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  • CHAPTER 1 THE HAPPY PRINCE

  • High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

  • He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright

  • sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

  • He was very much admired indeed.

  • "He is as beautiful as a weathercock," remarked one of the Town Councillors who

  • wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; "only not quite so

  • useful," he added, fearing lest people

  • should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

  • "Why can't you be like the Happy Prince?" asked a sensible mother of her little boy

  • who was crying for the moon.

  • "The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything."

  • "I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy," muttered a

  • disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

  • "He looks just like an angel," said the Charity Children as they came out of the

  • cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

  • "How do you know?" said the Mathematical Master, "you have never seen one."

  • "Ah! but we have, in our dreams," answered the children; and the Mathematical Master

  • frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

  • One night there flew over the city a little Swallow.

  • His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for

  • he was in love with the most beautiful Reed.

  • He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river after a big

  • yellow moth, and had been so attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to

  • talk to her.

  • "Shall I love you?" said the Swallow, who liked to come to the point at once, and the

  • Reed made him a low bow.

  • So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver

  • ripples. This was his courtship, and it lasted all

  • through the summer.

  • "It is a ridiculous attachment," twittered the other Swallows; "she has no money, and

  • far too many relations"; and indeed the river was quite full of Reeds.

  • Then, when the autumn came they all flew away.

  • After they had gone he felt lonely, and began to tire of his lady- love.

  • "She has no conversation," he said, "and I am afraid that she is a coquette, for she

  • is always flirting with the wind." And certainly, whenever the wind blew, the

  • Reed made the most graceful curtseys.

  • "I admit that she is domestic," he continued, "but I love travelling, and my

  • wife, consequently, should love travelling also."

  • "Will you come away with me?" he said finally to her; but the Reed shook her

  • head, she was so attached to her home. "You have been trifling with me," he cried.

  • "I am off to the Pyramids.

  • Good-bye!" and he flew away. All day long he flew, and at night-time he

  • arrived at the city. "Where shall I put up?" he said; "I hope

  • the town has made preparations."

  • Then he saw the statue on the tall column. "I will put up there," he cried; "it is a

  • fine position, with plenty of fresh air." So he alighted just between the feet of the

  • Happy Prince.

  • "I have a golden bedroom," he said softly to himself as he looked round, and he

  • prepared to go to sleep; but just as he was putting his head under his wing a large

  • drop of water fell on him.

  • "What a curious thing!" he cried; "there is not a single cloud in the sky, the stars

  • are quite clear and bright, and yet it is raining.

  • The climate in the north of Europe is really dreadful.

  • The Reed used to like the rain, but that was merely her selfishness."

  • Then another drop fell.

  • "What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?" he said; "I must look

  • for a good chimney-pot," and he determined to fly away.

  • But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up, and saw--Ah!

  • what did he see?

  • The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his

  • golden cheeks.

  • His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little Swallow was filled with

  • pity. "Who are you?" he said.

  • "I am the Happy Prince."

  • "Why are you weeping then?" asked the Swallow; "you have quite drenched me."

  • "When I was alive and had a human heart," answered the statue, "I did not know what

  • tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans- Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to

  • enter.

  • In the daytime I played with my companions in the garden, and in the evening I led the

  • dance in the Great Hall.

  • Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it,

  • everything about me was so beautiful.

  • My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be

  • happiness. So I lived, and so I died.

  • And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the

  • ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I

  • cannot chose but weep."

  • "What! is he not solid gold?" said the Swallow to himself.

  • He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud.

  • "Far away," continued the statue in a low musical voice, "far away in a little street

  • there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it

  • I can see a woman seated at a table.

  • Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by the

  • needle, for she is a seamstress.

  • She is embroidering passion- flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's

  • maids-of- honour to wear at the next Court- ball.

  • In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill.

  • He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but

  • river water, so he is crying.

  • Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-

  • hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I

  • cannot move."

  • "I am waited for in Egypt," said the Swallow.

  • "My friends are flying up and down the Nile, and talking to the large lotus-

  • flowers.

  • Soon they will go to sleep in the tomb of the great King.

  • The King is there himself in his painted coffin.

  • He is wrapped in yellow linen, and embalmed with spices.

  • Round his neck is a chain of pale green jade, and his hands are like withered

  • leaves."

  • "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me for

  • one night, and be my messenger? The boy is so thirsty, and the mother so

  • sad."

  • "I don't think I like boys," answered the Swallow.

  • "Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were two rude boys, the

  • miller's sons, who were always throwing stones at me.

  • They never hit me, of course; we swallows fly far too well for that, and besides, I

  • come of a family famous for its agility; but still, it was a mark of disrespect."

  • But the Happy Prince looked so sad that the little Swallow was sorry.

  • "It is very cold here," he said; "but I will stay with you for one night, and be

  • your messenger."

  • "Thank you, little Swallow," said the Prince.

  • So the Swallow picked out the great ruby from the Prince's sword, and flew away with

  • it in his beak over the roofs of the town.

  • He passed by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angels were sculptured.

  • He passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing.

  • A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her lover.

  • "How wonderful the stars are," he said to her, "and how wonderful is the power of

  • love!"

  • "I hope my dress will be ready in time for the State-ball," she answered; "I have

  • ordered passion-flowers to be embroidered on it; but the seamstresses are so lazy."

  • He passed over the river, and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships.

  • He passed over the Ghetto, and saw the old Jews bargaining with each other, and

  • weighing out money in copper scales.

  • At last he came to the poor house and looked in.

  • The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep, she was

  • so tired.

  • In he hopped, and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman's thimble.

  • Then he flew gently round the bed, fanning the boy's forehead with his wings.

  • "How cool I feel," said the boy, "I must be getting better"; and he sank into a

  • delicious slumber. Then the Swallow flew back to the Happy

  • Prince, and told him what he had done.

  • "It is curious," he remarked, "but I feel quite warm now, although it is so cold."

  • "That is because you have done a good action," said the Prince.

  • And the little Swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep.

  • Thinking always made him sleepy. When day broke he flew down to the river

  • and had a bath.

  • "What a remarkable phenomenon," said the Professor of Ornithology as he was passing

  • over the bridge. "A swallow in winter!"

  • And he wrote a long letter about it to the local newspaper.

  • Every one quoted it, it was full of so many words that they could not understand.

  • "To-night I go to Egypt," said the Swallow, and he was in high spirits at the prospect.

  • He visited all the public monuments, and sat a long time on top of the church

  • steeple.

  • Wherever he went the Sparrows chirruped, and said to each other, "What a

  • distinguished stranger!" so he enjoyed himself very much.

  • When the moon rose he flew back to the Happy Prince.

  • "Have you any commissions for Egypt?" he cried; "I am just starting."

  • "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me one

  • night longer?" "I am waited for in Egypt," answered the

  • Swallow.

  • "To-morrow my friends will fly up to the Second Cataract.

  • The river-horse couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne

  • sits the God Memnon.

  • All night long he watches the stars, and when the morning star shines he utters one

  • cry of joy, and then he is silent. At noon the yellow lions come down to the

  • water's edge to drink.

  • They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder than the roar of the

  • cataract.

  • "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "far away across the city I see

  • a young man in a garret.

  • He is leaning over a desk covered with papers, and in a tumbler by his side there

  • is a bunch of withered violets.

  • His hair is brown and crisp, and his lips are red as a pomegranate, and he has large

  • and dreamy eyes.

  • He is trying to finish a play for the Director of the Theatre, but he is too cold

  • to write any more. There is no fire in the grate, and hunger

  • has made him faint."

  • "I will wait with you one night longer," said the Swallow, who really had a good

  • heart. "Shall I take him another ruby?"

  • "Alas!

  • I have no ruby now," said the Prince; "my eyes are all that I have left.

  • They are made of rare sapphires, which were brought out of India a thousand years ago.

  • Pluck out one of them and take it to him.

  • He will sell it to the jeweller, and buy food and firewood, and finish his play."

  • "Dear Prince," said the Swallow, "I cannot do that"; and he began to weep.

  • "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."

  • So the Swallow plucked out the Prince's eye, and flew away to the student's garret.

  • It was easy enough to get in, as there was a hole in the roof.

  • Through this he darted, and came into the room.

  • The young man had his head buried in his hands, so he did not hear the flutter of

  • the bird's wings, and when he looked up he found the beautiful sapphire lying on the

  • withered violets.

  • "I am beginning to be appreciated," he cried; "this is from some great admirer.

  • Now I can finish my play," and he looked quite happy.

  • The next day the Swallow flew down to the harbour.

  • He sat on the mast of a large vessel and watched the sailors hauling big chests out

  • of the hold with ropes.

  • "Heave a-hoy!" they shouted as each chest came up.

  • "I am going to Egypt"! cried the Swallow, but nobody minded, and when the moon rose

  • he flew back to the Happy Prince.

  • "I am come to bid you good-bye," he cried. "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said

  • the Prince, "will you not stay with me one night longer?"

  • "It is winter," answered the Swallow, "and the chill snow will soon be here.

  • In Egypt the sun is warm on the green palm- trees, and the crocodiles lie in the mud

  • and look lazily about them.

  • My companions are building a nest in the Temple of Baalbec, and the pink and white

  • doves are watching them, and cooing to each other.

  • Dear Prince, I must leave you, but I will never forget you, and next spring I will

  • bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you have given away.

  • The ruby shall be redder than a red rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the

  • great sea." "In the square below," said the Happy

  • Prince, "there stands a little match-girl.

  • She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and they are all spoiled.

  • Her father will beat her if she does not bring home some money, and she is crying.

  • She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare.

  • Pluck out my other eye, and give it to her, and her father will not beat her."

  • "I will stay with you one night longer," said the Swallow, "but I cannot pluck out

  • your eye. You would be quite blind then."

  • "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."

  • So he plucked out the Prince's other eye, and darted down with it.

  • He swooped past the match-girl, and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand.

  • "What a lovely bit of glass," cried the little girl; and she ran home, laughing.

  • Then the Swallow came back to the Prince.

  • "You are blind now," he said, "so I will stay with you always."

  • "No, little Swallow," said the poor Prince, "you must go away to Egypt."

  • "I will stay with you always," said the Swallow, and he slept at the Prince's feet.

  • All the next day he sat on the Prince's shoulder, and told him stories of what he

  • had seen in strange lands.

  • He told him of the red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile, and

  • catch gold-fish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the world itself,

  • and lives in the desert, and knows

  • everything; of the merchants, who walk slowly by the side of their camels, and

  • carry amber beads in their hands; of the King of the Mountains of the Moon, who is

  • as black as ebony, and worships a large

  • crystal; of the great green snake that sleeps in a palm-tree, and has twenty

  • priests to feed it with honey-cakes; and of the pygmies who sail over a big lake on

  • large flat leaves, and are always at war with the butterflies.

  • "Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, "you tell me of marvellous things, but more

  • marvellous than anything is the suffering of men and of women.

  • There is no Mystery so great as Misery.

  • Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there."

  • So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw the rich making merry in their