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
For, unless they are wise and strong, they cannot keep the
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
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
"A hawk," answered Robert. "I would rather be a hawk, for
no other bird reminds one so much of a bold and gallant
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
"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
"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
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
 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
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.