| Thirty More Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|This volume was written by the author in answer to the requests of hundreds of children for more stories like the ones they had enjoyed in Fifty Famous Stories Retold. This volume includes stories of historical events, scientific discoveries, and legendary heroes. The richer vocabulary and more complicated plot elements in these stories gradually accustom children to following a longer narrative. Ages 7-10 |
KING JOHN AND PRINCE ARTHUR
 THERE was once a king of England whose name was John.
He was a trifling, worthless fellow, and as mean a man
as ever wore a crown.
He was not the rightful king of England; for by the
English law the crown ought to have gone to his nephew,
Prince Arthur. But the prince was only a child, and in
those rude, rough times the young and the weak had but
little chance against the wicked and the strong. It was
an easy matter for John to push the lad aside, take
possession of his castles and treasures, and then
proclaim himself king.
He allowed Arthur to go to Brittany in France, and
there the little prince lived for some time in a castle
which had been his mother's. John himself often went to
France; for in those days a large part of that country
was ruled by the English king.
The French king, Philip, was very jealous of John, and
there was nothing that he wanted so much as to drive
him out of his possessions and take them for his own.
But he was a great coward,
 and although he was always talking about making war
upon King John, it was seldom that he found courage
enough to do anything. One day as he was thinking
about the matter, it occurred to him that it would be a
good plan to persuade Prince Arthur to help him. So he
invited the boy to come and see him at Paris.
"My dear young prince," he said, "how would you like to
be king of England?"
"I should like it above all things," answered the boy,
"for indeed it is my right. Had not my uncle taken that
which belongs to me, I should even now be wearing the
"How many fighting men do you think you could muster in
case of war?" was King Philip's next question.
"From my own castle, perhaps five hundred," said
"Well, then," said Philip, "it will be an easy thing
for you to win back your kingdom of England. Only do
as I say, and all will be well."
And then he told the prince how he should arm his men
and lead them out to fight against the soldiers of King
"When the country people see that you are in earnest
they will all hasten to help you," said he. "Soon you
will have a large army, and all your
 uncle's castles in France will fall before you. In the
meanwhile I will cross the English Channel with my
French army, and will attack King John in his own
country. He cannot withstand both of us. He will give
up everything that he has taken from you. And then you
shall be king of England."
Prince Arthur was delighted with the plan, and he
promised Philip that he would do what he could. But it
is doubtful if he would have done anything had it not
been for wicked men who wished to use him for their own
It was a proud day for Arthur when he rode out at the
head of his little army and marched away to fight for
the crown of which he had been so wrongfully deprived.
It was a foolish undertaking, and hopeless from the
start; and the men who were with the little prince
ought to have told him so. But, no doubt, they had
their own selfish ends to gain, and were willing that
he should be deceived.
He had never been happier than when he rode through the
meadows that morning, the sunlight flashing from his
bright armor, the tall grass rustling in the breeze,
the birds singing by the roadside. Alas, he was never
to be so happy again.
 The people did not join him on the road as he expected,
and King Philip seemed to be in no hurry to send him
help. But the little prince was brave and hopeful, and
he led his army straight across the country to a small
town where King John's mother was staying. "If you can
capture the king's mother," said some of his advisers,
"the king will give up everything for her sake." But he
ought to have known that John had no such love as that
The town was easily captured by the prince's followers;
but all the great people shut themselves up in the
castle that stood close by, and dared their enemies to
come near them.
While Prince Arthur and his knights were besieging the
castle and trying to find some way to get inside of it,
King John himself came to the rescue with an army many
times larger than the prince's.
What could the prince do? Some of his men turned
against him and went over to the king's army. With the
rest he shut himself up in the town, and there, for
several days, he defended himself like a young hero.
But one night, when a dreadful storm was raging, a
number of the king's soldiers climbed over the walls
and got into the town. Before the alarm could be given,
they were masters of the place. The prince was seized
upon while he was in bed.
 Some of his knights were killed while trying to defend
him. Others were made prisoners and afterwards thrown
into dark dungeons, where they died.
"Come to my arms, my dear nephew," said King John when
Arthur was led before him. "Right glad I am to hold
your hand again. You have played a lively game with
your loving uncle, and your uncle will reward you as
you deserve." And with that he sent the prince to the
castle of Falaise, to be kept there until further orders.
"I'll tell you what, Hubert," said he to his head
officer, "that boy is the very bane of my life. I can
 do nothing, think of nothing, but that he is always in
my way. Do you understand me, Hubert? You are his
"Yes," said Hubert, "and I'll keep him so well that he
shall never trouble you again."
But Hubert was a gentle knight and had no intention of
doing the boy any harm. He gave him the best room in
the castle of Falaise and treated him as tenderly as
though he were his own son. The prince, however, was
very unhappy. He spent much of his time looking out of
the narrow windows of his prison and wishing that he
could once more see his dear old home in Brittany.
The king had hoped that Hubert would find means to put
Arthur to death, and when he learned that the lad was
still alive he was more troubled than before. He called
some of his friends together—men who were as wicked and
worthless as himself—and asked their advice.
"What shall we do with that boy?" he asked. "He is the
torment of my life. So long as he is alive there will
be men to plot and plan to make him king. How shall we
be rid of him?"
"Put his eyes out," said one.
 "Send some one with a dagger to visit him," said
"Throw him into the river to be king of the fishes,"
said a third.
King John liked the idea of the dagger. He told William
de Bray, a Norman knight, that if he would stab the
young prince he should be richly rewarded with lands
and gold. But Sir William turned on his heel and left
the king, saying, "I am a gentleman and not a
Then the king thought of putting out the boy's eyes. He
found two ruffians who were willing to do the deed for
pay, and sent them down to Falaise. They took with them
the king's order, which they gave to Hubert:—
"You are commanded to burn the boy's eyes out with
red-hot irons. See that you fail not. The men who carry
this to you will do your bidding in the matter."
Hubert read it and then showed it to the prince.
"Arthur," he said, "I have a message from you uncle. I
pray you look it over and tell me what you think of
it;" and then he turned away while the prince read.
"Hubert!" said Arthur.
"Well, my prince!"
 "Shall I tell you what I think of it? I think that you
will not burn out my eyes."
"But the king commands, and I must obey. He will take
my life if I refuse."
"Then do it, dear Hubert, to save yourself. But how can
you? These eyes never harmed you. They never so much as
frowned upon you, nor never shall they. Is there no
Hubert made no answer, but motioned to the ruffians to
come in. They came, with the red-hot irons in their
hands. The prince ran to Hubert and clasped him about
"Oh, save me, Hubert! save me!" he cried, "If it must
be done, do it yourself; but send these men away. I
promise that I will be very still. I will not flinch
when the iron burns me; I will not cry out. But do it
yourself, kind Hubert."
The child's distress and terror were more than the
tender-hearted Hubert could endure. He sent the
ruffians away. "Give me the irons," he said, "I will do
it myself." And they, to tell the truth, were glad
enough to be off without doing the barbarous deed.
Hubert led Arthur to another part of the castle, into a
room that was seldom visited. "I would not harm your
eyes for all the treasure that your uncle owns," he
said. "But no one must know
 that I have saved you. The men must carry back false
reports, and you must stay here in hiding. I have taken
great risks in disobeying your uncle."
When the ruffians went back to the king and said that
his orders had been carried out, he was very much
pleased. He felt sure now that the prince was out of
the way and would give him no more trouble; and for a
time all went well with him.
At length Hubert was called away to fight in distant
lands; and Arthur was left in the lonely castle, not
daring to stir out or to show himself beyond the
walls. One day a wicked talebearer who had been
entertained and fed at Falaise Castle carried the news
to the king that the prince was still alive and well.
King John was furious. "Hubert shall die for this!" he
cried. Then he sent men to Falaise to find Arthur's
hiding place. They carried the boy far away to one of
the king's castles on the Seine River. There he was put
in charge of a very cruel keeper. He was shut up in a
narrow room above the river, where the only sounds to
be heard were the lapping of the waves and the sighing
of the wind.
 One night the prince was wakened from his sleep by his
keeper, who told him that friends were waiting for him
at the water gate. He hastened to dress himself, and
then followed the keeper down the narrow stairway to
the door that opened out upon the river. The night was
dark; and he wondered if Hubert had come to rescue him
from his prison. He could see near the door the dim
shadow of a boat with two men in it. They were muffled
in long cloaks and were sitting very quietly.
"Step into the boat," whispered the keeper.
The prince obeyed, and sat down in the stern. Then the
man who held the oars pushed the boat off into the
stream, and it was soon floating swiftly far away from
"Is that you, Hubert?" whispered the prince to the man
who sat in front of him. The man loosened his cloak and
lifted his face. Then, as the moon peeped out from
behind a cloud, Arthur saw that it was his uncle and
that he held a dagger in his hand.
In the morning while the gray mists were still hanging
above the river, King John and his boatman were seen
floating down the river towards the place where the
king's army was encamped. But Prince Arthur was not in
the boat; nor did any one ever see him again.
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