Chapters 19-20 Summary
Edward awakens the next morning to find that a rat has fallen asleep on his chest. He realizes that since he cannot sink any lower, his circumstances are about to change for the better.
Two young girls enter the barn and are surprised to see him there. When he announces that he is the king, the girls readily believe him. Their mother, however, believes him to be a deranged tramp. A widow, the woman gives him some food and tries to determine where he has come from. He shows no signs of knowing any of the places she names. She tries to find out his occupation, finally deciding from his interest that he used to be a servant in the palace kitchen.
She sets him to watching some cooking food while she does some chores. Thinking of the story of King Alfred and the cakes, Edward watches the food but like Alfred, lets it burn. Edward shows no skill at any of the tasks the widow sets him to do.
Edward spends the day with the widow and her daughters. He condescends to allow them to sit with him and eat rather than stand and serve. The widow condescends to give him a good meal rather than the broken bits she would normally give a tramp.
She tells him to wash the dishes, which he manages to do, although not well. She tells him to take a basket of kittens out to drown, but Edward decides that this is where he must draw the line. However, when he sees John Canty and Hugo enter the farm's yard, he grabs the kittens and leaves. He sets the kittens in an outbuilding and takes off through the woods.
As night falls, Edward finds a hut where a hermit lives. The hermit seems readily to believe his tale that he is the king, complimenting him on leaving his throne behind for the religious life. He learns that King Henry the Eighth is dead. He tells Edward that he is an archangel but would have been the pope if the king had not dissolved all the monasteries.
Edward thinks that he would be safer in the hands of the outlaws rather than in the company of the hermit, and this estimation proves to be correct. As Edward sleeps, the hermit sharpens his knife. He believes that Edward was sent to him to exact revenge on behalf of all the monks. Carefully, he ties Edward’s hands and feet and waits for him to awaken.