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|The Prince and the Pauper||Mark Twain|
Chapter XXV. Hendon Hall.
|Page 4 of 5||
"Is dead? No, she lives."
"Then, God be praised, my joy is whole again! Speed thee, brother--let her come to me! An' SHE say I am not myself--but she will not; no, no, SHE will know me, I were a fool to doubt it. Bring her--bring the old servants; they, too, will know me."
"All are gone but five--Peter, Halsey, David, Bernard, and Margaret."
So saying, Hugh left the room. Miles stood musing a while, then began to walk the floor, muttering--
"The five arch-villains have survived the two-and-twenty leal and honest--'tis an odd thing."
He continued walking back and forth, muttering to himself; he had forgotten the King entirely. By-and-by his Majesty said gravely, and with a touch of genuine compassion, though the words themselves were capable of being interpreted ironically--
"Mind not thy mischance, good man; there be others in the world whose identity is denied, and whose claims are derided. Thou hast company."
"Ah, my King," cried Hendon, colouring slightly, "do not thou condemn me--wait, and thou shalt see. I am no impostor--she will say it; you shall hear it from the sweetest lips in England. I an impostor? Why, I know this old hall, these pictures of my ancestors, and all these things that are about us, as a child knoweth its own nursery. Here was I born and bred, my lord; I speak the truth; I would not deceive thee; and should none else believe, I pray thee do not THOU doubt me--I could not bear it."
"I do not doubt thee," said the King, with a childlike simplicity and faith.
"I thank thee out of my heart!" exclaimed Hendon with a fervency which showed that he was touched. The King added, with the same gentle simplicity--
"Dost thou doubt ME?"
A guilty confusion seized upon Hendon, and he was grateful that the door opened to admit Hugh, at that moment, and saved him the necessity of replying.
A beautiful lady, richly clothed, followed Hugh, and after her came several liveried servants. The lady walked slowly, with her head bowed and her eyes fixed upon the floor. The face was unspeakably sad. Miles Hendon sprang forward, crying out--
"Oh, my Edith, my darling--"
But Hugh waved him back, gravely, and said to the lady--
"Look upon him. Do you know him?"
At the sound of Miles's voice the woman had started slightly, and her cheeks had flushed; she was trembling now. She stood still, during an impressive pause of several moments; then slowly lifted up her head and looked into Hendon's eyes with a stony and frightened gaze; the blood sank out of her face, drop by drop, till nothing remained but the grey pallor of death; then she said, in a voice as dead as the face, "I know him not!" and turned, with a moan and a stifled sob, and tottered out of the room.
Miles Hendon sank into a chair and covered his face with his hands. After a pause, his brother said to the servants--
"You have observed him. Do you know him?"
They shook their heads; then the master said--
"The servants know you not, sir. I fear there is some mistake. You have seen that my wife knew you not."
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