Miles Hendon was picturesque enough before he got into the riot on Londo_ridge—he was more so when he got out of it. He had but little money when h_ot in, none at all when he got out. The pickpockets had stripped him of hi_ast farthing.
But no matter, so he found his boy. Being a soldier, he did not go at hi_ask in a random way, but set to work, first of all, to arrange his campaign.
What would the boy naturally do? Where would he naturally go? Well—argue_iles—he would naturally go to his former haunts, for that is the instinct o_nsound minds, when homeless and forsaken, as well as of sound ones.
Whereabouts were his former haunts? His rags, taken together with the lo_illain who seemed to know him and who even claimed to be his father, indicated that his home was in one or another of the poorest and meanes_istricts of London. Would the search for him be difficult, or long? No, i_as likely to be easy and brief. He would not hunt for the boy, he would hun_or a crowd; in the centre of a big crowd or a little one, sooner or later, h_hould find his poor little friend, sure; and the mangy mob would b_ntertaining itself with pestering and aggravating the boy, who would b_roclaiming himself King, as usual. Then Miles Hendon would cripple some o_hose people, and carry off his little ward, and comfort and cheer him wit_oving words, and the two would never be separated any more.
So Miles started on his quest. Hour after hour he tramped through back alley_nd squalid streets, seeking groups and crowds, and finding no end of them, but never any sign of the boy. This greatly surprised him, but did no_iscourage him. To his notion, there was nothing the matter with his plan o_ampaign; the only miscalculation about it was that the campaign was becomin_ lengthy one, whereas he had expected it to be short.
When daylight arrived, at last, he had made many a mile, and canvassed many _rowd, but the only result was that he was tolerably tired, rather hungry an_ery sleepy. He wanted some breakfast, but there was no way to get it. T_eg for it did not occur to him; as to pawning his sword, he would as soo_ave thought of parting with his honour; he could spare some of hi_lothes—yes, but one could as easily find a customer for a disease as for suc_lothes.
At noon he was still tramping—among the rabble which followed after the roya_rocession, now; for he argued that this regal display would attract hi_ittle lunatic powerfully. He followed the pageant through all its deviou_indings about London, and all the way to Westminster and the Abbey. H_rifted here and there amongst the multitudes that were massed in the vicinit_or a weary long time, baffled and perplexed, and finally wandered off, thinking, and trying to contrive some way to better his plan of campaign. By- and-by, when he came to himself out of his musings, he discovered that th_own was far behind him and that the day was growing old. He was near th_iver, and in the country; it was a region of fine rural seats—not the sort o_istrict to welcome clothes like his.
It was not at all cold; so he stretched himself on the ground in the lee of _edge to rest and think. Drowsiness presently began to settle upon hi_enses; the faint and far-off boom of cannon was wafted to his ear, and h_aid to himself, "The new King is crowned," and straightway fell asleep. H_ad not slept or rested, before, for more than thirty hours. He did not wak_gain until near the middle of the next morning.
He got up, lame, stiff, and half famished, washed himself in the river, staye_is stomach with a pint or two of water, and trudged off toward Westminster, grumbling at himself for having wasted so much time. Hunger helped him to _ew plan, now; he would try to get speech with old Sir Humphrey Marlow an_orrow a few marks, and—but that was enough of a plan for the present; i_ould be time enough to enlarge it when this first stage should b_ccomplished.
Toward eleven o'clock he approached the palace; and although a host of show_eople were about him, moving in the same direction, he was no_nconspicuous—his costume took care of that. He watched these people's face_arrowly, hoping to find a charitable one whose possessor might be willing t_arry his name to the old lieutenant—as to trying to get into the palac_imself, that was simply out of the question.
Presently our whipping-boy passed him, then wheeled about and scanned hi_igure well, saying to himself, "An' that is not the very vagabond his Majest_s in such a worry about, then am I an ass—though belike I was that before.
He answereth the description to a rag—that God should make two such would b_o cheapen miracles by wasteful repetition. I would I could contrive a_xcuse to speak with him."
Miles Hendon saved him the trouble; for he turned about, then, as a ma_enerally will when somebody mesmerises him by gazing hard at him from behind; and observing a strong interest in the boy's eyes, he stepped toward him an_aid—
"You have just come out from the palace; do you belong there?"
"Yes, your worship."
"Know you Sir Humphrey Marlow?"
The boy started, and said to himself, "Lord! mine old departed father!" The_e answered aloud, "Right well, your worship."
"Good—is he within?"
"Yes," said the boy; and added, to himself, "within his grave."
"Might I crave your favour to carry my name to him, and say I beg to say _ord in his ear?"
"I will despatch the business right willingly, fair sir."
"Then say Miles Hendon, son of Sir Richard, is here without—I shall be greatl_ounden to you, my good lad."
The boy looked disappointed. "The King did not name him so," he said t_imself; "but it mattereth not, this is his twin brother, and can give hi_ajesty news of t'other Sir-Odds-and-Ends, I warrant." So he said to Miles,
"Step in there a moment, good sir, and wait till I bring you word."
Hendon retired to the place indicated—it was a recess sunk in the palace wall, with a stone bench in it—a shelter for sentinels in bad weather. He had hardl_eated himself when some halberdiers, in charge of an officer, passed by. Th_fficer saw him, halted his men, and commanded Hendon to come forth. H_beyed, and was promptly arrested as a suspicious character prowling withi_he precincts of the palace. Things began to look ugly. Poor Miles was goin_o explain, but the officer roughly silenced him, and ordered his men t_isarm him and search him.
"God of his mercy grant that they find somewhat," said poor Miles; "I hav_earched enow, and failed, yet is my need greater than theirs."
Nothing was found but a document. The officer tore it open, and Hendon smile_hen he recognised the 'pot-hooks' made by his lost little friend that blac_ay at Hendon Hall. The officer's face grew dark as he read the Englis_aragraph, and Miles blenched to the opposite colour as he listened.
"Another new claimant of the Crown!" cried the officer. "Verily they bree_ike rabbits, to-day. Seize the rascal, men, and see ye keep him fast whils_ convey this precious paper within and send it to the King."
He hurried away, leaving the prisoner in the grip of the halberdiers.
"Now is my evil luck ended at last," muttered Hendon, "for I shall dangle at _ope's end for a certainty, by reason of that bit of writing. And what wil_ecome of my poor lad!—ah, only the good God knoweth."
By-and-by he saw the officer coming again, in a great hurry; so he plucked hi_ourage together, purposing to meet his trouble as became a man. The office_rdered the men to loose the prisoner and return his sword to him; then bowe_espectfully, and said—
"Please you, sir, to follow me."
Hendon followed, saying to himself, "An' I were not travelling to death an_udgment, and so must needs economise in sin, I would throttle this knave fo_is mock courtesy."
The two traversed a populous court, and arrived at the grand entrance of th_alace, where the officer, with another bow, delivered Hendon into the hand_f a gorgeous official, who received him with profound respect and led hi_orward through a great hall, lined on both sides with rows of splendi_lunkeys (who made reverential obeisance as the two passed along, but fel_nto death-throes of silent laughter at our stately scarecrow the moment hi_ack was turned), and up a broad staircase, among flocks of fine folk, an_inally conducted him into a vast room, clove a passage for him through th_ssembled nobility of England, then made a bow, reminded him to take his ha_ff, and left him standing in the middle of the room, a mark for all eyes, fo_lenty of indignant frowns, and for a sufficiency of amused and derisiv_miles.
Miles Hendon was entirely bewildered. There sat the young King, under _anopy of state, five steps away, with his head bent down and aside, speakin_ith a sort of human bird of paradise—a duke, maybe. Hendon observed t_imself that it was hard enough to be sentenced to death in the full vigour o_ife, without having this peculiarly public humiliation added. He wished th_ing would hurry about it—some of the gaudy people near by were becomin_retty offensive. At this moment the King raised his head slightly, an_endon caught a good view of his face. The sight nearly took his breat_way!—He stood gazing at the fair young face like one transfixed; the_resently ejaculated—
"Lo, the Lord of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows on his throne!"
He muttered some broken sentences, still gazing and marvelling; then turne_is eyes around and about, scanning the gorgeous throng and the splendi_aloon, murmuring, "But these are REAL—verily these are REAL—surely it is no_ dream."
He stared at the King again—and thought, "IS it a dream … or IS he th_eritable Sovereign of England, and not the friendless poor Tom o' Bedlam _ook him for—who shall solve me this riddle?"
A sudden idea flashed in his eye, and he strode to the wall, gathered up _hair, brought it back, planted it on the floor, and sat down in it!
A buzz of indignation broke out, a rough hand was laid upon him and a voic_xclaimed—
"Up, thou mannerless clown! would'st sit in the presence of the King?"
The disturbance attracted his Majesty's attention, who stretched forth hi_and and cried out—
"Touch him not, it is his right!"
The throng fell back, stupefied. The King went on—
"Learn ye all, ladies, lords, and gentlemen, that this is my trusty and well- beloved servant, Miles Hendon, who interposed his good sword and saved hi_rince from bodily harm and possible death—and for this he is a knight, by th_ing's voice. Also learn, that for a higher service, in that he saved hi_overeign stripes and shame, taking these upon himself, he is a peer o_ngland, Earl of Kent, and shall have gold and lands meet for the dignity.
More—the privilege which he hath just exercised is his by royal grant; for w_ave ordained that the chiefs of his line shall have and hold the right to si_n the presence of the Majesty of England henceforth, age after age, so lon_s the crown shall endure. Molest him not."
Two persons, who, through delay, had only arrived from the country during thi_orning, and had now been in this room only five minutes, stood listening t_hese words and looking at the King, then at the scarecrow, then at the Kin_gain, in a sort of torpid bewilderment. These were Sir Hugh and the Lad_dith. But the new Earl did not see them. He was still staring at th_onarch, in a dazed way, and muttering—
"Oh, body o' me! THIS my pauper! This my lunatic! This is he whom _I_ woul_how what grandeur was, in my house of seventy rooms and seven-and-twent_ervants! This is he who had never known aught but rags for raiment, kick_or comfort, and offal for diet! This is he whom _I_ adopted and would mak_espectable! Would God I had a bag to hide my head in!"
Then his manners suddenly came back to him, and he dropped upon his knees, with his hands between the King's, and swore allegiance and did homage for hi_ands and titles. Then he rose and stood respectfully aside, a mark still fo_ll eyes—and much envy, too.
Now the King discovered Sir Hugh, and spoke out with wrathful voice an_indling eye—
"Strip this robber of his false show and stolen estates, and put him unde_ock and key till I have need of him."
The late Sir Hugh was led away.
There was a stir at the other end of the room, now; the assemblage fell apart, and Tom Canty, quaintly but richly clothed, marched down, between these livin_alls, preceded by an usher. He knelt before the King, who said—
"I have learned the story of these past few weeks, and am well pleased wit_hee. Thou hast governed the realm with right royal gentleness and mercy.
Thou hast found thy mother and thy sisters again? Good; they shall be care_or—and thy father shall hang, if thou desire it and the law consent. Know, all ye that hear my voice, that from this day, they that abide in the shelte_f Christ's Hospital and share the King's bounty shall have their minds an_earts fed, as well as their baser parts; and this boy shall dwell there, an_old the chief place in its honourable body of governors, during life. An_or that he hath been a king, it is meet that other than common observanc_hall be his due; wherefore note this his dress of state, for by it he shal_e known, and none shall copy it; and wheresoever he shall come, it shal_emind the people that he hath been royal, in his time, and none shall den_im his due of reverence or fail to give him salutation. He hath the throne'_rotection, he hath the crown's support, he shall be known and called by th_onourable title of the King's Ward."
The proud and happy Tom Canty rose and kissed the King's hand, and wa_onducted from the presence. He did not waste any time, but flew to hi_other, to tell her and Nan and Bet all about it and get them to help hi_njoy the great news.