Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

John Plantagenet, The Boy Who Broke His Father’s Heart
by [?]

A youth was pacing restlessly to and fro in a wood bordering on the old town of Tours, in France. He was scarcely twenty years of age, and of a forbidding countenance. Cruelty and cunning were stamped on his features, and as he strode aimlessly among the trees, muttering to himself, and striking often with his sheathed sword at the bushes and twigs in his path, he seemed to be the victim of an evil passion, with nothing to make a man love him or desire his acquaintance.

His muttering not unfrequently rose to the pitch of talking aloud, when one might have heard sentences like these.

“Why should I longer delay? Am not I John, the son of Henry of England, a man? and shall I submit to be treated for ever as a child? Are my brothers, who have rebelled against their father, to have ah the spoil, and I, who have remained obedient, to go portionless and penniless? What means my father’s meeting here with the King of France, who has espoused the cause of Richard, my brother, in his rebellion, if it be not to yield to the traitor the kingdoms I have earned by my obedience? But I will delay no longer. I have been obedient too long! Henceforth this sword shall be my obedience!”

And as he spoke he unsheathed his weapon, and struck savagely at the graceful branch of a fir tree before him, and brought it down crashing at his feet. At the same instant there appeared coming towards him a man of middle age, clad like a soldier, who saluted respectfully the young prince.

“Whence come you, Ralph Leroche?” inquired John.

“From the meeting of the Kings of France and England.”

“And what went forward there?” asked the prince, leading his companion in among the trees.

“I know only what I am told,” said the knight, “for the meeting of your father and King Philip was secret.”

“And what have you been told?” inquired John, impatiently, and with clouding brows.

“I have been told that the King of France demanded that your father should do him homage, and should acknowledge your brother Richard as King of England.”

“And what said my father?” broke in John.

“He said that Richard, by his conduct, deserved only the death of a traitor, but–“

John’s brow darkened as he seized Ralph’s arm, and ejaculated, “But what? did he yield? Speak!”

“But for the sake of peace he would receive him back to the heart which he by his disobedience had wellnigh broken, and make him heir to his crown.”

“He said so, did he?” almost shouted the prince, his face livid with fury.

“I am told so by one who knows,” replied the other.

“And did he say more?”

“He blessed heaven before them all that he had one son left him who was true to him, and in whose love he might end the shattered remnant of his life.”

Loud and cruelly laughed Prince John at those words, till the woods echoed again. “Is it thus you comfort yourself, my father?” he exclaimed. “Ralph,” added he, in tones thick with passion, “all my life till now I served my father, and never failed in my duty to him. Henry, my brother, rebelled, and died in his rebellion while I was a child. Geoffrey rebelled too, and is dead. Richard for years has been in arms against his parent. I, of all his sons, have never lifted hand against him. Had not I a right to look for my reward? Had not I a right to count upon the crown which my brothers’ disobedience had forfeited? Had not–“

He stopped, unable from the vehemence of his passion to proceed, and Ralph Leroche answered calmly: “Obedience is its own reward, and worth more than a kingdom. It is not obedience that calculates on profit. But you know not, prince, what your father may yet have in store for you.”