The Two Princes
A STORY FOR CHILDREN.
There was a King of Hungary whose name was Adelbert.
When he lived at home, which was not often, it was in a castle of many
towers and many halls and many stairways, in the city of Buda, by the
side of the river Donau.
He had four daughters, and only one son, who was to be the King after
him, whose name was Ladislaus. But it was the custom of those times, as
boys and girls grew up, to send them for their training to some distance
from their home, even for many months at a time, to try a little
experiment on them, and see how they fared; and so, at the time I tell
you of, there was staying in the castle of Buda the Prince Bela, who
was the son of the King of Bohemia; and he and the boy Ladislaus studied
their lessons together, and flew their kites, and hunted for otters, and
rode with the falconers together.
One day as they were studying with the tutor, who was a priest named
Stephen, he gave to them a book of fables, and each read a fable.
Ladislaus read the fable of the
The sky-lark sat on the topmost bough of the savy-tree, and was waked by
the first ray of the sun. Then the sky-lark flew and flew up and up to
the topmost arch of the sky, and sang the hymn of the morning.
But a frog, who was croaking in the cranberry marsh, said, "Why do you
take such pains and fly so high? the sun shines here, and I can sing
And the bird said, "God has made me to fly. God has made me to see. I
will fly as high as He will lift me, and sing so loud that all shall
* * * * *
And when the little Prince Ladislaus had read the fable, he cried out,
"The sky-lark is the bird for me, and I will paint his picture on my
shield after school this morning."
Then the Prince Bela read the next fable,--the fable of the
A good beaver found one day a little water-rat almost dead. His father
and mother had been swept away by a freshet, and the little rat was
almost starved. But the kind beaver gave him of her own milk, and
brought him up in her own lodge with her children, and he got well, and
could eat, and swim, and dive with the best of them.
But one day there was a great alarm, that the beavers' dam was giving
way before the water. "Come one, come all," said the grandfather of the
beavers, "come to the rescue." So they all started, carrying sticks and
bark with them, the water-rat and all. But as they swam under an old
oak-tree's root, the water-rat stopped in the darkness, and then he
quietly turned round and went back to the hut. "It will be hard work,"
said he "and there are enough of them." There were enough of them. They
mended the dam by working all night and by working all day. But, as
they came back, a great wave of the freshet came pouring over the dam
and, though the dam stood firm, the beavers were swept away,--away and
away, down the river into the sea, and they died there.
And the water-rat lived in their grand house by himself, and had all
their stores of black-birch bark and willow bark and sweet poplar bark
for his own.
* * * * *
"That was a clever rat," said the Prince Bela. "I will paint the rat on
my shield, when school is done." And the priest Stephen was very sad
when he said so; and the Prince Ladislaus was surprised.
So they went to the play-room and painted their shields. The shields
were made of the bark of hemlock-trees. Ladislaus chipped off the rough
bark till the shield was white, and made on the place the best sky-lark
he could paint there. And Bela watched him, and chipped off the rough
bark from his shield, and said, "You paint so well, now paint my
water-rat for me." "No," said Ladislaus, though he was very
good-natured, "I cannot paint it well. You must paint it yourself." And
Bela did so.
So the boys both grew up, and one became King of Hungary, and one was
the King of the Bohemians. And King Ladislaus carried on his banner the
picture of a sky-lark; and the ladies of the land embroidered sky-larks
for the scarfs and for the pennons of the soldiers, and for the motto of
the banner were the Latin words "Propior Deo," which mean "Nearer to
God." And King Bela carried the water-rat for his cognizance; and the
ladies of his land embroidered water-rats for the soldiers; and his
motto was "Enough."
And in these times a holy man from Palestine came through all the world;
and he told how the pilgrims to the tomb of Christ were beaten and
starved by the Saracens, and how many of them were dying in dungeons.
And he begged the princes and the lords and ladies, for the love of God
and the love of Christ, that they would come and rescue these poor
people, and secure the pilgrims in all coming time. And King Ladislaus
said to his people, "We will do the best we can, and serve God as He
shows us how!" And the people said, "We will do the best we can, and
save the people of Christ from the infidel!" And they all came together
to the place of arms; and the King chose a hundred of the bravest and
healthiest of the young men, all of whom told the truth, and no one of
whom was afraid to die, and they marched with him to the land of Christ;
and as they marched they sang, "Propior Deo,"--"Nearer to Thee."
And Peter the Hermit went to Bohemia, and told the story of the cruel
Saracens and the sufferings of the pilgrims to King Bela and his people.
And the King said, "Is it far away?" And the Hermit said, "Far, far
away." And the King said, "Ah, well,--they must get out as they got in.
We will take care of Bohemia." So the Hermit went on to Saxony, to tell
And King Ladislaus and his hundred true young men rode and rode day by
day, and came to the Mount of Olives just in time to be at the side of
the great King Godfrey, when he broke the Paynim's walls, and dashed
into the city of Jerusalem. And King Ladislaus and his men rode together
along the Way of Tears, where Christ bore the cross-beam upon his
shoulder, and he sat on the stone where the cross had been reared, and
he read the gospel through again; and there he prayed his God that he
might always bear his cross bravely, and that, like the Lord Jesus, he
might never be afraid to die.
And when they had all come home to Hungary, their time hung very heavy
on their hands. And the young men said to the King, "Lead us to war
against the Finns, or lead us to war against the Russ."
But the King said, "No! if they spare our people, we spare their people.
Let us have peace." And he called the young men who had fought with him,
and he said, "The time hangs heavy with us; let us build a temple here
to the living God, and to the honor of his Son. We will carve on its
walls the story we have seen, and while we build we will remember Zion
and the Way of Tears."
And the young men said, "We are not used to building."
"Nor am I," said the King; "but let us build, and build as best we can,
and give to God the best we have and the best we know."
So they dug the deep trenches for the foundations, and they sent north
and south, and east and west for the wisest builders who loved the Lord
Christ; and the builders came, and the carvers came, and the young men
learned to use the chisel and the hammer; and the great Cathedral grew
year by year, as a pine-tree in the forest grows above the birches and
the yew-trees on the ground.
And once King Bela came to visit his kinsman, and they rode out to see
the builders. And King Ladislaus dismounted from his horse, and asked
Bela to dismount, and gave to him a chisel and a hammer.
"No," said the King Bela, "it will hurt my hands. In my land we have
workmen whom we pay to do these things. But I like to see you work."
So he sat upon his horse till dinner-time, and he went home.
And year by year the Cathedral grew. And a thousand pinnacles were built
upon the towers and on the roof and along the walls; and on each
pinnacle there fluttered a golden sky-lark. And on the altar in the
Cathedral was a scroll of crimson, and on the crimson scroll were
letters of gold, and the letters were in the Latin language, and said
"Propior Deo," and on a blue scroll underneath, in the language of the
people they were translated, and it said, "Nearer to Thee."
And another Hermit came, and he told the King that the Black Death was
ravaging the cities of the East; that half the people of Constantinople
were dead; that the great fair at Adrianople was closed; that the ships
on the Black Sea had no sailors; and that there would be no food for the
people on the lower river.
And the King said, "Is the Duke dead, whom we saw at Bucharest; is the
Emperor dead, who met me at Constantinople?"
"No, your Grace," said the Hermit, "it pleases the Lord that in the
Black Death only those die who live in hovels and in towns. The Lord has
spared those who live in castles and in palaces."
"Then," said King Ladislaus, "I will live as my people live, and I will
die as my people die. The Lord Jesus had no pillow for his head, and no
house for his lodging; and as the least of his brethren fares so will I
fare, and as I fare so shall they."
So the King and the hundred braves pitched their tents on the high land
above the old town, around the new Cathedral, and the Queen and the
ladies of the court went with them. And day by day the King and the
Queen and the hundred braves and their hundred ladies went up and down
the filthy wynds and courts of the city, and they said to the poor
people there, "Come, live as we live, and die as we die."
And the people left the holes of pestilence and came and lived in the
open air of God.
And when the people saw that the King fared as they fared, the people
said, "We also will seek God as the King seeks Him, and will serve Him
as he serves Him."
And day by day they found others who had no homes fit for Christian men,
and brought them upon the high land and built all together their tents
and booths and tabernacles, open to the sun and light, and to the smile
and kiss and blessing of the fresh air of God. And there grew a new and
beautiful city there.
And so it was, that when the Black Death passed from the East to the
West, the Angel of Death left the city of Buda on one side, and the
people never saw the pestilence with their eyes. The Angel of Death
passed by them, and rested upon the cities of Bohemia.
And King Ladislaus grew old. His helmet seemed to him more heavy. His
sleep seemed to him more coy. But he had little care, for he had a
loving wife, and he had healthy, noble sons and daughters, who loved
God, and who told the truth, and who were not afraid to die.
But one day, in his happy prosperity, there came to him a messenger
running, who said in the Council, "Your Grace, the Red Russians have
crossed the Red River of the north, and they are marching with their
wives and their children with their men of arms in front, and their
wagons behind, and they say they will find a land nearer the sun, and to
this land are they coming."
And the old King smiled; and he said to those that were left of the
hundred brave men who took the cross with him, "Now we will see if our
boys could have fought at Godfrey's side. For us it matters little. One
way or another way we shall come nearer to God."
And the armorers mended the old armor, and the young men girded on
swords which had never been tried in fight, and the pennons that they
bore were embroidered by their sweethearts and sisters as in the old
days of the Crusades, and with the same device of a sky-lark in
mid-heaven, and the motto, "Nearer, my God, to Thee."
And there came from the great Cathedral the wise men who had come from
all the lands. They found the King, and they said to him, "Your Grace,
we know how to build the new defences for the land, and we will guard
the river ways, that the barbarians shall never enter them."
And when the people knew that the Red Russians were on the way, they met
in the square and marched to the palace, and Robert the Smith mounted
the steps of the palace and called the King. And he said, "The people
are here to bid the King be of good heart. The people bid me say that
they will die for their King and for his land."
And the King took from his wife's neck the blue ribbon that she wore,
with a golden sky-lark on it, and bound it round the blacksmith's arm,
and he said, "If I die, it is nothing; if I live, it is nothing; that is
in God's hand. But whether we live or die, let us draw as near Him as we
And the Blacksmith Robert turned to the people, and with his loud voice,
told what the King had said.
And the people answered in the shout which the Hungarians shout to this
day, "Let us die for our king! Let us die for our king!"
And the King called the Queen hastily, and they and their children led
the host to the great Cathedral.
And the old priest Stephen, who was ninety years old, stood at the
altar, and he read the gospel where it says, "Fear not, little flock, it
is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
And he read the other gospel where the Lord says, "And I, if I be lifted
up, will draw all men unto me." And he read the epistle where it says,
"No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." And he chanted
the psalm, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer."
And fifty thousand men, with one heart and one voice, joined with him.
And the King joined, and the Queen to sing, "The Lord is my rock, my
fortress, and my deliverer."
And they marched from the Cathedral, singing in the language of the
country, "Propior Deo," which is to say in our tongue, "Nearer, my God,
And the aged braves who had fought with Godfrey, and the younger men who
had learned of arms in the University, went among the people and divided
them into companies for the war. And Robert the Blacksmith, and all the
guild of the blacksmiths, and of the braziers, and of the coppersmiths,
and of the whitesmiths, even the goldsmiths, and the silversmiths, made
weapons for the war; and the masons and the carpenters, and the ditchers
and delvers marched out with the cathedral builders to the narrow passes
of the river, and built new the fortresses.
And the Lady Constance and her daughters, and every lady in the land,
went to the churches and the convents, and threw them wide open. And in
the kitchens they baked bread for the soldiers; and in the churches they
spread couches for the sick or for the wounded.
And when the Red Russians came in their host, there was not a man, or
woman, or child in all Hungary but was in the place to which God had
called him, and was doing his best in his place for his God, for the
Church of Christ, and for his brothers and sisters of the land.
And the host of the Red Russians was turned aside, as at the street
corner you have seen the dirty water of a gutter turned aside by the
curbstone. They fought one battle against the Hungarian host, and were
driven as the blackbirds are driven by the falcons. And they gathered
themselves and swept westward; and came down upon the passes to Bohemia.
And there were no fortresses at the entrance to Bohemia; for King Bela
had no learned men who loved him. And there was no army in the plains of
Bohemia; for his people had been swept away in the pestilence. And there
were no brave men who had fought with Godfrey, and knew the art of arms,
for in those old days the King had said, "It is far away; and we have
'enough' in Bohemia."
So the Red Russians, who call themselves the Szechs, took his land from
him; and they live there till this day. And the King, without a battle,
fled from the back-door of his palace, in the disguise of a
charcoal-man; and he left his queen and his daughters to be cinder-girls
in the service of the Chief of the Red Russians.
And the false charcoal-man walked by day, and walked by night, till he
found refuge in the castle of the King Ladislaus; and he met him in the
old school-room where they read the fables together. And he remembered
how the water-rat came to the home of the beavers.
And he said to King Ladislaus,--
"Ah, me! do you remember when we were boys together? Do you remember the
fable of the Sky-lark, and the fable of the Water-rat?"
"I remember both," said the King. And he was silent.
"God has been very kind to you," said the beggar; "and He has been very
hard to me."
And the King said nothing.
But the old priest Stephen, said,--
"God is always kind. But God will not give us other fruit than we sow
seed for. The King here has tried to serve God as he knew how; with one
single eye he has looked on the world of God, and he has made the best
choice he knew. And God has given him what he thought not of: brave men
for his knights; wise men for his council; a free and loving people for
his army. And you have not looked with a single eye; your eye was
darkened. You saw only what served yourself. And you said, 'This is
enough;' and you had no brave men for your knights; no wise men for your
council; no people for your army. You chose to look down, and to take a
selfish brute for your adviser. And he has led you so far. We choose to
look up; to draw nearer God; and where He leads we follow."
Then King Ladislaus ordered that in the old school-room a bed should be
spread for Bela; and that every day his breakfast and his dinner and his
supper should be served to him; and he lived there till he died.
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