Excerpt from The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
1 Tom got up hungry, and sauntered hungry away…He wandered here and there in the city, hardly noticing where he was going, or what was happening around him. People jostled him, and some gave him rough speech. By-and-by he found himself at Temple Bar, the farthest from home he had ever travelled in that direction. He stopped and considered a moment, then fell into his imaginings again, and passed on outside the walls of London…
2 Tom discovered Charing Village presently, and he rested himself at the beautiful cross built there by a king of earlier days; then idled down a quiet, lovely road toward a far more mighty and majestic palace beyond—Westminster. Tom stared in glad wonder at the vast pile of masonry, the wide-spreading wings, the huge stone gateway… and other the signs and symbols of English royalty. Was the desire of his soul to be satisfied at last? Here, indeed, was a king’s palace. Might he not hope to see a prince now—a prince of flesh and blood, if Heaven were willing?
3 At each side of the gilded gate stood a stately and motionless man-at-arms, clad from head to heel in shining steel armour. At a respectful distance were many country folk, and people from the city, waiting for any chance glimpse of royalty that might offer. Splendid carriages with splendid people in them, and splendid servants outside were arriving and departing by several other noble gateways that pierced the royal enclosure.
4 Poor little Tom, in his rags, approached, and was moving slowly and timidly past the sentinels with a beating heart and a rising hope, when all at once he caught sight through the golden bars of a spectacle that almost made him shout for joy. Within was a comely boy, tanned and whose clothing was all of lovely silks and satins, shining with jewels; at his hip a little jeweled sword and dagger; dainty buskins1 on his feet, with red heels; and on his head a jaunty crimson cap, with drooping plumes fastened with a great sparkling gem. Several gentlemen stood near—his servants, without a doubt. Oh! he was a prince—a prince, a living prince, a real prince—without the shadow of a question; and the prayer of the pauper-boy’s heart was answered at last.
5 Tom’s breath came quick and short with excitement, and his eyes grew big with wonder and delight. Everything gave way in his mind instantly to one desire: that was to get close to the prince, and have a good, devouring look at him. Before he knew what he was about, he had his face against the gate-bars. The next instant one of the soldiers snatched him rudely away, and sent him spinning among the gaping crowd of country gawks and London idlers. The soldier said,
6 "Mind thy manners, thou young beggar!"
7 The crowd jeered and laughed; but the young prince sprang to the gate with his face flushed, and his eyes flashing with indignation, and cried out,
8 "How dar’st thou use a poor lad like that? How dar’st thou use the King my father’s meanest subject so? Open the gates, and let him in!"
9 The soldiers opened the gates… as the little Prince of Poverty passed in, in his fluttering rags, to join hands with the Prince of Limitless Plenty.
10 Edward Tudor said
11 "Thou lookest tired and hungry: thou’st been treated ill. Come with me."
12 Edward took Tom to a rich apartment in the palace, which he called his cabinet.
13 "What is thy name, lad?"
14 "Tom Canty, an’ it please thee, sir."
15 "’Tis an odd one. Where dost live?"
16 "In the city, please thee, sir. Offal Court, out of Pudding Lane."
17 "Offal Court! Truly ‘tis another odd one. Hast parents?"
18 "Parents have I, sir, and a grand-dam likewise that is but indifferently precious to me, God forgive me if it be offence to say it—also twin sisters, Nan and Bet."
19 The little prince contemplated the little pauper gravely a moment, then said —
20 "And prithee, why not? Who helpeth them undress at night? Who dress them when they rise?"
21 "None, sir. Would’st have them take off their garment, and sleep without—like the beasts?"
22 "Their garment! Have they but one?"
23 "Ah, good your worship, what would they do with more? Truly they have not two bodies each."
24 "How old be you?"
25 Fifteen, an’ it please you, sir."
26 "Tell me more."
27 "We lads of Offal Court do strive against each other with the cudgel2 like to the fashion of the ‘prentices, sometimes."
28 The prince’s eyes flashed. Said he
29 "Tell me more."
30 "We strive in races, sir, to see who of us shall be fleetest."
31 "That would I like also. Speak on."
32 "In summer, sir, we wade and swim in the canals and in the river, and each doth duck his neighbor, and splatter him with water, and dive and shout and tumble and"
33 "It would be worth my father’s kingdom but to enjoy it once! Prithee go on."
34 "We dance and sing about the Maypole in Cheapside; we play in the sand, each covering his neighbor up; and times we make mud pastry—oh the lovely mud, it hath not its like for delightfulness in all the world!—we do fairly wallow in the mud, sir, saving your worship’s presence."
35 "Oh, prithee, say no more, ‘tis glorious! If that I could but clothe me in raiment3 like to thine, and strip my feet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke me or forbid… I could forego the crown!"
1 A buskin is a knee- or calf-length boot made of leather or cloth which laces closed, but is open across the toes.
2 A short staff, or stick, usually made of wood, and wielded as a weapon.
3 Fiber and textile material worn on the body.