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prince-without the shadow of a question; and the prayer of the pauper boy’s
heart was answered at last.
Tom’s breath came quick and short with excitement, and his eyes grew big with
wonder and delight. Everything gave way in his mind instantly to one desire:
that was to get close to the prince, and have a good, devouring look at him.
Before he knew what he was about, he had his face against the gate-bars. The
next instant one of the soldiers snatched him rudely away, and sent him
spinning among the gaping crowd of country gawks and London idlers. The
soldier said: ‘Mind thy manners, thou young beggar!’ The crowd jeered and
laughed; but the young prince sprang to the gate with his face flushed, and his
eyes flashing with indignation, and cried out: ‘How dar’st thou use a poor lad
like that! How dar’st thou use the king my father’s meanest subject so! Open the
gates, and let him in!’ You should have seen that fickle crowd snatch off their
hats then. You should have heard them cheer, and shout, ‘Long live the Prince of
Wales!’ The soldiers presented arms with their halberds, opened the gates, and
presented again as the little Prince of Poverty passed in, in his fluttering rags, to
join hands with the Prince of Limitless Plenty. Edward Tudor said: ‘Thou lookest
tired and hungry; thou’st been treated ill. Come with me.’ Half a dozen
attendants sprang forward to-I don’t know what; interfere, no doubt. But they
were waved aside with a right royal gesture, and they stopped stock still where
they were like so many statues. Edward took Tom to a rich apartment in the
palace, which he called his cabinet. By his command a repast was brought such
as Tom had never encountered before except in books. The prince, with princely
delicacy and breeding, sent away the servants, so that his humble guest might
not be embarrassed by their critical presence; then he sat near by, and asked
questions while Tom ate.
‘What is thy name, lad?’ ‘Tom Canty, an it please thee, sir.’ ‘’Tis an odd one.
Where dost live?’ ‘In the city, please thee, sir. Offal Court, out of Pudding Lane.’
‘Offal Court! Truly, ‘tis another odd one. Hast parents?’ ‘Parents have I, sir, and
a grandam likewise that is but indifferently precious to me, God forgive me if it
be offense to say it-also twin sisters, Nan and Bet.’ ‘Then is thy grandam not
overkind to thee, I take it.’ ‘Neither to any other is she, so please your worship.
She hath a wicked heart, and worketh evil all her days.’ ‘Doth she mistreat thee?’
‘There be times that she stayeth her hand, being asleep or overcome with drink;
but when she hath her judgment clear again, she maketh it up to me with goodly
beatings.’ A fierce look came into the little prince’s eyes, and he cried out: ‘What!
Beatings?’ ‘O, indeed, yes, please you, sir.’
‘Beatings!- and thou so frail and little. Hark ye: before the night come, she shall
hie her to the Tower. The king my father-’ ‘In sooth, you forget, sir, her low
degree. The Tower is for the great alone.’ ‘True, indeed. I had not thought of
that. I will consider of her punishment. Is thy father kind to thee?’ ‘Not more
than Gammer Canty, sir.’ ‘Fathers be alike, mayhap. Mine hath not a doll’s
temper. He smiteth with a heavy hand, yet spareth me; he spareth me not always
with his tongue, though, sooth to say. How doth thy mother use thee?’ ‘She is