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|The Prince and the Pauper||Mark Twain|
Chapter X. The Prince in the toils.
|Page 4 of 6||
Still, hope was as stubborn now as doubt had been before; she could not bring herself to accept the verdict of the test; she must try the thing again--the failure must have been only an accident; so she startled the boy out of his sleep a second and a third time, at intervals--with the same result which had marked the first test; then she dragged herself to bed, and fell sorrowfully asleep, saying, "But I cannot give him up--oh no, I cannot, I cannot--he MUST be my boy!"
The poor mother's interruptions having ceased, and the Prince's pains having gradually lost their power to disturb him, utter weariness at last sealed his eyes in a profound and restful sleep. Hour after hour slipped away, and still he slept like the dead. Thus four or five hours passed. Then his stupor began to lighten. Presently, while half asleep and half awake, he murmured--
After a moment--
"Ho, Sir William Herbert! Hie thee hither, and list to the strangest dream that ever . . . Sir William! dost hear? Man, I did think me changed to a pauper, and . . . Ho there! Guards! Sir William! What! is there no groom of the chamber in waiting? Alack! it shall go hard with--"
"What aileth thee?" asked a whisper near him. "Who art thou calling?"
"Sir William Herbert. Who art thou?"
"I? Who should I be, but thy sister Nan? Oh, Tom, I had forgot! Thou'rt mad yet--poor lad, thou'rt mad yet: would I had never woke to know it again! But prithee master thy tongue, lest we be all beaten till we die!"
The startled Prince sprang partly up, but a sharp reminder from his stiffened bruises brought him to himself, and he sank back among his foul straw with a moan and the ejaculation--
"Alas! it was no dream, then!"
In a moment all the heavy sorrow and misery which sleep had banished were upon him again, and he realised that he was no longer a petted prince in a palace, with the adoring eyes of a nation upon him, but a pauper, an outcast, clothed in rags, prisoner in a den fit only for beasts, and consorting with beggars and thieves.
In the midst of his grief he began to be conscious of hilarious noises and shoutings, apparently but a block or two away. The next moment there were several sharp raps at the door; John Canty ceased from snoring and said--
"Who knocketh? What wilt thou?"
A voice answered--
"Know'st thou who it was thou laid thy cudgel on?"
"No. Neither know I, nor care."
"Belike thou'lt change thy note eftsoons. An thou would save thy neck, nothing but flight may stead thee. The man is this moment delivering up the ghost. 'Tis the priest, Father Andrew!"
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