I will not laugh--no, God forbid, for this thing which is so substanceless to me is REAL to him. And to me, also, in one way, it is not a falsity, for it reflects with truth the sweet and generous spirit that is in him." After a pause: "Ah, what if he should call me by my fine title before folk!--there'd be a merry contrast betwixt my glory and my raiment! But no matter, let him call me what he will, so it please him; I shall be content."
Chapter XIII. The disappearance of the Prince.
A heavy drowsiness presently fell upon the two comrades. The King said--
"Remove these rags"--meaning his clothing.
Hendon disapparelled the boy without dissent or remark, tucked him up in bed, then glanced about the room, saying to himself, ruefully, "He hath taken my bed again, as before--marry, what shall _I_ do?" The little King observed his perplexity, and dissipated it with a word. He said, sleepily--
"Thou wilt sleep athwart the door, and guard it." In a moment more he was out of his troubles, in a deep slumber.
"Dear heart, he should have been born a king!" muttered Hendon, admiringly; "he playeth the part to a marvel."
Then he stretched himself across the door, on the floor, saying contentedly--
"I have lodged worse for seven years; 'twould be but ill gratitude to Him above to find fault with this."
He dropped asleep as the dawn appeared. Toward noon he rose, uncovered his unconscious ward--a section at a time--and took his measure with a string. The King awoke, just as he had completed his work, complained of the cold, and asked what he was doing.
"'Tis done, now, my liege," said Hendon; "I have a bit of business outside, but will presently return; sleep thou again--thou needest it. There--let me cover thy head also--thou'lt be warm the sooner."
The King was back in dreamland before this speech was ended. Miles slipped softly out, and slipped as softly in again, in the course of thirty or forty minutes, with a complete second-hand suit of boy's clothing, of cheap material, and showing signs of wear; but tidy, and suited to the season of the year. He seated himself, and began to overhaul his purchase, mumbling to himself--
"A longer purse would have got a better sort, but when one has not the long purse one must be content with what a short one may do--
"'There was a woman in our town, In our town did dwell--'
"He stirred, methinks--I must sing in a less thunderous key; 'tis not good to mar his sleep, with this journey before him, and he so wearied out, poor chap . . . This garment--'tis well enough--a stitch here and another one there will set it aright. This other is better, albeit a stitch or two will not come amiss in it, likewise . . . THESE be very good and sound, and will keep his small feet warm and dry--an odd new thing to him, belike, since he has doubtless been used to foot it bare, winters and summers the same . . . Would thread were bread, seeing one getteth a year's sufficiency for a farthing, and such a brave big needle without cost, for mere love. Now shall I have the demon's own time to thread it!"
And so he had. He did as men have always done, and probably always will do, to the end of time--held the needle still, and tried to thrust the thread through the eye, which is the opposite of a woman's way. Time and time again the thread missed the mark, going sometimes on one side of the needle, sometimes on the other, sometimes doubling up against the shaft; but he was patient, having been through these experiences before, when he was soldiering. He succeeded at last, and took up the garment that had lain waiting, meantime, across his lap, and began his work.
"The inn is paid--the breakfast that is to come, included--and there is wherewithal left to buy a couple of donkeys and meet our little costs for the two or three days betwixt this and the plenty that awaits us at Hendon Hall--
"'She loved her hus--'
"Body o' me! I have driven the needle under my nail! . . . It matters little--'tis not a novelty--yet 'tis not a convenience, neither .