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Chapter 26 Disowned

  • The King sat musing a few moments, then looked up and said—
  • "'Tis strange—most strange.  I cannot account for it."
  • "No, it is not strange, my liege.  I know him, and this conduct is bu_atural.  He was a rascal from his birth."
  • "Oh, I spake not of HIM, Sir Miles."
  • "Not of him?  Then of what?  What is it that is strange?"
  • "That the King is not missed."
  • "How?  Which?  I doubt I do not understand."
  • "Indeed?  Doth it not strike you as being passing strange that the land is no_illed with couriers and proclamations describing my person and making searc_or me?  Is it no matter for commotion and distress that the Head of the Stat_s gone; that I am vanished away and lost?"
  • "Most true, my King, I had forgot."  Then Hendon sighed, and muttered t_imself, "Poor ruined mind—still busy with its pathetic dream."
  • "But I have a plan that shall right us both—I will write a paper, in thre_ongues—Latin, Greek and English—and thou shalt haste away with it to Londo_n the morning.  Give it to none but my uncle, the Lord Hertford; when h_hall see it, he will know and say I wrote it.  Then he will send for me."
  • "Might it not be best, my Prince, that we wait here until I prove myself an_ake my rights secure to my domains?  I should be so much the better able the_o—"
  • The King interrupted him imperiously—
  • "Peace!  What are thy paltry domains, thy trivial interests, contrasted wit_atters which concern the weal of a nation and the integrity of a throne?"
  • Then, he added, in a gentle voice, as if he were sorry for his severity,
  • "Obey, and have no fear; I will right thee, I will make thee whole—yes, mor_han whole.  I shall remember, and requite."
  • So saying, he took the pen, and set himself to work.  Hendon contemplated hi_ovingly a while, then said to himself—
  • "An' it were dark, I should think it WAS a king that spoke; there's no denyin_t, when the humour's upon on him he doth thunder and lighten like your tru_ing; now where got he that trick?  See him scribble and scratch awa_ontentedly at his meaningless pot-hooks, fancying them to be Latin an_reek—and except my wit shall serve me with a lucky device for diverting hi_rom his purpose, I shall be forced to pretend to post away to-morrow on thi_ild errand he hath invented for me."
  • The next moment Sir Miles's thoughts had gone back to the recent episode. S_bsorbed was he in his musings, that when the King presently handed him th_aper which he had been writing, he received it and pocketed it without bein_onscious of the act. "How marvellous strange she acted," he muttered.  "_hink she knew me—and I think she did NOT know me. These opinions do conflict,
  • I perceive it plainly; I cannot reconcile them, neither can I, by argument,
  • dismiss either of the two, or even persuade one to outweigh the other.  Th_atter standeth simply thus: she MUST have known my face, my figure, my voice,
  • for how could it be otherwise?  Yet she SAID she knew me not, and that i_roof perfect, for she cannot lie.  But stop—I think I begin to see.
  • Peradventure he hath influenced her, commanded her, compelled her to lie.
  • That is the solution.  The riddle is unriddled.  She seemed dead wit_ear—yes, she was under his compulsion.  I will seek her; I will find her; no_hat he is away, she will speak her true mind.  She will remember the ol_imes when we were little playfellows together, and this will soften he_eart, and she will no more betray me, but will confess me.  There is n_reacherous blood in her—no, she was always honest and true.  She has love_e, in those old days—this is my security; for whom one has loved, one canno_etray."
  • He stepped eagerly toward the door; at that moment it opened, and the Lad_dith entered.  She was very pale, but she walked with a firm step, and he_arriage was full of grace and gentle dignity. Her face was as sad as before.
  • Miles sprang forward, with a happy confidence, to meet her, but she checke_im with a hardly perceptible gesture, and he stopped where he was.  Sh_eated herself, and asked him to do likewise. Thus simply did she take th_ense of old comradeship out of him, and transform him into a stranger and _uest.  The surprise of it, the bewildering unexpectedness of it, made hi_egin to question, for a moment, if he WAS the person he was pretending to be,
  • after all.  The Lady Edith said—
  • "Sir, I have come to warn you.  The mad cannot be persuaded out of thei_elusions, perchance; but doubtless they may be persuaded to avoid perils.  _hink this dream of yours hath the seeming of honest truth to you, an_herefore is not criminal—but do not tarry here with it; for here it i_angerous."  She looked steadily into Miles's face a moment, then added,
  • impressively, "It is the more dangerous for that you ARE much like what ou_ost lad must have grown to be if he had lived."
  • "Heavens, madam, but I AM he!"
  • "I truly think you think it, sir.  I question not your honesty in that; I bu_arn you, that is all.  My husband is master in this region; his power hat_ardly any limit; the people prosper or starve, as he wills. If you resemble_ot the man whom you profess to be, my husband might bid you pleasure yoursel_ith your dream in peace; but trust me, I know him well; I know what he wil_o; he will say to all that you are but a mad impostor, and straightway al_ill echo him."  She bent upon Miles that same steady look once more, an_dded:  "If you WERE Miles Hendon, and he knew it and all the region kne_t—consider what I am saying, weigh it well—you would stand in the same peril,
  • your punishment would be no less sure; he would deny you and denounce you, an_one would be bold enough to give you countenance."
  • "Most truly I believe it," said Miles, bitterly.  "The power that can comman_ne life-long friend to betray and disown another, and be obeyed, may wel_ook to be obeyed in quarters where bread and life are on the stake and n_obweb ties of loyalty and honour are concerned."
  • A faint tinge appeared for a moment in the lady's cheek, and she dropped he_yes to the floor; but her voice betrayed no emotion when she proceeded—
  • "I have warned you—I must still warn you—to go hence.  This man will destro_ou, else.  He is a tyrant who knows no pity.  I, who am his fettered slave,
  • know this.  Poor Miles, and Arthur, and my dear guardian, Sir Richard, ar_ree of him, and at rest:  better that you were with them than that you bid_ere in the clutches of this miscreant.  Your pretensions are a menace to hi_itle and possessions; you have assaulted him in his own house:  you ar_uined if you stay.  Go—do not hesitate. If you lack money, take this purse, _eg of you, and bribe the servants to let you pass. Oh, be warned, poor soul,
  • and escape while you may."
  • Miles declined the purse with a gesture, and rose up and stood before her.
  • "Grant me one thing," he said.  "Let your eyes rest upon mine, so that I ma_ee if they be steady.  There—now answer me.  Am I Miles Hendon?"
  • "No.  I know you not."
  • "Swear it!"
  • The answer was low, but distinct—
  • "I swear."
  • "Oh, this passes belief!"
  • "Fly!  Why will you waste the precious time?  Fly, and save yourself."
  • At that moment the officers burst into the room, and a violent struggle began;
  • but Hendon was soon overpowered and dragged away. The King was taken also, an_oth were bound and led to prison.