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To London

WHEN Hendon’s term of service in the stocks was finished, he was released and
ordered to quit the region and come back no more. His sword was restored to
him, and also his mule and his donkey. He mounted and rode off, followed by
the king, the crowd opening with quiet respectfulness to let them pass, and then
dispersing when they were gone.

Hendon was soon absorbed in thought. There were questions of high import to
be answered. What should he do? Whither should he go? Powerful help must be
found somewhere, or he must relinquish his inheritance and remain under the
imputation of being an impostor besides. Where could he hope to find this
powerful help? Where, indeed! It was a knotty question. By and by a thought
occurred to him which pointed to a possibility-the slenderest of slender
possibilities, certainly, but still worth considering, for lack of any other that
promised anything at all. He remembered what old Andrews had said about the
young king’s goodness and his generous championship of the wronged and
unfortunate. Why not go and try to get speech of him and beg for justice? Ah,
yes, but could so fantastic a pauper get admission to the august presence of a
monarch? Never mind-let that matter take care of itself; it was a bridge that
would not need to be crossed till he should come to it. He was an old
campaigner, and used to inventing shifts and expedients; no doubt he would be
able to find a way. Yes, he would strike for the capital. Maybe his father’s old
friend, Sir Humphrey Marlow, would help him‘good old Sir Humphrey, Head
Lieutenant of the late king’s kitchen, or stables, or something’- Miles could not
remember just what or which. Now that he had something to turn his energies
to, a distinctly defined object to accomplish, the fog of humiliation and
depression that had settled down upon his spirits lifted and blew away, and he
raised his head and looked about him. He was surprised to see how far he had
come; the village was away behind him. The king was jogging along in his wake,
with his head bowed; for he, too, was deep in plans and thinkings. A sorrowful
misgiving clouded Hendon’s newborn cheerfulness; would the boy be willing to
go again to a city where, during all his brief life, he had never known anything
but ill usage and pinching want? But the question must be asked; it could not be
avoided; so Hendon reined up, and called out: ‘I had forgotten to inquire
whither we are bound. Thy commands, my liege?’ ‘To London!’ Hendon moved
on again, mightily contented with the answer-but astonished at it, too.

The whole journey was made without an adventure of importance. But it ended
with one. About ten o’clock on the night of the night of the 19 th of February, they
stepped upon London Bridge, in the midst of a writhing, struggling jam of
howling and hurrahing people, whose beer-jolly faces stood out strongly in the
glare from manifold torches-and at that instant the decaying head of some
former duke or other grandee tumbled down between them, striking Hendon on
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