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The Prince with the Tramps

THE troop of vagabonds turned out at early dawn, and set forward on their
march. There was a lowering sky overhead, sloppy ground under foot, and a
winter chill in the air. All gaiety was gone from the company; some were sullen
and silent, some were irritable and petulant, none were gentle-humored, all
were thirsty.

The Ruffler put ‘Jack’ in Hugo’s charge, with some brief instructions, and
commanded John Canty to keep away from him and let him alone; he also
warned Hugo not to be too rough with the lad.

After a while the weather grew milder, and the clouds lifted somewhat. The
troop ceased to shiver, and their spirits began to improve. They grew more and
more cheerful, and finally began to chaff each other and insult passengers along
the highway. This showed that they were awaking to an appreciation of life and
its joys once more. The dread in which their sort was held was apparent in the
fact that everybody gave them the road, and took their ribald insolences meekly,
without venturing to talk back. They snatched linen from the hedges,
occasionally, in full view of the owners, who made no protest, but only seemed
grateful that they did not take the hedges, too.

By and by they invaded a small farmhouse and made themselves at home while
the trembling farmer and his people swept the larder clean to furnish a breakfast
for them. They chucked the housewife and her daughters under the chin while
receiving the food from their hands, and made coarse jests about them,
accompanied with insulting epithets and bursts of horse-laughter. They threw
bones and vegetables at the farmer and his sons, kept them dodging all the time,
and applauded uproariously when a good hit was made. They ended by
buttering the head of one of the daughters who resented some of their
familiarities. When they took their leave they threatened to come back and burn
the house over the heads of the family if any report of their doings got to the ears
of the authorities.

About noon, after a long and weary tramp, the gang came to a halt behind a
hedge on the outskirts of a considerable village. An hour was allowed for rest,
then the crew scattered themselves abroad to enter the village at different points
to ply their various trades. ‘Jack’ was sent with Hugo. They wandered hither
and thither for some time, Hugo watching for opportunities to do a stroke of
business but finding none-so he finally said: ‘I see naught to steal; it is a paltry
place. Wherefore we will beg.’ ‘We, forsooth! Follow thy trade-it befits thee. But
I will not beg.’ ‘Thou’lt not beg!’ exclaimed Hugo, eying the king with surprise.
‘Prithee, since when hast thou reformed?’ ‘What dost thou mean?’

‘Mean? Hast thou not begged the streets of London all thy life?’ ‘I? Thou idiot!’
‘Spare thy compliments-thy stock will last longer. Thy father says thou hast
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