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The Prince and the Pauper

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XVI. The State Dinner

The dinner hour drew near⁠—yet strangely enough, the thought brought but slight discomfort to Tom, and hardly any terror. The morning’s experiences had wonderfully built up his confidence; the poor little ash-cat was already more wonted to his strange garret, after four days’ habit, than a mature person could have become in a full month. A child’s facility in accommodating itself to circumstances was never more strikingly illustrated.

Let us privileged ones hurry to the great banqueting-room and have a glance at matters there whilst Tom is being made ready for the imposing occasion. It is a spacious apartment, with gilded pillars and pilasters, and pictured walls and ceilings. At the door stand tall guards, as rigid as statues, dressed in rich and picturesque costumes, and bearing halberds. In a high gallery which runs all around the place is a band of musicians and a packed company of citizens of both sexes, in brilliant attire. In the centre of the room, upon a raised platform, is Tom’s table. Now let the ancient chronicler speak:

“A gentleman enters the room bearing a rod, and along with him another bearing a tablecloth, which, after they have both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spreads upon the table, and after kneeling again they both retire; then come two others, one with the rod again, the other with a saltcellar, a plate, and bread; when they have kneeled as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retire with the same ceremonies performed by the first; at last come two nobles, richly clothed, one bearing a tasting-knife, who, after prostrating themselves three times in the most graceful manner, approach and rub the table with bread and salt, with as much awe as if the king had been present.”

So end the solemn preliminaries. Now, far down the echoing corridors we hear a bugle-blast, and the indistinct cry, “Place for the king! Way for the king’s most excellent majesty!” These sounds are momently repeated⁠—they grow nearer and nearer⁠—and presently, almost in our faces, the martial note peals and the cry rings out, “Way for the king!” At this instant the shining pageant appears, and files in at the door, with a measured march. Let the chronicler speak again:

“First come Gentlemen, Barons, Earls, Knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bareheaded; next comes the Chancellor, between two, one of which carries the royal sceptre, the other the Sword of State in a red scabbard, studded with golden fleurs-de-lis, the point upwards; next comes the king himself⁠—whom, upon his appearing, twelve trumpets and many drums salute with a great burst of welcome, whilst all in the galleries rise in their places, crying ‘God save the king!’ After him come nobles attached to his person, and on his right and left march his guard of honor, his fifty Gentlemen Pensioners, with gilt battle-axes.”

This was all fine and pleasant. Tom’s pulse beat high, and a glad light was in his eye. He bore himself right gracefully, and all the more so because he was not thinking of how he was doing it, his mind being charmed and occupied with the blithe sights and sounds about him⁠—and besides, nobody can be very ungraceful in nicely-fitting beautiful clothes after he has grown a little used to them⁠—especially if he is for the moment unconscious of them. Tom remembered his instructions, and acknowledged his greeting with a slight inclination of his plumed head, and a courteous “I thank ye, my good people.”

He seated himself at table, without removing his cap; and did it without the least embarrassment; for to eat with one’s cap on was the one solitary royal custom upon which the kings and the Cantys met upon common ground, neither party having any advantage over the other in the matter of old familiarity with it. The pageant broke up and grouped itself picturesquely, and remained bareheaded.

Now to the sound of gay music the Yeomen of the Guard entered⁠—“the tallest and mightiest men in England, they being carefully selected in this regard”⁠—but we will let the chronicler tell about it:

“The Yeomen of the Guard entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with golden roses upon their backs; and these went and came, bringing in each turn a course of dishes, served in plate. These dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the taster gave to each guard a mouthful to eat of the particular dish he had brought, for fear of any poison.”

Tom made a good dinner, notwithstanding he was conscious that hundreds of eyes followed each morsel to his mouth and watched him eat it with an interest which could not have been more intense if it had been a deadly explosive and was expected to blow him up and scatter him all about the place. He was careful not to hurry, and equally careful not to do anything whatever for himself, but wait till the proper official knelt down and did it for him. He got through without a mistake⁠—flawless and precious triumph.

When the meal was over at last and he marched away in the midst of his bright pageant, with the happy noises in his ears of blaring bugles, rolling drums, and thundering acclamations, he felt that if he had seen the worst of dining in public it was an ordeal which he would be glad to endure several times a day if by that means he could but buy himself free from some of the more formidable requirements of his royal office.

XVII. Foo-Foo the First

Miles Hendon hurried along toward the Southwark end of the bridge, keeping a sharp lookout for the persons he sought, and hoping and expecting to overtake them presently. He was disappointed in this, however. By asking questions, he was enabled to track them part of the way through Southwark; then all traces ceased, and he was perplexed as to how to proceed. Still, he continued his efforts as best he could during the rest of the day. Nightfall found him leg-weary, half-famished, and his desire as far from accomplishment as ever; so he supped at the Tabard Inn and went to bed, resolved to make an early start in the morning, and give the town an exhaustive search. As he lay thinking and planning, he presently began to reason thus: The boy would escape from the ruffian, his reputed father, if possible; would he go back to London and seek his former haunts? No, he would not do that, he would avoid recapture. What, then, would he do? Never having had a friend in the world, or a protector, until he met Miles Hendon, he would naturally try to find that friend again, provided the effort did not require him to go toward London and danger. He would strike for Hendon Hall, that is what he would do, for he knew Hendon was homeward bound and there he might expect to find him. Yes, the case was plain to Hendon⁠—he must lose no more time in Southwark, but move at once through Kent, toward Monk’s Holm, searching the wood and inquiring as he went. Let us return to the vanished little king now.

The ruffian whom the waiter at the inn on the bridge saw “about to join” the youth and the king did not exactly join them, but fell in close behind them and followed their steps. He said nothing. His left arm was in a sling, and he wore a large green patch over his left eye; he limped slightly, and used an oaken staff as a support. The youth led the king a crooked course through Southwark, and by and by struck into the high road beyond. The king was irritated, now, and said he would stop here⁠—it was Hendon’s place to come to him, not his to go to Hendon. He would not endure such insolence; he would stop where he was. The youth said⁠—

“Thou’lt tarry here, and thy friend lying wounded in the wood yonder? So be it, then.”

The king’s manner changed at once. He cried out⁠—

“Wounded? And who hath dared to do it? But that is apart; lead on, lead on! Faster, sirrah! Art shod with lead? Wounded, is he? Now though the doer of it be a duke’s son he shall rue it!”

It was some distance to the wood, but the space was speedily traversed. The youth looked about him, discovered a bough sticking in the ground, with a small bit of rag tied to it, then led the way into the forest, watching for similar boughs and finding them at intervals; they were evidently guides to the point he was aiming at. By and by an open place was reached, where were the charred remains of a farmhouse, and near them a barn which was falling to ruin and decay. There was no sign of life anywhere, and utter silence prevailed. The youth entered the barn, the king following eagerly upon his heels. No one there! The king shot a surprised and suspicious glance at the youth, and asked⁠—

“Where is he?”

A mocking laugh was his answer. The king was in a rage in a moment; he seized a billet of wood and was in the act of charging upon the youth when another mocking laugh fell upon his ear. It was from the lame ruffian who had been following at a distance. The king turned and said angrily⁠—

“Who art thou? What is thy business here?”

“Leave thy foolery,” said the man, “and quiet thyself. My disguise is none so good that thou canst pretend thou knowest not thy father through it.”

“Thou art not my father. I know thee not. I am the king. If thou hast hid my servant, find him for me, or thou shalt sup sorrow for what thou hast done.”

John Canty replied, in a stern and measured voice⁠—

“It is plain thou art mad, and I am loath to punish thee; but if thou provoke me, I must. Thy prating doth no harm here, where there are no ears that need to mind thy follies; yet it is well to practise thy tongue to wary speech, that it may do no hurt when our quarters change. I have done a murder, and may not tarry at home⁠—neither shalt thou, seeing I need thy service. My name is changed, for wise reasons; it is Hobbs⁠—John Hobbs; thine is Jack⁠—charge thy memory accordingly. Now, then, speak. Where is thy mother? Where are thy sisters? They came not to the place appointed⁠—knowest thou whither they went?”

The king answered sullenly⁠—

“Trouble me not with these riddles. My mother is dead; my sisters are in the palace.”

The youth near by burst into a derisive laugh, and the king would have assaulted him, but Canty⁠—or Hobbs, as he now called himself⁠—prevented him, and said⁠—

“Peace, Hugo, vex him not; his mind is astray, and thy ways fret him. Sit thee down, Jack, and quiet thyself; thou shalt have a morsel to eat, anon.”

Hobbs and Hugo fell to talking together, in low voices, and the king removed himself as far as he could from their disagreeable company. He withdrew into the twilight of the farther end of the barn, where he found the earthen floor bedded a foot deep with straw. He lay down here, drew straw over himself in lieu of blankets, and was soon absorbed in thinking. He had many griefs, but the minor ones were swept almost into forgetfulness by the supreme one, the loss of his father. To the rest of the world the name of Henry VIII brought a shiver, and suggested an ogre whose nostrils breathed destruction and whose hand dealt scourgings and death; but to this boy the name brought only sensations of pleasure; the figure it invoked wore a countenance that was all gentleness and affection. He called to mind a long succession of loving passages between his father and himself, and dwelt fondly upon them, his unstinted tears attesting how deep and real was the grief that possessed his heart. As the afternoon wasted away, the lad, wearied with his troubles, sank gradually into a tranquil and healing slumber.

After a considerable time⁠—he could not tell how long⁠—his senses struggled to a half-consciousness, and as he lay with closed eyes vaguely wondering where he was and what had been happening, he noted a murmurous sound, the sullen beating of rain upon the roof. A snug sense of comfort stole over him, which was rudely broken, the next moment, by a chorus of piping cackles and coarse laughter. It startled him disagreeably, and he unmuffled his head to see whence this interruption proceeded. A grim and unsightly picture met his eye. A bright fire was burning in the middle of the floor, at the other end of the barn; and around it, and lit weirdly up by the red glare, lolled and sprawled the motliest company of tattered gutter-scum and ruffians, of both sexes, he had ever read or dreamed of. There were huge stalwart men, brown with exposure, long-haired, and clothed in fantastic rags; there were middle-sized youths, of truculent countenance, and similarly clad; there were blind mendicants, with patched or bandaged eyes; crippled ones, with wooden legs and crutches; diseased ones, with running sores peeping from ineffectual wrappings; there was a villain-looking pedlar with his pack; a knife-grinder, a tinker, and a barber-surgeon, with the implements of their trades; some of the females were hardly-grown girls, some were at prime, some were old and wrinkled hags, and all were loud, brazen, foul-mouthed; and all soiled and slatternly; there were three sore-faced babies; there were a couple of starveling curs, with strings about their necks, whose office was to lead the blind.

The night was come, the gang had just finished feasting, an orgy was beginning; the can of liquor was passing from mouth to mouth. A general cry broke forth⁠—

“A song! a song from the Bat and Dick and Dot-and-go-One!”

One of the blind men got up, and made ready by casting aside the patches that sheltered his excellent eyes, and the pathetic placard which recited the cause of his calamity. Dot-and-go-One disencumbered himself of his timber leg and took his place, upon sound and healthy limbs, beside his fellow-rascal; then they roared out a rollicking ditty, and were reinforced by the whole crew, at the end of each stanza, in a rousing chorus. By the time the last stanza was reached, the half-drunken enthusiasm had risen to such a pitch, that everybody joined in and sang it clear through from the beginning, producing a volume of villainous sound that made the rafters quake. These were the inspiring words:

“Bien Darkman’s then, Bouse Mort and Ken,
The bien Coves bings awast,
On Chates to trine by Rome Coves dine
For his long lib at last.
Bing’d out bien Morts and toure, and toure,
Bing out of the Rome vile bine,
And toure the Cove that cloy’d your duds,
Upon the Chates to trine.”

Conversation followed; not in the thieves’ dialect of the song, for that was only used in talk when unfriendly ears might be listening. In the course of it, it appeared that “John Hobbs” was not altogether a new recruit, but had trained in the gang at some former time. His later history was called for, and when he said he had “accidentally” killed a man, considerable satisfaction was expressed; when he added that the man was a priest, he was roundly applauded, and had to take a drink with everybody. Old acquaintances welcomed him joyously, and new ones were proud to shake him by the hand. He was asked why he had “tarried away so many months.” He answered⁠—

“London is better than the country, and safer, these late years, the laws be so bitter and so diligently enforced. An’ I had not had that accident, I had stayed there. I had resolved to stay, and never more venture country-wards⁠—but the accident has ended that.”

He inquired how many persons the gang numbered now. The “ruffler,” or chief, answered⁠—

“Five and twenty sturdy budges, bulks, files, clapperdogeons and maunders, counting the dells and doxies and other morts. Most are here, the rest are wandering eastward, along the winter lay. We follow at dawn.”

“I do not see the Wen among the honest folk about me. Where may he be?”

“Poor lad, his diet is brimstone, now, and over hot for a delicate taste. He was killed in a brawl, somewhere about midsummer.”

“I sorrow to hear that; the Wen was a capable man, and brave.”

“That was he, truly. Black Bess, his dell, is of us yet, but absent on the eastward tramp; a fine lass, of nice ways and orderly conduct, none ever seeing her drunk above four days in the seven.”

“She was ever strict⁠—I remember it well⁠—a goodly wench and worthy all commendation. Her mother was more free and less particular; a troublesome and ugly-tempered beldame, but furnished with a wit above the common.”

“We lost her through it. Her gift of palmistry and other sorts of fortune-telling begot for her at last a witch’s name and fame. The law roasted her to death at a slow fire. It did touch me to a sort of tenderness to see the gallant way she met her lot⁠—cursing and reviling all the crowd that gaped and gazed around her, whilst the flames licked upward toward her face and catched her thin locks and crackled about her old gray head⁠—cursing them! why an’ thou should’st live a thousand years thoud’st never hear so masterful a cursing. Alack, her art died with her. There be base and weakling imitations left, but no true blasphemy.”

The Ruffler sighed; the listeners sighed in sympathy; a general depression fell upon the company for a moment, for even hardened outcasts like these are not wholly dead to sentiment, but are able to feel a fleeting sense of loss and affliction at wide intervals and under peculiarly favoring circumstances⁠—as in cases like to this, for instance, when genius and culture depart and leave no heir. However, a deep drink all round soon restored the spirits of the mourners.

“Have any others of our friends fared hardly?” asked Hobbs.

“Some⁠—yes. Particularly newcomers⁠—such as small husbandmen turned shiftless and hungry upon the world because their farms were taken from them to be changed to sheep ranges. They begged, and were whipped at the cart’s tail, naked from the girdle up, till the blood ran; then set in the stocks to be pelted; they begged again, were whipped again, and deprived of an ear; they begged a third time⁠—poor devils, what else could they do?⁠—and were branded on the cheek with a red-hot iron, then sold for slaves; they ran away, were hunted down, and hanged. ’Tis a brief tale, and quickly told. Others of us have fared less hardly. Stand forth, Yokel, Burns, and Hodge⁠—show your adornments!”

These stood up and stripped away some of their rags, exposing their backs, crisscrossed with ropy old welts left by the lash; one turned up his hair and showed the place where a left ear had once been; another showed a brand upon his shoulder⁠—the letter V⁠—and a mutilated ear; the third said⁠—

“I am Yokel, once a farmer and prosperous, with loving wife and kids⁠—now am I somewhat different in estate and calling; and the wife and kids are gone; mayhap they are in heaven, mayhap in⁠—in the other place⁠—but the kindly God be thanked, they bide no more in England! My good old blameless mother strove to earn bread by nursing the sick; one of these died, the doctors knew not how, so my mother was burnt for a witch, whilst my babes looked on and wailed. English law!⁠—up, all, with your cups!⁠—now all together and with a cheer!⁠—drink to the merciful English law that delivered her from the English hell! Thank you, mates, one and all. I begged, from house to house⁠—I and the wife⁠—bearing with us the hungry kids⁠—but it was crime to be hungry in England⁠—so they stripped us and lashed us through three towns. Drink ye all again to the merciful English law!⁠—for its lash drank deep of my Mary’s blood and its blessed deliverance came quick. She lies there, in the potter’s field, safe from all harms. And the kids⁠—well, whilst the law lashed me from town to town, they starved. Drink, lads⁠—only a drop⁠—a drop to the poor kids, that never did any creature harm. I begged again⁠—begged, for a crust, and got the stocks and lost an ear⁠—see, here bides the stump; I begged again, and here is the stump of the other to keep me minded of it. And still I begged again, and was sold for a slave⁠—here on my cheek under this stain, if I washed it off, ye might see the red S the branding-iron left there! A slave! Do you understand that word? An English slave!⁠—that is he that stands before ye. I have run from my master, and when I am found⁠—the heavy curse of heaven fall on the law of the land that hath commanded it!⁠—I shall hang!”

A ringing voice came through the murky air⁠—

“Thou shalt not!⁠—and this day the end of that law is come!”

All turned, and saw the fantastic figure of the little king approaching hurriedly; as it emerged into the light and was clearly revealed, a general explosion of inquiries broke out⁠—

“Who is it? What is it? Who art thou, manikin?”

The boy stood unconfused in the midst of all those surprised and questioning eyes, and answered with princely dignity⁠—

“I am Edward, King of England.”

A wild burst of laughter followed, partly of derision and partly of delight in the excellence of the joke. The king was stung. He said sharply⁠—

“Ye mannerless vagrants, is this your recognition of the royal boon I have promised?”

He said more, with angry voice and excited gesture, but it was lost in a whirlwind of laughter and mocking exclamations. “John Hobbs” made several attempts to make himself heard above the din, and at last succeeded⁠—saying⁠—

“Mates, he is my son, a dreamer, a fool, and stark mad⁠—mind him not⁠—he thinketh he is the king.”

“I am the king,” said Edward, turning toward him, “as thou shalt know to thy cost, in good time. Thou hast confessed a murder⁠—thou shalt swing for it.”

“Thou’lt betray me?⁠—thou? An’ I get my hands upon thee⁠—”

“Tut-tut!” said the burley Ruffler, interposing in time to save the king, and emphasizing this service by knocking Hobbs down with his fist, “hast respect for neither kings nor Rufflers? An’ thou insult my presence so again, I’ll hang thee up myself.” Then he said to his Majesty, “Thou must make no threats against thy mates, lad; and thou must guard thy tongue from saying evil of them elsewhere. Be king, if it please thy mad humor, but be not harmful in it. Sink the title thou hast uttered⁠—’tis treason; we be bad men in some few trifling ways, but none among us is so base as to be traitor to his king; we be loving and loyal hearts, in that regard. Note if I speak truth. Now⁠—all together: ‘Long live Edward, King of England!’ ”

“Long Live Edward, King of England!”

The response came with such a thundergust from the motley crew that the crazy building vibrated to the sound. The little king’s face lighted with pleasure for an instant, and he slightly inclined his head, and said with grave simplicity⁠—

“I thank you, my good people.”

This unexpected result threw the company into convulsions of merriment. When something like quiet was presently come again, the Ruffler said, firmly, but with an accent of good nature⁠—

“Drop it, boy, ’tis not wise, nor well. Humor thy fancy, if thou must, but choose some other title.”

A tinker shrieked out a suggestion⁠—

“Foo-foo the First, King of the Mooncalves!”

The title “took,” at once, every throat responded, and a roaring shout went up, of⁠—

“Long live Foo-foo the First, King of the Mooncalves!” followed by hootings, catcalls, and peals of laughter.

“Hale him forth, and crown him!”

“Robe him!”

“Sceptre him!”

“Throne him!”

These and twenty other cries broke out at once! and almost before the poor little victim could draw a breath he was crowned with a tin basin, robed in a tattered blanket, throned upon a barrel, and sceptred with the tinker’s soldering-iron. Then all flung themselves upon their knees about him and sent up a chorus of ironical wailings, and mocking supplications, whilst they swabbed their eyes with their soiled and ragged sleeves and aprons⁠—

“Be gracious to us, O sweet king!”

“Trample not upon thy beseeching worms, O noble Majesty!”

“Pity thy slaves, and comfort them with a royal kick!”

“Cheer us and warm us with thy gracious rays, O flaming sun of sovereignty!”

“Sanctify the ground with the touch of thy foot, that we may eat the dirt and be ennobled!”

“Deign to spit upon us, O Sire, that our children’s children may tell of thy princely condescension, and be proud and happy for ever!”

But the humorous tinker made the “hit” of the evening and carried off the honours. Kneeling, he pretended to kiss the king’s foot, and was indignantly spurned; whereupon he went about begging for a rag to paste over the place upon his face which had been touched by the foot, saying it must be preserved from contact with the vulgar air, and that he should make his fortune by going on the highway and exposing it to view at the rate of a hundred shillings a sight. He made himself so killingly funny that he was the envy and admiration of the whole mangy rabble.

Tears of shame and indignation stood in the little monarch’s eyes; and the thought in his heart was, “Had I offered them a deep wrong they could not be more cruel⁠—yet have I proffered nought but to do them a kindness⁠—and it is thus they use me for it!”

XVIII. The Prince with the Tramps

The troop of vagabonds turned out at early dawn, and set forward on their march. There was a lowering sky overhead, sloppy ground under foot, and a winter chill in the air. All gaiety was gone from the company; some were sullen and silent, some were irritable and petulant, none were gentle-humored, all were thirsty.

The Ruffler put “Jack” in Hugo’s charge, with some brief instructions, and commanded John Canty to keep away from him and let him alone; he also warned Hugo not to be too rough with the lad.

After a while the weather grew milder, and the clouds lifted somewhat. The troop ceased to shiver, and their spirits began to improve. They grew more and more cheerful, and finally began to chaff each other and insult passengers along the highway. This showed that they were awaking to an appreciation of life and its joys once more. The dread in which their sort was held was apparent in the fact that everybody gave them the road, and took their ribald insolences meekly, without venturing to talk back. They snatched linen from the hedges, occasionally in full view of the owners, who made no protest, but only seemed grateful that they did not take the hedges, too.

By-and-by they invaded a small farmhouse and made themselves at home while the trembling farmer and his people swept the larder clean to furnish a breakfast for them. They chucked the housewife and her daughters under the chin whilst receiving the food from their hands, and made coarse jests about them, accompanied with insulting epithets and bursts of horse-laughter. They threw bones and vegetables at the farmer and his sons, kept them dodging all the time, and applauded uproariously when a good hit was made. They ended by buttering the head of one of the daughters who resented some of their familiarities. When they took their leave they threatened to come back and burn the house over the heads of the family if any report of their doings got to the ears of the authorities.

About noon, after a long and weary tramp, the gang came to a halt behind a hedge on the outskirts of a considerable village. An hour was allowed for rest, then the crew scattered themselves abroad to enter the village at different points to ply their various trades⁠—“Jack” was sent with Hugo. They wandered hither and thither for some time, Hugo watching for opportunities to do a stroke of business, but finding none⁠—so he finally said⁠—

“I see nought to steal; it is a paltry place. Wherefore we will beg.”

“We, forsooth! Follow thy trade⁠—it befits thee. But I will not beg.”

“Thou’lt not beg!” exclaimed Hugo, eyeing the king with surprise. “Prithee, since when hast thou reformed?”

“What dost thou mean?”

“Mean? Hast thou not begged the streets of London all thy life?”

“I? Thou idiot!”

“Spare thy compliments⁠—thy stock will last the longer. Thy father says thou hast begged all thy days. Mayhap he lied. Peradventure you will even make so bold as to say he lied,” scoffed Hugo.

“Him you call my father? Yes, he lied.”

“Come, play not thy merry game of madman so far, mate; use it for thy amusement, not thy hurt. An’ I tell him this, he will scorch thee finely for it.”

“Save thyself the trouble. I will tell him.”

“I like thy spirit, I do in truth; but I do not admire thy judgment. Bone-rackings and bastings be plenty enow in this life, without going out of one’s way to invite them. But a truce to these matters; I believe your father. I doubt not he can lie; I doubt not he doth lie, upon occasion, for the best of us do that; but there is no occasion here. A wise man does not waste so good a commodity as lying for nought. But come; sith it is thy humor to give over begging, wherewithal shall we busy ourselves? With robbing kitchens?”

The king said, impatiently⁠—

“Have done with this folly⁠—you weary me!”

Hugo replied, with temper⁠—

“Now harkee, mate; you will not beg, you will not rob; so be it. But I will tell you what you will do. You will play decoy whilst I beg. Refuse, an’ you think you may venture!”

The king was about to reply contemptuously, when Hugo said, interrupting⁠—

“Peace! Here comes one with a kindly face. Now will I fall down in a fit. When the stranger runs to me, set you up a wail, and fall upon your knees, seeming to weep; then cry out as all the devils of misery were in your belly, and say, ‘Oh, sir, it is my poor afflicted brother, and we be friendless; o’ God’s name cast through your merciful eyes one pitiful look upon a sick, forsaken, and most miserable wretch; bestow one little penny out of thy riches upon one smitten of God and ready to perish!’⁠—and mind you, keep you on wailing, and abate not till we bilk him of his penny, else shall you rue it.”

Then immediately Hugo began to moan, and groan, and roll his eyes, and reel and totter about; and when the stranger was close at hand, down he sprawled before him, with a shriek, and began to writhe and wallow in the dirt, in seeming agony.

“O, dear, O dear!” cried the benevolent stranger, “O poor soul, poor soul, how he doth suffer! There⁠—let me help thee up.”

“O noble sir, forbear, and God love you for a princely gentleman⁠—but it giveth me cruel pain to touch me when I am taken so. My brother there will tell your worship how I am racked with anguish when these fits be upon me. A penny, dear sir, a penny, to buy a little food; then leave me to my sorrows.”

“A penny! thou shalt have three, thou hapless creature,”⁠—and he fumbled in his pocket with nervous haste and got them out. “There, poor lad, take them and most welcome. Now come hither, my boy, and help me carry thy stricken brother to yon house, where⁠—”

“I am not his brother,” said the king, interrupting.

“What! not his brother?”

“Oh, hear him!” groaned Hugo, then privately ground his teeth. “He denies his own brother⁠—and he with one foot in the grave!”

“Boy, thou art indeed hard of heart, if this is thy brother. For shame!⁠—and he scarce able to move hand or foot. If he is not thy brother, who is he, then?”

“A beggar and a thief! He has got your money and has picked your pocket likewise. An’ thou would’st do a healing miracle, lay thy staff over his shoulders and trust Providence for the rest.”

But Hugo did not tarry for the miracle. In a moment he was up and off like the wind, the gentleman following after and raising the hue and cry lustily as he went. The king, breathing deep gratitude to Heaven for his own release, fled in the opposite direction, and did not slacken his pace until he was out of harm’s reach. He took the first road that offered, and soon put the village behind him. He hurried along, as briskly as he could, during several hours, keeping a nervous watch over his shoulder for pursuit; but his fears left him at last, and a grateful sense of security took their place. He recognized, now, that he was hungry, and also very tired. So he halted at a farmhouse; but when he was about to speak, he was cut short and driven rudely away. His clothes were against him.

He wandered on, wounded and indignant, and was resolved to put himself in the way of like treatment no more. But hunger is pride’s master; so, as the evening drew near, he made an attempt at another farmhouse; but here he fared worse than before; for he was called hard names and was promised arrest as a vagrant except he moved on promptly.

The night came on, chilly and overcast; and still the footsore monarch labored slowly on. He was obliged to keep moving, for every time he sat down to rest he was soon penetrated to the bone with the cold. All his sensations and experiences, as he moved through the solemn gloom and the empty vastness of the night, were new and strange to him. At intervals he heard voices approach, pass by, and fade into silence; and as he saw nothing more of the bodies they belonged to than a sort of formless drifting blur, there was something spectral and uncanny about it all that made him shudder. Occasionally he caught the twinkle of a light⁠—always far away, apparently⁠—almost in another world; if he heard the tinkle of a sheep’s bell, it was vague, distant, indistinct; the muffled lowing of the herds floated to him on the night wind in vanishing cadences, a mournful sound; now and then came the complaining howl of a dog over viewless expanses of field and forest; all sounds were remote; they made the little king feel that all life and activity were far removed from him, and that he stood solitary, companionless, in the centre of a measureless solitude.

He stumbled along, through the gruesome fascinations of this new experience, startled occasionally by the soft rustling of the dry leaves overhead, so like human whispers they seemed to sound; and by and by he came suddenly upon the freckled light of a tin lantern near at hand. He stepped back into the shadows and waited. The lantern stood by the open door of a barn. The king waited some time⁠—there was no sound, and nobody stirring. He got so cold, standing still, and the hospitable barn looked so enticing, that at last he resolved to risk everything and enter. He started swiftly and stealthily, and just as he was crossing the threshold he heard voices behind him. He darted behind a cask, within the barn, and stooped down. Two farm-laborers came in, bringing the lantern with them, and fell to work, talking meanwhile. Whilst they moved about with the light, the king made good use of his eyes and took the bearings of what seemed to be a good-sized stall at the further end of the place, purposing to grope his way to it when he should be left to himself. He also noted the position of a pile of horse blankets, midway of the route, with the intent to levy upon them for the service of the crown of England for one night.

By and by the men finished and went away, fastening the door behind them and taking the lantern with them. The shivering king made for the blankets, with as good speed as the darkness would allow; gathered them up, and then groped his way safely to the stall. Of two of the blankets he made a bed, then covered himself with the remaining two. He was a glad monarch, now, though the blankets were old and thin, and not quite warm enough; and besides gave out a pungent horsey odor that was almost suffocatingly powerful.

Although the king was hungry and chilly, he was also so tired and so drowsy that these latter influences soon began to get the advantage of the former, and he presently dozed off into a state of semi-consciousness. Then, just as he was on the point of losing himself wholly, he distinctly felt something touch him! He was broad awake in a moment, and gasping for breath. The cold horror of that mysterious touch in the dark almost made his heart stand still. He lay motionless, and listened, scarcely breathing. But nothing stirred, and there was no sound. He continued to listen, and wait, during what seemed a long time, but still nothing stirred, and there was no sound. So he began to drop into a drowse once more, at last; and all at once he felt that mysterious touch again! It was a grisly thing, this light touch from this noiseless and invisible presence; it made the boy sick with ghostly fears. What should he do? That was the question; but he did not know how to answer it. Should he leave these reasonably comfortable quarters and fly from this inscrutable horror? But fly whither? He could not get out of the barn; and the idea of scurrying blindly hither and thither in the dark, within the captivity of the four walls, with this phantom gliding after him, and visiting him with that soft hideous touch upon cheek or shoulder at every turn, was intolerable. But to stay where he was, and endure this living death all night⁠—was that better? No. What, then, was there left to do? Ah, there was but one course; he knew it well⁠—he must put out his hand and find that thing!

It was easy to think this; but it was hard to brace himself up to try it. Three times he stretched his hand a little way out into the dark, gingerly; and snatched it suddenly back, with a gasp⁠—not because it had encountered anything, but because he had felt so sure it was just going to. But the fourth time, he groped a little further, and his hand lightly swept against something soft and warm. This petrified him, nearly, with fright; his mind was in such a state that he could imagine the thing to be nothing else than a corpse, newly dead and still warm. He thought he would rather die than touch it again. But he thought this false thought because he did not know the immortal strength of human curiosity. In no long time his hand was tremblingly groping again⁠—against his judgment, and without his consent⁠—but groping persistently on, just the same. It encountered a bunch of long hair; he shuddered, but followed up the hair and found what seemed to be a warm rope; followed up the rope and found an innocent calf!⁠—for the rope was not a rope at all, but the calf’s tail.

The king was cordially ashamed of himself for having gotten all that fright and misery out of so paltry a matter as a slumbering calf; but he need not have felt so about it, for it was not the calf that frightened him, but a dreadful nonexistent something which the calf stood for; and any other boy, in those old superstitious times, would have acted and suffered just as he had done.

The king was not only delighted to find that the creature was only a calf, but delighted to have the calf’s company; for he had been feeling so lonesome and friendless that the company and comradeship of even this humble animal were welcome. And he had been so buffeted, so rudely entreated by his own kind, that it was a real comfort to him to feel that he was at last in the society of a fellow-creature that had at least a soft heart and a gentle spirit, whatever loftier attributes might be lacking. So he resolved to waive rank and make friends with the calf.

While stroking its sleek warm back⁠—for it lay near him and within easy reach⁠—it occurred to him that this calf might be utilized in more ways than one. Whereupon he rearranged his bed, spreading it down close to the calf; then he cuddled himself up to the calf’s back, drew the covers up over himself and his friend, and in a minute or two was as warm and comfortable as he had ever been in the downy couches of the regal palace of Westminster.

Pleasant thoughts came at once; life took on a cheerfuller seeming. He was free of the bonds of servitude and crime, free of the companionship of base and brutal outlaws; he was warm; he was sheltered; in a word, he was happy. The night wind was rising; it swept by in fitful gusts that made the old barn quake and rattle, then its forces died down at intervals, and went moaning and wailing around corners and projections⁠—but it was all music to the king, now that he was snug and comfortable: let it blow and rage, let it batter and bang, let it moan and wail, he minded it not, he only enjoyed it. He merely snuggled the closer to his friend, in a luxury of warm contentment, and drifted blissfully out of consciousness into a deep and dreamless sleep that was full of serenity and peace. The distant dogs howled, the melancholy kine complained, and the winds went on raging, whilst furious sheets of rain drove along the roof; but the Majesty of England slept on, undisturbed, and the calf did the same, it being a simple creature, and not easily troubled by storms or embarrassed by sleeping with a king.

XIX. The Prince with the Peasants

When the king awoke in the early morning, he found that a wet but thoughtful rat had crept into the place during the night and made a cosy bed for itself in his bosom. Being disturbed now, it scampered away. The boy smiled, and said, “Poor fool, why so fearful? I am as forlorn as thou. ’Twould be a sham in me to hurt the helpless, who am myself so helpless. Moreover, I owe you thanks for a good omen; for when a king has fallen so low that the very rats do make a bed of him, it surely meaneth that his fortunes be upon the turn, since it is plain he can no lower go.”

He got up and stepped out of the stall, and just then he heard the sound of children’s voices. The barn door opened and a couple of little girls came in. As soon as they saw him their talking and laughing ceased, and they stopped and stood still, gazing at him with strong curiosity; they presently began to whisper together, then they approached nearer, and stopped again to gaze and whisper. By and by they gathered courage and began to discuss him aloud. One said⁠—

“He hath a comely face.”

The other added⁠—

“And pretty hair.”

“But is ill clothed enow.”

“And how starved he looketh.”

They came still nearer, sidling shyly around and about him, examining him minutely from all points, as if he were some strange new kind of animal, but warily and watchfully the while, as if they half feared he might be a sort of animal that would bite, upon occasion. Finally they halted before him, holding each other’s hands for protection, and took a good satisfying stare with their innocent eyes; then one of them plucked up all her courage and inquired with honest directness⁠—

“Who art thou, boy?”

“I am the king,” was the grave answer.

The children gave a little start, and their eyes spread themselves wide open and remained so during a speechless half minute. Then curiosity broke the silence⁠—

“The king? What king?”

“The King of England.”

The children looked at each other⁠—then at him⁠—then at each other again⁠—wonderingly, perplexedly; then one said⁠—

“Didst hear him, Margery?⁠—he said he is the king. Can that be true?”

“How can it be else but true, Prissy? Would he say a lie? For look you, Prissy, an’ it were not true, it would be a lie. It surely would be. Now think on’t. For all things that be not true, be lies⁠—thou canst make nought else out of it.”

It was a good tight argument, without a leak in it anywhere; and it left Prissy’s half-doubts not a leg to stand on. She considered a moment, then put the king upon his honor with the simple remark⁠—

“If thou art truly the king, then I believe thee.”

“I am truly the king.”

This settled the matter. His Majesty’s royalty was accepted without further question or discussion, and the two little girls began at once to inquire into how he came to be where he was, and how he came to be so unroyally clad, and whither he was bound, and all about his affairs. It was a mighty relief to him to pour out his troubles where they would not be scoffed at or doubted; so he told his tale with feeling, forgetting even his hunger for the time; and it was received with the deepest and tenderest sympathy by the gentle little maids. But when he got down to his latest experiences and they learned how long he had been without food, they cut him short and hurried him away to the farmhouse to find a breakfast for him.

The king was cheerful and happy now, and said to himself, “When I am come to mine own again, I will always honor little children, remembering how that these trusted me and believed in me in my time of trouble; whilst they that were older, and thought themselves wiser, mocked at me and held me for a liar.”

The children’s mother received the king kindly, and was full of pity; for his forlorn condition and apparently crazed intellect touched her womanly heart. She was a widow, and rather poor; consequently she had seen trouble enough to enable her to feel for the unfortunate. She imagined that the demented boy had wandered away from his friends or keepers; so she tried to find out whence he had come, in order that she might take measures to return him; but all her references to neighboring towns and villages, and all her inquiries in the same line went for nothing⁠—the boy’s face, and his answers, too, showed that the things she was talking of were not familiar to him. He spoke earnestly and simply about court matters, and broke down, more than once, when speaking of the late king “his father”; but whenever the conversation changed to baser topics, he lost interest and became silent.

The woman was mightily puzzled; but she did not give up. As she proceeded with her cooking, she set herself to contriving devices to surprise the boy into betraying his real secret. She talked about cattle⁠—he showed no concern; then about sheep⁠—the same result: so her guess that he had been a shepherd boy was an error; she talked about mills; and about weavers, tinkers, smiths, trades and tradesmen of all sorts; and about Bedlam, and jails, and charitable retreats: but no matter, she was baffled at all points. Not altogether, either; for she argued that she had narrowed the thing down to domestic service. Yes, she was sure she was on the right track, now; he must have been a house servant. So she led up to that. But the result was discouraging. The subject of sweeping appeared to weary him; fire-building failed to stir him; scrubbing and scouring awoke no enthusiasm. The goodwife touched, with a perishing hope, and rather as a matter of form, upon the subject of cooking. To her surprise, and her vast delight, the king’s face lighted at once! Ah, she had hunted him down at last, she thought; and she was right proud, too, of the devious shrewdness and tact which had accomplished it.

Her tired tongue got a chance to rest, now; for the king’s, inspired by gnawing hunger and the fragrant smells that came from the sputtering pots and pans, turned itself loose and delivered itself up to such an eloquent dissertation upon certain toothsome dishes, that within three minutes the woman said to herself, “Of a truth I was right⁠—he hath holpen in a kitchen!” Then he broadened his bill of fare, and discussed it with such appreciation and animation, that the goodwife said to herself, “Good lack! how can he know so many dishes, and so fine ones withal? For these belong only upon the tables of the rich and great. Ah, now I see! ragged outcast as he is, he must have served in the palace before his reason went astray; yes, he must have helped in the very kitchen of the king himself! I will test him.”

Full of eagerness to prove her sagacity, she told the king to mind the cooking a moment⁠—hinting that he might manufacture and add a dish or two, if he chose; then she went out of the room and gave her children a sign to follow after. The king muttered⁠—

“Another English king had a commission like to this, in a bygone time⁠—it is nothing against my dignity to undertake an office which the great Alfred stooped to assume. But I will try to better serve my trust than he; for he let the cakes burn.”

The intent was good, but the performance was not answerable to it, for this king, like the other one, soon fell into deep thinkings concerning his vast affairs, and the same calamity resulted⁠—the cookery got burned. The woman returned in time to save the breakfast from entire destruction; and she promptly brought the king out of his dreams with a brisk and cordial tongue-lashing. Then, seeing how troubled he was over his violated trust, she softened at once, and was all goodness and gentleness toward him.

The boy made a hearty and satisfying meal, and was greatly refreshed and gladdened by it. It was a meal which was distinguished by this curious feature, that rank was waived on both sides; yet neither recipient of the favor was aware that it had been extended. The goodwife had intended to feed this young tramp with broken victuals in a corner, like any other tramp or like a dog; but she was so remorseful for the scolding she had given him, that she did what she could to atone for it by allowing him to sit at the family table and eat with his betters, on ostensible terms of equality with them; and the king, on his side, was so remorseful for having broken his trust, after the family had been so kind to him, that he forced himself to atone for it by humbling himself to the family level, instead of requiring the woman and her children to stand and wait upon him, while he occupied their table in the solitary state due to his birth and dignity. It does us all good to unbend sometimes. This good woman was made happy all the day long by the applauses which she got out of herself for her magnanimous condescension to a tramp; and the king was just as self-complacent over his gracious humility toward a humble peasant woman.

When breakfast was over, the housewife told the king to wash up the dishes. This command was a staggerer, for a moment, and the king came near rebelling; but then he said to himself, “Alfred the Great watched the cakes; doubtless he would have washed the dishes too⁠—therefore will I essay it.”

He made a sufficiently poor job of it; and to his surprise too, for the cleaning of wooden spoons and trenchers had seemed an easy thing to do. It was a tedious and troublesome piece of work, but he finished it at last. He was becoming impatient to get away on his journey now; however, he was not to lose this thrifty dame’s society so easily. She furnished him some little odds and ends of employment, which he got through with after a fair fashion and with some credit. Then she set him and the little girls to paring some winter apples; but he was so awkward at this service that she retired him from it and gave him a butcher knife to grind.

Afterwards she kept him carding wool until he began to think he had laid the good King Alfred about far enough in the shade for the present in the matter of showy menial heroisms that would read picturesquely in storybooks and histories, and so he was half-minded to resign. And when, just after the noonday dinner, the goodwife gave him a basket of kittens to drown, he did resign. At least he was just going to resign⁠—for he felt that he must draw the line somewhere, and it seemed to him that to draw it at kitten-drowning was about the right thing⁠—when there was an interruption. The interruption was John Canty⁠—with a peddler’s pack on his back⁠—and Hugo.

The king discovered these rascals approaching the front gate before they had had a chance to see him; so he said nothing about drawing the line, but took up his basket of kittens and stepped quietly out the back way, without a word. He left the creatures in an outhouse, and hurried on, into a narrow lane at the rear.

XX. The Prince and the Hermit

The high hedge hid him from the house, now; and so, under the impulse of a deadly fright, he let out all his forces and sped toward a wood in the distance. He never looked back until he had almost gained the shelter of the forest; then he turned and descried two figures in the distance. That was sufficient; he did not wait to scan them critically, but hurried on, and never abated his pace till he was far within the twilight depths of the wood. Then he stopped; being persuaded that he was now tolerably safe. He listened intently, but the stillness was profound and solemn⁠—awful, even, and depressing to the spirits. At wide intervals his straining ear did detect sounds, but they were so remote, and hollow, and mysterious, that they seemed not to be real sounds, but only the moaning and complaining ghosts of departed ones. So the sounds were yet more dreary than the silence which they interrupted.

It was his purpose, in the beginning, to stay where he was the rest of the day; but a chill soon invaded his perspiring body, and he was at last obliged to resume movement in order to get warm. He struck straight through the forest, hoping to pierce to a road presently, but he was disappointed in this. He travelled on and on; but the farther he went, the denser the wood became, apparently. The gloom began to thicken, by and by, and the king realized that the night was coming on. It made him shudder to think of spending it in such an uncanny place; so he tried to hurry faster, but he only made the less speed, for he could not now see well enough to choose his steps judiciously; consequently he kept tripping over roots and tangling himself in vines and briers.

And how glad he was when at last he caught the glimmer of a light! He approached it warily, stopping often to look about him and listen. It came from an unglazed window-opening in a shabby little hut. He heard a voice, now, and felt a disposition to run and hide; but he changed his mind at once, for this voice was praying, evidently. He glided to the one window of the hut, raised himself on tiptoe, and stole a glance within. The room was small; its floor was the natural earth, beaten hard by use; in a corner was a bed of rushes and a ragged blanket or two; near it was a pail, a cup, a basin, and two or three pots and pans; there was a short bench and a three-legged stool; on the hearth the remains of a faggot fire were smouldering; before a shrine, which was lighted by a single candle, knelt an aged man, and on an old wooden box at his side lay an open book and a human skull. The man was of large, bony frame; his hair and whiskers were very long and snowy white; he was clothed in a robe of sheepskins which reached from his neck to his heels.

“A holy hermit!” said the king to himself; “now am I indeed fortunate.”

The hermit rose from his knees; the king knocked. A deep voice responded⁠—

“Enter!⁠—but leave sin behind, for the ground whereon thou shalt stand is holy!”

The king entered, and paused. The hermit turned a pair of gleaming, unrestful eyes upon him, and said⁠—

“Who art thou?”

“I am the king,” came the answer, with placid simplicity.

“Welcome, king!” cried the hermit, with enthusiasm. Then, bustling about with feverish activity, and constantly saying, “Welcome, welcome,” he arranged his bench, seated the king on it, by the hearth, threw some faggots on the fire, and finally fell to pacing the floor with a nervous stride.

“Welcome! Many have sought sanctuary here, but they were not worthy, and were turned away. But a king who casts his crown away, and despises the vain splendors of his office, and clothes his body in rags, to devote his life to holiness and the mortification of the flesh⁠—he is worthy, he is welcome!⁠—here shall he abide all his days till death come.” The king hastened to interrupt and explain, but the hermit paid no attention to him⁠—did not even hear him, apparently, but went right on with his talk, with a raised voice and a growing energy. “And thou shalt be at peace here. None shall find out thy refuge to disquiet thee with supplications to return to that empty and foolish life which God hath moved thee to abandon. Thou shalt pray here; thou shalt study the Book; thou shalt meditate upon the follies and delusions of this world, and upon the sublimities of the world to come; thou shalt feed upon crusts and herbs, and scourge thy body with whips, daily, to the purifying of thy soul. Thou shalt wear a hair shirt next thy skin; thou shalt drink water only; and thou shalt be at peace; yes, wholly at peace; for whoso comes to seek thee shall go his way again, baffled; he shall not find thee, he shall not molest thee.”

The old man, still pacing back and forth, ceased to speak aloud, and began to mutter. The king seized this opportunity to state his case; and he did it with an eloquence inspired by uneasiness and apprehension. But the hermit went on muttering, and gave no heed. And still muttering, he approached the king and said impressively⁠—

“Sh! I will tell you a secret!” He bent down to impart it, but checked himself, and assumed a listening attitude. After a moment or two he went on tiptoe to the window-opening, put his head out, and peered around in the gloaming, then came tiptoeing back again, put his face close down to the king’s, and whispered⁠—

“I am an archangel!”

The king started violently, and said to himself, “Would God I were with the outlaws again; for lo, now am I the prisoner of a madman!” His apprehensions were heightened, and they showed plainly in his face. In a low excited voice the hermit continued⁠—

“I see you feel my atmosphere! There’s awe in your face! None may be in this atmosphere and not be thus affected; for it is the very atmosphere of heaven. I go thither and return, in the twinkling of an eye. I was made an archangel on this very spot, it is five years ago, by angels sent from heaven to confer that awful dignity. Their presence filled this place with an intolerable brightness. And they knelt to me, king! yes, they knelt to me! for I was greater than they. I have walked in the courts of heaven, and held speech with the patriarchs. Touch my hand⁠—be not afraid⁠—touch it. There⁠—now thou hast touched a hand which has been clasped by Abraham and Isaac and Jacob! For I have walked in the golden courts; I have seen the Deity face to face!” He paused, to give this speech effect; then his face suddenly changed, and he started to his feet again saying, with angry energy, “Yes, I am an archangel; a mere archangel!⁠—I that might have been pope! It is verily true. I was told it from heaven in a dream, twenty years ago; ah, yes, I was to be pope!⁠—and I should have been pope, for Heaven had said it⁠—but the king dissolved my religious house, and I, poor obscure unfriended monk, was cast homeless upon the world, robbed of my mighty destiny!” Here he began to mumble again, and beat his forehead in futile rage, with his fist; now and then articulating a venomous curse, and now and then a pathetic “Wherefore I am nought but an archangel⁠—I that should have been pope!”

So he went on, for an hour, whilst the poor little king sat and suffered. Then all at once the old man’s frenzy departed, and he became all gentleness. His voice softened, he came down out of his clouds, and fell to prattling along so simply and so humanly, that he soon won the king’s heart completely. The old devotee moved the boy nearer to the fire and made him comfortable; doctored his small bruises and abrasions with a deft and tender hand; and then set about preparing and cooking a supper⁠—chatting pleasantly all the time, and occasionally stroking the lad’s cheek or patting his head, in such a gently caressing way that in a little while all the fear and repulsion inspired by the archangel were changed to reverence and affection for the man.

This happy state of things continued while the two ate the supper; then, after a prayer before the shrine, the hermit put the boy to bed, in a small adjoining room, tucking him in as snugly and lovingly as a mother might; and so, with a parting caress, left him and sat down by the fire, and began to poke the brands about in an absent and aimless way. Presently he paused; then tapped his forehead several times with his fingers, as if trying to recall some thought which had escaped from his mind. Apparently he was unsuccessful. Now he started quickly up, and entered his guest’s room, and said⁠—

“Thou art king?”

“Yes,” was the response, drowsily uttered.

“What king?”

“Of England.”

“Of England? Then Henry is gone!”

“Alack, it is so. I am his son.”

A black frown settled down upon the hermit’s face, and he clenched his bony hands with a vindictive energy. He stood a few moments, breathing fast and swallowing repeatedly, then said in a husky voice⁠—

“Dost know it was he that turned us out into the world houseless and homeless?”

There was no response. The old man bent down and scanned the boy’s reposeful face and listened to his placid breathing. “He sleeps⁠—sleeps soundly;” and the frown vanished away and gave place to an expression of evil satisfaction. A smile flitted across the dreaming boy’s features. The hermit muttered, “So⁠—his heart is happy;” and he turned away. He went stealthily about the place, seeking here and there for something; now and then halting to listen, now and then jerking his head around and casting a quick glance toward the bed; and always muttering, always mumbling to himself. At last he found what he seemed to want⁠—a rusty old butcher knife and a whetstone. Then he crept to his place by the fire, sat himself down, and began to whet the knife softly on the stone, still muttering, mumbling, ejaculating. The winds sighed around the lonely place, the mysterious voices of the night floated by out of the distances. The shining eyes of venturesome mice and rats peered out at the old man from cracks and coverts, but he went on with his work, rapt, absorbed, and noted none of these things.

At long intervals he drew his thumb along the edge of his knife, and nodded his head with satisfaction. “It grows sharper,” he said; “yes, it grows sharper.”

He took no note of the flight of time, but worked tranquilly on, entertaining himself with his thoughts, which broke out occasionally in articulate speech⁠—

“His father wrought us evil, he destroyed us⁠—and is gone down into the eternal fires! Yes, down into the eternal fires! He escaped us⁠—but it was God’s will, yes it was God’s will, we must not repine. But he hath not escaped the fires! No, he hath not escaped the fires, the consuming, unpitying, remorseless fires⁠—and they are everlasting!”

And so he wrought, and still wrought⁠—mumbling, chuckling a low rasping chuckle at times⁠—and at times breaking again into words⁠—

“It was his father that did it all. I am but an archangel; but for him I should be pope!”

The king stirred. The hermit sprang noiselessly to the bedside, and went down upon his knees, bending over the prostrate form with his knife uplifted. The boy stirred again; his eyes came open for an instant, but there was no speculation in them, they saw nothing; the next moment his tranquil breathing showed that his sleep was sound once more.

The hermit watched and listened, for a time, keeping his position and scarcely breathing; then he slowly lowered his arms, and presently crept away, saying⁠—

“It is long past midnight; it is not best that he should cry out, lest by accident someone be passing.”

He glided about his hovel, gathering a rag here, a thong there, and another one yonder; then he returned, and by careful and gentle handling he managed to tie the king’s ankles together without waking him. Next he essayed to tie the wrists; he made several attempts to cross them, but the boy always drew one hand or the other away, just as the cord was ready to be applied; but at last, when the archangel was almost ready to despair, the boy crossed his hands himself, and the next moment they were bound. Now a bandage was passed under the sleeper’s chin and brought up over his head and tied fast⁠—and so softly, so gradually, and so deftly were the knots drawn together and compacted, that the boy slept peacefully through it all without stirring.