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.
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.