Once upon a time there was a kind King, named King Thomas. He ruled his
Kingdom wisely and all his subjects loved him. He had a fine son, Prince Paul, who
ruled the Kingdom with him. Paul was always glad to do whatever his father
desired for the good of the kingdom.
Both the father and son loved their people very much. They would often
dress as peasants and go among their people without their people knowing their
true identities. They plowed fields with farmers, shoed horses with blacksmiths,
helped old women carry their loads, and hung the washing for weary mothers.
They spent many hours listening to the complaints of the people. The people were
seldom aware that their sovereigns were among them, bearing their burdens with
them. When they were wearing their kingly clothing, no one would notice their
calloused hands from the hard work they gladly did for their people.
The day came when both father and son knew it was time for the son to seek
a wife. King Thomas gave many parties and all the fine ladies of the kingdom
were invited. Prince Paul met with all of them, but his heart was not satisfied.
?Father,” Paul said, ?All the ladies are fine enough, but they are very selfish.
They will love me because I am the prince, and not for whom I am. I need a wife
beside me to help me serve our people. She will have to work hard and have a
sweet spirit. She will have to love serving others. If I could find that kind of
woman, I would give my life for her.”
?Son,” replied his father, ?That is a wonderful goal. How do you propose to
find such a girl?”
?I will go among our people,” Prince Paul decided. ?I will search for her.
When I find her, I will get a job with a farmer, and win her heart. She will never
know my true identity until she agrees to marry me. This may take a long time,
so I won?t be able to help you with the kingdom openly.”
?True, my son,? sighed his father, ?But I must let you go. I will send our
servants to keep watch over you. From time to time I myself will steal away and
find you. Then we can talk together. I trust you, Paul. I know you will do what is
?I always want to please you, Father,” said Paul, ?I will always think of the
wise counsel you?ve given me. Now I must go.”
? Go with my blessing, Son,” said the father.
So, Prince Paul put on the garments of Peter the poor. As a homeless
wanderer he went from town to town. He took odd jobs, and stayed with farmers
and blacksmiths as he helped them. He worked for his food and slept in barns
and sheds. From time to time he would recognize his father in his peasant clothes,
and the two would catch up on Paul’s progress. Paul had met many fine peasant
girls, but none of them had the kind of heart which would willingly serve the
One day as Paul was plowing a farmer’s field, he saw a young woman
drawing water from the town well. He asked the farmer, ?What is her name?
Whose daughter is she?”
?Her?” the farmer said with a sneer, ?Her name is Anna. Her father is
Harry, the town drunk, and her mother...a prostitute. The girl probably follows
in her footsteps. She does odd jobs for several families in town. She takes care
of her nine brothers and sister, she feeds pigs, she’ll do anything...even...you
know...to get money to feed her brood of urchins.”
The prince’s heart was heavy. This poor girl...he had to find out how to help
her. She was tarnished...damaged goods....but she had such a heart to help her
He found Anna’s home and began secretly to leave little gifts of food for the
family. He observed bruises on her face. He saw her father often in a drunken
rage. There was no mother. The children had barely enough to eat, only after
Anna had either spent the entire day feeding pigs ...or after Anna had not been
home all night. None of the family ever saw the prince, who often wept after
leaving the secret gifts.
One weekend there was a big festival in the town, and all the people came
to feast and celebrate. The King was coming to visit. At the celebration, Paul
searched for Anna, and at last he saw her with her brothers and sisters on the
fringes of the crowd. They were dirty and people pulled away from them. Some
people even shouted at them and kicked them. Anna cursed at them and her
family clung to her. Paul noticed that some men looked at her lustfully and her
eyelids fluttered at them. But she was bruised and fear showed beneath the
flirtations. His heart burned in anger. But he thought, how will I win her heart?
How can I help her to be the wife, the princess, the queen, that she could be?
A moment later he felt his pocket being picked, and realized one of the
?urchins”, one of Anna’s brothers, was trying to steal something from him. The
prince seldom carried money but he grabbed the youngster around the waist, and
said playfully, ?Sorry, fellow, there’s nothing there to pick. Let’s go back and see
The little boy, whose name was Mike, was kicking and screaming, but could
not get out of the prince’s grasp. Anna came running over, cursing at the prince
for holding her brother. The prince continued to hold securely and calmly onto her
brother and allowed her to rain curses on him. Finally the young boy relaxed and
quieted, and Anna realized that this man was not fighting her. He was not looking
at her with lust like the other men. He was even holding her brother gently.
Anna stopped her cursing. ?Please give him back. He won’t do it again,” she said
in a quiet voice. ?Who are you anyway?”
?My name is Peter. I’m looking for work. Can your father use a hired hand?”
he asked just as quietly. He let Mike go, but Mike stayed with him.
?My father??” she said, looking at him crazily, ?There are many things my
father could use...but...Heaven knows there’s lots of work around our house. But
we have no money, except what I....earn....I can’t pay you.”
?All I need is a place to sleep and something to eat,” he said. ?I can work
?No, thanks,” she snapped, as a hardness came over her eyes, ?You’re just
like the rest. Leave us alone.” She turned and fled with her brood. How many of
those are really hers, he asked himself.
For the next few weeks, the prince came onto Anna’s farm and began openly
helping the family. Every night he would return to the farmer he worked for. But
all his free time was spent helping Anna’s family. At first, Anna tried to turn him
away, but the children came to love him. He was always kind to them, brought
them food and played with them. But he never touched her, and he always looked
at her with loving respect. He kept imagining what she could be.
Suddenly one day Anna’s father was found dead. He just never awoke from
his drunk. The prince came upon the family weeping. He wept with them and
helped them bury their father. For the first time in weeks, Anna broke her silence.
?He was a good man once. My mother was a prostitute, but some of these
children were orphans he took in. When my mother finally left him, he was
devastated. She never wanted the children. Then he turned to drink. I’m just like
her, except that I really do love the children. The littlest one, Mike, though, I’m
ashamed to say, is mine. I don’t even know who his father is. I’m just like my
mother, wherever she is. But we have to eat...and even now there will be
another...” Anna’s voice trailed off, a softness came to her eyes, and a tear slipped
down her cheek.
She continued, ?You, you’re too good for us. The children love you. But we’re
no good for you. Please go and don’t come back,” she whispered.
?No, I can’t go. I love you, Anna, will you marry me?” the words tumbling out
of the prince’s lips. Is it too soon to ask, wondered the prince....
Anna looked at him in disbelief. She had just told him her whole sordid life
story and he wanted to marry her! Other men had said they would ?marry” her
after they had what they wanted, but this man never touched her, never looked at
her with anything but friendship and respect....Friendship and respect she didn’t
deserve. She opened her mouth, but no words came.
?I’ll prove to you that I really love you,” he said. ?Let me sleep in the barn
and help you farm this place. I will help you care for your family. I promise that
I will never touch you. You will never need to go overnight anywhere again because
I will provide for you. And I will receive the young one you bear under your heart
as my own.”
?No, you can’t do that. Do you know what the townspeople will say?” she said
?Yes, I do. I will gladly bear it to have you as wife. And I will wait until you
are ready to give me your final answer,” he said firmly, looking into her eyes.
Anna reluctantly agreed and all the children began to cheer. Their friend,
Peter, took up residence in the barn, and began to teach them to do odd jobs for
the farmers around town. At first, there was some vicious gossip, but gradually
the townspeople began to trust Anna’s children to do jobs for them. Anna never
went out overnight again. ?Peter” always walked with Anna to town to protect her.
?Peter” began to teach the children to read and to count. He told them
stories about the King and how sometimes the King walked among his people and
helped them without their knowing. They listened to his stories after the work was
done. He taught them to know and love the Creator God. He led them in prayer.
Anna began to trust Peter, and she began to love him. But she would not give her
final answer. And he never pressed her.
One day as the prince and Anna were walking back from town, a wagon
came careening down the street out of control. There was just enough time for the
prince to push Anna away as the horse and wagon ran over him, and left him for
dead in the street. Anna ran over to his broken and bleeding body. Crying
hysterically she called for help, and a kind neighbor brought him to the doctor.
The doctor did what he could, and Anna sat by his side in prayer. He had
risked his life to save her, and now he lay near death. Tears slipped down her
cheeks, and she wept onto his hand. Oh, if only she had given the final answer.
Suddenly, the wet hand moved, and the prince’s eyes opened. Their eyes
met and he smiled at her. Anna let out a little cry of joy. She took his hand. ?I’m
ready with my final answer,” she began. ?I don’t deserve that you should love me,
serve me, and risk your life for me. But I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I do love
you, and it would be a privilege to be your wife, if you will still have me.”
The prince’s eyes lit up just as the door flew open and the King and his
entourage entered the room. ?Son,” he said, ?I heard you were hurt. I had to
Again Anna was in shock and disbelief. She had never asked “Peter” who his
father was. The prince spoke up in a weak voice, ?Father, I want you to meet my
bride to be, Anna. She will make a wonderful princess and queen. She will serve
our people with a good heart right beside me. And she already carries an heir.”
The King drew Anna up, and took her hand. ?I’m so happy to meet you, my
daughter. Welcome to our family. I knew my son would choose well.” So, the
father and son told Anna of their plan. Then she was even more shocked and
?Peter, I mean Prince Paul,” she said to the King, ?has taught me everything
I know about being good. I’ll do the best I can. And I can learn, too. But the
children...I can’t leave them.”
?There is plenty of room in my house for all of them,” the King assured
Anna, ?My son has told me about them. They will be considered my
So, Paul took Anna to the palace and married her. There was a great
celebration and Anna often thought about the sacrificial love that Paul had for
her. She was glad to go with King Thomas and Prince Paul among the people in
her ?peasant” clothes and help them however she could. The people knew that
their sovereigns were often among them, but seldom recognized them. They loved
them because their King, their Prince, and their Princess loved the people first.
In time Princess Anna had a little boy, whom they named Matthew. Mike
became his special big brother. Later Paul and Anna had other children. The
story of Anna and Paul was told from generation to generation.