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Prince Darling

from The Blue Fairy Book





ONCE upon a time there lived a king who was so just
and kind that his subjects called him "the Good King."
It happened one day, when he was out hunting, that a
little white rabbit, which his dogs were chasing, sprang
into his arms for shelter. The King stroked it gently,
and said to it:

"Well, bunny, as you have come to me for protection
I will see that nobody hurts you."

And he took it home to his palace and had it put in a
pretty little house, with all sorts of nice things to eat.

That night, when he was alone in his room, a beautiful
lady suddenly appeared before him; her long dress was
as white as snow, and she had a crown of white roses upon
her head. The good King was very much surprised to
see her, for he knew his door had been tightly shut, and
he could not think how she had got in. But she said
to him:

"I am the Fairy Truth. I was passing through the
wood when you were out hunting, and I wished to find
out if you were really good, as everybody said you were,
so I took the shape of a little rabbit and came to your
arms for shelter, for I know that those who are merciful
to animals will be still kinder to their fellow-men. If
you had refused to help me I should have been certain
that you were wicked. I thank you for the kindness you
have shown me, which has made me your friend for ever.
You have only to ask me for anything you want and I
promise that I will give it to you."

"Madam," said the good King, "since you are a fairy
you no doubt know all my wishes. I have but one son
whom I love very dearly, that is why he is called Prince
Darling. If you are really good enough to wish to do
me a favor, I beg that you will become his friend."

"With all my heart," answered the Fairy. "I can
make your son the handsomest prince in the world, or
the richest, or the most powerful; choose whichever you
like for him."

"I do not ask either of these things for my son," replied
the good King; "but if you will make him the best of
princes, I shall indeed be grateful to you. What good
would it do him to be rich, or handsome, or to possess all
the kingdoms of the world if he were wicked? You know
well he would still be unhappy. Only a good man can
be really contented."

"You are quite right," answered the Fairy; "but it is
not in my power to make Prince Darling a good man
unless he will help me; he must himself try hard to become
good, I can only promise to give him good advice,
to scold him for his faults, and to punish him if he will
not correct and punish himself."

The good King was quite satisfied with this promise;
and very soon afterward he died.

Prince Darling was very sorry, for he loved his father
with all his heart, and he would willingly have given all
his kingdoms and all his treasures of gold and silver if
they could have kept the good King with him.

Two days afterward, when the Prince had gone to
bed, the Fairy suddenly appeared to him and said:

"I promised your father that I would be your friend,
and to keep my word I have come to bring you a present."
At the same time she put a little gold ring upon his
finger.

"Take great care of this ring," she said: "it is more
precious than diamonds; every time you do a bad deed
it will prick your finger, but if, in spite of its pricking,
you go on in your own evil way, you will lose my friendship,
and I shall become your enemy."

So saying, the Fairy disappeared, leaving Prince
Darling very much astonished.

For some time he behaved so well that the ring never
pricked him, and that made him so contented that his
subjects called him Prince Darling the Happy.

One day, however, he went out hunting, but could get
no sport, which put him in a very bad temper; it seemed
to him as he rode along that his ring was pressing into
his finger, but as it did not prick him he did not heed it.
When he got home and went to his own room, his little
dog Bibi ran to meet him, jumping round him with
pleasure. "Get away!" said the Prince, quite gruffly.
"I don't want you, you are in the way."

The poor little dog, who didn't understand this at all,
pulled at his coat to make him at least look at her, and
this made Prince Darling so cross that he gave her quite
a hard kick.

Instantly his ring pricked him sharply, as if it had
been a pin. He was very much surprised, and sat down
in a corner of his room feeling quite ashamed of himself.

"I believe the Fairy is laughing at me," he thought.
"Surely I can have done no great wrong in just kicking
a tiresome animal! What is the good of my being ruler
of a great kingdom if I am not even allowed to beat my
own dog?"

"I am not making fun of you," said a voice, answering
Prince Darling's thoughts. "You have committed three
faults. First of all, you were out of temper because you
could not have what you wanted, and you thought all
men and animals were only made to do your pleasure;
then you were really angry, which is very naughty
indeed; and lastly, you were cruel to a poor little animal
who did not in the least deserve to be ill-treated.

"I know you are far above a little dog, but if it were
right and allowable that great people should ill-treat all
who are beneath them, I might at this moment beat you,
or kill you, for a fairy is greater than a man. The
advantage of possessing a great empire is not to be able to
do the evil that one desires, but to do all the good that
one possibly can."

The Prince saw how naughty he had been, and promised
to try and do better in future, but he did not keep
his word. The fact was he had been brought up by a
foolish nurse, who had spoiled him when he was little.
If he wanted anything he only had to cry and fret and
stamp his feet and she would give him whatever he
asked for, which had made him self-willed; also she had
told him from morning to night that he would one day
be a king, and that kings were very happy, because
everyone was bound to obey and respect them, and no
one could prevent them from doing just as they liked.

When the Prince grew old enough to understand, he
soon learned that there could be nothing worse than to
be proud, obstinate, and conceited, and he had really
tried to cure himself of these defects, but by that time
all his faults had become habits; and a bad habit is very
hard to get rid of. Not that he was naturally of a bad
disposition; he was truly sorry when he had been naughty,
and said:

"I am very unhappy to have to struggle against my
anger and pride every day; if I had been punished for
them when I was little they would not be such a trouble
to me now."

His ring pricked him very often, and sometimes he
left off what he was doing at once; but at other times he
would not attend to it. Strangely enough, it gave him
only a slight prick for a trifling fault, but when he was
really naughty it made his finger actually bleed. At
last he got tired of being constantly reminded, and wanted
to be able to do as he liked, so he threw his ring aside,
and thought himself the happiest of men to have got rid
of its teasing pricks. He gave himself up to doing every
foolish thing that occurred to him, until he became quite
wicked and nobody could like him any longer.

One day, when the Prince was walking about, he saw
a young girl who was so very pretty that he made up
his mind at once that he would marry her. Her name
was Celia, and she was as good as she was beautiful.

Prince Darling fancied that Celia would think herself
only too happy if he offered to make her a great queen,
but she said fearlessly:

"Sire, I am only a shepherdess, and a poor girl, but,
nevertheless, I will not marry you."

"Do you dislike me?" asked the Prince, who was very
much vexed at this answer.

"No, my Prince," replied Celia; "I cannot help
thinking you very handsome; but what good would riches be
to me, and all the grand dresses and splendid carriages
that you would give me, if the bad deeds which I should
see you do every day made me hate and despise you?"

The Prince was very angry at this speech, and
commanded his officers to make Celia a prisoner and carry
her off to his palace. All day long the remembrance of
what she had said annoyed him, but as he loved her he
could not make up his mind to have her punished.

One of the Prince's favorite companions was his foster-brother,
whom he trusted entirely; but he was not at all
a good man, and gave Prince Darling very bad advice,
and encouraged him in all his evil ways. When he saw
the Prince so downcast he asked what was the matter,
and when he explained that he could not bear Celia's
bad opinion of him, and was resolved to be a better man
in order to please her, this evil adviser said to him:

"You are very kind to trouble yourself about this little
girl; if I were you I would soon make her obey me.
Remember that you are a king, and that it would be laughable
to see you trying to please a shepherdess, who ought
to be only too glad to be one of your slaves. Keep her
in prison, and feed her on bread and water for a little
while, and then, if she still says she will not marry you,
have her head cut off, to teach other people that you
mean to be obeyed. Why, if you cannot make a girl
like that do as you wish, your subjects will soon forget
that they are only put into this world for our pleasure."

"But," said Prince Darling, "would it not be a shame
if I had an innocent girl put to death? For Celia has
done nothing to deserve punishment."

"If people will not do as you tell them they ought to
suffer for it," answered his foster-brother; "but even if
it were unjust, you had better be accused of that by your
subjects than that they should find out that they may
insult and thwart you as often as they please."

In saying this he was touching a weak point in his
brother's character; for the Prince's fear of losing any
of his power made him at once abandon his first idea of
trying to be good, and resolve to try and frighten the
shepherdess into consenting to marry him.

His foster-brother, who wanted him to keep this
resolution, invited three young courtiers, as wicked as himself
to sup with the Prince, and they persuaded him to drink
a great deal of wine, and continued to excite his anger
against Celia by telling him that she had laughed at his
love for her; until at last, in quite a furious rage, he
rushed off to find her, declaring that if she still refused
to marry him she should be sold as a slave the very next
day.

But when he reached the room in which Celia had
been locked up, he was greatly surprised to find that she
was not in it, though he had the key in his own pocket
all the time. His anger was terrible, and he vowed
vengeance against whoever had helped her to escape. His
bad friends, when they heard him, resolved to turn his
wrath upon an old nobleman who had formerly been his
tutor; and who still dared sometimes to tell the Prince
of his faults, for he loved him as if he had been his own
son. At first Prince Darling had thanked him, but after
a time he grew impatient and thought it must be just
mere love of fault-finding that made his old tutor blame
him when everyone else was praising and flattering him.
So he ordered him to retire from his Court, though he still,
from time to time, spoke of him as a worthy man whom
he respected, even if he no longer loved him. His
unworthy friends feared that he might some day take it
into his head to recall his old tutor, so they thought they
now had a good opportunity of getting him banished for
ever.

They reported to the Prince that Suilman, for that
was the tutor's name, had boasted of having helped Celia
to escape, and they bribed three men to say that Suilman
himself had told them about it. The Prince, in
great anger, sent his foster-brother with a number of
soldiers to bring his tutor before him, in chains, like a
criminal. After giving this order he went to his own
room, but he had scarcely got into it when there was a
clap of thunder which made the ground shake, and the
Fairy Truth appeared suddenly before him.

"I promised your father," said she sternly, "to give
you good advice, and to punish you if you refused to
follow it. You have despised my counsel, and have gone
your own evil way until you are only outwardly a man;
really you are a monster--the horror of everyone who
knows you. It is time that I should fulfil my promise,
and begin your punishment. I condemn you to resemble
the animals whose ways you have imitated. You
have made yourself like the lion by your anger, and like
the wolf by your greediness. Like a snake, you have
ungratefully turned upon one who was a second father to
you; your churlishness has made you like a bull. Therefore,
in your new form, take the appearance of all these
animals."

The Fairy had scarcely finished speaking when Prince
Darling saw to his horror that her words were fulfilled.
He had a lion's head, a bull's horns, a wolf's feet, and a
snake's body. At the same instant he found himself in
a great forest, beside a clear lake, in which he could see
plainly the horrible creature he had become, and a voice
said to him:

"Look carefully at the state to which your wickedness
has brought you; believe me, your soul is a thousand
times more hideous than your body."

Prince Darling recognized the voice of the Fairy Truth
and turned in a fury to catch her and eat her up if he
possibly could; but he saw no one, and the same voice
went on:

"I laugh at your powerlessness and anger, and I intend
to punish your pride by letting you fall into the
hands of your own subjects."

The Prince began to think that the best thing he could
do would be to get as far away from the lake as he could,
then at least he would not be continually reminded of his
terrible ugliness. So he ran toward the wood, but before
he had gone many yards he fell into a deep pit which
had been made to trap bears, and the hunters, who were
hiding in a tree, leaped down, and secured him with
several chains, and led him into the chief city of his own
kingdom.

On the way, instead of recognizing that his own faults
had brought this punishment upon him, he accused the
Fairy of being the cause of all his misfortunes, and bit
and tore at his chains furiously.

As they approached the town he saw that some great
rejoicing was being held, and when the hunters asked
what had happened they were told that the Prince,
whose only pleasure it was to torment his people, had
been found in his room, killed by a thunder-bolt (for
that was what was supposed to have become of him).
Four of his courtiers, those who had encouraged him in
his wicked doings, had tried to seize the kingdom and
divide it between them, but the people, who knew it
was their bad counsels which had so changed the Prince,
had cut off their heads, and had offered the crown to
Suilman, whom the Prince had left in prison. This
noble lord had just been crowned, and the deliverance
of the kingdom was the cause of the rejoicing "For,"
they said, "he is a good and just man, and we shall once
more enjoy peace and prosperity."

Prince Darling roared with anger when he heard this;
but it was still worse for him when he reached the great
square before his own palace. He saw Suilman seated
upon a magnificent throne, and all the people crowded
round, wishing him a long life that he might undo all
the mischief done by his predecessor.

Presently Suilman made a sign with his hand that the
people should be silent, and said: "I have accepted the
crown you have offered me, but only that I may keep it
for Prince Darling, who is not dead as you suppose; the
Fairy has assured me that there is still hope that you
may some day see him again, good and virtuous as he
was when he first came to the throne. Alas!" he
continued, "he was led away by flatterers. I knew his
heart, and am certain that if it had not been for the bad
influence of those who surrounded him he would have
been a good king and a father to his people. We may
hate his faults, but let us pity him and hope for his
restoration. As for me, I would die gladly if that could bring
back our Prince to reign justly and worthily once more."

These words went to Prince Darling's heart; he realized
the true affection and faithfulness of his old tutor, and
for the first time reproached himself for all his evil
deeds; at the same instant he felt all his anger melting
away, and he began quickly to think over his past life,
and to admit that his punishment was not more than
he had deserved. He left off tearing at the iron bars of
the cage in which he was shut up, and became as gentle
as a lamb.

The hunters who had caught him took him to a great
menagerie, where he was chained up among all the other
wild beasts, and he determined to show his sorrow for
his past bad behavior by being gentle and obedient to the
man who had to take care of him. Unfortunately, this
man was very rough and unkind, and though the poor
monster was quite quiet, he often beat him without
rhyme or reason when he happened to be in a bad temper.
One day when this keeper was asleep a tiger broke its
chain, and flew at him to eat him up. Prince Darling,
who saw what was going on, at first felt quite pleased to
think that he should be delivered from his persecutor,
but soon thought better of it and wished that he were free.

"I would return good for evil," he said to himself, "and
save the unhappy man's life." He had hardly wished
this when his iron cage flew open, and he rushed to the
side of the keeper, who was awake and was defending
himself against the tiger. When he saw the monster had
got out he gave himself up for lost, but his fear was soon
changed into joy, for the kind monster threw itself upon
the tiger and very soon killed it, and then came and
crouched at the feet of the man it had saved.

Overcome with gratitude, the keeper stooped to caress
the strange creature which had done him such a great
service; but suddenly a voice said in his ear:

"A good action should never go unrewarded," and at
the same instant the monster disappeared, and he saw
at his feet only a pretty little dog!

Prince Darling, delighted by the change, frisked about
the keeper, showing his joy in every way he could, and
the man, taking him up in his arms, carried him to the
King, to whom he told the whole story.

The Queen said she would like to have this wonderful
little dog, and the Prince would have been very happy
in his new home if he could have forgotten that he was a
man and a king. The Queen petted and took care of
him, but she was so afraid that he would get too fat that
she consulted the court physician, who said that he was
to be fed only upon bread, and was not to have much
even of that. So poor Prince Darling was terribly
hungry all day long, but he was very patient about it.

One day, when they gave him his little loaf for breakfast,
he thought he would like to eat it out in the garden;
so he took it up in his mouth and trotted away toward a
brook that he knew of a long way from the palace. But
he was surprised to find that the brook was gone, and
where it had been stood a great house that seemed to be
built of gold and precious stones. Numbers of people
splendidly dressed were going into it, and sounds of
music and dancing and feasting could be heard from the
windows.

But what seemed very strange was that those people
who came out of the house were pale and thin, and their
clothes were torn, and hanging in rags about them.
Some fell down dead as they came out before they had
time to get away; others crawled farther with great
difficulty; while others again lay on the ground, fainting
with hunger, and begged a morsel of bread from those
who were going into the house, but they would not so
much as look at the poor creatures.

Prince Darling went up to a young girl who was trying
to eat a few blades of grass, she was so hungry. Touched
with compassion, he said to himself:

"I am very hungry, but I shall not die of starvation
before I get my dinner; if I give my breakfast to this
poor creature perhaps I may save her life."

So he laid his piece of bread in the girl's hand, and saw
her eat it up eagerly.

She soon seemed to be quite well again, and the Prince,
delighted to have been able to help her, was thinking of
going home to the palace, when he heard a great outcry,
and, turning round, saw Celia, who was being carried
against her will into the great house.

For the first time the Prince regretted that he was no
longer the monster, then he would have been able to
rescue Celia; now he could only bark feebly at the people
who were carrying her off, and try to follow them, but
they chased and kicked him away.

He determined not to quit the place till he knew what
had become of Celia, and blamed himself for what had
befallen her.

"Alas!" he said to himself, "I am furious with the
people who are carrying Celia off, but isn't that exactly
what I did myself, and if I had not been prevented did I
not intend to be still more cruel to her?"

Here he was interrupted by a noise above his head--someone
was opening a window, and he saw with delight
that it was Celia herself, who came forward and threw
out a plate of most delicious-looking food, then the
window was shut again, and Prince Darling, who had not
had anything to eat all day, thought he might as well
take the opportunity of getting something. He ran
forward to begin, but the young girl to whom he had
given his bread gave a cry of terror and took him up in
her arms, saying:

"Don't touch it, my poor little dog--that house is the
palace of pleasure, and everything that comes out of it
is poisoned!"

At the same moment a voice said:

"You see a good action always brings its reward," and
the Prince found himself changed into a beautiful white
dove. He remembered that white was the favorite
color of the Fairy Truth, and began to hope that he
might at last win back her favor. But just now his
first care was for Celia, and rising into the air he flew
round and round the house, until he saw an open window;
but he searched through every room in vain. No trace
of Celia was to be seen, and the Prince, in despair,
determined to search through the world till he found her.
He flew on and on for several days, till he came to a
great desert, where he saw a cavern, and, to his delight,
there sat Celia, sharing the simple breakfast of an old
hermit.

Overjoyed to have found her, Prince Darling perched
upon her shoulder, trying to express by his caresses how
glad he was to see her again, and Celia, surprised and
delighted by the tameness of this pretty white dove,
stroked it softly, and said, though she never thought of
its understanding her:

"I accept the gift that you make me of yourself, and
I will love you always."

"Take care what you are saying, Celia," said the old
hermit; "are you prepared to keep that promise?"

"Indeed, I hope so, my sweet shepherdess," cried the
Prince, who was at that moment restored to his natural
shape. "You promised to love me always; tell me that
you really mean what you said, or I shall have to ask
the Fairy to give me back the form of the dove which
pleased you so much."

"You need not be afraid that she will change her
mind," said the Fairy, throwing off the hermit's robe in
which she had been disguised and appearing before them.

"Celia has loved you ever since she first saw you, only
she would not tell you while you were so obstinate and
naughty. Now you have repented and mean to be good
you deserve to be happy, and so she may love you as
much as she likes."

Celia and Prince Darling threw themselves at the
Fairy's feet, and the Prince was never tired of thanking
her for her kindness. Celia was delighted to hear how
sorry he was for all his past follies and misdeeds, and
promised to love him as long as she lived.

"Rise, my children," said the Fairy, "and I will
transport you to the palace, and Prince Darling shall have
back again the crown he forfeited by his bad behavior."

While she was speaking, they found themselves in
Suilman's hall, and his delight was great at seeing his
dear master once more. He gave up the throne joyfully
to the Prince, and remained always the most faithful
of his subjects.

Celia and Prince Darling reigned for many years, but
he was so determined to govern worthily and to do his
duty that his ring, which he took to wearing again, never
once pricked him severely.





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