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Wat Tyler
In our days, all people in our land, except prisoners, are free to go where they will, and to do what work they please. In olden times it was not so. Then, the poorer people were treated like slaves by the nobles; they had to work hard for their masters, and they were not allowed to move from one place to another without asking leave.

This was hard, and it made the people very angry. In the days of the boy-king Richard II, a great many workmen made up their minds to obey the nobles no longer. They banded themselves together in a large army, chose a man named Wat Tyler for their leader, and marched to London.

The Mayor of London tried to stop them, by pulling up the drawbridge which crossed the river Thames, but they forced him by threats to let it down again. Then they rushed through the streets of London, frightening all the[Pg 48] people they met by their wild looks and cries. They broke open the prisons, and set the prisoners free, and burned the palaces of the nobles, but they killed no man and robbed none.

The nobles were much alarmed. With young King Richard at their head, they rode out to meet this army, and to ask the people what they wanted.

"We want to be free, and we want our children to be free after us," said Wat Tyler.

"I promise you that you shall have your wish, if you will return quietly to your homes," said the king.

At this, the people shouted with joy, and all might have been well; but the mayor, seeing Wat Tyler raise his hand, and fearing that he was going to strike the king, drew his sword, and killed the leader of the people.

Then the joyful shouts changed to cries and growls of anger. Arms were raised, and the crowd began to press forward. In a minute the little band of nobles would have been attacked, but the boy-king saw the danger. Boldly riding to meet the angry people, he put himself at their head. "What need ye, my masters?" cried he. "I am your captain and your king. Follow me."

The crowd stopped, surprised by this bold act; the loud cries ceased, and swords and staves were lowered. These rough men did not wish to harm their young sovereign, but to free him from the nobles who gave him evil counsel. They were greatly pleased to find him upon their side, and, with perfect trust and loyalty, they followed where he led; and so for a time the danger was past.


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