hereditary Diaperer stood by with a napkin for his use. Tom gazed at the dish a puzzled moment or two, then raised it to his lips, and gravely took a draught. Then he returned it to the waiting lord, and said⁠—

“Nay, it likes me not, my lord: it hath a pretty flavor, but it wanteth strength.”

This new eccentricity of the prince’s ruined mind made all the hearts about him ache; but the sad sight moved none to merriment.

Tom’s next unconscious blunder was to get up and leave the table just when the chaplain had taken his stand behind his chair, and with uplifted hands, and closed, uplifted eyes, was in the act of beginning the blessing. Still nobody seemed to perceive that the prince had done a thing unusual.

By his own request our small friend was now conducted to his private cabinet, and left there alone to his own devices. Hanging upon hooks in the oaken wainscoting were the several pieces of a suit of shining steel armor, covered all over with beautiful designs exquisitely inlaid in gold. This martial panoply belonged to the true prince⁠—a recent present from Madam Parr the Queen. Tom put on the greaves, the gauntlets, the plumed helmet, and such other pieces as he could don without assistance, and for a while was minded to call for help and complete the matter, but bethought him of the nuts he had brought away from dinner, and the joy it would be to eat them with no crowd to eye him, and no Grand Hereditaries to pester him with undesired services; so he restored the pretty things to their several places, and soon was cracking nuts, and feeling almost naturally happy for the first time since God for his sins had made him a prince. When the nuts were all gone, he stumbled upon some inviting books in a closet, among them one about the etiquette of the English court. This was a prize. He lay down upon a sumptuous divan, and proceeded to instruct himself with honest zeal. Let us leave him there for the present.

VIII. The Question of the Seal

About five o’clock Henry VIII awoke out of an unrefreshing nap, and muttered to himself, “Troublous dreams, troublous dreams! Mine end is now at hand: so say these warnings, and my failing pulses do confirm it.” Presently a wicked light flamed up in his eye, and he muttered, “Yet will not I die till he go before.”

His attendants perceiving that he was awake, one of them asked his pleasure concerning the Lord Chancellor, who was waiting without.

“Admit him, admit him!” exclaimed the king eagerly.

The Lord Chancellor entered, and knelt by the king’s couch, saying⁠—

“I have given order, and, according to the king’s command, the peers of the realm, in their robes, do now stand at the bar of the House, where, having confirmed the Duke of Norfolk’s doom, they humbly wait his majesty’s further pleasure in the matter.”

The king’s face lit up with a fierce joy. Said he⁠—

“Lift me up! In mine own person will I go before my Parliament, and with mine own hand will I seal the warrant that rids me of⁠—”

His voice failed; an ashen pallor swept the flush from his cheeks; and the attendants eased him back upon his pillows, and hurriedly assisted him with restoratives. Presently he said sorrowfully⁠—

“Alack, how have I longed for this sweet hour! and lo, too late it cometh, and I am robbed of this so coveted chance. But speed ye, speed ye! let others do this happy office sith ’tis denied to me. I put my Great Seal in commission: choose thou the lords that shall compose it, and get ye to your work. Speed ye, man! Before the sun shall rise and set again, bring me his head that I may see it.”

“According to the king’s command, so shall it be. Will’t please your majesty to order that the Seal be now restored to me, so that I may forth upon the business?”

“The Seal? Who keepeth the Seal but thou?”

“Please your majesty, you did take it from me two days since, saying it should no more do its office till your own royal hand should use it upon the Duke of Norfolk’s warrant.”

“Why, so in sooth I did: I do remember.⁠ ⁠… What did I with it?⁠ ⁠… I am very feeble.⁠ ⁠… So oft these days doth my memory play the traitor with me.⁠ ⁠… ’Tis strange, strange⁠—”

The king dropped into inarticulate mumblings, shaking his grey head weakly from time to time, and gropingly trying to recollect what he had done with the Seal. At last my Lord Hertford ventured to kneel and offer information⁠—

“Sire, if that I may be so bold, here be several that do remember with me how that you gave the Great Seal into the hands of his highness the Prince of Wales to keep against the day that⁠—”

“True, most true!” interrupted the king. “Fetch it! Go: time flieth!”

Lord Hertford flew to Tom, but returned to the king before very long, troubled and empty-handed. He delivered himself to this effect⁠—

“It grieveth me, my lord the king, to bear so heavy and unwelcome tidings; but it is the will of God that the prince’s affliction abideth still, and he cannot recall to mind that he received the Seal. So came I quickly to report, thinking it were waste of precious time, and little worth withal, that any should attempt to search the long array of chambers and saloons that belong unto his royal high⁠—”

A groan from the king interrupted the lord at this point. After a little while his majesty said, with a deep sadness in his tone⁠—

“Trouble him no more, poor child. The hand of God lieth heavy upon him, and my heart goeth out in loving compassion for him, and sorrow that I may not bear his burden on mine old trouble-weighted shoulders, and so bring him peace.”

He closed his eyes, fell to mumbling, and presently was silent. After a time he opened his eyes again, and gazed vacantly around until his glance rested upon the kneeling Lord Chancellor. Instantly his face flushed with wrath⁠—

“What, thou here yet! By the glory of God, an’ thou gettest not about that traitor’s business, thy mitre shall have holiday the morrow for lack of a head to grace withal!”

The trembling Chancellor answered⁠—

“Good your Majesty, I cry you mercy! I but waited for the Seal.”

“Man, hast lost thy wits? The small Seal which aforetime I was wont to take with me abroad lieth in my treasury. And, since the Great Seal hath flown away, shall not it suffice? Hast lost thy wits? Begone! And hark ye⁠—come no more till thou do bring his head.”

The poor Chancellor was not long in removing himself from this dangerous vicinity; nor did the commission waste time in giving the royal assent to the work of the slavish Parliament, and appointing the morrow for the beheading of the premier peer of England, the luckless Duke of Norfolk.

IX. The River Pageant

At nine in the evening the whole vast river-front of the palace was blazing with light. The river itself, as far as the eye could reach citywards, was so thickly covered with watermen’s boats and with pleasure-barges, all fringed with colored lanterns, and gently agitated by the waves, that it resembled a glowing and limitless garden of flowers stirred to soft motion by summer winds. The grand terrace of stone steps leading down to the water, spacious enough to mass the army of a German principality upon, was a picture to see, with its ranks of royal halberdiers in polished armor, and its troops of brilliantly costumed servitors flitting up and down, and to and fro, in the hurry of preparation.

Presently a command was given, and immediately all living creatures vanished from the steps. Now the air was heavy with the hush of suspense and expectancy. As far as one’s vision could carry, he might see the myriads of people in the boats rise up, and shade their eyes from the glare of lanterns and torches, and gaze toward the palace.

A file of forty or fifty state barges drew up to the steps. They were richly gilt, and their lofty prows and sterns were elaborately carved. Some of them were decorated with banners and streamers; some with cloth-of-gold and arras embroidered with coats-of-arms; others with silken flags that had numberless little silver bells fastened to them, which shook out tiny showers of joyous music whenever the breezes fluttered them; others of yet higher pretensions, since they belonged to nobles in the prince’s immediate service, had their sides picturesquely fenced with shields gorgeously emblazoned with armorial bearings. Each state barge was towed by a tender. Besides the rowers, these tenders carried each a number of men-at-arms in glossy helmet and breastplate, and a company of musicians.

The advance-guard of the expected procession now appeared in the great gateway, a troop of halberdiers. “They were dressed in striped hose of black and tawny, velvet caps graced at the sides with silver roses, and doublets of murrey and blue cloth, embroidered on the front and back with the three feathers, the prince’s blazon, woven in gold. Their halberd staves were covered with crimson velvet, fastened with gilt nails, and ornamented with gold tassels. Filing off on the right and left, they formed two long lines, extending from the gateway of the palace to the water’s edge. A thick rayed cloth or carpet was then unfolded, and laid down between them by attendants in the gold-and-crimson liveries of the prince. This done, a flourish of trumpets resounded from within. A lively prelude arose from the musicians on the water; and two ushers with white wands marched with a slow and stately pace from the portal. They were followed by an officer bearing the civic mace, after whom came another carrying the city’s sword; then several sergeants of the city guard, in their full accoutrements, and with badges on their sleeves; then the Garter king-at-arms, in his tabard; then several Knights of the Bath, each with a white lace on his sleeve; then their esquires; then the judges, in their robes of scarlet and coifs; then the Lord High Chancellor of England, in a robe of scarlet, open before, and purfled with minever; then a deputation of aldermen, in their scarlet cloaks; and then the heads of the different civic companies, in their robes of state. Now came twelve French gentlemen, in splendid habiliments, consisting of pourpoints of white damask barred with gold, short mantles of crimson velvet lined with violet taffeta, and carnation colored hauts-de-chausses, and took their way down the steps. They were of the suite of the French ambassador, and were followed by twelve cavaliers of the suite of the Spanish ambassador, clothed in black velvet, unrelieved by any ornament. Following these came several great English nobles with their attendants.”

There was a flourish of trumpets within; and the prince’s uncle, the future great Duke of Somerset, emerged from the gateway, arrayed in a “doublet of black cloth-of-gold, and a cloak of crimson satin flowered with gold, and ribanded with nets of silver.” He turned, doffed his plumed cap, bent his body in a low reverence, and began to step backward, bowing at each step. A prolonged trumpet-blast followed, and a proclamation, “Way for the high and mighty the Lord Edward, Prince of Wales!” High aloft on the palace walls a long line of red tongues of flame leapt forth with a thunder-crash; the massed world on the river burst into a mighty roar of welcome; and Tom Canty, the cause and hero of it all, stepped into view and slightly bowed his princely head.

He was “magnificently habited in a doublet of white satin, with a front-piece of purple cloth-of-tissue, powdered with diamonds, and edged with ermine. Over this he wore a mantle of white cloth-of-gold, pounced with the triple-feathered crest, lined with blue satin, set with pearls and precious stones, and fastened with a clasp of brilliants. About his neck hung the order of the Garter, and several princely foreign orders;” and wherever light fell upon him jewels responded with a blinding flash. O Tom Canty, born in a hovel, bred in the gutters of London, familiar with rags and dirt and misery, what a spectacle is this!

X. The Prince in the Toils

We left John Canty dragging the rightful prince into Offal Court, with a noisy and delighted mob at his heels. There was but one person in it who offered a pleading word for the captive, and he was not heeded; he was hardly even heard, so great was the turmoil. The prince continued to struggle for freedom, and to rage against the treatment he was suffering, until John Canty lost what little patience was left in him, and raised his oaken cudgel in a sudden fury over the prince’s head. The single pleader for the lad sprang to stop the man’s arm, and the blow descended upon his own wrist. Canty roared out⁠—

His cudgel crashed down upon the meddler’s head: there was a groan, a dim form sank to the ground among the feet of the crowd, and the next moment it lay there in the dark alone. The mob pressed on, their enjoyment nothing disturbed by this episode.

Presently the prince found himself in John Canty’s abode, with the door closed against the outsiders. By the vague light of a tallow candle which was thrust into a bottle, he made out the main features of the loathsome den, and also the occupants of it. Two frowsy girls and a middle-aged woman cowered against the wall in one corner, with the aspect of animals habituated to harsh usage, and expecting and dreading it now. From another corner stole a withered hag with streaming grey hair and malignant eyes. John Canty said to this one⁠—

“Tarry! There’s fine mummeries here. Mar them not till thou’st enjoyed them: then let thy hand be heavy as thou wilt. Stand forth, lad. Now say thy foolery again, an thou’st not forgot it. Name thy name. Who art thou?”

The insulted blood mounted to the little prince’s cheek once more, and he lifted a steady and indignant gaze to the man’s face and said⁠—

“ ’Tis but ill-breeding in such as thou to command me to speak. I tell thee now, as I told thee before, I am Edward, Prince of Wales, and none other.”

The stunning surprise of this reply nailed the hag’s feet to the floor where she stood, and almost took her breath. She stared at the prince in stupid amazement, which so amused her ruffianly son, that he burst into a roar of laughter. But the effect upon Tom Canty’s mother and sisters was different. Their dread of bodily injury gave way at once to distress of a different sort. They ran forward with woe and dismay in their faces, exclaiming⁠—

“Oh, poor Tom, poor lad!”

The mother fell on her knees before the prince, put her hands upon his shoulders, and gazed yearningly into his face through her rising tears. Then she said⁠—

“Oh, my poor boy! Thy foolish reading hath wrought its woeful work at last, and ta’en thy wit away. Ah! why did’st thou cleave to it when I so warned thee ’gainst it? Thou’st broke thy mother’s heart.”

The prince looked into her face, and said gently⁠—

“Thy son is well, and hath not lost his wits, good dame. Comfort thee: let me to the palace where he is, and straightway will the king my father restore him to thee.”

“The king thy father! Oh, my child! unsay these words that be freighted with death for thee, and ruin for all that be near to thee. Shake of this gruesome dream. Call back thy poor wandering memory. Look upon me. Am not I thy mother that bore thee, and loveth thee?”

The prince shook his head and reluctantly said⁠—

“God knoweth I am loth to grieve thy heart; but truly have I never looked upon thy face before.”

The woman sank back to a sitting posture on the floor, and, covering her eyes with her hands, gave way to heartbroken sobs and wailings.

“Let the show go on!” shouted Canty. “What, Nan!⁠—what, Bet! mannerless wenches! will ye stand in the prince’s presence? Upon your knees, ye pauper scum, and do him reverence!”

He followed this with another horselaugh. The girls began to plead timidly for their brother; and Nan said⁠—

“An thou wilt but let him to bed, father, rest and sleep will heal his madness: prithee, do.”

“Do, father,” said Bet; “he is more worn than is his wont. Tomorrow will he be himself again, and will beg with diligence, and come not empty home again.”

This remark sobered the father’s joviality, and brought his mind to business. He turned angrily upon the prince, and said⁠—

“The morrow must we pay two pennies to him that owns this hole; two pennies, mark ye⁠—all this money for a half-year’s rent, else out of this we go. Show what thou’st gathered with thy lazy begging.”

The prince said⁠—

“Offend me not with thy sordid matters. I tell thee again I am the king’s son.”

A sounding blow upon the Prince’s shoulder from Canty’s broad palm sent him staggering into goodwife Canty’s arms, who clasped him to her breast, and sheltered him from a pelting rain of cuffs and slaps by interposing her own person. The frightened girls retreated to their corner; but the grandmother stepped eagerly forward to assist her son. The prince sprang away from Mrs. Canty, exclaiming⁠—

“Thou shalt not suffer for me, madam. Let these swine do their will upon me alone.”

This speech infuriated the swine to such a degree that they set about their work without waste of time. Between them they belabored the boy right soundly, and then gave the girls and their mother a beating for showing sympathy for the victim.

“Now,” said Canty, “to bed, all of ye. The entertainment has tired me.”

The light was put out, and the family retired. As soon as the snorings of the head of the house and his mother showed that they were asleep, the young girls crept to where the prince lay, and covered him tenderly from the cold with straw and rags; and their mother crept to him also, and stroked his hair, and cried over him, whispering broken words of comfort and compassion in his ear the while. She had saved a morsel for him to eat, also; but the boy’s pains had swept away all appetite⁠—at least for black and tasteless crusts. He was touched by her brave and costly defence of him, and by her commiseration; and he thanked her in very noble and princely words, and begged her to go to her sleep and try to forget her sorrows. And he added that the king his father would not let her loyal kindness and devotion go unrewarded. This return to his “madness” broke her heart anew, and she strained him to her breast again and again, and then went back, drowned in tears, to her bed.

As she lay thinking and mourning, the suggestion began to creep into her mind that there was an undefinable something about this boy that was lacking in Tom Canty, mad or sane. She could not describe it, she could not tell just what it was, and yet her sharp mother-instinct seemed to detect it and perceive it. What if the boy were really not her son, after all? Oh, absurd! She almost smiled at the idea, spite of her griefs and troubles. No matter, she found that it was an idea that would not “down,” but persisted in haunting her. It pursued her, it harassed her, it clung to her, and refused to be put away or ignored. At last she perceived that there was not going to be any peace for her until she should devise a test that should prove, clearly and without question, whether this lad was her son or not, and so banish these wearing and worrying doubts. Ah, yes, this was plainly the right way out of the difficulty; therefore she set her wits to work at once to contrive that test. But it was an easier thing to propose than to accomplish. She turned over in her mind one promising test after another, but was obliged to relinquish them all⁠—none of them were absolutely sure, absolutely perfect; and an imperfect one could not satisfy her. Evidently she was racking her head in vain⁠—it seemed manifest that she must give the matter up. While this depressing thought was passing through her mind, her ear caught the regular breathing of the boy, and she knew he had fallen asleep. And while she listened, the measured breathing was broken by a soft, startled cry, such as one utters in a troubled dream. This chance occurrence furnished her instantly with a plan worth all her labored tests combined. She at once set herself feverishly, but noiselessly, to work to relight her candle, muttering to herself, “Had I but seen him then, I should have known! Since that day, when he was little, that the powder burst in his face, he hath never been startled of a sudden out of his dreams or out of his thinkings, but he hath cast his hand before his eyes, even as he did that day; and not as others would do it, with the palm inward, but always with the palm turned outward⁠—I have seen it a hundred times, and it hath never varied nor ever failed. Yes, I shall soon know, now!”

By this time she had crept to the slumbering boy’s side, with the candle, shaded, in her hand. She bent heedfully and warily over him, scarcely breathing in her suppressed excitement, and suddenly flashed the light in his face and struck the floor by his ear with her knuckles. The sleeper’s eyes sprang wide open, and he cast a startled stare about him⁠—but he made no special movement with his hands.

The poor woman was smitten almost helpless with surprise and grief; but she contrived to hide her emotions, and to soothe the boy to sleep again; then she crept apart and communed miserably with herself upon the disastrous result of her experiment. She tried to believe that her Tom’s madness had banished this habitual gesture of his; but she could not do it. “No,” she said, “his hands are not mad; they could not unlearn so old a habit in so brief a time. Oh, this is a heavy day for me!”

Still, hope was as stubborn now as doubt had been before; she could not bring herself to accept the verdict of the test; she must try the thing again⁠—the failure must have been only an accident; so she startled the boy out of his sleep a second and a third time, at intervals⁠—with the same result which had marked the first test; then she dragged herself to bed, and fell sorrowfully asleep, saying, “But I cannot give him up⁠—oh no, I cannot, I cannot⁠—he must be my boy!”

The poor mother’s interruptions having ceased, and the prince’s pains having gradually lost their power to disturb him, utter weariness at last sealed his eyes in a profound and restful sleep. Hour after hour slipped away, and still he slept like the dead. Thus four or five hours passed. Then his stupor began to lighten. Presently, while half asleep and half awake, he murmured⁠—

“Sir William!”

After a moment⁠—

“Ho, Sir William Herbert! Hie thee hither, and list to the strangest dream that ever⁠ ⁠… Sir William! dost hear? Man, I did think me changed to a pauper, and⁠ ⁠… Ho there! Guards! Sir William! What! is there no groom of the chamber in waiting? Alack! it shall go hard with⁠—”

“What aileth thee?” asked a whisper near him. “Who art thou calling?”

“Sir William Herbert. Who art thou?”

“I? Who should I be, but thy sister Nan? Oh, Tom, I had forgot! Thou’rt mad yet⁠—poor lad, thou’rt mad yet: would I had never woke to know it again! But prithee master thy tongue, lest we be all beaten till we die!”

The startled prince sprang partly up, but a sharp reminder from his stiffened bruises brought him to himself, and he sank back among his foul straw with a moan and the ejaculation⁠—

“Alas! it was no dream, then!”

In a moment all the heavy sorrow and misery which sleep had banished were upon him again, and he realized that he was no longer a petted prince in a palace, with the adoring eyes of a nation upon him, but a pauper, an outcast, clothed in rags, prisoner in a den fit only for beasts, and consorting with beggars and thieves.

In the midst of his grief he began to be conscious of hilarious noises and shoutings, apparently but a block or two away. The next moment there were several sharp raps at the door; John Canty ceased from snoring and said⁠—

“Who knocketh? What wilt thou?”

A voice answered⁠—

“Know’st thou who it was thou laid thy cudgel on?”

“No. Neither know I, nor care.”

“Belike thou’lt change thy note eftsoons. An thou would save thy neck, nothing but flight may stead thee. The man is this moment delivering up the ghost. ’Tis the priest, Father Andrew!”

“God-a-mercy!” exclaimed Canty. He roused his family, and hoarsely commanded, “Up with ye all and fly⁠—or bide where ye are and perish!”

Scarcely five minutes later the Canty household were in the street and flying for their lives. John Canty held the prince by the wrist, and hurried him along the dark way, giving him this caution in a low voice⁠—

“Mind thy tongue, thou mad fool, and speak not our name. I will choose me a new name, speedily, to throw the law’s dogs off the scent. Mind thy tongue, I tell thee!”

He growled these words to the rest of the family⁠—

“If it so chance that we be separated, let each make for London Bridge; whoso findeth himself as far as the last linen-draper’s shop on the bridge, let him tarry there till the others be come, then will we flee into Southwark together.”

At this moment the party burst suddenly out of darkness into light; and not only into light, but into the midst of a multitude of singing, dancing, and shouting people, massed together on the river frontage. There was a line of bonfires stretching as far as one could see, up and down the Thames; London Bridge was illuminated; Southwark Bridge likewise; the entire river was aglow with the flash and sheen of colored lights; and constant explosions of fireworks filled the skies with an intricate commingling of shooting splendors and a thick rain of dazzling sparks that almost turned night into day; everywhere were crowds of revellers; all London seemed to be at large.

John Canty delivered himself of a furious curse and commanded a retreat; but it was too late. He and his tribe were swallowed up in that swarming hive of humanity, and hopelessly separated from each other in an instant. We are not considering that the prince was one of his tribe; Canty still kept his grip upon him. The prince’s heart was beating high with hopes of escape, now. A burly waterman, considerably exalted with liquor, found himself rudely shoved by Canty in his efforts to plough through the crowd; he laid his great hand on Canty’s shoulder and said⁠—

“Nay, whither so fast, friend? Dost canker thy soul with sordid business when all that be leal men and true make holiday?”

“Mine affairs are mine own, they concern thee not,” answered Canty, roughly; “take away thy hand and let me pass.”

“Sith that is thy humor, thou’lt not pass, till thou’st drunk to the Prince of Wales, I tell thee that,” said the waterman, barring the way resolutely.

“Give me the cup, then, and make speed, make speed!”

Other revellers were interested by this time. They cried out⁠—

“The loving-cup, the loving-cup! make the sour knave drink the loving-cup, else will we feed him to the fishes.”

So a huge loving-cup was brought; the waterman, grasping it by one of its handles, and with the other hand bearing up the end of an imaginary napkin, presented it in due and ancient form to Canty, who had to grasp the opposite handle with one of his hands and take off the lid with the other, according to ancient custom. This left the prince hand-free for a second, of course. He wasted no time, but dived among the forest of legs about him and disappeared. In another moment he could not have been harder to find, under that tossing sea of life, if its billows had been the Atlantic’s and he a lost sixpence.

He very soon realized this fact, and straightway busied himself about his own affairs without further thought of John Canty. He quickly realized another thing, too. To wit, that a spurious Prince of Wales was being feasted by the city in his stead. He easily concluded that the pauper lad, Tom Canty, had deliberately taken advantage of his stupendous opportunity and become a usurper.

Therefore there was but one course to pursue⁠—find his way to the Guildhall, make himself known, and denounce the impostor. He also made up his mind that Tom should be allowed a reasonable time for spiritual preparation, and then be hanged, drawn and quartered, according to the law and usage of the day in cases of high treason.