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Prince Life by E. V. Lucas

 

Chapter I

Once upon a time there was a young Prince who met with a very curious kind of misfortune. Most people want something which they cannot get; and because they cannot get it, they generally desire it more than anything else, which is very foolish, for it would be much better to be contented with what they have.

He was a wise fox, my dear Charlie, who thought the grapes were sour when he could not reach them. Now the Prince's misfortune consisted in this, that he had everything on earth he could want or desire, and a little more. He had a fine palace and a fine country, obedient subjects and servants, and true friends. When he got up in the morning, there was someone ready to put on his clothes for him; when he went to bed at night, someone to take them off again. A fairy called Prosperity gave him everything he desired as soon as he desired it. If he wanted peaches at Christmas, or cool air at mid-summer, the first came instantly from his hothouses, and the second was produced by an enormous fan, which hung from the top of the room, and was moved by two servants.

But strange to say, the Prince got weary of all this; he was tired of wanting nothing. When he sat down to dinner he had but little appetite, because he had had such a good breakfast; he hardly knew which coat to put on, they were all so beautiful; and when he went to bed at night, though the bed was as soft as a white cloud, he could not sleep, for he was not tired.

There was only one ugly thing in the whole palace, which was a little, drowsy, grey dwarf, left there by the fairy Prosperity. He kept yawning all day, and very often set the Prince yawning, too, only to look at him. This dwarf they called Satiety, and he followed the Prince about wherever he went.

One day the Prince asked him what he was yawning for, and Satiety answered:

'Because I have nothing to do, and nothing to wish for, my Prince.'

'I suppose that is the reason why I yawn, too,' replied the Prince.

'Rather is it having me always with you,' answered Satiety.

'Then get away and leave me,' said the Prince.

'I cannot do that,' answered Satiety. 'You can go from me, but I cannot go from you; I can never leave you as long as you remain in the palace of Prosperity.'

'Then I will have you turned out,' said the Prince.

'No one can do that,' said Satiety, 'but Misfortune, and he is a very capricious person. Though he is a very disagreeable monster, some people seem to court him, but cannot get him to come near them; while to a great many he comes unawares, and catches them, though they fly from him eagerly. I tell you, Prince, you can go from me, but I cannot go from you as long as you remain in the palace of Prosperity.'

That night, when he went to his soft bed, the Prince thought very much as to the conversation he had held with Satiety, and he resolved to go out of the palace for a time, just to get rid of the ugly little grey, yawning dwarf.

The very resolution seemed to do him good, and he slept better that night after he had made it than he had done for many a night before.

Chapter II

The next morning when he rose he felt quite refreshed, and he said to a groom: 'Bring me my stout horse, Expedition; I am going out to take a ride all alone.'

The groom answered not a word, for in that palace everyone obeyed the Prince at once, and nobody troubled him but the ugly little dwarf, Satiety. As he went away, however, the groom said to himself with a sigh: 'It is a sad thing to be in the wide world all alone. My Prince does not know what it is. But let him try; it may be better for him.'

He accordingly brought the horse to the palace-door. But when the Prince came down he felt quite well, and, looking about amongst all his attendants, he could only catch a distant glimpse of Satiety standing yawning behind. For a minute he was half-inclined not to go, for he did not mind seeing Satiety at a distance if he did not come near. But the groom, whose name was Resolution, seeing him hesitate, said: 'You had better go, my Prince, as you determined; it may do you good.' And a chamberlain called Effort helped him on his horse.

At first, as the Prince rode along, everything was quite delightful to him. He seemed to breathe more freely now that he was no more troubled with Satiety. The flowers looked bright, and the sky beautiful, for a cloud or two here and there only gave variety. The very air seemed fresher than it had been in the sheltered gardens of the palace, and the Prince said to himself: 'What a delightful country this is, just on the verge of the land of Prosperity.'

Just then he saw a countryman gathering grapes in a vineyard, and every now and then putting some into his mouth, and the Prince asked him whose fine estate it was that he was passing through.

'It belongs to a gentleman and lady equally, sir,' replied the good man; 'they are called Activity and Ease. They are the happiest couple ever seen. When Activity is tired, Ease takes his head upon her lap; and soon as she is weary of her burden, Activity jumps up and relieves her from it.'

'But to whom does that more barren country just beyond belong?' asked the Prince. 'And what is that great thick wood I see farther on still?'

'That is the land of Labour and the Forest of Adversity,' said the man. 'I would advise you to get through them as soon as possible, for the first you will find very wearisome, and the second exceedingly unpleasant, although people do say that there is a great deal of very good fruit in the forest; only one gets well-nigh torn to pieces with the thorns before one can reach it.'

The Prince determined to follow his advice, and rode on. There was not anything very tempting to him as he passed through the land of Labour, and it seemed a long and weary way from the beginning to the end of it. But the forest, even at its entrance, was very dark and gloomy indeed. Thick trees crossed each other overhead, and shut out the bright, cheerful daylight. He could hardly see his way along the narrow, tortuous paths, and the thorns which the peasant had spoken of ran into him continually, for they grew high as well as thick, and crossed the path in every direction. He began heartily to repent that he had quitted the palace of Prosperity, and wished himself back again with all his heart, thinking that he should care little about yawning Satiety if he could but get out of the thorns of Adversity. Indeed, he tried to turn his horse back; but he found it more difficult than he imagined, for, as I have told you, the road was very narrow and those thorns hedged it on every side. There was nothing for it, in short, but to try and force his way on through the wood, in the hope of finding something better beyond.

The Prince did not know which way to take, indeed, and he tried a great number of paths, but in vain. Still there were the same thorns and the same gloomy darkness. He was hungry and thirsty, and he looked round for those fruits he had heard of; but he could see none of them at the time, and the more he sought his way out, the deeper he seemed to get into the forest. The air was very sultry and oppressive, too; he grew weary and faint, quite sick at heart, and even the limbs of his good horse seemed to be failing him, and hardly able to carry him on.

Dark as it all was, it at length begin to grow darker, and he perceived that night was coming, so that the poor Prince began to give up all hope, and to think that there would be nothing for him but to lie down and die in despair, when suddenly he caught a sort of twinkling light through the thick bushes, which seemed to lie in the way he was going, and on he went, slowly enough, poor man! But still the light was before him, till suddenly he came to a great rock, overgrown in many places with briars and brambles. In the midst of it, however, was the mouth of a large cave, with great masses of stone hanging over, as if ready to fall on a traveller's head. It was a very stern and gloomy-looking place indeed, with clefts and crevices and ragged crags all around. But a few steps in the cave someone seemed to have built themselves a house; for it was blocked up with large, unhewn boards of wood, and in this partition there was a door and a window, through which came the light he had seen. The Prince dismounted from his horse, and though he did not know who might be within, he thought it best to knock at the door, and ask for food and shelter.

The moment he knocked a loud, hoarse voice cried:

'Come in!' and tying his horse to a tree, he opened the door.

Chapter III

Now, whatever the poor Prince had expected to find, he was certainly disappointed; for that thicket of Adversity is full of disappointments, as everyone knows who has travelled through it. He had thought he should see some poor woodman or honest peasant, who would welcome him to his homely hut in the rock with kindness and benevolence; but instead of that he beheld, seated at the table, carving away at a piece of stick by the light of a very small twinkling candle, one of the most tremendous monsters ever man's eyes lighted upon. In shape he was like a man, but he was a great deal stronger than any man. His face looked as if it were cast in iron, so hard and rigid were all the features; and there was an everlasting frown planted on his brow. His hands were long and sinewy, with terrible sharp claws upon them; and his feet were so large and heavy that they seemed as if they would crush anything they would set upon to pieces.

The poor Prince, though he was a very brave young man, stopped and hesitated at the sight of this giant; but the monster, without ever turning his head, cried out again: 'Come in! Why do you pause? All men must obey me, and I am the only one that all men do obey.'

'You must be a mighty monarch, then,' said the young Prince, taking courage. 'Pray, what is your name?'

'My name is Necessity,' answered the other in his thundering voice; 'and some people give me bad names, and call me “Hard Necessity” and “Dire Necessity”; but, nevertheless, I often lead men to great things and teach them useful arts if they do but struggle with me valiantly.'

'Then I wish you would lead me to where I can get some rest,' said the Prince, 'and teach me how I can procure food for myself and my poor famishing horse.'

The monster rose up almost as tall as a steeple and suddenly laid his great clutches upon the Prince's shoulders, saying: 'I will do both, if you do but wrestle with me courageously. You must do it, for there is no other way of escaping from my hands.'

The Prince had never been handled so roughly before, and as he was brave, strong, and active, he made a great effort to free himself, and tried a thousand ways, but to no purpose. The giant did not hurt him, however, though he pressed him very hard, and at length he cried out: 'Ho, ho! you are a brave young man! Leave off struggling, and you shall have some food and drink, such as you would never have tasted had you not come to me.'

Thereupon he led him to his own coarse wooden table, and set before him half of a hard brown loaf and a pitcher of water; but so hungry and thirsty was the Prince that the bread seemed to him the best he had ever eaten, and the water sweeter than any in the world.

'Unfasten your horse's bridle,' said Necessity, when the Prince had done, 'and I will soon teach him where to find something to feed upon.'

The Prince did as the giant told him at once, and then his stern-looking companion pointed to a wooden bedstead in a dark corner of the cave, which looked as hard as his own face, saying: 'There, lie down and sleep.'

'I can never sleep on that thing,' said the Prince.

'Ho, ho!' cried the other; 'Necessity can make any bed soft,' and taking a bundle of straw, he threw it down on the bedstead.

Chapter IV

Sleep was sweeter to the Prince that night than it had ever been upon a bed of down, and when he rose the next morning the monster's features did not seem half so stern and forbidding as they had done at first. The inside of the cave, too, looked much more light and blithesome, though it was a dark and frowning place enough still, with hard rock all round, and nothing but one window to let in a little sunshine.

Necessity, however, did not intend to keep the Prince there, and as soon as he was up the giant said to him: 'Come, trudge; you must quit my cave, and go on.'

'You must open the door for me, then,' said the Prince; 'for the bolt is so high up I cannot reach it.'

'You cannot get out by the door through which you came in,' said the giant, 'for it is the door of Idleness. There is but one way for you to get out, and that I will show you.'

So, taking him by the hand, he led him on into a very dark part of the cave, which went a long way under ground, and then said to him: 'You must now go on until you come to a great house, where you will find an old woman, who will give you your meals at least.'

'But I want to return to my own palace of Prosperity,' replied the Prince.

'She will show you the way,' replied the monster, 'and without her you will never find it. Go on at once, and don't stand talking.'

'But I cannot see the path,' said the Prince.

'You must find it,' said Necessity, and gave him a great push, which sent him on at a very rapid rate.

For some time he continued to grope his way almost in darkness, but soon a light began to shine before him, which grew bigger and bigger as he advanced, and he perceived that he was coming to another mouth of the cave, leading to an open, but very rough country. The Prince was very glad indeed to issue forth and breathe the fresh air, and he looked at the clear sky with great satisfaction. Just before him, however, there was a large house, with a great number of doors and windows; and as he felt very hungry, he determined to knock, and see if he could get any breakfast.

Almost as soon as he had touched the knocker the door was opened by a little old woman, plainly dressed, but neat and tidy; and when the Prince told her who he was, and what he wanted, she answered him with a good-humoured smile, very different from the frown of stern Necessity: 'Everyone can have food in my house who chooses to work for it; nobody without. I can help you on your way, too; and as for your poor horse you talk about, he shall be provided for. My name is Industry, and Industry always takes care of her beasts. Come in, young man; come in.'

The Prince went in with a glad step, and found the house quite full of people, all as busy as bees in a field of clover, and all looking as bright and cheerful as if they had washed their faces in sunshine.

It would take me an hour to tell you all the different things they were employed in, everyone working by himself on his separate task, although two or three were often seen doing different pieces of the same work. But there were two very nice, pretty girls there whom I must speak of, who seemed to be handmaidens to the mistress of the house. One was a thoughtful-looking, careful girl, who was busy in every part of the room alternately, picking up all the little odds and ends which were left after any piece of work was completed—little bits of string, ends of tape or thread, stray nails, chips of wood, or pieces of paper. These, as soon as she had gathered them up, she put safely by, where she could find them again; and it is wonderful how often she was called upon by the workmen for some little scrap or another, just sufficient to complete what they were about. Her name was Economy.

The other was a brighter, quicker-looking person, with very clear eyes, like two stars, who went continually through the room, putting everything to rights. If a chair was out of its place, or a table turned awry, or a tool put down where it should not be she could not bear to see it for a minute, but put all things straight again, so that nobody was at a loss where to find anything. She was called Order.

The hungry Prince was somewhat mortified to find a good, large piece of work assigned him to do before he could get his breakfast, and at first he was exceedingly awkward, and did not know how to set about it; but Industry showed him the way, Order helped him a good deal, and Economy supplied him with the materials.

Chapter V

At the end of an hour he had completed his task, and the old lady patted him on the shoulder, saying, 'Well done; you are a very good young man. Now Industry will give you your breakfast, and help you on the way to a very nice place, where you will get all you desire.'

Thus saying, she led him into a great hall, where there was a vast number of people, all eating rich fruits, with a somewhat hard-favoured dame, whom they called Labour, scattering sugar on the different dishes.

When the Prince heard her name, he asked one of the people near if that was really Labour, saying, 'I passed through her land not long ago, and it seemed so poor and hard a country that I should have thought it produced nothing good.'

'That is a mistake,' said the other. 'That is the land where grows the sugar-cane, and Labour always sweetens the food of Industry.'

As soon as his breakfast was over, the Prince was taken to another door, and shown a road which was very narrow at first, but seemed to grow wider and wider as it went on.

'You have nothing to do but to walk straight forward,' said Industry, 'neither to turn to the right nor to the left. Keep yourself upright, so that you may have that distant mountain peak before your eyes, and don't suffer yourself to grow faint or get tired. If you should have any doubt or difficulty, you will find someone on the road who will show you the way. But only remember always to keep straight forward, and don't be tempted to turn aside.'

'What is the name of this road?' asked the Prince.

'It is called the “Right Path,”' was the reply; and on he set upon his way with a stout heart. Nevertheless, he began to get somewhat tired before an hour was over, although the road was pleasant enough to walk in. There were beautiful green meadows on every side, and richly-coloured flowers, and what seemed very delicious fruit; and here and there, at a little distance, were pleasant groves, with a number of gay birds, singing very sweetly.

At the end of an hour and a half the Prince became hungry and thirsty again, as well as tired, and he said to himself, 'There could be no great harm surely in going across that meadow and gathering some of that fruit, to eat under the shade of the trees, while the birds sing over my head. I do not know how far I have to go. I see no end to this long, straight road. I think I will try and rest for a little under those trees. I can easily find my way back again.'

But just at that moment, luckily for himself, the Prince spied a man trudging on before him, and he hurried after, saying to himself, 'I will ask him how far I have to go, and whether I have time to stop.'

Chapter VI

The man did not walk very fast, but he kept steadily on, with a great pike-staff in his hand; and though the Prince called after him as soon as he was within hearing, he did not halt for a moment, or even turn his head, but trudged onward, saying, 'Come along, come along; one never gets to the end of one's journey if one stops to chatter by the way.'

At length the Prince came up with him, and said in a civil tone, 'Pray can you tell me whither this road leads, and if it will be very long before I get to some house where I can find rest and food.'

'It leads to a very fine and beautiful castle,' replied the other somewhat doggedly, and still walking on. 'I think, if you come along with me, you will get there in time. I am generally well received there, and in some sort may call myself the master of the house, so that those who go with me are generally made welcome by my lady, who, though she is sometimes a little whimsical, is the most charming person in the world when she smiles upon me. But you must keep on steadily with me; for if you stop or turn aside, a thousand to one you will be lost.'

When the Prince found him so communicative, he asked him if they could not cross one of the meadows to refresh themselves a little, and told him how he had been tempted to do so just before he saw him.

'Lucky you did not,' answered the other; 'for those meadows are full of swamps and quagmires, the groves filled with snakes, and many of the fruits poisonous. You might have got yourself into such troubles that not even I could have helped you out of them.'

'If it is not improper, may I ask your name?' said the Prince.

'Come along,' answered the other. 'Names matter little; but if you want to know mine, it is Perseverance.'

Not long after the Prince began to think he saw several tall towers glittering before him in the distance, with some misty clouds round about them, which only seemed to make them look the more beautiful.

'What a fine castle!' he exclaimed.

'That is where I am leading you,' answered the other; and the first prospect is always very charming. But we have some way to go yet, I can tell you, and not a little to overcome. You would never get there without me; so come on, and do not be daunted at anything you see.'

The Prince soon found that his companion's warning was just. The way did seem very long; and sometimes, as they went over hill and dale, the sight of the beautiful castle, which cheered him so much, was quite shut out from his eyes, and at length, when they were coming very near it, with nothing but one valley between them and the building, he perceived that the road went over a narrow drawbridge, and saw two terrible monsters lying close beside the way. Their bodies were like those of lions, very large and very strong, but they had necks like that of a snake, and from each neck issued a hundred horrible heads, all differing in kind from one another.

The poor Prince was alarmed, and said to his companion: 'Do you see those horrible brutes? Is there no other way into the castle but between them?'

'There are a thousand ways into the castle,' replied his companion, 'but every way is guarded by monsters just like those. But do not be alarmed. Go on with me, and I will help you. Besides, someone will come out of the castle, most likely, to give us assistance.'

Chapter VII

Upon these words, the Prince went on more cheerfully, especially when he saw a man come running down from the gate of the castle as they approached the drawbridge.

'Ay,' said his companion, stepping on without stopping a moment, 'there comes my friend Courage to help us. He is a good, serviceable fellow.'

Just as he spoke, the two monsters sprang forward, and the one which was nearest to Perseverance growled terribly at him; but he struck him a blow with his pike-staff, which knocked him down and cowed him entirely; and there he lay, with all his hundred heads prostrated in a manner which the Prince could hardly have thought possible. The other brute sprang right at the Prince himself, as if to destroy him, so that he was inclined to draw back; but the man Courage, who had run down from the castle, put his foot upon the creature's snaky neck, and crushed it into the earth.

'Go on, go on, young man!' he cried. 'These are terrible monsters truly, but you see our friend Perseverance has vanquished Difficulty, and I have trampled upon Danger.'

As he spoke, the Prince passed on rapidly over the drawbridge; and when he stood under the gate of the castle, Perseverance took him by the hand with a smiling air, and led him in, saying: 'Now I will conduct you to my lady, Success.'

[Illustration: The Prince slays the monster with a hundred horrible heads.—Page 86.]

At the very sound the poor Prince seemed quite refreshed, forgot all the weary way he had travelled, the dark forest of Adversity, the grim frown of Necessity, the faintness and the weariness, and hundred-headed Difficulty and Danger. But he was more rejoiced still when, on entering the building, he found himself suddenly, all at once, in the great hall of his own palace of Prosperity, with a beautiful lady, all smiles, standing ready to receive him with a crown in her hand.

'Come hither, Prince,' she said, 'and receive this crown, which I never bestow on any but my greatest favourites. It is called the crown of Contentment. I reserve it for those who, led on by Perseverance, come to me by the Right Path, in spite of Difficulty and Danger. Those who arrive at my presence by any of the many other roads that are open to mankind I give over to the charge of some of my inferior attendants, such as Pride, Vanity, or Ambition, who amuse themselves by making them play all manner of strange tricks.'

Thus saying, she put the crown upon his head, and the Prince found the most delightful tranquil feeling spread through his whole body. Nevertheless, he could not help looking about almost instantly for the figure of the ugly little grey dwarf; and, as he could not see him anywhere, he said to the beautiful lady: 'Where is that hideous, yawning Satiety? I hope he has left the palace.'

'He may be hanging about in some dark corners of the palace,' answered the lady, 'or hiding amongst the roses in your garden of Pleasure; but he will never appear in your presence again, so long as you wear that crown upon your head; for there is a rich jewel called Moderation in the crown of Contentment which is too bright and pure to be looked upon by Satiety.'

 
 
 

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