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Humphrey had hardly been dismissed when my Lord Hertford arrived with
more trouble for Tom. He said that the lords of the council, fearing that some
overwrought report of the king’s damaged health might have leaked out and got
abroad, they deemed it wise and best that his majesty should begin to dine in
public after a day or two-his wholesome complexion and vigorous step, assisted
by a carefully guarded repose of manner and ease and grace of demeanor,
would more surely quiet the general pulse-in case any evil rumors had gone
about-than any other scheme that could be devised.

Then the earl proceeded, very delicately, to instruct Tom as to the observances
proper to the stately occasion, under the rather thin disguise of ‘reminding’ him
concerning things already known to him; but to his vast gratification it turned
out that Tom needed very little help in this line-he had been making use of
Humphrey in that direction, for Humphrey had mentioned that within a few
days he was to begin to dine in public; having gathered it from the swift-winged
gossip of the court. Tom kept these facts to himself, however.

Seeing the royal memory so improved, the earl ventured to apply a few tests to
it, in an apparently casual way, to find out how far its amendment had
progressed. The results were happy, here and there, in spots-spots where
Humphrey’s tracks remained-and, on the whole, my lord was greatly pleased
and encouraged. So encouraged was he, indeed, that he spoke up and said in a
quite hopeful voice: ‘Now am I persuaded that if your majesty will but tax your
memory yet a little further, it will resolve the puzzle of the Great Seal-a loss
which was of moment yesterday, although of none to-day, since its term of
service ended with our late lord’s life. May it please your grace to make the
trial?’ Tom was at sea-a Great Seal was a something which he was totally
unacquainted with. After a moment’s hesitation he looked up innocently and
asked: ‘What was it like, my lord?’ The earl started, almost imperceptibly,
muttering to himself, ‘Alack, his wits are flown again!- it was ill wisdom to lead
him on to strain them-’ then he deftly turned the talk to other matters, with the
purpose of sweeping the unlucky Seal out of Tom’s thoughts-a purpose which
easily succeeded.
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