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Arthur Of Brittany, The Boy Who Should Have Been King Of England
by [?]

The fierce storm beats down on the gloomy Norman Castle of Falaise, in a deep dungeon of which lies imprisoned the boy Prince Arthur, lawful heir to the crown of England, but now, alas! a helpless victim of the cruelty and injustice of his bad uncle, John Plantagenet, the usurper of his throne. The thunder peals so loudly, and the wind rages so angrily, that Hubert de Burgh, the warden, does not for a long time distinguish the sound of a knocking and shouting at the outer gate of the castle. Presently, however, in a lull of the wind, his ears catch the noisy summons, and he instantly gives orders to his men to let down the drawbridge, and admit the new-comers. These were three in number: one attired as a king’s messenger, and mounted on a richly caparisoned horse; the other two in the garb of common men, and on foot. When they had come into the presence of the warden, the king’s messenger said–

“I am charged by His Majesty King John of England to deliver to you this letter, and require your faithful discharge of its commands.”

So saying, he handed to Hubert de Burgh a sealed letter, which the latter eagerly broke open and read. As he read, his face clouded. It was a long letter, and couched in vague terms, but its substance was this. That whereas the peace of England and of King John’s possessions in France was constantly being disturbed by the partisans of the young Prince Arthur, desiring to see him king instead of his uncle, and taking up arms to enforce their claim, it was necessary, in order to put an end to this rebellion, that the young prince should be rendered unfit for governing; and as no people would be likely to choose a blind boy for their king, Hubert de Burgh was instructed to have Arthur’s eyes put out; and the two men who had arrived with the king’s messenger were come, so the letter said, to carry out this design.

Hubert de Burgh said nothing as he put by the letter, and dismissed his three visitors from his presence. Cruel man as he had been, his heart had still some pity left, and he shrank from obeying his master by so brutal an act of cruelty upon the innocent boy in his charge.

However, the order of the king was peremptory; and if the deed must be done, thought he, the sooner the better.

So he ordered the two villains to get ready their instruments, and follow him to the dungeon.

“Stay here,” said he, as they reached the young prince’s door, “while I enter alone and prepare him for his fate.”

So those two set down their fire and the red-hot irons, and waited outside for their summons.

When Hubert entered the dungeon, the poor boy was just waking from a sleep. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, being dazzled by the light which Hubert carried in his hand.

“You are welcome,” said he (for Arthur, with so few to love him, loved even his surly, though not unkind, jailor). “I have been in my dreams away in merry England, where I thought I was living in a beautiful palace, with food and servants, and rich clothing, and that there was a crown on my head. And so it shall be some day, Hubert, when I get my rights; and then because you have not been as unkind to me as some in my adversity, you shall be a great and rich man. But why look you so solemn? What ails you?”

The warden stood silent for some moments before he spoke, and then his voice was thick and hoarse.

“Prince,” he said, “take your last look on the light, for you may never see it again.”