THE Infante Don Henrique had a dispute with his brother, King Alfonso. And, as he wished not to fight with him, thought it most prudent to go over to Barbary. As the King of Tunis had been in great awe of his father, and was very desirous not to run any risk of a collision with the Christians, he took pains to treat Don Henrique well, and entertained him honourably for more than four years, and instructed all his people to behave to him kindly.
Mean time, Don Henrique's princely bearing won all hearts. In all games, and feats of strength and horsemanship, and trials of arms, he bore away the palm; so that all men admired him and cried, "God save him!" till at last the advisers of the King of Tunis feared that they would want next to make him their king, and they would all be under power of the Christians, and the name of the Prophet be put out.
Don Henrique was so valiant, however, and so were all the Christians, his companions, that they dared not attack him openly. And the king saw the danger full well, but durst not interfere either to attack or defend him, for he was divided between love for the young prince and alarm for his own safety.
At last, an astute old Moor devised a plan which should rid them of the young prince without putting them in any danger of suffering from his resistance or the vengeance of his followers, for it should not appear that they of the Moorish sect had any thing to do with it, but it should seem a natural calamity.
The old Moor poured it into the king's ear, and the king could not but say it was well found; and, for all his love for the young prince, he could not resist taking so easy a way for ridding himself of a great danger.
The young prince, in his ingenuousness, suspected nothing. He was used to go out hunting with the king; and now that he invited him to a hunting party, he was only glad to join the gallant sport.
The Moorish king led him on, away from the rest of the party, into a wild part of the thicket, which, according to the plan of the old Moor, had been turned into a corral, or enclosed ground having no outlet, but so overgrown with bushes, that the prince could not perceive the trap. Then the old Moor, who was on the watch, as soon as they entered the fatal precincts, gave a signal to his men, who let loose and turned in two fierce hungry lions. The prince, not at all dismayed, drew his sword, and rode right up to them. The lions cowered before his prowess, and did not attempt to attack him, so he drove them before him across the corral, and then he saw it was closed in and had no opening but into the den where the lions had been kept; he shut them in and made it fast, and knew now it was a snare; but the king, not daring to face him, had turned and ridden away.
The prince's heart was grieved, for he had thought the king was his friend, but he said, "I will not remain where my presence is considered a burden." The Spanish companions with him wanted him to wreak signal vengeance on the treacherous pagans, but Don Henrique said, "As I am a Christian, I shed no man's blood in personal vengeance; but neither will I leave this ungrateful land without one stroke for Christ. Now these pagans hold in bondage a multitude of Christian captives; go, tell their king that if he fears our presence, we will go, but we leave not our brethren behind."
When the king found that his plan had failed, he was filled with anger at the old man who had invented it, that he sent and cut off his head, and then he sat trembling with fear at the vengeance Don Henrique might take. So, when they brought him his message, he received it with gladness, and ordered that all who had Christian slaves in their house should give them up to Don Henrique. And, as Don Henrique's galleys were not enough to contain all the multitude of captives he had saved, the king ordered others to be lent him, so that only the danger might be removed from his coast.
Then the Christian fleet set sail, and God sent them a prosperous wind; and so they came to Rome, where Don Henrique joined the banner of Charles of Anjou, and did deeds of valour in his cause.