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|The Prince and the Pauper||Mark Twain|
Chapter XXVII. In prison.
|Page 3 of 6||
There was a bit of Andrew's gossip which the King listened to with a lively interest--
"There is rumour that the King is mad. But in charity forbear to say _I_ mentioned it, for 'tis death to speak of it, they say."
His Majesty glared at the old man and said--
"The King is NOT mad, good man--and thou'lt find it to thy advantage to busy thyself with matters that nearer concern thee than this seditious prattle."
"What doth the lad mean?" said Andrews, surprised at this brisk assault from such an unexpected quarter. Hendon gave him a sign, and he did not pursue his question, but went on with his budget--
"The late King is to be buried at Windsor in a day or two--the 16th of the month--and the new King will be crowned at Westminster the 20th."
"Methinks they must needs find him first," muttered his Majesty; then added, confidently, "but they will look to that--and so also shall I."
"In the name of--"
But the old man got no further--a warning sign from Hendon checked his remark. He resumed the thread of his gossip--
"Sir Hugh goeth to the coronation--and with grand hopes. He confidently looketh to come back a peer, for he is high in favour with the Lord Protector."
"What Lord Protector?" asked his Majesty.
"His Grace the Duke of Somerset."
"What Duke of Somerset?"
"Marry, there is but one--Seymour, Earl of Hertford."
The King asked sharply--
"Since when is HE a duke, and Lord Protector?"
"Since the last day of January."
"And prithee who made him so?"
"Himself and the Great Council--with help of the King."
His Majesty started violently. "The KING!" he cried. "WHAT king, good sir?"
"What king, indeed! (God-a-mercy, what aileth the boy?) Sith we have but one, 'tis not difficult to answer--his most sacred Majesty King Edward the Sixth--whom God preserve! Yea, and a dear and gracious little urchin is he, too; and whether he be mad or no--and they say he mendeth daily--his praises are on all men's lips; and all bless him, likewise, and offer prayers that he may be spared to reign long in England; for he began humanely with saving the old Duke of Norfolk's life, and now is he bent on destroying the cruellest of the laws that harry and oppress the people."
This news struck his Majesty dumb with amazement, and plunged him into so deep and dismal a reverie that he heard no more of the old man's gossip. He wondered if the 'little urchin' was the beggar-boy whom he left dressed in his own garments in the palace. It did not seem possible that this could be, for surely his manners and speech would betray him if he pretended to be the Prince of Wales--then he would be driven out, and search made for the true prince. Could it be that the Court had set up some sprig of the nobility in his place? No, for his uncle would not allow that--he was all-powerful and could and would crush such a movement, of course. The boy's musings profited him nothing; the more he tried to unriddle the mystery the more perplexed he became, the more his head ached, and the worse he slept. His impatience to get to London grew hourly, and his captivity became almost unendurable.
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