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help, there is no hope. Now will they come and take me.’ Whilst he lay there
benumbed with terror, dreadful tidings were speeding through the palace. The
whisper, for it was whispered always, flew from menial to menial, from lord to
lady, down all the long corridors, from story to story, from saloon to saloon, ‘The
prince hath gone mad, the prince hath gone mad!’ Soon every saloon, every
marble hall, had its groups of glittering lords and ladies, and other groups of
dazzling lesser folk, talking earnestly together in whispers, and every face had
in it dismay. Presently a splendid official came marching by these groups,
making solemn proclamation: ‘IN THE NAME OF THE KING Let none list to
this false and foolish matter, upon pain of death, nor discuss the same, nor carry
it abroad. In the name of the king!’

The whisperings ceased as suddenly as if the whisperers had been stricken

Soon there was a general buzz along the corridors, of ‘The prince! See, the prince
comes!’ Poor Tom came slowly walking past the low-bowing groups, trying to
bow in return, and meekly gazing upon his strange surroundings with
bewildered and pathetic eyes. Great nobles walked upon each side of him,
making him lean upon them, and so steady his steps. Behind him followed the
court physicians and some servants.

Presently Tom found himself in a noble apartment of the palace, and heard the
door close behind him. Around him stood those who had come with him.
Before him, at a little distance, reclined a very large and very fat man, with a
wide, pulpy face, and a stern expression. His large head was very gray; and his
whiskers, which he wore only around his face, like a frame, were gray also. His
clothing was of rich stuff, but old, and slightly frayed in places. One of his
swollen legs had a pillow under it, and was wrapped in bandages. There was
silence now; and there was no head there but was bent in reverence, except this

This stern-countenanced invalid was the dread Henry VIII. He said-and his face
grew gentle as he began to speak: ‘How now, my lord Edward, my prince? Hast
been minded to cozen me, the good king thy father, who loveth thee, and kindly
useth thee, with a sorry jest?’ Poor Tom was listening, as well as his dazed
faculties would let him, to the beginning of this speech; but when the words ‘me
the good king’ fell upon his ear, his face blanched, and he dropped as instantly
upon his knees as if a shot had brought him there. Lifting up his hands, he
exclaimed: ‘Thou the king? Then am I undone indeed!’ This speech seemed to
stun the king. His eyes wandered from face to face aimlessly, then rested,
bewildered, upon the boy before him. Then he said in a tone of deep
disappointment: ‘Alack, I had believed the rumor disproportioned to the truth;
but I fear me ‘tis not so.’ He breathed a heavy sigh, and said in a gentle voice,
‘Come to thy father, child; thou art not well.’ Tom was assisted to his feet, and
approached the Majesty of England, humble and trembling. The king took the
frightened face between his hands, and gazed earnestly and lovingly into it
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

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