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The King of Portugal

The King of Portugal

They say that once there was a king of Portugal who had a beautiful daughter, and there came a prince to marry her. When the prince saw how old and feeble the king was, he seized him, and shut him up in prison, and ordered him to be fed on only bread and water, that he might die without killing him. ‘And then,' he said, ‘I shall take the government.'

Then he would send and ask, ‘How does he look today? Does he grow lean and pale? Does he look like to die?'

But the answer ever was, ‘Nay, prince, he looks hale and stout. Every day his face is fresher and fatter. Every day he seems stronger and firmer.'

Then the prince grew in despair of ever accomplishing his design, and he said, ‘It cannot be as you say, unless there is treachery,' and he changed the guards, and set a watch upon them; but the same thing happened, and the old king continued to grow stouter and stronger. He made them search the princess, too, when she went to see her father, and they assured themselves that she took nothing to him. Then he bade them watch her, and they saw that she placed her breast against the prison bars, and fed him with her own milk.

For it had been thus, that when she learnt what was the design of the prince, she was filled with earnest desire to save her father's life, and prayed so hard that she might have wherewith to support him, that, young girl as she was, the means was afforded her, and thus by her devotion she preserved him in life and health.

When the prince heard what she did, he was seized with compunction, and sent and released the king, and restored him to his throne, and went his way in shame. But the king sent for him back, and forgave him: he gave him his daughter also, and when he died he left him the succession to the kingdom.

[‘I have no “favole” for you to-day,' was one day my greeting from an old lady who had given me many, ‘but there has just come to mind a “bell' fatto” (a grand deed), which is better than a “favola” for it is historic truth.' Then she told me the story in the text, and I was surprised to find she was positive it was a king of Portugal and that she never seemed to have heard of the ‘Carità Romana.' It is odd that while so many legends get localised any should get dis-localised.]