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Chapter 17 Foo-foo the First

  • Miles Hendon hurried along toward the Southwark end of the bridge, keeping _harp look-out for the persons he sought, and hoping and expecting to overtak_hem presently.  He was disappointed in this, however.  By asking questions, he was enabled to track them part of the way through Southwark; then al_races ceased, and he was perplexed as to how to proceed.  Still, he continue_is efforts as best he could during the rest of the day.  Nightfall found hi_eg-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 earl_tart in the morning, and give the town an exhaustive search.  As he la_hinking and planning, he presently began to reason thus:  The boy woul_scape from the ruffian, his reputed father, if possible; would he go back t_ondon and seek his former haunts?  No, he would not do that, he would avoi_ecapture. 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 tha_riend again, provided the effort did not require him to go toward London an_anger.  He would strike for Hendon Hall, that is what he would do, for h_new 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 mov_t once through Kent, toward Monk's Holm, searching the wood and inquiring a_e 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' th_outh and the King did not exactly join them, but fell in close behind the_nd followed their steps.  He said nothing. His left arm was in a sling, an_e wore a large green patch over his left eye; he limped slightly, and used a_aken staff as a support.  The youth led the King a crooked course throug_outhwark, and by-and-by struck into the high road beyond.  The King wa_rritated, now, and said he would stop here—it was Hendon's place to come t_im, not his to go to Hendon.  He would not endure such insolence; he woul_top where he was.  The youth said—
  • "Thou'lt tarry here, and thy friend lying wounded in the wood yonder?  So b_t, 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 o_t be a duke's son he shall rue it!"
  • It was some distance to the wood, but the space was speedily traversed. Th_outh looked about him, discovered a bough sticking in the ground, with _mall bit of rag tied to it, then led the way into the forest, watching fo_imilar boughs and finding them at intervals; they were evidently guides t_he point he was aiming at.  By-and-by an open place was reached, where wer_he charred remains of a farm-house, and near them a barn which was falling t_uin and decay.  There was no sign of life anywhere, and utter silenc_revailed.  The youth entered the barn, the King following eagerly upon hi_eels.  No one there! The King shot a surprised and suspicious glance at th_outh, and asked—
  • "Where is he?"
  • A mocking laugh was his answer.  The King was in a rage in a moment; he seize_ billet of wood and was in the act of charging upon the youth when anothe_ocking laugh fell upon his ear.  It was from the lame ruffian who had bee_ollowing 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 s_ood 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 hi_y servant, find him for me, or thou shalt sup sorrow for what thou has_one."
  • 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 provok_e, I must.  Thy prating doth no harm here, where there are no ears that nee_o 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, an_ay not tarry at home—neither shalt thou, seeing I need thy service.  My nam_s changed, for wise reasons; it is Hobbs—John Hobbs; thine is Jack—charge th_emory accordingly.  Now, then, speak.  Where is thy mother?  Where are th_isters?  They came not to the place appointed—knowest thou whither the_ent?"
  • The King answered sullenly—
  • "Trouble me not with these riddles.  My mother is dead; my sisters are in th_alace."
  • The youth near by burst into a derisive laugh, and the King would hav_ssaulted him, but Canty—or Hobbs, as he now called himself—prevented him, an_aid—
  • "Peace, Hugo, vex him not; his mind is astray, and thy ways fret him. Sit the_own, 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 remove_imself as far as he could from their disagreeable company.  He withdrew int_he twilight of the farther end of the barn, where he found the earthen floo_edded a foot deep with straw.  He lay down here, drew straw over himself i_ieu of blankets, and was soon absorbed in thinking.  He had many griefs, bu_he minor ones were swept almost into forgetfulness by the supreme one, th_oss of his father.  To the rest of the world the name of Henry VIII. brough_ shiver, and suggested an ogre whose nostrils breathed destruction and whos_and dealt scourgings and death; but to this boy the name brought onl_ensations of pleasure; the figure it invoked wore a countenance that was al_entleness and affection.  He called to mind a long succession of lovin_assages between his father and himself, and dwelt fondly upon them, hi_nstinted tears attesting how deep and real was the grief that possessed hi_eart. As the afternoon wasted away, the lad, wearied with his troubles, san_radually into a tranquil and healing slumber.
  • After a considerable time—he could not tell how long—his senses struggled to _alf-consciousness, and as he lay with closed eyes vaguely wondering where h_as and what had been happening, he noted a murmurous sound, the sulle_eating of rain upon the roof. A snug sense of comfort stole over him, whic_as rudely broken, the next moment, by a chorus of piping cackles and coars_aughter.  It startled him disagreeably, and he unmuffled his head to se_hence 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 th_arn; and around it, and lit weirdly up by the red glare, lolled and sprawle_he motliest company of tattered gutter-scum and ruffians, of both sexes, h_ad ever read or dreamed of.  There were huge stalwart men, brown wit_xposure, long-haired, and clothed in fantastic rags; there were middle-size_ouths, of truculent countenance, and similarly clad; there were blin_endicants, with patched or bandaged eyes; crippled ones, with wooden legs an_rutches; diseased ones, with running sores peeping from ineffectua_rappings; 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 o_he females were hardly-grown girls, some were at prime, some were old an_rinkled hags, and all were loud, brazen, foul-mouthed; and all soiled an_latternly; there were three sore-faced babies; there were a couple o_tarveling curs, with strings about their necks, whose office was to lead th_lind.
  • The night was come, the gang had just finished feasting, an orgy wa_eginning; the can of liquor was passing from mouth to mouth. A general cr_roke 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 tha_heltered his excellent eyes, and the pathetic placard which recited the caus_f his calamity.  Dot-and-go-One disencumbered himself of his timber leg an_ook his place, upon sound and healthy limbs, beside his fellow-rascal; the_hey roared out a rollicking ditty, and were reinforced by the whole crew, a_he end of each stanza, in a rousing chorus.  By the time the last stanza wa_eached, the half-drunken enthusiasm had risen to such a pitch, that everybod_oined in and sang it clear through from the beginning, producing a volume o_illainous sound that made the rafters quake.  These were the inspirin_ords:—
  • > '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.'
  • > > (From'The English Rogue.' London, 1665.)
  • Conversation followed; not in the thieves' dialect of the song, for that wa_nly used in talk when unfriendly ears might be listening.  In the course o_t, it appeared that 'John Hobbs' was not altogether a new recruit, but ha_rained in the gang at some former time.  His later history was called for, and when he said he had 'accidentally' killed a man, considerable satisfactio_as expressed; when he added that the man was a priest, he was roundl_pplauded, and had to take a drink with everybody.  Old acquaintances welcome_im joyously, and new ones were proud to shake him by the hand.  He was aske_hy he had 'tarried away so many months.'  He answered—
  • "London is better than the country, and safer, these late years, the laws b_o bitter and so diligently enforced.  An' I had not had that accident, I ha_tayed 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 ar_andering 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. H_as 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 th_astward tramp; a fine lass, of nice ways and orderly conduct, none eve_eeing her drunk above four days in the seven."
  • "She was ever strict—I remember it well—a goodly wench and worthy al_ommendation.  Her mother was more free and less particular; a troublesome an_gly-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 t_eath at a slow fire.  It did touch me to a sort of tenderness to see th_allant way she met her lot—cursing and reviling all the crowd that gaped an_azed around her, whilst the flames licked upward toward her face and catche_er thin locks and crackled about her old gray head—cursing them! why an' tho_hould'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, bu_o true blasphemy."
  • The Ruffler sighed; the listeners sighed in sympathy; a general depressio_ell upon the company for a moment, for even hardened outcasts like these ar_ot wholly dead to sentiment, but are able to feel a fleeting sense of los_nd affliction at wide intervals and under peculiarly favourin_ircumstances—as in cases like to this, for instance, when genius and cultur_epart and leave no heir.  However, a deep drink all round soon restored th_pirits of the mourners.
  • "Have any others of our friends fared hardly?" asked Hobbs.
  • "Some—yes.  Particularly new comers—such as small husbandmen turned shiftles_nd hungry upon the world because their farms were taken from them to b_hanged 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 b_elted; they begged again, were whipped again, and deprived of an ear; the_egged a third time—poor devils, what else could they do?—and were branded o_he cheek with a red-hot iron, then sold for slaves; they ran away, wer_unted down, and hanged.  'Tis a brief tale, and quickly told.  Others of u_ave fared less hardly. Stand forth, Yokel, Burns, and Hodge—show you_dornments!"
  • These stood up and stripped away some of their rags, exposing their backs, criss-crossed with ropy old welts left by the lash; one turned up his hair an_howed the place where a left ear had once been; another showed a brand upo_is 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 _omewhat 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 b_hanked, they bide no more in ENGLAND!  My good old blameless mother strove t_arn 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!—drin_o the merciful English law that delivered HER from the English hell!  Than_ou, mates, one and all.  I begged, from house to house—I and the wife—bearin_ith us the hungry kids—but it was crime to be hungry in England—so the_tripped us and lashed us through three towns.  Drink ye all again to th_erciful English law!—for its lash drank deep of my Mary's blood and it_lessed deliverance came quick.  She lies there, in the potter's field, saf_rom all harms.  And the kids—well, whilst the law lashed me from town t_own, they starved. Drink, lads—only a drop—a drop to the poor kids, tha_ever did any creature harm.  I begged again—begged, for a crust, and got th_tocks and lost an ear—see, here bides the stump; I begged again, and here i_he stump of the other to keep me minded of it. And still I begged again, an_as sold for a slave—here on my cheek under this stain, if I washed it off, y_ight see the red S the branding-iron left there!  A SLAVE!  Do you understan_hat word?  An English SLAVE!—that is he that stands before ye.  I have ru_rom my master, and when I am found—the heavy curse of heaven fall on the la_f the land that hath commanded it!—I shall hang!" {1}
  • 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 approachin_urriedly; as it emerged into the light and was clearly revealed, a genera_xplosion 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 questionin_yes, and answered with princely dignity—
  • "I am Edward, King of England."
  • A wild burst of laughter followed, partly of derision and partly of delight i_he excellence of the joke.  The King was stung.  He said sharply—
  • "Ye mannerless vagrants, is this your recognition of the royal boon I hav_romised?"
  • He said more, with angry voice and excited gesture, but it was lost in _hirlwind of laughter and mocking exclamations.  'John Hobbs' made severa_ttempts 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—h_hinketh he IS the King."
  • "I AM the King," said Edward, turning toward him, "as thou shalt know to th_ost, 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, an_mphasising this service by knocking Hobbs down with his fist, "hast respec_or neither Kings NOR Rufflers?  An' thou insult my presence so again, I'l_ang thee up myself."  Then he said to his Majesty, "Thou must make no threat_gainst thy mates, lad; and thou must guard thy tongue from saying evil o_hem elsewhere.  BE King, if it please thy mad humour, but be not harmful i_t.  Sink the title thou hast uttered—'tis treason; we be bad men in some fe_rifling ways, but none among us is so base as to be traitor to his King; w_e loving and loyal hearts, in that regard.  Note if I speak truth.  Now—al_ogether:  '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 craz_uilding vibrated to the sound.  The little King's face lighted with pleasur_or an instant, and he slightly inclined his head, and said with grav_implicity—
  • "I thank you, my good people."
  • This unexpected result threw the company into convulsions of merriment. Whe_omething like quiet was presently come again, the Ruffler said, firmly, bu_ith an accent of good nature—
  • "Drop it, boy, 'tis not wise, nor well.  Humour thy fancy, if thou must, bu_hoose 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 wen_p, of—
  • "Long live Foo-foo the First, King of the Mooncalves!" followed by hootings, cat-calls, 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 poo_ittle victim could draw a breath he was crowned with a tin basin, robed in _attered blanket, throned upon a barrel, and sceptred with the tinker'_oldering-iron.  Then all flung themselves upon their knees about him and sen_p a chorus of ironical wailings, and mocking supplications, whilst the_wabbed 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 an_e ennobled!"
  • "Deign to spit upon us, O Sire, that our children's children may tell of th_rincely condescension, and be proud and happy for ever!"
  • But the humorous tinker made the 'hit' of the evening and carried off th_onours.  Kneeling, he pretended to kiss the King's foot, and was indignantl_purned; whereupon he went about begging for a rag to paste over the plac_pon his face which had been touched by the foot, saying it must be preserve_rom contact with the vulgar air, and that he should make his fortune by goin_n the highway and exposing it to view at the rate of a hundred shillings _ight.  He made himself so killingly funny that he was the envy and admiratio_f the whole mangy rabble.
  • Tears of shame and indignation stood in the little monarch's eyes; and th_hought in his heart was, "Had I offered them a deep wrong they could not b_ore cruel—yet have I proffered nought but to do them a kindness—and it i_hus they use me for it!"