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|The Prince and the Pauper||Mark Twain|
Chapter XIX. The Prince with the peasants.
|Page 1 of 4||
When the King awoke in the early morning, he found that a wet but thoughtful rat had crept into the place during the night and made a cosy bed for itself in his bosom. Being disturbed now, it scampered away. The boy smiled, and said, "Poor fool, why so fearful? I am as forlorn as thou. 'Twould be a sham in me to hurt the helpless, who am myself so helpless. Moreover, I owe you thanks for a good omen; for when a king has fallen so low that the very rats do make a bed of him, it surely meaneth that his fortunes be upon the turn, since it is plain he can no lower go."
He got up and stepped out of the stall, and just then he heard the sound of children's voices. The barn door opened and a couple of little girls came in. As soon as they saw him their talking and laughing ceased, and they stopped and stood still, gazing at him with strong curiosity; they presently began to whisper together, then they approached nearer, and stopped again to gaze and whisper. By-and-by they gathered courage and began to discuss him aloud. One said--
"He hath a comely face."
The other added--
"And pretty hair."
"But is ill clothed enow."
"And how starved he looketh."
They came still nearer, sidling shyly around and about him, examining him minutely from all points, as if he were some strange new kind of animal, but warily and watchfully the while, as if they half feared he might be a sort of animal that would bite, upon occasion. Finally they halted before him, holding each other's hands for protection, and took a good satisfying stare with their innocent eyes; then one of them plucked up all her courage and inquired with honest directness--
"Who art thou, boy?"
"I am the King," was the grave answer.
The children gave a little start, and their eyes spread themselves wide open and remained so during a speechless half minute. Then curiosity broke the silence--
"The KING? What King?"
"The King of England."
The children looked at each other--then at him--then at each other again--wonderingly, perplexedly; then one said--
"Didst hear him, Margery?--he said he is the King. Can that be true?"
"How can it be else but true, Prissy? Would he say a lie? For look you, Prissy, an' it were not true, it WOULD be a lie. It surely would be. Now think on't. For all things that be not true, be lies--thou canst make nought else out of it."
It was a good tight argument, without a leak in it anywhere; and it left Prissy's half-doubts not a leg to stand on. She considered a moment, then put the King upon his honour with the simple remark--
"If thou art truly the King, then I believe thee."
"I am truly the King."
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