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Providence for the rest.’ But Hugo did not tarry for the miracle. In a moment he
was up and off like the wind, the gentleman following after and raising the hue
and cry lustily as he went. The king, breathing deep gratitude to Heaven for his
own release, fled in the opposite direction and did not slacken his pace until he
was out of harm’s reach. He took the first road that offered, and soon put the
village behind him. He hurried along, as briskly as he could, during several
hours, keeping a nervous watch over his shoulder for pursuit; but his fears left
him at last, and a grateful sense of security took their place. He recognized now
that he was hungry; and also very tired. So he halted at a farmhouse; but when
he was about to speak, he was cut short and driven rudely away. His clothes
were against him.

He wandered on, wounded and indignant, and was resolved to put himself in
the way of light treatment no more. But hunger is pride’s master; so as the
evening drew near, he made an attempt at another farmhouse; but here he fared
worse than before; for he was called hard names and was promised arrest as a
vagrant except he moved on promptly.

The night came on, chilly and overcast; and still the footsore monarch labored
slowly on. He was obliged to keep moving, for every time he sat down to rest he
was soon penetrated to the bone with the cold. All his sensations and
experiences, as he moved through the solemn gloom and the empty vastness of
the night, were new and strange to him. At intervals he heard voices approach,
pass by, and fade into silence; and as he saw nothing more of the bodies they
belonged to than a sort of formless drifting blur, there was something spectral
and uncanny about it all that made him shudder. Occasionally he caught the
twinkle of a light-always far away, apparently-almost in another world; if he
heard the tinkle of a sheep’s bell, it was vague, distant, indistinct; the muffled
lowing of the herds floated to him on the night wind in vanishing cadences, a
mournful sound; now and then came the complaining howl of a dog over
viewless expanses of field and forest; all sounds were remote; they made the
little king feel that all life and activity were far removed from him, and that he
stood solitary, companionless, in the center of a measureless solitude.

He stumbled along, through the gruesome fascinations of this new experience,
startled occasionally by the soft rustling of the dry leaves overhead, so like
human whispers they seemed to sound; and by and by he came suddenly upon
the freckled light of a tin lantern near at hand. He stepped back into the shadows
and waited. The lantern stood by the open door of a barn. The king waited some
timethere was no sound, and nobody stirring. He got so cold, standing still, and
the hospitable barn looked so enticing, that at last he resolved to risk everything
and enter. He started swiftly and stealthily, and just as he was crossing the
threshold he heard voices behind him. He darted behind a cask, within the barn,
and stooped down. Two farm laborers came in, bringing the lantern with them,
and fell to work, talking meanwhile. Whilst they moved about with the light, the
king made good use of his eyes and took the bearings of what seemed to be a
goodsized stall at the further end of the place, purposing to grope his way to it
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

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