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The Escape

THE short winter day was nearly ended. The streets were deserted, save for a
few random stragglers, and these hurried straight along, with the intent look of
people who were only anxious to accomplish their errands as quickly as possible
and then snugly house themselves from the rising wind and the gathering

They looked neither to the right nor to the left; they paid no attention to our
party, they did not even seem to see them. Edward the Sixth wondered if the
spectacle of a king on his way to jail had ever encountered such marvelous
indifference before. By and by the constable arrived at a deserted market-square
and proceeded to cross it. When he had reached the middle of it, Hendon laid
his hand upon his arm, and said in a low voice: ‘Bide a moment, good sir, there
is none in hearing, and I would say a word to thee.’ ‘My duty forbids it, sir;
prithee, hinder me not, the night comes on.’ ‘Stay, nevertheless, for the matter
concerns thee nearly. Turn thy back moment and seem not to see; let this poor
lad escape.’ ‘This to me, sir! I arrest thee in-’

‘Nay, be not too hasty. See thou be careful and commit no foolish error’- then he
shut his voice down to a whisper, and said in the man’s ear-‘the pig thou hast
purchased for eightpence may cost thee thy neck, man!’ The poor constable,
taken by surprise, was speechless at first, then found his tongue and fell to
blustering and threatening; but Hendon was tranquil, and waited with patience
till his breath was spent; then said: ‘I have a liking to thee, friend, and would not
willingly see thee come to harm. Observe, I heard it all-every word. I will prove
it to thee.’ Then he repeated the conversation which the officer and the woman
had had together in the hall, word for word, and ended with: ‘There-have I set
it forth correctly? Should not I be able to set it forth correctly before the judge, if
occasion required?’ The man was dumb with fear and distress for a moment;
then he rallied and said with forced lightness: ‘’Tis making a mighty matter
indeed, out of a jest; I but plagued the woman for mine amusement.’ ‘Kept you
the woman’s pig for amusement?’ The man answered sharply: ‘Naught else,
good sir-I tell thee ‘twas but a jest.’

‘I do begin to believe thee,’ said Hendon, with a perplexing mixture of mockery
and half-conviction in his tone; ‘tarry thou here a moment whilst I run and ask
his worship-for nathless, he being a man experienced in law, in jests, in-’ He
was moving away, still talking; the constable hesitated, fidgeted, spat an oath or
two, then cried out: ‘Hold, hold, good sir-prithee, wait a little-the judge! why
man, he hath no more sympathy with a jest than hath a dead corpse!- come, and
we will speak further. Ods body! I seem to be in evil case-and all for an innocent
and thoughtless pleasantry. I am a man of family; and my wife and little ones-
List to reason, good your worship; what wouldst thou of me?’ ‘Only that thou be
blind and dumb and paralytic whilst one may count a hundred thousand-
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