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for all that be near to thee. Shake off this gruesome dream. Call back thy poor
wandering memory. Look upon me. Am not I thy mother that bore thee, and
loveth thee?’ The prince shook his head, and reluctantly said: ‘God knoweth I
am loath to grieve thy heart; but truly have I never looked upon thy face before.’
The woman sank back to a sitting posture on the floor, and, covering her eyes
with her hands, gave way to heartbroken sobs and wailings.

‘Let the show go on!’ shouted Canty. ‘What, Nan! what, Bet! Mannerless
wenches! will ye stand in the prince’s presence? Upon your knees, ye pauper
scum, and do him reverence!’ He followed this with another horse-laugh. The
girls began to plead timidly for their brother; and Nan said: ‘An thou wilt but let
him to bed, father, rest and sleep will heal his madness; prithee, do.’

‘Do, father,’ said Bet; ‘he is more worn than is his wont. To-morrow will he be
himself again, and will beg with diligence, and come not empty home again.’
This remark sobered the father’s joviality, and brought his mind to business.

He turned angrily upon the prince, and said: ‘The morrow must we pay two
pennies to him that owns this hole; two pennies mark ye-all this money for a
half-year’s rent, else out of this we go. Show what thou’st gathered with thy lazy
begging.’ The prince said: ‘Offend me not with thy sordid matters. I tell thee
again I am the king’s son.’ A sounding blow upon the prince’s shoulder from
Canty’s broad palm sent him staggering into good-wife Canty’s arms, who
clasped him to her breast, and sheltered him from a pelting rain of cuffs and
slaps by interposing her own person.

The frightened girls retreated to their corner; but the grandmother stepped
eagerly forward to assist her son. The prince sprang away from Mrs. Canty,
exclaiming: ‘Thou shalt not suffer for me, madam. Let these swine do their will
upon me alone.’ This speech infuriated the swine to such a degree that they set
about their work without waste of time. Between them they belabored the boy
right soundly, and then gave the girls and their mother a beating for showing
sympathy for the victim.

‘Now,’ said Canty, ‘to bed, all of ye. The entertainment has tired me.’ The light
was put out, and the family retired. As soon as the snorings of the head of the
house and his mother showed that they were asleep, the young girls crept to
where the prince lay, and covered him tenderly from the cold with straw and
rags; and their mother crept to him also, and stroked his hair, and cried over
him, whispering broken words of comfort and compassion in his ear the while.
She had saved a morsel for him to eat also; but the boy’s pains had swept away
all appetite-at least for black and tasteless crusts. He was touched by her brave
and costly defense of him, and by her commiseration; and he thanked her in
very noble and princely words, and begged her to go to sleep and try to forget
her sorrows. And he added that the king his father would not let her loyal
kindness and devotion go unrewarded. This return to his ‘madness’ broke her
heart anew, and she strained him to her breast again and again and then went
back, drowned in tears, to her bed.
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

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