Tuesday, February 28, 2017

THE SONS OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR

THE SONS OF WILLIAM THE
CONQUEROR
THERE was once a great king of England who
was called William the Conqueror, and he had three
sons.
One day King William seemed to be thinking
of something that made him feel very sad; and the
wise men who were about him asked him what was
the matter.
“I am thinking,” he said, “of what my sons
may do after I am dead. For, unless they are wise
and strong, they cannot keep the kingdom which I
have won for them. Indeed, I am at a loss to know
which one of the three ought to be the king when I
am gone.”
“O king!” said the wise men, “if we only knew
what things your sons admire the most, we might
then be able to tell what kind of men they will be.
Perhaps, by asking each one of them a few
questions, we can find out which one of them will be
best fitted to rule in your place.”
“The plan is well worth trying, at least,” said
the king. “Have the boys come before you, and then
ask them what you please.”
The wise men talked with one another for a
little while, and then agreed that the young princes
should be brought in, one at a time, and that the
same questions should be put to each.
The first who came into the room was
Robert. He was a tall, willful lad, and was nicknamed
Short Stocking.
“Fair sir,” said one of the men, “answer me
this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had
pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of
a bird would you rather be?”
“A hawk,” answered Robert. “I would rather
be a hawk, for no other bird reminds one so much
of a bold and gallant knight.”
The next who came was young William, his
father’s namesake and pet. His face was jolly and
round, and because he had red hair he was
nicknamed Rufus, or the Red.
“Fair sir,” said the wise man, “answer me this
question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased
God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird
would you rather be?”
“An eagle,” answered William. “I would
rather be an eagle, because it is strong and brave. It
is feared by all other birds, and is therefore the king
of them all.”
Lastly came the youngest brother, Henry, with
quiet steps and a sober, thoughtful look. He had
been taught to read and write, and for that reason he
was nicknamed Beauclerc, or the Handsome Scholar.
“Fair sir,” said the wise man, “answer me this
question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased
God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird
would you rather be?”
“A starling,” said Henry. “I would rather be a
starling, because it is good-mannered and kind and a
joy to every one who sees it, and it never tries to rob
or abuse its neighbor.”
Then the wise men talked with one another
for a little while, and when they had agreed among
themselves, they spoke to the king.
“We find,” said they, “that your eldest son,
Robert, will be bold and gallant. He will do some
great deeds, and make a name for himself; but in the
end he will be overcome by his foes, and will die in
prison.
“The second son, William, will be as brave
and strong as the eagle but he will be feared and
hated for his cruel deeds. He will lead a wicked life,
and will die a shameful death.
“The youngest son, Henry, will be wise and
prudent and peaceful. He will go to war only when
he is forced to do so by his enemies. He will be
loved at home, and respected abroad; and he will die
in peace after having gained great possessions.”
Years passed by, and the three boys had
grown up to be men. King William lay upon his
death-bed, and again he thought of what would
become of his sons when he was gone. Then he
remembered what the wise men had told him; and so
he declared that Robert should have the lands which
he held in France, that William should be the King
of England, and that Henry should have no land at
all, but only a chest of gold.
So it happened in the end very much as the
wise men had foretold. Robert, the Short Stocking,
was bold and reckless, like the hawk which he so
much admired. He lost all the lands that his father
had left him, and was at last shut up in prison, where
he was kept until he died.
William Rufus was so overbearing and cruel
that he was feared and hated by all his people. He
led a wicked life, and was killed by one of his own
men while hunting in the forest.
And Henry, the Handsome Scholar, had not
only the chest of gold for his own, but he became by
and by the King of England and the ruler of all the
lands that his father had had in France.

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