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shelter for sentinels in bad weather. He had hardly seated himself when some
halberdiers, in charge of an officer, passed by. The officer saw him, halted his
men, and commanded Hendon to come forth. He obeyed, and was promptly
arrested as a suspicious character prowling within the precincts of the palace.
Things began to look ugly. Poor Miles was going to explain, but the officer
roughly silenced him, and ordered his men to disarm him and search him.

‘God of his mercy grant that they find somewhat,’ said poor Miles; ‘I have
searched enow, and failed, yet is my need greater than theirs.’ Nothing was
found but a document. The officer tore it open, and Hendon smiled when he
recognized the ‘pot-hooks’ made by his lost little friend that black day at
Hendon Hall. The officer’s face grew dark as he read the English paragraph, and
Miles blenched to the opposite color as he listened.

‘Another new claimant of the crown!’ cried the officer. ‘Verily they breed like
rabbits to-day. Seize the rascal, men, and see ye keep him fast while I 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 a
rope’s end for a certainty, by reason of that bit of writing. And what will become
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 his courage together, purposing to
meet his trouble as became a man. The officer ordered the men to loose the
prisoner and return his sword to him; then bowed respectfully, and said: ‘Please
you, sir, to follow me.’ Hendon followed, saying to himself, ‘An I were not
travelling to death and judgment, and so must needs economize in sin, I would
throttle this knave for his mock courtesy.’ The two traversed a populous court,
and arrived at the grand entrance of the palace, where the officer, with another
bow, delivered Hendon into the hands of a gorgeous official, who received him
with profound respect and led him forward through a great hall, lined on both
sides with rows of splendid flunkies (who made reverential obeisance as the two
passed along, but fell into death-throes of silent laughter at our stately scarecrow
the moment his back was turned), and up a broad staircase, among flocks of fine
folk, and finally conducted him to a vast room, clove a passage for him through
the assembled nobility of England, then made a bow, reminded him to take his
hat off, and left him standing in the middle of the room, a mark for all eyes, for
plenty of indignant frowns, and for a sufficiency of amused and derisive smiles.
Miles Hendon was entirely bewildered. There sat the young king, under a
canopy of state, five steps away, with his head bent down and aside, speaking
with a sort of human bird of paradise-a duke, maybe; Hendon observed to
himself that it was hard enough to be sentenced to death in the full vigor of life,
without having this peculiarly public humiliation added. He wished the king
would hurry about itsome of the gaudy people near by were becoming pretty
offensive. At this moment the king raised his head slightly and Hendon caught a
good view of his face.
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

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