PRINCE CHERRY





There was once an old king, so wise and kind and true that the most

powerful good fairy of his land visited him and asked him to name the

dearest wish of his heart, that she might grant it.



"Surely you know it," said the good king; "it is for my only son, Prince

Cherry; do for him whatever you would have done for me."



"Gladly," said the great fairy; "choose what I shall give him. I can

make him the richest, the most beautiful, or the most powerful prince in

the world; choose."



"None of those things are what I want," said the king. "I want only that

he shall be good. Of what use will it be to him to be beautiful, rich,

or powerful, if he grows into a bad man? Make him the best prince in the

world, I beg you!"



"Alas, I cannot make him good," said the fairy; "he must do that for

himself. I can give him good advice, reprove him when he does wrong, and

punish him if he will not punish himself; I can and will be his best

friend, but I cannot make him good unless he wills it."



The king was sad to hear this, but he rejoiced in the friendship of the

fairy for his son. And when he died, soon after, he was happy to know

that he left Prince Cherry in her hands.



Prince Cherry grieved for his father, and often lay awake at night,

thinking of him. One night, when he was all alone in his room, a soft

and lovely light suddenly shone before him, and a beautiful vision stood

at his side. It was the good fairy. She was clad in robes of dazzling

white, and on her shining hair she wore a wreath of white roses.



"I am the Fairy Candide," she said to the prince. "I promised your

father that I would be your best friend, and as long as you live I shall

watch over your happiness. I have brought you a gift; it is not

wonderful to look at, but it has a wonderful power for your welfare;

wear it, and let it help you."



As she spoke, she placed a small gold ring on the prince's little

finger. "This ring," she said, "will help you to be good; when you do

evil, it will prick you, to remind you. If you do not heed its warnings

a worse thing will happen to you, for I shall become your enemy." Then

she vanished.



Prince Cherry wore his ring, and said nothing to anyone of the fairy's

gift. It did not prick him for a long time, because he was good and

merry and happy. But Prince Cherry had been rather spoiled by his nurse

when he was a child; she had always said to him that when he should

become king he could do exactly as he pleased. Now, after a while, he

began to find out that this was not true, and it made him angry.



The first time that he noticed that even a king could not always have

his own way was on a day when he went hunting. It happened that he got

no game. This put him in such a bad temper that he grumbled and scolded

all the way home. The little gold ring began to feel tight and

uncomfortable. When he reached the palace his pet dog ran to meet him.



"Go away!" said the prince, crossly.



But the little dog was so used to being petted that he only jumped up on

his master, and tried to kiss his hand. The prince turned and kicked the

little creature. At the instant, he felt a sharp prick in his little

finger, like a pin prick.



"What nonsense!" said the prince to himself. "Am I not king of the whole

land? May I not kick my own dog, if I choose? What evil is there in

that?"



A silver voice spoke in his ear: "The king of the land has a right to do

good, but not evil; you have been guilty of bad temper and of cruelty

to-day; see that you do better to-morrow."



The prince turned sharply, but no one was to be seen; yet he recognised

the voice as that of Fairy Candide.



He followed her advice for a little, but presently he forgot, and the

ring pricked him so sharply that his finger had a drop of blood on it.

This happened again and again, for the prince grew more self-willed and

headstrong every day; he had some bad friends, too, who urged him on, in

the hope that he would ruin himself and give them a chance to seize the

throne. He treated his people carelessly and his servants cruelly, and

everything he wanted he felt that he must have.



The ring annoyed him terribly; it was embarrassing for a king to have a

drop of blood on his finger all the time! At last he took the ring off

and put it out of sight. Then he thought he should be perfectly happy,

having his own way; but instead, he grew more unhappy as he grew less

good. Whenever he was crossed, or could not have his own way instantly,

he flew into a passion.



Finally, he wanted something that he really could not have. This time it

was a most beautiful young girl, named Zelia; the prince saw her, and

loved her so much that he wanted at once to make her his queen. To his

great astonishment, she refused.



"Am I not pleasing to you?" asked the prince in surprise.



"You are very handsome, very charming, prince," said Zelia; "but you are

not like the good king, your father; I fear you would make me very

miserable if I were your queen."



In a great rage, Prince Cherry ordered the young girl to be put in

prison; and the key of her dungeon he kept. He told one of his friends,

a wicked man who flattered him for his own purposes, about the thing,

and asked his advice.



"Are you not king?" said the bad friend. "May you not do as you will?

Keep the girl in a dungeon till she does as you command, and if she will

not, sell her as a slave."



"But would it not be a disgrace for me to harm an innocent creature?"

said the prince.



"It would be a disgrace to you to have it said that one of your subjects

dared disobey you!" said the courtier.



He had cleverly touched the prince's worst trait, his pride. Prince

Cherry went at once to Zelia's dungeon, prepared to do this cruel thing.



Zelia was gone. No one had the key save the prince himself; yet she was

gone. The only person who could have dared to help her, thought the

prince, was his old tutor, Suliman, the only man left who ever rebuked

him for anything. In fury, he ordered Suliman to be put in fetters and

brought before him.



As his servants left him, to carry out the wicked order, there was a

clash, as of thunder, in the room, and then a blinding light. Fairy

Candide stood before him. Her beautiful face was stern, and her silver

voice rang like a trumpet, as she said, "Wicked and selfish prince, you

have become baser than the beasts you hunt; you are furious as a lion,

revengeful as a serpent, greedy as a wolf, and brutal as a bull; take,

therefore, the shape of those beasts whom you resemble!"



With horror, the prince felt himself being transformed into a monster.

He tried to rush upon the fairy and kill her, but she had vanished with

her words. As he stood, her voice came from the air, saying, sadly,

"Learn to conquer your pride by being in submission to your own

subjects." At the same moment, Prince Cherry felt himself being

transported to a distant forest, where he was set down by a clear

stream. In the water he saw his own terrible image; he had the head of a

lion, with bull's horns, the feet of a wolf, and a tail like a serpent.

And as he gazed in horror, the fairy's voice whispered, "Your soul has

become more ugly than your shape is; you yourself have deformed it."



The poor beast rushed away from the sound of her words, but in a moment

he stumbled into a trap, set by bear-catchers. When the trappers found

him they were delighted to have caught a curiosity, and they immediately

dragged him to the palace courtyard. There he heard the whole court

buzzing with gossip. Prince Cherry had been struck by lightning and

killed, was the news, and the five favourite courtiers had struggled to

make themselves rulers, but the people had refused them, and offered the

crown to Suliman, the good old tutor.



Even as he heard this, the prince saw Suliman on the steps of the

palace, speaking to the people. "I will take the crown to keep in

trust," he said. "Perhaps the prince is not dead."



"He was a bad king; we do not want him back," said the people.



"I know his heart," said Suliman, "it is not all bad; it is tainted, but

not corrupt; perhaps he will repent and come back to us a good king."



When the beast heard this, it touched him so much that he stopped

tearing at his chains, and became gentle. He let his keepers lead him

away to the royal menagerie without hurting them.



Life was very terrible to the prince, now, but he began to see that he

had brought all his sorrow on himself, and he tried to bear it

patiently. The worst to bear was the cruelty of the keeper. At last, one

night, this keeper was in great danger; a tiger got loose, and attacked

him. "Good enough! Let him die!" thought Prince Cherry. But when he saw

how helpless the keeper was, he repented, and sprang to help. He killed

the tiger and saved the keeper's life.



As he crouched at the keeper's feet, a voice said, "Good actions never

go unrewarded!" And the terrible monster was changed into a pretty

little white dog.



The keeper carried the beautiful little dog to the court and told the

story, and from then on, Cherry was carefully treated, and had the best

of everything. But in order to keep the little dog from growing, the

queen ordered that he should be fed very little, and that was pretty

hard for the poor prince. He was often half starved, although so much

petted.



One day he had carried his crust of bread to a retired spot in the

palace woods, where he loved to be, when he saw a poor old woman hunting

for roots, and seeming almost starved.



"Poor thing," he thought, "she is even more hungry than I"; and he ran

up and dropped the crust at her feet.



The woman ate it, and seemed greatly refreshed.



Cherry was glad of that, and he was running happily back to his kennel

when he heard cries of distress, and suddenly he saw some rough men

dragging along a young girl, who was weeping and crying for help. What

was his horror to see that the young girl was Zelia! Oh, how he wished

he were the monster once more, so that he could kill the men and rescue

her! But he could do nothing except bark, and bite at the heels of the

wicked men. That did not stop them; they drove him off, with blows, and

carried Zelia into a palace in the wood.



Poor Cherry crouched by the steps, and watched. His heart was full of

pity and rage. But suddenly he thought, "I was as bad as these men; I

myself put Zelia in prison, and would have treated her worse still, if I

had not been prevented." The thought made him so sorry and ashamed that

he repented bitterly the evil he had done.



Presently a window opened, and Cherry saw Zelia lean out and throw down

a piece of meat. He seized it and was just going to devour it, when the

old woman to whom he had given his crust snatched it away and took him

in her arms. "No, you shall not eat it, you poor little thing," she

said, "for every bit of food in that house is poisoned."



At the same moment, a voice said, "Good actions never go unrewarded!"

And instantly Prince Cherry was transformed into a little white dove.



With great joy, he flew to the open palace window to seek out his Zelia,

to try to help her. But though he hunted in every room, no Zelia was to

be found. He had to fly away, without seeing her. He wanted more than

anything else to find her, and stay near her, so he flew out into the

world, to seek her.



He sought her in many lands, until one day, in a far eastern country, he

found her sitting in a tent, by the side of an old, white-haired hermit.

Cherry was wild with delight. He flew to her shoulder, caressed her hair

with his beak, and cooed in her ear.



"You dear, lovely little thing!" said Zelia. "Will you stay with me? If

you will, I will love you always."



"Ah, Zelia, see what you have done!" laughed the hermit. At that

instant, the white dove vanished, and Prince Cherry stood there, as

handsome and charming as ever, and with a look of kindness and modesty

in his eyes which had never been there before. At the same time, the

hermit stood up, his flowing hair changed to shining gold, and his face

became a lovely woman's face; it was the Fairy Candide. "Zelia has

broken your spell," she said to the prince, "as I meant she should, when

you were worthy of her love."



Zelia and Prince Cherry fell at the fairy's feet. But with a beautiful

smile she bade them come to their kingdom. In a trice, they were

transported to the prince's palace, where King Suliman greeted them with

tears of joy. He gave back the throne with all his heart, and King

Cherry ruled again, with Zelia for his queen.



He wore the little gold ring all the rest of his life, but never once

did it have to prick him hard enough to make his finger bleed.





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