The whole assemblage was on its feet now, and well-nigh out of its mind with uneasiness, apprehension, and consuming excitement. On the floor and on the platform a deafening buzz of frantic conversation burst forth, and for some time nobody knew anything or heard anything or was interested in anything but what his neighbour was shouting into his ear, or he was shouting into his neighbour's ear. Time — nobody knew how much of it — swept by unheeded and unnoted. At last a sudden hush fell upon the house, and in the same moment St. John appeared upon the platform, and held the Great Seal aloft in his hand. Then such a shout went up —
"Long live the true King!"
For five minutes the air quaked with shouts and the crash of musical instruments, and was white with a storm of waving handkerchiefs; and through it all a ragged lad, the most conspicuous figure in England, stood, flushed and happy and proud, in the centre of the spacious platform, with the great vassals of the kingdom kneeling around him.
Then all rose, and Tom Canty cried out —
"Now, O my King, take these regal garments back, and give poor Tom, thy servant, his shreds and remnants again."
The Lord Protector spoke up —
"Let the small varlet be stripped and flung into the Tower."
But the new King, the true King, said —
"I will not have it so. But for him I had not got my crown again — none shall lay a hand upon him to harm him. And as for thee, my good uncle, my Lord Protector, this conduct of thine is not grateful toward this poor lad, for I hear he hath made thee a duke" — the Protector blushed — "yet he was not a king; wherefore what is thy fine title worth now? To-morrow you shall sue to me, THROUGH HIM, for its confirmation, else no duke, but a simple earl, shalt thou remain."
Under this rebuke, his Grace the Duke of Somerset retired a little from the front for the moment. The King turned to Tom, and said kindly — "My poor boy, how was it that you could remember where I hid the Seal when I could not remember it myself?"
"Ah, my King, that was easy, since I used it divers days."
"Used it — yet could not explain where it was?"
"I did not know it was THAT they wanted. They did not describe it, your Majesty."
"Then how used you it?"
The red blood began to steal up into Tom's cheeks, and he dropped his eyes and was silent.
"Speak up, good lad, and fear nothing," said the King. "How used you the Great Seal of England?"
Tom stammered a moment, in a pathetic confusion, then got it out —
"To crack nuts with!"
Poor child, the avalanche of laughter that greeted this nearly swept him off his feet. But if a doubt remained in any mind that Tom Canty was not the King of England and familiar with the august appurtenances of royalty, this reply disposed of it utterly.
Meantime the sumptuous robe of state had been removed from Tom's shoulders to the King's, whose rags were effectually hidden from sight under it. Then the coronation ceremonies were resumed; the true King was anointed and the crown set upon his head, whilst cannon thundered the news to the city, and all London seemed to rock with applause.