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King Robin

There was once a little boy called Sigli, who, I am sorry to say, took great pleasure in catching and killing little birds. His father was a notorious robber, so it was not surprising that Sigli gave way to acts of cruelty. His mother died when he was little more than a year old, and he did not know any other relation. In the north of Portugal, bands of robbers used to frequent the roads, and some of them lived in strong castles, and had a large retinue of followers. In time of war these robber-chiefs would side with the king’s party, because after the war was over they received large grants of land for the assistance they had rendered the sovereign. Sometimes when the neighbouring kings of Spain invaded Portugal, these robbers proved of great advantage in repelling the invaders; but in following up their victories they would despoil all the churches in the enemy’s country of the gold and silver idols, which the priests had caused to be made in order to get the ignorant peasantry to make offerings of money, corn, and oil, in exchange for which the priests, in the name of the idols, offered all those who gave, pardon of their sins.

Now, Sigli’s father had on many occasions robbed gold and silver idols, and had murdered a few brethren of the Holy Inquisition, who, in their turn, were well known for the wicked deeds they had committed, such as burning Christian men and women who did not, and could not, profess the popish faith. But in course of time the Jesuits, for so they were called, made common cause against these robbers, and either put them to death, or obliged them to leave off robbing churches and take to cheating the peasantry.

Sigli, as I said before, was a very cruel boy, and he was the terror of all the birds and beasts. He would lay traps for them, and when he had caught them he would take pleasure in tormenting them, which clearly proved that he was not a Christian, nor possessed of any refinement. But he took more pleasure in catching Robin-redbreasts than in anything else, and for this purpose he used bird-lime.

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