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Chapter 3: Tom's Meeting With the Prince
One morning, after getting up from bed with a hungry stomach, Tom walks aimlessly through the streets of London. As he approaches Westminster, where the king and his family live, he is filled with the desire to see a real prince. At the gates of the palace, he catches a glimpse of Edward looking resplendent in his royal robes. As he stands gaping at the prince, the guards push him away and insult him, but Edward notices the scene and rescues Tom from the guards. He then takes Tom to his chambers and, after serving him royal delicacies, inquires about his life. He is shocked to hear about the harsh life of the boy. When Tom expresses a desire to wear princely clothes, Edward exchanges his clothes with him. They are surprised to find a striking resemblance between them. When Edward notices the injury caused to Tom by the soldier at the gate, he walks out angrily to punish the sentinel, hiding an "article of national importance" before leaving. However, instead of punishing the guard, he is mistaken for Tom and is thrown out of the palace.
This is a crucial chapter in the novel, as it creates crisis in the lives of the protagonists. The prince and the pauper get the opportunity to meet each other: Tom Canty is overawed by the presence of the prince, while Edward is curious about the pauper. Tom envies Edward's status and desires royal robes, and Edward is good enough to exchange clothes with him to provide him that momentary pleasure. However, this harmless interlude between the boys turns serious when Edward is mistaken for Tom and thrown out of the palace. The two boys are unaware of the implications of their childish prank. Twain convincingly creates a situation for the protagonists to change their roles. The following chapters will reveal the manner in which the two boys tackle the crisis in their lives.
The "article of national importance" that Edward hides is the Great Seal of England. This object will later be of great importance in the novel, for it will help ascertain the identity of Edward. For now, however, Tom does not know what this object is.