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‘Lo, what an imagination he hath! Verily this is no common mind; else, crazed or
sane, it could not weave so straight and gaudy a tale as this out of the airy
nothings wherewith it hath wrought this curious romaunt. Poor ruined little
head, it shall not lack friend or shelter whilst I bide with the living. He shall
never leave my side; he shall be my pet, my little comrade. And he shall be
cured!- aye, made whole and sound-then will he make himself a name-and
proud shall I be to say, “Yes, he is mine-I took him, a homeless little ragamuffin,
but I saw what was in him, and I said his name would be heard some day-
behold him, observe himwas I right?”’ The king spoke-in a thoughtful,
measured voice: ‘Thou didst save me injury and shame, perchance my life, and
so my crown.

Such service demandeth rich reward. Name thy desire, and so it be within the
compass of my royal power, it is thine.’ This fantastic suggestion startled
Hendon out of his reverie. He was about to thank the king and put the matter
aside with saying he bad only done his duty and desired no reward, but a wiser
thought came into his head, and he asked leave to be silent a few moments and
consider the gracious offer-an idea which the king gravely approved, remarking
that it was best to be not too hasty with a thing of such great import.

Miles reflected during some moments, then said to himself, ‘Yes, that is the thing
to do-by any other means it were impossible to get at it-and certes, this hour’s
experience has taught me ‘twould be most wearing and inconvenient to continue
it as it is. Yes, I will propose it; ‘twas a happy accident that I did not throw the
chance away.’ Then he dropped upon one knee and said: ‘My poor service went
not beyond the limit of a subject’s simple duty, and therefore hath no merit; but
since your majesty is pleased to hold it worthy some reward, I take heart of
grace to make petition to this effect. Near four hundred years ago, as your grace
knoweth, there being ill blood betwixt John, king of England, and the king of
France, it was decreed that two champions should fight together in the lists, and
so settle the dispute by what is called the arbitrament of God. These two kings,
and the Spanish king, being assembled to witness and judge the conflict, the
French champion appeared; but so redoubtable was he that our English knights
refused to measure weapons with him. So the matter, which was a weighty one,
was like to go against the English monarch by default. Now in the Tower lay the
Lord de Courcy, the mightiest arm in England, stripped of his honors and
possessions, and wasting with long captivity. Appeal was made to him; he gave
assent, and came forth arrayed for battle; but no sooner did the Frenchman
glimpse his huge frame and hear his famous name but he fled away, and the
French king’s cause was lost. King John restored De Courcy’s titles and
possessions, and said, “Name thy wish and thou shalt have it, though it cost me
half my kingdom”; whereat De Courcy, kneeling, as I do now, made answerer,
“This, then, I ask, my liege; that I and my successors may have and hold the
privilege of remaining covered in the presence of the kings of England,
henceforth while the throne shall last.” The boon was granted, as your majesty
knoweth; and there hath been no time, these four hundred years, that that line
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

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