The Two Princes



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 Ladis
aus. 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

hear me."

* * * * *

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

his story.

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,

to Thee."

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.