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time; and it was received with the deepest and tenderest sympathy by the gentle
little maids. But when he got down to his latest experiences and they learned
how long he had been without food, they cut him short and hurried him away to
the farmhouse to find a breakfast for him.

The king was cheerful and happy now, and said to himself, ‘When I am come to
mine own again, I will always honor little children, remembering how that these
trusted me and believed in me in my time of trouble; whilst they that were older,
and thought themselves wiser, mocked at me and held me for a liar.’ The
children’s mother received the king kindly, and was full of pity; for his forlorn
condition and apparently crazed intellect touched her womanly heart. She was a
widow, and rather poor; consequently she had seen trouble enough to enable her
to feel for the unfortunate. She imagined that the demented boy had wandered
away from his friends or keepers; so she tried to find out whence he had come,
in order that she might take measures to return him; but all her references to
neighbouring towns and villages, and all her inquiries in the same line, went for
nothing-the boy’s face, and his answers, too, showed that the things she was
talking of were not familiar to him. He spoke earnestly and simply about court
matters; and broke down, more than once, when speaking of the late king ‘his
father’; but whenever the conversation changed to baser topics, he lost interest
and became silent.

The woman was mightily puzzled; but she did not give up. As she proceeded
with her cooking, she set herself to contriving devices to surprise the boy into
betraying his real secret. She talked about cattle-he showed no concern; then
about sheep-the same result-so her guess that he had been a shepherd boy was
an error; she talked about mills; and about weavers, tinkers, smiths, trades and
tradesmen of all sorts; and about Bedlam, and jails, and charitable retreats; but
no matter, she was baffled at all points. Not altogether, either; for she argued
that she had narrowed the thing down to domestic service. Yes, she was sure she
was on the right track now-he must have been a house-servant. So she led up to
that. But the result was discouraging. The subject of sweeping appeared to
weary him; firebuilding failed to stir him; scrubbing and scouring awoke no
enthusiasm. Then the goodwife touched, with a perishing hope, and rather as a
matter of form, upon the subject of cooking. To her surprise, and her vast
delight, the king’s face lighted at once! Ah, she had hunted him down at last, she
thought; and she was right proud, too, of the devious shrewdness and tact which
had accomplished it.

Her tired tongue got a chance to rest now; for the king’s, inspired by gnawing
hunger and the fragrant smells that came from the sputtering pots and pans,
turned itself loose and delivered itself up to such an eloquent dissertation upon
certain toothsome dishes, that within three minutes the woman said to herself,
‘Of a truth I was right-he hath holpen in a kitchen!’ Then he broadened his bill
of fare, and discussed it with such appreciation and animation, that the
goodwife said to herself, ‘Good lack! how can he know so many dishes, and so
fine ones withal? For these belong only upon the tables of the rich and great. Ah,
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