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elders; and these, also, presently began to discuss Tom Canty, and to regard him
as a most gifted and extraordinary creature. Full-grown people brought their
perplexities to Tom for solution, and were often astonished at the wit and
wisdom of his decisions. In fact, he was become a hero to all who knew him
except his own family-these only saw nothing in him.
Privately, after a while, Tom organized a royal court! He was the prince; his
special comrades were guards, chamberlains, equerries, lords and ladies in
waiting, and the royal family. Daily the mock prince was received with elaborate
ceremonials borrowed by Tom from his romantic readings; daily the great affairs
of the mimic kingdom were discussed in the royal council, and daily his mimic
highness issued decrees to his imaginary armies, navies, and viceroyalties.
After which he would go forth in his rags and beg a few farthings, eat his poor
crust, take his customary cuffs and abuse, and then stretch himself upon his
handful of foul straw, and resume his empty grandeurs in his dreams.
And still his desire to look just once upon a real prince, in the flesh, grew upon
him, day by day, and week by week, until at last it absorbed all other desires,
and became the one passion of his life.
One January day, on his usual begging tour, he tramped despondently up and
down the region round about Mincing Lane and Little East Cheap, hour after
hour, barefooted and cold, looking in at cook-shop windows and longing for the
dreadful pork-pies and other deadly inventions displayed there-for to him these
were dainties fit for the angels; that is, judging by the smell, they were-for it had
never been his good luck to own and eat one. There was a cold drizzle of rain;
the atmosphere was murky; it was a melancholy day. At night Tom reached
home so wet and tired and hungry that it was not possible for his father and
grandmother to observe his forlorn condition and not be moved-after their
fashion; wherefore they gave him a brisk cuffing at once and sent him to bed.
For a long time his pain and hunger, and the swearing and fighting going on in
the building, kept him awake; but at last his thoughts drifted away to far,
romantic lands, and he fell asleep in the company of jeweled and gilded
princelings who lived in vast palaces, and had servants salaaming before them
or flying to execute their orders.
And then, as usual, he dreamed that he was a princeling himself.
All night long the glories of his royal estate shone upon him; he moved among
great lords and ladies, in a blaze of light, breathing perfumes, drinking in
delicious music, and answering the reverent obeisances of the glittering throng
as it parted to make way for him, with here a smile, and there a nod of his
And when he awoke in the morning and looked upon the wretchedness about
him, his dream had had its usual effect-it had intensified the sordidness of his
surroundings a thousandfold. Then came bitterness, and heartbreak, and tears.