Red Book of Heroes - Andrew Lang

The Constant Prince

When, some years ago, a banquet was given at the Guildhall to king Alfonso of Spain on the occasion of his marriage to an English princess, the lord mayor said in his speech that four queens of England were Spaniards by birth. Can any of you tell me without looking at your history books what were their names?

Yet in different ways three out of the four are very well known to us. One flits through a delightful romance of the great deeds of the Crusaders; a second is remembered for having risked her life to save her husband from a speedy and painful death, and for the crosses which he set up on every spot which her body touched on its road to its last resting-place; while the fourth and latest had a troubled life and every kind of insult heaped on her.

Now can you guess?

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries marriages between England and the countries south of the Pyrenees were very frequent, for in those times Spain was our natural ally, and France our enemy. Two of Edward III.'s sons, John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley, married the daughters of Pedro the Cruel, king of Castile, and Constance, wife of John of Gaunt, had the pleasure of seeing her own daughter reigning by-and-by in her old home, while Philippa, John of Gaunt's elder daughter by his first wife, became queen of Portugal.

Philippa's husband had no real right to the kingdom of Portugal, for the legal heir was the queen of Castile, the only child of Fernando. But her uncle, grand master of the order of Aviz, was dear to the hearts of the Portuguese, who would tell their children in low voices the sad story of his father's first wife, the beautiful Inez de Castro, whose embalmed body was crowned by her husband, many years after her cruel murder. And besides their love for the master of Aviz, the Portuguese hated the Castilians, as only near neighbours can hate each other, and were resolved to choose their own sovereign. So war followed, and John of Gaunt fought with his English soldiers on the side of the master of Aviz, or "John I.," against his wife's nephew, Henry III. of Castile, and during the war he kept his daughters with him in the peninsula.

It was in 1378 that John I. married Philippa, the elder of the two princesses. According to the notions of those times the bride must have been "quite old," for she was twenty-seven, only a year younger than her bridegroom, and very happy they were. The queen of Portugal had been brought up in England amongst clever people, had heard grave questions discussed from her childhood, and seen her father grow uneasy as fresh reports of Richard II.'s follies and extravagance came to his ears. From her stepmother, Constance of Castile, she had learned to speak Spanish, and knew much of the customs of the kingdoms south of the Pyrenees; so that it was easy for her to fall into the ways of her new country, though she never ceased to love her old land, and to teach her children to love it too. She trained her sons to bear hardships without complaining, to be true to their word, and to be affectionate and faithful to each other, while she had them taught something of the histories of other countries, and saw that they could speak Latin and English, as well as Spanish and French. As to the art of war, and all knightly exercises, she left those to her husband.

When the eldest of the princes, dom Duarte, or Edward, was twenty years old, he came one day to the king, telling him that he and his three next brothers, Pedro, Enrique, and John, were burning to strike a blow against the infidel Moors, and besought him to lead an expedition against the town of Ceuta, on the African coast. In those days it was considered a good deed to fight against the followers of Mahomet the prophet, and king John agreed gladly to what his sons proposed; but he was more prudent than they, and did not intend to raise the standard of the Cross before he had made sure of defeating the Crescent. Therefore he took means to find out secretly the exact position of Ceuta, the extent of the fortifications, and other things it was needful for him to know, and then he laid his plans before queen Philippa, who always gave him good counsel. To his surprise and disappointment Philippa prayed him to give it all up.

The country, she said, was still poor from the wars of succession with Castile, which had seated her husband on the throne, and if the men were taken away across the seas, who would till the fields and reap the crops?

But, urged the king, he felt sure that the people would welcome the crusade; he had bidden one of his trusted officers to go amongst them, and had heard how their faces brightened at the bare idea that perhaps some day, no doubt in the future, the golden shores of Africa might be snatched from the unbelievers' grasp. Oh, no, he had no fears about his army, though of course he would take every care to make victory certain.

Queen Philippa listened, but only shook her head.

"At least you will not go yourself?" she answered after a pause; "the kingdom needs you"; then like a wise woman she held her peace and began to talk of something else.

Although king John did not give up his cherished scheme, he hesitated about carrying it out for three years longer, and then he succeeded in blinding the eyes of Europe as to the real object of his preparations. A large fleet was assembled in the mouth of the Tagus, "to punish the Dutch pirates," it was said; but, just as it was ready to sail, the queen caught the plague which was raging in Portugal. By this time she had made up her mind to the war, though she was hardly convinced of its wisdom, and as soon as she felt that she was nearing death she sent for her sons, and giving them each a splendid sword which she had ordered to be specially forged and beautifully inlaid, she added a few words of counsel. Then she bade her husband farewell, and entreated him to leave her, lest he also should catch the plague and be lost to his country. Her sons she kept with her to the end.

A week later, on July 25, 1415, the fleet sailed for Ceuta.

Only two of the king's five sons remained in Portugal, and they were the youngest, dom John and dom Fernando. Fernando was a delicate boy of thirteen, versed in Latin, and, like his brother Duarte, a passionate lover of books, only happy when alone with some old manuscript or roll of illuminated prayers, yet thirsting to do his duty by ridding the world of as many infidels as possible. It was a blow when he found that he was not allowed to join the army of Africa, but, as was his way, he made no complaint; only when the news came of the fall of Ceuta his heart burned, half with envy and half with triumph. How he longed to make one of the group of brothers who had covered themselves with glory, and had been knighted by their father in the mosque, which was now consecrated and declared a cathedral. But he was getting stronger every day, and by-and-by he felt that a halo of glory would enshrine his name also. And so it has, and will for all time, only it was won in another way from those of his brothers.

It was soon after his return from Africa that king John's health began to break down, and though he lived for eighteen years longer, he left the government of Portugal mostly to his son Duarte, who was guided in military matters by the advice of his father's old friend, the constable of the kingdom. Fighting still went on in the neighbourhood of Ceuta, but though the other princes, or infantes, took part, Fernando stayed in Portugal.

We know little as to how he passed his time. Probably he shared the studies of prince Duarte, who collected a large library and himself wrote a book of philosophical maxims, which gained him the surname of Duarte the Eloquent. The two brothers were bound together by the same tastes, and we may be sure Duarte approved when by-and-by Fernando refused the pope's offer of a cardinal's hat, on the ground—unheard of at that period—that, not being a priest, he was quite unfitted to wear it. For the same reason, though the cases were rather different, he wished also to refuse the office of grand master of the order of Aviz, which had been held by his father; but in the end Duarte's counsels prevailed, and he kept it.

Fernando was thirty years old when his father died, and never yet had his sword left its sheath, though he longed from his soul to join in the frequent expeditions that went out from Ceuta to attack the strongholds of the unbelievers scattered about the coast. But king John always refused to let him leave the country, thinking he was too delicate to bear the hardships of a soldier's life; and so Fernando stayed at home, making himself as happy as he could with his books and his prayers, and long philosophical talks with Duarte. Now Duarte was king, and perhaps Fernando would be able to gain his heart's desire.

The new king was putting on his robes for the ceremony of his proclamation when his physician craved humbly an immediate audience. Dom Duarte wondered what could have happened which made an interview so necessary at that inconvenient moment, but master Guedelha was an old friend, so orders were given to admit him at once.

"Oh, senhor," exclaimed the physician, as soon as they were alone, "do not, I beseech you, suffer yourself to be proclaimed before noon; the hour you have fixed on is an evil one, and the stars which rule it are against you."

Sad though he was, dom Duarte could hardly help smiling at the earnestness of the man; but he answered gravely that, greatly as he respected the knowledge of the stars, his faith in God was greater still, and nothing could befall him that was contrary to His will. In vain Guedelha fell on his knees and implored him to delay till the fatal hour was past; Duarte refused to change his plans, and at length the old man rose to his feet.

Dom Duarte


"I have done all I could," he said; "on your own head be it. The years of your reign will be short and full of trouble to yourself, and to those you love, and to the country."

Although dom Duarte had so steadily declined to listen to the prayers of Guedelha, he had enough "respect," as he had said, for the science of astrology, as the study of the stars was called, to feel very uncomfortable at the prophecy of the physician. But he could not draw back now, even if he wished, and "Eduarte, king of Portugal," was thrice proclaimed and the royal standard unfurled and raised. When this was done, the nobles and officials kissed the king's hand and swore allegiance to him. Then Duarte went back to his palace, and took off his crown and robes of state, and put on deep mourning for his father.

For some time dom Duarte had been governing the kingdom under the direction of John I., so affairs went on much as before. He and his brothers were the best of friends, and he often sought their counsel, especially that of dom Pedro, only a year younger than himself. Pedro was one of the wisest princes in Europe, as well as one of the best, and if his brothers had listened to his advice the prophecy of master Guedelha might have come to naught. Like the rest, he loved books, and even wrote poetry, and during his father's lifetime made many voyages along the coast of Africa, though he was no discoverer of strange lands like dom Enrique. But for the present his duty was in Portugal, where Duarte wanted him.

In this way things went on for two or three years, during which the plague broke out in Portugal, and people died like flies, as they did in those days when dirt and ignorance helped infection to spread and prevented cure. The king and his brothers did all in their power to check it and assist the poor people; but nothing was of much good, and, as usual, the plague was left to wear itself out, which in time it did.

Meanwhile the years were going by, and the physician's prophecy was drawing near fulfilment. And this is how the disasters came about.

The infante—so the Spaniards and Portuguese formerly called their princes—the infante dom Fernando grew tired of remaining idle at home, and besought Duarte to allow him to travel and take service under some foreign king, most likely that of England, where his young cousin Henry VI. was reigning. "Of course," he said, "if his own country needed him he would come back at once, but the Portuguese had ever been wanderers, and it was his turn to go with the rest."

To his surprise Duarte's face clouded as he listened, and there was a long pause before he spoke. Then he implored Fernando to think no more of his cherished plan, but to remain quietly in Portugal, else wrong would be done to both of them in the minds of men, for strangers would hold that he, the king, treated his brother so ill that Fernando was forced to seek his fortune elsewhere, or that Fernando was so possessed by desire for gain that he was ready to give up all for its sake.

Fernando heard him to the end without speaking; it was plain that even this brother, who he thought knew him best, had judged him wrongly. For years the young man had kept silence about his desire to see other countries, and the ruins of the cities which had once given law to the world, and the result was that he had been held by all to be a man of no spirit, a bookworm, content with the little duties that every day brought him. Ah, no! the hour for those had gone by, and a freer life called to him!

Seeing that his words made no impression on dom Fernando's resolve, the king sought dom Enrique, praying him to use his eloquence in order to prevail on Fernando to give up his plan. But he would have been wiser to have left things alone, for Enrique merely turned his brother's thoughts into a new and more alarming direction. Why take service under a foreign king when there were Moors at hand to fight? Let them cross the sea and deliver Tangier from the Moslem.

When the king heard of this new project he was nearly beside himself. After the long wars which seated John on the throne, and the constant expense of maintaining the fortress of Ceuta, the country was too poor to be able to undertake a fresh expedition, and then the plague had carried off so many men that he did not know where the army was to come from. But the match had been put to the wood, and Enrique secretly went to the queen and asked for her help to persuade the king, promising that when he and Fernando should have conquered the north of Africa, they would go and live there, and leave their possessions in Portugal to her children.

The bait took; queen Leonor promised to use all her influence, which was great, with the king, but before she had a chance of doing so the wild scheme of the two infantes received still stronger support from an unexpected quarter. Some time earlier the king had asked the pope to give him a Bull, or papal document, allowing him to raise a crusade whenever he thought it would have a chance of success. At the moment the pope was busy with several other affairs nearer home, and returned no answer. When at last he had leisure to attend to the king of Portugal's request, and sent over an abbot with the Bull, Duarte seems to have forgotten all about the matter, and was filled with dismay. Of course his brothers were delighted and declared that the king could no longer resist!

In spite, however, of wife, pope, and brothers, the king did resist, though he went as far as to say that any expedition which might be undertaken must be directed against Tangier, and that fourteen thousand men would be the utmost that he could furnish. But when he had yielded this much, it was difficult for him to refuse his consent, even though dom John and dom Pedro spoke strongly in a family council of the folly of beginning a war when the treasury was empty and the people unwilling to bear the burden of taxation.

Dom Pedro's words found their echo in the heart of Duarte. They said what his own sense had told him, and he was filled with fears for the future, though he could not break his promise. One last effort he made, and this was an appeal to the pope as to whether it was lawful to impose a tax for the purpose of making war against the infidels. The pope and his cardinals decided that it was not, as the infidels had not made war upon him, and Duarte, though more than ever cast down, had not the courage to acknowledge that he had been hasty and foolish, and, bitterly though he repented of his weakness, he allowed Enrique to equip fleets in Lisbon and in Oporto.

But when, at the end of August 1436, the hour of departure arrived, the king had recovered himself, and handed Enrique a paper of instructions which would probably have changed the fate of the expedition had they been followed. Unfortunately, Enrique was a headstrong man, and thought that he must know better than his stay-at-home brother, who had not seen a battlefield for eighteen years. He had listened contemptuously to dom Pedro when he pointed out that African conquests were both expensive and useless, that the cities, even if taken, could never become part of Portugal, and would always need garrisons to hold them, and smiled scornfully at the statement that any Portuguese force besieging Tangier would in its turn of a surety be besieged by a Moorish host, who would gather men from all parts and have a supply of provisions constantly at hand.

"Those whom the gods will to destroy they first infatuate," says the proverb, and no man was ever more infatuated than the infante dom Enrique. The fourteen thousand men of which the king had spoken had dwindled down to six thousand, and these were but half-hearted. Small as the force was, dom Duarte had instructed Enrique to divide it into three, in order to prevent the Moors from concentrating large numbers upon one place. This counsel Enrique declined to follow, nor did he attempt to surprise and take Tangier by assault, which might possibly have been successful. Instead, he allowed the Moors to assemble a large army and to put the town in a state of defence. Finally, he totally disobeyed the wise counsel of Duarte to make his camp close to the sea, where his ships lay at anchor, in order that provisions and a retreat might be secured to them.

Having thus done all in his power to ensure defeat, only one thing remained, and that was "to die like good men with constant souls," in the words which the poet Calderon puts into the mouth of Fernando. Too late Enrique perceived the snare into which his folly had led them, and assembling his little army, gave orders that at night, when the Moorish camp was quiet, they should cut their way through to the ships and put to sea. Their attacks on Tangier had been repulsed with heavy losses, he told them, and if the enterprise was ever to be carried through they must first seek reinforcements.

The men agreed with him, and prepared to sell their lives dearly. Silently at the appointed time they crept up to the Moorish tents, beyond which lay safety and the great galleons. But the chaplain, unluckily, had been before them. As soon as darkness fell he had deserted to the enemy, and the sight of the large force drawn up in order of battle was the first sign of warning to the Christians that they had been betrayed.

Even Enrique felt that in the face of such numbers fighting was useless, but he placed his men in the best position and awaited events. All the next day the Moors made no sign, but on the following morning envoys left the ranks and proposed terms of peace. Considering all things, they were not hard. Ceuta must be surrendered, the Moorish captives in Portugal be released, and the Christian camp with everything it contained abandoned to the captors. But the infantes wished to deal directly with the kings of Fez and Morocco, in order to make sure that the terms offered would be loyally carried out. They were still expecting the return of the envoys which they had sent when the Moors, who had grown more and more impatient at the long wait so close to their enemies, could be restrained no more and fell on the Portuguese.

In spite of their small numbers, the Portuguese, commanded by dom Enrique and the bishop of Ceuta, fought so fiercely that after six hours the Moors were beaten back. After a short rest dom Enrique ordered every man to repair the trenches and to throw up earthworks to protect the camp, in case of another assault. They worked hard the whole of that night, which was Saturday, and when by sunrise on Sunday everything was finished, the soldiers sank down exhausted where they were, and cried for food and water. It was long in coming. Then a horrible suspicion, which turned the men's faces white, ran, no one knew why, from end to end of the camp. Was there any food? and, worse still, any water?

They had guessed truly; they had no provisions left, and the water had been cut off by the Moors. For two days they held out, then dom Enrique decided to accept the terms offered him. He would give up Ceuta and the Moorish prisoners, would abandon the camp, and would undertake that Portugal should sign a peace with the Barbary States lying along that part of the African coast for a hundred years. In return the former Moorish governor of Ceuta, Salat-ben-Salat, should hand over his son as a hostage, in exchange for four Portuguese nobles, but the pledge for the surrender of Ceuta was to be dom Fernando himself.

Bitter were the shame and grief that filled dom Enrique when the results of his folly were brought home to him, and he instantly begged that he might be accepted as hostage instead of his brother. No doubt the Moors would have agreed to this; it mattered little to them which of the infantes remained captive, but the council of war which Enrique summoned would not consent. Fernando knew nothing of war, they said, but Enrique, their commander, could not be spared, though it is hard to see what Enrique had done except lead them into traps which a recruit might have foreseen. Dom Fernando was present with the rest of the council, and was the first to declare that his brother's proposal was not to be thought of. Then, with a heavy heart, Enrique signed the treaty, and a few hours later Fernando and he had parted for the last time.

Thus ended the expedition for the taking of Tangier; and what had it attained? As far as Portugal was concerned, the loss, as stipulated by treaty, of Ceuta, by which the country set such store; the death of five hundred out of the six thousand men under the walls of Tangier, which held out in spite of the field guns used in war for the first time; the waste of money which had been only raised by the oppression of the people; and the delivery of the king's favourite brother into the hands of a cruel race.

Such was the tale which the fugitives had to tell on their arrival at Lisbon. And while the king was debating the best means of rescuing the captive, let us see how Fernando himself was faring.

Accompanied by his chaplain, his doctor, his secretary, and a few friends, who would seem to have gone with him of their own will, dom Fernando was sent by his captors to the fortress of Tangier, and closely imprisoned for several days. Perhaps the Moors may have been waiting for Enrique, who had gone to Ceuta, to deliver up the keys of the town; but as nothing was heard of him, the captives were taken next to the little town of Arzilla, further down the coast. Here the Portuguese were kindly treated by the governor, and Fernando, though the hardships he had gone through had told heavily on his health, did all he could to help his friends, who fared no better than himself, and devoted what money was left to him to ransoming those who had been for some years in captivity.

For seven months Fernando and his companions remained in Arzilla, and during all that time both he and his gaoler, Salat-ben-Salat, expected to receive answers to the many letters the captive prince had been suffered to write to Enrique respecting his promise to surrender Ceuta, where he stayed for some time after the embarkation of the Portuguese army. But after five months the only news that reached Arzilla was that Enrique had returned to Portugal; so Fernando then wrote to the king himself, imploring that he would redeem his pledge and set him free. It seemed little to ask, seeing that a treaty is considered sacred, and Duarte, from every point of view, was ready to fulfil the stipulation; but there was a strong party in the state which held that a Christian city should never be delivered up to the unbelievers, and even Enrique advised him instead to offer a large ransom and the Moorish captives then in Portugal in exchange for the infante.

Always distrustful of his own opinion, and fearful of taking any decided action, Duarte next appealed for counsel to the pope and to the kings of all the countries of Europe. They sent the politest and most sympathetic answers to his questions. No words could express their admiration for dom Fernando's patience under his sufferings, and their pity for his hard lot, but—faith with Moslems need never be kept, and at all costs Ceuta must be retained.

Thus, after all, it was the Christians, and not the Moslems, who failed to keep their word and were responsible for the death of Fernando.

At length news reached Fernando that dom John was starting with a fleet for his rescue, and then the doom which he dreaded befell him, for he was sent with his fellow-captives at once to Fez, a city far in the interior, and delivered over to Lazuraque, the vizier of the young king, a man whose name was a proverb of cruelty throughout the whole of Barbary. On their arrival at Fez, after a journey in which the whole population turned out to howl at and to stone them, they were thrust into a tiny cell without a ray of light. The four months that they spent in this black hole were bad enough, but worse was yet to follow. The little money that Fernando had left was taken from him, and heavy chains were fastened to the ankles of the prisoners, while their food was hardly fit for dogs or enough to keep them alive. But Fernando at least never grumbled, and tried to keep up the hearts of his friends.

One morning a warder entered the cell and roughly informed the prince that he was to go and clean out the vizier's stables, while the others were to dig up the royal garden. Of course Fernando had never done such a thing in his life, and now, hardly able to stand from weakness, and with fetters on his legs, it seemed an impossible task. Still, only to get out into the sunshine again was delightful to him, and he worked away with a will. However, he could not have done his cleansing very thoroughly, or else the vizier had merely wished to humiliate him, for the next day he was sent to the gardens with the rest. Here he was almost happy; he loved flowers, and he had the company of his friends, to whom he could talk freely, for the gaolers, satisfied that they could not escape, left them very much to themselves. As to food, each man had two loaves a day, but no meat; however, in this respect Fernando fared better than the others, for when the king of Fez and his wives walked through the gardens, as they often did, they would speak to him with the politeness to which he had long been a stranger, and bid their slaves bring him fruit and wine from their own table. It seems curious that king Abdallah did not insist on better treatment for the Portuguese prince, but he was afraid of Lazuraque, who had ruled the kingdom from Abdallah's childhood, and dared not interfere.

When darkness fell the captives were taken back to their prison, and here Fernando had a cell all to himself, and, tired out with his labours, was glad enough to throw himself on the two sheepskins covered by an old carpet which served him for a bed, and lay his head on the bundle of hay which was his pillow.

Matters had gone on in this way for a few weeks, when one day the captives were told that they were to work in the gardens no more; heavier chains were fastened to their arms and legs, and they were all thrust together into one tiny dungeon. Then a message came that dom Fernando was to be brought before the vizier. With a beating heart the infante gladly followed his gaoler. Surely Lazuraque would not have troubled to send for him unless deliverance had been at hand? But his hopes fell at the sight of Lazuraque's face, which was cruel and stern as usual.

"Your brother the king of Portugal is dead," were the words that fell upon Fernando's ears, and he sank fainting to the ground. When he came to himself, he was lying chained in his cell, with his friends anxiously bending over him.

Dom Pedro was now regent, ruling for Duarte's little son, Alfonso V., and besides the view which he had always held that the honour of the country demanded the surrender of Ceuta, he felt bound to carry out the late king's will, which directed him to deliver Fernando at any cost. But now it was not Ceuta that Lazuraque wanted, but a huge ransom, impossible for Portugal to raise, and till this was forthcoming the horrors of the prisoners' captivity were increased.

For some days after hearing the news Fernando's grief, together with the stifling air of the cell, made him so ill that his companions expected that every hour would be his last. Well he guessed that shame at the result of the expedition, and sorrow for his own fate, had hastened the end of dom Duarte, and the infante's thoughts flew back to the day of the proclamation of the king, five years before, and to the prophecy of master Guedelha. One thing, however, did not occur to him—that it was Duarte's weakness in allowing the expedition which had brought about the fulfilment of the prophecy.

After a while Lazuraque saw that unless he meant his captives to die, which would not have suited him at all, he must free them from their dungeon, so they were sent back to the gardens. Slowly the years 1439 and 1440 wore away. The hearts of the poor prisoners grew sick, but Fernando alone never lost his cheerfulness, and kept up the spirits of the others when they were bowed down with despair.

It was in 1441 that hope suddenly sprang into life again, for the news reached them that some envoys had arrived from Portugal to treat for their release, and that the governor of Arzilla was using his influence on their behalf. Soon after they were removed from Fez near to Ceuta, where they could once more see the blue Mediterranean and feel themselves close to Portugal again. But everything came to an end because neither side would trust the other. Lazuraque, though he still preferred a ransom, part of which he could have put in his own pocket, dared not refuse openly to exchange the prince for Ceuta, now that the envoys had come for the express purpose of delivering up the fortress. Still, he could place many obstacles in the way of the fulfilment of the treaty, and declared that the keys of Ceuta must be in his possession before the infante could be handed over to the envoys. They, on their side, insisted on Fernando's release before the surrender of the fortress.

So the poor victim of ill-faith was carried back to Fez, and set to break stones with his companions. Then the plague broke out among the Moors, and each man shrank from his sick brother, and left him to die alone. As far as he might, dom Fernando sought out the plague-stricken people and nursed them night and day, often going without his own food that they might be nourished. Perhaps Lazuraque had fled like other rich men from the city, but at all events he seems to have permitted dom Fernando to do as he liked till the pestilence had run its course.

It was in March 1442 that Fernando was again taken before Lazuraque, and though the prisoner always told himself that he had given up hope, nevertheless his heart beat faster than usual at the summons. The Moor did not waste words, but went at once to the point.

"I have sent for you to ask what price you will pay for your freedom and that of your friends," he said.

Dom Fernando looked at him for an instant before he answered. Long ago he and his companions had talked over the matter and decided what they could offer, if they ever had the chance. But now that the moment had come on which everything depended, his voice seemed choked, and he could not utter a sound.

"Are you deaf?" inquired Lazuraque impatiently. "Be quick, or I shall raise my terms."

Then Fernando stammered out, "Fifty thousand doubloons and fifty Moorish prisoners."

"Nonsense," cried Lazuraque, with a scornful laugh. "Fifty thousand doubloons for a Portuguese prince! Why, it is a beggarly sum! Take him away, gaoler, till he learns wisdom." And the infante was led back to his dungeon.

It was no more than he had expected, yet he needed all his strength of will to help him bear the blow. By order of Lazuraque he was allowed to receive his fellow-prisoners in order to take counsel with them, and at length it was agreed that amongst them, by the aid of the king and their families, they would treble their former offer, and promise one hundred and fifty thousand doubloons and one hundred and fifty captives. This the vizier agreed to accept, and when they heard the news the prisoners fell on each other's necks and wept for joy. But for Fernando the hour of happiness was soon at an end, for till the ransom was paid and the captives landed on Moorish soil his treatment was worse than ever.

The dungeon into which he was now thrown was smaller and darker than before, and even his gaoler was forbidden to speak to him. The loneliness and silence put the finishing touch to the alternate hopes and fears of the last few months, and one day, when the warder brought his scanty supply of food, he found the prince lying unconscious on the ground. Fearing the anger of Lazuraque should his prisoner escape him by death before the money was received, he at once reported the matter, and orders were given to remove the captive into a larger cell, where he could feel the soft winds blowing and even see a ray of the sun. His companions, who were once more working hard, with the least possible allowance of sleep, were permitted to see him, and to carry him books of prayer, as he had been deprived of his own. Greatest boon of all, he was given a lamp by which he could read them.

Saint Fernando in prison


Outside of his cell there was a sand-pit, in which some of the Portuguese came to dig sand every morning to scatter over the floor of the stables after they had been cleaned out. A tiny glimmer of light in this part of the wall showed dom Fernando that a stone was loose, and might with a little patience be moved away. It was hard work for one so weak; still, it gave him something to do and to look forward to, and prevented him, sitting all day in his prison, from wondering why no answer to his letter had ever come, and if his brothers had forgotten him altogether, little knowing that out of mere spite Lazuraque had kept back everything they had written. When these thoughts came into his head he worked away at the stone harder than ever, to deaden the pain which was almost too bad to bear. At last one day his efforts were rewarded, and he was able to take the stone in and out and speak to his fellow-captives, who, with sun and air about them, were more fortunate than he.

Perhaps he may have heard from them (for outside a gaol news flies quickly) that ever since Duarte's death his wife had given great trouble to dom Pedro by interfering in matters of government, and that civil war had actually broken out in Portugal, though happily it was soon put an end to by the flight of the queen. The expenses entailed by all this would, Fernando understood, have prevented the raising of the large ransom required; and with the lightening of his despair at his apparent abandonment came suspicions of Lazuraque. It was so much easier and happier for him to believe that the vizier, whose cruelty he knew, should be playing some trick on him than that Pedro should have left him to die without a word.

We cannot tell how it really happened, and why the money used by dom Enrique ("the Navigator" as he was called) in fitting out exploring expeditions was not employed in setting free the brother who had been made captive through Enrique's own folly. Certain it is that fifty thousand doubloons were all the Portuguese would offer, and now Lazuraque demanded four hundred thousand! This Fernando learnt after fifteen months of waiting, and then his last remnant of hope flickered out.

When hope was gone he had nothing left to live for, and on June 1, 1443, he was too weak even to kneel at his prayers. In vain did his companions implore that he might be moved to a larger, healthier room; the vizier refused all their petitions, and if he had granted them, most likely it would have been too late. However, the prince's physician obtained leave to see him, and his chaplain and secretary watched by him alternately, so that he was not left alone in his last moments.

Four days passed in this manner, and on the morning of June 5 he awoke looking happier than he had done since he bade farewell to the shores of Portugal five years before.

"I have seen in a vision," he said to his confessor, "the archangel Michael and Saint John entreating the Blessed Virgin to have pity on me and put an end to my sufferings. And she smiled down on me, and told me that to-day the gates of heaven should be thrown open, and I should enter." So saying he begged to confess his sins, and when this was done he turned on his side and whispered, "Now let me die in peace," and with the last rays of the sun he was free.

"He that is dead pays all his debts," writes the poet who more than any man knew the best and the worst of the human heart, but Lazuraque did not agree with him. Fernando's body was stripped bare and hung for four days from the battlements of the city, where, silent and uncomplaining as in life, it was a prey to every insult the people could heap on it. Then it was taken down and placed in a box, but still remained unheeded on the walls. How long it might have stayed there we cannot guess, but shortly after Fernando's death Lazuraque was stabbed by some victim of his tyranny, and by-and-by the remnant of dom Fernando's fellow-captives obtained their release on payment of a small ransom, leaving in Fez the bones of three of their companions who had not long survived the Constant Prince. It would seem as if his courage alone had sustained them, and when he was gone they sank and died also.

In 1448 dom Pedro, who had never ceased to mourn the brother he had been powerless to save, exchanged an important Moorish prisoner for father John Alvaro, secretary to the infante. Owing to various delays, it was three years before Alvaro reached Portugal, but when he arrived he carried with him the heart of Fernando, which was borne at the head of a long procession clad in black to the abbey of Batalha, where John and Philippa, Duarte, and a little brother and sister lay buried. On the way they met unexpectedly dom Enrique, master of the Order of Christ, attended by his knights, and a messenger was sent by the prince to ask the meaning of the train of mourners.

"Senhor, it is the heart of the saintly infante," was the answer he received, and without a word Enrique turned his horse, and accompanied by his knights rode on to Batalha, where he laid the casket in the grave which awaited it.

Twenty-seven years after his death Fernando's body was obtained from the Moors, and was carried over to Portugal. With the pomp of a king expecting his bride Alfonso V., surrounded by his nobles, was drawn up on the banks of the Tagus, and behind him were the bishops and abbots of Portugal and a dense throng of people.

For long they watched and waited, and none that was present forgot the dead silence that reigned in that multitude, more solemn than prayers, more welcoming than the sound of guns. At length a ship came in sight across the bar of the river; then, baring their heads, the crowd parted, and the bones of the Constant Prince were borne to Batalha.