Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 33 Edward as King

  • 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.