Prince Darling

By Barbara Douglas

There was once a King who was so just and so kind that his people surnamed him “the Good.” One day when he was out hunting, a little rabbit, fleeing from the hounds, jumped right into his arms. The King sheltered the little trembling creature under his coat, saying to himself: “It came to me for safety; I must protect it.” He carried the rabbit home to the palace, got a pretty little rabbit-hutch made for it, and gave orders that it was to be well fed and attended to.

During the night, when he was alone, he was astonished to find a beautiful lady standing before him, and he felt puzzled to know how she had come, as the door of his room was closed. She was dressed very simply, having neither gold nor silver embroidery, nor any jewels, but her soft robe was as white as snow, and her lovely hair was crowned with white roses, shedding a delicate perfume all around.

While the King looked in silent amazement, his fair visitor addressed him:

“I am Fairy Candour. I was in the wood when you were hunting and wished to find out for myself whether you are as kind-hearted as people say you are. I therefore assumed the form of a rabbit, and took refuge in your arms, for I know that those who have pity in their hearts for a dumb animal have even more for their brother man, and if you had not sheltered me I should have known you were a hypocrite.

“I have come to thank you for your protection, and to tell you that under all circumstances you can rely on me as a friend, and now you have only to ask what you wish; if it is at all possible, I shall give it you.”

“Madam,” said the good King, “since you are a fairy, you know all that I wish. I have only one son, whom I love with all my heart, so that people generally name him Prince Darling. If you wish to do me a kindness, promise me to be a good friend to my boy.”

“With all my heart I promise you that,” said the fairy. “I can make your son grow up either the handsomest prince in the world, or the richest, or the most powerful; choose which you would prefer him to be.”

“I do not specially desire any of these great gifts for my son,” said the King, “but I should greatly like him to be the best Prince ever known. Of what use would good looks, riches or great kingdoms be to him, if he were a bad man? You know as well as I that he could be miserable with all these advantages, and that goodness alone can ever bring happiness.”

“You are quite right there,” said Candour, “but even I cannot make your son a good man unless he himself wishes to be good, and will strive himself to be so. All that I can promise is to watch over him, to give him good advice, to point out his faults to him, and even to punish him if he does not try to correct himself of them and learn to deny himself.”

The good King was quite pleased with the fairy’s promise. He did not live long after, but he died quite happy, knowing that his son had such a good kind friend as Fairy Candour.

Prince Darling was inconsolable. He loved his father dearly, and would willingly have given all he possessed to save his life, had that been possible.

Two days after the death of the good King, when Prince Darling had gone to bed, Candour suddenly appeared to him.

“I promised your father,” said she, “to be a good friend to you, and in order to keep my word I have come to make you a present.”

At the same time she put a small gold ring on his finger, saying to him:

“Take good care of this ring; it is much more precious than diamonds. Every time you do anything wrong, it will prick your finger, but if in spite of the prick you continue the wrong action, you will lose my friendship and make me your enemy.”

When she finished this speech, she disappeared, leaving Prince Darling greatly astonished.

For a considerable time the Prince behaved so well that the ring never once needed to prick him, and he was so well pleased with himself that he was always smiling. This made people add “Happy” to his name “Darling.”

Some months later the young Prince went hunting, but came back without having caught anything. This annoyed him and put him in a bad humour. He imagined, for a moment, that the ring pressed him a little, but as it did not actually prick him he hardly noticed it. As he entered his room, his little dog Flora came jumping to welcome him, wanting to lick his hand.

“Get out of my way,” said he crossly. “I can’t be bothered with you just now.”

The little creature did not understand, but tugged at his coat to draw his attention. In his ill-temper the Prince lifted his foot and kicked her out of his way. The ring pricked him sharply, as if it had been a pin. This made him think of his conduct, and feeling both annoyed and ashamed, he sat down sulkily in the darkest corner of the room. It was a new and a disagreeable experience for him to be found fault with. He said to himself:

“Really, my fairy friend is making a fool of me! What wrong is there in giving a kick to an animal that is pestering me? What is the use of being master of a great empire, when I am not at liberty to beat my dog if I like?”

“I am not making a fool of you,” said a voice, replying to the Prince’s thoughts. “You have committed three faults instead of one. You let yourself get cross because you did not have what you wanted, and because you think both men and animals are made only for your pleasure. You flew into a passion, which is very wrong, and in your passion you were cruel to a little animal that had done nothing to deserve such treatment. I know that you are greatly the superior of a dog, but if it is to be accepted that the great and powerful can tyrannize over those who are beneath them, I might either flog you or kill you, as a fairy is vastly more powerful than a man. The real advantage of being master over a great empire does not consist in having power to do all the wrong you care to do, but the power to do all the good you can.”

Prince Darling saw his fault, and felt sorry for a little while. He promised to try to correct his own bad temper, but he soon forgot. Unfortunately his mother had died when he was very little, and he had been brought up by a very foolish old nurse, who let him have his own way in everything. When he wanted anything he had only to cry or fly into a passion, stamping his feet or yelling at the top of his voice. The stupid woman gave him what he wanted to pacify him, and it made him very obstinate and self-willed. She told him daily that soon he would be a great King, and that all Kings were happy because they could get everything they wanted, as everyone had to obey them and respect them, and no one could prevent a King from doing what he liked.

When he grew big enough to understand, he quite recognized how wrong these ideas were, and he saw that nothing was so ignoble as pride, vanity, and obstinacy. He really made many efforts to correct himself, but these bad habits had become almost part of his nature, and nothing is so difficult to cure as a bad habit learned when young. His heart was not naturally bad or cruel, and sometimes he shed tears as he said to himself:

“I am very unfortunate. I have to fight my own pride and my own temper every day, and yet they get the better of me. If I had been corrected when I was young, it would have been better for me to-day.”

His ring pricked him many a time. Sometimes he attended to the warning at once, sometimes he paid no heed, but continued his wrong course. The strange thing was that for a slight fault the ring gave a very tiny prick, but for a grave fault it pricked firmly till the finger bled. At last he lost patience, and making up his mind to do as he liked without restraint, he drew off the ring and threw it away.

He felt greatly relieved when he had no more pricking to worry him, and believed himself to be enjoying life for the first time. He spent his whole time in idle amusements, and even in wrongdoing from which he would have shrunk when younger, and at last he behaved so badly that no nice people liked to be in his company.

One day when the Prince was out for an airing he saw a girl who was so beautiful that he determined to marry her. Her name was Zelia, and she was as well-behaved as she was good-looking, but she was of very humble birth.

The Prince thought Zelia would be only too glad to marry him and become a real Queen, so he asked her at once to be his wife, but the young girl answered him with great frankness:

“Sire, I am only a peasant girl, without fortune, but though I had a fortune I would not marry you.”

“Am I so displeasing to look at?” asked he, a little hurt.

“No, Sire,” replied Zelia; “you appear to me just what you are, a very handsome man. But of what use would your good looks, your wealth, or the fine clothes and grand coaches you promise, be to me, if your daily behaviour forced me to despise you and hate you?”

The Prince was very angry at this plain speaking, and ordered his officers to take Zelia by force to the palace. The young girl’s contempt for him rankled in his mind all day, but he was so much in love with her that he could not bring himself to ill-treat her.

From Favourite French fairy tales retold from the french of Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont, Barbara Douglas, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1921.


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